Falling Off the Carousel

Recently I received a very interesting e-mail from a certain Kelley Montieth (Mrs) from the Global Central Bank.

A new Wolseley?

The message informed me that due to a banking error, 893 million euros remained unused from a sewage development project in Alice Springs. Mrs Montieth said that (I quote verbatim) “IF I COULD RETAIN THIS MONEY FOR TWO DAYS” on behalf of the Global Central Bank I would receive a payment of 12 million euros.

Ever keen to help, I sent Mrs Monteith my bank account information (Iban and Swift codes) and the 890 million arrived quite soon thereafter. Since then I haven’t heard a peep from Mrs Monteith. I now have rather a lot of money with which I don’t know what do (apart from spending a little extra on this year’s Christmas turkey, I admit).

Having failed to donate the funds to any worthy charities, I would like some creative ideas as to how else to spend the money. This is where I turn to you, dear readers.

The cash in my possession should be enough to cover the cost of designing and launching a new car. In order to lower the investment cost I’ll be looking into using automotive suppliers such as Denso, Magna, Visteon and Lear alongside proven engineering consultancies as Bertandt, Ricardo and Lotus.  What I don’t have is any idea of exactly what to launch.

So, if readers could be so kind, could they put on their thinking hats and suggest which dead brand would most deserve revival using 890 million euros now at my disposal.

Further details of the technical specification would be good so as to help me select the most worthy concept. To be clear at the outset, satirical suggestions that Lancia or MG be brought back from the dead will not be accepted. I may have trouble winkling the Austin-Rover brands from BMW, by the way, so I will be reluctant to accept those suggestions. That said if, and only if, a good case can be made I will allow some additional time for lawyers to soften up BMW. Alternatively, you can suggest a brand “in the style of” a former BMC/BL/Austin Rover marque. Wolsleigh? Eastin? Van Den Plaz?

Please suggest the brand you want to revive and describe the launch model. You will need to suggest why this brand and model might be a useful and competitive addition to the market. Further, please suggest which designers and engineers I will have to poach. Even if I was going provide some of the studio styling support myself I will need some help for when I am away ordering suitable branded accessories and specifying ashtray capacities.

If I get answers back in reasonable time, you can expect the launch date of 2022, so plan around that.

 

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

28 thoughts on “Falling Off the Carousel”

  1. This is less a post, more of a question posed for a thesis. I’d vote for pulling together a team to make intelligent use of EV technology to create a properly elegant, space and size efficient Golf sized hatch to pull the public away from their SUVs. Yes please, a reimagined GS for C.21.

    1. Indeed. That’s a potentially useful one. The EV people need and will buy looks like, costs like a Golf and works the same way. That still leaves room for variation in execution.
      I’ll have to disallow the GS 2.0 as Citroen isn’t officially dead.
      The challenge involves a brand I can buy with Mrs Montieth’s millions.

    2. Sorry Richard, I clearly missed your point by quite a margin. I did consider arguing whether Citroen was clinically dead, although I did not actually ask for a Citroen, just a car as advanced and intelligent in its thinking for today as the GS was in 1970. Returning to the task, I would ask for a car of the kind I have suggested to be the re-launch of Panhard (assuming that PSA still own the marque and is clearly in the mood for selling off assets that others value more than it does, you might retain a lot of change from buying the name for investment in some really interesting and impactful technology) or NSU (which might cost rather more given that VW still has a rather puffed-up view of itself).

    3. OK, so there is a problem in that PSA no longer owns the company (Wiki says that it is owned by Renault Trucks Defense, a subsidiary of Volvo Group), although it is not clear whether the Panhard name is still being used.

      If we can ignore that for a moment, in terms of market positioning, I had a thought in the back of my mind for some time that PSA would have done better to use the Panhard name for the purpose for which it is currently besmirching the DS moniker. Hence, I think there is rationale for positioning it as a stylish, svelte, EV-only manufacturer. Given the marque’s history with the material, it could make a ‘thing’ out of using only aluminium for its bodywork, and also innovate on an interesting suspension (given it has history in this department too). In this way, I’d have it take on some of those premium players, although I’d ban all talk of ‘premium’ in the marque’s marketing and strategy blurb and instead put the emphasis on ‘innovation’ and ‘intelligence’ (Oh Lord! Am I just trying to re-invent Citroen under a new name?)

  2. “The EV people need and will buy looks like, costs like a Golf and works the same way. That still leaves room for variation in execution.”
    This is a good starting point and gives a clear direction.
    I read the “works the same way” requirement as “gives the same range and takes the same time to fully restore it” and “gives the same flexibility for unplanned use” which immediately rules out any EVs with a battery as the only energy source.
    This would make the Honda FCX a technical design pattern pretty much in accordance with the required modern day GS.

    And you could invest any money you’re left with in a factory for thermolytical Hydrogen production in Alice Springs…

    1. If you were to dust off a dead brand which one would it be?
      I think the EV power pack is getting quite close to the flexibility needed for most people’s daily use. It’s the touring function (800 km range) that is the barrier. Most cars never use this ability.

    2. The brand to dust off surely must be Wolseley because they had a backlit logo that would be perfect for an EV 🙂

      A battery powered EV will greatly benefit from what Bosch is developing for the electro bicycle market with its short innovation cycles. Within the next couple of years we will see batteries with much higher storage density and much lower weight at considerably cheaper prices.
      The problems these new batteries will not solve are laws of physics around the recharge process of a battery. If you want recharge times that are acceptable to the average car buyer you will be faced with voltages and currents at very interesting levels that represent the true limitations of battery powered mobility.

    3. Dave: Autocropley today reported that Fisker have a battery capable of being recharged in 9 minutes for a 125 mile range and a maximum range of 400 miles. Assuming it’s not a total lie 9 mins for 125 miles must cover a huge proportion of journeys and usage. 9 minutes is enough time to have a pleasant smoke. 400 miles beats an Aston Martin petrol engine.

  3. How about reviving the Tatra name and basing operations in the Czech Republic where there is an ample pool of engineering talent. It would have to be an extremely aerodynamic electric car built to a high standard in aluminium with a luxury interior swathed in Alcantara or similar. I understand Tesla are keen to share technology.

  4. The Tatra would have to be shaped so you can’t tell front from back. Then you could have swivelable seats to change direction when useful.

    Otherwise use Borgward, Riley — although I like the Wolseley shout for an EV.

    Oh, and you could buy back the ex-Lybra from the Chinese co. that bought the entire tooling but mothballed it. [Lost the link to it, dammit.]

    1. Hi: The Lybra project could be a good hobby sideline. The relaunch of a old brand is more what I have in mind.
      I am still awaiting details on the market positioning for these EVs though.

    2. Zoyte is the Chinese company that bought the tooling for the Lancia Lybra. They have bought the tooling for various obsolete Fiats and have had fairly short production runs of the Multipla and Palio in the past. The Lybra is still in the pipeline in facelifted form.

  5. Can we have a modernised, EV version of the Saab 95, please? Styling cues to hark back to the old model, but modernised a la New Mini or Fiat 500. Not sure whether there’s a way to shorten the bonnet for more efficient use of space without messing up the proportions; if there isn’t maybe use the extra space available as an additional boot? I’m thinking a five/seven seater EV, similar to the Skoda Yeti (tall, but not an aggressive SUV style), with an emphasis on Scandi simplicity, efficiency, and interior design. (And no emphasis on sportiness, aggression, or off-road ability)

    1. Hi Freddie: thanks for your message. I apologise that it languished in the in-box so long. Simon, our editor, celebrates Christmas until Epiphany which means plenty of medium dry amontillado.
      I note you’ve picked Saab for revival and made something of a case for its format and positioning. That’s quite plausible and rational. We now have two Saab proposals: one an ICE revival and the other an E-update.

  6. I’ve always been intrigued by the Porsche FLA long life vehicle, it’s a tantalizing thought engineering a car for a really long life. And I’ve always been intrigued by “cockroaches”, cars that by some reason just refuse to die, cars like the Land Rover, Volvo 240, Mercedes W123, and so on. Combine those thoughts, and we really got something.

    In this case, I’m not interested in the brand, but in the product. You can as we speak buy a complete MGB, E-Type, or 911 bodyshell and build a a brand new car from parts. Say that cars more than 30 years old became public domain, my company would build brandless cars sharing the same modern updated tech. And the company would be completely transparent, the specs being open source.

    I would resurrect the Land Rover, the Volvo 245, the Mercedes W126, and the Porsche 911. The Land Rover Defender just went out of production, but with a 30 moratorium a resurrected Land Rover would havet to be built to the 90/110 spec of the 80’s. And what really is the difference anyway? The same with the 911, it would have to be built up to the standards before the 964. I would pick the W126 over the W123 simply because the latter is too similar in size to the 245, also quality without bling is nice, I would trim the W126 the same as the Landie inside. Why not with hoseable rubber mats in the trunk?

    All cars are primarily rear wheel drive with old school engineering, it should be no problem keeping parts long lasting by over engineering them and having them understressed. Though with modern corrosion resistance and triple zinc coating. All cars would have the same off the shelf modern engine by any maker, a two litre straight Four turbo engine, petrol or diesel. But detuned for longer lasting life. Even in a detuned state it would be a better and stronger engine than those of 30 years before.

    And yes, even the Porsche would have a straight four sticking out its back. There’s a Ford Escort based kit car with a plastic 911 replica bodyshell and an XR3 engine sticking out its back. It can be done and no one would be any wiser. If all cars share the exact same engine it would be so much simpler, why not buy it off the shelf? Why not resurrect the Mercedes straight five turbodiesel and have it in both the Landie and the W126?

    No one really needs excessive power and speed, and with smaller engines the cars would be severly understressed. A 150 hp turbodiesel 911 would still be a hoot to drive on small country roads without risking any lifes, and it’s still 50% stronger than what the 911 started out with in the early sixties. If the cars are engineered to be capable of more they would last so much longer using less.

    And then keep these cars in production for another thirty or sixty years. The Land Rover almost made it to seventy, I have no problem seeing an updated Landie making it to another seventy years. Some cars simply do their job astoundingly well, and I think this lot does it better than most, even thirty years out of production. I say, resurrect them now under any brand name and slap any badge on them. You could even sell them under a no name brand, simply badged as Car.

  7. I see no point in a car lasting >20 years.
    And if I did, my Car would have Flavia’s lightly stressed mechanicals, not a poorly balanced straight four.

    1. A car lasting a very long time would be quite satisfying. I am sure we can pick benchmarks for a wide variety of car attributes and use them to define a car worth keeping for a long time. Behind this is the question about why it is that well-regarded features are lost at all. I’d add the Peugeot 406 to the list of Car cars. I’d love to know if the gross form of the car could be retained while ensuring modern crash performance. I’d guess the answer is yes. Apart from that matter, the 406 is a car (and type of car) with near-universal general relevance.
      Add the Citroen BX to that list.

    2. After some research I discovered onions are very good for you indeed. As it happens I eat a lot of them already but not for health reasons so much as the fact they taste great.

  8. Surely its time to revive the Alldays and Onions brand? Simply because its a brilliantly unlikely name for a car. Like calling a dog, Derek. Could be sold as Jedentag und Zwieblen in Germany, Chaquejour et Oignons in France, Ognigiorno e Cipolle in Italy etc and the natives may be duped into thinking they are home grown (the cars not the onions). There’s something faintly agricultural about the name, so how about a proper, basic, rufty-tufty off-roader for farmers, armies and third world charities? Now that the Defender has gone, is there a bit of a hole in that market?

    1. It is worth noting that the cars were sold under the Alldays brand.
      Thanks for the historical note though. And more generally, isn’t slightly odd how much one uses onions in cooking even though they have no nutritional use. I made carbonara today: onions involved but if you look at the final sauce you don’t apprehend the onions.

    2. Onions are loaded with vitamins and other good things. Apparently. They wouldn’t be in a classic carbonara so well done for challenging the established order (even if you couldn’t taste them).

    3. Cars: you’re right. There are no onions in the recipe. I have no idea where I got that idea from. I’ve been making it for ten years with onions: one, finely diced and sauteed with bacon cubes until translucent. Better recipes suggest pancetta, I know. The onions stand in for the garlic. It tastes just fine.

  9. So far the Montieth millions remain unallocated. I’m diverting €50 million to a small venture based on the “cockroach” concept and I’ll start with 3 models: the 240, the Saab 900 convertible and the Citroen CX estate. The Mercedes W-123 is well enough served.
    I will probably go with an E-car for the main project. It still needs a brand and model format. Nothing I’ve heard is quite convincing though Panhard might win by default. Should we really use such a name for a Golf-clone? VW are doing that already. I’d resurrect Morris for a direct VW competitor
    not Le Panhard.

  10. I am not sure where we got with this. One proposal was the “cockroach” project which I have earmarked money too. I read that Aston Martin is remaking the DB4 and selling them for 2 million each. That is much more profitable than selling new cars. I imagine if one wants to series-build 240s, Saab 900s and W-123s then you can sell them for a lot less.
    It would have been nice to have heard a solid case for a particular brand, the car and its place in the market.

    1. OK, Richard, I’ll bite.

      You need a Wryly. Maybe a Really Wryly, or even a Not-Really Wryly.
      Probably a three-box à la 1.5, but mechanicals are a problem. Best if FWD, yet none of the e-hybrids are quite there yet.

      Still, you’ll have enough cash to invent your own.

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