It’s Dare!

BMW’s daring X2 crossover breaks new ground by changing the rules, thereby ruling the game. No really – it totally does.

You’re totally not supposed to ‘read’ those grey bits. Stop looking at them! Image: autorevue

Invent Yourself

In the BBC comedy, 2012 and it’s spinoff, W1A, the standout character is that of Brand Consultant and head of PR agency Perfect Curve, Siobhan Sharpe, played with considerable aplomb by actress, Jessica Hynes. In the show, Siobhan is engaged, enthusiastic, totally on-zeitgeist. Her dial is set to communicate, yet lacks a filter or indeed much in the way of genuine insight. As a communicator, Siobhan never seems to Continue reading “It’s Dare!”

Dirk’s Demise vs Luc’s Lamento

Bentley’s Bentayga SUV turned out to be an instant smash sales success. Yet the car that was intended to preview it was not only met with fright – it also cost its chief designer his job. 

bentley-exp-9-f-suv-concept-photo-453675-s-986x603
Dirk’s swansong, photo (c) Car and Driver

Dirk van Braeckel’s career at Volkswagen had been one of sustained corporate ladder climbing. Having joined VAG’s Audi branch in 1984, he rose through the ranks at Ingolstadt, before being chosen to help re-launch the much-maligned Škoda brand. He did as he was asked with some aplomb, leading to a generation of Škodas that were not just competently styled, but, more importantly, conveyed a sense of thorough quality.

With hindsight, this first generation of VAG-engineered Octavia, Fabia and Superb models must be considered as conservative, competent, long-lasting pieces of design which stood the test of time without anyone really noticing. Continue reading “Dirk’s Demise vs Luc’s Lamento”

Pointless Road Test – FIAT 500 1.2l Lounge

There probably isn’t anything left on the keyboard that has not already been written about the FIAT 500, but that’s not going to stop DTW as recent ownership has permitted some real-world insights.

FIAT 500 1.2L Lounge in Pasodoble Red
So familiar, it’s invisible

The new-age FIAT 500 is a car I don’t want to like. It’s a cynical fraud for starters, sharing underpinnings with the previous generation FIAT Panda and Ford Ka. I like the Panda, having an especially fond soft spot for the 100HP which was the meaner spiritual successor to the Cinquecento Sporting that I so cherished in my early twenties.

I think I am also biased by ownership of that car, which I thought at the time to be a logical progression of the Nuova 500’s gene-pool; the Cinquecento of the late 80’s and 90’s seemed to be just that – small, practical, basic and cheap. The pastiche Nuova 500 alike styling of the new 500 – inside and out – is a commercially cynical attempt to Continue reading “Pointless Road Test – FIAT 500 1.2l Lounge”

Four Ring Cycle

1997’s A6 saw Audi choosing bravery over stylistic torpidude. A lesson they could do well to re-learn.

Was this the earliest application of the lower-door-mounted rub-strip? Image: autowp-ru

By the early 1990s, Audi appeared to have run out of steam as the successes of the previous decade began to fade. Having lit up the automotive firmament with technological marvels such as the Ursprünglich Quattro coupe and the aero-influenced C3 100 / 200 series, the early ’90s saw the four rings of Ingolstadt comparatively becalmed.

Consolidation was the operative word, the feeling along the Danube being that enough had been done to Continue reading “Four Ring Cycle”

A Photo for Sunday: The Italian Paint Job

Was it not Grahame Greene who said “If I can’t have the bream I’ll have a salad instead”? 

2017 Fiat 500 Anniversario

The Fiat 500 has entered a new phase in life. Having initially been very fashionable, it came to be seen as a rather tired old product (not by the many who bought them). Now, ten years on, it has eased its way into a small pantheon of long-lived steady sellers. The Suzuki Jimny has managed this as well, albeit after 20 years (for Autocar). Another example, at the other end of the scale might be Toyota’s CenturyContinue reading “A Photo for Sunday: The Italian Paint Job”

Ridicule is Nothing to be Scared Of

From time to time, I receive the occasional photo from the wild of some interesting automotive oddity from friends and family. Today’s subject however, I’m forced to admit, had me stumped.

“We’re not in Toyota City any more, WiLL.” A UFO in Cork. Image: PoD (Thanks bruv!)

Now, I consider myself to be reasonably authoritative on matters automotive, at least when it comes to the European industry anyway. Admittedly any putative knowledge tends to evaporate once we metaphorically cross the Atlantic but I have rarely if ever failed to correctly identify anything flung my way – until now. Even I had to admit defeat on this one.

What we are looking at is better known as a WiLL Cypha. I expect that unlike me, you (our informed and highly knowledgeable DTW readers) know your Japanese oddities and are incredulously shaking your heads at my ignorance, but for those who Continue reading “Ridicule is Nothing to be Scared Of”

Artistic Intent

Volkswagen’s new flagship seems to be intent on making up for the lack of outright prestige with pretence and derivativeness – a cause that isn’t aided by its clunky moniker.

IMG_0546

Tiguan, Up(!), T-Roc – VW’s recent crop of all-new model names certainly invites unkind comparisons. Renault can get away with a Twingo, nobody minded Opel’s Tigra, but Volkswagen appears to be better served by less

Continue reading “Artistic Intent”

Micropost: Automotive Jargon

While DTW is far from perfect on the sub-editorial front (blame the sherry), we still like to hold others to suitably high-standards.

Image Source

In addition to the “front grille”, there is a new piece of automotive jargon to throw into your car-speak. It’s the “rear C-pillar”, a delightful formulation invented by the Irish Times. I feel like grabbing a driver’s steering wheel and heading off now. We will deal with the actual car in due course.

I’ll Second the Third

The Thinker’s Garage might be a blog you have heard of. If you haven’t it’s worth a little look. The latest post shows a proposal by designer Andrew Marshall for a new Alfa Romeo Giulia.

2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia 2 door concept: source

The proposal draws quiet inspiration from the 1974- 1987 GTV while using the running gear of the current rear-drive Giulia. Marshall’s proposal eschews the production car’s soft shapes for something more angular (in some ways). The sideglass is a bit deeper than is fashionable – which is a good thing, lending the car a welcoming feeling many modern sports cars lack. Continue reading “I’ll Second the Third”

Sayer’s Moodboard

Not content with reimagining the Jaguar XJ-S’ proportions, today we examine its influences – such as they were.

Image: xj story

The XJ-S is a car which tends to crop up with some frequency on Driven to Write. Why this is so is perhaps debatable, (okay, it’s often my fault) but I suspect that its fascination is not only a function of its controversial shape, but also stems from a belief that its styling came about without precedent. But no car is developed entirely in a vacuum, or is it?

We have covered the XJ-S’ stylistic development in some detail already, so I’d rather not Continue reading “Sayer’s Moodboard”

Put Forth The Fifth

In a post-script to today’s reprint of Archie Vicar’s review of the 1981 Triumph Acclaim, I present a few notes on Car magazine’s impressions of the 1980 Honda Ballade.

(c) wheelsage.com

Were it not for the Honda-BL deal, the introduction of the Honda Ballade would have passed almost unnoticed in Japan,” wrote Hattori Yoshi. “The Ballade is an unexceptional car: it offers nothing new to jaded Japanese motornoters who are used to new models being introduced just about as often as someone, somewhere is complaining about unfair Japanese imports”. 

Hattori explained that the Ballade differed from previous Hondas in that it was a product they felt customers wanted rather than needed; it also joined the lone vehicle in their then-new Verno dealer network – set up to sell the Prelude. Apparently cars in the Verno network were supposed to be a bit more upmarket than those in the Honda chain. Continue reading “Put Forth The Fifth”

Another “Triumph” for British Leyland

In what appears to be a verbatim transcript of a period review  motoring correspondent, Archie Vicar, drives the 1981 Triumph “Acclaim” saloon.

(c) ARonline

The article first appeared in The Executive Motorist, August 1981. Original photography by Griff Piddough. Due to water damage to the original material, stock photos have been used.

Many drivers will regard the Triumph Dolomite with much fondness. It was launched as the Toledo in 1965, which by my reckoning is now fifteen years ago, back when BL was known as BMC and Harold Wilson was prime minister. It is a tribute to this feisty little vehicle that only now has BL has reluctantly decided to put it out to pasture. We wish it a long and happy retirement!

To replace the Dolomite there comes a bold new design, one created in collaboration with the Honda motor company of Japan. Ringing the changes are modern front-wheel drive, a passenger door-mounted mirror and an all-alloy, twin carb overhead-cam 1.3 liter motor. Cleverly, the new car is called the “Acclaim” as it is this with which the car will certainly be greeted by one and all. Continue reading “Another “Triumph” for British Leyland”

High Flying Adored

No longer content with the surly bonds of earth, with this Rocheresque alliance with Emirates, the Blessed One’s ambitions have truly taken wing.

Dr Jens Thiemer, Mercedes-Benz Vice President Marketing: “Travellers in Emirates First Class are now also able to enjoy the sense of luxury of our Mercedes-Benz S‑Class above the clouds”. Image: (c) nyobserver

Everybody wants at the very least to touch the Blessed One’s hem these days, and after all, who can blame them? Having successfully reinvented Mercedes-Benz as the last word in modern purity and sensual luxury, the frail ties of the auto business were never going to be sufficient to hold him to our leaden promontory – not when he can Continue reading “High Flying Adored”

A Photo for Sunday: Jensen and Jaguar

Not long did these two cars directly compete in the showrooms. Only in 1976 could one choose between a new, cramped 5.3 litre V12 2+2 or a new, cramped 2+2 with a 7.2 litre V8.

Cool and warm – 1966 Jensen Interceptor and a 1976 (onwards) Jaguar XJ-S.

The two cars show how differently the same basic concept can be executed (Bristol and Ferrari are another two): the GT. The West Bromwich bolide benefitted from Touring’s neatly considered styling while Brown’s Lane’s leaper resulted from a tortuous process involving a number of hands (almost a Burkean contract between designers dead, designers living and designers yet to be). While the Jensen attained a homogenous look, the Jaguar resembles three very different ideas uneasily blended together.

What if we Continue reading “A Photo for Sunday: Jensen and Jaguar”

Mercury White Moonlight Makes Landfall on the Littoral

We recently explored the matter of how long it takes to align two ranges of cars when one company takes over another or there is a merger. In the cases of Ford and GM, covered earlier, the process seems to take under a decade. Are there counter examples?

BMW didn´t know what do with this: autoscout24.de

Today I will take a look at the case of Rover, which marque came under the control of BMW in 1994. Rover (when under BL) had already been part of a co-operative venture with Honda.

That process began under the Triumph brand when BL decided to use a slightly modified version of the Ballade as the basis of the Acclaim. The cooperation changed tracks slightly when Triumph was shuttered and Rover began to Continue reading “Mercury White Moonlight Makes Landfall on the Littoral”

Two Fingered Salute

In 1987, Maranello went back to its roots, launching the precursor to today’s track-bound limited edition wonders. But in looking to the past, was F40 the modern Ferrari of all?

Weapons grade material. Image: fastestlaps

The Ferrari F40 is a car that brooks no ambivalence. Like the company’s founder and imperator, F40 is indifferent to the notion that you might find it vulgar, somewhat silly, a virtually unusable statement of machismo and status, because it’s all of those things and a great deal more besides. Because, perhaps more than anything, F40 remains the essence of Enzo. Continue reading “Two Fingered Salute”

Sunrise And The Sodium Glare

Once upon a time UK Fords and German Fords differed. And once upon a time UK Vauxhalls and German Opels differed. Then Ford and GM unified their European operations. How long did that take?

When Europe was divided
Image via mad4wheels

The process began for Ford in 1967 with the creation of Ford of Europe. For GM it is a bit hazier because their UK and Continental brands kept their names. Ford’s UK and German design centres co-operated on the 1972 Ford Granada. For the 1976 version, Merkenich handled the design. After 1976 there were no more UK-only models (Cortina), as one after another the range became uniform on both sides of the channel: Fiesta, Escort, Sierra, Capri and Granada.

If we turn to GM we see more muddle. Opels could be bought in the UK though Vauxhalls did not sell much (if at all) on mainland Europe. Continue reading “Sunrise And The Sodium Glare”

Impossible Princess – Vanden Plas 1800

Robertas Parazitas reports on one of the stars of this year’s NEC Classic Motor show.

Source: C&SC

Grim commerce and ‘investment car’ mania now dominate the annual NEC Classic Motor show, but search hard, seek the wisdom of the crowds, and strangeness and delight is there to be found. In Hall 4, a Restoration Theatre had been setup. I sat for a while, hoping for a performance of one of Congreve or Wycherley’s lighter works, but all that was on offer was a video of two elderly men in a dingy workshop explaining the intricacies of panel beating in what I imagined to be a satire on Puritanism. Continue reading “Impossible Princess – Vanden Plas 1800”

Weakest Link

Some recent posts here at DTW have been inspired by foreign travel.

Is there a less suitable car for this treatment?

I too love spotting the little differences when traveling and I thought surely a week on the Sorrentine peninsula might provide me with a little automotive food for thought. However apart from a sprinkling of modern Lancias there was very little of interest to report from the mainland. A daytrip to the island of Capri though provided me with a really interesting talking point. Continue reading “Weakest Link”

Word on a Wing

On the surface, Renault’s 1983 Gabbiano was simply an innocuous concept, but could it also stand as a metaphor for a decades-spanning rivalry?

1983 Ital Design Gabbiano. Image: Weilinet

Following former head of Citroën bureau d’études, Robert Opron’s move across Paris to head Renault’s styling studios in 1975, design responsibility appeared to remain an in-house arrangement. However over time, a decision was taken either by senior management or by Opron himself to Continue reading “Word on a Wing”

A Concept Car For Sunday

Today we take a small look at the future as imagined by students at Clemson University and the Art Centre College of Design. 

Deep Orange Mini concept: source

The car is the Deep Orange 7 Mini concept, the result of a project carried out in co-operation with BMW. Many who liked the Mini Spiritual concept will find much to admire. For a start, it doesn’t look much like a Mini or a MiniContinue reading “A Concept Car For Sunday”

A Luton Brougham

With Vauxhall’s future under PSA coming under renewed scrutiny, we look back to Luton’s mid-’70s upmarket ambitions.

1976 Vauxhall VX Prestige prototype. Image: droopsnootgroup

As automotive industry analysts ponder the fate of Opel / Vauxhall in the wake of PSA’s takeover, one possible future mapped out involves a shift upmarket. On the face of things, this appears about as likely as PSA getting a sudden rush of blood to the head and starting to take Citroën seriously, but as (im)possible futures go, it may not be entirely unthinkable.

Not everyone in the soothsaying universe seems to Continue reading “A Luton Brougham”

Noisome, Necessary, Brilliant and Bad

Sometimes I worry that Driventowrite is nothing but a collection of Lancia, Citroen and Opel musings strung together with bits of Ford Granada in between.

Historic Toyotas: Toyota UK

In order to make a token effort to acknowledge the wider world I went in active search of the news the manufacturers themselves put out.

At Toyota, the most exciting thing I found (and it really is exciting because we love Japanese cars here) is that there will soon be news about the Toyota heritage press fleet. They also have an advanced technology seminar on automated driving. I must look at that soon.

Nissan UK proudly report that the Leaf has been awarded AutoExpress prestigious “best used EV award”. Further, they also have news on automated driving and use an image of an Infiniti to Continue reading “Noisome, Necessary, Brilliant and Bad”

The Embarker Lay Still and Dreamed

Recently we discussed PSA’s mooted plans for their new charge, Adam Opel AG. PSA announced their plans yesterday

You can read coverage here and here and here. For the story direct from the lion’s mouth, you must merely click your mouse here.

As GM Authority dryly note, GM somehow failed to Continue reading “The Embarker Lay Still and Dreamed”

Harriman’s Folly

If one car can embody the legacy of its creator, the 1967 Austin 3-Litre will forever be linked with the fall of BMC boss, George Harriman. Hubris or simply bad timing? 

Quadruple headlamps quickly replaced the more modern looking ovoid units fitted to the car at launch. Image: Oldtechnology.net

An unwitting metaphor for a car company which had fundamentally lost its way, the 1967 Austin 3-Litre was an unmitigated failure both in creative and commercial terms. Received at launch with an embarrassed silence from the UK press corps, shunned by the buying public and withdrawn from sale in 1971 with a mere 9,992 examples built, the 3-Litre, along with the Maxi would prove to be the final nails in BMC’s coffinlid and all the evidence Donald Stokes and his Leyland cohorts needed to Continue reading “Harriman’s Folly”

Breakfast, Dinner and Lunch All Over Again

According to Automotive News Europe, Opel will reduce the number of models it sells. You won’t be surprised, will you?

2016 Buick Cascada: Buick

Additionally, purchasing activities will be shared alongside PSA platforms. The Ruesselsheim design and engineering centre will be charged with electrification of PSA vehicles and, finally, Opel will expand into territories that were previously taboo under GM.

The first point can be taken to mean more vehicles like the Crossland which already uses a shared platform with PSA. The bundled purchasing operation probably translates into more parts commonality among which will be engines or eventually electric power trains. Engines are typically a clear generator of brand character (or lack thereof); add characterless electric and hybrid powertrains to the mix and one can see a growing hazard for PSA in meaningless differentiation.

This leads us to the last point: new markets for Opel. Currently Opel is stranded in Europe although some of its output found customers in the US as Buicks (the Insignia, the Cascada and the previous Astra.) So, where will Opel head to now it can compete against GM? North America has been a hard market for PSA to crack. One scenario sees Opel as a “German” brand for PSA to push in the US, as a kind of wolf´s clothing for PSA’s platform sheep. Possible models (or their successors) would be the Astra and Crossland cars. In another scenario, Opel might Continue reading “Breakfast, Dinner and Lunch All Over Again”

DS’ New Horizon

As brand-DS’ pathfinder model becomes available to order, we find ourselves once again asking, what on earth is the distinctive series for?

It’s the Louvre, so it must be art. Image: Evans Halshaw

Yesterday, Autocar reported that PSA’s new DS7 Crossback crossover is now available to order in the UK market, with RHD deliveries starting in early 2018. Pricing ranges from about £28,000 in entry-level Elegance trim to over £43,500 for the highest specification ‘Ultra Prestige’ model. That’s right up there with ‘Premium Luxury’ in the redundant nomenclature stakes wouldn’t you say? Isn’t ‘Prestige’ prestigious enough any more? One could be forgiven for imagining DS’ marketers Continue reading “DS’ New Horizon”

Fifty-one Times Maybe is Still Maybe

Earlier in the day we had a close look at a bit of the Peugeot 605. What was missing?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The short answer: Peugeot’s design and production dodged the ugly groove that normally indicates a weld, right under the lamp. This means that a not inconsiderable amount of work had to be done to match the weld seam to the metal on either side of it. Audi avoided this by bringing the bootlid right down to the bumper. Mercedes didn’t. Continue reading “Fifty-one Times Maybe is Still Maybe”

A Concept for Sunday – A Break With a Backstory

The 1986 Eole was an exploration of what would happen if one truly applied aerodynamic theory to a Citroën CX Estate. The results were somewhat mixed.

Image: oldconceptcars

Truly aerodynamic vehicles tend to be fairly uncompromising looking devices for the most part. Citroën’s Eole concept from 1986 certainly wasn’t conventionally handsome, but it contained a lot of thinking that would become more widely adopted. The work of UK car designer, Geoffrey Matthews at the PSA/Talbot facility at Whitley, Eole was sanctioned ostensibly to give Citroën something new to show at that year’s Geneva motor show; the AX model (also styled by Matthews) not being due to Continue reading “A Concept for Sunday – A Break With a Backstory”

1978 Datsun Sunny Road Test

“Datsun leaps ahead!” Archie Vicar has a look at the exciting new 1978 Datsun Sunny in what appears to be a verbatim transcript of a period review.

1978 Datsun Sunny saloon: source

The article first appeared in the South Caledonian News Inquirer, October 31, 1978. Douglas Land-Wimdermere [sic] took the original photos. Owing to the poor quality of the archive material stock photos have been used.

The Japanese marques don’t appear to give the impression of ever looking like they rest on their laurels (which, funnily, we also find in the Nissan range) so naturally enough, before we became accustomed to the old Sunny, a new Sunny has come along. And a jolly good thing too, I hear you say. For the old one had many good qualities and these have been built-upon in the new model.

Since 1975 many customers have bought the reliably-selling 120Y, making it Britain’s most popular import by a broad margin. The new Sunny takes on a refreshed guise, sporting a simpler and even more tasteful appearance. In its dark yellow paint, blacked-out front grille and its dapper wheel covers, it stood out against the dull concrete background of Worthing where Datsun have their head offices. It certainly will grace many a driveway for sure.

Being such an important car, the editor needed little persuasion when I suggested a full continental road test – and only that – would suffice to Continue reading “1978 Datsun Sunny Road Test”

Norfolk Broad

With perhaps the shortest gestation of any production car, 1977’s Chrysler/Talbot Sunbeam personified the term, ‘rush job’ – and it showed. But one variant burned brightly, courtesy of Lotus.

Image: copie-petites-observations-automobile

In 1977, the TV ad-breaks were awash with the mellifluous tones of Petula Clark, exhorting us all to put a Chrysler Sunbeam in our lives. I was around 11 at the time, so there wasn’t much I could do to obey the Surrey songstress’ siren call but since we did have an Avenger parked outside, my level of interest in Linwood’s newest offering was perhaps keener that it might have otherwise have been.

The Sunbeam was the result a neat piece of industrial blackmail on the part of Chrysler UK, the failing former Rootes car business, which under US management had merged with Simca but was struggling with a dated range of cars and a loss making production facility in Scotland making fewer of them than was economical. Faced with the plant’s closure, the UK government agreed to Continue reading “Norfolk Broad”

Collective Wisdom On Elegance

Rather than offer a sermon, I’d like to ask a set of questions. What does elegance look like today?

Neutrality

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, more violent. It takes genius and a touch of courage to move in the opposite direction,” said Charles Schumacher. And Coco Chanel murmured into her glass of chilled Lillet: “Elegance is refusal”. That’s a descriptive and not a formal defininition. Continue reading “Collective Wisdom On Elegance”

Stretching a Metaphor

Ford’s post-acquisition strategy for Jaguar was one of aggressive growth, but it came at some cost – particularly to their core model line.

Jaguar flagship. 1997 long-wheelbase Daimler Super V8. Image: motorstown

Having taken a multi-billion dollar hit on the acquisition of Jaguar in 1989, Ford executives saw only one way out of the mess they have got themselves into. In order to gain the return on investment they craved, Jaguar would need to be transformed from a specialist 35-40,000 car a year business to one pushing out at least five times that number. To achieve this, they would need to Continue reading “Stretching a Metaphor”