So you thought there was only one Fiesta Mk.1? In fact there nearly were two, and the one we never saw almost tore Ford apart.
From its inception in 1969, Ford’s small car project had always had inter-continental ambitions. An early project structure saw engines manufactured in Brazil being used in cars made first in Europe, with a production base in Brazil following on, which would not only serve the home market, but would also export to the USA. US and Asia-Pacific production sites would follow. Other visions included a simplified low-powered variant adapted for production in developing countries, a third world car maximum speed of 55-60mph, a 0-50 time of 25-30 seconds, capable of being sold at 50-60% of the price of the cheapest Ford Escort. Continue reading “Theme: Compromise – The Fiesta Mk.1 – Blood on the Boardroom Floor”
The more I have considered this month’s theme, the more I have realised that it is far too wide ranging. Compromise is everywhere in our lives, or at least in mine. I could write about any topic and, in very little time, the subject of compromise will come up.
Last week I sent off my driving licence for my first ever speeding endorsement. After 48 years. Damn, it could almost have been a full half-century. Still that’s impressive, no? Actually, no it isn’t. The circumstances of the fine are irritating, but I can’t complain. To have lasted this long says a fair amount about my vigilance, a bit more about our policing, and a lot about my good luck. Continue reading “Theme : Compromise – Setting a Limit”
Let us consider the conventional wisdom about the first generation Fiesta.
It arrived some time after the revolutions in small car design which raged through Europe in the fifties and sixties, and continued to bear fruit into the early seventies. It was thus a rationalised ‘best practice’ car, standing on the narrow but solid shoulders of at least four influential and successful rivals which arrived early enough in the 1970s to influence and inform Ford’s designers. Continue reading “Theme: Compromise – The Fiesta Mk.1 – Almost Revolutionary”
Necessity might be the mother of Invention, but her second child is named Compromise.
For anyone with an ounce of petrol in their veins, few experiences necessitate compromise more than parenthood. Children may be small, but their interminable things are not. The gravitational pull of a gurgling baby Katamari attracts hitherto unimaginable mountains of clutter.
Two designers with long careers provide an insight worth looking at.
Two of our regular authors run their own blogs, which we have mentioned before. Mick has taken a look back at the work of Walter de Silva and finds much to praise but also there’s a sore point which is worthy of attention: de Silva’s penchant for absent rear door handles. I will admit to having been swept along on the unthinking currents of received wisdom. Now the point has been made I realise I had not been critical enough. And a ever-present thought that I had ignored now seems as plain as day: that 156 would be perfect were it not for the silly faux-coupé trope. Continue reading “Two Items About Designers”
In the previous two instalments we have looked at the car’s general background and the driving experience. In this instalment I’d like to gather together some of my reflections.
Firstly, the way I view the Trevi now versus how it seemed to me twenty-seven years ago is markedly different. In 1990 I was studying geology which necessarily includes a bit of evolutionary history. At that time I had regular car conversations with one of the other students on the course. The way I described the Trevi then was to refer to it as “a hopeful monster”.
A missed opportunity or a masterpiece of compromise? We look at the unassuming little engine that drove the Fiesta’s success.
CAR March 1974 was confident in its prediction about the Fiesta’s engine; “it is a completely new water-cooled, in-line four with single overhead cam and Heron head. It will come in two sizes – a little over 900cc and 1090cc for the top of the range model.” As we now know, the “scoop report” could scarcely have been more wrong, but it is easy to understand the reasons for their conjecture. Continue reading “Theme: Compromise – Ford’s Valencia engine. A Curious Orange?”
Renault’s latest Megane Saloon is grand all right, but a coupé? We investigate.
The automotive landscape in the Republic of Ireland is broadly similar to that of the UK but there are, as one might expect, some exceptions. One of the notable ones, is a long-standing, if diminishing (according to my sources) preference for three volume saloons over hatchbacks. Of course, as Irish motorists increasingly follow their UK and European neighbours into crossover CUV’s, they’re discovering they’re being sold hatchbacks by stealth. Continue reading “Well isn’t it Grand for Some?”
Life isn’t fair. By rights we’d have our needs and wants fulfilled but circumstances, finances and events conspire to deny us our true heart’s desire. Take the owner of this perfectly innocuous Audi TT. A first generation model; the nicest looking of the series, if not the most dynamically adept. ‘A Golf in a party dress’, sniffed the more snobbish automotive commentators, but nevertheless a perfectly nice and still quite stylish way to get around on a moderate budget. Continue reading “Theme: Compromise – Second Best”
A little while back I mentioned I’d take a look at the GMC brand to see what it was all about.
So, I threw some coal into the furnace and got my computer (an Osborne portable) up and running.
The GMC range is divided into two groups: trucks in one groups and cross-overs and SUVs in the other. The truck range has two basic models dressed up to appear like eight. The Canyon and the Sierra form the core truck range, starting at $21,000 for the Canyon, and $28,000 for the Sierra. Three sub-models form the Sierra range: 1500, 2500 and 3500 at $28,000 to $34,000 for the base models. To
His argument rested on the idea that no design can optimise every aspect. The more complex the object the more likely this is to be the case. If we take a simple example of a knife, it’s a compromise because unavoidably the designer had to work within constraints of time and materials. The knife has to function but be affordable and attractive to enough people to make it an economically feasible proposition. The best knife can’t appeal to everyone. For some consumers the design is unacceptable – it remains unsold for reason of price or appearance. Continue reading “Theme: Compromise – The Paradox of Failure”
The above quote dates from the days when Ford felt that they could snub a sizeable sector of their customer base in their advertising but, disregarding the now quaint-looking gender bias, it does speak of that need to sit well at the controls of your chosen motor car.
I was looking at the interior of a new Peugeot 3008 the other day and was offended by the steering wheel. The now almost mandatory flat bottom has been joined by a flat top which, I assume, is a compromise that allows a larger field of view of the high-mounted instrument panel. Combined with the centre boss and mounted controls, there seems little room left to put your hands. But then I thought the usual – don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. Continue reading “Theme : Compromise – Driving The Modern Car”
Further to Sean Patrick´s excellent idea about decals to give your boring car a more contemporary, fun and sporting look, I have shown three products in the upcoming range.
The decals make the car more premium, add a touch of dynamic flair and increase the perceived quality by accentuating the maturity of the style. Graphics and sculpting together produce a greater sense of athleticism while underlining the greater modernity of the cars.
What’s gonna happen? For one thing that a good car design will be replaced by a less good one sooner or later. It would appear that the fashion for blacked out C-pillars knows no limits. The 2017 Suzuki Swift now sports one. Continue reading “I know It’s Gonna Happen Someday”
Driven to Write looks in depth at the Fiesta’s development.
Lest it should pass un-noticed, January 2017 is the fortieth anniversary of the Ford Fiesta’s launch in the UK. Production at Ford Germany’s Saarlouis factory began in July 1976, with the core Almusafes plant coming on stream in October 1976, so the lucky continentals were introduced to the car a few months earlier. Continue reading “Compromise: On the road to Fiesta – Part 1”
Driven to Write looks in depth at the Fiesta’s gestation.
Lest it should pass un-noticed, January 2017 is the fortieth anniversary of the Ford Fiesta’s launch in the UK. Production at Ford Germany’s Saarlouis factory began in July 1976, with the core Almusafes plant coming on stream in October 1976, so the lucky continentals were introduced to the car a few months earlier.
To mark the occasion, I found myself re-reading Edouard Seidler’s “Let’s call it Fiesta”, the story of the Fiesta Mk.I, along with some other publications from around the time. The “auto-biography” was launched at the same time as the car, so there is no hindsight – Ford were entering unknown territory; a new market sector, their first transverse-engined car, and a huge new production facility in a country in which they had no previous presence. Continue reading “On the Road To Fiesta”
From Panhard toBMW’s i-Series, Steve Randle talks cars – and bikes.
For a motor engineer constantly in pursuit of the next innovation, Steve Randle’s interest in older machinery proves a little disarming. These include a frankly enormous collection of road cycles. “Bicycles are about as close to perfect as it gets, they’re such delightful, elegant things. You can get help for drugs and alcohol but for cycling, nothing can be done.”Continue reading “Brave and Interesting – Steve Randle Interview Part Two”
Some astonishing things get taken for granted. Mere existence justifies some wild ideas, which a priori, you’d not expect. Maybe it’s because Jaguars aren’t my core area of expertise I felt like I needed to be certain. Surely, I thought, I must be making a mistake. V12s are too complex and huge. V8 it must be… but that seems wrong, too American. Continue reading “A Jaguar for Sunday”
It’s not a Mondeo, I realised after 0.45 seconds. That someone sat in it may explain why I didn’t get any closer.
Aston Martin must choke when they see the Astony Mondeos that still ply the roads in moderate numbers. Aston Martin owners may feel there is no comparison – only an idiot of the first order would mistake a house-priced car for a nice-kitchen priced car. They delude themselves.
Aston planned to make the Rapide at Steyr in Graz, Austria but sales never met expectations. Ford knows why.
In the first part I discussed the static qualities of the Lancia Trevi. In this part I will present my driving impressions.
Finally, it’s time to drive in the car. First off, we set off along some minor country roads, ones I have just driven in a modern car. Initially I am the passenger and from that position I realise that I can see nothing of the instruments from the passenger side. They are set in Bellini’s cylindrical recesses which are angled to the driver. This makes me look elsewhere – out, for example. Continue reading “Three Volumes in Three Parts: 2”
It might look like a stretched Peugeot 308 to you, but this was the finest PSA concept in years.
I’m somewhat amazed I’ve made it so far with this series. I’d expected hoards of irate Citroënistes burning effigies of me for having the nerve to make these (admittedly loose) connections, so either I’m on the right track or I should spend more time looking skywards for falling anvils.
Alfa Romeo have revealed the standard edition Stelvio soft-roader CUV raised hatch product.
Based purely on a careful glance of the publicity photos, the car radiates much less of a displeasing character than the full-on range-toppers that have been shown so far.
Much the same applies to the Alfa Romeo Giulia which, in its top-spec, looks slightly grotesque. In its standard form it’s nice enough. Turning to other brands, the AMG versions of Mercedes cars all overcook it. I would wager that if the AMG running gear was transferred to the body-shell of a base model the vehicle would even perform slightly better.
Over 100 years ago the inventor of the compression ignition engine died under mysterious circumstances. Too late however – his monster had been unleashed.
It’s recently been Christmas in the UK and round about that time, with the traditional Christmas dinner imminent, an inevitable jokey question is “does anyone really like brussel sprouts?”. Actually, I live with someone who does, so the answer is inexplicably “yes”. But far harder for me to accept is that there are people who actually like diesel engines – who prefer them to petrol ones. You could force feed me sprouts for a month and I could never even pretend to have any affection for the clattery, stinking, slippery product of Rudolf Diesel’s over-fertile mind. Continue reading “Theme : Compromise – Playing the Fuel”
Admittedly, night had fallen and the surrounding city-centre lights could have been confusing. And the vehicle wore dark paint. These might not be ideal studio conditions. Yet, my experience of the new Peugeot 3008 provided grounds to remember never to Continue reading “Re-Appraisal”
A manufacturer’s range can draw its visual reference from either the smallest car or the largest.
Peugeot is a famous case of its style being led by a car from the bottom of the range. The 1983 Peugeot 205 ended what was seen at the time as a rough period for the firm. Subsequent models referred to the 205 in the hope that 205 magic might rub off. Top down is the reverse: the big car leads. Yesterday the news wires burned incandescent with discussions and reports of Opel’s new Crossland X, a vehicle dimensionally very similar to the Mokka. Continue reading “Bottom Up, Top Down Or Whatever”
It goes well, is comfortable and has a pleasing interior. But alas, one thing somewhat spoils this car.
There are three ways a used car can be a bit rubbish. We usually see them (1) edging into decrepitude and (2) we can see them as bad as their maker intended. In this little item we see Category 3…
Customisation. I assume that this is a customer-led effort: a Jaguar X-type with a two-tone paint job. ‘Angry of Brown’s Lane’ will write in to say it the car is obviously a special edition to mark the 20th anniversary of Jaguar’s decision to move back to metric measurements again**. Continue reading “Something Rotten In Denmark: Two-Tone X-Type”
The Detroit Auto show is over for another year. What caught our eye? What hurt our eye?
Audi showed the 3.0 TFSI SQ5: a CUV. They also showed the Q8 concept, some kind of crossover but sized extra-large. It’ll be ideal for bringing 17 kg children to kindergarten in Chelmsford. Notably the grille has burst out of its frame and now the silhouette of the lamps is involved in the party, as if the engine and lights are expanding out from under the bonnet like a weird blossoming mechanical monster. At the back the lamps stretch the full width across the car. Continue reading “Armchair Guide to the 2017 Detroit Auto Show”
Speaking with engineer, Steve Randle these two words crop up a good deal, but if ‘brave and interesting’ describe the vehicles and engineering solutions that inspire him, it’s also a fairly accurate description of the man. With a career encompassing Jaguar, McLaren Cars – where he was responsible for the suspension, engine mounting system and dynamic package for the legendary F1 supercar – through to projects at his own engineering consultancy with clients as diverse as Bentley, JCB, Tata Motors, and the Ministry of Defence, Randle’s bushel has up to now been well hidden, to say nothing of the light therein. Continue reading “Brave and Interesting – Steve Randle Interview Part One”
While the Irish car market is characterised by quite pronounced conservatism, there is a mad streak in there. There are people who buy cars like this:
Most of it is a Nissan Micra but it has a different grille and bumper. The rear and side are much the same as the Micra. It has a 1.2 litre, 4-cylinder engine and as such is stock Micra. Continue reading “Nissan March Bolero”
This isn’t much of a Photo for Saturday** more of blue car by the side of the road. What is it?
It’s a very Was Then sort of car. From 2006 to 2008 BMW made this car in Regensburg. It’s a variant of the E85 Z4 which had a longer life. The Z4M had one engine, a 3.2 litre six cylinder unit and a six speed ‘box. In some ways you could call it an M3 wearing Z4 clothes. If you want a historical reference, it has the same relation to the Z4 as the Triumph GT6 to the mainstream Spitfire. It’s the kind of car that used to be quite common, a pure sports car which is now rather a freak. Continue reading “Automotive Mayfly”
As Mr Editor Kearne said in his introduction to this month’s theme, compromise is inevitable in the motor industry. The trick is knowing where to apply it and where to not.
Ask any industry accountant and they will tell you that making cars and making money aren’t natural bedfellows. Margins are often small, the customer base fickle and, with relatively long development and production runs, like an oil tanker, once committed you don’t change direction easily. Of course there are exceptions, companies who through a combination of prudence, intelligence, excellence or maybe just fashion, are able to make a healthy profit, year after year, and even swallow up a few of the lacklustre performers in one or more of the above categories whilst they do. Continue reading “Theme : Compromise – The Crucial Balance”
Almost twenty nine years ago, Toyota unveiled the Lexus LS 400 saloon, giving the European and US luxury car establishment the shock of their lives. That car, lovingly created by a skunkworks of Toyota’s brightest and best was beyond doubt the Honda NSX of luxury saloon cars. A gamechanger for the industry, a new benchmark.
A justified success in the US market, Lexus however struggled in Europe, where provenance, heritage and snob value mattered at least as much as outright ability and utter reliability. Toyota perhaps in retrospect made an error in clothing the LS400 in such a rationalist manner. While its styling appeared to reference the W126 Mercedes in its lack of expressive flourishes, it left customers with little to Continue reading “Finessing Big Lex”
The number of independent car manufacturers in the U.K in 1922: 183. Germany’s complement around the same time: 86. The number of cars produced in France in 1929 (then by far Europe’s largest producer) by a truly wide and varied number of companies: 253 000. This figure would remain a record till well after 1945. If you had a few bob between the wars and motoring was your fancy the choice available to you was truly vast. Mind you researching the purchase must have been a little more difficult than today. Nowadays we are told how much choice we have but anyone reading this site knows just how much crap that is. Continue reading “Theme: Compromise – One Car”
Once upon a time colour and a car’s size had little relationship. These days yellow is the colour of small and cute. I gathered these over the closing months and have assembled them to celebrate yellow. Continue reading “Small Means Yellow”
Reading the tea leaves from Ireland’s 2016 car sales figures.
As some of you might have gathered by now, I find motor statistics quite absorbing. Okay, it’s often a little like tea leaf prophecy, but car sales figures can be revealing. However, since full-year European data is still pending, we’ll have to contain ourselves and make do with the Society of the Irish Motor Industry who’ve released statistics for January-December 2016. The Republic of Ireland market is small, but even so, 146, 672 new car sales is not to be sneezed at, especially as it shows a rise of 17.5% over that of the previous year. Continue reading “And Here Are the Results of the Irish Jury.”
While the mainstream UK motoring press likes to pretend it tells it like it is, they often don´t.
The 1995 Nissan QX served as a butt of jokes at Car magazine who reminded us ironically that “it exists“. Autocar took a more charitable view, summing it up as a superbly built revelation on the road. Apart from this this, the QX is quite forgotten. Not by me for whom these kinds of neglected cars are some kind of mild obsession. I suppose it’s the fact the press told us not to bother that makes me want to know what it is that we must ignore. Continue reading “Everything You Know Is Wrong”
Recently I had a chance to be a passenger in an Alfa Romeo Giulietta 1.8 and took the chance to see how they solved the ash problem.
The ashtray is the sliding lid type, rather cleverly flush with the surrounding surface. That’s done by having the adjacent panel meeting the console exactly where the ashtray slides forward. There’s a small flange to allow the user to push the lid forward to open it. It’s probably not the world´s biggest ashtray but then again it’s a compact car, comparable in dimensions to a BMW 3 (E21 1975-1983) of the same period. It would be a bit much to Continue reading “Ashtrays: 1982 Alfa Romeo Giulietta 1.8”
About 15 years ago design rationalism enjoyed one of its occasional bouts of popularity. In a few cases the appliance of simple rules to simple shapes led to similar conclusions.
What we should be noticing in this slide show is the relation of the wing to the bumper and the treatment of the grille and bonnet. I noticed this originally because around about that time I occupied myself with a lamp design and without noticing how others did it arrived at something that looked very like the Fusion’s lamp. Continue reading “Convergences”
Night lighting is continuing to fascinate me. Under the bright, cold glare of a street lamp, this Fusion showed off the car’s essential character.
The wheel arches stand out here as does the upper surface of the body side above the feature line and door handles. The time is nigh when I should get a camera able to capture the depth of black and the richer colour of night lighting. Continue reading “A photo for Sunday: 2004 Ford Fusion”
Fewer are the classic cars of Dublin. While I saw no Volvo 240s, no W-123 Mercedes and only one Saab 900, I saw several of these things:
One parked up right in front of me as I tried to decide upon my New Year resolutions. The vehicle served as family car: two bulky child seats occupied a heck of a lot of room in the back, defeating the car’s space.
I took a chance to look over the car in detail when the owner had popped off to do some shopping. I noticed the odd way the gutter is handled. Like the W123 it’s actually quite complex and non-intuitive. It is as if they had never seen one of these before and Continue reading “What’s This?”
Long, thin lights make interesting reflections on car bodies. A malfunctioning restaurant sign made this Volvo panel especially fascinating.
These reflections show the contours of the front wing of a Volvo S60 from a sign. It had two strips running horizontally, one of which turned on and off at intervals. Image one shows the wing with one light illuminated. The second shows it with both strips illuminated. Continue reading “Highlights of Last Night”
In 1847, a young man by the name of William Ford travelled with his parents and siblings from the tiny village of Ballinascarthy to the port of Queenstown (now Cobh) before making the perilous crossing to America as famine decimated their homeland of West Cork. The émigrés purchased a farm in Dearborn, Michigan and sixteen years later, a son, Henry was born. The rest as they say… Continue reading “Home Thoughts From Abroad – Ford 100 in Cork”
Looking for all the world like an enraged toddler, the 2017 Kia Picanto has this week shown its livid face to the world before the model’s World début at Geneva this March. Pictured here in range-topping GT-Line trim, the new car aims to underline the Korean brand’s latest, more aggressive mien. Continue reading “Wot You Lookin’ At?”
Recently we’ve been looking at the Lancia Y10 and asking whether luxury and compactness are compatible.
Seventy years ago Triumph thought so. Introduced in late 1949, like most of the UK Motor Industry production of the time, the Triumph Mayflower was chasing exports. As the chosen name suggests, the United States was a prime potential market but it seems that the UK’s image of the US’s image of the UK is forever distorted. Just like Ford’s stewardship of Jaguar, Triumph felt that a traditionalist approach was what US buyers expected from a UK company, this at a time when everyone was looking to the future. Continue reading “An Early Case Of Retro”
As I get older, I find that many things I still view as contemporary are in reality, decades old. Music, fashion, events – cars even. The subject of this photo is a case in point. Old enough to be dismissed as a banger, yet to my mind at least, still sufficiently contemporary for this scenario to be unusual. Continue reading “Back to Nature”
This is one of the cars I saw at the Saab Car Museum in Trollhattan, Sweden.
It reminded me of some other 80’s aerodynamic cars of the same time but when I went looking nothing matched. I found a hint of the rear window and boot in the Subaru SVX. More than a few GM concept cars from Oldsmobile, Saturn and Buick had similar surfaces. Yet there wasn’t that one car which made me think: yes, that’s the one. Do our readers have any suggestions?