I Fancy Her Sister

While undoubtedly both clever and worthy, the Toyota Mirai has up to now singularly failed to ignite automotive lust at ten paces, but this could be about to change. 

The original Mirai. Not in Rotherham. (c) Motortrend.com.

Bypassing me and virtually everyone else it would seem, is the fact that you can now pop into a Toyota showroom and purchase a hydrogen powered car. Well, in theory. Reality always tastes differently, for you’d have to meet many and varied criteria, more of which later.

What began for the company that originally built looms as the Fuel Cell Vehicle experiment, continues with the Mirai (Japanese for The Future), which Toyota brought to the UK market in 2016. Prior to this, you needed to be Californian or Japanese to steer one. Few did. Numbers suggest a little over 5000 sold globally. In Blighty, we’ve scraped into the teens – just. Sales were never meant to Continue reading “I Fancy Her Sister”

Working Class Hero

How did the ultimate 1960’s bit of rough evolve into the best loved classic Jaguar saloon of all?

(c) storm.oldcarmanualproject

It has been said that by the mid-Sixties, it was common operational procedure for UK police patrols to stop and search any Mark 2 Jaguar with two or more male occupants aboard – such was the car’s association with criminality. After all, Mark 2’s were easy to purloin and were the fastest reasonably inobtrusive getaway car that could be obtained by fair means or foul in Blighty at the time.

It was perhaps this aura of transgression, coupled with its exploits on the racetracks (at least until the US Cavalry arrived) which sealed its iconography. So it is perhaps ironic that despite the forces of law and order also adopting the 3.8 Mark 2 as a high-speed pursuit car, that it latterly would become synonymous with that most cerebral of fictional police detectives.

The Mark 2 Jaguar was a paradox in that while it was undoubtedly handsome – a finely honed conclusion of styling themes which had begun in earnest with the 1948 XK120 – it was not only a bit of an overweight brute, but a car which never quite managed to Continue reading “Working Class Hero”

Long Term Test: No Longer Surprising Skoda (Part 2)

In this middle section of our long term look at the Octavia Estate, we review how the mid-range Skoda drives.

skoda-octavia-estate-front three quarter carwow
Front three quarter view – still not quite the right colour. Can you see Concorde in it yet? (Source: CarWow)

Driving the Octavia is a bit of an unexpected bonus – it’s a much sweeter drive than I expected. The steering is direct, well-weighted and helped by a well sized, shaped (it’s actually round!) and covered steering-wheel. When I say ‘well weighted’, actually, that depends on which driver setting you choose – in this case it’s ‘normal’ as ‘sport’ is just heavy and gloopy.

One can also Continue reading “Long Term Test: No Longer Surprising Skoda (Part 2)”

An Afternoon Like Dusk – The 604 story, Pt. 5

Let’s review the reviews of the 604 and maybe go a little further.

(c) blog-moteur

Having looked (in the last instalment) at the engine from the strategic and the cost-accountant’s point of view, I turn now to how it compared in road tests. The matter of performance is far from clear. Conventional wisdom now has it that the 604 couldn’t move fast enough. A look at reviews spanning from 1975 to 1983 shows a more complex story than this.

In 1975 Motor claimed the carburetted SL was the quickest of a group of likely competitors which included the BMW 520, Ford’s Granada 3000, the Jaguar XJ 3.4, the Renault 30 and the Volvo 264. In 1977 Motor Trend felt the car was only just about able to keep up with American traffic, adequate but not brilliant.

This remark was qualified by noting the 604’s handling was far above average which, as mentioned above, made up the speed deficit quite pleasingly. In 1977 Car found the carburetted 604 SL to be slower than the Mercedes 280E and BMW 728 but only by a matter of half a second. It won the test overall so the slight tardiness did not hold the vehicle back.

A year later the fuel-injected version of the 604 was found to Continue reading “An Afternoon Like Dusk – The 604 story, Pt. 5”

The Glare

Driven to Write suffers from heat stroke – for your benefit. 

It’s hardly revelatory of me to point out that in this corner of the Costa del Sol, the ratio of sunshine to overcast is overwhelmingly in the favour of the former – after all, the hint is in the name. No great insight either in suggesting that in the warm glow of a sunbaked afternoon, everything looks more attractive – except perhaps, pale, light-averse Irishmen. The effects of ambient lighting is a subject that has reared its head on more than one occasion on these pages, so if I repeat myself, I can only suggest you Continue reading “The Glare”

Gerboise Bleu

“I call it the Blue Rat.”

Image: The author

The works car park is frequently a mundane beast. The same people in the same cars, day after day. Occasionally though, a visitor might just drive here in something a little more exotic, expensive or preferably just different. 

In the past we’ve had a few Porsche’s, Boxsters and Cayennes though never any form of 911. Once a Mustang was heard burbling through but we believe the driver was lost, for once the exit was pin-pointed, the throttle was floored and the dust disturbed.

There’s even been a Rosso Ferrari 360 and a Rolls Royce Phantom in predictable black when I happened to Continue reading “Gerboise Bleu”

Dos Marbelleros

Well, what is one supposed to do on vacation anyway?

How much is that Panda in the window in amongst the muebles? All images (c) Driven to Write

As regular readers may have appreciated, I have of late been on holiday. I don’t do this sort of thing as often as I ought, but when I do, I like to set myself a little intellectual challenge, and given that my predilections tend towards the automotive, it is here these exercises more than usually rest.

The last time I ventured to this part of Southern Spain, the task I placed before myself was that of Green Car Bingo, which was an enjoyable (for me at least) divertion, but not really replicable. So given that the Andalucían city of Marbella would form my base for the duration, the quest I set myself was to was to Continue reading “Dos Marbelleros”

Long Term Test: No Longer Suprising Skoda (Part 1)

Continuing a habit of testing cars which other motoring journals have already tested ad-nauseum, here’s a LTT of my Skoda Octavia Estate 2.0L Diesel SE-L

octavia-estate-gateway2lease
Brochure-photo of the Octavia Estate – wrong colour, but it does have the chrome window-surround and roof bars (Source: Gateway2Lease)

We have had our Octavia since the middle of July 2017.  In that time, it has travelled over 37,000 miles and proved to be a very capable and worthy steed.  it’s painted in vibrant metallic Rio Red (in the sunshine it looks a bit like Heinz Tomato Soup – other tomato soups are available), with a very fine, tough, finish.

The Octavia arrived as part of my rejig of our car portfolio (pretentious, moi?) where a Mazda3 Fastback (also subjected to numerous LTT articles here) and Xsara Picasso (ditto) were replaced by the Skoda and a FIAT 500 (which I have, again, written about here). A C6 still lurks on the driveway.  By and large, the Skoda is driven by me to get me to Continue reading “Long Term Test: No Longer Suprising Skoda (Part 1)”

You Could Have it So Much Better

That difficult second album syndrome.

Neither fish nor fowl.   All images (c) by the author

Music history has frequently been littered with the broken wreckage of bands who blasted into the public consciousness with an precocious debut, only to lose it with the follow-up. Artists such as the Stone Roses, The Sugarcubes, Franz Ferdinand and perhaps most notoriously, 80’s pop sensation, Terence Trent D’Arby all followed their well-reviewed debuts with what were varying degrees of disappointing to disastrous.

Of course the pressure upon new bands is often immense – the record company is clamouring for another hit, fans are salivating over the prospect and the artists themselves require more material to Continue reading “You Could Have it So Much Better”

Too Pretty To Race

We owe the existence of the gorgeous Giulietta Sprint Speciale to the racing career it never actually got.

alfa-romeo-giulietta-sprint-speciale-1
From 1960, the slightly restyled Giulietta SS was marketed as a GranTurismo (wheelsage.org)

From the moment the Giulietta Sprint was unveiled in 1954, it was clear that its technical specification made it a phenomenal contender for class wins in both circuit and road racing.

Alfa Romeo knew this well, and in 1956 the Sprint Veloce was born: power from the 1290cc twin-cam four was up to 90HP, while bonnet and doors (which got Perspex sliding windows) were aluminium instead of steel. Nevertheless, Portello was considering a Giulietta variant aimed even more explicitly towards motor racing, based on the short-wheelbase platform made for the Giulietta Spider.

The success of the Sprint made Nuccio Bertone a trusted partner of Alfa Romeo, so it was up to his designer, Franco Scaglione, to Continue reading “Too Pretty To Race”

An afternoon like dusk – The 604 story, Pt. 4

Engines! The 604’s was less than ideal.

Turning to the engine, one can see how an attempt to save money here also proved forlorn. The one clear advantage of using the 504 architecture was never exploited: the 604 never had the same range of engines as the earlier car. What it had was a 60° V6 engine designed in co-operation with Renault and Volvo.

As Motor pointed out in 1975, engine development requires a very large investment. Peugeot did not see the sales volumes of the 604 being large enough to justify designing a wholly new V6 on their own. This strategy certainly saved investment costs but did not lead to Peugeot having a competitive motor.

The powerplant faced the problem that it didn’t turn out quite enough motive force (though it was hardly slow by the day’s standards) and the 604 was a seen as a heavy car, presumably a result of an attempt to Continue reading “An afternoon like dusk – The 604 story, Pt. 4”

A Line Foreshortened

A rare encounter prematurely cut short. Sorry about that.

(c) Driven to Write

I’m aiming to keep this brief, given that it’s Sunday and I’m nominally on holiday. A two week sojourn on Spain’s Mediterranean coastline is hardly anyone’s concept of a mortifying act and let’s face it, there are plenty of other, more pleasant diversions to be found around these parts.

Consequently, it’s probably just as well that I am driven to write, because otherwise you, dear readers would stand a better than even chance of facing an empty page today. But my duty to DTW, as I trust you appreciate, is absolute.

But to the subject at hand. One of the more diverting aspects of places such as this are the areas of diversity and digression – and the automotive end of the spectrum is no different. The Southern European markets have long diverged from their Northern neighbours, although needless to say, a growing and regrettable conformity is starting to Continue reading “A Line Foreshortened”

The Riviera Set

A brake (or should that be a break?) from the norm for the Lion of Belfort. 

pininfarina
(c) Ebay

The idea of the three-door shooting brake estate probably originated in the US (the 1955 Chevrolet Nomad being a prime example), but it was popularised – if such a term can be considered appropriate for such a rarefied product – by Ason Martin’s 1965 DB5; itself initially a one-off, built for AML’s chairman, David Brown, and later produced in miniscule numbers at owners’ behest by the Harold Radford coachworks.

In 1968, the Reliant Scimitar GTE also employed a shooting brake silhouette to positive effect, which not only proved transformative for the carmaker’s profile and reputation, but also gained them patronage from the British Royal family. Continue reading “The Riviera Set”

Express Yourself!

Just as the choice of car tells a lot about its owner, car advertising can say a great deal about its subject’s sensitivities.

Here we have the BMW 3 series, hitherto known as the Dreier or 3er in its home market – before it was recently rechristened ‘The 3’, because nothing rolls off the German tongue with quite as much aplomb as a ‘TH’.

Like the car’s overstyled appearance, this tv spot tries hard to Continue reading “Express Yourself!”

The New Untouchables (2)

S.V . Robinson concludes his lament for the MPV.

02_renault_espace motor research
The pioneering Espace (in face-lifted form) – love the period wheels (Source: Motor Research)

I have spent 4/5ths of my life growing up with the MPV. Over 40 years, we have seen some memorable cars. In the main, they have stood out for either their styling (the pioneering, TGV-aping Espace, the ovoid Xsara Picasso, the lovably grotesque Multipla, to name a few), or the innovation of their packaging – the latter really being the point and purpose of the genre.

We have had MPVs which have front seats that can turn around to face passengers in the rear to create a mobile meeting space. Rear seats which can fold, tumble, be removed entirely, or disappear into the rear floor. There have been five seaters which enable the middle rear perch to Continue reading “The New Untouchables (2)”

The New Untouchables (1)

On DTW, we have touched upon the slow and largely un-mourned death of the MPV recently, but a small footnote in Autocropley caught my eye and leads me to consider how things got so bad for the ‘people carrier’.

venga auto trader
More red squirrel than guinea pig – the near deceased KIA Venga (Source: Auto Trader)

Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. I have owned two MPVs in the last 20 years, both of which served me well – in one case, as I have written before, all too well. Both were purchased to carry my family and their stuff around in their day-to-day lives without taking up too much space on the road or on our driveway.

Interestingly, when it finally came to finding a replacement for our Xsara Picasso, I bit the bullet and bought a considerably longer estate car (Octavia). I did this mainly on the basis that I wanted a larger boot, but, if I am honest, I think a narcissistic piece of me couldn’t Continue reading “The New Untouchables (1)”

Fin de Siècle

We compare a pair of late ’50s fintails.

Nobody quite realised at the time, but 1959 would mark peak-tailfin – this styling device falling out of fashion almost as abruptly as it emerged. But while the tailfin’s retreat would be particularly rapid in its country of origin, the European industry, having been slower to adapt in the first instance, was equally tardy in abandoning it.

Of course, it’s worth reminding ourselves of motor industry lead-times – the period between styling sign-off and job-one. Certainly, when Ford’s UK arm conceived the 105E-series Anglia, nobody could possibly Continue reading “Fin de Siècle”

An Afternoon Like Dusk – The 604 story, Pt. 3

In part 3 of the Peugeot 604 story we consider the market of the mid-1970s.

1975 Peugeot 604

The market in the mid 70s was open to a wide variety of contenders in the upper price ranges. Opel in particular was just on the cusp of reaching what we now call the rank of “prestige” with its Senator saloon and Monza coupé. Lancia outsold BMW in the UK.

The mid 70s were also still a time of strong national markets and of far less global competition than today. However, the world of 1975 was not what Peugeot’s planners envisioned when the 604 programme began in 1970. Oil prices had increased markedly, making the 604’s thirsty V6 seem unattractive, the more so over time. Continue reading “An Afternoon Like Dusk – The 604 story, Pt. 3”

Civic Minded

A municipal stroll through an Andalucían streetscape elicits a shameful case of neglect.

All images (c) DTW

There’s something almost unbearably sad about a nice car being left to ruin that even a sun-dappled Costa del Sol setting cannot quite assuage. Initially somewhat thrilled by the now ultra-rare sighting of this 1988-1991 era second generation Honda Civic CRX, your (temporarily) Andalucían correspondent’s initial enthusiasm quickly gave way to dismay at the manner in which it’s been maltreated.

The CRX was one of those brief flowerings in coupédom which promised much but somehow fizzled out in the end. While Europe had put all that frivolity behind them during the 1980s, establishing that instead of expensively developed bespoke coupé bodystyles, they could Continue reading “Civic Minded”

Il Sarto Piemontese

We compare a couture twinset from the tail-end of the GT era.

It’s an incontrovertible fact that the end of the 1960’s marked the apogee of the Gran Tourismo concept, both in design terms and in appeal to the broader swathe of the car market. Certainly by then, the choices available to the upwardly mobile individual who wanted to express their more indulgent side were of the more fecund variety. However, those who couldn’t Continue reading “Il Sarto Piemontese”

The Brightest Hour Is Just Before Twilight (2)

In the second part, we examine R8’s mid-career and consider the heart of the matter – the all-new K-Series power unit.

In mid-life, the proliferation continued with three wholly Rover developed variants codenamed Tracer (1992), Tomcat (1993), and Tex (1994), respectively a convertible, T-roofed coupe, and sporting estate car. Continue reading “The Brightest Hour Is Just Before Twilight (2)”

The Brightest Hour Is Just Before Twilight (1)

30 Years ago this week, the Rover Group launched perhaps its best realised product. We look back at the R8, née Rover 200-Series.

Image: Rover Group

In the late 1980s it really did seem that at last Rover Group had finally found its place.  Much of the credit was due to their new Japanese friends, but the rump of British Leyland was at last demonstrating a new found competence and confidence. However, agony would eventually follow the ecstasy of these heady days.

On 11 October 1989 Rover Group presented, with justifiable pride, the second-generation Rover 200 series, and with it the eagerly anticipated and all-new K-series engine. Every new Rover of the era had an equal and opposite Honda, and the 200’s was the Concerto, which had gone on sale in Japan in June 1998, only 16 months after Rover and Honda had signed the contract to build Project YY as a joint venture. Continue reading “The Brightest Hour Is Just Before Twilight (1)”

Inseguire!

A long-overdue appreciation of a lost art form.

Don’t try this anywhere: you are not cool enough. (c) Imfdb.com.

Pointless. Arguably polemic. Undeniably watchable. The on screen car chase has been with us for many a year. This isn’t to be a internet best of, a list of you have to see this or indeed real-life chases, they have no place here. My leanings are courtesy of (frequent DTW contributor) Matteo Licata – the more European-centric film chase from the late sixties and nineteen seventies.

Through Matteo’s lovely website “Roadster Life” he introduced me to some, in my eyes, positively excellent entertainment from dubiously acted, scripted and quixotic movies. These films are definitively of their time but have, akin to the cars used, become amenable in their advancing years. Continue reading “Inseguire!”

No Mr. Bond, I Expect You To Die

The carmaker synonymous with Ian Fleming’s fictional superspy is in a tight spot. Just how bad does it look for Aston Martin?

Aston Martin DBX at St Athan. Photo: (c) Aston Martin

It really wasn’t supposed to go this way. Following in the footsteps of Ferrari, in the wake of their highly successful floatation on the stock market, Aston Martin’s fortunes, while shining fleetingly, increasingly look like reverting to all too familiar type. But this time the stakes are much higher.

Ever the British second fiddle to the eternally gilded Maranello stallion, Aston’s Martin’s balance sheets can only be viewed as consistent insofar as they inevitably end up drowned in scarlet ink. Last year AML was floated on the stock exchange, its management attempting to Continue reading “No Mr. Bond, I Expect You To Die”

An Afternoon Like Dusk – The 604 story, Pt. 2

In the last instalment we had a short introduction to this neglected car. Today we will take a deeper glance at the car’s inception.

1983 Peugeot 604. Image: http://www.lrm-collection.fr

Of all the material reviewed for this essay, the text quoted at the start of the previous instalment was the most thought-provoking. Clearly the 604 was viewed as a credible car with a bright future ahead of it.

Today the 604 is remembered, if it is remembered, not for its refined solidity, the remarkable ride quality or, as Motor Trend wrote, its reordering of priorities around comfort, quality, roadholding and safety. It’s remembered for rust and listed as one of the world’s worst cars in Craig Cheetham’s 2006 book and its triumphs forgotten.

History is written to Continue reading “An Afternoon Like Dusk – The 604 story, Pt. 2”

Bridge Across The Humber

Today, our Northern correspondent admires a civil architectural landmark.

Humber Bridge
The central vertical object is the crane, cause of the roadworks. Author’s picture

The Romans: famous for liking wine, partial to dividing and conquering, proficient with straight ways and bridge building. But what to do when your legions find a wide estuary literally, in the road? Diversions are costly and in this instance, a bridge too far*

Study a road atlas in North Humberside and you will see from Lincoln (Lindum Colonia) the dual carriageway A15 or, to Roman aficionados, Ermine Street, leads to junction 4 of the M180, the A18 to steel town Scunthorpe but also depletes to what is now a minor road. Roman historians believe a ferry crossing was made from either Winteringham or Whitton in order to Continue reading “Bridge Across The Humber”

Kei Car Compendium – 2005 Suzuki LC Concept

As Suzuki prepares more Kei car retro-conceptual joy for Tokyo, we dip into their toybox. Gosh it’s fluffy in there…

2005 Suzuki LC Concept (c) supercars.net

Scribed within the official automotive aficionado manual, [chapter 37, paragraph 8, subclause 14.7] is the injunction that both interest and enthusiasm for that unique Japanese phenomenon, the keijidōsha, or light vehicle is a prerequisite for full and unfettered admission.

Here at DTW, we’re not exactly slavish in our fealty to motor-enthusiast norms, tropes or mores, so it would, you might imagine be in our purview to take a less than conventional position on the subject. Believe me, we tried, but faced with such an unrelenting tsunami of Kwaii, it takes a very firm resolve indeed not to Continue reading “Kei Car Compendium – 2005 Suzuki LC Concept”

The Lotus from Pindamonhangaba

A case of borrowed identity from South America.

Emme Lotus 422T

It is said that the lotus flower comes from the murkiest water but grows into the purest thing. The subject of this story certainly ticks the box for the former part of this saying, but it did not exactly grow into anything even remotely pure.

Perhaps the least known Lotus of all, and it is dubious if it rightfully wore the famous badge at all, is the Emme Lotus 422T. Presented to the public by the Brasilian company Megastar, a company up to then known for producing scooters, the Emme Lotus 422T debuted at the 1997 Sao Paulo Motor Show. Megastar’s facilities were based in Pindamonhangaba, near Sao Paulo. Continue reading “The Lotus from Pindamonhangaba”

White Goods, Black Tie

Carmaking is a brutal business, as Renzo Rivolta discovered to his cost. But was Iso’s ultimate failure the consequence of prejudice or simply outrageous fortune?

All images (c) Driven to Write

A humble background, while rarely a barrier to financial success, can often prove an impediment to the doors behind which respectable society resides. In the high-end car business, such things as provenance and exclusivity matter, but the right name and a racebred track record is better still. By consequence, Iso Autoveicoli S.p.A, during their short heyday as purveyors of exclusive, swift and sultry Italian gran turismos, found themselves fighting their Modenese rivals with one hand tied behind their backs.

The company was formed in Genoa during 1939 by flamboyant engineer, Renzo Rivolta to Continue reading “White Goods, Black Tie”

Amazing Faith

DTW’s Sheffield correspondent risks his eardrums for your benefit. 

A red bridge. Parking sensors on the blue car not to be trusted here. (c) Carmagazine.com.

The invite arrived by electronic mail some weeks previous; a chance for a trip out to the East Midlands and barring my fuel cost, a free afternoon out. With food. Chores fulfilled, leash slipped and Mansfield here we come. Well, just me, for my better half had found at least thirty-six other more pressing matters to attend to.

Understanding that mention of the Winged Arrow can elicit various forms of abuse from childish schoolyard comments to outright and snobbish denials – most unwarranted and to the great British public, still stemming from Škoda’s wayward seventies products. With Volkswagen’s serious cash inputs from the early 1990’s, the Czech brand has gained much strength, garnered popularity and has become a valuable asset to those in Wolfsburg. Continue reading “Amazing Faith”

Dyna from Dublin

Panhards, for a brief time at least were built in Ireland. You heard that right.

1963 Panhard PL17. (c) Veloce-Today

As Universal truths go, ‘history is written by the winners’, is up there with the best of them. However history is just as often written by the survivors – although this comes with the obvious and necessary proviso that to do so, one must first Continue reading “Dyna from Dublin”