For the first time, the month’s theme tackles a single manufacturer. An erstwhile giant of the French industry, often overlooked and even more often underestimated, yet for a time bigger than either Citroën or Peugeot.
From a multitude in the early days of motoring, through a reasonable glut after the end of the Second World War, culled by the possibly well-intended but drastically prescriptive Pons Plan, the French motor industry has now whittled itself away to three names, Renault, Peugeot and Citroën. Or you might say effectively just two. Except there was also Simca, and Simca doesn’t fit well into an easy history of the French industry as an essentially parochial one, blithely plowing its own furrow, haughtily ignoring the products of foreign makers. Continue reading “Theme : Simca – An Introduction”
The Editor is amazed at quite how quickly time flies. Is it really three years?
One most inclement evening in February 2014 two of my principals convened in the snug of a South London hostelry. The webpages of Driven to Write went ‘live’ that day, meaning the public were free to peruse its content. Sean and Eóin had already stocked the site with pieces written over several previous weeks. Now it could be seen. Think of it like opening a new restaurant. Would customers come? Would they want what was on offer? Had the toilets been cleaned? Continue reading “Driven To Write : Three Years Old and Still Proudly Uninfluential”
Once upon a time the juvenile car lover in the UK looked towards Autumn as a period of plenty. For that was Motor Show time, when a glut of exciting new cars was guaranteed to surprise and delight. And if that car lover was fortunate, they travelled to Earls Court or, later, the NEC to attend the British International Motor Show. For many, great as the opportunity was to be able to see these new models in the metal, just as fine was the fact that they could struggle back home laden with a selection of lush brochures. Continue reading “Theme : Brochures – Introduction”
The Editor tries to come up with a theme that everyone will like.
Hello again and welcome to 2017. This month’s theme smacks of Compromise. I’m torn between my absolute loathing for compromise in any shape of form, and my evangelical desire to broker compromise in any situation. So I’ll just say that compromise is, more or less, alright. Continue reading “Theme : Compromise – An Introduction”
We’ve reached the end of a very strange year, in which conventions and expectations have been hugely shaken. In comparison, the world of the motor car seems to have been bumbling along. Unlike a few years ago, when even giants like GM seemed ready to topple never to rise, this year has been relatively uneventful. So much so that one might wonder if the industry ever learns from its lessons. In some circles Toyota’s treatment of its Prius hybrid has raised eyebrows, and there have been discreet coughs in the Member’s Lounge regarding the new Discovery’s suitability on the grouse moor. Continue reading “Another Uneventful Year”
Our Editor returns late to his desk following an unfortunate delay at the hands of an industry PR man holding a particularly fine Oloroso and is, for the first time in his life, late with his copy.
The year’s end approaches and our thoughts traditionally drift to where we have visited this year, and where we might visit next year. This last month, our minds have been on South America, a place that distance still renders as slightly mysterious and exotic to we Europeans.
If you travel with a car, it’s impossible to avoid noticing that its character can suddenly make more sense or, conversely, that it can become out of its depth, depending on where you are. It’s a matter of place. Continue reading “Theme : Places – Introduction”
Certain writers on this site spend a lot of time bemoaning the sad lot of Lancia, so it is remiss of the DTW News Desk in being so tardy in announcing the awarding of a major prize to a Lancia.
Admittedly it is 80 years too late, but the Pinin Farina (two words back then) bodied Astura that was awarded the Best Of Show at Pebble Beach in August looks a deserving winner, even if it is hard to see it as a conceptual ancestor of the Ypsilon. Continue reading “Lancia Finally Comes Out On Top”
You will have gathered that I am a firm believer in rules and formality, so it is with the greatest reluctance that I agreed to break my own rule about Theme titles. Our new theme originally consisted of two words in English, albeit hyphenated in a bogus effort at expediency. However, such was the outcry from our demanding readership that it was changed to the Spanish language name of the continent which is, fortunately, a single word.
Whatever the case, such is the depth and scope of the topic that I felt it necessary to find a way around my rule. South America is, quite obviously, a continent of car enthusiasts. Thirteen Formula 1 Championships alone have been won by South American drivers. Five countries have motor industries, and Brazil is the seventh largest manufacturer in the World. Continue reading “Theme : Sudamerica – Introduction”
Sean has returned from his holiday in Northern Spain bearing a present of a single bottle of an unspeakably foul sweet sherry, charmingly gift-wrapped in the plastic bag of the supermarket that he bought it from. Since Eoin and Richard prefer to keep themselves removed from DTW’s London nerve centre, and because all three skinflints who present themselves as my principals refuse to allow me a PA, Sean and I are the sole inhabitants of our editorial office. Although I am rather less heavily-jowled than Mr Wather Matthau, and Sean is no match for the trim, bright-eyed Mr Jack Lemmon, as we sit at our desks I am nevertheless put in mind of the once popular movie, ‘The Odd Couple’. By which you might gather that the ‘Film’ of this month’s theme is the cinematic kind although, in the DTW spirit of pragmatism, if one of our correspondents insists on submitting a piece on the flexible properties of polyester film in automotive applications, I will consider it. Continue reading “Theme : Film – Opening Credits”
Simon wonders whether we really have the breadth of choice we should have.
Once, it was common for a motor manufacturer to produce and sell just the running chassis. In some cases they might fit a particular body, either in-house or bought in but, otherwise, the customer could go to a coachbuilder and get it bodied to their particular specification. This might be to a stock pattern, a limited production run if you like which meant that you could find different makes of car looking remarkably similar from the scuttle back, or it might be to the client’s commissioned design. Continue reading “Theme : Bodies – Introduction”
Recent talk of 5 cylinders causes our Editor to conflate two of his pieces from DTW’s very early days
Many thanks to Eoin for his kind mention below of my recent little volume on Sir Basil Milford-Vestibule. I’ve been putting away the research material of late and was leafing through the long out-of-print autobiography of Len Brik, who will be remembered by many of us longer serving types as the charismatic Chief Engineer at Victory Cars. Following the merger of Victory Cars with Empire, he came into close rivalry with Sir Basil. Len was entirely self taught and there was mutual loathing between the two men. Sir Basil is usually reported as referring to Brik as ‘The Blacksmith’, though more exactly he used the phrase ‘The Blacksmith’s Dull Apprentice’, whilst Brik returned the compliment with ‘Sir Beryl’.
Brik took designing on the back of an envelope to new levels, never doing drawing board work himself which he considered ‘poofy’. On one occasion he handed a sketch to an underling to draw up ‘just as is Sonny Jim’. Maliciously, the underling incorporated the envelope folds as exposed seams and, as there was no time to correct it before a board presentation, Brik had to leave it as was, intending to drop all the blame on the hapless draughtsman’s shoulders. When the design was enthusiastically received, going on to become the classic Victory Diva, he naturally accepted all credit himself. On another occasion, when doodling a design on a flip top packet of Peter Stuyvesant, he unintentionally put Victory at the vanguard of the hatchback revolution.
“May you live in interesting times” is the, apparently bogus, ancient Chinese curse which was, at one point, mentioned in our site introduction. It seems that 2016 is certainly shaping up as an ‘interesting’ year and, in Europe at least, many journalists are missing out on lazing on a beach, whilst their remaining colleagues have little chance to sit with their feet up embellishing stories of skateboarding gerbils in order to fill the gaps in what was, in quieter times, known as the ‘Silly Season’. Continue reading “Theme : Colour – Another Introduction”
Colour. What a minefield that is! From your playground days, you might remember angry debates as to whether you had a right to nominate Green as your ‘favourite colour’. And, unlike many other childish foibles, the irrational and excessive reaction to colour doesn’t go away.
As you can see from the above collage provided to me by Sean Patrick, some people agonise over colour. Some years ago, the poor boy went to great lengths to decide which colour to respray his car though he tells me that he is still not sure he made the right choice. Personally speaking, I favour grey, which is not strictly a colour, or, if I must nominate actual colours, those shades used by the military. I am more liberal concerning the choices of others. Unfortunately, the motor industry is not. Continue reading “Theme : Colour – Introduction”
Metal, Glass and Rubber were once the main materials used in any car, plus leather or cloth on the seats and roof and, probably, a bit of timber, either used superficially, as decoration, or maybe structurally. Except for the odd sliver of mica or ceramic and a bit of horsehair, that was it. Continue reading “Theme : Materials – Introduction”
For what it’s worth, our Editor attempts to be objective
It is a habit of older generations to convince themselves that they possess certain things that younger people don’t have. Generally, if that makes them feel better about the less positive sides of the ageing process, I suppose it does little harm. One of the re-occurring concepts is that, with age, you acquire a ‘set of values’. This panders to a natural desire to be able to calibrate and quantify everything in life but, at heart, we probably know that this is a foolish conceit. Continue reading “Theme : Values – An Introduction”
The Editor introduces DTW’s first single country theme
My standard answer to American acquaintances who asked me why, despite their entire continent and the rest of Europe doing otherwise, the UK and Ireland still insist on driving on the left hand side of the road, was that we were only conforming with the largest motor vehicle manufacturing nation on Earth. That nation was, of course, Japan, a country reasonably larger than the UK, but considerably smaller than France. Continue reading “Theme : Japan – Introduction”
In a DTW First, roving correspondent Robertas Parazitas, continues his reporting from the 86th Geneva International Motor Show.
Wednesday 02 March 2016
Today’s mainly a scour of the show for things missed and curiosities. Thankfully the constant noise of industry bullshit has abated.
On the “Whose not there” front, not only Lancia, but also MINI. Nothing to be read into that except that significant manufacturers, or certain of their brands are refusing the motor show circuit – Volvo have expressed their reservations, and Mazda aren’t going to Paris this year.
The last couple of hours have been spent on the VAG Reich looking for signs of contrition. In vain.
VW have made their own Evoque convertible, called the T Cross Breeze. The Bentley stand was overpowering, strangely the Bentgaya was sidelined into a tunnel off a corridor. Another car that just looks too ordinary.
The Audi Q2 will interest those with an eye for styling minutiae, and the bigger picture is surprising too. Far more like a C4 Cactus than a baby Q3.
A Vauxhall high-up told me that the Opel GT is designed for “production”, and if reaction is positive, they could push for it to built as a “halo car”.
Mitsubishi have a very neat EV concept with Appia-style doors. eX-concept, if you can’t wait for the pictures.
In a DTW First, roving correspondent Robertas Parazitas, continues his reporting from the 86th Geneva International Motor Show.
Tuesday 01 March 2016
Heavy round of press conferences – Seat and BMW were at 7:45AM. Brutal.
An over-run on the Fiat block has pushed the timetable back a good half hour. Sergio was ebullient. Hair a bit tidier, but the pullover didn’t look as if it had been washed since his last shift on the refuse collection.
The 124 Spider looks better than expected, especially in red, but I still immediately thought “Mitsuoka”. There was a pale primrose example of the real thing on the Fiat stand to show up the imported imposter.
JLR presentation beckons. More later.
Highpoints so far today:
Discovering that the new Renault Scenic has 20″ wheels as standard. When will this madness end?
The Scenic was described by Laurens van den Acker as “the car for parents who are still in love with each other”.
Pass several sick bags…
New Aston Martin DB11. Laid bare as a rolling monocoque it seems strangely ordinary. Floating roof – just like the Astra.
New electric Morgan three wheeler. Same price and performance as the petrol version, to be sold by Selfridges, and has a 150+ mile range. The last bit I take with a shovelful of salt.
Citroen’s bids to become the world’s wackiest carmaker.
I’m a bit fatigued by the booms, bangs, corporate bluster and Orwellian duckspeak. Could there be a competition among CEOs and PR people to use the word “iconic” the highest number of times?
Motoring history has a select group of people who can be seen as the creators of outstanding suspension systems, among them are Jean Baudin at Peugeot, Richard Parry-Jones at Ford, Colin Chapman at Lotus, André Lefèbvre at Citroen, Bob Knight at Jaguar and Alex Moulton for BMC . But there were far more who didn’t care for, or understand, the subtleties of suspension, notably Enzo Ferrari who seemed to think that its only reason for existence was to prevent the sumps of his beloved engines from scraping along the road. Continue reading “Theme : Suspension – Introduction”
In a DTW First, roving correspondent Robertas Parazitas, will be reporting from the 86th Geneva International Motor Show.
Monday 29 February 2016
10.30 : Palexpo opens in about three hours. There’s a Laurin & Klement Superb in the station concourse. Strange shiny metal flake wheels. Brougham as hell.
13.27 : Now logged into the Palexpo Wi-Fi. 34 minutes to go. Seems Steve Cropley drove here in a 957cc Fiesta Mk.1. It’s no Gamma, but heroic nevertheless.
14.49 : Waiting for the CoTY announcement. There’s a run through of 50 years of previous winners – a lot of good cars, despite the mean spirited criticism. Short list is A4, MX5, Superb, XE, Astra,7 Series, XC90. No obvious winner, but it would be a surprise if VAG won.
15.06 : The run-down of nominees is underway.
15.17 : XC90 creeping up.
15.19 : Still Astra and Volvo in front. MX-5 doing well.
23.33 : After the high drama of the CoTY announcement, a relaxed look round the stands. There are going to be a lot of all-nighters tonight to knock them into shape for Conference Day tomorrow.
The Volvo S90 exceeded expectations. The saloon pleased me more than the wagon, but both are excellent. There is an 1800ES on the stand, as a reminder of the inspiration for the new concave Volvo ‘signature’ grille.
Moving on to the Daimler Reich, I was most impressed that Dieter Zetsche did his own rehearsal, and seemed to be thoroughly enjoying it. He’s unexpectedly tall and very thin, I’d expected him to be rotund and a bit buffoonish. I think I was standing beside a Callum – not sure which one – while watching Dieter.
After Dieter exits, here’s then a song and dance act by one Zara Larsen, a popstrel who I am informed by the younger members of our contingent is shaping up to be the Swedish Taylor Swift. As it finished Dieter reappeared driving a C Class, and presented Zara with a bouquet of flowers. All rather charming.
There are three fine old Jeeps in the FCA enclave, but no Jeep press conference. There’s a solid hour of FCA presentations tomorrow. It will be interesting to see which binman’s outfit Sergio turns up in.
Still on Fiat matters, spotted my first Tipo this evening when we went into France for our evening meal. Hints of the old Brava and Marea, probably coincidental. At 11,900 Euros it ought to sell well.
EDITOR’S NOTE : My Founders have recently asked me to investigate the possibility of securing some advertising revenue. All the feelers I have put out suggest that we first need to attract a wider readership to this site. In particular it was pointed out that re-publishing fifty year old road tests or impressions of small modern hatchbacks hired from airports does not attract the more hard-core enthusiast. With this in view, I have commissioned a leading journalist from the performance car press to pen a piece for us. Though usually published under another name, here he has chosen the nom-de-plume of Throttlegod. In an attempt to attract this new readership, I am fearlessly breaking the manufacturer’s embargo by publishing his recent test in advance of the car’s debut by way of a scoop.
As any regular readers of my tests would know, I was gutted to find that the original Huayra was massively underpowered. With only 738 bhp it was always going to disappoint, but its inability to get my arse up to 60mph in under 3 secs was nothing short of criminal. Horacio Pagani was obviously properly stung by my criticisms and has tried to put things right with the new BC. Number nerds can read the full spec somewhere else but what my faithful readers will want to know is whether the finished item delivers in the hound’s genitals department, or is it just another puppy’s wet dream? Continue reading “Throttlegod Decides – Pagani Huayra BC”
As a fiftieth sporting anniversary fast approaches, we combine this month’s theme with our Print The Legend series and look at what could have been one of the first-ever Special Editions.
Following England’s victory in the 1966 World Cup, jingoistic feelings were high. BMC wanted to commemorate the event and hastily planned a tribute in time for the Earls Court Motor Show. An intimate committee to consider the alternatives was formed, consisting of BMC’s head of marketing and an outside consultant, the journalist Archie Vicar.
Their first idea, to have a series of 11 limited editions, all Morrises, named after each player in the final was deemed impractical, so a single iconic image was chosen, that of the number 4 shirt, Nobby Stiles, dancing a jig after the match and grinning through his missing front teeth. Continue reading “Theme : Special – An Early Bath”
The Editor wonders what is so special about being special.
After last month’s Theme, Glamour, which drew a rather timid response, my team has chosen a theme that throws a wider net, and that they consider will be a sure-fire success.
I shamelessly admit that I was cheered at the low interest of Driven To Write’s contributors in the theme of Glamour. There are many motoring organs whose staff feel at their most comfortable seated in the Louis Vuitton tent at a concour d’elegance, sipping Moet & Chandon as they exchange bon mots with Mr Brian Ferry, but Driven To Write’s members are not among them. For all our literary pretensions, we pride ourselves that our feet remain firmly planted in the gutter of mass production. Continue reading “Theme : Special – Introduction”
After a Disappointing end to 2015, we start the first month of the New Year with an upbeat Theme. But what exactly is Glamour? Well, it is certainly not to be confused with November’s theme subject, Romance.
Both may be ethereal but, unlike Romance, Glamour is strictly a fleeting thing. Even the Glamorous only experience it for short periods. It is the accoutrements that give the appearance of Glamour. Individually, naked, we are not Glamorous, which is ironic bearing in mind the traditional euphemistic use of the word to describe a niche of the British publishing industry. This reminds us that there is always something not quite respectable lurking beneath the veneer of Glamour. Glamour is, of course, different things for different ages but, for many of my generation, it is not The Queen, flawless in her youth, riding in a glass carriage at her Coronation, it is more likely Miss Diana Dors standing beside a pastel Ford Zodiac convertible in a mink coat and bathing suit. Continue reading “Theme : Glamour – Introduction”
Happy New Year. It’s a long tradition of at least a year’s standing at Driven To Write to publish the Editor’s and Founder’s aspirations for the coming year. This year we are joined by our other Authors as well as some of our regular Commenters.
To any of our regulars who aren’t represented here, please accept my chastisement for not reacting to your copy deadline. Alternatively my apologies if my mail didn’t reach you. But in any case, to all who have contributed to DTW over the past year, our thanks for helping make it what it is, and our wishes that your wishes for the coming year are realised. Continue reading “Maximum Resolutions”
Talent borrows, genius steals, the saying goes. It’s still bad manners though.
As Editor, it is with grim satisfaction that I note, with a New Year approaching, the enormous PR machine that lies dormant beneath the DTW offices might need to be put into action to reconsider our ‘World’s Least Influential Motoring site’ strapline.
Following’s Eóin’s definitive works on the genesis of both the XJ-S and XJ40 Jaguars, and with unacknowledged extracts from the former already having recently surfaced in print elsewhere, his July profile of Bob Knight seems to have inspired others in the mainstream to reassess this often overlooked giant of Jaguars past.
Those who have read the piece note the uncanny similarity in content and tone, plus the seemingly direct use of a quote. From my own experience, I know only too well the ends to which an imminent deadline push one so, if we have been of assistance to the ‘Big Boys’, my cup runneth over with bashful satisfaction.
Any suggestions for a new strapline would be welcome, and we will offer a small prize. Possibly a subscription to Octane, though regular readers here might feel that unnecessary. Sean, with his usual glib predictability, has suggested ‘World’s Most Plagiarised …. etc’, but that is both wildly presumptuous and incorrect. That accolade certainly belongs elsewhere, possibly to the outstanding http://www.aronline.co.uk.
This month’s theme is somewhat in the nature of a BBC Radio quiz. The subject itself is quite straightforward, and has overtones of both last month’s theme as well as the actualities of the so-called Season of Goodwill. It is ‘Disappointment’. The motor industry has always offered us high expectations, even more so now, when just changing the position of the rear view mirror will elicit two gushingly incoherent paragraphs from the PR department. Yet, on innumerable occasions, the industry fails to deliver on its promises.
This goes back to the early days. Henry Ford famously offered that “any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black” yet just 13 years later he began offering the Model T in green and maroon. Such broken promises litter and besmirch the industry, like switches on the dashboard of the Model T’s present day successor.
So, to revert to my mention of a quiz show. I felt that I should make it slightly more challenging for the serial Jonahs who contribute to this site. As such, my editorial brief, which is entirely irrevocable unless I am given a good reason to revoke it (a half case of Emilio Lustau Añada 1990 Oloroso might do), has been that no piece should mention either the Citröen or Lancia brands, unless in passing. This will be difficult for my writers, I know, but rest assured that, as they search for disappointment elsewhere, they will not be disappointed.
The Editor swoons as he considers this month’s theme
Aaah, Romance! A sunny day, a full tank of petrol, the roof down, a good companion, a fine picnic in the boot, a clear road …..Well, that may be some people’s idea of romance and the motor car, but how often does that happen? Yet, the car remains, for many people, a hugely romantic device. If not, why would so many of us spend so much money in such an indiscriminating way on something that, inevitably, will let us down in one way or another? Really, I need not explain the romantic pull of the car since, if it were not so, it is unlikely you would be visiting this site. Continue reading “Theme : Romance – Introduction”
Will The Editor spare his words for this month’s theme?
Miserliness, Parsimoniousness, Meanness. None of these terms is ever used to indicate approval yet surely, as we go through life, the trail we leave should be as slight as possible, except in our achievements. We might look back at our ancestors and forgive them their profligacy, on the assumption that they didn’t properly understand the nature of our Earth. But, today, even those who believe in a deity, usually acknowledge that they have been given enough autonomy to be responsible for the finite resources they have been provided with. Continue reading “Theme : Economy – Introduction”
The Wheel has been around for at least five-and-a-half millennia yet, even in my very distant youth, its end seemed to be in sight. The Car Of The Future would surely fly, suspended possibly by air, jet motors or magnets. But here we are, well into the 21st Century, and The Wheel still reigns. Just as on Daimler’s first petrol-powered, converted carriage of 1886, four wheels remain the norm, five if you count a spare, three if you own various Reliant or Morgan models.
The wheel is your sole contact with the road and is, in many ways, the most critical part of your car. It is a major contributor to the safety and character of a vehicle, yet many drivers give it little thought. True, some enthusiasts are wheel fetishists but, from the majority, it gets cursory attention except when the time comes to re-clad it in the cheapest tyres available.
This month we aim to give The Wheel the respect and attention it deserves.
Once they were called Panel Gaps. These were negatives, they were just places where metal didn’t exist. Cars were assembled from a lot of different bits, leaving gaps between them, especially where one bit might need to be removed again, or where it hinged. These gaps varied in size and it was generally safer to make them a bit bigger in case of mistakes, and maybe to allow for better ventilation.
The original Volkswagen Beetle had good fitting panels for the time. Combined with stout rubber seals this resulted in the Beetle owner’s old party trick of slamming a door, which resulted in a noticeable blow to the eardrum, so airtight was the fit. The Japanese industry always seems to have been more rigorous, but most European and American carmakers back then did not seem to care to work to such tolerances and, in truth, no-one seemed to care that much. Continue reading “Theme : Shutlines – Introduction”
In today’s motoring world the term ‘hybrid’ has been hi-jacked for a certain type of vehicle. It is a fair enough description, but this month, without ignoring the sterling work of Toyota and others, we would also like to reclaim the word on a wider scale.
There have always been hybrids in motoring. It is well known that Ferdinand Porsche created a petrol/electric hybrid at the start of the 20th Century – a clever idea which we more or less forgot about for 90 or more years. On a more general level, the motor industry was mixing and matching from the start, taking it to a mammoth scale the moment Fiat put an airship engine into one of its production chassis in 1910. Continue reading “Theme : Hybrids – Introduction”
In the spirit of even-handedness, we feel we should present selected extracts of this disturbing counterview to the recent pieces we have published by Myles Gorfe.
SUNDAY 14 DECEMBER 2014 (12.45am) : Sunday lunch is in the oven and Myles has just come in from working on the Granada. The poor love looked so miserable. He spent all morning fitting a new part he bought on Ebay and it doesn’t work. He’s just popped up to his man-cave to order another.
SUNDAY 14 DECEMBER 2014 (3.45pm) : Oh well, that was Sunday lunch. The kids liked it anyway but Myles was a no-show. I’ve kept his warm. He’d promised to have a look at my Micra today but it looks like that won’t happen.
SUNDAY 14 DECEMBER 2014 (7.45 pm) : Yes, or rather no. I was right about no time for the Micra. He popped down, bolted his meal, went out to the garage then back up to browse. What does he do on that computer? I thought it was porn for a while, but now I’m sure it’s just bloody cars. Porn can’t cost that much. If he doesn’t hurry, he’ll miss the Strictly results.
SATURDAY 3 JANUARY 2015 : Myles was in his cave all day. Apparently he’s been commissioned by this big website to do a series of articles on his Granada. Sounds odd to me. When I asked what they were paying him, he was a bit shifty.Continue reading “Bridget Gorfe’s Diary”
Secondhand. It isn’t a word with a lot of cachet is it? For goods It suggests that someone else got there first, enjoyed the best of it and has left you with the frayed remains. For ideas it suggests that there is nothing new or original, that everything about it is derived from something better. And it gets worse. Third-hand has even less cachet but, for the purpose of this month’s theme, we will make no distinction regarding the quantity of prior keepers, and ‘secondhand’ is certainly a more forthright description of an object than the weaselly and presumptuous ‘preloved’ of modern usage.
But this scorn for the used object is a relatively new way of thinking. The worshipping of the new was not always so. Before industry became the ravenous monster it is now, with an insatiable appetite for our custom, the item that had been owned by someone else had no stigma attached. Objects were passed from parent to child and valued as such and, since technology in many areas hardly altered, there was little incentive to replace something until it became irreparable.
It is with a mixture of sorrow and goodwill that I announce my departure as Senior Editor of Driven To Write, and my immediate replacement by the well-known motoring personality, Mr Jeremy Clarkson. On discussing this with me, The Founders stressed that this has been a hugely painful decision for them to make. I have worked tirelessly over the past 18 months, building this site to be the informed and thoughtful forum it is today. However, there is competition out there and The Founders felt that their ambitions to reach the widest readership possible were not being totally realised. With Mr Clarkson on board they see the chance to leap, at a stroke, from the current readership, who I believe are mostly aged relatives of the three, to one of several billion.
There will likely be a period of turmoil before things stabilise. At present, Sean is being held at Dover police station following his involvement in the incoming Senior Editor’s inaugural stunt ‘How Many Illegals Can You Fit In The Boot Of A Phantom?’. Eoin is undergoing hospital treatment after an inappropriate, though innocently informal, rejoinder to that prank when he was heard to say ‘Call the Rolls Jeremy and a million people will crawl up its backside’. Richard is currently suspended following allegations about his political allegiances – I warned you that the world of motoring was not the place to express socialist sentiments, Richard, though I am surprised quite how literally Mr Clarkson uses the concept of suspension. Continue reading “Jeremy Clarkson Joins Driven To Write”
Benchmarking has become a common practice in our world. Even estate agents ‘benchmark’ their performance but, of course, the original benchmarks were just what they suggested, marks on a bench for an artisan to use for fast measuring of standard lengths of material. As such, in an industry that has its basis in engineering, the term is used more reasonably in the automotive world than in politics or banking though, this month, we consider automotive Benchmarks in the broader, more modern sense.
In life we build on the achievements of others and, in time, others will build on our achievements. So it is in the motor industry. We might identify the first car to use a mass-produced four valve, four cylinder engine (the Triumph Dolomite Sprint) but it didn’t necessarily go on to set the standard for all subsequent such cars. In fact it is impossible to look at a single car and say that this is a template that all other cars should aspire to. Yet totems such as the VW Golf, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes S Class, all undeniably excellent in their own way, do become benchmarks against which other cars are judged and, invariably it seems, are seen to fall short. Is that healthy? Continue reading “Theme : Benchmarks – Introduction”
Since you are on this site reading this, I’m sure that you probably agree with me. Passengers are of limited worth. They have their uses. They can coo in admiration of your driving skills. They can unwrap sticky sweets and pass them to you. They can scurry out into rainy nights and get you fish & chips. They can ….
But I think I’ve run out of positives. As any true driver will tell you, passengers are, by and large, a liability. Do you drive better if there are passengers in the car? By which I don’t mean do you drive more slowly and conscientiously, but is your swift progress impeded by the need to consider the sacks of potatoes taking up space in the other seats in your car. Remember I said your car. although some passengers Continue reading “Theme : Passengers – Introduction”
The first cars were not fast enough for anyone to be particularly concerned about the amount of air that stood in the way of their progress. Therefore, although drivers soon learnt to hunch themselves over the wheel to reduce the passing air’s effect on themselves, it took longer to realise how important it might be to reduce their effect on the passing air.
Before we come to Aerodynamics, we must come to Streamlining. Streamlining is not the father of Aerodynamics, it is the somewhat camp uncle. Streamlining is to Aerodynamics as Gastronomy is to Nutrition. It is more fun. Although based on the concept that air should pass unhindered over the vehicle body, Streamlining was not usually scientific. It was sometimes based on theory and experimentation, Continue reading “Theme : Aerodynamics – Introduction”
First of all, if you keep the Gregorian Calendar, I wish you all the best for the imminent New Year. As this is the traditional time for making promises that we are unlikely to honour, I have asked the Driven To Write staff (including myself) for their resolutions or wishes for 2015.
Simon A Kearne : I have two wishes that I repeat every year. One is that I will drink less sherry. The other is that the Lea Francis brand will return. Mercifully neither of these things ever happens.
Richard Herriott : My wishes for the New Year are to see the extermination of the false reverse rake d-pillar. I also want to see deeper side-glass on passenger cars. Finally, I would like to hope that ashtrays could once again regain their position of dominance in car interiors. If Simon is allowed to ask for Lea-Francis, I want Humber.
Sean Patrick : I have many motoring wishes, but I am resigned that few of them will ever happen. I gave up hoping for the renaissance of Citroen a long time ago. I’d like to see a more knowledgeable buying public demanding real-world cars that suit them, rather than manufacturers giving us stuff we don’t need. Fat chance. On a personal level, I must sort out the side mirrors on my SM and travel in it to Retromobile or Techno-Classic Essen – but then I’ve promised myself that for the past three years.
Eóin Vincent : I, Eoin Vincent, being of sound-(ish) mind do solemnly swear to henceforth: Ignore the subject of Jaguar during the coming year / Stop worrying and learn to love Gorden Wegener and all his works / Lose my obsession with Sergio Marchionne’s obsession with knitwear / Learn the art of brevity / Get a grip on punctuation and sentence structure / Become DriventoWriteMoreFrequently
The first car dashboard to be noted was, probably, the eponymous one used in the Curved Dash Oldsmobile of 1901. However this simply referred to the low barrier at the front of the car that stopped dirt and stones being ‘dashed’ up against the occupants, and which had been inherited entirely from the world of horses and carriages.
As motoring progressed, the position of the dashboard rose literally and it became the natural place to position controls and gauges. Bearing in mind the importance of ensuring safe progress, it might be thought that dashboard design would be pursued with technical rigour, but this has seldom been the case.
In a previous time, before an age where any jaded old hack and a few opinionated dilettantes could open a website at the flick of a keyboard, a knowledge of motoring history relied on the prodigious memory of chaps like Bill Boddy, piles of magazines in the attic and, of course, lots of books. Once, should I wish to know more about the ill-conceived Lotus 30 (147,000,000 results in Google) it would have meant, at least, a phone call to Motor Books or one of the other specialist shops or mail-order suppliers who dealt with motoring matters. Then, if there wasn’t actually a volume helpfully entitled ‘The Lotus 30′, one would hope that the person on the other end of the phone was knowledgeable enough, as was often the case, to say “there’s a couple of paragraphs in the 1965 publication The World Compendium Of Lethal Racing Cars, which unfortunately is out of print, and I think Denis Jenkinson might be writing something on the subject”. Then would follow a lengthy spell of phone calls and letter writing until, at last, a dog-eared third-hand volume of The World Compendium, etc was in your hands. I can’t begin to tell you what an enormously satisfying procedure that was.
A few months ago, I published a snippet from the autobiography of that legend of the British Motor Industry, the Chief Engineer of Victory Cars, Len Brik. Since then I have had a request for a further extract, but I must admit that a small amount of the late Len Brik’s odd grammar goes a long way. However, I can offer you some alternative Brik related information.
First, and relevant to last month’s theme, is the reason for Len Brik’s choice of engine for Victory’s flagship saloon, the Magistratum. His desire was to trump all the 6 cylinder competition Continue reading “Len & Now 2”
For much of my motoring life, the hierarchy of car engines was clear, constant and relatively simple. The reciprocating internal combustion engine reigned supreme and the greater the number of cylinders, the more important it often was. The true enthusiast’s choice of fuel was petrol, with diesel an unfortunate option for the miser who had no ear for beauty and even less care for the health of their fellows.
History shows us moments when social orders changed irrevocably. These sometimes followed a deliberate revolution and were sometimes the secondary result of a great disaster, either natural or man-made. Whatever the cause, we can try to imagine the revulsion that individuals felt when their complacent assumption that things would remain the same forever was shattered.
The facelift, once a rather quirky thing, has become accepted. A nip, a tuck, a chop, a stretch. No-one seems embarrassed. Your Editor is aware of these things because, much as he would prefer to always shop at Fortnum and Mason, circumstances (thank you Eoin and Sean) dictate that he has to stand in supermarket queues with everyone else. Therefore he cannot avoid the temptation to browse through those strange little magazines on offer beside the tills and read about these things.
June’s Theme : The Editor Posts Some Thoughts on Speed
We get used to thinking that we, meaning whoever amongst us are young and fit enough to command the technology, are probably the best informed and highest achieving people in history. The knowledge and achievements of our forebears, though impressive perhaps in the context of their age, pales in absolute comparison with our own. Such is the arrogance of The Present and, though it might not have always been this way, it seems set to remain.
I still use the same tailor my Father first took me to as a boy. Their jackets have a small label sewn into the inner lining on the right breast, showing their name but nothing else. Were I to ask them to put the label on the outside, they would be aghast. But they are an old fashioned firm and, I fear, not much longer for this World. Although my preferences have never changed, those of the rest of the World appear to have. It might seem understandable that cheap sports clothing should incorporate free advertising for the maker, since it could be argued that it subsidises the cost, but what seems stranger is that it has become acceptable for an expensive fashion brand to do the same. Don’t their customers object to being walking billboards, or are they simply boasting?
I’ve asked myself if I can think of a large car that is ‘cute’ and, at present, can only think of one, but perhaps that is because this particular vehicle will always have a dominant place in my memories. In the late Seventies, I filled in for the European Motoring Correspondent on Soldier Of Fortune magazine when he was unavoidably detained for several months by the German security services. Apart from it being the introduction to my beloved Alvis Stalwart, when I tested one for the ‘Used and Bruised’ feature, that time also has more tender memories for me.
Cute. A word derived from acute, therefore originally suggesting someone (generally female) who was quick witted, has ended up, in United Kingdom English at least, more usually suggesting someone or something that is attractive, but in a rather dainty or childish sort of way. When applied to a person, it suggests a distinct lack of seriousness and, when applied to a car, the situation is no better. So do we want cute cars? Well, for the traditional, stereotypical male ‘petrolhead’, whose choice of motor says as much about what happens below his waist as above, a cute car is unlikely to cut the mustard, unless it’s a gift to keep the little lady sweet. But we at DTW are not like that – well at least the Lads aren’t being, of course, hardened metrosexuals.
Many thanks to Eoin for his kind mention below of my recent little volume on Sir Basil Milford-Vestibule.
I’ve been putting away the research material of late and was leafing through the long out-of-print autobiography of Len Brik, who will be remembered by many of us longer serving types as the charismatic Chief Engineer at Victory Cars. Following the merger of Victory Cars with Empire, he came into close rivalry with Sir Basil. Len was entirely self taught and there was mutual loathing between the two men. Sir Basil is usually reported as referring to Brik as ‘The Blacksmith’, though more exactly he used the phrase ‘The Blacksmith’s Dull Apprentice’, whilst Brik returned the compliment with ‘Sir Beryl’.Continue reading “Len & Now”