Strict Tempo – Part 2. The Unassailable Matador

Image: ndr.de

Bostelbek’s resourceful and determined Kleinlaster manufacturer reached the mid-1950s in a state of existential crisis, with their promising Matador range in desperate need of a suitably powerful, efficient, and dependable engine. The smaller Wiking truck was selling satisfactorily, but the Land Rover joint venture had no future, and the once-staple Hanseat Dreirad was a vehicle type soon to Continue reading “Strict Tempo – Part 2. The Unassailable Matador”

Strict Tempo – Part 1. On a Quiet Street in Neuwiedenthal

A chance sighting in a Hamburg suburb prompts a DTW writer to contemplate the life and times of one of Germany’s lesser known automotive dynasties.

Tempo showroom on Ballindamm, Hamburg Image: ndr.de

For me, this story starts on a quiet street in a south-western suburb of Hamburg almost exactly two years ago, although the times we have lived through since make the experience feel far more distant. I had based myself in an apartment in west Harburg, close to the A7 autobahn, and on my first morning, set out further west in search of breakfast, and found myself on a street called Tempoweg, close to the Neuwiedenthal S-Bahn station.

The name triggered my memory. I knew that Tempo was a Hamburg-based vehicle manufacturer, and had occasionally encountered their rather quirky products at Oldtimer events. On that day I was bound for Kiel, to Continue reading “Strict Tempo – Part 1. On a Quiet Street in Neuwiedenthal”

The Doyen has Departed – Graham Robson 1936 – 2021

With the death of Graham Robson on 5 August 2021, the world of automotive history has lost an extraordinary and prolific chronicler.

Graham Robson. Image: TR Register

Graham Robson was born and schooled in Skipton, a North Yorkshire market town. His family, middle-class but certainly not moneyed, had no connection with the motor industry other than his father’s interest in motorcycle racing. His interest in cars and engineering evolved from his early years, and the clever and motivated grammar-school boy was awarded a place at Lincoln College, Oxford, where he studied Engineering Science.

On graduation in 1957, the young Robson joined Jaguar as a graduate engineering trainee. Without doubt, Coventry shaped him, and in his free time from Jaguar, he was active in club rallying, making important contacts which led to co-driving opportunities with the Rootes factory team, and in 1961 a new job at Standard-Triumph, first as a development engineer, and in due course taking on the role of Competition Secretary.

Robson had a useful sideline in writing rally reports for Motoring News, and in 1965 he left Standard-Triumph to join Autocar’s Midlands office to Continue reading “The Doyen has Departed – Graham Robson 1936 – 2021”

Fanfare for the Common Van (Part 5): Long at Last

We conclude our Transitory aria.

Image: Ford Netherlands

In 1974, Ford at last gave serious consideration to a Transit replacement, instigating “Project Triton” by employing a French consultancy to produce studies for a new van to go on sale towards the end of the decade. The timing was inauspicious, in the midst of a global oil crisis and industrial and political turmoil in the UK.

Within the narrower confines of Ford of Britain, development of the strategically important Cargo medium sized truck range was running behind programme and over budget. Integration of the German and British operations was proceeding rapidly with priority for all resources going to the Fiesta supermini, the most expensive project in the history of the Ford Motor Company.

As Transit demand remained strong, it was decided to Continue reading “Fanfare for the Common Van (Part 5): Long at Last”

Fanfare for the Common Van (Part 4) – New City, New Heart

The Transit hits its stride.

Image: Ford of Britain

Let us move on to 1972, a momentous year for the Transit in the UK and Europe. Despite a house move, British production reached a new high at just over 55,000 units. Genk managed 37,000. Rival manufacturers had yet to follow Bedford’s example with a serious Transit challenger, although British Leyland were, shall we say, working on it.[1] The Toyota Hi-Ace had recently arrived in the UK, finding favour with small businesses and motor-caravanners, but was not selling in the sort of numbers which would concern Ford.

From 1972 the British Transit had a new home. The former Briggs Motor Bodies facility at Swaythling, a northern suburb of Southampton, had produced Transit bodies from 1965. In a logical move, Ford invested £5 million to Continue reading “Fanfare for the Common Van (Part 4) – New City, New Heart”

Fanfare for the Common Van – (Part 3)

The progress of the phenomenon

Image: Ford of Britain

By the beginning of 1968, one in three medium sized vans sold in the UK was a Transit, and Ford could easily have increased this number had there been more production capacity at Langley. In just over two years their share of the market sector had increased by 64% compared with that of the preceding Thames 400E. Ford’s description of their vehicle as a phenomenon was hard to dispute, also claiming that it had become “the most wanted vehicle in Europe”.

Ford’s success in the sector was won with hard work and inspired thinking. Their product had class-leading power and loadspace, seemingly infinite versatility, and a rugged build able to Continue reading “Fanfare for the Common Van – (Part 3)”

Fanfare for the Common Van (Part 2) – Power and Glory

In the second part of our Transit story, we look at its unusual power units and the impact the van made on the British market following its October 1965 launch.

Image: Ford of Britain

Ruggedness and simplicity were at the heart of the Project Redcap’s engineering, but the engines used to power the Transit were strangely at odds with these design principles. The choice of power was a foregone conclusion – Ford’s European operations had been guided to meet their over-1600cc needs with a range of 60 degree V4 and V6 engines for use in passenger cars and light commercial vehicles.

The decision is possibly understandable given the popularity of V8 engines in the USA, but the V-configuration made a far weaker case with half the number of cylinders. Despite this, Ford’s European satellites were producing two different V4s by the end of 1965, with German production exclusively using the V-configuration, while the largest capacity(1) British in-line four was the 1500cc version of the versatile, stretchable and tuneable ohv engine first seen in the 1959 Anglia 105E, with V4s covering the 1.7 to 2.0 litre range. Continue reading “Fanfare for the Common Van (Part 2) – Power and Glory”

Fanfare for the Common Van – Part 1

We look at Ford’s most enduring European product, the clever and versatile van which not only became an instant best-seller, but shaped the future of Ford’s operations across the entire continent.

Image: Ford of Britain

Henry Ford II’s whole life had been turbulent, and he never shied from aggressive intervention. Hank the Deuce had been President and CEO of the Ford Motor Company from 1945, and by the late 1950s was becoming increasingly troubled by the fragmented nature of the firm’s European operations. Viewed from Dearborn, the absurdity and inefficiency of two factories less than 500 kilometres apart designing and producing separate, unrelated ranges of vehicles with few, if any parts in common could no longer be sustained.

Through the 1950s the situation was accepted as both operations delivered worthwhile profits, but the 1960s had scarcely begun before the opportunity to Continue reading “Fanfare for the Common Van – Part 1”

Look What the Tide Brought In – A Caledonian Curiosity

Ireland’s loss is Scotland’s gain. 

Image: R. Parazitas

It is early spring 2009, and Central Scotland is in the grip of an unexpected invasion. They came by the transporter load, unfamiliar little saloons and hatchbacks, unacknowledged by their Japanese maker. As I pounded the M8, M9, M90, and M74, I was briefly mystified – were they merely passing through, bound for another country? Nissan UK was glorying in a Qashqai-led purple patch – they had gambled the farm on an SUV for Focus / Astra money and hit the jackpot. What place was there for a nondescript and regressive basic transport tool?

If I’d been a keener reader of the nation’s red-top dailies, the mystery would have been solved sooner. Scotland’s largest car dealership chain had secured a job-lot of Nissan C11 Tiidas, originally intended for the Republic of Ireland, and now offered exclusively at tempting prices with an impressive equipment specification.

Had it been any other dealership, I’d have expected that a rap on the knuckles and a reminder of the terms of their franchise contract would have been delivered forthwith. In Arnold Clark’s case, I suspect complicity with Nissan to Continue reading “Look What the Tide Brought In – A Caledonian Curiosity”

European Car of the Year 2021: Worthy, But a Worthy Winner?

Once again the Geneva Salon is a no-show, but in the depths of the empty halls of Palexpo, the 57th European Car of the Year announcement goes out to the world. Robertas Parazitas reports, from a virtual Grand-Saconnex. 

Image: ECotY
Image: ECotY

Last year’s hasty but not unexpected cancellation of the Geneva International Motor Show established the template for the virtual ECotY presentation. No free fizz, no famous faces, but it worked, so why change?

Swiss television presenter Mélanie Freymond opened the proceedings, introducing GIMS CEO Sandro Mesquita. He almost answers everyone’s inevitable question. Will there be a show in 2022? The answer is that negotiations with their partner are nearing conclusion and he is hopeful of some “good news” in the next few weeks. Continue reading “European Car of the Year 2021: Worthy, But a Worthy Winner?”

Car of the Year 2021. A Bleak Reflection

Another year, another car of the year contest. Try to care. 

(c) Haymarket Publishing

Who would be be a European Car of the Year Juror? This time round there was not even the customary Danish beach jamboree last October to reward their earnest efforts. There will however be the usual accusations of national partisanism, bias towards those manufacturers who Continue reading “Car of the Year 2021. A Bleak Reflection”

The DTW Bumper Holiday Quiz (Part Two)

DTW wishes you all a very Happy New Year and offers you another opportunity to test out your knowledge of all things automotive. Good luck and no Googling!

citroen ami
Image: catalogue_news

The answers will be published in a day or two.  Continue reading “The DTW Bumper Holiday Quiz (Part Two)”

Festive Teasers 2020 – What’s the Car?

An actor, a small city in Wisconsin, and an item of bespoke door furniture. Together they link to a well-regarded luxury car which spanned three decades of the 20th century.

What’s the car?

Image: imdb

Sir Roger Moore, British actor (1927 -2017) Continue reading “Festive Teasers 2020 – What’s the Car?”

Beautiful Vision – Evolution of the Jowett Javelin – Part 10

Keep Mediocrity at Bay

Image: Jowett Car Club

Throughout the 20th century, Britain produced many remarkable – in some cases world-changing – internal combustion piston engines. Unfortunately for the everyday motorist on the street, most of them were to be found in aircraft, ships, railway locomotives, motorcycles and even a few racing or luxury cars.

Even in the post-WW2 era, all-iron in-line engines were the staple offering for the British Big Six, side valves were still commonplace, and the RAC horsepower rating system cast a long (stroke) shadow over cylinder proportions even after Britain introduced a flat tax rate. Such engines were not particularly powerful, nor even efficient, but were trusted by the motor trade and buying public, and were forgiving of unsophisticated and imprecise casting, machining and assembly methods.

Into this cautious, conservative, yet somewhat confused land came Palmer’s flat-four, designed and developed in wartime. Continue reading “Beautiful Vision – Evolution of the Jowett Javelin – Part 10”

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)”

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)”

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)”

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”

The Labour and the Wounds Are Vain – Turin Motor Show 1970 Part 1

Fifty years from the day it opened, we look back at the 1970 Salone dell’Automobile di Torino.

Italdesign Porsche 914 Tapiro Image: viaretro.com

In late 1970 much of Europe was in the grip of a pandemic, but not one which hindered the annual motor show round which had started in neutral Amsterdam and closed in Turin with a high-art extravaganza where function took a distant third place after form and fashion.

The pandemic was not biological but ideological, manifesting itself in social, political and industrial turmoil, and acts of terrorism by far-left, far-right and nationalist elements. In Italy the phenomenon was given a name – Anni di piombo – ‘The Leaden Years’, and was to Continue reading “The Labour and the Wounds Are Vain – Turin Motor Show 1970 Part 1”

Driven, Written: Work Conquers All

Continuing our Foundation Course in Dacia Studies, a DTW writer examines the outgoing model’s textual significances through a year and a half of real-life experience of a Sandero 1.0 Sce75.

Gérard Detourbet 1946-2019. Image: The Hindu Business Line

I have so far yet to drive a Logan or Duster, but over the last eighteen months I’ve run up lots of Sandero miles. Does it keep Louis Schweitzer and Gérard Detourbet’s vision alive?

Our Sandero was a collegiate purchase, and democratic principles applied. My favoured choice of car is made in the factory which gave us the Alfasud, but I was outvoted. FCA’s lack of regard for EuroNCAP ratings did not help my cause. Grim commerce and rules of procurement prevailed and we were treated to this ageing star of the developing world’s carmaking industry. Continue reading “Driven, Written: Work Conquers All”

Sandero Luminoso: Dacia’s 2021 Debutants

Is the real-world automotive success of the 21st century the ingenious and ubiquitous Dacia family? DTW’s Sandero-driving Dacia-agnostic analyses the all-new Sandero and Logan. Can they sustain the irresistible rise of the Franco-Romanian phenomenon?

Image: Automobile Dacia S.A

Have eight years really passed since Dacia launched the second generation Sandero at the Paris Mondial in 2012? It must be so. My calendar still has the show dates marked in, a vain act of hope in The Year That Was Cancelled.

In 2012 we not only saw the new Sandero, but also an unannounced and unexpected New Logan, effectively a Sandero with a 45mm wheelbase stretch and a capacious boot. The Logan made rational sense but had none of the original’s characterful presentation. Eight years on some Dacia assembly locations still Continue reading “Sandero Luminoso: Dacia’s 2021 Debutants”

Beautiful Vision – Evolution of the Jowett Javelin (Part 6)

To the bright side of the road – The Jowett Javelin meets the world

Image: Jowett Car Company

In little more than a year, the Javelin emerged as a production debutante and established itself as one of the brightest stars of a reawakening British motor industry. Charles Callcott Reilly, Jowett’s swashbuckling joint Managing Director, had made an extraordinary effort to Continue reading “Beautiful Vision – Evolution of the Jowett Javelin (Part 6)”

Fifteen Years after LJKS

Fifteen years ago today LJK Setright departed this life at the age of 74. Bereft of his guide, one DTW writer looks at the years which followed, and considers how this extraordinary man might have viewed them.

Image: The author’s collection

Firstly, I will assume that the reader has some level of familiarity with Setright’s work. He was best known as a writer on automotive and engineering matters, but that scarcely defines him; polymath, autodidact, wordsmith, bebop clarinettist, classicist, libertarian, controversialist, modern-day Jehu, dandy, Ba’al teshuvah. I could go on…

His description of Frederick Lanchester: “The most accomplished gentleman ever wasted on the motor industry” could equally apply to Setright himself.

Even for those of us well into middle-age, the day in September 2005 when this other-worldly man proved to be as mortal as the rest of us seems long in the past, more so since Setright’s last column in CAR* appeared in February 1999**, and afterwards his output was sporadic and thinly spread. Throughout his time as a writer, Setright viewed the world with scant regard for the preoccupations and fashions of the day, and was never afraid to Continue reading “Fifteen Years after LJKS”

Beautiful Vision – Evolution of the Jowett Javelin (Part 5)

In the face of extraordinary challenges, Gerald Palmer’s vision becomes reality.

Happy days ahead Image: Jowett Car Club

As the hand-built prototype Jowetts pounded the roads of Eastern England and war ended, the intrepid Yorkshire company faced new challenges of recovery and reconstruction. In March 1945 the entrepreneur Charles Clore bought out the Jowett brothers’ holdings and thereby took control of the business. The new capital was welcome, but Jowett was no longer a family firm, and the new master would soon Continue reading “Beautiful Vision – Evolution of the Jowett Javelin (Part 5)”

Beautiful Vision – Evolution of the Jowett Javelin (Part 4)

Hard Nose the Highway – the Javelin takes to the road

The first Javelin prototype. Image:  Jowett Car Club

The first prototype of Jowett’s still un-named new saloon was completed on 25 August 1944 arriving into a nation in transition, still anxious, yet optimistic, and at the peak of its technological and manufacturing prowess. It was a land where a computer was a job description for a person adept with a slide rule and log tables, and star engineers and scientists enjoyed the same level of recognition and celebrity as the top sportspeople and entertainers.

For the British car industry, preparing tentatively for the postbellum world, steel allocations were more of a concern than scoop photographers. Gerald Palmer described the in-house built prototypes as “virtually created from raw materials”, by a small development and engineering team, working constantly, even through evenings and weekends. The first car had an 1184cc engine, probably with an iron cylinder block. From the second prototype onwards, the 1486cc export engines were installed. Continue reading “Beautiful Vision – Evolution of the Jowett Javelin (Part 4)”

Beautiful Vision – Evolution of the Jowett Javelin (Part 3)

With the Javelin’s revolutionary credentials established at an early stage of development, evolution towards running prototypes and production reality gathered pace in a harmonious and efficient manner.

First full-size Javelin prototype Image: Jowett Cars

Possibly the most successful element of the Javelin’s design is its suspension and steering. At the front, double wishbones are employed in conjunction with longitudinal torsion bars. Telescopic shock absorbers are used, and the wheels are steered through a sector and pinion mechanism, located behind the engine which is mounted just forward of the front axle line.

At the rear the live axle is located by four fully trailing links and a Panhard Rod. Springing is again by torsion bars, this time in a transverse arrangement. Telescopic shock absorbers are mounted at a 45 degree angle to reduce intrusion into the interior space. Continue reading “Beautiful Vision – Evolution of the Jowett Javelin (Part 3)”

Beautiful Vision – Evolution of the Jowett Javelin (Part 2)

As we (somewhat belatedly) rejoin Robertas Parazitas’ commemoration of the Jowett Javelin, the design begins to take shape.

Image: The author

1943 has just begun, Britain is at war. Jowett has an ambitious visionary as its Managing Director, and a 32 year old engineer with an impressive record of achievement has joined the company to lead its most important project. Would extraordinary circumstances produce an exceptional car?

While Charles Calcott Reilly had found his engineer, the brief for his task was far from set. The design which evolved defined the aspirations of Calcott Reilly and Palmer – a compact but spacious saloon, was described by its designer as a utility car. The target price was £500, coincidentally Gerald Palmer’s starting salary when he joined Jowett in 1942. Exportability was a priority; despite the company’s characterisation as Yorkshire’s national vehicle, in the pre-war period, Jowetts were exported to at least 60 countries. Continue reading “Beautiful Vision – Evolution of the Jowett Javelin (Part 2)”

Conflict Diamonds

Two carmakers go head to head over a bright, shiny object. 

Image: Wkipedia

Diamonds are Forever, or so Ian Fleming told us in 1956. It’s not the view of Munich Regional Court No.1, which found in favour of Renault’s challenge to Chinese-owned Borgward AG’s use of a rhombus-shaped badge firmly in the tradition of their 59 years defunct Bremen-based predecessor company.

As if Borgward AG’s present woes were not great enough, the Bremen newspaper Weser-Kurier reported on 9 May 2020 that Groupe Renault have won an injunction against Borgward AG over the use of their diamond badge design.

The terms of the judgement are swingeing: Continue reading “Conflict Diamonds”

All Together, All Alone : Car of the Year 2020

Geneva has been cancelled, but in some respects at least, the show goes on. There is after all, a car of the year to be decided. Robertas Parazitas reports, from the comfort of home. 

image: radical-mag.com

Surreal is a word both over and mis-used, but it could apply to the 2020 European Car of the Year ceremony, delivered in the usual room in Palexpo, but with the rest of the exhibition complex near deserted, with dismantling and demobilisation already underway even before the first official press day. This time there’s no free fizz and media camaraderie, but by the grace of YouTube, the show goes on.

I’m delivering this from my desk at home, 1500km from Geneva, owing to the vigorous spread of “Novel Coronavirus Covid-19“. Dare one say it is a lot more ‘novel’ than some of the seven shortlisted contenders. Which are, let us Continue reading “All Together, All Alone : Car of the Year 2020”

Satellite’s gone – Holden 1948-2020

The announcement of Holden’s retirement on February 17 should have come as no surprise, but the finality and totality of General Motors’ exit from Australia and New Zealand has made worldwide headlines.

Image: ANCAP

As of January 1 2021 GM will withdraw from the Australian and New Zealand markets, even as an importer. They will meet their statutory obligations on service and parts supports and recalls.

For more details, the official announcement can be found here: https://www.holden.com.au/announcement

It’s a rapid decline to oblivion, given that car production only ended at Elizabeth, South Australia in October 2017. However, the sales numbers tell it all; tenth place in the sales charts, 43,176 vehicles sold in Australia in 2019, a fall of 28.9% over the previous year.

Adding in the 11,245 New Zealand registrations, total 2019 sales come to 0.93 White Hens, to Continue reading “Satellite’s gone – Holden 1948-2020”

Festive Teaser 3 – What’s the Car?

No, it’s not the opening to a joke, but another festive puzzle.

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A politician, a dog, and a gramophone record. Together they link to a significant mid-20th century saloon car. What’s the car? Continue reading “Festive Teaser 3 – What’s the Car?”

Under that Electric Glare – The 2020 ECotY shortlist

The 2020 European Car of the Year announcement is but three months away. As the shortlist is announced, DTW looks at the seven hopefuls.

Image: tannistest.com

Will we ever again experience the like of last year’s CotY final? Two desirable cars, well off the mainstream in affordability  and conventional functionality, race ahead of their run-of-the mill rivals to a dead heat.

When the winner is declared – on a frenzied count of first placings – its manufacturer is found to have no official representative at the Salon. Jaguar’s soon-to-retire styling chief, in Geneva on a day trip, steps up to Continue reading “Under that Electric Glare – The 2020 ECotY shortlist”

The Brightest Hour Is Just Before Twilight (2)

In the second part, we examine R8’s mid-career and consider the heart of the matter – the all-new K-Series power unit.

In mid-life, the proliferation continued with three wholly Rover developed variants codenamed Tracer (1992), Tomcat (1993), and Tex (1994), respectively a convertible, T-roofed coupe, and sporting estate car. Continue reading “The Brightest Hour Is Just Before Twilight (2)”

The Brightest Hour Is Just Before Twilight (1)

30 Years ago this week, the Rover Group launched perhaps its best realised product. We look back at the R8, née Rover 200-Series.

Image: Rover Group

In the late 1980s it really did seem that at last Rover Group had finally found its place.  Much of the credit was due to their new Japanese friends, but the rump of British Leyland was at last demonstrating a new found competence and confidence. However, agony would eventually follow the ecstasy of these heady days.

On 11 October 1989 Rover Group presented, with justifiable pride, the second-generation Rover 200 series, and with it the eagerly anticipated and all-new K-series engine. Every new Rover of the era had an equal and opposite Honda, and the 200’s was the Concerto, which had gone on sale in Japan in June 1998, only 16 months after Rover and Honda had signed the contract to build Project YY as a joint venture. Continue reading “The Brightest Hour Is Just Before Twilight (1)”

Sir Michael Edwardes. 1930 – 2019

Sir Michael Edwardes has left us at the age of 88. It should be less of a shock given his advanced years, but the bold colonial boy called to rescue British Leyland at the age of 46 somehow seemed ever-youthful. We reflect on his five years in the hardest job in the motor industry, and his influence on the years which followed.

(c) quazoo

When Michael Edwardes was appointed Chief Executive of British Leyland in October 1977, on a three year secondment from his post at the head of Chloride Group, the company was an industrial disaster zone. Eight years from its formation, it was state-controlled, chronically loss-making and blighted by turbulent industrial relations and product quality failings which were the talk of the nation.

Edwardes was either an enlightened or desperation-led choice. From Southern African business aristocracy, and far from the core of the motor industry, he was an outsider taking on a task which had been beyond those born to the industry. Continue reading “Sir Michael Edwardes. 1930 – 2019”

Have I come in at a bad time?  The Borgward BX7 TS

Nearly four years have passed since neue Borgward presented the BX7 at the 2015 Frankfurt IAA. DTW’s Borgward-obsessive shares his impressions of one of the first Shanghai-built cars to arrive in the great lost carmaker’s home city.

Image: Borgward AG

The car is a left hand drive BX7 TS Limited Edition, not long arrived at Bremerhaven from Shanghai, but tested in south-east England. The first visual impression is how easily the car fits into the British carscape, registering in the visual continuum as just another big European SUV, not quite an Audi Q5 or XC 60 clone, but only by the grace of some well-executed details of its own. There’s nothing awkward or ham-fisted about the styling, but neither is there much that hints at the brand’s ancestry in a subtle or ingenious way. Continue reading “Have I come in at a bad time?  The Borgward BX7 TS”

Every Day Is Judgement Day.

Continuing our meditation on the Austin Maxi and Fiat 128, some thoughts prompted by encounters with two survivors.

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The two cars pictured were photographed in the last 12 months. As well as being impressively original and looking as if they work for a living, they’re also examples of the last of their breeds.

The Maxi is one of the final ‘Maxi 2’ iteration, introduced to a largely indifferent world in August 1980, just 11 months from the end of production. The bright colour – ‘Snapdragon’ in BL parlance – suits it well. Far too many Maxis were specified in Russet Brown, Damask Red, or hearing-aid beige (formally known as “Champagne”), 1950s colours two decades on, in a time when BLMC’s Austin Morris colour pallet suddenly became positively vibrant. Tellingly, the archetypal Maxi customer avoided Bronze Yellow, Limeflower, or Blaze Red. Continue reading “Every Day Is Judgement Day.”

128 vs Maxi Part 4: The Racehorse and the Donkey

We return to our analysis of the 50-year old Austin and Fiat contemporaries with a look at their engines. One was the work of a revered racing engine designer, the other was cobbled together by two capable engineers in the backrooms of Longbridge under the thumb of an unsympathetic boss with his own peculiar agenda.

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On paper a conservative design, the Maxi’s E series engine turns out to be downright odd in its execution. It evolved from a 1300cc prototype with a belt-driven overhead camshaft, one of many experimental designs being developed in the West Works at Longbridge. Long-serving engine designers Eric Bareham and Bill Appleby were handed the task of reworking the inchoate power unit into an engine suitable for BMC’s new mid-range car.

More capacity was needed, so it was bored out to accommodate 3 inch pistons, leaving no space for waterways between bores or any further outward expansion. Issigonis vetoed belt drive for the camshaft in favour of a traditional single-roller chain, on the reasonable grounds that belt technology was new and unproven at the time. Continue reading “128 vs Maxi Part 4: The Racehorse and the Donkey”

128 vs Maxi Part 3 : Spring Song

We return to our two stars of the spring 1969 season with a look at the different approaches to chassis design adopted at Longbridge and Lingotto.  One car defied convention, the other defined the new orthodoxy.

Image: BMC

Raw facts first:  The Fiat 128 uses MacPherson struts at the front, with coil springs and a transverse anti-roll bar, and a fully independent system at the rear, comprising a transverse leaf spring, struts, and a single wishbone per side. The Austin Maxi has Hydrolastic springing and interconnection, with upper and lower links in a parallelogram arrangement at the front, and fully trailing arms at the rear.

That disregards the detail, which is significant in the understanding of the designers’ mindsets. Continue reading “128 vs Maxi Part 3 : Spring Song”

128 vs Maxi Part 2 : Function over Form

We continue our look at the spring 1969 debutants, contemplating heady matters of gestalt

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The rather Lancia Beta-like profile rendering from the early stages of BMC’s ADO14 project shows considerable promise. Too short in the nose, probably at Issigonis’ prompting, but otherwise elegant in spite of the ‘carry-over’ 1800 doors. So what went wrong along the road to BLMC’s five-door fiasco? Continue reading “128 vs Maxi Part 2 : Function over Form”

128 v. Maxi Part 1 : Last Tango of the Titans

A little over 50 years ago, two of Europe’s leading automotive businesses introduced a pair of rather utilitarian cars to the world. One was hugely successful and influential, the other turned out to be a prophet with little honour in its own time.

In bombastic terms, there’s a ‘clash of giants’ story to be told. Issigonis v. Giacosa. BLMC v. Fiat SpA. Maxi v. 128. It’s not quite ‘rumble in the jungle’, but a comparison tells a lot about the way things were done at Lingotto and Longbridge.

In a curious coincidence, the Austin Maxi and Fiat 128 were the last cars developed by their lead designers which reached production, although Issigonis’ input to the Maxi project was sporadic and remote.

In Dante Giacosa’s words, “On 3rd January 1970, the chequered flag signalled my arrival at the finish of my career”. He had reached the age of 65, and resigned in compliance with company rules. Continue reading “128 v. Maxi Part 1 : Last Tango of the Titans”

Geneva 2019 Reflections – Eclectic and Electric

As the halls of Palexpo return to their quiescent state, one DTW reporter reflects on an engaging Estonian, a divisive dreamer, and new masters at Pickersleigh Road.

Image: autovia-media

So how was Geneva? “Very electric” has become my customary reply, when I choose not to elaborate. In Europe at least, the internal combustion is likely to Continue reading “Geneva 2019 Reflections – Eclectic and Electric”

Geneva 2019 Reflections – Pio Would Have Loved This

For one DTW reporter, there was only one star of the 2019 Geneva International Motor Show. We take stock of Fiat’s Concept Centoventi.

Image: fiatpress.com

Still in mild shock at the most dramatic ECotY announcement in years, my Geneva companions and I took our customary evening promenade round the halls of Palexpo. The FCA stand promised little. We knew they had no new cars, but at least they turned up, unlike some, and Alfa and Fiat had heavily concealed concept cars to show the following morning.

Later in the evening we talked of what is to become of Fiat. Three of us, we have all had various Fiats in our lives and enjoyed the experience. Now the company seemed to be ever more marginalised in the increasingly Jeep-centric world of FCA in the Manley Era.

The FCA Press Conference was therefore a must-see. New introductions were thin on the ground. Alfa Romeo had the Tonale SUV concept, but no mention was made of the GTV. Jeep showed petrol-hybrid Renegades and Compasses, but they will not Continue reading “Geneva 2019 Reflections – Pio Would Have Loved This”

Hopes May Rise on the Grasmere

The 56th European Car of the Year announcement is almost upon us. Robertas Parazitas looks at the hopefuls and their prospects.

Lest readers need to be reminded, these are the favoured ones which made it through to the long list:

Alpine A110
Ford Focus
Kia Ceed
Jaguar i-Pace
Mercedes-Benz A-class
Peugeot 508
Citroen C5 Aircross

In the days when ECotY was restricted to European products the continent’s carmakers would have done well to Continue reading “Hopes May Rise on the Grasmere”