Diamond Dogs – The Distinctive Series Dissected

Part one: With the jury on PSA’s luxury line coming to some less than palatable conclusions, is Carlos Tavares in the mood to listen as the DS project sputters and pops.

Image via independent.ie
Image: independent.ie

When PSA launched the DS line in 2009, many observers viewed it as the final throw of the dice for Citroën. Suffocated by a value strategy that saw ever-decreasing returns, the ailing brand icon appeared on its last legs. Critics and Citroënistes alike condemned PSA’s plan as madness, yet early sales both in Europe and latterly China saw many of us eating sizeable chunks of humble tarte. Indeed so bullish was PSA Chairman, Carlos Tavares last year that DS was divorced from Citroën as a stand-alone marque. Continue reading “Diamond Dogs – The Distinctive Series Dissected”

Theme: Disappointment – Feline Gloomy

As our December theme chokes on the very last mince pie, we celebrate four decades of disappointment, brought to you by Jaguar.

Romance is dead. Image via carnewsmodel
Romance is dead. (c) carnewsmodel

It’s an emotion depressingly familiar to Jaguar enthusiasts from Burbank to Burnley. From the troubled post-Lyons era, the catastrophic BL years, the Egan Miracle, the Ford débâcle, to the current underwhelming JLR era. The big cat’s roaring again, the UK press delight in telling us, but is it really? Continue reading “Theme: Disappointment – Feline Gloomy”

Gamma Bytes – Pininfarina’s Concepts

The Gamma Coupé evolved to become the model’s stylistic True North, but was this Pininfarina’s tacit admission of failure?

Aldo Brovarone sketch. (c) carstyling.ru

Over the course of our ongoing examination into the Gamma, I’ve focused primarily upon the Berlina, styled at Pininfarina by Aldo Brovorone, under the supervision of Leonardo Fioravanti. The origins of the saloon’s styling we will return to, but today I want to examine the version that captivated the pundits at the 1976 launch – the Pininfarina Coupé. Continue reading “Gamma Bytes – Pininfarina’s Concepts”

Cars and Sextants

As pointed out in an earlier article, the conflation of cars and sex isn’t necessarily all it’s cracked up to be, so who on earth thought cars and sextants was a good idea?

Citroen Visa Sextant. Image via petrolblog
“What’s that you see Captain Haddock”? “Fun ahoy, landlubbers”! Image credit: (c) petrolblog

Should anybody labour under the illusion that marketing and Citroën were mutually exclusive before the advent of Linda Jackson, I offer you compelling evidence to the contrary.

For reasons best known to themselves Citroën’s marketing department created this nautically themed special edition in 1980. Loosely based on the 1124cc Visa Club, the Sextant came with a rear wiper, standard-fit radio, front headrests and tinted windows, in addition to jaunty blue decals and matching blue-finished injection-moulded front and rear bumpers.

It probably also came with a good deal of explaining to do, since most members of the public probably hadn’t the first idea what a sextant was, let alone did, despite the accompanying visuals going to farcical lengths to Continue reading “Cars and Sextants”

Visa in Three Volumes

The Citroën Visa was never a wildly popular choice in these islands during its lifetime and with just over 40 reportedly still registered in Britain, it’s now on the extinction list.

Visa saloon Prototype. Image via autoshite.
Image: autoshite.

But rarer still (had it existed) would have been this, a putative Visa saloon – (possibly the result of the Photoshopper’s art). Citroën (via Heuliez), did explore a five-door ‘break’ or estate variant later in the Visa’s lifespan, which never went beyond a mock-up. Creating a three volume body from a hatchback without appearing tacked-on is something of an art, one that proved beyond the capabilities of most rivals at the time, especially for a car as diminutive as the Visa.

But this is a neatly proportioned conversion, looking as though it was designed from first principles. The Visa’s relatively long wheelbase helps, that and the fact the designer avoided a fashionably high boot line. The plunging tail treatment lends the little saloon an elegance perhaps lacking in its hatchback sibling.

Despite its troubled background, the Visa was an underrated car and probably deserved more sales success than it managed in these parts. This may have been in part because of its looks, which fell between several stools. Would a small saloon have served them better? Probably unlikely, but who knows? Either way, I rather like this.

[Author’s note: This article was amended, to reflect considerable uncertainty about the authenticity of the lead image of this article. Dec 30, 2015]

Gamma: Signs and Portents – Part Five

The Gamma’s fiery descent.

Image via lanciagamma.altervista
Image: lanciagamma.altervista

From a stylistic perspective at least, 1976 was a good time to introduce an unorthodox-looking luxury saloon, the market being temporarily disposed towards difference. Two years previously, Citroen had introduced the futuristic CX model and Rover were about to début the similarly forward-looking SD-1. Both cars offered a divergence from the classic three volume saloon template and for a time at least, buyers were prepared to accept this. Continue reading “Gamma: Signs and Portents – Part Five”

Born This Way? – The Prius Goes Gaga

It’s all Lady Gaga’s fault, say Toyota. Well, you’d try to spread the blame too.

2016 Toyota Prius. Image via lifestylemirror
2016 Toyota Prius. Image via lifestylemirror

We’ve become accustomed to hearing Car designers come up with all manner of implausible justifications for their creations, but does anybody take this stuff seriously? To my eyes there’s now a tacit understanding between designer-spokesman and us, the auto-literate. They know we won’t believe a word, while we view their pronouncements with the contempt they habitually deserve. This is where Shunsaku Kodama comes in. As the Toyota designer responsible for the 2016 Prius, he has rather a lot of explaining to do.  Continue reading “Born This Way? – The Prius Goes Gaga”

Dark Satanic Mill: Jaguar XF 2.2 Premium Luxury

Jaguar’s power units have entered legend. This month we ask whether the XF’s engine and powertrain are cut from similar cloth?

Image via jomomag
Image: jomomag

Try as I might, I’ve yet to satisfactorally reconcile the concept of a compression ignition Jaguar. But commercial realities make for expedient bedfellows and the Ford/PSA-developed 2179 cc 16 valve diesel unit powering our XF has been responsible for the marque’s growing acceptance in the vital company user-chooser market in the UK. Commercial success notwithstanding, there’ll be few obituaries now it’s been consigned to Continue reading “Dark Satanic Mill: Jaguar XF 2.2 Premium Luxury”

Losing Face – Mercedes’ Billion €uro Facelift

Mercedes-Benz threw the piggy bank at the W212’s mid-life facelift. No, I can’t see where the money went either.

What a transformation! 2012 Mercedes W212. Image via paultan
What 1bn euros buys you. Image: paultan

The Mercedes E-Class represents the quintessence of Daimler’s saloon car range. It’s been their heartland model, the one from which they made their post-war name, so it’s incumbent upon Mercedes’ engineers and stylists they don’t screw the pooch. Yet screw it they did, 1995’s W210 and 2002’s W211 instrumental in tarnishing the three pointed star’s hard-won reputation for solidity, build integrity and reliability. W212 had it all to do in 2008. Continue reading “Losing Face – Mercedes’ Billion €uro Facelift”

A Concept for Sunday – 1985 Peugeot Griffe 4

Earlier in the week we discussed the phenomenon of glazed C-pillars – a design feature popular during the mid-to late 1980’s. Here’s another example of the breed.

Image via carstyling.ru
Image: carstyling.ru

Pininfarina’s 1985 Griffe 4 concept was created to honour the carrozzeira’s 30-year association with Peugeot, which began with the 403 model. What’s interesting here is not only its use of the glazed C-pillar treatment, (if indeed they can be described as pillars at all), but the fact that it resembles a rather prettier Subaru XT. Continue reading “A Concept for Sunday – 1985 Peugeot Griffe 4”

Late and Never – Jaguar and Alfa Romeo Face the Hard Road

With recent reports suggesting the sector is stagnating, have Alfa Romeo and Jaguar left it too late to prosper in a compact premium market now utterly dominated by the German big three?

The new kids and the big boys they have to beat. Image via fiatgroupworld
The new kids and the big boys they have to beat. Image: fiatgroupworld

The German premium trio’s stranglehold on the European compact saloon segment is virtually complete, with car sales data for Jan-Sept revealing just how dominant Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz have become. This is an exclusive club comprising eight models – seven if you combine Volvo’s saloon and estate offerings. The combined sector posted January-September sales of 397,134, of which a sobering 341,339 consisted of either Audi, BMW or Mercedes. That’s 86% of the market, since you asked. Continue reading “Late and Never – Jaguar and Alfa Romeo Face the Hard Road”

Sign of the Cross

It’s been confirmed the next Opel Senator will be a crossover – as indeed it appears will everything else. Are we approaching a tipping point?

Inspiration for the forthcoming Opel CUV? Image via autoblog
The new face of Opel. Image via autoblog

When GM showed the Avenir concept earlier this year, many viewed it as a sign Buick was serious about re-entering the full-sized luxury saloon market with something along more traditional lines. For enthusiasts here in Europe it prompted speculation as to the potential for a similarly proportioned model – a latter day Opel Senator if you will. Continue reading “Sign of the Cross”

Gamma: Signs and Portents – Part Four

Examining the Gamma’s technical specification and its initial press reception.

Image via lancianet
Image: lancianet

Technically speaking, the Gamma was classic Lancia in that it mated an unconventional powerplant to a largely orthodox chassis layout. However, the big Lancia’s mix of conventional components came with an added dash of élan. The engine was a development of the proven Flavia unit, bored out to 2.5 litres. Sergio Camuffo outlined why he chose to enlarge the engine capacity saying, Continue reading “Gamma: Signs and Portents – Part Four”

Maserati: Flying High in April, Shot Down in May

It’s probable Frank Sinatra’s 1966 standard, ‘That’s Life’ currently plays on repeat at Trident Towers, given Maserati’s latest reversal of fortune. But how bad is it looking for Modena’s second son?

Maserati and Alfa Romeo CEO, Harald J Wester. Image via autoapassionati
Maserati and Alfa Romeo CEO, Harald J Wester. Image via autoapassionati

A year ago, we reported on Maserati’s unexpected sales success with an element of scepticism, but for a brief time it appeared as though CEO, Harald Wester’s plans for the Trident were working. With plans for additional new models including the now ubiquitous SUV, volumes in the region of 75,000 per annum by 2017 looked entirely feasible; catapulting Maserati into the luxury car mainstream while creating a buffer for FCA’s loss of Ferrari revenues. But since spring, reports have hinted at slowing demand which a recent Automotive News piece appears to confirm. Continue reading “Maserati: Flying High in April, Shot Down in May”

Poles Apart on Piccadilly

Two recent arrivals to the capital have helped underline the yawning chasm that exists between London’s Green Park and Piccadilly Circus. We take a sniff at both. 

An Image from the ARES Design website

Everywhere you go, the centre ground is crumbling, most notably on our high streets. As the mid-market vanishes, our thoroughfares are being transformed. Recently, I took a stroll down London’s Piccadilly; historically host to a number of car showrooms. Today it’s home to two, illustrating in its own way just how stratified the auto market has become. Continue reading “Poles Apart on Piccadilly”

Theme: Economy – The Durable Car

Ideally, an article on the theme of economy should contain no words at all – a conceit I did explore briefly, but the results proved disappointing.

Image via morrisminor.org.uk
Image credit: morrisminor.org.uk

Instead we reprise a piece from DTW’s early days which I’m forced to concede, runs to 1941 words. So while on one hand it does meet the brief, it also misses it by several nautical miles. Sorry.

The fact that ‘Durable Car Ownership – a new approach to low cost motoring’ didn’t knock Jackie Collins off the best seller lists in 1982 is probably due as much to its minority subject matter as a sorry lack of carnal shenanigans. It wasn’t a fashionable subject then and given that it’s been out of print for some years, probably wouldn’t be now.

Its author, Charles Ware, had his reasons for writing it – even if, as founder and MD of the Morris Minor Centre in Bath, those of a more cynical mien saw it as an attempt to Continue reading “Theme: Economy – The Durable Car”

Gamma: Signs and Portents – Part Three

If there was a single over-riding theme to the Gamma’s gestation, it can be summed up in one word. Politics.

An undisguised Gamma prototype. Image via lanciagamma.altervista1
A disguised Tipo 830 prototype. Image: lanciagamma.altervista1

As Fiat management began the process of ingesting their new acquisition, they found they were being thwarted by Lancia’s core of loyalist engineers. Like most grand marques, Lancia was engineering / manufacturing-led, so naturally all resistance to Fiat’s integration was centred here. Camuffo one imagines, must have been viewed with suspicion; seen as Agnelli’s man and schooled in what was probably viewed as an inferior tradition. Continue reading “Gamma: Signs and Portents – Part Three”

NOxgate – Through a Looking Glass, Darkly

With the particulates still settling over the VW emissions scandal, automakers are under scrutiny like never before. Yet VW may not end up being worst off – not by a long shot.

VW-TDI-motrolix
Three tainted letters – Image via motrolix

Almost a month into the VW emissions scandal, repercussions remain within the realm of conjecture and the view ahead no clearer. Everyone wants answers – VW owners who feel cheated and in possession of a tainted product, legislators (complicit or no) who now have to deal with the political fallout, and us – the faceless commentators who dole out harsh judgements from a safe distance, before scuttling back to the safety of our caves. Continue reading “NOxgate – Through a Looking Glass, Darkly”

Cutting Corners: Jaguar XF 2.2 Premium Luxury

Over the past couple of months I’ve skirted the peripheries of the XF, but now it’s time to address the core of the XF – its road behaviour.

IMG_2328

Lets begin with a positive. For what can be described as a fairly mundane executive saloon, the Jaguar’s steering response is from the top drawer. In my experience I’ve only driven one other car fitted with a power-assisted rack (which wasn’t a Citroen) that had nicer steering than the XF. That was a Lotus Evora.  Continue reading “Cutting Corners: Jaguar XF 2.2 Premium Luxury”

‘I’m Really Rather Cross’ – A VW Owner Speaks Out

Have you been a victim of TDI? Our journalists are waiting.

Ashley Scarpa at the wheel of her well-used 2014 VW Passat yesterday. Image vis The Guardian
Ashley Scarpa at the wheel of her 2014 VW Passat TDI. Image via The Guardian

The author writes:

When we founded Driven to Write, we didn’t exactly begin with a set of guiding principles. Our aim was to provide an alternate voice to the mainstream motoring press and perhaps hold their feet to the fire from time to time. Similarly, ‘Big Auto’ and their well remunerated leaders have frequently felt the sting of our pen. However, one thing we never set out to do was to cause a member of the public to feel belittled and hurt, which is what this piece unintentionally achieved. Continue reading “‘I’m Really Rather Cross’ – A VW Owner Speaks Out”

It’s the Hard NOx Life – VW in the Dock

A week is a long time in the motor business and this sh*tstorm just got real.

I think they call this an open goal. VW launches the 2016 Tiguan at Frankfurt IAA. Image via VW.AG
I think they call this an open goal. VW launches the 2016 Tiguan at Frankfurt IAA. Image: VW.AG

I sat down today to write something of a Frankfurt IAA overview. A sofa-eye view of the trends, winners, losers and why-botherers. Post-NOxgate however, there’s only one story, no winners and one loser. Well perhaps more than one.

Just seven days ago it was all looking quite jolly for the German auto industry at their home show. New car announcements rubbed shoulders with credibly exciting concepts while the World’s press gathered to Continue reading “It’s the Hard NOx Life – VW in the Dock”

Theme: Wheels – The BBS RS

A prince amongst wheels – in praise of a design classic

The BBS RS - image via devianart
The BBS RS – image: devianart

Power ballads and poodle hair weren’t the only big things in the 1980s. Wheels were too, particularly the aftermarket alloy variety. At a time when most cars were still fitted with pressed steel wheel rims, the aftermarket was big business. With bodykits and Rude Mercs abounding amongst the hotshoe contingent, having the right set of mags mattered. Continue reading “Theme: Wheels – The BBS RS”

Mercedes’ Movable Feast

Mercedes-Benz gets aero on everyone’s ass at Frankfurt.

Mercedes Concept IAA. Image via gizmag
Mercedes Concept IAA. Image: gizmag

While this week’s Frankfurt show-stopping Porsche Mission E concept appears to offer a vision of the future where (Porsche) drivers are offered the very latest propulsive technology wrapped up in a reassuringly familiar (if nicely proportioned) package, Mercedes-Benz have taken a sharply divergent approach; Daimler’s brave new world being a starker affair altogether. Continue reading “Mercedes’ Movable Feast”

Gamma: Signs and Portents – Part Two

Fiat acquired the shattered remnants of Lancia in 1969. The Italian car giant was ill-prepared for what it discovered.

The 1969 Fiat 130 Berlina. Image via favcars
Corporate hubris? The slow-selling (if excellent) 1969 Fiat 130 Berlina. Image: favcars

Fiat made its name, reputation and not inconsiderable fortune from small cars, cost-engineered and rationalised to be inexpensive to produce, to buy and to maintain. During Italy’s post-war industrial boom, the Turin car maker grew massively, catering to the home market’s growing affluence and thirst for motorisation. By the late 1960’s however, Fiat’s management realised that over 70% of their car business was concentrated in the bottom end of the market – one with the least potential for profit. Continue reading “Gamma: Signs and Portents – Part Two”

Electric Dream – Porsche Mission E

Still want to order that Panamera?

Image via Porsche.com
Image via Porsche.com

Today, Porsche’s Mission E concept was shown to the press at the IAA motor show, signalling the beginning of the mainstream industry’s fightback against the groundswell of Musk emanating from Tesla’s Silicon Valley headquarters. Continue reading “Electric Dream – Porsche Mission E”

Theme: Wheels – The GKN Kent Alloy

Some wheels come to define an era. 

The GKN 'Kent' alloy wheel. Image via Hemmings
The GKN ‘Kent’ alloy wheel. Image: Hemmings

For any marque enthusiast, wheel design can be as evocative and redolent of its era as any design flourish or styling theme. To me at least, these wheels just scream Jaguar, in the same way wires did during the 1960s. I’ve habitually known them as the GKN Kent alloy, standard equipment on the original launch-spec Jaguar XJ-S and optional on XJ saloons over the ensuing decade and a half. The final XJ saloon that left the Browns Lane production line in 1992 was a Series 3 Daimler Double Six on ‘Kents‘. No other wheel design served Jaguar as long or suited the car as well. Continue reading “Theme: Wheels – The GKN Kent Alloy”

Welcome to the Machine

The advertising copy was unequivocal: “10th September 1975: A black day for Modena, Stuttgart and Milan”. It didn’t quite work out like that, but 40 years late, the jury’s finally in on the XJ-S.

Image via Jaguar Heritage
Image: Jaguar Heritage

On this day 40 years ago, the Jaguar XJ-S was launched to the press, and while knives were mostly sheathed, the sense of bewilderment was palpable. Because the one aspect of the XJ-S few critics ever truly got their heads around was its styling. For the entirety of the car’s career, its appearance was derided by the automotive media, certain they were as right as Jaguar were wrong.

Report after report of Jaguar’s flagship told of a brilliantly developed grande routière whose road behaviour, effortless performance and uncanny mechanical refinement was from the very top-drawer but was let down by its polarising appearance. Continue reading “Welcome to the Machine”

Mega-Size Me

Marchionne’s Merger Mania Examined – Again. Where Driven to Write leads, the mainstream press follow: Autocar finally gets around to examining the Marchionne plan. 

Don't panic, there's a high percentage wool mix in this jersey. After all, a man's got to have standards.
Don’t panic, there’s a high percentage wool mix in this jersey. After all, a man’s got to have standards. Image credit: (c) motorionline

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes. Recently, one of our readers took us to task over our coverage of FCA’s latest product plans, suggesting we were being unduly negative about them and about FCA’s knitwear enthusiast-in-chief. It’s easy to see why, but at least we have been applying our critical faculties to the subject – something that has (up to now) been conspicuously absent in the mainstream automotive media. Continue reading “Mega-Size Me”

The Lyon of Beauty: Jaguar XF 2.2 Premium Luxury

This month your correspondent gets himself in a lather over the XF’s styling.

IMG_2546
All Images: Driven to Write

I’ve always considered the XF to be a handsome car, even if I had assumed it was something of a stopgap design; a stepping stone from the failed nostalgia of the S-Type to something more aesthetically robust. But confronted with the knowledge it now embodies the true North of Jaguar saloon style has forced me to re-engage with the car’s appearance in a way I might otherwise have sidestepped. Continue reading “The Lyon of Beauty: Jaguar XF 2.2 Premium Luxury”

Gamma: Signs and Portents – Part One

The tale is etched in automotive folklore, but how well do we really know the Lancia Gamma ? In this series, we unravel its difficult birth and inglorious career.

The 1976 Lancia Gamma Berlina. Image via ourclassiccars.
The 1976 Lancia Gamma Berlina. Image via ourclassiccars.

Death by a thousand Fiats:

Fiat’s stewardship of Lancia has been such a shameful series of episodes, it’s difficult now to imagine the road to perdition being paved with good intentions. Because if nothing else, the Gamma stands as an illustration of how mergers and acquisitions never quite work out. Throughout its history as an independent manufacturer, Lancia produced exquisitely engineered automobiles that garnered respect and deep admiration, but consistently cost more than the company could afford. Continue reading “Gamma: Signs and Portents – Part One”

Theme: Shutlines – The Difficult C-Pillar Junction

I’ve spent a lot of time looking at shutlines this past month…

How it used to be done. Original image via carsbase
How it used to be done. Original image: carsbase

… and one thing inevitably leads to another, so today we’re taking a (not particularly comprehensive) look at how manufacturers used to deal with another, often tricky junction. The one at the base of the C-pillar.

Continue reading “Theme: Shutlines – The Difficult C-Pillar Junction”

Transitory Lines

Ford’s 2015 Transit is a staggeringly competent piece of kit, but what’s with the creases?

Other van rental companies are available
Other van rental companies are available

One of my most memorable journeys of recent memory was a trip from Leatherhead in Surrey to Newcastle in a fully laden rented Ford Transit. Memorable for the staggering competence of the vehicle and the relative ease in which the 300 mile journey was dispatched. I handed back that van with an almost audible sob. It was that impressive. Continue reading “Transitory Lines”

Theme: Shutlines – The Vanishing A-Pillar

Yesterday, Driven to Write gave you an overview of the A-pillar. Today however, we’re going a little deeper.

Mercedes W201. Image via carsguide.au
The mighty Mercedes W201. Image: carsguide.au

Since we started this month’s theme I’ve spent more time looking at shutlines and panel gaps than is either healthy or rational. Nevertheless, it’s been an absorbing study, giving rise to a number of observations about the manner in which manufacturers have managed these transitions over recent years. From a purely scientific perspective of course, we should really be limiting ourselves to those junctions where at least one of the abutting panels opens, but I’m trusting our editor will let this pass – and lets face it, we’re not about to get into all this again any time soon.

Continue reading “Theme: Shutlines – The Vanishing A-Pillar”

Theme: Shutlines – Mind The Gap

Some collected, if slightly disconnected thoughts on this month’s theme gives us an opportunity for a little gratuitous Mercedes-bashing. 

Stand clear of the doors - image via The Telegraph
Stand clear of the doors – image: The Telegraph

So much is known and quantified, be it politics, cuisine, architecture or indeed recognising a decent pasodoble when we see one. It’s all out there to be discovered, downloaded and co-opted into our lives and dinner party conversations: we’re all experts now. Continue reading “Theme: Shutlines – Mind The Gap”

Forthcoming Fiats Will Be Like IKEA.

FCA’s Olivier François outlines Fiat’s flat-pack future. 

Fiat brand CEO, Olivier Francois. Image via thedetroitbureau
Fiat brand CEO, Olivier Francois. Image via thedetroitbureau

On the basis of his recent outpourings, I rather doubt whether FCA’s Olivier François has ever been to an IKEA retail outlet. After all, visiting one of their stores is a little like dentistry. Numbingly unpleasant but occasionally necessary. At such times I’m compelled to go, I try to plan my expeditions in military fashion. Go when its quiet, get in, get the target and get the hell out.
Continue reading “Forthcoming Fiats Will Be Like IKEA.”

Nice Kitty? Jaguar XF 2.2 Premium Luxury

You only get one chance to make a first impression, so how does ‘our’ XF fare?

IMG_2327
All images: Driven to Write

Among the tenets of luxury car motoring is the notion that everything you touch and feel should feel expensive and well engineered; that the manufacturer has gone that extra bit further to make you feel more deserving, more special. Approaching the XF for the first time however, the first thing you grasp is the door handle, only to be greeted by a flimsy-feeling plastic arm that wouldn’t be out of place on a car many times cheaper. Continue reading “Nice Kitty? Jaguar XF 2.2 Premium Luxury”

Tipo 156 – The Last Alfa Romeo

No, not the one you’re thinking of. This is the last rear-wheel drive Alfa saloon. Or is it?

156.Alfabb.com
A fibreglass styling model of Tipo 156, circa 1983. Image via Alfabb

By 1980, government owned Alfa Romeo was in trouble. The Alfa Sud experiment was unravelling amidst chronic labour unrest and the deteriorating reputation of the model that took its name. In addition, its expensive engineering couldn’t be recouped by its low price and paltry volumes, meaning Alfa was haemorrhaging Lire at a prodigious rate. Continue reading “Tipo 156 – The Last Alfa Romeo”

The Men Who Made the ’40 – Jim Randle

In the second of our postscripts to the XJ40 story, we profile its architect.

Untitled-1Randle2

“To meet Jim Randle and to talk to him is to go into a quiet and refined world. Randle is a precise, immaculately tailored executive, whose voice is pitched so low you immediately know why an XJ12 is so refined.” (Motor historian, Graham Robson 1981)

When auto journalists profiled Jim Randle, the same adjectives just kept cropping up. Following the dapper and avuncular William Heynes and the professorial Bob Knight, Randle was an engineering chief from Jaguar central casting. Quiet spoken, brilliantly clever and refreshingly free of ego, Randle was the engineer’s engineer. Continue reading “The Men Who Made the ’40 – Jim Randle”

There’s Something About Mary

Has FCA’s on-off romance with GM entered a new phase?

'I'm sexy and I know it...' Sergio on the pull. Image via benchmarkreporter
‘I’m sexy and I know it…’ Sergio on the pull. Image via benchmarkreporter

Last week two seemingly unrelated news items landed, which taken on face value elicited only mild interest. But to a cut-price Max Warburton such as myself, the two stories add up to something a good deal more intriguing. Continue reading “There’s Something About Mary”

The Men Who Made the ’40 – Bob Knight

We profile a man who did more to define not only the XJ40 concept, but also Jaguar’s overall engineering direction than perhaps any other single individual – Bob Knight CBE.

Portrait of Robert J Knight, Commissioned by Jaguar Jaguar Heritage. Image via BBC
Portrait of Robert J Knight, Commissioned by Jaguar Heritage. Image: BBC

“The idea that development towards the ultimate should ever stop is anathema to Bob Knight. [He] never failed to use every last available moment to perfect some detail. So it was hardly surprising that without any curb on modifications, any car in Knight’s sphere of control was ever signed off unconditionally.” Andrew Whyte (Auto historian) Continue reading “The Men Who Made the ’40 – Bob Knight”

Rearview: 1987 Toyota Corolla Liftback

Is a posh Corolla an oxymoron? Not in Ireland during the 1980’s.

1987 Toyota Corolla Liftback GLi - image via toyotaoldies.de
1987 Toyota Corolla Liftback GLi – image: toyotaoldies.de

It might surprise you, but the (AE92-series) Corolla, in 1.6 GLi form, was considered a desirable upmarket car in Ireland during the latter part of the 1980’s, before we became brand snobs like everyone else. This era also coincided with two more appealing slightly upmarket Japanese hatchbacks – Mazda’s 323F and Honda’s 5-door Integra.

Toyota had embraced the art of chassis engineering by then, so apart from being pleasing to look at the Corolla was also quite nice to drive, Continue reading “Rearview: 1987 Toyota Corolla Liftback”

Crossroads for the Four Door Coupé

Is the four-door coupé already out of road, or is it just crossing over?

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The shape we’re in now. Image: Audi UK

Automotive niches interest me because they represent the closest thing manufacturers come to risk taking. Take the four-door coupé segment for example. I’ve puzzled over this sector’s viability ever since Mercedes-Benz introduced the CLS-Class a decade ago. After all, it hasn’t necessarily set the automotive world alight, has it? Apart from Mercedes, who have we got? Audi has the A7, BMW the 6-Series Gran coupé, Porsche offers the Panamera and VW the CC. That’s pretty much your lot. Common strand? Yes, they all hail from German manufacturers, which does add up to a somewhat one-dimensional bandwagon. Continue reading “Crossroads for the Four Door Coupé”

Panamera Precursor

The Panamera’s missing link.

1989 Porsche 989. Image via krmgk
1989 Porsche 989. Image: krmgk

Porsche have made several attempts at a four seater over the years, from stretched versions of the eternal 911, to a long-wheelbase 928 created for Ferry Porsche’s 75th birthday, but perhaps Zuffenhausen’s most serious attempt was this.

Porsche were no stranger to crisis – for decades prey to the changing needs, regulations and currency fluctuations of the vital North American market. Having almost gone bust on several occasions since the Seventies, Porsche, under chief engineer, Dr. Ulrich Bez, schemed a larger, more mainstream model to help Continue reading “Panamera Precursor”

Madness into Method

As Porsche’s 2016 Panamera gets beach body ready, will edition 2.0 secure Michael Mauer’s legacy?

Oink! The 2015 Porsche Panamera. Image via Zombdrive.
Oink! The 2015 Porsche Panamera. Image: Zombdrive.

Auto Industry Management 101 states all car bosses must speak only in soundbites, remain resolutely on-message and above all, never badmouth the product. Especially product customers can still purchase new at their local dealer. All of which appears to have escaped Porsche MD, Matthias Muller’s notice at last September’s Paris motor show. With Porsche’s hunchbacked Panamera saloon a good 18 months shy of being taken to a quiet piece of woodland and whacked over the head with a shovel, Continue reading “Madness into Method”

That Ain’t No Way to Say Goodbye

FCA cooks up another unicorn – this one’s Delta-shaped.

Not the new Delta Integrale. Image via zougla.gr
How the proposed new Delta Integrale won’t look. Image: zougla.gr

A short while ago, Autocar’s Hilton Holloway posited a future for the Lancia brand. His wasn’t the first or even the best – (that honour lies elsewhere) – in fact his suggestions struck me as being lamentably short-termist in scope. Basically, he proposed that FCA revive Lancia with a series of retro-inspired cars based upon past icons. A revived Stratos, spun off the Alfa 4C platform and a Delta Integrale, based on the Giulietta. Low volume, high margin products, aimed at enthusiasts with a view to re-establishing Lancia’s credentials with a marketplace that now only recognises the brand on the basis of their presence in online gaming. Continue reading “That Ain’t No Way to Say Goodbye”

Extended Test: 2013 Jaguar XF 2.2 Premium Luxury

A Jag? With my reputation?

'Our' XF, yesterday.
‘Our’ XF, yesterday. All images: Driven to Write

As anyone familiar with the site will know by now, Jaguars are something of a recurrent theme in my life. So when a few months ago I was offered the extended use of a 2013 Jaguar XF, I tried to accept with jaded equanimity. However the unseemly haste with which I bit the owner’s arm off probably betrayed my true feelings. Continue reading “Extended Test: 2013 Jaguar XF 2.2 Premium Luxury”

History Repeating – (XJ40 : 1980-1994)

Phase Three – 1981-1986: Picking Up the Pieces.

John Egan with this senior management team. Browns Lane 1980. Image credit: (c) warwickbooks

The early phases of XJ40 development centred around the battles played out to retain Jaguar’s identity. The third phase would be dominated by efforts to remove themselves from BL’s influence entirely. For John Egan, the first eighteen months at Browns Lane proved something of a high wire act. With morale in tatters, and unfinished cars piling up, Egan initially believed that Jaguar’s problems were marketing rather than production based, a notion he was swiftly disabused of.

Realising that quality had to be tackled in order to Continue reading “History Repeating – (XJ40 : 1980-1994)”

History Repeating – (XJ40 : 1972-1980)

We examine XJ40’s turbulent conception and ask, was this the last Jaguar?

Image credit (c) Auto-Didakt

A New Jerusalem

They said it couldn’t be done, but he’d heard that before. Nobody had presented a car at the prestigious London Institution of Mechanical Engineers and furthermore no complete vehicle had ever broached the entrance of number One, Birdcage Walk, Westminster.

This hallowed society of engineers, founded by Railway pioneer, George Stephenson in 1847, had already hosted some of the finest technical minds over its 140-year history, but August 28, 1986 would prove to be something of a first.

As Jim Randle surveyed the lecture theatre, with the still-secret new Jaguar, now back on four wheels and safely under wraps, Jaguar’s Director of Vehicle Engineering cast his mind back for a moment to Continue reading “History Repeating – (XJ40 : 1972-1980)”

History Repeating – XJ40 Postscript

Tragedy, Loss, Redemption? Driven to Write brings its XJ40 epic to a close and asks, can Jaguar ever truly escape its past?

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XJ40 perfected? The 1994 Jaguar’s – last of the line. Image: thecaptainschair

Apparently, Sir John Egan considered cancelling XJ40 in 1984 and starting the programme afresh, claiming he was talked out of it, not only by his management board, but by Sir William Lyons. This remains one of the great unknowns regarding the car, as it remains unclear what such a decision could have realistically achieved.

Looking at it objectively, the biggest enemy Jaguar faced, especially in the early stages of the car’s development was resource and quite obviously time. Decisions made to Continue reading “History Repeating – XJ40 Postscript”

Alfa Romeo Erases History

Its own to be exact. This week Alfa Romeo announced a new visual identity. The signs are not good.

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Alfa Romeo’s new more ‘now’ emblem

It’s invariably worrying when auto manufacturers fiddle with their visual identity. Even if you’re a VW, the fact that you see fit to mess about with your trademark suggests the wrong business decisions are being prioritised and at the very least, the marketing people have run amok.

Continue reading “Alfa Romeo Erases History”