Ready to take a trip? Today we discuss possible futures and automotive design with Design Field Trip’s editor, Christopher Butt.
Design was once characterised as “the dress of thought,” an elegant phrase and one at least as applicable to the automobile as any other form of styled product. Yet today, the dress which clothes our vehicles all too often suggests thoughts of a less edifying nature. But can anything be done to arrest this trend? Having recently launched his latest venture, Design Field Trip, we ask Hamburg-based design commentator, critic and writer, Christopher Butt, about his hopes to Continue reading “Depth of Field”
Today, we talk to freelance car designer and coachbuilder, Niels van Roij.
Very graciously, automotive designer, Niels van Roij allowed me an hour of his time to indulge upon subjects such as tailor-made suits, music and of course, the modern coach-built motor car.
Like so many car enthusiasts, the passion begins at an early age. For this author, Matchbox cars and their exaggerated engine and tyre sounds. For Niels however, the pencil and paper called from around the age of four. His mother has kept some of these youthful outpourings though it’s doubtful his infant designs would have bearing on today’s products for reasons discussed later.
The author regrets an increasing antipathy towards a pleasure that was very much a part of his earlier life experience and remained so until recently. There are, however, grounds for hope and optimism.
I have been driving for over forty years. In that time, the automotive landscape has changed in ways that were simply unimaginable when, as the proud owner of a newly minted driving licence, I took to the road in my first car, a second-hand VW Beetle.
French designer, Tristan Auer reimagines Citroën’s CX Prestige, delivering something unique and rather special.
The Hôtel de Crillon on the Place de la Concorde has been something of a Paris institution, at least for those well-heeled enough to stay there, since it opened to the public in 1907. The neoclassical 18th century palace – one of a matching pair situated at the famous Paris landmark – was built in 1758 and through its history, saw its fair share of drama, not least of which was its use by the post-revolutionary French government as a place to Continue reading “You Shall Go to the Ball”
In 1999, when retro was all the rage, BMW’s Z8 roadster did its best to exploit the sense of nostalgia that prevailed at the dawn of the new millennium. Surprisingly though, its sales brochure proves more creative.
Two designers with long careers provide an insight worth looking at.
Two of our regular authors run their own blogs, which we have mentioned before. Mick has taken a look back at the work of Walter de Silva and finds much to praise but also there’s a sore point which is worthy of attention: de Silva’s penchant for absent rear door handles. I will admit to having been swept along on the unthinking currents of received wisdom. Now the point has been made I realise I had not been critical enough. And a ever-present thought that I had ignored now seems as plain as day: that 156 would be perfect were it not for the silly faux-coupé trope. Continue reading “Two Items About Designers”
Idly I wanted to know what John Simister is up to…
He wrote for the Independent and is a freelancer now. I remember him from his days writing for Car magazine (1995-1998). This review turned up, of the MG3. Since I don’t live in the UK, I never see these cars and had forgotten about them. This part of the review is a surprise: “Despite this, there is a precision, a deftness, a transparency to the MG3’s responses that are rare in a new, mass-market model. It steers beautifully, it rides smoothly over bumps, it flows in a way which just makes you feel good. You do have to work the engine hard, but it’s not too noisy and a tidy gear-change action helps get the best from it.” Simister is known for his fondness for French cars so I read this as meaning the car drives like a Peugeot 205.
Regular readers of Driven to Write will be well aware of Christopher Butt’s writings on subjects as diverse as the machinations within VAG, the social history of the W126 S-Class or indeed travels through Italy in his majestic Jaguar XJ12. So it is with with some pride and no little emotion that we salute Kris on his own website venture. Continue reading “Introducing Auto Didakt”
We’ve moaned about the dull uniformity of the world’s car parks. TTAC has some insight on the fact that opting for the boring colours is not helping you resell that car.
This is the link. “Silver and beige, the go-to colours of the 1990’s and 2000’s, have higher depreciation rates, but nothing is worse than gold. With an average depreciation of 33.9 percent, gold vehicles are dead last. Oddly, it’s the third-fastest-selling colour in the study, behind gray and black,” says the article. As it reports American data it does not say so much about black or mid-grey metallic. I imagine that a similar study would show that these colours aren’t helping protect value at this stage. There can’t be a competitive advantage to having a silver-grey or black Audi or Ford at this point. We must at this point be at peak monochrome. Continue reading “Theme : colour – The Lost Competitive Advantage”
Given this month’s theme and the fact that we like Curbside Classics here, we link to a nice and short featurette about the Toyota Crown. As usual, there are some useful comments below the main article which also include some photos of the interior.
I just love Curbside Classics. They produce fascinating nuggets of US automotive history with a fond yet critical attitude. The comments are unusually good as well.
Further, they seem to have access to the catalogues of GM, Chrysler and Ford if the detail on the technical specifications are anything to by. This article deals with ten obscure special models. I notice that their use of the term applies to what I’d call trim variants that had their own badging and equipment. In Europe “special” seems to imply a plastic sticker and some cloth upholstery of questionable taste. Continue reading “Theme: Special – Curbside Classics Covers Special Editions”
If you find there is not enough material among DTW’s articles, I suggest you take a look at Curbside Classics. I was planning to write this anyway. Our discussion on American cars prompted me.
Curbside Classic’s Paul Neidermeyer ran a pair of articles recently about the ascent of the “brougham” trim level. He puts the moment at either 1964 with the Pontiac Bonneville Brougham or the 1965 Ford LTD. Along with a light writerly touch, Niedermeyer does some straightforward analysis. He makes a very valid point, getting beyond thoughts of velour button-pleats and mock-wood trim. For modern ears the term “brougham” gets in the way of understanding exactly the use of the term signified. The word distracts from the important point that marketing planners in GM and Ford in the 60s gave up being so assiduous in their demarcation of their brands. Continue reading “Curbside Classics’ Scholarly Contribution”
Curbsideclassic provided the inspiration for this short post. The article provides a nice run-down on these wonderful cars.
When I think of romance and cars I tend to think of certain marques: Lancia, Alfa Romeo, Rover (to some extent), and perhaps some Ferraris. And that’s really it. Is it perhaps not uncoincidental that these brands are not in the best of health or, these days, not very romantic in their expression? Continue reading “Theme: Romance – Lancia”
One of the 50 best cars ever was the Saturn L200, at least according to our capricious, contradictory and downright random list.
As luck would have it, this is a good time to be reflecting on the failure of Saturn. Pending my own careful meditations on the topic I’d like to draw your attention to this very good article at TTAC. In addition to the article, a reader who goes by the name 28-cars-later offers a very good precis of Saturn’s history which I will take the liberty of reprinting here (see under the “Continue Reading” button). I immediately thought the chap writes well enough to deserve to be on the other side of the author/reader divide. Others at TTAC did too. Continue reading “Saturn: 5 Years Dead”
On the downside, this is a critical comment: “Rather than bringing Tesla closer to the goal of the Model III, the Model X may be a 2.5-ton warning sign that the company is either unwilling or unable to pull it off. The Model X’s prohibitively expensive technology, including its low-volume aluminum construction, batteries and propulsion system, is virtually identical to that of the Model S. In other words: The Model X may Continue reading “What the Others Are Saying About the Tesla X”
The few reviews that have crossed my desk have not been very revealing. This one deserves some scrutiny.
This is how Kamil Kaluski begins his article: “This is the car that people in the 1970s predictedwe would be driving in the year 2000. Fifteen years after the turn of the millennium, the BMW i8 is the machine that looks like no other BMW — and certainly like no other car on the road. Its gasoline and plug-in electric powertrain compliment its looks, bringing together the efficiency of an electric car and the convenience of an internal combustion engine.”Continue reading “The Truth About Cars on the 2015 BMW i8”
Here is the Truth About Cars’ view of the Opel Adam. They have also reviewed the Rocks version.
The article considers the Adam as a potential future Buick. And here is the conclusion (I note they find the ride quality better than I do but agree the car does a good impression of near-luxury. I am reviewing the new Opel Corsa soon and the contrast is marked.) Continue reading “2015 Opel Adam Rocks – A Second Opinion”
You’re probably never heard of it, and nor had I until comparatively recently. Minki was a Rover K-Series engined Mini re-engineered with interconnected hydragas suspension, much like that of Dr Alex Moulton’s own modified Mini – and a hatchback. Built to suggest a possible developmental direction for the ageing original, time ran out for the concept, given Mini’s possible sales volumes versus the costs involved. Continue reading “Fossil Traces: From Minki to MINI”
The story of how the Buick aluminium 215 engine became the Rover V8 is often-enough told so I will use this little posting mostly as a short guide to some of the most entertaining versions.
Sold to Rover, the engine powered Range Rovers, Rovers, MGs and TVRs along with Morgan. Jalopnik has a good short version of the story here In a nutshell, Buick wanted a lightweight, small capacity V8. They decided to use aluminium which led to a chain of problems that were still being dealt with 40 years later. Among those problems are slipping liners and porosity. If you scroll down the comments at the Jalopnik article you’ll find a neat list of V8 engines used by GM in the late 60s. Continue reading “Theme: Secondhand – The Rover V8”
….says Car and Driver. Not naming. I had to keep the name of the car in front of my face so as to remember it. But they have finally made a car with real dynamic credentials. But does it have to look like a Chevrolet Cruze with aftermarket accessories?
I recommend you read C&D’s review of the car to get the full insight on the engineering efforts Cadillac have made to produce this car. I am impressed by C&D’s own dedication to reporting the work and showing images to explain it. It’s a fine bit of automotive journalism. Try this: Continue reading “ATS-V: Cadillac’s Finally Cracked It, Partly.”
The team at Australia’s Drive have put together an interesting listicle of some cars they consider worth our attention.
I picked two to show here. One is the Haval Concept R which has some rather wobbly highlights down the side but has a quite pleasing graphical arrangement at the front. Similarly, the Chery A5 looks orderly and distinctive. What we see here is a move away from the ornate look favoured by Chinese cars, specifically negative lines that meet at sharp points.
This article is a list of the ten best roads you might not have heard of. It’s cheap and easy padding for the Guardian but the photos are nice. Here is one:
I had not heard of any of the roads though some of them seem to be good enough to warrant a higher level of awareness than they seem to have. Isn’t the problem with tourism journalism that it makes people go to see places because they are unspoiled, thus spoiling them? It’s an extractive industry in a way.
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.
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”
Classic car sales is not a line of business known for its propensity to change. Thus I am impressed by the efforts made by RK Motors of Charlotte, North Carolina, to invest in their presentation methods.
I chose this film at random and was very taken with the slick visuals to to display the features and quality of the vehicle. While most of the visual moves are directly from the play-book of television automotive advertising, it is noteworthy to see them applied to a single car. Continue reading “Innovation In Classic Car Sales”
A copy of Car, Nov. 1975 turned up on my floormat last week. I ordered it so as to read a Giant Test involving the Peugeot 604, the Jaguar XJ 3.4 and the BMW 528. The Peugeot and Jaguar trounced the 528 which lost points for its shabby handling, confined interior and wind-noise. Car concluded that in several areas including ride, roominess and comfort, the Peugeot had bested the Jaguar. Continue reading “The Peugeot 604 is 40 This Year, Part II”
The roll of call of great French cars is almost the same as the roll call of French cars that have failed to generate anything but legends of unreliability and weirdness in North America.
The DS, the SM, the 604, the Renault 5 (known as “Le Car”) and the Peugeot 405. Yes, French cars have not been a great success in North America but a dedicated group of automobile enthusiasts still have a fascination for them.
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.
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.
Last year, in Southern Germany, I came across an ‘Oldtimer Rally’ and I put a small gallery of photos up in December. There was a nice variety of cars, but what stood out for me was this little Moretti 750. Moretti was just one of a good number of small Italian manufacturers including Abarth, Stanguellini, Nardi and OSCA who produced small sports and racing cars in the post War period, and whose products are known, with affection and respect, as Etceterini.
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.
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”
This year, Bertone has joined the doleful list of recently deceased Italian styling houses, having held out against the inevitable longer than most. The quantity and quality of Bertone’s output had been in decline, particularly as commissions from major manufacturers began to dry up. The era of the great Italian styling houses is over and the centre of gravity has moved away from its traditional Italian heartland. Continue reading “Death of a Carrozzeria”
This is a rather absorbing article from the good people at the Truth About Cars. It discusses the Renault Espace’s life in Brazil.
“Originally conceived by Renault and its partner, Matra, the first Espace appeared in 1984 and was initially greeted with a combination of intrigue and scepticism – nothing like Espace had ever been seen before. Flying in the face of accepted wisdom, the Espace epitomised Renault’s desire to push the boundaries of conventional design and create a car which met the changing needs of a rapidly evolving society.” (Automobiles Review, 2009)
While reading about the Humber Super Snipe and its competitors I stumbled across this.
It’s a very nicely filmed piece about a Fiat 2300S and its owner, Pierantonio Micciarelli. I have to say that the man’s elegant dress sense made me yearn to be Italian. They do know how to choose their threads. But beyond that, this (for me) forgotten coupé is superbly presented and discussed with considerable fluency by the lucky fellow who is its custodian. This is another of those cars that evokes dusk drives around the Cap Ferrat.
Why I’d recommend : Motor Sport / The Automobile / The Rodder’s Journal / Classic & Sports Car
One particular magazine might use this title as a wishful strapline but, of course there is no universal World’s Best Car Magazine. If your taste ran to tits and tailpipes, then how can I argue that, for you, the late Max Power was not TWBCM? When, after loyal decades, I finally gave in and stopped my subscription to the magazine that styles itself thus, Car Magazine, I looked around for alternative places to spend my pocket money.
I had a ‘Ring obsession for a short while and trawled for various videos. There are the obvious ones that put you in awe of other’s skill, either flat out driving with Walter Rohl or the sight of Sabine Schmitz taking passengers round in the ‘Ring Taxi, chatting to them as though she’s on a country drive whilst effortlessly dispatching day-pass,would-be Ringmeisters. The nicest I found was an early morning video of an unidentified driver in an Elise, top down, no gloves, driving fast but flawlessly on a near empty track, the dew still drying off.
The most memorable of all, though, is this. Somewhere, we are assured that no-one was seriously injured, which I hope was the case, but is pretty miraculous. If anyone out there has ever wondered why it is so hard to find a nice Fiat 850 Sport these days, here is the answer. Cars have come a long way since then, thanks be.