Drowning By Numbers

Actions have consequences. The Irish car market is unwell.

Top seller 2019. (c) : caroftheyear.org

It’s about three years since I wrote one of these analyses. Back in 2017, when I last did so, the side-effects of Britain’s referendum decision had yet to filter through in any meaningful way. However, some three years later the effects are plain to see. Because despite being outwardly one of the better performing EU member-states of late, the Republic of Ireland’s economy has been hobbled, without Britain having left the EU at all.

Amongst the sectors adversely affected, the car market is amongst the most apparent. Having been on a steady post-crisis growth curve up to 2016, with deliveries that year of 146,672, car sales have bucked more favourable economic trends, aligning closer with Sterling’s value against the Euro – a state of affairs resulting in a significant fall in new car sales with all the resultant knock-on effects that brings. Continue reading “Drowning By Numbers”

North Star

Where Saab began.

(c) saabworld

Among the many reasons why a car company might come into being, matters of geography are not always the primary rationale. However in this particular instance, both they, and geopolitics played a highly significant role. During the 1930s, German territorial aggression became an existential threat to Sweden’s long-treasured neutrality, prompting the government to develop an independent air defence force, not so much to repel possible invaders it seems, but to make any such invasion more difficult and expensive to implement.

The development of a home-developed aircraft therefore came about from the unsuitability of bought-in hardware, and as hostilities became inevitable, the inability to Continue reading “North Star”

Conduct Unbecoming

Lady Docker – a woman out of time.

Lady Docker – 1955. (c) Popperfoto/Getty via The Guardian

Amid these two broadly similar, yet so different Islands, ideals of propriety were for some considerable time, strictly constrained. In Fifties Ireland for instance, this was a task enthusiastically carried out by the Church, who policed matters with an iron will. Across the channel in post-war Britain, the repressive atmosphere was a little less orchestrated, but no less restrictive. There, the engrained social stratifications of money and class were for the most part sufficient to keep people firmly in their place.

Within such an environment, anyone who exhibited the temerity to step outside of decorous norms opened themselves up to a fearsome backlash. It therefore took bravery and perhaps no small portion of self-confidence to Continue reading “Conduct Unbecoming”

NewsGrab

Our first (for 2020) look at the current stories that matter. To us. 

Bentley Mulsanne. (c) autoblog

As the motor industry gears up for the first (and possibly most significant) motor show of the season, powder is being for the most part kept snug, warm and dry. However, 2020 is shaping up to be a pivotal one for European carmakers as European Union-imposed emissions regulations begin to take effect. It’s likely that this, and the industry’s response will define the coming year, for better or in some cases, for worse.

Which of these two states this week’s announcement from Bentley Motors represents is reliant upon a number of factors, not least one’s viewpoint. The Crewe-based luxury carmaker’s own impressions can be gleaned from their website thus; “The Mulsanne, with its understated elegance and phenomenal power, remains Bentley’s consummate saloon. It is the purest expression of luxury and performance.Continue reading “NewsGrab”

Body of Evidence (part 3)

Unfinished sympathy.

The completed Type 64 recreation at the Mullin Museum. (c) fineartamerica

The mysterious power of the Bugatti nameplate has over the years, led a significant number of individuals to part with often huge sums of money, often to little lasting effect. In addition, the carmaker’s legend comes freighted with tales of hubris, stark reversals of fortune, suicide and accidental death. It is therefore, with some caution that one ought to approach the fabled name so intrinsically linked with speed, glamour, elegance, indulgence, and the town of Molsheim, Alsace.

We therefore return to the unbodied Type 64 chassis and the stark dilemma it posed for new owner, Peter Mullin. Firstly, given that the chassis itself won a best in show award at Pebble Beach in 2013, it was considered the utmost vandalism to cover it with a body, especially so many years after its creation. But having convinced himself that it would be appropriate to Continue reading “Body of Evidence (part 3)”

Body of Evidence (Part 2)

Reanimations are nothing new when it comes to Bugatti. 

Bugatti Type 101 by Gangloff. (c) wheelsage

Just because Ettore Bugatti could be accused of the sin of hubris, doesn’t necessarily mean his ending was neither poignant nor salutary. The demise of the Bugatti car business proved to be a somewhat convoluted one in the final analysis, complicated by the fact that Ettore had essentially been locked out of Molsheim since the bitter disputes of the mid-1930s.

Having retreated to Paris to plot his return, war had intervened and with the disputed area of Alsace quickly annexed by German forces, Ettore had little choice other than to Continue reading “Body of Evidence (Part 2)”

Sunday Reissue – Gilded Age

Documenting the pre-war streamliner era.

(c) Favcars

As a companion piece to yesterday’s Bugatti article, and its forthcoming episodes, we go back into the archive to an article from DTW co-founder and onetime writer, Sean Patrick, examining perhaps the most glamorous vehicles ever set to hand-beaten metal.

While we can perhaps look at some of them now (like the Delahaye pictured above), and baulk at the profligacy and sheer excess on display, we ought to ask ourselves – are we really any more evolved? I’m rather inclined to doubt it. But disregarding the more outré examples of the carrossier’s art, some of the most sublime shapes of all time emerged from their studios, which Sean’s piece from January 2016 documents, should you wish to delve further this Sunday morning.

Body of Evidence (Part 1)

Recreating a lost masterpiece.

Bugatti Type 64. (c) torque news

It’s a dilemma that faces many car restorers. Does one strive for total originality throughout, or carry out a few subtle modifications. Many fudge the issue, adding a set of disc brakes here, or an alternator there – nothing that cannot be reversed or sneered at too loudly by the faithful. Others choose to Continue reading “Body of Evidence (Part 1)”

JDM Oddities – 1994 Nissan Rasheen

A curiosity from the early 1990s. It could only hail from Japan.

(c) japan partner

Of all the Japanese carmakers, Nissan was perhaps the most prolific and it must be said, daring of the purveyors of retro-flavoured designs. The Pike Factory cars, BE 1/ Pao/ S-Cargo and Figaro were not only highly successful halo cars wihin the Japanese domestic market, but lent the brand a degree of cachet which had perhaps previously eluded them. Having been once perceived as purveyors of mediocrity, Nissan now were on the very cusp of cool. Continue reading “JDM Oddities – 1994 Nissan Rasheen”

Anniversary Waltz 1959 – Neatness Is Always the Result of Deliberate Planning

“This matter is best disposed of from a great height, over water”.

Eve Marie Saint, James Mason and Martin Landau in a still from Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest. (c)

Amid a year of cinematic gems such as swords and sandals epic, Ben-Hur and Billy Wilder’s Some Like it Hot, Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller, North by Northwest might not have drawn as many cinemagoers, but if it wasn’t the auteur-director’s finest film, it was probably his most enjoyable. Starring an at-his-peak Cary Grant as the film’s suave but unsuspecting Mad Man, a diverting Eve Marie Saint as the requisite femme-fatale, combined with a strong supporting cast, a sharp, pithy script by Ernest Lehman and some of the best-known set-piece scenes in movie history, North by Northwest remains something to Continue reading “Anniversary Waltz 1959 – Neatness Is Always the Result of Deliberate Planning”

Ascendant Class

Attempting to unpick a feudal line. 

Hyundai Dynasty.  (c) wikipedia

On one hand the formal limousine has always been a potent marker of social superiority, yet simultaneously a place within which to shield oneself from an often hostile plebeian gaze. After all nobody purchases, borrows or otherwise purloins a luxury saloon with the notion of hiding one’s ego from the madding crowd, one’s average plutocrat hardly being of the shrinking violet tendency.

This makes the design of the limousine something of a delicate balancing act. Serious enough to suggest material attainment, elegant enough to establish aesthetic discernment, yet sufficiently opulent to Continue reading “Ascendant Class”

Anniversary Waltz 1969 – I Didn’t Expect A Kind of Spanish Inquisition

“This morning, shortly after 11:00, comedy struck this little house on Dibley Road. Sudden…violent…comedy.”

Monty Python. (c) Whatculture

As the 1960s drew to a close, centuries of hierarchy and forelock-tugging deference were under attack in class-riven Blighty. Television shows like The Frost Report saw a younger generation of university-educated writers and performers taking increasingly accurate potshots at a hidebound establishment who deserved every critical drubbing they received. The 1969 debut of Monty Python’s Flying Circus on BBC television therefore marked a watershed in what was deemed admissible for a primetime audience.

Owing a debt to the earlier Goon Show and Round the Horne radio formats, the Python’s anarchic, whimsical and often downright silly TV sketch series brought absurdist comedy into living rooms across the length and breadth of Britain, sending up authority and making household names of its creators – at least amidst those who understood, or at the very least appreciated its gleefully skewed logic. Post-Python, comedy would never Continue reading “Anniversary Waltz 1969 – I Didn’t Expect A Kind of Spanish Inquisition”

That Was 2019

Before we begin afresh, we should first cast one glance in the rear view mirror.

Who ‘nose what 2020 will bring? (c) Auto-Didakt

The prosecco has been sipped, the good wishes made and 2019 has already slipped into the past tense. So let us pause briefly before we set out into a new decade and consider the significant moments of the past year as (mostly) documented upon these pages.

We began the year at the shoreline, tearfully bidding Renault’s Twingo farewell from Britain and Ireland. It wasn’t a car which ever really ignited the imagination of the marketplace in either country (we were denied its more inventive and more charming first generation model), but its withdrawal could be read as something of a metaphor. A prefiguring too, since the announcement brought forth a slew of similar announcements from rival carmakers casting serious doubt to the ongoing viability of A-segment cars such as these, owing we’re told to rising costs of emission compliance.

2019 was also the year that the German Prestige Grille Wars got real, with Munich’s Vierzylinder illustrating to us all, but most notably to their domestic rivals, that we really wouldn’t like them when they’re angry. But while the Petuelring’s saloon flagship has the sheer visual bulk to carry its rhinoplasticised proboscis with some credibility, the same certainly cannot be said of its hapless entry-level sibling which also made its unfortunate debut this year. But then, the poor thing is such a plump, undercooked confluence of seemingly unrelated styling features, perhaps the grille is the least of its problems.

March saw the European Car of the Year awarded in somewhat irregular fashion to JLR, who had so much faith in their product’s winning potential they seemingly hadn’t bothered to Continue reading “That Was 2019”

Anniversary Waltz – Never Get Out of the Boat

“Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not, then they are enemies to be feared”.

Time.com

Dystopian paranoia and reactionary politics were the order of play as this turbulent decade faded out. Having become inured to kidnappings, airline hijackings and low-level terrorism, 1979 witnessed the Islamic revolution in Iran, the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, and the ascent to power of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. In Britain, Margaret Thatcher led the Conservative Party to power, proving Britain could Continue reading “Anniversary Waltz – Never Get Out of the Boat”

Nightcrawling

If you roam the streets at night, don’t be too surprised by what you encounter.

Image: The author

We have, on a number of occasions brought to light the manner in which the nocturnal streetscape can alter one’s perceptions, especially when it comes to the appreciation of automotive design. In some cases this can bring nuances to bear which might not have been as apparent in daylight. On the other hand, the fluorescent glare of street lighting can render a car in a manner somewhat less becoming.

Because just as a negative is the inverse of the photographic image, the nightscape can Continue reading “Nightcrawling”

Anniversary Waltz 1989 – Tin Roof, Rusted

If you see a faded sign at the side of the road…

The B52s (c) Orlando Times

Formed in Athens Georgia in 1976, the US alt-surf-rock band The B52s had existed relatively contentedly on the peripheries of the contemporary music scene for a good decade and a half before a single taken from their 1989 album, Cosmic Thing propelled them into mainstream international chart success, and an element of immortality.

Written partly to recall their early years as impecunious art-loving musicians, and to honour their guitarist Ricky Wilson who had died in 1986 from a HIV-related illness, Love Shack was not so much the B52s shifting their retro-futurist sound and aesthetic to Continue reading “Anniversary Waltz 1989 – Tin Roof, Rusted”

Season’s Greetings

Yule understand if we’re a little preoccupied…

Image: Author’s collection

Whether you celebrated the occasion yesterday, are feverishly preparing to celebrate today, or choose not to celebrate it at all, we wish all our readers a contented, contemplative, fulfilling and indigestion-free festive break.

A very Merry Christmas from Driven to Write.

Anniversary Waltz 1999 – Pre Millennial Tension

Waltzing into a new Millennium.

(c) Brittania Row

As fireworks crackled over the midnight skies and the twentieth century was bid adieu, we peered hopefully, if somewhat tentatively into a technologically dominated future, on one hand embraced, yet quietly dreaded. At least amongst those who weren’t gleefully predicting, if not the end of days itself, then at least imminent technological catastrophe. Y2K, aka the millennium bug was (loosely speaking), a coding issue pertaining to the storage of calendar year data, meaning that the rollover to the year 2000 carried with it the potential for all manner of unsavoury consequences.

It was widely believed at the time that without adequate mitigation, Y2K could precipitate widespread system malfunctions, and in the most doom-laden scenario (of which there was no shortage at the time), the complete failure of the digital networks which were increasingly dominating our lives, to Continue reading “Anniversary Waltz 1999 – Pre Millennial Tension”

Balancing Act

So much for theory, what was the Lybra actually like?

2002 Lancia Lybra 2.4 JTD

The heel of history can either be a marque’s greatest asset or an insufferable burden, and in the case of Lancia, we can safely deduce which of the two conditions has prevailed. Because amongst the time-honoured pitfalls of managing heritage brands is the inevitable temptation to revert to whatever nostrum of past glories management deem necessary or congruent.

Indeed, the moment a car brand is steered into the heritage category, alarm bells really ought to sound, since one could posit the view that it’s already well on its way to irrelevance and oblivion. Hence when Fiat Auto CEO, Roberto Testore pronounced in 1999 his view that Lancia’s image was confusing, he was tacitly admitting both his and his innumerable predecessor’s inability to either define Lancia’s identity or allow it to Continue reading “Balancing Act”

Elevated State

The Mark 2’s better bred cousin.

Daimler 2.5 litre V8. (c) carsaddiction

The British Daimler Motor Company (as opposed to the better-known German one) was one of the most venerable names in automobile history, tracing its roots back to 1896, and with a long-standing Royal warrant, amongst Britain’s most prestigious. Part of the Birmingham Small Arms (BSA) Group, a combine which incorporated military hardware, cars, commercials and motorcyles, by the mid 1950s the carmaking side of the business was starting to struggle against rising costs and stronger competition.

In 1956, Chairman, Sir Bernard Docker was forced to Continue reading “Elevated State”

Anniversary Waltz 2009 – Crash!

We begin our review of cars we couldn’t write about this year, with a brief look back at 2009.

(c) New York Post

On a bright January afternoon in 2009, US Airways flight 1549 took off from New York’s La Guardia airport en-route to Seattle-Tacoma via Charlotte, Carolina. As the Airbus A320 climbed out of La Guardia airspace it struck a flock of Canada geese, instantly disabling both engines. Quickly deducing that the aircraft lacked sufficient airworthiness to attempt a conventional emergency landing, and fast running out of options, Captain Chesley B Sullenbeger, along with First Officer, Jeffrey Skiles, elected to Continue reading “Anniversary Waltz 2009 – Crash!”

Cars That Could Have Been Citroëns – 1981 Mercedes Auto 2000

Three pointed stars and chevrons are mutually exclusive. Or are they?

(c) mercedes-benz-passion

A Mercedes that could have been a Citroën? Surely, DTW’s acting editor has taken leave of his senses. But please bear with me. Because while this vehicle is every inch a product of Stuttgart-Sindelfingen, could there be enough double chevron goodness sprinkled over this concept for it to form part of this unique to DTW series of chevronesque curiosities?

The background to the Auto 2000 lay in a late-1970s initiative laid down by the German government to Continue reading “Cars That Could Have Been Citroëns – 1981 Mercedes Auto 2000”

State Of Contraction

The S-Type’s star quickly faded. We trace why and examine Utah’s final iterations.

(c) Curbside Classic

When Sir William Lyons made his hectic dash to Browns Lane to begin stylistic work for the S-Type facelift in October 1965, it was not only the act of a true autocrat, but one who was coming face to face with some home truths.

During the early 1960s, Jaguar had expanded, diversifying into commercial vehicles; encompassing trucks, buses and forklifts. These were, on the face of things, sound, viable businesses, providing the potential for additional revenue and an astute opportunity to Continue reading “State Of Contraction”

Breaking Waves

A backwards glance at the current state of the estate.

Image: beverly hills lingual institute

Who amongst our serried ranks of global carmakers currently makes a genuine estate car? By this I mean a recognisably car-like utility-ish vehicle with a useful, practical fully enclosed load bay which can be enlarged by folding the rear passenger seats; one that isn’t an MPV, some kind of glorified-shooting brake with vaguely sporting pretentions or heaven help us all, a crossover or SUV.

Times and tastes change, and we must all Continue reading “Breaking Waves”

NewsGrab

We don’t do a lot of this on DTW, but here’s a brief roundup of the (UK-centric) news highlights from w/e 6/12/19.

Hotwheels? (c) Jaguar.com

December is generally a quiet time of the year for most carmakers, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s all tumbling weeds within the automotive universe. But rather than highlight any one aspect, let us take this opportunity to Continue reading “NewsGrab”

A Ship Called Dignity

Pride cometh before a fall. 

Proudia to meet you. Hope you guessed my name. (c) wheelsage

In more innocent times when Lexus was but a glint in the Toyota board’s eye, our collective impression of full-sized Japanese luxury saloons probably looked something a good deal more like this. Not precisely of course, since this particular duo debuted a full decade after Toyota’s creative moonshot, but Mitsubishi’s 1999 flagship was both in name and appearance very much JDM plutocratic business as usual.

As such, European (or American for that matter) nostrums of luxury to say nothing of prestige car semantics were quite obviously deemed not only unnecessary, but inappropriate. Sober and imposing was what the domestic market expected and in both Proudia and Dignity models, sobriety and imposition was what they got. Continue reading “A Ship Called Dignity”

State of Independence

We return to Utah, examining its third significant iteration.

(c) Jaglovers

Right up to the late 1960s, Jaguar product planning operated very much on the whim of what its founder considered necessary. Constantly seeking a competitive advantage, Lyons would latch onto an engineering or stylistic innovation and would not be satisfied until it was brought to fruition. Needless to say, this caused no end of headaches for the engineers and technicians tasked with making them a reality.

Legend has it that in 1957, Sir William, making his daily rounds of the factory, arrived at Bob Knight’s small office in experimental. In passing, he shares his view that Jaguar ought to develop an independent rear suspension and asks Mr Knight how long it would take to Continue reading “State of Independence”

You Shall Go to the Ball

French designer, Tristan Auer reimagines Citroën’s CX Prestige, delivering something unique and rather special.

© Amaury Laparra for Tristan Auer/ Classic Driver

The Hôtel de Crillon on the Place de la Concorde has been something of a Paris institution, at least for those well-heeled enough to stay there, since it opened to the public in 1907. The neoclassical 18th century palace – one of a matching pair situated at the famous Paris landmark – was built in 1758 and through its history, saw its fair share of drama, not least of which was its use by the post-revolutionary French government as a place to Continue reading “You Shall Go to the Ball”

Weekend Reissue – Taking Sides

When it comes to matters of symmetry, DTW takes the centre ground.

Syncopated rhythm.  (c) Autoweek

 Back in the early days of Driven to Write, when life was more innocent and we hadn’t entirely lost the run of ourselves, we had both the time and the inclination to exercise our more whimsical thoughts, impressions and observations, at length.

Our cloth is cut a little more snugly nowadays, I regret to note, but what cannot be altered must, as I’m sure any tailor can agree, must Continue reading “Weekend Reissue – Taking Sides”

Big Time

Further observations on Lexus’ 1989 gamechanger.

(c) : carsguide.com.au

Attempting to second-guess the United States customer has been the rock innumerable carmakers have perished upon over the past fifty years or so. It ought to be quite simple really. Large capacity engines, plenty of equipment, a sense of visual definition or style coupled with ease of operation. Durability too, since vehicles are likely to do large mileages in often hostile climatic conditions amid owners sometimes averse (it’s been alleged) to the prospect of preventative maintenance.

So much for generalisations, but those who have wilted under America’s often unyielding glare have largely failed to sufficiently cover the basics. Not so the Japanese, who like the Europeans before them learnt the hard way not only how difficult the US market can be to crack, but also how lucrative it could be if you Continue reading “Big Time”

Moonshot

In 1989, Toyota shot for the moon. Cars will never be made like this again.

(c) carsbase

We choose to go to the moon in this decade, and do these other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” These are the much quoted words of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy in 1962, pledging his country’s commitment for the Apollo space mission.

The Apollo programme cost $billions and was only a qualified success, insofar as it did not precipitate a more widespread and far-reaching programme of space exploration. It did however succeed in demonstrating what the American government could do when the finest minds were provided with almost unlimited resources to Continue reading “Moonshot”

Sublime to Ridiculous

Taking lessons in style and taste from Japan. 

(c) Lexus.com

Today’s Sunday sermon comes as something of a compare and contrast. Admittedly it also lays itself open to accusations of shooting fish in a barrel, but I’m prepared to take that risk. Here at Driven to Write, we have something of a soft spot for underdogs. However, some are more equal than others, and in the case of Lexus and in particular, the flagship LC 500, its continued lack of appeal to European eyes is mystifying.

In the year to June, the LC posted perhaps the greatest sales drop (58.5%) of any make or model across Europe. Which is proof, if proof were required that people’s taste is in their… well, perhaps you ought to Continue reading “Sublime to Ridiculous”

Quicksilver

In 1995, Honda displayed two distinct and distinctive roadster concepts. Did they make the right choice?

1995 SSM Concept. (c) innermobil

In 1995, Pininfarina, in conjunction with Honda – who enjoyed a long-term relationship with the carrozzeria, presented Argento Vivo, a purely conceptual two-seater roadster. Designed very much in the classic idiom, Argento Vivo (as the name suggested) employed aluminium for its extruded substructure and its upper body cladding – the resultant weight loss intended to allow for the use of smaller-capacity engines than might otherwise be considered.

There was little meaningful correlation between them it seems, (although there were reports of Pininfarina putting Argento Vivo into small-scale production), but the very same year, Honda themselves debuted a two-seat concept at that year’s Tokyo motor show, dubbed the Honda Sports Study Model (SSM for short). A more determinably ‘Japanese’, modernist and conclusively less romantic shape than that that of the Italians, SSM was created at the carmaker’s Wako Design Centre near Tokyo; Honda stating that it showcased “the company at its innovative best applying state of art solutions to Continue reading “Quicksilver”

Altered State

Examining Utah’s transitory visual life.

(c) jaglovers.org

The Jaguar iconography was founded upon a small number of significant characteristics, but of these, visual appeal was perhaps the most crucial – and certainly the most obvious. For any car design to succeed in the marketplace, and to do so for an extended period of time, this appeal must be apparent, not only from the outset, but be capable of being maintained throughout a lengthy production run.

Fortunately, in Sir William Lyons, Jaguar had an arbiter of form, line, proportion and more importantly still, taste, which gave the carmaker a significant edge over both domestic and non-domestic rivals. However if Lyons had been a chef, he would have been one who had himself never cooked a meal, yet could still Continue reading “Altered State”

The Big Idea

Who were I.D.E.A anyway? 

(c) auto-forever

And then there were four. 

Once dominated by the twin pillars of Bertone and Pininfarina, the leading Italian car-design consultancies found their hegemony (and profitability) threatened by the dramatic arrival during the early 1970s of a precocious interloper by the name of Giorgetto Giugiaro. His ItalDesign consultancy quickly established itself as a formidable adversary, capable of delivering turnkey projects in both product design and engineering.

A decade or so later, and seemingly just as abruptly, another significant player entered the field. By the tail end of the 1980s, the Institute of Development in Automotive Engineering (I.D.E.A) was going head to head with the big-hitting Italian carrozzeiri, having gained the patronage of Fiat with perhaps the largest and most ambitious vehicle programme in its history. Yet they appeared to have arrived from nowhere. Continue reading “The Big Idea”

Top-Line, Entry Level

DTW once again abases itself at the bottom rung.

Image: The Author

I am no expert when it comes to the subject of car design, lacking as I do the in-depth knowledge, training, vocabulary, or indeed, ‘eye’ to interrogate or illuminate a car’s form in a truly meaningful manner – mercifully, others upon these pages are better placed to do just that.

Nevertheless, I do spend more time than is either productive or conducive to a healthy mind (or body) studying cars and attempting to Continue reading “Top-Line, Entry Level”

The Fate of Empires

“Black Badge is for those who reject conformity and live life on their own terms. It’s for the innovators, trailblazers, rulebreakers – and above all – those who dare.” Rolls Royce Motors.

Be indoors by nightfall… Black Badge Cullinan, recently. (c) Autocar

The highly decorated former British soldier, subsequent historian and writer, Lieutenant-General Sir John Bagot Glubb published his noted essay, The Fate of Empires and Search for Survival in 1978. Having spent over forty years in the British army observing England’s Glorious Empire wither into insignificance, he was probably well placed to Continue reading “The Fate of Empires”

Euro Standard

The 1989 Dedra brought Latin style and a more competent package to the compact executive segment. Sadly, it left behind a few more pressing concerns.

(c) carsfromitaly

Italians have never needed to be convinced that a luxury car could also be a compact car. With a land and cityscape which militated against corpulence and a taxation system which proscribed large-capacity engines, Italian carmakers made something of an art out of geographical and fiscal necessity.

As artforms went however, it wasn’t the most expressive, the post-war Italian upmarket berlina conforming to a degree of visual rectitude that was almost flamboyant in its subtlety. Foremost amongst its exponents was Lancia. From the Ardea, its Appia successor, to the seminal Fulvia, these saloons gave the upwardly mobile a refined, well engineered and reassuringly patrician vehicle – one which could Continue reading “Euro Standard”

Taming the Cat

Four years in and Utah gets a hard reboot.

(c) Jaglovers

The compact Jaguar saloons were landmark cars for the company and did much to raise the carmaker’s profile and profitability, but in its first generation form it was not a model which Browns Lane engineering staff viewed with terrific pride, owing to a number of significant compromises buried beneath its shapely envelope.

As development progressed upon the more powerful 3.4 litre version, the handling deficiencies consequent to its narrow rear track (acceptable in the lighter, lower powered car, but less so here), forced engineers to Continue reading “Taming the Cat”

The Cost of Entry

Here’s one you won’t find in the brochure.

The disappointing reality. Entry level.  (c) DTW

We’ve all experienced it at some point in our lives, have we not? You want something so badly, you feel there’s almost no privation you wouldn’t endure to obtain it. Rationality be damned; even to the point of detriment, just as long as you Continue reading “The Cost of Entry”

Pioneer State

The 1955 Jaguar 2.4 was overshadowed by its successor, but in many regards, was a more significant car in Jaguar’s evolution as a serious carmaker.

jaguar-mark-one-1
(c) jaglovers

In 1955, Jaguar committed their most ambitious act up to that point with the introduction of the 2.4, an all-new, compact saloon of a sporting mien – every inch a Jaguar, but no hand-down version of its larger sibling. Far from it, because despite the announcement the same year of the revolutionary Citroen DS19, the compact Jaguar was probably as advanced a product as could reasonably be envisaged from what was then a low-volume, specialist carmaker.

Initiated around 1953/4, the Utah (in Jaguar parlance) compact saloon programme would mark their first departure from traditional body-on-frame construction to a stressed unitary bodyshell. Owing to uncertainty over its strength, two stout chassis legs ran the length of the floorpan, rearmost of which (beneath the rear seatpan) would house the mountings for the unusual inverted cantilever semi-elliptic springs, so devised to Continue reading “Pioneer State”

Don’t Look Now

As the World begins to face up to a growing climate emergency, the motor industry illustrates just how tone-deaf it has become.

Decadence: defined as a state of decay; a decline from a superior state, derived from the Latin, décadentia (dé denoting down and cadere, to fall)

The question of social responsibility is one with which carmakers have been (vainly) grappling for some considerable time now. Indeed, what little has been shown up to now appears to have been jettisoned by many in a heedless dash for market dominance.

This decadent spiral has (as we have previously discussed) taken corporeal form in the wholesale embrace of needlessly aggressive visual tropes and ‘to-hell-with-it’ consumption, and nowhere has this state been more vividly illustrated than amongst the three foremost rival German prestige marques; excesses not simply embodied in the vehicles these carmakers serve up, but also in the manner in which they Continue reading “Don’t Look Now”

Small Plates

Rounding out our Costa del Sol observations with a tapas of varied local delicacies.

Given that Sundays are intended to be days of rest, rather than framing any over-riding narrative, I’m presenting these automotive gleanings largely without much by way of comment and even less of insight.

Firstly, we find a current generation Fiat Panda. Nothing of terrific note here, you might say and I might even agree, but isn’t that Tangerine colour marvellous? An added bonus being the Jade green of the Ford Focus in the background – a handy nod to Green Car Bingo of distant memory. Continue reading “Small Plates”

All Sound and Fury

Today’s Andalucían postscript is Seat’s shortlived Fura. What, if anything can it signify?

When Seat parted from its Italian benefactor and fell into the arms of Wolfsburg, it was necessary to place some distance between the two former partners. So while prior to the severance of connubial relations, all Seat models simply took the equivalent Fiat nameplate (or number), from around 1981/2, Seat products would have (to varying degrees) their own, distinctly Spanish identity. Continue reading “All Sound and Fury”

State of Grace

How the ultimate 1960’s bit of rough evolved into the best loved classic Jaguar saloon of all.

(c) storm.oldcarmanualproject

It has been said that by the mid-Sixties, it was common operational procedure for UK police patrols to stop and search any Mark 2 Jaguar with two or more male occupants aboard – such was the car’s association with criminality. After all, Mark 2’s were easy to purloin and were the fastest reasonably inobtrusive getaway car that could be obtained by fair means or foul in Blighty at the time.

It was perhaps this aura of transgression, coupled with its exploits on the racetracks (at least until the US Cavalry arrived) which sealed its iconography. So it is perhaps ironic that despite the forces of law and order also adopting the 3.8 Mark 2 as a high-speed pursuit car, that it latterly would become synonymous with that most cerebral of fictional police detectives.

The Mark 2 Jaguar was a paradox in that while it was undoubtedly handsome – a finely honed conclusion of styling themes which had begun in earnest with the 1948 XK120 – it was not only a bit of an overweight brute, but a car which never quite managed to Continue reading “State of Grace”

The Glare

Driven to Write suffers from heat stroke – for your benefit. 

It’s hardly revelatory of me to point out that in this corner of the Costa del Sol, the ratio of sunshine to overcast is overwhelmingly in the favour of the former – after all, the hint is in the name. No great insight either in suggesting that in the warm glow of a sunbaked afternoon, everything looks more attractive – except perhaps, pale, light-averse Irishmen. The effects of ambient lighting is a subject that has reared its head on more than one occasion on these pages, so if I repeat myself, I can only suggest you Continue reading “The Glare”

Dos Marbelleros

Well, what is one supposed to do on vacation anyway?

How much is that Panda in the window in amongst the muebles? All images (c) Driven to Write

As regular readers may have appreciated, I have of late been on holiday. I don’t do this sort of thing as often as I ought, but when I do, I like to set myself a little intellectual challenge, and given that my predilections tend towards the automotive, it is here these exercises more than usually rest.

The last time I ventured to this part of Southern Spain, the task I placed before myself was that of Green Car Bingo, which was an enjoyable (for me at least) divertion, but not really replicable. So given that the Andalucían city of Marbella would form my base for the duration, the quest I set myself was to was to Continue reading “Dos Marbelleros”

You Could Have it So Much Better

That difficult second album syndrome.

Neither fish nor fowl.   All images (c) by the author

Music history has frequently been littered with the broken wreckage of bands who blasted into the public consciousness with an precocious debut, only to lose it with the follow-up. Artists such as the Stone Roses, The Sugarcubes, Franz Ferdinand and perhaps most notoriously, 80’s pop sensation, Terence Trent D’Arby all followed their well-reviewed debuts with what were varying degrees of disappointing to disastrous.

Of course the pressure upon new bands is often immense – the record company is clamouring for another hit, fans are salivating over the prospect and the artists themselves require more material to Continue reading “You Could Have it So Much Better”

A Line Foreshortened

A rare encounter prematurely cut short. Sorry about that.

(c) Driven to Write

I’m aiming to keep this brief, given that it’s Sunday and I’m nominally on holiday. A two week sojourn on Spain’s Mediterranean coastline is hardly anyone’s concept of a mortifying act and let’s face it, there are plenty of other, more pleasant diversions to be found around these parts.

Consequently, it’s probably just as well that I am driven to write, because otherwise you, dear readers would stand a better than even chance of facing an empty page today. But my duty to DTW, as I trust you appreciate, is absolute.

But to the subject at hand. One of the more diverting aspects of places such as this are the areas of diversity and digression – and the automotive end of the spectrum is no different. The Southern European markets have long diverged from their Northern neighbours, although needless to say, a growing and regrettable conformity is starting to Continue reading “A Line Foreshortened”

The Riviera Set

A brake (or should that be a break?) from the norm for the Lion of Belfort. 

pininfarina
(c) Ebay

The idea of the three-door shooting brake estate probably originated in the US (the 1955 Chevrolet Nomad being a prime example), but it was popularised – if such a term can be considered appropriate for such a rarefied product – by Ason Martin’s 1965 DB5; itself initially a one-off, built for AML’s chairman, David Brown, and later produced in miniscule numbers at owners’ behest by the Harold Radford coachworks.

In 1968, the Reliant Scimitar GTE also employed a shooting brake silhouette to positive effect, which not only proved transformative for the carmaker’s profile and reputation, but also gained them patronage from the British Royal family. Continue reading “The Riviera Set”