FCA Didn’t Launch the 2016 Giulia Today

Don’t look down Sergio, because the analysts are revolting!

The wait is over. Well, maybe not over exactly... Image via carscoops
Anybody seen my unicorn? Image via carscoops

This afternoon’s reveal of the new Alfa Romeo Giulia will undoubtedly be the day’s big automotive story with the car’s styling and likely chance of success being foremost in commentator’s minds. But it’s worth pointing out this is not an announcement of a production-ready car; more a piece of theatre, aimed at a far more rarefied audience. But don’t take my word for it. Continue reading “FCA Didn’t Launch the 2016 Giulia Today”

Zoom Lens

A tale of tail lamps…

Somewhat similar to those of the SM? Image via specialblog.hu
Fiat 130 Coupe. Image: specialblog.hu

On the subject of tail lamp units, an cursory glance might suggest to the uninitiated that the Maserati Kyalami sported a pair of these –  not exactly the wildest assumption given their superficial similarity to those fitted to the SM. Both Citroën and 130 are from very much the same era, so one can safely assume their respective designers were thinking along broadly similar lines. But regardless of whether or not these were also borrowed for use elsewhere, they definitely set a template for the 1970s, as did the 130 Coupe itself. Continue reading “Zoom Lens”

Rooting in the Parts Bins – Again…

It’s always the way. You wait ages, then two incidences of Citroën SM’s tail lamp units crop up on the same week – on two vastly different cars.

Those SM tail lights again. Frua's Phantom Drophead. Image: onlycarsandcars
Those SM tail lights again. Rolls Royce Phantom Drophead by carrozzeria Frua. Image: onlycarsandcars

Firstly (as we saw earlier) on Maserati’s 1976 Kyalami, and now here on Frua’s 1977 Rolls Royce Phantom VI Drophead. Of course the common strand here is Frua themselves who plainly had a job lot of SM lens units knocking about. Regardless of the merits (or otherwise) of this vast open tourer’s aesthetics, it’s interesting to see how adaptable a humble lens unit such as this can be. I can’t help feeling I’ve seen the SM tail lamp elsewhere. Any thoughts? Continue reading “Rooting in the Parts Bins – Again…”

Theme: Evolution – Proliferation

Ode to Joy…

Untitled-1Four decades ago, BMW’s range looked like this.

The body copy here attempts to challenge the contemporary perception that BMW was essentially a niche manufacturer with a tiny range of specialist cars by highlighting the broad scope of BMW’s 1975 UK range: 14 cars. Today there are as many variations of the current 3-door 1-Series available upon these shores. So while the 40-year old range could fit on an single A4 sheet, BMW’s entire 2015 range would now require a good 38 pages – and most likely a glossary of terms. Continue reading “Theme: Evolution – Proliferation”

Theme: Evolution – Adaptation, Diversification, Survival

Maserati’s natural history came to an abrupt halt in 1975. Survival meant change – not just a new model, but an entirely fresh approach.

For a Hybrid, it's a fine piece of work. The 1976 Maserati Kylami
What expediency looked like in 1976. Frua’s AM129 Maserati Kyalami. (c) maserati-alfieri

It’s tempting to view evolution as a continuous series of gradual mutations, but events throughout history have illustrated it only takes a single catastrophic event to propel it in an entirely different direction – or stop it entirely. The 1973 oil embargo for instance was the motor industry’s very own fiery catastrophe and 1975 the year when the conflagration really took hold, consuming a swathe of specialist carmakers.  Continue reading “Theme: Evolution – Adaptation, Diversification, Survival”

The Future’s Bright – (oh, hang on a second…)

The new BMW 7-Series is awash with colour and tech. Oh joy.

'Wanna lift? I've got gesture control!' The new BMW 7-Series in Arctic Grey Brilliant Effect. Or is it Magellan Grey? Oh forget it. Image via BMW UK
BMW’s flagship in Arctic Grey Brilliant Effect. Or is that Magellan Grey? Hang on, that looks more like Jatoba. Oh forget it! Image: BMW UK

According to Autocar, who seemingly troubled the press pack – (something I’ll admit to not being bothered doing) – the newly announced BMW 7-Series will be available in a dazzling array of cheerful colours. Or to put it another way, it won’t. On the surface of things, the new 7’s colour palette looks even more drearily monochrome than its uninspired styling. Continue reading “The Future’s Bright – (oh, hang on a second…)”

Theme: Evolution – Coming Soon…

Next year’s E-Class will be a tech-fest. We lift the lid.

The S-Class' younger, smarter and slightly cheaper brother. Still want that top of the range Merc? Image via Autocar
The S-Class’ younger, smarter and slightly cheaper brother. Still want that top range Benz? Image Autocar

Next year’s Mercedes E-Class is primed to evolve ‘in-car connectivity’ and autonomous driving to the next level, says a report in Automotive News Europe this week. Thomas Weber, Daimler’s head of development, told ANE journalists; “Innovations in this area are coming thick and fast,”. Just how thick and how fast Sindelfingen’s 2016 mid-liner will be, DTW can now exclusively reveal. Continue reading “Theme: Evolution – Coming Soon…”

Theme: Evolution – Refining a Theme

What do the Mercedes CLS, VW Passat CC and a forgotten 1982 rendering have in common? The stylist associated with each of them – Murat Günak.

Designer, Murat Gunak - photo via Stern.de
Designer, Murat Gunak – photo: Stern.de

The world of the international car design is a small and frequently incestuous one. Take the career of Turkish car designer, Murat Günak. Having studied design at the Royal College of Art during the 1980’s under Patrick Le Quement and Claude Lobo, he worked for Mercedes-Benz under then Styling Director, Bruno Sacco. During his time at Stuttgart-Untertürkheim, he was credited with the styling for the W202 C-Class and R170 SLK. With time came greater responsibility, so while the 2004 W219 Mercedes CLS body style was the work of American, Michael Fink, the project came under the supervision of Günak, reporting to Styling Director Peter Pffifer. Continue reading “Theme: Evolution – Refining a Theme”

Coupé de Foudre – Mercedes CLS

Thunderbolt or damp squib – lifting the lid on Stuttgart-Untertürkheim’s ‘Jag-fighter.

The 2004 CLS - image via tuning.carwallpapers
The 2004 CLS (c) : tuning.carwallpapers

“The CLS is a thrilling symbiosis between the elegant design of a coupé and the functionality of a four-door luxury saloon – and the result is a unique, pioneering vehicle concept that is tailored to suit the tastes of automotive connoisseurs.” It’s clear Mercedes’ breathless copywriters really reined themselves in on the hyperbole stakes. Continue reading “Coupé de Foudre – Mercedes CLS”

Obituary: Erik Carlsson – 1929-2015

Driven to Write salutes the passing of a motoring giant

Erik Carlsson RIP. Image via saabklubdanmark
Erik Carlsson RIP. Image via saabklubdanmark

The motoring world is a little bleaker today following news of the death of Erik Carlsson, Saab’s legendary rally champion and latter-day marque ambassador. Saab may well have made their commercial mark in the 1960s without his exploits on the special stages, forests and safaris of the World Rally championships, but Carlsson’s wins in the underpowered two-stroke 93-series were instrumental in making the world sit up and take notice of those funny looking little cars made in that funny sounding little place called Trollhättan.  Continue reading “Obituary: Erik Carlsson – 1929-2015”

History Repeating – XJ40 Part 18

Phase Four – 1986-1994: The Rhymes of Goodbye. As Henry’s new broom sweeps both baby and bathwater, XJ40 gets a final makeover before it bows out.

Twilight of a champion?
Best for last? The 1993 XJ12. Image: automobilesdeluxetv

Bent on beating General Motors to the punch, it appears the Blue Oval not only overpaid but failed to carry out a sufficiently thorough pre-purchase inspection. As the scale of Jaguar’s issues became clear, budgets and new car programmes were slashed. It didn’t take long for the briefings to start, the US giant unashamedly publicising their findings, seemingly oblivious to the negative PR this would engender – to say nothing about morale.  Continue reading “History Repeating – XJ40 Part 18”

Matters of a Spiritual Nature

It’s Sunday and in keeping with our unofficial Mini theme, DTW suggests four good reasons BMW was correct not to proceed with Rover’s 1995 Spiritual concept. 

The 1995 Mini Spiritual twins first shown in 1997. Image via smallblogv8/MVerks
The futuristic 1995 Mini Spiritual twins first shown in 1997. Image via smallblogv8/MVerks

It would have cost a fortune to develop:
The investment in a bespoke floorpan and drivetrain, modifying hydragas, body & interior tooling and of course refitting the factory to build it would have been huge. New concepts also mean teething problems, so warranty costs were likely to have been high. Even as a sales success, Spiritual would struggle to recoup its development costs, meaning Rover would most likely have lost £millions on it.

Continue reading “Matters of a Spiritual Nature”

The Bavarian Job – 1993 BMW Z13

BMW’s early ’90s attempt at blowing the bloody doors off…

BMW's Mini-like Z13 - image via pixshark
BMW’s Mini-like Z13 – image: pixshark

It’s been suggested that BMW management pushed through the decision to build an overtly sporting concept of Mini against the wishes of Rover engineers, who advocated a more radical approach. There is a nub of truth in this, but only a nub. With Mini’s centre of gravity shifting towards the sporting Cooper model, Rover engineers had been working on Minki, a heavily re-engineered version of the existing car, aimed not only at modernising the concept, but in effect refocusing it. Continue reading “The Bavarian Job – 1993 BMW Z13”

Fossil Traces: From Minki to MINI

Before MINI, there was Minki.

Minki schematic - Minki 2 featured a longer and wider body. Image via Austin Memories.
Minki 1 schematic – Minki 2 featured a longer and wider body. Image via Austin Memories.

You’re probably never heard of it, and nor had I until comparatively recently. Minki was a Rover K-Series engined Mini re-engineered with interconnected hydragas suspension, much like that of Dr Alex Moulton’s own modified Mini – and a hatchback. Built to suggest a possible developmental direction for the ageing original, time ran out for the concept, given Mini’s possible sales volumes versus the costs involved. Continue reading “Fossil Traces: From Minki to MINI”

Champagne Supernova

Driven to Write assesses BMW’s millennial MINI remaster.

P0008757
If Cool Britannia was a car. (c) bestcarmag

There has always been a faint whiff of the tribute act about Oasis, a nagging sense that it was all somewhat better the first time around. Similarly, despite the overwhelmingly positive reviews and its promising technical specification, I greeted BMW’s R50 MINI with a sizeable measure of ambivalence. However, owing to frequent use of a 2006-edition MINI Cooper on regular trips home to Ireland, it’s a car I have come to know well, so has more intimate acquaintance with BMW-Rover’s retro recasting led me to Continue reading “Champagne Supernova”

Twilight of A Champion Part Two – The Next Leap Forward

Where now for Jaguar’s flagship?

jaguar_xj.above
Image credit: Diseno-art

When it comes to full-sized Jaguars, the market is at best apathetic. Throughout the leaping cat’s history you’ll find the strongest selling and best-loved models have been more compact saloons and sports models. Even the original XJ6 began as a relatively close coupled machine, coming into being out of the perceived necessity for a larger, four-seater E-Type variant and the commercial failure of the full-sized Mark Ten. Up to the demise of the X308-XJ series in 2002, it remained broadly faithful to this template: low-slung, snug, a tad decadent.
Continue reading “Twilight of A Champion Part Two – The Next Leap Forward”

Catastrophe

Jaguar’s commercial ambitions reached their zenith with this famously unsuccessful 1961 saloon flagship, whose legacy resonates to this day.

Image via Jag-lovers
Jaguar’s most influential car ever – from a styling perspective at least. Image credit: Jag-lovers

Some six months after the euphoric launch of the E-Type, Jaguar launched this radical saloon. Given the project name of Zenith, Mark Ten was a dashingly modern, dramatically styled leviathan of a car, conceived specifically for the North American market. Famed for his astute reading of market trends, Jaguar founder, Sir William Lyons didn’t believe in customer clinics or product planning. The Mark Ten was his vision of a full-sized luxury Jaguar Saloon – bigger, more opulent and technically sophisticated than any European rival. Continue reading “Catastrophe”

Theme : Secondhand – Forecourt Temptations 2

DTW comes across a perennial favourite

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For sale from Auta Motol in Prague, this Tatra 603-2 might have had several keepers over half a century but qualifies as secondhand having done just 1,900 km since restoration. DTW have lusted after these cars since first encountering them in the then Czechoslovakia back in Communist days. Like the Citroen DS, they are unfortunately popular as fashion accessories among those whose motoring enthusiasm is slight. This not only pushes up prices, but can mean that a restoration is no more than skin deep. Continue reading “Theme : Secondhand – Forecourt Temptations 2”

Twilight of A Champion – The Decline of the Jaguar XJ

With each passing year the Jaguar XJ becomes less relevant. Why has the world fallen out of love with Jaguar’s big saloon? Driven To Write investigates.

Gratuitous hero shot of X351 ahoy! The remarkably unsuccessful XJ. Image via topnewsupercars
Gratuitous hero shot of the current XJ. Remarkably unsuccessful. Image: topnewsupercars

In 2009, the world’s least influential Jaguar commentator drew comparison between the newly announced (X351-series) XJ and its distant forebear, the 1961 Mark Ten saloon. The nub of my argument was that the new model should not be judged against any prior XJ series, but instead through the prism of its unloved sixties progenitor.

Some five years on, it pains me to conclude the current XJ is cleaving to the Mark Ten template even more faithfully than anticipated, easily as disheartening a commercial failure as Jaguar’s former flagship. Continue reading “Twilight of A Champion – The Decline of the Jaguar XJ”

Rearview: Alfa Romeo Alfetta Berlina

FCA could learn something from the 1972 Alfetta, but it’s probably a bit late for that now.

Alfetta-1

While FCA’s Italian engineers have undoubtedly being imbibing industrial quantities of Alfa lore as they develop their forthcoming saloon, they’re unlikely to have this print ad posted up on their mood board. Perhaps they should, because journalistic hyperbole aside, it illustrates as eloquently as anything I can say not only how far Alfa Romeo has fallen since the early 1970’s, but how steep a climb FCA’s engineers now face. Continue reading “Rearview: Alfa Romeo Alfetta Berlina”

Bridesmaid Revisited

FCA’s perennial wallflower lashes out.

Why won't anybody dance with me, wails Sergio? Image via Bloomberg
Why won’t anybody dance with me? Image via Bloomberg

We’ve all had to cope with rejection at some point in our lives – smiling grimly through the tears, as we peel our shattered egos off the floor. But no stoic is our Serge. Far from taking it on the chin, he’s gone on the offensive, raging to industry analysts this week at the unfairness of it all. Has he lost his mind? Continue reading “Bridesmaid Revisited”

Invincible Defeat: The VW Phaeton

Peak Piëch?

Image via carspecsreview
Image: carspecsreview

Phaeton. As a name it never really struck the right note. A little too puffed-up, ever so slightly grandiose for what really is a rather self effacing car. Perhaps in the absence of a suitably important-sounding wind, VW lacked options, or it was just another of Dr. Piëch’s flights of self-aggrandisement.  Continue reading “Invincible Defeat: The VW Phaeton”

Rearview: An early Piëch at an Audi

Ferdi wasn’t always a household name. Here’s where he came in…

Ferdi 006
With reports earlier this week suggesting Ferdinand Piëch has threatened to resign over his failed attempt to oust VW CEO Martin Winterkorn, it’s as good a time as any to look at possibly his earliest appearance in the UK press. Continue reading “Rearview: An early Piëch at an Audi”

History Repeating – XJ40 Part 17

Phase Four: 1986-1994 – The Legend Stumbles. As Jaguar’s woes multiply, Ford senses its moment and strikes.

XJ40rearqtr

Jaguar’s rehabilitation was dubbed the Egan Miracle by a UK press charmed by a compelling narrative and the Lancastrian’s charisma. But by 1989, Sir John’s halo had slipped and the knives were out. Continue reading “History Repeating – XJ40 Part 17”

Auf Wiedersehen Piëch?

As the Dark Lord of Wolfsburg loses his grip, is this the twilight of a dictator?

VW's puppetmaster-in-chief - Dr Ferdinand Piech
VW’s puppetmaster-in-chief – Dr Ferdinand Piëch . Photo via spiegel.de

Lately, the mighty VW juggernaught has appeared unassailable. The Golf and Passat dominate their respective classes, while Audi and Porsche reap record profits on the back of a global luxury car boom. Yet serious fissures have appeared at the very top of the management chain which unchecked, could destabilise the entire organisation.  Continue reading “Auf Wiedersehen Piëch?”

Rearview: Try Justifying This…

Nice car, patronising car ad.

Car-adphotos 001

For those of us who grew up in the 1970’s, it doesn’t necessarily always feel that long ago. Revisiting this print ad, I realise it was. Advertisements like this were not all that unusual then, especially when it came to advertising more ‘masculine’ cars. Like so many things we can now look back in astonishment over, this form of casual and gleeful sexism not only portrays women as emasculating killjoys, but also as quite incapable of appreciating a nice car – let alone being capable of driving one. Continue reading “Rearview: Try Justifying This…”

Theme: Roads – A Ride to the Moon

Driven to Write takes a road to nowhere.

Image via Sean Patrick
Tommy’s nemesis – a desolate spot to meet one’s end. Image by  Sean Patrick

“Physically, the Ventoux is dreadful. Bald, it’s the spirit of Dry: Its climate (it is much more an essence of climate than a geographic place) makes it a damned terrain, a testing place for heroes, something like a higher hell.” (Roland Barthes)

The urge to ascend mountains is ancient and mysterious. It has been suggested it’s rooted in the notion of a spiritual journey toward the divine. Certainly there’s an altered state one feels at high altitude, but this probably has as much to do with oxygen deprivation than anything of a more lofty nature. Continue reading “Theme: Roads – A Ride to the Moon”

Fossil Traces – Autobianchi A111

Today we look at a short-lived and largely forgotten automotive artefact.

Autobianchi A111 - image via viva-lancia
Autobianchi A111 – image via viva-lancia

The Autobianchi A111 was produced for only three years and is notable for being the largest, most prestigious model the carmaker produced – in fact, the A111 was never directly replaced. From 1972, Fiat-owned Autobianchi’s sole offering would be the mini-sized A112.

The genesis of the A111 lay in the 1964 Autobianchi Primula, front-wheel-drive pathfinder to Dante Giacosa’s 1969 masterpiece – the Fiat 128. The A111 also debuted in 1969, and a feeler gauge was required to tell them apart. The 128 measured 385 cm in length with a wheelbase of 244.5 cm, while the A111 was longer overall at 402 cm, but shorter between the wheels at 236 cm.
Continue reading “Fossil Traces – Autobianchi A111”

The Resurrection Won’t Be Televised

Today, we examine rumours in the mainstream car industry that if accurate, could precipitate something quite unusual. Genuine surprise.

Anyone for for a spot of gravedigging? Image via craigqmonreals
Anyone for for a spot of gravedigging? Image via craigqmonreals

In a polarised landscape, the worst place to be is in the centre ground. This is as true of the mainstream motor industry as it is within politics, religion or even retail. Anyone not attempting to create upmarket brand extensions hopes to convince customers to pay more for their existing products. Others see the creation of new brands as the answer.  Continue reading “The Resurrection Won’t Be Televised”

The XF – Abridged

We’ve identified a problem with the XF’s rear styling. Yes, all by ourselves.

The XF and its fussy tail-lamp treatment. Image via carscoops
A less fussy tail-lamp treatment would have served the XF better. Image: carscoops

Jaguar’s Series-2 XF was revealed this week and the dust has settled to some extent over its appearance – the consensus being it’s overly cautious. What’s apparent is the bulk of stylistic contention lies aft and in particular, the tail-lamp treatment. While not as grating as those affixed to the junior level XE, they could be so much nicer. In fact, searching the web, I discovered an image of just how nice they could have been. The difference is rather striking is it not? Continue reading “The XF – Abridged”

Continental Drift

As Lincoln’s Simon Woodhouse gets a quilted leather handbag in the chops courtesy of his Bentley opposite number, are the designer gloves off for good?

2015 Lincoln Continental concept - image via netcarshow
2015 Lincoln Continental concept – image: netcarshow

This week’s pique-fest courtesy of Bentley’s Luc Donckerwolke is interesting for a number of reasons. Firstly, it breaks a tacit understanding that rival stylists do not publicly criticise one another’s work. Secondly, it prompts the question, is it possible to Continue reading “Continental Drift”

Jaguar’s North Star Saloon

The F-Type is not the quintessential modern Jaguar. This is.

The 2016 Jaguar XF - image via performancedrive
The 2016 Jaguar XF – image: performancedrive

Upon release, Jaguar made lavish claims about the significance of the F-Type. How it would become the fulcrum of the entire Jaguar range. How successive models would reference its styling. This has proved wildly inaccurate because on the basis of the two most recent model launches, Jaguar’s pivot point is not in fact the F-Type. It’s the XF. Continue reading “Jaguar’s North Star Saloon”

History Repeating – XJ40 Part 16

Phase Four: 1986-1994 – Keeping up appearances. Jaguar revises XJ40 as the tide turns against it. 

Image via productioncars
1988 and XJ40’s fortunes become inextricably bound up with Jaguar’s wobbly financials. Image: productioncars

With the British motoring press sharpening their quills, Car’s concluding long-term report on an early 3.6 Sovereign sounded a somewhat conciliatory note.  “Because it did some things remarkably well, the contrast with the things it did badly was sharper. Mostly it was the detail design that gripped us with despair… It rings of the bells of time running out and shortcut solutions running freely.”

Continue reading “History Repeating – XJ40 Part 16”

Benchmarks: Audi’s Monospace Capsule

The A2 wasn’t simply the most intelligently wrought Audi ever. It was also their most expensive sales flop. We tell its story.

Audi A2. Image via nordschleifeautoblahg
Image (c) nordschleifeautoblahg

History marks the Audi A2 as a failure, and with vast commercial losses incurred during a six year lifespan, it’s a simple and convenient dismissal. Since its 2005 demise, the party line has been that Audi took a brave, risky and ultimately doomed gamble into the unknown, one which was studiously ignored by the buying public. But is it as simple as that?

It had been an open secret since the late-1980s that Daimler-Benz had a compact hatchback in development. Such an incursion into the VW Group’s orbit was viewed by Chairman, Dr. Ferdinand Piëch as a gross betrayal, precipitating amongst other things, this overt cost-no-object rival.

Schemed on the basis of an ultra-economical VW concept, Piëch tasked Audi engineers to create a technological statement with the avowed intention of putting his detested rivals in Stuttgart-Untertürkheim firmly in their place.

Ingolstadt’s engineers had one pronounced ace in their pocket – material technology, in the form of aluminium spaceframe construction pioneered in the range-topping A8. However when Audi displayed the Al2 concept as a spoiler to the Mercedes A-Class’ 1997 debut, few saw it as anything more than simply another fit of Piëch. Two years later, both press and public realised just how serious he was.

Image via bilmodel
Image (c) bilmodel

An engineer’s car from its rounded nose to the tip of its aerodynamically shaped tail-lights, the A2 appeared to have been milled from a solid billet of aluminium. Luc Donckerwolke’s styling scheme was a masterpiece of form and structural function. Its design detail was a delight and with a exquisitely streamlined teardrop shape the A2 was a pared-back study in visual and material purity.

Beautifully finished and assembled to similar standards of care as larger Audi models, the A2 became an object of desire for design aficionados from Dingolfing to Dungeness. Ingolstadt would never be this clever again.

Image via audiworld
The level of investment in the A2’s aluminium spaceframe construction was huge. Image (c) audiworld

But this level of integrity costs. Priced above a well-specified Golf, prospective customers really had to make a case for the Audi. Combine this with small-capacity carry-over VAG engines (with a commensurate lack of performance – a function of its efficiency brief), and the A2’s fate was sealed.

Because while the market was perplexed by Mercedes’ A-Class, it was utterly confounded by the A2. Was it a compact luxury saloon or an economy trailblazer – could it be both? The motoring public are notoriously both fickle and inherently conservative and therefore by nature abhor a smart-Alec.

As a result, buyers cleaved to the safety of convention, so A2 never troubled the sales charts. After six slow years Audi pulled the plug, replacing it with the screamingly conventional, and considerably more market-friendly Polo-based A1.

Image via picgifs
Image (c) picgifs

VW ultimately lost €1.3bn on the A2 programme, although one suspects its costs were written off before the first production car rolled down the lines. The A2 did its job for Dr. Piëch, proving Audi could out-engineer their bitter Stuttgart rivals.

Yet the A2 proved a more durable design amidst enlightened autophiles – held in genuine affection by owners and those (like this author) who still quietly covet one. While sales success eluded the A2 during its life, it has become a sought after secondhand buy, holding significantly more residual value than its considerably less well wrought A-Class rival.

Late era A2's were available in these cheerful Colourstorm liveries - image via A2oc
Late model A2’s were also available in these cheerful Colourstorm liveries – image (c) A2oc via fourtitude

Today, an A2 arguably makes even more sense – its alloy body impervious to rust, and with commendably low running costs – especially in three-cylinder TDi form. While Audi have abandoned the A2 concept, recently stating they have no intention of producing a similar monospace vehicle, the concept has taken on new life at Munich’s Petuelring, with BMW’s i3 vividly illustrating the A2’s prescience.

History in Cars: Ten Feet of Trouble

A tale of a Mini well past its best…

Mini-Hero
All images (c) The author

It may interest you to learn that during the 1960’s, Mini’s were assembled in Ireland. The Irish importer for Morris, Brittains Group, built the cars in CKD form in a factory on Dublin’s Naas Road to a standard not vastly dissimilar to that at Cowley. Make of that statement what you will.

It was from here that a pale grey Morris Mini-Minor emerged in 1966, registered in Dublin, MZI 265. Republic-specification Minis, it would appear, differed slightly from their UK cousins, straddling basic and De-Luxe models, having carpeting, and duo-tone upholstery, if little else by way of creature comfort. Ours also had the optional heater, which issued an ineffectual warming breeze under duress.

We know little of MZI’s early history but it belonged to a succession of relatives before coming into our lives on the back of a determined campaign waged remorselessly by my younger self upon my long-suffering father. Believing that it would prove the lesser of several evils, he capitulated to Continue reading “History in Cars: Ten Feet of Trouble”

Theme : Benchmarks -The Renault 5 in Five Easy Pieces

Five reasons why the Cinq was a benchmark small car

Every living room should have one. 1972 Renault 5 - image via curbsideclassic
Every living room should have one. 1972 Renault 5 – image credit (c) curbsideclassics

1. Like many significant car designs, the Cinq was the brainwave of one man, originally created as something of a thought experiment. In 1968, Renault designer Michel Boué sketched the design proposal in his spare time, marking out the now familiar outline superimposed upon a photo of a contemporary Renault 4. Hence the silhouette and unusually tall canopy.

Renault design bosses, upon seeing his work, adopted it for production virtually unaltered. Based on the engines and drivetrain of the popular Renault 4/6 models, the R5 is a rare case of inspiration undiluted.  Continue reading “Theme : Benchmarks -The Renault 5 in Five Easy Pieces”

Fossil Traces: Porsche Panamericana Concept

Porsche’s win at the 1986 Paris Dakar rally with the 959 must have left some residual sand in their shoes, prompting this piece of conceptual frivolity – the 1989 Panamericana.

tcarsthatnevermadeit-PanAmerica1
Rinspeed couldn’t have made it look any sillier. Panamericana by Porsche – image via carsthatnevermadeit

Part 911, part Baja dune buggy, part Hotwheels toy, Harm Legaay’s Panamericana was Porsche sounding out its fanbase as to the limits of where the 911 concept could be stretched. As we all know now, the answer was not nearly far enough. Continue reading “Fossil Traces: Porsche Panamericana Concept”

A New frontier? Aston Martin’s DBX

Every so often, a concept car symbolises the crossing of an invisible line. Here’s one of them.

Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer next to the DBX concept-Geneva 2015 - image via motorauthority
You’d imagine they’d have found a jacket to fit him… Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer announces the DBX concept-Geneva 2015 – image via motorauthority

The Aston Martin DBX represents the best clue yet to the Gaydon-based marque’s future intentions. Aston Martin’s new CEO, Andy Palmer has stated a version of this car will be produced, telling the Telegraph last week; “The DBX is not an SUV, it’s an expression of a GT sports car; a DB crossing over into that usable space… it will be a five-door vehicle, and it won’t grow much bigger than the DBX.”  Continue reading “A New frontier? Aston Martin’s DBX”

The European D-Sector – So Long, Farewell…Sayonara

Having sniffed the exhaust pipes of the French and German marques within Europe’s D-segment, we make one last visit to wave a fond adieu to our friends from Japan. 

Toyota Avensis - get 'em while they're hot - image via infoziare
Toyota Avensis – get ’em while they’re still hot – image via infoziare

A facelifted Toyota Avensis bowed in at Geneva, featuring front-end styling eerily familiar to current Auris and Corolla owners. It probably represents the last opportunity to purchase one of these while they’re still warm because Toyota has broadly hinted that they may not replace the model once it breathes its last in a couple of year’s time. Continue reading “The European D-Sector – So Long, Farewell…Sayonara”

The European D-Sector – A German Perspective

The Passat is very much das auto in the European D-segment. We look at how everyone else is doing.

Image via autoblog
Passat 2015-style. Image via autoblog

With the strongest sales of all of the major European producers, German manufacturers remain hugely successful in the mainstream D-segment. Today, we delve below the surface to see if the figures tell the full story.
Continue reading “The European D-Sector – A German Perspective”

Theme : Benchmarks – Lancia Flaminia Super Sport

Benchmark or swansong? A short film from the very pinnacle of the automotive ziggurat

Just beautiful - Image via tuningpp
Lancia’s finest hour? – Image via tuningpp

If we collectively believe the current Ypsilon represents Lancia’s nadir – (although I would beg to differ) – I think we can Continue reading “Theme : Benchmarks – Lancia Flaminia Super Sport”

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Laguna?

Last week we poked a stick at PSA’s sector-D saloon offerings to see if there was any life in them. Today we cast a glance towards their domestic rivals and ask how Renault can keep churning out Lagunas at a loss of around €3,500 a pop?

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The 2014 Renault Laguna – image via autompv

Last year, Renault sold 16,019 freshly minted Lagunas across Europe and given it probably isn’t offered in too many markets outside the territory, that’s probably about as good as it got. What keeps Renault shooting themselves in both feet when on the face of things, more successful players are picking up sticks and leaving for good?  Continue reading “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Laguna?”

History Repeating – XJ40 Part 15

XJ40 history Phase Four: 1986-1994 – The dream unravels. Once the launch hysteria abated, the press began to appraise Jaguar’s new star more critically.

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Because the press had given (Sir) John Egan the benefit of the doubt, there was bound to be a backlash at some point. Sure enough, words like dated started to appear with increasing frequency in relation to XJ40’s styling, particularly criticism over the headlight and tail lamp treatments. Moreover, the press were of one mind regarding the instrument display and minor controls: they hated them. Continue reading “History Repeating – XJ40 Part 15”

PSA’s Tale of Two Continents

Peugeot/Citroën’s European D-sector sales collapse is not the catastrophe it first appears.

2015 DS5 - image via car24news
2015 DS5 – image via car24news

As we know, the motor industry is riven with contradiction, but nevertheless, some things remain beyond debate. Take the fact that the European mid-sized saloon market has been in serious and (some say) terminal decline since 2007, with sales across the sector falling by half. Yet, with Europe-wide volumes of almost half a million cars last year, there still remains a good deal to play for in what’s left of the segment. This month, PSA Groupe have posted their first profits in three years on the back of vast and painful cost-cutting including the axing of unprofitable models. So today we ask where this hollowing out has left PSA’s mid-sized saloon offerings?  Continue reading “PSA’s Tale of Two Continents”

German Lessons With Claudia Schiffer

Opel blew the budget on Ms. Schiffer, because there’s certainly nothing left for anything else. You know, like production values, creativity, wit …

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Confusing isn’t it Claudia? You are, the Astra isn’t. Got it? Image: autoevolution

I feel for Claudia, I really do. Times must be tough in the Schiffer household, because she really must have needed the money for this. Each time this advertising spot airs, I fight the urge to hurl the nearest available blunt object TV-wards. Surely no advertising agency with a shred of dignity would willingly put their name to drivel of this magnitude, yet someone did. Did they Continue reading “German Lessons With Claudia Schiffer”

Tinseltown in the Rain

Reflections on Jaguar’s XJ: DTW’s resident Jaguariste remembers a time when life and advertising met, sniffed one another before hurriedly going their separate ways.

jaguar-xj-2010
Image credit: (c) Jaguar

In 2009, I became somewhat overexcited about a new car launch. Following over 40-years of stylistic diminishing returns, to be presented with a twenty first century interpretation of the Jaguar XJ was exciting beyond rational explanation. Lacking a decent opportunity to Continue reading “Tinseltown in the Rain”

Post For The Day

A Valentine’s Gift

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As you know, Mr Editor Kearne keeps us under a tight rein. His reputation as the Elliott Ness of transport publishing means that the industry knows that he can’t be bought so, unfortunately, this preconception unfairly passes on to his team of writers.

As such, it was rare for this piece of blatant bribery from Vauxhall to pass through the net and, so desperately grateful am I, that it would be wrong of me not to draw your attention to the car it refers to.  Continue reading “Post For The Day”

Can the Anti-Bahar Rescue Lotus? – Part Two

Driven to write concludes its examination of Jean-Marc Gales’ plans to save Lotus

evora tail

Many of Lotus’ apologists incline towards the view that Dany Bahar had the right basic idea, but was thwarted by DRB-HICOM’s lack of imagination. Unsurprisingly then, their view on Jean-Marc Gales appointment is of a similarly reactionary hue. Gales made a mess of PSA they contend, and will do likewise at Hethel. Leaving aside the steaming lake of ordure their spiritual leader left behind at Lotus for a moment, the question is worth considering. Is Gales the right man?

Continue reading “Can the Anti-Bahar Rescue Lotus? – Part Two”

Can the Anti-Bahar Rescue Lotus?

Part 1: Driven to write fixes its gimlet eye towards Jean-Marc Gales and asks if he has what it takes to transform Lotus’ fortunes in a post-Bahar era.

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Don’t mention the Bahar – Jean-Marc Gales with the team behind the Lotus Elise-S Cup. Photo via automotivpress

Four years ago at the Paris Motor show, Lotus attached a rocket to its back and aimed for the stars showing five audacious concepts. Rocketman, Dany Bahar, Lotus’ shamanic leader attained perihelion before learning a valuable, if rather messy lesson in physics. Bahar told The Telegraph recently he in fact never intended making all five concepts, his intention merely being “to make a lot of noise”. It clearly escaped his notice that it’s a lot easier and ultimately less time-consuming to just set fire to huge wads of cash in public. Just ask the KLF.  Continue reading “Can the Anti-Bahar Rescue Lotus?”

Death Has a Revolving Door: Here’s Borgward!

The coffin lid groans as the once lifeless corpse reanimates

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It was revealed earlier this week that Borgward, the long-dead German quality auto marque will announce their first new vehicle in over 50-years at this year’s Geneva Motor show. Borgward, who last produced cars in 1961, join Saab and Bristol amongst deceased marques making belated and in Saab’s case, serial comebacks from the grave.

Although amazingly, neither have as yet Continue reading “Death Has a Revolving Door: Here’s Borgward!”