Closer inspections can lead to sleep deprivation – or is it the other way around?
Temptation is a fickle mistress. Every single new iteration of the Range Rover series has made me, even for a moment, ruminate over the possibility of owning one. Many factors halt any form of progress in this area, usually, but not exclusively financial. I’ve enjoyed my Volvo S90 (Nimrod, for that is its name) for two and half years now, and the occasional thought of change does enter my mind. Why, is difficult to explain, for it never lasts long.
Recently, on a night when slumber evaded me, and having up to now successfully avoided any form of S90 update, I found myself looking more deeply. The results surprised me, not all of it being of the pleasant variety. Continue reading “Staying Up. Not Keeping Up”
Ford’s Euro-pendulum swings, but is there time to Explore?
A number of years ago, Ford’s European marketing department initiated an advertising execution they called ‘Unlearn’, an attempt to nudge customer perception of the blue oval; essentially a variation of the somewhat clichéd ‘Think you understand brand X? Think again’ marketing trope. With Unlearn, Ford wanted us to Continue reading “Tick Tock”
The story of one visionary at Citroën’s Bureau des Etudes Avancées.
The Bureau des Etudes Avancées Citroën or BEA, under the direction of Pierre Jules Boulanger, was the idiosyncratic French carmaker’s creative ideas laboratory. Fittingly located at number 44 to 48 on the Rue du Théâtre in Paris, it exuded an air of secrecy and mystery. Not just engineers and stylists were employed there but also scientists, mathematicians, physicists and even an astronomer.
Born in 1891, Fridtjof Le Coultre came from the famous Swiss jewellery and watchmaking family of Jaeger-Le Coultre. He had worked as an astronomer at the observatory in Geneva for several years but left and moved to France in the early thirties after a dispute with his boss. There being not much demand for his trade, Le Coultre worked in various jobs to sustain himself and developed and sold an artificial marble-like material that enjoyed some popularity in decorative lamp-posts. Continue reading “The Stargazer of the Rue du Théâtre”
If imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery, then Rover Group should have been mightily chuffed when Honda launched the CR-V in October 1995. The new soft-roader was uncannily similar to the Land Rover Freelander in conception, dimensions and even appearance. Those of you with a better memory than I will be quick to point out that the Freelander was not launched until October 1997, so how can the former possibly be an imitation of the latter?
Well, the story goes that during the characteristically tortuous and protracted development of the Land-Rover, which began in the late 1980s following the launch of the Discovery, Honda, as a 20% shareholder in Rover Group, had access to the company’s future model programme and immediately saw the potential of what would eventually become the Freelander(1). Because Honda was so much better focused and swifter in its development activities, the Japanese ‘Freelander’ beat its British counterpart to market by a full two years.
In what appears to be a transcript from 1974, Archie Vicar reviews the all-new Innocenti Regent.
The article first appeared in the Kenilworth Gazette, Feb 28th, 1974. Due to darkening of the paper, stock photos have been used. Original photography was by Edward Ian Dwindemere (sic).
Although blighted by many endemic problems such as a casual attitude to time, indifference to accuracy and a fondness for garlic, some things about Italian manners can compensate to some extent and to some small measure. The cigarettes are cheap, the wine is inexpensive and occasionally they can Continue reading “Brisk Italian Style, Italian Values in Italy”
It has been happening for some time, and while it hasn’t gone entirely unnoticed around these parts, it has until now been largely unacknowledged. Ferrari design has once more become a seat of elegance. This change in visual course from the visual coarseness of the post-millennial period has been a gradual one. It can probably be ascribed to the current design leadership, under the supervision of Flavio Manzoni, with perhaps some assistance by way of Pininfarina, while under the assured baton of Fabio Filippini.
This shift towards classicism was previewed by a number of low-volume, high-cost model runs aimed at the serious collector of Maranello ephemera, harking back to the much-revered designs of the 1950s, when Ferrari was first making a name for itself on the racetracks and amid the nascent jet-set. However, it was the 2020 advent of the Roma, a 2+2 coupé of surpassing elegance that this shift in stylistic direction truly landed.
In truth, Ferrari was on a losing pitch with its more combative post-millennial style, largely because no matter how aggressively outré their designs became, they would always be upstaged by their Sant’Agata Bolognese rival, for whom striking visual statements is their entire raison d’être. And latterly, with the likes of McLaren, Pagani and other more niche ateliers nipping at Lamborghini’s kitten heels, there really was only one logical direction for Maranello to Continue reading “All Roads Lead to Rome”
Benchmarks come and then they go. Personal luxury coupes occupied the hottest sector of the American car market in the late ’70s and early ’80s. What were they?
Editor’s note: This piece originally appeared as part of the Benchmarks Theme on DTW in March 2015.
A personal luxury coupe is understood as a two door, four seat car with at least a V6 or ideally a V8. Whilst the advertising for these may have suggested sporting capability, the body-on-frame and bench seat reality spoke of cars whose main talent lay in getting quickly up to 65 mph and staying there from Baker, Ca. to Frederick, Md.
The image above is my idea of the archetype of this car. I don’t think Europe had equivalents of the PLC. Two-door Ford Granadas (such as the 1975 example owned by our stalwart contributor Myles Gorfe) don’t strike the same note. Whether with two doors or four they retain their Granada-ness (the Ghia fastback came a bit closer to the concept). The Opel Monza offered a sporty experience and isn’t formal enough. BMW’s 1976 633 CSi also promised and provided athletic capabilities. Perhaps Mercedes 450 SLC came closest of all as it was certainly luxurious, it had a V8 and the back seats were cramped for occasional use, despite the car’s length. Continue reading “Benchmarks – Personal Luxury Coupés”
In the build-up to 1980’s Motorfair, where the crucially important Austin Mini-Metro was to make its public debut, BL’s TV advertising was to put it mildly, of a decidedly patriotic nature. An array of doughty Metros standing sentinel on Dover’s white cliffs to repel Britain’s foreign invaders certainly got the message across, but in any conflict situation, real or imaginary, there is always collateral damage.
Because within a year of Metro’s triumphant debut, Britain’s homegrown supermini had dealt Allegro a fatal blow. Despite their differences in size and mission, such was the level of domestic enthusiasm for Britain’s ‘car to beat the world’ that by the end of 1981, Allegro sales, already in freefall, had almost halved. For the BL board, the evidence was unequivocal, and under Sir Michael Edwardes’ pragmatic leadership, it was elected to Continue reading “Running With Scissors [Part Ten]”
It was somewhere mid-pandemic, and the book shelves had been exhausted. The situation could only be remedied with the delivery of a book called Shenanigans. Written by Arnold O’Byrne and with the sub-heading ‘Lifting the hood on General Motors’, it is the lively memoir of a Dublin native whose career in the motor industry began in 1966 as a senior financial clerk at Vauxhall’s Luton plant, to his retirement as Opel Ireland’s Managing Director at the turn of the millennium.
According to O’Byrne’s period characterisation of Luton, it was “not a pretty place.” The Bedfordshire town was home to a large Irish population at the time, many of whom worked either on building the new M1 motorway or in nearby factories, Vauxhall Motors being a major employer. O’Byrne’s account is littered with stories of him dealing with fiery senior staff, bullies and corporate ladder climbers – some better than others. His first encounter saw him about to Continue reading “Opel: Ireland’s No.1 Supporter”
Continuing our tour through the illustrious history of the Lincoln Mark line, illustrated by the brochures that promoted each generation.
Concerns about air pollution and a fuel crisis being about a change in direction for the Mark line.
Mark 4 1972-1976
The larger, heavier but less powerful Mark 4, again based on the Ford Thunderbird, ushered in the (often clumsily executed) federally required ‘5mph’ bumpers(1), but also introduced the successful Designer Series. America and its roads were changing in the early seventies: the exciting muscle cars were all but gone and there was a shift towards luxury and convenience features as regulations effectively strangled the large V8s with anti-pollution devices. Those big blocks had never been designed with low fuel consumption or clean emissions in mind, so any expectation of stirring performance had now become futile. Continue reading “On Your Marks (Part Two)”
Would new models bolster Chevrolet’s tenuous foothold in the European automotive market?
Chevrolet’s 2005 relaunch in Europe was, to say the least, a rather understated affair, with a model range that was composed entirely of rebadged and very mildly facelifted Daewoo models from South Korea. Although the first new Chevrolet model for Europe, the Captiva crossover, had been unveiled at the Paris motor show in September 2004, it did not go on sale until early 2006. Nevertheless, European sales for 2005 came in at 211,737(2) units, representing a modest 1.87% increase over the previous year. This was respectable, but certainly not the step-change that General Motors might have hoped for following the rebranding.
Chevrolet abandoned Daewoo’s unique marketing proposition of fixed price sales and outsourced servicing. Instead, it set about establishing a traditional dealer network, often paired with existing Opel or Vauxhall dealerships. How this was viewed by the dealerships concerned is open to speculation: did it provide potential for increased sales, or simply unwanted internal competition and added complexity and confusion? Continue reading “That’ll be the, er…Chevrolet? (Part Two)”
Allegro 3 arrived onto the market in Autumn 1979 and the BL marketing machine, amid the grinding of E-Series gears, stirred into life. “SuperVroom”, the promotional copy declared, and a nation held its breath. Or perhaps not. Amid the lexicon of advertising taglines, it was no exclamative for the ages. Indeed for most casual observers, it meant little and bore even less relation to the product being placed in front of them. But amid the siege mentality that permeated BL’s Bickenhill corporate fortress circa-1979, the marketing teams, much like their equivalents elsewhere in the organisation had to Continue reading “Vroom the Bell Tolls”
Extra, Rapid, Express. Those three words sound well together. All of them did service as the badge of this Renault 5 spin-off.
For the UK and Ireland, the car bore an Express badge. In France, Spain, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Japan, Taiwan people knew them as Express. And if you lived in Germany, or Austria you had to Continue reading “Monday, Monday”
Idly perusing a non-car related website recently, the Pat Benatar tune in question popped into my head and refused to leave. The song was inspiration enough to look back at a time when power dressing, Miami Vice, blocky computer graphics along with a host of mediocre cars from the largest producers were prevalent. So dig out that shell suit and pop MTV on at full volume; today we peer into the Pontiac 6000.
The 1980s were not considered by many to be one of General Motors creative highs. After all, dishing up the same sauce with barely a badge flavoured difference was hardly a recipe to Continue reading “Love Is A Battlefield”
The Allegro’s honeymoon period had been relatively short lived, falling victim on one hand to British Leyland’s parlous labour-relations and a rapid deterioration in the public’s confidence in the vehicle on the other; the latter being consequent to well publicised issues of build and design. By mid-decade, it was apparent that the car was not selling anywhere near the volumes projected and nor was it likely to.
The relaunched 1975 Allegro 2 was therefore what many observers believed the car ought to have been from the outset. Attention had been paid to concerns raised by customers and the press; in particular with regards to the suspension, which was better damped, and improved rear seat accommodation, the result of a redesigned seat pan. A large number of other, mostly minor changes (the cosmetic ones certainly were) led to a more rounded, better realised product, if one which steadfastly remained in the shadow of better selling (mostly) imported rivals.
Editor’s note: This article made its first appearance on DTW in July 2014.
Tinselly, crudely assembled and unattractive sums it up, but luckily that’s just the Chevrolet badge on the bootlid. The rest of the car surprised me by being vastly better than the reputation suggested. The Chevrolet Epica has ended its six year production run and perhaps its reputation needs a little burnishing. I’ll tell you why: there’s very little wrong with the Epica and a lot that’s right.
Just one of many indignities heaped upon the storied US marque by its abusive parent, General Motors.
Chevrolet is a truly iconic automotive name. The company was founded in 1911 by Swiss-born racing car driver and motor engineer Louis Chevrolet. His partners in the new venture were his brother, Arthur, and William C. Durant. The latter had been fired by General Motors in 1910, just two years after he had co-founded GM to be a holding company for The Buick Motor Company, which he owned, and the simultaneously acquired Olds Motor Works, manufacturer of Oldsmobile cars.
The US auto industry evolved very rapidly in the second decade of the 20th Century. Chevrolet fell out with Durant in 1914 and sold his share in the fledgling but already successful company. The automaker continued to thrive, to the extent that Durant was able to buy a controlling stake in General Motors in 1918, folding Chevrolet in as another division of the rapidly growing conglomerate.
The North American car buyer has never been entirely comfortable with the notion of good things in small packages. I generalise of course, but in automotive terms at least, attempts at creating a more compact telling of the automotive fable have not met with rapturous success.
Not that all foundered on purely ideological grounds – these attempts frequently proving a somewhat difficult stylistic pill for the consumer to swallow, having been weaned on considerably more expansive nostrums of automotive desire. But as cities became ever more congested and environmental concerns grew, US carmakers sought more inventive ways to Continue reading “Please Indulge Sensibly”
Goodbye, VW Golf Plus, we’ll miss you. Hello, VW Sportsvan.
Editor’s note: This piece originally aired on DTW in August 2014. The Golf Sportsvan ceased production in 2020.
Some readers may have missed the news that VW’s much loved GolfPlus nameplate has been discontinued. The new name to watch is Sportsvan and doubtless it will win as much affection as the outgoing one. The replacement car was shown at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2013 and is now on sale.
As a brand, modern day Chrysler has become something of an oddity. In the United States, they currently offer two vehicles, and once the soon to depart 300 shuffles off, a rather svelte mover of (mainly) families will (for the present at least) ply the Pentastar’s trade alone – the Chrysler Pacifica.
When the ADO16 1100 was introduced in 1962, it had few natural rivals, nothing comparable from a technological or conceptual basis at least – a matter which did much to enhance its appeal. A decade later, when Allegro landed as its successor (and not withstanding its relative qualities), the landscape had altered considerably. Front-wheel drive was becoming, if not quite yet the norm, certainly a good deal more common amongst the more progressively minded of Europe’s carmakers, if not the outposts of the American multinationals. Furthermore, BLMC’s European rivals were making rather a good fist of it.
If you suffer from metamfiezomaiophobia(1) you should look away now.
Within the circle of those who habitually frequent these pages, the Italian architect and industrial designer Mario Bellini (born 1935) is most likely best known for his contribution to the facelifted Lancia Beta and the Trevi: the controversial ‘Swiss cheese’ dashboard was his brainchild. Bellini ventured into the automotive spectrum on a few other occasions as well, one of which resulted in today’s subject.
Bellini, who among other things designed lamps for Artemide, office furniture for Vitra, fountain pens, coffeemakers and Olivetti typewriters, emphasises that he always designs like an architect, regardless of the subject at hand. The cultural aspect of architectural design, organizing the world for better living, was always close to his heart. When invited by the New York Museum of Modern Art in 1972 to Continue reading “New Positions in Car Design”
A developing markets car that was out of tune with European tastes.
The Volkswagen Group doesn’t do cheap and cheerful. Its four(1) mass-market brands all have a reputation for producing high quality(2) cars. One can reasonably argue that these brands are insufficiently well differentiated from each other in terms of quality of materials, build and equipment. Hence, Volkswagen has too much overlap between its brands so has not maximised its potential total market coverage.
The company must have watched on enviously as Renault resurrected the moribund Romanian Dacia marque and turned it into a highly successful budget brand, which is exactly what Volkswagen might have done with Škoda. That appeared to be the plan when the first wholly VW-era Škoda, the 1996 Octavia, was launched. This was a larger but cheaper and plainer take on the Golf. Subsequent models, however, became increasingly sophisticated, to the extent that there is little to Continue reading “Missing the Marque: Volkswagen Fox”
The Allegro has never been a car synonymous with the notion of frivolity, not of the intentional variety at least. It was however, no stranger to satire or derision, not least its somewhat self-important looking flagship model. But while the Vanden Plas 1500 variant may have represented the zenith of Allegro’s upmarket ambitions, it was not the rarest of the breed. That plaudit rests with the most exotic of Allegri, the Crayford Convertible. Continue reading “Allegro Aperto”
The latest Superb is a very nice thing, but I’m concerned that it lacks the essence of Skoda.
Editor’s note: Back in January 2016, DTW author, S V Robinson expressed his concerns over Skoda’s direction of travel, which is worth revisiting anno-2023, as Mladá Boleslav prepares a new generation Superb.
The other morning I had the pleasure of parking up at Milton Keynes Central Station car park early, and was struck by the profile and form of the two cars between which I had inserted my C6 (I still can’t drive a manual, which is no significant hardship really, but now I’m threatened once again with immobility as the Citroen’s power steering is definitely on the blink – there always seems to be something …) It was still quite dark, with just the dull glimmer of a January dawn to take the edge off the night sky, together with the drizzling amber tones of artificial lighting, and so it took me a moment to Continue reading “The Superb Skoda – A Mixed Blessing”
Dialling in Opel Ampera in Wikipedia summons a redirect to the Chevrolet Volt. They must mean Bolt (as it was known in the US).
None of the cars in the Wikipedia Volt article are this specimen, an Ampera-E. A site called EV database informs us the Ampera-E could be ordered in Germany and Holland. It provides some information such as that when fully charged the car could very easily Continue reading ““Más vale tarde que nunca!!””
Three friends head out of deepest South Yorkshire to see how the Midland’s made cars in 2009.
On the 18th January 2008, Tata Motors purchased two illustrious British car brands from Ford, in the process establishing Jaguar Land Rover, aka JLR . Your author, along with many of our readership will no doubt remember the motoring magazines introducing this new Jaguar dawn, fresh with Indian money. At the time of our trip to the West Bromwich plant, the factory produced both XF and XJ models, considered by the press to be something of a relaunch for the Leaping Cat’s fortunes and capable of bloodying their German rivals’ noses.
Our November dawn was leaden, with heavy traffic heading south. As memory serves, we paid nothing for the privilege of the tour. Having registered our names sometime earlier, we were ticked off in school register fashion and like good school children wore our high visibility jackets and protective goggles without question. Informed the plant could be noisy, no ear defenders were proffered but we were told to Continue reading “A Game Of Two Halves”
The early 1970s was a volatile time in Britain. Hopes of lasting prosperity were dissolving amid galloping inflation, socio-political strife, ineffectual government interventions to prop up a stalling economy and a seething dissatisfaction amidst the toiling classes, fed up with being overpromised and repeatedly brought up short.
Throughout the previous decade, car manufacturing plants across the UK had become a hotbed of political foment, and those of the former British Motor Corporation were amongst the most restive – owing to an array of factors which included a myopic and at times, barely competent management and successive government policies, which had the (perhaps unintentional) effect of denying workers a reliable source of income.
The labour factor
Pay was a perennial issue, but so were working conditions, those within many British car plants being not too far evolved from the pre-war era. Neither plant, machinery nor working practices had been modernised, conditions were primitive and given the at best ambivalent attitude of management towards line workers, there was little incentive for them to Continue reading “Running With Scissors [Part Seven]”