Personally using the phrase “Gordon Bennet” whenever a profanity cannot be justified, his name became almost mythical. But just who was Gordon Bennet? And what can be the relevance to this site?
Mr Bennet could quite easily be compared to one Bernard Charles Ecclestone for ideas and plans concerning motor racing. Whereas Ecclestone made his money (though the means are not for here), Gordon Bennet was gifted the wealth. Employing nothing but his interest in the ways and means of transportation, Bennet wanted to sell newspapers, he being the owner/ editor of the New York Herald Tribune. Conjuring up the plan to sponsor races by boat, balloon and a little later into the future, aeroplanes.
Naturally our gaze falls upon the auto side of racing. Bennet had moved to Paris, bringing his newspaper with him and witnessed the growth of the motor industry. With France at the forefront of it all, Bennet saw and seized the opportunity to Continue reading “Shamrock Green to Cream”
Given its pedigree, the ‘lost’ Aston Martin DBS(C), designed by none other than Carrozzeria Touring, should be an unsung masterpiece. Yet it isn’t.
It sounds like the typical scenario that entails reverberating boos and pronounced hisses from enthusiasts’ quarters.
A much-loved maker of exotic sports cars hires the services of a well-respected carrozzeria to come up with the design for a new model. The carrozzeria in question had previously designed the very same car maker’s most popular models. Due to circumstances (mostly of the business-related variety), that new model is only created in one-off concept car form. Et voilà – the recipe for yet another automotive myth!
Concretely, the car in question is a model retrospectively dubbed Aston Martin DBSC. Originally, it was simply called DBS upon its unveiling at the Paris Motor Show of 1966 – and that’s only where it starts to Continue reading “The One That Got Away”
What sport spends millions of dollars in pursuit of a foot-high trophy by following a groove, avoiding wheel spin and watching a Christmas tree?
It’s not a trick question. The answer is Drag Racing and for this article specifically the top end of the NHRA, the National Hot Rod Association. There’s a $3M dollar purse. Spread that out and it barely covers the fuel bill. There must be something deeper at stake here.
Classes include Pro Stock, Motorcycles, Top Fuel and Funny Cars. Some of this will be revealed as it can get overly complicated. Top Fuel and Funny Cars are the most dominant, noisy, clearly un-environmentally friendly but the biggest crowd pleasers, home to the sport’s big names. Continue reading “Where’s Wally (R)”
Would the elder brother of Bertrand Russell really have camped out all night by the London council offices? Or, as one would back in the autumn of 1903, simply sent ones butler? History on this occasion just may be bunk.
For although A1 is the perceived and openly referenced original British number plate, with one Earl Russell being the purchaser, DY1 is in fact the first officially registered number plate in England. DY1 is recorded as being issued on 23rd November 1903 in Hastings, A1 in London the week before Christmas 1903. 24/11/1903, BH1, Buckinghamshire. 25/11/03 Y1, Somerset.
The traditional large-format motor show it appears, is dying, as increasing numbers of carmakers are not only baulking at the expense of these lavish affairs but also the fact that in an era where data can target customers far more effectively and cheaply, the car show has for some considerable time now been seen both as something of a blunt instrument as much as a throwback to a more naïve time.
Forgive the rash of smartphone holiday snaps, but a recent stay in Rome provided an opportunity to check out the local motor cars.
Sadly, the biggest impression left on me by scanning the roads of Rome from the Borghese Gardens down to the Colosseum was what I did not see: not one of my beloved Cinquecenti. And, I don’t mean bright, Broom Yellow, Sportings, I mean none of any type or colour; not one! I am not sure what that says about that model – I saw examples of both its replacement (the Seicento) and antecedents (the 126 and the Nuova 500), but of the Cinq, ‘niente’!
We’re pleased to welcome another reader turned author. Andrew Miles makes his DTW debut.
I love cars. I’m proud to say that they’ve dominated my forty eight years of life. From childhood memories of bashing up Matchbox (c) cars, gaining that hallowed piece of paper allowing me to drive on the queen’s highway and onto only recently discovering this site, it’s been quite a journey and one I’m hopeful of continuing for some time yet.
It is the way my car interest has diversified over time that continues my fascination and finds ever differing avenues to pursue. From motor racing in general to specific drivers. From specific brands such as Jaguar or Rolls Royce for example to focusing on but a handful and delving into their designers, methods, history. That final word is key. Continue reading “Bringing Home the Bacon”
There are some things a writer never wishes to put to paper, so I write these words today with a heavy heart.
In the summer of 2016, I did what one should never do and met a personal hero, fulfilling a long-held ambition by interviewing former Jaguar Director of Vehicle Engineering, Jim Randle. At the time, he had been out of the public gaze for some time and was perhaps understandably wary of this pair of interlopers from afar asking him questions about a past he had largely put behind him.
Yet as he warmed to his interrogators, the memories of people, places, events and of course, the vehicles he helped create flooded back and between the quiet ironies and the uproarious laughter, he not only lent us almost five hours of his time but for myself, memories that I treasure. Continue reading “In Memoriam : Jim Randle”
Or if not dead entirely, it’s certainly deep into the arena of the unwell…
When was the last time you simply got into your car and drove – simply for the loving hell of it?
You are reading this today because, we are minded to assume, you are an enthusiast of the automobile. Of course it’s also possible you are here by accident, and if so, we can only apologise for your trouble.
Personal affection for an automotive brand is one of the more peculiar aspects of modern-day culture.
Worshipping symbols aimed at identifying one’s affiliation to a particular tribe/race/religion/club are as old as humans’ capacity to create objects. It therefore isn’t a surprise at all that an automotive brand would be appropriated and exploited as a means of signifying status, even beyond the company’s own marketing efforts. What is surprising though is the levels of passion and dedication (or, depending on one’s viewpoint, parochialism and fury) this can elicit.
Readers not wishing to indulge our predilection for all things diminutive, Japanese and fluffy might perhaps wish to look away now.
How predictably Driven To Write, you might suggest, for us to fawn over some cute and unobtainable Japanese Kei car. After all, it’s not as if Suzuki doesn’t also offer a multitude of the SUV and crossover things we’re so frequently critical about on these pages.
Fair point, and I have no intention of singling out Suzuki as a bastion of elevated values. But with the proviso that other, perhaps equally endearing Kei cars are available (in Japan), Suzuki have nevertheless gone to the trouble to Continue reading “Lapin Daze”
A (belated) photo for Friday, which comes with a question.
This is, for those who cannot quite place it, a first-series Volkswagen Golf. It dates from the final year of Wolfsburg production – 1983 – and is, I can attest, in remarkably well-preserved and unmolested condition. Continue reading “Blown In With the Wind”
Unusually for the company, BMW’s large coupés have traditionally been rather fickle creatures.
The success of the German car industry is founded upon consistency and evolution. BMW is no exception, as exemplified by its core 3 and 5 series models, which have rarely deviated from the proven and tested formulae.
While other BMW models haven’t been as consistent and successful what with the 7 series never quite recovering from the after effects of the very disruptive E65 generation, it’s the brand’s large coupés that have been by far the most systematically unsteady. Continue reading “What’s It Going To Be Then, Eh?”
Regular readers to DTW may already know the special plinth on which this site places the 1997 film Gattaca. You will not be surprised then that I might try to hang an article off a reference to this kinematographic production.
Even marketing isn’t as one-dimensional a domain as some would like to believe – as proven by two very different promotional videos marketing two supposedly very similar products, albeit more than two decades apart.
Don’t be simply any person – be the person. By driving the car. The 8.
This largely sums up the essence of what the promo video for BMW’s all-new (for 2019) Achter is telling the viewer. Don’t drive anywhere – only LA and some salt river will do. Don’t live somewhere – a minimalist industrial chic loft will just about do. But only if your car can access it too. Then, and only then, are you smart, cool, cosmopolitan enough to understand that The 8 is just what you need in your life.
Your faithful reporter ate lots of nibbles and drank plenty of cappuccino so you don’t have to.
One could get seriously drunk at the Geneva Motor Show.
Whereas coffee enthusiasts would constantly remain on the hunt for a decent cup during the duration of the show out of sheer necessity, alcohol enthusiasts had it much easier. For champagne – and not just any champagne, but the most definitely above-average Perrier-Jouët – were free-flowing to the extent of ubiquity. And not just during the show, but under peripheral circumstances as well. Continue reading “Geneva 2019 Reflections – A Culinary Perspective”
Everybody appreciates a grafter, but some people really ought not bother.
Earlier in the week we sampled an array of Palexpo hopefuls, but a hapless confluence of waifs and strays remain for us to consider. These generally fall into distinct categories – once-storied nameplates seeking to demonstrate renewed relevance, reanimated marques exhumed from the grave attempting to Continue reading “Geneva 2019 Reflections – The Hopeless”
“And I can’t deny the fact that right now, you like me. You like me!”
To our eternal disappointment, automotive CEO’s aren’t particularly noted for this kind of thing, so if you’re expecting the kind of tearful emoting in the manner of Sally Field’s 1984 Oscar acceptance speech, you’re likely to be disappointed. Mind you, if they sharpened up their act a little, they might attract the networks and get the whole thing televised. Perhaps BMW’s Harald Krüger could be convinced to Continue reading “ECotY 2019 – The Jury’s In”
Outdated, outclassed and eclipsed by modern, less compromised utility vehicles, the Land Rover Defender has become an anachronism. Not round these parts.
Despite a well-documented (and perhaps these days rather overstated) predilection for drinking, storytelling and singing songs, the Irish are not a nation especially prone to frivolity – especially when it comes to the subject of car ownership. In fact the average dog-walking Driven to Writer seeking diverting automotive ephemera finds it somewhat meagre fare for the most part. Yet here, at the gateway to the Wild Atlantic Way, one notices certain surprising patterns of ownership, assuming one develops the requisite eyes to Continue reading “Lay of the Land(ie)”
The fate of Audi’s landmark TT sports car model had been put into question recently. Now the car maker from Ingolstadt responds to the hearsay – with a vengeance!
‘Mediocrity reacts – superiority acts’ is the introductory statement of the press release Audi have published to announce their TT-branded concept car, to be unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show next month.
The Ingolstadt brand’s TT model, whose first iteration stunned the automotive world back in 1998 with its bold Bauhaus-inspired looks, has become something of a marginal note in recent years, with many commentators suggesting time was up for a model line that has lost impact with each successive generation and is, above all else, part of an automotive niche that’s falling into oblivion anyway: the sports car. Continue reading “Geneva Motor Show 2019 Preview: Audi TT-TT”
There is something of a terrible beauty about a down at heel luxury car.
Here on Ireland’s storm-lashed rural South coast, we are routinely assailed by Atlantic weather systems, meaning that precipitation is very much a fact of daily life. (Albeit, not in the photos here appended). Hence, throughout the winter months, nothing stays pristine for long and even if it did, it would only very quickly become wet and grubby again.
In the 21st century, common knowledge dictates that a car brand has to please everyone in order to succeed. Thankfully however, Mazda appear to disagree with this assessment.
Mazda’s most recent concept cars don’t photograph well.
What may sound like a negligible statement has, in fact, significant subtext. For in this day and age, photos are everything. In terms of marketing, appearances have never been of greater importance. In the age of the internet, social media et al, the word has lost most of its value to the image. So when food is judged by its looks rather than taste, car makers could be forgiven for making their cars, and concept cars in particular, not so much eye as phone camera candy. Continue reading “Kodo Arrigato”
“A good many dramatic situations begin with screaming”. Rounding out the Waltz for 2018.
Tempting as it might be to dwell on the negatives, of which there were many; Vietnam, politically motivated assassinations, student riots, the polarisation of race relations, but 1968 wasn’t entirely the unremitting grimfest it might appear in retrospect.
Directed by Frenchman, Roger Vadim with a knowing screenplay by Terry Southern (Dr Strangelove, Easy Rider), and based on Jean-Claude Forest’s cult comic strip, 1968’s Barberella provided some light relief, melding science fiction, titillation, comedy and high camp on a scale perhaps never previously committed to celluloid. (Although 1980’s fevered Flash Gordon remake potentially runs it close). Continue reading “Anniversary Waltz 1968 – 41 Century Girl”
More than five decades after the incident, Borgward’s dramatic bankruptcy is retold in dramatic fashion.
Carl F W Borgward is driving his wife in a Hansa 2400 saloon along a deserted stretch of b-road when he hears that the end for the company bearing his name has come over the radio. He immediately stops the car, gets outside and gasps for air, staring into nothingness.
This is the not particularly subtle introduction into Die Affäre Borgward (The Borgward Affair), a tv movie about the downfall of Germany’s then fourth largest car maker, which was first broadcasted in January 2019. The somewhat fragmented narrative is divided into story strands about Carl Borgward himself, Borgward’s Insolvenzverwalter, Dr Johannes Semler, the goings-on inside Bremen’s senate and, because no German tv movie can Continue reading “(Film) Review: The Borgward Affair”
As we complete our retrospective of 1998, we ponder air and water.
Not simply one the World’s busiest airports, but amongst the most challenging from a pilot’s perspective, Hong Kong’s Kai Tak airport had by the 1990s become something of a liability. Situated in the heavily built-up Kowloon district, the technically difficult approach over mountains and city skyscrapers not only looked and felt alarming, but the abrupt banked descent to the single runway in Victoria Harbour required both nerve and experience.
The World’s largest airport terminal building when it officially opened in 1998, the newly built Hong Kong International airport at Chek Lap Kok put paid to the hair-raising sight of 747’s skirting the tips of the Hong Kong skyline. Built on a reclaimed island in the South China Sea, flights into the Kowloon Peninsula became a good deal less dramatic and a whole lot more frequent.
A year which appeared to consist of little but tit-for-tat nuclear weapons tests by opposing cold war powers, that uniquely played host to three different Catholic pontiffs, where the Red Brigades kidnapped and murdered former Italian Prime Minister, Aldo Moro, and where Spain finally renounced the last vestiges of dictatorship by declaring a democracy, 1978 experienced its share of geopolitical turmoil. Continue reading “Anniversary Waltz 1978 – This Year’s Model”
When it came to translation a car design sketch into a tangible object, craftsmanship and even cultural background used to be of the utmost importance.
As described earlier on, the technique and style any car designer chooses to depict his ideas is highly informative.
Back in the golden era of the Italian carrozzieri, however, this did not matter as much, as most of the legendary Italian car designers didn’t much care for impressive illustrations. Viewing the sketches of the likes of Leonardo Fioravanti, Marcello Gandini or Aldo Brovarone from today’s perspective, their artistic qualities appear rather naïve, to put it mildly. Continue reading “Adding Dimensions (II)”
Driven to Write loses an uneven struggle to frame a rather unremarkable automotive year.
Be it economically, politically, or indeed the arts, 1988 proved to be a year of transition. And while the UK music charts were increasingly dominated by the burgeoning counter-culture of dance music, some older orders remained stubbornly implacable.
Following his first solo album release in 1981, actor and former Genesis percussionist and lead singer, Phil Collins had become one of the World’s biggest grossing recording artists, amassing in the region of 150 million album sales. A large proportion of these came on the back of tracks like his chart-topping (across six countries) 1988 release – a cover of the 1965 Mindbenders’ single, Groovy Kind of Love, taken from the soundtrack of Buster, a sepia-toned UK made biopic of ‘Great Train Robber’, Buster Edwards, in which he also starred. Continue reading “Anniversary Waltz 1988 – A Groovy Kind of Love”
As is now customary, Driven to Write offers our fond New Year wishes, brought to you in conjunction with Gorden Wagener, Daimler AG’s Chief Design Officer.
“Everything we do is about the bipolarity of emotion and intelligence. Emotion is the beauty, the heart and the sex appeal in design, and intelligence is the purity, which creates long-life solutions that are visually high-tech. The combination of these two poles is our design philosophy: Sensual Purity“.
Both Mr. Wagener and the DTW team would like to express the fervent wish that every day of your new year will be emotionally charged with an almost erotic beauty.
Reviewing 1958’s British offerings, DTW experiences a sinking feeling.
The RMS Titanic sank many times in the intervening years since it first slipped beneath the waves with terrible loss of life in April 1912, but perhaps its definitive cinematic retelling dates to the Roy Ward Baker directed A Night To Remember, starring Kenneth More. The most expensive British made film when it premiered in July 1958, it was notable for its historical accuracy and the fact that several first-hand survivors of the sinking were employed as advisors to the production.
The biggest single event of the year involved a huge drive from the middle of Denmark to the north of Italy. I remember a lot about the drudgery of extended motorway travel and seeing 500 cars in a shiny metal herd edging towards 12 petrol pumps is not an uplifting experience. Continue reading “My Motoring Year”
The car designer’s sketch, and how it is turned into a three-dimensional object, are no mere technicalities.
How a designer illustrates his work matters. For any sketch betrays not only one’s technical skills, but one’s sense of proportion, style and, indeed, taste. To compare and contrast illustrations by some of the great car designers of the past with their descendants is therefore rather instructive.
Not just due to changing techniques and technology, the way in which designers depict their designs has dramatically changed over the past six decades. Whereas those stylists who had to rely purely on their hands, eyes and a few templates to create an impression of what they had in mind used to Continue reading “Adding Dimensions (I)”
As 2018 leaches away, we begin our annual run-down of cars we couldn’t write about this year, beginning with 2008.
The largest machine ever built, the Large Hadron Collider at CERN was created with the modest aim of testing particle physics theory and possibly uncovering the secrets of existence itself. Situated 175 meters underground, with a circumference of 17 miles, the LHC was completed and inaugurated ten years ago. And while some critics expressed concern that it would Continue reading “Anniversary Waltz 2008 – Higgs Boson Blues”
In late 2018, it’s time for a bit of reluctant praise to the automotive realm’s popular overachiever, the Porsche 911.
Intellectuals detest Tom Cruise. The combination of decades-long success in mainstream blockbuster movies, ridiculously good looks, as well as penchants for sofa jumping and sinister cults has seen to that.
Be that as it may, there is also a different side to Mr Cruise Mapother. The side that gave one Stanley Kubrick two years of Mr Cruise’s life at arguably the peak of the latter’s career. The side that gave cineastes Frank T J Mackey. The side that causes a 50-year old to Continue reading “Der Spießer”
Maserati’s cornerstone product also happens to be its oldest, and by some margin. Where now for the GranTurismo?
Prior to his untimely demise, former FCA helmsman, Sergio Marchionne was frequently characterised as a heartless technocrat entirely lacking in marque fealty. It was a narrative he did little to disavow and while the truth may not have been quite as cut and dried as his many detractors alleged, there can be little doubt that he was a gimlet-sharp pragmatist who would employ all tools at his disposal to Continue reading “L’anima di Tridente”
The BMW 8 series’ creators try and make sense of the new Ultimate Bavarian.
I have an almost personal connection to the new BMW Achter. Having seen the preliminary concept car at last year’s Frankfurt Motor Show, I initially considered it a half-hearted Aston Martin pastiche. Then the production version was unveiled, which has no hope of ever being considered an Aston Martin pastiche. Instead, it heralds a new era of BMW style, hilariously named Precision and Poetry.
The previous generation of Mercedes’ E-class was supposed to mark a return to the marque’s traditional values. Instead, it turned a great many of them into damaged goods.
Willkommen zu Hause. Die E-Klasse. Upon its market introduction in 2009, the newest Mercedes-Benz E-class was ‘welcomed home’. Attentive observers may ask when and why the E-class had left in the first place – an answer to which would require a return to the decade most people of Stuttgart Sindelfingen and Untertürkheim would like to forget : The 1990s.
The E-class for the ’90s, unveiled in the middle of that decade, was of course the W210 generation, which has since gained notoriety for issues of rust, profit-optimised engineering and styling that has aged as gracefully as the materials the Benz was made of. Continue reading “The Car That Killed Sobriety”
The ‘first ever’ BMW X7 is amongst us and isn’t it just swell?
There are increasing concerns for the wellbeing of storied carmaker, Bayerische Motoren Werke following recent revelations that the marque has been diagnosed with a virulent and potentially incurable form of hydronephrosis.
In 1972, Jaguar didn’t need to convince buyers of the XJ6’s virtues, but their BLMC masters had other ideas.
Marketing a car like the Jaguar XJ6 shouldn’t have been the most onerous of tasks. Demand for the car was enormous and the biggest problem facing prospective customers was getting hold of one. To some extent, Jaguar dealers were essentially order-takers and fulfilment houses. So while the rationale behind this print ad from the spring of 1972 appears somewhat ill-wrought, it isn’t as confused as the execution itself. Continue reading “Selling the Cat (short)”
The 2018 Paris Mondiale car show exhibition had many interesting new exhibits being exhibited. Certainly the most ultimate was the Packworth Sportsline AGM WolseleySport Wolseley 34/12.
The Packworth Sportsline AGM WolseleySport Wolseley 34/12 is essentially a standard Sportsline AGM WolseleySport Wolseley 34/12 with lowered, up-firmed suspension, re-calibrated air-conditioning controls and engine-mount vibration dampers which are rated up. This hikes the power output to 312 bhp and lowers the 0-60 time to under 20 seconds (4.3 seconds to be precise).
The car has a bespoke leather gear lever gaiter, a deeper dished steering wheel along with special Packworth carpets and a standard Wolseley 34/12 dashboard (Packworth hates the Sportline dashboard). Pete Packworth explained that what Packworth does to build a Packworth Sportsline AGM WolseleySport Wolseley 34/12 is to Continue reading “Really? I don’t think so”
Some years ago, a German poultry giant tried to add a whiff of luxury to cold cuts. Today, BMW is attempting something eerily similar.
The German word for turkey is Pute (poo-tuh).
This needs to be kept in mind when envisaging a tv commercial playing to the tunes of Ram Jam’s Black Betty, advertising turkey cold cuts by the name of Black Puty. If this sounds utterly absurd, it is not due to cultural misunderstandings – for Black Puty is an utterly daft monicker, regardless of whether one’s mother tongue is German or English.
The company behind Black Puty is Wiesenhof, a German meat industry giant. And a company that, in 2010, when Black Puty was introduced, had even more of an image problem than it does eight years later. First of all, turkey meat never Continue reading “Black Puty”
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.