It’s a typical Audi, graced by a purity of design which somehow destroys any chances of passionate engagement**. Guten Tag, Herr Hundert.
The Audi 100 affirmed its maker’s commitment to design which tightly fused the requirements of engineering and the stringencies of high aesthetic standards. Despite all that focused effort expended on visual refinement, nobody loves these cars, do they? You can say the same about Renault’s equally well-considered 25 of 1983. The 1982 Opel Rekord got caught in the middle of the aero-rationalist phase and so shows traces of its 1977 sharp edges intermixed with a smoother frontal aspect. Unloved also. We are forced to Continue reading “Your Gaze Was Like A Solstice Beam Reaching My Darkened Heart”
An exhibition of landmark motor cars from a gilded age prompts us to ask: Is beauty enough?
During the 1950s, philosopher, Roland Barthes hailed the modern automobile as a visitor from the heavens. Some sixty years later, it seems we have returned the compliment, by propelling a Tesla motor vehicle out into the solar system. An audacious publicity stunt, a sign that we have lost our sense of wonderment for the motor car, or proof that our supposed mastery of the art has led us to believe we can Continue reading “Golden Years”
It seems unfair to keep you on tenterhooks so I have decided to reveal/confirm the identity of today’s mystery car.
It is, of course, a Lancia Fulvia saloon, produced from 1963 to 1976 which really is a very long time indeed. The Fulvia was still good when it ceased production but the market’s tastes had changed. While everyone adores the admittedly perky, perty and pretty Fulvia Coupé, and many like the odd Zagato derivatives, I hold a candle for the austere and formal saloon, attributed to Piero Castagnero at Lancia’s Centro Stile. This and a few other cars suggested to me that if you want to Continue reading “The Big Reveal/Confirmation”
When it came to translation a car design sketch into a tangible object, craftsmanship and even cultural background used to be of the utmost importance.
As described earlier on, the technique and style any car designer chooses to depict his ideas is highly informative.
Back in the golden era of the Italian carrozzieri, however, this did not matter as much, as most of the legendary Italian car designers didn’t much care for impressive illustrations. Viewing the sketches of the likes of Leonardo Fioravanti, Marcello Gandini or Aldo Brovarone from today’s perspective, their artistic qualities appear rather naïve, to put it mildly. Continue reading “Adding Dimensions (II)”
This fine concept from Maserati’s coachbuilt days illustrates how far from home the Tridente has drifted.
Maserati, at the height of their gilded age as an exclusive automotive atelier, produced a bewildering array of suave gran turismos and more overt sporting machinery, along with the occasional one-off for their more discerning clients. At the 1965 Salone di Torino, Carrozzeria Vignale, who carried out a sizeable proportion of Maserati’s styling duties displayed an elegant four-seater concept.
The car designer’s sketch, and how it is turned into a three-dimensional object, are no mere technicalities.
How a designer illustrates his work matters. For any sketch betrays not only one’s technical skills, but one’s sense of proportion, style and, indeed, taste. To compare and contrast illustrations by some of the great car designers of the past with their descendants is therefore rather instructive.
Not just due to changing techniques and technology, the way in which designers depict their designs has dramatically changed over the past six decades. Whereas those stylists who had to rely purely on their hands, eyes and a few templates to create an impression of what they had in mind used to Continue reading “Adding Dimensions (I)”
It’s time to get technical. Let’s use pictures more than words to understand the aesthetic character of an old friend.
Musicians are used to talking of notes, timbre and tone. Choreographers use dance notation. Designers have curves but unlike music and dance, designers’ raw material lacks an accepted, verbal way to describe it. Predominantly words like “expression” describe the degree to which shapes have a character. Words are given to the end-effect of the expression too but not really to the cause. Perhaps designers can Continue reading “Awake Me With Poetry, Sing To Me, Tell Me What To Feel About You”
Tracing the Peugeot 504’s kinked tail motif through the Pininfarina back catalogue.
In order to capitalise on the popularity of UK TV series, The Avengers, stars, Honor Blackman and Patrick Macnee were persuaded to record a novelty single celebrating not only the fashions adorning the somewhat distracting Ms. Blackman, but the broadening societal permissiveness of mid-Sixties Britain. And while it was a rather throwaway ditty which didn’t chart particularly well at the time, it did take on a second life several decades later.
These things take time – as with fashion, so with design. One of the more interesting aspects of recent discussions surrounding the styling of the 1968 Peugeot 504 was the notion that its rear aspect was regarded with a degree of ambivalence. Uncomfortable and strange were among the soubriquets employed on these pages, but further afield, and particularly in the US, the 504’s kinked tail was considered peculiar. In light of this, it might be germane to Continue reading “Kinky Boots”
In 1978, Pininfarina made one final pitch to gain Jaguar’s business. It didn’t succeed, but did it precipitate another, more tangled narrative web?
By around 1976 the automotive world had broadly coalesced around the belief that Jaguar’s XJ-S was, in stylistic terms a rather poor show from a carmaker renowned for being the business of beauty. It didn’t really matter that this particular set of shared assumptions had largely been formed by a UK and US press corps who had whipped themselves into a frenzy on the false premise that Jaguar would reprise the E-Type’s impact and ambition and by consequence required a scapegoat when reality proved somewhat different.
Blaming Jaguar was perhaps cathartic and while some argued the carmaker might have controlled the narrative a little better in the run up to the XJ-S’ announcement, in reality, the embattled residents of Browns Lane couldn’t Continue reading “Along Came a Spider”
As the Audi TT hits a significant historical milestone, it appears to be on the verge of taking an altogether different kind of hit.
It isn’t every birthday celebration that doubles as a wake, but the times are not what they were. Twenty years after Audi unveiled the production TT sports model, speculation is rife that the current iteration is likely to be its last – at least in the format we have come to know and love.
Indeed, this last component may form part of the problem, since the love affair has, it appears, run its natural course. Certainly, senior Ingolstadt management, when they can Continue reading “Death Disco”
Volkswagen’s upmarket Passat derivative – was it misunderstood or simply misconceived?
If one was to plot the course of Volkswagen’s design heritage in purely aesthetic terms (if indeed such a thing were possible), it would be represented on a somewhat undulating graph, and it could be argued with some conviction that overall, the troughs have tended to outweigh the peaks. But automotive design is a cyclical discipline and all styling studios must move with, or at least reflect the times. Continue reading “Song to the Siren”
In late 2018, it’s time for a bit of reluctant praise to the automotive realm’s popular overachiever, the Porsche 911.
Intellectuals detest Tom Cruise. The combination of decades-long success in mainstream blockbuster movies, ridiculously good looks, as well as penchants for sofa jumping and sinister cults has seen to that.
Be that as it may, there is also a different side to Mr Cruise Mapother. The side that gave one Stanley Kubrick two years of Mr Cruise’s life at arguably the peak of the latter’s career. The side that gave cineastes Frank T J Mackey. The side that causes a 50-year old to Continue reading “Der Spießer”
The third Mazda 3 had a curiously short life: six years only. No wonder it only seems like yesterday when it was introduced.
And now a new one is upon us, revealed at the LA Motor Show which is in LA this year. God bless them, Mazda have seen fit to grace the car with a comprehensible engine line-up of 1.5 and 2.0 litres plus a super-efficient diesel for those markets not scared witless by DERV. Mazda, like Honda, do still seem to be interested in engines and so the new diesel “uses multi-hole piezo injectors to Continue reading “Like Unto Being Two Souls In One Heart”
Retrofuturism didn’t necessarily arrive at Ford with J. Mays. It’s more likely to have started with a man named Callum. No, the other one…
As the Ford Motor Company grew its upmarket brand portfolio during the late 1980s, it became a matter of increasing importance to ensure each marque could carve out a coherent stylistic identity, one which not only honoured tradition, but that ensured no genetic traces were misplaced or appropriated.
Complicating matters during this period was the fact that Aston Martin had been gifted an Ian Callum-penned version of Jaguar’s cancelled XJ41 two-seater, which would eventually Continue reading “Antique Roadshow”
A flying trip to Barcelona held an unexpected and pleasant surprise.
I had the pleasure of a taxi ride from Barcelona Airport to the CCIB conference centre on the seafront. The driver was very capable, making smooth but very pacey progress, but what really impressed me was the vehicle.
A class in retrofuturism from 1989. Driven to Write dons a black polo neck to pronounce upon Nissan’s Neo-X concept.
During the late 1980s, Japanese car design appeared to be going through something of a purple patch. By way of illustration, the 1989 Tokyo motor show marked the introduction of three fine Nissan concepts – the Primera-X, (not to be confused with the 1990 production car it prefigured), the ‘Pike Factory’ Figaro concept, but also the subject of today’s retrospective – Nissan’s take on a full-sized saloon for the 1990s.
Today DTW turns didactic and we have a short history lesson about wheel cut-outs on the bodyside. Though we covered this a little in 2015 I thought I might elaborate.
The wheel cut-out is where all the sculptural activity of the body side has to meet a much more rigidly controlled boundary. To think of its form, imagine cutting a circular hole in a vertical plane. Then tilt the plane slightly so it leans away from the centre line. The next step is to Continue reading “Smoke and Rob Roy Fridays: Orbiting Heaven”
The previous generation of Mercedes’ E-class was supposed to mark a return to the marque’s traditional values. Instead, it turned a great many of them into damaged goods.
Willkommen zu Hause. Die E-Klasse. Upon its market introduction in 2009, the newest Mercedes-Benz E-class was ‘welcomed home’. Attentive observers may ask when and why the E-class had left in the first place – an answer to which would require a return to the decade most people of Stuttgart Sindelfingen and Untertürkheim would like to forget : The 1990s.
The E-class for the ’90s, unveiled in the middle of that decade, was of course the W210 generation, which has since gained notoriety for issues of rust, profit-optimised engineering and styling that has aged as gracefully as the materials the Benz was made of. Continue reading “The Car That Killed Sobriety”
A 1951 art exhibition would change the way we viewed the automobile forever.
Since the Museum of Modern Art (MoMa) was founded in 1929, it has been a leading proponent of contemporary and modernist art, encompassing not only what is commonly known as fine arts, but architecture, product design, photography, film, installations and electronic media.
Perhaps the most influential host to the conversation around latter-day aesthetics, its current location, designed by architects, Philip Goodwin and Edward Stone in 1939 on New York’s West 53rd street has staged some of the most celebrated and controversial art exhibitions of the 20th century.
An Oldsmobile Cutlass Salon, Cadillac Eldorado, a 1991 Buick Roadmaster, a Chevrolet Nova, some Mustangs, an El Camino. Those were a few of the older cars I saw on a recent trip to Sweden. Most exciting was this Opel Ascona 1.6 C automatic (1981-1984)…
The 1978 Midas and its talented creator appear largely forgotten. Neither really ought to be.
Even amongst those who breathe petrol vapour for pleasure, Harold Dermott is not a household name. And this is a pity, for he is intrinsically linked to two of Britain’s cleverest and most dynamically accomplished enthusiast cars. That they represent polar opposites upon the affordability spectrum is largely irrelevant – both are equally rare sights today.
But while one is rightly celebrated as arguably the pinnacle of road-car development, the 1978 Midas remains a neglected automotive footnote – a matter which not only belies the craft and ingenuity of its design and construction, but also speaks volumes as to how the automotive world values its innovators and outliers.
Having graduated with a BSc in mechanical engineering, Harold Dermott joined BL in the early ’70s, working on engine development for Jaguar. However, following the notorious Ryder Report, prospects looked bleak for a young, ambitious engineer, and having departed the embattled carmaker, he obtained the rights to Continue reading “Little Wonder”
The standard of the world. That’s what they called Cadillac. Details like this ashtray console in the rear passenger door would be the kind of thing supporting the idea of Cadillac’s general excellence…
1.4 million Opel Rekord E models sold, dear readers. This one is still running though maybe not for so much longer.
Nothing new under the sun, is there? When the current generation of Opel Insignia appeared, it upset me that there was a false pane in the side-glass. Since then I noticed the previous Mazda6 came very close to the same supposed sin. If we go back to 1977 we find the Rekord D1 where the last element of the apparent DLW is a black panel or fake pane.
Driven to Write’s chevron-shaped codex gains a new entry.
It’s possible to argue that by 1976 the world of car design had attained peak-wedge, exemplified by William Towns’ startling Aston Martin Lagonda. The projectile-shaped luxury saloon so defined the dart theme, there was really nowhere else it could be taken, not that this prevented the likes of Marcello Gandini and others within the design community from trying. However, as evidenced by subsequent efforts, the returns were rapidly diminishing.
It sounds like “Clio” and shares every dimension with the Clio but Wolseley’s new small car contender is a design triumph, says Wolseley’s chief of design.
The resemblance is there right down to the very fact the Cleo vRS has a Wolseley badge perched on a diamond-shaped plinth on the car’s front grille. A similar diamond-recess on the rear boot holds the famed “W” symbol too. So, yes, it looks a bit like a Renault Clio. How shall we understand the design? “With this virtually unique car we have redefined the meaning of sporty practicality,” says Wolseley’s design chief Cristo Palumbo-Colombo. “It’s practical and sporty in a completely new way. It’s not compromised at all.”
Later he said “Every line is accurately placed and provokes in the viewer a sense of awed humility. Or an indefinable sense of joi de vivre – that is about the happiness of living, about satisfaction with one’s existence because every aspect of one’s life is so lovely. The Cleo’s stance is creative, surprising and original. The proportions canContinue reading “Wolseley’s Hot New Cleo Rs!”
Badges are extremely important details on a car. Take them away and a wholly disproportionate amount of identity vanishes with them. So what are Skoda doing by deleting their arrow logo?
Prompting this story is the announcement (here and here and here) that Skoda are having a stab at a more obvious competitor for the Focus, Astra, 308 and, I suppose, Golf and whatever it is Citroën offer in this class (I can’t visualise it).
The advent of a defining car, while largely something of a singularity, can only truly be recognised as such once a period of time has elapsed. Over time, the Ford Motor Company has created a number of cars which have in their way, defined their eras, largely due to their ubiquity, and popular appeal. However, the number of truly outstanding Euro-Ford car designs are fewer in number.
Why not wander over to the US market to inspect activities thereover? Well, why not?
Even as the death of the saloon car is debated (Ford and FCA are giving up in the US), Nissan has flung piles of succulent, cold cash at a new entrant in the medium-sized saloon sector, offering us its new Altima. The engine changes are baffling in that displacement and output relations are upside down. The 2.5 has been utterly (95%) overhauled and the 3.5 V6 is now out, replaced by a 2.0 compression in-line four that uses less fuel and can Continue reading “The Theme From “Salazar’s Hatstand””
BMW’s latest G20 3-Series iteration has already caused no end of offense, but it appears the affront goes beyond the visual.
“The BMW 3 Series Sedan represents the heartbeat of the BMW brand and the epitome of sporty driving pleasure in the premium midsize segment. Exuding dynamic design, agile handling, exceptional efficiency and innovative equipment features, it takes the signature characteristics of a BMW and turns the volume up several notches.
Precisely drawn lines and strikingly contoured surfaces mark out the exterior, which showcases the brand’s new design language. The interior also has a clear, modern and sophisticated design. The new-edition 3 Series sees BMW building above all on the sporting tradition of the best-selling car.” (BMW Press).
Extremely recently I noticed a Renault Grand Scenic. It’s a big and imposing car. So is the Espace. Is there any real difference between them apart from the price tag and the Espace’s motorized glove drawer?
Vietnamese company Vinfast have shown their Lux A2.0 saloon and AS2.0 sports utility vehicle at the 2018 Paris Mondiale. The styling is attributed to Pininfarina who did it real quick, you know.
“The design direction of these first two cars was influenced by the Vietnamese people through a public vote. This has enhanced the sense of national pride in these products, which pay homage to the country’s natural beauty. The design development for the production cars was undertaken by legendary design house, Pininfarina, giving the cars Italian design flair and sophistication,” says the corporate press kit. The part which caught my eye was this: Continue reading “What You See When You Look There Instead of Up”
Tense nervous headache? Too many Vierzylinder schnappes? Take one of these white pills…
There is only so much ugliness anyone can take at a sitting and since as we have seen, the Bayerische Motoren Werke are now so firmly into the arena of the revolting, it is my belief that there simply isn’t any point in dignifying their efforts further.
Amidst the dreary, the predictable and the outright offensive this week, one finds one’s consolations where one can. Because there are pinpricks of light to be found. Peugeot’s lovely, if impractical eLegend concept, Suzuki’s refreshingly simple utility vehicle in miniature and Škoda’s latest Vision RS concept. Continue reading “Rapid Pain Relief”
BMW have presented the G20 iteration of their long-running 3-series saloon. Autocar very kindly put images of the new car (blue) up against the outgoing car (not blue).
Last night as I was writing my comprehensive and thorough report on the 2018 Paris Mondiale, it occurred to me that I might do a new/old comparison of the car. I also considered doing a short design review. I didn’t because I had the intuition it would be rather too much work to say anything about something so slight. Continue reading “Micropost: Two BMWs”
The ideological direction change enacted by Mercedes-Benz for the 2012 W176 A-Class not only precipitated the dying gasp of the German marque’s engineering-led ethos, but went on to vindicate its adoption by becoming a huge commercial success for the carmaker.
This much we know, but the scope and reach to which Mercedes has developed its successor gives eloquent voice of its ongoing significance to the three pointed star. Since its spring 2018 launch, the newest A-Class in five door format can Continue reading “Class Act”
Today we turn our attention to the 2017 Nissan Micra. This offers us a chance to learn the Nissan project code for the car, K-14.
We also get to canter through a potted history of a car that has lurched from banal to brave and back, like a drunken tide. The current car has a touch of brave and also a few dollops of busy. Before we get to that we shall
The sight of a Maestro parked outside a churchyard in a small English village might once have been as common as the prayer books the car’s putative churchwarden owner would distribute amongst the darkening pews, yet here in September of 2018, it strikes a rather more rarefied note.
In recent articles we’ve been looking at over-styling of one form or another. I’ve also been considering the driving forces behind the phenomenon. Counterfactual time…
Let’s take a trip in our time machine. It looks like a W-114 Mercedes but when the car gets to 45 kmph and the fan speed is set to high the car slips back in time to 1990. It also gives the driver the power to Continue reading “Lionel Rewrote A List”
It doesn’t happen all that often, but the latest confection from DS Automobiles has your correspondent utterly confounded.
I don’t know. I genuinely don’t. What does one say nowadays, when every recent new car announcement feels like another assault? Does there come a point when through exhaustion or simple attrition, one is forced to simply Continue reading “Lost For Words”
Today we remember Ford’s 1998 roadster concept which championed the freedom of the open road for four, and pay tribute to its designer.
While four-seater convertibles are reasonably common commodities, four-door roadsters, have never quite caught on. But just as nature abhors a vacuum, car designers tend to view received wisdom as something to be challenged.
At the 1998 Chicago Auto Show, when such events took place in the ‘Windy City’, Ford’s US design team, under the leadership of J Mays presented a concept, while not entirely new, had not really been attempted at this scale before. Continue reading “Formula Libre”
We return once more to my desperate attempt to make design semantics interesting to people outside the design profession.
Far from being a distant irrelevance to those practicing design, researchers cotton on to things which merely take time to be understood. If we are wondering today why current design is so over-wrought, there are those to whom this will not be a surprise. Should you be so diligent as to
Sometimes it’s necessary to look back in order to move forward.
It’s a slightly forlorn image would you not agree? An elegant, if vaguely unsatisfying looking 1960s Italian GT is parked upon a deserted beachscape. The photo comes courtesy of the estimable Mr. Christopher Butt, he of the influential and painstakingly curated Auto-Didakt. The car? Well, you can read Christopher’s well-chosen words on this carrozzeria unicorn here, should your curiosity get the better of you.
The image serves as something of a visual metaphor – for the demise of the carrozzieri, of course, but also for something more. But first, some background. As our Auto-Didaktic cohort points out, during the post-war period, French and Italian coachbuilders struggled to Continue reading “Surf’s Up”
“Electric now has a Mercedes.” Yes, but have you seen it?
“EQ or Electric Intelligence by Mercedes-Benz is our electric mobility brand. EQ represents ‘Emotion and Intelligence’, two Mercedes brand values. It comprises of all essential aspects related to customer-focused electric mobility and goes beyond the vehicle itself.” Mercedes-Benz.
A recent conversation with an industry insider prompted an observation that at Driven to Write, we tend to give Mercedes-Benz’s Chief Creative Officer a bit of a hard time. In this individual’s not entirely unwarranted view, we have a tendency (as one might say in football parlance) to Continue reading “Flicking the Switch”
Does it really matter what car designers say? Should it?
Car designers nowadays are expected not only to be adept at the creative aspects of their calling, but must also learn to articulate it in a manner which in theory at least, helps us, the end user, to engage with and better understand their vision. To be frank, given how some designers appear to struggle with the first component, it is not entirely a surprise to discover that so few of them are anything but inept when it comes to the latter.
It has long been known and indeed commented upon that car designers, and especially those in a leadership role, speak such unregurgitated twaddle. Given the amount of time they spend making impassioned presentations to senior management who require their hands held throughout the stylistic decision-making process, they appear to have lost their ability to Continue reading “Toxic Emissions”
It’s not commonly known outside Denmark and northern Germany that the Danish border has only been in its current place since 1921. Before then much of what we call southern Denmark was in German hands.