Introducing the first of a four-day meditation from the DTW editorial team: reconsidering the E65 Siebener on its 2oth anniversary.
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  : Chi Non Fa, Non Falla”
How Bill Porter turned the sow’s ear of the 1986 Buick Riviera into something so much better.
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. 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).
How does one define Italy’s relationship to the motor car? One might start by attempting to define the country itself.
[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”
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.
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?”
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
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”.
(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.
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.
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?”
On the quiet streets of Skive I found this alien space ship, gently landed from the end of the 1960s.
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”
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”
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.
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”
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.
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”
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.
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”
It’s time to round off this short examination of a much-respected, iconic car.
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”
And so we turn to the matter of the 604’s image and fate.
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.
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.
Deep breath. I don’t think the 604’s styling has been given this level of consideration before.
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”
Let’s review the reviews of the 604 and maybe go a little further.
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.
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.
In part 3 of the Peugeot 604 story we consider the market of the mid-1970s.
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”
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.
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.
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.
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)”
After a long stint hammering out first-rate articles and second-rate headlines I am in need of a pause, dear readers.
As you may have noticed I have been rather quiet of late, concerned mostly with fridge magnets, vacation and vermouth. It has been gratifying to see continued signs of life and active discussion carrying on in my absence. It is time to Continue reading “Are Those The Reflections Of The Tagus?”
The BMW X2 has managed to attract my attention and it’s not due to the colour.
At BMW’s UK website the firm has a set of features it wishes us to be aware of. “With its athletic shoulder line and gently sloping roof line, the dynamic styling of the BMW X2 has a coupé-like character that will definitely grab attention,” they tell us.
Well, yes but at the same time as they have elected to mess with the Hofmeister kink (it doesn’t really have one), they have added a badge to make up for the diminished clarity of the car’s identity. “For true distinction, the BMW emblem has been repositioned next to the Hofmeister kink on the C pillar. Just another case of breaking the rules.” The old saying goes that you should be able to Continue reading “Seduce Me With Meringues And Marchpane, Oh Creature Of The Noon”
Imagine a thrilling Toyota Corolla. It existed, under another name.
In order to get any doubts out of the way this article is about the 2001-2004 WiLL Vs which Toyota designed, produced and marketed under the Will brand name. In order to clarify somewhat, various Japanese companies cooperated to sell their products through a channel aimed at younger buyers and they named this umbrella brand “WiLL“. As well as the cars, the Will brand covered beer, stationary, tourism, sweets and consumer electonics. Wouldn’t you love to Continue reading “Would They, Could They?”
There roam quite a lot of Peugeot 3008 and 308s in my area and generally in Denmark. They have made me think about brightwork and Mercedes.
I read recently that Peugeot is climbing up the estimation rankings of consumers in Europe. And I notice that in recent years Peugeot has not been afraid to sprinkle a little and sometimes a lot of brightwork magic on their cars. It seems to be optional but with a lot of uptake. If we think back to maybe ten years ago and further, this kind of thing did not feature much on their cars. It probably had to to with some kind of reticence regarding ostentation. Worthy as that might be, it led to some decent cars looking a lot less attractive than they could have been.
Now the fine powdered debris has settled, I thought I’d gather up some third party opinions on the mooted Renault/FCA merger.
I’ve decided to amalgamate three sources of information. They are the Financial Times, the New York Times and Autocar. My own view is that the merger is a re-run of the value-incinerating union of Chrysler and Mercedes twenty years ago. But what do the other commentators say if Renault and Fiat Continue reading “Romping Home Into Eighth Place”
We’ve probably said as much as about this car as can be said, short of taking it for a lengthy celebratory test drive. The only new experience to be registered today is about how the car sounds.
Sitting in the car and, now reflecting on the vehicle in hindsight, it sinks home that the effect of putting a Ferrari engine in a Lancia is to make a car much more interesting than anything Ferrari itself has done since, with maybe the exception of the 1992 Ferrari 456 GT.
How can we understand this car? Do we understand the meaning of this car? If it helps to understand the remarkable nature of the Thema 8.32 maybe imagine an Opel Insignia with a Porsche engine. Even that is not quite an analogue because the Insignia, nice as it is, doesn’t mean the same thing as the standard Lancia does. Continue reading “Photos For Sunday: Lancia Thema 8.32”
Without wanting to drag Brexit into this**, I have to note that Larry Elliot at the Guardian is now visibly wrong about another big thing, the Renault-FCA merger (if it is even a realistic prospect). For your information, Elliot has been at the very least tolerant of the lunacy of Brexit. Now he is suggesting that the mooted, hinted, suggested alliance of FCA and Fiat is even worth considering.
The core of his recent article is that “Frosty relations between France’s Macron and Italy’s Salvini could scupper talks over £29bn merger”. It sounds so knowledgeable but Franco-Italian relations are 800 km beside the point.
Second, it’s not 1976 any more, a time when national leaders could push around large corporations as de Gaulle did with Fiat and Citroen. But the problem is so much more fundamental: the idea of FCA linking to Renault is as insane as suggesting someone should consider marrying a syphilitic zombie. In this instance Renault-Nissan is the “someone” and FCA is the “syphilitic zombie”. While Renault has had its downs and up, the F in FCA has been only able to Continue reading ““To The Detriment of His Supreme Imperial Majesty – Hurragh!””
Seven fat years: from 1993 to 1997 Fiat sold the Coupé Fiat as nobody calls it. As if that was not enough Fiat also sold the cheaper Barchetta, which had a good ten year year run. Glory days indeed.
We’ll discuss the Coupé today. If the body slashes down the side of the car get the most attention, and deservedly so, this view shows another form of design discipline in operation. The whole lot seems to be defined by very few lines: the outline, the dark trapezoids of the of lamps, grille aperture and the front screen and not much else.
We’re back at the anniversary game again for this Saturday morning. Is it really forty years since the Opel Kapitan, Admiral and Diplomat cars first appeared (in their “B” incarnations)? No, it´s fifty.
I must confess that this anniversary did not leap into my conciousness unaided. The people at Oldtimer Markt did the classic-car world the service of putting the 1969 K-A-D cars on the front cover of the current edition of magazine. I am sure you all knew the cars were from around the late 60s. But did you know they they staggered on until 1977? That was the same year you could buy a Citroen CX, a Ford Grannie Mk 1, a Peugeot 604, a Lancia Gamma, Rover SD1 (if you were a sucker for pain) or a Mercedes W-123. Only an actual Cadillac could Continue reading “Just Like The December Coronation”
It has been thirty years since the Citroen launched the XM, on this day in 1989. On sale for 11 years and out of production for nearly twice as long, that makes it a real antique, doesn’t it.
(There are now people around who may never have seen an XM in motion, anyone born after 1999, I suppose.)
It is something of a pleasant coincidence (for me) that the self-titled album by Tin Machine came out just one day before Citroen announced the CX´s replacement. If Tin Machine was David Bowie’s way of getting back to what he most wanted to do, the XM presented another step towards watering down Citroenisme.
This’d be one of those under-the-radar kind of cars that I don’t notice much less write about. So what’s it doing here, today, now?
First and least importantly, the car’s presence here is a bit of DTW’s public service activity. I am documenting the car and making available a nice, clear side profile. Second, and more interestingly, we find the exception to the rule (and haven’t photographed that). What do I mean?
Northern Europe’s largest classic race takes place over this weekend, from 17th to the 19th. I sneaked into the race paddock to look around. For once, DTW has something like news, in the form of this sketch of my snooping around the race paddock yesterday evening.
The event is called Classic Race and attracts an impressive number of classics sports cars. I noticed Ford, Alfa Romeo, Triumph and BMW vehicles made up a disproportionate number of the participants. Of those, Escorts, 2002s and Giulias and GTVs dominated. As well gazing at some expensively prepared cars I also had a chance to Continue reading “Was That Leslie Crowther Over By The Bar?”
This is one of 6,999 examples made, an Alfa Romeo 2600 Sprint. Bertone takes the credit for the admirable styling.
Bertone did the coupé, Touring did the Spider and, I suppose, Alfa Romeo did the handsome saloon one sees very little of. In 1962 this must have been certain to make the neighbours sit up and notice, especially in the UK and Ireland where the British marques had such a dominant presence in the market. It would have cost more than three times the price of Cortina or Austin 1800. So if you wanted to Continue reading “The Shoeshiners Dream of Sweeping Chimneys”
The words “Double Six” constitute a very short poem, don’t they?
Even when new, the words Double Six carried a lot of force, a force approximate to the stump-pulling torque of the 12-cylinder power station jammed under the lusciously scultpted bonnet. Since then the heft of the words have only increased. Twelve pot engines are exceedingly rare now and they were not common when this Daimler could Continue reading “See Them Dance Around The Five-Lamps At Sunrise”
Sometimes what you are looking for is not far from the front of your face. I have often bemoaned the lack of a modern equivalent of Lancia’s Spartan but high-quality interiors. It was under my nose, so to speak.
I wasn’t paying attention, was I? While in Scotland recently I had the time to take a look at the dashboard and interior of a Range Rover Evoque. They have only been on sale for eight years now so it was maybe a bit much to expect I’d get to Continue reading “If So, Then Yes”
Driventowrite has bagged another rare ashtray: the Lancia Thema 8.32. Pretty damn fine it is, too.
The kind people at Deane Motors, Dublin, permitted me the chance to experience the lush interior and the acoustic charm of this rarest of Lancias, the Ferrari-engined 8.32 for which I am rather grateful. One doesn’t get a chance to sit inside one of these all that often.
For starters Mk1 Themas don’t clog our streets; and the 8.32 in particular is a rarer bird still. Around 4ooo of them were made. Before going on to consider the car’s general merits let’s cut to the chase and Continue reading “Ashtrays: Lancia Thema 8.32”
Regular readers to DTW may already know the special plinth on which this site places the 1997 film Gattaca. You will not be surprised then that I might try to hang an article off a reference to this kinematographic production.
For a change this is exactly a single photo for Sunday. And it’s about a BMW. And it involves the humble author descending the sheer face of whatever it is from which one climbs down.
The image (one of three attempts) captures our old friend the BMW 7-series. They aren’t exactly common in north central Aarhus, where I am domiciled, which might be why it snagged my attention. As I stood somewhere recently in central Dublin capturing this car with all the photographic skill I could muster, two others in black rolled by**. The sighting necessitated that I Continue reading “A Photo For Sunday: Surface Richness”