Infra Dignitatem

Ingolstadt presents ‘the off-roader of the future’. What fresh hell is this?

(c) Auto-Didakt

There has been, I’m reliably informed, a discernible atmosphere of fin de siècle about this year’s Frankfurt motor show; in the curiously underpopulated halls, the appearance of evident cost-cutting amongst some of the larger OEMs, not to mention a marked bi-polarity in the semantics being proffered, particularly by the home team.

But while the metaphorical (and to some eyes, actual) barbarians mass outside the gates, inside the bacchanal continues unabated – at least in some quarters. Volkswagen came to Continue reading “Infra Dignitatem”

Aces High

When maestro Giorgetto shuffled the deck in 1973, he certainly got his money’s worth. 

audi
1973 Italdesign Asso di Picche (c) Leblogauto

The Ital Design Asso di Picche (Ace of Spades) concept emerged during what can perhaps be described as Giorgetto Giugiaro’s purple patch, when the maestro could barely put a stylistic foot wrong. An expressive styling study for a close-coupled four seater coupé, in this instance created in conjunction with both Audi and Karmann, it made its public debut at the Frankfurt motor show in 1973. Continue reading “Aces High”

Cool For Cats

There are some injustices one can never quite get over. 

2003 Jaguar R-D6 concept. (c) motorsportscenter

The rationale behind this series of articles on the former Jaguar design director’s creative legacy has been to evaluate what was achieved, while not shying away from justifiable criticism. Because we can probably agree that Ian Callum’s Jaguar-related back-catalogue is a somewhat uneven one. Part of this can be ascribed to factors outside of his control, but not all.

However, the reason I have gathered you here today is to Continue reading “Cool For Cats”

Year Zero

VW ID3 – saviour or harbinger? 

(c) Autocar

At the Frankfurt motor show, those manufacturer-representatives in attendance, have it would appear, spent the obligatory press days smiling through clenched teeth. Boldly proffering their very latest in hybrid combustion and in a few notable cases, pure-EV offerings, the combined European, Far Eastern and in a few cases, North American carmakers are nevertheless casting anxious skywards glances towards a rapidly darkening vista.

Five years ago, at this same Frankfurt hall, Volkswagen senior management attempted to Continue reading “Year Zero”

Lasting Beauty That Moves

Have the stars aligned at Mercedes?

“Sensuously elegant and dramatically charged”, say Mercedes. They would, wouldn’t they? (c) Automotive News

“Lasting beauty that moves”: It’s a little bit clunky, would you not agree? But given Mercedes’ previous track record in the much-abused arena of tag-lineage, I have read worse. This week, at the Frankfurt motor show, the World’s oldest carmaker debuted a styling prototype for what is likely to be the most advanced electric vehicle to be made by an established manufacturer, and given that this is DTW, you might expect me to give it and its creators a bit of a drubbing.

But while I may not have come here to praise the EQS, nor have I placed this in front of you today so as to Continue reading “Lasting Beauty That Moves”

FAAR Away, So Close

A MINI MPV was mooted before. It wasn’t a flier then – it’s even less so now.

A MINI MPV – unthinkable? (c) smallblogv8/MWERKS

Blind faith can be a marvellous thing – at least for those within its cozy orbit. However, for those who exist outside of its environs, not only can it become somewhat irritating, but allowed to propagate unchallenged, can lead to all manner of unforeseen consequences. At the South West London offices of Haymarket Publishing’s storied automotive weekly, for instance, belief in unicorns seems not merely confined to their veteran editor-at-large, but in addition, there appears to be a mounting view that these fantastic beasts hail almost exclusively from Munich-Milbertshofen. Continue reading “FAAR Away, So Close”

Local Takeaway

It’s the weekend, and you’re tired. Why not skip the cooking tonight and order in something decadent and a little, oily?

Nothing wrong with the MG6’s looks. (c) crazy4cars

There is something terribly poignant about the end of days at Longbridge. Having put its troubled past behind, under new ownership and seemingly looking to the future, it all came crashing down, thanks (in part at least) to the hubris and cynicism of its domestic overlords.

Following the firesale of MG Rover’s assets and intellectual property, the first fruit would be Nanjing Automotive’s Roewe 750, a hastily restyled version of the existing Rover 75 saloon. Also planned was a smaller car based upon the RDX60 programme, which had been in development prior to MG Rover’s demise. Another beneficiary of Longbridge’s assets was fellow-Chinese carmaker, SAIC Motor, who subsequently absorbed Nanjing Auto and quickly brought the Roewe 550 to market, engaging specialists in the UK to speed up the process.

But SAIC had plans to Continue reading “Local Takeaway”

CatNip and Tuck

When the S-Type went under Ian Callum’s knife in 2004, the result was a visual success, although only a qualified one. 

(c) auto-database

The 1999 (X200) S-Type was a car which was initially received with an element of enthusiasm from the buying public, but what appeal it had, quickly faded. There were a number of reasons for this – one being the early cars’ frightful cabin ambience and issues with driveline refinement. The other unsurprisingly was its external appearance, which rather screamed its ‘committee design’ gestation.

Certainly, during the post-millennium era, it had become obvious both to Jaguar and to their Ford masters that the creative execution was the wrong one, but with the carmaker committed to additional and expensive model programmes, there wasn’t the money available for a change in course. 2002 did see a series of revisions, most of which were aimed at improving the chassis and interior, but a more comprehensive revision was scheduled for 2004.

This was to be Ian Callum’s first significant opportunity to Continue reading “CatNip and Tuck”

Snakes and Ladders

Half year European car sales data paints a somewhat uneven picture.

(c) Car Magazine

Originating in India, the popular board game of snakes and ladders was for decades a timeless children’s favourite – in the analogue era at least. Based on traditional morality tales and to some extent the concept of karma, the nature of the game was to move from the bottom of the board to the top via rolls of the dice, avoiding potential trapdoors along the way.

With data for the half-year to June now available, it could be stated that the current European car sales situation is of a similar haphazard nature. Last week, we looked at how the EV sector was performing, so today we cast our gaze upon the walking wounded and the not much longer for this world, courtesy of Automotive News, market trackers, JATO Dynamics and figures from Carsalesbase.com.

The first six months of 2019 has witnessed the continued bifurcation of the European auto market, with adoption of crossover and SUV formats reaching a new high of 36.1%, up from 33.2% over the same period last year. Needless to say, this comes at the expense of other sectors, but even within the SUV/CUV segment, a hollowing out of sorts also appears to be under way.

The obvious victims of the ongoing shift in customer behaviour continues to be the MPV, which is entering a new and now likely decisive phase – with both small and compact segments losing a third of their volume over the half-year – (Citroën’s Grand Picasso dropping by 41%). As their declining appeal accelerates, it would be an optimistic carmaker indeed who would Continue reading “Snakes and Ladders”

Weekend Reissue : Desio via Toyota City

Another toe in the water exercise from a not so different automotive monolith.

(c) wheelsage

Despite the differences in culture and in product ethos, there really wasn’t a tremendous difference between Fiat Auto and Toyota – apart that is from the minor matter of the two companies’ relative governance and latterday fortunes. But certainly, before Fiat completely lost the run of itself, the two entities probably had more in common than we might have first realised. Continue reading “Weekend Reissue : Desio via Toyota City”

Weekend Re-issue : A Fiat By Any Other Name?

You probably won’t see it commemorated anywhere else.

(c) junglekey.it

Of all the cars which mark their 50th anniversary this year, this is perhaps the most (to non-Italians) obscure and certainly least recalled. Partially a consequence of the marque’s subsequent demise – another piece of bungled stewardship by Fiat Auto – and the fact that the car is not only fairly unremarkable in itself, but lasted a mere three years on the market before being withdrawn in 1972. Continue reading “Weekend Re-issue : A Fiat By Any Other Name?”

Amping It Up

European EV sales are on the rise, but the internal combustion hegemony remains for now at least, unassailable. 

(c) Tesla

The electric age is just around the corner, just as it has been for some time now. Despite the fact that it patently is the legislative-default future direction of travel, and that regardless of whether we are early, late, enthusiastic or reluctant adopters (or should that be adaptors?) of the automotive EV, we’re getting them anyway. But not quite yet.

Over the first six months of 2019, sales of dedicated electric cars have been on the rise, as one might expect, illustrating (it is said), greater acceptance from customers than the plug-in hybrid model currently favoured by most of the auto industry, at least until they can place their electrified ducks in a row. (A clumsy and frankly dangerous metaphor, for which I now apologise).

But is not my intent today to Continue reading “Amping It Up”

Callum’s Cats : Jaguar R-Coupé (2001)

An early statement of intent, the 2001 R-Coupé marked the beginning of a new design era at Jaguar.

(c) Jaguar Heritage

By the time Ian Callum had settled into his position as Jaguar’s stylistic leader, the bulk of the turmoil which had characterised the previous decade had abated. Under Ford’s Premier Automotive Group umbrella, Jaguar had been in receipt of significant investment, both in terms of plant, production processes but most noticeably in new product. But given that each of the forthcoming production Jaguars had been stylistically finalised prior to his arrival at Whitley, Callum could only Continue reading “Callum’s Cats : Jaguar R-Coupé (2001)”

Migratory Bird

Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world…

Lancia

Here at the gateway to the wilds of West Cork, we welcome more than our share of visitors from foreign lands. This mostly pleasant state of affairs affords us a degree of human variety which would be otherwise denied our pale, light averse, predominantly sandblasted natives. It also lends itself to a degree of automotive variety which to a dedicated driven to writer can prove something of a godsend.

However, not all such encounters are as timely or fortuitous as today’s. Having touched at some length earlier this week upon the lore of the Tychy White Hen, to encounter one in three dimensions proved something of a novelty. Although to be strictly accurate, what we’re looking at here is, if anything a grey hen – or in Lancia parlance, Elefantino Blu – a shade particularly redolent of the Shield and Flag’s Sixties heyday.

It would be foolish indeed to Continue reading “Migratory Bird”

The Wild Man of Kvasiny

That rare thing: a desirable crossover.

(c) autocentrum

The product planner’s art has never been a particularly straightforward one, even less so when one is dealing with a brand portfolio the size and scope of the VW Group. Nevertheless, during the previous decade at least, the individual business units contained within the sprawling VW Group were allowed to Continue reading “The Wild Man of Kvasiny”

Intimations of Mortality

Fowl play at FCA.

Behold the black hen.  (c) gruppo bossoni

Throughout our culture, the colour black has long been synonymous with death. In popular culture too – take for instance William S. Burroughs’ Black Rider or indeed the black swan in Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. In keeping with the theme of fowl therefore, it may not be a coincidence that with the advent of the black hen, FCA are quietly softening us up for an impending demise.

Because the problem here appears to lie with the serial refusal of FCA’s Lancia-badged Ypsilon to do the decorous thing and shuffle off this mortal coil. Indeed, not being content to swerve death’s clammy embrace, the Tychy White Hen is still doing a decent number humiliating far more recent domestic contenders – most recently the troubled Biscione of Milan.

Given this somewhat paradoxical state of affairs, it seemed as good a time as any to at least attempt to Continue reading “Intimations of Mortality”

Small : Far Away

It’s never too late to learn Micra – in all its forms.

Micra squared. (c) DTW

For a car that isn’t really in the business of setting people’s hearts aflutter, the Nissan Micra does garner a decent wordcount upon our pages. Now of course we can rationalise this on the basis that DTW is (perhaps to a fault), undogmatic in its judgements. [This, I accept, is a matter of debate]

But nonetheless, it’s indisputable that the entry-level Nissan is, in pretty much all of its iterations, a thoroughly decent and fit for purpose compact motor vehicle, if not one you might necessarily choose for the sheer love of the open road. But to condemn the Micra on this basis (especially these days), is to ignore the fact that it sits well within the class norms in just about any metric one cares to fling its way – after all, Nissan is far too astute a business to Continue reading “Small : Far Away”

Weekend Reissue : E is for Expressive

Ten years since ‘the car that killed sobriety’ was announced. Time for a backward glance.

(c) autoremes

The 2009 (W212) Mercedes-Benz E-Class is unlikely to go down in history as an indestructible exemplar of marque values like its W123 forebear, or indeed as a design landmark, like its W124 descendant. Indeed, it probably won’t even be remembered with the acute embarrassment which characterises the risible W210 series from the mid-’90s.

Instead, the W212 will be recalled largely for its ‘Ponton’ haunches – a piece of retro styling contrivance aimed at evoking a period when the three pointed star had nothing to prove and no awkward questions surrounding its durability in service to answer.

Is that all there is to the car? Not quite. The ‘212 is significant more for what it represented than for its abilities or its stylistic attributes, such as they were. Mercedes had a job to do, in order to Continue reading “Weekend Reissue : E is for Expressive”

Callum’s Cats

In a series of articles, we examine former Jaguar Design Director, Ian Callum’s stylistic legacy, though some of the more notable designs he oversaw.

Ian Callum. (c) flipboard

The immediate period following Ford’s takeover of the Jaguar marque was a pretty febrile time – for a whole host of reasons, but primarily for the schisms which took place as Blue Oval management took stock of what it had purchased. As the stark realisation dawned that $ billions would be required to Continue reading “Callum’s Cats”

Weekend Reissue : Filigree and Shadow

A tale of the diamond and the chevron.

(C) wikipedia

As automotive aficionados, we accept and embrace the backstories which sit behind the cars we choose immortalise, yet as with most aspects of life, the people behind these vehicles are often themselves at least equally compelling when viewed from a narrative perspective.

Rivalries between carmakers frequently loom large over marque iconographies: General Motors versus Ford, Austin and Morris during the pre-war era in Britain, or indeed, BMW and Mercedes in more recent times. However, for a great many years, an equally compelling battle of wills was said to have played out in France between Louis Renault and André Citroen, with both carmakers seemingly hell-bent to Continue reading “Weekend Reissue : Filigree and Shadow”

Flirting With Distinction

We look back at the car that started the whole Distinctive Series debacle – was it really ten years ago?

So much going on to so little effect. (c) dieselstation

This is twice as much as what we aimed for, the DS line is a huge success,” Citroën’s Frederic Banzet told Automotive News in 2011. And for a time at least, it did appear as though Groupe PSA had pulled off a marketing masterstroke, with DS3 sales at one point accounting for a quarter of the volume for the entire C3 range.

It wasn’t as if the DS3 was necessarily a bad idea. The market for small upmarket  B-segment hatchbacks had been dominated by BMW’s MINI brand and certainly, there was a decent slice of that market to be had – with the right product. PSA’s difficulty was twofold: the lack of a competitive platform and more fundamentally its fundamental neglect of the Citroën name, which had been allowed, if not actively shoehorned into a low-transaction price, value-led cul-de-sac. Continue reading “Flirting With Distinction”

They Roam At Night

Be indoors by nightfall… 

Aaarrgghh! (Author’s image)

In 1997, then Tory Party MP, Ann Widdecombe was asked whether she would endorse former Home Secretary, Michael Howard’s bid to become the leader of the UK Conservatives. She refused, stating in the House of Commons that there was “something of the night about him.”

It was a nice line in waspish put-downs and one which is believed to have scuppered Howard’s leadership ambitions, but given Ms. Widdecombe’s reactionary and somewhat unpleasant views on, well, just about everything really, there was a strong whiff of pot and kettle about it. In reality however, the phrase probably served both politicians’ purposes – Howard later going on to Continue reading “They Roam At Night”

The Surface of Things

A keenly anticipated visual encounter ensues. Your correspondent comes away impressed.

Author’s image

The products of Hiroshima are not without their exponents upon the pages of Driven to Write – we have both editorially and in the submissions from our contributors been rather generous in our praise both of the previous generation 3 model and its shapely new replacement.

On the surface of things, Mazda appears to have taken a noticeable step forward with this car, moving closer to the upmarket German makes, both in aspiration and overall desirability – especially now as the latter move towards an ever more attention-seeking and repellent visual palette. But up to now, the new 3 existed for me only in the occasional fleeting glance and in static two dimensional form.

As we know however, there is no substitute for a three-dimensional viewpoint and yesterday evening, I received my first clear sighting of Mazda’s latest C-segment midliner in natural evening light. Time to Continue reading “The Surface of Things”

Into the Mystic

The Great Contraction is no longer a theoretical construct. It’s here.

First cross my hand with silver… (c) cwallpapersgallery

The era of unfettered expansion and niche-filling is not only over, it would appear to be in the process of being unceremoniously dumped at the hard shoulder. As European carmakers face a deeply uncertain commercial and regulatory future, previously inviolate marque-orthodoxies are being stuffed into hessian sacks and abandoned, as auto executives contemplate an epochal shift.

While this is a phenomenon affecting the entire industry, it is one that appears to be hitting one with particular force. Already somewhat embattled, having rather publicly persuaded its former CEO to step down, Bayerische Moterenwerke, as reported by Automobile magazine recently by veteran German automotive soothsayer, Georg Kacher, appears to either be (a) in worse shape than their compatriot prestige rivals or (b) is taking decisive (if not precipitous) action to Continue reading “Into the Mystic”

Weekend Reissue – El Camino a la Fiesta

Robertas Parazitas’ 2017 Fiesta opus joins the ‘Longer read’ fold.

(c) : classiccarcatalogue

As anyone who has tried to manoeuvre a supertanker can probably attest, when a leviathan changes direction, the process is both slow and not without considerable disruption. During the early 1970s, the ultra-conservative Ford Motor Corporation, having toyed with front-wheel drive during the previous decade, made the decision to Continue reading “Weekend Reissue – El Camino a la Fiesta”

Weekend Reissue : Previewing the Panamera

More backwards glances. This from Zuffenhausen. 

Porsche 989 concept. (c) pf-magazin.de

Ah the 1980s. If you can remember it without wincing, you probably weren’t there. An era of big hair, big shoulderpads and for those Big-Bang boys and girls, big bonuses – ergo flash motors. Preferably with the emblem of Stuttgart prominantly emblazoned upon its preferably engineless snout. But it’s probably true to say that there are more model lines that made decisive contact with the cutting room floor at Zuffenhausen than those which actually made it into production.

As has been pointed out ad nauseum upon these pages, the fortunes of Dr. -Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG has not been the unbroken run of success its current ubiquity and sector dominance might suggest. These two statements are not mutually exclusive -in fact they are intrinsically aligned, if not conjoined. Continue reading “Weekend Reissue : Previewing the Panamera”

Opus di Busso

Further to last week’s dissertation on the 1979 Alfa Six, we examine the contemporary reception to Giuseppe Busso’s Alfa Romeo 2.5 litre V6 unit, through the acerbic eye of LJK Setright.

The Busso V6 as fitted to the 1979 Alfa Six. (c) movitcars

Some engines arrive fully formed, others however, enter the world imperfect, but through a process of development and retrospective correction evolve to defy their early criticism.

A fundamental element of Alfa Romeo’s iconography was intrinsically linked to its engines, especially its pre-war thoroughbreds, those patrician in-line fours, sixes and eights which powered the carmaker into history books, not to mention the hearts and minds of all those with the blood of Portello coursing through their veins. Continue reading “Opus di Busso”

Summer Reissue : Showing Off

Is there any point in motor shows, we ask?

(c) autoexpress

The traditional large-format motor show it appears, is dying, as increasing numbers of carmakers are not only baulking at the expense of these lavish affairs but also the fact that in an era where data can target customers far more effectively and cheaply, the car show has for some considerable time now been seen both as something of a blunt instrument as much as a throwback to a more naïve time.

With manufacturers increasingly choosing to make their splashes at smaller, more targeted events, many commentators are predicting that the Motor Show as we know it will Continue reading “Summer Reissue : Showing Off”

Summer Reissue : With All Due Acclaim

Triumph’s far-East hybrid-swansong receives the Longer Read treatment.

(c) cosasdeautos

It is possible to argue that despite a track record of producing frequently ground-breaking, if sometimes ill-judged and inadequately realised car designs, the various iterative companies that eventually became the Austin Rover Group enjoyed greater commercial success (and profit) from producing vehicles of a more conservative technical composition.

Equally debatable is the notion that successful carmakers rarely fall prey to over-estimating the intelligence or discernment of their customer base, and certainly in BMC/BLMC/BL/ARG’s case, a case could be made that in doing just that, they were in fact acting against their own best interests. Continue reading “Summer Reissue : With All Due Acclaim”

Can You Handle This?

I don’t think you’re ready: Was the 2009 5-Series GT too ‘bootilicious’ for its own good?

(c) moibbk.com

Looking back at matters from the distance of a decade, it does appear that niche-filling was the post-millennial pastime du-jour for the automotive industry – at least for those cash-rich and expansionist prestige German carmakers who weren’t busily reinventing them. BMW were somewhat late to this particular party, albeit having introduced the vulgar and corpulent X6 SUV fastback in 2008, they hadn’t exactly been idle.

During the protracted run up to its 2009 introduction, the Bavarian carmaker made much of their forthcoming Progressive Activity Sedan, but when the covers came off the PAG concept, earlier that year, the reaction was let’s just say, somewhat tepid.

Like Mercedes’ 2006 R-Class, the 5-GT was aimed at buyers who wanted to Continue reading “Can You Handle This?”

Summer Reissue : 75 into 190

Reflecting upon the 75’s younger, leerier brother.

MG-ZT. (c) autoevolution

The Rover 75 is one of those cars which will probably form the basis of reflection and examination for decades to come. On paper at least, perhaps the most comprehensively realised Rover Group product of all, yet it proved to be a flawed product, courtesy of its problematic K-Series power units and what transpired to be a somewhat quixotic marketing proposition.

But I have not gathered you together today in order to Continue reading “Summer Reissue : 75 into 190”

Summer Reissue : Joking Aside

The Yaris was one of Toyota’s better efforts. It still looks good today.

The Yaris was previewed by this 1997 Toyota Funtime concept. autowp.ru

Toyota signalled a stylistic change of heart at the 1997 Frankfurt motor show when they presented the Funtime concept, a cheerful looking five door hatchback marking a significant departure from the rather anonymous looking Starlet, which by then was being left behind by the increasingly sophisticated and considerably more modernist European opposition.

A more Euro-centric design both in conceptual and stylistic terms, it was introduced in production specification the following year at the Paris motor show. Intended to Continue reading “Summer Reissue : Joking Aside”

Commercial Logic

Mercedes-Benz contemplates euthanising the X-Class. Good.

(c) caradvice.com.au

If the current febrile automotive and geopolitical climate is any reliable indicator, there may well after all be limits to growth. Certainly, the premium heyday within the auto sector appears to be hitting the buffers with both BMW and Mercedes recently issuing profit warnings.

The situation at BMW is such that it appears its CEO has been ‘encouraged’ to Continue reading “Commercial Logic”

Space Oddity

Audi’s A2 confounded the buying public and lost its maker billions, but it was a stellar achievement nonetheless. 

(c) bilmodel

Carmakers are for the most part, pathologically averse to matters of risk – and for good reason. The costs of failure can be ruinous. For instance, a cogent argument could be made that Fiat Auto never recovered from the commercial failure of their 2003 Stilo programme, precipitating a decline from which they have never recovered.

Not so Audi, nestled safely within the VW Group mothership, and for decades now, a significant profit centre within the vast German multi-brand automotive titan. Nevertheless, the luxury carmaker is no stranger to the bitter tang of failure, or its financial cost.

Twenty years ago Audi announced the A2, a revolutionary and futuristically styled monopod aimed at elevating the Ingolstadt carmaker’s perception as technological pioneers. Six years later, it was summarily axed, following losses which amounted to around €1.3 bn*, having failed to Continue reading “Space Oddity”

Summer Reissue : Peak Bristol

The Bristoliste’s Bristol? The 411 turns 50.

Bristol 411 Series 5. Image: (c) bristolcars

The Bristol Motor car, from its 1948 inception has always proven to be a rarefied and somewhat piquant recipe. Because for every individual who admires and covets the earthbound products of Filton, there are those who find them ungainly, crude and overpriced. But even amongst the former group, there are Bristols and there are Bristols.

Like so many articles of faith, aficionados of the marque tend to Continue reading “Summer Reissue : Peak Bristol”

Summer Reissue : Another Country

A nice pair of Bristols? We go in search of shutline nirvana – by air and by road.

Bristol Beaufighter

Earlier in the week, we spent a fair amount of time examining shutlines and the lengths to which some carmakers will go to engineer solutions to the issues left by the stylists, not to mention the depths to which the marketing team will descend to cast them in the best possible light.

So it is perhaps timely that we Continue reading “Summer Reissue : Another Country”

Summer Re-issue : Rocket’s Tale

A timeless flight may be drawing to a close as Rocketman, via China’s Great Wall, finally comes home. Well, maybe…

Rocketman. (c) ausmotive

The word icon is often bandied about and for the most part misplaced, but in the case of the original team-Issigonis BMC Mini, it is probaly a justifiable one. Of course, like most people or objects who have this soubriquet thrust upon them, the Mini’s iconography came about over time and in no small part from a combination of factors: motor racing successes, becoming symbolic of an entire epoch and a certain comedy motion picture filmed amid the streets of Turin. Continue reading “Summer Re-issue : Rocket’s Tale”

Mr. Warburton Writes a Letter

Analysts Bernstein Research rediscover a lost art, but in doing so have they shifted the paradigm?

(c) grandprix247

Something unprecedented has happened. It’s probably too early to tell whether it will prove to be an isolated occurrence or a sign of a wider shift in the manner in which the industry operates, but the implications could well prove to be far-reaching.

Max Warburton, the senior automotive analyst from Wall Street financial analytics firm, Sandford C Bernstein, and leading soothsayer on matters pertaining to the motor business wrote an open letter last week to Renault Chairman, Jean-Dominique Senard, suggesting he Continue reading “Mr. Warburton Writes a Letter”

In Memoriam : Jim Randle

There are some things a writer never wishes to put to paper, so I write these words today with a heavy heart.

The late Jim Randle in 2016. (c) DTW / Auto-Didakt

In the summer of 2016, I did what one should never do and met a personal hero, fulfilling a long-held ambition by interviewing former Jaguar Director of Vehicle Engineering, Jim Randle. At the time, he had been out of the public gaze for some time and was perhaps understandably wary of this pair of interlopers from afar asking him questions about a past he had largely put behind him.

Yet as he warmed to his interrogators, the memories of people, places, events and of course, the vehicles he helped create flooded back and between the quiet ironies and the uproarious laughter, he not only lent us almost five hours of his time but for myself, memories that I treasure. Continue reading “In Memoriam : Jim Randle”

Summer Reissue : Romance is Dead

Or if not dead entirely, it’s certainly deep into the arena of the unwell…

(c) simplywellblog

When was the last time you simply got into your car and drove – simply for the loving hell of it?

You are reading this today because, we are minded to assume, you are an enthusiast of the automobile. Of course it’s also possible you are here by accident, and if so, we can only apologise for your trouble.

As aficionados and captive users of the motor car, we probably don’t need to Continue reading “Summer Reissue : Romance is Dead”

Summer Reissue : Gear Change

A timely reminder of a fine but forgotten Honda concept leads your correspondent into a bout of fruitless hand-wringing.

2013 Honda Gear concept. (c) autos.ca

Before continuing, I am impelled to point out that I deserve no credit for highlighting this vehicle once more. It was fellow scribe, R. Herriott (currently en vacances) who first brought the Honda Gear to our attention during DTW’s formative months in 2014. I should also make clear that it is purely coincidental (if convenient) that this piece appears the same week that Honda invited journalists to sample its forthcoming electric-drive E model.

More on that in a moment. But first I invite you to Continue reading “Summer Reissue : Gear Change”

Ode to Joy

A mad niche car or a CUV pathfinder? We examine the Honda HR-V.

Better as a 5-door? (c) autoevolution

Had we realised how the mainstream motor vehicle would evolve over the intervening time, we might have paid a little more attention to the announcement of Honda’s HR-V, an event which occurred all of twenty years ago. As it was however, the automotive press were content to file it with all the other amusing, if slightly lightweight offerings from the more whimsical side of the Japanese automotive juggernaut.

The HR-V, which rather un-memorably stood for High Rider vehicle was previewed in mildly conceptual form at the 1998 Geneva motor show as the even more memorably coined J-WJ, where the positive reception was said at the time to have stiffened Honda’s resolve to Continue reading “Ode to Joy”

The Fourth Letter

The relative conventionality of the Delta dismayed marque aficionados in 1979, but it would go on to embody marque values of both performance and commercial longevity far beyond its seemly narrow remit. 

(c) Weilinet

The old guard was falling away. After a decade on sale, Lancia’s entry level Fulvia Berlina ceased production in 1973. The patrician compact saloon had proven a modest commercial success in its native Italy over that period, appealing to those who had both the means and the discernment to appreciate a such a finely wrought and technically noteworthy vehicle.

But while its mechanical specification left little to be desired, the level of complexity it incorporated would not square with that of Lancia’s new owners, who were masters of cost-control. Furthermore, its uncompromisingly rectilinear three-volume style had become widely viewed as outdated.

While legions of Lancisti will most likely Continue reading “The Fourth Letter”

Summer Reissue – Daily Grind

The last traditional Peugeot saloon marks its 40th anniversary this year. We look back at the 505.

(c) autoevolution

The final flowering of a fine tradition, the 1979 Peugeot 505 marked the last generation of rear-wheel drive saloons to emerge from Sochaux. A late ’70s update of the popular and durable 504 model, the 505 cleaved so closely to its predecessor’s conceptual template those of a more cynical mien could scarcely Continue reading “Summer Reissue – Daily Grind”

Summer Resissue : Art for Art’s Sake

If cars really can be viewed as Art, where does this leave the 1999 Citroën Xsara Picasso? 

(c) auto-abc.eu

Here at Driven to Write, we are fond of celebrating the worthy, the left of field and the more outlying inhabitants of our vehicular rich pageant. However, nobody in possession of the requisite technical or visual discernment would willingly choose to scribe a hymn of praise for the Citroën Xsara Picasso (to lend it its full name) – a motor vehicle which could perhaps only lay claim to the quality of mercy.

There have been many phases to the double chevron’s creative trajectory over the 100 years of its existence, and it would not be especially uncharitable to Continue reading “Summer Resissue : Art for Art’s Sake”

DTW Summer Recess

We’re on holiday – well, some of us are. 

Well for some.  (c) ew.com

Summer has returned and in now habitual fashion, the newly vacated DTW offices have taken on a distinct Marie Celeste bearing. Creaking timbers, the unmistakable aroma of stale sherry, cigars and charred office furniture – not to mention a gaping hole in the schedule – consequence of Mr. Editor Kearne’s precipitous departure to fortify his appetites at some unspecified summer retreat deep in the Andalusian hills – lord help them.

In the unaired half-light of our ninth floor headquarters, mystery abounds. The whereabouts of Myles Gorfe remains a pointedly unanswered question. His seasonal ticket to Granada lies unopened upon his desk. Packages of secondhand blue oval spares from as far afield as Bosnia–Herzegovina pile up, yet nobody, least of all his estranged wife Brigit appears keen to investigate his disappearance.

Even the normally felicitous Mr. R. Herriott has exercised his unalienable rights and chosen to Continue reading “DTW Summer Recess”

Leap of Faith

It was brave, it was a failure and its fate was etched in Jaguar’s past. 

(c) barrettjaguar.com

Acts of creative reinvention are rarely acknowledged at the time of committal, being far more likely to be misunderstood and derided by those whose expectations were, for a variety of reasons subverted or otherwise denied. Brave or foolish? There is a fine line which separates both polarities, because inevitably, whenever these adjectives are appended to matters of a creative nature, it tends to be connected to its failure.

The X351-series Jaguar was a brave design, attempting to break from the creative straitjacket the over-familiar, and overworked XJ silhouette had evolved into. But now, a decade on from its Summer 2009 debut, and with the curtain soon to fall upon its production career, we can Continue reading “Leap of Faith”

Fate Accompli

The lessons of history are fated to be repeated – endlessly.

(c) luxurycarsworld.com

It was all going to plan. In 2002, production of the X308-series XJ ceased at Jaguar’s Browns Lane plant, after all, an all-new replacement was shortly to come on stream to replace it. However, with the decision taken and implemented, a crisis arose. Jaguar engineers hit significant hurdles in the pressing of the X350 XJ’s aluminium bodyshell, necessitating a significant delay in series production.

As it transpired, it would be another year before the XJ was launched and in the interregnum, Jaguar was absent, not only from its core market, but also its most lucrative. When the 2003 XJ did reach buyers, not only did the car itself meet with a less than rapturous reception, but a significant number of former Jaguar customers had taken their business elsewhere. Many failed to Continue reading “Fate Accompli”

Lapin Daze

Readers not wishing to indulge our predilection for all things diminutive, Japanese and fluffy might perhaps wish to look away now.

(c) Suzuki.jp

How predictably Driven To Write, you might suggest, for us to fawn over some cute and unobtainable Japanese Kei car. After all, it’s not as if Suzuki doesn’t also offer a multitude of the SUV and crossover things we’re so frequently critical about on these pages.

Fair point, and I have no intention of singling out Suzuki as a bastion of elevated values. But with the proviso that other, perhaps equally endearing Kei cars are available (in Japan), Suzuki have nevertheless gone to the trouble to Continue reading “Lapin Daze”