Try A-Coke-Ah (Part One)

Lee Iacocca – The Ford Years

Image: Ford Motor Company

Searching for a horse’s mouth account of that pioneering purveyor of horseless carriages, a recent read was the well known autobiography of the irrepressible, late and lamented Lido Anthony (Lee) Iacocca. (1924-2019) With the internet nowadays a deep-mine of information, such a move maybe described as unnecessary, but to this author at least, that misses the point.

For those of you who seek the inner nuances concerning his fathering of the Mustang, therein lies a smattering – just eighteen pages given over to that mother of all car launches, but since other aspects of his career overwhelmed such matters, we ought not Continue reading “Try A-Coke-Ah (Part One)”

Equus Celestial – Part Two

The star fades

SST Concept. Image: oldconceptcars.com

In the first few days of January 1998, Mitsubishi revealed their first ever American designed and fabricated vehicle at the Chicago motor show. With a styling theme described as Geo-Mechanical, this muscular looking brute showcased not only a study of future potential but also the trajectory Japanese/American market appeared then to be following. Solid in stance, the SST (Sophisticated Sports Touring) roadster bristled with confidence with its acid lemon colour scheme, side strakes, singular central exhaust and independent suspension. The engine remained the two litre and good for 210 bhp but the transmission had become automatic.

At the New York motor show three months later, the Tangerine Dream SST Spyder arrived allowing Dan Sims, chief designer at the Cypress, California R&D base to Continue reading “Equus Celestial – Part Two”

Equus Celestial – Part One

Starring role.

Image: Car Domain

Depending on one’s viewpoint, celestial eclipses can be viewed as either a beautiful or foreboding event. They are a covering shadow, something which could easily be applied as a metaphor for this Japanese born motor car, produced in the USA. A further metaphor: In 1764, an English race horse named Eclipse[1] hacked up (comfortably winning in racing parlance) 18 races in 17 months. Owing to his winning ways, competing racehorse owners would refuse to Continue reading “Equus Celestial – Part One”

Bus de Combat

Peugeot 504 pick-up into Landtrek

It’s a good deal tidier and its not blue, but otherwise… Image: carsaddiction

Upon leaving school back in the (very) late eighties, finding gainful employment wasn’t much of a priority at all, rather something we were forced to achieve by parental coercion. Aged seventeen, being told for the umpteenth time that money doesn’t grow on trees, and that it’s time to begin contributing, not just to home finances but to society as a whole was to be frank, boring. Work journeys necessitated the use of public transport for a while, but then my mate, Michael found a welding job, which came with a vehicle; a Peugeot 504 pick up in pale blue, quickly labelled, ‘The Battle Bus’. Better still, Michael’s boss allowed him to Continue reading “Bus de Combat”

Reluctant To Fall – The National

Remembering the Leyland National.

Leyland National. Image: keybuses.com

The pall of smoke hung closely to the clattering, diesel din. The gruff acceleration, occasionally squeaking, yet hollow sounding brake alongside the hiss of the air compressor; these, more than any roaring car engines were the sound of my childhood as we rode the buses, and one in particular, the Leyland National, fifty this year.

By nature, Coachbuilt meant craftspeople hand building the bodywork onto a supplied chassis and taking anything up 1,000 man hours to complete. The National was “designed like an aircraft, built like a car” and took around 300 man hours, the idea being to Continue reading “Reluctant To Fall – The National”

Danelaw

Lock up your kinfolk. 

Zenvo TS1 GT. Image: Motor Authority

A long time ago on this sceptred isle, hordes of Danes visited the land, leaving behind language and place names, farming principles and legal terminology which (given plenty of time) helped the establishment of parliament. Many years on, the Danes have returned, albeit in far lesser numbers but equally as fierce. Behold Zenvo.

Using the first two and last three letters of his surname, Troels Vollertsen founded the company in 2007. Not that his eponymous cars require more muscle, the badge has that name underlined. Should you Continue reading “Danelaw”

2/1 F – Giovanni The Bomb

Horsing around.

Image: breakinglatest.news

In a world already awash with noise, the fabled prancing horse of Maranello has seemingly been directly connected to a mains-wired megaphone, a matter which you may or may not believe went practically unnoticed to these ears (and eyes) until fairly recently. But to make up for this deficiency, it has reached my attention that the Ferrari online store has lately been selling £600 Ferrari-branded trainers guilefully entitled Rosso Lamina Liquida, which we are reliably informed come “with a bold look that echoes the appearance of the Ferrari bodywork“. Marvellous.

It should not therefore surprise you, dear reader to Continue reading “2/1 F – Giovanni The Bomb”

They Came From The East (Riding)

The story of Armstrong Dampers.

Image: isaydingdong

New Year’s Day: Normally a time of headaches, compromised hand/eye co-ordination and the avoidance of anything remotely complicated. Perhaps using a shoe horn to ease into the day, but certainly no haste or sudden movements. Definitely not one for starting a business. But 117 years ago, twenty two year old Fullerton George Gordon Armstrong, who clearly hadn’t indulged in anything intoxicating the night before, did just that. With initial plans to build cars bearing his surname, his venture would eventually lead to a global empire which followed the path of many a British enterprise, with a dash of turmoil thrown in.

Whether aware of the Chinese proverb of the long walk beginning with the first step or not, Gordon had inculcated his younger self with an engineering apprenticeship, twelve months spent at sea as a marine engineer, chief mechanic, then proprietor at a larger, land-based garage. His opening gambit in the auto business would take place in a small rented workshop in Beverley, East Yorkshire, entitled The East Riding Garage & Engineering Works. On Whit Monday 1912, competing with his own 8hp car, Armstrong won both Scarborough speed trials and hill climb on the same day, but had to Continue reading “They Came From The East (Riding)”

Luxury and Genius

Luxgen: Made in Taiwan. 

Image: cartype

Taiwan may not be your first port of call as regards car manufacturing, but this relatively small island in close proximity to China has been producing motor parts for many years. Alongside this essential line of work, several factories are involved with car production, usually under license from GM, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Mitsubishi and Honda.

Yulon is a sixty-year established Taiwanese vehicle manufacturer and importer who branched out in 2009 to create the Luxgen Motor Company Limited. Combining the words Luxury and Genius with their Think Ahead motto, the new carmaker accrued a gamut of technologies from long standing partners such as Aisin (transmissions), Delphi (steering), LMS (NVH suppression), Magna for suspension along with Prodrive for the dynamic set up.

Their first vehicle was a seven-seater MPV, effortlessly named the Luxgen 7. Based upon the 2009 Renault Espace, the chrome-winged nose and cascading grille lent the DRG a somewhat sit up and beg stance. A 2.2-litre diesel motor powered the front (or four-wheel) drive 4.8 metre long car. Co-developed with the HTC smartphone company, the car’s Think+ system incorporated 23 ECUs which controlled the myriad of sensors and eight cameras through a Windows operating system. Home sales encouraged Luxgen to Continue reading “Luxury and Genius”

Where There’s Muck, There’s Brass

 Exemplar 1: More Riviera-based goodness. 

Coggiola sketch for Exemplar 1. Image: neautomuseum.org

While the name of Sergio Coggiola might be known to the enthusiast, that of Mario Revelli de Beaumont may not. Roman born Revelli made his name submitting handsome designs to coachbuilders in the nineteen twenties and thirties with Rolls-Royce, Lancia then post-war, with Fiat. Coggiola on the other hand spent time under Pietro Frua at Ghia before setting up his eponymous carrozzeria in Orbassano, a district of Turin during 1966. Around that time, the two Italians collaborated, with the use of atomic element number 29: copper.

Bridgeport, Connecticut may not be the automotive centre of the universe but the Bridgeport Brass Company (henceforward referred to as the BBC) had plans to Continue reading “Where There’s Muck, There’s Brass”

Silver Car For Mr Mitchell (Part Two)

Boaty McBoat Tail

Buick Silver Arrow III. Image: Conceptcarz

An almost mythical aura surrounds the second of the Silver Arrow concepts, which is more than can be said of the car itself – now vanished without trace. Hype and overall interest for 1967 was considerably lower when compared to the first Silver Arrow; no chassis number, no documented dates, no confirmed photos, zilch.

After extensive research with limited resources[1], Silver Arrow II appears to have barely differed from a 1970 model year Riviera – the grille perhaps receiving the most noticeable change – 74 teeth opposed to only 60. The side chromed spear overlaid onto bodywork. An interior again in silver leather. Other small details differing from that of later production models include side view mirrors, the hub caps (not seen on any other Riviera) and the rear side reflectors. What is known as the Rocker Moulding[2], was also chromed. Continue reading “Silver Car For Mr Mitchell (Part Two)”

Silver Car For Mr. Mitchell (Part One)

Silver Arrows from Flint, Michigan.

Image: sloanlongway.org

In the realms of car design, chances must be taken. Regardless of the ever-building pressure generated from all quarters as to the next sure-fire sales wonder, calculated risk taking is part of the game. Such incontrovertible weights require shoulders of strength, astute vision, alongside the ego of a vain, mirror-devoted individual, obsessed with appearances. Praise be that a certain William Mitchell was in possession of all of the above qualities, along with a marked penchant for items of an argentine nature.

It seems as natural today as it did sixty years ago that prior to the October 4th 1962 Riviera reveal, Mitchell would wish to Continue reading “Silver Car For Mr. Mitchell (Part One)”

Vox Pop Riviera Americana

Riviera. A brief history. 

Image: oldcarbrochures

London in the late 1950’s could still fall victim to enveloping airborne elements. Long since relieved from wartime bombardment, the city’s endemic smog, while atmospheric (in either sense of the word) was hardly conducive to those of a compromised bronchial nature. But what transpired for a certain American one evening in the capital, would prove even more breath taking, prompting something of a three-decade exhalation.

Ford had upset the atmosphere in 1958 by introducing the second-generation Thunderbird, a hugely successful personal luxury car which forced the competition to Continue reading “Vox Pop Riviera Americana”

X-Ray

Examining the Skeleton of the modern motor car.

Volvo S90 body in white. Image: Volvo.media.com.

Call me a Luddite, hurl vitriol to my face, shake your head in disbelief, but one thing cannot be denied. Since strolling onto this site as a wet behind the ears enthusiast, the act of reading, researching and writing about cars has improved my level of knowledge to that of a rounded enthusiast. Few can ever learn everything, but the journey is often more interesting than the destination. And as the saying goes, if beauty is only skin deep, here, the inner beauty of the car is allowed, encouraged even, to shrine through. 

Formula One was something of a catalyst, showing the way with their tyre temperature thermal cameras, often making for more excitement than the race itself. Witnessing those temperatures rise and fall drew me like seagulls to tractor’s rear amid a freshly ploughed field, dazzled as those pale blues and burning reds danced a Celsius Cabriole, if you will.

Obviously we see but the tyre, only the sensors (and cameras) can permit such internal vision. Having these secrets revealed has made me Continue reading “X-Ray”

Avida Dollars

Of Dali’s car, peppermills and ice cubes.

Image: wikiart.org

Filing the coffers is the name of the automotive game, be it through finance incentives, software investment or the plain shifting of tin. Of course, entrepreneurial spirit lies strong within the field – new avenues to pursue, lucrative boulevards to not only build but furnish, to the delights of old and potential customers alike. These can take many forms, especially when one combines celebrity and the historical record.

When one is a self-described (and wealthy) genius, allowances can curve toward the over exaggerated. Take the moustached dreamscape decorator, Salvador Dali. A marketers dream, then as now, the artist never drove a car, yet became absorbed by the American luxury only Cadillac could deliver.

Not obsessed with the motorcar per-se, for Dali, the looks of the car either dismayed or delighted – the technicalities were of no concern. Having had a great deal of success with the de Luxe, General Motors, on asking for Dali’s input, received his request to Continue reading “Avida Dollars”

Muddy Boots Welcome Here

Our Sheffield correspondent likes it dirty. 

Image: The Editor

The tyres on everyday road going cars must endure many hazards, from the self (but more likely garage-induced) under or over-inflated pressures to sharp detritus. Heavy acceleration and braking all take their toll. But there’s only one substance that can enhance the look of a tyre – that’ll be mud.

My local environs is covered in the stuff. Washed off fields from endless rain, copiously blended with horse manure, along with the fleets of tractors passing by, the tarmac is more likely to be brown than black. ‘Tractor Splat’ can most commonly be found right on your line of enthusiastic attack for the next corner, leading to a fast moving steering wheel and raised systolic readings for those wearing a fitbit or similar. The farmer may Continue reading “Muddy Boots Welcome Here”

Ain’t No Spin Here

Does your bow tie revolve?

Image: Autocarsindustry

Inspiration arrives in many forms. In today’s story, mystery, elements of sophistry and in this instance, anaglypta and food all play their respective parts as we peer into the entomology of a globally renowned car badge, yet one with an indeterminate history. Some believe that the badge is in fact a cross, stylised over generations, but the only genuine certainty is that Chevrolet’s badge is indeed a bow tie, although how this came to be is subject to one of four possible permutations.

The first of these suggests that company co-founder William Crapo Durant introduced the bow tie motif onto his cars in 1913, two years after the company’s inception. One simple but uncorroborated story involves the Swiss chap whose name went on to emblazon millions of vehicles over the intervening years – Louis Chevrolet. Possibly as an homage to the drapeu de la Suisse, it seems a blatantly obvious connection until one realises that Louis had left the company by 1915.

An altogether more elaborate reasoning stems from a story centred around a newspaper advertisement that Durant is said to have viewed in 1912, as related by Catherine Durant to interviewer Lawrence R. Gustin some years after her husband’s passing. On vacation in Hot Springs, Virginia, Durant noticed a bow tie emblem featured on another altogether different product – Coalettes, a refined solid fuel. Considering it to be suitable for his cars, he exclaimed to Catherine, Continue reading “Ain’t No Spin Here”

Feeling Like a Spare Part

You find us today in pieces and parts.

Image: tradekey

I bid you dear reader to recall the chastisement you once received from your parents, irate at the bomb site you’d made of the room as you built that model car, tank or plane. This usually plastic model kit required careful assembly, with precision and adjustments, where necessary. That missing, vital piece which caused untold distress, the carelessly applied glue which resulted in delays and rectification – the admiring glances over coming months of a job well done.

Assembling a modern motor vehicle is in essence little different to the description above. Components, sub-assemblies, fasteners, grommets; any typical car is made up of hundreds if not thousands of the things. The assembly plant merely has to Continue reading “Feeling Like a Spare Part”

Norman and Nigel of the Forest

Ringing in the changes.

The birds-eye airliner grille motif has to be a first? Image: mad4wheels

Having enjoyed[1] the sinuous ribbon of tarmac known to all and sundry as the Nurburgring from both front seats of such esoteric machinery as a 5-litre TVR Chimaera, an 1983 Audi Quattro, a Mazda RX-8 and a Porsche 911SC from 1987, you might think your author qualifies to wax lyrical about the Green Hell, as Jackie Stewart famously termed the place. Think again. These events were spaced out over a period of several years and no matter how many YouTube videos one peruses, once the helmet’s on and the barrier rises (€25 per lap Monday to Thursday – €30 Friday to Sunday, when open to the public), most of the experience degenerates into a frenzied blur. As competent as one might feel behind the wheel, I never troubled Timo Bernhard’s 5:19.5 lap in 2018.

In fact the Nordschleife, whilst beguiling, has become something of a bore; reading of yet another manufacturer launching a ‘honed at the Ring’ model, one feels compelled to Continue reading “Norman and Nigel of the Forest”

Viking Italianate

Norse legend via Turin.

Image: archivioprototipi.it

Love affairs can be fickle. Within the car industry, bed hopping is almost as natural as tightening nuts. The longevity of such associations is often a factor of money as much as talent, for matters of taste do not necessarily equate to success. As we have seen in a previous instalment, Volvo had given Fissore and Zagato short shrift, only to seek out one of their lesser-known rivals, Coggiola. Whether Gothenburg had been influenced by the carrozzerias’s previous Exemplar concept is unknown, but more likely it was their work with Trollhattan natives, Saab[1].

Unveiled at the 1971 Paris auto salon, the Volvo ESC, also known as the Viking was a fully engineered concept. Described as ‘the successor to the 1800′, a sobriquet that may have been wide of the mark, even if the original Pelle Petterson design was by then widely considered something of an obsolete Viking itself. Something of a show pony, Coggiola worked expressly on the bodywork and interior, leaving the oily bits untouched.

With a styling theme broadly similar to that of the GM-based Exemplar, Coggiola was asked to Continue reading “Viking Italianate”

Livin’ It Up

Quiet flight, by Lincoln.

Image: ablogtowatch.com

Softness: increasingly difficult to find in this harsh world. Interiors can cosset but can an entire car be defined as soft? Practically 2.3 tonnes of metal, glass, plastics and leather suggests otherwise, but Dearborn’s luxury arm begs to differ. Lincoln, until recently home to stately sedans have chosen to park that genre for vehicles of a physically larger nature – taking a more tender route – if one which only those in the US and selected regions can sample. 

In an ever-competitive luxury marketplace, the new for 2022 Aviator  sees Lincoln up the ante in a most restful manner. Aviator can be optioned with air glide suspension where the car bows to greet the driver or assist with loading – the area lit by what the maker dubs a welcome mat, along with headlights that greet your appearance. For such a well mannered and relaxing-natured car, should it surprise that the interior contains 28 speakers? If only perhaps to Continue reading “Livin’ It Up”

Last Picture Show

Millennial-era nostalgia from Uncle Henry.

2001 Ford Forty Nine. Image: supercars.net

America in the late 1940s was awash with post-war optimism, and one of the loudest fanfares would blow from the Ford Motor Company’s trumpet. Before its official launch in June 1948 at the Waldof-Astoria hotel in New York, the generated buzz was palpable – the ‘49 was here. Hailed as a dream car with simple lines, picture window visibility along with mid-ship ride, the 1949 Ford was not only a huge success, but slipped easily into the burgeoning craze of cruising and customisation. On sale a mere two years, this car replenished Dearborn’s black ink wells and some believe, saved the company’s hide.

Fifty years later, at a time when the blue oval began to lose faith in the saloon shape, a concept almost made the company Continue reading “Last Picture Show”

Buckaroo!

Saddle up hombres, there’s a new Bronco in town. 

Don’t you dare grin, Troy…. Got my mean face on, Chester. Image: Ford.com

When Dearborn hinted at the return of the Bronco, the American nation rejoiced. The internet lit up. But for the inconvenience of trivial global public health issues causing incontrovertible delays, many a soul would Continue reading “Buckaroo!”

Blackhawk Down

If you’re feeling sinister…

Image: Hemmings Auto News

One sure fire way of upsetting your customers is to halt production of an established favourite. Buick caused a national outcry when they axed the Grand National. When the Riviera was retired, the overtures were quieter perhaps but no less felt. GM rolled out concepts from time to time, and potential customers took notice until the realisation dawned that this was more a case of theatrics over genuine articles – another false dawn.

Are we perhaps being a little harsh here? Given the chance to design something from scratch, any designer worth their salt would Continue reading “Blackhawk Down”

Untamed Soul

Where Bronco began…

Image: Motor1

During the Second World War, the Ford Motor Company built tens of thousands of Willys Jeeps under licence for the war effort, yet it was almost twenty years from the cessation of hostilities before Dearborn created an offroad lifestyle vehicle of their own, one which has more recently undergone something of a re-birth.

During the early ’60s, and somewhat belatedly spotting a potential market for a vehicle equally adept on, or off-road, the blue oval surveyed Jeep and International Harvester Scout customers. The revelation that these rivals suffered from “poor comfort and ride with harsh noise and vibration problems” led to a product planning committee memo dating from October 1963, code named Bronco. Seven days later, another memo, this time entitled GOAT (Goes Over Any Terrain), was distributed, leading those in the know to Continue reading “Untamed Soul”

The Hurricane is as Tame as the Kitten

Toyota once took turbines very seriously indeed. We look back at Aichi’s efforts.

1987 Toyota GTV. Image: oldconceptcars.com

Automotive technologies have a natural tendency to evolve. With Rover of Solihull firmly closing the door on gas turbines by the mid-1960s, we open an eastward-facing door, to see how Toyota took up the baton.

First mooted in 1965, sixty months of intense development took place at an undisclosed cost. The results brought forth a two-shaft gas turbine, intended for a bus chassis. A further five years of research entailed, the outcome being a car based turbine, the flagship Century being the chosen home for such a noble power unit. With its V8 removed, the gas turbine was not mechanically connected to the drivetrain. Instead, those ultra high revolutions charged a bank of batteries, in turn feeding motors to both front wheels – the gas turbine hybrid[1].

The Century tests were reasonably positive but Toyota’s engineers quite naturally wanted to Continue reading “The Hurricane is as Tame as the Kitten”

Bold and Pure

The lesser-spotted 2022 Astra

Image: Autocar

The evergreen Astra: around these environs, you might be hard pressed to believe that seasons five, six and, to a lesser degree, seven have ceased production at all. Examples of each of these generations still ply their trade, from the local builder’s grubby estate car or faithful family holdall, to the noisome kerbside cruisers beloved of maxed-up youth. These and other variants remain daily sightings, their longevity a credit to the brand.

But wherefore the latest incarnation? Astra achter was revealed to this fair land during the Summer of 2021, becoming available to download[1] (sorry), purchase from November, yet your North Western correspondent has yet to Continue reading “Bold and Pure”

Lights are Darker, Darks Lighter

Frank Wootton – illustrator, artist. 

A Frank Wootton advertising illustration for Rootes. Image: Motoringart

Widely hailed as the finest aviation artist of all time, Frank Wootton OBE (1911-1998) is equally well known and regarded for his artistic work in both equestrian and landscape fields. But his skills could be said to have been honed, be they in pencil, oils or in charcoal, during the earlier portion of his career, drawing and painting motor cars.

A Hampshire native, Wootton attended the Eastbourne School of Art, being subsequently awarded a gold medal and a £25 travel scholarship, which he used to tour Germany for a season painting murals. London called and led to a position as a commercial artist in the Grafton Studio. During the mid-1930s, Wootton’s employer pitched for Ford of Dagenham’s promotional business. The carmaker was seeking high quality, American-style illustrations, but most importantly, in colour. Just about to Continue reading “Lights are Darker, Darks Lighter”

Swedish Cliffhangers

More lost prototypes from Volvo’s cutting room floor.

1952 Volvo Philip prototype. Image: Secret Classics

Measuring the strength of any influence can prove difficult. The film and TV industries revel in suspense, from those early monochrome Flash Gordon and Zorro weeklies to today’s greedy multi-franchised big-screen sequels. Leaving the audience wanting more invariably guarantees success, but do these eleventh hour on-screen nail-biting endings have much in common with those created within the car industry? More so than it might appear: that most conservative and safety-conscious of Swedish carmakers had several instances of the will they, won’t they?  cliffhanger, the first being named, of all things, Philip.

Whether Jan Wilsgaard was partial to Continue reading “Swedish Cliffhangers”

Billeted By The Waterfall

Buick tantalises, but disappoints.

2013 Buick Riviera Concept. Image: topspeed.com

For the new millennium, GM tasked its Holden operation in Australia with creating a new global platform, which would be named Zeta. Costing around AUD $1Bn, Zeta was engineered for longitudinal engine placement and RWD as standard, with the option for AWD. It was designed to be highly flexible and could accommodate over half a dozen body styles with variable wheelbase lengths, ride heights, roof lines and windscreen rakes. The suspension comprised MacPherson struts with dual-ball lower A-arms at the front and a four-link independent set-up at the rear. With full-blown production models still another two years away, GM took the decision to Continue reading “Billeted By The Waterfall”

The Flying Burrito, Brother

Denied, or swerved? We examine a lost Buick concept.

1999 Buick Cielo concept. Image: Consumer Guide Auto

The conglomeration of niches and target customers explored by car makers in the conceptual realm have for the most part enjoyed a better than average tendency towards termination on dead-end street. Concepts may showcase design flourishes or preview the latest in technology, but rarely see production reality – more often appearing as a feature flick here, or a garrulous gamut there. But as the millennium approached, and their once-proud Riviera model withered on the vine, Buick sought to Continue reading “The Flying Burrito, Brother”

Three Glasses Half-Full or Half-Empty

Automotive sightings that leave your author perplexed.

Dirty. Image: the author

The striking of a recently repaired nearby church clock signalled the end of another tedious morning in the office, and a fine spring day invited me outdoors to take the air. There followed a pleasant stroll, enlivened by some interesting, if conflicting, automotive observations.

Within seconds of leaving my place of work, the first of three wildly different vehicles caused my automotive radar to blip. It was a current (fourth) generation Mazda MX-5. Not a rare sighting by any means, but the unusually scruffy condition of this particular example gave it an aged, neglected and rather morose demeanour. I inferred from its condition that its driver may have travelled great distances with neither the opportunity nor inclination to Continue reading “Three Glasses Half-Full or Half-Empty”

Improving the Breed

A man on a mission.

Image: caranddriver.com

The old adage of racing improving the breed was taken to another level when engineer, designer and talented race car pilot Zora Arkus-Duntov took up the development of the 1959 CERV – the first Chevrolet Experimental Racing Vehicle.

A Belgian-born naturalised US citizen, Arkus-Duntov is rightly regarded as the Father of the Corvette. Beguiled by Harley Earl’s beautiful styling but disappointed by the Corvette’s indifferent performance and handling, Arkus-Duntov wrote to Chevrolet Chief Engineer Ed Cole, offering his services to Continue reading “Improving the Breed”

Coup d’État

An act of defiance against Dearborn created an exceptionally pretty Ford.

Image: newsdanciennes.com

Established during the Great War by the head of Ford of Britain, Percival Perry, Société Française des Automobiles Ford was Dearborn’s Gallic outpost, producing  Ford models T, A, Y and B as the twentieth century progressed. It would, however, prove to be a rather wilful and independently-minded offspring, resistant to the dictates of its parent company. In 1934, Maurice Dollfus, who had been appointed head of the company four years earlier, sought a means to expand its operations. An introduction to an Alsatian chap by the name of Emile Mathis led to the creation of Matford SA, based in Strasbourg, a joint-venture company in which ownership was split 60:40 in Dearborn’s favour.

Relations across the pond soured in the late 1930s, with Dearborn seeking to Continue reading “Coup d’État”

John Harris Insists You Try

It’s Grin up North…

All images: The author.

Car trials are practically as old as the motorcar itself. Take a vintage automobile and point it in the direction of a steep hill. Throw in muddy, rutted tracks and/or forest areas. Combine this with unpredictable British weather and you have the makings of a most rewarding, if rather sodden day out.

The Setting: A former limestone quarry in the heart of the picturesque Derbyshire dales. Now verdant and a haven for walkers and bike riders, its industrial heritage has become well hidden unless you Continue reading “John Harris Insists You Try”

Twenty-Two Minutes of Fame

Making a performance out of buying a used car.

Image: Discovery Communications

Back in the day, buying a second-hand car used to involve quite a bit of exercise, trudging around from dealer to dealer trying to weigh up the alternatives on offer and, most importantly, to avoid being sold a pup. Recently, a number of online (only) dealers have sprung up, offering the time-poor and/ or the really-cannot-be-bothered the opportunity to Continue reading “Twenty-Two Minutes of Fame”

Modern Girl

Taking stock of the Mercedes-Benz CL55 AMG.

All images: The owner

Exclusivity is a tricky balancing-act in the automotive industry, particularly for manufacturers who are (or aspire to be) regarded as ‘premium’ players. On the one hand, manufacturers need a level of sales that will allow them to amortise the ever-growing upfront investment required to develop new models, so they can ultimately return a profit. On the other hand, if their bread-and-butter models become too commonplace, the thin veneer of exclusivity could be stripped away.

Mercedes-Benz was, at one time, pre-eminent in maintaining its composure on this particular high-wire. City streets throughout Europe were thronged with smoky W123 200D taxis in mainly unappealing flat colours, yet the same car, in a nicer colour and (modestly) higher specification, was still the vehicle of choice for aspirational upper middle-class professionals. Continue reading “Modern Girl”

Making Sense of the Supercar

Ingolstadt does it differently.

Image: newcarnet

Running an errand recently facilitated a rare sighting for me: not one but two first-generation Audi R8s passed me by within seconds of each other. Notwithstanding the pouring rain, I paused to take the pair in, a silver example closely followed by one in black, both on 2008 plates. Hang on, I thought, has the R8 really been around for that long? Longer still, it turns out: launched in hot and dusty Nevada in 2006 following its Paris Salon unveiling, Audi’s everyday supercar has lost none of its sparkle over the intervening years.

Styled under the supervision of Italian design chief, Walter de Silva, the R8 cannot readily be pigeonholed as a conventionally beautiful mid-engined supercar. Instead, it is unorthodox, complex and, in front and rear three-quarter views, most definitely muscular and imposing. Continue reading “Making Sense of the Supercar”

Das universelle Motor Gerät

A simple idea, a brilliant execution.

Image: mercedes-benz-trucks.com

During the Second World War, Albert Friedrich was head of aero engine design at Daimler-Benz, but also found time to research another project, unbeknown to his bosses.  Friedrich was interested in developing a versatile agricultural vehicle that combined the best features of a tractor and a truck. He described his then nameless concept as an “engine-powered, universally applicable machine for agriculture.” The vehicle would in due course become a valuable tool for many occupations far beyond its originally intended application.

Late 1945 saw Friedrich seeking permission from the occupying US Army to obtain a production licence. This was duly granted, so Friedrich and fellow engineer, Heinrich Rößler, a former colleague at Daimler-Benz, commissioned Eberhard & Söhne in Schwäbisch Gmünd, a city in the eastern part of the German state of Baden-Württemberg, to help them Continue reading “Das universelle Motor Gerät”

Things Haven’t Worked Out As Expected

The author samples Volvo’s first EV-only model.

All images: The author

Thanks to the deep pockets of its parent company, Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, Volvo’s transformation from ICE to electric vehicles is moving ahead at pace. The strategy was devised by outgoing Chief Executive, Håkan Samuelsson, and will be picked up by his successor, Jim Rowan, who takes over this month (March 2022). The days of the fossil-fuelled Swedish car are most definitely numbered.

Having been the proud owner of one of Gothenburg’s finest for the past eighteen months or so, I recently received an invitation to attend a (nationwide) event at my local Volvo dealership in order to sample the new C40 Recharge. This is the first Volvo to be powered solely by electricity, and it comes in a new shape as well, the currently uber-fashionable crossover-coupé. Continue reading “Things Haven’t Worked Out As Expected”

Blit Spirit

An alien presence in rural Yorkshire.

Image: jpdjapan.com

Our typical Sunday morning walk involves a drive long enough to warm the vitals through, but short enough to get back home quickly, should the capricious Yorkshire weather intervene. We drive through farmland and on to a pretty village where, if it weren’t for the hourly strike of the church clock, time might have stood still for decades.

The automotive  population of the village usually comprises the inevitable assortment of SUVs, so mundane and commonplace as not to warrant a second glance. Today, however, an arresting sight met my eyes in the riverside parking area, an alien presence that had crossed both time and space to land in this rural idyll. The object of my fixation was a Toyota Blit. Continue reading “Blit Spirit”

Les Frères Sizaire

Remembering two French automotive pioneers.

1909 Sizaire-Naudin 12hp Type G Two-Seater with Dickey. Image: bonhams.com

In the early years of the twentieth century, the emerging automobile industry in Europe created something of a gold-rush, with a multitude of prospectors throwing their hats into the ring in the hope of achieving fame and fortune. Barriers to entry were low: anyone with a well equipped workshop and decent engineering skills could try their hand at building a car, often with mixed fortunes, occasionally with hilarious mishaps.

Two such would-be automobile moguls were Parisian brothers Maurice and Georges Sizaire, who fancied their own roll of this particular dice. Elder brother Maurice had some design experience, but in buildings, not motorcars. Three years his junior, Georges was an apprentice turner but, like his brother Maurice and their family friend, Louis Naudin, his consuming passion was for cars and driving.  Naudin worked for De Dion Bouton, one of the earliest French car manufacturers, so at least he had some relevant experience. Continue reading “Les Frères Sizaire”

Something Growing out of Season

An early spring arrival in Sheffield:

All Images: autotrader.co.uk

Goodness, it seems a long winter: early December snow followed by unseasonably mild conditions, yet the days are still too short, the daylight pallid and grey. One looks forward eagerly to spring, when the brightness and warmth of the sun lifts the mood and instils new energy and vitality: folk smile, appear more relaxed and less hurried to retreat indoors – and they change their cars. The swapping of cars can happen at any time, of course, and for wildly different reasons, but the auto trade eagerly anticipates the green shoots of spring for the new business it brings.

On a recent dash for urgent supplies of dried coriander(1), I witnessed a previously unseen and unseasonably early new shoot: where once resided an ignoble looking red Fiesta Mk3, that space had been well and truly filled by a product of Pym’s Lane, a white Bentley Continental GT. In the bright sunshine, one’s hat brim required tipping to Continue reading “Something Growing out of Season”

Roots and Wings – A Book Review

The life and work of automotive designer, Peter Schreyer.

Image: Gestalten

Is Roots and Wings a book for the Internet age? The plethora of online information concerning Peter Schreyer borders on the exorbitant, even obsessive, but when the heft and aroma of the paper, quality of the photography and fascinating subject matter combine to such good effect, the pleasure this book provides is sensory as much as intellectual. Engaged with the physicality of this book, one is inclined to take one’s time, allowing the narrative and images time to be absorbed and appreciated for their subtlety and nuance. One is left with the impression that Schreyer took the same time, effort and care over the book that he invested in his automotive designs. Hence, the book is bursting with flavour and added humour, some of which is intentional, some inadvertent. Continue reading “Roots and Wings – A Book Review”

Sheffield Steel

Beef paste and changes…

Image: South Street Kitchen

“If things don’t change, they’ll stop as they are” is a traditional North Yorkshire saying for stating the bleeding obvious. But change is irresistible and inevitable, especially when it involves cityscapes or modes of transportation.

The picture above is of the South Street Kitchen, a particularly attractive section of the Park Hill Flats complex. A little background: originally built between 1957 and 1961 as a brave new concept in urban living, Park Hill’s concrete superstructure was constructed on former cholera-ridden slums. Initially heralded as an architectural triumph, the buildings suffered vandalism and neglect for many years before finally blossoming into a colourful Sheffield living space after a major redevelopment.  Continue reading “Sheffield Steel”

A Golden Fleecing

Ninth-life expired?

Image: drivespark.com

My mood, like the weather, was drab. My eyes searched in vain for a hint of colour, something other than the pervasive and oppressive greyscale of an English January day, to lift the spirits and provide some inspiration. Jaded, yet ever hopeful, as Shank’s Pony took me hastily back to work to consume my lunch, there in my gaze lay a sorry sight. It was as lacking in vitality as your author at that moment, so one had to check twice to ascertain that the creature still lived. 

Approaching closer, one could feel the residual heat from the front grille – there was life but you’d be hard pressed to Continue reading “A Golden Fleecing”

Despicable Me – Parts 1,2,3 (And 4)

Thrills, chills and headaches. 

Mitsubishi Colt CZC. Image: convertiblecarmagazine

Car making CEOs are not generally known for their comedic skills. One expects variations of sobriety; suits, stoic faces, a modicum of good manners – even to the press. This is not a charity. Making money (and cars) is serious business. Anomalies do however occasionally surface. Maybe the planets line up in a certain order, a particularly cheeky Chateau Neuf de Pape loosens the guard, revealing the (not so) inner Dr. Nefario (with Gru peering over his shoulder) for a moment, allowing an otherwise unmined niche to Continue reading “Despicable Me – Parts 1,2,3 (And 4)”

Lost Worlds

Looking back at Brooklands and Opel’s Rennbahn.

Napier Railton on a flying lap. Image: Race Department

Almost as swiftly as the automobile had become established, thoughts moved to racing, pitting not only drivers’ skill but also that of the engineers, fabricators and supporting teams. Races were conducted on dusty or muddy European public highways (weather dependant), but as speeds and risks increased, the building of a dedicated course for such pastimes entered the minds of a number of British motorsport aficionados. Hill climbs and trials had of course existed from early on, but the onus upon developing the world’s first proper motor racing track lay with one Hugh Locke King – creator of Brooklands.

In the summer of 1906, keen early adopter of the newly fangled motor car, wealthy landowner Locke King was cajoled into building what journalist Bill Boddy would reverentially call The Track. With little opportunity for the British racing enthusiast taking the fight to those on the continent, Locke King agreed to Continue reading “Lost Worlds”

Seventh Son

It’s not easy being green – or purple for that matter.  

Credit: Autocar

Purple patches: how the car industry seeks them out, wishing them unending. Barrels of confidence too, a strangely metaphorical catalyst. Combine the two and akin to many chemical reactions, effect closely follows cause. The Koreans have lately been planting purple by the acre, nurturing their allotments with generous amounts of confidence, the result being that the Seventh son has germinated. A concept large enough to rival contemporaries such as the Volvo XC90, another all electric family shifter, or indeed the now perfidious Sonderklasse, Hyundai’s epithet for the brute swells with confidence – this is a ‘Category Bending’ SUV.

Ignoring range (or its antithesis, anxiety) and dimensions, look deeply at this auto show reveal. The Seven may very well make it to production as is. Scoff at leisure, the Ionic 5 and 6 barely altered from their own concepts to lines rolling. The (practically) British Racing Green bio-paint makes a great first impression, highlighting how metal requires little, if any adornment. Flanks of elegance reside. Front wheel arch entasis, brawn to the rear. A counter over arch maybe a detail too far – removed for the facelift version, maybe?

Rear three quarter views reveal the gentle barrel roll to the belt line, eyes seeing strength without force. Whilst doubtful the poignée de porte will make it to job one, maybe Hyundai will Continue reading “Seventh Son”

Fools Who Dream

The car that choreographed a Cadillac lawsuit (and won).

Image: consumerguideauto

McCormick Place, Chicago, February 1982 – a not entirely salubrious (or meteorologically appropriate) launch venue for a factory convertible. American and British tastes regarding the drophead differ considerably. Ever optimistic for the kiss of solar rays, Blighty could not be satiated. America however, forty years ago felt altogether differently.

Wealthy customers have always been happy to Continue reading “Fools Who Dream”