The only new car launch I have attended was in 1969. It took place in Harrods, and all I knew was that it was to be a Jensen. Jensen had introduced their Interceptor and FF three years previously, so I wondered what this could be. A four door version? A mid-engined sportster? A convertible? I was intrigued.
In the event, my anticipation was ill-placed. The launch was for the Jensen Director. This was an Interceptor, finished in a fetching blue, with an interior created under the direction of top yacht designer, Jon Bannenberg. A car whose emphasis is on catering to business people might seem a bit odd today, since practically anything on wheels seems to try to give the idea that the driver has a rich and varied leisure life, to which their work is inevitably secondary. You might drive 1,000 km to that meeting in Munich, but only so that you can drop in to the ‘Ring on the way back. Back then business was more exotic. The Bristol was ‘The Businessman’s Express’. Top Fords were ‘Executive’. The idea of pounding along the M1, dictating letters, was sexy – you were building tomorrow. Continue reading “Director! Memories of a Different Industry”
A sermon about why car museums are to be avoided if you like old cars.
Every car museum I have visited in the last 2.25 decades has been a disappointment. Cars are inherently space-consuming selfish monsters and even when they are caught, killed and pinned to plinths this quality does not diminish. They need plenty of room, alive or dead.
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.
I visited here in 2011, just after it had re-opened following a complete restoration.
It is a large and impressive museum, mixing the informative (exposed engines and bare chassis) with the glib (new Fiat 500s bursting through kitchen walls). But you need to get them in and presentation is important, especially if you are accompanied, as I was, by someone who does not find cars at all exciting. Continue reading “Museo Nazionale dell’Automobile Torino”
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”
The in-line eight cylinder petrol engine has receded into history. It has powered some of the great cars – the Alfa 8Cs, the Mercedes 300SLR, the Duesenberg SJ and the Bugatti Type 35, but its last appearance in a production car was in the early 1950s, in the finely named Packard Patrician.
The reasons for its disappearance are pretty obvious. It is not the greatest packaging solution and, with all those stresses and temperature variations laid out in a long line, it presents a whole series of engineering problems. Why bother when a V configuration is easier? For anything that has to be made to a budget, that is probably a reasonable attitude to take but, for some of us, the engine has a hugely exotic attraction, highlighted by its very impracticality.
My French teacher at grammar school, Mr Roberts, had a small collection of Austin 7s from the 1920s, which he alternated using as transport to work. I think that he considered me a bit of a prat (history might have vindicated him on some levels, certainly) and, sensing this, I reciprocated with contempt for his collection of little, old and, at the time, very cheap cars. In hindsight, I might have had a more rewarding time discussing the niceties of the Ulster, Ruby, etc with him and he might have decided that I had some redeeming features. I deeply regret my glib teenage contempt, though it was entirely my loss. He was right, I was wrong.
There was a nice feature on the Voisin C7 Lumineuse in The Automobile (publisher Mr Doug Blain – late of CAR) a couple of months ago.
It was a very boxy car, so much so that it even came with extra boxes attached. Distinctive, for a car of that era, and contributing to the name, was a full width rear window, and Voisin apparently had to work hard to get people to accept the need for decent all round visibility. He’d have the same problem again today. With a few notable exceptions, I don’t spend much time admiring Vintage machinery, but I rather like this.
Although the C7 is one of Voisin’s more conservative designs, particularly technically, Gabriel Voisin, as much as Andre Citroen, could be seen as the godfather of the classic Citroen. Andre Lefebvre, the engineer behind the Traction Avant, 2CV and DS, worked for Voisin both as an engineer and a competition driver throughout the 1920s, and developed his innovative and uncompromising approach under Gabriel Voisin’s leadership. Compared with its contemporaries, the unfussy nature of the C7 might also be seen in the Traction.