The XJ-S is a car which tends to crop up with some frequency on Driven to Write. Why this is so is perhaps debatable, (okay, it’s often my fault) but I suspect that its fascination is not only a function of its controversial shape, but also stems from a belief that its styling came about without precedent. But no car is developed entirely in a vacuum, or is it?
No longer content with the surly bonds of earth, with this Rocheresque alliance with Emirates, the Blessed One’s ambitions have truly taken wing.
Everybody (and their dog) wants at the very least to touch the Blessed One’s hem, and after all, who can blame them? Having successfully reinvented Mercedes-Benz as the last word in modern purity and sensual luxury, the frail ties of the auto business were never going to be sufficient to hold his-blessedness to our leaden promontory, when he can Continue reading “High Flying Adored”
In 1987, Maranello went back to its roots, launching the precursor to today’s track-bound limited edition wonders. But in looking to the past, was F40 the modern Ferrari of all?
The Ferrari F40 is a car that brooks no ambivalence. Like the company’s founder and imperator, F40 is indifferent to the notion that you might find it vulgar, somewhat silly, a virtually unusable statement of machismo and status, because it’s all of those things and a great deal more besides. Because, perhaps more than anything, F40 remains the essence of Enzo. Continue reading “Two Fingered Salute”
On the surface, Renault’s 1983 Gabbiano was simply an innocuous concept, but could it also stand as a metaphor for a decades-spanning rivalry?
Following former head of Citroën bureau d’études, Robert Opron’s move across Paris to head Renault’s styling studios in 1975, design responsibility appeared to remain an in-house arrangement. However over time, a decision was taken either by senior management or by Opron himself to Continue reading “Word on a Wing”
With Vauxhall’s future under PSA coming under renewed scrutiny, we look back to Luton’s mid-’70s upmarket ambitions.
As automotive industry analysts ponder the fate of Opel / Vauxhall in the wake of PSA’s takeover, one possible future mapped out involves a shift upmarket. On the face of things, this appears about as likely as PSA getting a sudden rush of blood to the head and starting to take Citroën seriously, but as (im)possible futures go, it may not be entirely unthinkable.
If a car can embody the legacy of its creator, the 1967 Austin 3-Litre will forever be linked with the fall of BMC boss, George Harriman. Hubris or simply bad timing? Driven to Write investigates.
An unwitting metaphor for a car company which had fundamentally lost its way, the 1967 Austin 3-Litre was an unmitigated failure in both creative and commercial terms. Received at launch with an embarrassed silence from the UK press corps, shunned by the buying public and withdrawn from sale in 1971 with a mere 9,992 examples built, the 3-Litre, along with the Austin Maxi would prove to be the final nails in BMC’s coffinlid and all the evidence Donald Stokes and his Leyland cohorts needed to Continue reading “Harriman’s Folly”
As brand-DS’ pathfinder model becomes available to order, we find ourselves once again asking, what on earth is the distinctive series for?
Yesterday, Autocar reported that PSA’s new DS7 Crossback crossover is now available to order in the UK market, with RHD deliveries starting in early 2018. Pricing ranges from about £28,000 in entry-level Elegance trim to over £43,500 for the highest specification ‘Ultra Prestige’ model. That’s right up there with ‘Premium Luxury’ in the redundant nomenclature stakes wouldn’t you say? Isn’t ‘Prestige’ prestigious enough any more? One could be forgiven for imagining DS’ marketers Continue reading “DS’ New Horizon”
The 1986 Eole was an exploration of what would happen if one truly applied aerodynamic theory to a Citroën CX Estate. The results were somewhat mixed.
Truly aerodynamic vehicles tend to be fairly uncompromising looking devices for the most part. Citroën’s Eole concept from 1986 certainly wasn’t conventionally handsome, but it contained a lot of thinking that would become more widely adopted. The work of UK car designer, Geoffrey Matthews at the PSA/Talbot facility at Whitley, Eole was sanctioned ostensibly to give Citroën something new to show at that year’s Geneva motor show; the AX model (also styled by Matthews) not being due to Continue reading “A Concept for Sunday – A Break With a Backstory”
With perhaps the shortest gestation of any production car, 1977’s Chrysler/Talbot Sunbeam personified the term, ‘rush job’ – and it showed. But one variant burned brightly, courtesy of Lotus.
In 1977, the TV ad-breaks were awash with the mellifluous tones of Petula Clark, exhorting us all to put a Chrysler Sunbeam in our lives. I was around 11 at the time, so there wasn’t much I could do to obey the Surrey songstress’ siren call but since we did have an Avenger parked outside, my level of interest in Linwood’s newest offering was perhaps keener that it might have otherwise have been.
The Sunbeam was the result a neat piece of industrial blackmail on the part of Chrysler UK, the failing former Rootes car business, which under US management had merged with Simca but was struggling with a dated range of cars and a loss making production facility in Scotland making fewer of them than was economical. Faced with the plant’s closure, the UK government agreed to Continue reading “Norfolk Broad”
Ford’s post-acquisition strategy for Jaguar was one of aggressive growth, but it came at some cost – particularly to their core model line.
Having taken a multi-billion dollar hit on the acquisition of Jaguar in 1989, Ford executives saw only one way out of the mess they have got themselves into. In order to gain the return on investment they craved, Jaguar would need to be transformed from a specialist 35-40,000 car a year business to one pushing out at least five times that number. To achieve this, they would need to Continue reading “Stretching a Metaphor”
Up to now we’ve managed relatively few words on the subject of Aston Martin. It’s probably time we remedied that.
It wasn’t necessarily a matter of prejudice, but I suspect a degree of ambivalence might have crept in. Certainly in recent years under the leadership of the over-rated Ulrich Bez, the storied British marque came to rival Bentley as purveyors of overstyled and increasingly vulgar trinkets for the well heeled and indolent. Continue reading “Drophead Candy”
The outgoing C4 is a car that will pass without comment or eulogy. Except here. Well, of sorts anyway…
They say that above every cloud lies blue sky, so while we get over our disappointment with the creative execution of the heavily facelifted C4 Cactus, its advent has brought about the demise of perhaps the least worthy bearer of the double chevron ever. Seemingly killed for lacking that now essential Citroën quality, its lack of joie de vivre and cynical adequacy has ensured that it no longer fits within Linda Jackson’s (bouncy) castle moat.
Fiat received most of the credit, but the 1987 Alfa Romeo 164 was a genuine Alfa Romeo, despite what some might retrospectively suggest.
In 2014, then Alfa Romeo chief, Harald Wester illustrated the marque’s latterday decline with an image of the 164, stating that by making it front wheel drive, it had diluted the carmaker’s bloodline. But instead he demonstrated both an eloquent disdain for his forebears and a blind ignorance of history. Dismissing the 164, perhaps the most accomplished and rounded product the troubled Milanese car maker had produced since the 1960s, not only made Wester Continue reading “When the Poets Dreamed of Angels”
Visually speaking, the 2006 Citroën C-Triomphe didn’t quite live up to its name, which may explain why it remains something of an automotive unicorn today.
PSA announced this particular iteration of their C-segment contender in 2004, a car which replaced the unloved and visually underwhelming Xsara model line. This car, believed to have been the work of Donato Coco and Bertrand Rapatel under the supervision of Jean-Pierre Ploué marked the beginning of a renaissance at Citroën’s Vélizy styling centre. Adieu to the creative torpidity of the Blakeslee years, welcome back creativity. Theoretically at least. Continue reading “Arc de Triomphe”
Don’t be fooled by the musicals, the rain in Spain falls on the coastline too.
Marbella in October can be precipitous and to be fair, this was the only day it rained during my recent visit, so I’m not complaining. The Irish are used to getting wet anyway, so I was hardly going to let a drop in atmospheric pressure interrupt my ongoing quest for a green car. However, while pounding the streets, I Continue reading “A Photo for Sunday – They Grow Up so Fast”
Citroen’s C4 Cactus is a popular choice in Southern Europe, but signs are that it’s fading. Is the fun over already?
One of the drawbacks of being something of a novelty act is that there is often a risk that its appeal will fade. Upon its introduction in 2014, Citroën’s C4 Cactus was viewed as something of a character amidst a sector somewhat devoid of it. With styling which combined a studied practicality and ruggedness with a cheerful and largely unaggressive demeanour, initial sales for the model were strong, with 28,974 registered in 2014. Continue reading “Cactus World News”
Driven to Write’s accidental tourist discovers an unusual way to amuse himself on holiday.
Following a recent sojourn back in Ireland, your correspondent has pitched up in the Costa del Sol for a well-merited change of scenery – and climate. But given that I appear to have forgotten how to behave on holiday, how is a Driven to Writer to spend his downtime, other than to Continue reading “Green Car Bingo”
Amid a landscape characterised by an unremitting and frankly repugnant aggression within mainstream European car design, thank heavens for the Japanese.
September’s IAA motor show at Frankfurt was as dispiriting a illustration of an industry adrift as one could realistically hope not to witness. (Thankfully, I didn’t). Whether it was the remote and soulless autonomous concepts, (step forward Audi), the endless parade of evermore vulgar and over-wrought SUVs, or the even more depressingly torpid production offerings, Frankfurt was (with one or two exceptions) something of a bore. Continue reading “Reasons To Be Cheerful”
Advance apologies to the Délégation générale à la langue française et aux langues de France and their eagle-eyed cohorts regarding the title header.
Earlier in the year I spoke at some length about Renault’s Mégane Grand Coupé offering, a car which is not only unavailable in drear old Blighty, but also (somewhat surprisingly) within Renault’s homeland. Introduced to the Irish market earlier this year, the Mégane sedan (sorry, but it’s neither grand nor a coupe) appears to have taken off here, with my highly unscientific visual survey suggesting Continue reading “Mégane à Trois Volumes”
Ford’s pre-millennial coupé didn’t gestate in an Erlenmeyer flask, but it was something of an amalgam nonetheless. We take a look at the Puma’s moodboard.
The design theme for the 1997 Ford Puma bridged the blue oval’s early ’90s ovoid, organic design era and the ‘New Edge’ theme which arrived at the dawn of the millennium. But the roots of the Puma programme lie deeper. Continue reading “Barchetta to Bobcat”
Everybody’s gettin’ down at the Disco, so Land Rover’s CCO gets his boogie shoes on.
Since Land Rover announced the current L462 Discovery last year, JLR and Land Rover’s Chief Creative Officer, Gerry McGovern have been batting away varying degrees of critical opprobrium over the vehicle’s rear-end styling – the Discovery’s offset numberplate positioning to be exact. A few weeks ago IGMG expressed his defiance at the critical backlash associated with his creation, suggesting the problem was not of his making.
Another in a series of lasts: The 1997 Ford Puma. We won’t see its like again.
The 1990s saw Ford’s European outpost embark upon a period of reflection; a polar realignment from the provision of lowest common denominator perambulatory devices to a respected and critically lauded manufacturer of class-leaders. This process began in earnest with the 1995 debut of the BE91-series Fiesta. While retaining the body structure and basic mechanicals of the critically unloved preceding model, a series of chassis and engine refinements in addition to a major external and internal restyle saw the Fiesta Continue reading “Bobcat by Another Name”
As JLR moves further into the white space of seemingly infinite possibility, we ask a few awkward questions.
This week, Autocar exclusively reported the prospect that JLR is advanced on developing a more road-biased, Range-Rover-derived vehicle, said by the journal to be dubbed Road-Rover. According to journalist, Hilton Holloway, the forthcoming model, set to debut in about three years time, will be the first of a range of cars aimed at the top end of the luxury market. But one aspect missing from Autocar’s piece is Continue reading “To Boldly Go…”
Driven to Write (with no thought to our own safety) addresses the big one.
It’s somewhat overdue. In every Jaguar aficionado’s lifetime one has to approach X200 and try, (now come on, stop giggling back there) really try to view it with something remotely akin to an objective gaze. Because for many of us, it’s the Sargasso Sea of Jaguars. The mad aunt in the attic, the great un-namable. But has sufficient time elapsed to Continue reading “What we Talk About When we Talk About The S-Type”
Unlike the car upon which it was based, the 1971 NSU RO80 by Pininfarina was not a landmark. But that doesn’t mean it was without influence.
Four years after the NSU RO80’s announcement, Pininfarina showed this, the carrozzeria’s take on Nekarsulm’s 1967 engineering and stylistic masterpice. But how does one advance upon a car that not only seemed to predict the future at its debut, but would actually come to embody it? Not like this, one might argue. Continue reading “Lost in Rotation”
As Steve fires up the NSU’s power unit, it quickly settles into its distinctive buzz-saw rotary whine. I ask him how often he uses it? “Not as often as I should – I have too many cars. I don’t use it in the winter, but this summer it’s done about 1500 miles.” Mileage incidentally, which includes a trip to the recent 50th anniversary commemorations in Suffolk, where over 30 Ro80s converged. Among the attendees was an owner from Stuttgart who Continue reading “Sons of the Silent Age – (2)”
Part one: Driven to Write meets (and briefly drives) one of its heroes.
A commonly espoused orthodoxy warns us that close proximity to our idols can only lead to disappointment. Some go further, suggesting that the renunciation of hero worship is the mark of a mature mind. This being the case, I can categorically claim not to have attained it. But surely it is preferable to Continue reading “Sons of the Silent Age”
Driven to Write’s star of the Frankfurt motor show may surprise you.
Since we founded DTW three and a half years ago, (where has the time gone?) I think I’ve written approximately nothing on Bentley – a gaping omission on my part and one for which I really ought to make amends. There are a number of reasons for this Crewe-shaped hole in my DTW outpourings, but I suppose if I was pinned to a wall (or similar stout object) and forced to explain, I’d Continue reading “Photo for Sunday : 2017 Bentley Continental”
With the motor industry abuzz with the prospect of electric propulsion, just how confident are we they’ve thought this one through?
Earlier in the week we considered the mainstream industry’s lack of leadership when it comes to the design of electric cars. But at the Frankfurt motor show this week, two industry leaders fleshed out some of the challenges they’re facing. Firstly Mercedes’ Dieter Zetsche pointed out to auto journalists the effect the push to electric is likely to have on profitability.
At first glance, this is a case of stating the blindingly obvious, but while the mighty Stuttgart Untertürkheim car giant can weather the loss of 50% of its potential profits, putting aside an alleged €4.0 billion to cover the likely revenue shortfall, it raises questions of how other less financially robust car businesses can possibly Continue reading “Danger, High Voltage”
Electric cars are coming. But when are we going to be presented with one we might actually want to buy?
During a recent conversation with an automotive design commentator and critic I pointed out that motor manufacturers had so far failed to create a truly desirable electric car. He agreed, suggesting they appear stuck at the Blackberry phase and that their i-phone moment has yet to occur. He isn’t wrong, as this week’s deluge of concepts and production cars illustrates. On one extreme we have Audi’s Frankfurt-fodder Aicon, which as implausible flights of conceptual fancy go, is about on point and on the other we have the 2018 Nissan Leaf, which takes retrenchment to new levels of jaded whatever.
One of the advantages of a pure electric car is that by taking the engine and powertrain out of the equation, the entire architecture of the vehicle can Continue reading “Leading the Charge”
BMW have enjoyed a decade of success selling an ever-expanding range of four wheel drive hatchbacks. Now they are making their largest one yet. What madness is this?
“I think if you try and make something impressive, rather than good, you’re doomed.” Spen King, engineer and creator of the Range Rover.
On paper at least, BMW is the smallest and theoretically most vulnerable of the German premium big three. Daimler is bigger and its business more diverse. Audi is insulated to a large extent by nestling within the VW mothership. This however ignores BMW’s deftness as a business, to say nothing of its profitability and net worth, which may well outstrip its rivals.
Re-engagement with a previous (and prescient) concept leads us to speculate on Kia’s latest Frankfurt show offering.
When KIA announced the Novo concept at the 2015 Seoul motor show, it passed without much by way of comment in the mainstream press – although Driven to Write’s resident design critic did give it the benefit of his gimlet eye. At the time, Kia appeared to suggest that the Novo’s styling would influence its forthcoming compact car line-up, a statement nobody took very seriously at the time. Continue reading “Awakening the New”
Today we explore alternative realities – one where perhaps Rover didn’t necessarily take the fork in the road marked ‘SD1’. What would that have looked like?
Counterfactuals are for the most part, exercises in futility, or at best, wishful thinking. When it comes to the products of what used to be British Leyland, added layers of poignancy come as standard. Few cars embody this like the Rover SD1 series; a car of enormous visual promise, fatally undermined by Continue reading “Altered Images”
Quiet and unassuming by day, the 262C saw the distinctly suburban 200-Series loosen its tie and show a slightly darker side to its personality.
Loved by owners, derided by the UK motoring press, the 200-series Volvo seemed even by mid-Seventies standards, something of an anachronism. Its upright and uncompromising appearance made few concessions to fashion, majoring on values of practicality, durability, comfort and occupant safety. Not that this prevented it from becoming a firm favourite and the model that Continue reading “Something Wicked This Way Comes”
Always first with the news that matters, this just in…
In a surprise move today, FCA’s Sergio Marchionne announced during an earnings call that the beleaguered Lancia brand could be set to make a comeback. During his conference call with analysts he left strong hints that a new Lancia model, (tipped to be a compact crossover), is being planned – a vehicle type increasingly popular across European markets.
A commercial hit for Mercedes-Benz at launch, but Father Time has not been kind to the 1997 CLK.
We didn’t know it at the time, but when Mercedes-Benz ceased production of the C124 coupé line in 1996, its terminus would be more than a stylistic one. If not quite the final example of the legendary ‘Vertical Affinity, Horizontal Homogeneity’ design ethos overseen by Bruno Sacco, the C124 would prove to be the last mid-sized Mercedes coupe built upon its saloon counterpart’s platform for another two generations. Continue reading “Fleeting Star”
Today, Driven to Write gets its barnet in curlers over the latest offering from Maranello. Time for a haircut?
Even hairdressers must have off days. After all, imagine if you will the ceaseless drudgery of it all. The incessant banality of polite conversation, the helicopter view of thinning scalps and receding hairlines, the clippings that get everywhere, the disappointment of customers who Continue reading “Hair, By Sergio”
One model has defined Volvo’s rebirth, but its backer deserves some of the credit as well.
It’s customary for a new car line to hit its sales-stride within the second full year of production, before plateauing and gradually ebbing downwards. This fall is normally arrested by a mid-term facelift, before once again, the graph pitches inexorably Southwards as the model is run out and ultimately replaced. While I wouldn’t necessarily Continue reading “Henry’s Bequest”
BMW have released photos and a rather toe-curling video for their new concept Z4, said to provide broad clues as to how next year’s production Z4 will look. Good grief, it’s an angry looking thing, isn’t it?
Here are some words. They’re lifted from BMW’s website, (verbatim) so I take no responsibility. Apart from the annotated comments of course, which are mine. Continue reading “Anger Is an Energy”
We conclude our 50th anniversary ruminations on Ferrari’s Dino by tracing its stylistic forebears.
In December 1964 the press convened at Modena’s Hotel Real-Fini, where Enzo Ferrari would conduct his annual sermon on the mount. As the gathered press corps waited breathlessly as the ‘Pope of the North’ held forth regarding the Scuderia’s programme for coming season, the commendatore dropped a surprise, telling journalists Ferrari’s race engineers were advanced on a new ‘168 Dino GT’ to be campaigned the following season.
The car with which Alfredo Ferrari’s name would become synonymous did not carry the famous Cavallino Rampante emblem, but is arguably the most significant (and beautiful) Ferrari of all.
Enzo Ferrari preferred to be addressed as ‘ingegnere’, which was something of an irony, given his somewhat reactionary views on the subject. A staunch traditionalist, his principles were firmly rooted in the pre-war era; pivoting around the notion of a powerful, high revving power unit combined with a driver of sufficient bravery and skill to overcome the inevitable chassis-related deficiencies. Continue reading “In the Name of the Son – 1967 Dino 206 GT”
FCA’s Sergio Marchionne appears to be saying no to a new-generation Ferrari ‘Dino’. Well he was last week anyway…
Much like the current resident of the American White House, FCA’s Chief Knitwear Officer appears to think nothing of holding entirely bipolar positions on policy, seemingly at will. Over the years, the Turin binman has led us a merry polka and yet here we are, akin to the beleaguered Washington press corps, Pavlovian to our slavering chops. Because one thing of which we can be certain is that whatever either the leader of the free World or the Italian-Canadian yarnmiester pronounces upon will be slavishly reported upon, disseminated and pored over, which is of course the point of the exercise. Continue reading “Dino Denied”
Twin approaches to a modernised ur-Mini, but while one is shamelessly drenched in nostalgia, the other speaks of a possible future.
Nostalgia is big business. Take the music industry where bands reform to play their best-loved material, while record companies re-master and repackage classic albums. So if the running order gets messed with, original tracks deleted and a bunch of questionable out-takes (which didn’t make the original cut for good reason) are added, who cares? Completists, (mostly middle-aged men if we’re honest) will Continue reading “Remake, Remodel, Remaster, Recharge?”
Or, putting it another way, getting the most out of your platform architecture. We count the branches of the Alfa Romeo 116-Series’ family tree.
Since its post-war reconstitution under semi-state ownership, Alfa Romeo was forced to cut its cloth in ever more inventive ways. Budgets were tight and new model programmes hard-won. Expensive unitary body architectures needed to be well and truly amortised, which led to production runs that in retrospect probably lasted too long. Continue reading “Six Degrees of 116”
Disappointingly uneven, despite occasional flashes of brilliance, the 1977 Giulietta personifies Alfa Romeo’s 1970’s wilderness years.
The much-loved 105-Series Giulia was the model line that put Alfa Romeo back on a World stage. This compact sporting saloon was a concentrated blend of Portello engineering knowhow wrapped in a highly aerodynamic, if superficially four-square package. Belying it’s ‘boxy’ appearance however, the 105 drove beautifully becoming a firm favourite from its 1962 inception until its ultimate demise 15-years on.
Daihatsu’s concept cars have been many, varied and in a good many cases, quite bonkers. Which is not to denigrate either them or the company which inspired them. Ideas they had aplenty, the real shame was that owing as much to their straitened circumstances as a lack of corporate nerve (perhaps), much of the invention and wildly creative thinking never particularly manifested itself in production form. Continue reading “‘Harmony With Nature’ – 2006 Daihatsu D-Compact X-Over”
The XJ and F-Type represent the rearguard of traditional Jaguar formats, but while one continues its slide, the other appears to be holding firm.
With Jaguar’s original E-Type latterly attaining the status of holy relic and given several prior attempts at reinvention, the onus on Jaguar to recreate it brooked no denial. So from its inception, F-type was intended both as an unabashed recasting, but moreover, the closest production approximation yet to Porsche’s all-conquering 911 in positioning and purpose. Continue reading “Consistent Cat”
The fourth generation of the series proved to be the quintessence of Golf. Twenty years later, it still is.
In 1974, a teetering VW took a risky punt into the relative unknown by launching a car, which by no means avant garde, (even by the standards of the day), was nonetheless some way left of centre. While it would be facile to suggest it was anything but a commercial success, it wasn’t perhaps until its second permutation that it began to truly dominate the sector it would ultimately define. Continue reading “Car is a Four Letter Word”
Welcome to the EMotion Express. Calling all stations via Unfeasible Promise, Inevitable Reversal, Fervent Denial, and Messy Lawsuit. We regret to inform customers that due to essential (re)engineering works a replacement bus service will be in place before passengers can complete their journey to Humiliating Climbdown. Please mind the doors. Continue reading “We Apologise For the Delay to Your Journey”