What’s Up, Dok?

Driving across Sicily in a Chinese SUV

The Doktor. All images: The author.

‘Lahm, Kimmich, Götze’

The town square of Avola, Sicily, on a grey, brisk Sunday afternoon hardly resembles a bastion of exuberant Mediterranean joie de vivre.

Despite the town having lent its name to a well-known wine famous for its lush fruity notes, Avola isn’t the kind of place to inspire one to stand up and start a Tarantella. It’s sepia-hued through and through; derelict in a way that’s likely to preclude it from featuring in pretentious black-and-white postcards any time soon. There is beauty, but there also is far more decay. And on that Sunday, there is hardly an Avola citizen to be found, making for one remarkably gloomy afternoon walk. Continue reading “What’s Up, Dok?”

Exquisite Corpses

There can be no true beauty without decay.

Image: Paul Doyle©

Life is fleeting. The spectre of mortality hangs over each of us, our own personal sword of Damocles. This anxiety is a subliminal one for the most part, for to confront the inevitability of our ultimate destination is too troubling an image for us to comfortably dwell upon. And yet we still find ourselves morbidly drawn to art and imagery which depict death in all of its forms. L’appel du vide[1], the French call it. All roads inevitably lead to the grave.

Within the automotive realm, there too is a similar attraction, in this case to abandoned hulks of decaying automobiles. There is a poignant allure to such images; the often stark contrast between these one-time objects of desire and the entropic state which neglect and the passage of time has wrought upon them. All cars contain a narrative. Who owned these vehicles? What were their lives, their passions, their stories? Are there still some spectral remnants of these lived experiences held somewhere within these rusting carcasses? Continue reading “Exquisite Corpses”

National Treasure

The many lives of the Ford Cortina

1963 Ford Consul Cortina. Image: classiccarcatalogue

I wanna be your vacuum cleaner
Breathing in your dust
I wanna be your Ford Cortina
I will never rust
If you like your coffee hot
Let me be your coffee pot
You call the shots
I wanna be yours

This is the opening to the poem, ‘I wanna be yours’ by John Cooper Clarke, legendary post-punk poet and recording artist, first released on 1982’s ‘Zip Style Method’ LP. So influential has the Salford-based bard’s verses become over the intervening decades that I wanna Continue reading “National Treasure”

Sud by ‘Sud

Bringing it all back home.

All images: The author.

There is a quality about Italy and Italian cars in particular that brings out the romantic in us all – and as we know, often to our cost, romance often impels us to carry out impetuous acts. Like driving from Lüneburg in Lower Saxony to Naples in a 45-year old motor car for example. And not just any 45-year old car, but an Alfa Romeo. Why? For a nice photograph and more to the point, to take the car back to its birthplace.

Some of you might know that a 1978 Alfasud Sprint entered our lives in 2014, supplementing a 1990 Alfa Spider — now departed. We purchased the Sprint partially restored and in sound, fully roadworthy condition. And while it wasn’t exactly the Alfa Romeo we had been looking for, (I was after a 1750 Berlina), we’ve had no regrets since. It’s not a daily driver, but we use it as a normal vehicle several times a week.

It’s nothing special to drive an old car, especially as the Sprint drives just like a modern one, despite being 45 years old. Yesterday for instance, our 17-year-old neighbour’s boy (who is currently learning to drive) sat behind the wheel for the first time. His comment: “Yes, a bit easier than in the tank I’m currently learning in, but it’s got everything you need”.

But sometimes having everything you need just isn’t enough and having already taken the Sprint on a most enjoyable 4000 km ‘Tour de France’ in 2022, my wife and I decided to embark upon a more ambitious and romantic mission. To Continue reading “Sud by ‘Sud”

Maximum Impact

The story of an automotive impresario.

Image: newsroom.porsche.com

Mercedes 300SL, BMW 507, Porsche 356 Speedster: if someone were instrumental in the creation of just one of these cars, their legacy would be assured in the annals of automotive history. Max Hoffman was an essential driving force behind all three, and more besides.

Maximilien Edwin Hoffmann (his actual name — the second ‘n’ in his surname would be dropped later) was born in Vienna in 1904. His father owned a bicycle factory, lighting the fuse of his son’s love to go fast with anything on wheels, and young Max became an enthusiastic amateur bicycle racer. Soon, however, he craved more speed and switched to motorcycles, then to what would become his greatest love, motor cars.

While still enjoying the occasional outing as an amateur competitor in motor racing, Max Hoffmann established a car import company in the 1930s, Hoffmann & Huppert. The company represented revered marques such as Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Alfa Romeo, Talbot, Delahaye and Volvo. It was there and then that Max Hoffmann discovered his true calling: he proved to be an excellent salesman, as well as persuasive influence on the car manufacturers his company represented. Continue reading “Maximum Impact”

Sensitive Initial Conditions

Entry-level, Gothenburg style. 

All images: The author

The opportunity was there for the taking. With Nimrod (my Volvo S90) in for his annual service, the weather dry and bright and only myself to fall out with, I wandered from Service Desk to Sales Area with some trepidation. There is always that certain feeling of unease when handing over the key — butterflies regarding the dreaded phone call, ‘nothing to worry about, Mr Miles, but… Continue reading “Sensitive Initial Conditions”

Four Wheeled Jet Set

It was not just tailfins.

Image: Jill Reger

From the moment he stood upright for the first time, man harboured the desire to fly. It would take thousands of years before that dream would become a reality and, even then, with the likes of Freddie Laker, ValuJet, Ryanair, Easyjet and such still a few decades away, one reserved only for the very well-heeled. And then there was, of course, the exploration of space, an endeavour to be entrusted only to a select group of national heroes, but nevertheless food for the pride, ambitions and dreams of entire nations.

In post-war America(1), not everybody could afford to board an airplane, but a rapidly expanding section of the population was able to buy a car. Then perhaps more than nowadays, the car meant freedom and opening up new horizons. It was also a means to express one’s dreams and ambitions, even if those ambitions reached further than anywhere four wheels could take you. If you were as yet unable to Continue reading “Four Wheeled Jet Set”

Motoring Week: A week of motoring by Archie Vicar

In what seems to be a verbatim transcript of a period article, renowned motoring correspondent, Archie Vicar, provides a summary of his motoring week in late 1958.

Wolseley 15-60 (source)

Note: The article appeared in the Liverpool Evening Express, a newspaper based in Liverpool, England, November 2nd, 1958. Due to the lack of accompanying photographs, stock images have been used. Paper damage of the source means the transcript is incomplete.

The Fifteen-Sixty motor car is manufactured by the great English marque, Wolseley. In recent weeks it has been my task to assess this fine motor car’s merits in the course of extended driving duties. To that particular end I have driven the Fifteen-Sixty to my appointments around England, reported here. Regular readers may be cognizant of the fact that the Fifteen-Sixty is a recent addition to the Wolseley range and it stands at a shade over 59 inches high. To effect the forward propulsion of the car, Wolseley Continue reading “Motoring Week: A week of motoring by Archie Vicar”

The Empty Handed Traveler Whistles His Way Past the Highwayman

Meaningless Retail Prices…

Image: cargurus

Money, the great intractable without which sees few cars sold. DTW is no financial advice institution; we’re more concerned with aspects of vehicle design and culture, but nevertheless understand the need and use of filthy lucre. Which is the jumping off point for today’s peregrinations, where I attempt to Continue reading “The Empty Handed Traveler Whistles His Way Past the Highwayman”

Places: Oxford, Cambridge, Blenheim, Hereford, Somerset

And Westminster. Quite a list for those interested in cars named after UK destinations.

Image: veikl

Editor’s note: On behalf of the editorial team, I’d like to wish all our readers a very happy Easter. This article first appeared on DTW in December 2016 as part of the ‘Places’ theme.

They don’t do that anymore, do they? Yet the Americans are still happily driving around in their Aspens, Tahoes, Malibus and Colorados. Seat, to my knowledge still sell an Ibiza, Ateca and Leon. The French and Germans are less willing to use their place names for their products[1], are they not?

The case of the United Kingdom is curious. The French and Germans never really went in for celebrating their lovely towns: Bamberg, Bordeaux, Aix-en-Provence, Miltenberg, say. The Spanish are still doing it. The British did and gave up. That change makes it an interesting case. What has happened to the British (I am not British, by the way) to make them Continue reading “Places: Oxford, Cambridge, Blenheim, Hereford, Somerset”

The Red Underwing Skipper Alights On The Pernod

Two things to know about the Toyota Crown Comfort car: one, it won a design award in the long life design category. And two…

Toyota Crown Comfort. Image: Joni Mok

… in 2010 Akio Toyoda gave it an internal President’s Award for its all-round utility, ease of use and robustness. If you travel to Hong Kong you can’t help Continue reading “The Red Underwing Skipper Alights On The Pernod”

Monday, Monday

Extra, Rapid, Express. Those three words sound well together. All of them did service as the badge of this Renault 5 spin-off.

Renault Trafic in Hamburg, July 2022

For the UK and Ireland, the car bore an Express badge. In France, Spain, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Japan, Taiwan people knew them as Express. And if you lived in Germany, or Austria you had to Continue reading “Monday, Monday”

New Positions in Car Design

If you suffer from metamfiezomaiophobia(1) you should look away now.

Image: publicdelivery.org

Within the circle of those who habitually frequent these pages, the Italian architect and industrial designer Mario Bellini (born 1935) is most likely best known for his contribution to the facelifted Lancia Beta and the Trevi: the controversial ‘Swiss cheese’ dashboard was his brainchild. Bellini ventured into the automotive spectrum on a few other occasions as well, one of which resulted in today’s subject.

Bellini, who among other things designed lamps for Artemide, office furniture for Vitra, fountain pens, coffeemakers and Olivetti typewriters, emphasises that he always designs like an architect, regardless of the subject at hand. The cultural aspect of architectural design, organizing the world for better living, was always close to his heart. When invited by the New York Museum of Modern Art in 1972 to Continue reading “New Positions in Car Design”

A Game Of Two Halves

Three friends head out of deepest South Yorkshire to see how the Midland’s made cars in 2009.

Image: Birmingham Post

On the 18th January 2008, Tata Motors purchased two illustrious British car brands from Ford, in the process establishing Jaguar Land Rover, aka JLR . Your author, along with many of our readership will no doubt remember the motoring magazines introducing this new Jaguar dawn, fresh with Indian money. At the time of our trip to the West Bromwich plant, the factory produced both XF and XJ models, considered by the press to be something of a relaunch for the Leaping Cat’s fortunes and capable of bloodying their German rivals’ noses.

Our November dawn was leaden, with heavy traffic heading south. As memory serves, we paid nothing for the privilege of the tour. Having registered our names sometime earlier, we were ticked off in school register fashion and like good school children wore our high visibility jackets and protective goggles without question. Informed the plant could be noisy, no ear defenders were proffered but we were told to Continue reading “A Game Of Two Halves”

Places – The Multi-Storey

Concrete Hell, or one of life’s small pleasures?

Editor’s note: This piece first appeared on DTW in December 2016 as part of the ‘Places’ theme.

When I was 17, a few months after passing my driving test, I took the family Fiat 124 up to London on my own. This was the first time I had driven in a city and I was both wary and excited. Various bits of that trip remain vivid. Although the M4 was opened by then, I came in on the A4 Great West Road so that I could pass the various factories at Brentford, including the Art Deco Firestone Factory.

I remembered these from the back seat during earlier trips with my parents, and they seemed an essential part of the romance of visiting London. After Hammersmith I joined Cromwell Road and found myself in the centre lane of quite fast moving traffic rising up a flyover on a left hand curve. This seemed a great challenge, but I held my nerve and learned Rule One of city driving – as long as there’s space ahead, just keep going, don’t Continue reading “Places – The Multi-Storey”

Detroit, Michigan 48226-3473

Taking the M1 can lead you to interesting places.

Early 20th century. Image: Wttw.com

To many, including UK residents, the M1 motorway was not Britain’s inaugural Special Road, that honour goes to what was enigmatically entitled the Preston Northerly Bypass, now part of the M59. While the UK began to contemplate 70mph limits and new styles of signage, the M1 of today’s piece is across the Atlantic, owning a longevity along with its own unique history – Woodward Avenue.

Many years before Detroit was even a township, native Americans had developed trading routes and trails, one of which was the Saginaw. By the early 19th century, that path had become a 120ft wide right-of-way for the now burgeoning city. The aftermath of a devastating fire saw a city layout redesign, somewhat mirroring Washington DC and labelled the ‘Paris of the West’. Continue reading “Detroit, Michigan 48226-3473”

Audi – Always the Pretender?

And What Is Wrong With Putting the Engine in Front of the Wheels?

Auto Union Type C
CMC Model Cars

Editor’s note: This piece first appeared on DTW in June 2014.

Audi are in danger of becoming the Phil Collins of the petrolhead world, an act that even people who know little about music like to cite as being a bit off. Speaking as someone who can, hand on heart, swear that he has no murky Genesis related skeletons in his youthful musical vinyl rack and hopes he’ll never hear ‘Against All Odds’ on the radio again, I’d judge that Mr Collins is no worse than many, and better than scores.

Changing fashion means that he has just become a lazy symbol for bad comedians and the generally undiscerning to latch on to in order to suggest, quite undeservedly, their musical connoisseurship. Likewise Audi. In bars and on motoring websites everywhere, you will hear the drone of “overrated and overpriced …. style over content …. they’re all designed on a photocopier …. no driver involvement ….. they’ll never really be premier league until they Continue reading “Audi – Always the Pretender?”

Bloody Massive Warehouse

Not only size matters

Image: Motor Trader

Our new office lies in my city’s industrial heartland. Next door makes false limbs. Two doors up they sell oil, and at the end, hand tools are made, or at least stored. The environs are full of engineering workshops of vastly different sizes. The circulating aroma is a heady blend of refuse (the incinerator is close by) and something akin to leaving the iron on too long. But there are glimpses of beauty. The River Don, in all its khaki splendour now attracts fish for both human and feathered creatures to enjoy; witnessing the electric blue flash of a Kingfisher gladdens this author’s heart.

Fear not dear reader, DTW is not about to Continue reading “Bloody Massive Warehouse”

Why the Mountain Argus Hovers in the Mist

Getting a handle on Peugeot’s 1007.

2004-2009 Peugeot 1007

“Peugeot plants seeds for the future,” wrote Car magazine in November 2002. The accompanying CAD image they used shared its colour with today’s hard copy. The CAD model in Car’s article posed as a concept car and bore the name Sesame. The vehicle appeared on sale two years later bearing a striking resemblance to the thing billed as a concept car. What Peugeot did was to Continue reading “Why the Mountain Argus Hovers in the Mist”

Automotive Paper Trail

Collecting car brochures can be a serious business.

Image: YouTube

For those with a hobby that is somewhat outside the mainstream, it can be difficult to give a satisfying reply to questions from new acquaintances when the nature of one’s objects of affection is revealed. Collecting art or antiques seldom requires an explanation, but other forms of collecting often do; the collecting of car brochures and related materials such as press kits – which would be your author’s poison – is a good example.

“So what do you do with all those brochures? Do you ever read them after you’ve filed them?” What to say? Yes, I do regularly Continue reading “Automotive Paper Trail”

Toy Story – Two

Ride on time.

Falgas F1-themed ride. Image: globalamusementsandplay

The horse and horseless carriage are more connected than we give either credit for. In this second episode of the car’s youthful attraction, we have to step back to the US state of Missouri, 1930. One James Otto Hahs decided to create for his children a most wonderful Christmas gift, a mechanical horse ride. Inventive as he was, Hahs obtained some mohair and a cow’s tail from the local abattoir which he then fashioned over a hand-carved wooden buck, all connected to a mechanism within.

The Hahs children loved their horse ride, as did their friends. Realising its sales potential, he then set to work making a more production friendly and therefore commercially viable version with one key aspect in place – paying for the ride. Carving wood and using real hides was expensive and heavy. Hahs found a way of casting aluminium and using lighter materials for dressing. Teaming up with a distributor earned him 5% of the profits but it would take a score more years for the ride’s true impact – that of the shopping centre.

1950s America had plenty to spend, and the strategic placing of colourful rides became an important tool in encouraging folks to Continue reading “Toy Story – Two”

Toy Story – One

“Those are some Hot Wheels!”

Image: Motor Trend

But when it comes to shifting vast quantities of cars, requiring little human intervention, there’s a company at the very top of the tree. Toyota and VW can claim to make ten million vehicles per year, Mattel’s Hot Wheels shift about the same per week. The name is purportedly to have emanated from the lips of Mattel founder and inventor, Elliot Handler upon observing a prototype whizz by. Considering models from rivals, Matchbox, to be unsatisfactory, Handler wanted not just to Continue reading “Toy Story – One”

Trafic

A Frenchman’s Vision of the Motorised World

Image: BFI

Monsieur Hulot is the creation of Jacques Tati, who in this 1971 film plays a car designer for Altra, a small Parisian manufacturer. Hulot is a tall, greying haired, bumbling yet loveable fool of advancing years. Dressed in a lightweight faded beige overcoat, grey slacks that are too short, revealing yellow socks with black hoops, Hulot’s character is defined by the ever-present furled umbrella on his arm, a never-lit pipe and battered trilby. His walk and general mannerisms are exaggerated, adding further comedic demeanour to the film’s storyline. Hulot rarely speaks and when he does his speech is almost imperceptible.

The film begins within the Renault factory; shots of panels being pressed (one wrinkled door pressing halting the process), tyres on overhead gantries, almost complete Renault 16s followed by a cinemascope of hundreds of completed cars. The film then cuts to the bustling, chaotic Altra atelier. The hapless workforce in paint splattered or filthy overalls aimlessly fuss about, not at all desperate it seems to Continue reading “Trafic”

Are You Sure You Know What You’re Doing?

Is fettling a lost art?

Author’s collection

In a recent piece on the Austin Healey ‘Fright’, DTW Author, Robertas Parazitas made an interesting observation. “In the post-war period, and long after, Britain was a nation of tweakers, tinkerers, fixers and improvers …. I would contend that it was a practical manifestation of the democratic intellect of the nation’s people, most particularly young working men who would enthusiastically Continue reading “Are You Sure You Know What You’re Doing?”

Japanese Delights

Weird wipers, helium gas gyroscope-operated early navigation systems and a horny knob: welcome to Japan.

Image: Nissan Motor Company

For a westerner or gaijin, visiting a big city in Japan for the first time is at first a mildly confusing experience (as well as an often amusing one) filled with sensory delights in many senses of the word. Strolling outside the familiar surroundings of your internationally styled hotel, it doesn’t take long to discover that this is a different world; high tech and traditional values and customs go hand in hand, thereby creating a unique atmosphere.

If your hotel is located centrally, you will inevitably Continue reading “Japanese Delights”

Sketches of Andalucía [2]

Intimations of Alemania.

Late ’80s Golf GTI 5-door. On factory-fit steelies. All images: The author

For a place where locals appear to think nothing of maintaining thirty-year-old cars as daily runners, the proliferation of German-manufactured cars in this part of Southern Spain amounts to less than one might reasonably imagine. Did German cars fail to chime with the Andalucían sensibility, or was it more a factor of up-front cost? Only a native could possibly Continue reading “Sketches of Andalucía [2]”

Elemental Spirit Part 5: Building the Perfect Beast

Drivin’ with your eyes closed. 

Image: spriteparts.com.au

From the moment the Austin-Healey Sprite met the world in Monte Carlo in May 1958, there was a widespread and urgent demand for much more power than the 42.5 bhp at 5000rpm delivered by its Healey-fettled 948cc A-series engine. Professional and amateur racing drivers, and road car owners who just wanted to Continue reading “Elemental Spirit Part 5: Building the Perfect Beast”

Compromise – The Paradox of Failure

As David Pye observed, every design is a failure.

Failure. Image: bringatrailer

Editor’s note: David Pye OBE (18 November 1914 – 1 January 1993), was Professor of Furniture Design at The Royal College of Art, from 1964 to 1974, in addition to being a respected wood turner and designer in his own right. He also wrote several notable volumes on design theory. This article was originally published as part of DTW’s Compromise theme in January 2017.

His argument rested on the idea that no design can optimise every aspect. The more complex the object the more likely this is to be the case. If we take a simple example of a knife, it’s a compromise because unavoidably the designer had to work within constraints of time and materials. The knife has to function but be affordable and attractive to enough people to Continue reading “Compromise – The Paradox of Failure”

Punctuation Bingo!

Please gamble responsibly.

Image: The author

Best start with the facts. This is the cover composite from the November 2010 edition of Car magazine. It was, as we can discern, a busy month for the UK periodical. Big Georg Kacher was flown out to the United States (business class no doubt) for an exclusive ‘drive’ of Jaguar’s shapely CX-75 hybrid-supercar concept, while the fullest possible coverage was provided of the three conceptual offerings from the fevered imagination of Lotus’ then CEO, the much unmissed Dany Bahar.

Britskrieg ! screamed the headline, as stridently as a dive-bombing Stuka; a tortured and needless piece of bellicose verbiage which previously only the UK’s Red Top editors might have considered. Such language was not only rather inappropriate, but references such as an “all out sports car war” were really Infra Dignitatem for a once high-brow title such as the EMAP monthly. It would be interesting to Continue reading “Punctuation Bingo!”

Training Day

To Daventry, Nimrod, and don’t spare the DERV.

Volvo’s Daventry Training Centre. All images: The Author

My Volvo S90 would be the perfect town and commuter car if not for the fact he runs on diesel. Both derrière and back are supported supremely but the engine and that particulate filter prefer the motorway dash to the monotonous urban grind. Having had little opportunity to head out anywhere other than the supermarket and workplace for seemingly an age, the opportunity to Continue reading “Training Day”

Japan – Boxing Clever

Why is Japan so good at thinking inside the box?

1989 Nissan Chapeau image : conceptnissan.com
Chapeau, Nissan? Well, it’s a start, I guess. 1989 Nissan Chapeau image : conceptnissan.com

First published on April 27, 2016, this fine piece by the now-retired DTW co-founder, Sean Patrick formed part of the Japan Theme.

An obvious introduction for an obvious concept. If you want to fit people shaped people into a car, the architecture that allows them the most room to sit in comfort is a box. An empty volume bounded by a series of flat rectangles. In the early days lots of cars were like this, now they are not. A common criticism of car design, used in the UK at least, is that a car is ‘boxy’.

This comment needs no expansion – the fact that the car resembles a box condemns it. Yet, of course, a box is the best shape if you want to Continue reading “Japan – Boxing Clever”

The Presidential Lion

Monsieur Peugeot goes to Paris.

President Macron’s official Peugeot 5008. Image: (c) Media.Stellantis

Once elected president of France, there are innumerable decisions requiring your attention, including that most tricky one regarding which national brand to have ferry your presidential self around. Over the years, some have taken the double chevron route, others the lair of Robert Peugeot. Today’s episode takes up the grinds from those pepper millers and looks back at over a century of leonine presidential chariots.

Alexandre Millerand became the republic’s third president on 23rd September 1920, choosing a Type 156 Peugeot the following year as his presidential vehicle. Wielding a six-cylinder 5954 cc sleeve valve engine, this behemoth measured 4800 mm on a 3670 mm wheelbase. Peugeot’s original Sochaux-made vehicle, only around 180 of these sold from 1920-23 – a most egalitarian Presidential choice. A front-engined, rear wheel drive beast, that mill mustered all of 25 bhp and a top speed of 96 Kmh, ideal for more leisurely engagements.

Over fifty years would pass before another president would Continue reading “The Presidential Lion”

This Weekend I Shall Be Mainly Visiting A Car Show

King Car is Dead. Long Live the King

All images via the author.

August Bank Holiday 

How the year doth fly

Eight hours observing in a field

Metal boxes under wide, leaden skies.

The car show can be held practically anywhere. The hard-standing of a shopping mall, someone’s backyard, a village green. And while holding a large gathering on some trimmed verge is not an exclusively British phenomenon, it does appear oh-so English to Continue reading “This Weekend I Shall Be Mainly Visiting A Car Show”

Forty Two Years Apart

We carry out our own Giant Test: Car 1978 versus Car 2020. 

Image: supercarnostalgia

‘What’s best’ arguments rage year on year. Be it a question of professional drivers, iterations of nunelfer, or which brand of cigarette used to be advertised, anything displaying sufficient longevity can be channelled into column inches. Today our unyielding gaze is on the rear view mirror that two issues of Car magazine provide. 

For the princely sum of ten pence, the January 1978 issue was purchased at a pre-pandemic local village show. Atop a pile in an unkempt cardboard box of what turned out to be the sole vein of automotive lore (the remainder a house/home/cooking combination) the cover of a Lamborghini Countach surrounded by young boys had me reaching for a silver coin. Even the admirably reconditioned H-van selling coffee alongside waited its turn being viewed – two score years car journalism more heady than an espresso served from a vehicle probably as old.

Fast forward to September 2020. A non-scheduled fuel stop saw me stump up the courage to Continue reading “Forty Two Years Apart”

Back to Nature

Astra battles West Cork foliage. Foliage wins.

Astra fans of a delicate disposition should look away now. Image: Driven to Write
Astra fans of a delicate disposition really ought to look away now. Image: Driven to Write

Editor’s note [1]: This article originally appeared on DTW on Jan 4 2017. In light of yesterday’s piece, it seemed appropriate for it to make a reappearance…

As middle age steals upon me, I find that many things I still view as contemporary are in reality, decades old. Music, fashion, events – cars even. The subject of this photo is a case in point. Old enough to be dismissed as a banger, yet to my addled mind at least, still sufficiently contemporary for this scenario to appear out of the ordinary.

Yet the Opel Astra G was launched as long ago as 1998, marking a shift in style from the more curvaceous F model which preceded it. In retrospect it appeared to be an attempt by Rüsselsheim to Continue reading “Back to Nature”

Bizarre Love Triangle

No sneering at the back, these machines drive America.

2022 Ford F-150. Image: ford.com

Today we peer closely at those bread and butter US sales machines – Chevrolet’s Silverado, RAM, a Stellantis brand now separate from mothership, Dodge and the ever-ubiquitous F-150 from Ford.

Spare a thought for those salespeople spread across the land – brand loyalty no longer fully applies – given sales no longer. Once dyed in the wool Chevy fans (for instance) have now taken up the Ford mantle – or even headed elsewhere. Belay playing the Stradivarius, forebear opening those saline ducts, but if you do nothing else today, Continue reading “Bizarre Love Triangle”

Waku Waku?

Sadly not, just a perished rubber seal…

Image: The author.

Now that my company’s premises have finally moved (after 27 years of failed attempts…) memories swiftly return to the family run garage, directly across from the old plot. Dealing mainly in the average, everyday eurobox, pleasant surprises could often appear, sitting forlornly outside, awaiting attention.

The last such surprise before the move was no less than a Honda Stepwgn Spada – sadly not a misprint, but Honda’s way of saying Step Wagon. As for Spada, well, what were they imbibing in Hiroshima? Had swords been this slab-sided, the weapon would have an altogether different history. But drop your nomenclature concerns and Continue reading “Waku Waku?”

Not For Sale: Car Museums

A sermon about why car museums are to be avoided if you like old cars.

Ford Sierra Laser. Image source: The Truth About Cars

Originally published on 31st January 2014, the editor has selected to re-issue this piece, partially because it carries a fine profile shot of a Ford Sierra (making it vaguely topical) but primarily because it is an amusing, well crafted article – even if the author’s principle argument is somewhat debatable.

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. Alive, the car needs sufficient space for portly passengers to open the doors and affect egress without having to close the door behind them, at a minimum. And dead, in a museum without sufficient space, the car can’t be assessed properly. You need to stand back, fold your arms (essential) and try to Continue reading “Not For Sale: Car Museums”

A Postcard From Wales (via Trollhättan)

Our man in Sheffield innocently goes on holiday, gets Saabed for his trouble. 

All images: The author.

Holidays: Billed as the great getaway from it all, but even with the nine to five out the window, nerves can still get frazzled, just in different ways. Extra traffic and roadworks, snaking ice cream and café queues, soaring blood pressure under a relentlessly torrid sun, along with phrases I have no wish to hear – staycation being the current one to infuriate. Add to this, the plethora of grey utilities which, no matter how remotely one wanders, seem to permeate every car park, blocking the high streets.

Enamoured more with the mountainous and coastal beauty of Northern Wales’ Llyn Peninsula than perambulating amidst the more populated areas, it was difficult to Continue reading “A Postcard From Wales (via Trollhättan)”

Staying at the Ritz in Goodwood Park with my Princess

More eccentric delights from Japan.

Images: goodwoodpark.jp and mooku.s1007.xrea.com

When asked to name a small Japanese manufacturer famous for its modern day renditions of iconic (and mostly British) classic cars, the first answer given by those with some knowledge of the automotive world would likely be ‘Mitsuoka’. And they would be right, of course, but the majority might have trouble naming others that operate or have operated in the same market niche. Here are a few of the lesser known but no less amusing – or sacrilegious, depending on your viewpoint- manufacturers of such cars on the Japanese archipelago. Continue reading “Staying at the Ritz in Goodwood Park with my Princess”

1968: A Question of Choice

Decisions, decisions.

Image: the author

Guiding his Oldsmobile carefully up the driveway to the garage of his house in the suburbs of a typical midwestern American town, Scott Hewitt had something planned for the evening. It was 1968, a year that would prove to be pivotal in world history as well as a bloody one. Presidential candidate Robert Kennedy would not see the end of the year alive, and neither would Martin Luther King.

The war in Vietnam escalated with the fierce Tet offensive, and the awful My Lai massacre would change many people’s minds about why and if the USA should have ever been involved in it in the first place. Violence and unrest were not limited to Southeast Asia- witness student riots in Paris, the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and the ignition of ‘the troubles’ in Northern Ireland. Significant if less deadly pointers to Continue reading “1968: A Question of Choice”

Drawn Out

Fitz and Van’s GM swansong.

Image: Author’s collection

Recognised as perhaps the most significant commercial automotive illustrators of the modern era, Art Fitzpatrick and Van Kaufman made their names from evocative, highly stylised, yet beautifully wrought promotional illustrations for General Motors in the United States, and for the Pontiac marque in particular. But in addition, this gifted duo would also define a mode of expression, one few have equalled without accusation of parody or copy.

Towards the latter portion of their career, with their services no longer required in Detroit, Fitz and Van were commissioned by GM’s European division to Continue reading “Drawn Out”

Bus de Combat

Peugeot 504 pick-up into Landtrek

It’s a good deal tidier and its not blue, but otherwise… Image: carsaddiction

Upon leaving school back in the (very) late eighties, finding gainful employment wasn’t much of a priority at all, rather something we were forced to achieve by parental coercion. Aged seventeen, being told for the umpteenth time that money doesn’t grow on trees, and that it’s time to begin contributing, not just to home finances but to society as a whole was to be frank, boring. Work journeys necessitated the use of public transport for a while, but then my mate, Michael found a welding job, which came with a vehicle; a Peugeot 504 pick up in pale blue, quickly labelled, ‘The Battle Bus’. Better still, Michael’s boss allowed him to Continue reading “Bus de Combat”

“Blow-ins from Castlejane, no Doubt!”

A special edition Citroën BX, the 1989-1990 Palmares. 

White Citroën BX. All images: the author

It’s named after a place that’s hard to find on a map. It might be in Buenos Aires. This example lurked in a gravelly forecort in the east of Jutland, about half an hour from Aarhus. Seeing it came as a surprise. It has been a while since I had the pleasure of slamming on the brakes and pulling up so I could hop out of the car to take some hasty photographs. The kids simply hate this kind of adult behaviour, that and visits to castles, roadside churches, ancient monuments, striking views and pretty much anything that isn’t a petrol station, shop or other opportunity for retail activity. But, now and again, I insist on making the kids Continue reading ““Blow-ins from Castlejane, no Doubt!””

Vox Pop Riviera Americana

Riviera. A brief history. 

Image: oldcarbrochures

London in the late 1950’s could still fall victim to enveloping airborne elements. Long since relieved from wartime bombardment, the city’s endemic smog, while atmospheric (in either sense of the word) was hardly conducive to those of a compromised bronchial nature. But what transpired for a certain American one evening in the capital, would prove even more breath taking, prompting something of a three-decade exhalation.

Ford had upset the atmosphere in 1958 by introducing the second-generation Thunderbird, a hugely successful personal luxury car which forced the competition to Continue reading “Vox Pop Riviera Americana”

Avida Dollars

Of Dali’s car, peppermills and ice cubes.

Image: wikiart.org

Filing the coffers is the name of the automotive game, be it through finance incentives, software investment or the plain shifting of tin. Of course, entrepreneurial spirit lies strong within the field – new avenues to pursue, lucrative boulevards to not only build but furnish, to the delights of old and potential customers alike. These can take many forms, especially when one combines celebrity and the historical record.

When one is a self-described (and wealthy) genius, allowances can curve toward the over exaggerated. Take the moustached dreamscape decorator, Salvador Dali. A marketers dream, then as now, the artist never drove a car, yet became absorbed by the American luxury only Cadillac could deliver.

Not obsessed with the motorcar per-se, for Dali, the looks of the car either dismayed or delighted – the technicalities were of no concern. Having had a great deal of success with the de Luxe, General Motors, on asking for Dali’s input, received his request to Continue reading “Avida Dollars”

Cute Car Hall of Fame – FAB 1

Mr. Kearne reveals his softer side.

Fab 1 Crop
Image: IMCDb

This article was originally published as part of DTW’s Cute theme in April 2014.

I’ve asked myself if I can think of a large car that is cute and, at present, can only think of one, but perhaps that is because this particular vehicle will always have a dominant place in my memories. In the late Seventies, I filled in for the European Motoring Correspondent on Soldier Of Fortune magazine when he was unavoidably detained for several months by the German security services. Apart from it being the introduction to my beloved Alvis Stalwart, when I tested one for the ‘Used and Bruised’ feature, that time also has more tender memories for me.

Today I Continue reading “Cute Car Hall of Fame – FAB 1”

Muddy Boots Welcome Here

Our Sheffield correspondent likes it dirty. 

Image: The Editor

The tyres on everyday road going cars must endure many hazards, from the self (but more likely garage-induced) under or over-inflated pressures to sharp detritus. Heavy acceleration and braking all take their toll. But there’s only one substance that can enhance the look of a tyre – that’ll be mud.

My local environs is covered in the stuff. Washed off fields from endless rain, copiously blended with horse manure, along with the fleets of tractors passing by, the tarmac is more likely to be brown than black. ‘Tractor Splat’ can most commonly be found right on your line of enthusiastic attack for the next corner, leading to a fast moving steering wheel and raised systolic readings for those wearing a fitbit or similar. The farmer may Continue reading “Muddy Boots Welcome Here”

Ain’t No Spin Here

Does your bow tie revolve?

Image: Autocarsindustry

Inspiration arrives in many forms. In today’s story, mystery, elements of sophistry and in this instance, anaglypta and food all play their respective parts as we peer into the entomology of a globally renowned car badge, yet one with an indeterminate history. Some believe that the badge is in fact a cross, stylised over generations, but the only genuine certainty is that Chevrolet’s badge is indeed a bow tie, although how this came to be is subject to one of four possible permutations.

The first of these suggests that company co-founder William Crapo Durant introduced the bow tie motif onto his cars in 1913, two years after the company’s inception. One simple but uncorroborated story involves the Swiss chap whose name went on to emblazon millions of vehicles over the intervening years – Louis Chevrolet. Possibly as an homage to the drapeu de la Suisse, it seems a blatantly obvious connection until one realises that Louis had left the company by 1915.

An altogether more elaborate reasoning stems from a story centred around a newspaper advertisement that Durant is said to have viewed in 1912, as related by Catherine Durant to interviewer Lawrence R. Gustin some years after her husband’s passing. On vacation in Hot Springs, Virginia, Durant noticed a bow tie emblem featured on another altogether different product – Coalettes, a refined solid fuel. Considering it to be suitable for his cars, he exclaimed to Catherine, Continue reading “Ain’t No Spin Here”

Feeling Like a Spare Part

You find us today in pieces and parts.

Image: tradekey

I bid you dear reader to recall the chastisement you once received from your parents, irate at the bomb site you’d made of the room as you built that model car, tank or plane. This usually plastic model kit required careful assembly, with precision and adjustments, where necessary. That missing, vital piece which caused untold distress, the carelessly applied glue which resulted in delays and rectification – the admiring glances over coming months of a job well done.

Assembling a modern motor vehicle is in essence little different to the description above. Components, sub-assemblies, fasteners, grommets; any typical car is made up of hundreds if not thousands of the things. The assembly plant merely has to Continue reading “Feeling Like a Spare Part”