A Concept for Sunday: 1978 Pininfarina Ecos

In 1978, Fiat and Pininfarina displayed both their environmental credentials alongside the Ecos styling study. Twenty years later, were its themes reprised for of all things, an SUV?

Pininfarina / Fiat Ecos. Image credit: classic car catalogue

As we’re fond of pointing out round here, the storied Italian design houses were not exactly above rehashing and repurposing design concepts for rival clients should the need arise (And it frequently did). After all, there are only so many ideas out there at a given time and if the intended client isn’t biting, why not Continue reading “A Concept for Sunday: 1978 Pininfarina Ecos”

Despair And Joy Dance Their Pavane

Dark blue really flattens a car’s form. In all but the best light the shapes are concealed. Let us try and look past that colour.

1996-2001 Toyota Camry

Rather annoyingly I saw the same model in more photogenic metallic light grey yesterday while on the move. I couldn’t get a snap. We will have to make do with this image.

For a car sold in so many countries and in such large volumes, the limited engine choice is a puzzle. You could only get these with a 2.2 litre four or a V6 of 3.0 litres capacity. I’d expect another two engines for this, or even three: a 2.0, a 2.5 and a diesel of some sort.
Continue reading “Despair And Joy Dance Their Pavane”


The once-proud Mercedes-Benz has suffered a fair few indignities of late, but there is one desecration to make all the others appear moderate and respectful by comparison. 

Yes, you can trust your eyes, photo (c) carscoops.com

It takes quite a lot to make Sensual Purity® appear timid and deliberate. In that sense, the Mercedes Royale (which, legally speaking, is unlikely to Continue reading “Schandfleck-Klasse”

The Tri-Arrow Takes Aim

Two impressive Geneva concepts from India’s largest carmaker suggests a growing maturity and ambition. We investigate.

Tata 45X concept. Image credit: burlappcar

It may surprise you to learn that Tata Motors have been part of the Indian automotive landscape for over 70 years. For most of that time, Ratan Tata’s motor business concentrated on the commercial field, before becoming famous for the Nano, billed as the World’s cheapest car. But they are probably best known for their surprising (and lucrative) 2008 acquisition of what became Jaguar Land Rover.

In its two and a half decades in the passenger car business, Tata have been predominantly a domestic player, but as the Indian car market has grown both in size and relative sophistication, Tata, in conjunction with its design and engineering satellites in both the UK and Italy, has reshaped its domestic offerings to compete with the big names.

The commercial failure of the entry-level Nano illustrated how difficult it is to Continue reading “The Tri-Arrow Takes Aim”

Ceed of Change

The 2018 Kia Ceed is now punctuation-free and in possession of a new, more sober attire. Sound familiar?  


Notwithstanding one or two brave and ultimately doomed adventures into the leftfield during the early 1970s, the European C-segment has never been a bastion of progressive design. So it should be with little or no surprise that we consider the ongoing convergence of the principal players, not just in engineering and layout, but if the current Geneva motor show is a reliable indicator, in styling terms as well.

Despite its Korean heritage, it’s probably inaccurate to Continue reading “Ceed of Change”

An Amble On Akeman Street When The Sun Is Low

The 2018 Geneva auto show produced a fair number of thought-provoking cars. The new Volvo V60 is one of them.

New Volvo V60 exterior: autoblog

Automotive News has a list of hits and misses. They like the Volvo. I do as well. Volvo have made it look sufficiently like the S90 to make sense and have made it look sufficiently different so that you don’t mix the two cars up. Continue reading “An Amble On Akeman Street When The Sun Is Low”

Geneva 2018 Reflections – The Lion the Cross and the Curve

Two significant saloon cars debuted at Palexpo this week, but according to our man pounding the show floor, only one makes the grade.


As any traveller will tell you, getting upgraded from economy is much easier said than done. Indeed, the more habituated one is to travel economy, the key to that threshold appears even more arbitrary and capricious. PSA knows all about this. Having squandered brand-Peugeot’s upmarket credentials during the 1980s and having got their creepy ‘drive-sexy’ phase out of the way latterly, the Lion of Belfort has been painfully clawing its way back to some semblance of stylistic and reputational credibility.

Last year’s EcotY-winning 3008 crossover marked a turning point for Peugeot, being perhaps the first Sochaux product to Continue reading “Geneva 2018 Reflections – The Lion the Cross and the Curve”

Geneva 2018 Reflections – Song to the Sybil

Continuing his review of the 88th Geneva motor show press days, Kris Kubrick consults with the oracles at GFG Style.


Last week, we presented the CAD-rendered images of GFG Style’s newest concept. GFG is the latest business venture of perhaps the World’s most famous (certainly most influential) car designer following his surprise departure from the VW-owned Ital Design, a carrozzeria now rendered doubly irrelevant.

The Sybilla concept was reviewed here in less than eulogistic fashion and to be fair, the official images were Continue reading “Geneva 2018 Reflections – Song to the Sybil”

Geneva 2018 – Reflections in a Golden-I

Our Auto-Didaktic Geneva correspondent casts his eye over Jaguar’s I-Pace and comes away impressed.


Last week we discussed the advent of JLR’s EV pathfinder and pondered how many brave pills Dr. Speth and Jaguar’s Ian Callum had ingested prior to the car’s reveal last thusday. The answer? Continue reading “Geneva 2018 – Reflections in a Golden-I”

Free Ideas, Playful Minds

Far from simply purveyors of amusing retro-curiosities, Japan’s 10th most significant car maker is in fact at the forefront of modern luxury.

Image credit: kingautos

You’ve got to hand it to the Japanese. For a country which is often characterised by rigid social conformity and deep-rooted behavioural reserve, they do seem to have an interesting sense of humour, albeit one that doesn’t always translate that well.

While one wouldn’t necessarily Continue reading “Free Ideas, Playful Minds”

The Skyscraper Visible Behind the Grazing Herd

The Geneva Motor Show is happening soon and for the 16th year in a row I will not be going. This car, by GFG Style, will be on display.

2018 GFG Style Sybilla concept car: Automotive News

I didn’t go to the Geneva show at any time before sixteen years ago either but it wasn’t on my radar before then.

Going to Geneva is one of a trio of things I haven’t yet done and seriously definitely really mean to within the next year. The others are to attend Fasnacht in Switzerland and to Continue reading “The Skyscraper Visible Behind the Grazing Herd”

Crossed Over

The recent crop of new models coming from Munich inevitably leads to a simple question: What on Earth has been going on at BMW in recent years?

 Backside design, photo (c) suvauthority.com

Ever since the Neue Klasse reinvented and saved the brand, BMW could only ever, leaving matters such as personal taste aside, be described as assertive.

Assertively conservative insofar as an adherence to driven rear wheels, straight six engines and the evolution of the themes established by the Neue Klasse were concerned. Assertively daring when it comes to Continue reading “Crossed Over”

Two Cities, One Car

A clumsy name for a rather clumsy car. Ten years ago, Alfa Romeo took aim at the MINI (and its ilk) and missed. We plot the MiTo’s wobbly trajectory.

Image credit: autokult

Alfa Romeo has throughout its long history enjoyed a distinctly patchy relationship with small cars. Pre-War, such a notion would probably have been laughable but even in the latter half of the 20th century, despite the occasional prototype, the smallest car Portello actually got round to Continue reading “Two Cities, One Car”

Geneva Motor Show 2021 Preview: Mercedes-Benz A-class

In an exclusive preview ahead of its unveiling at the 2021 Geneva show, Driven To Write can reveal the significantly refreshed Mercedes A-class.

Official designer’s sketch of the 2022 A-class, photo (c) Driven To Write

The current Mercedes A-class, internally dubbed W177, receives an extensive mid-life facelift, to be officially presented at the 91th Geneva International Motor Show. Ahead of the world premiere, Driven To Write can provide exclusive insight into the most significant overhaul the A-class model has ever received.

“It’s time to be bold. It’s time for creases”

Daimler AG’s Chief Creative Officer, Gorden Wagener proclaims that the refreshed A-class is more than the regular nip-&-tuck-job. “The A-class is one of our icons. It is the most premium car in its class, and this new design shows that more than ever.”

Styling, incidentally, is the focal point of W177’s overhaul. Since its market introduction in 2018, the current A-class has turned out to Continue reading “Geneva Motor Show 2021 Preview: Mercedes-Benz A-class”

A Photo For Sunday: 1990 Ford Probe

This could also have been Something Rotten In Denmark. However, it isn’t listed on-line so it’ll have to be a Photo For Sunday.

1990 Ford Probe mirror

I had not taken two photos before the owner leaped out of his workshop nearby to tell me that this beauty had only covered 89,000 km. The green tinted body-work and phenomenal condensation inside the car strongly spoke against the vehicle in practice. In principle, it’s a Mk 1 Ford Probe which detail further argues against it. One other nice aspect of buying this car is that if you absolutely had to Continue reading “A Photo For Sunday: 1990 Ford Probe”

Blue and Three Together, So Goes The Song

We have a bit of crystal ball gazing from the chief designer of Toyota, reported in Automotive News. The mainstream car will go extinct. Not that surprising, really. But why do we have a Ford Taunus as the main image? 

1972 Ford Taunus coupe: wikipedia.org

Starting with the idea that a large proportion of the cars made in the future will be externally controlled (“self-driving”), people’s relationship to cars will change. Simon Humphries’ vision is that most cars will be anonymous containers on wheels and a small remainder will be highly specialised luxury or performance items. He imagines “pure race cars” can be created.

That class already exists, they are racing cars and useless for very much if you Continue reading “Blue and Three Together, So Goes The Song”

Start at the End

The current KA+ is a dispiriting sight for those who appreciated the original’s daring style. Today, we consider lost causes in the form of the 2010 Start concept.

2010 Ford Start. Image Credit: carbodydesign

Presenting a plausible and attractive evolution of the Ur-KA silhouette, Start came out of Ford’s Californian design centre, allegedly as a conceptual piece of blue sky thinking. Designed by Jeff Nield under the supervision of Freeman Thomas, Start debuted at the 2010 Beijing motor show, touted as a technology trailblazer for the blue oval.

A delightfully organic, podlike shape, the stylistic homages to the original 1996 KA are abundant, especially in the shaping and treatment of the Continue reading “Start at the End”

Cold, Calm and Shallow are the Waters of the Barrow

DTW takes a longer look back than usual, to the 1948 Antem Delahaye 148. It’s a sample from a rather forgotten niche, the small-scale coachbuilders who survived between 1945 and the onset of monococque construction. 

1948 Antem Delahaye 148L (nee 135): coachbuild.com

The name indicates the car is a coach-built special, based on a chassis by Delahaye. Émile Delahaye founded his eponymous firm in 1894, in Tours, France. It survived until 1955. The model history is rather complex and I simply don’t have the patience to reliably boil it down for you**.

The 148 was a derivative of the 135, introduced before the war. The postwar 135 had styling by none other than Philipe Charbonneaux.  A 3.6 litre in-line six powered the car, sending its efforts to the rear wheels. The car had three states of tune with one, two or three carburettors. The 148 had a 3.1m wheelbase, this wheelbase being intended for less sporty variants.

Antem chose this wheelbase to use for his version shown here. Carrossier Antem in Courbevoie had most of their success between WWI and WWII. They didn’t last long after 1945. The company Continue reading “Cold, Calm and Shallow are the Waters of the Barrow”

Ford Gives You More

Not even two years since its European launch, Ford have got the magic markers out on the KA+. What can it all mean?

Two little toughies. Image credit: The Express

The KA+ was introduced for customers in Europe as a spacious, well-equipped and value-for-money small car that offers excellent fuel-efficiency and fun-to-drive dynamics at an affordable price”. You have been reading the words of Ford’s press department before you write in to complain. A ‘Fiesta Minus’ with ‘milquetoast styling’ is what Driven to Write had to say on the matter in 2016.

Introduced into the European market at the end of 2016, Ford have delivered just over 51,000 KA+’s last year to buyers for whom style has either Continue reading “Ford Gives You More”

Ford ReFocuses its Offer

As Ford readies its 2018 Euro-offerings, Driven to Write asks whether Henry’s Focus remains slightly askew?

Big Festie? Focus IV rendered from spy photos. Image credit: focusfanatics.com

In a Automotive News report this week, it was revealed that Ford will not unveil the new-generation Focus model at the Geneva show in March, electing to do so at a bespoke event the following month. The Ford spokesperson did not explain why this decision was taken (nor, it seems was the question asked) but it does suggest that Ford’s marketers believe they will Continue reading “Ford ReFocuses its Offer”

Monospace di Bertone

Thirty years before Urus, Bertone envisaged a fashionable high-riding Lamborghini four-door. But it wasn’t an SUV – after all, they already made one of those.

Image credit: adoniscars via autowp

Despite being largely associated with mid-engined supercars, Lamborghini remains something of an exception in automotive terms. Perhaps it’s a function of the marque’s beginnings as makers of farm machinery, but the abstract of Lamborghini appears more malleable than most. Debatable of course, but to a large extent, it’s possible to Continue reading “Monospace di Bertone”

A Selection of Crossover D-pillars

This is a small extra review of the state of the art in crossover D-pillars.

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The list includes the Audi Q7, Ford Edge, Volvo XC90, Borgward BX7, Buick Envision,  VW Tiguan and Mitsubishi Ground Tourer concept.

A Detail For Sunday: 2017 Ford Ranger

Have you noticed the overuse of the word “professional”? 

2017 Ford Ranger

It’s applied to high-spec products where there is little obvious reason why a “professional” might want or need anything different than everyone else. Apple sell a tablet labelled “Pro”. We have one at home. It works like my ‘phone except it can’t make calls. Chevrolet or GMC trucks may presently  Continue reading “A Detail For Sunday: 2017 Ford Ranger”

So Lay Upon the Riven Meads the Sullied Rags of Hope

The other day we were talking about the Renault 16 which led us to the Renault 21 which…

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…led me to look for one for sale. Finding one I noticed the unhappy design of the nose cone, the plastic mask around the headlamp and containing the upper grille aperture. Here (below)  are some other cars which demonstrate an attempt at rethinking the way the front fascia was handled. One of them really works – the Ford Sierra is utterly industrial design. And have you noticed the Dacia Duster uses the same concept but eschews the body-colour for the lamp panel?  In fact the elegance of the concept is hidden by the Duster’s other fussy details.

I have done this theme before, I think – the new bit is the Renault 21 (the facelifted version). Interestingly (if you are like me), you’ll notice a difference between the Ford, Citroen and VW trio versus the R21. What is it?

Continue reading “So Lay Upon the Riven Meads the Sullied Rags of Hope”

Hello Neighbour

An encounter with the Ka’s more glamourous cousin has prompted Driven to Write to seek the word on the Street.

Image: Driven to Write

The 2002 Ford StreetKa was first shown at the 2000 Turin motor show as a concept, but its roots go back to 1996, when Ghia presented the Saetta, a teaser for that year’s Ka hatchback, but also the StreetKa’s direct forebear.

Seven years: Why did it take Ford so long to Continue reading “Hello Neighbour”

A Toledo Triumph

This morning I came across two of these on my drive to work.  Long forgotten in my mind, once I’d recalled them as being Toledos (should that be Toledi? maybe not), I realised how good they looked in today’s traffic.

Seat Toledo Mk2, source: Motoring Research. The Toledo came before the more popular Leon hatch.

The Mk2 Seat Toledo preceded the more popular Mk1 Leon hatch to market in 1998 and remained in its catalogues until 2004. Styling was attributed to Giugiaro and it does look credibly like one of his from that era. It was built on the same PQ34 platform as the Mk4 Golf/ Bora, Audi A3 and Skoda Octavia.

Everyone loves the styling of the Mk4 Golf, and I have to say I was always partial to the original Leon – it having echoes of the Alfasud –  but this is a really nice small saloon (4-door notchback, if you want to be precise) with the rear pillar blending smoothly into the rear wing and boot panel. If I could criticise it, I’d say that Continue reading “A Toledo Triumph”

A Sixteen For Sunday

Recently I failed to challenge the DTW readership with a “mystery car“. I might has well have taken a photo of the car’s badge you guessed it so soon: Renault 16. What’s so good about them?

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Normally one must track a 16 down at a car show or find one for sale if you want to view an example. Seeing such a car by chance is an event and one I didn’t have much time to savour, alas. These photos (above) got into my iPhone in under three minutes, something of a pity as the car merits careful examination – three minutes is just not enough.

Despite the impression ** given by this article here DTW actually likes the Renault 16 so it’s pleasant to be able to Continue reading “A Sixteen For Sunday”

If There Could Be a Sign, if There Could Be A Sign

We have a chance here to examine the implications and otherwise of Citroën’s announcement about a forthcoming large saloon.

Citroen CXperience concept. Image: tf1.fr

Our good friends at Autocropley reported this the day before yesterday but the message only turned up in my in-box yesterday. I opened the link with trembling fingers. First, there will be a new flagship saloon which Citroën would like us to see as “distinctive”. In line with Citroën’s current self-identity, the car should be laden with technology and be a design that is comfort led. Making this possible is the Chinese market where saloons still thrive.

We should see the car in 2019 or 2020 which means they are working on it now. And should someone from Citroën chance upon this article, please ensure the car has a decent ashtray and manual transmission plus a properly large boot. Linda Jackson, reports Autocropley, says the car will Continue reading “If There Could Be a Sign, if There Could Be A Sign”

AUTOpsy: Mercedes-Benz SL (R231)

It it takes a lot to get one of the most revered models in automotive history to the brink of extinction. Yet this generation of Mercedes SL’s got what it takes. 


Despite having possessed neither eponymous quality in ages, the Mercedes Sportlich-Leicht has been a car for the ages, and, on certain occasions, even age-defining.

The original 300SL was one of the first motor cars ever to be described as a ‘classic’ and remains exactly that. Its Pagoda (W113) progenitor still ranks among the most elegant vehicles of all time and established the concept of the European open top boulevardier. The indefatigable R107 SL acted as proof of life of the sophisticated European convertible from 1971 to 1989 and became a fashion statement almost a decade after its launch. Continue reading “AUTOpsy: Mercedes-Benz SL (R231)”


My mobile telephone acts like a visual notebook thanks to its lousy camera. Here are some notes. 

Item 1

Apart from its capacity to capture images, my telephone isn’t better than my actual notebook (a Silvine spiral bound item). The photos turn out like Kodak prints – brown and flat. I hate them. What I’d like is a fast, very small printer capable of producing colour-fast images on self-adhesive paper (5×4 cm) so I could  Continue reading “Notebook”

Cars That Could Have Been Citroëns – 1983 Bertone Delfino

It’s been a while since we did one of these, and while today’s candidate might appear a little tenuous at first sight, look beyond the scudetto and there are chevrons galore.

Alfa Romeo Delfino concept. Image: old concept cars

First shown at the 1983 Geneva motor show, the Delfino was an attempt by carrozzeria Bertone to update the classical luxury gran turismo after almost a decade of decline. Alfa Romeo’s relationship with Bertone was long-standing, but had entered a prolonged period of stasis, with Portello forging a closer relationship with Ital Design when they were not Continue reading “Cars That Could Have Been Citroëns – 1983 Bertone Delfino”

The Death of Romance

A (modest) commercial success, but ultimately a creative failure, the 2007 XF opened Jaguar up to a non-traditional audience, but in the final analysis, probably cast too many values on the fire.

Image: Car and Driver

By 2005, Ford’s ambitious growth strategy for Jaguar lay in tatters following a series of misguided creative decisions based on a discredited retro aesthetic. As Ford’s Premier Automotive Group began its slow dissolve, the storied luxury car maker’s consistent inability to Continue reading “The Death of Romance”

Paths Of Glory

The most visual social media network, Instagram, provides car designers with the perfect platform to present their work. Or themselves. 

Screen Shot 2017-12-05 at 18.05.02
Nothing Can Keep Gordenstagram Down

In a sense, Harley Earl was too early (no pun intended). If he’d waited three quarters of a century before pursuing his career as chief designer and PR innovator, he wouldn’t have needed lavish GM roadshows and the likes to showcase the fruit of his and his underlings’ labour. He could just Continue reading “Paths Of Glory”

Little Fluffy Cloud

Heralding a stylistic revolution to follow, the 1996 Alfa Romeo Nuvola would underline in the most eloquent fashion the power of the past.

Image: autodesignmagazine

Alfa Romeo’s mid ’90s output was a mixture of the sublime and, if not entirely ridiculous, the at least unconvincing. On one hand we had the ageing, but still elegant 164, the sharp-looking 145, and the strikingly handsome 916-series GTV / Spider, while on the other, there was the 146 and 155 – hardly Alfa designs for the ages.

But change was in the offing, with both the 936-series 166 and 932-series 156 nearing completion; both designs Continue reading “Little Fluffy Cloud”

Micropost: Emerald Was The Light In Her Heart

Goodness: 1987. David Bowie released Never Let Me Down that year and Toyota this E90 Corolla…

1987 Toyota Corolla 3-door, today.

Both album and car deserve re-appraisal. Stylistically the Corolla has faired better than Bowie’s album, which is faint praise. While you need to listen past the overproduction to hear some good songs on NLMD**, you only need to look with your naked eyes to see that Toyota’s stylists produced a very consistent design with this iteration. Should you wish to Continue reading “Micropost: Emerald Was The Light In Her Heart”

Sensuelle Pureté

An oddball concept car by an almost forgotten French coachbuilder retrospectively turns out to be an almost eerily prescient source of inspiration. 

Was this on Gorden Wagener’s bedroom wall? photo (c) motor1.com

Daimler AG Chief Creative Officer and creator of hot & cool Sensual Purity®, Gorden Wagener, once stated that he doesn’t worship any other car designer, preferring to Continue reading “Sensuelle Pureté”

A Concept for Sunday – Boating for Beginners.

Fiat tested the waters for their subsequent two-seater offering in 1993 with the Maggiore Scia – a concept car which genuinely deserved the term, ‘little boat’.

Fiat-Maggiore Scia concept. Image: fiatbarchetta

With the 1989 demise of the long-running X1/9 model, Fiat, for the first time in decades, lacked a two-seater roadster in its lineup; a state of affairs which wouldn’t have elicited much concern apart from the fact that such vehicles were making something of a popular comeback by then.

This was largely a result of Continue reading “A Concept for Sunday – Boating for Beginners.”

A Bit of an i-Sore

The Hyundai i30 Fastback is currently getting a bit of coverage as it is launched to the UK press. I’m delighted that Hyundai is bringing it to these shores, but something has caught my eye.

Nice looking car which loses marks for the misalignment of the lower edges of the bonnet and the A-pillar. Source: indianautosblog.com

Overall, I rather like the look of this car. It provides a touch more elegance and panache than the standard 5-door hatch. Arguably, it can be said to rival the Audi A3 and, perhaps more credibly, the Mazda3 Fastback (albeit both of those are 4-door saloons, this is a 5-door), and Skoda Octavia. It also extends choice to the market, and with my basic grounding in economics, I’ve been conditioned to Continue reading “A Bit of an i-Sore”

In China They Eat Dogs

Chris Bangle has returned to car design, but isn’t back.

Yes. This is an Automobile. photo (c) CNET

The most influential car designer of the past two decades has returned to the automotive realm. His message is more radical than ever – but his audience is an altogether different one than in the past. We needn’t listen to what he has to say, for we are not his audience anymore. Continue reading “In China They Eat Dogs”

“Ne, hvala gospodaru!” he said.

During a hunt for some other information this image crossed my path. It is an attempt to visualise a Citroen XM coupe. 

Hypothetical Citroen XM coupe:  source

It interested me to see these because I had discussed the idea of Citroen XM coupe with our correspondent in Switerland, Simon, some time ago. As a result of that discussion I decided to rustle up some visuals but never did more than send them to Simon.  Those images are shown below the break.   Continue reading ““Ne, hvala gospodaru!” he said.”

Thou Shalt Not Poke Fun

Compiling a list of The 100 Prettiest Cars Of All Time sounds like a fairly straightforward task. Until you ask Chris Bangle to cast a vote… 

Chris Bangle, photo (c) car blogger.it

AutoBild Klassik, one of the leading German publications in the field, is currently celebrating its 100th issue with a list naming the 100 most beautiful cars of all time. The jury tasked with naming the entries includes quite a few illustrious names, such as that of Peter Schreyer, Leonardo Fioravanti, Paolo Tumminelli, Simon Kidston, Gorden Wagener, Henrik Fisker and Laurens van den Acker, among others. One name that isn’t included though is that of the most significant car designer of the past twenty years, Christopher Edward Bangle. Continue reading “Thou Shalt Not Poke Fun”

Dirk’s Demise vs Luc’s Lamento

Bentley’s Bentayga SUV turned out to be an instant smash sales success. Yet the car that was intended to preview it was not only met with fright – it also cost its chief designer his job. 

Dirk’s swansong, photo (c) Car and Driver

Dirk van Braeckel’s career at Volkswagen had been one of sustained corporate ladder climbing. Having joined VAG’s Audi branch in 1984, he rose through the ranks at Ingolstadt, before being chosen to help re-launch the much-maligned Škoda brand. He did as he was asked with some aplomb, leading to a generation of Škodas that were not just competently styled, but, more importantly, conveyed a sense of thorough quality.

With hindsight, this first generation of VAG-engineered Octavia, Fabia and Superb models must be considered as conservative, competent, long-lasting pieces of design which stood the test of time without anyone really noticing. Continue reading “Dirk’s Demise vs Luc’s Lamento”

Four Ring Cycle

1997’s A6 saw Audi choosing bravery over stylistic torpidude. A lesson they could do well to re-learn.

Was this the earliest application of the lower-door-mounted rub-strip? Image: autowp-ru

By the early 1990s, Audi appeared to have run out of steam as the successes of the previous decade began to fade. Having lit up the automotive firmament with technological marvels such as the Ursprünglich Quattro coupe and the aero-influenced C3 100 / 200 series, the early ’90s saw the four rings of Ingolstadt comparatively becalmed.

Consolidation was the operative word, the feeling along the Danube being that enough had been done to Continue reading “Four Ring Cycle”

A Photo for Sunday: The Italian Paint Job

Was it not Grahame Greene who said “If I can’t have the bream I’ll have a salad instead”? 

2017 Fiat 500 Anniversario

The Fiat 500 has entered a new phase in life. Having initially been very fashionable, it came to be seen as a rather tired old product (not by the many who bought them). Now, ten years on, it has eased its way into a small pantheon of long-lived steady sellers. The Suzuki Jimny has managed this as well, albeit after 20 years (for Autocar). Another example, at the other end of the scale might be Toyota’s CenturyContinue reading “A Photo for Sunday: The Italian Paint Job”

Artistic Intent

Volkswagen’s new flagship seems to be intent on making up for the lack of outright prestige with pretence and derivativeness – a cause that isn’t aided by its clunky moniker.


Tiguan, Up(!), T-Roc – VW’s recent crop of all-new model names certainly invites unkind comparisons. Renault can get away with a Twingo, nobody minded Opel’s Tigra, but Volkswagen appears to be better served by less

Continue reading “Artistic Intent”

I’ll Second the Third

The Thinker’s Garage might be a blog you have heard of. If you haven’t it’s worth a little look. The latest post shows a proposal by designer Andrew Marshall for a new Alfa Romeo Giulia.

2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia 2 door concept: source

The proposal draws quiet inspiration from the 1974- 1987 GTV while using the running gear of the current rear-drive Giulia. Marshall’s proposal eschews the production car’s soft shapes for something more angular (in some ways). The sideglass is a bit deeper than is fashionable – which is a good thing, lending the car a welcoming feeling many modern sports cars lack. Continue reading “I’ll Second the Third”

Sayer’s Moodboard

Not content with reimagining the Jaguar XJ-S’ proportions, today we examine its influences – such as they were.

Image: xj story

The XJ-S is a car which tends to crop up with some frequency on Driven to Write. Why this is so is perhaps debatable, (okay, it’s often my fault) but I suspect that its fascination is not only a function of its controversial shape, but also stems from a belief that its styling came about without precedent. But no car is developed entirely in a vacuum, or is it?

We have covered the XJ-S’ stylistic development in some detail already, so I’d rather not Continue reading “Sayer’s Moodboard”

Impossible Princess – Vanden Plas 1800

Robertas Parazitas reports on one of the stars of this year’s NEC Classic Motor show.

Source: C&SC

Grim commerce and ‘investment car’ mania now dominate the annual NEC Classic Motor show, but search hard, seek the wisdom of the crowds, and strangeness and delight is there to be found. In Hall 4, a Restoration Theatre had been setup. I sat for a while, hoping for a performance of one of Congreve or Wycherley’s lighter works, but all that was on offer was a video of two elderly men in a dingy workshop explaining the intricacies of panel beating in what I imagined to be a satire on Puritanism. Continue reading “Impossible Princess – Vanden Plas 1800”

Word on a Wing

On the surface, Renault’s 1983 Gabbiano was simply an innocuous concept, but could it also stand as a metaphor for a decades-spanning rivalry?

1983 Ital Design Gabbiano. Image: Weilinet

Following former head of Citroën bureau d’études, Robert Opron’s move across Paris to head Renault’s styling studios in 1975, design responsibility appeared to remain an in-house arrangement. However over time, a decision was taken either by senior management or by Opron himself to Continue reading “Word on a Wing”