So 1998 Puzzle

Today’s puzzle is a little bit of fun. Unlike my previous attempts to construct a puzzle, this one  is probably solvable.


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The question is as follows: What is the connection between the Opel Vectra “A” and the Rolls Royce Silver Seraph?

This is a great opportunity to point out that in 1998 the Rolls Royce Silver Seraph replaced the SZ-series cars. For once a replacement generation was better and nicer than the one it superceded.  The design is attributed to Graham Hull and you can read a pretty interesting look into Rolls styling by activating the blue pixels here.

This drawing is billed as “an early sketch” of the Silver Seraph but it’s morely likely either a definitive styling sketch or a post-facto rendering done with marker and pastels.

1998 Rolls Royce Silver Seraph rendering

The Rover 75 and Jaguar S-Type emerged from the same cultural soup as this car. Critics lambast the Rover and S-Type for their retro-design. The Rolls-Royce gets away scot free – and rightly so for it’s precisely what you’d expect a late 90s Rolls to look like. Although there are plenty of modern construction touches, the context they are set in and and glowingly high-quality of the finish make the elements blend together.

2003 Rolls Royce Silver Seraph: source

The proportions are exactly right. The SZ series could make the same boast only to be called up on the flat panels. Here it is in a flattering photo from the RAC’s lovely website:

I wonder do designers at studios often make a point of side-by-side comparisons during the styling process? Toggling between the 1980 car and 1998 car does wierd things to both so maybe they shouldn’t.

I could imaging that if you were to style against the background of the 1980 car you could over do things. Or in reverse, the 1980 car looks a lot wider, and lower and alarmingly understyled. Alarmingly? I mean it’s plain bordering on banal.

So, if the stylist is looking at the 1980 car they might be tempted to make the follow-up more richly surfaced and perhaps a bit taller?  The 1998 car hides its bulk well (it’s vast) which is partly down to the carefully judged radii. The 1998 car corrects the SZ’s faults.

Integrated bumpers have robbed car designers of a way to express and articulate quality. Look at the way the bumpers of the RR meet the body. That is not the way way it is done on a Ford Mondeo or Opel Vectra “B”. Today, from Hyundai up to Bentley, and from Renault down to Mercedes, everyone’s bumpers meet the body flush, a tiny boring line hiding the material thickness of the metal.

*The Opel is super cleanly styled. Time for re-appraisal, I say.

(Picture credits: Opel; Rolls-Royce.)

Author: richard herriott

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

28 thoughts on “So 1998 Puzzle”

  1. An inadvertent slip of the post comment button.

    The 2.0 litre Family 2 engine in the Vectra was 1998 cc. The Rolls was a 1998 model.

    GM still uses the square bore/stroke 86 mm in its current 2.0 turbo engine. As does the Subaru BRZ and Toyota GT86. Popular choice.

    1. From a gentler time when engine designers started off square and let it develop from there. Nowadays car engine designers are trying to outdo Wärtsilä in the undersquareness stakes.

      The Ford I-4 engine also has 86 x 86 dimensions in 2 litre form, thought to be influenced by the Opel engine, which was from the Fritz Indra era. I briefly thought the Indra might be the connection, but he went straight from Alpina to Opel, and is unlikely to have had anything to do with the M73 V12.

    2. Robert, our Ford 2.0l fours are Bore 87.5 mm, Stroke 83.1 mm for 1999 cc. Both naturally aspirated and turbo. Just the old Mazda MZR engine L block which Ford branded Duratech.

      As for the long stroke chuffers of today, Honda permits download of their tech magazines which discuss in at least one article optimum bore/stroke for both NA and turbo with experimental results. It’s between 0.7 and 0.8 bore to stroke. Most Honda car engines were always long stroke, belying the old saw that long strokes are torquey. Torque is related to cylinder volume, not stroke, of course. Toyota on their current media page on the Dynamic Force 2.0 amd 2.5 l like 0.8 bore to stroke. All for thermal efficiency, not mechanical.

  2. Tricky. Neither were available as estates? Nope. Something to do with doors and John Stephenson, who worked at both GM & RR? I’m struggling. May we have a small clue?

  3. I’m likewise at a loss.

    I can only think of coincidences, such as both cars having – optionally in the case of the Vectra – 50% more cylinders than their predecessors.

    Also that one car was made in the north-west of England and had an engine made in Germany, while the other’s principal production base was in Germany, but had the option of an engine made in the north-west of England.

    1. Then my guess is that the Rolls was sold for millions, and the Vectra was sold by the millions.

  4. I believe Robertas is on to something regarding Dr. Fritz Indra, his former boss Burkard Bovensiepen was, if I recall a brief note on Auto Motor und Sport correctly, a minor shareholder of Vickers Plc at the turbulent times of the sale of Rolls Royce Motorcars, shortly after the introduction of the Seraph. I understand he made the case publicly for BMW’s bid at the time

    1. At the time, there was indeed speculation that Indra was not the genius GM touted him to be, and that Cosworth did the DOHC heads for both Opel and the Misubishi 4G63 engine (I owned one of the latter in my Eagle Talon). The physical similarity was remarkable and to be charitable, Mitsubishi weren’t exactly at the forefront of anything, while Cosworth sold discreet engineering services.

      Duckworth always claimed to be the inventor of the “modern narrow valve angle pentroof DOHC” head, at least as quoted by Graham Robson in his scattershot book “Cosworth” which came out in 1991 which I bought at the time. The Mercedes 2.3-16 head, as well as the previous Sierra Cosworth head featured only one cam cover for the dual cams, achievable mainly because of the very narrow included valve angle, which first showed up on the FVA and DFV in 1965/66.

      Usually, DOHC engines, with some exceptions like Alfa, had two cam covers because the cams were so far apart. In fact, to show how clueless some manufacturers were into the ’90s, Toyota’s 1991 Celica brochure went so far as to claim the opposite of what any decent engine designer should have known for decades since the DFV. There were two versions of the 2.0 litre Toyota DOHC engine that year, one narrow angle cooking engine, and a peppier one with widely-splayed cams which Toyota advised was the way to go for increased power. I was of course a long-winded letter-writer in those days just as now. So I sent a letter to Toyota Canada pointing out the error of their ways and pointing out the relevant parts from Robson’s book if they had any further interest. No more wide valve angle DOHC heads did Toyota make. Not due to me I’m sure- someone had woken up at Toyota City by having a bit of a glance around at other manufacturer’s engines.

      To return on theme, if Opel did “consult” with Cosworth owned by Vickers who also owned RR there is a connection. Even the Wikipedia page on Cosworth states “Other published projects for Adam Opel AG include the Opel Ascona 400 / Manta 400 rally cars and the 2.0L 16V engines in the Opel Kadett, Opel Astra GSi, Opel Vectra and Opel Calibra turbo.[citation needed]”.

      So Vickers is the ultimate connection.

  5. Bill, thanks for dealing with the Opel side – and so much else besides.

    Cosworth also engineered the turbocharging installation for the BMW M62 V8 in the Arnage

    Construction of the Rolls Royce / Bentley L410 V8 was outsourced to Cosworth at the time when it was reintroduced to the Arnage. The L410 was never used in the Seraph.

  6. All is quiet.

    Could it be Heffernan and Greenley, who contributed at the early stages to the SXB / P600 project?

    They worked under Wayne Cherry during his time in charge of the Vauxhall styling department.

    R-R’s first Director of Product Planning, John Stephenson also came from Cherry’s studio in 1983, but didn’t stay long enough to have contributed to SXB.

    1. I am sorry. I am enjoying the various thoughts on these two almost unrelated cars. I promise tomorrow to post a reply. Should I give it a separate micro-article or do you want the answer posted in as a reply here?

  7. Last couple of goes. Both of the offspring (Calibra and Arnage) were, I think, in production quite a bit longer than their parents. Not that surprising, possibly, as they were niche models. The only other thing I can think of is that both the Vectra and Arnage had ‘Diamond’ limited editions. That can’t be it, surely? I’ve started imagining Mr Herriott’s answers spoken in the voice of Vincent Price; ‘Such exquisite agony’…

    1. Dammit, he’s right:

      Seems there were Diamond Calibras and Astras too.

      I suspect this should properly be considered a coincidence rather than a link.

    2. Yes, that´s a coincidence. The Diamond Vectra looks really tasty too. Was there a Diamond Omega? I have a feeling there was some manner of special edition for that car, one I have never seen in black.
      Sure enough, behold this:
      And this one is actually black. Did you know that to paint a car black you need to use only the best body pressings. That´s one reason black cars used to cost more.

  8. May we have a micro-article? I’d love to know what the answer is (assuming it’s none of the above).

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