The Citroën Dyane is Fifty This Year

Was it the 2CV’s slightly duller brother, or the car the 2CV should have become?

Image : favcars.com

In all practical respects the Citroën Dyane was an improvement on the 2CV. The sliding front windows were more convenient, the two position fabric sunroof easier to use, the hatchback more versatile, the bodywork a little more slippery. Yet, despite comprising nearly 17% of total 2CV derivative Citroen production in its 15 years, against the 2CV saloon’s 45% over 42 years, it is a bywater in Citroën history because, of course, it isn’t a Deuche and, in terms of original intent, it isn’t even strictly a Citroën, since it was intended to be a Panhard. Continue reading “The Citroën Dyane is Fifty This Year”

Theme : Rivals – That Never Were

The members of the motor industry are prone to adopt each other’s ideas, even if they are flawed, then stick to them dogmatically.  So what might have happened if ….?

We at DTW are fascinated at the what-ifs of the motor industry. Two of them celebrate their 70th birthdays this year. Next year one of these will commemorate 70 years since its demise, the other’s will be in 2019. So they are both short-lived failures and, you might say, justifiably so. But, if you add in another, longer-lived model and imagine a different financial and/or political climate, the large car of today could have been very different. Continue reading “Theme : Rivals – That Never Were”

Theme : Rivals – The Cat Takes The Bird

Some Theme Music for our Theme.

In 1964 my Dad made one of his visits to the USA and brought back with him ‘The Latest And The Greatest’ by Chuck Berry. At least that’s how I remember it but, as any Berry anorak will tell you, that album was a compilation record put together by Pye in the UK. So did they export it only for it to be returned, did my Dad become such a Berry fan on his visit that he bought it locally as soon as he came back, or is it all just a false-memory? You never can tell. Continue reading “Theme : Rivals – The Cat Takes The Bird”

An Evergreen Novelty Resurfaces, Yet Again

At Easter, DTW came across a Tesla Model X parked in a field in France.

Elon’s Alphabetic Masterplan – Models S & X – Image : autoexpress.co.uk

From the start I was always very open-minded about Tesla, and generally feel that attitude has been vindicated. If, as I’ve been informed on various websites, it is just a scam, designed to relieve hard-working Americans of their ‘tax dollars’, it turns out to have been a remarkably long-running one that has cost Elon Musk an awful lot of money. Yes, it’s a pity that the Model S appeared rather mainstream and didn’t make more of its difference, but it looks reasonably imposing , well-proportioned and well-detailed, with a bit more presence to my eyes than a Jaguar XF. From reports, there are some things that, as a start-up manufacturer, they have overlooked and I am not sure how much I’d enjoy a car whose controls are so dominated by a huge touchscreen, bearing in mind the various glitches I’ve encountered with iPads and their like. Nevertheless, as viewed from afar, Tesla’s progress has been hugely impressive. The sight of two Model S’s plugged in to the Superchargers at Folkestone Eurotunnel the other week was testimony to the owner’s confidence that they were up to a long-range trip. But then I saw a Model X close up. Continue reading “An Evergreen Novelty Resurfaces, Yet Again”

Louwman Museum IV : Capturing The Moment

Aside from the car collection, the Louwman Museum has an extensive collection of ‘Automobile Art’. But are car paintings ever any good?

Not in the Louwman : Grand Prix Thrills from ‘The Eagle Book of Motor Sport’

Ever since the first photograph was produced, the ‘Death of Painting’ has been trumpeted but painting still carries on. One reason of course is that the camera only catches the momentary image – it doesn’t always explain what is happening or why it is happening. Equally in today’s Photoshop world, it’s reasonable to forecast the ‘Death of Photography’. Certainly it is partly dead – most of today’s more glossy motoring magazines would find it hard to produce a cover, or even a main article image, in an unadorned state. Continue reading “Louwman Museum IV : Capturing The Moment”

Theme : Rivals – The Light and The Dark

We look at two proud Frenchmen who were really quite similar and so very different.

Renault, left and Citroën, right

There are certain notorious rivalries in motoring history. Many of them were sporting ones, in the Senna-Prost mould, which sometimes went beyond good sense and risked the lives of those involved. But there are also rivalries that at first seemed less visceral, but that had equally grim endings. One such is that between André Citroën and Louis Renault. Neither were self-made men from humble backgrounds in the vein of Herbert Austin or, even more so, William Morris. Both had comfortable upbringings, André’s possibly less stable due to the suicide of his father. Born within a year of each other, they actually first met as young children attending the same Lyceé. André studied engineering at the prestigious École Polytechnique whereas Louis was self-taught, building his first car before the end of the 19th Century and becoming part of the early history of motoring after forming a company with two of his brothers. Continue reading “Theme : Rivals – The Light and The Dark”

Louwman Museum III : The Pebble Beach Boys

Back at the Louwman Museum, we ask how far is too far.

I’ve always liked the Mercedes 500K and 540K cars despite the fact that they seem tainted, through no real fault of their own, by association with high-ranking Nazis. In 2 seater form, it’s one of those cars of inordinate length that accommodates just a couple of people. Were all cars like this, our roads would have become gridlocked many years ago, but there’s a harmless decadence to it in my eyes. The Louman’s 500K is one of those fairytale barn-find stories. A Spezial model, one of just 25, it was first purchased in the UK and spent 30 years stored behind a butcher’s shop in Walsall. Discovered and auctioned late in the 1980s, it was beautifully restored in Germany and was a prizewinner at Pebble Beach in 1994. Continue reading “Louwman Museum III : The Pebble Beach Boys”

BOOOOOST!

I mentioned recently that futile pushing movement a driver makes in their seat as they try to coax an underpowered car to gain, or even maintain, speed. What they really need is a magic switch.

Image : jaguarforums.com
Image : jaguarforums.com

When I was a kid, many Jaguars had a small switch, set high up on the dashboard, between the steering wheel and the driver’s door. Depending on the model, this might either be labelled ‘Overdrive’ (in my memory a transparent toggle) or an ‘Intermediate Speed Hold’ (a black toggle). As a child I didn’t differentiate, or even question what the difference was, it just seemed like a magic go-faster button that the drivers could flick at will. Continue reading “BOOOOOST!”

Theme : Simca – Making The Turkey Last

A title chosen more for a cheap laugh than accuracy, the big Simcas actually did OK for a while and, as usual, their manufacturers ensured they wrung the most from them.

The UK’s only surviving Simca Ariane – Image : Eóin Doyle

I have three particular memories of the big Simcas. First was in France in 1961, driving across the Camargue with my parents. On a long stretch the bonnet of a light blue Ariane coming in the other direction flipped fully open, completely blinding the driver who swerved into the side of the road, thankfully without injury to anything except his pride. Seeing that at a tender age has always made me careful about securing my bonnet and, at the time, it also made me wonder unfairly if Simcas were that well made. The second memory is from twenty years ago when I spent Christmas in Alsace at a place called the Hotel Beaulieu. When I arrived at night, parked in front sitting in the entrance floodlights surrounded by snow was a Santa red and white Simca Vedette Beaulieu. Continue reading “Theme : Simca – Making The Turkey Last”

Louwman Museum II : 5 Year Plan / 35 Year Production

Carrying on our look at the exhibits in the Louwman Museum, we consider a rarity, a car manufactured by a city.

China’s first production car was built by the Shanghai City Power Machinery Manufacturing Company. Supposedly a copy of the 1954 ‘Ponton’ Mercedes 220, on actual viewing the Shanghai SH760 seems to have been copied through the wrong end of a telescope. Its introduction in 1958 as the Fenghuang (Phoenix) coincided with the start of the odious Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward and this was the car that lower ranking officials might have toured the country in whilst implementing the Chairman’s ill-informed industrial and agricultural schemes. Later on, as long as they weren’t too ‘intellectual’, these same officials might have monitored progress of the Cultural Revolution from the seats of a Shanghai. A probably conservative 40 million deaths from starvation, murder and suicide later, the SH760 was still in production. Continue reading “Louwman Museum II : 5 Year Plan / 35 Year Production”

Louwman Museum I : A Prince In Exile

DTW’s correspondent visits a museum and finds his perception challenged.

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Before I start on any negatives and disappointments let me make it clear that the Louwman Museum at Den Haag in the Netherlands is one of the best car museums in the World, possibly the best. Obviously that opinion is subjective and so is the collection, generally the choice of one family. For instance if you’re looking for BMWs, a single pre-war 328 represents many people’s favoured marque, but at least one DTW contributor would be pleased to find three Lloyd cars on show.  The collection tapers out as we get later into the last century and production cars of the 21st Century are illustrated by just a cutaway Prius. But in terms of giving a general overview of the earlier history of the motor car, one that entertains, intrigues and informs by mixing in a good amount of both the quirky and the outstanding, it would be very hard to beat.  Continue reading “Louwman Museum I : A Prince In Exile”

Theme : Simca – Le Mini

The Simca 936 is a bit of a mystery, and I’m not going to clear up much of that mystery.

Simca 936 Prototype - Image : goodwood.com
Simca 936 Prototype – Image : goodwood.com

It was obviously Simca’s proposal for a Mini competitor. You’ll find it dated on the ever-reliable web as coming from 1963, or 1966 or 1967 which possibly results from Simca toying with idea for a long time. It wasn’t a hatchback, but it was a four door and was to have the Simca 1000 engine mounted transversely with a 3 speed automatic option. Continue reading “Theme : Simca – Le Mini”

A Larger Car for a Larger Continent

First, an apology. This sequel to our piece on the Mohs Ostentatienne was originally promised to coincide with the 20 January 2017 Presidential Inauguration. In the event we missed it. Blame the crowds.

Image : conceptcarz.com
Image : conceptcarz.com

The Mohs Safarikar was Bruce Mohs’ next motoring project after the Ostentatienne. Obviously sharing what, back then, was certainly never referred to as DNA, this was a companion to the Opera Sedan, the clue to its function being in the name. As with the Ostentatienne, the Safarikar is an easy target for the smartarse motoring writer wanting to get a few cheap laughs with little intellectual outlay, and forgive me if I don’t manage to rise above my peers. Continue reading “A Larger Car for a Larger Continent”

Theme : Simca – By Their Concepts Shall You Recognise Them

One car illustrates why Simca weren’t quite like the other three.

fulgar-2
It’s a misty morning in 2000 and, having just sorted out a minor malfunction with one of the core control rods, Madame is setting out to the Boulangerie.

Unlike the other French manufacturers, the Italian born Henri Pigozzi of Simca wasn’t scared of a bit of Transatlantic-style showmanship. His big Simcas, derived from the Ford Vedettes, didn’t shy away from chrome, wings and two-tone. Already, Aliens had helped present the 1954 Simca Ghia Coupe, now they were going to give those Aliens the car they’d want to buy. Continue reading “Theme : Simca – By Their Concepts Shall You Recognise Them”

Theme : Simca – Going the Distance

The transverse-engined, hatchback 1100 is undeservedly overshadowed by other trailblazers. But not only did it get there very early, its influence travelled surprisingly far.

Simca 1100
Simca 1100

Introduced in 1967 and available as 3 and 5 door hatchbacks, a neat estate as well as van and pickup versions, the Simca 1100 had a sizeable niche of the French market available to itself for years. Renault didn’t fill the hatchback gap between the 4/5/6 and the 16 until the 14 of 1976, the same year that conservative Peugeot put a fifth door into the 104. Structurally zealous or just snobbish, Citroen previously allowed a hatchback only on the Dyane until the Visa of 1978 and the GSA of 1979. Despite this, and its 18 year life, it is another of those cars, like the Autobianchi Primula with which it shares conceptual roots, that seems to have been excluded from the condensed history of the evolution of the motor car. Continue reading “Theme : Simca – Going the Distance”

Theme : Brochures – Vauxhall Ampera

It is always chastening to see humanity’s schemes laid low. From the grand boasts that accompanied the launch of the Titanic to some of the pledges that Barack Obama was not able to fulfil; even with the best of intentions we sometimes underperform.

ampera-7

Earlier this month we looked at the first brochure for the 1998 Fiat Multipla. Brimming with optimism, or some have suggested hubris, the public generally avoided the enthusiasm of that car’s creators. And now we look at another ‘failure’, the Opel/Vauxhall Ampera. Introduced in early 2012, the Europeanised version of the Chevrolet Volt was on sale in the UK for little more than two years. Continue reading “Theme : Brochures – Vauxhall Ampera”

Theme : Brochures – The Myth, The Truth & The Alternative Truth

Deluded though the Brochure often is, what lies behind it can be equally deluded, albeit differently so.

kangoo-brochure

Back in 2009, we bought a Renault Kangoo Estate for work. It replaced a series of similar vehicles, starting with a Mark 1 Kangoo, then two Citroen Berlingos in succession. When I first visited the showroom, the New Kangoo had just been introduced to the UK and brochures had not been printed so, in response to my request for a brochure, the salesman gave me instead a full 55 page print-out of the ‘Distance Learning Guide’, a dealer sales briefing for the then newly introduced Mark 2 Kangoo. This made interesting reading alongside the public brochure that eventually arrived. In essence the brochure showed the usual, gurning, happy, young, lifestyle types of high-functioning humanity whereas the dealer briefing identified the Kangoo’s potential owners as ageing, low-ambition losers. OK, I’m exaggerating … but just a bit. Continue reading “Theme : Brochures – The Myth, The Truth & The Alternative Truth”

Vanity Of Vanities : Work In Progress

Following the post from a couple of weeks ago, expressing my desire for an enjoyable, yet slow, car I’ve been trying to flesh out what was, when I first suggested it, a rather nebulous idea.

slow-sports-top

At the same time, I’ve been getting my own low-level insight into the mindset of Ferdinand Piëch.  From what I know of him we have little in common, save a desire – realised in his case, unrealisable in mine – to see a rather silly car produced; one that no-one else in the world needs.  I started my doodlings thinking of simple things that could, perhaps, be built on top of a scrap 2CV platform. But Dr Piëch has inspired me that, like the Bugatti Veyron, second-best just won’t do. Continue reading “Vanity Of Vanities : Work In Progress”

Slow? Slow? Quick? Quick? Slow!

Where is the real car for today’s roads?

Too much entirely? Image : evo.co.uk

My recent speeding endorsement re-awoke my idea that what the world (meaning Sean Patrick) needs is a slow sports car. The problem is that modern cars’ abilities have become so high that driving them at legal limits is pretty stultifying. Basically engines are too powerful and tyres are too wide. Their competence is such that any sensation is insulated until you get up to speeds that risk doing your licence, not to mention yourself and others, irreparable harm. The above photo shows EVO’s Jethro Bovingdon, demonstrating an admirable determination to minimise tyre wear. Doubtless he’s having fun but, if I had a Nissan GT-R for daily use, how often would I? Continue reading “Slow? Slow? Quick? Quick? Slow!”

Theme : Compromise – Setting a Limit

Another fine mess…

Impossible to miss. On the other hand .... image : Bristol Post
Impossible to miss. On the other hand …. image : Bristol Post

The more I have considered this month’s theme, the more I have realised that it is far too wide ranging. Compromise is everywhere in our lives, or at least in mine. I could write about any topic and, in very little time, the subject of compromise will come up.

Last week I sent off my driving licence for my first ever speeding endorsement. After 48 years. Damn, it could almost have been a full half-century. Still that’s impressive, no? Actually, no it isn’t. The circumstances of the fine are irritating, but I can’t complain. To have lasted this long says a fair amount about my vigilance, a bit more about our policing, and a lot about my good luck. Continue reading “Theme : Compromise – Setting a Limit”

Theme : Compromise – Driving The Modern Car

Man and Machine in Perfect Harmony?

peugeot_3008_galerie-27-1

The above quote dates from the days when Ford felt that they could snub a sizeable sector of their customer base in their advertising but, disregarding the now quaint-looking gender bias, it does speak of that need to sit well at the controls of your chosen motor car.

I was looking at the interior of a new Peugeot 3008 the other day and was offended by the steering wheel. The now almost mandatory flat bottom has been joined by a flat top which, I assume, is a compromise that allows a larger field of view of the high-mounted instrument panel. Combined with the centre boss and mounted controls, there seems little room left to put your hands. But then I thought the usual – don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.
Continue reading “Theme : Compromise – Driving The Modern Car”

Theme : Compromise – Playing the Fuel

Over 100 years ago the inventor of the compression ignition engine died under mysterious circumstances. Too late however – his monster had been unleashed.

Kenworth W900 - image : fitzgeraldgliderkits.com
One of the few good looking diesel installations. Kenworth W900 – image : fitzgeraldgliderkits.com

It’s recently been Christmas in the UK and round about that time, with the traditional Christmas dinner imminent, an inevitable jokey question is “does anyone really like brussel sprouts?”. Actually, I live with someone who does, so the answer is inexplicably “yes”. But far harder for me to accept is that there are people who actually like diesel engines – who prefer them to petrol ones. You could force feed me sprouts for a month and I could never even pretend to have any affection for the clattery, stinking, slippery product of Rudolf Diesel’s over-fertile mind. Continue reading “Theme : Compromise – Playing the Fuel”

Theme : Compromise – The Crucial Balance

As Mr Editor Kearne said in his introduction to this month’s theme, compromise is inevitable in the motor industry. The trick is knowing where to apply it and where to not.

Coherent : Peugeot 403
Coherent and Cohesive : Peugeot 403

Ask any industry accountant and they will tell you that making cars and making money aren’t natural bedfellows. Margins are often small, the customer base fickle and, with relatively long development and production runs, like an oil tanker, once committed you don’t change direction easily. Of course there are exceptions, companies who through a combination of prudence, intelligence, excellence or maybe just fashion, are able to make a healthy profit, year after year, and even swallow up a few of the lacklustre performers in one or more of the above categories whilst they do. Continue reading “Theme : Compromise – The Crucial Balance”

An Early Case Of Retro

Recently we’ve been looking at the Lancia Y10 and asking whether luxury and compactness are compatible.

Here’s one they made earlier. Image : autoshite.com
Image : autoshite.com

Seventy years ago Triumph thought so. Introduced in late 1949, like most of the UK Motor Industry production of the time, the Triumph Mayflower was chasing exports. As the chosen name suggests, the United States was a prime potential market but it seems that the UK’s image of the US’s image of the UK is forever distorted. Just like Ford’s stewardship of Jaguar, Triumph felt that a traditionalist approach was what US buyers expected from a UK company, this at a time when everyone was looking to the future. Continue reading “An Early Case Of Retro”

Theme : Places – Mountains

‘Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour…’ 

I’ve already expressed my infatuation with the confines of the underground car park. Now I visit the other extreme, my desire to Climb Every Mountain – as long as I can do it in a car. Although I’ve shaken off most my youthful fears, some things remain. I’ve always hated heights for instance, even though a part of my working life has involved climbing ladders and towers, but I’ve never been at my ease. And take me to the edge of a precipice and the inevitable desire to either launch myself off it or to run away takes hold. So I guess I’d make a lousy mountaineer. But put me in a car driving along the edge of that precipice at 100kph and I’m fine. Mid-Summer sun, torrential rain or snow are all fine by me too, though the last does demand the right tyres to make it less of a gamble. And the view from a mountain top is one of those rare times you do get a reasonable and refreshing confirmation of your own insignificance. Continue reading “Theme : Places – Mountains”

Our Cars – Nissan Cube : End Of Year Update

Following his Final Report from 2015 and his subsequent Update from last April, here’s another one from Sean. Until the penultimate, absolute final update report he plans for late 2017 or thereabouts.

sm-cube
There was always the worry that, with time, the scales would fall from my eyes and I would see the Cube as the embarrassing and rather fatuous novelty that others see it as. Certain respected visitors to this site have made their abhorrence of the car apparent, and others have possibly implied it politely, by evading the subject entirely. However, for me, the satisfaction of ownership hasn’t worn off. Of course, city dwelling, and my rag-bag of alternative vehicles, means that I’ve only done about 7,000 miles in it over 18 months but, for me, it’s an excellent thing to have. Spacious inside, compact outside, good all round view. It’s perfect in town, and perfectly tolerable on long journeys. A hypothetical electric Cube might be preferable but, when I consider the alternatives actually available, I have no regrets. Continue reading “Our Cars – Nissan Cube : End Of Year Update”

To the Victor …….

For some reason, I’ve been thinking about the chance of a better future recently. Car advertising always promises that. Cars seldom deliver it.

victor-couple

insigniaThe better future is what most the people in old car adverts seem to take for granted. A trim young couple grin out at me, assuming things will just carry on getting better and better. For them, maybe they did. Certainly their marriage was statistically going to last a fair bit longer than that Vauxhall Victor F that they seem to be so pleased with, but which is probably rusting already. Today, that Insignia may no longer originate in Luton, but it may well last far longer than the modern couple. If they are a couple. Or maybe they’re just colleagues. Actually they look a damn sight more pleased with themselves than with the Vauxhall. Continue reading “To the Victor …….”

Theme : Places – The Multi-Storey

Concrete Hell, or one of life’s small pleasures?

When I was 17, a few months after passing my driving test, I took the family Fiat 124 up to London on my own. This was the first time I had driven in a city and I was both wary and excited. Various bits of that trip remain vivid. Although the M4 was opened by then, I came in on the A4 Great West Road so that I could pass the various factories at Brentford, including the Art Deco Firestone Factory. I remembered these from the back seat during earlier trips with my parents, and they seemed an essential part of the romance of visiting London. After Hammersmith I joined Cromwell Road and found myself in the centre lane of quite fast moving traffic rising up a flyover on a left hand curve. This seemed a great challenge, but I held my nerve and learned Rule One of City driving – as long as there’s space ahead, just keep going, don’t lift. Continue reading “Theme : Places – The Multi-Storey”

A Load Of Old Bull

The Miura: Where do we begin?

Barn Find Miura - Image : roadandtrack.com
Barn Find Miura – Image : roadandtrack.com

I’ve recently written about one Italian car’s 50th birthday, the Fiat 124. Now I will try to write about another 50 year old, from the other side of the tracks, the Lamborghini Miura.

Actually, here we are on the second paragraph and this is already threatening to be a labour of duty. Certainly, other DTW stalwarts wouldn’t go near the subject when there are still XJ40s and Astra Fs left on our roads and I admit that so much has been written on the car that I wonder what else I can say. Hell, I can’t even think of a title that won’t have been recirculated ten times or so.
Continue reading “A Load Of Old Bull”

The Carbon Black Arts

There’s an awful amount of ill-informed, arbitrary rubbish spouted about tyres. Here’s some more.

Dunlop SP Sport Aquajet - The Testosterone Belted Radial
Dunlop SP Sport Aquajet – The Testosterone Belted Radial

Tyres are made of rubber and are there to make the ride of your car soft. It’s the air that gives the cushion, so you need to keep them pumped up, but not too hard. They have grooves cut in them called tread that let the rain out and if the grooves aren’t deep enough the police can fine you – I think it’s 1 mm, or maybe 2. I know a garage that keeps some part-used tyres out the back with more than enough legal tread and they will sell them to you at a fair price including balancing, though you don’t really need that as long as you drive at sensible speeds. I wacked my front tyre on a sharp kerb the other day which took a bit of rubber off and you can see some of the canvas stuff underneath, but it isn’t losing air. Maybe they’re the ones with tubes. Anyway they should be OK til the next MOT. Continue reading “The Carbon Black Arts”

Theme : Sudamerica – Variants on a Theme

Driven to Write examines a missing link from Brazil.

The earlier years of South America’s motor industry were influenced both by its relative geographical closeness to North America and its cultural closeness to Europe. But this influence might have gone both ways. When I first saw the 1962 Studebaker Avanti, in my trusty edition of The Observer’s Book of Automobiles, I was greatly struck. A really novel shape. When I first saw the Jensen Interceptor, in The Autocar in its 1966 Motor Show run-up, I was greatly impressed. A really novel shape. It was only after a while that I realised that the earlier, Loewy Studio designed car might have influenced the Touring styled one from West Bromwich. But, unknown to me at the time, there was a third car, the missing link, the 1964 Brazilian built Brasinca 4200 GT Uirapuru. Continue reading “Theme : Sudamerica – Variants on a Theme”

A Big Car for a Big Country

Now seems a good time for DTW to recall the Mohs Ostentatienne Opera Sedan.

Image : autobild.de
Image : autobild.de

I first knew about it from Car & Driver in the late 1960s. C&D is still a good magazine, but readerships have changed and it is no reflection on their current writers, who must function in a different publishing climate, if I refer to back then as their Golden Years. Back then, C&D had a dry and subversive wit missing from other car magazines and, when I started reading the article about the Mohs Ostentatienne Opera Sedan, I assumed that it was a smart joke, a parody of a review of a car that couldn’t really exist. Continue reading “A Big Car for a Big Country”

Theme : Sudamerica – Parallel States of Evolution

I write as someone who is far from convinced of the universal wonders of the Free Market, yet I tend to the conviction that state-owned car makers are a bad idea.

badges

I think that’s because I can’t help but regard most cars as rather frivolous things, so I base my prejudice on the feeling that I wouldn’t want to be governed by an organisation that wastes even part of their energies thinking about cars, except in legislating their use. This prejudice soon falls apart. True, most of the cars built for a captive market in the old Communist states of Eastern Europe were disappointing at best, but Tatras were glorious things. The nationalised British Leyland was a reasonably cack-handed enterprise, with sparks of cleverness, but it only got nationalised due to the uselessness of its private management. And Renault, extracted by the French government from Louis Renault at the end of the War in a very murky way, produced their most influential vehicles during its 50 years of state ownership. Continue reading “Theme : Sudamerica – Parallel States of Evolution”

The Fellow Traveller

We’re looking at the Fiat 124 at 50. Or are we?

Fiat 124 Berlina - You call that snow. You should see what they have in Russia.
Fiat 124 Berlina as lifestyle transport – You call that snow? Wait until you see what they have in Russia.

For many eyes, the car above is, irredeemably, depending on their country, a VAZ or a Lada or a Zhiguli, a vehicle that citizens of the former Soviet Bloc view with a frustrating mixture of contempt and affection. To me it is (and in this example, correctly) a Fiat 124, the first car that I had free, unaccompanied access to the open roads in, with all that allowed, so anything that follows might have to be filtered by the reader to allow for the rosy glow of nostalgia, although actually it’s a frustrating mixture of contempt and affection. Continue reading “The Fellow Traveller”

Theme : Sudamerica – Nothing Is Quite What It Seems

The various manufacturers involved in the South American market over the years can cause some confusion to casual car spotters.

ford-corcel-oldraces-blogspot-uk-com-copy-copy
Willys / Renault Dauphine

The US maker Willys had set up in Brazil in 1953. Seeking to diversify from its US based cars, it built a version of the Renault Dauphine under licence ….

Continue reading “Theme : Sudamerica – Nothing Is Quite What It Seems”

BMW – Caught On The Back Wheel

Two Driven Wheels Good. Four Driven Wheels Better. BMW challenges its own orthodoxy.

bmw-5-series
BMW 5 Series G30 – image : autocar.com

The rest of Europe might or might not care but, on one thing, the UK Brexiteers were right. BMW needs us. Or maybe we need them since our appetite for The Ultimate Driving Machine is unabated. BMW sells as many 5 Series saloons in the UK as in Germany, though there the estate now dominates, and the UK market has been looked at very carefully when developing the next 5 Series that arrives here in February. Continue reading “BMW – Caught On The Back Wheel”

Theme : Film – Director!

At a pinch, you might find some old footage of Donald Stokes selling buses to Cuba, or Len Lord playing golf, but one car industry boss had a richer celluloid catalogue. 

Jensen Director
Image from Richard Calver – http://www.richardcalver.com

The only new car launch I have attended was in 1969. It took place in Harrods, and all I knew was that it was to be a Jensen. Jensen had introduced their Interceptor and FF three years previously, so I wondered what this could be. A four door version? A mid-engined sportster? A convertible? I was intrigued. Continue reading “Theme : Film – Director!”

The Big Ask – A Second Try

This is the third of five items today which look more closely at a rather special car, the …. um, whatsitsname. 

It's no goog, I still can't see it - image ; migatuning.com
It’s no good, I still can’t see it – image : migatuning.com

Imagine yourself stranded on that hypothetical desert island. With nothing else, you start playing intellectual games. Game 56 is carving in the bark of a large tree the name of every car that you can remember. Will you ever, even if you live for 1,000 years, come to the Mitsubishi Carisma? Continue reading “The Big Ask – A Second Try”

Because They Could : The Oldsmobile Toronado.

DTW comes to the Half Century for the Oldsmobile Toronado, a 1966 example of which was supposed to be the 100 millionth GM vehicle. Did they really keep count that carefully? What about Johnny Cash’s Cadillac?

1966 Oldsmobile Toronado - image : momentcar.com
1966 Oldsmobile Toronado – image : momentcar.com

Personal Car? That would be my Nissan Cube. However there is also a ‘Personal Luxury Car’, a US category comprising gargantuan, two door cars, such as the Sixties Ford Thunderbirds, which I suppose was shorthand for the head of the nuclear family’s gross personal indulgence. I admit to a liking for most of the personal luxury cars from that era and, looking at GM’s offerings, I would be hard pushed to choose between a ‘67 Cadillac Eldorado, the outrageous, ‘71 boat-tailed Riviera or an original Oldsmobile Toronado. Continue reading “Because They Could : The Oldsmobile Toronado.”

Theme : Film – Cop Out

DTW fearlessly exposes the possibility of widespread corruption in the TV Police Force.

It's been going on for ages : 1960s Los Angeles Homicide Police Captain Amos Burke and his unmarked car.
It’s been going on for ages : 1960s Los Angeles Homicide Police Captain Amos Burke and his unmarked car.

Film-makers are sometimes depressingly conservative, sometimes audaciously ambitious. One particular bit of audaciousness is the conceit that you can take a book that took 2 years to write, that would take 2 weeks to read and boil it all down to a 2 hour movie, maybe less. Without that juicy rights cheque, how many authors would let that happen? But despite this, there are screenwriters who make a reasonable fist of the job, creating at least a shell of the original, or maybe a pared-down alternative. Continue reading “Theme : Film – Cop Out”

Theme : Film – DTW Recommends

DTW recommends some of its favourite films.

poster

BORDERLESS LIMITS : When feisty Australian ex-lifeguard Lindi Jackson (Nicole Kidman), on holiday in Europe after her marriage break-up, gets mistaken for a British businesswoman and offered the top job at French car maker Citroën, it looks like a recipe for mayhem. However Lindi vows that she will make a success of the ailing firm by introducing the element most missing from today’s cars …. FUN! But it’s never going to be plain sailing. As if the stuffed shirts in the boardroom and the constant harassment from a weird bunch calling themselves Citroënistes isn’t enough, Lindi is visited by the ghost of André Citroën (a tour de force characterisation by Johnny Depp). After a hilarious bunch of wacky misunderstandings, Lindi and André form an uneasy alliance, but will they be able to put the joie back into the chevrons? DTW VIEW : Absolutely Chucklesome! Great Fun! Continue reading “Theme : Film – DTW Recommends”

Art of the Estate

The Estate Car seems to have lost favour though, in many ways, it never was in favour.

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Peugeot 404 Break – image : avengers-in-time.blogspot.co.uk

The Estate Car was the car you bought when you had so many obligations and so much responsibility that you couldn’t afford to indulge yourself with the car you really wanted. Its name, of course, like its US equivalent the Station Wagon derives from the upper echelons, but even there it was just a tool to carry around steamer trunks, whilst the important people were often carried in the back of something grander. After that, if you couldn’t afford servants to do the lugging around for you, you bought an estate for your own use instead – a lumpy, unloved workhorse. Continue reading “Art of the Estate”

Ford Cortina Mark IV at Forty. Time for a comeback?

The BMC Mini and the Ford Cortina represented two contradictory strands of the British character.

image : newoldcar.co.uk
Ford Cortina 1.6L – image : newoldcar.co.uk

Soon after its release, Ford, notoriously, took apart a Mini and realised what BMC hadn’t worked out, that each car sold would lose the company money. It wasn’t going to make the same mistake. Ford Germany inherited the abandoned front-drive ‘Cardinal’ project from the USA to become the Taunus 12M, but Ford Britain were having none of this fancy stuff and its ‘Archbishop’ (ho, ho) project was very, very conventional. But what the first (Consul) Cortina did offer was a lot of up-to-date looking car for the money. Less well recorded is that BMC, returning the favour, bought a new Cortina, took it apart and were appalled at the bodyshell’s lack of torsional stiffness. But even had this fact been publicised, it’s unlikely that it would have affected the Ford’s success. Continue reading “Ford Cortina Mark IV at Forty. Time for a comeback?”

Theme : Film – Between The Gaps

We look at what once went on in the supposedly dark hours of broadcasting.

tv-pm

Around my middle teens, I was in dire need of displacement activity. Anything to put off revising for exams in those early Summer months. What better than the television. Naturally, back then, there wasn’t 24 hour broadcasting, and there were no afternoon movies, soaps or reality encounter shows. But there were Trade Test Transmissions. Continue reading “Theme : Film – Between The Gaps”

Theme : Bodies – The Ultimate Journey

We look at a niche of automotive design.

ds420-oxford-diecast-1-43
Daimler DS420 Hearse : Oxford Diecast Models 1/43 Scale

Around the launch of Driven To Write, I did a short piece about hearses, and I’m now returning to the subject. Speaking personally, I’m unconcerned how I go- a Transit van or a borrowed estate car would be fine. But, if I leave behind anyone who would miss me, I’m concerned that their loss is eased as much as possible. So I can see why the conveyance should be seen as ‘suitable’. But what are people’s expectations? Continue reading “Theme : Bodies – The Ultimate Journey”

Morality, Integrity and Etiquette

Car people talk a lot about a car’s behaviour, but what about the driver’s?The Highway Code

A few months ago, our theme was ‘Values’. The term ‘a set of values’ is often used by those self-aggrandising people who want to take moral high-ground and suggest that they, but not other people, have an honourable code by which they act in all things. I’m suspicious of people with inflexible moral rules, either for themselves or other people, but, of course, you can’t analyse each and every situation you find yourself in, so we do tend to develop standard responses to identifiable situations. Continue reading “Morality, Integrity and Etiquette”

Shifting Metal

Selling The Dream or Flogging The Nightmare.

Audi S6 For Sale
Many of us have to do ‘selling’ of some sort as part of our lives. It’s a branch of social negotiation. You have something you want someone else to do, and you need to present a case to them as to why they should do it. So, if you’ve ever had to persuade your kids to go to bed, you know how difficult it is to sell things. Continue reading “Shifting Metal”

Theme : Bodies – Open Cars

DTW faces the elements.

Roadgoing Formula Ford - image : autocarhire-com
Roadgoing Formula Ford – image : autocarhire-com

Open cars are not really the same as convertibles. By which I mean that convertibles may be open sometimes, but a true ‘open’ car is almost always open. Sometimes this may be because they don’t even have the option of a weather-resistant roof, sometimes because what is on offer is so ineffective and rudimentary, that it is hardly ever used. Needless to say, the United Kingdom is not seen as a primary market for such vehicles. Our weather is too variable to make possession of such vehicles a practical proposition. It’s no coincidence that hot-rods and dune buggies hail from the sunnier parts of the USA and not Essex. Continue reading “Theme : Bodies – Open Cars”

Bristol Bullet (Part I) – Life After Filton?

I’ve always been aware of Bristol Cars, but it was only in this century that I started looking at them more closely. 

Bristol Bullet In Disguise - image ; bristoloda.org
New Bristol Bullet In Disguise – image : bristoloda.org

Until then, they were an oddity, but one that, for some reason, seemed to engender goodwill rather than antagonism in me. Bearing in mind its scant production over the past decades, there is a surprising amount of goodwill felt towards Bristol in the world of the motoring enthusiast, though often not accompanied by much actual knowledge. Continue reading “Bristol Bullet (Part I) – Life After Filton?”

Theme : Colour – Beige New World

Fashion’s a funny thing. 

Love at first sight - the colour, not the car - image : buysellcortina.co.uk
Love at first sight – the colour, not the car – image : buysellcortina.co.uk

It’s understandable that haircuts and trouser bottoms and patterns date, and what seemed really smart to you once, now sits embarrassingly at the back of a cupboard because you’re too ashamed even to take it to the charity shop. But it’s odder that something as basic as a colour can date. There aren’t that many colours, or there are infinite colours depending on how you look at it, but either way how can something that seemed so agreeable to you once, suddenly (and it often is sudden) become so jarringly dated? Continue reading “Theme : Colour – Beige New World”