Setting Son

More contraction. This time it’s Toyota’s unloved and unwanted Avensis. But will its putative replacement fare any better?

Hello Camry. Image credit: (c) motor1.com

Let us not feign shock, or indeed much by way of regret, after all it was signposted as far back as 2015 when DTW reported upon its likelihood, but this week Toyota made it official, announcing the cessation of Avensis production at their UK plant in Derbyshire. Their underwhelming Europe-only D-sector saloon has been in decline for some years now (with pan-European sales slumping to 25,319 last year*), and with the Derbyshire plant now only fulfilling existing orders, the end is only weeks away.

Similarly telegraphed is that it is to be replaced by the larger Camry model, the first breathless sight European customers will get of the storied nameplate in well over a decade. The Camry was withdrawn from sale in 2004, Toyota Continue reading “Setting Son”

A Longer Read : Signs and Portents

This week, the Lancia Gamma receives the DTW Longer Read treatment.

Image credit: (c) lanciagamma.altervista

It’s a question I’ve been asked on a number of occasions: Why the Gamma? Why devote well over ten thousand words to a car whose failure hastened Lancia’s headlong spiral towards infamy and oblivion. The answer is, like the Gamma’s story itself, somewhat convoluted.

The French have an elegant phrase; l’appel du vide, which roughly translates as the call of the void, which neatly encapsulates not only our ingrained fascination with disaster, but may also go some way to Continue reading “A Longer Read : Signs and Portents”

This Night Has Opened My Eyes

The Alfa Romeo MiTo dies next year and to be frank, Driven to Write is neither happy nor sad.

Image credit: (c) uscarsnews

So the dominoes continue to fall. A little over a week since FCA announced the UK withdrawal of the Grande Punto (as a prelude to its ultimate demise), there comes the latest slaughter of the innocents.

Speaking to Autocar earlier this week, Alfa Romeo Head of Brand (EMEA), Roberta Zerbi confirmed the MiTo’s imminent appointment with the eternal, telling the Haymarket weekly’s Rachel Burgess; “Mito is a three-door and people are choosing more and more five-door cars,” which is a nice line in marketing spin, albeit one which Continue reading “This Night Has Opened My Eyes”

Le Tour de Tours

It’s not every day we get our hands on a best-seller. A recent trip to the Loire however, garnered DTW a Renault Clio. What did we make of it?

All images (c) Driven to Write

It’s close to half past seven in the evening as the TGV eases into la Gare de Tours, terminating its one hour and eighteen minute journey from Paris-Montparnasse. The station, a grand edifice dating from 1898, and a designated monument historique, feels as though it’s winding down for the evening, as indeed does the historic city of Tours itself.

The Avis car rental office certainly has, the Chef de Gare being called upon to process our documentation and release our pre-booked hire car. It has been a diverting past time during the train journey to Continue reading “Le Tour de Tours”

A Longer Read – Trompe le Mondeo

The latest in our repackaged series is this, a meditation, first published in 2014 upon Jaguar’s pariah-status executive class cross-breed. 

Image credit: (c) dieselstation

Worst Jaguar ever. A reskinned Mondeo. Brand-killer. Just some of the vitriol hurled at the Jaguar X-Type over the years.

Of all the Ford-financed cars to bear the storied leaping cat, the X-Type was perhaps the most (retrospectively) vilified, and while my personal ambivalence for the car remains undimmed, to Continue reading “A Longer Read – Trompe le Mondeo”

Missing the Point

Fiat’s geomorphic car crash hits another boulder with the axing of the Punto from UK shores.

Image credit: (c) allaguida

There is a certain grim irony in the fact that Sergio Marchionne’s death was so abrupt and shocking, yet for so many former Fiat Group model lines for which he was responsible, the reaper’s approach continues at a glacial creep. Amidst the halls of Melfi, Mirafiori and Cassino, unconsolidated glacial debris have been noted for some time, but with this week’s announcement of the Punto’s withdrawal from the UK market, the terminal moraine edges closer.

It comes as something of a surprise that Fiat UK saw fit to Continue reading “Missing the Point”

Struck By Lightning

Driven to Write’s pound shop Max Warburton considers Ford’s ongoing European woes and wonders if lightning does indeed strike twice?

(Loss) leader. 2018 Fiesta. Image: (c) cardissection

There has been, one can be assured, better times to be a motor industry executive. But as chilly as it might currently be at the top table of most European automakers, Ford’s Group Vice President, EMEA, Steven Armstrong is in perhaps a more invidious position than most. Because while nearly every rival player is facing similar difficulties, Armstrong’s position is compounded by last month’s announcement of a second half pretax loss of $73 million, a likely prelude to an even heftier one being posted for the year as a whole.

Naturally, since Mary Barra elected to Continue reading “Struck By Lightning”

Jury-Rigged?

The 1987 ECOTY winner was something of a DTW stalwart. Even more so however was the fifth placed entrant, one championed by longtime panellist and judge, L.J.K. Setright. 

1987 winner. Image credit: (c) wheelsage

Since its inception in 1964, the European Car of the Year has been an annual award, adjudicated by a panel of leading European motoring journalists. Its stated aim has been to acclaim the most outstanding new car to go on sale within the 12 months preceding the adjudication.

The ECOTY jury currently consists of 60 members, representing 23 European countries. National representation is based on the size and significance of the country’s car market. France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy and Spain each Continue reading “Jury-Rigged?”

Riding the Jet Bird

Autocar gets its hands on a Ford Thunderbird for a full road test. Its conclusions might surprise you.

Image credit: (c) momentcar

While the original 1955 Ford Thunderbird had proven a critical success, its sales were hampered by its two-seat layout and high price; a matter which was remedied in 1958 by the second-generation ‘Square Bird’, a bigger, more ornate looking four-seater personal luxury car.

With sales in the region of 200,000 over its three-year run, the ‘Square ‘Bird’ not only codified the T-Bird template, but became a sizeable profit earner. The third generation, dubbed ‘Bullet Bird’ was introduced in 1961. Its styling, said to have been the work of Alex Tremulis and based on jet fighter iconography and was chosen in favour of a rival design by Elwood Engel, which would itself go on to Continue reading “Riding the Jet Bird”

‘I Care About Lines’

A soft day for a first sighting. The lesser-spotted i30 Fastback appraised.

While the remainder of Europe dessicates amidst the most protracted heatwave of recent times, here at that question mark of a landmass at the Atlantic’s cusp, a more habitual form of summer has returned. Leaden skies, horizontal mist and high humidity.

But you didn’t come here to Continue reading “‘I Care About Lines’”

Gilded Snail

Citroën’s 1961 Bijou, as road tested by Autocar.

Image credit: (c) picautos

The UK’s relationship with Citroën has traditionally not been vastly dissimilar to Britain’s somewhat ambivalent relations with the French nation itself. Especially so in the 1950s, when the motorists of Blighty, secure in the assumed and unchallenged superiority of their domestic Gods, snorted derisively at the 2CV’s rational asceticism.

Assembled, like its (equally shocking to British sensibilities) DS sibling by Citroën’s UK concessionaires, the 2CV was offered in the UK market throughout the 1950s, to ever decreasing circles of Continue reading “Gilded Snail”

Summer Reissue: The Vision Thing

I really ought to begin with an apology. Yes, him again…

Image credit: (c) motorauthority

Today’s reissue began life in another (now defunct) sphere, one where a good proportion of Driven to Write’s readers and (virtually) all of its editorial team took their initial steps. It was then titled, ‘Oh Dear God, Not Bangle Again!’ and one can readily imagine a similar exclamation from the combined DTW readership in light of this.

One of DTW’s very first articles, and at the time, something more of a hagiography, its subject remains as polarising a figure now as he was when it was first written. However, since then, not only has Mr. Bangle returned to the automotive fold (for better or worse), but perhaps sufficient time has now elapsed and perspective gained to Continue reading “Summer Reissue: The Vision Thing”

The Grosse Borgward

Autocar’s 23 December issue of 1960 contained a comprehensive road test of a technically advanced offering from Bremen – the Grosser Borgward 2.3. What did they make of it?

Image credit: (c) Borgward.nl

Something of a technical novelty in the 1950s, air suspension had been offered by a number of US carmakers, including Buick, Rambler and Cadillac at the tail-end of the decade, before cost and complication saw its withdrawal, yet it remained a largely theoretical concept for European car buyers.

Across the Atlantic, while Mercedes-Benz were developing an air suspended system, the Swabians were comprehensively pipped to the market by Hanseatic upstarts, Carl F.W. Borgward GmbH in 1960. Having debuted their largest and most ambitious saloon at the previous year’s Frankfurt motor show, the P100 (or 2.3) was offered with the option of Continue reading “The Grosse Borgward”

End Too Soon

The automotive universe reels as a giant leaves the stage.

Image credit: (c) toledoblade

It wasn’t supposed to end like this. The plan had been to anoint a successor in 2019, perhaps even bow out having secured the deal to end all deals. For almost a decade and a half, FCA’s Sergio Marchionne has been the master of the unexpected, but the sudden news regarding his deteriorating medical condition has brought a controversial reign to a premature, troubling and somewhat ambivalent end.

From his appointment as Fiat CEO in 2004, Marchionne appeared not to have bothered to read, never mind adopt the auto-business-CEO handbook. Arguably the first post-factual auto boss, Marchionne’s stock in trade has been to Continue reading “End Too Soon”

Plugged-In Thinking From Lexus

As the motor industry presses towards widespread adaptation of electric vehicles, a notable voice sounds a cautious note.

Image credit: (c) insideevs

As a rule, the motor industry prefers to speak with a unified voice on the wider issues which affect its interests. Certainly, when it comes to the subject of electric vehicles, the direction of current can probably be best described as direct. Or to put it another way, on this subject at least, most automotive CEOs are broadly speaking, on board.

Ideally of course, having invested billions, they would much prefer to Continue reading “Plugged-In Thinking From Lexus”

A Longer Read – History Repeating

Continuing our Longer Read series with DTW’s XJ40 opus magnum.

Image: (c) Auto-Didakt

This I’m forced to admit is somewhat off the meta scale: A repeat of a repeat of a series, entitled ‘History Repeating’.

The lengthiest of our Longer Reads, this piece began taking form as far back as 2009. Over that (close to) ten year period, it has probably been subject to nearly as many changes and midnight-oil revisions as the car itself during its even more protracted and strife-ridden gestation.

Writers occasionally speak of Continue reading “A Longer Read – History Repeating”

Toro de Lidia

Today, We enter the medios, and recall one of Lamborghini’s better efforts.

Image credit: (c) classiccarsforsale

Automotive exotica are not what they were. Traditionally selfish devices, aimed at those who preferred to enjoy their pleasures in isolated splendour. Hence the requirement for additional perches not being terribly high on the exotic carmakers’ priority list. However, a gap in any market simply begs to be filled and Ferruccio Lamborghini was not an individual to Continue reading “Toro de Lidia”

The Cambiano Connection

Pininfarina’s 1973 take on the seminal Jaguar saloon wasn’t their finest hour. But while it served to highlight a fundamental weakness in the Italian carrozzieri’s business model, it did lead to something more worthwhile.

1973 XJ12 PF. Image credit: (c) wheelsage

For the Italian carrozzieri it was a matter of intense pride that no manufacturer was creatively off limits, even one with as strong and universally lauded a design tradition as Jaguar. Predominantly the result of one man’s exceptional taste and unswerving vision, the craftsmen of Piedmont time and again Continue reading “The Cambiano Connection”

A Longer Read – The Great Curve

Aviation’s loss was very much UK motorsport’s gain in the case of Frank Costin and Malcolm Sayer, twin pioneers of applied aerodynamic theory.

photo credit: (c) motortrend

Britain’s motor industry may now be a pale shadow of its heyday, but it remains a centre of excellence in motorsport research, development and manufacture. Once derided by Enzo Ferrari as a collection of ‘garagistas’, the UK motorsport business rose to dominance by the ingenuity of visionaries like John Cooper and Colin Chapman, aided by gifted engineers, who could Continue reading “A Longer Read – The Great Curve”

Kenosha Kid

The immortal ‘Frogeye’ Sprite appeared to be a typical example of British design ingenuity, but its roots may have lain further West: Kenosha, Wisconsin to be exact.

Box of frogs. Image credit: (c) stubs-auto.fr

The compact two-seat sportscar wasn’t necessarily a British invention, but for a period of the twentieth century, the UK was arguably, its prime exponent. Hardly surprising, given Britain’s traditionally serpentine network of narrow undulating roads and a taxation regime which dictated lower capacity, longer-stroke engines of limited outright power.

But the British are an inventive people and soon found ways to Continue reading “Kenosha Kid”

Imagining the ‘After-SUV’

We’ve been here before I know, but somewhat akin to the crossover CUV itself, this one simply refuses to go away.

2017 Peugeot 3008: Image Credit: cars.co.za

Everything has a shelf-life, none more so than fashion items. Given their popularity with the buying public and the margins to be made upon their sale, compact crossovers have proliferated to an unsettling degree. So much so, it feels as though we are drowning in a CUV sea, whereas in fact they represent just a quarter of European new car sales.

This being so, the idea that crossovers could eventually Continue reading “Imagining the ‘After-SUV’”

A Longer Read – First of Its Kind : Last of Its Kind

We return to a fine retrospective of an automotive monument.

Image credit: (c) Benzworld

We have over the years at Driven to Write, presented long-form essays and articles in serialised form, partly in deference to our more time-poor readers, and from our own perspective, to help even out the schedule. However, we concluded that it might be pleasant to have the opportunity to revisit these pieces in the format to which they were intended – in full and unexpurgated form.

Over the coming weeks, we will be re-running selected long-form pieces from a recently created section of the site designated ‘A Longer Read‘; the first of which being this superbly researched and well-told analysis of the 1979 W126 Mercedes-Benz S-Class, which you can Continue reading “A Longer Read – First of Its Kind : Last of Its Kind”

The Future of the Future Will Still Contain the Past

An anachronistic brute in finely tailored Italian couture, the 1968 Ferrari 365GTB/4 nevertheless successfully transcended its seemingly fin de siècle status.

Image credit: (c) Talacrest

Sometimes legend can act as a blind, obscuring an object’s true nature or broader relevance. This is especially true of the products of Maranello, prized for their speed, exclusivity, competition-bred spirit, and in many (although not all) cases, visual allure. The 1968 365 GTB/4 combines a good number of these traits, yet comes up slightly short on the pure aesthetic side of the equation. So why has it become amongst the most revered of the breed?

There are two main reasons for this. The first is that despite its somewhat brutish appearance, the Daytona as it was unofficially known, while no ravishing beauty, is nevertheless something of a handsome brute. Secondly, and of perhaps greater significance is that the 365GTB/4 was the last front-engined two-seater Berlinetta produced by Maranello for a good thirty years – indeed for a time, it looked as though it might have Continue reading “The Future of the Future Will Still Contain the Past”

Waiting For the Miracle

Today we posit something of a counterfactual. What if Maestro had preceded Metro?

Madge and Maestro – Downing Street 1983. Image credit: (c) BBC

Picking over the bones of long dead car companies is one of the more futile pastimes one can engage in, but in the case of British Leyland, it’s irresistible. So many factors contributed to the British car giant’s demise however, that to single out one area is to grossly over-simplify the larger, more nuanced, and far more depressing picture.

A former Jaguar engineering director once told me that BL’s senior management were in his words, ‘not of the first order’ and given their respective track records, both during the latter stages of the BMH period, in the years leading up to BLMC’s collapse in 1974, and during the post-Ryder era, it’s difficult to Continue reading “Waiting For the Miracle”

Boys Keep Swinging

“Heaven loves ‘ya, the clouds part for ‘ya, nothing stands in your way, when you’re a boy…”

“Boys always work it out…” Image credit: (c) my.reset.jp

David Bowie’s 1979 single, Boys Keep Swinging is perhaps best remembered for its somewhat transgressive music video, but lyrically it stands as a sneering subversion of contemporary masculine culture and male entitlement.

Now before continuing, the author feels duty bound to Continue reading “Boys Keep Swinging”

A Cut Above

As Germany’s full-sized luxury GTs lurch further into decadence and creative atrophy, we appraise (and praise) a Lexus.  

Image credit: (c) Car and Driver

Heritage has become something of a double edged sword for carmakers nowadays. On one hand, it acts as emotional anchor for a marque’s visual identity, and employed with sensitivity and skill, lends a tremendous richness to what marketers might choose to describe as the ‘brand narrative’.

On the other hand however, the anchor analogy can also have a regressive influence, dragging the marque backwards, preventing designers from updating or reinventing a set of visual cues which may over time have lost relevance.

It’s as yet unclear to what extent BMW’s masters have elected to Continue reading “A Cut Above”

Petuelring Ponycar

Here we go again. Another week, another dispiriting announcement from the Vierzylinder. The new 8-Series however represents a new low.

The riches of embarrassment. Image credit: (c) carscoops

At least it isn’t an SAV: It’s doubtful BMW’s all-powerful marketers will employ this line in their advertising for the new 8-Series, yet it just might be the sales pitch it deserves.

A curious car to consider in terms of BMW’s stylistic nadir, you might argue, after all what could be bad about a suave, low-slung GT? However, it does not require much study to realise the full extent of BMW’s current styling malaise which is embodied here. Because quite frankly, if this is the best Adrian van Hooydonk’s design team can muster, the crisis at the Vierzylinder is indeed far worse than feared.

While it’s tempting to Continue reading “Petuelring Ponycar”

Obscure Alternative

Better known for their two-wheelers as much as a range of small economy cars, the 1985 Suzuki R/S1 was pretty as it was bold. So of course they never made it. Or did they?

1985 Suzuki R/S1. Image credit: (c) allcarindex

For a time during the mid-1980s, it really did appear as though the automotive future was being dreamt up in Japan. With the mainstream European carmakers for the most part mired in creative and technical retrenchment, not to mention chronic overcapacity (some things never change), the Japanese manufacturers had it seemed, invested wisely and emerged as a power to be reckoned with.

Certainly, this period proved to be perhaps the great flowering of Japanese creativity and ambition when carmakers demonstrated to their European (and American) rivals that there really was nowhere to Continue reading “Obscure Alternative”

The Tailor of Goodwood

Rolls-Royce has lost its design director, just weeks after launching its new Cullinan crossover. Coincidence?

Visible from space? Image credit: (c) Forbes

It wasn’t earth shattering news, even if it was somewhat surprising. The most striking thing about it perhaps was its timing. But even allowing for that, the news that Giles Taylor abruptly resigned his design leadership position at Goodwood within weeks of a major new product announcement might not even have been particularly noteworthy, but for a number of rather more compelling aspects.

The first of course is difficult to miss. Indeed, some have suggested Cullinan can be seen from space, where we’re reliably informed, nobody can hear you scream. The vulgar monstrosity RR has unleashed upon the world in the form of this ‘high-sided vehicle’ has precipitated a high percentage of commentators, both of the professional and armchair variety giving Rolls-Royce a well-deserved critical lashing.

It’s possible to Continue reading “The Tailor of Goodwood”

Eine Zukunft

BMW hasn’t a brilliant track record with open two-seaters. As the Bavarian carmaker prepares its latest sports car salvo, we examine one of their better efforts.

Image credit: (c) bmwblog

Given its current status as a generalist manufacturer with an increasingly thin residual veneer of aspirant prestige, it is with some incredulity one recalls how thirty years ago the BMW range consisted almost entirely of three volume saloons of an athletic mien.

Not that the Bayerische Motoren Werke lacked interest in more, shall we say, emotive vehicles, but an innate conservatism, coupled to a weak financial position meant that apart from the 507 model (a low-volume halo car created entirely for the United States market in 1959), and 1978’s M1 supercar, BMW cleaved to what it knew best.

By the mid 1980s, with the carmaker’s fortunes and upmarket reputation burnished like never before, a growing sense emerged within the Petuelring that BMW’s ‘Ultimate Driving Machine’ credentials were not being sufficiently well served merely by selling emboldened 3-Series’.

The official line, as forwarded by research and development chief, Wolfgang Reitzle, was to push upmarket into Mercedes-Benz territory, where profit and image were considerably more abundant. Reizle advanced his preferred ‘sporting’ model, the technically dense and witheringly expensive range-topping, V12 engined E31 8-Series coupé. However, factions within Munich’s Forschungs und Innovationszentrum had other ideas as to the nature and form of an overtly sporting BMW motor car.

During this period, the Bavarian carmaker created an engineering skunkworks dedicated to Continue reading “Eine Zukunft”

A Different Expectation

Here we go again: Citroën. New D-segment saloon. Dramatic new design. Ah, nice to see you again Dr. Pavlov.

top gear
2016 Citroen Cxperience concept. Image credit (c) Top Gear:

At this week’s Automotive News World Congress in Turin, Richard Meyer, head of future products for Citroën reportedly spoke of the double chevron’s forthcoming D-segment saloon. Alluding to its “dramatic new design” Meyer told delegates, “The sedan will remain key in the automotive world, but Citroën wants to Continue reading “A Different Expectation”

Second Coming

In a week where we’ve been subjected to further SUV-related atrocities, we seek comfort in a UK debutante from Romania.

2018 Dacia Duster. Designer, Erde Tungaa second from left. Image credit: (c) autodesignmagazine

This week’s new offerings from Ingolstadt and the Petuelring are both in their way equally disgusting, each vying with one another to out-pummel and preen, their decadence only matched by a barrenness of spirit as depthless as it is vain. But confronted by a seemingly unending series of vulgar behemoths to emerge from their rocking cradles to slouch towards Bethlehem, where is the hapless commentator to turn?

Is ‘the ceremony of innocence’ drowned or merely drowning? Do we, horrifying as it seems, by mere mention of these heaving monstrosities in some way dignify them? It’s an appalling thought so let us therefore turn our horrified gaze away and Continue reading “Second Coming”

Five New Lancias for 2022!

Not content with having laid out their stall for the next five years, FCA has further surprises in store.

Image credit (c) prodigiousnews

Lancia is back! Driven to Write can reveal FCA’s secret plans to return the revered car brand to European and Chinese markets with five new models set to beat the established luxury elite at their own game.

While the mainstream press focused upon the Alfa Romeo and Jeep portions of FCA’s highly anticipated presentation last week, anonymous sources within the carmaker have revealed to us FCA’s bold plans for Lancia, encompassing as many as five new models to be introduced between now and 2022.

In a move that will Continue reading “Five New Lancias for 2022!”

Fun and Games for Sunday

With the 2005 C-Airplay, Citroën aimed to re-introduce the notion of frivolity to the urban runabout. It never came to pass, but it just might have inspired something which did.

c-airplay
Image credit: (c) voiture-de-reve

The problem with writing about cars is the often futile task of establishing and then sifting information with any degree of accuracy. I mention this as preface and by way of cowardly disclaimer. Whether this piece contains anything of merit, or is merely speculative fluff with which to Continue reading “Fun and Games for Sunday”

Lighting Out For the Territories

Sometimes it’s hard to ask for directions. The latest in a torrent of PSA news stories looks at to the carmaker’s underperforming DS brand, which has some troubling news to impart.

Image credit: (c) DS Automobiles

Earlier this week, Autocar reported that PSA’s prestige DS brand has discontinued both the slow-selling DS4 and even slower selling DS5 models. With combined sales of 17,484 for both car lines last year (a mere 5738 of which were the larger DS5), few will mourn their passing. However, should this fill you with a hitherto unrequited urge to Continue reading “Lighting Out For the Territories”

Sorry Ms. Jackson

As Citroën reveals the European version of the C5 Aircross CUV, we examine its likely significance within CEO, Linda Jackson’s ‘people-focused’ double chevron reinvention.

Image credit: (c) Citroen UK

Last week, Citroën announced the European debut of its new marque flagship, the C5 Aircross CUV, introduced to the Chinese market last autumn to help arrest the double chevron’s faltering sales performance; PSA citing sales of 40,000 units to the year end. A nice round sum.

The C5 Aircross is significant in three ways to European eyes. Firstly, because it allows us to Continue reading “Sorry Ms. Jackson”

Tea With the Ayatollah

PSA’s close links with Iran may have placed Carlos Tavares in an invidious position regarding his North American plans. We investigate.

Image credit: motorpage

One has to have some sympathy for PSA’s Carlos Tavares. Having taken the French carmaker from sick man to industry darling, of late, headwinds have been intensifying. A significant strand of Tavares’ Push to Pass strategy has been an expansion into Eastern developing markets, such as India and the CIS region – one which has been paying dividends, PSA posting a strong global sales performance in 2017, with over 3.7m vehicles made, a jump of 15.4% over the previous year.

But additionally, he’s promised a return of some form to the United States, from which PSA have been absent for almost three decades. It has remained unclear exactly how Continue reading “Tea With the Ayatollah”

Eurochild

Vittorio Ghidella presided over one of Fiat Auto’s rare periods of growth and prosperity. The 1988 Tipo exemplified his pragmatic approach, but all gains would become subject to the Fiat Charter.

Don’t worry, it’s galvanised! 1988 Tipo perilously close to water. Image credit: stubs.centreblog

Boom and bust appears to have been as essential a part of the Fiat charter as ill-judged facelifts. Periods of prosperity punctuated by blind panic when the balance sheet nosedived. In 1979, Gianni Agnelli appointed former engineer, Vittorio Ghidella to head the Fiat Auto division. The Turin carmaker was in desperate straits, emerging from the 1970s battered from the legacies of the ’73 fuel crisis and from labour disputes which threatened the future of the business.

Within a decade, the picture would be vastly different. Continue reading “Eurochild”

L’Estrema Unzione

Amid reports suggesting Fiat will shortly abandon Italian car production, Driven to Write posits a requiem.

Fiat’s Mirafiori car plant. Image credit: kollectium

So it has come to this. After almost 120 years of car production, Fiat cars, for so long synonymous with the place of their birth will no longer be produced there. Yesterday, we examined Automotive News’ report outlining FCA’s plans to shift Fiat’s entire production output to low-cost outposts outside of Italy. Instead, Fiat’s domestic plants will be refitted to produce upmarket models as FCA transitions towards high-return product.

There is a certain inevitability to this of course, given both the pattern of FCA’s fortunes and the path the wider motor industry is taking, but regardless of Continue reading “L’Estrema Unzione”

Gatto di Caprie

Bertone’s Marcello Gandini had about as much luck with leaping cats as he did with prancing horses; this 1977 proposal being another in a long line of cars which could have been Citroëns. So much so, it ended up becoming one.

“The only Jaguar thing I want to see is the leaper on the front!” 1977 Bertone Ascot concept. Image credit: (c) Car Design News

Over time, the Italian carrozzieri made numerous attempts to reimagine the work of Jaguar’s stylists, but with decidedly mixed results and limited success. Pininfarina, Ghia and Bertone had reimagined Jaguar models during the 1950s, while Michelotti also rebodied a D-Type along radically different lines.

But despite Jaguar’s Sir William Lyons maintaining both cordial relations and a weather eye on the major Italian styling studios, it took Bertone’s 1966 S-Type based FT concept to really capture his attention.

The first complete Bertone concept by senior designer, Marcello Gandini, the four-seater coupé was seriously evaluated at Browns Lane in both styling and engineering terms, with the Jaguar board that year exploring possible production. Gandini, like many within the Italian design community was keen to Continue reading “Gatto di Caprie”

The Born Identity

Like another much-loved ’80s C-sector stalwart, Volvo’s turn of the decade hatchback was aimed at two market sectors concurrently, satisfying neither. Driven to Write asks, was the 440-series Volvo’s Maestro?

1988 Volvo 440. Image credit: (c) autoevolution

Volvo’s long-lived 300-series proved something of a mixed blessing for the Swedish car maker by the late 1980s. On one hand, a firm and remarkably consistent seller (a regular in the UK’s top ten), while on the other, something of an embarrassment given its age, hapless dynamics and the fact that it was a car Gothenburg engineers never had much appreciation for in the first place.

Volvo were understandably keen to Continue reading “The Born Identity”

Boys of Summer

The turn of the century saw the Blue Oval vainly attempting to revisit its late ’50s heyday. But the past steadfastly remains a foreign country.

Ford Thunderbird. Image credit: (c) youtube

The 1984 Grammy-winning Don Henley single, Boys of Summer is a meditation on reminiscence and regret. It plays on the slick US West Coast values of the author’s Eagles heyday, subverting its MOR sheen to underline the more mature themes of ageing and loss.

Looking back to the past can be instructive, indeed for some of us, it’s a virtual necessity. However, true folly lies in attempts to Continue reading “Boys of Summer”

Inflammatory Writ

Every story needs an origin fable. Today, we look to a time before the light, when darkness cloaked the earth and the ground trembled beneath the wheels of the Dominator.

1996 Bentley Dominator. Image credit: (c) Motor 1

In the beginning the Lord created Cayenne. And the Lord saw that it was good, and he blessed it and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it”, and it was so. And lo, as the profits had foreseen, Cayenne begat Bentayga  who begat Urus, who begat Cullinan. And the Lord looked upon his works, and he was pleased.

On the seventh day, the Lord was tired, and he thought; “a little nap wouldn’t kill me” And so, the Lord slept but while he slumbered, the confounded things proliferated like the seven plagues, so when the Lord awoke, he was greatly vexed and rent his garment. And the Lord wailed, “what have I done?”

Most ideas appear good in isolation. It’s only when they are tested in real world conditions that one can Continue reading “Inflammatory Writ”

Iceberg Right Ahead

Rolls Royce’s Cullinan SUV has landed. Is this the price of luxury?

The sheer face of ultimate luxury. Image credit: (c) BMW Blog

Flawed diamond

In 1971, the unthinkable occurred. The once impregnable Rolls Royce entered receivership, owing to costs incurred developing the RB211 turbojet engine programme. Many viewed it as a watershed – after all, if RR could go under, who was safe? In the years that followed, Rolls Royce Motors stayed afloat, if only by the skin of their teeth. By the time Vickers bailed in 1988, it was clear the Silver Lady had lost more than her spirit.

Today, there are no such dangers. Not only is Rolls Royce well-funded and protected within the BMW mothership, but the market for ultra-luxury vehicles has never Continue reading “Iceberg Right Ahead”

Broken Rhythm

The early promise of Fiat’s X1/38 design theme was quickly extinguished within centro stile Fiat. Was it a loss of confidence or something more seismic?

Still want that Regata? An unattributed styling proposal for a three volume Ritmo. Image credit: (c) Pinterest

It was perhaps Fiat’s misfortune that the Ritmo arrived at a point where the design zeitgeist was shifting away from the stark modernism of the early ’70s to a more polished, yet more conservative aesthetic. This shift is vividly illustrated by the transition from Ritmo to the three volume Regata model upon which it was based. Continue reading “Broken Rhythm”

Ritmo Della Strada

Fiat’s Seventies C-segment style statement is largely a neglected footnote today, but there’s more to the Ritmo than a bunch of robots and some confusion over its name.

Style statement. Image credit: cargurus

Was any decade as truly modern as the 1970s? One retrospectively characterised in a roseate glow of giddy colours and lurid sartorial fashions; of long hair, beards, beads and ABBA songs, what chroniclers choose to ignore was how genuinely, thrillingly new it all appeared at the time and after an interval of four decades, seems even more so now.

In terms of product design, little that occurred in the decade that followed came even close to Continue reading “Ritmo Della Strada”

All the Trees of the Field Will Clap Their Hands

To the accompaniment of grinding metal, Driven to Write takes a decidedly Eurocentric view of Ford’s recent retrenchment on domestic saloons. 

A visual metaphor. Image credit: autoevolution

Last week’s announcement by Ford to discontinue their entire US market saloon lineup, while a shock to some, was not without some fairly broad hints being laid. In movie parlance, we’ve been hearing the ominous cellos in the background for some time, because the US market mood music on sedans has long been of a less than upbeat tempo.

The American car market has been gravitating to high riding vehicles for decades, for reasons that are as manifold as they are nuanced. Of course it’s massively simplistic to Continue reading “All the Trees of the Field Will Clap Their Hands”

Laughing Stock

For every alleged innovation there is always a precedent. Come now, you hardly imagine the Gorden comes up with this stuff on his own, do you?

AMC Eagle Sedan: Image credit: favcars

When Daimler’s Chief Design Officer, Gorden Wagener turned up in his immaculate sport-casual attire for the debut of the Maybach Ultimate Luxury concept, he told assembled journalists it represented “a totally new archetype of kind never seen before.” Of course even the most empty phrases contain a grain of truth because in the manner of a stopped clock, he’s half right.

It’s entirely possible that Daimler’s CDO neither knows nor cares that his verbiage-laden uttering lacked much by way of substance. After all, Mercedes’ resident believer in beauty and intelligence is unlikely to Continue reading “Laughing Stock”

That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore

Last week’s Beijing takeaway has led to an unpleasant case of indigestion, courtesy of our friends at Baden-Wüttermberg. 

Paint a vulgar picture. Mercedes-Maybach Ultimate Luxury concept. Image credit: Hypebeast

“We have a social responsibility. Somebody has to stop this nonsense.” These were the words of BMW’s Hans-Peter Weisbarth, spoken in 1989 in the context of the horsepower race that was consuming the German car industry at the time. One I might add, which shows no sign of abatement some thirty years later.

But today, they also lend themselves to a different race to the bottom which seems to hold the motor industry in a deathly grip. Much has already been said Continue reading “That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore”

Crossing Continents : Part Two

Having made a less than critically acclaimed stab at reinvention with Ghia’s 1996 Sentinel, Lincoln’s Gerry McGovern hit the bullseye with the 2002 Continental concept.

Image Credit: Top Speed

With the Jack Telnack era of design leadership coming to a close in 1997, Ford’s styling centre in Dearborn entered a new phase under J. C. Mays, who following a two year stint as design consultant for the Blue Oval, was selected as Ford’s new design Veep. With a new face came a new broom, Mays telling journalists at the time, “I have been brought in to make some changes and I fully intend to do that.”

With eight Worldwide styling studios to manage, Mays more consensual approach would Continue reading “Crossing Continents : Part Two”