The other day I saw this car for the first time. A shortage of time stopped me from giving it a close look. It’s the Renault Talisman, in the metal.
The French justifiably have protection for their film and television media. I wonder if something similar is needed for French cars. Ceci n’est pas une voiture francaise. I don’t have a cedilla on my keyboard, before anyone writes in. It’s quite professional and also dotted with a few oddities such as the faint swerve of the base of the side glass over the rear wheel, the eccentric shutline that dives from the base of the A-pilllar to the front lamp and the useless vent under the A-pillar. The rest is generic Eurocar. Continue reading “Micropost: 2016 Renault Talisman”
BMW’s E60 5-Series was a landmark design. Thirteen years on, it still is – something that could never be said about its main domestic rival.
How long does it take for a car design to visually mature? I would suggest a good decade for the shape to either embed itself or to become hopelessly dated. Good design doesn’t really date that quickly – a notion I was reminded of the other day as I happened upon two mid-noughties contemporaries parked nose to tail in suburban Pinner and was struck by the modernity of one and the really quite homely appearance of the other. One was a Mercedes W211 E-Class and the other an E60 BMW 5-Series. I think you can guess which was which. Continue reading “Mid-Decade Midliners”
This rather festive and cheery car shows how much colour and material can add to what is a very basic concept.
I’d be the first to agree that this is not for everyone. On the other hand, having looked at a thousand grey interiors with bits of brightwork thrown about, this is a refreshing view. I’d argue that a lot more work needs to be done to explore acceptable alternatives to grey and black interiors which are now as tediously predictable as the all-beige or light-grey interiors that were once dominant in the 90s. Continue reading “Micropost: 2014 Suzuki Alto Lapin Chocolat”
In spite of a busy schedule on the work and domestic front I managed to steal an hour to go to the Classic Race Aarhus where, in an associated event, a lot of old cars filled a meadow.
It looked liked a re-run of last year and I took a different tack this time. I walked through the field and took some photos at the end.
If any one of most of the cars had been parked on the street it would have made for a 1200 word essay. Today you get 580 words, or three per car. When so many vehicles stand together it is excessive, no? A mint Ferrari 412 stood between me and the rest of the contingent and I walked past it in search of something even better. Continue reading “Too Much of a Good Thing”
It’s another round of musical chairs at the Italo-American car maker, with particularly resonant changes being brought to the company’s sartorial department.
In yet another surprising move, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) CEO, Sergio Marchionne, has promoted Wichita-born Tripp Hardcrotch as Chief Knitwear Officer. Mr Hardcrotch will be in charge of organising clothing supply for all global subsidiaries, as well as devising a new sartorial structure for the company.
A good, quantifiable value is a good selling point. It’s an even better selling point if few people know what it actually means, so they can’t really challenge it or compare it.
If you follow Formula 1 these days, you will hear a lot, an awful lot, about ‘aero’. Assuming the drivers don’t all have a fixation on the bubbly, chocolate snack, we can assume this means that the aerodynamics of the overpriced racing cars are very important. They are important for road cars too but, oddly, nowadays manufacturers don’t make a big deal of it in their marketing, leaving you to guess from the often excessively racetrack mimicked shapes of splitters, spoilers and diffusers we see on so many cars. Continue reading “Theme : Values – So Where Are The Drag Queens Now?”
In my survey of the values of the motoring manufacturing nations, we have touched on Italy, Britain and France. Now it is time to look at the nation that helped invent the motor car.
The present gets in the way of the past. Today Germany stands on an equal footing with Japan and the US as a powerhouse of car engineering, design and manufacturing. If we go back a hundred years the story would not have seemed so clear. Each car-building nation had a deluge of manufacturers and a certain sameness attached to all of them as they ploughed a vast array of technical furrows, hopeful minnows. Germany’s clever engineers and industrious entrepreneurs offered a wide range of types of car in the search to find something that matched German values and German conditions. Things became clearer in the 20s as most of the small makers died off. The Second World War acted as another selector. Mercedes managed to Continue reading “Theme: Values – Germany”
We spend a lot of time here considering certain car brands that are, historically at least, a cerebral choice (Citroen) an emotional choice (Alfa Romeo) or a combination of the two (Lancia).
In fact these are just the adjectives of motoring journalism, a defensibly quick and easy shorthand. Most people use a portion of their intellect to decide which car to acquire, balancing price against consumption against tax.
Likewise they use their emotion in deciding that a particular car suggests the life they’d like to be leading and how they’d like to perceive themselves and be perceived by others – this might be silly, but it’s something most of us can understand, however much we deny it would be the case for us. Continue reading “Theme : Values – Intellect & Emotion”
The car that would come to be defined as the quintessential S-class was in fact, a deeply conservative vanguard of modern engineering. However, its legacy would not last.
A blackened wreck with a blown-off bonnet and deflated tyres lying across a cordoned-off street. This is how most Germans of a certain generation remember the Mercedes W126, the S-class model of the 1980s.
In the autumn of 1989, Alfred Herrhausen, chairman of Deutsche Bank, as well as head of Daimler-Benz AG’s supervisory board, was killed on his way to work by the blast of a roadside bomb. Herrhausen had been one of the most influential economic leaders of West Germany, and certainly the most charismatic among them. A proponent of challenging concepts, he advocated the need for global corporate expansion, as well as debt relief for Third World countries. Continue reading “First of Its Kind : Last of Its Kind”
Values: How can this term can be ascribed to the subject of the motor car, and how much do I place upon my own vehicle?
Most of the time our cars are simply a tool, taken for granted and unconsidered unless we deign to clean them or the blasted thing refuses to start. There are currently two cars in my life. A 2013 Jaguar XF, (which isn’t in fact mine) and a 1996 Saab 900S, which is. The Jag was purchased about six months into its life, and is a low mileage, fairly cosseted luxury consumer durable.
The Saab was purchased in 2014 with about 110,000 miles on its odometer, but with every stamp present in its service book. It’s still in remarkable condition despite not being cosseted at all. The XF cost its owner something in the region of quite a lot of money, while the Saab – well, lets just say my road bike was more expensive. Continue reading “Theme: Values – More Than the Sum of its Parts?”
Driven to Write concludes its meditation on the definitive latter-day Mercedes, the W126 S-Class.
Viewed with disinterest, it is surprisingly easy to come to this conclusion when judging the W126. Visually, it is far from stunning. Its vertical affinity, horizontal homogeneity-influenced styling (or rather: design) means it could easily be shrugged off as “just some Mercedes”. In terms of engineering, its focus on safety, solidity and efficiency also means it has never been at the forefront of performance data bragging contests, due to the lack of a V12 engine or an engine of almost ridiculous capacity at the top of the range. The W126 asks either for a conservative stance in the traditional sense of the word or an understanding of subtleties to be appreciated. Continue reading “First Of Its Kind/Last Of Its Kind: The Mercedes W126 – Part Four”
Ah, this is a tricky one. It´s like trying to understand your family.
I’m not British but the British have loomed large in the culture of the Irish, and “Ireland” is written on the front of my passport. British cars once dominated the Irish car market and now Germans and Japanese predominate. The interplay of convoluted historical strands influenced the character of British cars. In sketching all this can I do so without being too kind or too critical? Continue reading “Theme: Values – Britain”
Between the choice of a Toyota Auris and a VW Golf, I went for the Wolfsburg car.
The Toyota would be too uninteresting, I thought.
It would be simpler if I didn’t write a review at all. Nobody needs to know I drove this and no-one need ever discover what a hard time I’ve had writing something intelligent about Europe’s favourite car.
What will I remember about the Golf? Two or three things. One, the interior door grip is squeeky. It’s made of two shells that don’t fit precisely. In counterpoint, there are two interior rear roof lights that don’t budge when you turn them on. They were well-secured to the roof, not the headliner. And you’re never sure you’ve turned them off. Two, the CD player is in the glovebox. Three, the boot is smaller than I liked. Lots of litres are wasted under the boot floor panel. Continue reading “2016 VW Golf 1.4 TSI BlueMotion – Impressions”
FCA has been receiving positive responses in the press with the new Alfa Romeo Giulia. But, at present, although it will never be the big seller, a lot of the reviews seem to concentrate, rather disproportionately, on the £56,000 Quadrifoglio.
The other Saturday I had to do a drive I’ve now done several times, diagonally across England from South-West London to the Shropshire / Wales border. Once out of London, it involves a rather dull slog up the M40 and round the south of Birmingham, then an 85 km drive across nice country roads, bendy but with sufficient straight sections to allow overtaking, a couple of towns, a few villages, some moorland, all-in-all excellent driving country. The total distance was 284 km and I did it in 2 hours and 50 minutes, meaning that I averaged exactly 100 km/h (62.5 mph). During this trip I enjoyed my drive and I think about three cars overtook me on the motorway, none on the back roads. Continue reading “Theme : Values – Restraint”
As anyone has read a few books on Italian history will know, it’s a great bunch of countries. Only foreigners lump it all together as one nation.
That gives us a bit of a head start in understanding how Italy’s values translate into the broad array of markedly different car companies being stifled under one management.
As recently as the 1950s you could still find people in the deep south of Italy who didn’t know what Italy was. While outsiders consider Italy to have been unified, many Italians still see the event as a take-over of the south by the conservative north. As much as the United States is characterised by sharp contrasts and deep differences so too is Italy. Continue reading “Theme: Values – Italy”
A little bit of what you like won’t hurt you. Except when it really, really does. Recently I have had a couple of reasons to consider the meaning of the idiom you can have too much of a good thing.
The first came, perhaps inevitably, with a trip to the hospital. A few weeks prior, my knees had swollen and become painful to the point I could hardly walk. A week at home sat on my backside bombed out on powerful prescription painkillers (the only circumstance by which daytime television becomes tolerable) saw off the worst, but nearly a month later I was still knock-kneed like an old beggar under a sack.
Thomas Ingenlath – dedicated follower of fashion. How disappointing.
CMA has helped us to capture something special, something youthful in our new concept cars. They have an energy, a disruptive and engaging urban character that makes them stand out.” So says Thomas Ingenlath (Senior VP Design) about the Concept 40 shown today by Volvo. When I turned my keyboard to this little bit of news I intended to do a short design review. Instead I saw the word “disruptive” thrown into the word salad Mr Ingenlath spouted in his attempts to sound modern, up-to-speed and edge-like (edgy?). Disruptive is a word used by futurologists and fans of Uber and Airbnb to dramatize technology that changes things.
It’s time for a bit of sweeping generalisation. Let me sweepingly generalise about French cars.
You’ll have to forgive the broad brushstrokes here. That’s how I like to start before thinking about the curlicues and details that put nuances on a rough outline. France’s automotive values emerged from the soup of French culture. That is itself a richly complex thing which has attracted the attention of the rest of the world for as long as wine, olives, cheese and berets have been cultivated in the mosaic of terroirs that make up the nation. Continue reading “Theme: Values – France”
“Two doors good, four doors bad” George Orwell (well sort of)
It’s a sad inescapable fact. The days of two and three door cars are coming to an end. It is manifest that a two door car will look far better than it’s overdoored relative, I mean the rear wheel arch is clearly no place for a shut line. Slowly but surely though the life is being inexorably squeezed from these cleaner more rakish looking cars yet simultaneously we are told that there is more and more choice available.Continue reading “Paradise Lost”
I’m sorry if this comes across as being repetitive, but like a man with a sore tooth, I seem incapable of leaving this subject alone. Anyway, I think it’s been well established that repetition is very much the leitmotif when it comes to the subject of Jaguar. Certainly Ian Callum’s statement last month that the luxury car maker had no plans to Continue reading “Ghost of X-Types Past”
Which is the Best Irish Stout? Well, you could always try looking for the answer in Guinness World Records, the default repository of achievements and natural extremes.
I was as nerdish as any other schoolboy, possibly a fair bit more in fact. In the early to mid 60s, I owned several volumes of the, then, Guinness Book of Records, which was published annually. This contained information on the Longest, Heaviest, Brightest, Furthest …… etc that you could quote, authoritatively, to your friends and relatives, who would look politely impressed whilst stifling their yawns. Continue reading “Theme : Values – The Ultimate”
A former doubter takes a thimbleful of humble pie as the Giulia lands…
In the eleven months since Alfa Romeo revealed the Giulia to the world, I’ll admit to being more than a little dubious about the car and its prospects, and with some justification. Not only did it look faintly ridiculous in its early-reveal Quadrifoglio Verde warpaint, also the on again, off again nature of its gestation and introduction did little to lend confidence or succour to those who had waited so long for a competitive, mid-sized Alfa saloon following the demise of the pretty, if portly 159. But now that it’s finally here, perhaps it’s an opportune moment to view it with less cynical eyes. Continue reading “Giulia Shock!”
Lancia did not have much of a presence in the US. It’s zenith: 1975 to 1983. This advert comes from about the middle of their last “proper” push to sell new vehicles.
The choice of used Lancias in the US is not great. For $8950 you can have a Lancia Fulvia bodyshell. No doors, no interior. Just the shell, wheels and motor. If you want a bit more car then $15,000 is what you shall pony up for a 1965 Lancia Flavia coupe. It’s missing the top part of the dashboard, only. If you look around you’ll also find one of the three Lancia Scorpions used in Herbie Goes Bananas. That’s up for auction. Continue reading “Micropost: Lancia Advertising From the US”
This little badge indicates the car originated in Ales, a town west of Avignon.
C. Morel Ford is still there too. The car has a Danish roadworthiness cert from 1999 so it has been driving about here for a good long time. There’s also little new with the Vignale concept. This car has it all apart from leather upholstery. In this case it has brown nylon cloth. There’s a centre armrest front and back and plenty of real wood trim. Continue reading “Micropost: Ford Taunus 2.3 Ghia”
Whereas Fitz and Van tended to offer a rosy picture of today, Syd Mead looked forward. In this image we are invited to imagine that the pilot of the advanced military (?) plane in the background has driven in a very futuristic sports car to get to work. It’s the future so he is wearing a silvery jump suit. Continue reading “Micropost: Syd Mead’s 1977 Artwork for Yokohama”
Ford’s recent ad-campaign urges us to let go of what we know about the Blue Oval. It seems to be working, but maybe not as intended.
Superficially at least, Ford’s European fortunes appear resurgent, but leaving aside corporate spin and fatuous ad campaigns, there’s little substitute for a bit of hard data. So with this (and those commercials) in mind, it might be worth looking at Ford’s first quarter European sales figures to see what, if anything can be read from the metaphorical tea leaves. And sure enough, with two model lines holding top spot in their respective sectors, three in third place, and five individual lines posting notable percentage gains, there are reasons to be cheerful in Merkenich. Continue reading “Can’t You Just Let It Go?”
As the eighties progressed and those who could preferred to flaunt it, the W126 began to fall out of favour and, for the very first time, began to feel threatened.
The nature of the market during the late 1970s and early ‘80s played a crucial role in the unique process that lead to the W126’s creation. It is, for example, very hard to believe today’s clientele would accept a flagship modell with significantly reduced output figures compared with its predecessor – yet after a decade of fears of fuel shortages, even the most wealthy and conspicuously consuming of customers were willing to accept a certain amount of modesty.
Values change and with them the shape of that blob known as the car market.
This short discussion begins with news that everyone’s favourite compact, near-luxury car, the Buick Verano is to be dropped from GM’s north American line-up. Buick now sells more CUVs than saloons and sells less of everything compared to their heyday. That is a result of a change in values. What Buick represented no longer fits with the desires of enough paying customers. Those are a predilection for a raised ride height over the lower-seating position of a saloon. Buyers like the hatchback format. American-ness no longer rates as highly among American customers who are happy to buy any brand if it fits in with their pocket and their needs. On the negative side, buyers don’t care for the image Buick used to have and perhaps still does, of conservative mild-luxury. Continue reading “Theme: Values – The Fluctuating Preferences of the New Customer”
This is what looks like another transcript from the archives of influential motoring writer, Archie Vicar. In this item he welcomes the new DAF 66, an article entitled originally “Everyone’s favourite Dutch marque”.
This article first appeared in the Ryton-on-Dunsmore Evening Echo, July 1972. Photographs by Douglas Land-Windermere. Due to the poor quality of the photos stock images have been used.
The Daf 66 is here, at long last. As Dutch as a daffodil soaked in Bols, the Daf 66 carries on the traditions of car building for which the people of Holland have been quite well-known since 1959. Simply put, the Daf 66 is a 55 with a new suspension layout, one which opens the possibilities of more powerful models. This will keep Daf “up to speed” in these increasingly competitive times. Continue reading “Road Test: 1972 Daf 66”
DTW likes to present itself as a dogma-free zone and, in general, we think that this is so. We cover four wheels without prejudice of value or social status. But once we step outside that, things change. When I was at school, with youth’s preference for factions, it seemed to be that you were either a car person or a motorbike person. I suppose there were people who were neither, but contempt or, at best, pity for them was the only thing that united car and bike lobbies. I was firmly in the car camp, and remained there until my late twenties, when I discovered bikes as well. But many car folk really have no interest in bikes, which makes writing about bikes on these pages a minority pastime. Continue reading “Two Wheels Good. Three Wheels Better?”
As the ever quotable Oscar Wilde wrote, a cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.
As prices have escalated over the past three decades, that aphorism certainly applies to many contemporary classic car collectors. If you have an interesting looking car, people come up and talk to you about it. My Citroën SM is now entering my 21st year or ownership so, over the years, I’ve got reasonably used to this, though my social grace occasionally lets me down. Sometimes the speaker is highly informed and might tell you something you don’t know. Sometimes they are like-minded enthusiasts who just want to make a pleasant comment or Continue reading “Theme : Values – 1973 Citroën SM (Very) Long Term Test”
As well as being the car from the Sweeney, the Consul is where Ford UK’s gradual loss of independence began.
The nameplate came from an earlier line of British Fords, indicating a lower level of accoutrification. It also masked the German Ford input to the line of cars better known as Granadas. Gradually Ford UK built fewer models: the Granada was followed by the Cortina, Escort and Fiesta. Now the Mondeo is a US-EU effort. It kicked off here.
What caught my attention is the very sharp corners of the shutlines: bonnet and door. Would rounded ones as on aeroplanes not have provided greater strength? The owner of this rather grand vehicle runs an XM as a daily driver, as far as I know.
This photo-series is the work of Mick who kindly sent me the images. The name of the car is almost as long as the production run. From 1974 to…
…1983. Making this example one of the last made. The estate versions carried on for another year. It’s a series 3 Fiat 131 Supermirafiori with a 2.0 litre twin-cam engine, hence the T/C label tucked on the side at the rear. Ten years: that’s a long time in car design and the ten years from 1974 to 1983 were a tumultuous time in the wider world.
The series 2 looked better with the single-frame front end, one of Michellotti’s triumphs, if you’ll pardon the pun.
The car here still has a lot going for it: great detailing around the glasshouse and smashing proportions, power and comfort. Was it British or Italian? The Italian cars never looked so strong and the British cars seldom so imaginatively detailed. Continue reading “Micropost: 1963-1969 Triumph 2500 PI”
What’s this if not the inspiration for the Euro-Granada from the early 1970’s.
American readers will know more precisely what this is. My diagnosis is no sharper than to say it’s a 1968-1974 Ford Galaxie. The script is the same as on a Mk 1 Granada GLX which we featured here. So, did Merkenich use the same design, sent over in the post from Dearborn? Continue reading “Micropost: The Granada’s American Cousin”
Further to our discussions, here is the Fiat 500 by Diesel. This is less convincing than the Gucci edition. It smacks even more of aftermarket.
And the advert here is in rather poor taste. Here is a little more on the car if you can find the strength. What would I want from a proper special edition tied in to a big-league company? The wheels should not be available on the rest of the range. The seats ought to be unique to the car even if that just means new head-restraints. I’d like fitted, branded luggage. There must be firms able to run up such a thing for a few hundred euros. I imagine the people at Diesel know how to create small runs of textile products, right?
Rumours of a turbocharged version of the Lancia flagship proved to be more than hot air, but the Gamma Turbo failed to enter production. Well, not quite…
Even following the car’s announcement, it appears that debate over the wisdom of employing the Tipo 830 boxer engine continued to rage; especially once the powerplant’s frailty in service became apparent. This schism was alluded to by Car magazine’s Italian correspondent, Giancarlo Perini in June 1979, writing; “At Lancia they are developing a new 6-cylinder engine that could be fitted into the Gamma. But a big struggle is going on between the directors who supported the flat-four project (who will not recognise they were wrong) and the other directors who support a change to a six cylinder engine.” It’s likely Perini was getting his timelines muddled, since Fiat were by then firmly in retrenchment mode and would never countenance such expense having already invested in the existing powerplant. Nevertheless, it does suggest a measure of hand-wringing was taking place over the Gamma’s fortunes in Turin. Continue reading “Gamma: Signs and Portents – Part Ten”
Today, Driven to Write dons a metaphorical black armband as Volvo’s CrossCountry sales flop is quietly stuffed in a sack and drowned.
Spare a thought if you will for the unfortunate product planner, tasked with uncovering the next automotive sales sensation, all the while negotiating the myriad trapdoors luring the unwary and over ambitious. Falling on their swords this week are those hapless individuals in Gothenburg forced to Continue reading “Cross Purposes”
Much has been learned from last month’s Japan-fest, perhaps most of all that anything we assume about this extraordinary automotive industry is probably wrong, or at least far more complicated than imagined.
For example, most people imagine Suzuki were a confirmed K-car specialist until GM took a modest 5.3% stake in the business in 1981 and promoted the development of the Cultus SA310 supermini – its names were legion; who’s heard of the Isuzu Geminett?
Then, in the depths of the Japanese Society of Automotive Engineers enlightening website I found this forgotten beauty: The 1965 Suzuki Fronte 800. Not to be confused with the big-engined export Kei-car from 1979, more familiar as the Alto and Maruti 800. This one had a long gestation. Continue reading “Yet More Japan – When Suzuki Stumbled”
Up until now I thought Gucci had limited their dalliance with the car industry to American brands such as Cadillac.
At the other end of the scale and on the other side of the Atlantic, Gucci also graced Fiat with their magic touch. According to Gucci “The car’s silhouette is outlined by Gucci’s signature green-red-green stripe, which runs along the entire perimeter and links the exterior to the interior. The stripe also appears inside on the seats, on the gear shift, the key-cover, the carpets, and in an innovative finish on the seatbelts. The interior space of the 500 by Gucci is stylish yet functional down to every last detail: chic embroidery, exclusive materials, glossy and satinContinue reading “Special Editions: 2011 Fiat 500 By Gucci”
Following a discussion on the relative merits of various fabrics here and an article by Mick here I decided to take a preliminary look at the world of automotive fabrics.
Somewhat late in life I’ve developed a curious fascination with fabric in design. This is an extension of my interest in colour. The two go together and often a fine fabric is presented in a rather dreary hue or else a nice set of colours is marred by an unsuitable pattern or weave. For quite some time the world of vehicle fabrics has been stuck in a bit of rut. Fiat are perhaps the most notable exceptions to this, chiefly in their smaller cars. The rest of the world is trading – it seems – in dark grey woven cloth or unconvincing leather. Continue reading “Of Which the Stuff Of Dreams Are Woven”
Twenty-five years ago, Opel launched the Astra F. As far as I can ascertain, this is the only place where you will find that event marked.
You might find it odd that DTW (or just is it just me) continue to bang on the Astra drum. One reason that I like to draw people’s attention to this is because the recognition of good design is often rendered harder by ancillary matters of fashion and consensus and I’d like people to see past that. The received wisdom is that in the C-class the Golf is the gold medallist. The Golf has many positive attributes: often its quality of construction is superior to the average of the day; some versions are acknowledged driver’s cars; some versions are neatly designed. However, the Golf’s arch enemy, the Astra has lingered too long in the shadows of the Wolfsburg car and if you are blinded by consensus you are missing something lovely. Continue reading “Anatomy Of A Star: 1991 Opel Astra”
According to a new report, Cadillac is America’s least wanted brand. No car spends longer on the showroom floor.
This image accompanied the story. As you know I really dislike adverts that show cars parked on sterile pavements outside modernist houses. The vast expanse of dark grey hardcore caught my attention here. Can you imagine how hateful it is when all that crushed rock throws out its stored heat on a hot evening? And how large is that runway of stone anyway: it seems to be at least half the length of the house and twice as wide, with the actual countryside well off in the far distance. Continue reading “Another Reason Not To Buy This Car”