Saving Grace – Part Seven

Some words from the gentlemen of the (mostly) UK press. 

(c) Company Car

With Series III a reality, if a somewhat limited one, the UK automotive press wasted little time getting to grips with a series of well-prepared press cars. Car magazine’s Mel Nichols was let loose in an XJ12 in March ’79, observing, “[T]he Jaguar is so controlled, so full of poise… It didn’t take too many miles on winding country roads to convince me all over again that nothing offers such ride comfort with such dynamic ability.

Later that year, coinciding with the introduction of Mercedes-Benz’s sector-defining W126 S-Class, Nichols ranged another XJ12 from Jaguar’s press fleet against the overwhelming superiority of Stuttgart-Untertürkheim’s flagship. No rational person on earth would Continue reading “Saving Grace – Part Seven”

Auto Shanghai 2019: Misunderestimation

To quite some degree, the western view on Chinese tastes in car design has been informed by awe and condescension. This year’s Shanghai motor show suggests that may have to change sooner, rather than later.

Good enough for China, photo (c) Motor1.com

China, as every donkey knows, is the centre of the automotive world these days. Without it, some of the fundamental changes to the business model of the western world’s car makers that are now on the verge of being addressed would have needed to be tackled a decade ago.

China is the lifeline of the car business as we know it, yet the dramatic dependance upon this market hasn’t resulted in similar levels of respect for it – quite the opposite, in fact. ‘That’s what the Chinese demand’ has been used as an excuse for a great many a dubious product and design decisions in recent years, often spoken with an expression of regret on the face of those so obviously forced by the Middle Kingdom to Continue reading “Auto Shanghai 2019: Misunderestimation”

A Photo For Sunday: Surface Richness

For a change this is exactly a single photo for Sunday. And it’s about a BMW. And it involves the humble author descending the sheer face of whatever it is from which one climbs down.

To alleviate dandruff in cats and dogs
2015 BMW 7-series (G11/G12)

The image (one of three attempts) captures our old friend the BMW 7-series. They aren’t exactly common in north central Aarhus, where I am domiciled, which might be why it snagged my attention. As I stood somewhere recently in central Dublin capturing this car with all the photographic skill I could muster, two others in black rolled by**. The sighting necessitated that I Continue reading “A Photo For Sunday: Surface Richness”

Way To Blue

A thirty year-old concept from Ghia comes of age. Perhaps?

(c) old concept cars

It has been stated before upon these pages : The future of the distant past looks considerably more futuristic to our eyes now than that of its more recent equivalent. By way of illustration I urge you to Continue reading “Way To Blue”

Classic Road Test: 1979 Talbot Horizon 1.3 GLS

“Some recent changes to Talbot’s Horizon means we have to take another look at this old stager,” wrote Archie Vicar in Today’s Driver Magazine, apparently.

New Horizon!

 

This appears to be a verbatim transcript of a period road test from the regionally distributed Today’s Driver Magazine, December 1979 (the Vale of Arden-area). Dougl Asland-Windermere (sic) contributed the original photography. Due to fading of the images, stock photos have been used. 

On sale since 1978, the Talbot Horizon is a said to be what they supposedly call a “world car”, one designed in England to boot (something the car lacks!). In line with modern expectations, the Horizon is a front-wheel drive hatchback somewhat in the style of the dreary VW “Golf” and odd-ball Fiat Strada but it looks more acceptable than either. Why are we writing about this car, you might very well ask. I didn´t like it very much when I first drove it. But recent revisions to what is by now an old-stager in the fast-moving medium-sized family car market mean we are simply obliged to Continue reading “Classic Road Test: 1979 Talbot Horizon 1.3 GLS”

Saving Grace – Part Six

Today we interrogate Jaguar’s quality claims, explore Browns Lane’s engine policy – and indulge in a spot of counter-factuality.

(c) Auto-Didakt

Unreliable and unjustifiable, its cars had become a laughing stock, its management a comedy and its accounts a tragedy. Only when it began to take itself very seriously indeed, to cultivate the quality it had previously scorned did things change…” (LJK Setright – Car 1986)

It has been retrospectively stated that the Egan-led quality drive was more illusory than real, which is perhaps a little unfair to the huge effort from all concerned. There was however, in Egan parlance, perhaps a little more sizzle than steak to it. Nevertheless, the reforms had a basis in fact and if the JD Power statistics were any guide, it’s evident that Jaguar made significant strides in this area.

In 1983, BMW’s Eberhard von Kuenheim toured the Browns Lane facility. What he made of it is undocumented, but he must have been, to say the least, given to Continue reading “Saving Grace – Part Six”

Munchin’ Miles With The Volvo V40

The final Ford-era car in the Swedish brand’s lineup cannot hope to match the more recent cars’ impact. And yet it still impresses.

IMG_9511.jpeg
Volvo is the warmest place to hide, photo (c) Driven To Write

“We’ve got something with a bit more oomph than usual – a Volvo V40 T3 R-line. Would that be fine with you?”

The friendly car rental agency clerk may have been slightly wrong about the power output of the car, but that point notwithstanding, the Volvo was very fine with me. After having sampled models from Volkswagen’s, Mazda’s and Ford’s respective ranges recently, this round of rental car roulette marked the opportunity to Continue reading “Munchin’ Miles With The Volvo V40”

A-Game

Mercedes has brought its predator face to the C-segment and is devouring all before it. Is the A-Class becoming an unstoppable force?

Predator. In yellow. (c) Mercedes.com

There is a certain point in most career arcs where things begin to go somewhat awry. Sometimes it’s a blip, a momentary reversal or poorly judged decision, quickly righted. But for others, it’s a full-blown meltdown. After all, success can frequently be its own undoing. This is certainly true of Germany’s three upmarket car brands, who it can probably be safely said to have been in the throes of a full-blown stylistic mid-life crisis for some years now.

It is perhaps therefore fitting that being (arguably) the first to Continue reading “A-Game”

Classic Road Test: 1979 Renault 14

“Renault Revised!” was the headline in what might have been a period review of the R14 by veteran motor writer, Archie Vicar.

This article may have first appeared in Motoring & Driving, December 1979. The original photos were by Dooulgas Land-Windermere (sic) but due to fouling with the filing cabinet, stock photos have been used.

Ah, Renault, perpetually playing second fiddle to Ford, Peugeot, Opel and Austin in the dull-but-worthy stakes. Or second fiddle to Citroen and Alfa Romeo in the odd-but-strange stakes. Renault, somewhere in the middle of it all, with beret, Camembert and Gitanes ever at the ready but never sure whether it is a European firm or just a French one.

Example number one must surely be the Renault 14. If you want to Continue reading “Classic Road Test: 1979 Renault 14”

Classic Road Test: 1979 Fiat Strada 75 CL 3-door

In what looks like a transcription of a period review, renowned motoring correspondent Archie Vicar peruses the interior and exterior of the Fiat Strada 75 CL and offers his opinions.

December 1979 English Driver Monthly

( The article first appeared in English Driver Monthly, a short-lived magazine from the Maxwell stable. Douglas Land Windingmere (sic) took the published photos. Due to cellulose oxidation of the originals, stock images have been used)

Although it has been on sale for a while (since 1978 in Europe), the Strada is new for us at English Driver Monthly and since Fiat UK offered us a test car to show off the revised shock absorbers (or some such) we could not say no to a road test report.

So, it was off to Dijon via Bruges, Brussels and Stuttgart to see if the Strada had it in itself to Continue reading “Classic Road Test: 1979 Fiat Strada 75 CL 3-door”

Fresh Mint

Has Genesis shown us a fresh face in emission-free motoring?

(c) Genesis

Since the advent of the automobile, cars and cities have co-existed in uneasy truce, but as concerns over deteriorating air quality gain traction across the developed world, it seems increasingly likely that our towns are simply not big enough for both. So the mid-term future for the combustion-engined private car, in an urban context at least, is looking bleak.

However, like most behavioural shifts, this is unlikely to occur overnight, but already, as previously reported both here and elsewhere, city legislatures are taking matters upon themselves by limiting or banning outright, vehicles which fail to Continue reading “Fresh Mint”

Classic Road Test: 1979 Opel Kadett LS

Renowned motoring writer Archie Vicar takes a short look at Opel’s new entrant in the small family car market and wonders whether it will affect prospects of Vauxhall’s eerily similar Astra.

This article first appeared in Modern Motorism Magazine, December 3 1979. Due to the poor quality of the the copied images, stock pictures have been used. The original photos were by Douglas Lan-Dwinderere (sic).

Pity the poor chaps at Vauxhall! Not just generally, mind, for their lot is not a happy one, but in particular since Opel have decided to Continue reading “Classic Road Test: 1979 Opel Kadett LS”

Tea Leaf Prophecy

As reports emerge that Ford is preparing to study KA no more, we try to sound upset.

It’s been emotional. (c) bilmagasinet.dk

As your correspondent is perhaps over-fond of observing, the Henry Ford Motor Company does quite a line in unlearning nowadays. So much so in fact that it’s been getting rather difficult to keep up. Unlearn : Saloons. Unlearn : Minivans. Unlearn : Up to 5000 jobs in Europe this year.

Reaping the rewards of its failure to Continue reading “Tea Leaf Prophecy”

Saving Grace – Part Five

“We had a modern, world-class car before. All we had to do was to improve quality and reliability.” (John Egan – 1982).

(c) Jaguar Cars

It was dubbed ‘The Egan miracle’. The turnaround which saw Jaguar go from loss-making irrelevance (in the region of £20 million in 1979), ripe for closure, to media darling and example to all of how failing businesses could be transformed by effective management.

And Egan was effective. Aided by a store of goodwill that existed for the marque within the broader automotive industry, amid the car-buying public, from the workforce itself and within certain quarters of the unwieldy BL leviathan, the ambitious Lancastrian came with proven managerial qualities, enthusiasm and a burning drive to Continue reading “Saving Grace – Part Five”

Putting Out The Fire, Scattering The Ashes

Audi’s concept car for this year’s Shanghai motor show is an autonomous, electric homage to the brand’s legendary A2 model. Or so we’re told. 

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Audi AI:ME, photo (c) Audi AG

On the surface at least, there doesn’t appear to be much terribly wrong with Audi’s AI:ME concept car. It’s not an SUV for a start; its autonomous functions aren’t reflected by the lamest concept car trope of the past few years (swivelling seats), and it – supposedly – pays homage to no less than Audi’s bravest failure, the misunderstood A2.

However, as always, a surface is but a thin layer, whereas what lies beneath is an altogether more meaty matter. And the meat of this AI:ME is hardly scrumptious.

Take its overall appearance: It’s a rather generic EV compact concept car fare, to such an extent that nobody would bat an eyelid if it didn’t Continue reading “Putting Out The Fire, Scattering The Ashes”

With All Your Vain Fears And Groundless Hopes

A sure sign that a Transit is hauling people and not boxes must be the non-white exterior coating. I saw an orange metallic one yesterday.

2018 Ford Transit Custom

Sure enough, Ford in Denmark even uses this colour in its on-line publicity material. When I saw this one parked up somewhere in Jutland I had to take  a closer look. You have to admit, it’s a satisfyingly spacey-looking machine. The bright orange paint brings out the graphic quality of the other elements. Essentially this is a commercial vehicle that has no trouble looking as good as a passenger car. Continue reading “With All Your Vain Fears And Groundless Hopes”

Vroom for Improvement

The Allegro 3’s ad budget was as limited as the facelift it represented.

(c) carter collectibles on twitter

It’s not what it looks like. It isn’t my intention to cast over-ripe foodstuffs in the unfortunate Allegro’s direction; after all, why add to the sum of opprobrium already flung its way? Indeed today’s subject for discussion is not really the Allegro itself, rather the manner in which BL’s marketing department elected to Continue reading “Vroom for Improvement”

The Smallest Man On The Moon

One can see absolutely nothing charming, interesting, appealing or pleasant about Edinburgh airport*. Only this object captured my attention but my camera could not capture a good image.

Toyota FJ-Cruiser

We have here a Toyota FJ-Cruiser, one of those periodic examples of a strong, brave design that leads nowhere at all. The Fiat Multipla, Isuzu Vehi-Cross, Nissan Pike Factory cars, and Renault Avantime would be other members of this esteemed club. The FJ-Cruiser follows the trajectory of a concept car shown to wide acclaim for its arresting appearance which the public then largely ignores and makes the rest of the car industry Continue reading “The Smallest Man On The Moon”

Dramatic Licence

As Transport for London enacts its Ultra-Low Emission Zone, the case for DTW’s 1996 Saab 900S (and others like it) becomes scalpel-thin.

(c) Driven to Write

When it comes to motor cars there is absolutely nothing dull about metronomic reliability. I therefore hesitate to employ the adjective ‘boring’ when it comes to the dependability of my Saab, despite the undeniable fact that, in the almost six years I have been its steward, it has been an almost entirely trouble-free experience.

From a purely narrative perspective of course, a writer such as myself, for the sake of dramatic exposition might feel the necessity to Continue reading “Dramatic Licence”

From April in Southbourne to September Inside

Presumably it’s Ian Callum’s local connection that led to this iPace model being on display at the V&A in Dundee, Scotland.

Jaguar iPace clay model

The model is shows the structure of a clay model, from the basic armature (high and medium density foam) though to clay and on to the Di-Noc vinyl coating. The vinyl coating is there to assist designers and modellers in to be able to Continue reading “From April in Southbourne to September Inside”

Maxi Twist

Austin’s ill-starred 1969 confection still casts a max-sized shadow.

(c) wroom.com

History judges Austin’s ill-drawn hatchback pioneer harshly. Its orthodoxies tell us ADO14 was a terrible motor car; ungainly, ill-conceived, introduced with a litany of serious flaws, thereby failing to even approach its commercial aspirations. Its introduction was repeatedly delayed, with serious concern being expressed over its styling, driveability, power output, commercial viability and basic fitness for purpose.

For the second time since the two businesses were merged, Leyland’s Donald Stokes took the momentous decision to Continue reading “Maxi Twist”

Beans Under Toast

We seem to be having an unplanned American car theme at present. Today we take a closer look at an example of the third generation Chevrolet Camaro, in rare convertible guise.

Chevrolet Camaro, third generation (1982-1992) in convertible form (1987)

I saw this one in what I consider to be its natural habitat, a vast suburban car park, surrounded by big box retail units and convenience food outlets. It fits right in, I think. And in so doing corresponds to my prejudices about a certain type of American-market American car.

You can’t accuse the Camaro of being over-styled or chrome-laden. This one has no brightwork and the surface treatment is extremely straightforward. If you Continue reading “Beans Under Toast”

Caddy Lack

Cadillac is in the midst of yet another revival. For real, this time. Honestly.

This definitely isn’t your daddy’s Cadillac. But what is it then? Photo (c) Jalopnik

Cadillac may never have been a noteworthy brand to Europeans on the basis of sales figures on the old continent. But that hasn’t prevented the erstwhile Standard Of The World from gaining fame (and some notoriety) on this side of the Atlantic, on the simple basis that Cadillac is one of the most storied, evocative brands of all time, anywhere. Continue reading “Caddy Lack”

A Photo Study For Sunday: 1998 Ford Focus 3-door

Good fortune placed a three-door 1998 Ford Focus (Series 1) on my street so we could conclude our Blue Oval-themed week on a high note.

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Before I started the analysis I knew the Focus to be a really strong design. After all, it still looks thrilling 21 years later. Visual richness, hello. I didn’t know the underlying structures were so complex. Almost nothing quite lines up: the scaffolding off of which the graphics hang is itself seemingly in motion or is composed of shifting progressions. I have not even considered the front and rear views. Did Ford’s designers do this intuitively? Or was it considered? Continue reading “A Photo Study For Sunday: 1998 Ford Focus 3-door”

Wild West Hero

We encounter a visitor a long way from the prairie.

All images: DTW. Apologies for the poor lighting conditions.

There’s a commonly employed saying which goes along the lines of, ‘if you’re going to be a bear, be a grizzly’. The notion being, I suppose, that the apogee of ursine ambition is to be as large, hairy and fearsome as possible. It’s also another way of suggesting that one ought not settle for second-best in life. All in all, as a statement by which to Continue reading “Wild West Hero”

There Is A Reason, Embers Cold

Perhaps this is overdoing it, another Nissan article. Even still, I feel the burning need for DTW to have the USP of being the “go-to” place for information on the Datsun 280C.

1980 Datsun 280C: source

Following an encounter with a real, live diesel Laurel recently, I have been trying to find out some more about how these cars were viewed at the time. To that end, I got a hold of a copy of Motor from September 1980. I planned to extract the choicest bits of text and discuss their implications so we could all be a little wiser about these fine cars.

Some picture research had to be done and the first thing out of that was this image which made me Continue reading “There Is A Reason, Embers Cold”

This Aggression Will Not Stand

As Ford shuffles its CUV deck on both sides of the Atlantic, do we detect a certain softening in the Blue Oval’s visual palette?

(c) Top Gear

It has been, as DTW’s curiously silent Ford-obsessive, Myles Gorfe might have said, a very busy week in Ford circles, with not one, but three new CUV model lines being revealed. Although, in the interests of accurate reporting that statement might want to be revised downwards, given that the new-generation K U G A and E S C A P E models are broadly one and the same.

But to be even more factually rigorous, one really ought to refine this statement further, given that Ford did not at the time of writing get around to fully revealing the forthcoming Puma – (or should that read P U M A?) badged model, electing instead to Continue reading “This Aggression Will Not Stand”

Emeritus Professor of Leucocholy Stumbles On

It’s all over the news: the Puma is back. 

We miss you, little diamond: source

But it’s not. The next car to bear the name won’t be a Puma, but a vehicle called Puma. Supposedly, the reason for re-using the name, in part, rests on the fact the new car is based on the Fiesta just like the old, and frankly much-missed little pocket rocket (1997-2002). And every one liked the Puma so it’s a name with some emotional weight.

The new vehicle is a manner of SUV, a Fiesta raised a bit to make it look like a cross-over. Doesn’t that make you Continue reading “Emeritus Professor of Leucocholy Stumbles On”

Saving Grace – Part Four

Understanding the background to Jaguar’s 1979 annus horriblis.

(c) Jaguar Cars

The Castle Bromwich paint debacle crystallised the manner in which the relationship between Jaguar and its adoptive parent broke down in the years following its absorption into British Leyland; one characterised by unwarranted interference and lack of meaningful communication on one hand and distrust, insubordination and outright defiance on the other.

The roots of this go back to the creation of the car giant in 1968 – a piece of well-meaning, government-led commercial engineering. Much like a certain latterday piece of political engineering currently paralysing Britain’s political establishment, the BLMC experiment was undeliverable, but more fundamentally still, should probably never have been attempted in the first place. Continue reading “Saving Grace – Part Four”

The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

The BMW brand has a new chief designer. Again. 

jozef-kaban-bmw
Jozef Kabaň, photo (c) BMW Group

Two years and one month isn’t a long time by the standards of the automotive industry. Creating a car from scratch within such a period of time would be extremely difficult. Truly changing a marque’s design ethos would be utterly impossible.

Two years and one month is exactly how long the tenure of Jozef Kabaň as BMW chief designer turned out to last. During that period, the Bavarians unveiled an onslaught of new models, which left more than one commentator baffled (new 3 series) or even shocked (X7, 7 series facelift). Obviously, none of these cars were designed under Kabaň’s watch. Continue reading “The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same”