I sometimes think I’m fated to have encounters with unusual Alfas when I least expect to…
The 2600 duo in Friedrichstadt, the SZ in Dorridge, and the decaying Fadesa Romeo van on the road into Fornells spring immediately to mind.This Montreal was spotted on an unremarkable suburban street in Basel in March 2008. I imagine that the massive rise in classic car prices would make such encounters far less likely now. Continue reading “A photo for Sunday – Alfa Romeo Montreal”
Despite arguably being the most gifted automotive engineer and manager of his generation, Prof Dr Wolfgang Reitzle would only ever enter the captain’s chair once he left the car industry for good.
It is one of automotive history’s more baffling paradoxes that a man of such undisputed talents as Wolfgang Reitzle never reached the post of chief executive at an automotive business. But as with a great many other high achievers, it actually was the same traits that had brought Reitzle so close to the apex that ultimately prevented him from arriving there.
The members of the motor industry are prone to adopt each other’s ideas, even if they are flawed, then stick to them dogmatically. So what might have happened if ….?
We at DTW are fascinated at the what-ifs of the motor industry. Two of them celebrate their 70th birthdays this year. Next year one of these will commemorate 70 years since its demise, the other’s will be in 2019. So they are both short-lived failures and, you might say, justifiably so. But, if you add in another, longer-lived model and imagine a different financial and/or political climate, the large car of today could have been very different. Continue reading “Theme : Rivals – That Never Were”
Vélizy’s 1994 monospace concept, while no masterpiece, was perhaps the best of an uninspired bunch.
It’s relatively difficult to imagine now, but in the early 1990’s, the future was looking decidedly MPV-shaped. Particularly amongst European manufacturers, who were falling over themselves to get something vaguely monospace to market, following the creative and commercial success of the innovative Renault Espace.
Does the Golf have ten engines because VW believes it leads to increased sales (twice as many as the next most popular car)?
Or does such huge sales volume mean VW can pamper its clientele like no clientele has been pampered before? To answer this I needed to crunch some numbers. Statistical research of the most basic kind is very dull indeed. It does reveal some interesting things in return however. Such work is the reverse of golf, I think, which sport some say is fun to do but which is clearly boring to look at. In that spirit (“ah, look, the tassles are flying”) I decided to get stuck in and see what it takes to be in the top ten, engineswise. There was no point in hand-waving. Some maths had to be involved.
The opposing polarities of the double chevron are unlikely ever to be satisfactorily reconciled, but was this any way to go about trying?
There are those content to view Citroën’s role as being that of the pre-Traction Avant era: fundamentally a purveyor of pragmatic, rather ordinary cars. The earthbound Goddess of course (temporarily) put paid to such notions and forms the boundary for an opposing camp who view Citroën’s descent from those Olympian heights as being somewhere between tragedy and outright crime. So if the car we’re gathered here to commemorate today falls into the former category, how should we view it, twenty years later? Continue reading “Opposite of Avant – 1997 Citroën Xsara”
In 1964 my Dad made one of his visits to the USA and brought back with him ‘The Latest And The Greatest’ by Chuck Berry. At least that’s how I remember it but, as any Berry anorak will tell you, that album was a compilation record put together by Pye in the UK. So did they export it only for it to be returned, did my Dad become such a Berry fan on his visit that he bought it locally as soon as he came back, or is it all just a false-memory? You never can tell. Continue reading “Theme : Rivals – The Cat Takes The Bird”
Our correspondent in Dublin, Mick, has kindly sent us a blurry close-up which might be a candidate for a mystery car competition.
What is remarkable is that among our readers are people with the skill to recognise what this car is without having seen one in the metal for what could be years. This says something about how much visual consistency is applied at all scales of a car compared to a building, for example.
I would guess that if you pick 1% of the surface of a car and 1% of the surface of a building then the cars would be easier to identify. Another interesting point is whether a car from today is more or less easily identified from a 1% sample compared to one from, say, 1960. That’s a researchable question!
At Easter, DTW came across a Tesla Model X parked in a field in France.
From the start I was always very open-minded about Tesla, and generally feel that attitude has been vindicated. If, as I’ve been informed on various websites, it is just a scam, designed to relieve hard-working Americans of their ‘tax dollars’, it turns out to have been a remarkably long-running one that has cost Elon Musk an awful lot of money. Yes, it’s a pity that the Model S appeared rather mainstream and didn’t make more of its difference, but it looks reasonably imposing , well-proportioned and well-detailed, with a bit more presence to my eyes than a Jaguar XF. From reports, there are some things that, as a start-up manufacturer, they have overlooked and I am not sure how much I’d enjoy a car whose controls are so dominated by a huge touchscreen, bearing in mind the various glitches I’ve encountered with iPads and their like. Nevertheless, as viewed from afar, Tesla’s progress has been hugely impressive. The sight of two Model S’s plugged in to the Superchargers at Folkestone Eurotunnel the other week was testimony to the owner’s confidence that they were up to a long-range trip. But then I saw a Model X close up. Continue reading “An Evergreen Novelty Resurfaces, Yet Again”
This week has seen the unveiling of Mercedes’ latest concept, previewing the styling direction to be taken by the next generation of A-Class-series Mercedes models. Concept A was previewed earlier in the year with a conceptual sculpture and a toe-curling lecture by the blessed one on how his signature design theme was evolving. Since then, he’s completed a glossy coffee table book in conjunction with Conde Nast, called “Sensual Purity: Gorden Wagener on Design” and is rumoured to be working with Eyna on a concept album to accompany it. Continue reading “Crease Is The Word – Vision A Unmasked”
While I poked around Suzuki’s Japanese homepage I found the Hustler interior which is worth another look.
That is the power of orange. However, the iPhone white interior is good too. I notice they offer two orange shades. That’s an interesting and odd thing to do. Why not a cool shade? Or black or boring grey?
As promised… a closer look at the new Suzuki Ignis.
These photos are very grey and very dank and really only serve to prove I did go to take a look at an Ignis with its wrapping still on. Curiously, all of the cars at the dealer had darkened rear windows so I could not see the interior properly. So, in the metal is the new Ignis going to live up to the burden of expectations? Continue reading “Ignis Inspection”
Genesis have shown this concept car at the New York Auto show.
Some of the images are too smooth and bland to be anything but CGI so perhaps the car will look more substantial in the metal.
Lately I have been thinking a lot about articulation and ways designers show depth and substance on a form. Mercedes used to insist on big radii to express the thickness of the metal (you can’t bend thick sheet steel as tightly as thin stuff). Flushness suggest flimsiness as do sharp edges. I notice architects often Continue reading “Genesis GV80 Design Notes”
Curiosity overcame me so I went to a Suzuki dealer, writes Richard Herriott (who has hijacked this post).
On the way I saw the Mk 1. First, this is a public service as the Mk1 is not so well photographed. Second, it’s a chance to share my current morbid fascination. Until recently I hadn’t noticed the Mk1 Ignis (2000-2006). It shares similar themes with the Mark 2 which means Suzuki liked the idea and were planning an evolutionary approach. There is slightly raised third window at the back and the distinctive groove running around the middle of the lower body. The headlamps are not so distinctive as on the follow-up car. Why do I like this car? Continue reading “Tomorrow We Do Ignis”
Aside from the car collection, the Louwman Museum has an extensive collection of ‘Automobile Art’. But are car paintings ever any good?
Ever since the first photograph was produced, the ‘Death of Painting’ has been trumpeted but painting still carries on. One reason of course is that the camera only catches the momentary image – it doesn’t always explain what is happening or why it is happening. Equally in today’s Photoshop world, it’s reasonable to forecast the ‘Death of Photography’. Certainly it is partly dead – most of today’s more glossy motoring magazines would find it hard to produce a cover, or even a main article image, in an unadorned state. Continue reading “Louwman Museum IV : Capturing The Moment”
Searching for your inner hero? This 1996 Peugeot concept had the key.
The same year the Pininfarina bodied 406 Coupe was first shown, Peugeot also displayed this, the Toscana concept. What the Sochaux-based motor company’s intentions were remains unclear, but whatever the intent, it cannot have been all that serious. With a bespoke body marrying key styling elements of the 406 saloon – nose treatment, rear lamps, body swage line – to a distinctly sci-fi canopy section, the Toscana was as frivolous a concept could be while still loosely based on a production model. If anything, it puts one in mind of some of GM’s Motorama concepts from the 1950’s – or indeed Adam West’s Batmobile. Continue reading “To the Batcave! – Peugeot 406 Toscana”
If only there had been more time to study this one: a 1976-1979 Cadillac Seville.
With some impatient passengers in the car, I promised this was the last time I’d stop and photograph something interesting that day. Patience was wearing thin. By the time I got back after two minutes and five snaps a brawl had already broken out. I sensed a small battle by photo four.
Previewed at the New York motor show this week, Toyota’s FT-4X Concept.
Maybe it’s the colour. Perhaps it’s the rugged ‘go-anywhere’ appearance. Or it could be the many useful features and imaginative solutions littered throughout the vehicle – (some more fanciful than practical) – but not only do I find the FT-4X charming, but also it strikes me that this or something along similar lines is really what JLR should be offering instead of that insipid looking new Discovery they’re marketing to customers now. Continue reading “Toyota’s (little) Discovery”
Hailed by Pininfarina as a celebration, Nautilus marked the final act in an unravelling relationship dating back to 1951.
The same year as 406 Coupe’s began leaving Pininfarina’s San Giorgio Canavese facility, the carrozzeria displayed Nautilus at Geneva; a concept for a full-size four-door luxury saloon, said by the coachbuilder to be “an exciting stylistic exploration of the high class sporty saloon, created as a tribute to our partnership with Peugeot.” But behind the scenes, this already souring relationship was entering its death throes. With Murat Günak appointed as Peugeot styling director in 1994, one of his first acts was to enlarge the styling team to bolster both numbers and influence; the aim being to further eclipse the Italian coachbuilder and favour the in-house team. Continue reading “Depth Charge – 1997 Pininfarina Nautilus”
This is a vignette more than a postcard. I did see these two in Schleswig, on the way west.
We stopped in a supermarket and I thought to stock up on provisions: some JJ Darboven coffee and German-market Aperol which is 15% rather than 11%. In the carpark I noticed an early series 1 Peugeot 406 and a Series 2.
A Suave Swansong. The 406 Coupé embodied values which had seen a Franco-Italian marriage survive and prosper for a generation. Sadly, it wasn’t to last.
At some unspecified point during the 1990’s something quite seismic took hold within Automobiles Peugeot. A profound cultural shift which saw a gradual jettisoning of not only the marque’s highly regarded engineering principles but also its reputation for dignified styling. Their long-standing association with carrozzeria Pininfarina was unravelling. PSA President, Jacques Calvet, believed to have been irked by the attention Patrick le Quément’s Billancourt studios were receiving, pressed Peugeot Style Centre chief, Gérard Welter for more visual excitement; a move which saw Welter poach rising star Murat Günak from Mercedes-Benz in 1994. Continue reading “Lion of Beauty – 1997 Peugeot 406 Coupé”
We look at two proud Frenchmen who were really quite similar and so very different.
There are certain notorious rivalries in motoring history. Many of them were sporting ones, in the Senna-Prost mould, which sometimes went beyond good sense and risked the lives of those involved. But there are also rivalries that at first seemed less visceral, but that had equally grim endings.
One such is that between André Citroën and Louis Renault. Neither were self-made men from humble backgrounds in the vein of Herbert Austin or, even more so, William Morris. Both had comfortable upbringings, André’s possibly less stable due to the suicide of his father. Born within a year of each other, they actually first met as young children attending the same Lyceé. Continue reading “Theme : Rivals – The Light and The Dark”
As luck would have it, I was out and about with no camera for most of the day.
Among the unicorns I spotted: a Hyundai XG350 and a Renault Safrane. It’s the Hyundai I regret missing the most. I haven’t seen one since 2006 and that one was a neighbourhood car. In all I have seen two, one of them several times. This time I could do not do more than Continue reading “Don’t Forget Your Camera”
A chance sighting prompts something approaching a defence.
Since we created Driven to Write three years ago, I have undergone something of a re-education about cars and particularly when it comes to their design. Even though we might actually only rub shoulders about once a year, I often feel as though I have a virtual Herriott at my ear, urging me to look at that innocuous looking tin box over there with fresh eyes. Going about my business yesterday, I happened past a stationary 2016 Micra. Not a car to which I’d normally give more than the most cursory of glances, but given some of the damning responses to the example featured earlier in the week, I felt I ought to give it a second glance. Continue reading “Speaking Micra”
Alfa Giulia is available to own and steeling to give Gaydon’s finest a lash of its tongue. We look at how it’s faring against its sternest rival.
Wouldn’t it be interesting to spend a day around FCA towers? If only to truly discern the degree of reality evinced by the likes of Big Reidland et al. Because even the big fella must now realise the German trio of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz are conclusively beyond reach. Last year, luxury sector leader, Mercedes-Benz shipped 176,038 C-Class badged vehicles to waiting customers across the European market alone. What hope for Alfa Romeo’s ambitions against those kind of numbers? Continue reading “Theme: Rivals – The Serpent and the Cat”
In 1999, when retro was all the rage, BMW’s Z8 roadster did its best to exploit the sense of nostalgia that prevailed at the dawn of the new millennium. Surprisingly though, its sales brochure proves more creative.
Made in Germany, this is the 2018 Buick Regal saloon.
We know this car already. It will be a curiosity in years to come, the Buick made by PSA but designed by GM. Of most immediate interest is that it will be sold as hatchback (is this Buick’s first since the Skyhawk?) and as an estate, the first Buick long-roof since the Roadmaster of 1995. Given that large, agile station wagons have something of a cult appeal (brown, with manual transmission is best) this is a good move. The question is whether the buyers of Volvo, Mercedes and Subaru estates Continue reading “2018 Buick Regal Saloon”
As promised here is a small snippet on a special edition you may have missed.
Quite coincidentally, Jimi Beckwith at Autocropley has been musing about the subject. Dreamcar.dk reported the momentous news of the Nissan Micra Elle as follows (in Nov 2012): “Nissan and the world’s most popular fashion magazine, Elle, have joined forces to develop a special edition of the popular city car, the Micra. The goal for both partners is to
Honda, Honda, Honda. The 2016 Honda Civic has only started to appear on the streets of my ‘hood. Goodness.
This is not that, if that is a clean-surfaced, reserved and neat hatchback. This is a vehicle inspired by science-fiction films and military chic. And maybe Lamborghini.
If you were weaned on received wisdom, as I was, Alfa Romeo was making a come back any minute now and Honda had pensioners propping up the customer base. As of 2005´s model, the eighth generation, Honda showed they did not want coffin dodgers in their showrooms. I liked that car – it did mad with a bit of restraint and had a Citroen-loony interior. Thereafter Honda has kept on pouring more and more Red Bull and LSD in the designers’ cappucinos so that they would Continue reading “Beyond Butch”
I’ve always liked the Mercedes 500K and 540K cars despite the fact that they seem tainted, through no real fault of their own, by association with high-ranking Nazis. In 2 seater form, it’s one of those cars of inordinate length that accommodates just a couple of people. Were all cars like this, our roads would have become gridlocked many years ago, but there’s a harmless decadence to it in my eyes. The Louman’s 500K is one of those fairytale barn-find stories. A Spezial model, one of just 25, it was first purchased in the UK and spent 30 years stored behind a butcher’s shop in Walsall. Discovered and auctioned late in the 1980s, it was beautifully restored in Germany and was a prizewinner at Pebble Beach in 1994. Continue reading “Louwman Museum III : The Pebble Beach Boys”
One wonders about these colour consultancies. They have no special access to the future yet are willing to guess (or is it propose) what it might look like. Presumably the consultancy has a lot of software to link economic and social indicators to colours. But it works the other way too. Colour affects our mood, acting to provoke a moment of “wow” or what Kant would call a pure aesthetic moment. So as well as the social mood influencing what colours we want perhaps colours can be selected to affect the social mood or even just to find people who are not in tune with it. Thus, the colour consultancies could push a colour and be pro-active in their predictions. One can review the data from now to say what might happen. One can also head off those trends by taking action. The time is right for yellow, I say. Let’s not give in to boring old trends but shape the future and ask for yellow cars.
This diagram is a timeline of the Suzuki Cultus, Ignis and Swift.
The period of confusion is 2000 to 2008 when the Ignis appeared and was sold as the Swift, in Japan, replacing the Cultus. Suzuki produced two generations of Ignis: 2000 to 2004 and 2003 to 2008. In Europe the Swift appeared in 1988, the same as the car known in Japan as the Cultus. I don’t think we got the first generation. In Europe the Ignis and Swift overlapped from 2004 to 2008. Continue reading “As Promised”
Quite a few brands have cottoned on to ‘personalisation’ after MINI: Fiat, Opel and Citroen/DS, for example. Now it’s Audi’s turn.
It’s not a bad idea, giving customers some more possibilities in how their joy and pride is finished. What is the paint, wheel and upholstery choice but a chance for the producer to find customers with money to match their preferences? Mini make a fine penny with their mirror trim and Union Flag lids. Opel offer the delightful Adam with a range of roof colours as do DS. And the DS also goes in for body strips and mirror trim. What these models have in common is that that they Continue reading “Snap-On Quality And Self-Adhesive Style”
For years now, Lexus has stared enviously at Mercedes-Benz, hoping to emulate its success. Tired of second fiddle, is ‘the gentleman’ flinging his values on the fire?
Last year, a former Browns Lane insider described the advent of the 1989 Lexus LS 400 to me as being “chilling in every respect”. One can be equally sure that in Munich, Ingolstadt and Stuttgart-Untertürkheim, the intake of breath was no less sharp and the expletives no less lurid. That Lexus subsequently failed to achieve global cut-through over the intervening decades remains a matter for historians and academics to pick over, because the auguries at the time suggested Toyota would annihilate the opposition. Continue reading “Sexing-Up Lexus”
I mentioned recently that futile pushing movement a driver makes in their seat as they try to coax an underpowered car to gain, or even maintain, speed. What they really need is a magic switch.
When I was a kid, many Jaguars had a small switch, set high up on the dashboard, between the steering wheel and the driver’s door. Depending on the model, this might either be labelled ‘Overdrive’ (in my memory a transparent toggle) or an ‘Intermediate Speed Hold’ (a black toggle). As a child I didn’t differentiate, or even question what the difference was, it just seemed like a magic go-faster button that the drivers could flick at will. Continue reading “BOOOOOST!”
Simon gets his piece in before the others. Result!
The motor industry is, by nature, driven by rivalry. But unlike the more creative sort of rivalry, where two or more points of view are competing energetically for the same goal, much of our industry’s rivalry is in trying to persuade customers to choose their product over another one that is virtually just the same. It’s all rather dull, just football teams trying to prevent each other from scoring. Continue reading “Theme : Rivals – An Introduction”