After almost five decades of sporadic appearances and false dawns, is the digital dashboard finally in inexorable ascendency?
I have been meaning to write something on this subject for some time now. Unfortunately, the nasty virus has meant that my working life has gone into overload as I have responsibility for keeping a small UK bank operating with it’s entire staff working out of bedrooms, kitchens, dining rooms and even landings, and so time and energy has been in short supply.
An Urban Explorer makes a break for the coastline.
Life has been of late, more than a little, shall we say, constrained. Not that I’m necessarily complaining – it’s for the greater good and after all, matters could be a good deal worse – but from an automotive perspective, thus far, 2020 has been something of a damp squib. All this being so, one takes what thin gruel that comes one’s way.
Steve Marriott was lead singer and co-creator of 1960’s Mod four-piece, The Small Faces. In their 1968 track, Donkey Rides, A Penny, A Glass… Marriott alludes to wasting his days in idyllic fashion in a caravan at the seaside. Mind you, the band’s subject matter also included (and indubitably entertained) various substances; references being made to the breakfast cereal All-bran, tin soldiers jumping into fire and life affirming measures that only those of a certain age could possibly appreciate.
As a ‘70s child, blissfully innocent of free-love and mind expanding powders, for me the band produced consistent results, a little like some Swedish artisans cooking up glass, deep in Småland.*
Orrefors (end it with a shh) are producers of fine glassware and have been shaping crystals for many years. Building a smithy and forge by the river which flows into the lake Orrenas, the company’s name translates as the Iron Waterfall. The car connection appeared when Volvo asked them to Continue reading “Small Faces”
The 2007 XJ facelift was tasteless as it was expedient. But there are things we can learn from it.
Let us get one thing abundantly clear before we progress. Designing Jaguars is fiendishly difficult and if you doubt this for a moment, try it. Therefore anyone who makes a decent fist of the craft deserves credit rather than opprobrium. Having said that however, there are a few strictures a Jaguar designer ignores at his peril – the primary one being a matter of discernment.
There is a very simple process one can perform: I call it The Sir William Test. It’s quite simple really. When presented with a problem of a stylistic or creative nature, the Jaguar stylist should Continue reading “Introducing the Hard Line”
These days, coachbuilding usually acts as a euphemism for customised luxury vehicles of exceedingly high monetary and bafflingly dubious aesthetic value. Usually, but not always.
Limited editions are all about chintzy brass plates and certificates printed onto vellum-look paper. While they may provide a draw to adolescent collectors of action figurines or collectible cards, to today’s class of the super rich, they’re a joke not even worth telling. Or at least one would think so.
In the car industry, a decade-long focus on offering increasingly high levels of customisation options in almost every class of automobile has resulted in a huge spread of personalisation. Just as the number of (non-SUV) body styles has decreased, the availability of customisation options has manifolded. This makes it increasingly more difficult for the luxury wheat to Continue reading “Precious Metal”
As a companion piece to this week’s profile of Mercedes’ W203 C-Class, we’ve chosen to re-run this article, which originally appeared as part of DTW’s Facelift theme on 2 July 2014.
As I’m sure I don’t need to point out to you, dear readers, when it comes to the subject of facelifts, not everyone cleaves to the Partonesque ideal. Because while the tuneful Tennessee songstress has clearly invested wisely upon her augmented visage, others have fallen rather messily at the wayside. They know who they are.
Today, Andrew Miles gets his Super Trouper out for the lads.
Research (undertaken by no-one in particular) has shown racing cars to be 0.02 faster and infinitely more aggressive when their lights are switched on. My amazement is that manufacturers haven’t as yet cottoned on to this phenomenon.
Car makers spend spend a great deal of time and resources on those devices that help us to see and be seen. From the rudimentary acetylene lamps of yore to today’s laser beam-like LED’s found in ever more angular and reflective cages. The head, and indeed tail lights can make or break a car’s appearance.
On the quiet streets of Skive I found this alien space ship, gently landed from the end of the 1960s.
Pedestrian safety and low-speed crash regulations did away with this kind of design. Subsequently, General Motors’ own mismanagement and a radical shift in the car market gradually killed the brand attached to the car. If we want to Continue reading “Brisk Business in the Bakery”
While this could be just about what The Truth About Cars calls DLO fail, I’d like to take a slightly wider perspective today.
In 2005 Lexus began sales of this car, the XE20 iteration of the IS range. It had a good long run, until 2013. It represented part of a turn at Toyota/Lexus from fairly restrained design to more expressive forms. That could be seen as an effort to try to Continue reading “Frustration and Fury in Fergana”
The author reviews his four years with a 2015 Porsche Boxster.
In an ideal world, I would report that my current 981-generation Porsche Boxster, purchased in 2016, directly replaced a previous generation (987…don’t ask) model that I owned for six years and enjoyed tremendously. Unfortunately, I strayed and had a two-month torrid but unfulfilling affair with a Jaguar F-Type convertible before coming to my senses and returning to Zuffenhausen.
A photo for Sunday: A DTW icon in an atmospheric setting.
If one must be confined somewhere, there are worse places to reside than the picturesque Co. Cork harbour town I increasingly call home. Owing to matters which surely don’t require elaboration under current circumstances, I have been spending considerably more time in the anteroom to the Wild Atlantic Way than strictly intended at the start of the year. Still, one makes of things what one can.
Everything looks better against a decent backdrop, and while the Volkswagen Golf really does personify the term ubiquitous, there was something about the quality of evening light, combined with the timeless silhouette of the fourth-generation model that caused me to Continue reading “Dock of the Bay”
While adding to his brochure collection, Bruno Vijverman notes a somewhat overt case of borrowed inspiration.
A while back, upon these pages, I wrote about the coincidental (or otherwise) similarities which have occurred in car design over the years. But more recently, since one of my past-times is collecting classic car brochures, it came to my notice that in some cases the practice of copying does not seem to be limited to the actual product, but also to the sales publicity material itself.
To be clear, I am not talking about the obvious broad similarities which are often dictated by the fashions and prevailing tastes of the era – in the sixties and seventies for instance the focus of the illustrations and text was on people and the freedom (real or imagined) and happiness that their new car was supposed to provide them.
Carrosserie Hermann Graber came into being in the early 1920s, providing coachbuilt bodies for a wide range of mostly upmarket carmakers, amongst which were such illustrious names as Bugatti and Duesenberg; Graber quickly establishing an enviable reputation for elegance of line and craftmanship at his studios in Bern, Switzerland.
Having clothed a number of their chassis’ at customer request, Graber obtained the distribution rights for the British luxury carmaker, Alvis in 1953. One of these was a rakish and well proportioned two-door design, which so impressed Alvis management that a modified version was produced in the UK and became the Red Triangle’s sole offering between 1958 and the cessation of carmaking in 1967. Continue reading “Swiss Account”
Recently we had a lengthy debate about the best car in the world and the E34 BMW didn’t get much of a look in.
You’d imagine this car which is one of the natural competitors for the E-class might have had a few boosters. It’s a well-rounded machine, comes in a lot of flavours and is not known for its fragility. Well, here in the Ashtrays department of DTW we don’t Continue reading “Ashtrays: E34 BMW 5-series”
Architects and motor cars have not always co-existed harmoniously. Today’s subject however, is something of an exception.
Richard Buckminster Fuller’s foray into the automotive world with his Dymaxion car of 1933 is frequently brought forward when the discussion topic is raised about car concepts that were simply too far ahead of their time for their own good. The radical ideas and look of the Dymaxion were indeed in clear violation* of MAYA (Most Advanced Yet Acceptable) – the guiding design principle of well known contemporary, Raymond Loewy.
Two decades after Buckminster Fuller presented Dymaxion, another famed architect came up with a car design that was considered too far out at the time of its introduction: Gio Ponti. The Italian’s Linea Diamante dates from 1953 but its styling and interior concept were very much of another, future decade. Continue reading “Diamond Life”
A late evening encounter with a synthesized Audi crossover got our Sheffield operative thinking about additives.
Mono Sodium Glutamate, or MSG was invented back in 1908 by a Japanese chemist named Kikunae Ikeda who was searching for a food additive he named umami which is given as “neither sweet, nor salty, bitter or sour” and was marketed by the fledgling Suzuki company, though under the brand name Aji-no-moto, itself a part of Suzuki pharmaceuticals. Its European name is E-621. Do Suzuki make a car with that code name in Japan?
In the halcyon pre-Covid past, a night out at a local Latin American restaurant, where the tapas was tasty, the cigars and rum both plentiful and expensive (neither sampled) and the beats both seductive and loud, led to a rather unexpected (and frustrating) conversation regarding car design with my better half. Well kind of. The rum and ‘gars must Continue reading “Bland Recipe? Add E-621”
The sunlight really helped in this instance. The car shone out. Modern vehicles mostly don’t come in colours like this. So even from 800 metres I could tell this was very likely worth a closer inspection.
The Audi is parked so close to the wall that you can’t see the badges – or, you couldn’t if they were there. By the time I got back with my camera the light had changed so I could not snap the car from the best view with the best light. However, art is often about rules and what are rules but limitations. It makes things interesting when you have requirements to satisfy. Such binding of the hands actually really helps one Continue reading “After The Middle The Pace Speeds Up”
Hi there. The name’s Dieter Ogley. Born in Heidelberg, well, just outside at Boxberg but raised in Barnsley, South Yorkshire from the age of twelve. My mother was a nurse at the local hospital, whereas my dad was a mining engineer who was offered a job in the then thriving coal business in Barnsley.
This meant leaving our German roots and coming over to England, since the job offered dad a whole new world underground to explore. But then the big strike happened and the work dried up. Mining became a forgotten venture; it still occurred but with only so many jobs to go round, it was hard to Continue reading “Gorden? Nein, Dieter!”
Spain may not be famous for coachbuilders the way their colleagues to the North and on the opposite side of the Mediterranean are, but that is not to say there were none.
Pedro Serra Vidal (1926-2017) was born into the automobile business. His father owned a large automotive workshop and coachbuilding business in Barcelona, where the young Serra Vidal learned the trade and gathered the necessary experience.
A random glance at a Mazda Demio made me think again about grilles and the way designers deal with that hole in the front of the car.
The subject unfolds as a matter of design semantics. That means more or less we are concerned with the meaning of the air intake and its expression. This Demio (above) is a bit fancier than the one I saw in my district but it is geometrically the same. The approach was to use an “egg-box” in-fill and to use a U-shaped plastic trim piece to enable them to Continue reading “All the Ways We Sang, All the Songs We Went”
The Renault 9 was considered blandness personified. But not all the design proposals were.
Occasionally, when one is presented with a rejected concept for a well-known car design, one experiences a frisson of regret, a sharp sense of opportunity missed. More often however, one is reminded of the essential rightness of the production concept chosen. But once in a while, one finds oneself staring in disbelief, wondering what were they thinking? But let’s not Continue reading “Over the Rainbow”
An interest in automotive design history can result in a fair bit of detective work, and occasionally, a surprise ending.
For three years, all the money in the world wouldn’t buy you a brand new Ferrari Gran Turismo. It may appear almost impossible to imagine from today’s perspective, but Maranello’s premier car maker wasn’t always the money printing machine it is nowadays, which would historically entail the odd glitch and hiccup in terms of production planning.
It was for this reason that certain models would outstay their welcome on a somewhat regular basis. But not offering a mainstay product for several years appeared very odd indeed, even before Ferrari evolved from being the maker of enthusiast’s cars to the status of luxury goods purveyors.
From 1989, when production of the long-serving 412i four-seater model finally ceased, until 1992, the year the 456 GT successor was unveiled, anyone looking for a Ferrari that could accommodate not just driver plus wife/mistress, but also the dog and/or kids, would need to go for the unloved Mondial. If this kind of customer was hellbent on a V12 engine under the bonnet, he’d have to Continue reading “Maranello Model Mystery”
At long last, Pininfarina has a new Chief Creative Officer.
The last ten months must have been a rather tumultuous period for those working at Pininfarina’s headquarters in Cambiano. First there were rumours of a fierce conflict with erstwhile loyal customer, Ferrari, over the design of Automobili Pininfarina’s Battista EV hyper car, in the wake of its unveiling at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show. This was shortly followed by a facelift of Battista’s front end.
Much of the blame for these costly, distracting shenanigans was put at the feet of Pininfarina chief designer, Carlo Bonzanigo, who wasn’t seen or heard in public for months, until his resignation ‘for personal reasons‘ was unceremoniously announced in September. Since then, the post of chief designer has remained vacant. Not anymore however, as Kevin Rice has just been announced as Bonzanigo’s successor. Continue reading “Ritorno al Futuro”
I don’t usually feel a need to travel to any vintage car shows. I visited Techno Classica in Essen (which was huge, but not terribly pleasant) just once and enjoyed the splendour of Villa d’Este (which is both interesting and off-putting for its detachment from reality) just as many times.
Certain headline-grabbing exhibits, such as some rarely seen one-offs and concept cars, notwithstanding, the repetitive nature of classic car shows makes a visit only appealing to me if it’s convenient – as with the annual Bremen Classic Motorshow, which is just a one-hour train ride away, generally well-organised and good fun. This year however, I elected to Continue reading “Rétromobile 2020 : A Retrospective”
Some car designs either mature with age or wait for the beholder’s eye to mature. The second-generation BMW Einser is an example of this phenomenon.
The passage of time can have peculiar side effects, in that both one’s own tastes tend to change, just as changing context can significantly alter one’s perception and hence opinion.
In automotive terms, for example, my (much) younger self was left unreservedly enchanted by the Rover 75 upon its unveiling. The attention to detail of its styling, as well as the obvious nods to historic British car designs completely won me over; to me, the 75 was everything the Jaguar S-type most equivocally was not.
Two decades later, the Jaguar remains no caterpillar-turned-butterfly, but the Rover has lost quite a lot of its charm. The care and attention to detail that went into its design remain as obvious as they were back in 1998, but the entire concept of a twee retro saloon so unashamedly attempting to Continue reading “Guilty Pleasures: BMW 1 Series (F20)”
An Italo-American curiosity receives a broad DTW brushstroke.
Some cars emerge into the world fully formed, and regardless of where one lands upon their aesthetic merits, defy the facelifter’s scalpel, or indeed much in the way of subsequent enhancement. In stating this, I must add, I am not suggesting these cars were never the subject of facelifting exercises, more that perhaps they really ought not to have been.
As Citroën’s SM turns 50, we trace an unlikely inspiration.
During a cocktail party at the French consulate in Detroit in 1960 – it is not known if any Ferrero Rochers were served – Citroën president Pierre Bercot met a man by the name of Henry de Ségur Lauve. Present as an interpreter because of his excellent command of both French and English, de Ségur Lauve was soon engaged in animated conversation with Bercot as the Citroën boss discovered that the Franco-American had considerable previous experience in car design.
A curiosity from the early 1990s. It could only hail from Japan.
Of all the Japanese carmakers, Nissan was perhaps the most prolific and it must be said, daring of the purveyors of retro-flavoured designs. The Pike Factory cars, BE 1/ Pao/ S-Cargo and Figaro were not only highly successful halo cars wihin the Japanese domestic market, but lent the brand a degree of cachet which had perhaps previously eluded them. Having been once perceived as purveyors of mediocrity, Nissan now were on the very cusp of cool. Continue reading “JDM Oddities – 1994 Nissan Rasheen”
On one hand the formal limousine has always been a potent marker of social superiority, yet simultaneously a place within which to shield oneself from an often hostile plebeian gaze. After all nobody purchases, borrows or otherwise purloins a luxury saloon with the notion of hiding one’s ego from the madding crowd, one’s average plutocrat hardly being of the shrinking violet tendency.
This makes the design of the limousine something of a delicate balancing act. Serious enough to suggest material attainment, elegant enough to establish aesthetic discernment, yet sufficiently opulent to Continue reading “Ascendant Class”
There is no such thing as coincidence, we are told. Bruno Vijverman (and a certain Mr. Cruyff) beg to differ.
Similarity in looks is a fact which has been associated with the car industry almost since the very beginning and has sparked many a discussion. The factors causing some cars to Continue reading “Coincidence Is Logical”
A recent piece of mine mentioned Škoda having a sense of fun with their ghost car prototype from their EGV department. Then I found this. Škoda does have an odd way of giving names to their vehicles; the journalists of the car world (and occasionally those outside it) make mirth mightily with these monikers. There’s no point in naming these magazines or authors as we try to avoid such trivia at Driven to Write. My position is to Continue reading “Yellow Car-ster”
If you roam the streets at night, don’t be too surprised by what you encounter.
We have, on a number of occasions brought to light the manner in which the nocturnal streetscape can alter one’s perceptions, especially when it comes to the appreciation of automotive design. In some cases this can bring nuances to bear which might not have been as apparent in daylight. On the other hand, the fluorescent glare of street lighting can render a car in a manner somewhat less becoming.
Armed with only a bun for sustenance, Andrew Miles indulges in a spot of colour watching. His observations are below.
The supermarket can be an eminently dissonant place. A necessary evil; something of an endurance. But all is not lost, for as our usual café haunt was closed for refurbishment and as we had to visit the supermarket, we decided to invest in their facilities before commencing the weekly event of overfilling a metal trolley.
Luckily, this branch of J. Sainsbury’s is placed on stilts, so one parks underneath and the travellator moves you upwards bypassing the café which swiftly became my haven and inspiration for this little observation.
The FIAT Uno was one of the biggest selling and most significant cars of the 1980s. Then, it was such a common sight that one barely took note. Now, it’s invisible just because so few remain. Out of sight, out of mind; does anyone care anymore about the Uno?
A peek under the cover at Mladá Boleslav’s design process.
Car companies are rarely known for the philanthropy, charity work or comedy. Surely those who work within must see forms of any (or hopefully all) of these at some point. Making cars though is a serious business; livelihoods and reputations are at stake and those stakes are high. Thank goodness then for a small window opening into what is normally the most secretive of worlds – that of the prototype.
In this concluding piece, we consider the Lybra’s appearance and ponder its ultimate fate.
So much for the underpinnings. The dealers’ main worry had been the styling, which had been a fraught process throughout. At the start of the project, proposals from the Enrico Fumia-led Centro Stile, Leonardo Fioravanti, and the I.DE.A consultancy had been evaluated. Team Fumia’s 1992 design was thematically similar to – if visually richer than – the outgoing Dedra, also marrying obvious cues from the forthcoming 1995 Y supermini. Elements of the design also reflected the Fessia era, but in a broadly contemporary manner. Overall, it was an attractive proposal, somewhat reminiscent of Peugeot’s subsequent 406, if perhaps a little derivative in certain respects. Continue reading “Tilting the Scales (3)”
A mysterious city car concept, allegedly created by Tata Motors, may possibly be the final creation of one of the titans of automotive design. Or could it?
Officially, Marcello Gandini didn’t exactly bow out on a high note. The Stola S86 Diamante’s appearance was challenging for all the wrong reasons: Unveiled in 2005, his second design for Stola looked both clumsy, old-fashioned and rather unaccomplished – one could even be led to say: unprofessional. It marked the final time a car designed by the great Gandini was publicly unveiled.
As an end note to a career that had resulted in shapes which changed the craft of automotive design forever, the Stola S86 Diamante’s sole saving grace was its ability to Continue reading “Tata Enigma”
Great news everyone; it’s pantomime season and who better to kick off this most joyous of entertainments than Tesla?
I’m sorry to sound rather curmudgeonly. I actually like pantomime. It’s as much for the adults as the kids with a little innuendo, some (not so) subtle jokes and plenty of genuine laughs. As for the season, well, the curmudgeon levels within me-rise. As age creeps ever on I see less appeal in Christmas and more irritation.
All through the year, we get dragged into things we don’t wish to deal with yet somehow in December, everything has to be completed before the 25th, as though the world may Continue reading “He’s Behind You!”
French designer, Tristan Auer reimagines Citroën’s CX Prestige, delivering something unique and rather special.
The Hôtel de Crillon on the Place de la Concorde has been something of a Paris institution, at least for those well-heeled enough to stay there, since it opened to the public in 1907. The neoclassical 18th century palace – one of a matching pair situated at the famous Paris landmark – was built in 1758 and through its history, saw its fair share of drama, not least of which was its use by the post-revolutionary French government as a place to Continue reading “You Shall Go to the Ball”
When it comes to matters of symmetry, DTW takes the centre ground.
Back in the early days of Driven to Write, when life was more innocent and we hadn’t entirely lost the run of ourselves, we had both the time and the inclination to exercise our more whimsical thoughts, impressions and observations, at length.
Today’s Sunday sermon comes as something of a compare and contrast. Admittedly it also lays itself open to accusations of shooting fish in a barrel, but I’m prepared to take that risk. Here at Driven to Write, we have something of a soft spot for underdogs. However, some are more equal than others, and in the case of Lexus and in particular, the flagship LC 500, its continued lack of appeal to European eyes is mystifying.
In the year to June, the LC posted perhaps the greatest sales drop (58.5%) of any make or model across Europe. Which is proof, if proof were required that people’s taste is in their… well, perhaps you ought to Continue reading “Sublime to Ridiculous”
In 1995, Honda displayed two distinct and distinctive roadster concepts. Did they make the right choice?
In 1995, Pininfarina, in conjunction with Honda – who enjoyed a long-term relationship with the carrozzeria, presented Argento Vivo, a purely conceptual two-seater roadster. Designed very much in the classic idiom, Argento Vivo (as the name suggested) employed aluminium for its extruded substructure and its upper body cladding – the resultant weight loss intended to allow for the use of smaller-capacity engines than might otherwise be considered.
There was little meaningful correlation between them it seems, (although there were reports of Pininfarina putting Argento Vivo into small-scale production), but the very same year, Honda themselves debuted a two-seat concept at that year’s Tokyo motor show, dubbed the Honda Sports Study Model (SSM for short). A more determinably ‘Japanese’, modernist and conclusively less romantic shape than that that of the Italians, SSM was created at the carmaker’s Wako Design Centre near Tokyo; Honda stating that it showcased “the company at its innovative best applying state of art solutions to Continue reading “Quicksilver”
The Jaguar iconography was founded upon a small number of significant characteristics, but of these, visual appeal was perhaps the most crucial – and certainly the most obvious. For any car design to succeed in the marketplace, and to do so for an extended period of time, this appeal must be apparent, not only from the outset, but be capable of being maintained throughout a lengthy production run.
Fortunately, in Sir William Lyons, Jaguar had an arbiter of form, line, proportion and more importantly still, taste, which gave the carmaker a significant edge over both domestic and non-domestic rivals. However if Lyons had been a chef, he would have been one who had himself never cooked a meal, yet could still Continue reading “Altered State”
Once dominated by the twin pillars of Bertone and Pininfarina, the leading Italian car-design consultancies found their hegemony (and profitability) threatened by the dramatic arrival during the early 1970s of a precocious interloper by the name of Giorgetto Giugiaro. His ItalDesign consultancy quickly established itself as a formidable adversary, capable of delivering turnkey projects in both product design and engineering.
A decade or so later, and seemingly just as abruptly, another significant player entered the field. By the tail end of the 1980s, the Institute of Development in Automotive Engineering (I.D.E.A) was going head to head with the big-hitting Italian carrozzeiri, having gained the patronage of Fiat with perhaps the largest and most ambitious vehicle programme in its history. Yet they appeared to have arrived from nowhere. Continue reading “The Big Idea”
I am no expert when it comes to the subject of car design, lacking as I do the in-depth knowledge, training, vocabulary, or indeed, ‘eye’ to interrogate or illuminate a car’s form in a truly meaningful manner – mercifully, others upon these pages are better placed to do just that.
Not wishing for one moment to hasten the demise of our favoured personal transport, we must take into account the future. With planners believing we’re all to live in mega cities and have no need to own or run a car, we seek out alternatives and as is so often the way, we must look to the past to see the future.
In March 1972, the last of the UK’s once huge trolley bus network was hooked down from the frog* in Bradford, West Yorkshire. Neighbouring Leeds toyed with resurrecting such a wild idea in the early 2000’s but came to nought. A sixty year fling with this curious hybrid (that ironically had started in Bradford), of an omnibus and a railed, electrified tram was deemed non-standard and the spiders web of must-be-followed grid was removed, never to Continue reading “The Quiet Revolution”
A great deal of attention is paid to the exterior of cars though the interior is where we spend our time as drivers and passengers. For the 604 Peugeot had, for at least some of the time, the services of Paul Bracq. In the 60s he oversaw some of Mercedes-Benz’s finest vehicle exteriors, the ones that people think of when they think of a Mercedes (our image of these cars is four decades out of date). They are chromed, formal, upright, solid and faultless.
We’ve all experienced it at some point in our lives, have we not? You want something so badly, you feel there’s almost no privation you wouldn’t endure to obtain it. Rationality be damned; even to the point of detriment, just as long as you Continue reading “The Cost of Entry”