Mother of Invention

Making a little go that bit further. 

(c) drivezing

Throughout the 1960s, US carmakers enjoyed unprecedented prosperity, with a buoyant domestic market, cheap, plentiful fuel and a customer base who had wholeheartedly bought into the concept of plenty – at a superficial level at least. Because beneath the giddy headline figures, sales of imported cars were giving the movers and shakers of Detroit serious pause.

The encroach of smaller, more fuel-efficient models, notably Volkswagen’s cult-car Beetle, prompted American carmakers to Continue reading “Mother of Invention”

Fontana a Tre Vie

Lancia’s idiosyncratic Beta Tre Volumi turns 40.

Image: Ran When Parked
Image: (c) Ran When Parked

This article first appeared on 3 February 2017.

The Lancia Trevi is an unusual car, not simply because it was and remains an intriguing one to behold. For one thing it may well be the only car that began life as a fastback saloon (with a separate boot compartment), and ended it as a three-volume version. There have been innumerable saloon from hatchback conversions (and vice-versa), but a saloon from a saloon?

It’s clear that the Trevi was a stopgap. By right, Lancia should have readied an all-new replacement by then, but that failed to materialise. Of course lengthy production runs were by no means unusual either for Lancia or within the sprawling Fiat Auto grouping they had become an unwilling hostage to. Couple this with a crisis both of confidence and managerial competence which afflicted the entire Fiat Auto group in the wake of the 1973 oil embargo, to say nothing of Fiat’s inability to Continue reading “Fontana a Tre Vie”

Limiting Screentime

Good news for a change. Honda is switching back to rotary dials, Autocar reports.

2020 Honda Jazz, with added rotaries. (c) Autocar

It has been something of a Driven to Write hobbyhorse to not merely bemoan, but berate carmakers about the dereliction of responsibility they have for the people who variously operate their products. I speak of the wholesale refutation of years of ergonomic and haptic research into the user-functionality within vehicle cabins by the adoption of touch-screen interfaces.

There is little doubt (and even less evidence to the contrary) that the widespread and still-growing use of touchscreens is occurring primarily due to matters of fashion and cost – it now being both cheaper and easier to Continue reading “Limiting Screentime”

The Aurelian Way

The Lancista’s Lancia turns 70. 

1950 Lancia Aurelia B10 -(c) carstylecritic

If one was to carry out a poll amongst Lanciaphiles as to the quintessential model in the storied marque’s history, there is likely to be a certain amount of heated debate. While some might cleave to the innovative and undoubtedly influential Lambda of 1922, it’s probably more likely the Aurelia would garner the majority vote.

Borgo San Paolo’s 1950 entrant was Lancia’s first genuinely new product of the post-hostility period, replacing the emblematic Aprilia, which ceased production the previous year; the latter model itself a ground breaker in design terms mating fully independent suspension, a narrow-angle V4 engine and pillarless construction within an aerodynamically streamlined, stressed bodyshell.

The Aurelia was intended as a larger, more refined car, aimed at the affluent owner-driver. Italy was for the most part impoverished and war-torn from years of conflict by the close of the 1940s, with large swathes of the population who could only dream of car ownership, but there remained a base of professionals, wealthy industrialists and titled nobility who could Continue reading “The Aurelian Way”

Icing the Cherry

50 years old this year, the Datsun 100A takes a bow.

(c) zonedatsun.fr

Here on the pages of Driven to Write, we have spent a good deal of the recent past discussing aspects of the Toyota marque and its associated brands. Not so however with regard to its once great rival and commercial antagonist, Nissan.

Upon its introduction to European (and US) shores, Nissan cars were sold under the Datsun brand name, for reasons which aren’t entirely clear, but probably pertain to marketing considerations. For Datsun, then an almost entirely unknown brand, their breakthrough motor car arrived in the envelope of the 100A Cherry, a compact front-wheel-drive supermini.

It’s probably fair to Continue reading “Icing the Cherry”

Over the Rainbow

The Renault 9 was considered blandness personified. But not all the design proposals were. 

1981 Renault 9. saripahmunaek.blogspot.com

Occasionally, when one is presented with a rejected concept for a well-known car design, one experiences a frisson of regret, a sharp sense of opportunity missed. More often however, one is reminded of the essential rightness of the production concept chosen. But once in a while, one finds oneself staring in disbelief, wondering what were they thinking? But let’s not Continue reading “Over the Rainbow”

Take Five

Remembering a memorable Renault.

(c) stubs-auto-fr

In 1976, Renault introduced the 5 GTL, a version of France’s best seller which was intended to appeal to more economy-conscious customers. Powered by a detuned version of the 5 TS’ 1289 cc engine, it was a low-revving, relatively unstressed power unit, aimed at reducing fuel consumption – in a rudimentary manner perhaps, predating BMW’s more elaborate attempts at achieving a similar goal with their ETA engine programme the following decade.

At the time at least, it went against the orthodoxy of using a smaller capacity engine to Continue reading “Take Five”

Der Lebensretter

Thousands of motorists owe their lives to one man’s quest to design safer motor cars. We pay tribute to a engineering pioneer. 

Béla Barényi. (c) Mercedes-Benz

The Mercedes-Benz legend was built on principles of engineering excellence; its reputation founded upon the work of legendary engineers, names which include Fritz Nallinger, Josef Müller and Rudolph Uhlenhaut. However, there is another name – one to whom every motorist ought perhaps to say a silent prayer of thanks – that of Béla Viktor Karl Barényi, engineer, inventor, known to some as the lifesaver. Over a lengthy career, primarily at Mercedes-Benz, his innovations led to more than 2500 patents, some of which have gone on to save countless thousands of lives.

Born in Hirtenberg near Vienna in March 1907 to one of Austria’s wealthiest families, Béla Barényi grew up amid the dawn of the motor car. Automobiles were a part of his life from an early age, his family owning an Austro-Daimler, which he is said to have adored. But fate and geopolitics would change his life dramatically, the combination of the Great War (in which his father was killed) and the ensuing depression which saw his family’s fortune dwindle, meant he was forced to Continue reading “Der Lebensretter”

Farce Majeure

History repeats, first as tragedy, then as farce. 

(c) motorauthority

In a week where the massed ranks of the world’s motor business and the press pack who report upon them were to have crammed themselves into three preview days at Geneva’s Palexpo, they have instead been required to Continue reading “Farce Majeure”

Always Crashing in the Same Car

“Deep assignments run through all our lives. There are no coincidences.”

J.G. Ballard’s Crashed Cars exhibition, 1970. Photo (c) Wesley/Keystone/Getty Images

The car crash is the most dramatic event we are likely to experience in our entire lives apart from our own deaths.” J.G. Ballard

As any automotive marketer will be at pains to remind you, there is nothing sexy about safety, because as we’re repeatedly told, the customer simply doesn’t want to know. This being so, it’s relatively unsurprising that few carmakers have made their fortune or reputation by reminding buyers of the mortal risks they run every time they Continue reading “Always Crashing in the Same Car”

Such A Small Love

A Minor Matter. First-hand experience of Issi’s magnum opus. 

(c) The author

For reasons which were for the most part, monetary in nature, I have found myself being the final owner of a number of cars which have entered my care. This is not a particularly comfortable realisation, and might lead the casual observer to a misapprehension that I have not been the most careful of keepers, a matter I would take issue with. In truth a good many of these vehicles were far from their first flush of youth by the time they entered my sphere of influence and try as I might, I fought an often losing battle to Continue reading “Such A Small Love”

Dawn of the Iconoclast (Part two)

We return to the conclusion of DTW’s exploration of the 1959 Mini and its enigmatic creator.

ADO15 prototypes in 1958, with Issigonis’ preferred frontal treatment. (c) imcdb.org

Leaving to one side matters of the ADO15 programme’s viability, or the product planning skills of BMC’s chief executive, there is also the matter of the subsequent account given by Issigonis when he informed Sir Leonard in no uncertain terms that “he was mad” to build the car on the basis of the prototype he had demonstrated. However, given that Alec, (like most people) was somewhat in awe of BMC’s kingpin, it’s difficult to take him entirely at his word. Furthermore, Issigonis’ secrecy, single-mindedness and formidable ego would likely ensure nobody else got their hands on his baby. He is also believed to have doggedly refused to Continue reading “Dawn of the Iconoclast (Part two)”

Dawn of the Iconoclast (Part one)

The Mini is one of the most ingenious, most innovative cars ever, but is also one of the most maddeningly inconsistent. In this two-part essay, DTW considers both icon and author.

(c) pinterest

The problem with icons is that often their venerated position can act as a shield against scrutiny, an insuperable barrier to unsentimental analysis or critique. How after all does one approach one of the most significant motorcars of all time objectively, without skirting the boundaries of iconoclasm?

Because to look at the Mini through one narrow prism is to Continue reading “Dawn of the Iconoclast (Part one)”

Dreams Made Flesh

“The stuff of which dreams are made”, said the advertising copy in 2010. Ten years on, is the dream over for Alfa Romeo’s Giulietta?

(c) Alfa Romeo Press

Some matters in life are immutable. The changing of the seasons, Elon Musk’s twitter-happy thumbs, General Motors in retrenchment, Alfa Romeo in crisis. Because in an automotive landscape where virtually every once-certain nostrum seems on the cusp of being upended, the embattled Italian heritage brand nowadays appears an almost reassuring presence as it continues to tear at its own hem.

Certainly, that time-worn cliché suggesting that the darkest hour is just before dawn holds little succour for the Biscione of Milan, given that for Alfa Romeo, dawns have been about as frequent as they have been false. But even taking all this into account, the screw appears to be taking a further turn.

Last week, a number of news outlets reported that having already seriously scaled back production of the Giulietta hatchback at FCA’s Cassino plant, the decision has been taken to Continue reading “Dreams Made Flesh”

Mad For It

More MINI-based shinanigans. With added Gallagher brother-based goodness.

(c) wheelsage

As a writer, it’s an endless struggle finding new ways of saying what is broadly speaking, the same thing. We are forever seeking an angle, or equally, a framing device, either as a way into a story, or a means of bookending it. This is all the more challenging for the relatively short-form (and I emphasise the term relatively) articles which tend to feature upon these esteemed pages.

Certainly, this author frequently struggles with form, almost as much as he does with content – or context for that matter. I say this by way of explanation for the somewhat conceptual approach taken in today’s reissue. Writing a drive piece on the R50 MINI (the first generation of the BMW re-casting) proved a bit taxing, hence the shoehorning of Britpop stalwarts, Oasis as something of a running gag throughout.

Yes, I’ll admit, it’s probably a little mannered, and I’m not sure I’d necessarily Continue reading “Mad For It”

Quiet Confidence

Profiling the R129 Mercedes SL – the silent sportscar.

(c) zombdrive

There is little question that successive generations of Mercedes-Benz SL would never have come into being without the patronage of the more affluent and socially aspirant United States car buyer. After all, there simply wasn’t a sufficient market for such wilfully indulgent fare in the old world – nor available spaces one imagines on the car-train to Sylt. Also beyond doubt is that by the close of the 1980s, the SL had become the automotive marker of choice for those who really wished to Continue reading “Quiet Confidence”

Relative Values

Rover’s great aunt marks her 70th. Time to pay our respects.

(c) classics-honestjohn

Reputation can be make or break. Whether it be gained through dynamic prowess, stylistic excellence, or for other, more negative traits, once it has been established, there is little chance of a well orchestrated perception being altered. Certainly by the time production finally ceased, the image of the Rover P4 as stuffy, outdated and overtly conservative had been broadly codified in the consciousness of the press and thereby the public. But it wasn’t always thus.

By the outbreak of the second world war, the Rover motor company was established as the purveyor of finely engineered, upmarket driver’s cars of quality and bearing, favoured by the establishment and by what might have been termed, the professional classes. Dignified, conservative, but by the time hostilities had ceased, somewhat old-fashioned in design and execution.

Like everyone else, Rover’s senior management, led by the Wilks brothers (Maurice and Spencer), were keen to Continue reading “Relative Values”

Regina delle Dolomiti

We travel to Cortina – by Cortina. In a manner of speaking. 

Back at a time when both the world and DTW was young, we had the time, imagination and intellectual bandwidth to employ a monthly theme, a literary device which would both inform the site’s content over the period in question and serve as something of a creative spur to the writers. And spur it did, garnering innumerable articles on subjects both diverse and arcane – many of which I would urge you to Continue reading “Regina delle Dolomiti”

The Case Is Altered

Is the unthinkable finally happening?

Golf 8. (c) autoscout.de

Nothing can be maintained indefinitely – even the most successful careers eventually end in failure. In 2017, when a drop in Volkswagen Golf sales was reported, it was viewed as an aberration, a blip in a broadly upward graph. However, just three years later, the realisation is dawning that the Golf as we know it not only has peaked, but is in serious decline.

Several weeks ago, I raised the question on these pages as to whether the new 8th generation would the first Golf debut that really didn’t matter? It was, to some extent a rhetorical query, and one which at the time was not picked up upon. I return to Continue reading “The Case Is Altered”

When Life Gives You Lemons – Make Limoncello

Skipping around the Italian coastline – it’s well for some. Sometimes.

A 2016 Citroen C1 in some white space. Not the Amalfi coast: (c) autoevolution

For Europeans, the idea of driving the Amalfi coastline on Italy’s South-Western flank is akin perhaps to driving West on Sunset Boulevard – suffused with impossibly romantic imagery culled from literature, music and film. At the very least, it would afford one’s passengers, if not the driver, with some rather memorable vistas – and in the right car, under the right conditions, a nice suntan.

Of course, in such a fantasy scenario, one would choose to Continue reading “When Life Gives You Lemons – Make Limoncello”

The Idea of North

An Italo-American curiosity receives a broad DTW brushstroke.

Ghia’s Thor concept, gets the late ’60s split screen treatment. (c) Coachbuild.com

Some cars emerge into the world fully formed, and regardless of where one lands upon their aesthetic merits, defy the facelifter’s scalpel, or indeed much in the way of subsequent enhancement. In stating this, I must add, I am not suggesting these cars were never the subject of facelifting exercises, more that perhaps they really ought not to have been.

Of the cars in question (and you can Continue reading “The Idea of North”

Racing Green – (Part Two)

We conclude our history of the last Grand Prix race staged in Ireland.

Réne Dreyfus in the Delahaye T145 at the Victoria Cross hairpin at the eastern end of the ‘straight road’. (c) Jean-Maurice Gigleux collection via 8w.forix

As we rejoin the story of the 1938 Cork Grand Prix, the drivers come to terms with the circuit, the unprecedented levels of public interest and the task of setting a pole-setting time.

Wednesday practice saw French ace, Réne Dreyfus set a provisional fastest time of 4.4 minutes, despite his poorly-running Delahaye. At the time, teams concocted their own unique witches’ brew of hydrocarbons to fuel their racing engines. Most employed combinations of methanol and ethanol, acetone and even small amounts of water. Teams would often jealously Continue reading “Racing Green – (Part Two)”

Racing Green – (Part One)

“A spectacle of speed and excitement which Ireland may not have the opportunity to see again…”

The Poulavone hairpin at Carrigrohane.  (c) Irish Examiner

It was still dark as they began to gather along the roadway, past the newly erected grandstands, all the way back towards the hairpin at Victoria Cross. As the fading moonlight reflected upon the surface of the river, the people of Cork arrived on buses, by bicycle or on foot as dawn slowly broke across the Lee Fields. In the half-light, amid the red glow of the men’s cigarettes and the hushed voices of the spectators; their breath coming in wisps in the chill morning air, they waited for 6.00 am practice to commence.

Neither Carrigrohane, nor Cork itself had ever seen the like of it.

In this part of the world, people are not particularly au fait with the concept of ambiguity, tending more towards the literal approach. So in the proud city of Cork, should a resident Continue reading “Racing Green – (Part One)”

Jukebox Jury

There’s a new Juke in town. 

I’m not going to mince words here. I didn’t much care for the outgoing Nissan Juke. I say outgoing only insofar as I was vaguely aware that a replacement was imminent, but its introduction some time last Autumn rather passed me by. I find this realisation somewhat disquieting, given the amount of time I expend or otherwise squander appraising myself of the ifs, buts and maybes associated with the European automotive industry.

But anyway, it seems the Juke has been replaced – a realisation that gradually dawned earlier this week while innocently attempting to Continue reading “Jukebox Jury”

Drowning By Numbers

Actions have consequences. The Irish car market is unwell.

Top seller 2019. (c) : caroftheyear.org

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

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

North Star

Where Saab began.

(c) saabworld

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

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

Conduct Unbecoming

Lady Docker – a woman out of time.

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

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

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

NewsGrab

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

Bentley Mulsanne. (c) autoblog

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

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

Body of Evidence (part 3)

Unfinished sympathy.

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

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

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

Body of Evidence (Part 2)

Reanimations are nothing new when it comes to Bugatti. 

Bugatti Type 101 by Gangloff. (c) wheelsage

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

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

Sunday Reissue – Gilded Age

Documenting the pre-war streamliner era.

(c) Favcars

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

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

Body of Evidence (Part 1)

Recreating a lost masterpiece.

Bugatti Type 64. (c) torque news

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

JDM Oddities – 1994 Nissan Rasheen

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

(c) japan partner

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

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

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

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

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

Ascendant Class

Attempting to unpick a feudal line. 

Hyundai Dynasty.  (c) wikipedia

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

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

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

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

Monty Python. (c) Whatculture

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

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

That Was 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anniversary Waltz – Never Get Out of the Boat

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

Time.com

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

Nightcrawling

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

Image: The author

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

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

Anniversary Waltz 1989 – Tin Roof, Rusted

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

The B52s (c) Orlando Times

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

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

Season’s Greetings

Yule understand if we’re a little preoccupied…

Image: Author’s collection

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

A very Merry Christmas from Driven to Write.

Anniversary Waltz 1999 – Pre Millennial Tension

Waltzing into a new Millennium.

(c) Brittania Row

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

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

Balancing Act

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

2002 Lancia Lybra 2.4 JTD

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

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

Elevated State

The Mark 2’s better bred cousin.

Daimler 2.5 litre V8. (c) carsaddiction

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

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

Anniversary Waltz 2009 – Crash!

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

(c) New York Post

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

Cars That Could Have Been Citroëns – 1981 Mercedes Auto 2000

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

(c) mercedes-benz-passion

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

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

State Of Contraction

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

(c) Curbside Classic

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

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

Breaking Waves

A backwards glance at the current state of the estate.

Image: beverly hills lingual institute

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

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

NewsGrab

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

Hotwheels? (c) Jaguar.com

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

A Ship Called Dignity

Pride cometh before a fall. 

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

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

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