There it goes. The year that wasn’t. Worst year ever. One which has at times felt something more akin to a grim combination of Groundhog Day and Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman. A painful year for most, a life changing one for many others. But still as they’d say round these parts, mad for road. But at this brief period of reflection before we wend further onward, there remains as much to Continue reading “Adieu 2020”
There have been times this year where I have questioned the relevance of continuing what at times appeared rather a frivolous and indulgent platform amid something as urgent and potentially lethal as the C-19 pandemic’s indifferent swathe through lives and livelihoods. In the end however, I think the correct decision was to Continue reading “New Year’s Greetings”
It’s that most special time: one where we find ourselves asking, where the loving hell the year went, why am I wearing a paper crown on my head, and why isn’t there any sherry left in this bottle? Even more to the point, what exactly is Gorden Wagener doing in my kitchen, and what will it take for him to leave? So many questions…
It has just stopped raining. The light is delicious. The street glows in the reflected gloaming, as a vehicle’s taillights cast their radiant wake in the damplight. It’s an album cover shot – shades of Ziggy Stardust or perhaps an Edward Hopper painting.
The combination of the banal and the everyday; the ubiquitous and socially upright Peugeot 504 berline, silhouetted against the decadent pull of the strip bars and empty promises of the wider Amsterdam nightscape is, to 21st century eyes at least, a striking visual metaphor. Continue reading “A Photo For Sunday: Atmosphere”
The image you see here is taken from a 1982 brochure prepared by Publicis Conseil (Renault’s long-standing communications and advertising agency) for Ireland’s then distributor, Smiths Distributors LTD, who also assembled Renault 4s in Co Wexford for the Irish market. More a pamphlet than a brochure, it nevertheless provided a well-produced and reasonably comprehensive overview of what the nationalised French carmaker had to Continue reading “Photo For Sunday : La Gamme Complète”
How does one define Italy’s relationship to the motor car? One might start by attempting to define the country itself.
[Editor’s note: This piece is a re-run of an article originally published in May 2016, as part of DTW’s Values theme.]
As anyone has read a few books on Italian history will know, it’s a great bunch of countries. Only foreigners lump it all together as one nation. That gives us a bit of a head start in understanding how Italy’s values translate into the broad array of markedly different car companies being stifled under one management.
As recently as the 1950s you could still find people in the deep south of Italy who didn’t know what Italy was. While outsiders consider Italy to have been unified, many Italians still Continue reading “Values – Italy”
As a companion piece to this week’s profile of Mercedes’ W203 C-Class, we’ve chosen to re-run this article, which originally appeared as part of DTW’s Facelift theme on 2 July 2014.
As I’m sure I don’t need to point out to you, dear readers, when it comes to the subject of facelifts, not everyone cleaves to the Partonesque ideal. Because while the tuneful Tennessee songstress has clearly invested wisely upon her augmented visage, others have fallen rather messily at the wayside. They know who they are.
Today, we venture outdoors, virtually speaking, to take the air in Ascona.
It’s probably fair to say that for most of us, the notion of escape is currently a seductive one – particularly to somewhere sparsely populated, picturesque and relatively pristine. Alpine vistas loom large in the imagination, perhaps somewhere akin to the attractive Swiss resort of Ascona, as pictured above.
When DTW was in its first flush and Mr. Kearne’s dipsomaniacal tendencies hadn’t drained the coffers entirely, Places formed one of our monthly themes, and amid the varied offerings from DTW’s writers that month, we considered Ascona and its (probably tenuous) relationship to the Opel saloon model series of the same name. Continue reading “A Sense of Place”
Those amongst you who know me will recognise my propensity to repeat myself, so if you have heard this before, well, the only solace I can offer is the assurance that there will be another (better) article tomorrow.
Growing up in an Irish backwater – (Cork was very parochial in the 1970s) – was a pretty meagre affair. Mostly I remember the rain. It was always raining. And while we weren’t badly off, there was little in reserve and even less by way of indulgence, frippery or delight. Belts were worn tightly. String was saved. Even the biscuits were of a distinctly penitential nature. Continue reading “Cat-tivated”
More MINI-based shinanigans. With added Gallagher brother-based goodness.
As a writer, it’s an endless struggle finding new ways of saying what is broadly speaking, the same thing. We are forever seeking an angle, or equally, a framing device, either as a way into a story, or a means of bookending it. This is all the more challenging for the relatively short-form (and I emphasise the term relatively) articles which tend to feature upon these esteemed pages.
Certainly, this author frequently struggles with form, almost as much as he does with content – or context for that matter. I say this by way of explanation for the somewhat conceptual approach taken in today’s reissue. Writing a drive piece on the R50 MINI (the first generation of the BMW re-casting) proved a bit taxing, hence the shoehorning of Britpop stalwarts, Oasis as something of a running gag throughout.
We travel to Cortina – by Cortina. In a manner of speaking.
Back at a time when both the world and DTW was young, we had the time, imagination and intellectual bandwidth to employ a monthly theme, a literary device which would both inform the site’s content over the period in question and serve as something of a creative spur to the writers. And spur it did, garnering innumerable articles on subjects both diverse and arcane – many of which I would urge you to Continue reading “Regina delle Dolomiti”
Skipping around the Italian coastline – it’s well for some. Sometimes.
For Europeans, the idea of driving the Amalfi coastline on Italy’s South-Western flank is akin perhaps to driving West on Sunset Boulevard – suffused with impossibly romantic imagery culled from literature, music and film. At the very least, it would afford one’s passengers, if not the driver, with some rather memorable vistas – and in the right car, under the right conditions, a nice suntan.
As a companion piece to yesterday’s Bugatti article, and its forthcoming episodes, we go back into the archive to an article from DTW co-founder and onetime writer, Sean Patrick, examining perhaps the most glamorous vehicles ever set to hand-beaten metal.
While we can perhaps look at some of them now (like the Delahaye pictured above), and baulk at the profligacy and sheer excess on display, we ought to ask ourselves – are we really any more evolved? I’m rather inclined to doubt it. But disregarding the more outré examples of the carrossier’s art, some of the most sublime shapes of all time emerged from their studios, which Sean’s piece from January 2016 documents, should you wish to delve further this Sunday morning.
So much for theory, what was the Lybra actually like?
The heel of history can either be a marque’s greatest asset or an insufferable burden, and in the case of Lancia, we can safely deduce which of the two conditions has prevailed. Because amongst the time-honoured pitfalls of managing heritage brands is the inevitable temptation to revert to whatever nostrum of past glories management deem necessary or congruent.
Indeed, the moment a car brand is steered into the heritage category, alarm bells really ought to sound, since one could posit the view that it’s already well on its way to irrelevance and oblivion. Hence when Fiat Auto CEO, Roberto Testore pronounced in 1999 his view that Lancia’s image was confusing, he was tacitly admitting both his and his innumerable predecessor’s inability to either define Lancia’s identity or allow it to Continue reading “Balancing Act”
A backwards glance at the current state of the estate.
Who amongst our serried ranks of global carmakers currently makes a genuine estate car? By this I mean a recognisably car-like utility-ish vehicle with a useful, practical fully enclosed load bay which can be enlarged by folding the rear passenger seats; one that isn’t an MPV, some kind of glorified-shooting brake with vaguely sporting pretentions or heaven help us all, a crossover or SUV.
When it comes to matters of symmetry, DTW takes the centre ground.
Back in the early days of Driven to Write, when life was more innocent and we hadn’t entirely lost the run of ourselves, we had both the time and the inclination to exercise our more whimsical thoughts, impressions and observations, at length.
There are some injustices one can never quite get over.
The rationale behind this series of articles on the former Jaguar design director’s creative legacy has been to evaluate what was achieved, while not shying away from justifiable criticism. Because we can probably agree that Ian Callum’s Jaguar-related back-catalogue is a somewhat uneven one. Part of this can be ascribed to factors outside of his control, but not all.
You probably won’t see it commemorated anywhere else.
Of all the cars which mark their 50th anniversary this year, this is perhaps the most (to non-Italians) obscure and certainly least recalled. Partially a consequence of the marque’s subsequent demise – another piece of bungled stewardship by Fiat Auto – and the fact that the car is not only fairly unremarkable in itself, but lasted a mere three years on the market before being withdrawn in 1972. Continue reading “Weekend Re-issue : A Fiat By Any Other Name?”
Ten years since ‘the car that killed sobriety’ was announced. Time for a backward glance.
The 2009 (W212) Mercedes-Benz E-Class is unlikely to go down in history as an indestructible exemplar of marque values like its W123 forebear, or indeed as a design landmark, like its W124 descendant. Indeed, it probably won’t even be remembered with the acute embarrassment which characterises the risible W210 series from the mid-’90s.
Instead, the W212 will be recalled largely for its ‘Ponton’ haunches – a piece of retro styling contrivance aimed at evoking a period when the three pointed star had nothing to prove and no awkward questions surrounding its durability in service to answer.
As automotive aficionados, we accept and embrace the backstories which sit behind the cars we choose immortalise, yet as with most aspects of life, the people behind these vehicles are often themselves at least equally compelling when viewed from a narrative perspective.
Rivalries between carmakers frequently loom large over marque iconographies: General Motors versus Ford, Austin and Morris during the pre-war era in Britain, or indeed, BMW and Mercedes in more recent times. However, for a great many years, an equally compelling battle of wills was said to have played out in France between Louis Renault and André Citroen, with both carmakers seemingly hell-bent to Continue reading “Weekend Reissue : Filigree and Shadow”
Robertas Parazitas’ 2017 Fiesta opus joins the ‘Longer read’ fold.
As anyone who has tried to manoeuvre a supertanker can probably attest, when a leviathan changes direction, the process is both slow and not without considerable disruption. During the early 1970s, the ultra-conservative Ford Motor Corporation, having toyed with front-wheel drive during the previous decade, made the decision to Continue reading “Weekend Reissue – El Camino a la Fiesta”
The traditional large-format motor show it appears, is dying, as increasing numbers of carmakers are not only baulking at the expense of these lavish affairs but also the fact that in an era where data can target customers far more effectively and cheaply, the car show has for some considerable time now been seen both as something of a blunt instrument as much as a throwback to a more naïve time.
Reflecting upon the 75’s younger, leerier brother.
The Rover 75 is one of those cars which will probably form the basis of reflection and examination for decades to come. On paper at least, perhaps the most comprehensively realised Rover Group product of all, yet it proved to be a flawed product, courtesy of its problematic K-Series power units and what transpired to be a somewhat quixotic marketing proposition.
The Yaris was one of Toyota’s better efforts. It still looks good today.
Toyota signalled a stylistic change of heart at the 1997 Frankfurt motor show when they presented the Funtime concept, a cheerful looking five door hatchback marking a significant departure from the rather anonymous looking Starlet, which by then was being left behind by the increasingly sophisticated and considerably more modernist European opposition.
The last traditional Peugeot saloon marks its 40th anniversary this year. We look back at the 505.
The final flowering of a fine tradition, the 1979 Peugeot 505 marked the last generation of rear-wheel drive saloons to emerge from Sochaux. A late ’70s update of the popular and durable 504 model, the 505 cleaved so closely to its predecessor’s conceptual template those of a more cynical mien could scarcely Continue reading “Summer Reissue – Daily Grind”
If cars really can be viewed as Art, where does this leave the 1999 Citroën Xsara Picasso?
Here at Driven to Write, we are fond of celebrating the worthy, the left of field and the more outlying inhabitants of our vehicular rich pageant. However, nobody in possession of the requisite technical or visual discernment would willingly choose to scribe a hymn of praise for the Citroën Xsara Picasso (to lend it its full name) – a motor vehicle which could perhaps only lay claim to the quality of mercy.
This week, the Lancia Gamma receives the DTW Longer Read treatment.
It’s a question I’ve been asked on a number of occasions: Why the Gamma? Why devote well over ten thousand words to a car whose failure hastened Lancia’s headlong spiral towards infamy and oblivion. The answer is, like the Gamma’s story itself, somewhat convoluted.
I really ought to begin with an apology. Yes, him again…
Today’s reissue began life in another (now defunct) sphere, one where a good proportion of Driven to Write’s readers and (virtually) all of its editorial team took their initial steps. It was then titled, ‘Oh Dear God, Not Bangle Again!’ and one can readily imagine a similar exclamation from the combined DTW readership in light of this.
One of DTW’s very first articles, and at the time, something more of a hagiography, its subject remains as polarising a figure now as he was when it was first written. However, since then, not only has Mr. Bangle returned to the automotive fold (for better or worse), but perhaps sufficient time has now elapsed and perspective gained to Continue reading “Summer Reissue: The Vision Thing”
This weekend sees our editor in-chief in celebratory mood…
I’m pleased to inform our regular readers that no hats were lost in the creation of this article. However, what millinery there was to hand has been at least metaphorically cast skywards in honour of my erstwhile fellow-DTW antagonist’s departure earlier this week across the Irish Sea. He means well, but our Mr. Doyle I find, is best appreciated from the distance of several hundred nautical miles.
Continuing our Longer Read series with DTW’s XJ40 opus magnum.
This I’m forced to admit is somewhat off the meta scale: A repeat of a repeat of a series, entitled History Repeating.
The lengthiest of our Longer Reads, this piece began taking form as far back as 2009. Over that (close to) ten year period, it has probably been subject to nearly as many changes and midnight-oil revisions as the car itself during its even more protracted and strife-ridden gestation.
Writers occasionally speak of falling in love with their characters; certainly XJ40 was a car I approached with a degree of ambivalence, swayed by a post-production and media-led reading of failure and dashed hopes. However, through a combination of archaeology, study and reasoned evaluation, I found myself reaching what was for me at the time a surprisingly emphatic resolution.
Having arrived at this conclusion, the account evolved into something of a an impassioned elegy, for the car itself, yes, but also for the type of broadly accessible, engineer-led motor car which has become largely-extinct. A opportunity furthermore, to honour the people who not only created it, but imbued both it and all true Jaguars with qualities which were somewhat unique and sadly absent from the modern cars bearing the storied name.
It also resulted in a number of hitherto unexpected outcomes; firstly an audience with Professor Jim Randle, the car’s architect, and furthermore to elements of this series forming part of a book, published in 2016 to commemorate XJ40’s 30th anniversary.
So with little further ado or indeed much by way of apology, I present DTW’s XJ40 saga which debuts a new opening chapter, and a revised text, to reflect more recent insights. I must warn you however that it does run to nearly 14,000 words, so I’d recommend finding a comfortable chair to perch (and perhaps a wee dram). If the story of Jaguar’s last stand captures your imagination, you can continue reading by clicking here.
This weekend finds Simon in less peevish form. Well, only slightly…
I love the smell of floor polish in the morning. Floor polish is an excellent product for cleaning the wood trim in Jaguars. I don’t own a Jaguar incidentally – in my experience, one really ought not. Like all examples of the treacherous genus Felis, it owns you, and one might reasonably add, one’s bank balance.
I seldom like to visibly intervene in the daily activities of DTW since I find such matters rather unbecoming. Furthermore, the hostility from various embittered car clubs (step forward the Albanian Morris Minor Club) is often too much for me to bear. However, now that the annual exodus of Driven to Write’s editorial staff is upon us, I find myself once more cast into a role I find distasteful.
We return to a fine retrospective of an automotive monument.
We have over the years at Driven to Write, presented long-form essays and articles in serialised form, partly in deference to our more time-poor readers, and from our own perspective, to help even out the schedule. However, we concluded that it might be pleasant to have the opportunity to revisit these pieces in the format to which they were intended – in full and unexpurgated form.
Créateur d’Automobiles: that’s how Renault styled themselves for a while.And indeed some of the concept cars have been very good. But, we can’t help noticing a gap between the promise and reality.
Just before the turn of the 21st century, Renault had successfully re-invented itself as a maker of one-box or ‘monospace’ cars of various sizes, from the Espace that started it all in 1984 to the Scenic of 1995, through Patrick Le Quement’s masterpiece: the Twingo Mark I of 1992.
As Luca di Montezemolo’s reign at Ferrari comes to an end, an entire chapter of Italy’s automotive industry – as well as culture – is being closed.
“If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change” proclaimed Don Fabrizio Corbera, Prince of Salina in the seminal Il Gattopardo. He was, of course, referring to Sicily and the impending changes to country, people and his own dynasty. But such a statement could clearly have been made with regards to fellow nobleman, Luca Cordero di Montezemolo’s sacking from the post he had held for more than two decades. Only in this case, it would be untrue.Continue reading “The Leopard Bows Out”
The V4 engine layout is synonymous with Lancia, the marque having employed the layout extensively from the 1920’s right up to and sometime after its demise as an independent in 1969. Founder, Vincenzo Lancia had something of a penchant for the vee-formation engine but it’s unclear exactly why he favoured the V4 over its in-line counterpart, given that the layout tends to fall prey to out of balance forces one would really rather not have to deal with. Continue reading “Theme: Engines – Divine Inclination”
Driven to Write met three (of four) Germans outside a supermarket in Aarhus. They had travelled in a VW camping van with two Simson mopeds.
We don’t really do motorbikes at DTW and VW camping vans aren’t part of our repertoire either but here is a brief report on the trip of Markus, Judith, Ludwig and Victoria from the Bodensee in Germany to Nordkapp in Finnmark, Norway. I met them as they were eating a spot of lunch outside my local supermarket. They were travelling in a rather used series T3 VW camper van (1979 to 1992) and two Simson mopeds. Continue reading “Northward Bound”