In this extract from Simon A. Kearne’s excellent biography of Sir Basil Milford-Vestibule, he details the only recorded meeting between the legendary engineer and bitter rival, Len Brik at the London’s 1957 Olympia Motor Show.
Simon A. Kearne writes: Sir Basil never missed an opportunity to attend the annual London Motor Show, although he habitually detested everything he saw there. He would sweep around the show stands, the ever-present Montclair in hand, accompanied by his faithful assistant, Boothby, unintentionally insulting ally and foe alike. On this occasion, I accompanied them during press day and as we arrived at the Lotus stand, I noticed Colin Chapman hurriedly ducking behind some packing crates in a vain attempt to Continue reading “Showtime Showdown – Olympia 1957”
As an ad-slogan, it never really sounded right to me, carrying within it a sense of deadlines unmet and frantic solutions cobbled together. It also suggested not so much an ad-agency creative team out of ideas, more a client without a clue.
When Sir John Hegarty; doyen of UK advertising and co-founder of renowned ad-agency, Bartle Bogle Hegarty took on the Audi creative account back in 1982 the Ingolstadt marque’s image was somewhat nebulous. Yes, they had launched the trendsetting Quattro coupé and were fast gaining a reputation for unorthodox engineering ideals, but they faced as precipitous an ascent to the summit of the automotive ziggurat as Infiniti does today. Continue reading “Advertising: Speak My Language”
Phase Two – 1976-1980: Egan Takes Knight. As XJ40’s vaults its final hurdles, John Egan arrives at Browns Lane.
Throughout 1979, Sir Michael Edwardes began talking to the man he believed could pull Jaguar out of the abyss. Having previously revived the ailing Unipart business before quitting in the post-Ryder schisms, John Egan had all the right credentials. The only problem was convincing him to take the job. Central to Edwardes’ desire to recruit Egan was a mounting belief that he had made a misjudgement in Bob Knight’s appointment. Continue reading “History Repeating: XJ40 Part 7”
The sudden departure of Luca di Montezemolo as Ferrari MD has shocked tifosi and surprised analysts. But one key question remains unanswered – what happened?
Ever the truth-seekers, Drive to Write appear to have accidentally stumbled upon the answer, gleaned from (admittedly dubious) sources close to FCA itself, revealing the unspoken reason for his departure – the mysterious disappearance of Sergio’s favourite jumper – (A particularly fine blue angora number). Continue reading “Luca’s Woolly Nemesis”
Lexus’ recent creative review ditched more than the message…
All good advertising embodies an essential truth. For some years now for instance, Lexus has gone with the tagline ‘The Pursuit of Perfection’; a relatively believable goal to envisage. However, despite some success in the US market, Lexus remains stubbornly among the junior ranks of the European prestige car business. In a fit of insecurity, Continue reading “Theme: Advertising – Off Message”
Okay Saab, we know this is a difficult time for you right now, especially with you being dead and everything. Obviously we’re sorry for your trouble, but if we can be completely candid, this whole thing is starting to get a little unnerving.
Phase Two – 1975-1980: Knight Falls. The disastrous 1979 launch of Series III almost sinks Jaguar entirely, indirectly precipitating Bob Knight’s downfall.
1978 saw a brief reprieve in Jaguar’s fortunes. Under Sir Michael Edwardes, interference eased sufficiently to finally allow a consensus to emerge on XJ40’s style. Customer research backed the assertion that a strong family resemblance was required. The revitalised styling of the Series III XJ also cast a mighty shadow, because despite its age, Pininfarina’s revisions combined to create a sleeker, more modern car. Continue reading “History Repeating: XJ40 Part 6”
Italy’s engineering giants slug it out for your entertainment.
Given the size of the Italian motor industry by comparison to say, the United States or Germany, it’s difficult to compile a list of the great engine designers without coming to the conclusion that Italy has historically punched well above its weight. The fact that most of them were schooled through Italy’s once thriving aeronautical industry says as much about the era from which they emerged as the political and socio-economic causes, but either way, Italy’s contribution to the pantheon of notable engines is undeniable. Continue reading “Theme: Engines – The Greatest?”
The V4 engine layout is synonymous with Lancia, the marque having employed the layout extensively from the 1920’s right up to and sometime after its demise as an independent in 1969. Founder, Vincenzo Lancia had something of a penchant for the vee-formation engine but it’s unclear exactly why he favoured the V4 over its in-line counterpart, given that the layout tends to fall prey to out of balance forces one would really rather not have to deal with. Continue reading “Theme: Engines – Divine Inclination”
Phase Two – 1976-1980: Speed of Darkness. As Bob Knight continues his search for an acceptable style, a new sheriff enters town.
Throughout 1976, the paltry resources available for XJ40 concentrated mostly upon the ongoing struggle to establish an acceptable style. During the spring, Bertone and Ital Design submitted revised proposals, which ended up mouldering under dust sheets. Continue reading “History Repeating: XJ40 Part 5”
With engines, as with everything else, there’s a pecking order. But who rules the roost?
Anyone spending time thinking or indeed writing about cars is likely to hold a firm view on the merits or otherwise of the internal combustion engine – few auto enthusiasts choose the comfort of the fence on this. If you cleave to the view that the engine represents the heart of a car, then it should come as no surprise that any marque with pretensions to greatness has designed and produced their own. Furthermore, the truly grand marques have at least one powerplant in their back catalogue that can be viewed in, at the very least, quasi-mythological terms. Continue reading “Theme: Engines – Top Dead Centre”
Phase Two – 1976-1980: Fortress Jaguar. With engineering the last beacon of resistance, XJ40 becomes its talisman.
1975 saw the broken remains of Jaguar in lockdown. Bob Knight’s policy of civil disobedience stemmed the tide of assimilation to some extent, but BL’s operating committees were undeterred. Like most of the industry, they believed the collapse of luxury car sales in the post-oil shock era would be permanent. The prevailing view being that Jaguar were producing dinosaurs. Continue reading “History Repeating: XJ40 Part 4”
Phase One – 1972-1975: Jaguar Year Zero. The Autumn of 1974 marked a point when the sky fell in at Jaguar.
Government appointee, Sir Don Ryder’s report into BLMC’s collapse was published in April 1975 and its findings were greeted with horror at Browns Lane. Ryder recommended British Leyland should henceforth operate as a ‘single integrated car business’. As such, marque identities would be subsumed into centralised BL business units. Jaguar would cease to exist, with its two plants now managed by separate Leyland Car divisions. The effects of rationalisation would go to ludicrous extremes, but with the UK government picking up the bill, there was little room for sentimentality. Continue reading “History Repeating: XJ40 Part 3”
The it really should never have worked but it did facelift: 1983’s Ford Fiesta
The 1976 Ford Fiesta’s sales successes made it so ubiquitous that its appearance ceased to be either noticeable or remarkable. This however belies Köln-Merkenich’s initial design, which under the stylistic leadership of Uwe Bahnsen was neat, well executed and had, by the tail end of the ’70s, worn well. However as a new decade began, it began to Continue reading “Theme: Facelifts – Festie’ Refaced”
The 2004 facelifted S-Type had it all to do. Unfortunately for Jaguar, it came too late.
While the 2004 facelift to the Jaguar S-Type could never fully excise the visual scars left by its predecessor, it did re-present them in a more broadly palatable form. Given that the original 1998 X200 remains something of a stylistic horror show; the result of an amalgam of three individual styling prototypes unhappily stitched together by Jaguar stylists under a reactionary Ford management, just about anything would have served to Continue reading “Facelifts – Winning the Battle, Losing the War”
It was no oil painting to start with, but the facelifted C5 was ghastly.
Dan Abramson’s 1994 Xanae concept signposted Citroën’s entry into the compact MPV sector, but additionally, its styling came to inspire an entire generation of production Citroën’s, each displaying an incremental diminution of creative execution. The Xanae’s conception was overseen by Art Blakeslee, drafted in from Talbot to preside over Citroën’s styling after the allegedly rancorous departure of Carl Olsen in 1986. Continue reading “Theme : Facelifts – Dîner pour Chiens”
Phase One – 1972-1975: A Question of Style. Jaguar knew how XJ40 should look, but BLMC management had other ideas.
In October 1973, the complete XJ40 styling proposal was presented to BLMC’s Donald Stokes and John Barber. The car’s style had evolved noticeably over the intervening twelve months, but the XJ-S-inspired lineage remained. The differences lay in the height and shaping of the canopy, the daylight openings – which now featured a six-light treatment – and the addition of a lineal shoulder line. Overall, it presented a cohesive and not unattractive projection of Jaguar saloon style. Continue reading “History Repeating: XJ40 Part 2”
Driven To Write descends into facelift hell. Pray for us.
Today’s foray into facelift hades stems from recent past. The original 2003 R230 SL series was a good 65% less attractive than its far more accomplished (R129) forebear. Nevertheless, amongst the less than stellar offerings emerging from Sindelfingen under design chief, Professor Peter Pfeiffer during the post-Sacco era, R230 in its original form was at least broadly cohesive.
In the fond past such matters would have been beneath them – largely because the design would have been sufficiently well judged in the first place. In the old Vertical Affinity, Horizontal Homogeneity days Mercedes-Benz were never in the habit of carrying out anything but the most perfunctory of facelifts, but by 2008 Sindelfingen was well and truly in the fashion business. Continue reading “Theme : Facelifts – New Adventures in Rhinoplasty”
In the repository of automotive facelifts, this example is something of an aberrant one. BMW’s E65 7-Series is commonly and perhaps justifiably regarded as BMW’s ‘they’ve gone stark raving bonkers’ moment. Adrian Van Hoydoonk’s styling was on one hand a genuine breath of fresh air, yet at the same time, a visual challenge of epic proportions.
Phase One – 1972-1975: A New Jag Generation. We examine the landscape within Jaguar as the initial XJ40 concept coalesced.
XJ40 underwent several distinct phases in its path to production, the first of which began with the 1968 launch of the XJ6 saloon, a car upon whose shoulders Jaguar would unknowingly place the next 18 years of its existence. The XJ was a superb car, its excellence the sum of several factors. The careful honing of proven hardware, a gifted development team, Jaguar’s V12 engine, and the appliance of stylistic genius. It would be the pinnacle of Sir William Lyons’ vision but as a new decade dawned, it was necessary to plan for its successor.
The sensation of speed is often as much a function of proximity as it is of exposure. The less there is between you and the road below, the more immersive the experience, as any Caterham owner will tell you as he attempts to draw your attention from the rain soaked, hand-tooled moccasins he knew he shouldn’t have worn. But really, if you want to experience speed at its most unadulterated, the racing bicycle stands supreme.
A new Jerusalem, or nothing but the same old story? In this series of articles, we examine XJ40’s turbulent conception and ask, was this the last Jaguar?
Billed at launch as the Jag without tears; a high-tech culmination of an unprecedented level of proving in some of the world’s most hostile environments, XJ40 represented a new beginning for an embattled marque. As much the story of Jaguar’s dogged resistance as it is of the car itself, XJ40’s 22-year career encapsulates the most tumultuous period in the company’s history.
The tragedy of XJ40 has several strands. Throughout the torrid ‘Seventies, XJ40 became Jaguar’s talisman, the one hope a demoralised corps could cling to when there appeared to be no future. Central to this were efforts of successive engineering chiefs to maintain the marque’s identity, but success would come at bitter cost.
XJ40’s lengthy gestation meant the end result was viewed by some as a disappointment, yet this belies the enormous efforts made to ensure XJ40 modernised, yet maintained marque traditions. The first truly modern Jaguar, the model was critically acclaimed upon release, but the car’s reputation became tarnished by an early reputation for build and durability issues it never quite overcame.
Despite being the best-selling XJ series of all, XJ40 today remains something of an outlier within the official Jaguar narrative, only latterly being appreciated for its finer qualities and for its status as arguably the most ambitious and technically pure Jaguar saloon ever.
It could also be said to mark the point when Jaguar’s stylists ceased to look forward, resulting in a nostalgic philosophy Ford’s interventionist management subsequently wrung dry with the XJ40 series’ ultimate successor – 2003’s X350 series.
In fact, parallels between XJ40 and its Ford-funded successor run deep. Both were intended to be technological flagships for both Jaguar and their parent. Both attempted to marry technical innovation with traditional styling. Both failed to stabilise the business and indirectly precipitated further changes of ownership.
“…It’s all just a little bit of history repeating…”, Shirley Bassey once purred over a Jaguar TV advert, and this lyric contains a truism, because for Jaguar the past refuses to stay buried for long.
So many car design concepts intrigue and delight upon initial viewing but date as quickly. A notable exception to this truism sits below :
The 1992 Ghia Focus. First displayed at that year’s Turin Motor show to rapturous acclaim, it was a compact barchetta style roadster, and it’s radical form language prefigured a new direction for Ford. Its influence however, would ultimately extend further beyond Ford’s Dearborn, Dunton, Merkenich and Turin studios.
Has Centro Stile Fiat ever produced a design of lasting significance?
This is the question I found myself asking following a recent Driven to Write piece on Lorenzo Ramaciotti – (which I urge you to read). Because like many, I held firm to the view that Turin’s fabled carrozzerie were responsible for every design worthy of note. On the other hand, memory can sometimes prove a faulty co-driver, so I did what any self-respecting autophile would do at this point and revisited the Fiat group’s styling back catalogue in a quest for answers. So what I offer here is a list of significant Fiats of the last 50 years and who is believed responsible for their styling. Continue reading “A Question of Form”
A badge can often tell you a lot more than what exactly it is you’re driving behind…
The badging on the rear of this first series Lancia Fulvia coupé is rather lovely. It resembles a signature and perfectly encapsulates Lancia’s quality ethos at the time. This wasn’t a cheap car and the badge told you this with elegance and eloquence.
The second of a two part examination of FCA’s European operations and the feasibility of Sergio Marchionne’s four-year plan to revive them. Part two – There will be blood:
FCA’s presentation made a point of telling the financial and automotive worlds just how much Marchionne is prepared to accept for the sale of Ferrari, suggesting the fabled Marenello concern is for sale; despite firm denials from within FCA itself. Some might say that he would be insane to do so – the ‘Cavallino Rampante’ being probably the most valuable automotive brand in the universe right now.
A two part examination of FCA’s European operations and the feasibility of Sergio Marchionne’s four-year plan to revive them.
Now that the captives have escaped, the presentations are complete and fruit and vegetables been thrown, perhaps it is germane to take a look behind the figures and statistics at the state of affairs facing Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in Europe as they painfully inch towards their eventual fate.
Sergio unveils his elaborate masterplan for FCA’s future and it’s a staggering work of fiction.
Last week Sergio Marchionne kept a selection of the world’s auto journalists captive for a ten hour marathon outlining his vision for the next five years at the newly merged FCA. Those who managed to sit through the numbing PowerPoint presentations, the staggering level of detail, the sheer grinding onslaught of facts, statistics, projections, flying unicorns and outright fantasies probably needed more than a few restorative shandies to steady their shattered nerves.
Arguably the most misunderstood Jaguar of all time, Driven to Write seeks once and for all to put the ‘committee design’ assertion to rest as we examine the defamation of the XJ-S.
In September 1975 the newly nationalised British Leyland conglomerate celebrated the Jaguar XJ-S’ launch at Longbridge, the traditional home of its volume car division. A worse time to launch a 150-mph grand turismo is difficult to imagine, to say nothing of the chosen setting. The venue was a calculated statement of power, British Leyland ensuring Jaguar’s beleaguered management and workforce knew exactly who was in charge. Continue reading “Reconvening the Committee”
We convene the committee one final time and examine the defamation of the XJ-S.
Widely seen as the most outspoken and irreverent of the UK’s automotive titles, Car was the journal most automotive journalists and commentators looked to and emulated. It’s evident the ‘committee-design’ assertion emanated from this source, which illustrates that journalists are as prone to suggestion as anyone. The press subsequently appropriated this assertion which over time morphed into established fact. Car editor Mel Nichols made his views clear in October 1975, stating; Continue reading “XJ-S: Reconvening the Committee (Part 5)”
Do car badges have intrinsic value? Driven to Write investigates.
We all misread the obvious sometimes. Our world is frequently confusing, as are the brands and symbols that surround us. The car badge or emblem embodies a narrative – an entire marque history distilled into a small piece of moulded plastic.
Bertone gives Issigonis’ box on wheels some sharp-suited Italian style and demonstrates how cute doesn’t always mean curvy.
The 1970’s can be seen as a bit of a lost decade when it comes to cute cars apart from this – the Innocenti 90/120L. Innocenti’s association with BMC began in 1960, producing cars like the Austin A40, 1100 and more notably, the Mini under licence for the Italian market. Innocenti’s versions of BMC models tended to be plusher; the subtle restyling undertaken often appearing better judged and executed than those of their UK counterparts.
We take a more in-depth look at the Jaguar XJ-S’ styling.
The world fell in love with the E-Type, but what many fail to realise is that by the early ’70s, Jaguar’s sports car icon was virtually unmarketable, the curves everyone loved in 1961 now hopelessly out of fashion. Yet when Jaguar announced the XJ-S as lineal successor, traditionalists had apoplexy on the spot. But was it really that much of a departure?
The problem with ‘cute’ is that it’s such a nebulous term. It can be an adjective, a noun or an adverb, so its meaning has shifted markedly since its origins in the 18th century. After all, one person’s pretty or dainty is another’s contrived and calculating. So when it comes to cute, which is it? However you view the term, you simply can’t Continue reading “Theme: What’s Cute Got to Do with It?”
Has there ever been a more unselfconsciously cute car than the Frogeye Sprite? That grinning air intake, those amphibian headlights and pert form, to the dainty little tail-lights, the little Austin-Healey is about as friendly and cuddlesome as a miniature Schnauzer. Had Pixar created it, it really couldn’t have any more maddeningly lovable.
To celebrate Cute Month at DTW, we are offering Mitsubishi, FREE OF CHARGE, the attached name restructuring for their UK vehicle range.
Our consultants have come up with names that celebrate the ever maximising lifestyles of the 21st Century motorist whilst silently vocalising the informal outlook filtered through the standpoint of pertinent social media. Prices have been raised accordingly to reflect the added desirability these cute but cutting-edge names will surely engender.
Look, anyone and their dog can get on a plane and physically attend the Geneva Motor Show, but frankly that’s a little passé now. No, by far the more arduous, some might even say, daring approach is to stay at home, in pyjamas, eating toast and allowing someone else do all the legwork. Well that’s my justification anyway and no, you can’t have any more jam until you behave yourself. Continue reading “Geneva 2014 – The View from the Sofa”
The XJ-S marked a entirely fresh direction for Jaguar style. We examine its birthpangs.
Early in 1969, work on XJ27 began in earnest. Due to BLMC’s straitened finances, funding was limited to utilising a modified version of the existing XJ saloon substructure and hardware component set. Structurally and mechanically then, there would be few surprises. Stylistically however, Sayer had something far more radical in mind. Continue reading “XJ-S: Reconvening the Committee (Part 3)”
A wise man once said that you can prove anything with facts. He was right – you can. However, float above the narrow prism of the factual and reality becomes a more nebulous concept. For it is within this white space the automotive press-release copywriter dwells. A land of fairies and elves, where steaming troughs of hyperbole appear as tureens of nourishing broth.
The upper-middle class coupé is almost extinct. We trace its demise.
Large upper-middle class coupés only made commercial sense if they could be produced to appeal to both domestic and US audiences. Mercedes-Benz, BMW and the Japanese manufacturers alone seemed to understand this, ensuring they could export their offerings to the sector’s natural habitat. Success in automotive terms had traditionally been predicated on success in America and for that, a luxury coupé was highly desirable. Continue reading “Coupé de Grâce”
I don’t think I’m necessarily alone in finding Sergio Marchionne’s penchant for jumpers a little unsettling. Yes I concede it is lazy of me to expect an Italian captain of industry to cleave to national sartorial stereotype; why shouldn’t he buck the norm, even if the result is somewhat unedifying.
Fine tailoring might be what we expect, but in Marchionne’s case the knitwear appears a little too studied, just a tiny bit artful. The cosy jumpers appear to Continue reading “Ripping Yarns”
Two figures defined XJ-S’ aesthetics: we examine their methods.
Sir William Lyons not only founded Jaguar Cars but personally supervised all matters of styling. His approach involved working (alongside skilled technicians) from full-sized wooden and metal styling ‘bucks’ which once reviewed in natural light he would have modified until he arrived at a conclusion he was satisfied with. Continue reading “XJ-S: Reconvening the Committee (Part 2)”
We’re not still sticking lights on the front of our cars, are we? Time for some fresh thinking perhaps.
Modern life isn’t necessarily rubbish, but on balance, it is somewhat disappointing. Not just the gnawing pointlessness of so much of it, but the nagging sense that the brave new world we were promised back in the 70s has decisively failed to materialise. Because laying aside for a moment the jet-scooters, orgasmatrons and robotised dogs we were all expecting to enjoy, there remain aspects of the motor car which really should have met the rendezvous with the eternal.
There have always been cases of re-skins creating ‘different’ vehicles; and indeed VW Group have become masters at doing this in-house. But between independent brands this has usually been discreet and car companies have remained proud of their ability to manufacture the oily bits, as in the example of the Vauxhall salesman who once vehemently denied to me that the diesel in an Omega was manufactured by BMW. You might have thought he’d Continue reading “What Lies Beneath?”
Reassessing Chris Bangle’s Bayerische Motoren Werke Legacy.
Only a handful of individuals shape what we drive and by consequence, what populates our streets and driveways. Our current notions of automotive style were formed during the 1950s in the styling studios of Detroit and within the Italian carrozzieri, who fired imaginations and rendered dreams in hand-beaten alloy. For decades these designers and artisans were largely faceless men but during the 1980’s, the car designer emerged from obscurity and into the consciousness of the auto-literate.
Part one: Arguably the most misunderstood Jaguar of all time, Driven to Write seeks once and for all to put the ‘committee design’ assertion to rest as we assess the stylistic genesis of the 1975 XJ-S.
In September 1975 the newly nationalised British Leyland conglomerate celebrated the Jaguar XJ-S’ launch at Longbridge, the traditional home of its volume car division. A worse time to launch a 150-mph grand turismo is difficult to imagine, to say nothing of the chosen setting. The venue was a calculated statement of power, British Leyland ensuring Jaguar’s beleaguered management and workforce knew exactly who was in charge. Continue reading “XJ-S: Reconvening the Committee”
Sometimes it pays to be brave, sometimes it doesn’t. Better luck next time, Renault.
By the final decade of the 20th century, motor manufacturers, having established that engineering integrity would only take them so far in the quest for market leadership, began to realise that the answer to their prayers lay within the spreadsheets and focus groups of the product planning departments. In a mature market, largely populated by feckless new money garnered from illusory internet start-ups and awash with cheap credit, the differentiator between the automotive carnivores and their prey would be defined by one word: Segmentation. Entire departments sprang up in such demographically significant hotspots as Miami, London and Southern California, all tasked with seeking that elusive niche that would give the parent company a jump on their rivals.
Simon A Kearne’s long awaited biography of Sir Basil Milford-Vestibule is well overdue. Keenly awaited by enthusiasts of engineering and knitting alike, this comprehensive overview of an almost-legendary engineering genius and his lifetime’s work as chief engineer of The Empire Motor Company.
Kearne, (who requires little introduction), was granted unprecedented access to the Milford-Vestibule archive and through painstaking research, has crafted a biography as maddeningly eccentric as the subject himself; a book, one can’t help feeling, Sir Basil would have berated publicly but secretly adored. Continue reading “Sir Basil Milford-Vestibule – A Life Unstitched”