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 …….

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

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 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?

New Car 01C

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”

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”