Fiat Multipla: Time to Belt Up

Richard’s recent examination of a brochure for a 1998 Fiat Multipla inevitably drew diverging opinions in the comments about the vehicle’s styling.

The contentious belt line.
The Multipla’s contentious belt line.

My own position has always been that, with their first attempt, Fiat’s chefs mixed together too many challenging ingredients to make the resultant dish palatable. The facelift, on the other hand, skewed too far the other way, removing much of the flavour by imposing a bland face on an otherwise interesting body. Continue reading “Fiat Multipla: Time to Belt Up”

Theme: Compromise – One Born Every Minute

Necessity might be the mother of Invention, but her second child is named Compromise. 

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The maker of your own demise. (Image: Auto Express)

For anyone with an ounce of petrol in their veins, few experiences necessitate compromise more than parenthood. Children may be small, but their interminable things are not. The gravitational pull of a gurgling baby Katamari attracts hitherto unimaginable mountains of clutter.

Continue reading “Theme: Compromise – One Born Every Minute”

Our Cars – Ford Fiesta Zetec S Red 1.0

One of the few positive things I could say about owning a RenaultSport Clio was it never left me short of things to write about.

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Keep a tight hold of that lever. (Image: DreamWorks)

From the way it demolished a corner to the way it demolished a gearbox, every journey was an anecdote. Owning the Clio was exciting in the same way that owning a live hand grenade would be exciting. By this yardstick, the Fiesta simply cannot compare. It is simply too smoothly competent to inspire easy prose. Go for a drive however and the Ford proves to be a capable story teller in its own right. Continue reading “Our Cars – Ford Fiesta Zetec S Red 1.0”

Theme: Movies (Late, Late Show) – Cannonball!

On a misty morning in May 1971, an unassuming Dodge Custom Sportsman van christened ‘Moon Trash II’ pulled out of a New York parking lot and headed into the low sun, due west. 

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Moon Trash II (Image: Transcontinental Drivers Association)

Inside were journalists Brock Yates and Steve Smith, photographer Jim Williams and Yates’ son, Brock Yates Junior, plus a stash of junk food, cans of Coke and some empty quart bottles. Continue reading “Theme: Movies (Late, Late Show) – Cannonball!”

The Imitation Game

Too much bratwurst has our correspondent wishing for a more varied menu.

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Go on. Guess. (Image: netcarshow.com)

I would hope that I am fairly knowledgeable about cars. Not in a useful way, obviously; I know so little about how they actually function that I attribute their abilities to modern day alchemy. But from the mid-1990s onwards when my brain began its fruitless journey towards maturity, a large (-ly useless) part of my memory has been dedicated to passively storing and updating a mental catalogue of new cars available in the UK. Imagine my surprise then when a recent advert on TV sparked precisely zero recognition of the make and model being sold. Continue reading “The Imitation Game”

Objects In The Rear View Mirror

The first car I bought with my own money was a Mark One Ford Focus.

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There are many Foci in the world, but this one was mine.

Having decided that a Focus was going to be the car for me, I spent months scouring local dealerships, newspaper classifieds and Autotrader for the right car. Eventually a dealer called me with a candidate. And there it was: a sky blue three door in 2.0 Zetec trim. Despite spending five years gracing the surface of this planet whilst being blasted with wind, rain, road salt and solar radiation, the Focus looked as if it had rolled out of the Saarlouis factory just last week. An inspection and test drive confirmed my impressions: it was a peach. Continue reading “Objects In The Rear View Mirror”

Head to Head: Ford Fiesta ST versus Ford Fiesta Zetec S Red

In a choice between equals, there’s only one decision – or is there?

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Ever since the giant landcrabs died out at the end of the Hydrolastic Age, Ford has been the UK’s top selling marque. Brits have clutched successive generations of Fiestas and Escorts to their heaving collective bosoms, sometimes despite myriad qualitative horrors perpetuated by the company, especially during the 1990s. Fast forward two decades and Ford’s continued popularity is perhaps more deserved, Alan Mulally’s global One Ford strategy culminating in what is (arguably) their best range in years. (Their European operation even managed to turn a profit last year for the first time since I was a schoolboy, if you believe their accountants.) Continue reading “Head to Head: Ford Fiesta ST versus Ford Fiesta Zetec S Red”

Malady’s Echo Chamber

Not only is Volkswagen riding out the worst of the Dieselgate scandal, they are on track to steal Toyota’s crown as the world’s biggest car maker.

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Read anything about Volkswagen in recent months and you would gain the impression that the company was on the ropes. Production numbers from the first third of 2016 paint a different picture, however. So what’s the actual story? Continue reading “Malady’s Echo Chamber”

Our cars: 2009 Renaultsport Clio 200 Cup

A little bit of what you like won’t hurt you. Except when it really, really does. Recently I have had a couple of reasons to consider the meaning of the idiom you can have too much of a good thing.

2015-10-07 10.21.27The first came, perhaps inevitably, with a trip to the hospital. A few weeks prior, my knees had swollen and become painful to the point I could hardly walk. A week at home sat on my backside bombed out on powerful prescription painkillers (the only circumstance by which daytime television becomes tolerable) saw off the worst, but nearly a month later I was still knock-kneed like an old beggar under a sack.

X-rays and blood tests confirmed the initial diagnosis: the inflammation was caused by uric acid crystallising in my joints. Yes, I have Gout. Continue reading “Our cars: 2009 Renaultsport Clio 200 Cup”

Nissan SilEighty – sideways thinking

Scouring the varied cars of Gran Turismo yielded a JDM gem – the Nissan Sileighty.

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Don’t go scouring your collections of official Nissan brochures for a SilEighty though; this one is special. Torquepost describes it thus:

“Drifters and street racers who… raced their Nissan 180SXs found that replacing their front ends when they became damaged was very cost prohibitive… due to the pop-up headlamp assemblies. To remedy this… the Nissan Silvia S13’s cheaper parts, including the lighter panel headlamp assemblies, front fenders, hood, and front bumper would be installed instead. Thus, the car would have the front end of an S13 Nissan Silvia, and the rear badge of the original 180SX. And so, the name SilEighty emerged.”

So there you have it: the Nissan SilEighty. An ingenious piece of sideways thinking from Japanese drifters. Continue reading “Nissan SilEighty – sideways thinking”

Gotta Catch ‘Em All: In praise of Gran Turismo

At the dawn of the 1990s, the computer games industry was in a state of flux. The emergence of 3D rendering technology was spawning new types of games and gameplay.

in control: source
in control: source

Yet against this background of widespread experimentation, driving games were stuck in a rut. A young Japanese game designer by the name of Kazunori Yamauch was unhappy with the state of play. “There were no simulation-based racing games,” Yamauchi stated to Autoweek. “Most of them were arcade games.” Continue reading “Gotta Catch ‘Em All: In praise of Gran Turismo”

Drive By Movies: cars and film posters 2

The car has been woven into the fabric of Hollywood since the early days of both. Each is a symbol of a uniquely American brand of mass prosperity, the polished chrome of the American automobile reflecting the bright lights and glitz of showbiz right back at itself.

 


Given this symbiotic nature, it comes as little surprise that cars have enjoyed star billing on numerous movie posters over the years. Some are great; many more are trash (but a lot of fun). Here are some of my favourites. Continue reading “Drive By Movies: cars and film posters 2”

Drive By Movies: cars and film posters, Part 1

Movie posters have long held a fascination for me. As both a cinephile and a graphic designer, film advertising occupies a shared position in my Venn diagram of interests.img_0129

Like any form of commercial graphics, the compositions of movie posters tread a careful line between any number of competing and often mutually exclusive objectives. Done badly, they are simply more visible clutter plastered on the side of a bus stop shelter, easily ignored as you continue your daily drive to work. Done well, however, then the finest posters blur the distinction between art and commerce until the two become indistinguishable. Continue reading “Drive By Movies: cars and film posters, Part 1”

Our Cars: 2009 RenaultSport Clio 200 Cup

A free-wheeling act of random charity leaves our correspondent flummoxed.

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A strange thing happened last Saturday. Gawping out of the lounge window in the semi-comatose state common to the domesticated house male, I clocked a silver Golf GTI driving slowly down the road. As it passed, I noticed that the driver was peering intently at my house. Odd, especially as I was not even performing naked star jumps in the bay window, which is usually what attracts the eye (and the ire) of passer’s by.

The GTI performed a three-point turn and pulled up in front of my house. The driver, a man whom I did not recognise, got out and walked up the drive. He then set about examining my Clio, which was parked in front of the garage.

Eh up, I thought. What’s going on here? Continue reading “Our Cars: 2009 RenaultSport Clio 200 Cup”

Our Cars: 2009 RenaultSport Clio 200 Cup

David and Goliath? This question springs to mind in this report of life with a RenaultSport Clio 200 Cup.
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The modern SUV. Image: thisiswhyimbroke.com

I once shared a university house with a man who studied Physics. He was tremendously good at it. As a lazy English student, I envied the clarity of his thought processes, of his ability to harness complex mathematics to make sense of the forces that shape our world. Meanwhile, I struggled to marshal the energy to make a toasted cheese sandwich. (And this despite me keeping a Breville sandwich toaster on my bedside table. And my bedside table being a mini fridge liberated from a caravan, filled with cheese and booze.) Continue reading “Our Cars: 2009 RenaultSport Clio 200 Cup”

Our Cars: 2009 RenaultSport Clio 200 Cup

Part Two: Crunch Time. It was driving between two rows of terraced houses, windows wound down, when I first heard the noise. Graunch.

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The RenaultSport Clio 200 in its natural state: immobile. For insurance purposes I would like to clarify this is not my car. Image: Evo

I could hear it when changing into third or fourth gear; sometimes loud, sometimes quiet, but consistently those two gears. Graunch. As the journey wore on, I noticed that pedestrians were occasionally turning to look for the source of the sound assaulting their ears. Crunch. Graunch. Ouch.

For some reason, the Lotus Esprit’s notoriously flaky Renault-supplied gearbox came to mind. Gingerly, lest an expensive and vital part decided to grenade itself, I piloted the Clio home. Continue reading “Our Cars: 2009 RenaultSport Clio 200 Cup”

Socket To ‘Em: the chirpy, cheapie EV

The ever interesting Car and Driver recently ran a feature about second-hand electric cars, pointing out that battery-powered conveyances are creeping on to the American used market in ever larger numbers, and at very enticing prices.2015 Renault Zoe white

A cursory glance at Auto Trader shows that this is indeed the case in the UK too. Leaving aside quadricycles, milk floats and cars from niche manufacturers boasting the crashworthiness of a yoghurt pot placed in a pressure cooker, the site lists more than 450 full electric cars currently for sale across this decreasingly green and pleasant land. Two things are surprising here: how inexpensive they are, and how little mileage the cars have accrued.

Continue reading “Socket To ‘Em: the chirpy, cheapie EV”

Theme: Romance -The Romance of the Road

One of the more compelling conceits sold to us by car manufacturers is the idea that at any time, we can simply get into our cars and drive.

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According to this romantic vision, the roadblocks to pleasure (both actual and metaphorical) are swept aside. There are no roadworks, nor glum-faced commuters, nor mechanical frailties. Nagging spouses are rendered mute; grizzling children are placated. The grind of day-to-day existence, the obligations and the toil, are airbrushed from the picture. It is a warm and fuzzy bubble in which the road is an unimpeded silvery thread winding away to a blue horizon of endless possibility. Continue reading “Theme: Romance -The Romance of the Road”

Vehicle Inspectre

Unless you live cut off from the outside world in a nuclear bunker, or spend your days with your eyes and ears screwed shut shouting “la-la-la-la-la, I can’t hear you”, you cannot have failed to notice a new James Bond film is in the offing: Spectre.

Aston Martin DB10 from Spectre: carconnection.com
Aston Martin DB10 from Spectre: carconnection.com

Wired have helped prime the PR pump with an article on Daniel Craig’s latest conveyance, the Aston Martin DB10. Continue reading “Vehicle Inspectre”

Our Cars: 2009 RenaultSport Clio 200 Cup

Part One: Received Wisdom

Renault Logo

If you want to know how low perceptions of the French car industry have sunk, try telling people that you have bought a Renault Clio.

Reactions vary between pity and incredulousness. “ARE YOU MAD?” people shout, grabbing you by the lapels. “WHY DID YOU DO IT?” they scream into your upturned, spittle-flecked face, shaking you roughly in the hope of reawakening some neglected sense of self preservation. Suddenly you are not the well adjusted and vaguely handsome man they thought you were. Clearly for all this time you have been a self-hater or a masochist. Or worse, a socialist.

In my case, it didn’t help matters that I had traded in something eminently sensible: a Honda Civic. Being an FN2 generation model (often referred to as “the spaceship”), it boasted inspired styling and a Gundam interior. Everyone loved how it looked. Furthermore, I would be hard pressed to find a more unflinchingly reliable car. Like a faithful Japanese robotic manservant, it was practical and never let me down. And I had traded it in for something that was conceivably none of those things. Continue reading “Our Cars: 2009 RenaultSport Clio 200 Cup”

Aston Martin DB9 / Ford Fiesta review: family ties

There I was, a lowly commoner, behind the wheel of an Aston Martin DB9, one of the finest cars in the world by anyone’s measure. Before me, beyond the long, long bonnet, was a circuit laid out on an abandoned airfield. And no speed restrictions.

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Aston Martin DB9. That is some other pillock behind the wheel but I suspect it is the same car I drove. I hope they have retired it by now, it must be shagged. Source: t’internet.

The occasion was a “supercar experience”. Held both for and by people too impoverished for supercar ownership, a variety of “exotics” were available, ranging from a mark 1 Lotus Elise, through a slightly ratty 997 Porsche 911, to a visibly distressed Ferrari 355. The Aston Martin, immaculate and barely a couple of years old, was an easy choice.

A hundred grand’s worth of England’s finest conveyance was a nice place to sit. The seats and steering wheel where covered in soft leather. Only the analogue clock in the centre of the dashboard jarred, perhaps purely through association with the mark 2 Mondeo.

Time for my four laps. Anticipation building, I pressed the starter button to Continue reading “Aston Martin DB9 / Ford Fiesta review: family ties”