Staring At Screens

The curious unimportance of visibility in modern car design.

2021 Cadillac Escalade. Image: GM Authority

An oft-noted, yet insufficiently regretted, development in car design in the past 20-odd years has been the ever-rising waistline of the average automobile; a development that, combined with increasingly thick window pillars, has had a seriously negative impact on visibility out of the car (not to mention the effect on interior ambiance).

Looking around at the flanks of cars nowadays, one might be tempted to Continue reading “Staring At Screens”

Under the Knife – Breaking the Mould

Today DTW features a car that was given a new lease of life with an extensive and highly effective makeover.

1983 Ford Sierra Mk1 (c) aronline.co.uk

Ford regularly plays fast and loose with its mark numbers, often applying them to even quite modest facelifts of the outgoing model. However, in the case of the Sierra, the Mk2 designation was well deserved.

Ford launched the original Sierra in 1982 as a replacement for the conventional and conservative Cortina Mk5. The new model was a rear-wheel-drive car like its predecessor, but the aero body (believed to have originally been the work of Gert Hohenester working under the supervision of Design Director, Uwe Bahnsen at Merkenich) was dramatically different, with a hatchback instead of a conventional boot.

Ford had tried to Continue reading “Under the Knife – Breaking the Mould”

New Frontier (Part Five)

My friends all drive Citroën’s… Oh Lord won’t you buy me a … Porsche? 

Image: lautomobileancienne

After all this, they have created an enormous car; I wanted a Porsche.” These are believed to be the words of none other than Citroën President, Pierre Bercot, spoken at the time to delegate-Maserati administrator, Guy Malleret. Quite some statement to have made; one which flies in the face of virtually every known document of the SM’s gestation. After all, the commonly held version of the SM’s creation saga is that Projet S was schemed almost entirely to Monsieur Bercot’s specification.

Jacques Fleury was the Citroën director responsible for factories, production and acquisitions. Amongst his responsibilities therefore was the Maserati factory in Modena and by consequence, the SM engine. According to his account, the prototype Maserati unit, having been tried in a DS saloon was deemed not only too powerful for the chassis, but that any resulting DS flagship model would have to Continue reading “New Frontier (Part Five)”

In The Savage Pond Swims A Lone Prince

Turning the clock back to a millennial from Gothenburg. 

2000 Volvo S60. (c) The RAC

Twenty years have slipped by since Volvo entered the shark infested waters of the compact executive saloon market, leaving behind a broadly positive if somewhat small mark in that (now) ever-shallower pool. By the time Ford showed up with a very large cash bag ($6.45 billion) and placed the Swedish brand under their Premier Automotive Group umbrella in 1999, the S60 was all but ready for unveiling.

Commander in Chief was Volvo lifer Lars Erik Lundin, whose next project would be to Continue reading “In The Savage Pond Swims A Lone Prince”

Creativité, Rationalité, Pragmatisme

A trio of Citroën oddities in this take on that famous French creed – Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité.

1982 Citroen BX Coupé prototype

Seasoned Citroën fans are no doubt aware that Citroën toyed with the idea of a BX Coupé but never allowed it to reach the production stage; a full size mockup, looking somewhat like a mix of BX and Renault 11 3-door hatchback has survived and can be viewed at the Citroën Conservatoire.

There was however another, far more ambitious BX-derived Coupé in development for a time, also styled by carrozzeria Bertone. This project was initiated early in 1982, some months before the introduction of the BX hatchback at that year’s Paris Motor Show. Surviving documents reveal that this coupé was intended for a higher marketing segment and was also to Continue reading “Creativité, Rationalité, Pragmatisme”

Bach To Life

It’s ‘bach, and still wrong. 

2021 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class. Image: cars.co.za

In 2002, Mercedes-Benz introduced a new star: Maybach, a hitherto dormant name awoken from deep slumber. Its bones were largely beyond reproach; based upon the decade-old W140 series S-Class, the final saloon programme to be conceived at Sindelfingen to a standard rather than a price, yet with this announcement one could nevertheless discern a strong sense of a carmaker not only stretching itself too thinly, but suffering from a lack of self-awareness.

Maybe they simply started out with bad directions, but when the wheels came off this particular wagen in 2013, few were surprised, given the execution. But other council prevailed at Baden-Wüttermberg; not entirely better, but certainly, one imagines, better remunerated. Far from allowing the small matter of a €1Bn loss to impede them, Daimler management elected to once more Continue reading “Bach To Life”

Beautiful Vision – Evolution of the Jowett Javelin (Part 9)

Dweller on the Threshold – A Jupiter Miscellany. We continue our look at the Jowett Jupiter’s short but multi-faceted career.

Stabilimenti Farina Jupiter Image: Classics Magazine

The coachbuilt Jupiters 

In September 1950 Jowett announced British prices for the Javelin-Jupiter.  The factory bodied drophead coupe, although effectively unobtainable, was priced at £1087 (£850 before tax) and the rolling chassis was offered at £672 (£525 before tax). The blank canvas chassis was in fact a comprehensive kit, with a wiring loom, switches and instruments, and a set of grilles which coachbuilders were expected to use in a way which would Continue reading “Beautiful Vision – Evolution of the Jowett Javelin (Part 9)”

Act of Hubris

DTW recalls Daimler-Benz’s Maybach misadventure. 

Crosstown traffic: Maybach 62. Image: carsnb

As the New Millennium approached, Jürgen Schrempp, Daimler-Benz CEO appointee in May 1995, was a man on a mission. Schrempp believed that the company was something of a sleeping giant. While it was consistently successful and profitable, with products that were highly regarded, he believed there was much more that could be done to leverage the storied marque name and extract maximum value for shareholders.

Over the preceding decades, Mercedes-Benz had carefully nurtured a reputation for building thoughtfully designed and technically excellent vehicles that were market-leading in terms of quality, safety and durability. They were, by and large, cars that one chose with the head rather than the heart and were favoured by those who valued understatement and discretion over extravagance and notoriety.

The flagship S-Class was the perfect transport for senior politicians, bankers and captains of industry, allowing them to move unnoticed and in comfort, avoiding unwanted attention from opponents, competitors or inquisitive journalists. The sheer ubiquity of Mercedes-Benz’s most prestigious model in the business districts of major cities guaranteed the anonymity required to Continue reading “Act of Hubris”

Pumpe Düse

How swiftly time passes – one moment you’re the talk of the town, the next, tomorrow’s chip paper. 

Owing to the poor quality of the original images, stock photos have been used. Image: autoevolution

Recently, a more mature Audi A3 in black arrived in our vicinity. Hardly worthy of a fanfare, especially as my initial introduction to this car was as follows; bonnet up, engine internals strewn roadside, stationary. Owner holding aloft the camshaft, almost trophy-like as I drove by. This did not bode well for such a car. If the old girl posses life, ’tis but a glimmer.

For this version of the PQ34 is now a late teenager – and whilst aged is far from long in the tooth, but now appears to follow a darker path. This new to my locale version of the A3 (Type 8L for you nomenclature completists out there) was manufactured sometime in the latter part of 2001, first registered in January of 2002, denoting this model to be post-facelift version.

With the original only being available as a three door, this five door (Sportback) variant has that cleaned up frontal version of Dirk van Braekel’s urban runabout. The headlight treatment still looks fresh, even when most examples have now taken on that milky effect when plastic ages. Can much light emit from lenses so? The car does have a current MOT pass, an effective guarantee for all matters mechanical… and I Continue reading “Pumpe Düse”

The Crowe Interpretation

Don’t like our new design? Whatever…

Actually, I’m afraid that it is. Image: bimmertoday.de

Ten years have elapsed since actor, Russell Crowe was carrying out his contractual media duties on BBC’s Radio 4 to promote Ridley Scott’s feature film adaptation of Robin Hood. The notoriously thin-skinned Australian leading man, when challenged by the broadcaster’s Arts Correspondent, Dominic Lawson about the somewhat wonky Yorkshire accent in his portrayal of the folk hero (which critics characterised as sounding more akin to Irish), replied with the following immortal line; “You’ve got dead ears mate. You’ve seriously got dead ears if you think that’s an Irish accent.

When Lawson then equivocated, suggesting there were perhaps, “Hints of …“, Crowe immediately countered with, “Bollocks! I’m a little dumbfounded you could possibly Continue reading “The Crowe Interpretation”

Under the Knife – One to Seven

The 1971 Fiat 127 proved to be an extraordinarily popular and enduring design. DTW recalls its many iterations, some pleasing, others rather less so.

1971 Fiat 127 (first series). (c) autoweek

The Fiat 127 was a supermini wholly in the modern idiom, with its transverse engine, end-on gearbox and a three-door hatchback bodystyle(1). It was not, however the world’s first such design: that title goes to the 1964 Autobianchi Primula. The Primula was, however, engineered by Fiat, which held an equal 33% share in the company alongside Pirelli and the Bianchi family. Fiat was able to Continue reading “Under the Knife – One to Seven”

New Frontier (Part Four)

What prompted Citroën’s buyout of Maserati?

Maserati’s Viale Ciro Menotti works during the early 1960s. Image: norskmaseratiklubb.no

By 1967, Pierre Bercot had secured an engine supply deal with Maserati for Citroën’s forthcoming Projet S. Yet within a year, not only would he have taken over the Modenese atelier in its entirety, but inked a far more wide-ranging deal with Fiat Auto in Turin. But was the Citroën-Maserati takeover a symbiotic coming together, or simply Monsieur le President’s Victor Kiam[1] moment?

Having traditionally confined the lion’s share of their sales effort domestically and within Europe, the pull of the US market became too lucrative for Maserati to ignore. However, by the mid-’60s, the regulatory environment in the US was becoming more hostile, with increasingly stringent crash testing mandates and emissions regulations, which for such a tiny outfit would ladle enormous costs upon an already stretched enterprise. By mid-decade, Maserati’s owners were already seeking a means to Continue reading “New Frontier (Part Four)”

Beautiful Vision – Evolution of the Jowett Javelin (Part 8)

The Jupiter performed far better on the track than on the company’s balance sheets.

Jupiter R1 at Le Mans 1952 Image: drive-my

Had the Jowett-E.R.A. sports car alliance endured, Reg Korner’s frenzied work through the autumn and winter of 1949-50 may not have been necessary. In parallel with his Chief Engineer Dr. Ing. Robert Eberan-Eberhorst’s chassis development, E.R.A owner Leslie Johnson commissioned Seary and McCready, a small coachbuilder noted for high quality work, to develop an aerodynamic body with distinctly transalpine influences.

The design was presented to the media as the ‘E.R.A Javelin’ at Jowett’s London showroom on 27 September 1949, rising on a lift from the building’s undercroft with its paint scarcely dry. Motor Sport of November 1949 described the three seater coupe thus: “so trim, so refreshingly different did the car look, prompting thoughts of Simca, Cisitalia, F.I.A.T., that those privileged to Continue reading “Beautiful Vision – Evolution of the Jowett Javelin (Part 8)”

Heaven Sent

Ponycar à la Toyota City. 

1970 Toyota Celica ST. (c) stubs-auto.fr

Toyota chose the 1970 Tokyo motor show to reveal their own style of pony car to the world. Clearly influenced by significant occurrences with such cars as the Mustang, Firebird and Camaro over in the United States, not to mention a gentlemanly nod to the European Capri, Toyota (with assistance from Yamaha) contributed their own version of mass produced self-indulgent motoring.

Using a Latin derivative, coelica to suggest something celestial or heavenly (in Spanish) and given code name TA22, the Celica’s modus operandi was to Continue reading “Heaven Sent”

Imparare ad Amare

The Ferrari Mondial is forty this year. Time to look back on the story of one of Maranello’s less illustrious creations.

1980 Mondial 8. (c) autoevolution

In my idle moments, I occasionally peruse Autotrader and do some fantasy shopping for the cheapest supercar I can find. When searching under Ferrari it was, until recently, a racing certainty that the model propping up the bottom end of the price range would be the Mondial, which celebrates its 40th birthday this year.

This was partly a result of its ubiquity. With 6,149 cars produced during its thirteen-year lifespan, it was one of Ferrari’s best-selling models. However, it was mainly down to the fact that the Mondial was never really loved by the marque’s aficionados, who regarded it as too compromised and soft to Continue reading “Imparare ad Amare”

In Memoriam – Aldo Brovarone

We salute a departed master of form.

Brovarone’s magnum opus. Prototype Dino 206 GT. Image: stylepark

In an ideal world, the deserving always rise to the top. In such a environment a young stylist might perhaps serve his time, building up a body of work before branching out on his own, culminating with his name atop the doorway of a stand-alone carrozziere. Instead, the name of Aldo Brovarone, who departed the surly bonds of earth in mid-October, remains (outside of enthusiast automotive circles at least) largely unheralded.

Life has never been fair, and despite Brovarone being one of the very best of his era, the reasons for his low-key passing owe as much to the nature of the man as they do to the depth of auto-design apprehension that existed amid the contemporary motoring media.

Should we therefore view Brovarone as simply another in a long line of stylistic talents who mortified their egos to Continue reading “In Memoriam – Aldo Brovarone”

From A Bench Front Seat (Part Two)

Concluding our brief examination of Riley’s ill-fated Pathfinder. 

Riley Pathfinder 1953-1957 classiccargarage

Let us now allow this Oxford flower to flourish a little, let the sunlight dance upon its flanks. One could choose black, maroon, green, blue or grey for exterior hues. Early 1956 models could be had with a factory duo tone effect, the roof having the second colour although a considerable amount of custom effects were available from the beginning. J. James & Co, a London Riley agent supplied Pathfinders finished with a contrasting colour to bonnet, roof and boot lid.

Riley cars are for the discerning motorist” and their own Magnificent Motoring tag lines were highly applicable, even to the troubled Pathfinder. John Bolster, the Autosport reporter and motor racing correspondent noted in 1955, “I have driven every Riley model produced in the last twenty five years and this RMH is the best to bear the name of Riley.Continue reading “From A Bench Front Seat (Part Two)”

Axis Denied

Peugeot versus Porsche: It wasn’t simply business, it was personal. 

(c) Veikl com

It will not be news to the majority amongst the DTW readership: the time when Porsche was forced to rename its 356 successor, the 901. French carmaker, Peugeot legally secured the rights to model names with a zero in the middle in 1929, when the 201 was introduced. Porsche yielded to threats of legal action from the lion of Belfort, chose 911 as the new model designation and the rest, as they say, is history. Or is it?

Because there is more to this than it would seem at first sight; the fact that other manufacturers such as BMW, Bristol and Ferrari marketed models with a zero in the middle for years without so much as a peep from Sochaux raises the question, why did Peugeot Continue reading “Axis Denied”

New Frontier (Part Three)

Citroën didn’t have an engine worthy of their nascent 1970 flagship, but it wasn’t for the want of trying.

Image: The author

The highly unusual structure and operation of Citroën’s legendary Bureau d’Études may have created a number of technical masterpieces, but it equally resulted in a number of serious operational drawbacks; perhaps the most serious being the lack of a cohesive singularity of purpose. Not only did the nominal Rue de Théàtre headquarters lack an effective figurehead (notably so in Lefèbvre’s wake), but the bureau itself was apparently scattered across a number of locations around Paris, each very much in effect its own personal fiefdom.

Of these, perhaps the least regarded represented the double chevron’s longest standing and most glaring weakness – engine development. This department, led by Italian former Fiat racing engine designer, Walter Becchia, seemed a largely forgotten outpost; the last meaningful programme to Continue reading “New Frontier (Part Three)”

Beautiful Vision – Evolution of the Jowett Javelin (Part 7)

We take a brief detour and look at the other Javelin, the glamorous Jupiter. 

Image: crowood

You’re part of the plan.

At the 1949 London Motor Show, Jowett exhibited a low-slung tubular steel chassis featuring the Javelin flat-four engine and a modified form of the saloon’s torsion-bar suspension. It was the culmination of months of frenzied activity by a distinguished Austrian designer and four other engineers at Five Lane Ends, in pursuit of a promising but haphazard joint venture between the Yorkshire car firm and the revived ERA (English Racing Automobiles) company.

By early 1949, it was becoming clear that the Javelin was not meeting sales expectations in the USA. Ordinarily, this would have not been a concern, with production of around 6000 per year, and plenty of interest from the home market and from Jowett’s traditional sales territories in Europe and the former British colonies and dominions. However, the UK’s trade strategy was asymmetrical. The US dollar was the post WW2 world’s paramount currency, and British manufacturers who could bring in hard currency would Continue reading “Beautiful Vision – Evolution of the Jowett Javelin (Part 7)”

Que Sera Sera

The Sera, one of Toyota’s more eccentric creations, is thirty this year. DTW remembers it and wonders what inspires the conservative Japanese automotive giant to go off-piste like this, as it has done regularly in the past.

1990 Toyota Sera (c) techeblog.com

For me, Toyota Motor Corporation has always been something of an enigma. Ostensibly, it is a deeply conservative and risk-averse company. For more than eighty years, it has meticulously and systematically developed its mainstream vehicles to align exactly with its customers’ evolving expectations. Whether you drive a Corolla, or are driven in a Century, you can be confident that the replacement model, when it arrives, will always be essentially similar and comfortably familiar, but just a little bit better.

Toyota has often been a late adopter of new technologies, such as front-wheel-drive*, happy to Continue reading “Que Sera Sera”

From A Bench Front Seat (Part One)

The 1953 RMH Pathfinder was Riley’s last in-house designed car. Andrew Miles profiles its short and troubled history. 

1953 Riley Pathfinder. (c) bestcarmag

Let the customer do the development work was perhaps never written down, uttered even, but in all too many cases, is what actually occurred. From these unhappy beginnings did the Riley Pathfinder oh-so briefly shine from that hallmark of British engineering, BMC. For just shy of fourteen hundred pounds (and those indecipherable to me, shillings and pence), you got quite the voiture de grande tourisme as designer, auto architect (and outside of DTW devotees) perennial underdog, Gerald Palmer believed his creation to be.

The fact that only 5,152 Riley Pathfinders were built and that worldwide, roughly 250 survive (in wildly different conditions) makes it a rare jewel indeed when (infrequently) seen. Throw in those beguiling hub caps and my knees weaken. Hand on heart, this is my epitome of a Blue Diamond that given an alternative start could, and should have, gone on to be a world beater. The Pathfinder makes me want to Continue reading “From A Bench Front Seat (Part One)”

The Art of Saying Goodbye

Some words are harder to say than others.

It’s been emotional. (c) Ford Motor Company

So long, farewell, adieu: This week has seen a lot of fervid happenings in the land of the free / home of the brave, but one which perhaps got lost amid the signal and noise of that election was the official cessation of Lincoln Continental production – which has either already ceased or is scheduled to Continue reading “The Art of Saying Goodbye”

Under the Knife – Rediscovered

The 1998 Series II Discovery was a far more thorough and extensive facelift of the original than it might have appeared to be at first glance.

1989 Land-Rover Discovery (c) Iroac.com

The 1970 Range Rover could not have been more different in conception from the SUVs that carry that name today. It was designed to be more comfortable and civilised on road than the original Land Rover, which had changed little since its introduction in 1948, but was not intended to be anything other than a working vehicle.

Early Range Rovers were still resolutely utilitarian, with vinyl seats and rubber floor mats that could be hosed out after a day’s work on the farm. Its classic style is credited to David Bache, Head of Design at Rover. However, recognising its handsome functionalism, Bache actually made only detail changes to Continue reading “Under the Knife – Rediscovered”

One Step Beyond

Balls to the Bronco, Da svisdania Defender. There’s a new friend in town…

Green Buddy. (c) Autoblog

Hey you! Don’t watch that, watch this. For this is the heavy, heavy monster sound.” So goes the introduction to the 1979 Madness song to which the title refers. “The nuttiest sound around” is shouted, followed by the saxophonist’s opening account as the tune then explodes into your eardrums. It’s enough to make your feet get busy.

With research limited to that internet, one cannot say whether the Ska sound from the early eighties had any impact upon the results here or if stronger substances were involved. But those imps at Mitsuoka have produced something astonishing – a likeable, honest SUV. Yes, you read that correctly, but one has to Continue reading “One Step Beyond”

New Frontier (Part Two)

Just as Citroëns were not like other cars, Automobiles Citroën itself was unlike any other car company – especially in conceptual engineering terms. 

Image: racingcars-wikidot

It might be convenient from a narrative perspective to suggest that the SM came about as part of a carefully considered product plan, but that would be inaccurate and misleading. In fact, the model came into being almost by accident or at least osmosis; primarily at the behest of company president, Pierre Bercot, but at a more fundamental level in response to another man’s determination to prove a principle.

Few carmakers operated quite like Automobiles Citroën, not only during the tenure of the company’s eponymous founder and chief architect, but equally in the years that followed the carmaker’s initial cashflow crisis, collapse, and takeover by Michelin in 1934. Michelin had placed Pierre-Jules Boulanger as company President, under whom existed an environment which permitted Citroën engineers a great deal of freedom to Continue reading “New Frontier (Part Two)”

A Deadly Misadventure

DTW recalls the alliance between Renault and American Motors Corporation that proved highly damaging to the French automaker and had fatal consequences.

1988 Eagle Premier(c) blog.consumerguide.com

American Motors Corporation (AMC) was long the plucky underdog of the US automotive industry, always struggling to compete on equal terms with the ‘Big Three’ of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler. AMC had itself been formed from the 1954 merger of Nash Kelvinator Corporation and the Hudson Car Company(1). This was a merger driven out of weakness rather than strength, as neither partner had the financial or technical resources to continue independently.

With a market share of just 4%, AMC was still a fraction of the size of the Big Three, but there was a larger plan in play, devised jointly by George Mason, President of Nash-Kelvinator, and James Nance, President of the Packard Motor Car Company. Packard would Continue reading “A Deadly Misadventure”

If Hopes Were Dupes, Fears May Be Liars. Turin Motor Show 1970 – Part 2

Stepping back fifty years, we return to the Salone dell’Automobile di Torino for a second day for a feast of stylistic flair and bright hopes for the future.

Tjaarda-Giacobbi Sinthesis Image: Hemmings

As with neutral Geneva in the spring, Piedmont-centric Turin was a showplace for the industry’s fringe performers. In Italy fantasists and dreamers exhibited beside perfectly worthy but little-known Carrozzieri. In 1970, the sideshows were still rich in interest, although my IPC Business Press Cicerone, Anthony Curtis gave them only a sideways glance.

The UK and Italy seemed to share similar ambitions at the peripheries of their automotive industries. In Britain, clubman racing car constructors nurtured ambitions to Continue reading “If Hopes Were Dupes, Fears May Be Liars. Turin Motor Show 1970 – Part 2”

Recovering A Dream

Oops, I did it again… A belated defence of the Rover 75.

All images: The author

My first contribution to Driven to Write, in the spring of 2018, was to recount the tale of my replacing a V6 Rover 75, following a brief period of ownership, with a new twin cylinder Fiat Panda (as different a car as one could imagine). It was a tale of disillusionment and naivety; of an enthusiast who had not driven regularly for many years aspiring to a car he had admired when new, which turned out to be not entirely suited to his present circumstances.

After a kind reception by the readers of this site, I wrote a follow-up article in which I reviewed my tuned twin-air turbo Panda in more detail; a car that delighted me daily for two and a half years, so much so that I could Continue reading “Recovering A Dream”

Oh Nicole!

File under (Renault: B-segment: Good – not great). At least the ad-campaign was memorable.

(c) autoevolution

Ask anyone about the 1990 Renault Clio and amongst those who remember it at all, most will cite the long-running UK advertising campaign, featuring the somewhat clichéd antics of comely young Nicole, getting the slip on her somewhat louche papa at their somewhat clichéd Provencal retreat. Meanwhile Papa, displaying equally duplicitous behaviour (all French men of course routinely have affairs), was fomenting assignations of his own.

Risible of course, but it played to cherished English preconceptions of French mores, and was instrumental in cementing brand-Clio in the minds of UK buyers. It worked too: the Clio proving a thirty year success story for the French carmaker, but the first-generation model, unlike its ad-campaign, was not what anyone would Continue reading “Oh Nicole!”