The Language of the Future

How does one market a singularity? Maybe along lines such as these…

(c) DTW

“How can a lover describe his beloved? How may a mystic communicate his vision? How does a mother describe her child? We are faced with the same inadequacy of language when we try to tell you of the superlative qualities of the Citroën D.S 19. There just isn’t a language of the future – so how is one to Continue reading “The Language of the Future”

Anniversary Waltz 1958 – Going Down With All Hands

Reviewing 1958’s British offerings, DTW experiences a sinking feeling.

(c) collidecolumn

The RMS Titanic sank many times in the intervening years since it first slipped beneath the waves with terrible loss of life in April 1912, but perhaps its definitive cinematic retelling dates to the Roy Ward Baker directed A Night To Remember, starring Kenneth More. The most expensive British made film when it premiered in July 1958, it was notable for its historical accuracy and the fact that several first-hand survivors of the sinking were employed as advisors to the production.

But not simply a faithful telling of a fable about hubris and man’s incapacity to truly overcome his environment, it also served as a potent metaphor for Britain’s fading grasp of empire and diminishing global influence. Continue reading “Anniversary Waltz 1958 – Going Down With All Hands”

My Motoring Year

How was your motoring year?

Oh yes

The biggest single event of the year involved a huge drive from the middle of Denmark to the north of Italy. I remember a lot about the drudgery of extended motorway travel and seeing 500 cars in a shiny metal herd edging towards 12 petrol pumps is not an uplifting experience.
Continue reading “My Motoring Year”

O Tempora O Mores

This fine concept from Maserati’s coachbuilt days illustrates how far from home the Tridente has drifted.

1968 Frua-bodied Maserati Mexico. (c) aonclassiccar.fr

Maserati, at the height of their gilded age as an exclusive automotive atelier, produced a bewildering array of suave gran turismos and more overt sporting machinery, along with the occasional one-off for their more discerning clients. At the 1965 Salone di Torino, Carrozzeria Vignale, who carried out a sizeable proportion of Maserati’s styling duties displayed an elegant four-seater concept.

This understated design was seemingly so well received, that Maserati commissioned Vignale to Continue reading “O Tempora O Mores”

Saying Goodbye on Stroget

Dear goodness. This is a poignant reminder of the days when Alfa Romeo was a full-service car company: the convertible Alfa Romeo GTV or Spider.

1998 Alfa Romeo Spider: source

In 1998 Alfa Romeo had the 146, the 147, the 156 (as saloon and estate), the GTV and Spider duo and the 166 saloon. All of them were pretty decent cars and all of them offered something other brands didn’t have.

If we Continue reading “Saying Goodbye on Stroget”

Adding Dimensions (I)

The car designer’s sketch, and how it is turned into a three-dimensional object, are no mere technicalities. 

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VW/Porsche Tapiro, styled and sketched by Giorgetto Giugiaro, photo (c) seriouswheels.com

How a designer illustrates his work matters. For any sketch betrays not only one’s technical skills, but one’s sense of proportion, style and, indeed, taste. To compare and contrast illustrations by some of the great car designers of the past with their descendants is therefore rather instructive.

Not just due to changing techniques and technology, the way in which designers depict their designs has dramatically changed over the past six decades. Whereas those stylists who had to rely purely on their hands, eyes and a few templates to create an impression of what they had in mind used to Continue reading “Adding Dimensions (I)”

A Seasonal Message from Driven to Write

We would like to wish all our readers a very happy Christmas Day.

Source

We assume you are all either engrossed in the organisation of a festive meal, working your way through one or recovering from it. In either case, take some time off from automotive concerns and enjoy what we all hope is a lovely time away from the rattle and dash of it all. Happy Christmas!

Time to Continue reading “A Seasonal Message from Driven to Write”

Anniversary Waltz 2008 – Higgs Boson Blues

As 2018 leaches away, we begin our annual run-down of cars we couldn’t write about this year, beginning with 2008.

Phantom Menace. (c) Autocar

The largest machine ever built, the Large Hadron Collider at CERN was created with the modest aim of testing particle physics theory and possibly uncovering the secrets of existence itself. Situated 175 meters underground, with a circumference of 17 miles, the LHC was completed and inaugurated ten years ago. And while some critics expressed concern that it would Continue reading “Anniversary Waltz 2008 – Higgs Boson Blues”

All And All Forgotten, Remembered

2018 is very nearly over and in many ways it was another dreary waste of all our time. The only thing to be said for 2018 is that it wasn’t as bad as whatever 2019 will bring.

2018 Suzuki Jimny: Autocropley.co.uk

In previous years I have provided our readers with a run-down of new car launches and a digest of the year just gone. Simon A. Kearne has informed me that the considerable time and vermouth required to do this is not justified by the dismal expected viewing figures.

So this year I will just open a bottle of Marsala** and  invite readers to struggle to remember what was launched. I remembered three for certain: the Ford Focus, the Suzuki Jimny and Rolls Royce Cullinan. I had a look around for a definitive list of new cars and did not find one that I believed was able to satisfy my need for certainty that it could Continue reading “All And All Forgotten, Remembered”

Gone To Earth

Running the gauntlet of endless repetition, DTW’s resident kitty-fancier asks, how do you solve a problem like Jaguar?

(c) europeancarweb

In 2005, a chastened senior Jaguar executive conceded that both they and their Ford masters had made a strategic error, admitting to British parliamentarians that they had jointly pursued “a failed growth strategy” for the heritage marque. Once this realisation hit home, the residents of Dearborn’s Glasshouse began a fundamental rethink of the leaping cat.

Amongst the changes wrought was that Jaguar would henceforth emphasise its sporting credentials, with the cars’ dynamic dial being shifted from traditional values of NVH isolation and ride refinement towards matters of incisive turn-in and outright handling prowess.

The second strand to this change of ethos lay in abandoning the chase for sales volume, pushing them further upmarket. The key to this transformation was to Continue reading “Gone To Earth”

You Can Only Really Break Your Heart Once

Subaru Legacy: good, practical, reliable, not very expensive, not as popular as they should be. What gives?

1998 Subaru Legacy: source

Although made in Japan by a Japanese company, the Subaru Legacy has experienced moments of popularity around the world (I mean the EU and N USA) now and again: episodic, sporadic. It’s not really unwanted and not massively in demand but appeals to a group of customers unevenly distributed. If only Subaru could imagine a way to Continue reading “You Can Only Really Break Your Heart Once”

Love’s Easy Tears

The 2008 Lotus Evora exemplifies the adage that subtlety rarely succeeds.

(c) autoevolution

Stepping outside of one’s accepted position is rarely rewarded, either in life, love, art or car design. For Lotus, revered by generations of enthusiasts for producing cars of often fragile genius, their occasional attempts at marrying dynamic prowess with a dash of practicality have by and large backfired. The 2008 Evora attempted to combine both. Misunderstood by aficionados and (some) members of the press, the car split opinion in 2008. It still does.

When Lotus ceased production of the aged Esprit in 2004, not only had the basic car been in production for 28 years, but its demise left a gap at the top of Lotus’ model range. At the opposite end, the pretty and gimlet-sharp Elise (and its derivatives) had proven a critical and commercial success, and Lotus, having become part of the Proton Group were in the process of persuading former CEO, Mike Kimberley to Continue reading “Love’s Easy Tears”

Awake Me With Poetry, Sing To Me, Tell Me What To Feel About You

It’s time to get technical. Let’s use pictures more than words to understand the aesthetic character of an old friend.

Image: classic and performance car

Musicians are used to talking of notes, timbre and tone. Choreographers use dance notation. Designers have curves but unlike music and dance, designers’ raw material lacks an accepted, verbal way to describe it. Predominantly words like “expression” describe the degree to which shapes have a character. Words are given to the end-effect of the expression too but not really to the cause. Perhaps designers can Continue reading “Awake Me With Poetry, Sing To Me, Tell Me What To Feel About You”

Think Fast Dr. Speth!

It’s not easy being an automotive executive these days, but spare a thought for one in particular.

(c) motori.ilmessaggero.it

While life for Auto-industry bosses everywhere is, to put it mildly, challenging, the situation facing Jaguar Land Rover CEO, Dr. Ralph Speth appears to be steadily worsening. According to a recent Financial Times report, JLR will announce up to 5,000 job cuts across the UK business in the new year as the carmaker implements a three-year ‘Project Charge’ restructure – a drive to Continue reading “Think Fast Dr. Speth!”

In Between Dawn and Daybreak

Today we take another look at the world of 1998, or at least one small part of it to do with car reviews. We end up considering the problem of judgements.

classics.honestjohn
1998 Alfa Romeo 166: source

I should put my cards on the baize here and say I don’t remember reading this review, from Car magazine 1998 so I am digesting it for the first time tonight (it took two hours to read carefully). Isn’t that odd? This article has sat around for two decades before I noticed it the other night How did I miss it?  In the late 90s I would keep a close eye out for Car in the newsagent shop and would devote a good evening to reading it more or less entirely along with a nice cigar or a few bad ones.

After than initial inspection the magazine would float around the kitchen or sitting room to dip into when, say, I had to Continue reading “In Between Dawn and Daybreak”

Kinky Boots

Tracing the Peugeot 504’s kinked tail motif through the Pininfarina back catalogue.

Maximum kink? Peugeot 504

In order to capitalise on the popularity of UK TV series, The Avengers, stars, Honor Blackman and Patrick Macnee were persuaded to record a novelty single celebrating not only the fashions adorning the somewhat distracting Ms. Blackman, but the broadening societal permissiveness of mid-Sixties Britain. And while it was a rather throwaway ditty which didn’t chart particularly well at the time, it did take on a second life several decades later.

These things take time – as with fashion, so with design. One of the more interesting aspects of recent discussions surrounding the styling of the 1968 Peugeot 504 was the notion that its rear aspect was regarded with a degree of ambivalence. Uncomfortable and strange were among the soubriquets employed on these pages, but further afield, and particularly in the US, the 504’s kinked tail was considered peculiar. In light of this, it might be germane to Continue reading “Kinky Boots”

Could Tiresias Have Foreseen This?

In 1998 the Lexus brand had only reached its ninth birthday. Up until 1998 it had two cars on sale in the Euromarket, the LS400 saloon and the GS300. With the LS200, Lexus extended its range into BMW 3-series territory. Was it a Good Thing?

1998 Lexus IS200: source

While consistency can be a bit tedious in the arts, in business it is generally a positive attribute. In some ways, Lexus had consistency nailed down. All their cars have been screwed together by black-belt, Olympic level robots and technicians.

The LS400 itself had already become a legend for quality. Intended to be the world’s best car until the next one came along, a case can be made that it is still the world’s best car when all measurable parameters have been balanced. In a more shallow way, Lexus did not manage consistency, not the kind valued by people who value consistency for its own sake and are utterly unwilling to Continue reading “Could Tiresias Have Foreseen This?”

Children of the Revolution

The ‘Sixty-Eighters’ rocked France, yet one of its more illustrious offspring would become a bastion of more conformist values.

In a curiously prescient article for Le Monde in March 1968, journalist, Pierre Viansson-Ponté made the assertion that France was suffering from the dangerous affliction of ‘boredom’. During a period which French economist, Jean Fourastié coined as Les Trentes Glorieuses, the country settled into a period of political stability and economic prosperity, transitioning from a predominantly agricultural economy to a largely industrial one.

Rural France had decanted into the cities and its universities were brimming with the young and sexually frustrated, expected to behave in a similar fashion to that of their socially conformist parents. But students from Paris’ Université Nanterre, emboldened perhaps from a diet rich in Satre, Brel, and Dylan would no longer Continue reading “Children of the Revolution”

Settling Back Into The Deep, Familiar Ruts Of Despair

December 1998: what was being reviewed in those sunny, happy times?

1998 Suzuki Jimny 1.3: source

As luck would arrange it, dear old Car magazine took it upon itself to review the Suzuki Jimny 1.3 JLX as well as the Skoda Octavia estate and the Alfa Romeo 166 2.0 (is really 20 years since the last big Alfa appeared on the scene?). The Jimny is the most germane review subject as the new one has only been launched. Having read the reviews, I think the UK press has been more circumspect about their comments this time around, saying that the Jimny is for off-roading and not biased to the road so, yes, it does a very fine job of that former task. By the end it had become a legend.

In 1998 the critiques did not take account of the Jimny’s (shout it) off-roading focus. Roger Bell, normally a voice of sanity, got this one wrong on behalf of Car. He began the review as follows: “Suzuki’s almost legendary ability to Continue reading “Settling Back Into The Deep, Familiar Ruts Of Despair”

Lotus Rules Apply

Authorities have expressed concern as reports of unicorn sightings are once again rife in Norfolk.

2017 Lotus Elise Sprint 220 (c) Car

When former Lotus CEO, Dany Bahar packed his trunk and said goodbye to the Norfolk broads, the outpouring of relief was not only palpable, but most likely mutual. After all, for the former Ferrari sales and marketing supremo, the unglamorous environs of Hethel were unlikely to have been to his taste and for Lotus themselves, because his ludicrously unrealistic visions and spendthrift policies had to all intents and purposes bled the business dry.

In his stead, former PSA chief, Jean-Marc Gales became the putative safe pair of hands, successfully stabilising the business, arresting an alarming talent-drain and restoring a missing sense of purpose and fiscal rectitude. However, following last year’s partial acquisition of Group Lotus by Geeley Auto, Gales departed, replaced at Group Lotus by the Chinese car giant’s group head of engineering, Feng Qingfeng and directly at Lotus Cars by former JLR and Sunseeker Yacht executive, Phil Popham.

Following Geeley’s controlling stake in the business, many speculators and commentators converged around the notion that the Chinese motor group, who have so successfully stewarded Volvo’s post-Ford resurgence, and currently control Polestar, Lynk & Co, taxi builder, LEVC, Proton Cars and aero-car maker, Terrafugia would set Lotus on a similarly upward trajectory. Even those of a more cynical bent suggested that this would likely be the best (and possibly final) opportunity the historic specialist carmaker would be offered to Continue reading “Lotus Rules Apply”

The Final Wounds Hurt Not At All

Modernity or futurism are not what they used to be. It’s only a little over three years since DTW addressed this subject*. I’ll return to it today with some more focus.

Modernist, futurist: source

Prompted by a recent discussion of the relative modernity of the Citroen CX and Citroen XM (less modern) I will mentate on the finitude of futurism. The core of this relates to the observation that if one compares a futuristic car (a concept car) from thirty or even twenty years ago with what one is driving today, the older designs are still fresher and more advanced-looking in many large ways. Furthermore even a good number of production cars from the middle-distance past can Continue reading “The Final Wounds Hurt Not At All”

Parliamentary Privilege

Rover’s 1958 3-Litre was a class act, but it was a class in the grasp of profound change.

(c) datch.fr

On the 30th of April 1958, Royal assent was given to an act of parliament which changed the constitution of the upper house (the House of Lords) from being a male-only chamber, composed exclusively of hereditary peers. The Life Peerages Act led to a significant modernisation of parliament, lending the Lords a degree of legitimacy it had hitherto lacked, while better reflecting a changing UK society. Continue reading “Parliamentary Privilege”

In The End It Ends In Tears That Mark The End

It’s high time to quench the thirst for all things Citroen that I know smoulders among the denizens of this little corner of the World Wide Web.

And Jaguar comes into the story too, so that’s another little need satiated. If I push it I can also mention Lancia*. First we’ll start with the source. My reading today is Autocar & Motor January 30 1990 Vol. 187 No 5 (4901). A delightful little snippet about A&M is that in those days a certain Mr James May acted as the chief sub-editor.

And Jesse Crosse served as the technical consultant; now there’s a journalist whose work I always like to read because he has a knack for explaining things with concision and clarity.  With those preliminaries out of the way we can now
Continue reading “In The End It Ends In Tears That Mark The End”

Along Came a Spider

In 1978, Pininfarina made one final pitch to gain Jaguar’s business. It didn’t succeed, but did it precipitate another, more tangled narrative web?

(c) car-revs-daily

By around 1976 the automotive world had broadly coalesced around the belief that Jaguar’s XJ-S was, in stylistic terms a rather poor show from a carmaker renowned for being the business of beauty. It didn’t really matter that this particular set of shared assumptions had largely been formed by a UK and US press corps who had whipped themselves into a frenzy on the false premise that Jaguar would reprise the E-Type’s impact and ambition and by consequence required a scapegoat when reality proved somewhat different.

Blaming Jaguar was perhaps cathartic and while some argued the carmaker might have controlled the narrative a little better in the run up to the XJ-S’ announcement, in reality, the embattled residents of Browns Lane couldn’t Continue reading “Along Came a Spider”

Don’t Ever Tell Them How You Feel, They’ll Only Run

By the time I’d finished marking up the design analysis I’d forgotten its name. It’s the one with the word  S    K   O    D    A  written in free-standing letters across the tailgate.

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This is the  S       C      A      L       A  and its role in life is replace the Rapid and to take on the Ford Focus (and the Golf, I suppose). Or to give Focus customers another reason not to buy a Focus. The USP is the umbrella in the door and the ice-scraper in the fuel-filler cap. If you really want to Continue reading “Don’t Ever Tell Them How You Feel, They’ll Only Run”

Death Disco

As the Audi TT hits a significant historical milestone, it appears to be on the verge of taking an altogether different kind of hit. 

(c) audiphile

It isn’t every birthday celebration that doubles as a wake, but the times are not what they were. Twenty years after Audi unveiled the production TT sports model, speculation is rife that the current iteration is likely to be its last – at least in the format we have come to know and love.

Indeed, this last component may form part of the problem, since the love affair has, it appears, run its natural course. Certainly, senior Ingolstadt management, when they can Continue reading “Death Disco”

Is There A Way Forward Through The Frozen Glass?

October the 6th 2018 seems like such a long time ago, doesn’t it?  On that day I posted a small item about the end of the line for ICE engines.

Perfect lead-in curvature

Today automotive News posted an item headlined “VW says next generation of cars with combustion engines will be the last”. The next sentence is “Volkswagen Group expects the era of the combustion car to fade away after it rolls out its next-generation gasoline and diesel cars beginning in 2026.” Hey sister, that’s 8 years away. Bloomberg has much the same story, by the way.

In my October 6th article I wrote “A car launched in 2018 might be replaced in 2025 leaving a short product cycle to recoup investments. That makes the period around now the last point at which it will be worth bothering to engineer for ICE engines.” I did not expect that. It means that VW will Continue reading “Is There A Way Forward Through The Frozen Glass?”

Song to the Siren

Volkswagen’s upmarket Passat derivative – was it misunderstood or simply misconceived? 

(c) privatefleet

If one was to plot the course of Volkswagen’s design heritage in purely aesthetic terms (if indeed such a thing were possible), it would be represented on a somewhat undulating graph, and it could be argued with some conviction that overall, the troughs have tended to outweigh the peaks. But automotive design is a cyclical discipline and all styling studios must move with, or at least reflect the times. Continue reading “Song to the Siren”

Der Spießer

In late 2018, it’s time for a bit of reluctant praise to the automotive realm’s popular overachiever, the Porsche 911.

fullsizeoutput_1bbb
German sports car design, photo (c) Porsche AG

Intellectuals detest Tom Cruise. The combination of decades-long success in mainstream blockbuster movies, ridiculously good looks, as well as penchants for sofa jumping and sinister cults has seen to that.

Be that as it may, there is also a different side to Mr Cruise Mapother. The side that gave one Stanley Kubrick two years of Mr Cruise’s life at arguably the peak of the latter’s career. The side that gave cineastes Frank T J Mackey. The side that causes a 50-year old to Continue reading “Der Spießer”

At That Same Old Railstation, Asking For One First Kiss

Lately we’ve been chewing the gristle on the topic of Maserati and by association Fiat. Are they too far gone to save?

As we all know, we’re living in a dispiriting age of mass extinction. Once assured populations are collapsing. Things we considered fixtures in the firmament drop like leaves. Oldsmobile was once the biggest selling car in the US market. Dead.

Take GM’s recent decision to end their presence in the Euro market, for example. I called it GM’s Teutoburger Wald moment though perhaps a more careful sifting in GM’s recent history might find a better instance of the finitude of this firm’s corporate reach.

Was it when they ceased production of Australia-only Holdens? Or when Saturn, Olds and Pontiac were nixed.  Ford’s position in Europe is not what it was either. They are giving up on saloons.  There are many other brands seemingly in a good position to Continue reading “At That Same Old Railstation, Asking For One First Kiss”

Betting The Empire

Can Fiat-Chrysler’s new CEO deal with FCA’s lopsided business or is it time to bring out the bonesaw?

FCA’s new CEO, Mike Manley. (c) Forbes

FCA’s late CEO, Sergio Marchionne was at various times hailed as something of a visionary, and without doubt, he achieved the seemingly impossible once he orchestrated Fiat Auto’s audacious takeover of the embattled Chrysler business in 2009. Nevertheless, an equally cogent argument could be posited that should Marchionne’s legacy simply be that of FCA’s continued existence, then it is built largely upon failure.

Why? Because despite his efforts, he was unable to Continue reading “Betting The Empire”