Welcome to the Machine (Part One)

How does one follow up a classic?

jaguar xjs
Image: Practical Classics

In the Spring of 1973, English progressive rock band Pink Floyd released Dark Side of the Moon, their eighth studio LP and their most ambitious to date. With tracks which flowed seamlessly, replete with cinematic sound effects, soul choirs, disembodied voices and a song-set which dealt with issues of success, the march of time and mental illness, the conceptual double album became one of best selling, most critically acclaimed and best loved progressive rock LPs of the 20th century – still cited as an all-time classic.

Two years later, the band released their follow-up. Wish you Were Here continued many of the themes explored in the earlier recording, but in more developed form. Predominantly a tribute to founder-member Syd Barrett, who had had become estranged from the band following a mental breakdown in 1968, possibly related to drug use. Less acclaimed than Dark Side, it has for many years languished in its shadow, only latterly being hailed in its own right.

Officially introduced two days prior to the Floyd’s 1975 opus, Jaguar’s XJ-S was also a reprise of a much-loved original. In a similar manner, fans of sporting Jaguars, not to mention the gentlemen of the press were beside themselves in anticipation of how Browns Lane would Continue reading “Welcome to the Machine (Part One)”

Mezza Berlina

Fiat’s mid-Sixties compact saloon range was as convoluted as anything BMC could have contrived. Today we examine the 125 series. 

1967 Fiat 125 berlina. (c) wheelsage

Looking back through a dusty prism at Fiat Auto’s fifty-year old product planning decisions is unlikely to be fruitful – more likely to result in no more but a set of dubious assumptions and erroneous conclusions. Bearing this in mind and treading wearily by consequence, I propose we Continue reading “Mezza Berlina”

Blues for Ceaușescu

Quai de Javel’s final act, or simply its slightly underpolished Craiovian cousin? We examine the Oltcit. 

Oltcit Club. (c) autobible.euro.cz

Given its geographical location, it probably wasn’t all that surprising that once-independent Romania would end up as part of Russia’s collection of Warsaw Pact satellites once the post world war II dust settled.

By the early 1970s, Romania’s communist government was led by Nicolae Ceaușescu. Outwardly an internationalist, acting with considerable independence from Moscow, the Romanian leader seemed intent on building up the country’s soft power, influence and economic strength on the international stage. However, for those inside the country, he was simply another self-obsessed, exploitative and repressive dictator.

As part of Ceaușescu’s plan to Continue reading “Blues for Ceaușescu”

Tour de Enyaq

Making almost as brief an appearance at this year’s Tour as its stricken race director, Škoda gets its newest electric offering some valuable airtime.

(c) Skoda-Storyboard

Among the more familiar sights on each stage of the Tour de France is the presence of the race director’s red car (the colour is velvet red in case you’re wondering). This vehicle, in which the illustrious annual cycle race’s leading light holds court, (often with invited dignitaries aboard) leads the riders from the start line of whatever town or city has hosted that day’s stage, through the neutralised zone (where riders are not permitted to Continue reading “Tour de Enyaq”

Bohemian Rhapsody

Like the 1975 Queen single, the Tatra 613 was big, bold and went on for a bit. But was it a stylistic pathfinder, or simply the end of a noble line? We investigate.

Tatra 613. Image: motor1

Kopřivnice is a medium sized town in the Moravian-Silesian region of Czechia and has been home for many years to the predominantly commercial vehicle maker, Tatra. Amongst the earliest auto manufacturers, the company was formed in 1850, but became a carmaker under the name of Nesselsdorfer Wagenbau-Fabriksgesellschaft in 1897, adopting the Tatra nameplate in 1919.

We tend to Continue reading “Bohemian Rhapsody”

Death At One’s Elbow

It’s the circle of life folks…

Ferrari GTC4 Lusso. (c) automobile

There is, as perhaps you’ll notice, something of a ‘births and deaths’ feeling to our weekend proceedings. Yesterday we reviewed of some of the more significant new arrivals, while today, we don black armbands in doleful anticipation and bid a socially distanced adieu to three storied model lines, soon to Continue reading “Death At One’s Elbow”

Sense and Sensuality

Modern luxury collides with post-opulence. 

W223 S-Class. Image: gtspirit

With summer now officially over, and perhaps more in the spirit of hope than confidence, OEM carmakers are gradually returning to the business of product. This week amid the sudden outpouring of new announcements, previously squeezed and distorted through the narrow pipette of PR drip-feed, we are presented with two super-luxury land-yachts from differing echelons of wealth, privilege and position. Let us first Continue reading “Sense and Sensuality”

A Song For Erika

‘Simple is efficient’ the adline stated. But Ford’s 1980 Escort really was all about design. 

1980 Ford Escort Ghia. (c) curbsideclassic

Throughout the 1970s, the Ford Motor Company’s European satellite produced cars that were precisely what large swathes of the market not only wanted, but actively aspired to. This highly lucrative recipe was a combination of tried and trusted conventional engineering, slick marketing, a gimlet-eyed focus on product strategy and well judged, contemporary style.

First introduced in 1968, the big-selling Escort model was successfully rebodied in 1975. However, by the latter part of the decade, it had fallen behind, stylistically, but particularly on the technical side. With most of Ford’s rivals moving inexorably towards the front-wheel drive, hatchback layout, the blue oval needed to Continue reading “A Song For Erika”

2020 Vision.

We’ll have no shouting here…

Are you sure this is Cork? All images:  CB

Despite life returning to a semblance of normality around these parts over recent months, the sighting of 2020-registered cars remain something of a novelty. Of course cars have been registered – some having even been sold – but in a country where new car sales had already been in state of contraction before the pandemic swept all before it, the current situation facing the Irish retail sales trade must be sobering indeed.

One of the more superficial downsides to this is that sightings of new models, while normally a relatively frequent prospect, have been sporadic at best. Amongst the more recent arrivals to these shores is Opel’s current generation Corsa (none of your Vauxhalls in these parts), but to be honest, and in contrast to the (closely-related) Peugeot 208 which preceded it to market, it has been a comparatively rare sight.

During my twice-daily dog walking duties I Continue reading “2020 Vision.”

Sir Alec ‘Nose Best

Widely derided as a travesty of Issigonis’ original, but was the 1969 Clubman intended to be something more?

‘Honey, the Rover won’t start again – be a love and run me down to the station…’  Author’s collection

The Mini was wasn’t really styled as such – its body style simply a clothing for the technical package set out by its creators, with only the barest concession to style. Surprisingly, it worked, the car’s appearance proving relatively timeless, endearing and well proportioned. The problem was, it didn’t really lend itself to facelifting. By 1967, the Mini had yet to become legendary, to say nothing of iconic. It was just another product which had been on the marketplace for some time and would soon require more than the rather perfunctory nip and tuck it had just received.

Appointed head of the BMC car division in 1966, PSF chief, Joe Edwards quickly put into action a plan to Continue reading “Sir Alec ‘Nose Best”

Unfinished Sympathy

Sir Alec Issigonis’ great lost masterpiece, or last will and testament?

The only surviving fully engineered 9X prototype. (c) Daily Telegraph

During 1967, Sir Alec Issigonis approached his BMH* superiors, asking to be temporarily relieved of day to day duties so that he could devote himself to a new vehicle project, one intended to directly replace the Mini. Remarkably, his request was granted, particularly since this was no sanctioned model programme, merely a speculative one.

There are opposing rationales as to why Chairman, Sir George Harriman and Chief Executive, Joe Edwards agreed to Continue reading “Unfinished Sympathy”

Strike a Pose

Getting the Mini message across – 1970’s style.

Image: the author

You can have anything you want in life if you dress for it.” Edith Head

The Mini received its third and most significant technical and bodyshell-related change in the Autumn of 1969. The Mark III Mini – and it was now simply that (with no marque-related branding whatsoever), lost the hydrolastic suspension fitted to it as a running revision in 1964, not to mention its more upmarket variants, in an effort to reduce costs (the Clubman was a separate model), but gained internal door hinges and winding windows, much to the disgust of the car’s now sidelined spiritus rector.

It would also be its last. All subsequent changes to the Mini (1980 A+ revisions notwithstanding), would be of the purely cosmetic variety. Such as in 1977, BL’s annus horriblis, and the year in which the Mini gained a matt black grille, larger rear lamp units, which included reversing lights, and cheerful striped fabric upholstery – on the Mini 1000 model at least. Stripes too were applied below the side windows. 850 versions however remained somewhat more austere, although the subsequent 1979 Mini City 850 would Continue reading “Strike a Pose”

A Right Pair of Nymphs

Designer, Tom Tjaarda took two very different bites at the Lancia Flaminia during the 196os. Only one however is truly memorable. 

topcarrating
1969 Lancia Flaminia Marica: (c) topcarrating

During the Autumn of 1969, carrozzeria Ghia debuted the Marica concept at the Turin motor show, a styling study based upon the platform of the Lancia Flaminia, a car which had already ceased production. Not only that, but its maker had also gone bankrupt and was desperately seeking a benefactor.

Enter Alejandro de Tomaso, a phrase which would be uttered with increasing regularity within the Italian motor industry over the coming decade or so. Having purchased carrozzeria Ghia in 1967, he is alleged to have sanctioned the Marica study as a means of assisting Lancia’s bid to find a buyer – a statement which sounds suspiciously altruistic for such an automotive opportunist as he. But we are perhaps getting a little ahead of ourselves. Allow me to Continue reading “A Right Pair of Nymphs”

Evolution of the Crustacean

A Greek fable of a horse which was transformed into a crab. 

‘Those doors’ – conspicuous here by their absence. (c) hemmings

The public don’t know what they want – it is our job to tell them…” Sir Alec Issigonis.

Even as Britain entered the 1960s, product planning remained something of an alien concept to its native carmakers, the majority of whom viewed such matters as being the sort of recondite nonsense invented in the United States, and best left there. So too, in the eyes of BMC’s benighted Technical Director was the art of automotive styling, which which he famously once stated “tends to date a car.

It’s a timeworn nostrum that any creative endeavour is only as good as the brief which underpins it, and in the case of ADO17 (or XC9001), brought to market in 1964 as the Austin 1800, the brief appears to have been a somewhat confused one. Was the car to have been a direct replacement for the ‘Farina’ A60 series, or a larger, more overt statement car? That seemed to depend upon who one spoke to.

It appears extraordinary in retrospect that key decisions surrounding a model programme as important as ADO 17 were taken by those so poorly-equipped to Continue reading “Evolution of the Crustacean”

Under the Knife – A Late Reprieve

2007’s X-Type facelift illustrated how one can do more with less.

(c) cargurus

Few cars are created with an unlimited budget – after all, such a bounteous situation is no guarantee of an inspired result. On the other hand, budgetary restrictions are rarely a recipe for a successful product either. Certainly, when Jaguar’s 2001 X-Type was being scoped during the latter part of the 1990s, the Ford-controlled British luxury carmaker wasn’t exactly awash with cash, even if by then they were at least making money rather than haemorrhaging it as they had been, only a few years earlier.

X400 (as the X-Type was termed at Jaguar) formed the core of the blue oval’s growth strategy for the leaping cat, aimed at catapulting the marque into the big league with annual sales in excess of 200,000 cars. A hugely ambitious programme, which also encompassed the refitting of the otherwise defunct Ford Halewood plant in Merseyside; this latter aspect ladling such costs upon the programme that anything less than total success would be viewed as failure.

With so much riding upon it, X400 had to Continue reading “Under the Knife – A Late Reprieve”

Death to the Mondeo

It’s now only a matter of time before Ford’s largest European car offering loses its uneven struggle against customer apathy. 

(c) caradvice

It’s all change at the blue oval, as our dear, departed Archie Vicar might have put it. The Ford Motor Company, it seems, has been rather busy of late, not simply rearranging the deckchairs by putting an end to car production in the United States, or announcing the breathlessly anticipated body-on-frame Bronco offroader, but shuffling the deck on the bridge to boot. Iceberg? What iceberg?

The dance of the two Jim’s has kept blue-oval watchers amused for months now; the word at ground level being that (former CEO) Jim (Hackett) hasn’t really lived up to expectations, but that (new CEO) Jim (Farley) is either (a) absolutely and without doubt the chap to steady the ship, or (b) the diametric opposite of the above. It really depends on who you Continue reading “Death to the Mondeo”

Sighting and Seeing

A Laguna Coupé ought to be both a rare and welcome sighting. But it doesn’t do to look too closely. 

Image: the author

The Renault Laguna, especially in its third and final iteration was a popular car in Ireland. Not popular in Passat or Avensis terms, but sold in quite respectable numbers nonetheless, notwithstanding Irish motorists’ long-standing distrust of the larger offerings from our esteemed French neighbours.

This was all the more surprising really, given the frightful reputation its immediate predecessor earned over its lifespan – riddled as it was by electronic gremlins which cost the carmaker dear, both in market share and in warranty costs. But then, Renault’s Irish importers were (perhaps through grim necessity) somewhat generous when it came to sales incentives. Continue reading “Sighting and Seeing”

New Broome

The 1970 X6 Austin Kimberley and Tasman ushered in a fresh start for British Leyland’s Antipodean outpost. But it would prove a short-lived one.

Even prior to becoming part of the British Leyland conglomerate, the BMC motor company was not renowned for making astute product decisions. Certainly, from the point when the ADO 17 (Landcrab) series was introduced, little or nothing to emerge from Longbridge was entirely fit for its intended purpose. ADO 17 entered the UK market in late 1964 as the Austin 1800 (its identical Morris equivalent arrived a bewildering two years later) and was met with a decidedly lukewarm reception from the domestic market, who were not clamouring to Continue reading “New Broome”

Under the Knife – If the Wind Changes, You’ll Stay Like That

Concluding our micro-theme on Volkswagen, while continuing another one.

VW do Brasil’s 1984 Santana 2-door. (c) autogaleria.hu

There is (or ought to be) a rule which states that the longer a car remains in production, the less effective facelifting exercises become – in purely aesthetic terms at least. You will have noticed that Volkswagen (of Wolfsburg) has been in receipt of no small quantum of derisive commentary upon DTW’s pages of late, most of which was largely justified. By contrast, VW do Brasil has been portrayed as the more astute, more ingenious, and more commercially adept of the pair.

This was certainly the case when the mothership remained in hand-wringing mode as to the product-related course it should take in a post-Käfer landscape. But it does appear that as their German counterparts finally got a grip on both itself and its product, the Brazilians appeared to Continue reading “Under the Knife – If the Wind Changes, You’ll Stay Like That”

Wolfsburg Samba

Volkswagen do Brasil – Wolfsburg’s younger, nimbler and more ingenious Latin cousin repeatedly showed up its more torpid German counterpart. Here’s another example.  

1968 Volkswagen 1.600. (c) autoarkiv.dk

Volkswagen’s Heinz Heinrich Nordhoff has repeatedly and justifiably been criticised over the years for his tardiness in sanctioning a replacement to the eternal and best-selling Beetle, before sales collapsed by the tail-end of the 1960s. It was not for the want of trying however, and as far back as 1955, with the Käfer selling in still-increasing quantities, Nordhoff, realising its success alone would not sustain VW indefinitely, put in train a series of Beetle-based prototypes – some to sit alongside, others to Continue reading “Wolfsburg Samba”

A Question of Scale

Some things simply don’t enlarge well. 

(c) autoclassiques

Success can often be a less clarifying state than failure. Enzo Ferrari famously asserted that he learned more from the fabled Scuderia’s many reversals on the racetrack than its more celebrated victories. Of course, one would never intentionally Continue reading “A Question of Scale”

Nocturama

As regular readers roll their eyes skywards in exasperation, we return to a familiar theme, but in a somewhat untimely setting.

(c) The Author

As some of you know all too well, DTW’s editor has something of a habit of repeating himself – almost as much as the subject of today’s nocturnal meditation. The more astute amongst you, by the way will have discerned that these photographs were not taken all that recently, which I will admit to – they were in fact snapped in early December, when the world was young(er) and life was, well, a little simpler.

What I really don’t want to do today is Continue reading “Nocturama”

Orphaned, Abandoned, Unsung

When is a Volkswagen not a Volkswagen? When it’s an NSU. The K70’s fate forms a salutary tale. 

All images – author’s collection.

There is an argument to be made that the Volkswagen motor company has thrived upon existential crises. Certainly they have experienced no shortage of them over their lengthy and mostly successful history. Having survived and prospered in the wake of the first of these in 1945, by the latter years of the 1960s, the Wolfsburg carmaker once again was faced with a serious reversal of fortune, with demand for the emblematic Beetle faltering, and little clear idea of how to Continue reading “Orphaned, Abandoned, Unsung”

Under the Knife – Call Me Indecisive

Jaguar never quite settled on the 2005 XK’s styling. 

2005 Jaguar XK (c) autoevolution

For a marque with such a rich stylistic heritage, Jaguar’s relationship with the automotive facelift has been a decidedly patchy one. Even during the creative heyday of Sir William Lyons, the second bite of the visual cherry (so to speak) often left a slightly bitter aftertaste.

Given the timelines, and the circumstances surrounding his appointment, it is perhaps a little unfortunate that the first Jaguar production design Ian Callum would oversee would be a replacement for the long-running and by the turn of Millennium, increasingly dated (X100) XK model. This GT, hastily concocted in the unseemly aftermath of Ford’s hostile takeover married the two-decade old XJS platform with a (then) new, more voluptuous body style. Continue reading “Under the Knife – Call Me Indecisive”

A Photo For Sunday – Atmosphere

Lighting is everything. As is setting…

Amsterdam. Photo published in 1977, courtesy of Vogue magazine.

It has just stopped raining. The light is delicious. The street glows in the reflected gloaming, as a vehicle’s taillights cast their radiant wake in the  damplight. It’s an album cover shot – shades of Ziggy Stardust or perhaps an Edward Hopper painting.

The combination of the banal and the everyday; the ubiquitous and socially upright Peugeot 504 berline, silhouetted against the decadent pull of the strip bars and empty promises of the wider Amsterdam nightscape is, to 21st century eyes at least, a striking visual metaphor. Continue reading “A Photo For Sunday – Atmosphere”

Four Lessons from History

Pininfarina and Mercedes – it wasn’t all bad. Just good – in parts.

1956 Mercedes-Benz 300SC by Pininfarina. (c) heacockclassic

There are certain carmakers and design consultancies who despite all positive signs to the contrary, never quite gelled creatively. Certainly, in places where the incumbent design heritage is sufficiently strong and embedded, there are few if any instances of a coachbuilder or styling house crafting a superior design to that created in-house. Mercedes-Benz during its patrician heyday and carrozzeria Pinin Farina (during its own) are cases in point, especially so if you Continue reading “Four Lessons from History”

Landfall

Channelling an older, more illustrious vehicle, Ineos Automotive have shown first images of their upcoming Grenadier. Haven’t we seen you somewhere before?

(c) Autocar

“And did those feet in ancient time walk upon England’s mountain green?”

Classy yet classless. Both of the land, yet above it, the Land Rover Defender, within these islands at least, inhabits its own unique orbit. It’s a name which elicits certain qualities – of no-nonsense, robust self sufficiency, of capable and practical professionals, like country vets, tree surgeons, utility providers, coastguards. That’s certainly the image its makers chose to project, speaking to fond notions of national identity, everyday heroism, practicality and fundamental decency which have been enduring traits of that increasingly peculiar country collectively called Britain.

In production for the best part of 70 years, although it has in fact been refashioned many times, the Landie, over its lengthy and productive life has become a potent symbol of something inviolate, unchangeable – like Dover’s White Cliffs. So much so that in today’s febrile shared-media landscape, vehicles like the original Defender are fetishised – raised aloft and hailed as archetypes – images of authenticity amid a world increasingly laced with fakery and contrivance. Continue reading “Landfall”

Cambiare la Moda

The mid-point of the 1960s truly represented peak-coupé. It was all downhill from here. 

(c) junglekey.fr

Anyone with a shred of understanding for the art of automotive design will readily acknowledge the difficulty of dealing with a limited palette. When it comes to small footprints, the problem is acute, given the architectural strictures imposed. Anyone therefore confronted with Fiat’s 1964 850 berlina would probably have been rather dubious about the carmaker’s ability to craft a comely GT variant from such humble and let’s be fair, unprepossessing underpinnings.

Notwithstanding the above, it’s relatively inconceivable that the resident Torinese carrozzieri, well adept at crafting silk purses from base material, didn’t at least throw their putative hats into the ring in the wake of the 850’s announcement, but it appears that Fiat was determined to Continue reading “Cambiare la Moda”

This Elegance

Plus ça change… Bentley introduces a more heavily revised Bentayga than previously imagined. It’s both better and worse than before.

(c) tflcar

Successful products tend to be characterised by a number of factors: A fitness for the intended purpose, a sense that their intrinsic qualities are worth the outlay, and an essential honesty to their form, position and remit. Bentley’s Bentayga SUV has been a commercially successful product for the desired British luxury carmaker, with over 20,000 built since its less than rapturous introduction in 2015. Certainly the Crewe-based carmaker’s press release makes much of it being the market leader in its sector, but given that Bentley trades upon exclusivity, one must question whether this is something necessarily to boast about?

Nevertheless, Crewe has achieved this feat seemingly, by Continue reading “This Elegance”

Dreams Take Flight

It’s been a while since we’ve heard from him, but despite the current C-19 crisis you certainly cannot accuse Mr. Wagener of sitting on his hands.

(c) Daimler AG via Instagram

What if: Like you, I recognise that the job of design leader or Chief Creative Officer in this instance involves a certain amount of blue sky projection. An implicit understanding that design in its purest, most elemental form ought to Continue reading “Dreams Take Flight”

Newsgrab

A review of the automotive week ending 26 June 2020.

Just the thing for Glastonbury – oh hang on… (c) motorillustrated

Half the year gone already and not a child in the house washed. But as this little pocket of the world gradually and carefully opens back up, the broader European motor industry too is doing its level best to pretend this crisis never happened, catching up on all of those product launches inconveniently delayed by the dreaded virus.

Not that recent global affairs have had much impact upon Haymarket Publishing’s storied automotive weekly, where fairies and unicorns continue to flit merrily, social distancing notwithstanding. Monday therefore saw Autocar online report (and not for the first time either) upon the possibility that Jaguar might Continue reading “Newsgrab”

Number Nine Life

As inevitable as death, taxes, and global pandemics. What’s that? Ah yes, Jaguar’s in trouble again. Haven’t we been here before?

Unconvincing. (c) car magazine

An automotive reckoning, long-postponed, now seems imminent. We of course should have had it long ago, and had the surging Chinese economy not mopped up all that excess capacity over the past decade or so, we would be talking about a rather different automotive landscape today.

But not only did the Chinese Crouching Tiger to some extent help prop-up otherwise floundering businesses (and certainly, one could point to Groupe PSA’s remarkable resurgence being in no small part aided by Dongfeng’s largesse), it also made a significant contribution to a lopsided industry model with an over-reliance upon high-end, luxury products.

It isn’t wildly hyperbolic to suggest that Jaguar Land Rover’s post-2010 successes were to a very large extent a product of Chinese market forces, and if anyone doubted that, one only had to Continue reading “Number Nine Life”

Not For the Likes of You

The new Lexus IS is upon us. You can’t have one.

(c) inceptivemind

Even before the C-19 pandemic swept away all previously held norms and nostrums, the motor industry had been undergoing something of a shakedown on a number of levels. Old orders were either tumbling or at the very least teetering on less than solid foundations, as customers voted, as they are prone to do, with their credit scores. Amid those sectors experiencing that unmistakable sensation of cold steel upon the nape of their necks was the upmarket-brand, rear-wheel-drive close-coupled sportive saloon.

In some respects, it’s something of a surprise that this market sector has managed to Continue reading “Not For the Likes of You”

Paradigm Shift

Citroen introduces its first “Non-Conformist Mobility Object“. Well, its first in decades. Is this a glimpse into the future?

(c) noolyo

Despite being embroiled in perhaps the largest and most complicated merger/acquisition in automotive history, Groupe PSA, under the current leadership of Carlos Tavares, appear to be one of the few European automakers who are taking what at least appear to be the decisions that matter. And as the worst of the current C-19 wave recedes for much of Europe at least, it’s becoming increasingly apparent what those are likely to be.

One can of course argue the toss over the value or logic in PSA merging with Fiat-Chrysler (and yes, we all know the basic rationale), there is little doubt that such a move will in the fullness of time, prove either to have been a masterstroke of suitably epic proportions, or the petard upon which Mr. Tavares will eventually Continue reading “Paradigm Shift”

Photo For Sunday : La Gamme Complète

Renault 82, it says on the cover. 

Image: The author

The image you see here is taken from a 1982 brochure prepared by Publicis Conseil (Renault’s long-standing communications and advertising agency) for Ireland’s then distributor, Smiths Distributors LTD, who also assembled Renault 4s in Co Wexford for the Irish market. More a pamphlet than a brochure, it nevertheless provided a well-produced and reasonably comprehensive overview of what the nationalised French carmaker had to Continue reading “Photo For Sunday : La Gamme Complète”

Small Change

The new electric 500 is now available to order. Sorry, how much?

All images: (c) Autocar

While its FCA parent continues to negotiate the necessary regulatory hurdles around its forthcoming nuptials with Carlos Tavares’ Groupe PSA, life, while somewhat interrupted these past couple of months, rolls inexorably onwards; this week with Fiat announcing, a month ahead of schedule, the fixed roof version of its new fully electric 500e.

Built on, it’s said an all-new dedicated EV platform, the new generation of Fiat’s evergreen sub-compact was first shown in early March in convertible form, with a forthcoming 4-door model (Autocar says) still a remote possibility. Intended to have made its physical debut at the Geneva motor show, the advent of the viral pandemic and the ensuing shutdowns ensured that it, like so much of Geneva’s fare was lost amid more pressing health-related concerns.

But with most of Europe seemingly past the worst of C-19’s deadly swathe, Fiat has seen fit to Continue reading “Small Change”

Fire Without the Spark

The French Capri?

(c) stubs-auto.fr

The Spanish word for fire, the Renault Fuego was somewhat unusual in 1980 in that it was in receipt of a name rather than a numeral. The nationalised French carmaker’s numerical system, which had been in place since the ’60s was already showing signs of unravelling, but would take almost another decade before being abandoned with debut of the Clio in 1990. This made the Fuego something of an outlier in the range, a status the car maintains to this day.

To those who Continue reading “Fire Without the Spark”

Ahead By A Nose

Let’s go to a stoning…

(c) CNET

Where Are You Two From, Nose City?

There appears to be a fairly broad consensus (outside the Forschung-und Innovationszentrum at least), that brand-BMW has, from a visual perspective in particular, lost its way. It isn’t today or yesterday that this has occurred and it certainly isn’t as if we haven’t already commented at length upon it, but to suggest that Adrian van Hoydoonk is presiding over a loss of face which brooks no retrieval is these days hardly an exaggeration.

This week we have been able to Continue reading “Ahead By A Nose”

Non-Conformist (Part Two)

Concluding our brief overview of Citroën’s epochal GS.

Image: Citroen UK

In 1970, the European motor press voted the GS its car of the year. The award, Automobiles Citroën’s first ever European Car of the Year award, was formally presented in February 1971 to Pierre Bercot’s successor as Director General, Raymond Ravenel in the Hilton Hotel in Amsterdam.

Hailing 1971 as “the year of the GS”, Ravenel told assembled journalists and dignitaries, “The public was quick to Continue reading “Non-Conformist (Part Two)”

Non-Conformist (Part One)

The future arrived in 1970. It was called GS.

(c) citroenorigins

Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1970 Franco-Italian feature film, The Conformist is billed as a cinematic masterpiece. Set during the 1930s fascist-era Italy, its themes of politics, betrayal, and psycho-sexual guilt, framed within Vittorio Storaro’s lavish cinematography remain as provocative today as they were when first screened in cinemas half a century ago.

As the 1960s gave way, France had witnessed a stark moment of unease in the Spring of 1968 when the conformism of French society was violently challenged in the streets of Paris by a younger generation, determined to Continue reading “Non-Conformist (Part One)”

Outside the Comfort Zone

An Urban Explorer makes a break for the coastline. 

Life has been of late, more than a little, shall we say, constrained. Not that I’m necessarily complaining – it’s for the greater good and after all, matters could be a good deal worse – but from an automotive perspective, thus far, 2020 has been something of a damp squib. All this being so, one takes what thin gruel that comes one’s way.

It has become my habit to Continue reading “Outside the Comfort Zone”

Under the Knife – Introducing the Hard Line

The 2007 XJ facelift was tasteless as it was expedient. But there are things we can learn from it. 

2007 Jaguar X358 XJ. (c) automobilemag

Let us get one thing abundantly clear before we progress. Designing Jaguars is fiendishly difficult and if you doubt this for a moment, try it. Therefore anyone who makes a decent fist of the craft deserves credit rather than opprobrium. Having said that however, there are a few strictures a Jaguar designer ignores at his peril – the primary one being a matter of discernment.

There is a very simple process one can perform: I call it The Sir William Test. It’s quite simple really. When presented with a problem of a stylistic or creative nature, the Jaguar stylist should Continue reading “Under the Knife – Introducing the Hard Line”

Making An Arse Of It

Does my bum look big in this? 

0353564-Mercedes-Benz-c-class-Sports-Coupe-C320-Sports-Coupe-2002
Mercedes C-Class SportCoupé. Image: (c) Cars Data

As a companion piece to this week’s profile of Mercedes’ W203 C-Class, we’ve chosen to re-run this article, which originally appeared as part of DTW’s Facelift theme on 2 July 2014.

As I’m sure I don’t need to point out to you, dear readers, when it comes to the subject of facelifts, not everyone cleaves to the Partonesque ideal. Because while the tuneful Tennessee songstress has clearly invested wisely upon her augmented visage, others have fallen rather messily at the wayside. They know who they are.

When it comes to the automotive variety, the spectrum too is as broad as it’s nuanced. Some facelifts attempt to Continue reading “Making An Arse Of It”

A Matter of Consequence

The Millennial Mercedes C-Class is not a car that lives in the memory. It’s far too inconsequential for that.

(c) carpixel

Like all inversions, the decline of Mercedes-Benz didn’t occur overnight. Its slide was glacial at first, before gradually and inexorably picking up speed as gravity took hold. Gravity isn’t an adjective which immediately lends itself to the model line we are retrospectively appraising today – a car which can perhaps most charitably be described as inconsequential.

Because over the four generations the C-Class has established itself in the upmarket compact saloon category, the W203 series can safely Continue reading “A Matter of Consequence”

Anima Semplice

Giugiaro’s favourite. Popular too with over 4.5 Million owners, the Panda was as good as it was clever – but was it great?

(c) bestcarmag

The most significant designs carry within them an essential seam of honesty – call it a fitness for purpose, if you will. This was especially apparent at the more humble end of the automotive spectrum; cars like the Citroën 2CV and BMC Mini bear eloquent witness to a single-minded approach to a highly specific brief. And while some of the more notable utilitarian cars appear to have taken an almost anti-styling approach, they were for the most part, sweated over as much as anyone’s carrozzeria-honed exotic.

Fiat’s original Panda is a case in point – appearing to some eyes as being almost wilfully unfinessed upon its Geneva show debut in 1980, it was in fact not only the brainchild of some of the finest creative minds of its era, but probably the final product from a mainstream European carmaker to Continue reading “Anima Semplice”

Dock of the Bay

A photo for Sunday: A DTW icon in an atmospheric setting. 

“I’ll be sitting ’till the evening comes…” parking restrictions notwithstanding.

If one must be confined somewhere, there are worse places to reside than the picturesque Co. Cork harbour town I increasingly call home. Owing to matters which surely don’t require elaboration under current circumstances, I have been spending considerably more time in the anteroom to the Wild Atlantic Way than strictly intended at the start of the year. Still, one makes of things what one can.

Everything looks better against a decent backdrop, and while the Volkswagen Golf really does personify the term ubiquitous, there was something about the quality of evening light, combined with the timeless silhouette of the fourth-generation model that caused me to Continue reading “Dock of the Bay”

Tears Are Not Enough

Daihatsu’s abortive 1991 MX-5 fighter. Could it have been a winner?

daihatsu X-021
1991 Daihatsu X-021. (c) carstyling.ru

It could be said that the arrival in 1989 of the Mazda MX5 was the catalyst, but in reality, it was part of a movement which had been building for some time. Ever since the compact, lightweight open two-seater had been relegated to the outliers of the specialist carmakers, the enthusiast press began agitating for a mainstream roadster revival.

Those leading manufacturers who had abandoned roadsters (or were soon about to) Continue reading “Tears Are Not Enough”

A Sense of Place

Today, we venture outdoors, virtually speaking, to take the air in Ascona.

The other Ascona

It’s probably fair to say that for most of us, the notion of escape is currently a seductive one – particularly to somewhere sparsely populated, picturesque and relatively pristine. Alpine vistas loom large in the imagination, perhaps somewhere akin to the attractive Swiss resort of Ascona, as pictured above.

When DTW was in its first flush and Mr. Kearne’s dipsomaniacal tendencies hadn’t drained the coffers entirely, Places formed one of our monthly themes, and amid the varied offerings from DTW’s writers that month, we considered Ascona and its (probably tenuous) relationship to the Opel saloon model series of the same name. Continue reading “A Sense of Place”

NewsGrab

A selection of news stories from the week ending 25 April 2020.

Coming soon to a dystopian landscape near you. (c) completecar.ie

When the current viral unpleasantness began to take effect, a swift (and entirely virtual) meeting took place with Driven to Write’s editorial team (such as it is), where it was agreed that the site would, for the time being at least, offer a C-19-free zone to our readers. After all, there’s enough catastrophe out there in the world, is there not?

Today’s offering therefore presents the writer with something of a dilemma. How does one Continue reading “NewsGrab”

Late Reprieve

The 9-4X arrived too late to save Saab. But could it have done so?

(c) motortrend

When General Motors acquired Saab, they were not taking control of a healthy, thriving carmaker. Saab was already losing money and furthermore, required massive investment. It’s clear that GM made many mistakes over its stewardship, but perhaps the most glaring of them was (and GM were by no means alone in this) a growth policy which placed speed and market presence over quality of execution.

Having spent vast sums of money acquiring European prestige car brands, General Motors, like their Dearborn rivals saw expansion as the favoured route to Continue reading “Late Reprieve”