Did you know that VW based the B3 (of which the B4 is a facelift) on the Golf platform?
And yet it’s bigger in all directions. That might explain why there are so many common parts. I took this photo as a contrast to the Mercedes W210 I showed recently. I’d planned to compose some thoughts on the junk charm of the B4 compared to the W210. This car is nicely tatty and the mismatched filler cap sets off the dreary metallic paint very well. I’d prefer if it was the B3 in a rich colour. Maybe that’s a bit contrived.
Perplexing this: the market for very costly cars has been booming and Aston Martin have only racked up losses.
Automotive News report that ” a pre-tax loss of £127.9 million ($172.03 million) in 2015, the fifth consecutive year the company has failed to make a profit, as the number of cars it sold fell and as it invests in expansion”. It seems everyone likes Aston Martin but not enough people want to buy them. Hasn’t it always been like this? Continue reading “Costly Cars, Big Losses”
Hitting the classifieds, we start with the letter A.
The used-car website Autoscout24 has a long list of brands from which you can choose if you decide to go further than Audi, BMW, Ford, Mercedes, Opel and Volkswagen. The first on the list is an odd ragbag of cars under the AC name. At the time of writing there were 115 cars listed for sale as ACs. I did not expect so many examples of this specialist British manufacturer to be on sale at the one moment. Continue reading “Far From the Mainstream: AC”
Few Murano’s roam about Jutland. I’ve always liked this car even if I am not a fan of softroaders.
The Murano shows what we might call Japanese design rationalism although the designers did their work in California. The bit we ought to notice is the very intelligent shutline management of the tailgate, rear lamps and rear quarter panel. The tailgate is oversized so as to eliminate the need for the roof panel to join to the C-pillar. Continue reading “2002 Nissan Murano: Americo-Japanese Rationalism”
During a conference on ugliness, the participants wondered if something could be ugly and still worth a further look.
I didn’t mention this car but I could have done. We’ve discussed here the marked difference between this and the predecessor; this example exemplifies Mercedes’ dropped standards of material quality and diligence of assembly. Even when tatty, the W-126 retains dignity, like an old tweed coat with a few patches. The W-210, in contrast, never looked good new and when the polycarbonate lenses become clouded and the MB star has fallen off, it becomes even worse. Continue reading “Theme: Materials – Decay II (1995 Mercedes W210)”
In the spirit of fearlessly reporting anything on four wheels, or even more, DTW questions why anyone would want a motorhome?
Whatever the weather might suggest, In Europe we are now in the holiday season. Some of you might be ‘travel as quickly as you can to a destination, then stay put for the duration’ sort of people. And, if you use a holiday as a reason to relax and recuperate, I can’t deny that this is wisest. For myself, I seem to lack the ability to stop still and, if I visit mainland Europe for a week or more, I usually end up putting 4,000 km, at the very least, under my wheels. And whereas I might have a couple of notional waypoints in mind at the start, these are often ignored and I really don’t expect to schedule an itinerary. So booking in advance is a non-starter and the nicest affordable hostelries are usually crammed full by the time I arrive. Continue reading “White Goods : My Other Car’s A Fridge”
Carl Heinz Bauer’s stylistic legacy isn’t necessarily one to shout about, but with the 2007 Mercedes W204 C-Class it could be argued he got at least one car (more or less) right.
It’s probably unavoidable. Over a lengthy career, every car designer worth his magic marker drops at least one absolute whopper on his CV, and frankly if the bulk of your time has been spent within Peter Pfeiffer’s dream factory, the chances of being responsible for anything even half decent is remote in the extreme.
But even by those famished standards, Carl Heinz Bauer’s portfolio stands out, having overseen the styling of the derided W212 E-Class saloon and Coupé. This alone would be reason enough to Continue reading “A Partial Absolution”
The predecessor of the GM Saab 900 still has the power to turn my head like only the Citroen CX, Jaguar XJ series 3 and Opel Astra F.
However, 22 years later I can see a lot of good in this car too. It’s better than the long-term average at least. The photo shows that the 900 could last. Normally these rubbers bend and get misaligned. Though the car received criticism for its ride it really didn’t deserve the comparisons with concrete-filled tyres. Continue reading “A Photo for Sunday- 1994 to 1998 Saab 900”
There aren´t so many Acuras on sale in Europe at the moment.
If you are interested Acura provides an avenue into a more exclusive form of Honda ownership, with prices ranging from €2,550 for a year 2000 TL to €124,000 for a 2011 TL. Some mistake, surely? The first one with a photo is this charmer, a 2000 Acura TL with a 3.2 litre V6. Continue reading “Far From the Mainstream: Acura”
People judge the Sorrento-Amalfi coast road to be among the most beautiful in Europe and I drove it. But…
…night had fallen even before I got there. The last shred of daylight flickered out as I turned off the motorway for Sorrento. How did I leave it so late? The car rental process wasted a precious 40 minutes of my time and it took an hour to escape Naples. The walk from the terminal to the car rental bus-stop took a while. So two or more hours slipped through my fingers after touchdown. Continue reading “2016 Citroen C1: Not Really a Road Test, Not Really a Drive”
While the coffin lid appears to have finally slammed shut on Trollhättan’s revenant marque, Driven to Write has unearthed secret plans to exhume the brand name once more.
Following Spyker Cars’ failed 2010 takeover of Saab Automobile, the National Electric Vehicle Sweden company (or NEVS for short) attempted to reanimate Saab’s rapidly cooling corpse by setting itself up as a ‘biofuel industry pioneer’ – a peculiar mission statement for a company with the avowed intention of producing electric cars. After licensing the brand from SAAB AB, (the aerospace division who held the rights to the name), NEVS restarted production of the GM-funded 9-3 model – a small number (about 450) of which were assembled in Trollhättan during 2014. An even smaller number of electric prototypes were also built. Continue reading “SAAB: Dead, But Not (yet) at Rest”
Autocar announced yesterday without any sense of embarrassment that the AMVZC shown as “a concept” last month will go into production largely unchanged.
What a remarkable sleight of hand, I feel. What has happened is that Aston Martin have shown a production car as a concept car, at the Villa d’Este concours. That has yielded a press-release and lots of coverage. A month later they are showing effectively the exact same car as a production car, with yet more coverage.
In this way AM have been able to avoid producing unconvincing and unfeasible trim as a disguise for a production car and get two bursts of coverage by the showing the same thing with two labels. If anyone can tell me where the difference lies between the “show car” and the production car then I’d be grateful. The entire exercise is quite cynical because, with one month between the “show car” and the “production car” it is clear that production was inevitable and there are no serious differences, no time need to evaluate demand or assess the reaction. Thus what has happened is that a production car has been presented as a show car, and I ask is this a first?
Since the Zagato is very striking and the sales are guaranteed, one wonders if this tricksy behavior is really necessary.
The Minx name is mostly forgotten today, a legacy of the demise of its parent company, Hillman.
However, Hillman used the Minx name for nearly fifty years on three or four generations of cars. As was typical of Rootes, the Minx name had a convoluted model history of small upgrades, badge engineering and variants such as the Super Minx with moderately modified bodywork. There is an awful lot of noise to sort out to get at the core of the Minx story. As with many of the cars of the time, the exact social significance and market positioning is rather hard to parse and I suspect one could Continue reading “Ashtrays: 1956-1967 Hillman Super Minx”
Cars start decaying the moment they are built. Some manage to accumulate character while most don’t. What do you do?
One response is obsessive polishing and maintenance. The other is stoic acceptance. For many the response is to oscillate in between the two, starting with careful stewardship of the new possession. Why do people fight physics? And why is it that cars don’t last longer? Continue reading “Theme: Material – Decay”
“A wholly new motoring experience” said Mercedes in 2006, but the R-Class not only fell between two stools, it also fell well short of expectations.
Product planning is an unholy art, akin to sticking a wetted finger in the air to see which way the wind is blowing – scientific it ‘aint. Showing a marked similarity in conceptual terms to Giugiaro’s Maserati Kubang proposal of 2003, Mercedes-Benz showed their Vision GST (Grand Sports Tourer) concept in 2004, a window into the Swabians’ plans to straddle SUV, MPV and estate sectors; a concept habitually known as niche-bending. A year later they displayed the car in pre-production clothes as Vision R – the production car, dubbed W251 and marketed as R-Class debuting exactly a decade ago. Continue reading “Starship Benz – 2006 Mercedes R-Class”
My casual analysis of the Italian fleet leads me to conclude Fiat, GM, Toyota and VW dominate the low to middle market and thereafter it’s Audi and Mercedes. The losers are Renault and Citroen at one end, Ford in the middle and Lexus and BMW at the top. Subaru, Mazda, Honda and Mitsubishi have no strong presence. Alfa aren’t even all that common. Continue reading “Micropost: The Italian Car Park”
There’s a paucity of new materials being used. Does an old construction technique have a future?
Early aeroplane construction made use of fabric stretched over a lightweight frame. Ex test pilot Charles Weymann adapted this technique for car bodies, patenting his construction method, selling patents and opening factories in France, Britain and the USA in the early 1920s. Using flexible joints for the underlying timber stopped unseemly squeaking, hidden wires held the doors in shape, and the ‘fabric’ comprised layers of chicken wire, muslin, cotton and, finally, self-coloured synthetic leather. Despite the fragility of the structure in the event of an accident and the risk of rotting fabric, the system was well-received and used extensively by coachbuilders. However, as metal body technology improved, by the early 1930s, demand had declined drastically although the technique continued to be used on bus bodies in the UK and the name Weymann continued on until the end of the 80s, when one-time transport manufacturing giant MCW (Metro Cammell Weymann) was broken up. Continue reading “Theme : Materials – Stretch-Fit”
In a choice between equals, there’s only one decision – or is there?
Ever since the giant landcrabs died out at the end of the Hydrolastic Age, Ford has been the UK’s top selling marque. Brits have clutched successive generations of Fiestas and Escorts to their heaving collective bosoms, sometimes despite myriad qualitative horrors perpetuated by the company, especially during the 1990s. Fast forward two decades and Ford’s continued popularity is perhaps more deserved, Alan Mulally’s global One Ford strategy culminating in what is (arguably) their best range in years. (Their European operation even managed to turn a profit last year for the first time since I was a schoolboy, if you believe their accountants.) Continue reading “Head to Head: Ford Fiesta ST versus Ford Fiesta Zetec S Red”
In a way, so to speak. If you lived in Italy you could be forgiven for thinking Lancia were still popular.
Here, south of Naples, Lancias outnumber Fords. There are very few Fords and Renaults, not even small ones such as Twingos. The first thing I did when stepping out of the airport was to photograph a Lancia Musa “Fifth Avenue” which had button-pleated beige leather seating. Continue reading “Lancia Lives”
An interesting report shows how plastics can contribute to improving vehicle efficiency.
By one estimate, 10% of the average weight of a vehicle needs to be removed to reach future EPA fuel economy standards. One way to do this is to make increased use of plastic. These can improve aerodynamics and also make the cars easier to produce and more durable. The use of fibre-reinforced composites means that less metal can be used for the body-in-white. Plastics can also be used in the drivetrain and electrical system. Continue reading “Theme: Material – Plastics”
The car market is segmented into several slices. How are these distinguished?
When it comes to door skins, the supplier Johnson Controls has a good idea of what constitutes the appropriate level of luxury for each price level. They also have an eye on how these levels will change in the future. The image shows what you might expect to see in four classes of car in the near future. Continue reading “Trends in Doorcasings”
This is the poor man’s GTX. It had a 1.3 litre four cylinder engine producing 55 hp.
The 5 had five-speeds and disc/drum brakes. It’s a kind of warmish hatch with go-faster front seats from the hotter cars and the same super-plasticky dashboard as the other 5’s. The dash theme is a smaller-scale version of the one found in the R25 which wasn’t a lot better but certainly wider and deeper: Tokyo by night, as “Car” described it. Continue reading “Micropost: 1988-1991 Renault 5 GTR”
Not by any account the first all-glass hatch, the 1978 Triplex 10-20 Glassback however brought glazing technology into the modern era.
BLMC’s AD071 Princess cleaved faithfully not only to Harris Mann’s original concept, but also to Donald Stokes’ vision for advanced engineering and ‘durable‘ styling in addition to time-worn BL tropes of skewed commercial ambition. Hailed (initially at least) as a visual success, the Wedge as it became known, never gained sufficient traction with the buying public; its styling proving divisive and with reliability woes poleaxing its reputation. Continue reading “Theme: Materials – Triplex 10-20 Glassback”
We reach for the Carnauba Wax and Ostrich Feather duster, then have second thoughts.
There’s something both satisfying and unnatural about a clean car. Cars aren’t like people on any level but, specifically, because they are never going to improve with age. Cars don’t have a difficult teenage period then bloom into mid-life vigour. Apart from a running-in period which might ease up a few parts, and running-in isn’t a big deal anyway these days, cars are on the downhill path from Day One… Continue reading “Theme : Materials – Keeping It Clean”
DTW is evidently in the middle of reappraisal of Japanese cars in general and Toyota in particular. Here you are invited to look more closely at the 2016 Prius.
I remember around the year 2000 finding the then-new Mazda 323F to be over-styled. “That’s the new school of over-styling,” I said as I looked at the car in the town of Bath, England. What would my younger self make of the Prius confection? It’s not hard to say that he’d have hated it. Something has happened to my judgement in the interim and it could be good or it could be bad. Continue reading “Gallery: 2016 Toyota Prius”
DTW discovers how to jump the queue at your friendly Renault dealer.
“Can you hear a whining noise”?
“Yes, I think so”
“I heard it a little while back, but it seems to be getting louder”
Hmm, the noise seems to rise and fall with engine revs more than speed, and it’s following us, so that means it is us. I pull off the road as soon as we see a parking area, and lift the rear hatch, casting my eyes and ears around the engine bay, trying to determine the source of the whine. It seems to be from the right hand side.
“Can you see a fine mist?” I ask. “Yes, down in the right corner” replies my wife. Not really what I wanted to hear, but it confirmed what I thought I could see – fine metal flakes emanating from the engine bay.
The past they say is a foreign country. I wouldn’t know about that, but a lot has happened in ten years. Hasn’t it?
It doesn’t seem all that long ago, but through mathematical deduction I can deduce that 2006 is in fact a decade old this year. To further the so much, yet so little has changed analogy, looking at geopolitical events of the year, the big issues at the time remain front page news now. The Middle East, North Korean’s nuclear ambitions, Oil prices, extreme weather; although the International Astronomical Union’s planetary downgrade of Pluto could only realistically be described as a one-off, although the astronomical entity itself was said to be absolutely gutted by the decision.
Originally carpenters made horsedrawn carriages with wooden bodies. They carried this technology over to the horseless carriage.
Then it became clear that for large scale production, a saw, hammer and some nails would not be up to the task. Design involves choosing a balance between what the material needs to do and how it can be formed. The appearance emerges from this compromise – the required look can drive material selection and vice versa. Often the balance is not even something at the forefront of the designer’s mind if they are working out of habit or tradition. Continue reading “Theme: Materials – Body Building”
The sighting of a half-dead example leads Richard to consider the career of the Scimitar GTE.
Maybe it says more about my preconceptions of The Netherlands, but at first I thought my eyes were playing tricks when I glimpsed something in the view ahead of me as I drove down a neat looking street in the town of Goes in Zeeland. Continue reading “Photo For Sunday : Reliant Scimitar GTE”
…I’ll talk about it anyway. Mercedes is still concerned their image is too staid. They want more women buyers. Can’t women be staid and boring too?
Automotive News had a recent article about Mercedes being more interested in the female buyer and the writer says this: “Mercedes has to make up ground, particularly in Germany, where years of conservative design and a stuffy image as the preferred brand for rich, older men has turned female customers away”. The litany about Mercedes being “stuffy” and “conservative” has been running for as long as I have been a grown adult. Continue reading “It’s Not Quite News, but…”
The humble little Imp was a trendsetter in several ways. But I’m not talking about pneumatic throttles… not today anyway.
Question: Does the 1963 Hillman Imp feature the earliest European production example of a ‘glassback’ or opening rear window? I’m going to stick my neck out and say it does. Yes, the 1959 Austin A40 (Farina) Countryman’s split tailgate arrangement could be said to predate it, as indeed did that of the earlier Chevy Nomad but I’m discounting both on the basis that not only is there a solid looking steel pressing holding the glass in place, it also forms part of a hinged drop-down section. (An arrangement the Range Rover cleaves to). Continue reading “Theme: Materials – Glassback Imprimis”
Recently DTW tested the arch-mainstream car, the VW Golf. This week we sample the joys of Toyota’s Auris and find out a little about how the two cars compare.
I don’t imagine that many people accept the keys of an Auris with much sense of excitement. However, I experienced a small burst of what many would call satisfaction when I found myself cupping the Auris’ keys in my hot little hand. A few weeks back I tested what many consider the benchmark C-class car, the VW Golf. Driving the Auris so soon after experiencing the Golf meant I had a good frame of reference for the Auris. I’ve also driven most of the other C-class cars, apart from the current Astra. That means I think I can offer this review with some sense of perspective. Continue reading “2016 Toyota Auris 1.6 Valvematic 5-door Road Test”
Imagine a car from the first decade of the 20th Century, with a big windscreen made out of the same sort of glass used in house windows in front of the driver. Some cars could get up to a respectable speed and if, by chance, you hit something, going through the front windscreen would be like skydiving into a greenhouse. Continue reading “Theme : Materials – Reflections on Glazing”
The option of an automatic transmission did little to mitigate the Gamma’s reputation as a disaster on wheels. If anything, it appears to have added to it.
One option missing from the Gamma’s specification at launch was an automatic transmission, not a fatal handicap in the domestic market where manuals proliferated, but rather more so in the UK, where a sizeable proportion of luxury saloons were specified as self-shifters. But in fact, Lancia had foreseen this necessity and in conjunction with UK supplier Automotive Products, engineered a four-speed automatic transmission specifically for the model. Continue reading “Gamma: Signs and Portents – Part Eleven”
At long last DTW has finally had a close look at the ashtray of a Lancia Lybra.
Before turning to that, I can report that the rest of the car is wholly agreeable, even if the upholstery is in dull, north European grey. It is velour and that helps. The rear ashtray is in the centre console and is of the pull-out, rear-hinged type. It looked adequate. The rear seats offer a comfortable place to spend time. If we compare it to a Ford Focus or VW Golf it is definitely more pleasant. I particularly liked the sculpting of the seats which are invitingly formed and much more pleasing than the other two cars. The Focus 1’s seats stood out as a weak spot. Continue reading “Ashtrays: 2002 Lancia Lybra”
Or parts of one. The photos were taken by our Dublin correspondent, Mick, who has a new post at his blog. You may want to take a gander…
It’s a small world and in Dublin you can get to know the fleet of older classics. I am pretty sure I have seen this car driving around. I believe it might belong to a member of the Citroen Car Club and was once owned by a mining and energy magnate whose name eludes me. He had a Citroen dealership hence the car. Continue reading “Some Photos For Sunday: 1986 Citroen CX Prestige”
What do the 1982 Ford Sierra, 1985 Mercury Sable and 1988 BMW Z1 have in common? Xenoy.
The difference is the extent and application of its use on the BMW. While Ford and Mercury made use of Xenoy on the bumpers, the Bavarian firm used it on the sliding doors, the wings and the rocker panels. The rocker panels are huge on this car so that’s a lot of plastic. Continue reading “Theme: Materials – General Electric “Xenoy””
The received wisdom is that large cars don’t look good in bright colours. I think the truth is that some people like bright colours and some people don’t.
In the same way, coffee is more popular than tea. That doesn’t mean tea is “wrong”. This stridently yellow Tesla T is, in my view, rather wonderful. Let us all now wax lyrical about mustard coloured Mercedes and Mimosa Yellow and Chrome Yellow. Continue reading “Received Wisdom”
Seeking a scintilla of substance beneath the style, Driven to Write’s Swiss correspondent is not impressed.
As every year in springtime, my C6 recently got serviced and had its tyres changed for summer conditions. My dealer, while not exactly around the corner, is capable and friendly, and has grown up in a family of Citroën lovers, so shares my preferences in cars. As a bonus, I often get interesting courtesy cars while my car is being looked after. This time, I was surprised with a DS5. It has long been on my list of cars I wanted to drive, so I happily accepted and looked forward to a new experience. Continue reading “Out of the Comfort Zone – 2012 Citroën DS5 Hybrid4 Road Test”
A quick game of word association around the kitchen table with select members of my tribe provided a 100% consistent response: I say, ‘values’ – tribe members respond, ‘family’. Looks like I’ll be writing about our family car, then.
Ladies (out of interest, does DTW have any female readers?) and gentlemen, I give you the Citroën Xsara Picasso. By the end of this September, we will have owned our Xsara Picasso for 10 years. This is a record for me. It’s almost certainly down to the fact that my wife uses it more than I and she’s perfectly happy with it. My wife appreciates my passion for automobiles, but does not really share in it, so the Picasso is a utility which causes little or no grief and performs its function without fuss – ergo, why Continue reading “Theme of Last Month: Values – Head over heart?”
Recently we discussed the idea of a repository for automotive cliché. But in some cases, remove the offending phrases and the entire edifice collapses.
During the early years of the 20th Century, US politician, William McAdoo once waspishly said of President Warren Harding; “His speeches left the impression of an army of pompous phrases moving over the landscape in search of an idea.” As putdowns go, it’s rather a good one, but frankly as an opening line for an article (such as this one for example), it does leave an author open to the whiff of pretension. Continue reading “When Words Collide”
Not only is Volkswagen riding out the worst of the Dieselgate scandal, they are on track to steal Toyota’s crown as the world’s biggest car maker.
Read anything about Volkswagen in recent months and you would gain the impression that the company was on the ropes. Production numbers from the first third of 2016 paint a different picture, however. So what’s the actual story? Continue reading “Malady’s Echo Chamber”
Metal, Glass and Rubber were once the main materials used in any car, plus leather or cloth on the seats and roof and, probably, a bit of timber, either used superficially, as decoration, or maybe structurally. Except for the odd sliver of mica or ceramic and a bit of horsehair, that was it. Continue reading “Theme : Materials – Introduction”