A Right Pair of Nymphs

Designer, Tom Tjaarda took two very different bites at the Lancia Flaminia during the 196os. Only one however is truly memorable. 

topcarrating
1969 Lancia Flaminia Marica: (c) topcarrating

During the Autumn of 1969, carrozzeria Ghia debuted the Marica concept at the Turin motor show, a styling study based upon the platform of the Lancia Flaminia, a car which had already ceased production. Not only that, but its maker had also gone bankrupt and was desperately seeking a benefactor.

Enter Alejandro de Tomaso, a phrase which would be uttered with increasing regularity within the Italian motor industry over the coming decade or so. Having purchased carrozzeria Ghia in 1967, he is alleged to have sanctioned the Marica study as a means of assisting Lancia’s bid to find a buyer – a statement which sounds suspiciously altruistic for such an automotive opportunist as he. But we are perhaps getting a little ahead of ourselves. Allow me to Continue reading “A Right Pair of Nymphs”

Disappointment at the Ambassador’s Reception

The 1982 Austin Ambassador was a poorly executed attempt to update the BL Princess and was met largely with indifference in the market. DTW examines why the Ambassador was such a flop.

(c) leylandprincess

The old axiom that “You never get a second chance to make a first impression” may be literally correct, but that does not stop people trying. The British Leyland 18-22 Series is a case in point. It was launched in February 1975 under three different BL marque names, Austin, Morris and Wolseley, each distinguished with its own bonnet and front grille treatment, but nothing else in the case of the Austin and Morris versions. The Wolseley had a light dusting of the more upmarket fixtures traditionally associated with the marque, including its rather twee illuminated grille badge.

The 18-22 Series was a quite stylish wedge-shaped four-door D-segment saloon, replacing the spacious but frumpy 1800/2200 LandCrab. It was designed under Harris Mann, Head of BL’s Longbridge design studio. Despite its profile, it did not have a hatchback, but a conventional boot. At the time it was launched, BL insisted that its research showed this was what the market wanted, but a more likely explanation is that BL didn’t want to Continue reading “Disappointment at the Ambassador’s Reception”

Curtain Call (Part 3)

DTW’s Eastern Bloc party of stillborn concepts and prototypes continues.

FSO Warszawa Ghia and Syrena Sport. (c) Autokult.pl /Auto Swiat.pl

FSO Warszawa Ghia, 1957

In search of a suitable replacement for the dated GAZ/Warszawa M20, FSO enlisted Ghia of Italy to deliver a proposal. Designed under Sergio Sartorelli at a cost of US $62,000, this Warszawa Ghia was the result. Looking somewhat like a shortened Lancia Flaminia, the car had a pleasing and up to date look. FSO sent the car to its research and development centre to be stored until further notice. Apparently no action was ever taken to Continue reading “Curtain Call (Part 3)”

Evolution of the Crustacean

A Greek fable of a horse which was transformed into a crab. 

‘Those doors’ – conspicuous here by their absence. (c) hemmings

The public don’t know what they want – it is our job to tell them…” Sir Alec Issigonis.

Even as Britain entered the 1960s, product planning remained something of an alien concept to its native carmakers, the majority of whom viewed such matters as being the sort of recondite nonsense invented in the United States, and best left there. So too, in the eyes of BMC’s benighted Technical Director was the art of automotive styling, which which he famously once stated “tends to date a car.

It’s a timeworn nostrum that any creative endeavour is only as good as the brief which underpins it, and in the case of ADO17 (or XC9001), brought to market in 1964 as the Austin 1800, the brief appears to have been a somewhat confused one. Was the car to have been a direct replacement for the ‘Farina’ A60 series, or a larger, more overt statement car? That seemed to depend upon who one spoke to.

It appears extraordinary in retrospect that key decisions surrounding a model programme as important as ADO 17 were taken by those so poorly-equipped to Continue reading “Evolution of the Crustacean”

The Man Who Broke BMC? (Part Three)

The story continues: BMC struggles with the failure of the 1800 and Maxi, but Issigonis has moved on.

(c) curbside classic

The Austin Maxi was reluctantly launched by BLMC* in 1969 and was greeted with a similarly lukewarm reception to that given to the 1800. With its five-door layout, it was an eminently practical car, but it lacked any element of desirability and, as launched, was plagued with technical issues. Increasingly desperate, BLMC hurriedly cobbled together a conventional RWD saloon and launched it in 1971 as the Morris Marina. It sold well enough, on the back of conventionally attractive looks and simple, proven (if antiquated) mechanicals, but it was still very much in the shadow of the all-conquering Cortina from arch-rivals, Ford.

Conceptually, there was much to like about the Maxi, but Donald Stokes, now chairman of BLMC, would not sanction any serious remedial work, a disastrous decision for a car that had much potential. For his part, Issigonis appeared indifferent and simply abandoned the Maxi to Continue reading “The Man Who Broke BMC? (Part Three)”

Under the Knife – A Late Reprieve

2007’s X-Type facelift illustrated how one can do more with less.

(c) cargurus

Few cars are created with an unlimited budget – after all, such a bounteous situation is no guarantee of an inspired result. On the other hand, budgetary restrictions are rarely a recipe for a successful product either. Certainly, when Jaguar’s 2001 X-Type was being scoped during the latter part of the 1990s, the Ford-controlled British luxury carmaker wasn’t exactly awash with cash, even if by then they were at least making money rather than haemorrhaging it as they had been, only a few years earlier.

X400 (as the X-Type was termed at Jaguar) formed the core of the blue oval’s growth strategy for the leaping cat, aimed at catapulting the marque into the big league with annual sales in excess of 200,000 cars. A hugely ambitious programme, which also encompassed the refitting of the otherwise defunct Ford Halewood plant in Merseyside; this latter aspect ladling such costs upon the programme that anything less than total success would be viewed as failure.

With so much riding upon it, X400 had to Continue reading “Under the Knife – A Late Reprieve”

Definitely Not The Italian Job

To many observers, the Morris Ital marks the absolute nadir of the BL era. Today we celebrate the Ital’s fortieth birthday and reappraise this much maligned car.

(c) carandclassic

The story behind the Morris Ital is one of pure desperation on the part of its makers. Throughout the 1970’s BL wrestled with an outdated, incoherent, poorly built and often unreliable range of cars, terrible labour relations and an owner, the British Government, that was fast running out of patience with having to Continue reading “Definitely Not The Italian Job”

Curtain Call (Part 2)

Comecon in and enjoy part two of Bruno Vijverman’s trawl through the former USSR’s automotive waifs and strays. 

Moskvitch 1974 C1. (c) Wroom.ru/ Autodata1 com

Moskvitch C1, 1975

AZLK, or Avtomobilny Zavod imeni Leninskogo Komsomola – which translates as Lenin-communist Youth Union – sold its vehicles under the more palatable brand name Moskvitch (Moscovite). In February of 1975 the C1 prototype was readied in response to a demand for a successor to the dated 412 model. Under its SAAB-esque skin, the work of chief designer Yuri Tkachenko, still beat the 412’s 85hp four; the hump stamped into the driver’s side of the bonnet accounted for by the engine’s height. Sharp eyes may spot the Opel Ascona B headlights. Still, the C1 looked modern- sporting even.

The bad news however was that the C1’s underpinnings were carried over from the car it was intended to replace. One would expect to Continue reading “Curtain Call (Part 2)”

Saving The World, Volvo Style

Forty years ago Gothenburg tried its hand at an eco-car. It didn’t catch on. 

(c) Popularmechanics

Large scale manufacturers have the ability to try new technologies, regardless of their commercial non-success. On these pages we have read of countless millions budgeted for a non-starting project or concept, at the time heralding new automotive beginnings, only to forever reside within the confines of a museum. A historical artefact from a less well informed period.

One such previously unsung example being Volvo’s LCP2000 project. The Light Component Project for the year 2000 started life in 1979. After an exemplary twenty five career with fellow Scandinavian carmaker, SAAB, where he had input with the Sonnet, in addition to rally-driving and engine development (tied with being an executive), the ever genial engineer, Rolf Mellde sought a new challenge at Volvo.

The simple brief being to Continue reading “Saving The World, Volvo Style”

The Man Who Broke BMC? (Part Two)

We continue our examination of Sir Alec Issigonis’ BMC legacy.

ADO16 Press photo. (c) Autocar

While development of the Mini was progressing at Longbridge, the XC/9002 family car project, now carrying the ADO16 development code, was initiated. Issigonis envisaged ADO16 in very much the same austere style as the Mini, simply larger and with four doors. A prototype Big Mini was built at Longbridge and shipped to Cowley for further development.

Issigonis visited Cowley regularly, but was still a step removed from the detail development work overseen by Charles Griffin, who headed the ADO16 engineering ‘cell’, so he had much less opportunity to Continue reading “The Man Who Broke BMC? (Part Two)”

Curtain Call (Part 1)

You don’t know how lucky you are…. Commonly believed to have been an automotive wasteland, but in fact a hotbed of innovation and inventiveness – Bruno Vijverman goes back to the USSR.

Moskvitch C1. (c) Forocoches.com

From establishment until its dissolution at the end of 1991 the USSR, with its highly centralized government and economy, kept its subjects in check under a stifling regime of five-year plans (pyatiletka) and widespread collectivisation. Stray too much – or too often – from your allocated path within the one-party state system and you risked intimidation, re-education, arrest or worse.

Such an environment of course was hardly conducive to creativity or self-deployment; at first sight this would also seem to be reflected in the vehicles that the (relatively) lucky few were allowed to own, assuming they could Continue reading “Curtain Call (Part 1)”

New Broome

The 1970 X6 Austin Kimberley and Tasman ushered in a fresh start for British Leyland’s Antipodean outpost. But it would prove a short-lived one.

Even prior to becoming part of the British Leyland conglomerate, the BMC motor company was not renowned for making astute product decisions. Certainly, from the point when the ADO 17 (Landcrab) series was introduced, little or nothing to emerge from Longbridge was entirely fit for its intended purpose. ADO 17 entered the UK market in late 1964 as the Austin 1800 (its identical Morris equivalent arrived a bewildering two years later) and was met with a decidedly lukewarm reception from the domestic market, who were not clamouring to Continue reading “New Broome”

The Man Who Broke BMC? (Part One)

Did a brilliant but uncompromising engineer sow the seeds of BMC’s downfall?

Sir Alec Issigonis with the result of the XC9000 programme. (c) BMIHT

Sir Alec Issigonis was undoubtedly a brilliant and visionary engineer. He was also, allegedly, imperious and autocratic, and highly intolerant of what he perceived to be interference or compromise. Latterly, it has been suggested that BMC’s failure to manage Issigonis effectively and channel his engineering talents to produce motor vehicles that were both desirable and profitable was a significant factor in the company’s ultimate commercial failure. This is the hypothesis we will examine in this series of articles.

Issigonis was born in 1906 in the Greek port city of Smyrna, (now called Izmir and part of Turkey). Greek by birth, he also enjoyed British citizenship because of his father’s naturalization while studying in London in the closing years of the 19th Century. Following his father’s death, Issigonis and his mother moved to London in 1923, where he studied engineering. He initially worked as an engineer at Humber, in his spare time competing in motorsport. His first racing car was a supercharged Austin 7 Ulster with a heavily modified front suspension of his own design.

Issigonis’ success in racing brought him to the attention of the Austin Motor Company, and he was invited to Continue reading “The Man Who Broke BMC? (Part One)”

It’s Squirrel, Actually.

Sounds odd, doesn’t it? And so it should! Who would’ve thought the thuggish American grey squirrel could do some good?

“Don’t sneeze”. (c) Images.complex.com.

Artwork has been around since man first walked the earth, from those basic but enigmatic cave paintings through innumerable differing themes, spheres and periods. Prior to the automobile entering the scene, the largest canvas one could expect to become embellished by a more detailed approach might have been a carriage, steam engine, a wagon or the mighty locomotive. With these large expanses to adorn, you could really personalise, promote your product.

JJ Deal of Janesville, Michigan was the producer of fine wagons, carriages and buggies powered by natural horsepower. From 1845 Deal swiftly gained a reputation for building not only quality products but also a highly detailed paint finish. Deal’s Chief Striper was a fellow named Andrew Mack. A perfectionist, Mack was never completely satisfied with the quality or performance of his paints and brushes whilst working at Deal, seeking better products and methods in which to Continue reading “It’s Squirrel, Actually.”

Beautiful Vision – Evolution of the Jowett Javelin (Part 5)

In the face of extraordinary challenges, Gerald Palmer’s vision becomes reality.

Happy days ahead Image: Jowett Car Club

As the hand-built prototype Jowetts pounded the roads of Eastern England and war ended, the intrepid Yorkshire company faced new challenges of recovery and reconstruction. In March 1945 the entrepreneur Charles Clore bought out the Jowett brothers’ holdings and thereby took control of the business. The new capital was welcome, but Jowett was no longer a family firm, and the new master would soon Continue reading “Beautiful Vision – Evolution of the Jowett Javelin (Part 5)”

Earl’s Take On Nature

The Artistry of the 1920s has been widely and lovingly depicted, but colour has been more notable by its absence. Although not entirely. 

All images: The author.

The human mind sometimes works in mysterious ways. Because until relatively recently the fact that photography and film originating from the late 19th and early 20th century was black and white, subconsciously the idea that the world presented in those pictures was one bereft of colour often took hold in our brains, even though we of course knew better in our hearts.

The rediscovery of the amazing body of work by French philanthropist Albert Kahn and his colour photographs using experimental autochrome plates – the oldest ones dating back to 1909 – has done a lot to Continue reading “Earl’s Take On Nature”

Under the Knife – If the Wind Changes, You’ll Stay Like That

Concluding our micro-theme on Volkswagen, while continuing another one.

VW do Brasil’s 1984 Santana 2-door. (c) autogaleria.hu

There is (or ought to be) a rule which states that the longer a car remains in production, the less effective facelifting exercises become – in purely aesthetic terms at least. You will have noticed that Volkswagen (of Wolfsburg) has been in receipt of no small quantum of derisive commentary upon DTW’s pages of late, most of which was largely justified. By contrast, VW do Brasil has been portrayed as the more astute, more ingenious, and more commercially adept of the pair.

This was certainly the case when the mothership remained in hand-wringing mode as to the product-related course it should take in a post-Käfer landscape. But it does appear that as their German counterparts finally got a grip on both itself and its product, the Brazilians appeared to Continue reading “Under the Knife – If the Wind Changes, You’ll Stay Like That”

Collateral Damage

How Ralph Nader killed Volkswagen’s first Phaeton.

(c) diariomotor

America had enjoyed a good Second World War from an economic perspective, and this set the stage for strong growth in the 1950’s. US GDP rose by 81% over the decade, while GDP per capita rose by 53%. Increasing affluence and a growing suburban population had supported strong auto sales, and US cars had grown larger and more ostentatious, reflecting the confidence of the era. 1959 marked the peak in the fashion for such cars, with their large tailfins and extravagant chrome laden exteriors.

There was, however, a growing appetite for smaller and more economical cars that the Big Three had largely neglected. These were often bought as second cars for wives or teenage children. This market was being satisfied by imports such as the Renault Dauphine and Volkswagen Beetle, and what would later become known as subcompact models from the smaller US manufacturers such as AMC, Nash and Studebaker, who hadn’t the financial or technical resources to Continue reading “Collateral Damage”

Wolfsburg Samba

Volkswagen do Brasil – Wolfsburg’s younger, nimbler and more ingenious Latin cousin repeatedly showed up its more torpid German counterpart. Here’s another example.  

1968 Volkswagen 1.600. (c) autoarkiv.dk

Volkswagen’s Heinz Heinrich Nordhoff has repeatedly and justifiably been criticised over the years for his tardiness in sanctioning a replacement to the eternal and best-selling Beetle, before sales collapsed by the tail-end of the 1960s. It was not for the want of trying however, and as far back as 1955, with the Käfer selling in still-increasing quantities, Nordhoff, realising its success alone would not sustain VW indefinitely, put in train a series of Beetle-based prototypes – some to sit alongside, others to Continue reading “Wolfsburg Samba”

Steamrollered

The pursuit of pure aerodynamics is rarely pretty – as this unusual story from Croatia illustrates – in abundance.

(c) Yuri Samoylik

The vehicle in a sorry state seen here, slowly decaying in an impound lot in Split, started out as a radical aerodynamic concept from Croatia that piqued the interest of both Ferrari and Mercedes-Benz. What is it, how did it end up here, and what happened to it? No, it has not been the victim of an unfortunate steamroller mishap although at first glance you could be forgiven for thinking that: it really was designed to look like this.

Lifelong Ferrari aficionado Zlatko Vukusic (he named the restaurant-café he owned after Enzo’s firm) dabbled in car design and specifically aerodynamics in his free time. Through contact with erstwhile Ferrari chief engineer Giotto Bizzarini in the early nineties, the Croatian was able to Continue reading “Steamrollered”

Reimagining a Legend

Volkswagen do Brasil used its creative independence to produce a car that, had it arrived a decade earlier, might have been a very credible replacement for the Beetle.

1973 Volkswagen Brasilia. (c) autowp.ru via wheelsage

The Volkswagen Beetle is one of the defining motor vehicles of the Twentieth Century. It remained in production for 65 years and a total of 21,529,464 were built. Although much changed over its lifetime, the distinctive profile remained largely the same, with its smoothly curved roof and bonnet, and separate front and rear wings connected by running boards. Anybody seeing a 1938 prototype parked next to a 2003 final year model would Continue reading “Reimagining a Legend”

Hidden Blossom, Inner Flower

Spare a thought for one of motoring’s perennial wallflowers.

One down, only another 40-million odd to go… a first generation Corolla heads West. (c) All images – Global.Toyota.com

Over fifty years have flowed since the first Corolla rolled from Toyota City. That most difficult of entities, the second album entitled E20 might be the subject of today’s looking glass but first a dip into the ever-deepening pool of Corolla lore.

In the early 1960s Japan began its economic miracle in similar fashion to that of Germany. Huge investment in infrastructure led to products such as the bullet train, colour TV, and air conditioning. Cars too, along with far better road surfaces and longer distances for that smooth tarmac – so now the public wanted to Continue reading “Hidden Blossom, Inner Flower”

Last Throw of the Dice

Volkswagen persevered longer than most manufacturers with the rear-engined, rear-wheel-drive layout. The 1968 Type 4 was its last hurrah.

(c) bestcarmag

In the mid-1960’s, there was still a wide variety of mechanical layouts to be found in passenger cars. The so-called conventional layout, with a longitudinally mounted front engine and gearbox linked by a propshaft and live axle to driven rear wheels, was still predominant, and the wholesale switch to front-wheel-drive by mainstream manufacturers would not happen for another decade. Continue reading “Last Throw of the Dice”

Orphaned, Abandoned, Unsung

When is a Volkswagen not a Volkswagen? When it’s an NSU. The K70’s fate forms a salutary tale. 

All images – author’s collection.

There is an argument to be made that the Volkswagen motor company has thrived upon existential crises. Certainly they have experienced no shortage of them over their lengthy and mostly successful history. Having survived and prospered in the wake of the first of these in 1945, by the latter years of the 1960s, the Wolfsburg carmaker once again was faced with a serious reversal of fortune, with demand for the emblematic Beetle faltering, and little clear idea of how to Continue reading “Orphaned, Abandoned, Unsung”

Under the Knife – Call Me Indecisive

Jaguar never quite settled on the 2005 XK’s styling. 

2005 Jaguar XK (c) autoevolution

For a marque with such a rich stylistic heritage, Jaguar’s relationship with the automotive facelift has been a decidedly patchy one. Even during the creative heyday of Sir William Lyons, the second bite of the visual cherry (so to speak) often left a slightly bitter aftertaste.

Given the timelines, and the circumstances surrounding his appointment, it is perhaps a little unfortunate that the first Jaguar production design Ian Callum would oversee would be a replacement for the long-running and by the turn of Millennium, increasingly dated (X100) XK model. This GT, hastily concocted in the unseemly aftermath of Ford’s hostile takeover married the two-decade old XJS platform with a (then) new, more voluptuous body style. Continue reading “Under the Knife – Call Me Indecisive”

A Democrat Crushed By A Dictator

A brave attempt at autonomy snuffed out before its time. 

IBAP Democrata. (c) Lexicarbrasil.com

Large country though it is – the fifth largest in the world by area – the República Federativa do Brasil has never had a national car maker of any far-reaching market significance. Foreign makers had, and continue to have factories that produce cars in Brazil of course: Volkswagen, Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Fiat and Ford to name the major ones, and also exiles such as DKW, Borgward, Kaiser and Willys who with varying degrees of success sought to prolong their activities in Brazil, after the feasibility of the business case in their home countries evaporated.

At the dawn of the 1960’s, Brazilian business tycoon Nelson Fernandes attempted to finally give his country its own car. Fernandes had become wealthy building country clubs and a large hospital through a fund-raising drive targeting affluent Brazilians. One of his funders (and friends) was Luis Carlos Fagundes, a director of Willys do Brasil. Together, they hatched plans to Continue reading “A Democrat Crushed By A Dictator”

The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

The Corniche paradox. 

Rolls Royce Corniche. (c) momentcar

The mid-1960’s were exciting times for Rolls-Royce. As development of the Silver Shadow progressed, the company shared the blueprints and specifications for its new saloon model with Mulliner Park Ward. The London based coachbuilder had a long history of producing bespoke models on Rolls-Royce chassis. Now that Rolls-Royce was moving to unitary construction, this would no longer be so straightforward, but Mulliner was keen to continue its traditional business. A plan was agreed whereby the coachbuilder would Continue reading “The Best of Times, The Worst of Times”

Four Lessons from History

Pininfarina and Mercedes – it wasn’t all bad. Just good – in parts.

1956 Mercedes-Benz 300SC by Pininfarina. (c) heacockclassic

There are certain carmakers and design consultancies who despite all positive signs to the contrary, never quite gelled creatively. Certainly, in places where the incumbent design heritage is sufficiently strong and embedded, there are few if any instances of a coachbuilder or styling house crafting a superior design to that created in-house. Mercedes-Benz during its patrician heyday and carrozzeria Pinin Farina (during its own) are cases in point, especially so if you Continue reading “Four Lessons from History”

Beautiful Vision – Evolution of the Jowett Javelin (Part 4)

Hard Nose the Highway – the Javelin takes to the road

The first Javelin prototype. Image:  Jowett Car Club

The first prototype of Jowett’s still un-named new saloon was completed on 25 August 1944 arriving into a nation in transition, still anxious, yet optimistic, and at the peak of its technological and manufacturing prowess. It was a land where a computer was a job description for a person adept with a slide rule and log tables, and star engineers and scientists enjoyed the same level of recognition and celebrity as the top sportspeople and entertainers.

For the British car industry, preparing tentatively for the postbellum world, steel allocations were more of a concern than scoop photographers. Gerald Palmer described the in-house built prototypes as “virtually created from raw materials”, by a small development and engineering team, working constantly, even through evenings and weekends. The first car had an 1184cc engine, probably with an iron cylinder block. From the second prototype onwards, the 1486cc export engines were installed. Continue reading “Beautiful Vision – Evolution of the Jowett Javelin (Part 4)”

Coach Class

As with most endeavours, even Italian post-war coachbuilding, there is no failsafe recipe for success. Particularly when illustrious British marques are involved. 

Bentley T1 Speciale, commissioned from Pininfarina in 1968 by British industrialist, Lord Hanson. (c) bonhams

From today’s perspective, it’s all too easy to get misty-eyed when recalling rather more halcyon periods in the evolution of the bespoke luxury automobile. For today’s coachbuilt cars seem to offer rather less grace than the standard vehicles they are based upon, thus underlining that rarity is no quality in itself. Yet even in the autumn days of traditional coachbuilding, when the arrival of the monocoque body had already spelled the end of the industry as it had existed in its heyday, not every sheetmetal change was for the better.

Not even in the case of Pininfarina, whose reputation surely requires no further elaboration here. The Hanson Pininfarina-bodied Bentley T1 coupé, unveiled in 1968, should have been a delightful cocktail of Anglo-Saxon formal and Italianate casual elegance. Clearly, the intention behind its appearance was to Continue reading “Coach Class”

Acceptable in the 80’s

Forty years since the launch of the Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit and its siblings; time to reassess the marque’s least loved car.

1980 RR Silver Spirit/ Spur. (c) cars addiction

The late 1970’s was a challenging time for Rolls-Royce Motors. The company had been floated off in 1973 at the insistence of the British Government which, two years earlier, had rescued its parent company, the eponymous aero engine manufacturer, from bankruptcy and wanted it now to Continue reading “Acceptable in the 80’s”

The Italian Swallow

Andrew Miles recalls an Italian-American design highlight from the creative heyday of the Latin carrozzeiri.

All images (c) Carstyling.ru

The late and prolific Tom Tjaarda left behind an amazing legacy of work; take at look at Richard Herriott’s obituary to him from June 2017, but for me there is one unusual, yet standout design I knew nothing about. That is until Matteo Licatta and his Roadster-Life website introduced a conceptual one-off from the hand of Michigan born, but Italian based sculptor, the Rondine.

Pronounce it Ron-deen -ay and to these eyes, this car is as pretty as a peach, as distinctive as any Ferrari whilst offering a symphony of speed that only the Hirundinidae can deliver. For the Rondine is underneath a Chevrolet Corvette C2. And here’s an unusual twist; General Motors’ Bill Mitchell commissioning Pininfarina to give the bodywork a good scrub up and tailor a new suit which made its Paris Motor Show debut in 1963.

As if the Corvette requires any form of introduction, but the Rondine, with that sharp suit of fibreglass adds a divine lightness to the form. Whereas the Corvette might Continue reading “The Italian Swallow”

Turn the Beat Around

Leafing through the sales brochures of two great Hondas with a mere 25 years between their respective gestations.

All images – author’s collection

During those times when CAR magazine was still led by an editorial team that did not shy away from ruffling a few corporate feathers, the June 1991 edition featured the provocative cover slogan: “Where’s the progress“? In four comparisons, similar cars from the same manufacturers offered in 1971 and 1991 were put to the test to find out how much progress and where, if any, had been realised in two decades. If you spot this issue at your local fleamarket, I recommend you Continue reading “Turn the Beat Around”

Beautiful Vision – Evolution of the Jowett Javelin (Part 3)

With the Javelin’s revolutionary credentials established at an early stage of development, evolution towards running prototypes and production reality gathered pace in a harmonious and efficient manner.

First full-size Javelin prototype Image: Jowett Cars

Possibly the most successful element of the Javelin’s design is its suspension and steering. At the front, double wishbones are employed in conjunction with longitudinal torsion bars. Telescopic shock absorbers are used, and the wheels are steered through a sector and pinion mechanism, located behind the engine which is mounted just forward of the front axle line.

At the rear the live axle is located by four fully trailing links and a Panhard Rod. Springing is again by torsion bars, this time in a transverse arrangement. Telescopic shock absorbers are mounted at a 45 degree angle to reduce intrusion into the interior space. Continue reading “Beautiful Vision – Evolution of the Jowett Javelin (Part 3)”

Wide of the Marque

If the recent demise of the Bentley Mulsanne proves anything, it is that engineering expertise and bespoke craftsmanship alone do not make an ultimate luxury car.

(c) topspeed

As lapses in the exercise of due diligence go, the 1998 acquisition of Rolls-Royce Motors by the Volkswagen Group takes some beating. The maker of Rolls-Royce and Bentley cars had been hived off from the eponymous aero engine manufacturer in 1973, following its rescue and nationalisation by the UK government two years earlier. Rolls-Royce Motors was then purchased by UK engineering group Vickers in 1980.

Vickers’ core business was in defence and marine engineering and its new trophy asset became more of a liability as the costs of keeping pace at the pinnacle of automotive engineering grew ever greater. During the late 1990’s BMW supplied engines and other technology to Rolls-Royce Motors. When Vickers put the company on the block, the Bavarians appeared to Continue reading “Wide of the Marque”

Cambiare la Moda

The mid-point of the 1960s truly represented peak-coupé. It was all downhill from here. 

(c) junglekey.fr

Anyone with a shred of understanding for the art of automotive design will readily acknowledge the difficulty of dealing with a limited palette. When it comes to small footprints, the problem is acute, given the architectural strictures imposed. Anyone therefore confronted with Fiat’s 1964 850 berlina would probably have been rather dubious about the carmaker’s ability to craft a comely GT variant from such humble and let’s be fair, unprepossessing underpinnings.

Notwithstanding the above, it’s relatively inconceivable that the resident Torinese carrozzieri, well adept at crafting silk purses from base material, didn’t at least throw their putative hats into the ring in the wake of the 850’s announcement, but it appears that Fiat was determined to Continue reading “Cambiare la Moda”

The Old Normal

Over sixty years ago, Citroën discovered that you can only go so far in stripping a vehicle of its amenities.

Citroen ID Normale. (c) Marco Lagarde

During most of its existence the car has presented itself in countless shapes, sizes, capabilities, not to mention levels of price, performance and equipment. Todays subject however belongs to that rare class of decontented cars, true strippers not to be confused with the usual sparsely equipped entry level models aimed at fleet buyers, taxi companies and buyers for whom price and economy are absolutely predominant selection criteria.

The 1955 DS19 was an unprecedented showstopper, and although it suffered a range of quality and especially reliability issues in its early years, it did Citroën a world of good image-wise. As far as sales were concerned however, after the initially high amount of orders by the affluent and Avant Garde started to level off the French firm was confronted with a problem.

In 1956, if you could not Continue reading “The Old Normal”

Beautiful Vision – Evolution of the Jowett Javelin (Part 2)

As we (somewhat belatedly) rejoin Robertas Parazitas’ commemoration of the Jowett Javelin, the design begins to take shape.

Image: The author

1943 has just begun, Britain is at war. Jowett has an ambitious visionary as its Managing Director, and a 32 year old engineer with an impressive record of achievement has joined the company to lead its most important project. Would extraordinary circumstances produce an exceptional car?

While Charles Calcott Reilly had found his engineer, the brief for his task was far from set. The design which evolved defined the aspirations of Calcott Reilly and Palmer – a compact but spacious saloon, was described by its designer as a utility car. The target price was £500, coincidentally Gerald Palmer’s starting salary when he joined Jowett in 1942. Exportability was a priority; despite the company’s characterisation as Yorkshire’s national vehicle, in the pre-war period, Jowetts were exported to at least 60 countries. Continue reading “Beautiful Vision – Evolution of the Jowett Javelin (Part 2)”

Espíritu Independiente (Part Two)

Concluding our retrospective on Spain’s automotive flag-carrier and the rare occasional flowering of its independent design talent.

(c) autogaleria.hu

SEAT enjoyed a period of independence between 1982 and 1986 during which it introduced the MK1 Ibiza in 1984, a Supermini that was sold alongside the outdated 127-based Fura before replacing it in 1986. A four-door saloon version, the Málaga, followed a year later in 1985. The Ibiza and Málaga were the closest SEAT ever came to Continue reading “Espíritu Independiente (Part Two)”

Espíritu Independiente (Part One)

A retrospective on Spain’s automotive flag-carrier and the rare occasional flowering of its independent design talent.

(c) favcars

In the late 1940’s Spain was an economic wasteland. The bloody 1936 to 1939 Spanish Civil War, immediately followed by the privations of World War II, had left the country impoverished and largely without an industrial base. The government of General Franco was desperate to improve the welfare of its people and reduce their reliance on subsistence level agriculture and fishing.

One key element of this plan would be the development of an indigenous automobile industry. European manufacturers, still rebuilding their post-war domestic capacity and markets, were largely uninterested in expansion into Spain, but the government realised it had neither the capital nor the technical expertise to build the industry from scratch. Instead, it courted both Fiat and Volkswagen, offering shares in a new auto company and royalty payments in return for permission, not just to assemble but to Continue reading “Espíritu Independiente (Part One)”

Deviating Fortunes

How an ultimately doomed American car manufacturer unwittingly laid the financial foundation of one of today’s most successful sports car makers.

(c) Publications International

Ferdinand Anton Ernst (better known as Ferry) Porsche visited the USA for the first time in his life in December 1951. The 42-year old general manager of Porsche AG; his father Ferdinand Senior having passed away earlier that year, was there to carry out consulting work on a military vehicle project for the US Army as well as to discuss sales and distribution with Max Hoffman, Porsche’s importer and distributor for North America.

During that meeting Hoffman suggested to Porsche that providing consultancy services for American carmakers might be a lucrative idea for the enterprising young firm. Shortly before, Hoffman had met with longtime Studebaker executive Richard A. Hutchinson to discuss the future of the American car market and he suggested that Studebaker should offer a true economy car, a kind of American Volkswagen, instead of trying to Continue reading “Deviating Fortunes”

Hope vs Experience

The Daewoo Espero was launched thirty years ago and was the company’s first unique model. We look back at a car not without merit, but out of time.

(c) autoevolution

Here at DTW we have an irrational fondness for plucky underdogs that some might say borders on the perverse. Just as with famous celebrities, their appeal to us is only heightened by an untimely and premature demise. Daewoo is one such marque, but has not yet secured its own place in the DTW archives and is mentioned as an aside in only ten out of more than three thousand contributions. Today it’s time to Continue reading “Hope vs Experience”

Ford Builds A Passat

“Ford builds a Passat!” was a typical reaction when the Mondeo Mk3 was unveiled in October 2000. Beneath its conservative Germanic skin was a well-engineered, competent and capable car.

(c) The Car Connection
2000 Ford Mondeo (c) The Car Connection

The 1993 Ford Mondeo Mk1 was a transformational car for its maker. Its predecessor, the Sierra, for all its futuristic aero looks, was resolutely conventional and exemplified Ford’s tradition of producing (no more than) adequately engineered and carefully costed cars that sold on showroom appeal, value for money and low running costs. If one wanted to Continue reading “Ford Builds A Passat”

A Tale of Two Cars

Seeing the ‘all-new, all-digital’ (it is neither) Golf VIII being advertised led me to dig out Car’s launch and first drive article covering the Golf II. Both the modern-day car and Car suffer from the comparison.

Golf Car 1
They don’t make or publish them like they used to (source: author)

When I wrote my last effort for DTW, Computer World, I had no idea that VW would go ‘all-digital’ in its portrayal of what is perhaps its most revered existing icon. VW’s version of ‘digital’ isn’t all that different from that of the 1983 Austin/ MG Maestro, and it seems to have paid for the extra gimmickry by de-contenting the new Golf in subtle and yet significant ways. Instantly, it seems they have thrown away that constant sense of superiority and quality which, in my mind, the Golf has always possessed.

I have never owned a Golf, and only relatively recently driven one (it was a courtesy car whilst my Octavia was in for a service). It’s a car I have often revered – starting with the MkII (I was too young to Continue reading “A Tale of Two Cars”

Photo For Sunday : La Gamme Complète

Renault 82, it says on the cover. 

Image: The author

The image you see here is taken from a 1982 brochure prepared by Publicis Conseil (Renault’s long-standing communications and advertising agency) for Ireland’s then distributor, Smiths Distributors LTD, who also assembled Renault 4s in Co Wexford for the Irish market. More a pamphlet than a brochure, it nevertheless provided a well-produced and reasonably comprehensive overview of what the nationalised French carmaker had to Continue reading “Photo For Sunday : La Gamme Complète”

American Pioneer

Mention hybrid vehicles and one immediately thinks of Toyota and the 1997 Prius, the first commercially successful passenger car of this type. There are, however, earlier examples and today we look at an unlikely pioneer, Briggs & Stratton.

(c) hegarty.com

Outside the US, the name Briggs & Stratton is most often associated with lawnmower engines of modest capacities and power outputs. This understates considerably the size and global reach of the company. Founded in 1908, Briggs & Stratton is the world’s largest manufacturer of small-capacity internal combustion engines for agricultural, industrial, marine and recreational applications.

Headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the company manufactures around ten million engines annually in plants located in North and South America, Europe and Australia, and sells in over 100 countries worldwide.

In the late 1970’s, following the fuel crisis earlier in that decade, Briggs & Stratton began thinking about the viability of hybrid power. It recognised that most road vehicles of that era were highly inefficient: their large capacity internal combustion engines were required to produce enough power and torque to accelerate them up to the speed limit on highways but, thereafter, only a fraction of the power output was required to Continue reading “American Pioneer”

Londinium Trio 3 : Latex in London

Our Sheffield-based scribe hasn’t tyred of his rubber fixation. Not by some stretch…

(c) bhsproject.co.uk

The Firestone Tire & Rubber Company was inaugurated on 3rd August 1900 in similar fashion to arch rival, Goodyear. Harvey Samuel Firestone had previous business experience prior to moving from Chicago to the rubber town of Akron, Ohio, a minuscule, hard working and honest workforce (all employees names known), followed by an explosion of fortune and growth. Fierce amidst board and courtroom alike, Harvey S Firestone was a philanthropist at heart – employees were paramount.

Appalled at the shoddy condition of America’s roads in 1919, Firestone invited an army-led Transcontinental Motor Convoy, shod in his firm’s rubber over to his Columbiano based farm to Continue reading “Londinium Trio 3 : Latex in London”

Fire Without the Spark

The French Capri?

(c) stubs-auto.fr

The Spanish word for fire, the Renault Fuego was somewhat unusual in 1980 in that it was in receipt of a name rather than a numeral. The nationalised French carmaker’s numerical system, which had been in place since the ’60s was already showing signs of unravelling, but would take almost another decade before being abandoned with debut of the Clio in 1990. This made the Fuego something of an outlier in the range, a status the car maintains to this day.

To those who Continue reading “Fire Without the Spark”

Subcompact and Substandard (Part Two)

We conclude our retrospective on the US Big Two’s somewhat compromised 1970 subcompact offerings, focusing today on the Ford Pinto and examining the controversy that engulfed it.

(c) paintref

The Chevrolet Vega was an ambitious clean-sheet design, but Ford took a rather more pragmatic approach to the Pinto. In 1968, Ford President Lee Iacocca set targets of a sub-2,000 lbs weight, a sub-$2,000 entry price and an accelerated development time of just 25 months for the new subcompact.

To meet this challenge, the development team looked to Continue reading “Subcompact and Substandard (Part Two)”

Londinium Trio 2 : The Empty Windows of 48 Albermarle Street

A second automotive stopover in that London, courtesy of our North Western-correspondent. 

Paper clips anyone – how about some printer ink? (c) Aurumrealestate.co.uk.

A good Yorkshire name. Strong, instinctive, different; as was the car company company of old. Having the wherewithal to open a showroom in the forever fashionable London West One district was something of a masterstroke. Shame that Jowett failed in giving their ever-enthusiastic salesman, John Baldwin much to sell; the windows showing for far too long nothing but a Bradford van and small scale model of a Javelin.

Never troubling the big makes due to insignificant export sales and therefore restricted access to all-important steel supplies, Jowett cars of Bradford in the former West Riding of Yorkshire shone so very brightly – if for a brief time.

Neither under-championed designer Gerald Marley Palmer nor indeed the company of Jowett themselves seemed to realise the sporting or sales potential of either car until they were quite literally shown the way. Palmer was staggered to see his creations Continue reading “Londinium Trio 2 : The Empty Windows of 48 Albermarle Street”