In what appears to be a transcript from 1974, Archie Vicar reviews the all-new Innocenti Regent.
The article first appeared in the Kenilworth Gazette, Feb 28th, 1974. Due to darkening of the paper, stock photos have been used. Original photography was by Edward Ian Dwindemere (sic).
Although blighted by many endemic problems such as a casual attitude to time, indifference to accuracy and a fondness for garlic, some things about Italian manners can compensate to some extent and to some small measure. The cigarettes are cheap, the wine is inexpensive and occasionally they can Continue reading “Brisk Italian Style, Italian Values in Italy”
Benchmarks come and then they go. Personal luxury coupes occupied the hottest sector of the American car market in the late ’70s and early ’80s. What were they?
Editor’s note: This piece originally appeared as part of the Benchmarks Theme on DTW in March 2015.
A personal luxury coupe is understood as a two door, four seat car with at least a V6 or ideally a V8. Whilst the advertising for these may have suggested sporting capability, the body-on-frame and bench seat reality spoke of cars whose main talent lay in getting quickly up to 65 mph and staying there from Baker, Ca. to Frederick, Md.
The image above is my idea of the archetype of this car. I don’t think Europe had equivalents of the PLC. Two-door Ford Granadas (such as the 1975 example owned by our stalwart contributor Myles Gorfe) don’t strike the same note. Whether with two doors or four they retain their Granada-ness (the Ghia fastback came a bit closer to the concept). The Opel Monza offered a sporty experience and isn’t formal enough. BMW’s 1976 633 CSi also promised and provided athletic capabilities. Perhaps Mercedes 450 SLC came closest of all as it was certainly luxurious, it had a V8 and the back seats were cramped for occasional use, despite the car’s length. Continue reading “Benchmarks – Personal Luxury Coupés”
Extra, Rapid, Express. Those three words sound well together. All of them did service as the badge of this Renault 5 spin-off.
For the UK and Ireland, the car bore an Express badge. In France, Spain, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Japan, Taiwan people knew them as Express. And if you lived in Germany, or Austria you had to Continue reading “Monday, Monday”
Editor’s note: This article made its first appearance on DTW in July 2014.
Tinselly, crudely assembled and unattractive sums it up, but luckily that’s just the Chevrolet badge on the bootlid. The rest of the car surprised me by being vastly better than the reputation suggested. The Chevrolet Epica has ended its six year production run and perhaps its reputation needs a little burnishing. I’ll tell you why: there’s very little wrong with the Epica and a lot that’s right.
Goodbye, VW Golf Plus, we’ll miss you. Hello, VW Sportsvan.
Editor’s note: This piece originally aired on DTW in August 2014. The Golf Sportsvan ceased production in 2020.
Some readers may have missed the news that VW’s much loved GolfPlus nameplate has been discontinued. The new name to watch is Sportsvan and doubtless it will win as much affection as the outgoing one. The replacement car was shown at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2013 and is now on sale.
Dialling in Opel Ampera in Wikipedia summons a redirect to the Chevrolet Volt. They must mean Bolt (as it was known in the US).
None of the cars in the Wikipedia Volt article are this specimen, an Ampera-E. A site called EV database informs us the Ampera-E could be ordered in Germany and Holland. It provides some information such as that when fully charged the car could very easily Continue reading ““Más vale tarde que nunca!!””
This is not so bad. And it’s cheap. It’s the Nissan 100 NX.
Editor’s note: This article first appeared on Driven to Write on 2 December 2015.
As with so many of these types of cars, they dissolve into obscurity and when you eventually chance upon them they look much better than you remember them. We have discussed in these pages design rationalism of the French and German types. In the Nissan 100 NX we see some more of this. The way the shutlines and panel gaps are set up is very disciplined indeed. Look at the way the bonnet shutline goes without interruption from one side of the window base to the other. Continue reading “Something Rotten In Denmark: 1993 Nissan 100 NX 1.6 SLX”
Here we’re back in Dublin for a look at some vintage Toyota goodness.
The last items of my personal possessions to linger in my childhood home are a stack of Autocar & Motor/Autocar magazines, from the period 1989 to about 1997, the last year of childhood and the early years of adulthood. This is a period when one is getting use to how the world is, to what constitutes normal. For most of human history it was likely that you could Continue reading “Montain Green-Veined Whites – Everywhere.”
Would you agree with me that the building could very well have been built so as to serve as a backdrop for this exact car?
There is little that remains to be said about the Ford LTD Crown Victoria. It’s biggest claim to fame, as I see it, is that it used Ford’s Panther platform which was new in 1981 and soldiered on until Ford was unable to Continue reading “Savannah Postcard (7)”
Something old, something new! Archibald Vicar, Dip. Eng. tries the latest sensation from BLMC, the Austin Maxi.
From “Today’s Driver” February 1969. Photography by Patrick Lamperay. Due to liquid spillage to the original negative source, stock photos have been used. Editor’s note: This transcript of the Archie Vicar original first appeared on Driven to Write in November 2013.
There it was, an Austin Maxi, Leyland’s latest motor car. And we were in Dublin, Eire, to test it. It was eight o’clock in the morning and photographer, Lamperey, and I were at British Leyland’s small factory in the middle of what was once the Empire’s second city. While I ought to have been taking in the generalities of the Maxi’s technicalities I was more cognisant of my rather delicate physical state, that of a rotten hangover.
Said hangover was largely as a result of my failed attempt to anaesthetise myself during the festival of mal de mer that was the ferry from Holyhead to Dublin. The duty-free Guinness was at least remarkably cheap so the experience was merely disagreeable and not costly. I was also able to Continue reading “1969 Austin Maxi: Road Test”
The other day when digging back into my Car collection I stumbled or fell or happened across an article by LJK Setright dealing with the Opel Omega B. In that article he chanted the praises of its predecessor, the Omega A. And this is the car we have for you today, photographed in Hamburg in July, as the thermometer managed to Continue reading “I’ll Give Anything to See a Berger’s Clouded Yellow…!”
“Peugeot plants seeds for the future,” wrote Car magazine in November 2002. The accompanying CAD image they used shared its colour with today’s hard copy. The CAD model in Car’s article posed as a concept car and bore the name Sesame. The vehicle appeared on sale two years later bearing a striking resemblance to the thing billed as a concept car. What Peugeot did was to Continue reading “Why the Mountain Argus Hovers in the Mist”
Toyota make a bewildering number of cars, they really do. This one lives in Dublin, Ireland where I saw it in the summer of 2022.
Rather foolishly I did not get as far as recording the nameplate. The only evidence I have for this sighting are these three grainy photographs, of the sort used by crazed believers in pseudo-science to prove the existence of the Loch Ness animal. In order to find out what this was I had to first Continue reading “That Was a Real False Ringlet Flying Past”
This is a small item that hinges (as it were) on perceived quality. I am sure many of DTW’s readers will identify the vehicle immediately.
I am not so sure many of them would have expected the exterior design to be hiding messy interior detailing as is shown in this screen shot. My own car has the same design of hinge by the way. That’s justifiable because it’s an affordable car built to a reasonable standard. This one costs rather more…
Today we will set a modest challenge for you. It might not even be a challenge as inevitably someone will provide the right answer in seconds.
Still, here we go. I had a heck of a job even finding an example of the car to photograph during my three weeks in Dublin this August. Eventually, I saw just two of them, a metallic grey one in Dublin 4 and the one partially shown above, seen in Wexford. Unfortuately for me, at the time I saw the first one I could not Continue reading “Mystery Car”
The subject of today’s text represents the very epitome of the overlooked combined with invisible. Perhaps that could be a bit unfair.
About 32 years ago the E100 iteration of the Corolla sprang into the world, the seventh generation of Toyota’s workhorse, butter-and-bread mainstay. It carried over a lot of the more angular predecessor, but in a more rounded and contemporary form. This allowed customers to Continue reading “A Holly Blue for Me and For You”
From Motor Enthusiast, October 1976. Photos by Edward Blayliss. Owing to the excessive lens flare of the original photography, stock images have instead been used.
Editor’s note: This period review was originally published on DTW in November 2013.
It’s quite peculiar to review a car that already exists. As the only motoring writer in Britain who has been permitted to officially test drive Bristol’s new four-seater, the 603, I can reveal Ferrari’s 400 GT (an evolution of the previous 365 GT4 2+2) is the same car but worse. Far be it for me to criticise the long, hard lunches put in by Mr Ferrari’s assistants, but the 400 GT is a rather poor show. And Bristol’s car, despite its slightly brash Chrysler lump, trumps the 400 GT in every major respect.
We are looking an E-body car, a twelfth generation Cadillac Eldorado.
With the benefit of hindsight and also seen at the time, the transformation of the 1986 Eldorado into the 1991 really must have been a socker. For almost twenty years the Eldorado sported a formal, near-vertical rear window. Then in 1991 Cadillac asked its customers to Continue reading “Savannah Postcard (5)”
On my first morning, a Sunday, I crept out of my lodgings and strolled around the grid-system streets of old Savannah.
This postcard concerns what resembles an alternate-reality Ford Mondeo, the Mercury Mystique which Ford USA sold from 1995 to 2000. Why did it exist? It looks perhaps like a rejected Mondeo proposal. What it is, is evidence of increasing rationalisation of the global Ford product range. The Mondeo upon which Ford based the Mercury Mystique was intended to drag Ford’s mid-sized offering into the front-drive world where its main enemy, the GM Cavalier/Ascona, had been thriving for some time. Continue reading “Savannah Postcard (4)”
Truly one of the great and lovely names in the back catalogues of car history: Electra.
General Motors has produced some very charming cars and they have also been incredibly bad custodians of their brand equity. Here is an example of a great name on a good car, relics of an abandoned market and an abandoned badge. More than 30 years after it ceased production, the Electra name still casts bright-blue light, and it made my afternoon when I saw this one while I was about to Continue reading “Savannah Postcard (3)”
Editor’s note: David Pye OBE (18 November 1914 – 1 January 1993), was Professor of Furniture Design at The Royal College of Art, from 1964 to 1974, in addition to being a respected wood turner and designer in his own right. He also wrote several notable volumes on design theory. This article was originally published as part of DTW’s Compromise theme in January 2017.
His argument rested on the idea that no design can optimise every aspect. The more complex the object the more likely this is to be the case. If we take a simple example of a knife, it’s a compromise because unavoidably the designer had to work within constraints of time and materials. The knife has to function but be affordable and attractive to enough people to Continue reading “Compromise – The Paradox of Failure”
The Century nameplate adhered to Buick’s mid-size cars from 1973 to 2005. In this postcard we look at the last two iterations.
Buick is a brand I think of as approximating to a combination of Rover, Lancia and Volvo but with a distinct veneer of the Ghia-character of European Fords. I hope that evokes the idea of the middle-market with comfort-orientated accoutrements. If we Continue reading “Savannah Postcard (2)”
“No mashed Swedes!” Archie Vicar on the Volvo 244 saloon.
Auto Motorist, September 1974, pages 23-29. Photos by Ian Cambridgeshire. Owing to unexplained fermentation affecting processing of the original images, stock photography has been used. [Editor’s note: This transcript was first uploaded to DTW on 2 November 2013.]
The Swedish like eating tinned rotten fish. It’s an acquired taste, I am told by those with experience in such things. One is advised to open the tin can under water so as to contain the noxious aromas that would otherwise emanate. And one is also advised to drink plenty of schnapps to kill the taste. That’s really the only part of the whole palaver I can really see my way to agreeing with. I mention all of this by way of an introduction to Sweden’s other acquired taste, their Volvos.
A recent short visit to Savannah, Georgia afforded a chance to peruse the roadside vehicle population of the South.
Many people visit Savannah to enjoy its urban milieu: late Georgian and early Victorian architecture situated among lines of old, large trees draped with Spanish moss. I had a look at all that but also hoped to see a reasonable sampling of faces familiar mostly from photographs. I found some surprising juxtapositions and odd vignettes. It’s a place of contrasts. If you Continue reading “Savannah Postcard (1)”
Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published on DTW in August 2016.
Remember the Chrysler K-car? It helped save Chrysler until the next crisis. The Fiat Tipo played a similar role, at least in underpinning a lot of models. This is one of them. Another Fiat, a 125 behind glass, made me stop at the location. When I stopped looking at that I wandered further. In the otherwise empty lot nearby this Tempra crouched. It looked good from afar, but it’s far from good. Although the body had galvanising, rust is biting the doors and the handles are seized. It’s not for sale anymore and evidently wasn’t worth taking to the dealer’s new location 10 km away.
What are we looking at here – is it possible to tell?
In all the excitement arising from recent Opel Astra articles here, we utterly overlooked the events of October 2001. Peugeot UK’s press fleet had a busy time with the launch of the “radical hatch” 307 (as Car called it). Today I will have a closer look at a car I really don’t think about. Rather than dig into its specification and features, I want to ask if we can see it as an example of design vagueness? There is nothing to hang on to, visually. How can we Continue reading “Did They Really?”
The hunt for quality: where does the perception of goodness reside in this car?
Editor’s note: Since we are currently evaluating the E30 3 Series BMW, it seemed germane to re-run this piece by Richard Herriott, considering some of the finer points. First published on DTW – 21 May 2017.
Recently the opportunity afforded itself for me to take a lot of photos of a car Clarkson called an over-priced Escort, a chance to hunt for quality. What did I find? Continue reading “The Panther of Bavaria”
Every major manufacturer faces the challenge of scheduled replacements for designs that are already incredibly well-suited to their market. One day, Opel had to replace the 1992 Astra F. With a new iteration, the aim is usually to keep all the good bits, strengthen the appeal and do something different that is at least as good, if not better. The risk of getting it wrong, of playing it too safe is balanced by the opposing risk of a design that is too bold.
The 2003 Lancia Granturismo Stilnovo concept illustrated that size and proportion matters.
Editor’s note: As a companion to this week’s Saab concept retrospective, we turn to a near-contemporary from Turin. This piece was first published on 4th October 2014 as part of the Concepts theme.
One of the last Lancias had a five year gestation from concept car to production. In this case there were two concepts, a real one and a pre-production model. One of them was not helpful.
Lancia showed the Lancia Granturismo Stilnovo at the 2003 Barcelona motor show as a genuine kite-flying concept car, one of quite a few quite credible studies they showed around this time. Three years later these ideas were translated into the production ready Lancia Delta HPE concept which was first revealed at the 2006 Venice International Film Festival. This then took a remarkable two years to Continue reading “Concepts: 2003 Lancia Granturismo Stilnovo”
A sermon about why car museums are to be avoided if you like old cars.
Originally published on 31st January 2014, the editor has selected to re-issue this piece, partially because it carries a fine profile shot of a Ford Sierra (making it vaguely topical) but primarily because it is an amusing, well crafted article – even if the author’s principle argument is somewhat debatable.
Every car museum I have visited in the last 2.25 decades has been a disappointment. Cars are inherently space-consuming selfish monsters and even when they are caught, killed and pinned to plinths this quality does not diminish. They need plenty of room, alive or dead. Alive, the car needs sufficient space for portly passengers to open the doors and affect egress without having to close the door behind them, at a minimum. And dead, in a museum without sufficient space, the car can’t be assessed properly. You need to stand back, fold your arms (essential) and try to Continue reading “Not For Sale: Car Museums”
The fifth generation Fiesta of 2002 was model of restraint.
Editor’s note: First published on 13th December 2016, this piece is being re-run today to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the 5th generation Fiesta’s introduction.
“It was designed to please the public, men and women alike, with those big headlamp eyes, and that smiling radiator mouth.” Those were the words of designer, Chris Bird. The project started in 1998 and is one of the unalloyed Bird Fords. The project bore the code B256 and featured a new floor pan for three variants: the five-door, the three door and the Fusion. At this point Chris Bird had replaced Claude Lobo as design director and wanted to put his mark on Ford.
Editor’s note: This piece originally dates from 2 May 2014.
It is always useful to consider a counterfactual. For example, by asking what would have happened if the Archduke, Franz Ferdinand had survived his assassination attempt, we ask about how avoidable the first World War was. Another counterfactual might be to ask what if REM had disbanded after their drummer Bill Berry retired? That is to ask what was the importance of Bill Berry to the band. The answer to that second question is easier than the first. REM should Continue reading “If All the World Were Paper and All the Sea Were Ink…”
Cab-Forward was the design buzz-word of the mid-’90s. It didn’t age well.
This sideways view of the JA-Series was originally published on DTW in December 2014.
This car has two claims to our attention today. The first is that in the cold light of day, it is hard to believe this car and its almost identical stable-mates were once nominated on Car & Driver’s 10 best list. I was not aware of this at the time. The second reason I am drawn to it is because it was the first car I was ever paid to review. I wrote 1,000 words and saw the editor chop out 200 of them, more or less killing the nuances of the text stone dead. I wanted to Continue reading “Something Rotten in Denmark: Chrysler Stratus”
A special edition Citroën BX, the 1989-1990 Palmares.
It’s named after a place that’s hard to find on a map. It might be in Buenos Aires. This example lurked in a gravelly forecort in the east of Jutland, about half an hour from Aarhus. Seeing it came as a surprise. It has been a while since I had the pleasure of slamming on the brakes and pulling up so I could hop out of the car to take some hasty photographs. The kids simply hate this kind of adult behaviour, that and visits to castles, roadside churches, ancient monuments, striking views and pretty much anything that isn’t a petrol station, shop or other opportunity for retail activity. But, now and again, I insist on making the kids Continue reading ““Blow-ins from Castlejane, no Doubt!””
Automotive design research can veer sharply between the obvious and the obscure.
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”
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.