Two items about off-roaders and one half-thought about car interiors comprise this small collection of notes. Plus a bonus about rear centre arm-rests.
A leaked set of images blew the gaffe on Suzuki’s new Jimny. Readers will remember we ran an item about this car earlier in the summer. The current Jimny is small, robust and a bit cute. It provides inexpensive off-road capability thanks to its body-on-frame chassis, light weight and short over hangs. Designed with practicality in mind, I feel it satisfies quite well the brief once met by Fiat’s first-generation Panda 4×4.
For the new car, Suzuki have decided to go retro: the car shown looks like something from 1985. The panels are flat and the mien is rather butch. This design is one which could
see them through to another 15 years on the market. It gets my nod of approval especially for the no-nonsense ultra angular interior which is probably made of hard plastic intended to take bashes from bits of wood, junk and whatever rough stuff Alpine people need to drag about the place. There is no news on the chassis – expect its much the same as the current car. Why change it if it works so well? I look forward to seeing one of these in the metal in the near future (but not in Denmark where it is not sold for some reason).
There might be some grounds for suspicion about those Autocropley images. The car shown has flanges around the sideglass. It also has a clam-shell bonnet. That makes the image look like a compound of the 1986 JA71-series car (above) and some Photoshop jiggery. It is hard to believe that Suzuki are going to return to flanged-welds for the A-pillar and roof. So, the image might be treated with a bit of salty scepticism?
JIA are doing some recycling too. Autocar reviewed their reworking of the Land Rover to make a Chieftain. They’ve taken an LR body and plopped it on top of a Discovery3 chassis which has had some length cut of out it. The interior has been given a going over to add fancier surfaces and new seats – all trimmed in Bridge of Weir leather. The exterior needs wheel arch extenders which fit well with the carry-over 1971 sheet metal. And the bumpers are plastic. Essentially it looks like something LR might have
done themselves if they had continued with the LR Mk1 instead of producing a fully-new body for the LR2. This project can be added to the list that now includes Bristol’s restomodded 411, various Jaguar Mk 2s and thousands of individually customised Beetles. Conceivably one could do something like this to a Jimny. This shows the flexibility of simple, strong engineering, I think.
Stuart Brand wrote a book called How Buildings Learn, noting the adaptability of classical and vernacular building structures as opposed to the rigidity (physical and conceptual) of cast concrete. These are harder to modify should circumstances change. The JIA vehicle and the others might be seen as examples of how cars can learn.
Perhaps modern designs sacrifice long-term adaptability when pursuing ever-tighter requirements and higher performance. You can also see the same phenomenon in the way people rework simple vehicles like Kadetts, early Escorts and Golfs.
Almost finally, I have been taking a close look at mid-price Italian luxury lately and my findings will follow shortly. This car, (above) one I have talked about before, shows how Lancia might have handled their interiors instead of throwing brightwork and elaborately trimmed leather everywhere. The dark brown and grey combination is warm without being flouncy. If the fabric was a little more plush this kind of thing is what I would expect a modern Lancia should and could look like.
For the last few weeks I have been peering in old Astras, Foci and Golfs to see who wins the rear-centre armrest battle. One, the Astras are more likely to have these, even on three door models (the F has one). And two, I noted to my immense surprise, you can get an all-new Mercedes C-class without a rear centre armrest. That I never anticipated.
Such an absence is what I expect from a mid-series Carisma or a very old Sierra or Renault 18. And as we know, Alfa Romeo will sell a Giulia without this important courtesy. Why not go the whole hog and just get rid of the rear seats? The other thing is that modern C-class cars (the size class, not the Benz model) are moving away from offering centre armrests. And I don’t see why.
The cars are plenty big and very likely to ferry rear passengers on long distances as part of their family duties. Is this a case of product planners losing some institutional memory just as architects commonly can’t remember many of the customary features that made old buildings so well-adapted? It’s a bit of a stretch but I am thinking of a particularly cretinous building near me where there is a public area at the rear. The ground floor dwellings back onto a playground just metres from their living room with no height-difference to create visual and actual privacy.
I imagine the designers hadn’t noticed this was a commonly used device when putting public and private places close together and so they didn’t bother to deploy it this time. Conceivably, current product planners are now unfamiliar with older cars where a rear centre armrest is fitted and where it makes all the difference to passengers on a long journey. Add the rear centre arm-rest to the vanishing past: ties, landlines and ashtrays.