Subterfuge at the Castle and Then On to Carberytown

An infrequently encountered gem from Japan.

1989-1993 Nissan 200 SX. All images via the author.

Four short years. That’s all the time Nissan gave this affordable sports car. I had the pleasing fortune to find one in the depths of eastern Cologne around Easter this year. Not far away from it I spotted an XM (Series II) but I found it very difficult to Continue reading “Subterfuge at the Castle and Then On to Carberytown”

How the Dreams Stopped

Twenty-two years of Citroën XM ownership comes to an end.

1990 Citroen XM SEi. All images: the author.

Two decades account for about two-thirds of my time on earth so far.  How began this span? In Billericay, Essex where an unseen driver, who suddenly wanted to Continue reading “How the Dreams Stopped”

Take My Hand and Let’s Walk Down Church Hill

Automotive design research can veer sharply between the obvious and the obscure.

A warm-coloured Ford C-Max seen recently in Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany. All images: the author.

What would a lay-person get from this recent bit of research? Its title is ‘Identifying sequence maps or locus to represent the genetic structure or genome standard of styling DNA in automotive design’. Ideally an academic article title is supposed to clearly state what the text deals with. That then makes the reader feel unstoppably compelled to put down whatever they are doing and just run to Continue reading “Take My Hand and Let’s Walk Down Church Hill”

I Wasn’t Hiding But Somehow You Found Me

However much space there is in the boot of a car, your family always want to take 3% more. So why don’t they make boots 3% bigger?

Researcher M. Hruska looked into the things that the average driver was concerned about when assessing luggage compartments. He found that given the importance of the luggage compartment it was necessary to Continue reading “I Wasn’t Hiding But Somehow You Found Me”

Franco-Italian Design Rationalism II

PSA’s ’80s midliners in microcosm.

Image: citroenorigins.nl

Editor’s note: Today, we revisit the second part of a two-part meditation on rationalism in design, featuring the Peugeot 405 and Citroen BX. The original article was first published on DTW in April 2015.

I present here the Peugeot 405 and Citroen BX together with some highlighted lines marking out their main features. I have extended the lines to see how they Continue reading “Franco-Italian Design Rationalism II”

Nicer Than a Pint of Plain at the Widows Pub

The first Renault Kangoo (1997) is now old enough to be a bit of vintage street furniture.

1997 Renault Kangoo in east Cologne, Germany.

You can tell this is series 1 Kangoo because of the fun and slightly incongruent indicator lamps. Renault once had a bit of a habit of putting in one design feature that caused you to Continue reading “Nicer Than a Pint of Plain at the Widows Pub”

Romance in Rougrane Throws Light on the Meadows

 Festival of the Unremarkable.

Ford Fiesta Mk 3 (BE13) circa 1989 seen in Köln, Easter, 2022

For many people Cologne is a city people don’t even know well enough to associate with the smelly liquid that goes by the same name. Due to pure good fortune I had the amazing opportunity to Continue reading “Romance in Rougrane Throws Light on the Meadows”

From Today Until Tonight, Onward They March To Yesterday

The 1990 E31 shown here is an example of what was up to then a rare bird in the BMW cage.

All images: the author.

The E31, also known as the 8 Series, embodied everything BMW knew about making cars. Oddly, it didn’t really move many people, didn’t change the gameplay or influence anyone much. What it did do was to exist as an example of excess everything. It also trotted in a race in which the public had lost interest, the race to make the fastest, most technically accomplished production road car in the world. As it happened, BMW won that contest, zooming over the finish line ahead of the competition(1).

Mercedes-Benz’s much-vaunted W140 S-Class appeared a year later and it too was met with a chilly disdain. (Audi was still trying to Continue reading “From Today Until Tonight, Onward They March To Yesterday”

2015 Citroen C4 Picasso Review

We took a Citroen C4 Picasso on a 186 mile trip. It does one thing better than an Opel Zafira. We’ll come to that later….

2015 Citroen C4 Picasso in diesel guise
2015 Citroen C4 Picasso in diesel guise

Editor’s note: To mark the recent announcement that Citroën are to discontinue the (now-named) Grand C4 Spacetourer this July, we mark its passing by revisiting this exhaustive DTW research report, first published on 22 September 2015.

Introduction

There’s so much wrong with this car. Ahead of you are 2,158 words, almost none of them complimentary.

More introduction

Launched in 2013, the C4 Picasso is a car that I am sure you have all seen on the school run. It has seven seats and an electrically powered tailgate. DTW took charge of a C4 Picasso with the express intention of seeing how it coped with three adults and two children. Normally I would structure a review like this along the lines of a general description, design, engineering, driving, comfort and conclusion. That general ordering assumes that all of those things are of equal value and you’d want to Continue reading “2015 Citroen C4 Picasso Review”

Their Eyes Met Through Glanmire’s Mist

It is only twenty years since the world’s press welcomed the Opel Vectra C. We consider it again today.

Opel Vectra C

The Vectra C made its public debut at the 2002 Geneva Salon. The styling continued the themes of the 1999 Opel Astra G and so managed to form the heart of a range of crisply styled Opels that included the 2003 Meriva (a jewel of a car) and the 2004 Tigra, concluding with the Zafira B of 2005.

It’s very much a car of its time. The Vectra C shares some of the clean surfacing and crisply defined edges that also feature on the admirable 2000 Ford Mondeo, but the closeness of the launches would indicate that this was a coincidence. Continue reading “Their Eyes Met Through Glanmire’s Mist”

1984 Opel Senator 2.5E Road Test

 Driving a 1984 Opel Senator. 

1984 Opel Senator 2.5E
1984 Opel Senator 2.5E. All images: The author.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on DTW on 14 February 2015.

Every time one has a reason to discuss the large cars from the ’70s and ’80s, the large cars that aren’t BMW, Mercedes or Audi, one seems obliged to talk about the status and success of these products in comparative terms. It seems incorrect to speak of the Granada, 604 or Senator without mentioning how they fared relative to the BMW 5 et al. I’ll avoid re-treading all that ground again.

By now even I admit that you would need to be very determinedly prejudiced to Continue reading “1984 Opel Senator 2.5E Road Test”

Long Shadows of the Past

The Ascona C (1980-1988) cast a sizeable shadow over Opel. Is this the car that created the persistent impression of dullness that tarnishes the Opel badge?

1981 Opel Ascona. Image: Favcars

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on DTW on 27 February 2014.

Today’s inspiration is an Opel Ascona two-door saloon, spotted in the north of Aarhus. The recent resurgence (maybe that’s only in my own mind) of Opel has made me reconsider where, precisely, it all went wrong for Adam Opel AG. Lying on my psychiatrist’s couch, I turned over my impressions and images of Opel.

Under the rubble and tattered shreds of half-memories, I found this car. The Ascona is the car that, more than any other Opel product, shaped my attitude to the firm as a maker of vehicles soaked in mediocrity. That, and perhaps the Opel Omega A (1986-1993) which in the land of my youth was sold in fade-prone red with spartan grey cloth upholstery. The Ascona seemed only to come in beige with faded grey plastic trim. Continue reading “Long Shadows of the Past”

How Many Melodies there are to Forget.

Oh, dear. It’s another Suzuki article. 

Suzuki Ignis Mk2. All images: the author

How can I introduce this cheeky, useful, honest and endearing car without alienating readers who prefer uncouth, useless, dishonest and off-putting cars? This time it’s the Mk2 Ignis, which I considered to be quite horrible when I first happened to see one many years ago, but which I now consider quite attractive. What changed? Obviously my own opinions and values shifted and I came to see the inherent worth of a car that made credible efforts to Continue reading “How Many Melodies there are to Forget.”

Renault 5 GTL Review

This looks very much like an authentic period review of the 1976 Renault 5 GTL by revered motoring writer Archie Vicar.

1976 Renault 5 GTL: source

The text first appeared under the headline “Another New Renault” in The Amman Valley Chronicle and East Carmarthen News, June 5, 1976. The original photographs were by Douglas Land-Windermere. Due to the effects of xylophagic fungi, the original images could not be used.

This article was initially published on DTW in October 2018.

Renault, Renault, Renault. This firm does try hard and is to be commended for its efforts to keep up with trends sooner or later. That means they are once again on the “hatchback” bandwagon, or staying on the bandwagon in the case of the 5 tested here today. The 5 appeared on the market in 1972 and the firm is sticking with the formula of front-drive and a hinged opening panel on the rear of the car in place of a proper separate boot.

It remains to be seen if British buyers can Continue reading “Renault 5 GTL Review”

One Beermat, a Coat and a Brass Key (Worn).

Words have an effect, according to an old saying.

Volvo 480 headlamp and bumper plus litter. Image: the author

Journalist Richard Bremner’s ‘Parting Shot’ article on the Volvo 480 in the September 1995 issue of Car magazine is worth another look. I am revisiting it following my sighting of this late example of the car when in Dublin recently. It’s not a car one sees often. Volvo made just shy of 80,000 of them during a nine-year production run, beginning in 1986. Whenever I observe a 480, I think of my first impressions of one I spotted outside the Shelbourne Hotel (good) and Bremner’s caustic words (less good).

The irritating fact is that Bremner’s flippant goodbye to the 480 cast an unwanted pall over what is really an interesting, appealing and notable bit of design work. Volvo considered the design good enough to remind customers they should Continue reading “One Beermat, a Coat and a Brass Key (Worn).”

Not Alone is the Winter’s Chalice Replenished

A vanishingly rare version of an increasingly rare car falls under our Danish correspondent’s purview today. (First published on 1st May  2017)

All images: the author

Very clearly the work of a singular vision, that of Michel Boué, the Renault 5 impresses with the clarity of its concept. This example shows how it could be more than a basic conveyance. In this instance, we have here a really tidy, time-warp example with very little sign of tear or wear. We’ll get to the interior in a moment, with its comfortable sports seats and very inviting ambience. The 5 is a reduction of the essential themes of the Renault 4, using simple industrial design form language. The surfaces are minimal and the discipline of the radii is consistently applied. The lamps fit neatly into the surrounding surface and the features are aligned in an orderly fashion. Despite all this formal correctness, the car is quite cheerful and friendly. Continue reading “Not Alone is the Winter’s Chalice Replenished”

Your Sleepy Voice Tells Me It´s Late Where You Are

A pleasant encounter on the streets of Dublin.

1989 Lancia Thema – enduring excellence

You might feel that we have featured the Lancia Thema rather too often on the pages of Driven To Write, but I would contend that it makes up for the blizzard of articles on the Citroën DS, Corvette, E-Type and Beetle found elsewhere on the Internet. With that said, here’s another Thema.

I had to double-check the facts: the Lancia Thema first emerged in 1984, launched in October of that year.  Hence, it is something of a shock to realise the Thema’s 40th anniversary is almost upon us.  The message I draw from this is that core industrial design principles amount to an enduring and time-proof way to resolve a product. Continue reading “Your Sleepy Voice Tells Me It´s Late Where You Are”

Just When I Feel I Can’t Dance Anymore, Love Comes to Play

How is it that I have a lot of time for the Cadillac Fleetwood Talisman, but find I have rather less time for its modern-day equivalent?

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I suppose it is because the Cadillac Fleetwood Talisman could be said to be a real Cadillac whereas the Maybach is conspicuously uncertain as to its identity. Is that such a problem? Ford’s Vignale is a bit uncertain and yet I like those cars a great deal. Something else is at issue here. The Mercedes-Maybach featured today makes me think that, if I wanted to Continue reading “Just When I Feel I Can’t Dance Anymore, Love Comes to Play”

Is that a Vourdoulakas in the Potting Shed?

Celebrating the unexceptional.

Reasonably priced car in Aarhus, Denmark. Image: the author

Much of what gets recorded is either data with no texture, or the exceptional. In between is where real life happens and it goes by undocumented. Today, an ordinary car on an ordinary street on an ordinary day.

The Suzuki Liana doesn’t strike one as …. well, it doesn’t strike one very much. So anonymous is the Liana that Top Gear used on as for their ‘Star In A Reasonably Priced Car’ feature. The Liana is very much the kind of car I see littering my part of town, and I usually ignore them. But, when I saw this one, I decided I could not resist the voice that told me to Continue reading “Is that a Vourdoulakas in the Potting Shed?”

The Splendour of the Empire He Took With Him Away

Five short years. Not long for such a long car.

1991-1996 Chevrolet Caprice. All images: the author

It was launched 1991. By 1996, GM had given up on their RWD, body-on-frame sedans, a mere five summers later. The last North American market(1) Caprice served really as a stop-gap. Underneath the deceitfully aero-looking body lurked technology dating back to the Carter era. The engine and underbody could be largely swapped between the 1977 Caprice and the 1991 model.

That is not necessarily a criticism. It reflected the fact that the demands placed on big, comfy sedans simply had not changed that much. It also reflected the fact that more and more American drivers wanted to Continue reading “The Splendour of the Empire He Took With Him Away”

Raking the Embers [1] : Chi Non Fa, Non Falla

Introducing the first of a four-day meditation from the DTW editorial team: reconsidering the E65 Siebener on its 2oth anniversary. 

autotrader
2002 BMW 7 series (source)

Why are we still discussing the E65? It’s because twenty years ago it mattered when BMW produced a new model. As a clear leader in automotive engineering, people interested in the intellectual challenges of designing better cars looked to BMW’s products for clues about the rate and direction of progress. Retrospectively, we still wonder about whether BMW’s thinking was wrong, ahead of its time or instructive. Or a combination of all three.

The E65 attempted to answer some pressing questions, offering solutions to the problem of a changing market, solutions that many did not understand at the time or could accept. The first change in the market related to Europe’s ageing population and a greater awareness of the urgent need to Continue reading “Raking the Embers [1] : Chi Non Fa, Non Falla”

A Facelift Better Than the Car It Was Meant To Save

How Bill Porter turned the sow’s ear of the 1986 Buick Riviera into something so much better.

1989 Buick Riviera. Favcars

This article was first published as part of the DTW Facelifts Theme on July 02 2014.

In 1986, Buick sold a medium-sized two door coupé called the Somerset in the US market, built on the Oldsmobile-engineered N-body. In the way of GM’s demented renaming strategy, the Somerset tag was once a trim level of the Regal saloon but it escaped to become a separate line.[1] The Somerset only lived for three years – the public didn’t take to the name, apparently. The Somerset had a transverse, front-mounted 2.5 litre 4-cylinder or 3.0 V-6 engine driving the front wheels. The wheelbase was 103 inches (Americans don’t do metric).

In terms we’d understand on this side of the Atlantic, it addressed the market that Volvo does with the C30 or Audi with the A3. Or if you Continue reading “A Facelift Better Than the Car It Was Meant To Save”

Values – Italy

How does one define Italy’s relationship to the motor car? One might start by attempting to define the country itself.

Passionate pragmatism. 1981 Maserati Biturbo by Pierangelo Andreani. (c) carinpicture

[Editor’s note: This piece is a re-run of an article originally published in May 2016, as part of DTW’s Values theme.]

As anyone has read a few books on Italian history will know, it’s a great bunch of countries. Only foreigners lump it all together as one nation. That gives us a bit of a head start in understanding how Italy’s values translate into the broad array of markedly different car companies being stifled under one management.

As recently as the 1950s you could still find people in the deep south of Italy who didn’t know what Italy was. While outsiders consider Italy to have been unified, many Italians still Continue reading “Values – Italy”

Still Stands Stanley’s Hat Stand In The Spruce Stand?

Around about now-ish (it was actually in September), forty years ago, an important chunk of the British motor industry was rationalised away: in 1980 Triumph’s Canley plant ceased making cars.

The very last Triumph Spitfire comes down the Number One track at Canley in August 1980, as production ceases. (c) Coventry Telegraph

Motor magazine, which itself eventually disappeared into Autocropley’s shadow reported (Sept. 6th, 1980) on how “Triumph production ends at Canley”. On the opposite page there stood an article entitled “Honda launches its Bounty”.

So, the factory closure article begins as follows: “Production of Triumph cars at BL-s ill-fated Canley factory on the outskirts of Coventry has ended. With it go the Triumph Spitfire and Dolomite which will be gradually phased out of the BL model range”. Meanwhile, on page 3, we read: “Announced in Japan last week was Honda’s new medium-sized four-door saloon, a version which will be built in Britain to Continue reading “Still Stands Stanley’s Hat Stand In The Spruce Stand?”

“Muitos anos a virar frangos!!”

Hard to believe but I have seen more Buick Rivieras* than Volvo 300s in the last fifteen years. Here is maybe the third 300 I’ve seen in Denmark since 2006. I also saw one in Sweden, in a museum. That doesn’t count.

This model is the 1985 360 GLS, a more elaborately trimmed version of the 340 which had a smaller engine. While the 260 and 760 had six-cylinder engines, the 360 was  slyly trading on the name. It had a 2.0 litre petrol four, fuel injected (hence the “S” bit of the badge). What kind of car was it? For comparison, the asking for this car (in 1987) was within 200 quid of a 2.0 litre Ford Sierra LX or even a BMW 316. For about the same money one could also even go so far as to

Continue reading ““Muitos anos a virar frangos!!””

“Sit thysen down fur a bit: hev a glass o’ cowslip wine!”

It’s Sunday. Again.

Mk 2 Renault Espace**

Today’s text has nothing to do with the Espace (above). I wrote a whole other article and scrapped it after Eóin had gone to the trouble of deleting the expletives and formatting it for consumption. What I decided to do with this version of the article was to Continue reading ““Sit thysen down fur a bit: hev a glass o’ cowslip wine!””

Classic Road Test: 1972 BMW 520

During his short stint as a motoring technical editor-at-large, legendary motoring correspondent Archie Vicar wrote for the Whitchurch Advertiser & Bugle. This appears to be a transcript of a review of the BMW 520 from September 1972 entitled “Another new car from BMW”.

1972 BMW “520” – Autocar

(Sept. 22, 1972. Original photos by Douglas Land-Windmanure (sic.). Due to abrasion and scuffing of the originals, stock photos have been used).

As Rolls-Royce like to say of their engines’ power output, English engineering is never less than adequate. If you want something safe and solid, Ford and Vauxhall have some quite good cars for you: the indomitable Granada 3000 and the fine Ventora; Triumph offer the notably louche and brash 2500 while Rover can sell you a 3500 with its innovative and rust-prone body engineering.

Not to mention BMC, of course, with their fine and ever-improving Wolseley range. Why would I Continue reading “Classic Road Test: 1972 BMW 520”

DTW Summmer Tipples

When you’ve parked the car for the day, you may consider some suggestions for summer drinking as you read DTW.

Belsazar rosé vermouth

This isn’t quite the core subject of DTW, I know. However, Simon Kearne is a well-regarded member of the imbibing community and DTW is the home of the Archie Vicar archive, a shrine to food, drink and crashing cars. Today I would like to Continue reading “DTW Summmer Tipples”

Did You Ever Wonder About The Stefaneschi Triptych?

Although hardly breaking news, the latest Opel Corsa has arrived in the showrooms and examples are arriving on my street. I saw one. Is it really a Corsa at all, I asked myself.

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If we get in our time-machine and spin and spiral back to 1982 we would be confronted by the first Corsa which Opel sold until 1993 (hard to believe). Looking at the bold, boxy 1982 shape with its flared wheel-arches and the 2019 version , one could argue that the new PSA Corsa represents a mere return to form. You could also argue that PSA merely wanted to get Opel’s designers to Continue reading “Did You Ever Wonder About The Stefaneschi Triptych?”

Brisk Business in the Bakery

On the quiet streets of Skive I found this alien space ship, gently landed from the end of the 1960s.

Pointy

Pedestrian safety and low-speed crash regulations did away with this kind of design. Subsequently, General Motors’ own mismanagement and a radical shift in the car market gradually killed the brand attached to the car. If we want to Continue reading “Brisk Business in the Bakery”

Frustration and Fury in Fergana

While this could be just about what The Truth About Cars calls DLO fail, I’d like to take a slightly wider perspective today.

In 2005 Lexus began sales of this car, the XE20 iteration of the IS range. It had a good long run, until 2013. It represented part of a turn at Toyota/Lexus from fairly restrained design to more expressive forms. That could be seen as an effort to try to Continue reading “Frustration and Fury in Fergana”

Turn Your Heels to the Shade and Shuffle Down the Lane, Peggy

Think about the tear-stained debates about whether Jaguar should offer a diesel. Or the debate as to whether BMW and Co. should sell hatchbacks. Or the switch to front drive (and back).

Unthinkable: bmwblog.co.uk

What these discussions have in common is that they relate to the “tension between consistency and relevance”. That is the title of a paper from the J. Acad. Mark. Sci which I have been reading. The authors are Beverland, M. et al who relate design thinking and brand ambidexterity as a means to allow companies to Continue reading “Turn Your Heels to the Shade and Shuffle Down the Lane, Peggy”

How Antilia’s Tears Filled The Seven Cities’ Lagoons

Hard to believe: Nissan produced the Figaro for one year. During that time they sold 20,000 examples. I imagine it could very well simply have stayed in production.

1991 Nissan Figaro

You see these trundling around now and again, the retro-classic that became a real classic. Here at DTW we absolutely love to Continue reading “How Antilia’s Tears Filled The Seven Cities’ Lagoons”

Ashtrays: E34 BMW 5-series

Recently we had a lengthy debate about the best car in the world and the E34 BMW didn’t get much of a look in.

All images: the author

You’d imagine this car which is one of the natural competitors for the E-class might have had a few boosters. It’s a well-rounded machine, comes in a lot of flavours and is not known for its fragility. Well, here in the Ashtrays department of DTW we don’t Continue reading “Ashtrays: E34 BMW 5-series”

Let’s Make A Cake, Let’s Bake Some Bread

UMM mde these from 1977 to 1984. It’s a 4×4 vehicle with a Peugeot diesel engine and gearbox. Production started in France and moved to Portugal in 1979

UMM 4×4, Lisbon

There is not a lot out there about these vehicles and the pictures say the most. What I will do instead is take this as a chance to Continue reading “Let’s Make A Cake, Let’s Bake Some Bread”

A Photo For Sunday: 1988 Volvo 240 GL Estate

The ever-popular PFS returns with a perennial favourite of DTW, the 240 GL, as seen yesterday.

There’s a potentially vivid discussion waiting to be kicked off with this image. Or two. Without any shadow of a doubt one can Continue reading “A Photo For Sunday: 1988 Volvo 240 GL Estate”

After The Middle The Pace Speeds Up

The sunlight really helped in this instance. The car shone out. Modern vehicles mostly don’t come in colours like this. So even from 800 metres I could tell this was very likely worth a closer inspection.

1976-1982 Audi 100 (C2)

The Audi is parked so close to the wall that you can’t see the badges – or, you couldn’t if they were there. By the time I got back with my camera the light had changed so I could not snap the car from the best view with the best light. However, art is often about rules and what are rules but limitations. It makes things interesting when you have requirements to satisfy. Such binding of the hands actually really helps one Continue reading “After The Middle The Pace Speeds Up”

One At A Time The Days Arrived And Never Departed

Just the other day I was thinking about grilles (front grilles, of course). Today I ask you again to consider the Jaguar XJ-S, that famously endearing monster.

Jaguar XJ-S. A likeable mess.

Of course the car is not just viewed from the front. From other views the effect vanishes and you notice the plan curvature and also the way the central bonnet edge is set below the level of the lamps. But let’s Continue reading “One At A Time The Days Arrived And Never Departed”

The Storms Of Swanlinbar

This DS flagship is aimed at the Audi A4. At this rate, DS will be offering C-D class cars to compete with Audi’s A2 and BMWs 2-series.

DS 9. Worth an Audi A4, apparently. Source: Autocar.

DS are saying that “prestige” will have been reached when the DS9 can compete with not the A6, E-Class or 5-series but the Audi A4. That is quite a marked drop in expectations, n’est ce pas? If we are prepared to take it upon ourselves to gather all our strength and try honestly to Continue reading “The Storms Of Swanlinbar”

All the Ways We Sang, All the Songs We Went

A random glance at a Mazda Demio made me think again about grilles and the way designers deal with that hole in the front of the car.

wikipedia.org
(c) wikipedia.org

The subject unfolds as a matter of design semantics. That means more or less we are concerned with the meaning of the air intake and its expression. This Demio (above) is a bit fancier than the one I saw in my district but it is geometrically the same. The approach was to use an “egg-box” in-fill and to use a U-shaped plastic trim piece to enable them to Continue reading “All the Ways We Sang, All the Songs We Went”

An Afternoon Like Dusk – The 604 Story, Pt. 9

It’s time to round off this short examination of a much-respected, iconic car.

(c) carjager

The 604’s particular failing, being composed of elements from a cheaper, older design, was not unique. There were other cars which attempted to make something rich out of what might be considered lesser ingredients. The main difference, which dignifies the 604, is that Peugeot made a very good job of this expediency.

People rather liked the car and it sold decently (153,266 units in total) until the 505 arrived, which itself was partly made of 604 components. The 604 is therefore unique in the pantheon of sow’s ear cars. The Lincoln Versailles of 1977 was based on the US-market Ford Granada and is a legend in the lore of marketing cynicism. Ford wanted a smaller Lincoln to Continue reading “An Afternoon Like Dusk – The 604 Story, Pt. 9”

An Afternoon Like Dusk – The 604 Story, Pt. 8

And so we turn to the matter of the 604’s image and fate.

(c) momentcar

 

The 604’s history reveals how the buyers of the 1970s were less constrained by expectations of brands. What one notices in the reviews from the time of the 604’s launch is that there isn’t a single mention of image. Today motoring writers have internalised perceptions of what constitutes a desirable car: it is what others might also desire.

Even if a particular model is objectively deemed to meet measurable expectations one can find remarks to the effect that the car lacks image, or the brand has insufficient appeal. Quite simply journalists now would never put a large, powerful and luxuriously equipped Peugeot into a test with similar vehicles from established prestige marques simply because it isn’t deemed to be a prestige brand.

But in 1977 Car compared the 604 to competitors from Mercedes and BMW, a test the 604 won quite convincingly. There were no caveats. A modern reviewer would almost certainly be under compulsion to Continue reading “An Afternoon Like Dusk – The 604 Story, Pt. 8”

An afternoon like dusk: The 604 story, Pt. 7

Today, we turn our attention to the 604’s cabin.

1975 Peugeot 604 dashboard

A great deal of attention is paid to the exterior of cars though the interior is where we spend our time as drivers and passengers. For the 604 Peugeot had, for at least some of the time, the services of Paul Bracq. In the 60s he oversaw some of Mercedes-Benz’s finest vehicle exteriors, the ones that people think of when they think of a Mercedes (our image of these cars is four decades out of date). They are chromed, formal, upright, solid and faultless.

It is ironic then that Bracq arrived at Peugeot too late to perhaps do more than Continue reading “An afternoon like dusk: The 604 story, Pt. 7”

An afternoon like dusk – The 604 story, Pt. 6

Deep breath. I don’t think the 604’s styling has been given this level of consideration before.

(c) blog-moteur

Peugeot had a long standing relationship with carrozzeria Pininfarina, who prepared the basic design of the the 604. As was typical for Pininfarina, the design owed as much to other work they had done as it did to the character of their actual clients’ cars.

The exterior design was by what we might call the school of Paulo Martin, designer of the Fiat 130 coupé and Rolls-Royce Camargue. The record is not clear on the matter of authorship but a clear affinity among these cars can be seen in the angularity of the surface transitions and the flatness of the panels. Continue reading “An afternoon like dusk – The 604 story, Pt. 6”

Chromed Eyelashes And Fingernails Of Steel

Your erstwhile correspondent took a short trip to Grenoble recently and couldn’t resist making a report for your edification and delight.

Some semi-interesting things crossed my path while exploring Savoy, part of the western Alps. However, it surprised me that some I cars I expected to see did not turn up. I did my level best to Continue reading “Chromed Eyelashes And Fingernails Of Steel”

An Afternoon Like Dusk – The 604 story, Pt. 5

Let’s review the reviews of the 604 and maybe go a little further.

(c) blog-moteur

Having looked (in the last instalment) at the engine from the strategic and the cost-accountant’s point of view, I turn now to how it compared in road tests. The matter of performance is far from clear. Conventional wisdom now has it that the 604 couldn’t move fast enough. A look at reviews spanning from 1975 to 1983 shows a more complex story than this.

In 1975 Motor claimed the carburetted SL was the quickest of a group of likely competitors which included the BMW 520, Ford’s Granada 3000, the Jaguar XJ 3.4, the Renault 30 and the Volvo 264. In 1977 Motor Trend felt the car was only just about able to keep up with American traffic, adequate but not brilliant.

This remark was qualified by noting the 604’s handling was far above average which, as mentioned above, made up the speed deficit quite pleasingly. In 1977 Car found the carburetted 604 SL to be slower than the Mercedes 280E and BMW 728 but only by a matter of half a second. It won the test overall so the slight tardiness did not hold the vehicle back.

A year later the fuel-injected version of the 604 was found to Continue reading “An Afternoon Like Dusk – The 604 story, Pt. 5”

An afternoon like dusk – The 604 story, Pt. 4

Engines! The 604’s was less than ideal.

Turning to the engine, one can see how an attempt to save money here also proved forlorn. The one clear advantage of using the 504 architecture was never exploited: the 604 never had the same range of engines as the earlier car. What it had was a 60° V6 engine designed in co-operation with Renault and Volvo.

As Motor pointed out in 1975, engine development requires a very large investment. Peugeot did not see the sales volumes of the 604 being large enough to justify designing a wholly new V6 on their own. This strategy certainly saved investment costs but did not lead to Peugeot having a competitive motor.

The powerplant faced the problem that it didn’t turn out quite enough motive force (though it was hardly slow by the day’s standards) and the 604 was a seen as a heavy car, presumably a result of an attempt to Continue reading “An afternoon like dusk – The 604 story, Pt. 4”

An Afternoon Like Dusk – The 604 story, Pt. 3

In part 3 of the Peugeot 604 story we consider the market of the mid-1970s.

1975 Peugeot 604

The market in the mid 70s was open to a wide variety of contenders in the upper price ranges. Opel in particular was just on the cusp of reaching what we now call the rank of “prestige” with its Senator saloon and Monza coupé. Lancia outsold BMW in the UK.

The mid 70s were also still a time of strong national markets and of far less global competition than today. However, the world of 1975 was not what Peugeot’s planners envisioned when the 604 programme began in 1970. Oil prices had increased markedly, making the 604’s thirsty V6 seem unattractive, the more so over time. Continue reading “An Afternoon Like Dusk – The 604 story, Pt. 3”

An Afternoon Like Dusk – The 604 story, Pt. 2

In the last instalment we had a short introduction to this neglected car. Today we will take a deeper glance at the car’s inception.

1983 Peugeot 604. Image: http://www.lrm-collection.fr

Of all the material reviewed for this essay, the text quoted at the start of the previous instalment was the most thought-provoking. Clearly the 604 was viewed as a credible car with a bright future ahead of it.

Today the 604 is remembered, if it is remembered, not for its refined solidity, the remarkable ride quality or, as Motor Trend wrote, its reordering of priorities around comfort, quality, roadholding and safety. It’s remembered for rust and listed as one of the world’s worst cars in Craig Cheetham’s 2006 book and its triumphs forgotten.

History is written to Continue reading “An Afternoon Like Dusk – The 604 story, Pt. 2”

An Afternoon Like Dusk – The 604 story (Pt. 1)

The 1975 Peugeot 604 – smooth, refined and viewed as something of a failure. Today we begin a series taking an unusually close look at the 604’s life and times.

(c) auto-forever

Motor Sport (April 1976 said that “one member of the test team summed up the 604 as a professional car. This takes some explaining because all cars these days are professional or are supposed to be. But one gets the impression that Peugeot engineers never say ‘assez bien‘ but keep on working until each feature is, in their eyes, absolutely right. One may disagree with some of the car’s features but if so it will be because someone at Peugeot actively disagrees with one’s point of view not because they could not Continue reading “An Afternoon Like Dusk – The 604 story (Pt. 1)”