I Found A Song For The One Who Visited My Planet

Alert regular visitors to the corner shop we call DTW will certainly recall our recent discussions of American cars sold in Europe.

Three American cars for Europeans

By way of a follow-up article for what will undoubtedly be a fine spring morning  I have been delving into the recent past (2006). This is to look at a few other American vehicles that made it to this side of the Atlantic. That’s just what you want to read as you tuck into your cornflakes and toast.   Before some of you jump up shouting “You must Continue reading “I Found A Song For The One Who Visited My Planet”

Death to the Minivan

Often described in ‘social death’ terms by the more hyperbolic members of the media, the MPV itself is now fading out before our eyes.

(c) Autoevolution

An oft-spoken cry from the more dogmatic end of the automotive spectrum came closer to coming true yesterday, following Ford’s announcement that production of B-Max, C-Max and Grand C-Max MPVs will cease at its Saarlouis plant in Germany at the end of June.

Of course, nobody is likely to (a) be poleaxed to the spot in shock, or (b) possessed by a frenzy of bathetic fervour at the news, given that sales of what are termed Minivans by our US friends have been in freefall for some time now, as carbuyers increasingly Continue reading “Death to the Minivan”

Period Road Test: 1979 Fiat 132 2.0 Part 2

Previously DTW featured what was apparently a transcript of a period road test of the Fiat 132 2.0 by the legendary motoring scribe Archie Vicar; this is a continuation of the road test.

1979 Fiat 132: autoevolution

This part of the article first appeared in the Skegness Standard. The original photographs were by Dennis du Barry. Due to loss of opacity of the originals, stock photos have been used.

If you look even half-heartedly, the revised Fiat 132 strikes one as obviously very much a car for the average driver, despite it all. My decision to visit Nancy as part of a thorough high-mileage road test of the car was justified by the ways the car’s good and not so good points were brought to the fore. These included the very Italian style, both inside and out.

One example of this is that when we were trying to Continue reading “Period Road Test: 1979 Fiat 132 2.0 Part 2”

Always Crashing in the Same Car

The Triumph TR7 Convertible embodied the BL charter in microcosm. 

(c) Car Magazine

If only this could have been the TR7 that was launched five years ago instead of the poorly-assembled and inadequately developed Speke-built versions that so quickly acquired a tarnished reputation.” [Howard Walker, Motor – August 30 1980.]

If only. Those two simple words perhaps most poignantly encapsulate the British Leyland charter. Because amid the egos, the politics, the industrial strife and lost hopes chiselled onto BL’s cenotaph, there were also well-conceived, rational motor cars which deserved a better fate. Continue reading “Always Crashing in the Same Car”

Find Me Under The Batholith

It was with immense surprise that I discovered Ford marketed the Mustang in the UK in 1980. An advert indicating as such appeared in Motor, September 8 of that year.

1980 Ford Mustang UK sales brochure

I thought that the offering of the present Mustang was something of a novelty. It’s not, apparently.

The ceaselessly industrious team at carsalesbase declare Mustang sales of about 15,000 units in the Lord’s year of 2017 and about 13,000 units in the Lord’s year of 2018. It all goes towards making it possible for Ford to be able to Continue reading “Find Me Under The Batholith”

Saving Grace – Part Three

For a ‘hapeth of tar… (or in this case, paint).

As you know, the quality of a car really starts with the body. Get the body right and you get the paint right. Get the body and the paint right and everything fits.” [John Egan – Motor, August 1980].

What would become the epicentre of Series III’s existential maladies lay North West of Browns Lane, opposite the Grade A listed Fort Dunlop tyre factory in the district of Erdington, on the outskirts of Birmingham. The Castle Bromwich facility, built by William Morris, was completed in 1940 as a wartime shadow factory for large-scale manufacture of Spitfire fighter aircraft. Over half of the total compliment of Spitfires flown were constructed there.

Post-War, it was purchased by Pressed Steel Fisher as a ‘jobbing shop’ producing bodies in white (unpainted shells) to highly variable standards for a number of domestic manufacturers, Jaguar included. It was entirely reasonable for BL to Continue reading “Saving Grace – Part Three”

Just Be Yourself In Front Of The Camera!

Even marketing isn’t as one-dimensional a domain as some would like to believe – as proven by two very different promotional videos marketing two supposedly very similar products, albeit more than two decades apart.

Don’t be simply any person – be the person. By driving the car. The 8.

This largely sums up the essence of what the promo video for BMW’s all-new (for 2019) Achter is telling the viewer. Don’t drive anywhere – only LA and some salt river will do. Don’t live somewhere – a minimalist industrial chic loft will just about do. But only if your car can access it too. Then, and only then, are you smart, cool, cosmopolitan enough to understand that The 8 is just what you need in your life.

Go on then: Definite articleify your life! After all, even if you are in a position to Continue reading “Just Be Yourself In Front Of The Camera!”

With You I’d Like To Sail Down The Sambre One Sunny Day

The matter of peak car ownership raises its head again but I will also find time to discuss the sort-of/kind-of successor to the 1979 Datsun 2.4 Laurel Six featured earlier this week.

1994-1999 Nissan QX

We seem to have done more than our fair share of coverage of the Datsun Laurel, I find. There’s this and this and … not really this. Okay, so it’s two items but it feels like more, it really does.

The idea with this improvised Sunday sermon is to take the opportunity presented by this Nissan QX, seen yesterday, to further underline the unsuccessful conclusion of Datsun/Nissan’s efforts to Continue reading “With You I’d Like To Sail Down The Sambre One Sunny Day”

Moving Up the Scoville Scale

Porsche announces a new spicier Cayenne. Is less more?

(c) Autocar

Amongst the delicacies on offer at the recent Geneva motor show was the debut of Porsche’s latest derivation of the eternal Nunelfer, a revision apparently so accomplished, our German Palexpo explorer was moved to observe; “Changes [to the Porsche 992] are actually minuscule, but they’re all so superbly executed that this must rank, from an aesthetic perspective as one of the finest 911s of them all.

No rational being in the history of mankind has ever been moved to Continue reading “Moving Up the Scoville Scale”

The Velvet Shears Slither Across The Dance Floor

In my pursuit of further information on all things 1980 Datsun Laurel (C31), I have obtained a copy of a review of the Laurel published in Autocar. 

Look carefully: source

Alas, the review is of a late-in-cycle iteration of the earlier Datsun Laurel (C-230), 1977-1980.

Among the upsides of my small mishap is that it affords us yet another chance to learn some very obscure product codes. Everyone knows SD1, CDW27, KA-1 and W-126. Only the truly knowledgeable can Continue reading “The Velvet Shears Slither Across The Dance Floor”

Geneva 2019 Reflections – Eclectic and Electric

As the halls of Palexpo return to their quiescent state, one DTW reporter reflects on an engaging Estonian, a divisive dreamer, and new masters at Pickersleigh Road.

Image: autovia-media

So how was Geneva? “Very electric” has become my customary reply, when I choose not to elaborate. In Europe at least, the internal combustion is likely to Continue reading “Geneva 2019 Reflections – Eclectic and Electric”

From Infiniti to the Great Beyond

Farewell Infiniti, we hardly knew you.

(c) automobilemag

When the announcement came, it was met with resignation. For those attuned to the mood music surrounding the embattled Japanese marque of late, and following a decade of under-achievement it has been difficult to feign surprise that Nissan’s upmarket nameplate is shortly to depart Western European markets, seemingly never to return. For everyone else however, it’s been more a case of ‘Infiniti who’?

It’s difficult to escape the nagging suspicion that Nissan never quite had the firmness of will to Continue reading “From Infiniti to the Great Beyond”

Period Road Test: 1979 Fiat 132 2.0

In what appears to be a transcript of a period review, legendary motoring scribe Archie Vicar offers some thoughts about the Fiat 132.

1979 Fiat 132 : source

The article first appeared in the Peterborough Herald and Post, 8 December 1979. The original photograph was by Douglas Land-Wibblemere (sic). Due to poor storage conditions, stock photos have been used.

It is a sign, perhaps, of Fiat’s confidence in its engineering nous that the 132 is still on sale, a good seven years after its first appearance at Peterborough Fiat dealers. With the demise of the largely excellent 130, the honour goes to the 132 to take the crown as the flagship of Fiat’s range. To help the 132 undertake this considerable challenge, for the 130 was largely excellent, the 132 has undergone a selection of updates to keep it up to snuff in these increasingly competitive times.

Among the welcome alterations to the Fiat 132 are attractive new plastic bumpers, a revised dashboard and improved seat trims (Austin, take note). The steering ratio has been adjusted and lent the support of servo-assistance. These mods are in addition to a re-styled exterior (a few years ago) and thickened rubber mats for models in the upper range.

In usual Fiat style, the 173 inch car has a commendable selection of engines and almost none are available:  a 1.6 litre petrol, a 2.0 litre petrol (I drove the twin-carb 2000 with revised rubber mats), a 2.0 petrol with fuel injection and a 2.5 litre diesel which Fiat UK refuse to let out on loan to anyone except the chap from the Express. It’s that slow but in London you’d never Continue reading “Period Road Test: 1979 Fiat 132 2.0”

Geneva 2019 Reflections – A Culinary Perspective

Your faithful reporter ate lots of nibbles and drank plenty of cappuccino so you don’t have to. 

Geneva’s favourite drink, served appropriately. (c) Christopher Butt

One could get seriously drunk at the Geneva Motor Show.

Whereas coffee enthusiasts would constantly remain on the hunt for a decent cup during the duration of the show out of sheer necessity, alcohol enthusiasts had it much easier. For champagne – and not just any champagne, but the most definitely above-average Perrier-Jouët – were free-flowing to the extent of ubiquity. And not just during the show, but under peripheral circumstances as well. Continue reading “Geneva 2019 Reflections – A Culinary Perspective”

Blame it On the Bogie

The third generation Golf was not the model line’s finest hour – not by a long shot. So what have we here?

Version 3.5  (c) DTW

Former Volkswagen design supremo, Herbert Schäfer once proclaimed that only two people on this little garden planet of ours were endowed with the necessary skill, judgement and stylistic nous to create a VW Golf – those being originator, Giorgetto Giugiaro and a certain Herbert Schäfer.

Now, whatever one’s view about Volkswagen’s heartland model from a stylistic perspective, we can probably Continue reading “Blame it On the Bogie”

Vetiver And Almond, Bergamot And Cinnamon

Ford has announced another turnaround plan. Five thousand jobs to go in Germany, others in the United Kingdom.

Hello, you! Source: Ford, Germany.

The news is reported here and here and, of course, here. “Some of the losses in Germany come from ending production of the C-Max minivan, one of the products Ford will stop making as it reduces its portfolio to more profitable models,” said the FT**.

Why are Ford hacking at the payrolls? Ford’s market share has declined roughly two percentage points of the EU market, from a little over 8% to just under six. That’s actually quite bad because it represents a 25 % drop in absolute terms. Only the fact the market grew a bit overall mitigates that decline.

Commercial vans represent perhaps one bright spot and Ford plans to Continue reading “Vetiver And Almond, Bergamot And Cinnamon”

Geneva 2019 Reflections – The Hopeless

Everybody appreciates a grafter, but some people really ought not bother.

(c) Christopher Butt

Earlier in the week we sampled an array of Palexpo hopefuls, but a hapless confluence of waifs and strays remain for us to consider. These generally fall into distinct categories – once-storied nameplates seeking to demonstrate renewed relevance, reanimated marques exhumed from the grave attempting to Continue reading “Geneva 2019 Reflections – The Hopeless”

Draw Your Fork Across The Surface Of The Soup

Something of a quest this, to drive as many Lancias as possible. So finally I am behind the wheel of a rather miley Kappa 2.0 with its transversely aligned five-banger.

1998 Lancia Kappa 2.0

So far DTW has driven and documented the Trevi, Lybra, Delta Mk3 and the Thesis. I did also drive a Kappa coupé a long time ago but have forgotten much of the experience except the deep disappointment about the ashtray. The coupé is also the car I most regret not buying.

Now, the time has arrived for another Kappa experience as I have had another chance to Continue reading “Draw Your Fork Across The Surface Of The Soup”

Geneva 2019 Reflections – The Hopeful

DTW’s Geneva coverage in conjunction with Auto-Didakt continues with a stroll through hypercar valley.

McLaren Speedtail.
McLaren Speedtail. (c) Christopher Butt

Geneva has traditionally been a shopfront to all manner of low-volume fantasy-merchants, but given the explosion of what journalists are fond of calling high net worth individuals, a growing cohort of dream factories have emerged to cater to their increasingly specific needs, wants and hitherto unrealised desires.

A of course stands for Aston Martin and the storied purveyor of superspy conveyances arrived at Geneva with a brace of hyper-concepts and near-production cars. Perhaps most convincing, if grindingly predictable being the Vanquish concept, having undergone a radical mid-engined makeover. A production version is allegedly being readied to Continue reading “Geneva 2019 Reflections – The Hopeful”

Geneva 2019 Reflections – Pio Would Have Loved This

For one DTW reporter, there was only one star of the 2019 Geneva International Motor Show. We take stock of Fiat’s Concept Centoventi.

Image: fiatpress.com

Still in mild shock at the most dramatic ECotY announcement in years, my Geneva companions and I took our customary evening promenade round the halls of Palexpo. The FCA stand promised little. We knew they had no new cars, but at least they turned up, unlike some, and Alfa and Fiat had heavily concealed concept cars to show the following morning.

Later in the evening we talked of what is to become of Fiat. Three of us, we have all had various Fiats in our lives and enjoyed the experience. Now the company seemed to be ever more marginalised in the increasingly Jeep-centric world of FCA in the Manley Era.

The FCA Press Conference was therefore a must-see. New introductions were thin on the ground. Alfa Romeo had the Tonale SUV concept, but no mention was made of the GTV. Jeep showed petrol-hybrid Renegades and Compasses, but they will not Continue reading “Geneva 2019 Reflections – Pio Would Have Loved This”

To The Azimuth, Flying On Our Moods

It will be hard to keep this post focused on ashtrays since the car taking centre stage today represents a new-for-me footnote in N. American automotive history: Imperial (by Chrysler)

The very top of the range: 1974 Imperial Le Baron coupe, detail.

It’s back to E-Z Biler in Them, Denmark. It’s back to 1974, the year from which this car comes, a time when drinking, smoking and consuming huge amounts of petrol all very suddenly became less and less desirable in relation to motoring.

Since this car was probably conceived just before the first oil crisis, it’s in many ways a fantastic representative of the peak of the post-war period mentality, with its innocent (or ignorant) unfettered consumption. With money flowing so freely, the incentive to chase it by offering wilder and wilder flights of consumer fancy was huge. And irresistible. That is the only way to Continue reading “To The Azimuth, Flying On Our Moods”

Everything Merges With the Night

Reassessing the familiar and seemingly unremarkable under cover of darkness.

freelander
(c) DTW

There is something deliciously atmospheric about walking through a familiar landscape late at night. The normally bustling streets are silent, the lighting casts interesting reflections and even the mundane can become suffused with mystery and wonder.

I have walked past this particular Freelander innumerable times about my daily business and apart from the fact that it appears to be remarkably well-preserved for an eleven year old vehicle in this part of our perpetually rain-sodden isle, I have never really cast it a second glance. Yet parked against the backdrop of the apartment block’s fluorescent walkways, with the sodium glow of the streetlights casting warmer pinkish tones upon its paintwork, the architectural qualities of the Land-Rover’s design stopped me in my tracks. The scene simply begged to Continue reading “Everything Merges With the Night”

What Would You Do To Turn Jealousy’s Grin?

We are back to Jutland’s E-Z Biler for this one. This is a very rare beast indeed, a 2.8 litre diesel Nissan Laurel. Did I just see a unicorn among those parked cars?

1984 Nissan Laurel 2.8 diesel

Can you believe I actually got to open the doors of this car and sit inside? I sat in the driver’s seat and I plomped myself down in the back too, noticing that there wasn’t a whole lot of legroom for a car so big. I also noticed the remarkably clean condition of the remarkable expanse of remarkable tufted beige velour upholstery. Was I happy about this?

A bit less than I´d hoped. It might seem perverse to say this but the fact all these rare and unusual cars are gathered under one roof diminishes the pleasure of seeing them. The most normal thing is to Continue reading “What Would You Do To Turn Jealousy’s Grin?”

Geneva 2019 Reflections – What’s That Coming Over the Hill?

Today, our Geneva correspondent casts a horrified gaze over some of the more polarising Palexpo fare on offer. [Text amended and additional images added – March 8. 13.40 GMT]

bmw
Meet Bane. (c) Christopher Butt

For centuries, monsters and myths have been for the most part, indivisible in our consciousness. We console ourselves that it’s the latter rather than the former which represents the true state of affairs, but in this, as with so many fondly-held assumptions we are mistaken. Ogres truly walk amongst us, and as alarming as that prospect may be to those of us of a more sensitive nature, we are fortunate that our Hamburg correspondent is on hand to Continue reading “Geneva 2019 Reflections – What’s That Coming Over the Hill?”

Geneva 2019 Reflections – Watt’s Goin’ On?

Searching for the state of the art amid the vanguard of the EV revolution at the Palexpo with Auto-Didakt’s Christopher Butt.

Q4 e-tron
(c) Christopher Butt

If there is a leitmotif for Geneva 2019, it is electrification; Audi for instance making much of the fact that they have no combustion engined offerings on show at all, the entirety of their Palexpo fare being in some way (ahem) amplified. Illustrating a notable keenness to Continue reading “Geneva 2019 Reflections – Watt’s Goin’ On?”

Geneva 2019 Reflections – A Little ‘Farina

Our man in Geneva reports from Battista’s official reveal.

Battista (c) Christopher Butt

Pininfarina S.p.A has adopted many alternative identities over its 89-year lifespan. Not simply the World’s most famous and acclaimed Italian coachbuilder and design consultancy, but also contract manufacturer – building cars for the likes of Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Lancia and Peugeot amongst others, and now it would seem, a carmaker in their own right.

Following on from the elegantly retro-styled limited-edition Sergio, the Mahindra-owned former carrozzeria are back in the OEM game, debuting ‘the fastest road-legal car ever to Continue reading “Geneva 2019 Reflections – A Little ‘Farina”

Geneva 2019 Reflections – This New Generation

We perambulate the Palexpo press days in the company of Auto-Didakt’s Christopher Butt. [Revised and updated with additional text and images – Friday 8. March 12.50 GMT]

(c) Christopher Butt

At last year’s Geneva show, our man on the ground lauded Mazda’s Kai concept in lavish terms, suggesting that we would shortly see something very similar in production form. One year on and his claims we can see were not idle ones; the new 3 hatchback (and to a lesser extent, its saloon counterpart, cleaving faithfully to the concept. “It’s one helluva statement car,” our correspondent tells us – “everything the A-Class tries to be but isn’t.

Meanwhile at post-Marchionne FCA, Mike Manley’s minions have been somewhat industrious of late, aiming to Continue reading “Geneva 2019 Reflections – This New Generation”

Fastback To The Future

Hidden in the shadow of the Sports Utility Vehicle’s claims for world domination, another, hitherto almost extinct category of automobile has gained some new-found relevance. 

The other The Car Of The Future, photo (c) Avengers in Time

Forty years ago, the car body shape of now, and presumably the future too, was the fastback. Aerodynamically efficient and avant-garde in its appearance, the fastback acted as the stylistic embodiment of the progressive values of the 1970s. It wasn’t some stuffy estate car (those were only really for craftsmen and catholic families anyway), yet almost as practical. It wasn’t a bourgeois saloon either, finally doing away with that silly remnant of the carriage age – the separate boot, without being, well, a craftsman’s car.

The fastback’s reputation as a representative of progressive values was not so much due to it being Continue reading “Fastback To The Future”

ECotY 2019 – The Jury’s In

“And I can’t deny the fact that right now, you like me. You like me!”

Ms. Field. (c) Today

To our eternal disappointment, automotive CEO’s aren’t particularly noted for this kind of thing, so if you’re expecting the kind of tearful emoting in the manner of Sally Field’s 1984 Oscar acceptance speech, you’re likely to be disappointed. Mind you, if they sharpened up their act a little, they might attract the networks and get the whole thing televised. Perhaps BMW’s Harald Krüger could be convinced to Continue reading “ECotY 2019 – The Jury’s In”

Hopes May Rise on the Grasmere

The 56th European Car of the Year announcement is almost upon us. Robertas Parazitas looks at the hopefuls and their prospects.

Lest readers need to be reminded, these are the favoured ones which made it through to the long list:

Alpine A110
Ford Focus
Kia Ceed
Jaguar i-Pace
Mercedes-Benz A-class
Peugeot 508
Citroen C5 Aircross

In the days when ECotY was restricted to European products the continent’s carmakers would have done well to Continue reading “Hopes May Rise on the Grasmere”

Geneva, Here We…

…oh, wait a minute. We bring news of DTW’s Geneva intentions.

(c) autoya.info

This week marks the opening of the 89th Salon International de l’Automobile at Geneva’s Palexpo exhibition centre. Open to the public’s lovestruck gaze from March 7 to 17, it will be preceded (as is customary) by two successive press days (5th and 6th).

Joining the likes of Ford, JLR, Hyundai, Infiniti, MINI, Opel and Volvo, (we’re very now) DTW’s full-time editorial team will be non-attendees I’m afraid, but in time-honoured tradition, we have retained the services of two regular contributors for both press days who will allow you to Continue reading “Geneva, Here We…”

A Photo For Sunday: 1974-1980 Ford Escort

Geologists, and specifically palaeontologists, have concerns about the degree to which the fossil record represents the variety of life that has existed. Something similar applies to those interested in older cars.

1974-1981 Ford Escort

This Ford Escort might be compared to the fossil of a plant-eating dinosaur, a representative of a class that was quite numerous, but which has left a unrepresentatively small trace in the fossil record. For your information, the meat-eating dinosaurs were known for their preference to Continue reading “A Photo For Sunday: 1974-1980 Ford Escort”

Charges Will Apply

Are we never satisfied?

(c) topgear

On the face of things, Honda’s Geneva e prototype – a thinly veiled (95% production-ready, we are told) version of the forthcoming production Urban EV, marks not only a refreshing change from the over-decorated norm but also a satisfyingly close approximation of the car Honda showed at Frankfurt 2017 to audible gasps of pleasure from the massed cohort of auto-commentators, this non-attending scribe included.

Because if indeed this broadly represents the form the production version will take (and informed speculation suggests it does), it presents a wildly divergent face to the one Honda currently presents to the world. Continue reading “Charges Will Apply”

Our Fates Are As Unknowable As Sennacherib’s

Toyota’s reputation for solid engineering is well-established. Their engines seem to be unburstable and the controls always smooth and light.

Photo: School of Land-Windermere

Such sensibleness applies to their ashtray designs too. This late 70s Carina two-door saloon is home to a very nice drawer-type ashtray which you can
easily reach while smoking and driving (in a relaxed and laid-back way). It’s positioned under the main body of the dashboard. Notice how all the important bits of the dashboard Continue reading “Our Fates Are As Unknowable As Sennacherib’s”