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 Kris Kubrick’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.
Close your eyes and imagine a car designer who actually has something to say. Who doesn’t just repeat the marketing fluff as dictated by his employer’s PR people. Who understands that there’s a world beyond the automotive, and, simultaneously, a world the car, inadvertently or not, helps to shape. The man this is referring to is none other than one Christopher Edward Bangle. Continue reading “Eternal Flame Surfacing”
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”
Following our recent Benchmarks piece on the Renault 5, you are quite naturally burning to know more about this little French marvel.
Ever obliging, we offer this (not particularly short) film on the development and history of the Cinq. Made by Renault themselves, it’s a little hagiographic in parts, but an enjoyable (and informative) trawl nonetheless. Enjoy.
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.
The leading site for news of cars North Americans can’t buy if they live in North American is French Cars in America. The site carries articles about developments among the French marques plus pages on matters more historical. Ahead of PSA, FCIA gives the DS label its own site subdivision. The question about why French cars aren’t sold in N America is answered here.
Citroen’s withdrawal from the market is put down to the effects of the oil crisis in the 70s and the enactment of laws that illegalised key elements of Citroen’s designs. Renault (entangled with AMC) and Peugeot’s withdrawal in the 80s resulted from severe market conditions, some politics and probably poor product quality. Their more complex case is outlined rather better than I can summarise at FCIA so I suggest you click on the link.
Peugeot’s case is also explained here at Curbside Classics: “By the early ’90s, Peugeot was sinking steadily in the U.S. Despite the 405’s good looks and performance–particularly in the Mi16 version–there just weren’t many takers. In 1990, sales of 405s and 505s totalled a mere 4,261 vehicles. After an even more dismal 1991 output of 2,240 405s and 505 wagons (the 505 sedan was discontinued in the U.S. after 1990), the marque withdrew from North America in July 1991.” What a shame the 406 never made it to the US as that was a robust and comfortable car that could have competed well with the Accord and the Passat.
These days the technical and styling differences between US and European cars are much smaller than they were in the period when French cars began their withdrawal from the N American market. The essentially conservative German brands have thrived (Volkswagen lags there though) and American cars have always been sold in Europe though fully localised by GM and Ford.
The very American style of Cadillac has not been successful in Europe and the very European style of French car has not gone down well in N America. Part of this is due to form and appearance: Cadillacs are adapted to an environment of wide roads, cheaper fuel and a willingness of the customers to tolerate ostentation. French cars in their essence have majored on lightness and unusual engineering. The lightness (meaning a lack of robustness) has not suited the harsh road conditions of the US. The idiosyncratic engineering has not worn well with Americans who are, at heart, a pragmatic people.
While Ferrari’s cars are fragile and expensive, they have a market that can tolerate this whereas French cars lived at price points where mundane matters of economy mattered to their customers, even if they may have been better educated and better paid than average. Even with a professor’s salary, there are only so many trips to the mechanic that can be accepted.
Where are French cars in now in relation to the N American market? There are no firm plans for any of the three to re-enter the US and Canadian market. China and the developing world provide enough business for the firms to allow the tricky N American market to be left untried. Renault Canada is concerned with marketing rental cars for travellers to Europe. Peugeot Canada sells scooters. However, Renault does sell plenty of Nissans in the US so with that brand managing reasonably well, it would make no sense to try and add Renault’s range to the mix.
The best way to deal with the US market is to produce locally and as the French brands have had a rough time in the US, investing in factories as the Germans and Japanese have done is an expensive bet that would be best made with a track record of solid and steady sales. The French lost that foundation in the 60s, 70s and 80s and trying now would be a huge risk lasting decades.
We could also ask what the USP would be of PSA and Renault cars now that the engineering differences are so small between US and European cars. What would Renault bring to the US market that would tempt fickle American buyers? The same goes for Peugeot. Without a clear answer to this question, French cars will remain a special interest.
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.
They’re not like us – well, not much like us anyway
Sean’s fine piece on Denis Jenkinson earlier this week prompted this clip of rally legend, Ari Vatanen giving his co-driver an education in belief during stage 4 of the 1983 Manx Rally. Vatanen gets his Opel Manta 400’s tail wagging alarmingly on the narrow Isle of Man lanes prompting the now immortal exclamation from normally unflappable co-driver, Terry Harryman. (About 2 mins in, if you don’t want to watch the whole thing). Continue reading “Passengers: Testament of Faith”
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”
While looking for details of the Citroen XM, this site turned up the Thinker’s Garage which ponders “automotive history, design and culture”.
Among the recent topics are a look at Tatra, an overview of Chinese car brands and an essay about the Citroen XM. Fiat Chrysler is discussed and there is a nice feature on electric cars and how design and efficiency are related. Clearly the author, Andrew Marshall, takes the same kind of view of cars as we do at DTW.
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 post actually involves neither Ricardo Montalbán nor Benedict Cumberbatch.
Instead, this is about a video presenting one of the few genuinely decadent motor cars on sale today, the Rolls-Royce Wraith. Unlike certain motion picture formats concerning the automobile, this little film isn’t about a tarred-and-feathered Rolls-Royce that has to cross the Gobi desert before the egg on its motor block has been fried to a crisp. It simply tries to understand the appeal of the car in its most likely habitat. And appeal it does, in a sense I personally find somewhat perplexing in this day and age of oversaturation. Continue reading “The Wraith Of Khan”
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.
Why I’d recommend : Motor Sport / The Automobile / The Rodder’s Journal / Classic & Sports Car
One particular magazine might use this title this 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 Water 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.