Chinese-owned, Stuttgart-headquartered Borgward AG presented an all-electric Isabella concept at the Frankfurt IAA. Is it a hubristic Frankenstein fantasy, or a worthy bearer of the revered name?
Die Isabella ist tot, es lebe die Isabella. Ein gute idee is besser als tausend Bedenken.
(The Isabella is dead, long live the Isabella. A good idea is better than a thousand concerns.)
So said Dr. Jochen Schlüter, the fictional chairman of the living and thriving Borgward AG in Andreas B Berse’s 2006 contra-factual novel ‘Borgward Lebt’ on the occasion of the launch of the fourth generation Isabella at the Frankfurt IAA in September 1989. Continue reading “Diamond Dream, or Ruined Rhombus?”
In a couple of weeks, Suzuki will present the latest generation of their enduring and hard-working Jimny family. As we eagerly await the new arrival, we look at one of the odder twigs on the extended family tree.
The subject’s identity crisis is manifestly obvious. It’s sold as a Suzuki, yet there’s a Maruti badge in the centre of the grille. The Japanese masters were content to sell it to New Zealand farmers as one of their own, but it’s an Indian-built Maruti Gipsy, in 4WD, 1300cc petrol specification, and therefore based on the 1982 SJ410 in all its live-axled, leaf-sprung primitiveness. Continue reading “Far From the Mainstream: Suzuki Farmworker”
It all began with a casual conversation at a motor show, which touched on the Ro80 and its stylist, Claus Luthe. An acquaintance, with an extraordinary nose for the rarely trodden byways of automotive history said “You do know that Luthe probably didn’t design the Ro80?” I confessed I didn’t, but I was keen to know more.
“It’s in an old copy of CAR”, I was told. I asked if there was a possibility of a scanned copy of the article. “I’ll do better than that”, I was told; “I’ll send you the magazine”. Continue reading “A Question of Attribution”
General Motors – the name is a clue – are virtuosos in the art of the world car. This is not to say they haven’t played a few bum notes in their time.
It’s too early to speculate how the Opel Insignia B will perform on its world tour, but its diverse audiences will demand versatility as well as capability. Launched proudly earlier this year in Switzerland, the Insigregaldore carries four badges; a lightning bolt, a mythical beast which appears to be self-conscious about underarm odour, three shields, and from February 2018, a lion. Continue reading “Two Lions, Four Continents, One Car”
Next month the Škoda Yeti, arguably the nicest VAG product of the last decade, and certainly one of the most individual, will be replaced by a lightly reworked Tiguateciaq, with the name of Karoq.
According to Škoda, “the name and its spelling originate from the language of the Alutiiq, an indigenous tribe who live on an island off the southern coast of Alaska. For the name of the new compact SUV, Škoda has drawn on the spelling of the Škoda Kodiaq and in doing so, has created a consistent nomenclature for the brand’s current and future SUV models.” I still think it’s rubbish as a name, but so is ‘Qashqai’, and it does awfully well. Continue reading “Extinction Alert – Yeti Falls Victim to Atonement-Led Rationalisation”
I sometimes think I’m fated to have encounters with unusual Alfas when I least expect to…
The 2600 duo in Friedrichstadt, the SZ in Dorridge, and the decaying Fadesa Romeo van on the road into Fornells spring immediately to mind.This Montreal was spotted on an unremarkable suburban street in Basel in March 2008. I imagine that the massive rise in classic car prices would make such encounters far less likely now. Continue reading “A photo for Sunday – Alfa Romeo Montreal”
As this month’s theme draws to a close, we give you something to ponder…
In 1963, Oscar Montabone was recalled from Chrysler-controlled Simca to manage Fiat’s Automobile Technical Office. His primary task was to develop Project 124, a putative 1100 replacement in direct competition with Dante Giacosa’s Project 123, which was not so much a defined car as a series of studies with various front engine/front wheel drive and rear engine/rear drive configurations based around a 1157cc three cylinder opposed-valve ohc engine. Continue reading “Theme: Simca – The Vibrations That Lived On”
The Simca 1300/1500 had a tough act to follow and stepped elegantly into the Aronde’s shoes yet, despite good looks and strong sales, it never really escaped the rather ‘grey’ reputation bestowed by its casting as the universal anonymous saloon in Jacques Tati’s 1967 film “Playtime”.
The casual seeker after knowledge might too easily conclude that the mid-size Simca’s sole contribution to the advancement of the automotive art was the availability, in the estate cars only, of a Formica-faced boot floor which could double as a picnic table. The reality is that it was a well-balanced product, both in engineering and styling, for which Simca adopted ‘best’ practice, rather than joining the technological revolution which was sweeping through the car industry in the late fifties and early sixties, which saw even conservative businesses like BMC, GM, and Rootes trying to rewrite the engineering rule-book. Continue reading “Theme: Simca – The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie”
Robertas Parazitas looks back on a memorable Geneva Salon, and can’t quite decide whether to praise the Cadillac Escala, or rant against the sustained assault on the English language.
The concept is not new, having had its premiere at Pebble Beach in August 2016. It is intriguing on several levels. The design language is a departure from the distinct vocabulary of present Cadillac offerings. Like the Pininfarina H600, the Escala could fit into a number of manufacturers’ ranges: Jaguar, Lexus, DS.
In the halls of Geneva, resurrection man Robertas Parazitas meets two more restless souls.
Death, it has been observed here before, has a revolving door in the automotive world. In recent years we have observed the return of Singer, Borgward and Alpine. (In the case of the first I can’t see much of the spirit of the plucky Coventry firm, but the workmanship puts the last Chamoises and Gazelles to shame) Continue reading “Geneva 2017 – Artega Scala Superelletra”
Van Helsing starter kit in hand, roving reporter, Robertas Parazitas comes face to face with another automotive revenant.
The Geneva Salon is still a place where rich men can show their dreams made metal. Jim Glickenhaus was there with his SCG003S hypercar. Not far away, Felix Eaton, Huddersfield’s answer to Glickenhaus, proudly launched his graceful Black Cuillin. More modest in size, but equally single-minded is the Microlino, the creation of Wim Oubouter.
Not so much Geneva bites, more nibbles from a show which wasn’t short of substantial fare.
There was a Vauxhall at Geneva!
And rightly so. The one-nation marque, which few people outside the UK even realise exists, outdid Jeep, MINI, Jaguar Land Rover, Mazda, Honda, Suzuki and Mitsubishi for sales across the entire EU zone in 2016. Continue reading “Geneva 2017 – l’Insolite Part 1”
Big but not necessarily better, Ford’s late 60’s Zephyr brochure lays out its stall.
The cover is bereft of the expected seductive image of the car it describes. There is only blackness, a small head-and-shoulders photo of a well-groomed, confident looking individual and the title, “Motoring for the 15,000 a year man”. 15,000 miles that is, not Pounds Sterling, but the implication is there. Even £5000 per annum would have been a top-rank salary in 1970, when this brochure rolled off the presses of Alabaster, Passmore and Sons Ltd in Maidstone. Continue reading “Theme: Brochures – Ford Zephyr Mk.4”
The 1964 brochure describes it as “A golden milestone”, but BMC’s Rolls-Royce powered luxury flagship had a curious history and turned out to be a rotund failure, a white elephant which was to be an embarrassment to the reputations of both companies.
My copy of the brochure is rather dusty and faded, but is a splendid thing, printed on heavy, high quality paper, with a stiff card cover. There are thirteen fine hand-painted illustrations – not one photograph in sight – and fulsome letters from the managing directors of the new car’s proud parents, Sir George Harriman of BMC, and Dr. Fred Llewellyn Smith, of Rolls-Royce’s Motor Car Division. Continue reading “Theme: Brochures – Vanden Plas Princess 4 Litre R”
It’s mid-February and the ACEA numbers for 2016 still have ‘provisional’ status.
My interest here is in the brands which fell short of 100,000 registrations last year across the EU and EFTA countries. The audit is something of a blunt instrument. The supercar and ultra-premium marques do not even feature. Bentley, Lamborghini and Bugatti are counted in the 4,561 “other VW Group” registrations. Likewise FCA’s 8,211 others comprise mainly Dodge and Maserati. And yet, the 2,589 Chevrolets registered get their own billing. Continue reading “Industry Bites: The Five-Figure Club”
A 46 year old brochure prompts some thoughts on – arguably – the most idiosyncratic Comecon car to cross the Iron Curtain.
It is neither big, nor French, nor Italian, and had an embarrassingly prolific production of over 1.2 million, but the Wartburg 353 is deservedly a DTW favourite.
The price list accompanying the brochure is from April 1971. The £749 asked for the Knight (the name was only used for the British market) deluxe saloon was £26 more than a Mini 1000. A four door Viva deluxe was £883, the equivalent Avenger was £20 dearer. More off-beat choices were the Morris Minor 1000 4 door at £775, the Skoda S110L at £775 (The Octavia wagon was still available at £710), and the new 1500cc overhead camshaft Moskvich 412 matching the Knight exactly for price. Continue reading “Theme: Brochures – 1971 Wartburg Knight”
In three weeks’ time (6 March) the cream of the world’s automotive media, and some rather anxious captains of the motor industry will crowd into a stuffy hall in Geneva to hear the results of European Car of the Year 2017. It’s much like the Eurovision Song Contest, but far more camp and partisan. Continue reading “Weighed in the Balance – ECOTY prospects”
From the Parazitas collection, a journey into a gentler time.
It is quite possible that I have never seen a Simca 1200S, nor its tamer 1962 predecessor the 1000 Coupe, in real life, but this English language brochure from around 1970 is testament to its existence. Checking a November 1970 issue of Motor confirms that it was indeed offered in the UK at a hefty £1595. Just £1398 would have bought you a Capri 3000GT. The Simca’s more natural rivals, the Alfa Romeo Guilia 1300GT, and Lancia Fulvia Coupé Rallye S are listed at £1848 and £1871 respectively. Continue reading “Theme: Brochures – “Of the Same Noble Breed as the Fabulous Cheetah””
And finally, another tale of compromise, recounted by M. Seidler.
Once work on the Almusafes plant was underway, Ford negotiated with the Spanish tax authorities to import some cars for use by their staff and management. Presumably the notion of using Chrysler 180’s or Seat 132’s would be too much to countenance. The sticking point was a rigidly enforced annual limit of 250 imported cars for the entire country. Continue reading “Compromise Redux – The Generous Generalissimo”
So you thought there was only one Fiesta Mk.1? In fact there nearly were two, and the one we never saw almost tore Ford apart.
From its inception in 1969, Ford’s small car project had always had inter-continental ambitions. An early project structure saw engines manufactured in Brazil being used in cars made first in Europe, with a production base in Brazil following on, which would not only serve the home market, but would also export to the USA. US and Asia-Pacific production sites would follow. Other visions included a simplified low-powered variant adapted for production in developing countries, a third world car maximum speed of 55-60mph, a 0-50 time of 25-30 seconds, capable of being sold at 50-60% of the price of the cheapest Ford Escort. Continue reading “Theme: Compromise – The Fiesta Mk.1 – Blood on the Boardroom Floor”
Let us consider the conventional wisdom about the first generation Fiesta.
It arrived some time after the revolutions in small car design which raged through Europe in the fifties and sixties, and continued to bear fruit into the early seventies. It was thus a rationalised ‘best practice’ car, standing on the narrow but solid shoulders of at least four influential and successful rivals which arrived early enough in the 1970s to influence and inform Ford’s designers. Continue reading “Theme: Compromise – The Fiesta Mk.1 – Almost Revolutionary”
A missed opportunity or a masterpiece of compromise? We look at the unassuming little engine that drove the Fiesta’s success.
CAR March 1974 was confident in its prediction about the Fiesta’s engine; “it is a completely new water-cooled, in-line four with single overhead cam and Heron head. It will come in two sizes – a little over 900cc and 1090cc for the top of the range model.” As we now know, the “scoop report” could scarcely have been more wrong, but it is easy to understand the reasons for their conjecture. Continue reading “Theme: Compromise – Ford’s Valencia engine. A Curious Orange?”
Driven to Write looks in depth at the Fiesta’s development.
Lest it should pass un-noticed, January 2017 is the fortieth anniversary of the Ford Fiesta’s launch in the UK. Production at Ford Germany’s Saarlouis factory began in July 1976, with the core Almusafes plant coming on stream in October 1976, so the lucky continentals were introduced to the car a few months earlier. Continue reading “Compromise: On the road to Fiesta – Part 1”
It’s Spring 1981, and I’m in Charlottenburg, on the western edge of the British Occupied Sector of West Berlin.
The picture is taken on Wundtstraße at the edge of the Lietzensee. These names are still powerfully evocative of the time I spent in Berlin, half a lifetime ago. German big city carscapes are, in my experience at least, underwhelming. The urban dwellers’ favoured cars are small, cheap, usually French, Japanese, or Korean, and very old by British standards, but not quite old enough to be interesting. Continue reading “Theme : Places – Another Snapshot from Occupied Europe”
Let us briefly remind ourselves of Leslie Poles Hartley’s words, ‘The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there’.
The country photographed is now in the past, the Deutsche Demokratische Rebublik, a failed state which ceased to exist in 1990, and they really did do things differently there. When I took these photos nine years before the fall of the Berlin Wall, the DDR was dysfunctional, but very much extant, and didn’t look as if it would be brought down any time soon. Continue reading “Theme : Places – Snapshots from Occupied Europe”
Confession time: I said there was no chain involved in this teaser, but there is one. And a couple of shafts. And one absolutely enormous toothed belt.
The answer is that the engines of all four cars were also used in motorcycles. It’s a rarer peculiarity than might be expected, particularly as I applied a self-denying ordinance which excluded tricycles, sidecar haulers (even the Borgward-Goliath-Kröger), and one-offs. All four two-wheelers here were on public sale as complete, series-produced entities. Continue reading “Connect the dots #3: The Answer”
As we conclude our trip across South America, we do so in a small truck with a surprising powerplant. IAME’s faithful Rastrojero.
Argentina’s Peron-initiated IAME (Industrias Aeronáuticas y Mecánicas del Estado) technology and manufacturing vehicle, turned out some weird and less than wonderful machinery in its 38 year existence; from small Goliath-like front wheel drive cars with highly unconventional split-twin two stroke engines, to a sports car with a 2.5 litre air-cooled modular V8. Yet IAME’s most successful and enduring product was the Rastrojero, a light truck truly down to earth in its concept and engineering. Continue reading “Theme : Sudamerica – Argentinian Soul, Hanseatic Heart”
Today, DTW takes a stroll (or should that be Troll?) through the Pantanal.
DTW, thankfully, has no place for the pernicious curse known as ‘clickbait’, but the Troller Pantanal would richly deserve its place in “What the 20 most unsuccessful light commercial vehicles you never realised were gay look like now will make your jaw drop”, if ever such a gallery of shame were assembled. The subject of our tale of misadventure is Brazilian 4×4 vehicle manufacturer Troller Veículos Especiais S/A, founded in 1995 in Horizonte, Ceará Province. Continue reading “Theme: Sudamerica – The Troller Pantanal – Victim Of Circumstance”
A Brazilian beauty comes under the DTW microscope.
Controlled markets create their own phenomena, and the autarky imposed by the Brazilian government from early 1976, when all car imports were effectively forbidden, resulted in the emergence of a small scale luxury car industry whose high ambitions were often thwarted by economic and technical reality.
Spot a Triumph TR7 in a car park and you may well experience something rather strange.
Unenlightened passers-by won’t give it a second look, whereas examples of most of its boxy contemporaries would attract their immediate attention. The last of the TRs shares with its Rover SD1 stablemate an ability to blend into the 21st century carscape, despite originating over forty years ago. Continue reading “Opening Up the TR7 Envelope”
I had high expectations of Friedrichstadt, a perfect little displaced Dutch town in German Nordfriesland, but they didn’t include two Alfa 2600s.
Their presence was unexplained. No ‘Oldtimer’ gathering, no other participants on a one make outing. I would hate to think that they had just ‘failed to proceed’. The 2600 Sprint’s charms are beyond dispute, but a bit of fact-finding on the Berlina sprung some surprises. Continue reading “A Photoset for Friday: Alfa Romeo 2600 Berlina”
Mentioned previously in dispatches, a particularly nice, if fading example of my favourite variant of VAG’s fecund PQ34 platform.
I’ve found some pictures taken last year, but it seems to have disappeared from my neighbourhood. The DVLA Vehicle Check information suggests it is set fair for its sixteenth year. Pale beige leather complements the gold exterior. It was registered in Edinburgh, traditionally a place where wealth showed a discreet face. This fits nicely with a well-optioned car from a less than top-tier manufacturer. Continue reading “A photo for Thursday: SEAT Toledo VR5”
Last month’s news of head of MINI design Anders Warming’s precipitate and unexplained departure from BMW as was a shock to the industry comparable to Chris Bangle’s exit in 2009.
That may be as nothing compared with the news of his new appointment as Borgward AG’s Board of Management member responsible for Design, to begin on 1 January 2017. He is belatedly reversing the trend begun by Wilhelm Heinrich Gieschen, Karl Monz, and numerous others who took the one-way journey south from Bremen in the early 1960’s to create the new BMW in Borgward’s image. Except of course, neue Borgward is headquartered in Stuttgart, and answers to Beijing. Continue reading “What Anders Did Next”
We could easily be excused for missing the first official pictures of the BMW 1 Series four-door. It’s reported to be strictly China-only, and a built in the BMW-Brilliance Auto joint venture factory in Shenyang. The design isn’t wholly unfamiliar, having broken cover as the ‘Concept Compact Sedan’ at the Auto Guangzhou salon last November. Continue reading “Not for Sale Around Here: BMW 1-Series Sedan”
Some unlikely things turn up on the streets of my home territory, but I never expected to see a Holden WH Statesman 17,000km from Fishermans’ Bend.
It’s not even the most Brougham of the series, the bodily and mechanically similar Caprice topped it for equipment and ornamentation.
The reader will have quickly worked out that it is related to the Omega B and Cadillac Catarrh, but with a widened body and track. Unlike the German cousins, it was never blighted by the troublesome Merseyside-built 54 degree V6. A quick check of the DVLA Vehicle Enquiry website reveals that it has 300bhp from its gutsy 5667cc New Generation III V8. Continue reading “A Brougham Holden That’s Not a Holden Brougham”
Much has been learned from last month’s Japan-fest, perhaps most of all that anything we assume about this extraordinary automotive industry is probably wrong, or at least far more complicated than imagined.
For example, most people imagine Suzuki were a confirmed K-car specialist until GM took a modest 5.3% stake in the business in 1981 and promoted the development of the Cultus SA310 supermini – its names were legion; who’s heard of the Isuzu Geminett?
Then, in the depths of the Japanese Society of Automotive Engineers enlightening website I found this forgotten beauty: The 1965 Suzuki Fronte 800. Not to be confused with the big-engined export Kei-car from 1979, more familiar as the Alto and Maruti 800. This one had a long gestation. Continue reading “Yet More Japan – When Suzuki Stumbled”
Driven to Write profiles an unjustly forgotten Japanese outlier.
They say the alcoholic always remembers his or her first drink. I can’t remember mine, so I guess I’m clear on that front, despite none of my assorted ethnicities being notable as strangers to the bottle. On the car-spotting matter, it’s quite different. I can remember seeing my first Ro80, XJ6, and Miura with complete clarity, including colour and location, despite the passage of four and a half decades or more. The same is true of my first sighting of an Isuzu Bellett. Dark blue 4 door, Market Street, Sydney, June 1992. The Bellett had embedded itself in my automotive consciousness long before, the curiosity fired by reports in Autocar and Motor of saloon racing and rally successes which suggested that this was something out of the ordinary, from an industry about which we were told little. Continue reading “Theme : Japan – Isuzu’s Sporty ’60s Sophisticate”
Much has been written on the contribution of Italy’s styling houses to the Japanese motor industry in the crucial years when it went from being a tentative exporter to a seemingly unstoppable force.
I have taken a closer look at cars from the last five decades with an Italian connection. Unsurprisingly, the activity was at its most intense in the 1960s. Almost every carmaker was using the Italian styling houses then. They were not so much a service to industry, more a regional art form, but as well as being masters of form and proportion, the carrozzieri could Continue reading “Theme: Japan – Tokyo, Twinned With Turin”
Defying convention and chiselling away at costs can be a recipe for disaster, as one manufacturer who ought to have known better found out.
Cast your eyes over this ‘platform’. If you’re keen on guessing games, you would take in the V-engine perched over the front wheel centreline, front struts, complex looking independent rear suspension, and all round disc brakes, and conclude that it was probably ‘80s or ‘90s, most likely from the upper end of a European or Japanese manufacturer’s range.
In which case you could scarcely be more wrong. The chassis belongs to a British Ford, introduced in 1966, and costing less than £1000 in its basic form. The Zephyr/Zodiac Mk.IV was the first mass-produced British Ford car to feature independent rear suspension. The trouble is, it wasn’t much good. Continue reading “Theme : Suspension – When Independence Goes Wrong”
Until recently, Toyota made the sort of cars which wouldn’t say boo to a goose, to use that strange, but expressive phrase. All that seems to be about to change.
The Mirai and latest Prius look as if they would cross a busy road themselves if there was a goose-booing opportunity on the other side, and the C-HR crossover which debuted at Geneva keeps up the trend. In the current manner, it’s tamed down a bit from the C-HR concept shown last year at Frankfurt. However it still tends towards the egregious. I’ve been inured to this since the shock of the Nissan Puke, and I think the Toyota hangs together rather better. Continue reading “Geneva Bites – What’s happening to Toyota?”
Who would have thought it? Kaiser-Willys are stablemates with Ferrari and Maserati…
The word ‘icon’ was tediously ubiquitous in the media day presentations, but Jeep served us up a veritable triptych on their stand: Willys Jeep in military trim, Willys Jeep Station Wagon, and a fine example of the 1963-91 Jeep Wagoneer. The original Jeep needs no introduction, but the station wagon possibly does. It is significant that Willys carried over the military vehicle’s name for the steel-bodied passenger utility, even though 4WD only became available three years after its 1946 launch. Continue reading “Geneva Bites – Origin of the SUV Species”
Citroën has a mountain to climb. Is quirkiness the answer?
Unless you are won over by the C4 Cactus, or still dreaming the MPV dream while the world turns to SUVs, you will find the current Citroën collection dreary and dispiriting. Old cars, odd cars, Mitsubishi ‘captives’. So what’s the solution, apart from More Airbumps, as promised by CEO Linda Jackson? Continue reading “Geneva Bites – Citroën: Back in the Wacky Races”
Missing the Marea? Still smitten by the Stilo? Sergio’s got something for you.
Is Sergio Marchionne still shaking flak out of his bulk-knit cardigan? His demeanour on the first media day may have suggested otherwise, and FCA’s workrate can’t be faulted, notwithstanding more than a little help from their Japanese and Turkish friends. The recently launched, Turkish-built Tipo saloon, was joined at Geneva by a five door hatchback and a useful looking estate car. The saloon and hatch could be dead ringers for the – wholly unrelated – Qoros 3, even down to the chrome doorhandles. Some also saw echoes of the Brava and Marea. Can it really be twenty years since these hire fleet heroes first appeared?
Roving reporter Robertas Parazitas sifts Japanese conceptual wheat from chaff at Geneva.
The Japanese car makers treated us to a veritable host of concept cars. Some were production cars in all but detail, others are pointers to the more distant, but credible future, which probably still includes doorhandles and window frames, and possibly, just possibly sub-20″ diameter wheels.