Weekend Reissue – Taking Sides

When it comes to matters of symmetry, DTW takes the centre ground.

Syncopated rhythm.  (c) Autoweek

 Back in the early days of Driven to Write, when life was more innocent and we hadn’t entirely lost the run of ourselves, we had both the time and the inclination to exercise our more whimsical thoughts, impressions and observations, at length.

Our cloth is cut a little more snugly nowadays, I regret to note, but what cannot be altered must, as I’m sure any tailor can agree, must Continue reading “Weekend Reissue – Taking Sides”

Thirty Minutes

Andrew Miles takes the M1 to model nirvana.

(c) thetruthaboutcars.com

Scrubs up well for a forty year old. She’s kept her figure, had her wild years, now slowly gravitating toward middle age with maturity and style. 

As a child I was mesmerised by the BASF colour scheme on the BMW M1. The car screams out speed, aggression, power; language that only red can truly deliver. The white circles emanate a sense of power, creating reflections akin to water ripples or the blast wave of an explosion, placed on the bodywork at jaunty angles.

Maybe on my tenth birthday the model arrived, not to be raced or hurled into the garden with abandon. No, this Red Devil was for cherishing, made centre stage, set apart from all those lesser model cars; pretty well untouched. My memory does not serve me well, did I Continue reading “Thirty Minutes”

Big Time

Further observations on Lexus’ 1989 gamechanger.

(c) : carsguide.com.au

Attempting to second-guess the United States customer has been the rock innumerable carmakers have perished upon over the past fifty years or so. It ought to be quite simple really. Large capacity engines, plenty of equipment, a sense of visual definition or style coupled with ease of operation. Durability too, since vehicles are likely to do large mileages in often hostile climatic conditions amid owners sometimes averse (it’s been alleged) to the prospect of preventative maintenance.

So much for generalisations, but those who have wilted under America’s often unyielding glare have largely failed to sufficiently cover the basics. Not so the Japanese, who like the Europeans before them learnt the hard way not only how difficult the US market can be to crack, but also how lucrative it could be if you Continue reading “Big Time”

An Afternoon Like Dusk – The 604 Story, Pt. 9

It’s time to round off this short examination of a much-respected, iconic car.

(c) carjager

The 604’s particular failing, being composed of elements from a cheaper, older design, was not unique. There were other cars which attempted to make something rich out of what might be considered lesser ingredients. The main difference, which dignifies the 604, is that Peugeot made a very good job of this expediency.

People rather liked the car and it sold decently (153,266 units in total) until the 505 arrived, which itself was partly made of 604 components. The 604 is therefore unique in the pantheon of sow’s ear cars. The Lincoln Versailles of 1977 was based on the US-market Ford Granada and is a legend in the lore of marketing cynicism. Ford wanted a smaller Lincoln to Continue reading “An Afternoon Like Dusk – The 604 Story, Pt. 9”

Finally, Ott

Andrew Miles dons his Rally jacket in praise of the WRC.

Who said a Yaris can’t fly? (c) Motorsport.com.

For the past fifteen years, should you be named Sébastien and you hailed from France, you were World Rally Champion. No-one got else got a look in. Some came agonisingly close, but nine championships went to Sébastien Loeb whilst the other six fell Sébastien Ogier’s way. 

That is until late in October in Catalunya, when rally fans the world over witnessed a new dawn. Ott Tänak from Estonia was the new boss, finally. And then promptly four days later informed the world he was to Continue reading “Finally, Ott”

Moonshot

In 1989, Toyota shot for the moon. Cars will never be made like this again.

(c) carsbase

We choose to go to the moon in this decade, and do these other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” These are the much quoted words of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy in 1962, pledging his country’s commitment for the Apollo space mission.

The Apollo programme cost $billions and was only a qualified success, insofar as it did not precipitate a more widespread and far-reaching programme of space exploration. It did however succeed in demonstrating what the American government could do when the finest minds were provided with almost unlimited resources to Continue reading “Moonshot”

Sublime to Ridiculous

Taking lessons in style and taste from Japan. 

(c) Lexus.com

Today’s Sunday sermon comes as something of a compare and contrast. Admittedly it also lays itself open to accusations of shooting fish in a barrel, but I’m prepared to take that risk. Here at Driven to Write, we have something of a soft spot for underdogs. However, some are more equal than others, and in the case of Lexus and in particular, the flagship LC 500, its continued lack of appeal to European eyes is mystifying.

In the year to June, the LC posted perhaps the greatest sales drop (58.5%) of any make or model across Europe. Which is proof, if proof were required that people’s taste is in their… well, perhaps you ought to Continue reading “Sublime to Ridiculous”

Quicksilver

In 1995, Honda displayed two distinct and distinctive roadster concepts. Did they make the right choice?

1995 SSM Concept. (c) innermobil

In 1995, Pininfarina, in conjunction with Honda – who enjoyed a long-term relationship with the carrozzeria, presented Argento Vivo, a purely conceptual two-seater roadster. Designed very much in the classic idiom, Argento Vivo (as the name suggested) employed aluminium for its extruded substructure and its upper body cladding – the resultant weight loss intended to allow for the use of smaller-capacity engines than might otherwise be considered.

There was little meaningful correlation between them it seems, (although there were reports of Pininfarina putting Argento Vivo into small-scale production), but the very same year, Honda themselves debuted a two-seat concept at that year’s Tokyo motor show, dubbed the Honda Sports Study Model (SSM for short). A more determinably ‘Japanese’, modernist and conclusively less romantic shape than that that of the Italians, SSM was created at the carmaker’s Wako Design Centre near Tokyo; Honda stating that it showcased “the company at its innovative best applying state of art solutions to Continue reading “Quicksilver”

Herding a Dromedary’s Lost Siblings (2)

We conclude our Global tour of Méhari-derivatives.

(c) PT Alun

FAF, Portugal 

The acronym FAF stands for “Facile A Fabriquer – Facile A Financer” (Easy to build, easy to fund). FAF was Citroën’s official response to the Baby Brousse that predated it. The aim was to have a range of vehicles based on the “A” platform intended for assembly in developing countries with limited -or no- resources and experience in producing cars.

The first FAFs were produced in 1973 in Portugal but later, factories were opened in Guinée Bissau, Central African Republic, Senegal and Indonesia. There were six available bodystyles: a Saloon, 3-door Estate, Van, Pick Up, 4×4, and a Runabaout in Méhari fashion. The 4×4 version was purchased by the Portuguese army and saw action in the Angolan civil war. Continue reading “Herding a Dromedary’s Lost Siblings (2)”

Altered States

Examining Utah’s transitory visual life.

(c) jaglovers.org

The Jaguar iconography was founded upon a small number of significant characteristics, but of these, visual appeal was perhaps the most crucial – and certainly the most obvious. For any car design to succeed in the marketplace, and to do so for an extended period of time, this appeal must be apparent, not only from the outset, but be capable of being maintained throughout a lengthy production run.

Fortunately, in Sir William Lyons, Jaguar had an arbiter of form, line, proportion and more importantly still, taste, which gave the carmaker a significant edge over both domestic and non-domestic rivals. However if Lyons had been a chef, he would have been one who had himself never cooked a meal, yet could still Continue reading “Altered States”

Herding a Dromedary’s Lost Siblings (1)

Citröen’s Méhari was a far more fecund species than one might have imagined. We plot the mutations. 

Original of the species. (c) avengers in time

From the mid-seventies until sometime in the following decade, I spent most summer holidays with my family at my uncle’s second home in Les Marines de Cogolin near St. Tropez. Being in my early teens at the time, amongst the things I always looked forward to -apart from the usual French Riviera attractions – was getting to ride along to get groceries and bread in the Citroën Méhari they had at their disposal for local errands.

I can still Continue reading “Herding a Dromedary’s Lost Siblings (1)”

The Big Idea

Who were I.D.E.A anyway? 

(c) auto-forever

And then there were four. 

Once dominated by the twin pillars of Bertone and Pininfarina, the leading Italian car-design consultancies found their hegemony (and profitability) threatened by the dramatic arrival during the early 1970s of a precocious interloper by the name of Giorgetto Giugiaro. His ItalDesign consultancy quickly established itself as a formidable adversary, capable of delivering turnkey projects in both product design and engineering.

A decade or so later, and seemingly just as abruptly, another significant player entered the field. By the tail end of the 1980s, the Institute of Development in Automotive Engineering (I.D.E.A) was going head to head with the big-hitting Italian carrozzeiri, having gained the patronage of Fiat with perhaps the largest and most ambitious vehicle programme in its history. Yet they appeared to have arrived from nowhere. Continue reading “The Big Idea”

An Afternoon Like Dusk – The 604 Story, Pt. 8

And so we turn to the matter of the 604’s image and fate.

(c) momentcar

 

The 604’s history reveals how the buyers of the 1970s were less constrained by expectations of brands. What one notices in the reviews from the time of the 604’s launch is that there isn’t a single mention of image. Today motoring writers have internalised perceptions of what constitutes a desirable car: it is what others might also desire.

Even if a particular model is objectively deemed to meet measurable expectations one can find remarks to the effect that the car lacks image, or the brand has insufficient appeal. Quite simply journalists now would never put a large, powerful and luxuriously equipped Peugeot into a test with similar vehicles from established prestige marques simply because it isn’t deemed to be a prestige brand.

But in 1977 Car compared the 604 to competitors from Mercedes and BMW, a test the 604 won quite convincingly. There were no caveats. A modern reviewer would almost certainly be under compulsion to Continue reading “An Afternoon Like Dusk – The 604 Story, Pt. 8”

Top-Line, Entry Level

DTW once again abases itself at the bottom rung.

Image: The Author

I am no expert when it comes to the subject of car design, lacking as I do the in-depth knowledge, training, vocabulary, or indeed, ‘eye’ to interrogate or illuminate a car’s form in a truly meaningful manner – mercifully, others upon these pages are better placed to do just that.

Nevertheless, I do spend more time than is either productive or conducive to a healthy mind (or body) studying cars and attempting to Continue reading “Top-Line, Entry Level”

The Fate of Empires

“Black Badge is for those who reject conformity and live life on their own terms. It’s for the innovators, trailblazers, rulebreakers – and above all – those who dare.” Rolls Royce Motors.

Be indoors by nightfall… Black Badge Cullinan, recently. (c) Autocar

The highly decorated former British soldier, subsequent historian and writer, Lieutenant-General Sir John Bagot Glubb published his noted essay, The Fate of Empires and Search for Survival in 1978. Having spent over forty years in the British army observing England’s Glorious Empire wither into insignificance, he was probably well placed to Continue reading “The Fate of Empires”

Euro Standard

The 1989 Dedra brought Latin style and a more competent package to the compact executive segment. Sadly, it left behind a few more pressing concerns.

(c) carsfromitaly

Italians have never needed to be convinced that a luxury car could also be a compact car. With a land and cityscape which militated against corpulence and a taxation system which proscribed large-capacity engines, Italian carmakers made something of an art out of geographical and fiscal necessity.

As artforms went however, it wasn’t the most expressive, the post-war Italian upmarket berlina conforming to a degree of visual rectitude that was almost flamboyant in its subtlety. Foremost amongst its exponents was Lancia. From the Ardea, its Appia successor, to the seminal Fulvia, these saloons gave the upwardly mobile a refined, well engineered and reassuringly patrician vehicle – one which could Continue reading “Euro Standard”

The Quiet Revolution

Our Northern correspondent gets off his trolley.

trolleybus
(c) Bancroftsofyorkshire.blogspot.com

Not wishing for one moment to hasten the demise of our favoured personal transport, we must take into account the future. With planners believing we’re all to live in mega cities and have no need to own or run a car, we seek out alternatives and as is so often the way, we must look to the past to see the future.

In March 1972, the last of the UK’s once huge trolley bus network was hooked down from the frog* in Bradford, West Yorkshire. Neighbouring Leeds toyed with resurrecting such a wild idea in the early 2000’s but came to nought. A sixty year fling with this curious hybrid (that ironically had started in Bradford), of an omnibus and a railed, electrified tram was deemed non-standard and the spiders web of must-be-followed grid was removed, never to Continue reading “The Quiet Revolution”

Taming the Cat

Four years in and Utah gets a hard reboot.

(c) Jaglovers

The compact Jaguar saloons were landmark cars for the company and did much to raise the carmaker’s profile and profitability, but in its first generation form it was not a model which Browns Lane engineering staff viewed with terrific pride, owing to a number of significant compromises buried beneath its shapely envelope.

As development progressed upon the more powerful 3.4 litre version, the handling deficiencies consequent to its narrow rear track (acceptable in the lighter, lower powered car, but less so here), forced engineers to Continue reading “Taming the Cat”

Driven, Written: Maserati Quattroporte V (2008)

A flawed masterpiece is still a work of art, as our German correspondent discovers in Maserati’s most comely of four-door models.

Sometimes, one can win the lottery without ever having to enter. As on the occasion of our recent trip to Antwerp, when we weren’t at the mercy of the Rental Car Lottery, but had, thanks to a generous friend, a confirmed reservation for the front seats of a car I’d always admired – the Maserati Quattroporte V, also known as Tipo M139 in marque parlance.

First unveiled in 2003, the Quattroporte V re-established the model at the luxurious end of the performance car market, after its immediate predecessor had gone for a more unusual/contrived positioning. As originally developed by Ferrari, Tipo M139 was initially available only with the kind of sequential gearbox Modenese engineers were besotted with in those days. The inherent clunkiness and appalling lack of refinement of this set-up did little for the sales prospect of a model that was otherwise deemed spot-on for its brand and intended market.

The example we sampled during our 1400 kilometre trip across western Europe was, thankfully, a later Sport GT model, which means it was equipped with a more mundane, yet far more serviceable ZF torque-converter six-speed auto. The Ferrari-based V8 engine’s output remained unchanged though, at 400 hp.

To get the most obvious points out of the way quickly, I feel compelled to Continue reading “Driven, Written: Maserati Quattroporte V (2008)”

An afternoon like dusk: The 604 story, Pt. 7

Today, we turn our attention to the 604’s cabin.

1975 Peugeot 604 dashboard

A great deal of attention is paid to the exterior of cars though the interior is where we spend our time as drivers and passengers. For the 604 Peugeot had, for at least some of the time, the services of Paul Bracq. In the 60s he oversaw some of Mercedes-Benz’s finest vehicle exteriors, the ones that people think of when they think of a Mercedes (our image of these cars is four decades out of date). They are chromed, formal, upright, solid and faultless.

It is ironic then that Bracq arrived at Peugeot too late to perhaps do more than Continue reading “An afternoon like dusk: The 604 story, Pt. 7”

Suffering The Dee Tee’s

When the shakes get real bad, I like to reach for a tried and tested medium, a mechanism that’s bound to work; the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters.

Like the road car this comes with no indicators. (c) Auto sport.pt.

The 2019 season has concluded and without beating about the bush, German fellow René Rast who pilots an Audi RS5 DTM was crowned champion. With seven victories, thirteen podium visits and 322 accrued points, his preparation along with exemplary teamwork proved decisive over the eighteen races.

Like most racing drivers on the TV he appears amiable, that is until it all goes wrong when he can surprise the unwary commentary team or home viewer with just how many English expletives a German can vehemently put across. Apology accepted, heat of the moment, although who taught you that word, René?

The investment and pressures on teams and drivers are huge which is why salaries and sacrifices are equally so. I’d argue detrimental to health though it’s all too easy to Continue reading “Suffering The Dee Tee’s”

The Cost of Entry

Here’s one you won’t find in the brochure.

The disappointing reality. Entry level.  (c) DTW

We’ve all experienced it at some point in our lives, have we not? You want something so badly, you feel there’s almost no privation you wouldn’t endure to obtain it. Rationality be damned; even to the point of detriment, just as long as you Continue reading “The Cost of Entry”

Long Term Test: No Longer Surprising Skoda (Part 3)

In the final part of our ownership experience review of the Skoda Octavia Estate, we discuss service intervals, sloths and dodgy DRLs.

Skoda Estelle (5) honest john
They don’t make them like this any more. The glorious Estelle (did the lady with the bag forget the handbrake?). (Source: Honest John)

Living with the Skoda Octavia is a pretty pain-free affair.  As mentioned previously, it’s very parsimonious with respect to fuel consumption, it’s comfortable and spacious to sit in and drive, it rides well enough (with a decent level of pliancy), and it’s reasonably quiet.

The Skoda has also been pretty reliable – but not flawless.

I’ll start with the niggles. The Tyre Pressure Monitor Sensors (TPMS) are irritatingly sensitive, and I feel like I have had an ongoing battle with them.  The near-side rear, in particular, goes off every other journey, and yet every time I check it, it’s only within 1 or maximum 2 PSI of where it should be. I have had the Skoda service centre have a look at it on many occasions and they can never Continue reading “Long Term Test: No Longer Surprising Skoda (Part 3)”

Pioneer State

The 1955 Jaguar 2.4 was overshadowed by its successor, but in many regards, was a more significant car in Jaguar’s evolution as a serious carmaker.

jaguar-mark-one-1
(c) jaglovers

In 1955, Jaguar committed their most ambitious act up to that point with the introduction of the 2.4, an all-new, compact saloon of a sporting mien – every inch a Jaguar, but no hand-down version of its larger sibling. Far from it, because despite the announcement the same year of the revolutionary Citroen DS19, the compact Jaguar was probably as advanced a product as could reasonably be envisaged from what was then a low-volume, specialist carmaker.

Initiated around 1953/4, the Utah (in Jaguar parlance) compact saloon programme would mark their first departure from traditional body-on-frame construction to a stressed unitary bodyshell. Owing to uncertainty over its strength, two stout chassis legs ran the length of the floorpan, rearmost of which (beneath the rear seatpan) would house the mountings for the unusual inverted cantilever semi-elliptic springs, so devised to Continue reading “Pioneer State”

An afternoon like dusk – The 604 story, Pt. 6

Deep breath. I don’t think the 604’s styling has been given this level of consideration before.

(c) blog-moteur

Peugeot had a long standing relationship with carrozzeria Pininfarina, who prepared the basic design of the the 604. As was typical for Pininfarina, the design owed as much to other work they had done as it did to the character of their actual clients’ cars.

The exterior design was by what we might call the school of Paulo Martin, designer of the Fiat 130 coupé and Rolls-Royce Camargue. The record is not clear on the matter of authorship but a clear affinity among these cars can be seen in the angularity of the surface transitions and the flatness of the panels. Continue reading “An afternoon like dusk – The 604 story, Pt. 6”

Don’t Look Now

As the World begins to face up to a growing climate emergency, the motor industry illustrates just how tone-deaf it has become.

Decadence: defined as a state of decay; a decline from a superior state, derived from the Latin, décadentia (dé denoting down and cadere, to fall)

The question of social responsibility is one with which carmakers have been (vainly) grappling for some considerable time now. Indeed, what little has been shown up to now appears to have been jettisoned by many in a heedless dash for market dominance.

This decadent spiral has (as we have previously discussed) taken corporeal form in the wholesale embrace of needlessly aggressive visual tropes and ‘to-hell-with-it’ consumption, and nowhere has this state been more vividly illustrated than amongst the three foremost rival German prestige marques; excesses not simply embodied in the vehicles these carmakers serve up, but also in the manner in which they Continue reading “Don’t Look Now”

Confronting Thanatophobia

Could your car be trying to tell you something?

(c) Vancello blog hu

Research has shown that the number one fear for most people is speaking in public. Fear of death (thanatophobia) comes second – or as comedian Jerry Seinfeld once concluded: “That means for most that they would rather be in the casket than reading the eulogy“.

Still, fear of death is pervasive enough to generate superstition in many forms around the world. In some cultures this effect is stronger than in others and it can be so powerful as to force car manufacturers to Continue reading “Confronting Thanatophobia”

Small Plates

Rounding out our Costa del Sol observations with a tapas of varied local delicacies.

Given that Sundays are intended to be days of rest, rather than framing any over-riding narrative, I’m presenting these automotive gleanings largely without much by way of comment and even less of insight.

Firstly, we find a current generation Fiat Panda. Nothing of terrific note here, you might say and I might even agree, but isn’t that Tangerine colour marvellous? An added bonus being the Jade green of the Ford Focus in the background – a handy nod to Green Car Bingo of distant memory. Continue reading “Small Plates”

All Sound and Fury

Today’s Andalucían postscript is Seat’s shortlived Fura. What, if anything can it signify?

When Seat parted from its Italian benefactor and fell into the arms of Wolfsburg, it was necessary to place some distance between the two former partners. So while prior to the severance of connubial relations, all Seat models simply took the equivalent Fiat nameplate (or number), from around 1981/2, Seat products would have (to varying degrees) their own, distinctly Spanish identity. Continue reading “All Sound and Fury”

Chromed Eyelashes And Fingernails Of Steel

Your erstwhile correspondent took a short trip to Grenoble recently and couldn’t resist making a report for your edification and delight.

Some semi-interesting things crossed my path while exploring Savoy, part of the western Alps. However, it surprised me that some I cars I expected to see did not turn up. I did my level best to Continue reading “Chromed Eyelashes And Fingernails Of Steel”