All Wrapped Up the Same

ECOTY 2019 is soon to be upon us. Who will learn to accept their reward this coming March?

(c) carscoops

As November slips silently from our grasp, and the season of good cheer has not yet fully broken upon us, we find ourselves at Driven to Write already looking ahead to March. But neither time, news agendas nor indeed my senior editor are known for qualities of patience or mercy, meaning I’m bound at least occasionally to report on the stories (as they say), that matter. The shortlist for the 2019 European Car of the Year award was officially announced this week, so let us take this opportunity to Continue reading “All Wrapped Up the Same”

Like Unto Being Two Souls In One Heart

The third Mazda 3 had a curiously short life: six years only. No wonder it only seems like yesterday when it was introduced.

2019 Mazda 3: source

And now a new one is upon us, revealed at the LA Motor Show which is in LA this year. God bless them, Mazda have seen fit to grace the car with a comprehensible engine line-up of 1.5 and 2.0 litres plus a super-efficient diesel for those markets not scared witless by DERV. Mazda, like Honda, do still seem to be interested in engines and so the new diesel “uses multi-hole piezo injectors to Continue reading “Like Unto Being Two Souls In One Heart”

Fontana di Nettuno

Is FCA’s Poseidon Adventure approaching its climax?

Three Tridents. (c) Maserati.ae

Last week, we examined FCA’s stewardship of Maserati and concluded that under the leadership of former CEO, Sergio Marchionne, several significant mistakes were made. Now that the carmaker is being lead by a newly constituted management team, what fate lies in store for the Trident of Bologna?

As has been reported, Maserati has seen a torrid 2018, shedding volume, margins and becoming an increasingly onerous drain upon the FCA business. At the end of October, as part of their responsibility to Continue reading “Fontana di Nettuno”

Mercedes-Benz Teases High-End Crossover Concept

During a special preview, the German premium brand spilled the beans about its future plans for the exclusive end of the market. 

mercedes-benz-usuv

This official sketch depicts Mercedes-Benz’ upcoming Ultimate Performance concept car, which we believe is likely to be unveiled to the public, early in 2019 in some form.

In addition to the release of this sketch, the Germans invited a selection of journalists to Daimler AG’s new Advanced Future Research Studio in Stuttgart Stammheim, where some of the brand’s stylists were at hand to Continue reading “Mercedes-Benz Teases High-End Crossover Concept”

Micropost: a mystery car?

It’s a mystery to me anyway. It turned up when I was researching clay models.

Source

The associated images show lots of Austin vehicles and other prototypes. I suspect it’s a rejected design for the Maxi or Allegro. Presumably Driven to Write’s readers know more. As ever, it looks like a fabulous missed chance from Austin-Rover’s immense catalogue of missed chances.

“Brian Borchester-Brom, head of Canadian marketing rejected Project Foal because he hated the rear door handles and also did not see eye-to-eye with Len Lennington, head of advanced mid-sized vehicle planning and insisted on a 4-cylinder saloon with doors from the 1300….”

The Mystery Of Other People And Me A Mystery Too

By December 24th, 2006 the Blackpool-based, sportcar-making, Russian-owned-firm TVR had entered administration. In February 2007, Evo (“the thrill of driving”) magazine reported proposals for a 200 mph supercar.

2007 TVR Typhoon: source

The article is still on-line (dated Jan 2007) with the same text as appeared in the published magazine. “Reports of TVR’s death have been greatly exaggerated,” began the article. That phrase is such a clichée I’d never even examined it until now, which shows the danger of hackneyed phrases.  Death is all-or-nothing and so can’t be exaggerated any more than one can be slightly pregnant. Deaths being exaggerated is thus a kind of lame joke.

I suppose this particular reported car was a form of phantom pregnancy because it didn’t Continue reading “The Mystery Of Other People And Me A Mystery Too”

L’anima di Tridente

Maserati’s cornerstone product also happens to be its oldest, and by some margin. Where now for the GranTurismo?

(c) car and driver

Prior to his untimely demise, former FCA helmsman, Sergio Marchionne was frequently characterised as a heartless technocrat entirely lacking in marque fealty. It was a narrative he did little to disavow and while the truth may not have been quite as cut and dried as his many detractors alleged, there can be little doubt that he was a gimlet-sharp pragmatist who would employ all tools at his disposal to Continue reading “L’anima di Tridente”

Some Other Time, Some Other Place

Autocropley reported today that the storied former Bremen brand Borgward bets on bringing its barges to Britain.

2018 Borgward BX5: source

And Ireland.

Autocropley styles them as “affordable premium” which has the ring of the oxymoronic about them. The marque is already available in mainland Europe, selling the BX5 and BX7. Alas, Autocropley did not Continue reading “Some Other Time, Some Other Place”

Blunting the Trident

Earlier this week, we reported on Maserati’s current woes. Today, we continue our analysis and pose a few uncomfortable questions.

(c)  Maserati

In the aftermath of Sergio Marchionne’s untimely death earlier this year, many observers offered a range of views as to the former FCA Chief Executive’s legacy. As is customary in times of personal tragedy, criticisms were muted and delicacies were observed. In his stead has stepped new CEO, Mike Manley, tasked with steering the still-listing FCA vessel through another four-year plan unlikely to be worth the powerpoint programme upon which it was scribed – both then and given the subsequent turn of events, now.

Armed with a hefty fire extinguisher, a hastily re-scribbled plan (subject to further change, no doubt), and a reshuffled team, his task, even for the more successful of FCA’s brand portfolio looks onerous. But for the ill-performing upmarket end of the spectrum, and especially its embattled Maserati business, it’s impossible to Continue reading “Blunting the Trident”

An Impossible Future Reveals Itself

Today finds us back on the hunt for special fabrics in vehicle interiors. And I can tell you it has been an uphill struggle to harvest these meagre gleanings.

2015 Maserati QP Zegna edition: source

The truth is that I did not find nearly as much as I had wanted to. The most easily found items are well-known examples such as the Gucci Cadillac Seville, the Joseph Aboud Buick Regal and the Fila Ford Thunderbird  which have been discussed here before. I was really hoping to
Continue reading “An Impossible Future Reveals Itself”

Rotary Survivor

Driven to Write profiles a refugee who made it in the new World.

1978 Mazda Rx-7. (c) flickr

During the early 1970s, it appeared as though Toyo Kogyo’s Mazda division had stolen something of a march on the auto industry. Alongside Germany’s NSU, Mazda invested heavily into wankel engine development and while Neckersulm’s all-in commitment saw them Continue reading “Rotary Survivor”

How Can Twofold Seem Like A Thousand?

Even if Carlos Ghosn’s arrest might be the big news of the day, I feel like looking at Maserati’s plight instead.

2019 Maserati QP: source

Towards the end of ANE’s article is this bit: “Former FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne’s 2014-18 business plan for Maserati envisioned full-year vehicle sales of 75,000 units in 2018.”  And I notice that in 2017 Alfa Romeo sold about 86,000 cars. FCA’s new boss, Mr Mike Manley has conceded that when Maserati was bundled with Alfa Romeo it ended up being treated like a mass market brand. By that he meant its interests were placed second to Alfa Romeo and there was not enough focus on the brand.

Also, I might add, trying to Continue reading “How Can Twofold Seem Like A Thousand?”

Der Gentleman

The BMW 8 series’ creators try and make sense of the new Ultimate Bavarian.

I have an almost personal connection to the new BMW Achter. Having seen the preliminary concept car at last year’s Frankfurt Motor Show, I initially considered it a half-hearted Aston Martin pastiche. Then the production version was unveiled, which has no hope of ever being considered an Aston Martin pastiche. Instead, it heralds a new era of BMW style, hilariously named Precision and Poetry.

Since then, this rather blunt Achter has welcomed me whenever I have cause to Continue reading “Der Gentleman”

Antique Roadshow

Retrofuturism didn’t necessarily arrive at Ford with J. Mays. It’s more likely to have started with a man named Callum. No, the other one…

(c) 4wheelsnews

As the Ford Motor Company grew its upmarket brand portfolio during the late 1980s, it became a matter of increasing importance to ensure each marque could carve out a coherent stylistic identity, one which not only honoured tradition, but that ensured no genetic traces were misplaced or appropriated.

Complicating matters during this period was the fact that Aston Martin had been gifted an Ian Callum-penned version of Jaguar’s cancelled XJ41 two-seater, which would eventually Continue reading “Antique Roadshow”

Between Two Shadows Smoke Curls Like A Caress

It’s back to Denmark’s COTY exhibition. We’ve had a look at this car before yet it’s always pleasant to meet again: the Alfa Romeo Giulietta

1978 Alfa Romeo Giulietta

The Danish COTY committee described it as an “uncompromised sports car for saloon drivers”. It won by garnering 76 of 250 possible points in 1978. The Simca Horizon and VW Golf diesel took second and third places respectively.

The Danes tend towards tightfistedness (or parsimony) and some jurors resented the AR’s high price, the highest of the ten contenders. In a way it was somewhat surprising that the Alfa managed to Continue reading “Between Two Shadows Smoke Curls Like A Caress”

Logical Imperative

The 1978 Saab 900 could be dismissed as merely an evolution of an older model, but it became far more than that. It became the ur-Saab.

(c) wheelsAge

The car has become an indispensable part of our everyday life. We need it so that society will not grind to a halt and so that people will serve society efficiently. looking ahead a little further, will the car continue to be as essential in our everyday lives as today?

Yes – provided that: We Continue reading “Logical Imperative”

The Quark And The Strong Force And The Quark

Recent history lesson here. 2006 and the Ford Mondeo Mk3 (or 4) leapt onto the world stage (or screen). Let’s go back a bit in time.

2007 Ford Mondeo: source

I simply feel like taking a closer look at what Auto&Design called the “Affirmed look of the new Ford Mondeo”. Well, why not?

The car made its first appearance in the film “Casino Royale” in which Daniel Craig debuted as James Bond. You can see a clip of a Mondeo rental car being steered by 007 as if it’s a Maserati or Ferrari by simply making a decision to Continue reading “The Quark And The Strong Force And The Quark”

Style Council

The Jaguar S-Type was intended to spearhead Ford’s growth plans for the leaping cat. That didn’t quite work out as planned.

(c) driving.ca

Now is the winter of our discontent: In November 2004, Ford appointee, Joe Greenwell faced a panel of hostile UK parliamentarians at the Trade and Industry select committee in Whitehall, seeking explanations for his parent company’s decision to Continue reading “Style Council”

If Only Hope and Despair Did Not Live Side By Side

The other day I gently placed a tiny gauntlet at the feet of the readers, a challenge concerning the set of boring parked cars. What had they in common, I inquired softly.

Something missing?

I received some jolly interesting replies ranging from observations about their grilles to their general banality. There was also a good guess about engine displacements. Alas, despite their ingenuity and their not being 100% wrong, none of the replies were precisely, exactly and perfectly what I was looking for. So, in order to lower people’s tension levels I will Continue reading “If Only Hope and Despair Did Not Live Side By Side”

Brief Ride – Dacia Lodgy

A flying trip to Barcelona held an unexpected and pleasant surprise.

1523878860_LODGY1 cars4rent
Ain’t exactly pretty, ain’t exactly small … but you can tell she’s got it all! (Source: cars4rent)

I had the pleasure of a taxi ride from Barcelona Airport to the CCIB conference centre on the seafront. The driver was very capable, making smooth but very pacey progress, but what really impressed me was the vehicle.

I am (or was) a Dacia virgin and am now a convert. The Lodgy to which I was exposed was a revelation. Continue reading “Brief Ride – Dacia Lodgy”

Into The Silences Like Mists Do Thoughts Of Her Flow

Of a little more substance than the photo earlier we have a Renault commercial van. Driven To Rrite is almost beside itself with pleasure to have a chance show this fine specimen, from about 1984-1991.

Renault Express

They named it Express for the N. European market; for German-speaking nations they badged it as the Rapid. The UK and Ireland knew it as the Renault Extra. Whatever you call it, it’s a bit of a treasure, like Opel’s Combi but smaller – the 1986 Combo “A” was Kadett-based and then Opel decided to Continue reading “Into The Silences Like Mists Do Thoughts Of Her Flow”

Neo Class

A class in retrofuturism from 1989. Driven to Write dons a black polo neck to pronounce upon Nissan’s Neo-X concept.

(c) old concept cars

During the late 1980s, Japanese car design appeared to be going through something of a purple patch. By way of illustration, the 1989 Tokyo motor show marked the introduction of three fine Nissan concepts – the Primera-X, (not to be confused with the 1990 production car it prefigured), the ‘Pike Factory’ Figaro concept, but also the subject of today’s retrospective – Nissan’s take on a full-sized saloon for the 1990s.

Three years earlier, Nissan had shown the highly acclaimed Cue-X concept, a superbly accomplished Euro-centric take on luxury saloon style which anticipated their Infiniti premium brand. However, while clearly intended to Continue reading “Neo Class”

Smoke and Rob Roy Fridays: Orbiting Heaven

Today DTW turns didactic and we have a short history lesson about wheel cut-outs on the bodyside. Though we covered this a little in 2015 I thought I might elaborate.

1938 Buick Y-Job: source

The wheel cut-out is where all the sculptural activity of the body side has to meet a much more rigidly controlled boundary. To think of its form, imagine cutting a circular hole in a vertical plane. Then tilt the plane slightly so it leans away from the centre line. The next step is to Continue reading “Smoke and Rob Roy Fridays: Orbiting Heaven”

Quick Test Drive – Cactus Revisited

Today, Providence has provided me with a chance to drive one of the facelifted C4 Cactii.

2018-citroen-c4-cactus-gets-progressive-hydraulic-cushion-suspension-system-121273_1
Facelifted C4 Cactus – Flatteringly Pictured (Source: Carwitter)

Sorry, yes it’s another article about the Citroën C4 Cactus. I recall there have been a fair few on DTW. Indeed, I wrote an article on the (then) new to the UK, C4 Cactus in September 2014. It was one of the first things I had published here – courtesy of the terrific trio who founded this splendid site.

Today, I dropped the C6 into a local dealer to have DPF additive – erm – added. I will admit that I had a minor thrill when I realised that my courtesy car for the day would be a new-shape Cactus. Hence, I thought I’d Continue reading “Quick Test Drive – Cactus Revisited”

A Different Shade of Beige

Best known as Germany’s Taxi of choice, the Mercedes /8 has languished under the shadow of more celebrated siblings. Time for a fare hearing.

(c) gdtm

Prior to 1970, all licenced taxis within the Federal Republic of West Germany were painted black. They also for the most part consisted of the products of Stuttgart-Untertürkheim. During the wirtschaftswunder era, the diesel-powered Mercedes came to embody virtues of solid dependability, frugality and long-life, as endorsed by the huge, largely trouble-free mileages these vehicles amassed in the public hire trade.

When Mercedes-Benz launched what were termed the ‘new generation’ cars in 1968, perhaps unsurprisingly, the values they espoused were of a familiar, conservative nature. Yet in its own way, the /8 (or Strich Acht – a term employed to denote the model year), was itself something of a revolutionary. Continue reading “A Different Shade of Beige”

I am faded feathers and old bones on her ladder, enchanted

The Daihatsu Wake is not new, launched in 2014 but might be new to many readers. How does 3.39 metres strike you?

2018 Daihatsu Wake: source

The car conforms to Kei-car rules so it’s tiny, an exercise in very confined creativity. The third side glass stands out as a detail hinting at the car’s robustness, apparently citing the Mk1 Discovery. Notice the way the glass is allowed to Continue reading “I am faded feathers and old bones on her ladder, enchanted”

The Car That Killed Sobriety

The previous generation of Mercedes’ E-class was supposed to mark a return to the marque’s traditional values. Instead, it turned a great many of them into damaged goods. 

E350 CDI Elegance (W212) 2008
Round is out, photo (c) Daimler AG

Willkommen zu Hause. Die E-Klasse. Upon its market introduction in 2009, the newest Mercedes-Benz E-class was ‘welcomed home’. Attentive observers may ask when and why the E-class had left in the first place – an answer to which would require a return to the decade most people of Stuttgart Sindelfingen and Untertürkheim would like to forget : The 1990s.

The E-class for the ’90s, unveiled in the middle of that decade, was of course the W210 generation, which has since gained notoriety for issues of rust, profit-optimised engineering and styling that has aged as gracefully as the materials the Benz was made of. Continue reading “The Car That Killed Sobriety”

In Her Smile Was A Universe Closed To Me

Sometimes I put on my walking shoes and take a stroll across the globe, metaphorically speaking. I went to India for this one.

2018 Tata Harrier: source

Tata, owner of Land Rover and so very much else besides, have unveiled the Harrier. Autocar India presents without comment the fact that the Harrier will be propelled by a Fiat 2.o litre four-cylinder and Hyundai provide the gearbox. Yes, yes, yet but who could Continue reading “In Her Smile Was A Universe Closed To Me”

Through These Architect’s Eyes

A 1951 art exhibition would change the way we viewed the automobile forever.

(c) MoMa

Since the Museum of Modern Art (MoMa) was founded in 1929, it has been a leading proponent of contemporary and modernist art, encompassing not only what is commonly known as fine arts, but architecture, product design, photography, film, installations and electronic media.

Perhaps the most influential host to the conversation around latter-day aesthetics, its current location, designed by architects, Philip Goodwin and Edward Stone in 1939 on New York’s West 53rd street has staged some of the most celebrated and controversial art exhibitions of the 20th century.

In 1951, the motor industry was still struggling not only to Continue reading “Through These Architect’s Eyes”

Within The Bounds Of Reason Are The Chains of Freedom

An Oldsmobile Cutlass Salon, Cadillac Eldorado, a 1991 Buick Roadmaster, a Chevrolet Nova, some Mustangs, an El Camino. Those were a few of the older cars I saw on a recent trip to Sweden. Most exciting was this Opel Ascona 1.6 C automatic (1981-1984)…

Opel Ascona “B” 1.6 DL automatic

The Ascona C followed on the delightfully flat heels of the Kadett as Opel’s second front-wheel drive car. While the Ascona C sold very, very well there was also some selling of the Ascona’s soul involved too. The predecessor could easily Continue reading “Within The Bounds Of Reason Are The Chains of Freedom”

Little Wonder

The 1978 Midas and its talented creator appear largely forgotten. Neither really ought to be.

1978 Midas. (c) bright-cars

Even amongst those who breathe petrol vapour for pleasure, Harold Dermott is not a household name. And this is a pity, for he is intrinsically linked to two of Britain’s cleverest and most dynamically accomplished enthusiast cars. That they represent polar opposites upon the affordability spectrum is largely irrelevant – both are equally rare sights today.

But while one is rightly celebrated as arguably the pinnacle of road-car development, the 1978 Midas remains a neglected automotive footnote – a matter which not only belies the craft and ingenuity of its design and construction, but also speaks volumes as to how the automotive world values its innovators and outliers.

Having graduated with a BSc in mechanical engineering, Harold Dermott joined BL in the early ’70s, working on engine development for Jaguar. However, following the notorious Ryder Report, prospects looked bleak for a young, ambitious engineer, and having departed the embattled carmaker, he obtained the rights to Continue reading “Little Wonder”