Weekend Re-issue : A Fiat By Any Other Name?

You probably won’t see it commemorated anywhere else.

(c) junglekey.it

Of all the cars which mark their 50th anniversary this year, this is perhaps the most (to non-Italians) obscure and certainly least recalled. Partially a consequence of the marque’s subsequent demise – another piece of bungled stewardship by Fiat Auto – and the fact that the car is not only fairly unremarkable in itself, but lasted a mere three years on the market before being withdrawn in 1972. Continue reading “Weekend Re-issue : A Fiat By Any Other Name?”

Amping It Up

European EV sales are on the rise, but the internal combustion hegemony remains for now at least, unassailable. 

(c) Tesla

The electric age is just around the corner, just as it has been for some time now. Despite the fact that it patently is the legislative-default future direction of travel, and that regardless of whether we are early, late, enthusiastic or reluctant adopters (or should that be adaptors?) of the automotive EV, we’re getting them anyway. But not quite yet.

Over the first six months of 2019, sales of dedicated electric cars have been on the rise, as one might expect, illustrating (it is said), greater acceptance from customers than the plug-in hybrid model currently favoured by most of the auto industry, at least until they can place their electrified ducks in a row. (A clumsy and frankly dangerous metaphor, for which I now apologise).

But is not my intent today to Continue reading “Amping It Up”

Goodyear? For Some (Part three)

From dirigibles to snow cruisers – the inter-war years would see a further inflation of the storied tyre maker’s fortunes.

The Snow Cruiser. (c) Pinterest

Initially in poor financial health, Goodyear maintained progress building more factory space as the oil and car industries grew around them. A favoured construction company, Hunking & Conkey of Cleveland had a great deal of empathy with their workforce; a foreman would sit near a pile of rocks, eager to Continue reading “Goodyear? For Some (Part three)”

In Memoriam : Ferdinand Piëch

A giant of the automotive world has departed. His like will not be seen again.

(c) hvilkenbil.dk

Ferdinand Piëch was not easily satisfied. Anything less than the relentless shedding of blood, sweat and tears he considered insufficient initiative – an approach many found misanthropic, yet from Piëch’s perspective, it was a mere matter of applying a categorical imperative. He would never expect more from anybody else than from himself. Continue reading “In Memoriam : Ferdinand Piëch”

Callum’s Cats : Jaguar R-Coupé (2001)

An early statement of intent, the 2001 R-Coupé marked the beginning of a new design era at Jaguar.

(c) Jaguar Heritage

By the time Ian Callum had settled into his position as Jaguar’s stylistic leader, the bulk of the turmoil which had characterised the previous decade had abated. Under Ford’s Premier Automotive Group umbrella, Jaguar had been in receipt of significant investment, both in terms of plant, production processes but most noticeably in new product. But given that each of the forthcoming production Jaguars had been stylistically finalised prior to his arrival at Whitley, Callum could only Continue reading “Callum’s Cats : Jaguar R-Coupé (2001)”

The One That Got Away

Given its pedigree, the ‘lost’ Aston Martin DBS(C), designed by none other than Carrozzeria Touring, should be an unsung masterpiece. Yet it isn’t. 

The car in front is an Aston.

It sounds like the typical scenario that entails reverberating boos and pronounced hisses from enthusiasts’ quarters.

A much-loved maker of exotic sports cars hires the services of a well-respected carrozzeria to come up with the design for a new model. The carrozzeria in question had previously designed the very same car maker’s most popular models. Due to circumstances (mostly of the business-related variety), that new model is only created in one-off concept car form. Et voilà – the recipe for yet another automotive myth!

Concretely, the car in question is a model retrospectively dubbed Aston Martin DBSC. Originally, it was simply called DBS upon its unveiling at the Paris Motor Show of 1966 – and that’s only where it starts to Continue reading “The One That Got Away”

Migratory Bird

Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world…

Lancia

Here at the gateway to the wilds of West Cork, we welcome more than our share of visitors from foreign lands. This mostly pleasant state of affairs affords us a degree of human variety which would be otherwise denied our pale, light averse, predominantly sandblasted natives. It also lends itself to a degree of automotive variety which to a dedicated driven to writer can prove something of a godsend.

However, not all such encounters are as timely or fortuitous as today’s. Having touched at some length earlier this week upon the lore of the Tychy White Hen, to encounter one in three dimensions proved something of a novelty. Although to be strictly accurate, what we’re looking at here is, if anything a grey hen – or in Lancia parlance, Elefantino Blu – a shade particularly redolent of the Shield and Flag’s Sixties heyday.

It would be foolish indeed to Continue reading “Migratory Bird”

A Walk to the Three Cats

A spot of lunchtime exercise reveals something of a kitty-litter.

My current work establishment is in a wealthy, leafy part of town. Not seen for a while, but a Bentayga resides round here. Many SUV’s of any brand you care to mention too along with some proper dross. But the other lunchtime and only hungry for inspiration, I found these three Jaguar XK’s in a five minute wander from the front gate.

Let’s start with feelings of actually photographing these cars. I’m not comfortable with going up to someone’s motor and clicking away till I get “the shot” Plus as you’ll see, one is on somebody’s property and whilst I can usually talk to anyone, especially about cars, I’m not about to Continue reading “A Walk to the Three Cats”

The Wild Man of Kvasiny

That rare thing: a desirable crossover.

(c) autocentrum

The product planner’s art has never been a particularly straightforward one, even less so when one is dealing with a brand portfolio the size and scope of the VW Group. Nevertheless, during the previous decade at least, the individual business units contained within the sprawling VW Group were allowed to Continue reading “The Wild Man of Kvasiny”

How I would fix FCA

As an Alfista, the recent news about my beloved brand’s sales performances struck me hard, prompting some reflections about how FCA’s European arm could be ‘fixed‘. 

Junked 1991 Alfa Romeo 164 – Picture by Murilee Martin (c. AutoWeek)

The genuinely awful sales numbers posted by Alfa Romeo lately have once again placed the European side of FCA, best known as the one that burns the revenue generated in North America by Jeeps and trucks, under the spotlight. FCA’s current management seem somewhat unwilling to manage the clay-footed automotive giant created a decade ago, thanks to Sergio Marchionne’s opportunism and dealmaking ability.

The focus now seems to be mostly about maintaining the status quo until the sale of the whole shebang: Needless to say, such a non-strategy can last only so long, and mainly hangs upon Jeep and RAM sales in the USA: turmoil there would send the whole construction crashing down in no time.

The heart of the matter lies with the fact that FCA doesn’t generate nearly enough cash to Continue reading “How I would fix FCA”

Where’s Wally (R)

Gentlemen, start your engines…

“Brittany Force’s Funny Car. The aerodynamics work” (c) competitionplus.com

What sport spends millions of dollars in pursuit of a foot-high trophy by following a groove, avoiding wheel spin and watching a Christmas tree?

It’s not a trick question. The answer is Drag Racing and for this article specifically the top end of the NHRA, the National Hot Rod Association. There’s a $3M dollar purse. Spread that out and it barely covers the fuel bill. There must be something deeper at stake here.

Classes include Pro Stock, Motorcycles, Top Fuel and Funny Cars. Some of this will be revealed as it can get overly complicated. Top Fuel and Funny Cars are the most dominant, noisy, clearly un-environmentally friendly but the biggest crowd pleasers, home to the sport’s big names. Continue reading “Where’s Wally (R)”

Intimations of Mortality

Fowl play at FCA.

Behold the black hen.  (c) gruppo bossoni

Throughout our culture, the colour black has long been synonymous with death. In popular culture too – take for instance William S. Burroughs’ Black Rider or indeed the black swan in Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. In keeping with the theme of fowl therefore, it may not be a coincidence that with the advent of the black hen, FCA are quietly softening us up for an impending demise.

Because the problem here appears to lie with the serial refusal of FCA’s Lancia-badged Ypsilon to do the decorous thing and shuffle off this mortal coil. Indeed, not being content to swerve death’s clammy embrace, the Tychy White Hen is still doing a decent number humiliating far more recent domestic contenders – most recently the troubled Biscione of Milan.

Given this somewhat paradoxical state of affairs, it seemed as good a time as any to at least attempt to Continue reading “Intimations of Mortality”

Pardon The French

Peculiar and of dubious aesthetic merit though its products are, DS Automobiles’ output at least possesses one commendable trait

Citoyen No1, photo (c) autoplus.fr

It’s rather easy to ridicule DS Automobiles. After all, it’s yet another car brand created in vitro, whose main claim to fame is a name that references one of the greatest creations in automotive history, without paying any respects to it whatsoever.

Casting aside this truly overbearing issue though, paying some attention to the brand’s design proves to be rather more worthwhile than a first glance would suggest. Of course, DS’ range of cars has so far mostly set itself apart through a sheer overabundance of stylistic tropes, many of which are rather less than inspiring (shark fin b-pillars, double badges). However, amid all the cacophonous excess, there are some interesting details to be found. Continue reading “Pardon The French”

Small : Far Away

It’s never too late to learn Micra – in all its forms.

Micra squared. (c) DTW

For a car that isn’t really in the business of setting people’s hearts aflutter, the Nissan Micra does garner a decent wordcount upon our pages. Now of course we can rationalise this on the basis that DTW is (perhaps to a fault), undogmatic in its judgements. [This, I accept, is a matter of debate]

But nonetheless, it’s indisputable that the entry-level Nissan is, in pretty much all of its iterations, a thoroughly decent and fit for purpose compact motor vehicle, if not one you might necessarily choose for the sheer love of the open road. But to condemn the Micra on this basis (especially these days), is to ignore the fact that it sits well within the class norms in just about any metric one cares to fling its way – after all, Nissan is far too astute a business to Continue reading “Small : Far Away”

Weekend Reissue : E is for Expressive

Ten years since ‘the car that killed sobriety’ was announced. Time for a backward glance.

(c) autoremes

The 2009 (W212) Mercedes-Benz E-Class is unlikely to go down in history as an indestructible exemplar of marque values like its W123 forebear, or indeed as a design landmark, like its W124 descendant. Indeed, it probably won’t even be remembered with the acute embarrassment which characterises the risible W210 series from the mid-’90s.

Instead, the W212 will be recalled largely for its ‘Ponton’ haunches – a piece of retro styling contrivance aimed at evoking a period when the three pointed star had nothing to prove and no awkward questions surrounding its durability in service to answer.

Is that all there is to the car? Not quite. The ‘212 is significant more for what it represented than for its abilities or its stylistic attributes, such as they were. Mercedes had a job to do, in order to Continue reading “Weekend Reissue : E is for Expressive”

Callum’s Cats

In a series of articles, we examine former Jaguar Design Director, Ian Callum’s stylistic legacy, though some of the more notable designs he oversaw.

Ian Callum. (c) flipboard

The immediate period following Ford’s takeover of the Jaguar marque was a pretty febrile time – for a whole host of reasons, but primarily for the schisms which took place as Blue Oval management took stock of what it had purchased. As the stark realisation dawned that $ billions would be required to Continue reading “Callum’s Cats”

The Prewar Amlux

Bruno Vijverman looks back at a time when not only were cars objects of wonder, but the buildings that housed them.

(c) Citroën

On my first trip to Tokyo, one of the must-visit locations would probably not have made much sense to the typical tourist, but it did to me, being not only a car lover but in particular a brochure collector: Toyota Amlux.

This huge flagship showroom, housed in an equally impressive building, showcased all Toyota’s cars over six floors. Each one employed a different
theme- for instance there was a floor with only SUV’s and one containing luxury cars.

It was always relatively easy to Continue reading “The Prewar Amlux”

Goodyear? For Some (Part two)

Andrew continues his episodic history of Goodyear

The Brougham carriage with pneumatic tyres by Thompson. (c) nms.ac.uk

After a huge renovation programme and fundraising operation, with a full thirteen employees, November 21st 1898 was the first day of Goodyear production. Bicycle tyres, rubber bands and poker chips were the original products. Goodrich had fire hoses, bottle stoppers and billiard cue-tips. Over in Europe, Michelin had pneumatic tyres fitted to cars in Paris.

Goodrich had managed to Continue reading “Goodyear? For Some (Part two)”

Le roi est mort, vive le roi!

The proud, if patchy tradition of the French grand tourisme didn’t quite end with the Citroën SM. 

(c) Houtkamp.nl

The French relationship to automotive luxury is similar to how Germans deal with fine food. Just as those stemming from east of the river Rhine tend to be more willing to spend a fortune on engine lubricants, rather than extra virgin olive oil, their more occidental counterparts usually gain more pleasure from visiting a fine auberge on a regular basis than a car showroom or garage. How he or she gets to said auberge is a secondary concern, too.

Yet, just as there are Germans who care deeply about fine food (Fritz Eichbauer being a particularly striking example of this), the French aren’t totally immune to the charms of decadent motoring either, as the erstwhile success of proud names like Bugatti or Facel proved. It was only some time after the war, and due in large part to stringent domestic luxury taxation, that the French GT found itself on the wane. Continue reading “Le roi est mort, vive le roi!”

Weekend Reissue : Filigree and Shadow

A tale of the diamond and the chevron.

(C) wikipedia

As automotive aficionados, we accept and embrace the backstories which sit behind the cars we choose immortalise, yet as with most aspects of life, the people behind these vehicles are often themselves at least equally compelling when viewed from a narrative perspective.

Rivalries between carmakers frequently loom large over marque iconographies: General Motors versus Ford, Austin and Morris during the pre-war era in Britain, or indeed, BMW and Mercedes in more recent times. However, for a great many years, an equally compelling battle of wills was said to have played out in France between Louis Renault and André Citroen, with both carmakers seemingly hell-bent to Continue reading “Weekend Reissue : Filigree and Shadow”

Flirting With Distinction

We look back at the car that started the whole Distinctive Series debacle – was it really ten years ago?

So much going on to so little effect. (c) dieselstation

This is twice as much as what we aimed for, the DS line is a huge success,” Citroën’s Frederic Banzet told Automotive News in 2011. And for a time at least, it did appear as though Groupe PSA had pulled off a marketing masterstroke, with DS3 sales at one point accounting for a quarter of the volume for the entire C3 range.

It wasn’t as if the DS3 was necessarily a bad idea. The market for small upmarket  B-segment hatchbacks had been dominated by BMW’s MINI brand and certainly, there was a decent slice of that market to be had – with the right product. PSA’s difficulty was twofold: the lack of a competitive platform and more fundamentally its fundamental neglect of the Citroën name, which had been allowed, if not actively shoehorned into a low-transaction price, value-led cul-de-sac. Continue reading “Flirting With Distinction”

They Roam At Night

Be indoors by nightfall… 

Aaarrgghh! (Author’s image)

In 1997, then Tory Party MP, Ann Widdecombe was asked whether she would endorse former Home Secretary, Michael Howard’s bid to become the leader of the UK Conservatives. She refused, stating in the House of Commons that there was “something of the night about him.”

It was a nice line in waspish put-downs and one which is believed to have scuppered Howard’s leadership ambitions, but given Ms. Widdecombe’s reactionary and somewhat unpleasant views on, well, just about everything really, there was a strong whiff of pot and kettle about it. In reality however, the phrase probably served both politicians’ purposes – Howard later going on to Continue reading “They Roam At Night”

Goodyear? For Some (Part One)

We rarely notice them, but they’re the only things which keep us in contact with the road surface. In a new series for DTW, Andrew Miles gets up to his neck in the black stuff.

Charles Goodyear offers a rubber napkin. (c) Flickr.com.

Charles Goodyear died in debt. Frank Seiberling did no such thing. What links the two is a story of endeavour, brutality, aggressive tactics and a whole host of honest “Ites”. Oh, and a rather large balloon.

The tyres on all our road vehicles today are, in the main, synthetic rubber * Oil and various chemical compounds are brewed together in order to Continue reading “Goodyear? For Some (Part One)”

The Surface of Things

A keenly anticipated visual encounter ensues. Your correspondent comes away impressed.

Author’s image

The products of Hiroshima are not without their exponents upon the pages of Driven to Write – we have both editorially and in the submissions from our contributors been rather generous in our praise both of the previous generation 3 model and its shapely new replacement.

On the surface of things, Mazda appears to have taken a noticeable step forward with this car, moving closer to the upmarket German makes, both in aspiration and overall desirability – especially now as the latter move towards an ever more attention-seeking and repellent visual palette. But up to now, the new 3 existed for me only in the occasional fleeting glance and in static two dimensional form.

As we know however, there is no substitute for a three-dimensional viewpoint and yesterday evening, I received my first clear sighting of Mazda’s latest C-segment midliner in natural evening light. Time to Continue reading “The Surface of Things”

The Alfa Romeo Experimental Wankel Engine Programme

Tales from futures past: the Alfa Romeo engine you’ve never heard about.

Display parts leftover from the Alfa Romeo Wankel programme (picture from the Author)

During the entire Sixties decade, the rotary engine as conceptualized by the German inventor Felix Wankel and developed by NSU became something of the auto industry’s darling: compact, light, powerful yet smooth, and made of few moving parts, it looked like the future.

No car company wanted to Continue reading “The Alfa Romeo Experimental Wankel Engine Programme”

Into the Mystic

The Great Contraction is no longer a theoretical construct. It’s here.

First cross my hand with silver… (c) cwallpapersgallery

The era of unfettered expansion and niche-filling is not only over, it would appear to be in the process of being unceremoniously dumped at the hard shoulder. As European carmakers face a deeply uncertain commercial and regulatory future, previously inviolate marque-orthodoxies are being stuffed into hessian sacks and abandoned, as auto executives contemplate an epochal shift.

While this is a phenomenon affecting the entire industry, it is one that appears to be hitting one with particular force. Already somewhat embattled, having rather publicly persuaded its former CEO to step down, Bayerische Moterenwerke, as reported by Automobile magazine recently by veteran German automotive soothsayer, Georg Kacher, appears to either be (a) in worse shape than their compatriot prestige rivals or (b) is taking decisive (if not precipitous) action to Continue reading “Into the Mystic”

Weekend Reissue – El Camino a la Fiesta

Robertas Parazitas’ 2017 Fiesta opus joins the ‘Longer read’ fold.

(c) : classiccarcatalogue

As anyone who has tried to manoeuvre a supertanker can probably attest, when a leviathan changes direction, the process is both slow and not without considerable disruption. During the early 1970s, the ultra-conservative Ford Motor Corporation, having toyed with front-wheel drive during the previous decade, made the decision to Continue reading “Weekend Reissue – El Camino a la Fiesta”

Weekend Reissue : Previewing the Panamera

More backwards glances. This from Zuffenhausen. 

Porsche 989 concept. (c) pf-magazin.de

Ah the 1980s. If you can remember it without wincing, you probably weren’t there. An era of big hair, big shoulderpads and for those Big-Bang boys and girls, big bonuses – ergo flash motors. Preferably with the emblem of Stuttgart prominantly emblazoned upon its preferably engineless snout. But it’s probably true to say that there are more model lines that made decisive contact with the cutting room floor at Zuffenhausen than those which actually made it into production.

As has been pointed out ad nauseum upon these pages, the fortunes of Dr. -Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG has not been the unbroken run of success its current ubiquity and sector dominance might suggest. These two statements are not mutually exclusive -in fact they are intrinsically aligned, if not conjoined. Continue reading “Weekend Reissue : Previewing the Panamera”

Are Those The Reflections Of The Tagus?

After a long stint hammering out first-rate articles and second-rate headlines I am in need of a pause, dear readers.

1991 Opel Astra: source

As you may have noticed I have been rather quiet of late, concerned mostly with fridge magnets, vacation and vermouth. It has been gratifying to see continued signs of life and active discussion carrying on in my absence. It is time to Continue reading “Are Those The Reflections Of The Tagus?”

Think of a Number, Add a Letter

Andrew Miles talks alphanumerics.

Mr. Johnny Ball. (c) express.co.uk

Would the elder brother of Bertrand Russell really have camped out all night by the London council offices? Or, as one would back in the autumn of 1903, simply sent ones butler? History on this occasion just may be bunk.

For although A1 is the perceived and openly referenced original British number plate, with one Earl Russell being the purchaser, DY1 is in fact the first officially registered number plate in England. DY1 is recorded as being issued on 23rd November 1903 in Hastings, A1 in London the week before Christmas 1903. 24/11/1903, BH1, Buckinghamshire. 25/11/03 Y1, Somerset.

Records show that Russell was indeed an early motoring enthusiast, just not the owner of A1. But it makes for a good story. Continue reading “Think of a Number, Add a Letter”