Anniversary Waltz – Never Get Out of the Boat

“Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not, then they are enemies to be feared”.

Time.com

Dystopian paranoia and reactionary politics were the order of play as this turbulent decade faded out. Having become inured to kidnappings, airline hijackings and low-level terrorism, 1979 witnessed the Islamic revolution in Iran, the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, and the ascent to power of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. In Britain, Margaret Thatcher led the Conservative Party to power, proving Britain could Continue reading “Anniversary Waltz – Never Get Out of the Boat”

Nightcrawling

If you roam the streets at night, don’t be too surprised by what you encounter.

Image: The author

We have, on a number of occasions brought to light the manner in which the nocturnal streetscape can alter one’s perceptions, especially when it comes to the appreciation of automotive design. In some cases this can bring nuances to bear which might not have been as apparent in daylight. On the other hand, the fluorescent glare of street lighting can render a car in a manner somewhat less becoming.

Because just as a negative is the inverse of the photographic image, the nightscape can Continue reading “Nightcrawling”

Watching the (Grey) World Pass By

Armed with only a bun for sustenance, Andrew Miles indulges in a spot of colour watching. His observations are below.

(c) Switch my business

The supermarket can be an eminently dissonant place. A necessary evil; something of an endurance. But all is not lost, for as our usual café haunt was closed for refurbishment and as we had to visit the supermarket, we decided to invest in their facilities before commencing the weekly event of overfilling a metal trolley.

Luckily, this branch of J. Sainsbury’s is placed on stilts, so one parks underneath and the travellator moves you upwards bypassing the café which swiftly became my haven and inspiration for this little observation. 

Built on the corner of a very busy junction controlled by traffic lights, it afforded me an indulgence that happily entertained me for the twenty minutes or so it took to Continue reading “Watching the (Grey) World Pass By”

Anniversary Waltz 1989 – Tin Roof, Rusted

If you see a faded sign at the side of the road…

The B52s (c) Orlando Times

Formed in Athens Georgia in 1976, the US alt-surf-rock band The B52s had existed relatively contentedly on the peripheries of the contemporary music scene for a good decade and a half before a single taken from their 1989 album, Cosmic Thing propelled them into mainstream international chart success, and an element of immortality.

Written partly to recall their early years as impecunious art-loving musicians, and to honour their guitarist Ricky Wilson who had died in 1986 from a HIV-related illness, Love Shack was not so much the B52s shifting their retro-futurist sound and aesthetic to Continue reading “Anniversary Waltz 1989 – Tin Roof, Rusted”

Festive Teaser 3 – What’s the Car?

No, it’s not the opening to a joke, but another festive puzzle.

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A politician, a dog, and a gramophone record. Together they link to a significant mid-20th century saloon car. What’s the car? Continue reading “Festive Teaser 3 – What’s the Car?”

Lest One Forgets

The FIAT Uno was one of the biggest selling and most significant cars of the 1980s. Then, it was such a common sight that one barely took note.  Now, it’s invisible just because so few remain. Out of sight, out of mind; does anyone care anymore about the Uno?

2ea05_uno-980x984
Uno 3 door – a FIAT publicity shot which is either deeply ironic or aimed at demonstrating new levels of rust-proofing (Source: WheelsAge.org)

The 80’s was the decade when my interest in all things automobile really took hold. In 1983, I remember deciding to Continue reading “Lest One Forgets”

Formula Geordie

Motor racing is coming to Newcastle, courtesy of a former driver and the entrepreneurial spirit of a local lad made good. 

Where all great designs begin…

At exactly 7kms, the track resembles Spa-Francorchamps and contains elevations and sinuous curves inspired by famous tracks the world over. Totally unlike Spa, Geordie Raceway is devoid of trees. Or indeed much else for this track is to be built on the former Prudhoe muck stacks of yore. Questions there are many.

But let’s Continue reading “Formula Geordie”

Season’s Greetings

Yule understand if we’re a little preoccupied…

Image: Author’s collection

Whether you celebrated the occasion yesterday, are feverishly preparing to celebrate today, or choose not to celebrate it at all, we wish all our readers a contented, contemplative, fulfilling and indigestion-free festive break.

A very Merry Christmas from Driven to Write.

Dog’s Life

Last minute gift crisis? We’re here to help.

I like Christmas. Well, as much as I like breathing, it kind of happens and is all over if you blink after one too many sherries. Which I fully plan to enjoy. But the dismal commercial cash in grates heavily with me. Bored out of my brain with our latest shopping dash for something or other, (not nutmeg for once) my eyes searched for something which would allow me to Continue reading “Dog’s Life”

Anniversary Waltz 1999 – Pre Millennial Tension

Waltzing into a new Millennium.

(c) Brittania Row

As fireworks crackled over the midnight skies and the twentieth century was bid adieu, we peered hopefully, if somewhat tentatively into a technologically dominated future, on one hand embraced, yet quietly dreaded. At least amongst those who weren’t gleefully predicting, if not the end of days itself, then at least imminent technological catastrophe. Y2K, aka the millennium bug was (loosely speaking), a coding issue pertaining to the storage of calendar year data, meaning that the rollover to the year 2000 carried with it the potential for all manner of unsavoury consequences.

It was widely believed at the time that without adequate mitigation, Y2K could precipitate widespread system malfunctions, and in the most doom-laden scenario (of which there was no shortage at the time), the complete failure of the digital networks which were increasingly dominating our lives, to Continue reading “Anniversary Waltz 1999 – Pre Millennial Tension”

When Alfa Romeo Beat Bosch

The tale of CEM, Alfa Romeo’s in-house electronic engine management system, which redefined what was ‘state of the art’ in engine technology, outdoing Bosch with a fraction of its research budget. To no avail.

The 1983 Alfetta 2.0 CEM (c) wheelsage.org

The history of tailpipe emissions regulations started, as many may know, with the USA’s Clean Air Act of 1966. Alfa Romeo’s share of the US market was minuscule, but the engineers at the Milan HQ could see the writing on the wall: it was now just a matter of time before similar measures would be enacted in Europe as well.

The Italian company needed to find ways to Continue reading “When Alfa Romeo Beat Bosch”

Balancing Act

So much for theory, what was the Lybra actually like?

2002 Lancia Lybra 2.4 JTD

The heel of history can either be a marque’s greatest asset or an insufferable burden, and in the case of Lancia, we can safely deduce which of the two conditions has prevailed. Because amongst the time-honoured pitfalls of managing heritage brands is the inevitable temptation to revert to whatever nostrum of past glories management deem necessary or congruent.

Indeed, the moment a car brand is steered into the heritage category, alarm bells really ought to sound, since one could posit the view that it’s already well on its way to irrelevance and oblivion. Hence when Fiat Auto CEO, Roberto Testore pronounced in 1999 his view that Lancia’s image was confusing, he was tacitly admitting both his and his innumerable predecessor’s inability to either define Lancia’s identity or allow it to Continue reading “Balancing Act”

Elevated State

The Mark 2’s better bred cousin.

Daimler 2.5 litre V8. (c) carsaddiction

The British Daimler Motor Company (as opposed to the better-known German one) was one of the most venerable names in automobile history, tracing its roots back to 1896, and with a long-standing Royal warrant, amongst Britain’s most prestigious. Part of the Birmingham Small Arms (BSA) Group, a combine which incorporated military hardware, cars, commercials and motorcyles, by the mid 1950s the carmaking side of the business was starting to struggle against rising costs and stronger competition.

In 1956, Chairman, Sir Bernard Docker was forced to Continue reading “Elevated State”

EGV The Friendly Ghost

A peek under the cover at Mladá Boleslav’s design process.

All New Latest Exclusive Top Secret Undercover Groundbreaking Ghost Car Type 17. (c) Skodastoryboard.com

Car companies are rarely known for the philanthropy, charity work or comedy. Surely those who work within must see forms of any (or hopefully all) of these at some point. Making cars though is a serious business; livelihoods and reputations are at stake and those stakes are high. Thank goodness then for a small window opening into what is normally the most secretive of worlds – that of the prototype.

In this domain, security is king; no mobile phones, no contact with outsiders, no leaks to press. Over three hundred souls are committed to Continue reading “EGV The Friendly Ghost”

Under that Electric Glare – The 2020 ECotY shortlist

The 2020 European Car of the Year announcement is but three months away. As the shortlist is announced, DTW looks at the seven hopefuls.

Image: tannistest.com

Will we ever again experience the like of last year’s CotY final? Two desirable cars, well off the mainstream in affordability  and conventional functionality, race ahead of their run-of-the mill rivals to a dead heat.

When the winner is declared – on a frenzied count of first placings – its manufacturer is found to have no official representative at the Salon. Jaguar’s soon-to-retire styling chief, in Geneva on a day trip, steps up to Continue reading “Under that Electric Glare – The 2020 ECotY shortlist”

Anniversary Waltz 2009 – Crash!

We begin our review of cars we couldn’t write about this year, with a brief look back at 2009.

(c) New York Post

On a bright January afternoon in 2009, US Airways flight 1549 took off from New York’s La Guardia airport en-route to Seattle-Tacoma via Charlotte, Carolina. As the Airbus A320 climbed out of La Guardia airspace it struck a flock of Canada geese, instantly disabling both engines. Quickly deducing that the aircraft lacked sufficient airworthiness to attempt a conventional emergency landing, and fast running out of options, Captain Chesley B Sullenbeger, along with First Officer, Jeffrey Skiles, elected to Continue reading “Anniversary Waltz 2009 – Crash!”

Ferdinand’s Mexican Standoff

Herr Piëch, about that recent Lamborghini acquisition…. do you have a moment?

Lamboghini Latinoamerica Coatl.  (c) favcars.com

Desperate times sometimes call for desperate measures, but can result in unwise decisions. Lamborghini has never been a stranger to challenging episodes- the relatively young company having changed hands several times before eventually landing on safe ground within the VW group.

In 1995, Automobili Lamborghini was owned by MegaTech, an Indonesian company with (former Lotus CEO), Michael Kimberley at the helm. MegaTech had purchased Lamborghini from Chrysler for around 40 Million (USD) the year before but was having trouble making the enterprise Continue reading “Ferdinand’s Mexican Standoff”

Tilting the Scales (3)

In this concluding piece, we consider the Lybra’s appearance and ponder its ultimate fate.

(c) Quattroruote

So much for the underpinnings. The dealers’ main worry had been the styling, which had been a fraught process throughout. At the start of the project, proposals from the Enrico Fumia-led Centro Stile, Leonardo Fioravanti, and the I.DE.A consultancy had been evaluated. Team Fumia’s 1992 design was thematically similar to – if visually richer than – the outgoing Dedra, also marrying obvious cues from the forthcoming 1995 Y supermini. Elements of the design also reflected the Fessia era, but in a broadly contemporary manner. Overall, it was an attractive proposal, somewhat reminiscent of Peugeot’s subsequent 406, if perhaps a little derivative in certain respects. Continue reading “Tilting the Scales (3)”

Tata Enigma

A mysterious city car concept, allegedly created by Tata Motors, may possibly be the final creation of one of the titans of automotive design. Or could it? 

(c) motorauthority

Officially, Marcello Gandini didn’t exactly bow out on a high note. The Stola S86 Diamante’s appearance was challenging for all the wrong reasons: Unveiled in 2005, his second design for Stola looked both clumsy, old-fashioned and rather unaccomplished – one could even be led to say: unprofessional. It marked the final time a car designed by the great Gandini was publicly unveiled.

As an end note to a career that had resulted in shapes which changed the craft of automotive design forever, the Stola S86 Diamante’s sole saving grace was its ability to Continue reading “Tata Enigma”

Cars That Could Have Been Citroëns – 1981 Mercedes Auto 2000

Three pointed stars and chevrons are mutually exclusive. Or are they?

(c) mercedes-benz-passion

A Mercedes that could have been a Citroën? Surely, DTW’s acting editor has taken leave of his senses. But please bear with me. Because while this vehicle is every inch a product of Stuttgart-Sindelfingen, could there be enough double chevron goodness sprinkled over this concept for it to form part of this unique to DTW series of chevronesque curiosities?

The background to the Auto 2000 lay in a late-1970s initiative laid down by the German government to Continue reading “Cars That Could Have Been Citroëns – 1981 Mercedes Auto 2000”

State Of Contraction

The S-Type’s star quickly faded. We trace why and examine Utah’s final iterations.

(c) Curbside Classic

When Sir William Lyons made his hectic dash to Browns Lane to begin stylistic work for the S-Type facelift in October 1965, it was not only the act of a true autocrat, but one who was coming face to face with some home truths.

During the early 1960s, Jaguar had expanded, diversifying into commercial vehicles; encompassing trucks, buses and forklifts. These were, on the face of things, sound, viable businesses, providing the potential for additional revenue and an astute opportunity to Continue reading “State Of Contraction”

Tilting the Scales : (2)

As the crisis-torn Lybra programme came under microscopic scrutiny, longstanding Lancia engineer Bruno Cena took responsibility for its salvation. 

(c) bozhdynsky

Cena, a talented engineer who came to mainstream attention for his work on the dynamic setup of the Alfa Romeo 156, was a self-described ‘Uomo Lancia’ from way back. Joining Fiat in the early 1970s, he had moved to Lancia in 1978, working under Ing. Camuffo on the initial stages of the Type Four project.

Appointed head of four-wheel drive development for the marque in 1984, he was promoted to head of Lancia development two years later, and given responsibility for vehicle testing across Fiat, Lancia and Alfa Romeo in 1991. In October 1996, he was made Fiat Auto’s ‘D-platform’ director – just in time to Continue reading “Tilting the Scales : (2)”

Škoda by Stefani

Former Škoda designer, Jozef Kabaň has been in the news of late, but what of his successor at Mladá Boleslav?

The man himself – twice. (c) Škoda-storyboard.com

It’s two years since Jozef Kabaň left Škoda to be subsumed into the shadows at Rolls Royce (will we see or hear from him again? Well, yes as he’s now back with VW…) leaving the gap to be filled by German-born Oliver Stefani. In that time, he’s had plenty to get stuck into, Škoda Auto A.S. becoming rather prolific in pumping out model after model and whilst Kabaň’s input is obviously still there, Stefani’s style is now beginning to Continue reading “Škoda by Stefani”

Tilting the Scales : (1)

Fables of the reconstruction: Another inglorious tale of Lancia.

(c) autodata1

It would hardly be inaccurate to suggest that under Fiat Auto’s purview, Lancia was never Job #1. In fact, it has been an awfully long time since the presence of Lancia earned more than a grudging acknowledgment and a, “Huh, is that still around?” grimace from Elkann’s crew. Would that we knew it at the time, but the restructuring of the marque’s residual engineering independence into the Fiat Group morass towards the end of the 1980s was, in hindsight, the harbinger for the extinguishing of Lancia’s brief revival in the ‘executive set’ ranks under Fiat ownership.

Certainly, within a decade, matters had reversed dramatically, Lancia’s record levels of production at the beginning of the nineties an already-distant memory. With sales of its larger models having almost entirely collapsed outside its native Italy, the brand was carried then – as now – by the indefatigable Y. Continue reading “Tilting the Scales : (1)”

The God of Fire at the Seaside (3)

Concluding our trip to the West coast, we return, demob happy to the Vulcan story.

The rather sinister sounding (to me) C.B. Wardman took over reins of a changed name again: Vulcan Motor Engineering, and at the close of hostilities bought a football club. Thus Southport Vulcan entered the football league as the first sponsored club. This was yet another short lived affair as the Football Association banned the club because of that very sponsorship; Southport FC returned.

Speaking of returns, cars as well as commercial vehicles were built once again but in 1919 under a different guise, that of a consortium of manufacturers under the title British Motor Trading Corporation with Harper Bean being the majority shareholder. The plan was for the Vulcan side to Continue reading “The God of Fire at the Seaside (3)”

Breaking Waves

A backwards glance at the current state of the estate.

Image: beverly hills lingual institute

Who amongst our serried ranks of global carmakers currently makes a genuine estate car? By this I mean a recognisably car-like utility-ish vehicle with a useful, practical fully enclosed load bay which can be enlarged by folding the rear passenger seats; one that isn’t an MPV, some kind of glorified-shooting brake with vaguely sporting pretentions or heaven help us all, a crossover or SUV.

Times and tastes change, and we must all Continue reading “Breaking Waves”

NewsGrab

We don’t do a lot of this on DTW, but here’s a brief roundup of the (UK-centric) news highlights from w/e 6/12/19.

Hotwheels? (c) Jaguar.com

December is generally a quiet time of the year for most carmakers, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s all tumbling weeds within the automotive universe. But rather than highlight any one aspect, let us take this opportunity to Continue reading “NewsGrab”

A Ship Called Dignity

Pride cometh before a fall. 

Proudia to meet you. Hope you guessed my name. (c) wheelsage

In more innocent times when Lexus was but a glint in the Toyota board’s eye, our collective impression of full-sized Japanese luxury saloons probably looked something a good deal more like this. Not precisely of course, since this particular duo debuted a full decade after Toyota’s creative moonshot, but Mitsubishi’s 1999 flagship was both in name and appearance very much JDM plutocratic business as usual.

As such, European (or American for that matter) nostrums of luxury to say nothing of prestige car semantics were quite obviously deemed not only unnecessary, but inappropriate. Sober and imposing was what the domestic market expected and in both Proudia and Dignity models, sobriety and imposition was what they got. Continue reading “A Ship Called Dignity”

The God of Fire at the Seaside (2)

In this second instalment, we turn to the story of Vulcan. 

(c) T. Shambrook

At a similar time to Lea, the Hampson brothers, Thomas and Joseph were setting up their business just East of Liverpool in the town of Wigan. Young Thomas was a keen pupil at Bolton Technical college in the late nineteenth century. Both brothers were mad for motoring; an article from the Wigan Reporter dated September 1899 stating that Joseph had been fined 40 shillings for “driving a motor car to the danger of passengers!” Sadly it is not stated as to what vehicle he was driving nor what happened to his passengers.

Misdemeanours notwithstanding, the brothers had an idea to Continue reading “The God of Fire at the Seaside (2)”

The God of Fire at the Seaside (1)

Walking the lesser trod pathways of the UK motor industry, so you don’t have to, Andrew Miles profiles pioneering Liverpudlians, Lea and Vulcan.

(c) mytransportblog.com.

The English Northwest is more associated with other kinds of industry. Mills for cloth, wool, but pioneering car factories? Like many others in the Victorian era, Liverpool, long known as a port and Southport a seaside resort, prospered. This being DTW, we’re not here for fish, chips, the Beatles or a stroll along the pier; Southport (and its environs) had a car production past.

William Lea was an early adopter of the motor car. Born in Cheshire in 1845, he moved to Liverpool in his early twenties and over his 77 years, had eleven children to three wives. Making his money through the sale of musical instruments with his Pianoforte and Organ Warehouse in Liverpool centre (not as unusual a starting point for a career in the motor business as one might otherwise imagine), his focus was always on satisfying the customer. Continue reading “The God of Fire at the Seaside (1)”

State of Independence

We return to Utah, examining its third significant iteration.

(c) Jaglovers

Right up to the late 1960s, Jaguar product planning operated very much on the whim of what its founder considered necessary. Constantly seeking a competitive advantage, Lyons would latch onto an engineering or stylistic innovation and would not be satisfied until it was brought to fruition. Needless to say, this caused no end of headaches for the engineers and technicians tasked with making them a reality.

Legend has it that in 1957, Sir William, making his daily rounds of the factory, arrived at Bob Knight’s small office in experimental. In passing, he shares his view that Jaguar ought to develop an independent rear suspension and asks Mr Knight how long it would take to Continue reading “State of Independence”

He’s Behind You!

Great news everyone; it’s pantomime season and who better to kick off this most joyous of entertainments than Tesla?

The Cybertruck desperately seeking the stage exit. (c) Tesla

I’m sorry to sound rather curmudgeonly. I actually like pantomime. It’s as much for the adults as the kids with a little innuendo, some (not so) subtle jokes and plenty of genuine laughs. As for the season, well, the curmudgeon levels within me-rise. As age creeps ever on I see less appeal in Christmas and more irritation.

All through the year, we get dragged into things we don’t wish to deal with yet somehow in December, everything has to be completed before the 25th, as though the world may Continue reading “He’s Behind You!”

You Shall Go to the Ball

French designer, Tristan Auer reimagines Citroën’s CX Prestige, delivering something unique and rather special.

© Amaury Laparra for Tristan Auer/ Classic Driver

The Hôtel de Crillon on the Place de la Concorde has been something of a Paris institution, at least for those well-heeled enough to stay there, since it opened to the public in 1907. The neoclassical 18th century palace – one of a matching pair situated at the famous Paris landmark – was built in 1758 and through its history, saw its fair share of drama, not least of which was its use by the post-revolutionary French government as a place to Continue reading “You Shall Go to the Ball”