DS – Away With the Fairies

Where now for PSA’s flat-lining DS experiment?

Image: Car magazine

The omens haven’t been good for some time now – oddly enough, it all really started going wrong once PSA decided to separate brand-DS from its Citroën parent. Since then, the descent has been rapid, bruising and ignominious. Despite all three existing DS models receiving expensive facelifts incorporating a new corporate nose, sales have fallen off a cliff. Over the period from January to May of 2017 alone, sales of the entry level (and top-selling) DS3 fell 35.3% to 12,136. Those of the C-segment DS4 contracted 33.4% to 5675 cars, while those of the current range topping DS5 plummeted 42.8% to 2730 units. Continue reading “DS – Away With the Fairies”

SEAT Again Giorgetto

I’m not sure they heard you the first time… or the second.

Porsche 932 design study by Ital Design. Image: car-revs-daily

So what have we here? Well it appears to be Ital Design’s 1991 proposal for Porsche’s abortive 989 four-door saloon project. As detailed previously on these pages, Porsche had been investigating a four-seater saloon ever since the 928’s inception, the 989 concept being the culmination of Zuffenhausen thinking at the time. But while the in-house proposal reflected Porsche’s enthusiasm for traditional silhouettes, there was clearly some hand-wringing as to whether this was the best way forward. Continue reading “SEAT Again Giorgetto”

Idée Fixe [3]

In this final part, Steve Randle concludes his proposal for a latterday successor to the seminal Citroën DS. 

Image: citroenvie

Previously, we explored styling, power unit and drivetrain. Today, Steve Randle outlines his thoughts on body structure and vehicle dynamics.

Structure:  “Aluminium and magnesium would dominate the vehicle. The recycling problem with composites – particularly thermosets – are a concern. While both Aluminium and magnesium alloys are expensive in the first instance, they are easy to recycle.” Continue reading “Idée Fixe [3]”

Now Arriving On Platform E

Getting to grips with brand-Jaguar’s new hatchback by not talking about it. The real story is beneath the skin anyway…

Probably its best angle. Image: autocar

One thing we cannot quibble with is JLR’s ability to get the most out of their platforms. The current LR-MS (or whatever they’re calling it now) platform underpinning the new E-Pace is a prime example – maybe even a unique one given its convoluted ancestry – a matter possibly deserving its own episode of “Who Do You Think You Are.” Shared with the current Range Rover Evoque and Discovery Sport, it is in effect a heavily re-engineered variant of the Ford-EUCD platform, one which continues to Continue reading “Now Arriving On Platform E”

Adding Suspense – Audi A8

The new Audi starship has landed and while most commentators have chosen to fixate on its style, we’ve elected to crawl underneath, pretending to understand what we find there.

Well, it’s an Audi – what were you expecting? Image: autoblog

Audi’s new flagship saloon is a technological marvel, possibly the most advanced luxury car it is possible to pre-order for Autumn delivery right now – or at least until the next one comes along anyway. Not content busying themselves with a power race as fervid as that pursued by the Detroit big three fifty years ago, the German luxury brands are now shifting their battleground into hitherto unrealised realms of electronic wizardry and fearsome complexity. Continue reading “Adding Suspense – Audi A8”

Idée Fixe [2]

In this second part, Steve Randle commences his treatise on how he would shape a credible modern-day successor to the original Citroën DS.

Image: adac

Steve Randle: “First and foremost, while this car would carry the history of its ancestors proudly, it must above all not be a ‘me too’ exercise. The questions have changed since the DS, and hence so too must the answers. An attempt to recreate the DS would be self-defeating by its own definition. We should pause to consider the vehicle from which Monsieur Macron will emerge before the waiting world. It most certainly is not a DS7 Crossback.” Continue reading “Idée Fixe [2]”

Returning to a Theme – 2003 Jaguar R-D6

My initial intention was to revisit a DTW piece from 2014 celebrating Matthew Beaven’s 2003 Jaguar concept. But further reflection suggested it made far more sense to start afresh.

Image: Jaguar Heritage

It’s been fourteen years now since the Jaguar R-D6 concept debuted at the Frankfurt Motor Show – a debut I can recall vividly. After years of stylistic Disneyfication under the staunchly conservative guidance of the likes of William Clay Ford and J. Mays, here was the first clear indication that Jaguar stylists saw a way out of the retro straitjacket. Continue reading “Returning to a Theme – 2003 Jaguar R-D6”

Idée Fixe [1]

The idea of an authentic full-sized Citroën now appears entirely beyond imagination. But some of us still think otherwise. Thought experiment or idle fancy, we make no apology. Citroën matters.

Image: freecarbrochures

Why Citroën matters is a question worth asking, although why it has ceased to matter; both in the minds of its PSA masters and more importantly still, the wider public is perhaps a better one. But how to make Citroën matter again is the question we are here today to address. Continue reading “Idée Fixe [1]”

Sliding Doors – 2004 Peugeot 1007

The Peugeot 1007 was an abject failure, but could the story have played out differently? Driven to Write gets the popcorn out.

Image: auto-selection

In the 1998 movie of the same name, the eponymous sliding doors were a plot device or portal into an alternative reality – a form of magical thinking akin to the notion that one’s life can turn on a sixpence. On one hand: lose job, meet nice John Hannah on the underground. Romance ensues, as do more plot devices, Get run over by car. (I haven’t seen the film, so I’m paraphrasing here). Continue reading “Sliding Doors – 2004 Peugeot 1007”

Porsche Theme Redux: Fast and Loose

A V8 powered 911? Did I read that right?

A styling model for the 965/969 at Zuffenhausen. Image: total911

Following the 1984 reveal of the technical wondercar that was the 959, Porsche planned to sprinkle some of that car’s allure onto the ageing 911 line. The 959 was only ever going to be a low-volume homologation special, but this car, dubbed 965 in factory-speak but to be marketed as the 969, was intended to Continue reading “Porsche Theme Redux: Fast and Loose”

Theme: Porsche – Lend Me Some Sugar, I Am Your Neighbour

When Mercedes-Benz were looking to build their late-’80s supersaloon, they decided to keep things in the ‘hood. Zuffenhausen to be exact.

1989 Mercedes 500E. Image: Gear-Patrol

In 1989, Mercedes-Benz engineers were well advanced with development of the W140-series S-Class, a car which they determined would underline their utter dominance in the luxury saloon field. The W140 had been delayed owing to changes in the car’s specification which were intended to Continue reading “Theme: Porsche – Lend Me Some Sugar, I Am Your Neighbour”

Driving Range – 2009 Range Rover Vogue TDV8 : 2

In this concluding part, we delve further into the Range Rover’s dynamics.

All images: Driven to Write

One could be excused for expecting the Range Rover’s road behaviour to be ponderous and unresponsive, and while one never loses the sensation of driving something quite vast, the RR can cover ground with an alacrity and poise that is both satisfying and deeply impressive. Even on the narrow, meandering and frost-scarred roads of West Cork’s ‘Wild Atlantic Way’, the air suspension’s ability to Continue reading “Driving Range – 2009 Range Rover Vogue TDV8 : 2”

Driving Range – 2009 Range Rover Vogue TDV8

Part one: Driven to Write gets ideas above its station.

All images: Driven to Write

‘Above and Beyond’: As advertising taglines go, this one speaks to an essential truth. Because driving a Range Rover genuinely does suggest an altogether loftier plane, and it is this sense of elevation, otherwise the sole preserve of Rolls Royce owners, that is perhaps the car’s defining characteristic. Continue reading “Driving Range – 2009 Range Rover Vogue TDV8”

Fringe Player – BMW 6-Series GT

BMW’s new hatchback is upon us. It isn’t better than the last one. In fact it’s worse.

Image: carscoops

When the mighty Vierzylinder announced the 5-Series GT in 2009, it was met with almost universal ridicule. So much so, its passing last year was at best unmourned and in some quarters, openly celebrated. There was little wrong with the 5-GT, a large, practical hatchback with a cavernous interior and all the versatility this layout entails. No, the big problem appears to have rested upon the fact that BMW produced a vehicle which placed practicality and convenience above style. A conceit which didn’t play all that well with the marque faithful, or indeed the press.

Its successor, now badged 6-Series is aimed further upmarket. Word from Munich is that it will Continue reading “Fringe Player – BMW 6-Series GT”

Holding Station – Jaguar XF Sportbrake

The new XF Sportbrake has landed, and it’s a Triumph. Or maybe a Rover. It’s difficult to tell nowadays, but it probably doesn’t matter.

Who in the name of Lyons signed these off? Image: Super Street

People often accuse me of being horrid about the current range of Jaguars and it’s true that I have on occasion been vocally critical of them. ‘Why?’ they plead, as they pin me by the shirtfront against the most convenient stout object, before regaling me with tales of aluminium intensive body structures, handling-biased chassis dynamics and, well that’s about as much as they can muster generally. I’ve said rather a lot on this subject in the past – (‘yes we know’, they chorus) – but just for the purposes of clarity, and to reiterate, my issues with the current crop of JLR’s Jaguar-branded saloons and crossovers are as follows: Continue reading “Holding Station – Jaguar XF Sportbrake”

Pitch Perfect

Three new models from three distinct manufacturers. Each playing the same notes – but in a different order.

Fun anyone? Image: automobilemag

Last week saw several new car announcements, three of which we’re specifically interested in today. We open with the official release of what has felt like one of the least titillating stripteases in recent history – the Hyundai Kona crossover. This vehicle, the Korean car giant’s entry to the Captur/Juke sector has been seen in various forms of reveal for weeks now, so its advent has at least stemmed the vexing but unavoidable PR-drip-feed throughout the automotive tabloids that appears de rigueur these days. Others better qualified than I might Continue reading “Pitch Perfect”

Theme: Porsche – Cheaper by the Million

Zuffenhausen recently celebrated production of the millionth 911. How the heck did that happen?

Image: autobahnhound

Let’s allow this one sink in for a moment. A million 911s. It’s a staggering achievement for a car that should never have lived as long, much less become the default ‘usable performance car’, given an inherently unbalanced mechanical layout considered retrograde even by mid-Sixties standards. Thought: could it have been a reaction to the original 911’s propensity to Continue reading “Theme: Porsche – Cheaper by the Million”

Oops, I Did It Again

Yes folks, Henrik’s back in business, having learned from past mistakes. Learned how to replicate them exactly, that is.

Haven’t I see you someplace before? Fisker Emotion. Image: ecoblog.it

Name: Fisker Emotion.

Age: It’s brand flipping new. Are you blind?

But it looks like the last one, the what was it called again? Karma thingy. That’s probably because you have dead eyes. The Fisker Emotion looks nothing like the Fisker Karma – or a Karma Revero for that matter. You’re simply imagining it, because, as I’ve already pointed out, your eyes are dead. Continue reading “Oops, I Did It Again”

Torinese Marina – 1977 Fiat 132

Dud big Fiat or misunderstood mongrel? Lets get our feet wet, shall we?

All images taken from original Fiat sales material.

We should get a couple of provisos out of the way before I commence. Firstly, the 132 began its lengthy career in 1972, so by 1977, it had already entered its third iteration. Secondly, while I admit it’s probably a little unfair to directly compare Fiat’s big saloon with British Leyland’s cynically conceived Cortina-baiter, some compelling parallels do suggest themselves. Continue reading “Torinese Marina – 1977 Fiat 132”

Micropost: NEVer Mind the Botox

It’s been a while since we reported on NEVS. How goes it in the netherworld?

Image: NEVS via Saabsunited

Recently, National Electric Vehicle Sweden AB (NEVS) released official images of the ‘forthcoming’ 9-3 and 9-3X EV’s based on the decade-old former Saab bodyshell. These images, shown on SAABSunited.com appear to show both models in production specification, demonstrating if little else, that hope really does spring eternal.

My intention was to Continue reading “Micropost: NEVer Mind the Botox”

By Dawn’s Early Light

As China’s Geely acquires a controlling stake in Lotus, we ask whether this could mark the end of the sportscar maker’s struggles?

Lotus’ Jean-Marc Gales with the current Evora 400 model. Image: automotiveworld

Last year, we reported on Jean Marc Gales’ progress at arresting Lotus’ decline following the Bahar debacle. At the time, the auguries were positive, if somewhat finely balanced. If not entirely profitable, losses had been stemmed and Lotus’ order book was looking a bit less bare, but real financial health still looked some way off. Continue reading “By Dawn’s Early Light”

Theme: Porsche – Turismo Twins

Two of the most distinctive cars of their time; bitter rivals, yet with much in common. Driven to Write counts the ways.

Image: auto-motor-und-sport.de

They couldn’t have looked more different, yet the fates of the Porsche 928 and Jaguar XJ-S were intrinsically bound. One seemed more like a car from the Cinzano era, the other from the future, yet both shared a purpose, appealed to the same customer base and lived out similar career paths – misunderstood and derided by those who didn’t expect their preconceived notions to be so roundly challenged.

It’s easy and perhaps comforting to Continue reading “Theme: Porsche – Turismo Twins”

Theme: Porsche – 928 – Less and More

Over the 928’s production life, various attempts were made at producing additional variants. Few were successful and fewer still went beyond the prototype stage. We look a few notable examples.

B+B 928 Targa. Image: wheelsage

When the 928 was being schemed during the early 1970s it appeared as though several US states would outlaw convertibles. This led many European marques to abandon the format entirely, lest they wind up saddled with an expensively developed product they couldn’t sell. This explains the lack of a convertible 928 at launch, if not the fact that Porsche never quite got around to Continue reading “Theme: Porsche – 928 – Less and More”

Theme: Porsche – ‘Flow Motion’ – 1977 Porsche 928

A brave and modernist masterpiece from Porsche – of all people.

Image: Autowp.ru

During the early 1970s, contemporary music’s centre of gravity saw a shift away from the UK and America, Eastwards to Germany, where so-called ‘Kosmiche’ bands like Can, Cluster, Faust, Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream and Neu! forged an alternative soundscape, laying down a sonic basis for the post-punk, new wave and electronic music that followed. Dismissed at the time as ‘Krautrock’, without its influence, music would most likely have evolved in a very different direction.

Porsche’s 928 is one of perhaps six outstanding car designs from the 1970s, a half-dozen vehicles that in their own disparate manner, eloquently Continue reading “Theme: Porsche – ‘Flow Motion’ – 1977 Porsche 928”

Number 8 Dream – BMW Reaches For The Star

BMW makes lavish claims for its forthcoming 8-Series, saying it will herald an upward shift in product strategy. But will it be enough?

BMW Concept 8-Series. Autocar.co.uk

Last week, BMW displayed a concept previewing a forthcoming 8-Series model line which went on display at the sumptuous annual Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este at Italy’s Lake Como. BMW’s Ian Robertson used the occasion to outline the company’s ambitions, telling Autocar magazine, “We want to bring more cars into the upper luxury segment. We are working on other products as we feel there is a lot of opportunity there. The new 8 series is part of this. In the next couple of years we will see the most comprehensive change in the history of BMW.” Continue reading “Number 8 Dream – BMW Reaches For The Star”

Spirito di Punto

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

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

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

Theme: Aftermarket – Stroking the Cat

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

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

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

Commercial Break – 2001 Mercedes-Benz Vaneo

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

Mercedes-Benz Vaneo. Image: cars-data

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

Maxximum Attakk! – Mercedes A160 Formula Hakkinen Edition

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

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

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

Fallen Star – 1997 Mercedes A-Class

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

Green wheelie bin. Image: mercedesclass.net

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

Loss of Vision – 1994 Mercedes-Benz Studie A

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

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

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

Cars That Could Have Been Citroëns – 1983 Lincoln Quicksilver

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

1983 Lincoln Quicksilver by Carrozzeria Ghia. Image: cardesignnews

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

Teeing Up Against the Golf

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

Golf fleeing predators? Image: insideevs

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

That Riviera Touch

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

1987 Chrysler Portofino Concept. Image: promotor.ro

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

Via Biturbo

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

1981 Maserati Biturbo. Image: carinpicture

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

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

Trident Inversion – 1987 Maserati 228

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

Image: betterparts

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

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

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

Xanae. Image frenchcarforum

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

Opposite of Avant – 1997 Citroën Xsara

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

Citroen as white goods – in Gold. Image: buyacar

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

Crease Is The Word – Vision A Unmasked

Lines and creases – so last season, dahling…

The Blessed One in person. Image: focus.de

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

Tomorrow We Do Ignis

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

Suzuki Ignis Mk1

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

To the Batcave! – Peugeot 406 Toscana

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

Peugeot 406 Toscana. Image: toplowridersites

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

Toyota’s (little) Discovery

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

Image: blogtoyota

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

Depth Charge – 1997 Pininfarina Nautilus

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

Image: cavallivapore.it

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

Lion of Beauty – 1997 Peugeot 406 Coupé

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

Image: theautoz.com

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

Speaking Micra

A chance sighting prompts something approaching a defence.

Image: Driven to Write

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

Theme: Rivals – The Serpent and the Cat

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

Image: caradvice.com.au

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

Sexing-Up Lexus

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

Image: lexus.com

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

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

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

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

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

Stop Me if You’ve Heard This One Before

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

Image: Driven to Write

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

Fiat al Fredo – 1967 Fiat Dino Coupé

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

1967 Fiat Dino Coupe. Image: Wheelsage

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