It’s Spring 1981, and I’m in Charlottenburg, on the western edge of the British Occupied Sector of West Berlin.
The picture is taken on Wundtstraße at the edge of the Lietzensee. These names are still powerfully evocative of the time I spent in Berlin, half a lifetime ago. German big city carscapes are, in my experience at least, underwhelming. The urban dwellers’ favoured cars are small, cheap, usually French, Japanese, or Korean, and very old by British standards, but not quite old enough to be interesting. Continue reading “Theme : Places – Another Snapshot from Occupied Europe”
Let us briefly remind ourselves of Leslie Poles Hartley’s words, ‘The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there’.
The country photographed is now in the past, the Deutsche Demokratische Rebublik, a failed state which ceased to exist in 1990, and they really did do things differently there. When I took these photos nine years before the fall of the Berlin Wall, the DDR was dysfunctional, but very much extant, and didn’t look as if it would be brought down any time soon. Continue reading “Theme : Places – Snapshots from Occupied Europe”
We’ve reached the end of a very strange year, in which conventions and expectations have been hugely shaken. In comparison, the world of the motor car seems to have been bumbling along. Unlike a few years ago, when even giants like GM seemed ready to topple never to rise, this year has been relatively uneventful. So much so that one might wonder if the industry ever learns from its lessons. In some circles Toyota’s treatment of its Prius hybrid has raised eyebrows, and there have been discreet coughs in the Member’s Lounge regarding the new Discovery’s suitability on the grouse moor. Continue reading “Another Uneventful Year”
What’s hard to believe is that this design was the product of seasoned designers.
The 1993 Nissan AQ-X has several small and large errors that add up to something of a disaster. But we will learn from this. Being charitable, it’s a packaging car. The rear compartment has stupendous legroom. The doors open wide for easy ingress and, when you need to, egress. Up close the vehicle is finished to a professional standard (I mean at about 10 cm distance). At 10 metres you begin to wonder whether the person who had sketched the car had sketched many cars before this. Continue reading “Concept Car Du Jour”
If you think idiosyncratic coachbuilder Zagato is a peculiar kind of company, prepare yourself for the multi-facetted oddness of Rayton Fissore
As there are so many uncertainties about this particularly unusual automotive enterprise, let’s start with the verified facts. This company actually did exist. And while this may seem like a given, this very fact needs to be established, as so much about this business remains shrouded in mystery. Continue reading “Bevy of Strangeness: Rayton Fissore”
A car is for more than driving to Ikea, the shops and the petrol station.
On the way we are supposed to enjoy the experience (driving dynamics and all that) yet they are a means to an end point, aren’t they? So, how much of car ownership is about the idea of going somewhere nice whenever the mood takes you? This provides me with the opportunity to reflect a little on the destinations I have not yet reached with a car. Continue reading “Theme: Places – Destinations, Take 2”
‘Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour…’
I’ve already expressed my infatuation with the confines of the underground car park. Now I visit the other extreme, my desire to Climb Every Mountain – as long as I can do it in a car. Although I’ve shaken off most my youthful fears, some things remain. I’ve always hated heights for instance, even though a part of my working life has involved climbing ladders and towers, but I’ve never been at my ease. And take me to the edge of a precipice and the inevitable desire to either launch myself off it or to run away takes hold. So I guess I’d make a lousy mountaineer. But put me in a car driving along the edge of that precipice at 100kph and I’m fine. Mid-Summer sun, torrential rain or snow are all fine by me too, though the last does demand the right tyres to make it less of a gamble. And the view from a mountain top is one of those rare times you do get a reasonable and refreshing confirmation of your own insignificance. Continue reading “Theme : Places – Mountains”
Much driving tends to be routine: schools, works, shops, petrol stations and futile trips to Ikea…
…where you remember why it is you hate the place and never want to come back. I am quite far along with that resolution now. It has taken about 14 years to realise that everything they sell is worse than useless and that even focused purchases such as a child’s desk will end in disappointment (the hole in the top surface for the lamp cable is very annoying).
Confession time: I said there was no chain involved in this teaser, but there is one. And a couple of shafts. And one absolutely enormous toothed belt.
The answer is that the engines of all four cars were also used in motorcycles. It’s a rarer peculiarity than might be expected, particularly as I applied a self-denying ordinance which excluded tricycles, sidecar haulers (even the Borgward-Goliath-Kröger), and one-offs. All four two-wheelers here were on public sale as complete, series-produced entities. Continue reading “Connect the dots #3: The Answer”
What do you do when your product’s character derives from a particular look? Here’s how Ford revised the Mustang for 2015.
The overall change is that Ford have accentuated the horizontal character of the vehicle, front to back. While the old car looked more brutal and Aston-Martin-esque, the new one has smoother blends, and the two features that interrupted the front-to-rear flow are gone: the heavy B-pillar and the J-shaped scallop. At the front the lamps are slimmer and wrap around to the sides, again stressing horizontality and width. I think the previous car looked more masculine and robust. The new one loses some of that in the name of flow. Continue reading “Mustang Micropost: Compare and Contrast”
Here is a working car, heading the wrong way, from new to neglected. It’s getting tatty and probably won’t have a next owner. These Omegas disappeared quite rapidly after production ceased in 2004. The period reviews had an approving tone, especially with regard to ride quality. Continue reading “A Photo For Christmas Day”
A mighty wind from Wolfsburg marked the Passat’s coming of age.
Before we were all persuaded to go and unlearn it, the term ‘Mondeo Man’ was late ’90s media shorthand to describe UK’s Mr. Average. However his German equivalent would have been more likely to have been polishing a Volkswagen Passat ‘of a weekend. Trouble was, outside VW’s home market, comparatively few else were. Volkswagen’s mid-liner sold respectably, but its image remained as studiously underwhelming as its sales figures. Continue reading “Piëch Practice – 1996 Volkswagen (B5) Passat”
The Saab Car Museum in Trollhättan, Sweden has a well-presented and thorough collection of production, prototype and concept cars.
In this installment I will take a gander around the production cars. DTW is very pleased to present the work of photographer NMJ who accompanied me on the visit. A few of my own images are scattered in the collection. A while back a Buick Electra 225 caused me to think about the links between Sweden, American and American cars in Sweden. Now a visit to the Saab Museum took me back down that path. Continue reading “Saab Museum: The Production Cars”
Following his Final Report from 2015 and his subsequent Update from last April, here’s another one from Sean. Until the penultimate, absolute final update report he plans for late 2017 or thereabouts.
There was always the worry that, with time, the scales would fall from my eyes and I would see the Cube as the embarrassing and rather fatuous novelty that others see it as. Certain respected visitors to this site have made their abhorrence of the car apparent, and others have possibly implied it politely, by evading the subject entirely. However, for me, the satisfaction of ownership hasn’t worn off. Of course, city dwelling, and my rag-bag of alternative vehicles, means that I’ve only done about 7,000 miles in it over 18 months but, for me, it’s an excellent thing to have. Spacious inside, compact outside, good all round view. It’s perfect in town, and perfectly tolerable on long journeys. A hypothetical electric Cube might be preferable but, when I consider the alternatives actually available, I have no regrets. Continue reading “Our Cars – Nissan Cube : End Of Year Update”
One of the few positive things I could say about owning a RenaultSport Clio was it never left me short of things to write about.
From the way it demolished a corner to the way it demolished a gearbox, every journey was an anecdote. Owning the Clio was exciting in the same way that owning a live hand grenade would be exciting. By this yardstick, the Fiesta simply cannot compare. It is simply too smoothly competent to inspire easy prose. Go for a drive however and the Ford proves to be a capable story teller in its own right. Continue reading “Our Cars – Ford Fiesta Zetec S Red 1.0”
For some reason, I’ve been thinking about the chance of a better future recently. Car advertising always promises that. Cars seldom deliver it.
The better future is what most the people in old car adverts seem to take for granted. A trim young couple grin out at me, assuming things will just carry on getting better and better. For them, maybe they did. Certainly their marriage was statistically going to last a fair bit longer than that Vauxhall Victor F that they seem to be so pleased with, but which is probably rusting already. Today, that Insignia may no longer originate in Luton, but it may well last far longer than the modern couple. If they are a couple. Or maybe they’re just colleagues. Actually they look a damn sight more pleased with themselves than with the Vauxhall. Continue reading “To the Victor …….”
The joke’s on me: Cortina isn’t just a 70’s Ford. The 1956 Olympics took place there. The car came in 1962.
Ford make decent affordable cars for people like you and me. Even if we may never buy one, most people could imagine owning a Ford whether they really want to or not. So, how plausible is the Cortina name?
I will immediately admit that until I started writing this, I knew nothing about Cortina other than that it was a town in Italy. Prior to that (sometime about a year ago) it dawned on me it was a place-name. If you knew about Cortina the Italian town, please forgive this show of ignorance.
Think of it as a case study in the problems of borrowed names. As I said in my article on Ascona, a place name needs to be plausible. That means the image of the place and the image of the car must be in some kind of synchronisation. If the brand name itself is neutral then a model name can Continue reading “Theme: Places – Cortina”
When I was 17, a few months after passing my driving test, I took the family Fiat 124 up to London on my own. This was the first time I had driven in a city and I was both wary and excited. Various bits of that trip remain vivid. Although the M4 was opened by then, I came in on the A4 Great West Road so that I could pass the various factories at Brentford, including the Art Deco Firestone Factory. I remembered these from the back seat during earlier trips with my parents, and they seemed an essential part of the romance of visiting London. After Hammersmith I joined Cromwell Road and found myself in the centre lane of quite fast moving traffic rising up a flyover on a left hand curve. This seemed a great challenge, but I held my nerve and learned Rule One of City driving – as long as there’s space ahead, just keep going, don’t lift. Continue reading “Theme : Places – The Multi-Storey”
In 2008 Touring Superleggera showed their reimagining of the 2003 Maserati Quattroporte, the Bellagio.
Jalopnik calls it station wagon while Superleggera call it a fastback. I would call it a hatchback. All they needed to do to get it precisely in tune with our vexing Zeitgeist is to add 10 cm to the ride height and jam in a 4wd system. That is a distracting comment. As it stands, Superleggera have managed to respectfully turn the very nice Mk V Quattrporte into a believable semi-estate car. Should we tag it “is now” or “was then”? The car is still listed at Superleggera’s website. Other sources (ahem) say four have been built – which is somewhat fewer than I would expect given the general excellence of the basic car, the skill of Superleggera and the allure of the Touring name. While there are not many new cars I’d like to own, I could think of things Touring Superleggera could do to Continue reading “Uncertain Smile”
Could we have imagined the 1985 launch of the Y10 would mark the beginning of Lancia’s final act.
History does make for strange bedfellows. In 1969 Fiat handed control of Autobianchi to Lancia’s beleaguered management, entwining both marques. More than a physical union, their relative destinies would also become one – or at the very least, follow eerily similar pathways. History, as I’m fond of pointing out, has a way of repeating. Continue reading “Small Wonder : 2”
Driventowrite leaves no corner of the automotive world unexamined. Today we look a bit at paint, Mazda paint, Toyota paint, Opel paint…
Mazda presented their new colour in November, ending their press release with the memorable line: “colour is an element of form”.
Soul Red Crystal is a development of an existing Mazda colour, Soul Red that “balances vibrant energy and vividness with clear depth and gloss.” So, it’s rich and shiny. Mazda estimate that it has 20 percent higher colour saturation and 50 percent more depth”. I don’t know how the depth is estimated. There is no insight here. There might be some here.
This item is from legendary motoring scribe Archie Vicar’s motoring diary for the Chester Mail, July 1972.
Time stops for no man but Fiats can stop for everyone, at any time. While out on test with the revised Fiat 128 I found myself stuck by the side of the road near the Swan at Tarporley: failed brakes. The wretched car juddered to a halt with engine braking just as the lunch menu reached its final dregs. Only the rabbit brawn remained (foul) and I followed that with some Cheshire pudding and followed that by coaxing the stricken car back to life.
One drives at a sedate 120 kmph along the Danish motorway to the border with Germany. Not so long ago there were guards controlling this boundary.
One stopped or came to a rolling halt. If you were sufficiently ethnically correct you’d be waved through. Or, if they didn’t like the cut of your jib, a quick look at the passport might have been required.
Either way, one usually had to go from standstill or walking pace back up top speed (unrestricted on the German side). At this point I commonly experienced a shock as a car doing light speed would zoom past, seemingly having accelerated from near-zero (just like me) to 220 in the time it took me to get to
This time the link is a little simpler. The three cars are the 1981 De Lorean DMC12, the 1981 Triumph Acclaim and the 1981 Bitter SC. The year of launch is not the required answer. Continue reading “Connect the Dots : 2”
After taking a look at the 1976 Ford Fiesta, let’s examine its more restrained successor, the model of 2002.
“It was designed to please the public, men and women alike, with those big headlamp eyes, and that smiling radiator mouth.” Those are the words of Chris Bird. The project started in 1998 and is one of the unalloyed Bird Fords. The project bore the code B256 and featured a new floor pan for three variants: the five-door, the three door and the Fusion. Continue reading “Reserved – 2002 Ford Fiesta”
Late is better than never, and having sat on its corporate hands for years, Ford finally launched their supermini contender in 1976. So what took them so long? The answer lies both in Uncle Henry’s corporate culture and deep-rooted fear of failure. But having toyed both with front wheel drive and subcompacts at various times, the beancounters were having none of it. Continue reading “Party Animal – 1976 Ford Fiesta”
I’ve recently written about one Italian car’s 50th birthday, the Fiat 124. Now I will try to write about another 50 year old, from the other side of the tracks, the Lamborghini Miura.
Actually, here we are on the second paragraph and this is already threatening to be a labour of duty. Certainly, other DTW stalwarts wouldn’t go near the subject when there are still XJ40s and Astra Fs left on our roads and I admit that so much has been written on the car that I wonder what else I can say. Hell, I can’t even think of a title that won’t have been recirculated ten times or so. Continue reading “A Load Of Old Bull”
This example hoved into the gloomy car park of a shopping centre near me.
Although barely known in Europe it is one of those world cars with a basket of names and functions. It has had eight badges attached to it and has been propelled by eight engines. It’s the Mitsubishi L300.
I invited readers to find the links between the 1963 Hillman Imp, the 1970 Cadillac Eldorado and 1995 Peugeot 406 (I showed a coupé). This is my solution:
It’s not the shortest path. Peugeot manufactured the 406 coupé. The 406 replaced the 405 which Peugeot manufactured at Ryton-in-Dunsmore, in England. That factory formed part of the Rootes group which Chrysler bought in 1967, including the Hillman brand. The Imp was part of group’s range. One of the designers of the Imp was Mike Parkes who died while working on development of the Lancia Stratos (not in the car, at the time of). Marcello Gandini designed the Stratos but also cars for Maserati who were once part-owned by Chrysler. He also designed the Renault Super 5 which succeeded the original Renault 5 (or Le Car). The Le Car was sold in the US by AMC for whom Larry Shinoda worked as a consultant. One of Shinoda’s colleagues was Bill Mitchell and he was the chief designer of the 1970 Cadillac Eldorado.
In 1989 the little Lancia Y10 looked like the runt of Lancia’s litter. What was it doing in the range?
At that time Lancia dealers stocked the ordinary Delta, the Delta HF, the Prisma 1600, the Thema and Thema Ferrari 8.32. Did any European manufacturer have such an inconsistent or heterogeneous range? Isuzu had a coupé and an SUV – (Piazza and Trooper), while Subaru had the tiny Justy, midsized 1800 4wd estate and the XT. Perhaps only Volvo’s odd mix of the 340, 480, 240 and 740/760 gets close in terms of antiquity/novelty and visual difference. No, the prize for incoherence must be Lancia’s. Continue reading “Small Wonder”
Volvo’s trailblazing glassback coupé marked a new beginning for Gothenberg, but a creative swansong for its Dutch subsidiary.
With a reputation for solid looking, robust and uncompromisingly functional saloons, the last thing anyone expected from Volvo in 1986 was a shooting brake style sports estate. Yet for those with long memories or a photo of a P1800 ES to hand, Volvo had been here or hereabouts before – around 1972 to be precise. The 480 came about as part of Volvo’s plans to switch across the board to a front-wheel drive architecture. With the compact 300-series having been the responsibility of the former Daf subsidiary, Volvo’s team in Limburg were also tasked with developing a concept for its replacement. Continue reading “Braking With Tradition – 1986 Volvo 480 ES”
“It would appear that emissions, efficiency and cost are driving the V6 over a cliff. I would not wager a whole lot of money that Opel will still offer a V6 when the Insignia is replaced.” We got that one right. Opel revealed the 2017 Insignia-replacement the other day and we find that “the engine range is made up exclusively of turbocharged four-cylinder units and is crowned by a 247bhp 2.0-litre engine”. (Autocar)
Our correspondent in Sweden, NMJ, has had the good fortune to see one of these. What is it?
This kind of thing is what you can see if you keep your eyes peeled when roaming around Sweden. It was behind glass, hence the reflections that are apparent in the image. There was an old-favourite of DTW parked nearby which I will show a little later on in the week.
Some time back I promised that I would return to the topic of the form language exemplified by the 1970 Ford Cortina. Well, here we are.
Prompting this much-delayed exegesis is the coincidence of an academic paper (Carbon, 2010) which I came across (check out Google Scholar) and the fact that someone parked a new Mazda3 outside my front door.
To start with the easy part, we can talk about the concepts of angular and curved. Two prototypical examples might be the VW Beetle (rated as very curved in Carbon’s paper) and angular as embodied by the 1968 Carabo Concept (Carbon showed a 1986 Alfa Romeo 75, please note). So, where does the 1970 Ford Cortina fit in? What is it like? Continue reading “1970 Ford Cortina Revisited: Form”
There’s an awful amount of ill-informed, arbitrary rubbish spouted about tyres. Here’s some more.
Tyres are made of rubber and are there to make the ride of your car soft. It’s the air that gives the cushion, so you need to keep them pumped up, but not too hard. They have grooves cut in them called tread that let the rain out and if the grooves aren’t deep enough the police can fine you – I think it’s 1 mm, or maybe 2. I know a garage that keeps some part-used tyres out the back with more than enough legal tread and they will sell them to you at a fair price including balancing, though you don’t really need that as long as you drive at sensible speeds. I wacked my front tyre on a sharp kerb the other day which took a bit of rubber off and you can see some of the canvas stuff underneath, but it isn’t losing air. Maybe they’re the ones with tubes. Anyway they should be OK till the next MOT.Continue reading “The Carbon Black Arts”
I hope there is a central committee of car journalists who can hand down a decree or decision to use the term ‘prestige’ more selectively in future.
Among the best-selling cars in the UK we find the Audi A3 and Mercedes C-class. Admittedly they are at nine and ten yet they are exactly as mainstream or volume as Vauxhalls, Fords and VWs. All the usual suspects, the ones called ‘mainstream’ linger somewhere below this. The committee for car journalism terms needs to redefine the word prestige so as prevent anyone imagining that the C-Class is more prestigious and exclusive than the equivalent vehicles it comfortably outsells these days. I suggest Ford and Opel add 33% to their large car’s prices and advertise this point. Also, try only building to order and interview prospective buyers to see if they are the right people for such cars.
Ascona could be a place that takes you to other places, as in the driver’s seat of the Opel Ascona (1970-1988) or it could be the town in the Locarno district of Switzerland. I have to admit that until very recently in my life the Opel’s Swiss association lingered at the very far back of my mind. It lurked somewhere with Portuguese kings and medieval musical instruments. For most of my time on earth Ascona meant not a nice Swiss town but an unremarkable shape that usually rusted by the side of the road. Continue reading “Theme: Places – Ascona”
Idly I wanted to know what John Simister is up to…
He wrote for the Independent and is a freelancer now. I remember him from his days writing for Car magazine (1995-1998). This review turned up, of the MG3. Since I don’t live in the UK, I never see these cars and had forgotten about them. This part of the review is a surprise: “Despite this, there is a precision, a deftness, a transparency to the MG3’s responses that are rare in a new, mass-market model. It steers beautifully, it rides smoothly over bumps, it flows in a way which just makes you feel good. You do have to work the engine hard, but it’s not too noisy and a tidy gear-change action helps get the best from it.” Simister is known for his fondness for French cars so I read this as meaning the car drives like a Peugeot 205.
It’s Monday so all I can present to you is a four-year old fossil from what must be one of the shortest-lived car companies of recent years.
While the main theme of this series is an excursion through the obscure brands on sale, this is also a case of the dead rising again. No sooner had the lawyers finished off the outstanding ‘issues’ related to Fisker’s defunct firm than someone else dusted off the corpse, slapped on the make-up and lo, Karma Revero is born. Continue reading “Far From the Mainstream – Fisker Karma”
There are some places you simply don’t want to go.
In his transgressive 1973 novel, ‘Crash’, novelist JG Ballard explored a netherworld where a group of symphorophiliasts play out their fetishes of eroticism and death amid the carnage of motor accidents. But while most of us might find ourselves staring luridly against our better instincts at some roadside crumplezone, we recoil in dread from the blood and the bone. It could after all so easily be ourselves trapped and lifeless inside some shattered hatchback. Continue reading “Theme: Places – Scene of the Accident”
For about a century, petrol stations have been the one place all cars had to go to. Their time may be running out though.
In Europe, Italy has the most petrol stations (21,000), followed by Germany (16,000). Quite possibly in less than a few decades, the petrol station will be as rare a sight as a horse trough. Already their numbers seem to be dwindling. Three quarters of UK petrol stations have closed since 1975. In Londonland there are 34,000 cars per petrol station. Part of the loss is to do with changes in the economic geography of the stations. Many of the oldest ones were in urban centres and quite probably it is more profitable to put an office or apartment building in the same location than to Continue reading “Theme: Places – Petrol Stations”