Today, We enter the medios, and recall one of Lamborghini’s better efforts.
Automotive exotica are not what they were. Traditionally selfish devices, aimed at those who preferred to enjoy their pleasures in isolated splendour. Hence the requirement for additional perches not being terribly high on the exotic carmakers’ priority list. However, a gap in any market simply begs to be filled and Ferruccio Lamborghini was not an individual to Continue reading “Toro de Lidia”
VW’s staple supermini proves that too much of a good thing is still too much.
The Volkswagen Polo may never have matched its bigger brother, the quintessential Golf, in terms of significance or profit margins. And yet it was the previous generation of this car, the Polo V, that proved how serious VW’s then new management under (now) notorious CEO, Martin Winterkorn, was about redefining the brand.
Pininfarina’s 1973 take on the seminal Jaguar saloon wasn’t their finest hour. But while it served to highlight a fundamental weakness in the Italian carrozzieri’s business model, it did lead to something more worthwhile.
For the Italian carrozzieri it was a matter of intense pride that no manufacturer was creatively off limits, even one with as strong and universally lauded a design tradition as Jaguar. Predominantly the result of one man’s exceptional taste and unswerving vision, the craftsmen of Piedmont time and again Continue reading “The Cambiano Connection”
The immortal ‘Frogeye’ Sprite appeared to be a typical example of British design ingenuity, but its roots may have lain further West: Kenosha, Wisconsin to be exact.
The compact two-seat sportscar wasn’t necessarily a British invention, but for a period of the twentieth century, the UK was arguably, its prime exponent. Hardly surprising, given Britain’s traditionally serpentine network of narrow undulating roads and a taxation regime which dictated lower capacity, longer-stroke engines of limited outright power.
We’ve been here before I know, but somewhat akin to the crossover CUV itself, this one simply refuses to go away.
Everything has a shelf-life, none more so than fashion items. Given their popularity with the buying public and the margins to be made upon their sale, compact crossovers have proliferated to an unsettling degree. So much so, it feels as though we are drowning in a CUV sea, whereas in fact they represent just a quarter of European new car sales.
Let’s go back to 1999 right now. We will refresh our memories about the Isuzu KAI.
Isuzu ran a concept design studio in the UK, led by designer Simon Cox. Among the products of the studio was the Vehi-Cross (1997-2001). For the Kai Isuzu used very different form language, though one in keeping with the geometrical themes manifest most obviously in the Mk1 Ford Focus. If the surfacing and detailing are very 1999, the package is very now. Think of the BMW GT5 or Mercedes GLC. There is an arcing roofline and a raised chassis. It’s a hatchback on stilts in very simple terms. Continue reading “Trimming The Edges Of Reason”
There is more to BMW’s new 8 series GT than meets the eye.
These past few weeks have seen the unveiling of more than one automotive eyesore, courtesy of the German ‘premium’ brands. And the one among these that truly stood out was the BMW 8 series.
This is mainly due to what this BMW is not. It is not an oversized ‘utility’ behemoth, nor another ‘crossover’ of some sort. It also isn’t some supposedly all-new category of car (like its ‘first ever’ X2 sibling, to name but one). Instead, it is among the most traditional of automobiles there is, a gran turismo. Which means it is the kind of car that ought to Continue reading “8½”
As Germany’s full-sized luxury GTs lurch further into decadence and creative atrophy, we appraise (and praise) a Lexus.
Heritage has become something of a double edged sword for carmakers nowadays. On one hand, it acts as emotional anchor for a marque’s visual identity, and employed with sensitivity and skill, lends a tremendous richness to what marketers might choose to describe as the ‘brand narrative’.
On the other hand however, the anchor analogy can also have a regressive influence, dragging the marque backwards, preventing designers from updating or reinventing a set of visual cues which may over time have lost relevance.
Here we go again. Another week, another dispiriting announcement from the Vierzylinder. The new 8-Series however represents a new low.
At least it isn’t an SAV: It’s doubtful BMW’s all-powerful marketers will employ this line in their advertising for the new 8-Series, yet it just might be the sales pitch it deserves.
A curious car to consider in terms of BMW’s stylistic nadir, you might argue, after all what could be bad about a suave, low-slung GT? However, it does not require much study to realise the full extent of BMW’s current styling malaise which is embodied here. Because quite frankly, if this is the best Adrian van Hooydonk’s design team can muster, the crisis at the Vierzylinder is indeed far worse than feared.
This is beyond weird. I don’t even see interesting cars at the other end of the street.
These mysteries and these enigmas appear just on my bit of street, not the other three bits. Here we are with the kind of old man’s car the residents find irresistible. Usually that means Carinas, Astras and 406s. Today it’s a mint-condition Mazda 323 saloon in a pale golden metallic colour. I had a close look at it and all the black plastic is in lovely, dark condition, box fresh from Hofu. Yes, I know you can Continue reading “A Photo For Sunday: 1994-1998 Mazda 323 saloon”
Better known for their two-wheelers as much as a range of small economy cars, the 1985 Suzuki R/S1 was pretty as it was bold. So of course they never made it. Or did they?
For a time during the mid-1980s, it really did appear as though the automotive future was being dreamt up in Japan. With the mainstream European carmakers for the most part mired in creative and technical retrenchment, not to mention chronic overcapacity (some things never change), the Japanese manufacturers had it seemed, invested wisely and emerged as a power to be reckoned with.
Certainly, this period proved to be perhaps the great flowering of Japanese creativity and ambition when carmakers demonstrated to their European (and American) rivals that there really was nowhere to Continue reading “Obscure Alternative”
Rolls-Royce has lost its design director, just weeks after launching its new Cullinan crossover. Coincidence?
It wasn’t earth shattering news, even if it was somewhat surprising. The most striking thing about it perhaps was its timing. But even allowing for that, the news that Giles Taylor abruptly resigned his design leadership position at Goodwood within weeks of a major new product announcement might not even have been particularly noteworthy, but for a number of rather more compelling aspects.
The first of course is difficult to miss. Indeed, some have suggested Cullinan can be seen from space, where we’re reliably informed, nobody can hear you scream. The vulgar monstrosity RR has unleashed upon the world in the form of this ‘high-sided vehicle’ has precipitated a high percentage of commentators, both of the professional and armchair variety giving Rolls-Royce a well-deserved critical lashing.
Don’t meet your heroes, they say. They only disappoint. In something of a reverse case, I met an anti-hero in a car park of an Essex airport and was not disappointed at all.
The car in question – shown here in one photo because it isn’t worth any more than one – is the famous Ford 500 or Five-Hundred. It had a mayfly existence if you pardon the pun. Ford revealed it in 2004 at the Detroit Auto Show and they sold it from 2005-2007. Thereafter they renamed and restyled it.
In a week where we’ve been subjected to further SUV-related atrocities, we seek comfort in a UK debutante from Romania.
This week’s new offerings from Ingolstadt and the Petuelring are both in their way equally disgusting, each vying with one another to out-pummel and preen, their decadence only matched by a barrenness of spirit as depthless as it is vain. But confronted by a seemingly unending series of vulgar behemoths to emerge from their rocking cradles to slouch towards Bethlehem, where is the hapless commentator to turn?
Is ‘the ceremony of innocence’ drowned or merely drowning? Do we, horrifying as it seems, by mere mention of these heaving monstrosities in some way dignify them? It’s an appalling thought so let us therefore turn our horrified gaze away and Continue reading “Second Coming”
So far there is no evidence that many car designers know much of the theories of Richard L. Gregory. I have been working a bit lately on the psychology of visual perception and by chance I might have found a case where an understanding of his ideas may have changed a design outcome.
The case is the Peugeot 308 tail lamp. Like other current Peugeots it features a small tab of body colour which projects into the main body of the lamp. It seems to me to be wrong. Maybe a bit of Gregory’s theory could explain why.
Gregory developed ideas on “perception as hypothesis”. According to Gregory vision is not merely the passive reception of shapes from outside the mind. It involves memory and the interplay of various cognitive processes. In particular, his theory casts some light on how one can Continue reading “The Quickest Way From Carrow Road to Glanford Park”
With the 2005 C-Airplay, Citroën aimed to re-introduce the notion of frivolity to the urban runabout. It never came to pass, but it just might have inspired something which did.
The problem with writing about cars is the often futile task of establishing and then sifting information with any degree of accuracy. I mention this as preface and by way of cowardly disclaimer. Whether this piece contains anything of merit, or is merely speculative fluff with which to Continue reading “Fun and Games for Sunday”
As Citroën reveals the European version of the C5 Aircross CUV, we examine its likely significance within CEO, Linda Jackson’s ‘people-focused’ double chevron reinvention.
Last week, Citroën announced the European debut of its new marque flagship, the C5 Aircross CUV, introduced to the Chinese market last autumn to help arrest the double chevron’s faltering sales performance; PSA citing sales of 40,000 units to the year end. A nice round sum.
Apart from matters of horsepower, handling and ashtrays car design is a lens through which one can view a number of philosophical questions.
So today I will have a go sketching out what these might be. This list is not exhaustive, and is more a set of sign-posts pointing at some on-going problems which may not be resolvable: form versus function, aesthetics, semiotics, hermeneutics, phenomenology, approaches to engineering design. I wouldn’t Continue reading “Car Design And Philosophy”
Exactly three years ago, DTW introduced its monthly theme called ‘Evolution’. So why not come back to it and extend it with a nice example?
This sight of two Subaru XVs in our house’s parking garage is very striking indeed, as it gave me the rare opportunity of seeing two generations of a car next to each other. The colour was perfect too, both cars in white which makes it easy to read the design. This coincidence made me Continue reading “Evolution – Much Ado About Nothing”
Porsche’s SUV trailblazer not such much established a new automotive sector combining seemingly opposing characteristics, but fully established the power of brand cachet.
The Cayenne didn’t save Porsche – the Boxster and 996 models so despised by Neunelfer anoraks did. And yet, the Cayenne is viewed mostly as a necessary evil, the high-margin, high-sales perfume that subsidises the artful haute couture.
Due to the Cayenne’s merits usually being considered relative (‘it drives great… for an SUV’; ‘it doesn’t look that bad’), the car isn’t viewed through the same prism as other automobiles that are not as inherently compromised.
Bertone’s Marcello Gandini had about as much luck with leaping cats as he did with prancing horses; this 1977 proposal being another in a long line of cars which could have been Citroëns. So much so, it ended up becoming one.
Over time, the Italian carrozzieri made numerous attempts to reimagine the work of Jaguar’s stylists, but with decidedly mixed results and limited success. Pininfarina, Ghia and Bertone had reimagined Jaguar models during the 1950s, while Michelotti also rebodied a D-Type along radically different lines.
But despite Jaguar’s Sir William Lyons maintaining both cordial relations and a weather eye on the major Italian styling studios, it took Bertone’s 1966 S-Type based FT concept to really capture his attention.
The first complete Bertone concept by senior designer, Marcello Gandini, the four-seater coupé was seriously evaluated at Browns Lane in both styling and engineering terms, with the Jaguar board that year exploring possible production. Gandini, like many within the Italian design community was keen to Continue reading “Gatto di Caprie”
Matt Prior at Autocropley has wondered if cars are becoming less practical. I have another question…
Mr Prior is chiefly concerned about the practical impact of size. He thinks many cars are too wide for European conditions. Before I read the article I thought maybe he would write about the fact some large cars have surprisingly small loadbays, have hatches compromised by goofy lamp shapes or have cant rails that are angled so shallowly that you bang your head getting in to the car. He didn’t actually Continue reading “7JP-546-E (ii)”
Sometimes my academic work overlaps with the kind of thing we do here at Driventowrite. At the moment, I am immersed (again) in Gestalt Theory.
This is not the first time I have handled this topic. In January 2015 (happy days!) I used Gestalt theory to discuss why the 1993 Citroen Xantia’s graphics failed to be seen as the designer intended. This time the cases are not examples of failure but show how Gestalt theory can explain what is happening in the world of headlamp fashion trends style stuff.
Before proceeding, I should note that the 3-door Ibiza went the way of the ear trumpet in 2017 with the introduction of the fifth generation model. That is such a subliminal model-change that I had to cross-check photos.
Hanging about on my camera/s are photos which never seem to make it into an article of any kind. Today, I will try to get some of them out into the public domain and free up some space on my memory cards.
The images constitutes a preliminary non-verbal note to myself. After a while I lose a strong sense of what motivated the images, many of which are not especially striking or nicely composed (as you can see here). On a photo -by-photo basis I have to ask myself what on earth made me Continue reading “Honey and Bleach”
The early promise of Fiat’s X1/38 design theme was quickly extinguished within centro stile Fiat. Was it a loss of confidence or something more seismic?
It was perhaps Fiat’s misfortune that the Ritmo arrived at a point where the design zeitgeist was shifting away from the stark modernism of the early ’70s to a more polished, yet more conservative aesthetic. This shift is vividly illustrated by the transition from Ritmo to the three volume Regata model upon which it was based. Continue reading “Broken Rhythm”
In another time and another place the founding authors of Driven to write discussed forgotten cars (if we can remember them). To first forget a car you have to have known about it in the first place. So, that’s why this car wasn’t mentioned first-time around.
The 2002-2007 Honda Accord estate might be a car I knew about for a few minutes in 2002. After being informed of its existence, I must have promptly forgotten all about it. I can’t really be said to have known about it in the way I know about/forgot about the Honda Legend, the Mazda Demio or Porche Cayenne. The estate version must have been a slow seller as I have not seen enough of them to register its existence (or re-register its existence) until a week or so back.
Clandestinely, a minor piece of both automotive and architecture history has been destroyed. And not in Italy either.
Austrian-American car importer, Max Hoffman, is best known for his crucial role in establishing European (mostly West German) car makers in the US market after the Second World War. What is less well known is the fact that Hoffman, was a bonafide connoisseur of architecture.
As such, Hoffman was particularly fond of the seminal work of Frank Lloyd Wright. For this reason, Hoffman commissioned the architect to Continue reading “Wright or Wrong”
For every alleged innovation there is always a precedent. Come now, you hardly imagine the Gorden comes up with this stuff on his own, do you?
When Daimler’s Chief Design Officer, Gorden Wagener turned up in his immaculate sport-casual attire for the debut of the Maybach Ultimate Luxury concept, he told assembled journalists it represented “a totally new archetype of kind never seen before.” Of course even the most empty phrases contain a grain of truth because in the manner of a stopped clock, he’s half right.
It’s entirely possible that Daimler’s CDO neither knows nor cares that his verbiage-laden uttering lacked much by way of substance. After all, Mercedes’ resident believer in beauty and intelligence is unlikely to Continue reading “Laughing Stock”
It is up against almost everyone selling a car for more than 50,000 euros. Almost any car firm can produce a very impressive interior if they put their mind to it**. Take a look at the two images in the slide show and have a guess which one is the most recent. Then we’ll take a little look at what you can sit in for less than the kind of money Maybach/Mercedes might ask for.
We have something of a real rarity here: made in small in numbers in the first place and not merely because rust and lack of interest killed them by the thousand. It has to be a Bristol.
Again, like so many of the photos I took in Dublin in Easter 2018, the grey light sabotaged my chances of getting as striking an image as one might find here. (And many thanks to our Leinster correspondent for the use of the photographic equipment). However, as with a sighting of Loch Ness Monsters, one does not put down one’s camera and wait until the sun beams at precisely the right angle before snapping. If you want to Continue reading “A Photoseries for Sunday: 2000 Bristol Blenheim”
Having made a less than critically acclaimed stab at reinvention with Ghia’s 1996 Sentinel, Lincoln’s Gerry McGovern hit the bullseye with the 2002 Continental concept.
With the Jack Telnack era of design leadership coming to a close in 1997, Ford’s styling centre in Dearborn entered a new phase under J. C. Mays, who following a two year stint as design consultant for the Blue Oval, was selected as Ford’s new design Veep. With a new face came a new broom, Mays telling journalists at the time, “I have been brought in to make some changes and I fully intend to do that.”
Defining luxury in an age of conspicuous consumption isn’t easy. Judging by two concepts encapsulating futuristic decadence, this task will not become any less challenging in the years to come.
The fight for luxury supremacy of the future officially started in March 2018, at the Geneva International Motor Show. There, Aston Martin chief designer – pardon: Vice President & Chief Creative Officer – Marek Reichman openly criticised the traditional purveyors of automotive luxury, namely Crewe’s Bentley and Goodwood’s Rolls-Royce, of pandering to an obsolete definition of top-end motoring.
The legacy of the 1961 Continental lays heavily upon Ford’s Lincoln division. Today we begin an examination of two concepts aimed at re-establishing that defining car’s visual pre-eminence.
Europe does not have a monopoly on history or heritage. Long shadows of the past also haunt the American automotive landscape, as the big-name US automakers struggle, just like their European counterparts, to reinterpret the past while straining for relevance in a rapidly approaching future.
Alfa Romeo stared success in the face with 2003’s Kamal crossover concept, but opted to pursue MINI instead. Was this Fiat Auto’s worst product planning decision ever?
Product will only get you so far in the auto business, but it certainly does help. It helps a great deal more when it is the right product, preferably at an opportune time. Successful product planning is a subtle art and a rock many a car company have stumbled messily upon, for exact science it is not.
In the immediate post-Millennium period, Alfa Romeo was in serious financial trouble, losing millions of Euros a day, despite having Continue reading “Culture Club”
After a bit of a hiatus, Driventowrite’s ashtray series is back. Today, how the decline in the popularity of cigar smoking made in-car satellite navigation possible.
For this article, I had the pleasure taking a closer look at our Dublin correspondent, Mick’s BMW 728i. At the same time I had a chance for a small and very tame test drive, another one of those revelations that comes unexpectedly now and, to some extent, again.
Nought to sixty in under 5 seconds, courtesy of a V10. No door handles. What do people do with cars like this in Denmark, I have to ask?
I really don’t know. What I do know is that cars such as this are where there is overlap between the mainstream mass manufacturers and the fringe enterprises (covered since July 2016 with forensic thoroughness in the celebrated Far From The Mainstream series). The difference is that large-scale manufacturers can call on the expertise of seasoned car designers and costly, advanced specialist manufacturing processes.
The Wiesmann story ended in 2014 with liquidation. It began in 1988 with the launch of the MF30, a rear-wheel drive retro-inspired roadster powered by a 3.0 six-cylinder BMW engine. What occurred in between?
Weisman produced four iterations of their signature theme, variants of the 1950s roadster idea. Idiosyncacy is the name of the game at Dülmen. The bodies stayed much the same while names and engines changed as time went by. The second car, the 1993 MF-3 (confusingly, a smaller number than the predecessor) had a different BMW engine, a BMW M54 with 3.2 litres capacity.
The first series was the MF, coming in two versions with some lesser variants known as the MF 28 and MF 35, each having a different BMW engine and minor trim variations. In 2003 Wiesmann felt it was a good idea to Continue reading “Far From The Mainstream: Wiesmann”
Every car design enthusiast and their dog lament the downfall of the Torinese carrozzieri. Yet a recent example illustrates that it’s not simply the industry that’s at fault.
With Bertone gone (despite a company of that name still in existence) and ItalDesign churning out the crassest, most tasteless, un-Giugiaro-like concoctions, it’s now up to Pininfarina to wave the flag of Italian automotive design excellence.
We see change. I’ve been waiting for a better Focus since the last one appeared in 2011. That car never met my expectations even if it proved pleasant. How have Ford changed the Focus for 2018? Have they made all change change for the best?
To answer that it’s very much a case of needing a side-by-side comparison since the Mk3 lacks the kind of character that’d make it memorable. Let’s start at the front and walk around. The new version shown above is the ST Line, meaning the front clip is probably not going to Continue reading “By the Sahel’s Croceate Sands”
As Cadillac’s Johan de Nysschen prepares to stun the World with a flagship model, we look back thirty years to a previous attempt at shock and awe.
Throughout Cadillac’s rich and honourable a history of so-called dream cars, what distinguished the concepts of the marque’s heyday was that they accurately signposted the direction styling would take, whereas latterly, they appear to exist only in order to Continue reading “Fantastic Voyage”
An Easter treat. Just as we were discussing great European cars, one of them parked in my neighbourhood. It’s an Opel Kadett D: a two-door fastback.
The photo quality leaves lots to be desired. This is where I would need the skills and photographic equipment of Helmut Newton to do justice to the atmospherics. Instead I have a bad camera and limited skills in photo editing. It has been a long time since I saw one of these. As ever, that means a chance to Continue reading “A Photoseries For Sunday: 1979 Opel Kadett”
The outcome of the best and brightest Daimler-Benz managers showing the Americans how to take the product side of the business was this. Seriously ?
Was it ignorance? Negligence? Arrogance?
The motive(s) may be up for debate, but there’s no arguing about the utter lack of lustre this 2007 vintage Dodge Avenger embodies. Or that this utterly cynical product was the result of management decisions betraying one or all the traits mentioned above.
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?
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”
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.
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”
Two impressive Geneva concepts from India’s largest carmaker suggests a growing maturity and ambition. We investigate.
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 (not to mention independent partners) in both the UK and Italy, has reshaped its domestic offerings to compete with the big names.