Diamond Life

Architects and motor cars have not always co-existed harmoniously. Today’s subject however, is something of an exception. 

(c) Motori corriere.it

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”

Bland Recipe? Add E-621

A late evening encounter with a synthesized Audi crossover got our Sheffield operative thinking about additives. 

ebay.com

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”

After The Middle The Pace Speeds Up

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.

1976-1982 Audi 100 (C2)

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”

Gorden? Nein, Dieter!

An old friend reappears. Well, of sorts…

Image: Mercedes-Benz

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!”

Boulevard of Broken Dreams

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.

Dodge Serra (c) Autopista es

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.

His talent quickly became obvious and he would go on to Continue reading “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”

One At A Time The Days Arrived And Never Departed

Just the other day I was thinking about grilles (front grilles, of course). Today I ask you again to consider the Jaguar XJ-S, that famously endearing monster.

Jaguar XJ-S. A likeable mess.

Of course the car is not just viewed from the front. From other views the effect vanishes and you notice the plan curvature and also the way the central bonnet edge is set below the level of the lamps. But let’s Continue reading “One At A Time The Days Arrived And Never Departed”

All the Ways We Sang, All the Songs We Went

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.

wikipedia.org
(c) wikipedia.org

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”

Over the Rainbow

The Renault 9 was considered blandness personified. But not all the design proposals were. 

1981 Renault 9. saripahmunaek.blogspot.com

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”

Maranello Model Mystery

An interest in automotive design history can result in a fair bit of detective work, and occasionally, a surprise ending.

Ferrari 412i. (c) autoevolution

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”

Ritorno al Futuro

At long last, Pininfarina has a new Chief Creative Officer.

Kevin Rice. (c) autodesignmagazine

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”

Rétromobile 2020 : A Retrospective

Our German correspondent goes Rétro.

Magnificent. And the car’s pretty impressive as well. Voisin C28 Aérosport amid Grand Palais splendour.

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”

Guilty Pleasures: BMW 1 Series (F20)

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. 

Image: The author

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)”

The Idea of North

An Italo-American curiosity receives a broad DTW brushstroke.

Ghia’s Thor concept, gets the late ’60s split screen treatment. (c) Coachbuild.com

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.

Of the cars in question (and you can Continue reading “The Idea of North”

An American in Paris

As Citroën’s SM turns 50, we trace an unlikely inspiration.

(c) Conservatoire Citroen

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.

Born in 1910, in Montclair, New Jersey, Henry de Ségur Lauve’s family had roots that went all the way back to the French colonists who Continue reading “An American in Paris”

JDM Oddities – 1994 Nissan Rasheen

A curiosity from the early 1990s. It could only hail from Japan.

(c) japan partner

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”

Ascendant Class

Attempting to unpick a feudal line. 

Hyundai Dynasty.  (c) wikipedia

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”

Coincidence Is Logical

There is no such thing as coincidence, we are told. Bruno Vijverman (and a certain Mr. Cruyff) beg to differ.

Author’s collection

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”

Yellow Car-ster

A lemon squeezy concept from Mladá Boleslav. 

All images (c) Škoda storyboard.com

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”

Nightcrawling

If you roam the streets at night, don’t be too surprised by what you encounter.

Image: The author

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.

Because just as a negative is the inverse of the photographic image, the nightscape can Continue reading “Nightcrawling”

Watching the (Grey) World Pass By

Armed with only a bun for sustenance, Andrew Miles indulges in a spot of colour watching. His observations are below.

(c) Switch my business

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. 

Built on the corner of a very busy junction controlled by traffic lights, it afforded me an indulgence that happily entertained me for the twenty minutes or so it took to Continue reading “Watching the (Grey) World Pass By”

Lest One Forgets

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?

2ea05_uno-980x984
Uno 3 door – a FIAT publicity shot which is either deeply ironic or aimed at demonstrating new levels of rust-proofing (Source: WheelsAge.org)

The 80’s was the decade when my interest in all things automobile really took hold. In 1983, I remember deciding to Continue reading “Lest One Forgets”

EGV The Friendly Ghost

A peek under the cover at Mladá Boleslav’s design process.

All New Latest Exclusive Top Secret Undercover Groundbreaking Ghost Car Type 17. (c) Skodastoryboard.com

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 domain, security is king; no mobile phones, no contact with outsiders, no leaks to press. Over three hundred souls are committed to Continue reading “EGV The Friendly Ghost”

Tilting the Scales (3)

In this concluding piece, we consider the Lybra’s appearance and ponder its ultimate fate.

(c) Quattroruote

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)”

Tata Enigma

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? 

(c) motorauthority

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”

He’s Behind You!

Great news everyone; it’s pantomime season and who better to kick off this most joyous of entertainments than Tesla?

The Cybertruck desperately seeking the stage exit. (c) 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!”

You Shall Go to the Ball

French designer, Tristan Auer reimagines Citroën’s CX Prestige, delivering something unique and rather special.

© Amaury Laparra for Tristan Auer/ Classic Driver

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”

Weekend Reissue – Taking Sides

When it comes to matters of symmetry, DTW takes the centre ground.

Syncopated rhythm.  (c) Autoweek

 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.

Our cloth is cut a little more snugly nowadays, I regret to note, but what cannot be altered must, as I’m sure any tailor can agree, must Continue reading “Weekend Reissue – Taking Sides”

Sublime to Ridiculous

Taking lessons in style and taste from Japan. 

(c) Lexus.com

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”

Quicksilver

In 1995, Honda displayed two distinct and distinctive roadster concepts. Did they make the right choice?

1995 SSM Concept. (c) innermobil

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”

Altered State

Examining Utah’s transitory visual life.

(c) jaglovers.org

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”

The Big Idea

Who were I.D.E.A anyway? 

(c) auto-forever

And then there were four. 

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”

Top-Line, Entry Level

DTW once again abases itself at the bottom rung.

Image: The Author

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.

Nevertheless, I do spend more time than is either productive or conducive to a healthy mind (or body) studying cars and attempting to Continue reading “Top-Line, Entry Level”

The Quiet Revolution

Our Northern correspondent gets off his trolley.

trolleybus
(c) Bancroftsofyorkshire.blogspot.com

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”

An afternoon like dusk: The 604 story, Pt. 7

Today, we turn our attention to the 604’s cabin.

1975 Peugeot 604 dashboard

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.

It is ironic then that Bracq arrived at Peugeot too late to perhaps do more than Continue reading “An afternoon like dusk: The 604 story, Pt. 7”

The Cost of Entry

Here’s one you won’t find in the brochure.

The disappointing reality. Entry level.  (c) DTW

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”

An afternoon like dusk – The 604 story, Pt. 6

Deep breath. I don’t think the 604’s styling has been given this level of consideration before.

(c) blog-moteur

Peugeot had a long standing relationship with carrozzeria Pininfarina, who prepared the basic design of the the 604. As was typical for Pininfarina, the design owed as much to other work they had done as it did to the character of their actual clients’ cars.

The exterior design was by what we might call the school of Paulo Martin, designer of the Fiat 130 coupé and Rolls-Royce Camargue. The record is not clear on the matter of authorship but a clear affinity among these cars can be seen in the angularity of the surface transitions and the flatness of the panels. Continue reading “An afternoon like dusk – The 604 story, Pt. 6”

You Could Have it So Much Better

That difficult second album syndrome.

Neither fish nor fowl.   All images (c) by the author

Music history has frequently been littered with the broken wreckage of bands who blasted into the public consciousness with an precocious debut, only to lose it with the follow-up. Artists such as the Stone Roses, The Sugarcubes, Franz Ferdinand and perhaps most notoriously, 80’s pop sensation, Terence Trent D’Arby all followed their well-reviewed debuts with what were varying degrees of disappointing to disastrous.

Of course the pressure upon new bands is often immense – the record company is clamouring for another hit, fans are salivating over the prospect and the artists themselves require more material to Continue reading “You Could Have it So Much Better”

Too Pretty To Race

We owe the existence of the gorgeous Giulietta Sprint Speciale to the racing career it never actually got.

alfa-romeo-giulietta-sprint-speciale-1
From 1960, the slightly restyled Giulietta SS was marketed as a GranTurismo (wheelsage.org)

From the moment the Giulietta Sprint was unveiled in 1954, it was clear that its technical specification made it a phenomenal contender for class wins in both circuit and road racing.

Alfa Romeo knew this well, and in 1956 the Sprint Veloce was born: power from the 1290cc twin-cam four was up to 90HP, while bonnet and doors (which got Perspex sliding windows) were aluminium instead of steel. Nevertheless, Portello was considering a Giulietta variant aimed even more explicitly towards motor racing, based on the short-wheelbase platform made for the Giulietta Spider.

The success of the Sprint made Nuccio Bertone a trusted partner of Alfa Romeo, so it was up to his designer, Franco Scaglione, to Continue reading “Too Pretty To Race”

A Line Foreshortened

A rare encounter prematurely cut short. Sorry about that.

(c) Driven to Write

I’m aiming to keep this brief, given that it’s Sunday and I’m nominally on holiday. A two week sojourn on Spain’s Mediterranean coastline is hardly anyone’s concept of a mortifying act and let’s face it, there are plenty of other, more pleasant diversions to be found around these parts.

Consequently, it’s probably just as well that I am driven to write, because otherwise you, dear readers would stand a better than even chance of facing an empty page today. But my duty to DTW, as I trust you appreciate, is absolute.

But to the subject at hand. One of the more diverting aspects of places such as this are the areas of diversity and digression – and the automotive end of the spectrum is no different. The Southern European markets have long diverged from their Northern neighbours, although needless to say, a growing and regrettable conformity is starting to Continue reading “A Line Foreshortened”

The Riviera Set

A brake (or should that be a break?) from the norm for the Lion of Belfort. 

pininfarina
(c) Ebay

The idea of the three-door shooting brake estate probably originated in the US (the 1955 Chevrolet Nomad being a prime example), but it was popularised – if such a term can be considered appropriate for such a rarefied product – by Ason Martin’s 1965 DB5; itself initially a one-off, built for AML’s chairman, David Brown, and later produced in miniscule numbers at owners’ behest by the Harold Radford coachworks.

In 1968, the Reliant Scimitar GTE also employed a shooting brake silhouette to positive effect, which not only proved transformative for the carmaker’s profile and reputation, but also gained them patronage from the British Royal family. Continue reading “The Riviera Set”

The New Untouchables (2)

S.V . Robinson concludes his lament for the MPV.

02_renault_espace motor research
The pioneering Espace (in face-lifted form) – love the period wheels (Source: Motor Research)

I have spent 4/5ths of my life growing up with the MPV. Over 40 years, we have seen some memorable cars. In the main, they have stood out for either their styling (the pioneering, TGV-aping Espace, the ovoid Xsara Picasso, the lovably grotesque Multipla, to name a few), or the innovation of their packaging – the latter really being the point and purpose of the genre.

We have had MPVs which have front seats that can turn around to face passengers in the rear to create a mobile meeting space. Rear seats which can fold, tumble, be removed entirely, or disappear into the rear floor. There have been five seaters which enable the middle rear perch to Continue reading “The New Untouchables (2)”

The New Untouchables (1)

On DTW, we have touched upon the slow and largely un-mourned death of the MPV recently, but a small footnote in Autocropley caught my eye and leads me to consider how things got so bad for the ‘people carrier’.

venga auto trader
More red squirrel than guinea pig – the near deceased KIA Venga (Source: Auto Trader)

Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. I have owned two MPVs in the last 20 years, both of which served me well – in one case, as I have written before, all too well. Both were purchased to carry my family and their stuff around in their day-to-day lives without taking up too much space on the road or on our driveway.

Interestingly, when it finally came to finding a replacement for our Xsara Picasso, I bit the bullet and bought a considerably longer estate car (Octavia). I did this mainly on the basis that I wanted a larger boot, but, if I am honest, I think a narcissistic piece of me couldn’t Continue reading “The New Untouchables (1)”

Fin de Siècle

We compare a pair of late ’50s fintails.

Nobody quite realised at the time, but 1959 would mark peak-tailfin – this styling device falling out of fashion almost as abruptly as it emerged. But while the tailfin’s retreat would be particularly rapid in its country of origin, the European industry, having been slower to adapt in the first instance, was equally tardy in abandoning it.

Of course, it’s worth reminding ourselves of motor industry lead-times – the period between styling sign-off and job-one. Certainly, when Ford’s UK arm conceived the 105E-series Anglia, nobody could possibly Continue reading “Fin de Siècle”

Kei Car Compendium – 2005 Suzuki LC Concept

As Suzuki prepares more Kei car retro-conceptual joy for Tokyo, we dip into their toybox. Gosh it’s fluffy in there…

2005 Suzuki LC Concept (c) supercars.net

Scribed within the official automotive aficionado manual, [chapter 37, paragraph 8, subclause 14.7] is the injunction that both interest and enthusiasm for that unique Japanese phenomenon, the keijidōsha, or light vehicle is a prerequisite for full and unfettered admission.

Here at DTW, we’re not exactly slavish in our fealty to motor-enthusiast norms, tropes or mores, so it would, you might imagine be in our purview to take a less than conventional position on the subject. Believe me, we tried, but faced with such an unrelenting tsunami of Kwaii, it takes a very firm resolve indeed not to Continue reading “Kei Car Compendium – 2005 Suzuki LC Concept”

Metropolitian Glide

A chic city car concept from Renault: Denied again.

(c) myrenaultzoe

For mainstream European carmakers, despite the diminutive profit margins they typically engender, small cars have always been big business. But finding a recipe that is equally acceptable to pan-European palates is no minor matter. The ongoing mission to come up with the required blend of practicality, utility, style and indulgence at a price that would attract the urbanite and rural dweller alike might just be the toughest gig in car design. Continue reading “Metropolitian Glide”

The Problem With Design Academies

Matteo Licata presents an acerbic critique of how automotive design is being taught. 

Not a car…  (c) BMW Group

Looking back at my ten-year stint as a designer and my various collaborations with academies, I’ve come to realize just how much has gone wrong in how the discipline is taught. Have you tried to Google “Behance Car Design Sketch” lately? Please open a new tab and do it. Look carefully at these sketches: do you see realistic, well-detailed wheels, can you see any suspension clearance? Do you see a usable glass area? I bet you don’t. Continue reading “The Problem With Design Academies”

Continental Congress (Part two)

Concluding our examination of the 1961 Lincoln Continental’s domestic design influence. 

(c) cargurus.com

1964  

The first major change for the Continental: to silence criticism of its comparatively somewhat stingy rear legroom once and for all, the wheelbase was increased by three inches (from 123 to 126 inches).

The overall appearance of the Continental was unchanged however. Other alterations were a slightly altered roofline/DLO and the replacement of the previously curved side glass with flat glazing. This was a cost-cutting decision which was not universally liked by the press as it was seen as a step backward. The buying public obviously could live with it because sales increased by 20% over the previous year. Continue reading “Continental Congress (Part two)”

Continental Congress (Part one)

Supersize becomes rightsize – how the 1961 Lincoln Continental subtly altered US luxury car design.

(c) Ford Motor Company

The 1961 Lincoln Continental is almost universally regarded as one of the finest car designs ever to come from the USA. Daringly sparse of embellishment and relatively compact (by the standards of the day at least); smoothly geometrical and slab-sided, it marked a breakaway from fins, complicated shapes, panoramic windshields, gaudy colour schemes and superfluous decoration.

This accomplishment would alas prove to be only temporary, as witnessed by the majority of American cars (Lincoln included), that would follow over the next decade. Nevertheless, the 1961 Continental was such an influential designgamechanger that its competitors Cadillac and Imperial reacted swiftly to Continue reading “Continental Congress (Part one)”

Infra Dignitatem

Ingolstadt presents ‘the off-roader of the future’. What fresh hell is this?

(c) Auto-Didakt

There has been, I’m reliably informed, a discernible atmosphere of fin de siècle about this year’s Frankfurt motor show; in the curiously underpopulated halls, the appearance of evident cost-cutting amongst some of the larger OEMs, not to mention a marked bi-polarity in the semantics being proffered, particularly by the home team.

But while the metaphorical (and to some eyes, actual) barbarians mass outside the gates, inside the bacchanal continues unabated – at least in some quarters. Volkswagen came to Continue reading “Infra Dignitatem”

Aces High

When maestro Giorgetto shuffled the deck in 1973, he certainly got his money’s worth. 

audi
1973 Italdesign Asso di Picche (c) Leblogauto

The Ital Design Asso di Picche (Ace of Spades) concept emerged during what can perhaps be described as Giorgetto Giugiaro’s purple patch, when the maestro could barely put a stylistic foot wrong. An expressive styling study for a close-coupled four seater coupé, in this instance created in conjunction with both Audi and Karmann, it made its public debut at the Frankfurt motor show in 1973. Continue reading “Aces High”