Retro: Yes or No?

During the last decade of the 20th century a wave of retro cars were shown as concept cars or sold as production cars.

1989 Nissan Figaro
1989 Nissan Figaro

These vehicles re-used details and characteristics of designs from the 1950s and 1960s or perhaps ideas of these times. I will not discuss the reasons for this trend but rather retro design itself, and the two alternatives, modernism and classicism. I take the view that the best industrial design is impersonal. Continue reading “Retro: Yes or No?”

Unforgetting: 2007 Dodge Caliber

Or Calibre, if you are writing using British English.

2007 Dodge Calibre interior. Image: Edmunds.com
2007 Dodge Calibre interior. Image: Edmunds.com

I only remembered this one because I saw an example other day. I didn’t know what it was so I thought it must be one of those Chrysler things. Or Dodge things. Or maybe a Plymouth. Whatever. There was a time when American car interiors were cherishably bad. They might have been a bit careless but they had a humour and brio to them. The Calibre’s is simply bad and dispiriting but is a great example of when simple (good) becomes banal (not good). All the great simple designs have a twist or an inflection or a grace note. This set of straight lines (above) is Continue reading “Unforgetting: 2007 Dodge Caliber”

Pininfarina – An Appreciation

I started this a bit of a joke. Having looked at a very great many of Pininfarina’s cars, I had to work hard to find this selection of duds. 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Actually, I was reminded of a lot of very good concept cars which look great today and should have been made. Also, while the 1971 Pininfarina Ro80 concept has an odd decorative feature on the side, I am convinced this car served as eventual inspiration for a decade of Cadillacs and other GM cars in the 80s. Continue reading “Pininfarina – An Appreciation”

Is Pininfarina About To Lose Its Independence?**

Bloomberg has reported that Mahindra are rumoured to have plans to purchase Pininfarina.

I find this compellingly bad. They made this car - there was demand for this car - until 1986. That´s like hearing that witch burning persisted in Austria until last December. Really?
(c) autoevolution. I find this compellingly bad. They made this car – there was demand for this car – until 1986. That’s like hearing that witch burning persisted in Austria until last December. Really? The C-pillar is too far back behind the line of the rear axle. It’s also too thin.

This news caused Pininfarina’s shares to rise in value. It also presumably caused many car enthusiasts’ hearts to sink correspondingly. However, such a purchase might not be the worst outcome. ItalDesign has been taken over by VW, a firm that does not Continue reading “Is Pininfarina About To Lose Its Independence?**”

The Hunt For a Green Car: Jaguar

As it happens, Jaguar unveiled its new XF today, hailing it as the best looking car in its class. 

Automotive News´s image of the new XF.
Automotive News’ image of the new XF.

I misread the headline at Automotive News and thought they had done some more unveiling of the XE. You know how these unveilings run and run. Maybe this was the official unveiling of the car for actual sale as opposed to the unveiling for the automotive press or some car show or other. Cars seem to spend a third of their lives being gradually unveiled.
Continue reading “The Hunt For a Green Car: Jaguar”

Finally, Something Good From Pininfarina

While The Truth About Cars was informing us on the business model of the Autolib concept, I was thinking about something else. 

Autolib electric per-per-mile rental cars in Paris, France. Image: Wikipedia. Give them some money, please. We all use Wikipedia so cough up. Thanks.
Autolib electric per-per-mile rental cars in Paris, France. Image: Wikipedia. Give them some money, please. We all use Wikipedia so cough up. Thanks.

This is some of what the Truth About Cars wrote: The technology involves lithium metal polymer batteries, developed by Bollore’s Blue Solutions. The batteries, which don’t need liquid electrolytes to store power, are not only lighter in weight than lithium-ion packs, but can be charged up to 3,000 times, and are stable at temps up to 338 F. No one else has gone for the technology thus far, however; Bollore invested €3 billion ($3.2 billion) over three years to develop the EVs and the battery technology now in use by his ventures.” Continue reading “Finally, Something Good From Pininfarina”

A Photo for Sunday – 2006 Ford Mondeo

This is not yet another of my pleas for the world to acknowledge the subtle allure of the 2000-2007 Ford Mondeo.

2006 Ford Mondeo Ghia in Aarhus, Denmark.
2006 Ford Mondeo Ghia in Aarhus, Denmark.

Rather it’s a chance to meditate on the impact of trim on the perception of a car. In this instance we see something quite rare: a Ford Mondeo with all the options thrown at it. The version here is a Ghia in 2.0 diesel guise. It has a body kit which makes it look lower though not excessively so. Chrome accents give the door-handles a boost.

The six spoke alloys would grace a Bugatti and finally Continue reading “A Photo for Sunday – 2006 Ford Mondeo”

BMW Mille Miglia 2006

A concept that does nothing more than entertain – which is no bad thing

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Showcars often drive me up the wall by giving us an idealised version of something that actually will be produced, thus diminishing the effect of the production model. In the case of the 2006 Mille Miglia, I doubt anyone expected to build either it, or a watered down version. Continue reading “BMW Mille Miglia 2006”

Theme : Benchmarks -The Renault 5 in Five Easy Pieces

Five reasons why the Cinq was a benchmark small car

Every living room should have one. 1972 Renault 5 - image via curbsideclassic
Every living room should have one. 1972 Renault 5 – image credit (c) curbsideclassics

1. Like many significant car designs, the Cinq was the brainwave of one man, originally created as something of a thought experiment. In 1968, Renault designer Michel Boué sketched the design proposal in his spare time, marking out the now familiar outline superimposed upon a photo of a contemporary Renault 4. Hence the silhouette and unusually tall canopy.

Renault design bosses, upon seeing his work, adopted it for production virtually unaltered. Based on the engines and drivetrain of the popular Renault 4/6 models, the R5 is a rare case of inspiration undiluted.  Continue reading “Theme : Benchmarks -The Renault 5 in Five Easy Pieces”

Theme : Benchmarks – Lost In Translation

Let’s re-create a winner. What could go wrong?

Jaguar Presentation

Motoring history has many concepts and show cars that disappointed when they were turned into production models, but equally tantalising are the occasions when a manufacturer has looked back into its own history and tried to re-create one of its own supposed ‘classics’.

This is sometimes commercially successful, sometimes critically successful, but those of us in the world of motoring who spend our time considering the automotive equivalent of fitting angels onto pin heads are usually frustrated. Here are some of my own personal disappointments and maybe a success or two. Continue reading “Theme : Benchmarks – Lost In Translation”

Fossil Traces: Porsche Panamericana Concept

Porsche’s win at the 1986 Paris Dakar rally with the 959 must have left some residual sand in their shoes, prompting this piece of conceptual frivolity – the 1989 Panamericana.

tcarsthatnevermadeit-PanAmerica1
Rinspeed couldn’t have made it look any sillier. Panamericana by Porsche – image via carsthatnevermadeit

Part 911, part Baja dune buggy, part Hotwheels toy, Harm Legaay’s Panamericana was Porsche sounding out its fanbase as to the limits of where the 911 concept could be stretched. As we all know now, the answer was not nearly far enough. Continue reading “Fossil Traces: Porsche Panamericana Concept”

Full Brazillian Colour Analysis

Boredom drove me to find out what sorts of colours are available for cheapish cars in Brazil. Then I came back to Europe via Japan.

2015 Toyota Etios colour palette. Image: Toyota Brazil.
2015 Toyota Etios colour palette. Image: Toyota Brazil.

I started out thinking that because Brazil is full of warm and spontaneous people they would have a very lively palette of vehicle colours. Not so. No greens, no yellows and no oranges. And guess which company offers 12 exterior shades for their base model car? We’ll leave that to the end.  Continue reading “Full Brazillian Colour Analysis”

2015 Geneva Motor Show – The Top Six Yellow Cars

At DTW we pride ourselves on our rigorous analysis and our capacity to separate the news from the hype. 

2015 BMW M4 in pale yellow-gold. It´s almost pearlescent and, frankly, a bit aftermarket. If you are going to do yellow, don´t get cold feet at the last moment.
2015 BMW M4 in pale yellow-gold. It’s almost pearlescent and, frankly, a bit aftermarket. If you are going to do yellow, don’t get cold feet at the last moment.

Having looked at literally hundreds of thumbnail-sized photos I have been able to sort out the top six yellowest cars from all the other cars that weren’t yellow. I had to be careful though as one yellow car that came up in the search was from 2014. I didn’t include that. By the way, one of these cars, the Mila Plus, is the work of Magna, the Austrian Tier 1 supplier. Continue reading “2015 Geneva Motor Show – The Top Six Yellow Cars”

2015 Geneva Motor Show – The Colours

DTW has taken a look at a lot of show cars and tried to see if there are any colour trends apparent.

Geneva Motor Show colour palette 2015
Geneva Motor Show colour palette 2015

Most of these are concept cars rather than new launches. What is noticeable is that green is a rarity. Both the greens shown here come from Bentley. The flat orange is distinctive and is from Opel’s Karl. Notice that it is redder than the 021C orange that has been in use for a decade, made famous by Marc Newson’s Ford concept car of the same name. Continue reading “2015 Geneva Motor Show – The Colours”

2010 Living Lab – Danish fabrics meet a BMW interior

What is the link between a Swedish train, a BMW concept car and a fabric firm from Denmark?

2010 Dwelling Lab. Image from www.dailytonic.com
2010 Dwelling Lab. Image from http://www.dailytonic.com

A chance encounter via my day job led me to to discover the link between the Danish fabric firm Kvadrat and the Bavarian automobile manufacturer, BMW.  To my knowledge the two collaborations have not led to Kvadrat supplying fabrics for the production cars. It´s not that it´s not possible. The same firm has supplied material for a Swedish train and if a fabric and survive public transport it can Continue reading “2010 Living Lab – Danish fabrics meet a BMW interior”

Renault : Putting the Sole Back Into Design

Stop looking at your feet, Boy!

Kadjar 1After we discussed Renault’s desperate ‘Dare To Live’ bit of internet marketing a few weeks back, I’d entirely forgotten it related to a new crossover, the Kadjar. I’ve now just reminded myself of it and seen a picture. From front and rear it’s a forgettable enough lump, it only distinctive feature being the side view featuring a kick up from the sills. Continue reading “Renault : Putting the Sole Back Into Design”

Kimona Over To My Place, Drive Here In Your Rolls

This year Rolls Royce is showcasing the things it is willing to do to its cars for its wealthier customers. A one-off car, the Serenity, will be shown at Geneva this year to this end.

2015 Rolls Royce Serenity interior concept drawing. Thanks to RRMC for the image.
2015 Rolls Royce Serenity interior concept drawing. Thanks to RRMC for the image.

The aqua leather and wooden accents work very well indeed. It might even be that the silk used extensively is fetching. I remain unconvinced by the Kimona-esque detailing in the roof that looks like a strange blood spatter rather than a delicate tree in blossom.

You can read Rolls Royce’s more generous description here:

Continue reading “Kimona Over To My Place, Drive Here In Your Rolls”

An American View of Bristol

Via the Bristol Owner’s website I found this nice American take on Bristol cars. The photo is from the Curbside Classics website which I can’t recommend highly enough.

This is a Bristol 411 from the time when Bristol cars were beautiful.
This is a Bristol 411 from the time when Bristol cars were beautiful: thanks to Curbside Classics for the image.

The 411 looks like a combination of the proportions of a Jaguar XJ-6 and the surface treatment of a Rolls Royce Silver Shadow. We have had some debate about the British ability to style cars. This one shows that a British car need not be heavily ornate to look good.

More Lost in Translation: 2016 Nissan Maxima

North American sports fans were treated to a look at the next Nissan Maxima during the Super Bowl intermission**. 

2015 Nissan Sport Sedan concept
2014 Nissan Sport Sedan concept

Many were impressed by the sentimental video and debate raged about the car’s overall style. Few disliked it. I noticed that a lot was lost in translation from the 2014 Nissan Sport Sedan concept to the 2016 car. Reminiscent of the Citroen Cactus concept car, the 2015 Nissan sport sedan concept had rather flashy glass work. The A-pillar was blacked out to look as if the glass of the windscreen Continue reading “More Lost in Translation: 2016 Nissan Maxima”

The Renault 16 Is Fifty This Year. There Are None Left.

Our good friends at Renault UK’s press office have sent us a reminder that the Renault 16 is fifty years old this year.

1967 Renault 16 TX
Renault 16 TX

Philippe Charbonneaux is credited with the design of this car which was in production from 1965 to 1980. Its main claim to fame is related to its innovative deployment of a hatchback in the middle-to-large sized car class. At that point there developed a marked fork in the road in car design. Some manufacturers followed this path, those makers most like Renault. Continue reading “The Renault 16 Is Fifty This Year. There Are None Left.”

Sierra Shock – Ford’s Aero Banana Skin

Ford’s shapely Cortina replacement proved to be less aerodynamically accomplished than its slippery wrapping suggested. 

Image credit: (c) complexmania

Sierra was intended to mark a fresh direction for the Blue Oval. The brainchild of Robert Lutz, Ford’s Eurocentric Director of operations, it was designed to take on the upper-middle class European marques in sophistication and appeal. Lutz wanted a more dynamic, technological image, especially in Germany, where the ancient Cortina and Taunus’ models were viewed as throwbacks. Continue reading “Sierra Shock – Ford’s Aero Banana Skin”

A Photo For Sunday: 1997 VW Golf Estate

Continuing the theme of colour, here’s a VW Golf from the 1997-2004 series.

1997 VW Golf estate
1997 VW Golf estate

It’s the cheerful metallic green I want to draw your attention to. The interior had cloth seats with panels of a similar hue. Presumably this was a special edition but the car had no badges to indicate this. This iteration of the Golf was the most neatly refined, in my view, the one where competitors gasped at the subtle refinements such as the legendary cloth covered a-pillars. Quite why people Continue reading “A Photo For Sunday: 1997 VW Golf Estate”

Aerodynamics: The Shape We’re In

We ask whether aerodynamics’ post-war, post-aviation beginnings have anything in common with tomorrow’s hydrogen-powered wonders.

The future? Volkswagen-xl1-photo via motortrend
The future? Volkswagen XL-1. Image: Motor Trend

Car manufacturers have historically enjoyed a somewhat patchy relationship with the concept of aerodynamic theory. During the post-war period only a handful of motor manufacturers paid more than lip service and of those, most had their origins in aircraft manufacture. Bristol and Saab, for example were both forced to diversify during post-war austerity when demand for their mainstay aircraft businesses collapsed in peacetime. Continue reading “Aerodynamics: The Shape We’re In”

Theme : Aerodynamics – Release The BATs

Aero could be fun too…

The three BAT cars - photo via carnewscafe
The three Alfa Romeo BAT cars – photo: carnewscafe

Aerospace iconography permeated everywhere throughout the 1950s, particularly car styling. So when Alfa Romeo commissioned a series of concept cars, science fiction melded with aerodynamic theory, creating the extraordinary BAT cars.  Continue reading “Theme : Aerodynamics – Release The BATs”

The Great Curve

Britain’s Aerodynamic Pioneers – Frank Costin and Malcolm Sayer profiled.

Image credit: (c) Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory/NASA

During the 1930s, rapid advancements in aviation were in no small way fuelled by a growing understanding of the science of aerodynamics. Following the outbreak of hostilities in 1939, with scientific interest supplanted by urgent necessity, the pioneering research into airflow management would now come with an added dimension. The increased application of wind tunnel testing allowed engineers to Continue reading “The Great Curve”

Peter Stevens On Concept Cars

Here is Peter Stevens on the concept car and here is his second article on the subject. I think we can say we covered the topic more thoroughly in October but it nice to see what a professional thinks.

2011 Jaguar B99 concept.
2011 Jaguar B99 concept: why didn’t they make this?

It’s nice to see that Peter Stevens agrees with my analysis of the Ford Probe concept car: “Ford Motor Company’s European arm presented a concept vehicle, the Ford Probe III, at the Frankfurt show in 1981 for totally different reasons. Its new mid-size family car, the Sierra, was to be launched in 1982. It was a fairly avant-garde design that, within Ford, suddenly caused the senior management to Continue reading “Peter Stevens On Concept Cars”

What’s the Difference Between an Audi A3 Saloon and an Audi A4 Saloon?

Calendula Yellow.

2013 Audi A3 saloon: measurably different.
2013 Audi A3 saloon: measurably different.

Introduction

Recently I noticed a nice looking Audi saloon outside a super-market near where I live. That A4 looks pleasing, I thought. Except it was no A4 at all but the A3 saloon, on sale since early last year. In what way does the A3 differ from its bigger sibling? The A3 saloon’s price list begins at £23,295 and for that you get a neatly styled boot holding 425 litres of air along with a rather handsome exterior.

For an extra £1390 you can get the “entry-level” A4 and 480 litres of space in the equally nicely shaped trunk. That’s £25.77 per extra litre of luggage carrying capacity which is a lot less per litre than Mercedes asks for when you Continue reading “What’s the Difference Between an Audi A3 Saloon and an Audi A4 Saloon?”

Theme : Aerodynamics – Buttresses, A User Guide

Driven To Write attempts to decipher an aerodynamic staple but finds the going surprisingly turbulent.

york cathedral
Flying buttresses on York Cathedral. Image unknown.

In architectural terms, a buttress is defined as a structural member built against or projecting from a wall serving as a support or reinforcement. They were more prevalent at a period when structural engineering was more of a naive art, employed as a support against sideways forces. As architect’s skills developed, the need for buttressing decreased, latterly viewed as something of an admission of failure, much like an air dam or spoiler in automotive terms. There are several types of architectural buttresses, the most visually spectacular probably being the ‘flying buttress’, a structural device used in the design of many Gothic cathedrals.

Continue reading “Theme : Aerodynamics – Buttresses, A User Guide”

Applying the Gestalt Theory of Design to the 1993 Citroen Xantia

The A-pillar of the 1993 Citroen Xantia has always looked wrong. Now I know why and the reason it had to look that way. 

1993 Citroen Xantia as designed by Velizy.
1993 Citroen Xantia as designed by Velizy.

Unhappy with the actual car, I decided to see what would happen if I reduced the extent of the mirror sail panel so that more of the A-pillar showed. Read on to see how it looks if modified a little bit. It’s not as simple as just changing the shape of the black plastic part though… Continue reading “Applying the Gestalt Theory of Design to the 1993 Citroen Xantia”

Theme : Aerodynamics – Spoiler Alert!

Why do they do it?

Kit

Some things, as they say, do just what it says on the tin. To my mind, the rear boot excrescence is generally well named. There are some exceptions but, generally, if a car’s designed right, it shouldn’t need an add-on. And, if it does, what about those poor buggers in lesser variants who can still get within 20 kph of the bespoilered version. Are they safe?

Incidentally, I’m well aware that you could nit-pick and point out that, Continue reading “Theme : Aerodynamics – Spoiler Alert!”

Theme : Aerodynamics – 1995 Oldsmobile Aurora

In 1995 Oldsmobile presented their Aurora, a car that was originally intended as a two-door coupe to replace the Toronado.

1995 Oldsmobile Aurora
1995 Oldsmobile Aurora

The origins of the Aurora go back to a 1989 concept car known as the Tube Car, one of Oldsmobile’s numerous designs inspired by aerodynamics. Much of the feeling of the Tube car is retained though the very straight sills are far from an aerodynamic ideal. The role of the Aurora was to help alter customers’ perceptions of the brand as being staid and rather dull and to distinguish it from the upper middle class styling that Buick had made its own. Despite the aerodynamic appearance, the Aurora’s cD was only 0.32, by some margin worse than Audi’s less obviously rounded 100 of 1982 which had a cD of 0.30.  Continue reading “Theme : Aerodynamics – 1995 Oldsmobile Aurora”

J Mays’ Ford Legacy II

Sean’s article has inspired this short footnote.

2000 Ford Prodigy concept car
2000 Ford Prodigy concept car

J Mays replaced Jack Telnack in 1997 and was responsible for Ford’s sprawling empire of brands. Sean showed us some of Mays’ retrofuturism. What else did he do while in office ? The worst vehicle – in design terms – that Mays can be held responsible for is the 2005 Ford 500 which married VW geometry with softer, more amorphous shapes from somewhere else entirely. Continue reading “J Mays’ Ford Legacy II”

J Mays’ Ford Legacy

How successful were J Mays’ Blue Chip Fords?

J Mays TBird

I start by admitting an unjustifiable antipathy towards J Mays, which I must put to rest, now. It is based purely on the fact that he once called a 1 Series BMW a ‘shitbox’. Although I have admired several Bangle era BMWs from first viewing, the 1 Series was never one of them, but there is something unseemly about one designer slagging off another designer’s work in public. Continue reading “J Mays’ Ford Legacy”

2014 Audi A3 Smoker’s Pack and Other Details

A chance to look inside Audi’s A3 presented itself. I found what is referred to as a smoker’s pack.

image

These are to ashtrays what “cotton rich” is to shirts. For a costly motor car such as the A3, the quality of the plastic is far below the expectations of this writer. Audi must have saved a lot of money by deleting the standard ashtray and replacing it with a cupholder and a fireproof mug. At least a few extra euros could have been spent to design something more convincing than the Hasbro-level of moulding shown above. Does Audi really think their customers will overlook a lame effort such as this?

Continue reading “2014 Audi A3 Smoker’s Pack and Other Details”

Theme : Aerodynamics – Introduction

The Editor Gets All Slippery

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The first cars were not fast enough for anyone to be particularly concerned about the amount of air that stood in the way of their progress. Therefore, although drivers soon learnt to hunch themselves over the wheel to reduce the passing air’s effect on themselves, it took longer to realise how important it might be to reduce their effect on the passing air.

Before we come to Aerodynamics, we must come to Streamlining. Streamlining is not the father of Aerodynamics, it is the somewhat camp uncle. Streamlining is to Aerodynamics as Gastronomy is to Nutrition. It is more fun. Although based on the concept that air should pass unhindered over the vehicle body, Streamlining was not usually scientific. It was sometimes based on theory and experimentation, Continue reading “Theme : Aerodynamics – Introduction”

Theme: Dashboards – Citroën Visa

Driven to Write uses a Visa to explore the mysteries of the Lunules

Visadrawing
There is a strong risk that this piece will just become a rosy-spectacled trip down memory lane from this contributor, but hey, it’s the festive season, so indulge me …

Given this month’s theme, I wanted to write about Citroën from the days when the company had decided that (almost) everyone else had got it wrong about pretty well everything. Citroën seemed to believe that the essential concept when designing a dashboard was to Continue reading “Theme: Dashboards – Citroën Visa”

1985-1990 Nissan Sunny Estate

We were discussing design principles recently. Here’s a car that’s technically correct but unlike Audi fails to generate the slightest flicker of emotion or intellectual satisfaction. 

image

I saw this Sunny parked near the Aixam Mega van. It’s neat and orderly. All the parts cohere in a professional way. Yet unlike an Audi of the same period there is missing an element to lift it above ordinary. Continue reading “1985-1990 Nissan Sunny Estate”

Japanese Limousine of the Day: Nissan President

From 1990 to 2002 this car represented the very best Nissan could be.

1990-2002 Nissan President
1990-2002 Nissan President

It’s the President. Like the Toyota Century the styling is very formal indeed. It has overtones of Jaguar XJ-40 and Chevrolet Caprice all fused in that unique way the Japanese have of synthesising. Since this version the President has lost its way and is now a variant of something also sold as an Infiniti. Continue reading “Japanese Limousine of the Day: Nissan President”

Theme: Dashboards – 1986 Saab 9000

The Swedes are a pretty rational bunch. At least they were when the Saab 9000 was being designed. This dashboard takes the essential L-configuration of a dashboard’s elements and unifies them.

1986 Saab 9000 interior. Timeless industrial design.
1986 Saab 9000 interior. Timeless industrial design.

Oddly, some people found this design unconventional and difficult to take. It’s hard to see where the problem lies with this though unless you like messy arrangements of elements. The various displays and controls are gathered into one very clearly demarcated black area. The rest is given a colour to suit the remainder of the car’s interior.

Everything one needs is to hand. This is clearly an interior that has been designed rather than merely styled. As there are no eccentric inflections and the detail finishing is rational, the concept has aged very well indeed. Continue reading “Theme: Dashboards – 1986 Saab 9000”

1972 Citroen GS Camargue Versus the 2003 Citroen C-Airdream

DTW’s monthly theme on concept cars covered a lot of ground but we didnt manage to exhaust the topic. Here’s one we missed. 

While doing research on the work of designer Mario Bellini, I stumbled across the 1972 Citroen GS Camargue quite by accident. The design is by Bertone. Continue reading “1972 Citroen GS Camargue Versus the 2003 Citroen C-Airdream”

Some Aerodynamism

Aerodynamics lead car design to repeat certain solutions.

1955 Tara 603
1955 Tatra 603

The Czechs were applying most of the tropes on their wonderful Tatras. Here we have the 1955 603 (and a nice nostalgic racing photo below, just for fun). Compare the Czech car with the 2005 Mercedes Bionic and you see some of the same features. The general view of Tatras was that the handling was not their strong point. Violent lift-off oversteer is the chief hazard. Racing one of these must have been like playing Russian roulette with a cross-bow. Continue reading “Some Aerodynamism”

Theme : Dashboards – Japanese Prestige

I am indebted to Eóin for drawing my attention to the repugnant excess of the Mercedes S-class interior.

2015 Toyota Century interior (screen shot)
2015 Toyota Century interior (screen shot)

This has led me to Japan to investigate their approach to boardroom-level transport. Helping me along the way was an article at The Truth About Cars about the Tokyo car show of 1995 and a live web-page showing Nissan’s offerings then.

Apparently the web-page is still live, having been left running in all its 1995 glory these last 19 years. One of the cars on the list was the Nissan President of which I had Continue reading “Theme : Dashboards – Japanese Prestige”

Interview: Mario Bellini, Designer

Not many designers get to venture outside the boundaries that divide the discipline. Mario Bellini is one of them: furniture, architecture, product design and automotive work are all included in his remarkable portfolio.

Mario Bellini
Mario Bellini

Bellini is the winner of, among others, 8 Compasso d’Oro and prestigious architecture awards including the Medaglia d’Oro conferred by the President of the Italian Republic. Seen from an historical point of view, the activity we call design is a process with as wide a variety of final products as there are material human needs.

From that standpoint, product design, architecture, graphics, car design and clothing, for example, would be seen as variations on the theme of working out what form things take to solve a problem. Continue reading “Interview: Mario Bellini, Designer”

Theme : Dashboards – The Demise of the Column Shift

A Change for the Worst?

If you drive a manual car, where do you look for the gearshift? As a default, central and forward of the front seats. Until the late 1960s, this was not always so. At one time, a piece of bent metal originating directly from the gearbox and capped with a Bakelite knob, was a sign of a cheap car.

A better car, a quality car, more often had its gear change mounted on the steering column. This was only logical. This put it in easy reach of the steering wheel and freed up floorspace for a central passenger on the bench seat, or made for a more congenial driving experience when you were with a close friend. Who would Continue reading “Theme : Dashboards – The Demise of the Column Shift”

Theme: Dashboards – 2011 Nissan Moco

A lot of expense can go a long way to making an uninteresting dashboard design seem acceptable.

2010 Nissan Moco: look at that cloth. It's brilliant.
2010 Nissan Moco: look at that cloth. It´s brilliant.

[Images courtesy of this excellent blog minimally minimal]

Soft touch plastics, chrome trim, lots of accessories: throw all that at some shapes and maybe the customer won’t notice how boring their car interior really is. The 2011 Nissan Moco is a kei-car and that means it’s small and cheap. The designers couldn’t use costly tricks and so did it the hard way: careful and creative styling.

Continue reading “Theme: Dashboards – 2011 Nissan Moco”

Peter Stevens On Electric Cars

Peter Stevens has asked if electric cars need a new form language. His contention is that at present they either look conventional like the Tesla, or have “a strange self-righteous appearance”. What else does he say?

1900 Lohner Porsche: "Lohner Porsche cars used electric motors mounted within the wheels. That eliminated the weight and friction of a conventional drivetrain. "
1900 Lohner Porsche: “Lohner Porsche cars used electric motors mounted within the wheels. That eliminated the weight and friction of a conventional drivetrain. “

Stevens’ article first appeared at www.formtrends.com but is also republished at Car Design News.  In the article he makes the claim that while electric power might suit buses and van-like vehicles, the format presents too many conflicting requirements to work well:

“The batteries are huge and heavy and like to sit together like school friends; they become very inefficient if they are spread around the car so rather than liberating the designer they restrict new possibilities for vehicle architecture.” Continue reading “Peter Stevens On Electric Cars”

Theme : Dashboards – The Fiat Multipla

A Clever Clown at a Conference of Dull Suits?

Multipla 5

I won’t detail my admiration for the concept and design of the 1999 Fiat Multipla here. Suffice it to say that if you don’t get it and, if you can only go ‘aargh it’s so frigging ugly’, you are wrong. I realise that you are a fine person in all other things but, in the matter of one of the few original and worthwhile cars of the past 30 years, you are sadly misguided.

But here we shall confine ourselves to the Multipla’s dashboard. Somewhere on the web, another misguided soul has posted something on the 10 Strangest Car Dashboards with “If you think the dashboard is ugly, you should see the exterior…..”. But is it strange, is it weird, is it ugly?

Continue reading “Theme : Dashboards – The Fiat Multipla”

A Photo for Sunday

Sunday is a day of reflection. DTW would like to offer this image as the subject for today’s consideration.

1984 Mercedes duo
The two cars are 1983 Mercedes W123’s: a 230 CE and a 280 CE. Both are the same colour whose proper name I don’t know. These park on my street and are owned by two people who don’t know each other. What a strange coincidence.  Continue reading “A Photo for Sunday”

Theme: Dashboards – Toyota’s Subtle Game

Little credit goes to Toyota’s designers for their contribution to dashboard design. Let’s change that and reconsider the seventh generation of the Corolla, the E100, on sale from 1991 to 1995.

1993 Toyota Corolla interior (EU model).
1993 Toyota Corolla interior (EU model).

Toyota has always carefully controlled the extent to which the fashions of the times have influenced its dashboards’ appearance. Corolla customers are such that they want the car to be as unobtrusive as possible and perhaps they are even unaware of this powerful desire. For any designer to make a shape that meets this requirement is far from easy. It is like designing unspoken rules, design for the tacit. To do what designers often do, driven by ego, is to seek attention. Continue reading “Theme: Dashboards – Toyota’s Subtle Game”