ECOTY 2019 is soon to be upon us. Who will learn to accept their reward this coming March?
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”
The third Mazda 3 had a curiously short life: six years only. No wonder it only seems like yesterday when it was introduced.
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”
Is FCA’s Poseidon Adventure approaching its climax?
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”
It’s a mystery to me anyway. It turned up when I was researching clay models.
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….”
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.
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.
Maserati’s cornerstone product also happens to be its oldest, and by some margin. Where now for the GranTurismo?
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”
Earlier this week, we reported on Maserati’s current woes. Today, we continue our analysis and pose a few uncomfortable questions.
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”
Driven to Write profiles a refugee who made it in the new World.
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”
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.
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.
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…
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”
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
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 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.
“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?
Codenamed X200, the Jaguar S-Type was intended to spearhead Ford’s growth plans for the leaping cat. That didn’t quite work out.
Now is the winter of our discontent: In November 2004, Ford Motor Company representative Joe Greenwell faced a stony-faced panel of UK parliamentarians at the Trade and Industry select committee in Whitehall, seeking explanations for his parent company’s decision to Continue reading “Morse Code”
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.
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”
A flying trip to Barcelona held an unexpected and pleasant surprise.
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.
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.
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”
A class in retrofuturism from 1989. Driven to Write dons a black polo neck to pronounce upon Nissan’s Neo-X concept.
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.
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.
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”
Today, Providence has provided me with a chance to drive one of the facelifted C4 Cactii.
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”
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.
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”
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.
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”
A 1951 art exhibition would change the way we viewed the automobile forever.
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.
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)…
The 1978 Midas and its talented creator appear largely forgotten. Neither really ought to be.
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”