VW’s staple supermini proves that too much of a good thing is still too much.
The Volkswagen Polo may never have matched its bigger brother, the quintessential Golf, in terms of significance or profit margins. And yet it was the previous generation of this car, the Polo V, that proved how serious VW’s then new management under (now) notorious CEO, Martin Winterkorn, was about redefining the brand.
“Heaven loves ‘ya, the clouds part for ‘ya, nothing stands in your way, when you’re a boy…”
David Bowie’s 1979 single, Boys Keep Swinging is perhaps best remembered for its somewhat transgressive music video, but lyrically it stands as a sneering subversion of contemporary masculine culture and male entitlement.
This is a short post for the early morning. Another longer one will be along shortly.
The image is the front cover of Car magazine from June 1978. I often wonder about that time, or more precisely, 1979. Prompting this is the image of the Senator and the assumptions built into Car’s headline. I’d really like to Continue reading “Hug Tight Your Futile Success”
In the previous instalment, we outlined how BL, under the driving ambition of Michael Edwardes, got in step with Honda, to collaborate on a new model. This time, we focus on the car itself and the choice of manufacturing plant, which took on almost as much significance.
“According to Ian Forster, the men from Honda, who have been worried by problems with ‘orange peel’ in the paintwork of their own cars, are learning to minimise it by adopting BL’s techniques.” Steve Cropley, Editor, Car Magazine.
The choice of model for Project Bounty, it seems, was largely determined by Honda. Hattori Yoshi (Car, November 1980) explains, “But why did BL pick the Ballade? Well, they didn’t. The fact is that BL picked Honda as being the Japanese company with the most compatible technology and went cap in hand in search for a car – any car – to help them keep going.
It’s all platforms, synergies and shared componentry these days. Let’s imagine a more interesting world.
Economies of scale and platform sharing, hello. That means de Dion axles, narrow angle Vees, odd suspension solutions and three-cylinder boxers are out. Common seat frames are de rigeur. The world car is a five door hatchback with an L4 petrol engine (EFI) and MacPhersons up front and something boring at the back: torsion beams? Six speed manual box. Check. Discs all around, no doubt. Maybe that’s optimum but it’s not much fun.
I have asked DTW readers for theoretical cars before, focusing on the brand and model range structure. Here I am politely asking you to Continue reading “Asleep On Stage”
This is really about an advertisement. The image is from Car magazine, July 2008…
…back in the day when a) I still bought it and b) when it still carried lots of advertising.
The Lexus IS, as standard, conformed to the Lexus template of being well-made and not wholly satisfying to look at. All the reviews I looked at bang on about Lexus being conservative which if taken in aggregate is a conservative attack on conservative design and comfy driving. Motoring journalists have their own conservatism which is that cars are better being aggressive and sporty. How about that for self-reflexivity. Well, Lexus decided that there was nothing for it but to Continue reading “Manchester, umbrellas lost in”
Apart from matters of horsepower, handling and ashtrays car design is a lens through which one can view a number of philosophical questions.
So today I will have a go sketching out what these might be. This list is not exhaustive, and is more a set of sign-posts pointing at some on-going problems which may not be resolvable: form versus function, aesthetics, semiotics, hermeneutics, phenomenology, approaches to engineering design. I wouldn’t Continue reading “Car Design And Philosophy”
Porsche’s SUV trailblazer not such much established a new automotive sector combining seemingly opposing characteristics, but fully established the power of brand cachet.
The Cayenne didn’t save Porsche – the Boxster and 996 models so despised by Neunelfer anoraks did. And yet, the Cayenne is viewed mostly as a necessary evil, the high-margin, high-sales perfume that subsidises the artful haute couture.
Due to the Cayenne’s merits usually being considered relative (‘it drives great… for an SUV’; ‘it doesn’t look that bad’), the car isn’t viewed through the same prism as other automobiles that are not as inherently compromised.
This isn’t a discussion about BMW motorbikes. It’s more about wear and tear which are together a bad thing, generally.
I noticed this old BMW motorbike and the working decay had an appealing character to it. My own bicycle is heading for the same style of worn tattiness which is something I cultivate as I don’t want the thing stolen.
Matt Prior at Autocropley has wondered if cars are becoming less practical. I have another question…
Mr Prior is chiefly concerned about the practical impact of size. He thinks many cars are too wide for European conditions. Before I read the article I thought maybe he would write about the fact some large cars have surprisingly small loadbays, have hatches compromised by goofy lamp shapes or have cant rails that are angled so shallowly that you bang your head getting in to the car. He didn’t actually Continue reading “7JP-546-E (ii)”
The turn of the century saw the Blue Oval vainly attempting to revisit its late ’50s heyday. But the past steadfastly remains a foreign country.
The 1984 Grammy-winning Don Henley single, Boys of Summer is a meditation on reminiscence and regret. It plays on the slick US West Coast values of the author’s Eagles heyday, subverting its MOR sheen to underline the more mature themes of ageing and loss.
Looking back to the past can be instructive, indeed for some of us, it’s a virtual necessity. However, true folly lies in attempts to Continue reading “Boys of Summer”
Before proceeding, I should note that the 3-door Ibiza went the way of the ear trumpet in 2017 with the introduction of the fifth generation model. That is such a subliminal model-change that I had to cross-check photos.
Every story needs an origin fable. Today, we look to a time before the light, when darkness cloaked the earth and the ground trembled beneath the wheels of the Dominator.
In the beginning the Lord created Cayenne. And the Lord saw that it was good, and he blessed it and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it”, and it was so. And lo, as the profits had foreseen, Cayenne begat Bentayga who begat Urus, who begat Cullinan. And the Lord looked upon his works, and he was pleased.
On the seventh day, the Lord was tired, and he thought; “a little nap wouldn’t kill me” And so, the Lord slept but while he slumbered, the confounded things proliferated like the seven plagues, so when the Lord awoke, he was greatly vexed and rent his garment. And the Lord wailed, “what have I done?”
Hanging about on my camera/s are photos which never seem to make it into an article of any kind. Today, I will try to get some of them out into the public domain and free up some space on my memory cards.
The images constitutes a preliminary non-verbal note to myself. After a while I lose a strong sense of what motivated the images, many of which are not especially striking or nicely composed (as you can see here). On a photo -by-photo basis I have to ask myself what on earth made me Continue reading “Honey and Bleach”
Today we take up once again the baton carried by earlier instalments of this mind-provoking series (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4).
In the last instalment, we reached number six. The pace will slow down as we near the summit. Today we consider only number 5, an example of the “Italian art of living”.
No list of great European cars would be complete without a Lancia, one of Europe’s most storied and, some would say, venerable marques. Lancia embodies low-key classiness, comfort and style with many landmark cars to its credit. Its great cars include the elegant Flaminia, the ground-breaking Aurelia, the innovative Beta, the nimble Fulvia, the rally champion Delta, the aristocratic Flavia, the agile and distinctive Trevi and the practical and refined Lybra.
Clandestinely, a minor piece of both automotive and architecture history has been destroyed. And not in Italy either.
Austrian-American car importer, Max Hoffman, is best known for his crucial role in establishing European (mostly West German) car makers in the US market after the Second World War. What is less well known is the fact that Hoffman, was a bonafide connoisseur of architecture.
As such, Hoffman was particularly fond of the seminal work of Frank Lloyd Wright. For this reason, Hoffman commissioned the architect to Continue reading “Wright or Wrong”
As well as sampling a 308 SW, our correspondent’s spring break in France also presented a chance to get the local perspective on how the indigenous competition measures up.
When in France, I always take the chance to go to a Maison de la Presse and search through the car magazines. In recent years, this has allowed me to discover publications dedicated to ‘classic’ Citroëns, Panhards and other wonders, proving to myself and sceptical family members that there are others out there with a passion for the quirky and yet banal.
I usually also buy a more mainstream monthly, and more often than not it’s L’Automobile; on this occasion, I bought the March 2018 issue.
Defining luxury in an age of conspicuous consumption isn’t easy. Judging by two concepts encapsulating futuristic decadence, this task will not become any less challenging in the years to come.
The fight for luxury supremacy of the future officially started in March 2018, at the Geneva International Motor Show. There, Aston Martin chief designer – pardon: Vice President & Chief Creative Officer – Marek Reichman openly criticised the traditional purveyors of automotive luxury, namely Crewe’s Bentley and Goodwood’s Rolls-Royce, of pandering to an obsolete definition of top-end motoring.
Every car design enthusiast and their dog lament the downfall of the Torinese carrozzieri. Yet a recent example illustrates that it’s not simply the industry that’s at fault.
With Bertone gone (despite a company of that name still in existence) and ItalDesign churning out the crassest, most tasteless, un-Giugiaro-like concoctions, it’s now up to Pininfarina to wave the flag of Italian automotive design excellence.
This is the third instalment of this series which definitively ranks the very best European cars of all time.
To make cut the cars have been rigorously assessed for engineering merit, technical competence and design quality. Each parameter was subvivided into its essential elements and assigned a number of points. The total number of points possible is 100. The minumum grade was 79. Today we assay an Alvis, evaluate an Audi, weigh up a Wolseley, over-view an Opel and muse about an MG.
Some time back, DTW surveyed the world of cars to produce a definitive top 50 of all time. In this series, we narrow the field to European vehicles and present a run-down of the best Eurocars ever. The ratings are based on a weighted combination of engineering, styling, boot capacity and overall significance.
We will start off by a reminder of why a Seat, a Borgward and a Fiat are remembered as they are.
As always, there’s more than just cars to the Geneva International Motor Show.
Geneva: Hotbed of glamorous wealth, elegant refuge of the well-off elite amidst the mountains and Lac Léman. London Mayfair with a Franco-Swiss twist and more of a Continental sense of style.
In truth, the impression the average visitor, let alone motoring correspondent on a budget, gets of Genève is a decidedly different one. First of all, Geneva is far more French in feel. The streets and public transport are far dirtier, the average encounters with locals far less courteous than in German-speaking Switzerland. In large parts, Geneva also feels rather stuck in the 1980s, if it wasn’t for the plethora of oh-so-2018 Bentley Bentaygas and Mercedes-Maybach in the streets. Continue reading “Geneva 2018 Reflections – Minor Distractions”
When this series began first I used stock photos. Since then, I have switched to ones I have taken myself (or have been sent by our local correspondents). Today, I revert to stock images but with good reason.
Recently we posted an article about a concept car from GFG Design and we didn’t much like it. So, asked reader Adrian Tebby, what do we like? And why?
Even if this article might end up being a bit of a restatement, we might get to extract some general attributes of a worthwhile design. I have taken a little while to think about recent cars so if they are here again they can be judged in a broader context and over a longer time. In a sense this article is a “best of” the concept designs we’ve been writing about for the last few years.
Far from simply purveyors of amusing retro-curiosities, Japan’s 10th most significant car maker is in fact at the forefront of modern luxury.
You’ve got to hand it to the Japanese. For a country which is often characterised by rigid social conformity and deep-rooted behavioural reserve, they do seem to have an interesting sense of humour, albeit one that doesn’t always translate that well.
Two of the more storied automotive marques happen to have owned representative headquarter buildings at some point. The respective fates of these edifices has proven somewhat poignant.
High-rise buildings inevitable lend themselves to illustrate human hubris. As the building of a monument to oneself is among the least humble of acts imaginable, skyscrapers typically invite less-than-kind comparisons: From the bible’s Tower of Babel to JG Ballard’s High-Rise, architecture aiming for the skies regularly acts as a metaphor for an aloof state of mind.
The automotive industry, whose core business of selling a commodity finds itself in constant battle with that product’s simultaneous role of a social entity, is even more prone than others to Continue reading “A Tale of Two Towers”
We notice that some makes have the most enthusiastic followings in lands where they have never been particularly well represented. The excellent AussieFrogs forum covers the full gamut of French manufacturers, who have all remained reasonably left-field choices in Australia. Here, AussieFrogs member Gary Kurzer shows that Citroën retains the ability to inflame opinion worldwide.
Cars and Guitars? Read on. George said: “All things must pass.” Dylan said: “Do not go gentle into that good night …. rage, rage against the dying of the light.” And Robert and Eric were “standing at the crossroads.”
From 1972 to 1984 the VW sold the Passat with the option of a 5-door as well as 2-door and five doors. Today it’s only sold as a saloon and estate. The Citroen XM came as a five-door hatchback and as a fabulously useful estate. Its predecessors and successors could only be had as saloons or estates.
Alfa Romeo’s choice of ‘brand ambassador’ is inspired – and telling, maybe in more ways than intended.
Unlike so many ‘brand testimonials’, Giovanni Giorgio (or Hansjörg, as his mother referred to him) Moroder isn’t the kind of person who caught the public eye for all the wrong reasons. He never had his own reality TV show or featured in a programme of this kind as a guest. He didn’t enjoy a very public, tabloid-filling affair of the romantic or some other variety.
Slightly unusual this: it’s not on my street. I had to go almost two kilometres to see this one. It’s enormous and really useful. That makes it a Landcruiser, another one.
The title for this regular item could almost be “the odd cars on my street” but this is not on my street. For some reason there haven’t been so very many oddities outside my front door in recent weeks. One exception appeared the day my mobile telephone lay recharging on the kitchen worktop (Wednesday): a Renault Koleos.
Not the new one, the first one, the one nobody bought. That sighting brought to two the tally of said cars observed by yours truly since Renault launched it upon an unsuspecting world in 2007. I suppose it’s ironic that I am addressing the subject of the unphotographed Koleos in an article ostensibly about the VDJ76R GXL** shown here. They are almost polar opposites, aren’t they?
A few weeks ago I bought a copy of Octane. The edition lay around the house and I dipped into it at various moments. What did I discover?
Tuesday, in the railstation I saw Octane and bought it along with the Interntional New York Times. I felt I needed to read more text on paper. The cover story first attracted my attention, a very Octane style of article where they discuss several generations of the same car. The first copy of Octane I bought, about eight years ago, dealt with the Maserati QP. This edition put the Bentley Continental under the spotlight. The cover showed a 1952 R-Type Fastback, the 2004 Continental and its successor.
“An Experienced driver could be caught out by the Porsche 911 – it’s one of the nearest things to a racing car, says Stirling Moss.” That’s the intro to an article from Harper’s & Queen, a 1975 copy of which I found in a local “retro” styled bistro in my locale. Here is the rest of the text.
“The motor car has come in for quite a lot of criticism of late, and the most recent charge to be levelled against it that it squanders precious energy at a time when we can least afford it. Maybe this is the reason for a profound change in many people’s whole attitude to motoring. Continue reading “Catching Up”
Have you noticed the overuse of the word “professional”?
It’s applied to high-spec products where there is little obvious reason why a “professional” might want or need anything different than everyone else. Apple sell a tablet labelled “Pro”. We have one at home. It works like my ‘phone except it can’t make calls. Chevrolet or GMC trucks may presently Continue reading “A Detail For Sunday: 2017 Ford Ranger”
How are the papery ones doing? I had a look at the Audit Bureau of Circulation’s nice website to examine the state of the UK car magazine market.
The UK periodical industry owns and runs the ABC as a means to provide an independent (from one publisher) source of data on readership. That is then used to justify ad rates on the basis of the circulation of the journals seeking to sell space. The ABC describes itself as follows: “We deliver industry-agreed standards for media brand measurement across print, digital and events. We also verify data, processes and good practice to industry-agreed standards”.
My mobile telephone acts like a visual notebook thanks to its lousy camera. Here are some notes.
Apart from its capacity to capture images, my telephone isn’t better than my actual notebook (a Silvine spiral bound item). The photos turn out like Kodak prints – brown and flat. I hate them. What I’d like is a fast, very small printer capable of producing colour-fast images on self-adhesive paper (5×4 cm) so I could Continue reading “Notebook”
Generally I prefer to avoid memoirs of car ownership except en passant. I will try to do so here when having a small look at the afterlife of the 1984 Buick Century.
The reason I am in any way concerned with a car like this is that for a year and a half I owned such a vehicle, almost exactly like the one in the main photo. It differed only in that it had plate sized-rust patches on both front doors.
Dateline: Thuringia, summer 2038. Internal combustion engines have been phased out across the EU for almost a decade now. However, their use has not been eliminated entirely and much as one can still ride a pony and trap or a stream train, one can still enjoy the petrol-driven experience.
Continuing DTW’s meta retrospective, we dial the time machine back to 1997.
1997 was an eventful year (weren’t they all?) which in a series of reversals for establishment-Britain saw the Chinese regain control over Hong Kong, and the dominant Conservative party lose power domestically following an 18-year run. In Paris that autumn, Princess Diana died in a car accident, the Hale-Bopp comet had its initial sighting, and oh yes, the Titanic sank again.
Recently I received a very interesting e-mail from a certain Kelley Montieth (Mrs) from the Global Central Bank.
The message informed me that due to a banking error, 893 million euros remained unused from a sewage development project in Alice Springs. Mrs Montieth said that (I quote verbatim) “IF I COULD RETAIN THIS MONEY FOR TWO DAYS” on behalf of the Global Central Bank I would Continue reading “Falling Off the Carousel”
As a person with a strongly archival temperament, it was disturbing for me to read Citroën’s announcement that the firm intended to auction part of its historic collection.
You can see the catalogue here. It took me about a week to gather the courage to take a look. Sure enough, I found a few cars I’d really like to have and can’t actually afford. The GS with its perfectly intact interior must be museum quality. Some of the others are peculiar: not that cheap and not that special. Once out in the open they will quickly Continue reading “Not So Suddenly We Heard a Sound”