…as they like to say in the world of automotive print journalism.
We covered a lot of ground in our theme of the month, Japan, and the response from our clique of readers has been heartening. Most of what I read this month from our readers and contributors was new to me, as was the material I waded through when researching my own items.
Driven to Write profiles an unjustly forgotten Japanese outlier.
They say the alcoholic always remembers his or her first drink. I can’t remember mine, so I guess I’m clear on that front, despite none of my assorted ethnicities being notable as strangers to the bottle. On the car-spotting matter, it’s quite different. I can remember seeing my first Ro80, XJ6, and Miura with complete clarity, including colour and location, despite the passage of four and a half decades or more.
The same is true of my first sighting of an Isuzu Bellett. Dark blue 4 door, Market Street, Sydney, June 1992. The Bellett had embedded itself in my automotive consciousness long before, the curiosity fired by reports in Autocar and Motor of saloon racing and rally successes which suggested that this was something out of the ordinary, from an industry about which we were told little. Continue reading “Theme : Japan – Isuzu’s Sporty ’60s Sophisticate”
Toyota’s late-’60s image builder comes under the DTW zoom-lens.
Commercially speaking, Toyota seems to have fared perfectly well without image-building halo cars. While enthusiasts have been well served by numerous performance models over the decades, the Japanese car giant eschewed outright exotics. Not so fast though. As long ago as 1965, crowds at the Tokyo motor show were enraptured by the introduction a sleek and beautifully proportioned coupe from that most conservative of Japan’s burgeoning manufacturers. Deliveries began two years later, but by the decade’s end, after a mere 337 cars, the Toyota 2000GT evaporated from view as quickly as it emerged. Continue reading “Theme: Japan – Toyota’s First Supra-Car”
Everyone’s crazy about crossovers these days. Well okay, maybe not everyone…
With the motor industry rapidly coalescing towards crossovers and SUV’s, it’s tempting to view this not so much as a trend but more a new ascendancy. Furthermore, it’s also increasingly difficult to envisage it being a fleeting one. So for those amongst us who don’t relish a world filled with the confounded things, even a lone voice of dissent from within the automotive mainstream sounds a thrillingly heretical note. Continue reading “Life After Crossovers – PSA Dares to Dream”
Scouring the varied cars of Gran Turismo yielded a JDM gem – the Nissan Sileighty.
Don’t go scouring your collections of official Nissan brochures for a SilEighty though; this one is special. Torquepost describes it thus:
“Drifters and street racers who… raced their Nissan 180SXs found that replacing their front ends when they became damaged was very cost prohibitive… due to the pop-up headlamp assemblies. To remedy this… the Nissan Silvia S13’s cheaper parts, including the lighter panel headlamp assemblies, front fenders, hood, and front bumper would be installed instead. Thus, the car would have the front end of an S13 Nissan Silvia, and the rear badge of the original 180SX. And so, the name SilEighty emerged.”
An obvious introduction for an obvious concept. If you want to fit people shaped people into a car, the architecture that allows them the most room to sit in comfort is a box. An empty volume bounded by a series of flat rectangles. In the early days lots of cars were like this, now they are not. A common criticism of car design, used in the UK at least, is that a car is ‘boxy’. This comment needs no expansion – the fact that the car resembles a box condemns it. Yet, of course, a box is the best shape if you want to Continue reading “Theme : Japan – Boxing Clever”
I’ve been fighting this for a while, but have given in to myself and written up some fond memories I have of the fourth generation (BL), 2004 to 2009, Subaru Legacy 3.0R Spec B.
Feel free not to read this piece, it’s pure self-indulgence. This is the car that, in many respects, I wish I had never sold, but I did for the love of the idea of owning a big, oleopneumatically suspended Citroen. In fact, I bought two – one after the other – which was stupid in itself, but I was overcome with a childish desire to have what seemed to be, and indeed was, an upgraded and improved version of a car that I already loved. Oh dear, this article is already reading like a therapy session. Continue reading “Theme: Japan – Subaru Legacy Saloon (BL), 3.0R Spec B”
Before I get to my handy compendium of other people’s opinions, I’ll offer my own.
It’s not a Citroen C6 but something going by the same name. A proper Citroen C6 would be a vehicle for the French market which shared more than a badge with its illustrious* predecessor. Now that raises a problem relating to Eurocentricity. Quite fairly our Chinese cousins could ask why a car sold in their rather huge market doesn’t count. Would a hydropneumatic study in French elegance that sold one copy in Europe be more properly the bearer of the name even if 215,000 of these rebodied Peugeot 308s found customers.
The glory days of the sports saloon and smoking occurred around the late 60s to early 70s. At this time Alfa Romeo produced a car for the determined driver who also enjoyed a rush of nicotine…
The Alfa Romeo 2000 berlina shown here comes with all that is necessary in a performance saloon. In addition to the five-speed gearbox (when Fords and Opels made do with four), rear-wheel drive, independent suspension and a 1,962 cc four-cylinder engine (132 bhp) the 2000 had a very-well placed and sensibly-sized flip-top ashtray for the driver and front-passenger.
The rear-passengers could use bottom-hinged ashtrays placed in the lower part of the doors. This, as we have seen, is probably one of two optimum locations for the rear passengers’ ashtrays, the other being behind the console between the front seats (where there is usually room for a large receptacle). The rear ashtray of the 2000 has a thoughtfully wrought tab on which to Continue reading “Ashtrays: 1973 Alfa Romeo 2000”
It’s a peculiar entity, Toyota. More like a small landless nation than a company. It can produce remarkably effective entrants and also miss the mark in its own unique way. Nobody understands it. I try to.
Like GM, Toyota is a sprawling enterprise, with operations all over the world and a large range of vehicles. Unlike GM, Toyota’s failures are seldom mystifying acts of dunderheadness. Even the least successful Toyotas are quality machines which demonstrate the relentless application of diligence. In contrast, GM cars can be entertainingly terrible which can be put down to missing diligence. What Toyota can possibly match the legendary Pontiac Aztek for its florid incompetence? The Solstice’s boot held only a spare wheel. Which Lexus failed as spectacularly as the Cimarron or Catera? Continue reading “Theme: Japan – The Gentleman”
The 1965 Chevrolet Impala shown here waits outside Frederiksborg castle, Hillerød, Denmark. From a distance the style suggested an Opel Admiral.
As I got closer the florid Chevrolet script corrected my misapprehension. The driver filled me in on the year. This is another GM car to add to the network of influences cross-crissing and cut-jumping between Germany and the US. Up to now my idea has been to compare Opels and Buicks.
Although I had put the running report on my Cube on hold, based on the fact that there wasn’t much else to write about it except that I like it, I’m writing something in line with this month’s theme.
Actually, I had intended an April 1st piece detailing the work I’d had done by a sympathetic body shop, cutting mine and a LHD Cube down the middle and mating the two sections in order to impose symmetry. But I missed the deadline. Continue reading “Theme : Japan – Nissan Cube Update”
JLR appear to have hit on a genius plan to secure Jaguar’s future. Unfortunately it doesn’t appear to involve making Jaguars.
Judging by the frequency he expounds on matters of product, anyone would think Jaguar’s design chief was solely responsible for product planning. Perhaps it’s got something to do with his mellow Dumfries lilt, but nowadays its difficult to escape the suspicion JLR’s senior management wheel him out when they have unpalatable Jaguar-related news to deliver – and frankly, has there been any other kind? Continue reading “Give Us A Brake! – Jaguar Jettisons Its Baggage.”
The 1300 was a hugely significant car for Honda, but not in the way it was intended to be.
Since it was never properly sold in Western markets, the Honda 1300 is rather an unknown in Europe. Introduced in 1969, it looks pretty generic; it might be any ordinary European saloon of the time, maybe a Fiat. Though, if you think that the front hints at a Vauxhall Viva HB, that’s because they both took a cue from a common source – in Honda’s case the link being Soichiro Honda’s own Pontiac Firebird. But, beneath the skin, the 1300 couldn’t have been more different from the mediocre and ultra-conventional Vauxhall. Honda has never been like other Japanese manufacturers, because Soichiro Honda was never like other Japanese car company bosses. Continue reading “Theme : Japan – When Failure Breeds Success”
In previous posts I have discussed how far we might be into the era of the electric vehicle. About half-way, I reckon. Further developments point in the direction of a quickening pace of change.
In just just nine short years, Holland may have no ICE cars on sale. The Dutch lower house passed this legislation the other day. The upper house is voting soon. While it might seem extreme (it is bracing enough), the Green proposal involved banning existing petrol and diesel cars. On balance, the legislation is probably a good compromise as it lets the existing fleet of cars run out their service life. It also avoids compulsion: would 5 year old Focuses and 9 year old Volvos simply have their road-licence revoked, rendering them unusable and unsaleable in Holland? The problem is obviated: the current stock of cars will be used until one by one their owners give up maintaining them and they swich to electric cars. Continue reading “This Town Isn’t Big Enough For Both Of Us”
“Where all think alike there is little danger of innovation” – Edward Abbey.
17 years. You would think that was long enough to convince my girlfriend that a W126 is the ideal family car. It seems not. I’ve always loved the cars MB produced during Sacco’s time (I like to think he had called in sick the day they designed the W210) but his first S-Class (especially the coupe) is top of the heap for me. For some reason his theory of Vertical and Horizontal Affinity has always had a strong resonance. Continue reading “Cookie Cutter”
The Beat was an early nineties sensation – a Kei car NSX. Its concept and execution were admirable. Whatever happened to Honda’s genius for creating cars which got so much so right?
The Beat was introduced in 1991 and was much admired by the press and public alike. It recalled the fabulous Suzuki “Whizz-Kid”, but Honda seemed to go one better by achieving daintiness alongside purpose and robust-looking proportions. The stance is balanced, the zebrano-clothed interior daring yet cheery, and the alloys just lovely. It was another grey import into the UK, and a very rare sight these days, more is the pity. Continue reading “Theme: Japan – 1991 Honda Beat”
Mini may be about to do the seemingly unthinkable by readying a three volume saloon. Heresy or sound commercial thinking we ask?
Over a decade and a half since brand MINI was reinvented under BMW and you’d have thought by now the bulk of enthusiasts and commentators would have got over the fact that the Issigonis’ miracle hasn’t and quite obviously never will stage a rebirth. The bloated looking current MINI range is hardly easy on the eye, but they clearly appeal to an increasingly broad swathe of the market.
But despite impressive sales and a strong image, MINI has never been as profitable, nor sold in the numbers its Munich masters would like. To reverse this state of affairs, MINI-management wants to Continue reading “Chasing (Three) Volumes”
This could well be another item in the Japanese-theme series we’re running. The title would then be so long I’d have no room for the rest of the article.
The short story about this car is that it’s Toyota’s first front wheel drive entrant in the mid-size market. The previous Camry had rear-wheel drive. Wikipedia has all the nitty plus all the gritty details of engines (this is probably a 1.8 litre four-cylinder car) and product evolution. They also explain the difference between the cars sold in the two lines of Toyota dealerships (very little). One channel is the Toyota Corolla Store and the other is the Toyota Vista Store. The European models at this time received the Toyota Vista Store grilles, making it more like the Japanese-market Toyota Vista than the Japanese market Toyota Camry or US Camry. I’ll get to the bottom of this dual line of dealerships one day. It’s more confusing than string theory. Continue reading “A photo Series For Sunday: 1982- 1986 Toyota Camry DX”
I mentioned this car in a thread to an earlier article and felt the need to show some pictures and make a comment or two.
The S-Cargo was launched in 1988 at the Tokyo Motor Show. It was one of a series of limited edition cars from what was known as the Pike Factory section at Nissan. I remember the instant like I had for what I saw and it has never faded.
The S-Cargo is clearly a homage to the classic 2CV van which was popular as an import to Japan in that era. Inside there are strong 2CV themes – minimalist features, strictly functional styling, and a dash mounted gear control enabling the two front seats to be set together. Continue reading “Theme: Japan – 1989 Nissan S-Cargo”
In recognition of this month’s theme, I thought I would provide a short update on progress with my current car: it’s Japanese.
I have now completed over 12,500 miles in the 3. It had its first service just over a week ago, which set me back just a little under £200, most of which went on labour (the going hourly rate is high around here), oil and filters. The car had an engine software upgrade, which apparently was part of a recall that never found its way to my post-box. This was described as a “rough idle recall”, which was not a problem that I ever noticed. It does seem to have improved the fuel economy of the car (the last two tanks-full have averaged just over 60 MPG – up from about 57). Continue reading “Theme: Japan – 2015 Mazda3 Fastback, 2.2L Diesel SportNav”
This is one for someone with patience, some spanners, some paint and a lot of money for petrol.
“Tatty” describes this remnant of Detroit’s golden years, a Buick Skylark which descended from the base-model Special as a line of its own in 1964. That´s a recurring theme in GM’s model evolution, how separate lines would emerge from trim variants and sometimes fade back again. It makes these cars somewhat hard to pin down if you are not into the cladistics of the USican automotive zoo. That bifurcation of product lines is something that doesn’t happen so much now. Maybe the Ford Vignale might be a recent example of the type (though Top Gear’s 2016 Car Buyers [sic] Guide does not even deign to Continue reading “Something Rotten in Denmark: 1964-1967 Buick Skylark”
Given this month’s theme and the fact that we like Curbside Classics here, we link to a nice and short featurette about the Toyota Crown. As usual, there are some useful comments below the main article which also include some photos of the interior.
My research reveals this wasn’t a special edition but a standard trim line that appeared for a few seasons around about the time of the more famous Roland Garros cars. I’m open to correction on that.
Who or what is Eden Park? They make sport-themed fashion and the name is a reference to a rugby stadium in New Zealand. These cars came in three or five door guise. This one is a five door, seen on a gloomy day a few weeks back. You have to hand it to Peugeot for their creativity or desperation: the Peugeot 306 is the car that I see with the most special editions/limited series badging, beating Ford, Opel and the rest by a wide margin. Wikipedia lists Equinoxe, Symbio and Cashmere; I am sure I have seen others. Continue reading “Peugeot Goes Brougham- 1998 Peugeot 306 Eden Park”
The words may be different, but the tune is the same.
Despite a great many statements to the contrary, the message sent out by VAG management is still one steeped in technocratic arrogance. With the press already on the Volkswagen big guns’ heels, Matthias Müller et al will now have to face their second most powerful opponent: the mighty work council. VAG is a special company, not just because it accommodates such a vast number of car brands (12) or because of the number of people it employs (almost 600.000). Continue reading “Müllering VAG (Part 2): Too Big To Fail?”
Much has been written on the contribution of Italy’s styling houses to the Japanese motor industry in the crucial years when it went from being a tentative exporter to a seemingly unstoppable force.
I have taken a closer look at cars from the last five decades with an Italian connection. Unsurprisingly, the activity was at its most intense in the 1960s. Almost every carmaker was using the Italian styling houses then. They were not so much a service to industry, more a regional art form, but as well as being masters of form and proportion, the carrozzieri could Continue reading “Theme: Japan – Tokyo, Twinned With Turin”
GM’s head of design, Ed Welburn, is retiring in June. What is his legacy?
This was reported here. It seems like only yesterday that he was appointed: 2003. He replaced Wayne Cherry. One of his goals was to unify the design studios of GM, much in the way that the engineering and production has been streamlined (for good and for ill). Continue reading “GM’s Chief Designer To Retire”
The image shows a car well-clad in black vinyl sheeting and foam packing that somewhat disguises the vehicle’s finer features. What they don’t hide is the grille or front bumper themes, the rising waistline or silhouette. By and large I’d be surprised if I was surprised by the final form of the Stelvio. I would not be surprised at all if the Stelvio sells in greater numbers than the Giulia saloon. Continue reading “Alfa Romeo Stelvio Spied”
50 Shades of Grey? We look at automotive top-shelf material.
For years, those motoring enthusiasts in the UK who only read the home grown magazines might have been excused for thinking that the Japanese industry was quite cynical – ambitious only in so far as to see how many cars it could sell without changing a boring formula. The cars that came to the UK had always been well-equipped and reliable, slowly they became rustproof and then some of them became quite good to drive. However there was little spark of originality in what was offered – they were just sensible transport for the uninterested. But what we saw was the tip of the iceberg. Continue reading “Theme : Japan – Where The Grass Is Always …. Greyer”
Toyota made their reputation (and the bulk of their profits) on serious (if occasionally dull) cars. The Yaris however was different.
This month’s theme has brought to mind, for the first time, that I don’t really think about the nationality of the cars that I buy – with the possible exception of German ones (I seem to pathologically avoid them for being too obvious a choice). I arrived at this via the realisation that, in the S.V. Robinson car buying nationality stakes, Japan stands second only to France. And I found myself rather discombobulated at this.
We may have dealt with this car before. Today it’s here as a photoseries courtesy of our good friends at Autoscout24 where the cars shown here are on sale.
The images tell most of the story. The bit I want to write about here is the baffling habit the Japanese brands had of multiple names for the same cars. We know this one as the Mazda 929 coupe because that was its European name. In Japan it was either a Cosmo or a Luce. Why the difference? Mazda has a chain of dealerships (Mazda Auto) they owned directly. At Mazda Auto the car you see here had Cosmo badges and could be purchased as a coupe or saloon. Continue reading “Theme: Japan – 1981 To 1989 Mazda 929 coupe”
The challenge of car design is partly about the harmonious integration of complex forms. What happens when the body-side crease falls into the orbit of the front wheel arch? Nothing good.
One of the things that catches my eye on the 2004 Mercedes-Benz CLS is the very unsatisfactory way the wheel-arch lip and the body-side crease (one of two) intersect. Underlying that is the problematic way the bodyside crease runs forward and then tries to go parallel to the wheel-arch. Mercedes can’t claim original authorship for this trope. As far as I can tell, that honour goes to the 1988 Nissan Skyline. Continue reading “Making It All Add Up”
Do you think we do this for fun? Here is the result of two evenings tediously clicking around slow websites, looking at confusingly arranged line-ups. This is what the Japanese brands are selling in the UK and what they charge.
How did I do this? I tried to count the number of distinct models under the category “passenger cars”. I then noted the base price of each. The “Brougham effect” might alter the absolute numbers somewhat but not enough to alter the general, relative nature of the findings. By that I mean if there’s a Nissan Micra Super De Luxe “Montecarlo” model which costs £9,000 more than the base model I won’t have included it. Continue reading “Theme: Japan – The Structure Of Their Product Ranges and An Overview Of Their Pricing”
I’m about halfway through my life or a little over, if I take the actuarial figures for Irish males seriously. Underway I have changed some opinions and made some discoveries. About time, too.
One of these discoveries is that fortified wines from Jerez, Spain are wonderful with sushi. A good fino like Lustau Jarana or a Manzanilla such as Solear go really well with this class of food. And that brings me to Japan, via raw fish. I discovered that raw fish is delicious, an oriental analogue of the way Europeans consume raw beef in the form of steak tartare though sushi is not about disguising the taste as Europeans do with capers, tabasco, onion and egg. The Japanese must find Europeans rather distasteful in some ways.
Sushi brings us finally to Japanese car design which provides plenty of visual interest and more simplicity than complexity. While I feel I am certain that there is more design Continue reading “Theme: Japan – Milestones”
Your correspondent gets into a bit of a flap over ‘our’ Jag’s ride quality. Or lack thereof.
Is it possible for one’s palate to remain untainted by daily servings of braised swan? It’s bound to have an effect over the long term – after all, too much of a good thing will skew anyone’s critical faculties. For instance it’s unlikely any mainstream motor journalist working today would place a premium on ride comfort above outright handling and roadholding, if only because there probably aren’t any old enough to remember when such qualities were not only valued, but were what set luxury cars apart from the mass-market hordes. Continue reading “An Uncomfortable Truth: Jaguar XF 2.2d Premium Luxury”
Japanese automotive engineering went into warp-drive mode in the middle 1980s. The Nissan CUE-X of 1985 remains an impressive tour de force of the purest styling and technical experimentation.
Starting under the skin of this elegant and minimalistic design, we find electronic air suspension which controlled the spring rates, ride height and attitude. The damping could be altered as well making this a car which had the potential to fill a brief written by Citroen. Going further than Citroen did with their 1988 XM, the Cue-X also boasted four-wheel steering* The description of how it works is very similar to that of the XM: sensors sent signals to the vehicle’s central processor. The data described vehicle height, road speed, steering input, braking forces, throttle position and gear position. Continue reading “Theme: Japan – 1985 Nissan CUE-X”
The car has been woven into the fabric of Hollywood since the early days of both. Each is a symbol of a uniquely American brand of mass prosperity, the polished chrome of the American automobile reflecting the bright lights and glitz of showbiz right back at itself.
Given this symbiotic nature, it comes as little surprise that cars have enjoyed star billing on numerous movie posters over the years. Some are great; many more are trash (but a lot of fun). Here are some of my favourites.
We might as well get the ball rolling with a classic. International market posters are often more interesting than their American or British equivalents, and so it goes with this French issue single sheet for Peter Yates’ genre classic, Bullitt (1968). Obviously Steve McQueen has to be the biggest thing on the poster, his gun holster and weary pose telling you everything you need to know about the character he plays. Continue reading “Drive By Movies: Cars and Film Posters 2”
According to our colleagues over Automotive News, Ford announced plans to build a small-car assembly plant in Mexico. The investment of $1.6 bn will entail 2800 new jobs by 2020. Not everyone is happy. At the same time, the future manufacturing plans of Ford’s Michigan assembly plant are unclear. The production of the Focus and C-Max at the plant will stop in 2018. The President of the UAW union is worried that this means that the Mexican plant will be replacing the Michigan plant and that the Mexican investment is at the expense of US auto workers. Continue reading “How Appropriate: Fiestas Made in Mexico”
How Toyota finally put the horse before the cart in what was, in one sense at least, a bit of a Triumph.
Despite promises of Waku-Doki and its work with EVs, Toyota remains in many ways a cautious company. Once I might have said this with a tinge of contempt, but certainly not now. The motor industry is a dangerous business, yet Toyota has survived and prospered because, generally, they know exactly what they are doing.
By the end of the 1960s, it was clear that front wheel drive was no fad. Even GM had started dabbling with it in, of all things, the 7 litre Oldsmobile Toronado. In Japan, Subaru had produced its 1000 in 1966, Honda the N360 in 1967 and Nissan the E10 Cherry in 1970. But Toyota waited. And waited. Finally, in 1978, Toyota revealed its toe-in-the-water exercise in front wheel drive, the Tercel. Naturally they had been biding their time, assessing the various forays into FWD by other manufacturers.
The Gamma had the requisite appeal to compete against its European upper-medium executive rivals in most key areas – apart from one.
Previously, we looked at how Lancia’s in-house sibling Beta nibbled away at the Gamma’s market, but how did it compare to its intended rivals, each well established upper-middle class contenders? The European upper-middle class market was populated by just about every major manufacturer, but Citroën, Peugeot and Rover offered the closest competition to Lancia’s big saloon. Similar in its left-field appeal, Citroën’s CX was also front-wheel drive and powered by large-capacity four-cylinder engines, but unlike the Gamma was also available with a wider range of engine, trim levels and body styles. Continue reading “Gamma: Signs and Portents – Part Nine”
One sunny morning during the Easter period I spied this with my little eye.
There was not much time to stand and really take the car in. I had a six-year old waiting exasperatedly in my car. What I did notice was that the interior was better than I remembered it. Journalists wrote disparagingly about the centre console carried over from the Peugeot 407 but as I can never recall that car’s interior, the duplication does not strike me. It would have mattered if it had been a 406 as I have that interior engraved on my mental screen. This 2007 car had the beige leather and so looked nicely spacious and, indeed, seemed to be bearing up well which is unusual for cars in Dublin. The climate, the roads, the indifference of Irish owners to tidiness all Continue reading “A Photo For Sunday: 2007 Citroen C6”
Conceived under a period of intense socio-political turmoil, the W126-Series S-Class proved tailor-made for the early 1980’s landscape.
The W126 was met with great acclaim when it was first unveiled in late 1979 and well into 1980. Auto, Motor & Sport, Germany’s major automotive publication, devoted a number of issues to the new ‘Best Car In The World’. In September 1979, Clauspeter Becker summed up the W126’s conceptual formulation thus: Bekenntnis zur Größe – which could be read as both a “commitment to size” or a “commitment to greatness”. This boastful title was however immediately followed by a paragraph explaining that development of the new S-Class had been dictated by tomorrow’s energy situation. Continue reading “First Of Its Kind/Last Of Its Kind: Mercedes W126 – Part Two”