Turn Your Heels to the Shade and Shuffle Down the Lane, Peggy

Think about the tear-stained debates about whether Jaguar should offer a diesel. Or the debate as to whether BMW and Co. should sell hatchbacks. Or the switch to front drive (and back).

Unthinkable: bmwblog.co.uk

What these discussions have in common is that they relate to the “tension between consistency and relevance”. That is the title of a paper from the J. Acad. Mark. Sci which I have been reading. The authors are Beverland, M. et al who relate design thinking and brand ambidexterity as a means to allow companies to Continue reading “Turn Your Heels to the Shade and Shuffle Down the Lane, Peggy”

Show and Tell (Part Two)

A further nostalgic journey through motor shows past, courtesy of Bruno Vijverman and his Nikons.

All images via the author

Geneva 1991

A surprise debut that year by Bentley’s Continental R; the car was brought to Switzerland in secret and driven onto the stand. In those pre-internet days, you could still organise something like this without being caught out by a blogger’s camera phone.

Alfa Romeo provided a preview of the upcoming 916 series GTV and Spider with the Proteo concept car. It was built on a shortened 164 platform and featured four wheel drive as well as then very much en vogue four wheel steering. Meanwhile, the Chubasco was centre point of the Maserati display; the Gandini-styled V8 mid engined sportscar was set to Continue reading “Show and Tell (Part Two)”

History Lesson

Failing to learn from experience only condemns you to repeat your errors.

(c) motorbase

By the mid-1970’s it was abundantly clear that the Chrysler 160/180/2-Litre was a flop. Launched in 1970 under a marque name with no resonance in Europe, the big Avenger was regarded with indifference by the market and sales were disappointing to the point of embarrassment. However, the large saloon segment in which the car sold was growing healthily, with cars like the Ford Granada, Audi 100 and Rover SD1 selling profitably in good numbers. Chrysler wanted a slice of the action, so plans for a successor were initiated.

The new model was developed under the C9 project code name. Like its predecessor, the C9 would be styled in Coventry and engineered and built in Poissy. Early sketches for the design showed a large, three-box saloon with smooth, unadorned flanks, a deep six-light glasshouse and low waistline.  Some fashionable aero elements were incorporated, such as partly enclosed rear wheels and a faired-in front end, with the number plate and headlamps covered by a Perspex panel, not unlike the Citroën SM. These details were intended to give the car the distinctive character that was lacking in its bland predecessor.

Chrysler’s US executives thought the initial design too radical for a conservative market sector (notwithstanding the Rover SD1’s popularity) and ordered it to Continue reading “History Lesson”

Lost In Translation

Crewe over-eggs the pudding.

(c) Autocar

Whilst the maker upon the end of this particular skewer cannot be held responsible for the quietening of the world, they’ve hardly brought anything positive to the table of late either. Values, like fashion and opinions, can change rapidly, and not always for the better. In a world obsessed by communication, attempting to Continue reading “Lost In Translation”

A Sense of Place

Today, we venture outdoors, virtually speaking, to take the air in Ascona.

The other Ascona

It’s probably fair to say that for most of us, the notion of escape is currently a seductive one – particularly to somewhere sparsely populated, picturesque and relatively pristine. Alpine vistas loom large in the imagination, perhaps somewhere akin to the attractive Swiss resort of Ascona, as pictured above.

When DTW was in its first flush and Mr. Kearne’s dipsomaniacal tendencies hadn’t drained the coffers entirely, Places formed one of our monthly themes, and amid the varied offerings from DTW’s writers that month, we considered Ascona and its (probably tenuous) relationship to the Opel saloon model series of the same name. Continue reading “A Sense of Place”

NewsGrab

A selection of news stories from the week ending 25 April 2020.

Coming soon to a dystopian landscape near you. (c) completecar.ie

When the current viral unpleasantness began to take effect, a swift (and entirely virtual) meeting took place with Driven to Write’s editorial team (such as it is), where it was agreed that the site would, for the time being at least, offer a C-19-free zone to our readers. After all, there’s enough catastrophe out there in the world, is there not?

Today’s offering therefore presents the writer with something of a dilemma. How does one Continue reading “NewsGrab”

Contrasting Fortunes (Part Two)

We conclude the story of the Avenger and 160/180/2-Litre and their very different fates. 

(c) autocar

The C-Car programme that would ultimately become the Chrysler 160/180/2-Litre* ran in parallel with the B-Car Avenger, under the supervision of Rootes Design Director Roy Axe. The initial plan was to offer the C-Car in three variants; a base 1.8 litre Hillman version to replace the top-line Hunter models, a 2.0 litre version carrying the Sunbeam marque and a 2.5 litre version to replace the Humber Hawk. A stretched D-Car variant was also envisaged to Continue reading “Contrasting Fortunes (Part Two)”

Late Reprieve

The 9-4X arrived too late to save Saab. But could it have done so?

(c) motortrend

When General Motors acquired Saab, they were not taking control of a healthy, thriving carmaker. Saab was already losing money and furthermore, required massive investment. It’s clear that GM made many mistakes over its stewardship, but perhaps the most glaring of them was (and GM were by no means alone in this) a growth policy which placed speed and market presence over quality of execution.

Having spent vast sums of money acquiring European prestige car brands, General Motors, like their Dearborn rivals saw expansion as the favoured route to Continue reading “Late Reprieve”

Show and Tell…

Bruno Vijverman takes us on a guided tour through motor shows past. 

All images by the author

With current restrictions affecting millions of us worldwide, the change of circumstance has presented other opportunities – the rediscovery of the value of closer and more frequent interaction with our loved ones, as well as the time to make progress in sorting out and cleaning up the clutter one amasses over the years.

By consequence, I decided to delve into a large carton box with old photographs and negatives that has resided in a spare room for longer than I would care to admit. My aim was to Continue reading “Show and Tell…”

Contrasting Fortunes (Part One)

The Avenger and 160/180/2-Litre were intended to carry Chrysler Europe successfully into the 1970’s and beyond. One succeeded, while the other was hobbled by indecision, poor management and Anglo-French rivalries. 

autoenthusiastas via classic-car-catalogue

By the late 1960’s the Rootes Group’s range of cars was beginning to look rather threadbare. Its newest model, the Arrow series Minx and Hunter, introduced in 1966, was still relatively fresh and selling quite well, but was hampered by a limited engine range, which comprised a four-cylinder OHV unit in 1,500cc and 1,725cc capacities.

Attempts to Continue reading “Contrasting Fortunes (Part One)”

It’s A Lock In!

Settle down, you rabble. You’re in for a while. Get another Bog Myrtle in and pay attention, there’ll be questions later. 

(c) Pumpclipclocks.co.uk

[Editor’s note: This article was written prior to the current restrictions on gatherings and in no way advocates the practice of public house lock-ins – well, not in the current climate at least…]

Much like home door locks, car locks had been rudimentary for years. The 1970s witnessed a change in thinking (in a pretty vain attempt) to prevent rampant car theft. Years in the development stages, mainly in the USA, Wilmot-Breedon would become an integral cog of the British car industry, sadly suffering a similar fate.

Carl Louis Breedon enters proceedings around 1929 when the engineering firm Josiah Parkes & Son of Willenhall, Birmingham introduced the wafer tumbler lock to him. This used flat metal wafers that required the correct key in order for the lock to Continue reading “It’s A Lock In!”

Cat-tivated

The Editor makes no apologies.

(c) Jaguar Heritage

Those amongst you who know me will recognise my propensity to repeat myself, so if you have heard this before, well, the only solace I can offer is the assurance that there will be another (better) article tomorrow.

Growing up in an Irish backwater – (Cork was very parochial in the 1970s) – was a pretty meagre affair. Mostly I remember the rain. It was always raining. And while we weren’t badly off, there was little in reserve and even less by way of indulgence, frippery or delight. Belts were worn tightly. String was saved. Even the biscuits were of a distinctly penitential nature. Continue reading “Cat-tivated”

Faking It

(almost) Always a bad idea, when you’re in the automotive business.

Fiat Spider: (c) Worblaufen

Driven by opportunism, expediency or sheer desperation, motor manufacturers have often tried to pass off lightly reworked versions of competitors’ products as their own. It has rarely ended well.

The latest to have tried and failed at this game is Fiat, who announced in late 2019 that production of the Fiat 124 Spider for European markets was ending after just three years. There appears to be some confusion regarding the North American market, where the model is still listed on the Fiat.com website, but it is widely believed to be on its way out. Speaking to Autocar in August 2019, Fiat CEO Olivier François claimed that Fiat had “no legitimacy in this segment, from which Autocar inferred that the 124 Spider would not Continue reading “Faking It”

Class Act

Social mobility, across all-terrain.

Image via pinterest

Britain has always enjoyed a somewhat elastic relationship with both the land itself, and those who both own and administer it. Pivoting from forelock-tugging deference to bland indifference during the short years of relative social equality, the more recent austerity-era saw a shift back towards a renewed hunger for the certainties of the established social order – a matter which has been reflected to some extent with the rise of that automotive marker of social (and physical) superiority – the SUV.

Few vehicles personify landed gentry quite like the Range Rover. But to call the original version an SUV is really something of a misnomer. A car designed for the affluent farmer/landowner, hitherto forced to Continue reading “Class Act”

Not Just in the Metal, But In Print Too

While adding to his brochure collection, Bruno Vijverman notes a somewhat overt case of borrowed inspiration.

All images: The author

A while back, upon these pages, I wrote about the coincidental (or otherwise) similarities which have occurred in car design over the years. But more recently, since one of my past-times is collecting classic car brochures, it came to my notice that in some cases the practice of copying does not seem to be limited to the actual product, but also to the sales publicity material itself.

To be clear, I am not talking about the obvious broad similarities which are often dictated by the fashions and prevailing tastes of the era – in the sixties and seventies for instance the focus of the illustrations and text was on people and the freedom (real or imagined) and happiness that their new car was supposed to provide them.

In the decades thereafter there was a gradual but unstoppable shift to Continue reading “Not Just in the Metal, But In Print Too”

The Trader and The Smallest Room

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.

(c) Car dealersmagazines.co.uk.

Once upon a time, a man wished to buy a car. This wasn’t his first purchase; no, he was experienced at this game. But this was new to him. A newspaper, nay, phone book thick weekly publication, chock full of tiny pictures, reliable information and the sellers telephone number. Buying, and indeed selling cars just got a whole lot easier. And where better to Continue reading “The Trader and The Smallest Room”

How Antilia’s Tears Filled The Seven Cities’ Lagoons

Hard to believe: Nissan produced the Figaro for one year. During that time they sold 20,000 examples. I imagine it could very well simply have stayed in production.

1991 Nissan Figaro

You see these trundling around now and again, the retro-classic that became a real classic. Here at DTW we absolutely love to Continue reading “How Antilia’s Tears Filled The Seven Cities’ Lagoons”

Irreconcilable Differences (Part Two)

Like so many ill-considered marriages, GM’s entanglement with Saab was destined to end badly.  We conclude the story of this unhappy union.

(c) autoevolution

Having taken full ownership of Saab Automobile AB in 2000, GM was free to continue its planned transformation of the company into a premium competitor to Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. The existing 9-3 was looking dated, appearing little different to the New Generation 900 launched in 1994, and its five-door format was out of step with its intended competitors, the A4, 3 Series and C-Class.

A new 9-3 was developed in parallel with the Opel Vectra C, based on the new GM Epsilon platform. Both cars were launched at the Geneva Motor Show in March 2002. The 9-3 adopted a four-door Sport Saloon format. A convertible followed in 2004 but the arguably more important SportWagon estate didn’t Continue reading “Irreconcilable Differences (Part Two)”

Swiss Account

How does one enhance a styling landmark? 

Graber-bodied Rover 2000 TC. Image via pinterest

Carrosserie Hermann Graber came into being in the early 1920s, providing coachbuilt bodies for a wide range of mostly upmarket carmakers, amongst which were such illustrious names as Bugatti and Duesenberg; Graber quickly establishing an enviable reputation for elegance of line and craftmanship at his studios in Bern, Switzerland.

Having clothed a number of their chassis’ at customer request, Graber obtained the distribution rights for the British luxury carmaker, Alvis in 1953. One of these was a rakish and well proportioned two-door design, which so impressed Alvis management that a modified version was produced in the UK and became the Red Triangle’s sole offering between 1958 and the cessation of carmaking in 1967. Continue reading “Swiss Account”

Ashtrays: E34 BMW 5-series

Recently we had a lengthy debate about the best car in the world and the E34 BMW didn’t get much of a look in.

All images: the author

You’d imagine this car which is one of the natural competitors for the E-class might have had a few boosters. It’s a well-rounded machine, comes in a lot of flavours and is not known for its fragility. Well, here in the Ashtrays department of DTW we don’t Continue reading “Ashtrays: E34 BMW 5-series”

A Step Back

In 1970 Triumph had a decade to live. Two cars combined that year to bookend its saloon swansong.

1970 Triumph Toledo (c) carsaddiction

It wasn’t apparent at the time, but 1970 marked the close of Triumph’s expansionist ambitions, and the beginning of its fall. Not that the fortunes of the carmaker prior to its undignified end under British Leyland had exactly been characterised by unbroken success – quite the contrary in fact. But for one short decade, the name of Triumph burned brightly before being snuffed out through a combination of self-harm and corporate politics.

Following their 1960 acquisition of the Standard-Triumph business, Leyland Motors invested heavily in the Triumph marque, rendering the Standard nameplate to the history books. Amongst the most significant fruits of this investment was seen in 1965 when the compact and technically sophisticated front-wheel drive 1300 (Ajax) saloon was introduced. Continue reading “A Step Back”

Aqua Calder

Admission time: Our South Yorkshire scribe admits to plutocratic leanings. Don’t judge him too harshly.  

(c) preowned.bentleymotors.com.

Guilty pleasures: We all have them but usually they’re tucked away deep – embarrassment or face-saving proving too strong a reason for them to flourish. Only recently, my guarding firewall gave way, allowing a fissure to appear and hotter temperatures to rise, potentially leaving me well and truly in hot water. If only with the DTW readership.

Being neither plutocrat nor a continent crosser, what drives this inner desire I crave for luxury motoring? Can anyone Continue reading “Aqua Calder”

Diamond Life

Architects and motor cars have not always co-existed harmoniously. Today’s subject however, is something of an exception. 

(c) Motori corriere.it

Richard Buckminster Fuller’s foray into the automotive world with his Dymaxion car of 1933 is frequently brought forward when the discussion topic is raised about car concepts that were simply too far ahead of their time for their own good. The radical ideas and look of the Dymaxion were indeed in clear violation* of MAYA (Most Advanced Yet Acceptable) – the guiding design principle of well known contemporary, Raymond Loewy.

Two decades after Buckminster Fuller presented Dymaxion, another famed architect came up with a car design that was considered too far out at the time of its introduction: Gio Ponti. The Italian’s Linea Diamante dates from 1953 but its styling and interior concept were very much of another, future decade. Continue reading “Diamond Life”

Irreconcilable Differences (Part One)

Like so many ill-considered marriages, GM’s entanglement with Saab was destined to end badly. We look back over this unhappy union.

(c) petrolicious

Throughout the late 1980’s and 1990’s, GM looked on enviously as its arch-rival Ford carefully and methodically assembled the pieces of what would become its Premier Automotive Group* (PAG), a stable of European premium, sports and luxury car marques to which it would add its own Lincoln and Mercury brands.

Ford began by acquiring an interest in Aston Martin in 1987, then assuming full control in 1991. It purchased Jaguar in 1989, followed by Volvo’s car business a decade later. In 2000, Ford acquired Land-Rover from the wreckage of BMW’s failed ownership of Rover Group, which it folded into the newly formed PAG.

The latter acquisition was particularly painful for GM because, in March 1986, it had agreed the purchase of Land-Rover, then part of the nationalised British Leyland, from the UK government before a public outcry and political pressure forced Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to Continue reading “Irreconcilable Differences (Part One)”

Mother of Invention

Making a little go that bit further. 

(c) drivezing

Throughout the 1960s, US carmakers enjoyed unprecedented prosperity, with a buoyant domestic market, cheap, plentiful fuel and a customer base who had wholeheartedly bought into the concept of plenty – at a superficial level at least. Because beneath the giddy headline figures, sales of imported cars were giving the movers and shakers of Detroit serious pause.

The encroach of smaller, more fuel-efficient models, notably Volkswagen’s cult-car Beetle, prompted American carmakers to Continue reading “Mother of Invention”

A Photo for Sunday: 1986 Porsche 928 S2

It was the future, once.

All images courtesy of the author

The rural East Anglian market town my partner and I call home has many fine qualities, but it is emphatically not a nirvana for car spotters. Suffolk and Norfolk people have mainly conservative tastes in matters automotive and even our most affluent neighbours tend to Continue reading “A Photo for Sunday: 1986 Porsche 928 S2”

Fontana a Tre Vie

Lancia’s idiosyncratic Beta Tre Volumi turns 40.

Image: Ran When Parked
Image: (c) Ran When Parked

This article first appeared on 3 February 2017.

The Lancia Trevi is an unusual car, not simply because it was and remains an intriguing one to behold. For one thing it may well be the only car that began life as a fastback saloon (with a separate boot compartment), and ended it as a three-volume version. There have been innumerable saloon from hatchback conversions (and vice-versa), but a saloon from a saloon?

It’s clear that the Trevi was a stopgap. By right, Lancia should have readied an all-new replacement by then, but that failed to materialise. Of course lengthy production runs were by no means unusual either for Lancia or within the sprawling Fiat Auto grouping they had become an unwilling hostage to. Couple this with a crisis both of confidence and managerial competence which afflicted the entire Fiat Auto group in the wake of the 1973 oil embargo, to say nothing of Fiat’s inability to Continue reading “Fontana a Tre Vie”

Bland Recipe? Add E-621

A late evening encounter with a synthesized Audi crossover got our Sheffield operative thinking about additives. 

ebay.com

Mono Sodium Glutamate, or MSG was invented back in 1908 by a Japanese chemist named Kikunae Ikeda who was searching for a food additive he named umami which is given as “neither sweet, nor salty, bitter or sour” and was marketed by the fledgling Suzuki company, though under the brand name Aji-no-moto, itself a part of Suzuki pharmaceuticals. Its European name is E-621. Do Suzuki make a car with that code name in Japan?

In the halcyon pre-Covid past, a night out at a local Latin American restaurant, where the tapas was tasty, the cigars and rum both plentiful and expensive (neither sampled) and the beats both seductive and loud, led to a rather unexpected (and frustrating) conversation regarding car design with my better half. Well kind of. The rum and ‘gars must Continue reading “Bland Recipe? Add E-621”

A Promise Fulfilled (Part Two)

Concluding our retrospective on a car that went from cynical marketing exercise to icon for a generation of drivers.

Capri II (c) speeddoctor

The Mk2 Capri was launched in February 1974. In the immediate aftermath of the Oil Crisis and quadrupling of OPEC oil prices, Ford seemed to have suffered some loss of nerve and decided to make the new model rather more practical and less overtly sporting than the Mk1. The bonnet was shorter, the interior enlarged, with a hatchback and folding rear seats instead of a separate boot. The emphasis seemed to have changed to Continue reading “A Promise Fulfilled (Part Two)”

Limiting Screentime

Good news for a change. Honda is switching back to rotary dials, Autocar reports.

2020 Honda Jazz, with added rotaries. (c) Autocar

It has been something of a Driven to Write hobbyhorse to not merely bemoan, but berate carmakers about the dereliction of responsibility they have for the people who variously operate their products. I speak of the wholesale refutation of years of ergonomic and haptic research into the user-functionality within vehicle cabins by the adoption of touch-screen interfaces.

There is little doubt (and even less evidence to the contrary) that the widespread and still-growing use of touchscreens is occurring primarily due to matters of fashion and cost – it now being both cheaper and easier to Continue reading “Limiting Screentime”