Saving Grace (Part One)

Forty years ago this week, Jaguar introduced the Series III XJ. Its combination of virtues cast deep and lasting shadows.

XJ sIII
Best until last? (c) jaglovers

Frequently exercises in diminishing returns, facelifts tend to fall into the category of change for changes sake, or perhaps a last ditch effort to breathe life into a fading model line. Rare indeed is one which successfully transcends its originator. But if the original XJ saloon’s body styling was the inevitable culmination of a lifetime’s study by a master auteur, the Series III of 1979 proved by comparison to be something of a fortuitous accident.

In 1973 Jaguar introduced the second-series XJ, a modest revision of a highly successful model line – for at the time, no more was required. By then, work had already begun upon its ultimate replacement – the troubled XJ40 programme, then scheduled for release in Autumn 1977.

But the tectonic plates that underpinned Browns Lane had become highly unstable – within a year their BLMC parent would Continue reading “Saving Grace (Part One)”

Vintage Motoring: Archie Vicar’s Motoring Week

This may very well be a transcript of an article from 1977 concerning the motoring week of renowned motoring journalist, Archie Vicar.

(The original text is from the Oldham Evening Chronicle, Nov. 30, 1977. The original photos were by Douglas Land-Windermere. Due to a copyright dispute, stock images have been used)

1977 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow: source

Just back from Frankfurt where the annual car show takes place. Was delayed en route midway down la Belle France (around Burgundy, of course) so I missed the show by some margin. But – I did speak to some of the exhibitors afterwards, allowing me to take an interesting jaunt around Germany and France in Ford’s excellent new 2.3 litre Cortina V6 Ghia which, to quote the advertisement, offers “smooth performance and refinement in a car that’s built to last“.

Rust is often a problem for cars but Ford’s 17 stage  body protection means Cortina owners have one less thing to worry about! The gearbox was a delight, one which “so often sets the standards others are judged by“.  After several days at the wheel in all kinds of foul weather, the Cortina looked as rust free as when I collected it at Ford’s HQ in Cologne (fine beers!). So, on Monday it was Stuttgart to Continue reading “Vintage Motoring: Archie Vicar’s Motoring Week”

Our Love to Admire

With no regard to the risk of either opprobrium or canine displeasure, we stop to appreciate a flawed rarity.

(c) DTW

While it could never be considered an outright penance, Alfa Romeo ownership could nevertheless be classified as something more akin to a calling, much like medicine, the religious orders, or perhaps, care work. Certainly here at Ireland’s Southern tip, the Biscione tends to be regarded with dark suspicion and their owners with a mixture of pity, mystification and at times, outright horror. In previous, less secular times, some might even have Continue reading “Our Love to Admire”

Today’s Challenge: The Answers

Earlier today I presented a little challenge. Here are the answers.

1973 Audi 100S: source

There were quotes under various categories such as roadholding, engineering and ashtray capacity and I asked whether the quotes related to the Ford Capri 3000 Ghia, the Alfa Romeo Alfetta or the Audi 100 S (all 1975 cars). If you want to Continue reading “Today’s Challenge: The Answers”

So Curve The Dark Shadows Of The Wintered Beams

Whoah, Nellie! It’s another Wolseley photo. That means it’s either an article on Wolseley or a Friday quiz challenge.

Irrelevant image of a Wolseley: source

To make the challenge remotely soluble, I will reveal that the cars in question are the 1975 Alfa Romeo Alfetta GT, the Ford Capri 3000 Ghia and the Audi 100S coupe. So far so good. Many  of you may think you may have been able to Continue reading “So Curve The Dark Shadows Of The Wintered Beams”

Fiesta de Navidad

Spending the Christmas season with the Ford Fiesta Vignale.

fullsizeoutput_1d2b

At the risk of repeating myself, I feel compelled to explain the set of circumstances that resulted in myself and my partner crossing Germany (twice) in the finest of small Fords towards the end of the year 2018.

Having sold my better half’s car early in the autumn (and with my own steed in storage), we found ourselves at the mercy of our friendly neighbourhood’s rent-a-car station on more than one occasion. For the holiday season – which entailed a 900-kilometre-trip from Hamburg to the Swiss border and back – we were destined to Continue reading “Fiesta de Navidad”

Path of Least Resistance

Are we witnessing the slow demise of the inexpensive citycar?

(c) focus2move

Had one been in possession of a crystal ball back in 2009 I’m not sure anyone would have believed predictions for where the motor industry would be placed only a decade later. It would simply beggar belief and yet here we are, still hoping for the best. But the news just keeps on worsening.

This week, a report by Automotive News highlighted something we discussed on these pages a few weeks ago – that being the growing inability for European carmakers to Continue reading “Path of Least Resistance”

Winter Beams Cast Strong Shadows

When I saw an example of this car while running at the weekend my camera was snug and safe at home. So, to paraphrase ourselvesdue to the lack of original photos, stock images have been used“. It’s an Infiniti and one of ten examples of this model in Denmark.

Front

What do I call this car? At the Danish car  sales website Bilbasen, it’s an FX35. If you ask about that model name, Wikipedia identify it is as an Infiniti QX70, on sale from 2013 to 2017 and it’s patently not that. Dialling up that name at Google brings up everything Infiniti has ever made, but mostly QXs of one sort of another. It is probably not insignificant that Infiniti’s determined inability to Continue reading “Winter Beams Cast Strong Shadows”

Geneva Motor Show 2019 Preview: Audi TT-TT

The fate of Audi’s landmark TT sports car model had been put into question recently. Now the car maker from Ingolstadt responds to the hearsay – with a vengeance!

Screen Shot 2019-02-05 at 11.48.48

‘Mediocrity reacts – superiority acts’ is the introductory statement of the press release Audi have published to announce their TT-branded concept car, to be unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show next month.

The Ingolstadt brand’s TT model, whose first iteration stunned the automotive world back in 1998 with its bold Bauhaus-inspired looks, has become something of a marginal note in recent years, with many commentators suggesting time was up for a model line that has lost impact with each successive generation and is, above all else, part of an automotive niche that’s falling into oblivion anyway: the sports car. Continue reading “Geneva Motor Show 2019 Preview: Audi TT-TT”

The Shining of Things

It’s the end of a long week and you find us today in a somewhat reflective mood.

(c) Driven to Write

It was a daring gambit on the part of Jaguar’s styling hierarchy to overturn what had become a stagnant design aesthetic, but ten years on, the X351 series XJ has not lost its power to polarise opinion. Certainly, the passage of time has failed to leaven its more visually unsettling aspects – most of which, (as recently discussed on these pages) centre around the D-pillar area, where a good many visual strands converge in a not altogether harmonious fashion.

With all due consideration, it’s quite possible to imagine that Jaguar’s Ian Callum frequently finds himself awake at night scouring his memory to Continue reading “The Shining of Things”

Vintage Road Test: 1976 Citroen CX Safari

In what appears to be a transcript from an article (“Another New Car From Citroen!”) in the Northampton Mercury (4 June, 1976) Archie Vicar considers the new Citroen CX Safari.

1976 Citroen CX Safari: source

(The original photos were taken by Douglas Land-Windermere. Due to extreme fading of the original items stock photos have been used.)

Having driven the saloon version of Citroen’s oddball new CX recently, I approached the new estate with mixed feelings: anxiety, irritation and concern. On the plus side, a tour in France is always accompanied by some excellent chance to Continue reading “Vintage Road Test: 1976 Citroen CX Safari”

The Riffs of Goodbye

As Jaguar’s Wayne Burgess hefts his amp and packs his guitar case, we ask, is his departure part of a broader trend?

Wayne Burgess
(c) thegoodhub.com

Something is afoot within the European motor industry and in particular, amidst the more creative end of the spectrum. What began as a slow drip is becoming a steady flow as more and more senior design staff depart from secure, well remunerated positions at established carmakers in favour of (for the most part), Chinese upstarts or indeed, start-ups.

Two years ago, it was former BMW and MINI design chief, Anders Warming, who for a comparatively short period re-emerged to Continue reading “The Riffs of Goodbye”

Gaze Upon A Cold Moon, Close Enough To Touch

From time to time, DTW fulfills its duty as the automotive website of record. That means occasionally running an item that, on the face of it, may not set so many pulses racing.

Where is the devil?

However, I would like to nonetheless make a small effort draw your attention to a car which is important because of and despite its ubiquity.  It is relatively easy to write about the extreme and the intense. As a result the vast middle ground where life is lived is neglected. I actually once tried to keep a diary of ordinary experiences (I had more time on my hands in 2009) and noted the problem of seeming to lionise the mundane, merely by noting it.

The same applies here to some extent: I don’t wish to present this car as any kind of sine qua non (see this for one of those) just by “curating” it.  That said, you’d be overlooking something if you did not Continue reading “Gaze Upon A Cold Moon, Close Enough To Touch”

Wherever Green Is Worn

There is something of a terrible beauty about a down at heel luxury car. 

(c) DTW

Here on Ireland’s storm-lashed rural South coast, we are routinely assailed by Atlantic weather systems, meaning that precipitation is very much a fact of daily life. (Albeit, not in the photos here appended). Hence, throughout the winter months, nothing stays pristine for long and even if it did, it would only very quickly become wet and grubby again.

Because of this, only the truly fastidious car owner endeavours to Continue reading “Wherever Green Is Worn”

The Majestic Emotions Of A Withered Soul

Design, among many things, is about attempting to control how a product will be seen by the user. Control has limits.

1991 Lincoln Continental: source

The other day I had the opportunity to see a 1998-1994 Lincoln Continental roaming around the city. Unfortunately for Driven to Write’s readers I could not take a photo in time, so a stock photo will have to suffice. Until that point I had not seen one of these in motion. My impression of the car differed markedly from that based on photos like the image above.

The experience led me to Continue reading “The Majestic Emotions Of A Withered Soul”

Fur-Q

Amid the blatant insecurity current betrayed by German car design, BMW dares to make a bold statement with the facelifted 7 series. 

2020-bmw-745e-11
2020 BMW 7 series, photo (c) CNet

For quite some time, the German ‘premium’ car makers – and BMW in particular – have attracted criticism for brand dilution, creative brain drain and the overall loss of aesthetic values. One of the overriding points being made was a lack of bold, assured decision making – a lack of ‘vision’, if one chooses to describe it as such.

With the recent unveiling of the significantly overhauled BMW 7 series luxury saloon, the Bavarian brand now dramatically changes course, attacking the naysayers head-on. For what this Siebener unquestionably constitutes is a very bold statement indeed. Continue reading “Fur-Q”

A Letter In Your Writing Doesn’t Mean You’re Not Dead

A yellow Cactus in an underground setting sets your correspondent off into futile reveries of austerity motoring.

Hello Yello. (c) Driven to Write

Towards the latter part of the 1980s, I can recall taking the view that Citroën was missing an opportunity to (in)directly replace the 2CV by introducing a pared-back version of the Visa, powered by the 602cc flat twin and featuring perhaps a full length sunroof. It wouldn’t have been the same as the beloved tin snail of course, but might have extended the life of the concept beyond the point where collision and emissions regulations killed-off the Deuche or any chance of a more sympathetically developed successor.

Now in reality there was probably little real appetite, either within PSA or indeed amongst the buying public at the time to Continue reading “A Letter In Your Writing Doesn’t Mean You’re Not Dead”

Do Want Your Liver Back, Clever Man?

There is a light festival taking place in Copenhagen right now. That’s a valuable reminder of lighting, among the most uncertain aspects of design.

2018 Audi A6: source

Last night as I wandered around the vicinity of Christiansborg Castle, a bright green laser beam divided the sky. The beam stopped on the spire of St Nikolai’s church, a shimmering emerald hue, and it made me imagine Dr Evil demonstrating the power of his laser to destroy ancient buildings unless the Danes paid out one…million…kronor.  I mention this because I very much want to Continue reading “Do Want Your Liver Back, Clever Man?”

Kodo Arrigato

In the 21st century, common knowledge dictates that a car brand has to please everyone in order to succeed. Thankfully however, Mazda appear to disagree with this assessment. 

mazda-kai-and-vision-coupe-concepts-reveal-carbon-fiber-in-tokyo_5
The reality is even better,  photo (c) autoevolution

Mazda’s most recent concept cars don’t photograph well.

What may sound like a negligible statement has, in fact, significant subtext. For in this day and age, photos are everything. In terms of marketing, appearances have never been of greater importance. In the age of the internet, social media et al, the word has lost most of its value to the image. So when food is judged by its looks rather than taste, car makers could be forgiven for making their cars, and concept cars in particular, not so much eye as phone camera candy. Continue reading “Kodo Arrigato”