A Terrible Cloud of Unknowing

Almost three years on from VW’s monumental lapse of judgement, the only thing that is clear amid the noxious murk is an overwhelming and potentially damaging lack of clarity.

Image credit: greenfleet

Not simply a colossal failure and a swingeing indictment of VW’s corporate culture as espoused by the management style of former chairman, Ferdinand Piëch, the repercussions of VW’s 2015 betrayal are proving even wider and faster-accelerating than anyone might reasonably have anticipated.

The savage irony of course is the fact that as predicted on these pages, VW itself has Continue reading “A Terrible Cloud of Unknowing”

Crossed Over

The recent crop of new models coming from Munich inevitably leads to a simple question: What on Earth has been going on at BMW in recent years?

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 Backside design, photo (c) suvauthority.com

Ever since the Neue Klasse reinvented and saved the brand, BMW could only ever, leaving matters such as personal taste aside, be described as assertive.

Assertively conservative insofar as an adherence to driven rear wheels, straight six engines and the evolution of the themes established by the Neue Klasse were concerned. Assertively daring when it comes to Continue reading “Crossed Over”

No Resistance

As Tesla outsells its German flagship market rivals on home turf, have we reached that much anticipated watershed or are the majors about to nick Elon’s lunch money as he’s about to cash in?

Everybody say Ohm. Image credit: Tesla

Last week it was reported that European sales of the Tesla Model S outstripped those of the German luxury flagship saloons for the first time, marking an alleged pivot point for the adoption and acceptance of electric vehicles across the region. A watershed moment perhaps or simply sensationalist reporting?

Fair question, because firstly there is some conjecture as to whether the Model S is a direct rival to the S-Class Mercedes and its ilk, especially when Elon Musk himself describes it more as an E-Class and Five Series competitor. Sizewise, Musk is broadly correct, but in terms of price, he most certainly isn’t. But regardless of which segment of the market it’s aimed, for a section of society who have the financial wherewithal to Continue reading “No Resistance”

Photos For Sunday: 1977-1986 BMW 728

Sales success is relative. Some unimpressive sales figures go unremembered and stay that way. BMW sold fewer 728s per year than Citroen did the XM or Peugeot the 604, both viewed as laugh-until-you-faint failures.

 

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Do I sound bitter? I suppose so. Injustice always rankles. The E23 (write it down, learn it, use it: “e-twenty three”) can be defended by its defenders though. The car represented a new market for BMW so anything was better than nothing. The next model sold a bit better (and not worse). The XM’s sales fitted into a downpointing jagged line, a nose-dive to extinction. Towards the end the production line at Rennes was a carpark. The 605’s sales held steady at or near irrelevance, so they judge it.   Continue reading “Photos For Sunday: 1977-1986 BMW 728”

The Disappearing Citroën DNA

We notice that some makes have the most enthusiastic followings in lands where they have never been particularly well represented. The excellent AussieFrogs forum covers the full gamut of French manufacturers, who have all remained reasonably left-field choices in Australia. Here, AussieFrogs member Gary Kurzer shows that Citroën retains the ability to inflame opinion worldwide.

Cars and Guitars? Read on. George said: “All things must pass.”  Dylan said: “Do not go gentle into that good night …. rage, rage against the dying of the light.” And Robert and Eric were “standing at the crossroads.”

Methinks that Citroën needs to work out whether their wheels align with George or Dylan whilst parked at that that very prescient intersection, considering their future. Continue reading “The Disappearing Citroën DNA”

Plentiful Phlogiston, an Ample Ether and a Strong Vital Force

Saloon or hatchback? Which is it? Why?

We are not interested in the front of this car: iMDB.org

From 1972 to 1984 the VW sold the Passat with the option of a 5-door as well as 2-door and five doors. Today it’s only sold as a saloon and estate. The Citroen XM came as a five-door hatchback and as a fabulously useful estate. Its predecessors and successors could only be had as saloons or estates.

All generations of the Seat Toledo, barring one have been hatchbacks. For 1999, the second generation Toledo Continue reading “Plentiful Phlogiston, an Ample Ether and a Strong Vital Force”

A Proton Saga

At Driven to Write, we believe all marques have a story to tell and today’s subject, from a half-forgotten outlier is no exception. But before we get to the subject at hand, it’s probably worth a little recap.

Okay, not a Saga, but a Savvy. Image credit: Parkers

The Proton motor company was founded in 1983 and until the advent of rival, Perodua a decade later, was the sole indigenous Malaysian carmaker. Initially partnered with Mitsubishi, who for a time owned a minority stake in the business, Proton cars were mildly reheated Mitsubishi models, like the unfortunately named Saga, which was Perusahaan Otomobil Nasional’s earliest offering in the United Kingdom – first introduced in 1989.

But despite its senior citizen connotations, the Saga proved a successful model line, with over 30,000 sold in the first three years. Indeed, Proton was for a time at least, viewed as Continue reading “A Proton Saga”

Quick Drive: Tesla Model S 75D

An opportunity to ‘have a go’ in a friendly colleague’s new Tesla provided me with a first experience of driving an EV.

Tesla Model S
This is not the actual car I drove, in case you were wondering (Source: Getaround)

I fully realise that it’s not that remarkable to have driven one of Elon Musk’s finest, but it’s a landmark in my longish and ever-lengthening motoring life and so I feel driven to write one of my usual streams of consciousness about the experience and the car itself.

One of the guys in my team has a flat black 75D on order and Tesla has lent him a white car to bridge the gap whilst his is being built / delivered, which is a nice touch. Knowing how much of a car nerd I am, he popped in yesterday to offer me a quick go. It turned out I was not the first that day; given he leads an IT department, a load of tech nerds had got there before me. Interesting that, the Tesla appeals to both car and tech enthusiasts … Continue reading “Quick Drive: Tesla Model S 75D”

Two Cities, One Car

A clumsy name for a rather clumsy car. Ten years ago, Alfa Romeo took aim at the MINI (and its ilk) and missed. We plot the MiTo’s wobbly trajectory.

Image credit: autokult

Alfa Romeo has throughout its long history enjoyed a distinctly patchy relationship with small cars. Pre-War, such a notion would probably have been laughable but even in the latter half of the 20th century, despite the occasional prototype, the smallest car Portello actually got round to sanctioning was the troubled Alfasud, a programme which proved aberrant insofar as it was what we would now class as a C-segment vehicle and was, by a Neapolitan country kilometre, a dynamic front-drive benchmark Alfa would never again match. Continue reading “Two Cities, One Car”

Geneva Motor Show 2021 Preview: Mercedes-Benz A-class

In an exclusive preview ahead of its unveiling at the 2021 Geneva show, Driven To Write can reveal the significantly refreshed Mercedes A-class.

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Official designer’s sketch of the 2022 A-class, photo (c) Driven To Write

The current Mercedes A-class, internally dubbed W177, receives an extensive mid-life facelift, to be officially presented at the 91th Geneva International Motor Show. Ahead of the world premiere, Driven To Write can provide exclusive insight into the most significant overhaul the A-class model has ever received.

“It’s time to be bold. It’s time for creases”

Daimler AG’s Chief Creative Officer, Gorden Wagener proclaims that the refreshed A-class is more than the regular nip-&-tuck-job. “The A-class is one of our icons. It is the most premium car in its class, and this new design shows that more than ever.”

Styling, incidentally, is the focal point of W177’s overhaul. Since its market introduction in 2018, the current A-class has turned out to Continue reading “Geneva Motor Show 2021 Preview: Mercedes-Benz A-class”

A Photo For Sunday: 1990 Ford Probe

This could also have been Something Rotten In Denmark. However, it isn’t listed on-line so it’ll have to be a Photo For Sunday.

1990 Ford Probe mirror

I had not taken two photos before the owner leaped out of his workshop nearby to tell me that this beauty had only covered 89,000 km. The green tinted body-work and phenomenal condensation inside the car strongly spoke against the vehicle in practice. In principle, it’s a Mk 1 Ford Probe which detail further argues against it. One other nice aspect of buying this car is that if you absolutely had to Continue reading “A Photo For Sunday: 1990 Ford Probe”

German Ambassador – Karl-Heinz Kalbfell

The history of the motor industry is littered with lost causes and alternative realities. Today, we look at one of the more poignant examples.

Karl-Heinz Kalbfell. Image credit: speedweek

Even in automotive terms, Karl-Heinz Kalbfell is not a household name, although perhaps he ought to be. The late German engineer and product supremo enjoyed a stellar career at BMW and in 2004, landed what appeared to be not only a dream job, but one which promised truly great things.

Kalbfell, an engineering and marketing graduate, joined BMW AG in 1977, gaining responsibility for such programmes as Continue reading “German Ambassador – Karl-Heinz Kalbfell”

Blue and Three Together, So Goes The Song

We have a bit of crystal ball gazing from the chief designer of Toyota, reported in Automotive News. The mainstream car will go extinct. Not that surprising, really. But why do we have a Ford Taunus as the main image? 

1972 Ford Taunus coupe: wikipedia.org

Starting with the idea that a large proportion of the cars made in the future will be externally controlled (“self-driving”), people’s relationship to cars will change. Simon Humphries’ vision is that most cars will be anonymous containers on wheels and a small remainder will be highly specialised luxury or performance items. He imagines “pure race cars” can be created.

That class already exists, they are racing cars and useless for very much if you Continue reading “Blue and Three Together, So Goes The Song”

Just Listen to the Rhythm of the Gentle Bossa Nova

Continuing this month’s Ka-fest at DTW, we turn our thoughts to a South American curiosity. While Ford of Europe outsourced the difficult second Ka iteration to Fiat Automobiles S.p.A, Ford do Brasil did things rather differently.

The Brazilian Novo Ka went on sale in January 2008, nine months before the European replacement for the 12 year old original. The European car is not really a Ford at all, while the Brazilian car placed an ingeniously re-worked superstructure on its predecessor’s B platform, which originated with the 1989 Fiesta.

From disappointing beginnings, the B platform had Continue reading “Just Listen to the Rhythm of the Gentle Bossa Nova”

Hammer Time

Another year, another Maserati sales crisis. But just how tarnished are the Trident’s prongs?

Image credit: motor16

It does appear at times that the only Maserati news is bad news. When we last reported on the Tridente’s fortunes in 2015, a woebegone tale was unfolding, with FCA’s Harald Wester revising his forecasts downwards in the wake of disappointing sales.

Last Autumn it was widely reported that production at the Mirafiori plant which builds the Levante crossover (and Alfa MiTo incidentally) was temporarily halted, owing to changes in Chinese regulations regarding the manner in which manufacturers and dealers should Continue reading “Hammer Time”

Something Rotten in Denmark: 2007 Pontiac G6

Today’s car can claim to be special by dint of its rarity. GM never sold the G6 in Europe and so this vehicle must be one of a very small handful of examples on this side of Atlantic. In Denmark it has no peers**.

2007 Pontiac G6 convertible: bilbasen.dk

Three hypotheses: it came from the US as a by-product of work secondment from the US to Denmark (“We have to bring the Pontiac, Carol”). Two, it is a very specific and personal import for someone who just happened to really like the G6 (“There is nothing like this car, I must have it”). Three: it came to Denmark via a US soldier stationed in Germany (“We have to bring the Pontiac, Nick.”). A quick call might answer that and maybe I’ll find out.

Given its rarity I suspect that the next owner will be someone buying on a whim. I doubt many people are just hunting for a Pontiac convertible. The next owner may also already have an American car (60s or 70s) and wants nothing more than to Continue reading “Something Rotten in Denmark: 2007 Pontiac G6”

The Company You Keep

Alfa Romeo’s choice of ‘brand ambassador’ is inspired – and telling, maybe in more ways than intended.

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The new face of Alfa Romeo, in front of a non-Alfa Romeo, photo (c) Kinja

Unlike so many ‘brand testimonials’, Giovanni Giorgio (or Hansjörg, as his mother referred to him) Moroder isn’t the kind of person who caught the public eye for all the wrong reasons. He never had his own reality TV show or featured in a programme of this kind as a guest. He didn’t enjoy a very public, tabloid-filling affair of the romantic or some other variety.

Giorgio Moroder is merely a pop music giant. Which makes his appointment as ‘brand ambassador’ for Alfa Romeo’s still relatively new Stelvio SUV appear Continue reading “The Company You Keep”

A Photo For Sunday: It’s Another Land Cruiser

Slightly unusual this: it’s not on my street. I had to go almost two kilometres to see this one. It’s enormous and really useful. That makes it a Landcruiser, another one.

Toyota Landcruiser VDJ76R GXL 5-door wagon

The title for this regular item could almost be “the odd cars on my street” but this is not on my street. For some reason there haven’t been so very many oddities outside my front door in recent weeks. One exception appeared the day my mobile telephone lay recharging on the kitchen worktop (Wednesday): a Renault Koleos.

Not the new one, the first one, the one nobody bought. That sighting brought to two the tally of said cars observed by yours truly since Renault launched it upon an unsuspecting world in 2007. I suppose it’s ironic that I am addressing the subject of the unphotographed Koleos in an article ostensibly about the VDJ76R GXL** shown here.  They are almost polar opposites, aren’t they?

Should you take a step back from life’s dizzying whirl and you Continue reading “A Photo For Sunday: It’s Another Land Cruiser”

Start at the End

The current KA+ is a dispiriting sight for those who appreciated the original’s daring style. Today, we consider lost causes in the form of the 2010 Start concept.

2010 Ford Start. Image Credit: carbodydesign

Presenting a plausible and attractive evolution of the Ur-KA silhouette, Start came out of Ford’s Californian design centre, allegedly as a conceptual piece of blue sky thinking. Designed by Jeff Nield under the supervision of Freeman Thomas, Start debuted at the 2010 Beijing motor show, touted as a technology trailblazer for the blue oval.

A delightfully organic, podlike shape, the stylistic homages to the original 1996 KA are abundant, especially in the shaping and treatment of the Continue reading “Start at the End”

Cold, Calm and Shallow are the Waters of the Barrow

DTW takes a longer look back than usual, to the 1948 Antem Delahaye 148. It’s a sample from a rather forgotten niche, the small-scale coachbuilders who survived between 1945 and the onset of monococque construction. 

1948 Antem Delahaye 148L (nee 135): coachbuild.com

The name indicates the car is a coach-built special, based on a chassis by Delahaye. Émile Delahaye founded his eponymous firm in 1894, in Tours, France. It survived until 1955. The model history is rather complex and I simply don’t have the patience to reliably boil it down for you**.

The 148 was a derivative of the 135, introduced before the war. The postwar 135 had styling by none other than Philipe Charbonneaux.  A 3.6 litre in-line six powered the car, sending its efforts to the rear wheels. The car had three states of tune with one, two or three carburettors. The 148 had a 3.1m wheelbase, this wheelbase being intended for less sporty variants.

Antem chose this wheelbase to use for his version shown here. Carrossier Antem in Courbevoie had most of their success between WWI and WWII. They didn’t last long after 1945. The company Continue reading “Cold, Calm and Shallow are the Waters of the Barrow”

Ford Gives You More

Not even two years since its European launch, Ford have got the magic markers out on the KA+. What can it all mean?

Two little toughies. Image credit: The Express

The KA+ was introduced for customers in Europe as a spacious, well-equipped and value-for-money small car that offers excellent fuel-efficiency and fun-to-drive dynamics at an affordable price”. You have been reading the words of Ford’s press department before you write in to complain. A ‘Fiesta Minus’ with ‘milquetoast styling’ is what Driven to Write had to say on the matter in 2016.

Introduced into the European market at the end of 2016, Ford have delivered just over 51,000 KA+’s last year to buyers for whom style has either Continue reading “Ford Gives You More”

Catching Up, Part 2

We continue our transcription of Stirling Moss’s review of the 1975 Porsche 911.

1974 Porsche 911 interior: source

“The Porsche is a two seat coupe which does have room in the back for extra token passengers, thanks to an ingenious pair of folding seats, but on anything but the shortest of journeys they would suffer. The front seats are, however, very comfortable, with high seat backs which offer plenty of support. They are beautifully finished and upholstered, and sensibly shaped and positioned, with good visibility all round: you can see both the front wings very clearly, so that pointing the car securely through corners and gaps becomes simplicity itself.

There are all kinds of pleasing little details, which show how much thought has gone into the original design and the improvements which have been added over the model’s lifetime. For instance, there is a knob under the dashboard which unfastens the petrol filler cap, but before the garage man can Continue reading “Catching Up, Part 2”

Doubt and Disbelief

There’s little doubt. Toyota have a hit on their hands in the C-HR crossover. But what are the implications for its more reserved hatch sibling?

‘Fierce ugly’? C-HR. Image credit: cbg.ie

As even the dogs in the street know by now, the way of the Crossover is the path the European industry is hell-bent on pursuing. Decry it all we wish, the buying public appear to prefer the cut of its jib, its loftier driving position, its faint (if somewhat fraudulent) air of go-anywhere capability.

The automotive equivalent perhaps of a pair of Sketchers* trekking shoes, the marketing message exudes that ‘I’ve just emerged from my mindfulness class and now I’ll probably Continue reading “Doubt and Disbelief”

Signs of Our Times

Is the rejection of historical displays of excellence a sign of daring boldness – or the revelation of glaring ignorance?

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photo (c) auto-didakt.com

For the sake of readership enjoyment, we shall not again repeat the litany about how Mercedes-Benz ‘ain’t what it used to be’ and how Swabian diligence has given way to Sensual Purity®.

NuMerc is upon us, there’s no doubt about it. So rather than Continue reading “Signs of Our Times”

The Gongoozler

A few weeks ago I bought a copy of Octane. The edition lay around the house and I dipped into it at various moments. What did I discover?

Octane, Feb 2018

Tuesday, in the railstation I saw Octane and bought it along with the Interntional New York Times. I felt I needed to read more text on paper. The cover story first attracted my attention, a very Octane style of article where they discuss several generations of the same car. The first copy of Octane I bought, about eight years ago, dealt with the Maserati QP. This edition put the Bentley Continental under the spotlight. The cover showed a 1952 R-Type Fastback, the 2004 Continental and its successor.

I have to credit Octane for Continue reading “The Gongoozler”

Ford ReFocuses its Offer

As Ford readies its 2018 Euro-offerings, Driven to Write asks whether Henry’s Focus remains slightly askew?

Big Festie? Focus IV rendered from spy photos. Image credit: focusfanatics.com

In a Automotive News report this week, it was revealed that Ford will not unveil the new-generation Focus model at the Geneva show in March, electing to do so at a bespoke event the following month. The Ford spokesperson did not explain why this decision was taken (nor, it seems was the question asked) but it does suggest that Ford’s marketers believe they will Continue reading “Ford ReFocuses its Offer”

Catching Up

“An Experienced driver could be caught out by the Porsche 911 – it’s one of the nearest things to a racing car, says Stirling Moss.” That’s the intro to an article from Harper’s & Queen, a 1975 copy of which I found in a local “retro” styled bistro in my locale. Here is the rest of the text.

“The motor car has come in for quite a lot of criticism of late, and the most recent charge to be levelled against it that it squanders precious energy at a time when we can least afford it. Maybe this is the reason for a profound change in many people’s whole attitude to motoring. Continue reading “Catching Up”

Monospace di Bertone

Thirty years before Urus, Bertone envisaged a fashionable high-riding Lamborghini four-door. But it wasn’t an SUV – after all, they already made one of those.

Image credit: adoniscars via autowp

Despite being largely associated with mid-engined supercars, Lamborghini remains something of an exception in automotive terms. Perhaps it’s a function of the marque’s beginnings as makers of farm machinery, but the abstract of Lamborghini appears more malleable than most. Debatable of course, but to a large extent, it’s possible to Continue reading “Monospace di Bertone”