Spirito di Punto

Rumours of the Punto’s demise might well be exaggerated, but a successor could finally be in sight.

The 2017 Fiat Punto. “Dynamic, attractive and timeless”, say Fiat. I think they simply mean old. Image: autotoday.it

It’s somewhat mortifying when you realise that someone you innocently assumed was deceased remains defiantly above ground. Take the Fiat Punto for example. I had blithely assumed it was already pushing up daisies, but quite the contrary. In its current iteration, with us now since 2005, the Punto’s age is underlined by the realisation that its genesis dates back to Fiat’s post-millennial dalliance with General Motors, sharing an Opel-developed understructure from the contemporary Corsa model. I say contemporary, but it seems the current Corsa and Adam still use a variant of this platform, and they remain, if not exactly class-leading, at least broadly competitive. Continue reading “Spirito di Punto”

Theme: Aftermarket – Stroking the Cat

Emboldeners of Jaguars are relatively few. Driven to Write profiles its foremost and longest-lived exponent – Arden Autombil.

Arden’s take on the Jaguar X308 saloon – the AJ13. Image: Arden.de

In the German town of Kleve, close to the Dutch border, Jochen Arden founded his eponymous automotive business in 1976, trading in the usual Teutonic fare of VWs and MBs until 1982, when he took on a Jaguar franchise, prompting his initial forays into the arena of the aftermarket. By the early ’80s, Jaguar was painfully re-establishing themselves in the German market following years of stagnation under British Leyland when their cars came to be regarded by German motorists as being nice to look at, but really not fit for the purpose. Continue reading “Theme: Aftermarket – Stroking the Cat”

Commercial Break – 2001 Mercedes-Benz Vaneo

If the W168 A-Class was a poorly executed answer to a question few had posed (and nobody at all had asked Mercedes), how do we even begin to assess the Vaneo?

Mercedes-Benz Vaneo. Image: cars-data

Lets get two things out the way here. First: The Vaneo not only was frightful, it was an inferior product that did Mercedes more reputational harm than any additional revenue or scale it garnered. Second: It clearly began life as a commercial vehicle. Let’s imagine for a moment the product planning meeting that took place when the Vaneo was greenlighted. Continue reading “Commercial Break – 2001 Mercedes-Benz Vaneo”

Maxximum Attakk! – Mercedes A160 Formula Hakkinen Edition

Having a special edition named after you is normally something of a compliment. But there’s an exception to every rule.

1999 žMercedes A160 Formula Hakkinen Edition. Image: mercedesclass.net

The world of Formula One is brutal and uncompromising. Few make it to its pinnacle, fewer still achieve greatness. Double World champion, Mika Häkkinen appears to have been one of Grand Prix’s more pleasant individuals – famously taciturn when fixed in the camera’s glare, but said to have been considerably better company once they were turned off. Quick too – perhaps the only driver of his era who gave seven-time champion, Michael Schumacher a genuine run for his money. Continue reading “Maxximum Attakk! – Mercedes A160 Formula Hakkinen Edition”

Fallen Star – 1997 Mercedes A-Class

With total sales of over a million, the W168 Mercedes A-Class is possibly the best selling commercial flop ever. We chart its fall.

Green wheelie bin. Image: mercedesclass.net

The 2012 announcement of Mercedes’ current-generation A-Class and its re-alignment in ethos and market position was viewed by most observers as an expedient business decision based upon 15 torrid years in the compact car game. While Daimler’s U-turn elicited little by way of overt criticism, it could equally be regarded as a potent symbol that the Stuttgart-Untertürkheim car giant had conclusively lost the argument. Continue reading “Fallen Star – 1997 Mercedes A-Class”

Loss of Vision – 1994 Mercedes-Benz Studie A

The 1993 Vision A and ’94 Studie A were everything the ensuing A-Class failed to be. A genuine Mercedes in miniature.

1993/4 Mercedes Vision/Studie A. Image: mercedes-benz-passion

One doesn’t get to the size and scope of Mercedes-Benz by being incautious, even if at times, an element of risk is sometimes both prudent and necessary. For example, the W201 programme saw the German car giant risk a move downmarket, albeit one taken only after a great deal of consideration and iterative trial. That programme, instigated during the dark days of the post oil-shock 1970’s, wouldn’t see series production as the 190-series until 1982. Continue reading “Loss of Vision – 1994 Mercedes-Benz Studie A”

Cars That Could Have Been Citroëns – 1983 Lincoln Quicksilver

We’re definitely not in Kansas any more, Toto. But where in heck are we?

1983 Lincoln Quicksilver by Carrozzeria Ghia. Image: cardesignnews

Acquisitions by Detroit big-hitters was not a phenomenon restricted to the latter-1980’s – it began well before that. Ford had made several stabs at acquiring Ferrari in the late ’60s to no avail, but in 1970, they purchased (from Alessandro de Tomaso of all people) the Italian coachbuilder, Carrozzeria Ghia. In addition to using the Ghia logo as a ‘brougham’ trim level, initially for their European model lines, Ford also used Filippo Sapino’s Ghia studios as an advanced styling skunkworks, commissioning a series of conceptual styling studies and pre-production prototypes over the following two decades. Continue reading “Cars That Could Have Been Citroëns – 1983 Lincoln Quicksilver”

Teeing Up Against the Golf

As the sector champion shows faint signs of faltering, are ‘prestige’ rivals set to take advantage? We investigate.

Golf fleeing predators? Image: insideevs

For years now, the Volkswagen Golf has been the rocky outcrop its European c-segment rivals have dashed themselves against; largely I might add, to their detriment. The VW hasn’t so much carved a niche, as cut vast swathes through the sector, leaving many observers wondering what anyone can do to provide a counter-narrative. Continue reading “Teeing Up Against the Golf”

That Riviera Touch

Flushed with the spoils of acquisition, Chrysler made bullish noises about their Bolognese connection in 1987 with this prescient concept.

1987 Chrysler Portofino Concept. Image: promotor.ro

Thirty years ago to the month, the Chrysler Motor Corporation (as was) purchased Italian supercar manufacturer, Nouva Automobili F. Lamborghini. Acquisitions by US automakers were in full swing by the late 1980’s, with GM having taken control of Group Lotus the previous year in addition to Chrysler’s 15.6% stake in Allessandro de Tomaso’s Maserati business. At the 1987 Frankfurt motor show, the Pentastar proudly displayed this, the Portofino concept. Continue reading “That Riviera Touch”

Via Biturbo

Pierangelo Andreani didn’t necessarily pluck the Biturbo’s bodystyle from thin air. Like everyone else, he was influenced by others, although it must be emphasised, his Giugiaro impression was a showstopper.

1981 Maserati Biturbo. Image: carinpicture

One of the enjoyable things about writing for this site is how much one learns, whether it’s from research for these stories, insights from our incredibly well-informed reader/commenters or occasionally, from random sightings that occasionally take place when carrying out some otherwise unrelated task.

One of the latter prompted this – a chance sighting which led to a question, an inner dialogue and finally, the article you’re reading now. Having written (at length) on the Maserati Biturbo family, (and the 228 model in particular), the thought occurred; wouldn’t it be interesting to trace some of the influences Pierangelo Andreani may have drawn upon when creating these cars? Continue reading “Via Biturbo”

Trident Inversion – 1987 Maserati 228

The Biturbo’s bigger brother appeared very much the sober Italian aristocrat. Unfortunately, both breeding and manners were slightly suspect.

Image: betterparts

The Biturbo could be said to have saved Maserati, yet is perhaps best remembered for its troubled reputation than any commercial, aesthetic or performance-related virtues. Whether such a reputation remains entirely justified is perhaps a question for another time, but what is often forgotten amid the flow of water under the Tridente’s bridge is what a significant step the Tipo AM331 was when first introduced in 1981. Continue reading “Trident Inversion – 1987 Maserati 228”

In the Kingdom of the Blind the One-Eyed Man Is King – 1994 Citroën Xanae

Vélizy’s 1994 riposte to Renault was no masterpiece, but perhaps the best of a bad bunch. It’s not saying much, is it?

Xanae. Image frenchcarforum

It’s relatively difficult to imagine now, but in the early 1990’s, the future was looking decidedly MPV-shaped. Particularly amongst European manufacturers, who were falling over themselves to get something vaguely monospace to market, following the creative and commercial success of the innovative Renault Espace. The MPV concept appeared to especially chime with the French motorist, who was generally characterised by preferring pragmatism over pretension. In 1991, Renault once again set the pace with the Scenic concept, but it wasn’t until 1994 that Art Blakeslee’s Citroën studio presented Xanae. Continue reading “In the Kingdom of the Blind the One-Eyed Man Is King – 1994 Citroën Xanae”

Opposite of Avant – 1997 Citroën Xsara

The opposing polarities of the double chevron are unlikely ever to be satisfactorily reconciled, but was this any way to go about trying?

Citroen as white goods – in Gold. Image: buyacar

There are those content to view Citroën’s role as being that of the pre-Traction Avant era: fundamentally a purveyor of pragmatic, rather ordinary cars. The earthbound Goddess of course (temporarily) put paid to such notions and forms the boundary for an opposing camp who view Citroën’s descent from those Olympian heights as being somewhere between tragedy and outright crime. So if the car we’re gathered here to commemorate today falls into the former category, how should we view it, twenty years later? Continue reading “Opposite of Avant – 1997 Citroën Xsara”

Crease Is The Word – Vision A Unmasked

Lines and creases – so last season, dahling…

The Blessed One in person. Image: focus.de

This week has seen the unveiling of Mercedes’ latest concept car, previewing the styling direction to be taken by the next generation of A-Class-series Mercedes models. Concept A was previewed earlier in the year with a conceptual sculpture and a toe-curling lecture by the blessed Gorden (sic) on how his signature design theme was evolving. Since then, he’s completed a glossy coffee table book in conjunction with Conde Nast, called “Sensual Purity: Gorden Wagener on Design” and is rumoured to be working with Eyna on a concept album to accompany it. Continue reading “Crease Is The Word – Vision A Unmasked”

Tomorrow We Do Ignis

Curiosity overcame me so I went to a Suzuki dealer, writes Richard Herriott (who has hijacked this post). 

Suzuki Ignis Mk1

On the way I saw the Mk 1. First, this is a public service as the Mk1 is not so well photographed. Second, it’s a chance to share my current morbid fascination. Until recently I hadn’t noticed the Mk1 Ignis (2000-2006). It shares similar themes with the Mark 2 which means Suzuki liked the idea and were planning an evolutionary approach. There is slightly raised third window at the back and the distinctive groove running around the middle of the lower body. The headlamps are not so distinctive as on the follow-up car. Why do I like this car?  Continue reading “Tomorrow We Do Ignis”

To the Batcave! – Peugeot 406 Toscana

Searching for your inner hero? This 1996 Peugeot concept had the key.

Peugeot 406 Toscana. Image: toplowridersites

The same year the Pininfarina bodied 406 Coupe was first shown, Peugeot also displayed this, the Toscana concept. What the Sochaux-based motor company’s intentions were remains unclear, but whatever the intent, it cannot have been all that serious. With a bespoke body marrying key styling elements of the 406 saloon – nose treatment, rear lamps, body swage line – to a distinctly sci-fi canopy section, the Toscana was as frivolous a concept could be while still loosely based on a production model. If anything, it puts one in mind of some of GM’s Motorama concepts from the 1950’s – or indeed Adam West’s Batmobile. Continue reading “To the Batcave! – Peugeot 406 Toscana”

Toyota’s (little) Discovery

Previewed at the New York motor show this week, Toyota’s FT-4X Concept.

Image: blogtoyota

Maybe it’s the colour. Perhaps it’s the rugged ‘go-anywhere’ appearance. Or it could be the many useful features and imaginative solutions littered throughout the vehicle – (some more fanciful than practical) – but not only do I find the FT-4X charming, but also it strikes me that this or something along similar lines is really what JLR should be offering instead of that insipid looking new Discovery they’re marketing to customers now. Continue reading “Toyota’s (little) Discovery”

Depth Charge – 1997 Pininfarina Nautilus

Hailed by Pininfarina as a celebration, Nautilus marked the final act in an unravelling relationship dating back to 1951.

Image: cavallivapore.it

The same year as 406 Coupe’s began leaving Pininfarina’s San Giorgio Canavese facility, the carrozzeria displayed Nautilus at Geneva; a concept for a full-size four-door luxury saloon, said by the coachbuilder to be “an exciting stylistic exploration of the high class sporty saloon, created as a tribute to our partnership with Peugeot.” But behind the scenes, this already souring relationship was entering its death throes. With Murat Günak appointed as Peugeot styling director in 1994, one of his first acts was to enlarge the styling team to bolster both numbers and influence; the aim being to further eclipse the Italian coachbuilder and favour the in-house team. Continue reading “Depth Charge – 1997 Pininfarina Nautilus”

Lion of Beauty – 1997 Peugeot 406 Coupé

A Suave Swansong. The 406 Coupé embodied values which had seen a Franco-Italian marriage survive and prosper for a generation. Sadly, it wasn’t to last.

Image: theautoz.com

At some unspecified point during the 1990’s something quite seismic took hold within Automobiles Peugeot. A profound cultural shift which saw a gradual jettisoning of not only the marque’s highly regarded engineering principles but also its reputation for dignified styling. Their long-standing association with carrozzeria Pininfarina was unravelling. PSA President, Jacques Calvet, believed to have been irked by the attention Patrick le Quément’s Billancourt studios were receiving, pressed Peugeot Style Centre chief, Gérard Welter for more visual excitement; a move which saw Welter poach rising star Murat Günak from Mercedes-Benz in 1994. Continue reading “Lion of Beauty – 1997 Peugeot 406 Coupé”

Speaking Micra

A chance sighting prompts something approaching a defence.

Image: Driven to Write

Since we created Driven to Write three years ago, I have undergone something of a re-education about cars and particularly when it comes to their design. Even though we might actually only rub shoulders about once a year, I often feel as though I have a virtual Herriott at my ear, urging me to look at that innocuous looking tin box over there with fresh eyes. Going about my business yesterday, I happened past a stationary 2016 Micra. Not a car to which I’d normally give more than the most cursory of glances, but given some of the damning responses to the example featured earlier in the week, I felt I ought to give it a second glance. Continue reading “Speaking Micra”

Theme: Rivals – The Serpent and the Cat

Alfa Giulia is available to own and steeling to give Gaydon’s finest a lash of its tongue. We look at how it’s faring against its sternest rival.

Image: caradvice.com.au

Wouldn’t it be interesting to spend a day around FCA towers? If only to truly discern the degree of reality evinced by the likes of Big Reidland et al. Because even the big fella must now realise the German trio of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz are conclusively beyond reach. Last year, luxury sector leader, Mercedes-Benz shipped 176,038 C-Class badged vehicles to waiting customers across the European market alone. What hope for Alfa Romeo’s ambitions against those kind of numbers? Continue reading “Theme: Rivals – The Serpent and the Cat”

Sexing-Up Lexus

For years now, Lexus has stared enviously at Mercedes-Benz, hoping to emulate its success. Tired of second fiddle, is ‘the gentleman’ flinging his values on the fire?

Image: lexus.com

Last year, a former Browns Lane insider described the advent of the 1989 Lexus LS 400 to me as being “chilling in every respect”. One can be equally sure that in Munich, Ingolstadt and Stuttgart-Untertürkheim, the intake of breath was no less sharp and the expletives no less lurid. That Lexus subsequently failed to achieve global cut-through over the intervening decades remains a matter for historians and academics to pick over, because the auguries at the time suggested Toyota would annihilate the opposition. Continue reading “Sexing-Up Lexus”

Theme : Simca – Hangin’ Tuff – 1977 Matra-Simca Rancho

Faux by four or pre-emptive strike? We cast a (largely) unprejudiced eye over the Rancho.

“It’s gripped, it’s sorted, let’s offroad!” Image: carinpicture

The 1973 oil embargo had a profound effect upon all auto manufacturers, but the low volume specialists were most exposed. Mécanique Aviation Traction, better known as Matra were no exception and in the aftermath of the fuel crisis, found it necessary to broaden their automotive base. Best known for sports cars, Matra had introduced the Simca powered Bagheera in 1976 and were now seeking a second Chrysler-Europe-derived model programme to boost revenues in addition to providing a buffer against further geo-political shocks. Continue reading “Theme : Simca – Hangin’ Tuff – 1977 Matra-Simca Rancho”

Stop Me if You’ve Heard This One Before

We’re talking about Jaguar today. I know, again…

Image: Driven to Write

Last month, I felt the need to talk to you about XE, which given the circumstances, made for some pretty uncomfortable reading. But not content with establishing History Repeating© as Jaguar’s mood-music and brand leitmotif, your ‘World’s Least Influential’ Jaguar critic (or WLIJC for short) is drilling deeper still by repeating himself thematically. Not I might add because he necessarily wants to, but because he finds it cathartic and more to the point, his editor told him to. Continue reading “Stop Me if You’ve Heard This One Before”

Fiat al Fredo – 1967 Fiat Dino Coupé

While it’s comparatively easy to dismiss it as something of a parts bin special, the 1967 Fiat Dino Coupé amounted to a good deal more than the sum of its parts.

1967 Fiat Dino Coupe. Image: Wheelsage

By the latter stages of the 1960’s, Fiat management realised the necessity of providing more than just basic transportation for the Italian market. With living standards on the rise, the demand for more upmarket cars grew – at least within the bounds of what Italy’s stringent taxation regime would allow. With Dante Giacosa’s engineers at work on a series of new models to cover the compact to mid-classes – (124 and 125-series’) in addition to a new flagship to replace the dated 2300-series, Fiat’s offerings to Italy’s middle classes reflected this push upmarket, even if the egalitarian Giacosa didn’t necessarily understand the necessity. With these models in hand, it’s therefore a little odd that Fiat saw fit to embark on the Dino programme, because on the face of things, it looked more like a favour to Ferrari than anything that particularly stacked up as a business case. Continue reading “Fiat al Fredo – 1967 Fiat Dino Coupé”

Geneva 2017 Reflections – Dignified Silence

Pininfarina stayed true to form with the H600 concept. Nothing wrong with that we say.

Pininfarina H600 concept. Image: designboom

At the 2012 Geneva motor show, carrozzeria Pininfarina showed Cambiano, a concept, said by the Italian styling house to be in effect, a homage to the legendary Florida II. But while that pivotal 1957 concept became a stylistic monument, siring an entire generation of cars, Cambiano, while commendably elegant of line and refreshingly free of frippery, disappeared pretty much as soon as it arrived – overshadowed by more brash contemporaries. Continue reading “Geneva 2017 Reflections – Dignified Silence”

Geneva 2017 Reflections – And the Band Plays On : 2

Driven to Write continues its Geneva walk of shame, and finds some cause for optimism amidst the mainstream behemoths.

A hatchback variant of a hatchback. Genius. Image: Autoblog

The boys at Zuffenhausen have been diligently erasing their previous work in creating a more svelte version 2.0 Panamera, debuting the Sport Turismo, which features a vast 20-litres of additional stowage space. Interesting to see how well judged the business case is with this one. Given that Mercedes’ CLS equivalent has hardly set sales charts alight (and is not being replaced), Porsche management are clearly crossing their fingers and toes here. Continue reading “Geneva 2017 Reflections – And the Band Plays On : 2”

Geneva 2017 Reflections – And the Band Plays On

Are we going anywhere fast, or are the major players merely spinning wheels? Driven to Write looks at Geneva’s latest fancies, and finds little to celebrate.

Image: Motor Trader

We’re on the cusp of possibly the biggest re-alignment since the advent of the motor car. The costs of change and its survival are daunting. Behind the scenes the industry is frantically making best-guess preparations for the coming avalanche, while trying to second-guess which direction an increasingly mercurial political class are leaning. Rising protectionism in the US and impending Brexit in the UK: who’d be an automotive CEO now? Continue reading “Geneva 2017 Reflections – And the Band Plays On”

Live (again) From Geneva 2017 : Day Four

Driven to Write’s embedded correspondent, Robertas Parazitas continues his dispatches from the 87th Geneva International Motor Show.

Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche (& entourage) checks out Jaguar’s electric I-Pace concept. Image: Robertas Parazitas

Where’s Gorden?
Continue reading “Live (again) From Geneva 2017 : Day Four”

Reverting to Type

A harmless trip to the shops leads to a rare sighting of the lesser-spotted Tipo.

Tipo Berlina. Image: Car Suggest

A walk around my local retail car park in suburban Cork is a dispiriting experience at any time, even when the rain isn’t horizontal. Filled with the usual drear parade of monochrome conveyances, there is little for the eye to linger upon, or indeed for the uninfluential auto-blogger to spin an article. However, earlier in the week, I was stopped in my tracks by, of all things, a 2017-registered Fiat Tipo Sedan – the first I’ve witnessed in the wild. Continue reading “Reverting to Type”

Live (again) From Geneva 2017 : Day Three

Driven to Write’s embedded correspondent, Robertas Parazitas continues his dispatches from the 87th Geneva International Motor Show.

Image: Robertas Parazitas

Wednesday 8th March

Today I tried to catch some of the stuff decent folk would walk by – all the sub-Mansories, for Arabs with goût. Some absolute crackers. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel. As LJKS once wrote  “If you want to know how G*d regards money, you only have to look at those to whom he gives it”. (I think he may have been quoting someone else.)

Did I mention that Dieter was having a right good look at the I-Pace. I have some photos, will need to check to see if Gorden (sic) was in his entourage…

 

Geneva 2017 Reflections – Butch Insignia

Looks like someone’s been hitting the weights…

Image: Mercedes Benz

Looking for all the world like some kind of steroidal Insignia Grand Sport, the Mercedes-AMG GT concept sees the once mighty Daimler slide further into a self-reverential maelstrom.  Continue reading “Geneva 2017 Reflections – Butch Insignia”

Scream If You Want To Go Faster

If you have to ask how much it costs to look this cheap you probably can’t afford it.

The Mansory Black Edition near some mountains. Context innit? All images: Autoguide

All of a sudden Bentayga makes sense. Bentayga exists, I now realise, to provide a frame upon which the spectacularly insecure can hang the neediest portion of their id – and in the case above have it rendered in ‘Collage Edition’ carbon fibre. Behold the Mansory Black Edition – the ultimate expression of Bentayga-ness. Continue reading “Scream If You Want To Go Faster”

Live (again) From Geneva 2017 : Day One (Updated)

Driven to Write’s embedded correspondent, Robertas Parazitas reports from the 87th Geneva International Motor Show.

Image: Robertas Parazitas

Press conference mania!

Tuesday 7th March 14.33 CET

Peugeot:  In French – unusually – but I didn’t catch any reference to taking GM’s European operations under the lion’s paw. Much jubilation about the 3008 COTY result. Talk of reinventing as a mobility business, connectivity, autonomy.
Continue reading “Live (again) From Geneva 2017 : Day One (Updated)”

Taking the Veil

Last week, JLR unveiled Velar, the most ambitious Range Rover variant yet. But Driven to Write asks, is there a cuckoo in the nest?

Image: The Car Connection
Image: The Car Connection

As the dust sheets were lifted off their new mid-liner, Land Rover CCO Gerry (IGMG) McGovern informed journalists, Velar is “the most car-like Range Rover we’ve done so far”. It also seems likely to become the crossover SUV that will convert customers who have so far proven immune to the crossover SUV contagion. Continue reading “Taking the Veil”

COTY 2017 – and the Winner is…

In a Driven to Write exclusive, our roving reporter Robertas Parazitas reports live from the 2017 Car of the Year awards at Geneva.

dsc_0067
Image: Robertas Parazitas

14.14 CET: Good chat with Steve Cropley. He reckons it’s wide open. Talked about Fiestas and Hank Deuce. Last year he drove to Geneva in a 40 year-old Fiesta this year it was Easyjet. Continue reading “COTY 2017 – and the Winner is…”

The Pinnacle – 1957 Lancia Flaminia

Sixty this year, Lancia’s zenith gets the DTW spotlight.

Image: autowp-ru via wheelsage
Image: autowp-ru via wheelsage

Pushed to choose one marque defining model I wouldn’t hesitate; after all, there are Lancias, and there is the Flaminia. Others might disagree and that is fine. We all have our icons, and if you believe the sliding pillar era was technically or aesthetically superior I wouldn’t necessarily argue. It’s a personal choice. Continue reading “The Pinnacle – 1957 Lancia Flaminia”

Brochures Redux – Midship Triptych

Three brochures for the same car demonstrate Fiat’s marketing skills – or lack thereof.

All images: Driven to Write
All images: Driven to Write

Fiat’s 1970’s brochures were often stark affairs. Studio shots, no background and just the facts. With an economy hatchback like a 127 or suchlike, there was a certain amount of logic in this approach, but for what many dubbed a mini-Ferrari, it risked underselling what was at the time a fairly unique proposition. Continue reading “Brochures Redux – Midship Triptych”

Photo for Sunday – Volkswagen XL1

You’re engaged in some innocent retail therapy and then this beams down from planet Piëch.

Starship XL1. All images: Driven to Write
The car that fell to earth. XL1 amid the hatchbacks. All images: Driven to Write

As we’ve pointed out, Driven to Write never sleeps and while we don’t always get about as much as we’d like, our eyes and ears are everywhere. So while some of us are battening down hatches in windswept West Cork, others get to swan around a decidedly more temperate Marbella – a matter for which your correspondent is not bitter. Continue reading “Photo for Sunday – Volkswagen XL1”

Theme: Brochures – Just Right?

Already a decade old in 1977, the SAAB 99-series perhaps best embodied the Swedish ideal of ‘Lagom’ .

All images: Driven to Write
All images: Driven to Write

The 99 saw Saab come of age. A bigger, more commodious, more mainstream model than the somewhat home market-specific 96 series which not only preceded it, but was sold alongside. By 1977, the 99 was a very mature product, and what bugs may have arisen in earlier incarnations were fairly thoroughly expunged. Continue reading “Theme: Brochures – Just Right?”

Theme: Brochures – Beta than expected but not as good as hoped

The 1973 Beta Coupé was slightly underwhelming – and to be honest, its sales literature was as well.

All images: Driven to Write
Well proportioned, neatly styled yet somehow lacking. The Beta Coupe. All images: Driven to Write

A year after the berlina’s launch, Lancia announced the first of four sporting Beta derivations, the 2+2 Coupé. Designed in-house in conjunction with Pietro Castagnero, the man responsible for the much-loved Fulvia amongst other pre-Fiat Lancia designs. This is an early sales brochure and it is notable for a number of reasons – some of a pedantic nature, others of a more whimsical stripe.  Continue reading “Theme: Brochures – Beta than expected but not as good as hoped”

Making History – Jeff Coope Interview (part two)

In this concluding part of DTW’s interview with the National Motor Museum’s Jeff Coope, he outlines his vision for the museum’s future.

Image: BMIHT
Image: BMIHT

A former motor engineer, Jeff Coope is perhaps unique amongst senior colleagues at Gaydon in that he doesn’t have an old car of his own to tinker with at weekends; a matter of some amusement and no little embarrassment for someone in his position. This probably explains why the previous day he’d been out test driving a variety of Triumph TR6’s with a view to purchase.  “It’s interesting, he tells me, you put you hand on the injector fuel rails for the PI injection system on a TR6 and it’s alive! What else do we make that has a pulse? Effectively, we’re lighting little fires under bonnets aren’t we? Controlled fires at a huge rate and we’ve refined that to great art, although we’ve probably taken it as far it can go now, relatively speaking.” Continue reading “Making History – Jeff Coope Interview (part two)”

Theme: Brochures – Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star…

A sober brochure for a distinctly sober car – the 1982 Mercedes-Benz 190-series.

img018

Daimler-Benz were not in the business of hyperbole when they presented the W201-series in 1982. Instead, they were offering a purity of an entirely different order.  “The new Mercedes models will set the standards for the engineering and the styling of compact cars for years to come”, they said. Prescient words. The 190 was a benchmark car, arguably the apogee of a once-dominant, now deceased engineering-led Swabian modus. Continue reading “Theme: Brochures – Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star…”

Act of Contrition – Citroen C6 (part two)

We drive a C6 and discover there’s nothing penitential about Citroën’s swansong big saloon.

Image: Car
Image: Car

On my return to Randle Engineering in November 2016, I re-introduced the subject of the C6, but this time with a more contrite tone. I ask Steve to tell me more about his example. By UK standards at least, Randle’s C6 has a virtually unique specification. It’s a 2007 C6 2.2 litre model with a six-speed manual transmission, one of 38 in the country. Continue reading “Act of Contrition – Citroen C6 (part two)”

Theme: Brochures – Pushing Tin

A decade apart, two brochures illustrate how Citroën’s marketers viewed the evergreen Tin Snail.

Image: Driven to Write
Image: Driven to Write

1975: Two years after the oil embargo and deep into a period of political instability and economic austerity. Frugality was back, as was a yearning for a more authentic mode of living. In keeping with the mood music of the time, BBC sitcom, The Good Life portrayed a professional couple turning their backs on the rat-race, embarking on a ‘back to the land’ subsistence in their Surbiton semi. Continue reading “Theme: Brochures – Pushing Tin”

Making History – Jeff Coope Interview (part one)

Driven to Write speaks to the man helping ensure the British Motor Museum in Gaydon is future-proofed for future generations – Director of Operations, Jeff Coope.

British Motor Museum Collections Centre. Image: BMIHT
British Motor Museum Collections Centre. Image: BMIHT

Ensuring the past continues to address the future is a challenge all museums face. To stay relevant they must evolve – or die. Jeff Coope is the man at the sharp end. Having overseen the transformation of what was known as the ‘Heritage Motor Centre’ into today’s British Motor Museum, his ambitions for the facility go much further. The current purpose built Gaydon museum was formally opened in 1993, but despite being supported by industry donations and from the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust itself, it struggled to sustain itself financially. Continue reading “Making History – Jeff Coope Interview (part one)”

Act of Contrition – Citroën C6 (part one)

Making amends for past indiscretions, Driven to Write takes a long look at the last true Citroën.

Image: Autotitre
Image: Autotitre via Net Car Show

Despite its premier position in Citroën’s iconography, the incomparable Déese never really represented the double chevron’s stylistic North Star. That position is occupied by its less well loved successor, the 1974 CX. Despite being viewed by some ardent Citroënists as the lesser vehicle to its definitive forebear, the CX’s silhouette remains not only the one best associated with the marque, but also one which most aficionados would welcome a return to. Continue reading “Act of Contrition – Citroën C6 (part one)”

We Need to Talk About XE

As Jaguar 2016 sales hit unprecedented heights, we take an unflinching look at XE’s school report. History appears to be a particularly weak subject.

Image: Motor Trend
Image: Motor Trend

On the face of things, JLR’s once troubled Jaguar brand appears to be be on the rise at last. Following massive investments in new product lines, underpinned by an all-new aluminium intensive modular platform and new diesel engines, the marque has posted global sales of 148,730 vehicles last year, up 77% on 2015 figures. And while brand Jaguar accounts for only 25.4% of JLR’s total volume, it represents the bulk of the overall percentage gain for the business as a whole for 2016. This growth has been driven by new offerings in sectors of the market previously unrepresented by the brand and offer an encouraging picture not only for a nameplate that has consistently underperformed but also for JLR management’s policies. But once you begin to drill below the headline figures, some troubling questions arise. Continue reading “We Need to Talk About XE”

Base Metal

Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?

Welcome to entry level. Image: Motorpoint
Welcome to entry level. Image: Motorpoint

The general consensus amongst the great and good of the Driven to Write community appears to be that Mercedes’ current crop of rear wheel drive saloons, if not exactly a triumphant return to form, are at least broadly acceptable. But never mind us and our vain masthead slogan, the sheer ubiquity of the current W205 C-Class model eloquently testifies to the broader market’s giddy endorsement. However, on this matter I continue to stand unmoved; arms metaphorically folded in petulant refusal. Continue reading “Base Metal”

Trevi Musings

Recently we’ve been drinking deeply from the Trevi fountain, which has prompted a further bout of rumination upon Lancia’s idiosyncratic saloon.

Image: Ran When Parked
Image: Ran When Parked

The Trevi is an unusual car, not only in itself – although, you’ll have to admit, it’s an intriguing one to behold. For one thing it’s the only car I can recall that began life as a fastback saloon – (with a separate boot compartment) and ended it as a three volume saloon. Yes, there has been saloon from hatchback conversions and vice-versa, but a saloon from a saloon? Continue reading “Trevi Musings”