Theme : Places – Another Snapshot from Occupied Europe

It’s Spring 1981, and I’m in Charlottenburg, on the western edge of the British Occupied Sector of West Berlin.

lloyd-arabella

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”

Theme : Places – Snapshots 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’. 

viva-in-e-berlin
All images: The Author

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”

Connect the dots #3: The Answer

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.

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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”

Theme : Sudamerica – Argentinian Soul, Hanseatic Heart

As we conclude our trip across South America, we do so in a small truck with a surprising powerplant. IAME’s faithful Rastrojero.

rastrojero-borgward-drivers-club
Image: Borgward Drivers’ Club

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”

Theme: Sudamerica – The Troller Pantanal – Victim Of Circumstance

Today, DTW takes a stroll (or should that be Troll?) through the Pantanal. 

pantanal-troller-oficina-troller

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”

Theme : Sudamerica – Lafer LL – The SLC from São Paulo

A Brazilian beauty comes under the DTW microscope.

lafer-gt

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.

At the 10th  Automobile Salon in late November 1976, local manufacturer Lafer presented the LL, an elegant and innovative grand tourer, immediately dubbed the Brazilian 450SLC. Continue reading “Theme : Sudamerica – Lafer LL – The SLC from São Paulo”

Opening Up the TR7 Envelope

Spot a Triumph TR7 in a car park and you may well experience something rather strange. 

triumphtr7-01

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”

A Photoset for Friday: Alfa Romeo 2600 Berlina

I had high expectations of Friedrichstadt, a perfect little displaced Dutch town in German Nordfriesland, but they didn’t include two Alfa 2600s.

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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”

A photo for Thursday: SEAT Toledo VR5

Mentioned previously in dispatches, a particularly nice, if fading example of my favourite variant of VAG’s fecund PQ34 platform. 

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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”

What Anders Did Next

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.

BORGWARD Group AG - Anders Warming
Image: Borgward AG

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”

Not for Sale Around Here: BMW 1-Series Sedan

…or saloon if you must.

Source: Motor Authority
Source: Motor Authority

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”

A Brougham Holden That’s Not a Holden Brougham

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.

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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”

Yet More Japan – When Suzuki Stumbled

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.

Suzuki 1-38-1

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”

Theme : Japan – Isuzu’s Sporty ’60s Sophisticate

Driven to Write profiles an unjustly forgotten Japanese outlier.

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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”

Theme: Japan – Tokyo, Twinned With Turin

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.

1965 Mazda Familia Coupe Source: cartype.com
1965 Mazda Familia Coupe Source: cartype.com

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”

Theme : Suspension – When Independence Goes Wrong

Defying convention and chiselling away at costs can be a recipe for disaster, as one manufacturer who ought to have known better found out.

chassis4c

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”

Geneva Bites – What’s happening to Toyota?

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.

Toyota C-HR Concept Frankfurt 2015 Image: autovia-media

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. Am I alone in thinking that there’s something of the Type 844 Delta about the C-HR? Lancia might have done better with that car had it been a high-riding crossover with a bit of ‘attitude’, after all it arrived on the market over a year after the Nissan Cashcow. Continue reading “Geneva Bites – What’s happening to Toyota?”

Geneva Bites – Origin of the SUV Species

Who would have thought it? Kaiser-Willys are stablemates with Ferrari and Maserati…

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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”

Geneva Bites – Citroën: Back in the Wacky Races

Citroën has a mountain to climb. Is quirkiness the answer?

Citroen A (2)
Less interesting than an out of town retail park  Image:autovia-media

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”

Geneva Bites – Nuova Tipo

Missing the Marea? Still smitten by the Stilo? Sergio’s got something for you.

Image:ansa.it
Image:ansa.it

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?

Continue reading “Geneva Bites – Nuova Tipo”

Geneva Bites – Japanese Concepts: The Bad

Roving reporter, Robertas Parazitas continues his trawl through the fleshpots of Geneva. Two concepts in particular captured his ire.

Image: autovia-media

Mazda RX-Vision:  A woefully silly car from a manufacturer which is getting so much right.

Lexus LF-FC:  A certain appealing lairiness, but they need to try harder.

Geneva Bites – Japanese Concepts: The Good

Roving reporter Robertas Parazitas sifts Japanese conceptual wheat from chaff at Geneva.

Image: autovia-media

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.

In the best pre-Boring Boring CAR tradition, I’ve divided them into the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

The Good: Mitsubishi Concept eX.  An electric crossover – what else could it be these days? Strongly suggests that Mitsubishi are finding their way back.

Nissan IDS concept. First seen at Frankfurt, and named in honour of British politician Ian Duncan Smith, who has 12.5% Japanese content. Just how much will make it to the next Leaf? Going by recent experience, more than we might think.

Subaru XV Concept:  Presages the XV replacement – shouldn’t it be the XVI?  A bit tame, but Gulf colours always win me over:

Theme: Suspension – Not Quite De Dion

I spotted this on the Suzuki stand at Geneva. It’s the rear axle of the Vitara, the Hungarian-built Poor Girl’s Evoque.

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At first I thought that it was a De Dion axle, on closer examination it turns out to be a torsion beam with driven rear wheels. Possibly other manufacturers have done this before, but it’s the first I’ve encountered. I’d have expected to find a live axle, or a multi-link or double wishbone fully independent system. Continue reading “Theme: Suspension – Not Quite De Dion”

Geneva Bites -The Abarth Garage

Lancia don’t live here any more…

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I stood in the north west corner of Palexpo’s Hall 5 which has been the traditional home of Lancia for many years, and my fears were confirmed. Turin’s second most successful carmaker had left the building – hold on, wasn’t that Alvis? Did I walk through the empty house, tears in my eyes? Not really. Continue reading “Geneva Bites -The Abarth Garage”

Geneva Bites – Morgan EV3

As Britain’s four grandest car manufacturers prepared their four wheel drive SUVs, Morgan defied the new conformity, and introduced a one wheel drive vehicle in late 2011.

Morgan (9)
image: autovia-media

The three wheeler has vastly exceeded sales expectations with over 2000 sold to date. Morgan may well prefer that we didn’t know just how well their three wheeler is doing by comparison with the rest of the range. 2013 and 2014 three wheeler sales were well over double the combined numbers for the four wheeled offerings, and over its four full years of production it has accounted for 55% of Morgan production. Continue reading “Geneva Bites – Morgan EV3”

Geneva 2016 Posted Missing – Lancia

Obituaries are probably premature, but has Lancia’s traditional Geneva presence been bulldozed in the Giulia frenzy?

Lancia IAA Photo autovia-media
2016 Lancia Ypsilon at Geneva

Lancia was not on the Geneva exhibitors list, but I fully expected a few Ypsilons to show their fresh new face on a small, but rather stylish, stand in some enclave of Sergio’s Palexpo empire. It happened at Frankfurt, but not in Geneva – the traditional Lancia space was occupied by Abarth instead, with a rather jolly display of 124 Spiders and a 695 Biposto. Continue reading “Geneva 2016 Posted Missing – Lancia”

Geneva Bites – Audi Q2

Roving reporter, Robertas Parazitas gives the new Q2 a visual once-over. He’s moderately impressed. 

Audi Q2 Image autovia-media (4)
2017 Audi Q2 at the 2016 Geneva Motor show.

There was a time when I hoped that the premium German carmakers’ foray into SUVs would pass by like a bad dream, but with their sales of products categorised as crossovers sitting at over 50% of production, and sometimes more, we have to accept the current orthodoxy, and take an interest. The Q2 is intriguing on several counts. It’s scarcely smaller than the Q3, but cheaper and lighter. Up front there’s a bit of a rethink of Audi’s “big face”, but it’s still strong on Autobahn presence. Continue reading “Geneva Bites – Audi Q2”

Geneva 2016: Posted Missing – Qoros

I’ll admit it. I’m Qoros-Qorious. 

Qoros 3 Geneva 2013 Image autovia-media
Can it really be just three years since the Chery/Israel Corp joint venture Qoros made its debut to the world on a positively lavish Silk Road-themed stand, taking up a sizeable square metreage of Palexpo real estate? In 2013, it really did seem as if the Chinese industry really did have a product with potential to sell in sophisticated international markets, and a brand and people who could facilitate the vision. Continue reading “Geneva 2016: Posted Missing – Qoros”

Geneva 2016 – Posted Missing: Borgward AG

Borgward Redux – Are Diamonds Forever?

Borgward 2 March 2015 (2)
Photo: Autovia Media

On the morning of 3 March 2015, a middle-aged man from Wolfsburg, who had chosen a career in the liquor trade in preference to his father’s and grandfather’s calling to the motor industry, stood before the international media, gave a brief history of his grandfather’s business, then introduced the new venture carrying the family name. In the fifteen allotted minutes we were introduced to the venture’s CEO and “business strategist” Karlheinz L. Knöss, their designer Einar Hareide, and finally, distinguished Cooper-Borgward racer Stirling Moss. Continue reading “Geneva 2016 – Posted Missing: Borgward AG”