Photo of the Day: 2009 Ferrari California

For many years one of the hallmarks of Car magazine was its superb and creative photography. This photo is presented as something of a tribute to their humorous style. 

2009 Ferrari California parking sign

From a technical point of view the Ferrari California is of interest to Ferrari fans for these reasons: it is the first Ferrari with a direct petrol injection engine. Also the Modena firm had not done a folding metal roof and, as far as I know, the first Ferrari to have multi-link rear suspension. You might have thought they were doing this a long time before 2008. Finally, Ferrari had not attempted a front-engined V8 before this car.

Can Cars Make a Good Subject For Art?

If you glance through a copy of a classic car magazine you will not have to look too hard to find pictures of racing scenes: Augustine “Bodger” Gilhooley behind the wheel of a Gilbern Invader, winning the 1972 Norfolk Broads Hill Climb, for example. Is that art? Can cars make for good art?

"Road" the art of Steen Larsen (2012). The book cover is a detail of a 2011 painting 100x200 cm. Oil on canvas.
“Road” the art of Steen Larsen (2012). The book cover is a detail of a 2011 painting 100×200 cm. Oil on canvas.

A book of the art of Steen Larsen prompted me to consider this question again. “Road” is a collection of Larsen’s paintings from the period 2004 to 2011. The front cover is an eye-catching green metallic Ford Consul L (pretty much identical to Myles Gorfe’s troublesome 2.0. Granada L). Up to this point, only two pieces of good automotive art had crossed my path: Julian Opie’s cars and an image of a Porsche 911 parked in a grimy lane by a German artist whose name eludes me.

Apart from these three, I discounted paintings involving cars. The rather literal images satirised in the intro typically are very detailed oil paintings where the important elements Continue reading “Can Cars Make a Good Subject For Art?”

Theme : Roads – Meandering

Leisure Time

Glockner Road

The Grossglockner High Alpine Road (Großglockner-Hochalpenstraße) in Austria, referred to hereafter as The Glockner, is known as one of the great Alpine roads of Europe. Only open six months of the year and named after the local mountain, I’ve crossed it several times, in varying weather. I’ve enjoyed the experience, I’ve marvelled at the view and I’ve maybe wished that I was driving something faster and nimbler, without a passenger whose comfort I needed to consider and with less dawdling traffic around. Because it is a fine and challenging road with lots of hairpin bends, long curves and occasional straights and tunnels. Continue reading “Theme : Roads – Meandering”

Theme : Roads – An Introduction

What are cars for without roads to run them on?

2015 road image crop

Quite a lot of ink is used discussing the handling and ride of cars. Is it ride or is it handling that comes first? For some, these parameters are the deciders when it comes to assessing a car’s excellence or otherwise. Very thorough people go so far as to take in interest in tyres since some cars’ behaviour is affected directly by the rubber chosen to deck the wheels. This raises the question of why ride is an issue and why Continue reading “Theme : Roads – An Introduction”

Austerity Drive

Look at all my lovely buttons – so much choice, so little time!

My Head Hurts! Ford Focus ST
My Head Hurts! Ford Focus ST

From The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut : “The only controls available to those on board were two push-buttons on the centre post of the cabin – one labelled ‘ON’ and one labelled ‘OFF’. The ON button simply started a flight from Mars. The OFF button connected to nothing. It was installed at the insistence of the Martian mental health experts, who said that human beings were always happier with machinery they thought they could turn off.”

In a companion piece, I’ll shortly sing the delights of a car that entertains, but there’s another side to this. Cars have become complex, with lots of switches and touch-screen options. If you drive a modern car, do you use every option that is available to you? Do you even know every option?

Continue reading “Austerity Drive”

The Hunt For a Green Car, Continued

Nothing turned up at Renault though their Clio has 13 colours**. Fiat made it impossible to find out what they had in under five minutes though their website looks nice. I could not be bothered….

2015 Citroen Cactus colour palette. Not very green.
2015 Citroen Cactus colour palette. Not very green.

Mazda have six colours for their new 2 but not a green. The red costs a remarkable €750 while the other colours are running at €450. White is the only colour that comes at €0. Citroen is another green-free zone. The DS5 which is a car for individualists comes in a range of colours limited to six, nearly all of which are some form of grey or black. I really believe that if they offered this car in banana, lime, strawberry and mustard it would Continue reading “The Hunt For a Green Car, Continued”

A Little More Colour From Hyundai: i10 Colour Names

As regular readers know, I have been keeping a close eye on colour. On the way out of the car dealer last Sunday I grabbed a colour and trim brochure for the Hyundai i10. What did I find?

2015 Hyundai i10 in Sweet Orange or New Orange garb.
2015 Hyundai i10 in Sweet Orange or New Orange garb.

I find British buyers are being deprived of choice. To their credit, Hyundai are making their i10 available in ten different colours. Not a single one of them is green and nor will you find yellow. This is not a surprise. On the plus side, there are two deep reds and an orange called “New Orange” in Denmark or “Sweet Orange” in Sweden. They also offer the car in a very regal blue called Continue reading “A Little More Colour From Hyundai: i10 Colour Names”

Innovation In Classic Car Sales

Classic car sales is not a line of business known for its propensity to change. Thus I am impressed by the efforts made by RK Motors of Charlotte, North Carolina, to invest in their presentation methods.

1982 Toyota Supra at RK Motors, NC, USA.
1982 Toyota Supra at RK Motors, NC, USA.

I chose this film at random and was very taken with the slick visuals to to display the features and quality of the vehicle. While most of the visual moves are directly from the play-book of television automotive advertising, it is noteworthy to see them applied to a single car. Continue reading “Innovation In Classic Car Sales”

The Lump

In the middle of a piece of automotive copy the Lump is often found: the engine performance figures. I really don’t care for it much and it’s time it retired.

1978 Dastun 200SX. Image from www.productioncars.com
1978 Dastun 200SX. Image from http://www.productioncars.com

Typically the worst case is when a model is revised to be even more “ultimate”. As your eyes wander across the lines you stumble across it like a hiker in a mire: “The unit develops 178 bhp, up 23 bhp from before, at 6500 rpm, 450 lower than the outgoing model, and produces 194 lb fb of torque, 23 lb ft extra”. I find this incredibly unpalatable.

It’s a line requiring a good edit and some interpretation to Continue reading “The Lump”

Full Brazillian Colour Analysis

Boredom drove me to find out what sorts of colours are available for cheapish cars in Brazil. Then I came back to Europe via Japan.

2015 Toyota Etios colour palette. Image: Toyota Brazil.
2015 Toyota Etios colour palette. Image: Toyota Brazil.

I started out thinking that because Brazil is full of warm and spontaneous people they would have a very lively palette of vehicle colours. Not so. No greens, no yellows and no oranges. And guess which company offers 12 exterior shades for their base model car? We’ll leave that to the end.  Continue reading “Full Brazillian Colour Analysis”

Monochrome Car Bingo

Here is a great new game for people out and about. It goes by the name “monochrome bingo”.

Black car bingo. Seven in a row. Beat that! (Notice the first car is the very rare Subaru Legacy saloon).
Black car bingo. Seven in a row. Beat that! (Notice the first car is the very rare Subaru Legacy saloon).

Each player chooses a colour e.g. grey, anthracite, silver or black. Here is an example: seven black cars in a row. Whoever spots the most cars of the same colour in a row by an agreed time wins. Good places to play include airport car parks and Ikea car parks. Car dealerships are not valid areas for play.

Theme: Passengers – The Non-Existence Thereof

If we can ask what that sportscar is doing on that rough, narrow road or jammed in urban traffic can we also ask where are the passengers for all those lovely saloons?

This is for carrying passengers: 2004 Nissan Cube
This is for carrying passengers: 2004 Nissan Cube

With a sportscar or indeed any performance orientated car one is aware of a contrast between what the vehicle is capable of versus what it is asked to do. When I see a Lamborghini in Ireland, for example, you clearly see that the car’s capability is at odds with the environment it sits in, like seeing a speedboat on a mill pond.

At a less extreme level, the saloon car suffers a similar problem, unless it’s a taxi. The missing passengers in the back make one wonder about the real purpose of the car. Why did the owner buy it? You can see this on any long drive on a motorway as you pass car after car with three empty seats.

You also notice it when you take a look inside of any old car. There will be a worn bolster on the driver’s seat and when you inspect the back seat it will be box-fresh or, at worst, a bit faded. Evidence, then, of under-use. In its own way, the saloon car is as over-engineered as any high performance two-seater.

How often do you see four people get out of a car? It’s rare enough that I notice it. For example, last year I saw two couples emerge from a Peugeot 508 somewhere in NW Denmark. The car had Dutch plates so I concluded this was one of those rare occasions when four adults decided to have a motoring holiday together. I can’t recall the last time I saw what should be an occurrence too banal to remark.

2004 Opel Signum: no one here.
2004 Opel Signum: no one here.

Why then do people buy four seater cars when 98% of the time the extra seats are unused. The ashtrays remain pristine. The armrest is always tucked up in the seat back. Some people even leave the plastic on the rear seats for as long as they can, a conceit I always despised as it’s laughably suburban to want to have furniture that looks like no one ever uses it.

Think of those semis with a “good room” that visitors are shown into now and then. If you contrast that with the opulent tattiness of many stately homes you can see that the rich don’t have “good rooms”. Rich people wreck stuff. Middle class people can only afford to buy it once.

What I am getting at here is that the passenger is a rather mythical creature. They exist on public transport though or in taxis. The passenger compartment is generally an underused area, designed to look nice enough in a showroom when the buyer – for one time – opens the rear door, pats the seat and finds nothing alarming. For the rest of the car’s career the rear footwell is a good place to put a bag of shopping so it won’t fall over. The boot is even further from their thoughts.

2002 Renault Vel Satis rear compartment - as new, never used.
2002 Renault Vel Satis rear compartment – as new, never used.

This is perhaps why in recent decades mainstream saloon cars have developed rather cramped and unwelcoming rear comparments and designers’ time is rarely spent bothering with the rear of the centre console. On my 25 year old car the rear console is a little piece of design excellence: an ashtray and an electric socket nicely styled to look of a piece with its surrounding trim.

These days I see cars with a blank expanse of plastic. There’s £185,000 worth of development cost saved. Pity the person who put all that effort into the rear centre console of the last Saab 9-5. It was lavishly worked-over. Not only would no-one see it if it was used as normal but the car ceased production after a few months.

As a fan of saloon cars I have to admit that my fond notions of travelling four up to somewhere other than the in-laws’ house with kids are probably never going to be realised. And the kids don’t really appreciate the limousine-like space they are perched in.

More often than not the saloon is a statement of aspiration just like the sportscar. It suggests uses to which it is seldom put. I wonder how many times the walnut tray of an Allegro Van Den Plas was ever pulled down in anger. And Opel know to their cost that designing a car that put rear seat passengers as a high priority was not a path to profitability.

The Signum, with its huge rear leg room and unusual packaging didn’t go over as too few people thought “Yes, this is the car I’ll take my friend in on that trip to the Ardennes”. The Renault Vel Satis* is another passenger’s car and again, it fell on stony soil.

You might not think it at first glance but passenger cars are mostly statements of intent or the manifestation of dreams never realised. These days as saloons become more sportscar-like they are getting even further away from a felicitous blend of utility and form.

*This is a super article from The Truth About Cars dealing with the Vel Satis.

 

Tinseltown in the Rain

Reflections on Jaguar’s XJ: DTW’s resident Jaguariste remembers a time when life and advertising met, sniffed one another before hurriedly going their separate ways.

jaguar-xj-2010
Image credit: (c) Jaguar

In 2009, I became somewhat overexcited about a new car launch. Following over 40-years of stylistic diminishing returns, to be presented with a twenty first century interpretation of the Jaguar XJ was exciting beyond rational explanation. Lacking a decent opportunity to Continue reading “Tinseltown in the Rain”

Post For The Day

A Valentine’s Gift

opel-corsa

As you know, Mr Editor Kearne keeps us under a tight rein. His reputation as the Elliott Ness of transport publishing means that the industry knows that he can’t be bought so, unfortunately, this preconception unfairly passes on to his team of writers. As such, it was rare for this piece of blatant bribery from Vauxhall to pass through the net and, so desperately grateful am I, that it would be wrong of me not to draw your attention to the car it refers to.  Continue reading “Post For The Day”

A photo for Sunday – 1979-1992 VW Transporter (T2)

The vehicle here could be said to chime with our monthly theme, passengers. Further, the vehicle itself is a place to stay when you get to your destination. 

1979-1992 VW Transporter: air cooled and slow. Best left parked.
1979-1992 VW Transporter: air cooled and slow. Best left parked.

I notice that none of the Transporters that I ever see are well-cared for in a cosmetic sense. Rust is always there somewhere. The passenger saloon with its fold down tables and simple bench seats are almost always littered with debris. I don’t imagine that the owners’ home is similarly strewn with discarded items such as cables, cartons, items of clothes or old boots. Why the difference?

While at one level these machines are vehicles they also seem to ask to be treated like an old rucksack or cycle pannier. Over time these pieces of baggage Continue reading “A photo for Sunday – 1979-1992 VW Transporter (T2)”

Theme: Passengers – Mitfahrergelegentheit

Imagine being stuck for six hours in car with a total stranger. It’s terrific. 

It´s great to stand around a car and chat while taking a break on a long trip.
It’s great to stand around a car and chat while taking a break on a long trip.

For a while I was a long-distance taxi, ferrying strangers from the middle of Europe northwards and sometimes from the north of Europe downwards. I’d get a message via an in-box on a web-board that, say, someone wanted to get from Cologne to Hamburg, or to Flensburg or to Aarhus. After some short discussions on price, (the passengers dictated as supply exceeded demand) I’d arrange to meet the passengers at an agreed point and off we’d go on a six or seven hour trip together. “Hi, I’m Richard….you must be Helen/Erich/Jonas…” Continue reading “Theme: Passengers – Mitfahrergelegentheit”

Renault Invites You to Burst Out of Your Miserable Prisons

Yesterday Renault began a campaign to use social media as a way to promote its crossover, the Kadjar.

2016 Renault Kadjar advert
2016 Renault Kadjar advert

A fair amount of ink has been spilled about the name. What caught my attention was the slogan: “Dare to live”. The image shows someone hang-gliding on a lovely morning. That would be Renault’s idea of daring to live. Ignoring the fact that you don’t need a Renault Kadjar to take up hang-gliding and that having a Renault Kadjar will not make people think you hang-glide, there is the problem of the implications of the slogan. They are terrible. Continue reading “Renault Invites You to Burst Out of Your Miserable Prisons”

Concours Queen or Oily Rag

“A thing worth having is worth dusting”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The above quote from Sir Hugh Casson, architect and Festival of Britain director, caused me some amusement in my youth. I’ve never been a decent curator of nice things. I was always bemused by magazine ads for companies such as The Franklin Mint, showing an attractive woman in an attractive home, with a rictus, Stepford Wife type of grin, admiring one of her limited number collection of miniature porcelain bells, all provided in a hand-carved, Genuine English Oak, wall-mounted presentation case. Possibly, of course, I was conforming to a sad stereotype and you might suggest that, though unable to understand girly enthusiasms, I’d still happily sit in a smug, testosterone-filled fug in my hypothetical motor house, master of a collection of finely-fettled classic motors and a bulk dispenser of Swissvax.

But I’m not sure that’s the case. At times I have bought objects that appealed to me then, years later found them still in the original box – as I write there is a nice scale model of an Alfa Giulia Berlina bought on Ebay in 2013, Continue reading “Concours Queen or Oily Rag”

The Private Buyer Is Dying Off [Exclamation Point]

That’s the tabloid-style scare headline for this topic. The sensible, broadsheet-style headline would be “Fleet buyers to dominate in car market”.

Not enough people want this sort of thing. 1978 Opel Senator's rich ambience.
Not enough people want this sort of thing. 1978 Opel Senator’s rich ambience.

According to Automotive News (who posted this story on Saturday, Jan 10th – do they never rest?) Renault are to bank on fleet sales as the proportion of private customers decreases relative to corporate ones: “Renault hopes its new Espace will appeal to business customers as family buyers increasingly shun minivans”. Furthermore, AN reports that “Jamel Taganza, an analyst for Inovev, said fleet customers now represent the majority of potential buyers of midsize vehicles in Europe: ‘With the exception of Italy, the shift to fleet sales is a European-wide trend,’ he said”. Continue reading “The Private Buyer Is Dying Off [Exclamation Point]”

An Irish Specialty

On my visits to the Republic of Ireland I notice what seems to be a local peculiarity, the neglected high-end car.

image

Here we have a Mercedes SLK accumulating algae and moss, seen in late December. Nearby I saw a six year old Audi A4 cabriolet where the paint was visibly worn along the bodysides and the ragtop scuffed. I can’t fathom what it would take to make paint wear down to the primer. Continue reading “An Irish Specialty”

Resolutions, Revolutions and Restitutions

Dear Readers

Lea Francis Lynx

First of all, if you keep the Gregorian Calendar, I wish you all the best for the imminent New Year.  As this is the traditional time for making promises that we are unlikely to honour, I have asked the Driven To Write staff (including myself) for their resolutions or wishes for 2015.

Simon A Kearne : I have two wishes that I repeat every year. One is that I will drink less sherry.  The other is that the Lea Francis brand will return.  Mercifully neither of these things ever happens.

Richard Herriott : My wishes for the New Year are to see the extermination of the false reverse rake d-pillar. I also want to see deeper side-glass on passenger cars. Finally, I would like to hope that ashtrays could once again regain their position of dominance in car interiors.  If Simon is allowed to ask for Lea-Francis, I want Humber.

Sean Patrick : I have many motoring wishes, but I am resigned that few of them will ever happen. I gave up hoping for the renaissance of Citroen a long time ago. I’d like to see a more knowledgeable buying public demanding real-world cars that suit them, rather than manufacturers giving us stuff we don’t need. Fat chance. On a personal level, I must sort out the side mirrors on my SM and travel in it to Retromobile or Techno-Classic Essen – but then I’ve promised myself that for the past three years.

Eóin Vincent : I, Eoin Vincent, being of sound-(ish) mind do solemnly swear to henceforth:   Ignore the subject of Jaguar during the coming year  /  Stop worrying and learn to love Gorden Wegener and all his works  /  Lose my obsession with Sergio Marchionne’s obsession with knitwear  /  Learn the art of brevity  /  Get a grip on punctuation and sentence structure  /  Become DriventoWriteMoreFrequently

Nerdy Worlds United: Citroen-Themed Stamps

Here’s a jolly theme for a set of stamps: the French postal service is offering a range of Citroen-related designs. Two great nerdy worlds united.
1965 citroen_catalogue_news

You can get a look at the series here. Among the cars are the Citroen XM, Citroen DS and the Citroen Xsara. The stamp series looks like this and the XM image is not as striking as the one I’ve selected, alas. Continue reading “Nerdy Worlds United: Citroen-Themed Stamps”

Glass : It’s Clear to See

Reflections on Glazing

Tinted Windows

The phrase ‘privacy glass’ has always concerned me. Do you have a right to privacy when you are on the public road? Despite my not always restrained driving style, I get on pretty well with my fellow road users. The reason is that I acknowledge my errors and praise other people’s politeness. If someone seems to stop to let me through, even if I suspect they might be dropping someone off or that they are just stopping because the sight of me swinging round the corner and accelerating towards the contended space is too much to bother dealing with, I always wave and smile as though they have done me a fine favour. And I like it when I am on the receiving end. In both cases, I don’t fool myself that we have established a lasting bond, but it’s just a simple acknowledgment that we both share the road and that one of us has taken what the other has been graceful enough to give. Continue reading “Glass : It’s Clear to See”

Has the Sky Fallen in on Convertibles?

Sales of dropheads have halved. So is the convertible on the skids? 

vauxhall-cascada

Nothing says ‘I’m living the dream’ like driving a convertible. There is no rational or practical reason behind it other than to demonstrate to the world you have reached a point of affluence, crisis or sheer devil-may-care indifference that can only be manifested by driving into a roseate sunset with a piece of inappropriate headwear wedged in place to prevent your hair being ruined. As pointless indulgences go then, convertibles are right up there with chocolate teapots.  Continue reading “Has the Sky Fallen in on Convertibles?”

Theme : Books – The Cars of Ian Fleming

My credentials to write about the cars of Ian Fleming are mixed.

Casino

In my favour, I had read the entire canon of 14 James Bond books by the time I was 14 and I am, more or less, the same age as the very first Bond book. Against that I’ve never read them since, and that was a long time ago, though it’s a sad reflection on the state of my mind how much I still remember.

Ian Fleming was an accomplished writer of children’s stories. Some people forget that he wrote Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang, but his best kid’s stories were the ones featuring Commander James Bond of the Secret Intelligence Service. At 14, I was so seduced that I anticipated a life of breakfasting on scrambled eggs, ham and plenty of strong, black coffee following on with a day’s light indulgence in cold-blooded violence, rounding off with lobster thermidor, a ‘49 Montrachet chilled to 37 degrees, fresh alpine strawberries and, later on …

As I got older, the compromises that this lifestyle would involve caused me to Continue reading “Theme : Books – The Cars of Ian Fleming”

Theme: Books – Drive On!

Not very many books on cars demand as much as LJK Setright’s social history of the motor car. It offers a lot in return though.

2004: Drive On! by LJK Setright.
2004: Drive On! by LJK Setright.

To be very honest, there are very few motoring writers who can write well. And there seems only to have been one who could write outstandingly well. LJK Setright was that one. This fine book is quite probably unique because it’s a towering monument to a rich understanding of motor vehicles showing most clearly why an intelligent, cultured person might find them a worthy object of contemplation. Continue reading “Theme: Books – Drive On!”

Not-So-Guilty-Yearnings

There’s that Dream Garage that most car people compile at least once in their lives, and some car people compile once a week – or three times a day.

Formby

Generally these are straightforward cars, exotic maybe, but four wheels, internal combustion engine and at least two seats. Of course I have one of these which, with the exception of a couple of constants such as an R Type Bentley Continental, is usually in a state of flux. However, there’s also that other list of vehicles that are possibly even less practical than a Lamborghini Murceliago (a car I have so little interest in I can’t even be bothered to spell-check) but that exert a strange fascination. For me that list is less changeable.

Continue reading “Not-So-Guilty-Yearnings”

Theme : Advertising – Who The Fun Do They Think We Are?

Richard’s fine introduction on this topic began with two quotes, both holding a high degree of truth to advertising in general, yet both I’d suggest are not always relevant to that branch of advertising that deals with cars.

VW 2

Edwin Land, who brought us Polaroid, as well as other products of intelligent research, said “Marketing is what you do when your product is no good” but, although Edwin Land was a remarkable inventor, it was easy for him to say that since, for years, his instant film system was the best in a group of one. Car manufacturers don’t have that luxury – if only Karl Benz had employed patent lawyers as good as Land’s we’d all be peering through that silver star on the bonnet. Also the problem is that, essentially, all cars are good these days – it’s a fair time since VW could point to a Korean upstart and state, quantitatively and overtly, that it didn’t make the grade. So you can’t just sell on actual superiority. Continue reading “Theme : Advertising – Who The Fun Do They Think We Are?”

Reflections On Chrome

Only a few puritans and some design dogmatists dislike chrome. However, a bit of tinsel would have made all the difference to emphasize the inherent goodness of some plain-Jane cars of recent years.

1960s Mercedes S-class

Chrome’s application on car exteriors is based on its capacity to resist corrosion, ease cleaning and increase surface hardness. It also has the pleasing ability to draw attention to the outlines of door frames, lamp housings and bumper pressings, among other features. Even at dusk, a chromed window frame shows up clearly and reveals the car’s character which would otherwise be hidden. Continue reading “Reflections On Chrome”

Arriving – Or Just Travelling Hopefully?

How to define a car

On A Road

It’s hard to explain this to people who view cars as polluting, selfish devices, that kill, maim and generally mess up lives. And it’s equally hard to explain it to people who see cars as pure, powerful pieces of engineering, that mainly offer them control and prestige. But the car is a flawed but hugely romantic device, and that has been its true enduring strength.

What defines a car? For some it’s outright speed, or acceleration. For some status. For some it’s sheer practicality, for others it’s individuality. For some it’s handling, steering feel, lightness of touch, whilst others want weight, bling and intimidation. There are so many criteria for what makes a good car and, if you are trying to explain why you like a car to someone else, it’s tricky. Watch their eyes glaze as you lasciviously trace the curve as the C pillar kinks round the inset vent to join the rear wing. See them shuffle with embarrassment as you present one fisherman’s yarn too many about lifting the front wheel in Tesco’s car park. Risk them questioning your manhood as you mime the ingenious folding mechanism of the rear seats in your MPV.

Continue reading “Arriving – Or Just Travelling Hopefully?”

Northward Bound

Driven to Write met three (of four) Germans outside a supermarket in Aarhus. They had travelled in a VW camping van with two Simson mopeds.

2014 Nordkapp with motor bikes

We don’t really do motorbikes at DTW and VW camping vans aren’t part of our repertoire either but here is a brief report on the trip of Markus, Judith, Ludwig and Victoria from the Bodensee in Germany to Nordkapp in Finnmark, Norway. I met them as they were eating a spot of lunch outside my local supermarket. They were travelling in a rather used series T3 VW camper van (1979 to 1992) and two Simson mopeds. Continue reading “Northward Bound”

Cars I Can’t Write About 2: Porsche

Some cars defy one’s capacity to describe or discuss them except in the most general terms. Here’s another, a Porsche of some type.

2014 Porsche collage

There was a 1970s example of one of these things parked on the road today. They are very rare around my district. I chose to look at a Vectra parked one space ahead of it. I’ve always admired the 2002 model’s headlamp design. When I was in Germany at Easter I saw a rare high-spec 2002 saloon in green metallic that made me Continue reading “Cars I Can’t Write About 2: Porsche”

Cars I Can’t Write About 1: 1996-2002 Mazda Demio

Some cars defy one’s capacity to describe or discuss them except in the most general terms. One of them is the 1996 Mazda Demio.

1996 Mada demio

Here at DTW we spend a lot of time staring into the walls trying to fight off the ideas that spring up. The problem is that there are more ideas than time to do them justice. I’ve just blown three hours of my life penning a tract about Buicks and Opels. This was based on half a thought about the Opel Astra saloon that nobody cares about. How then can I Continue reading “Cars I Can’t Write About 1: 1996-2002 Mazda Demio”

Theme : Speed – Quantity and Quality Thereof

How much fun do you really get out of driving like you stole it?

1990 peugeot-205-

Speed is a measurable quantity. One of the characteristics of the modern age is the increasing dominance of quantity over quality. I see the two as dependent parameters, as necessary as the left and right wing of a jet. In the spirit of the times motoring journalism in recent years has tended to Continue reading “Theme : Speed – Quantity and Quality Thereof”

Social Signifiers

Which cars are for today’s ophthalmologists, vets and professors of Medieval law? 

For Prof. Castiglione
For Prof. Castiglione (c) lautomobile.aci.it

About three decades ago certain makers sold cars for easily identifiable groups in society. Saabs were for well-paid university lecturers. Citroen could appeal to the Francophile and arty middle-class man. Lancia sold to intellectuals and business men who probably saw their work as a vocation. Humber appealed to bank managers of the bigger branches. But today, these brands are gone or unrecognisable

I was trying to Continue reading “Social Signifiers”

Coupé de Grâce

The upper-middle class coupé is almost extinct. We trace its demise.

Volvo 780ES. Image: petrolblog
Bertone’s Volvo 780ES. Image: petrolblog

Large upper-middle class coupés only made commercial sense if they could be produced to appeal to both domestic and US audiences. Mercedes-Benz, BMW and the Japanese manufacturers alone seemed to understand this, ensuring they could export their offerings to the sector’s natural habitat. Success in automotive terms had traditionally been predicated on success in America and for that, a luxury coupé was highly desirable.  Continue reading “Coupé de Grâce”

Donuts – The Indigestible Indulgence

The Alternative Highway Code.

Donuts 1

For the purposes of this piece I will henceforth refer to the Doughnut as the Donut. I choose an American English spelling because I really do hope that this most futile of driving manoeuvres was not invented in the UK. I don’t relish the shame of inventing the Donut being shouldered by America, I just don’t want it to be shouldered by my country. Historically it seems unlikely, since it is not easy to perform in a Ford Anglia, but much easier in a Chevrolet that your Dad has ticked the big V8 option on. The name, of course, is imprecise. An Edible Donut is a Torus, a three dimensional shape. The shape defined by the Driving Donut occupies only two dimensions and is, more or less, circular – just a big zero.

Continue reading “Donuts – The Indigestible Indulgence”

Not For Sale: Car Museums

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

Image source: The Truth About 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.

Alive, the car needs sufficient space for portly passengers to Continue reading “Not For Sale: Car Museums”

Are Cars Sexy?

Autoerotica Anyone?

Wienermobile1995

My father was an old-school Freudian in his outlook. He wouldn’t miss a chance to make an association, and my obsession with cars was fertile ground. He pronounced that many cars were just phallic compensation symbols and I, in what I thought was a witty response, said that a phallus was just a compensation for not having a decent car – it sounded better when I was sixteen. Cars and Sex, Sex and Cars, they’re an old pairing, but I’ve never been entirely convinced.

Maybe I just look at it the wrong way. For a start, I’ve never Continue reading “Are Cars Sexy?”

Theme : Headlamps – Mellow Yellow?

Yellow Headlamps at Night

Once upon a time a trip to France from the UK was special. Not only did the cars look different but, at night, the roads came alive with lamps that were, uniquely, amber coloured. I admit that I enjoyed this. It gave French cars the same ‘interesting’ look that Jean-Luc Godard’s tinted glasses gave him. French cars were more intellectual.

Continue reading “Theme : Headlamps – Mellow Yellow?”

On the Romance of Certain Old Cars

Is there any reason to buy new?

Image: Sean Patrick

The past few years have been difficult for manufacturers trying to sell new cars in Europe. But, even if people can’t afford them, one thing car makers take for granted is that everyone likes a new car. How many new cars have you sat in as the first driver? I’ve sat in a lot, not because I’d bought most of them, but because I once delivered them as a job. But when the car is yours it’s something else, that very special moment you’ve been waiting weeks, months or, sometimes, years for.

You just sit there. You don’t even think of touching the ignition at first but, like a true connoisseur, you just Continue reading “On the Romance of Certain Old Cars”

Seven Degrees of Separation

Seven Degrees

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.

Continue reading “Seven Degrees of Separation”

A Hypocrite Writes

I am a cry from beyond the pale. I have spent all my driving years reining in my hooligan element and, for much of the time, it has been my personal circumstances, rather than my self-control, that have prevented me from totally inappropriate purchases.

Image : carmagazine.co.uk

The first Audi RS6 Avant really fulfilled a long-held fantasy for a big, very fast, estate car, marrying the hooner with the homely. Lately, the AMG C63 Estate has taken my fancy, and I now see that they have produced a more powerful version, addressing the problem of the standard model’s woefully inadequate 451 bhp.

Continue reading “A Hypocrite Writes”

Drop Dead Gorgeous?

XJ Hearse

Seeing a Jaguar XJ hearse on the Westway a few weeks ago, made me realise that modern design does not adapt well to the production of a dignified funeral wagon. Consider Coleman Milne’s latest offerings based on Mercedes and Ford base vehicles. Try getting out of those back doors with your top hat in place.

Continue reading “Drop Dead Gorgeous?”

Archie Vicar

An Introduction from Driven to Write’s Editor.

Archie Vicar represents a different generation; people who came of age in an uncertain period where a World War followed a World Recession. Few of these men (and we cannot deny that they were all men) set their youthful sights on Motoring Journalism as a profession. They came into it through circuitous routes, bringing with them, for good and for bad, a worldliness that is, perhaps, missing today, where a childhood spent poring over EVO magazine, followed by a spell at journalism school, leads directly to employment on a national magazine. Where is the wisdom; where is the experience of a wider world? Continue reading “Archie Vicar”