Irreconcilable Differences (Part One)

Like so many ill-considered marriages, GM’s entanglement with Saab was destined to end badly. We look back over this unhappy union.

(c) petrolicious

Throughout the late 1980’s and 1990’s, GM looked on enviously as its arch-rival Ford carefully and methodically assembled the pieces of what would become its Premier Automotive Group* (PAG), a stable of European premium, sports and luxury car marques to which it would add its own Lincoln and Mercury brands.

Ford began by acquiring an interest in Aston Martin in 1987, then assuming full control in 1991. It purchased Jaguar in 1989, followed by Volvo’s car business a decade later. In 2000, Ford acquired Land-Rover from the wreckage of BMW’s failed ownership of Rover Group, which it folded into the newly formed PAG.

The latter acquisition was particularly painful for GM because, in March 1986, it had agreed the purchase of Land-Rover, then part of the nationalised British Leyland, from the UK government before a public outcry and political pressure forced Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to Continue reading “Irreconcilable Differences (Part One)”

Mother of Invention

Making a little go that bit further. 

(c) drivezing

Throughout the 1960s, US carmakers enjoyed unprecedented prosperity, with a buoyant domestic market, cheap, plentiful fuel and a customer base who had wholeheartedly bought into the concept of plenty – at a superficial level at least. Because beneath the giddy headline figures, sales of imported cars were giving the movers and shakers of Detroit serious pause.

The encroach of smaller, more fuel-efficient models, notably Volkswagen’s cult-car Beetle, prompted American carmakers to Continue reading “Mother of Invention”

A Photo for Sunday: 1986 Porsche 928 S2

It was the future, once.

All images courtesy of the author

The rural East Anglian market town my partner and I call home has many fine qualities, but it is emphatically not a nirvana for car spotters. Suffolk and Norfolk people have mainly conservative tastes in matters automotive and even our most affluent neighbours tend to Continue reading “A Photo for Sunday: 1986 Porsche 928 S2”

Fontana a Tre Vie

Lancia’s idiosyncratic Beta Tre Volumi turns 40.

Image: Ran When Parked
Image: (c) Ran When Parked

This article first appeared on 3 February 2017.

The Lancia Trevi is an unusual car, not simply because it was and remains an intriguing one to behold. For one thing it may well be the only car that began life as a fastback saloon (with a separate boot compartment), and ended it as a three-volume version. There have been innumerable saloon from hatchback conversions (and vice-versa), but a saloon from a saloon?

It’s clear that the Trevi was a stopgap. By right, Lancia should have readied an all-new replacement by then, but that failed to materialise. Of course lengthy production runs were by no means unusual either for Lancia or within the sprawling Fiat Auto grouping they had become an unwilling hostage to. Couple this with a crisis both of confidence and managerial competence which afflicted the entire Fiat Auto group in the wake of the 1973 oil embargo, to say nothing of Fiat’s inability to Continue reading “Fontana a Tre Vie”

Bland Recipe? Add E-621

A late evening encounter with a synthesized Audi crossover got our Sheffield operative thinking about additives. 

ebay.com

Mono Sodium Glutamate, or MSG was invented back in 1908 by a Japanese chemist named Kikunae Ikeda who was searching for a food additive he named umami which is given as “neither sweet, nor salty, bitter or sour” and was marketed by the fledgling Suzuki company, though under the brand name Aji-no-moto, itself a part of Suzuki pharmaceuticals. Its European name is E-621. Do Suzuki make a car with that code name in Japan?

In the halcyon pre-Covid past, a night out at a local Latin American restaurant, where the tapas was tasty, the cigars and rum both plentiful and expensive (neither sampled) and the beats both seductive and loud, led to a rather unexpected (and frustrating) conversation regarding car design with my better half. Well kind of. The rum and ‘gars must Continue reading “Bland Recipe? Add E-621”

A Promise Fulfilled (Part Two)

Concluding our retrospective on a car that went from cynical marketing exercise to icon for a generation of drivers.

Capri II (c) speeddoctor

The Mk2 Capri was launched in February 1974. In the immediate aftermath of the Oil Crisis and quadrupling of OPEC oil prices, Ford seemed to have suffered some loss of nerve and decided to make the new model rather more practical and less overtly sporting than the Mk1. The bonnet was shorter, the interior enlarged, with a hatchback and folding rear seats instead of a separate boot. The emphasis seemed to have changed to Continue reading “A Promise Fulfilled (Part Two)”

Limiting Screentime

Good news for a change. Honda is switching back to rotary dials, Autocar reports.

2020 Honda Jazz, with added rotaries. (c) Autocar

It has been something of a Driven to Write hobbyhorse to not merely bemoan, but berate carmakers about the dereliction of responsibility they have for the people who variously operate their products. I speak of the wholesale refutation of years of ergonomic and haptic research into the user-functionality within vehicle cabins by the adoption of touch-screen interfaces.

There is little doubt (and even less evidence to the contrary) that the widespread and still-growing use of touchscreens is occurring primarily due to matters of fashion and cost – it now being both cheaper and easier to Continue reading “Limiting Screentime”

Let’s Make A Cake, Let’s Bake Some Bread

UMM mde these from 1977 to 1984. It’s a 4×4 vehicle with a Peugeot diesel engine and gearbox. Production started in France and moved to Portugal in 1979

UMM 4×4, Lisbon

There is not a lot out there about these vehicles and the pictures say the most. What I will do instead is take this as a chance to Continue reading “Let’s Make A Cake, Let’s Bake Some Bread”

A Promise Fulfilled (Part One)

A retrospective on a car that went from cynical marketing exercise to icon for a generation of drivers.

(c) avengers-in-time

That Ford chose to produce the Capri was as logical as night following day.  The US Ford Mustang, launched five years earlier and, like the Capri, based largely on a humble sedan (the Falcon), had been a huge sales success. Ford had expected to shift around 100,000 Mustangs annually, but 400,000 were sold in its first year and a further 600,000 in its second year of production.  Little wonder that, on seeing these numbers, Ford Europe decided to Continue reading “A Promise Fulfilled (Part One)”

A Photo For Sunday: 1988 Volvo 240 GL Estate

The ever-popular PFS returns with a perennial favourite of DTW, the 240 GL, as seen yesterday.

There’s a potentially vivid discussion waiting to be kicked off with this image. Or two. Without any shadow of a doubt one can Continue reading “A Photo For Sunday: 1988 Volvo 240 GL Estate”

After The Middle The Pace Speeds Up

The sunlight really helped in this instance. The car shone out. Modern vehicles mostly don’t come in colours like this. So even from 800 metres I could tell this was very likely worth a closer inspection.

1976-1982 Audi 100 (C2)

The Audi is parked so close to the wall that you can’t see the badges – or, you couldn’t if they were there. By the time I got back with my camera the light had changed so I could not snap the car from the best view with the best light. However, art is often about rules and what are rules but limitations. It makes things interesting when you have requirements to satisfy. Such binding of the hands actually really helps one Continue reading “After The Middle The Pace Speeds Up”

Gorden? Nein, Dieter!

An old friend reappears. Well, of sorts…

Image: Mercedes-Benz

Hi there. The name’s Dieter Ogley. Born in Heidelberg, well, just outside at Boxberg but raised in Barnsley, South Yorkshire from the age of twelve. My mother was a nurse at the local hospital, whereas my dad was a mining engineer who was offered a job in the then thriving coal business in Barnsley.

This meant leaving our German roots and coming over to England, since the job offered dad a whole new world underground to explore. But then the big strike happened and the work dried up. Mining became a forgotten venture; it still occurred but with only so many jobs to go round, it was hard to Continue reading “Gorden? Nein, Dieter!”

The Aurelian Way

The Lancista’s Lancia turns 70. 

1950 Lancia Aurelia B10 -(c) carstylecritic

If one was to carry out a poll amongst Lanciaphiles as to the quintessential model in the storied marque’s history, there is likely to be a certain amount of heated debate. While some might cleave to the innovative and undoubtedly influential Lambda of 1922, it’s probably more likely the Aurelia would garner the majority vote.

Borgo San Paolo’s 1950 entrant was Lancia’s first genuinely new product of the post-hostility period, replacing the emblematic Aprilia, which ceased production the previous year; the latter model itself a ground breaker in design terms mating fully independent suspension, a narrow-angle V4 engine and pillarless construction within an aerodynamically streamlined, stressed bodyshell.

The Aurelia was intended as a larger, more refined car, aimed at the affluent owner-driver. Italy was for the most part impoverished and war-torn from years of conflict by the close of the 1940s, with large swathes of the population who could only dream of car ownership, but there remained a base of professionals, wealthy industrialists and titled nobility who could Continue reading “The Aurelian Way”

One At A Time The Days Arrived And Never Departed

Just the other day I was thinking about grilles (front grilles, of course). Today I ask you again to consider the Jaguar XJ-S, that famously endearing monster.

Jaguar XJ-S. A likeable mess.

Of course the car is not just viewed from the front. From other views the effect vanishes and you notice the plan curvature and also the way the central bonnet edge is set below the level of the lamps. But let’s Continue reading “One At A Time The Days Arrived And Never Departed”

The Fate of Empires and Search For Survival (Part Five)

Daniel O’Callaghan’s digest of Bob Lutz’s 2011 book, ‘Car Guys vs Bean Counters’. In this concluding part, GM hits the buffers and goes cap in hand to the US Government.

(c) leblogauto

At the start of 2008, the outlook appeared quite promising for GM. Its more recent models had been well received and the company had won North American Car of the Year for 2007 and 2008 with the Saturn Aura and Chevrolet Malibu. The company had agreed with the UAW a new wage deal and a plan to move the worker healthcare liabilities off the GM balance sheet and into a new fund that GM would set up, but would Continue reading “The Fate of Empires and Search For Survival (Part Five)”

The Storms Of Swanlinbar

This DS flagship is aimed at the Audi A4. At this rate, DS will be offering C-D class cars to compete with Audi’s A2 and BMWs 2-series.

DS 9. Worth an Audi A4, apparently. Source: Autocar.

DS are saying that “prestige” will have been reached when the DS9 can compete with not the A6, E-Class or 5-series but the Audi A4. That is quite a marked drop in expectations, n’est ce pas? If we are prepared to take it upon ourselves to gather all our strength and try honestly to Continue reading “The Storms Of Swanlinbar”

Icing the Cherry

50 years old this year, the Datsun 100A takes a bow.

(c) zonedatsun.fr

Here on the pages of Driven to Write, we have spent a good deal of the recent past discussing aspects of the Toyota marque and its associated brands. Not so however with regard to its once great rival and commercial antagonist, Nissan.

Upon its introduction to European (and US) shores, Nissan cars were sold under the Datsun brand name, for reasons which aren’t entirely clear, but probably pertain to marketing considerations. For Datsun, then an almost entirely unknown brand, their breakthrough motor car arrived in the envelope of the 100A Cherry, a compact front-wheel-drive supermini.

It’s probably fair to Continue reading “Icing the Cherry”

Game Changer

From humble and unlikely beginnings, the Audi Quattro would permanently redefine its maker’s image. Daniel O’Callaghan looks back on the development and influence of this seminal model in the company’s history.

1980 Audi Quattro. (c) weilinet

The Audi Quattro owes its existence to the German Army’s urgent need in the late-1970’s to replace its aged DKW Munga four-wheel-drive light utility vehicles with a more modern successor. The Munga had ceased production in 1968 and its outdated two-stroke engined design was overdue for replacement. Its intended successor was the Europa Jeep, a joint-venture project involving a number of European governments that had been in development for a decade before finally collapsing acrimoniously in 1979.

Anticipating this outcome, the German Army instead invited domestic automobile manufacturers to design a replacement for the Munga.  Volkswagen passed the project to Audi, who had access to the Munga’s technology and patents via the Auto Union partnership, so was able quickly to Continue reading “Game Changer”

All the Ways We Sang, All the Songs We Went

A random glance at a Mazda Demio made me think again about grilles and the way designers deal with that hole in the front of the car.

wikipedia.org
(c) wikipedia.org

The subject unfolds as a matter of design semantics. That means more or less we are concerned with the meaning of the air intake and its expression. This Demio (above) is a bit fancier than the one I saw in my district but it is geometrically the same. The approach was to use an “egg-box” in-fill and to use a U-shaped plastic trim piece to enable them to Continue reading “All the Ways We Sang, All the Songs We Went”

The Beast

Our Sheffield correspondent encounters a Cullinan. 

One of RR’s better efforts. (c) Rolls-Royce.com

Sheffield is a city synonymous for not only making but also the shaping of steel. Construction and heavy industry to more specific, not to mention artisanal variations such as myriad uses in the cutlery, aero and medical fields. Some of that steel ends up in the carmaking business. Sadly, some too resides within men’s hearts.

The site of our local retail park was once Fox steel works of Stocksbridge, providing employment for the whole town at one point, making the steel and wire for umbrellas. When the 1980s recession hit, the steel ceased flowing and a dilapidated site remained for years. That is until the supermarkets began to take over land purchases from house builders, before even those plans went west. This left a cleared area but nothing to build. Until Mark Dransfield and his property investment business arrived to Continue reading “The Beast”

The Fate of Empires and Search For Survival (Part Four)

Daniel O’Callaghan continues his digest of Bob Lutz’s 2011 book, ‘Car Guys vs Bean Counters’, examining GM’s latterday approach to alternative propulsion.

1996 GM EV1. Image: oldcarbrochures

GM’s expansion to become a global company had largely been built on acquisitions: Opel and Vauxhall in Europe, Holden in Australia and Daewoo’s automotive business in South Korea. These companies continued to operate with a high degree of autonomy in product design and engineering. It was argued that this enabled the companies to Continue reading “The Fate of Empires and Search For Survival (Part Four)”

Over the Rainbow

The Renault 9 was considered blandness personified. But not all the design proposals were. 

1981 Renault 9. saripahmunaek.blogspot.com

Occasionally, when one is presented with a rejected concept for a well-known car design, one experiences a frisson of regret, a sharp sense of opportunity missed. More often however, one is reminded of the essential rightness of the production concept chosen. But once in a while, one finds oneself staring in disbelief, wondering what were they thinking? But let’s not Continue reading “Over the Rainbow”

Take Five

Remembering a memorable Renault.

(c) stubs-auto-fr

In 1976, Renault introduced the 5 GTL, a version of France’s best seller which was intended to appeal to more economy-conscious customers. Powered by a detuned version of the 5 TS’ 1289 cc engine, it was a low-revving, relatively unstressed power unit, aimed at reducing fuel consumption – in a rudimentary manner perhaps, predating BMW’s more elaborate attempts at achieving a similar goal with their ETA engine programme the following decade.

At the time at least, it went against the orthodoxy of using a smaller capacity engine to Continue reading “Take Five”

H.E.L.P. I’m A Toyota, Get Me Outta Here!

It’s the Toyota reality show, folks! 

toyota-hi-lux
(c) Toyota.global.com

Having originated with the production of looms, the Toyota motor company have since made significant inroads into driving the world. While Germany may be the car’s father, its mother French, to say nothing of its American cousin who made it larger than life, we must look East for precision and calculation. And a nice slice of toast. Good: on with the show.

The H from the above title refers to Hilux, that simple derivation of High and Luxury which has gone on to be a worldwide success story. Now onto its 8th generation and upwards of seventeen million sold since its 1968 inception – beloved by farmer, builder, explorer, desert racer. More commonly today with the office worker.

Keen to Continue reading “H.E.L.P. I’m A Toyota, Get Me Outta Here!”

Roll of Shame

Some crashes have potentially disastrous consequences, and not just for flesh, blood, glass and metal.

Flippin’ Elk, it’s a roll-over! (c) motorpasión.com

The first-generation Mercedes-Benz (W168) A-Class was one of the most radical, bold and innovative designs in the company’s history. It was not only the company’s first transverse-engined FWD production car, but featured an innovative sandwich double-floor structure and an unusually tall but short body that was designed to provide greater than C-Segment passenger accommodation within a footprint no larger than that of a B-Segment supermini. The engine and transmission were engineered in such a way that, in the event of a heavy frontal impact, they would Continue reading “Roll of Shame”

Der Lebensretter

Thousands of motorists owe their lives to one man’s quest to design safer motor cars. We pay tribute to a engineering pioneer. 

Béla Barényi. (c) Mercedes-Benz

The Mercedes-Benz legend was built on principles of engineering excellence; its reputation founded upon the work of legendary engineers, names which include Fritz Nallinger, Josef Müller and Rudolph Uhlenhaut. However, there is another name – one to whom every motorist ought perhaps to say a silent prayer of thanks – that of Béla Viktor Karl Barényi, engineer, inventor, known to some as the lifesaver. Over a lengthy career, primarily at Mercedes-Benz, his innovations led to more than 2500 patents, some of which have gone on to save countless thousands of lives.

Born in Hirtenberg near Vienna in March 1907 to one of Austria’s wealthiest families, Béla Barényi grew up amid the dawn of the motor car. Automobiles were a part of his life from an early age, his family owning an Austro-Daimler, which he is said to have adored. But fate and geopolitics would change his life dramatically, the combination of the Great War (in which his father was killed) and the ensuing depression which saw his family’s fortune dwindle, meant he was forced to Continue reading “Der Lebensretter”

The Fate of Empires and Search For Survival (Part Three)

Daniel O’Callaghan continues his digest of Bob Lutz’s 2011 book, ‘Car Guys vs Bean Counters’, charting the decline of GM and Lutz’s decade-long struggle to rescue it.

2000 Chevrolet Malibu. (c) Edmunds

Even before officially starting work at GM on 1st September 2001, Lutz had the opportunity to preview GM’s forthcoming models. He attended the company’s August board meeting and met Wayne Cherry, GM’s Vice-President of Design, at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance event the same month. Cherry shared with him photos of models in different stages of development and Lutz was horrified by what he saw. 

Amazingly, Cherry admitted to feeling the same and explained that, despite his nominal position, he was subordinate to the Vehicle Line Executives (VLEs), who oversaw every aspect of each new model’s development. Their explicit priority was to Continue reading “The Fate of Empires and Search For Survival (Part Three)”

Farce Majeure

History repeats, first as tragedy, then as farce. 

(c) motorauthority

In a week where the massed ranks of the world’s motor business and the press pack who report upon them were to have crammed themselves into three preview days at Geneva’s Palexpo, they have instead been required to Continue reading “Farce Majeure”

Roll of Honour

Not all motor crashes end badly. How the R129 Mercedes-Benz SL was tested to destruction and passed with honours.

(c) Car Magazine

In a recent piece on the R129 generation Mercedes-Benz SL, reference was made to a dramatic incident that occurred at the car’s launch event at the Estoril racing circuit on the Portuguese Riviera. Car Magazine’s Ian Fraser was present at the launch and the following is taken from his account, published in the August 1989 edition of the magazine.

When Fraser arrived at the Estoril circuit, there was little evidence of the dramatic incident that had taken place earlier, apart from some tell-tale gouges in the surface of the tarmac. The Mercedes-Benz 500SL involved in the incident had been hidden from public view in a pit lock-up garage. The two journalists who were driver and passenger in the car had retreated to the bar for a stiff drink to calm their shredded nerves, the driver crying uncontrollably for a couple of hours. Continue reading “Roll of Honour”

Maranello Model Mystery

An interest in automotive design history can result in a fair bit of detective work, and occasionally, a surprise ending.

Ferrari 412i. (c) autoevolution

For three years, all the money in the world wouldn’t buy you a brand new Ferrari Gran Turismo. It may appear almost impossible to imagine from today’s perspective, but Maranello’s premier car maker wasn’t always the money printing machine it is nowadays, which would historically entail the odd glitch and hiccup in terms of production planning.

It was for this reason that certain models would outstay their welcome on a somewhat regular basis. But not offering a mainstay product for several years appeared very odd indeed, even before Ferrari evolved from being the maker of enthusiast’s cars to the status of luxury goods purveyors.

From 1989, when production of the long-serving 412i four-seater model finally ceased, until 1992, the year the 456 GT successor was unveiled, anyone looking for a Ferrari that could accommodate not just driver plus wife/mistress, but also the dog and/or kids, would need to go for the unloved Mondial. If this kind of customer was hellbent on a V12 engine under the bonnet, he’d have to Continue reading “Maranello Model Mystery”

The Persian Bodyswappers

Novels such as ‘Vice Versa’ and ‘Freaky Friday’ have inspired a long list of films about body swapping, but in the rare cases the automobile industry has resorted to the practice, it hasn’t exactly resulted in any award-winning performances.

(c) Pedal.ir/Flickr/Gomotors.net/Pakwheels.com

Since the Ayatollahs assumed power, Iran’s relationship with Western nations has been complicated. This has not stopped the country from developing a thriving automobile industry however – after oil and gas it is the third in economic importance – and to achieve licensing deals with a number of major car manufacturers such as Peugeot, Citroën, Renault, Nissan, KIA, Chevrolet and Cadillac. In some cases, this has lead to results that can only be described as bizarre. Continue reading “The Persian Bodyswappers”

Got The Car? Get The Yacht

Captain, set sail for Lucrative Waters.

All images : (c) media.lexus.co.uk

Once Toyota had fixed their new sales horizon firmly upon the United States, there were bound to be some noses put out of joint. More tellingly, there were plenty of takers. Thirty years ago, the LS400 won over the hearts of wealthy Americans along with those seeking a more quality feel to what was otherwise being offered. The recipe was surprisingly simple. High-end engineering, longevity and product quality, be nice to customers at service or repair time. Ford and GM must have been on vacation.

Gaining that foothold in a predominantly stateside motoring landscape, with the Europeans snapping at the ankles, Lexus were refreshingly bold. Sales rattled up, announcing a sea change to the perceived automotive aristocracy. And that pitch continues today with ever more resonance: the vehicles have changed but not the philosophy. 

Well, not quite, because while Lexus see themselves as purveyors of quality, luxurious transport these days, they no longer confine themselves to the tarmac roads. Anyone with the means can park their delightful Garnet Red LS, with added kiriko glass embellishments, at the golf course, gun club or shopping mall. But surely better to Continue reading “Got The Car? Get The Yacht”

Such A Small Love

A Minor Matter. First-hand experience of Issi’s magnum opus. 

(c) The author

For reasons which were for the most part, monetary in nature, I have found myself being the final owner of a number of cars which have entered my care. This is not a particularly comfortable realisation, and might lead the casual observer to a misapprehension that I have not been the most careful of keepers, a matter I would take issue with. In truth a good many of these vehicles were far from their first flush of youth by the time they entered my sphere of influence and try as I might, I fought an often losing battle to Continue reading “Such A Small Love”

Ritorno al Futuro

At long last, Pininfarina has a new Chief Creative Officer.

Kevin Rice. (c) autodesignmagazine

The last ten months must have been a rather tumultuous period for those working at Pininfarina’s headquarters in Cambiano. First there were rumours of a fierce conflict with erstwhile loyal customer, Ferrari, over the design of Automobili Pininfarina’s Battista EV hyper car, in the wake of its unveiling at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show.  This was shortly followed by a facelift of Battista’s front end.

Much of the blame for these costly, distracting shenanigans was put at the feet of Pininfarina chief designer, Carlo Bonzanigo, who wasn’t seen or heard in public for months, until his resignation ‘for personal reasons‘ was unceremoniously announced in September. Since then, the post of chief designer has remained vacant. Not anymore however, as Kevin Rice has just been announced as Bonzanigo’s successor. Continue reading “Ritorno al Futuro”

Dawn of the Iconoclast (Part two)

We return to the conclusion of DTW’s exploration of the 1959 Mini and its enigmatic creator.

ADO15 prototypes in 1958, with Issigonis’ preferred frontal treatment. (c) imcdb.org

Leaving to one side matters of the ADO15 programme’s viability, or the product planning skills of BMC’s chief executive, there is also the matter of the subsequent account given by Issigonis when he informed Sir Leonard in no uncertain terms that “he was mad” to build the car on the basis of the prototype he had demonstrated. However, given that Alec, (like most people) was somewhat in awe of BMC’s kingpin, it’s difficult to take him entirely at his word. Furthermore, Issigonis’ secrecy, single-mindedness and formidable ego would likely ensure nobody else got their hands on his baby. He is also believed to have doggedly refused to Continue reading “Dawn of the Iconoclast (Part two)”

The Fate of Empires and Search For Survival (Part One)

An industry insider’s account of the decline of General Motors and his struggle to revive its fortunes.

(c) iveho.com

In the last quarter of the 20th Century, General Motors went from being one of the most highly respected and successful US corporations to the butt of stand-up comedians’ jokes. In his 2011 book, Car Guys vs Bean Counters, Robert A (Bob) Lutz charts the decline of the once great company and describes his decade-long struggle to rescue it. What follows is a digest of that book, supplemented with additional information where appropriate.

Bob Lutz would, I’m sure, proudly describe himself as a Car Guy to his core. In this, his second book, Lutz describes his efforts to Continue reading “The Fate of Empires and Search For Survival (Part One)”

Dawn of the Iconoclast (Part one)

The Mini is one of the most ingenious, most innovative cars ever, but is also one of the most maddeningly inconsistent. In this two-part essay, DTW considers both icon and author.

(c) pinterest

The problem with icons is that often their venerated position can act as a shield against scrutiny, an insuperable barrier to unsentimental analysis or critique. How after all does one approach one of the most significant motorcars of all time objectively, without skirting the boundaries of iconoclasm?

Because to look at the Mini through one narrow prism is to Continue reading “Dawn of the Iconoclast (Part one)”

Our MINI Adventure (Part Two)

Daniel O’Callaghan concludes his running report on his partner’s 2014 MINI with an assessment of its dynamics, its ergonomics and his conclusions.

Image : The Author

The driving experience and refinement is where the third-generation new MINI really distinguishes itself positively from its fun but flawed predecessors. It has a nice turn of speed, 0-62mph in 7.8 seconds, which is 0.1 seconds quicker than the manual, and a claimed (but untested!) top speed of 130mph.

The torque-converter automatic gearbox is very smooth, kicks down readily and has a manual override if wanted, which we’ve never used. This gearbox has now been superseded by a dual-clutch unit. The three-cylinder 1.5 litre turbocharged engine pulls strongly and has a nice, gruff engine note. Continue reading “Our MINI Adventure (Part Two)”

Our MINI Adventure (Part One)

Daniel O’Callaghan reports on life with a MINI.

All images : The author

In my recent review of MINI over twenty years of BMW ownership, I declared an interest in the shape of a MINI Cooper three-door Hatch, jointly owned with my partner, Murray, who is its main driver. I promised a long-term report on the car, and here it is.

We had owned a 2005 Skoda Fabia for nine years and 55k miles from new, which had served us very well as a runabout and carry-all. We wanted to replace it with something more fun and engaging to drive. It had to be an automatic, as Murray learned to drive in the USA and his UK licence still carries that restriction.

By coincidence, I was aware that MINI was soon to Continue reading “Our MINI Adventure (Part One)”

Dreams Made Flesh

“The stuff of which dreams are made”, said the advertising copy in 2010. Ten years on, is the dream over for Alfa Romeo’s Giulietta?

(c) Alfa Romeo Press

Some matters in life are immutable. The changing of the seasons, Elon Musk’s twitter-happy thumbs, General Motors in retrenchment, Alfa Romeo in crisis. Because in an automotive landscape where virtually every once-certain nostrum seems on the cusp of being upended, the embattled Italian heritage brand nowadays appears an almost reassuring presence as it continues to tear at its own hem.

Certainly, that time-worn cliché suggesting that the darkest hour is just before dawn holds little succour for the Biscione of Milan, given that for Alfa Romeo, dawns have been about as frequent as they have been false. But even taking all this into account, the screw appears to be taking a further turn.

Last week, a number of news outlets reported that having already seriously scaled back production of the Giulietta hatchback at FCA’s Cassino plant, the decision has been taken to Continue reading “Dreams Made Flesh”

Satellite’s gone – Holden 1948-2020

The announcement of Holden’s retirement on February 17 should have come as no surprise, but the finality and totality of General Motors’ exit from Australia and New Zealand has made worldwide headlines.

Image: ANCAP

As of January 1 2021 GM will withdraw from the Australian and New Zealand markets, even as an importer. They will meet their statutory obligations on service and parts supports and recalls.

For more details, the official announcement can be found here: https://www.holden.com.au/announcement

It’s a rapid decline to oblivion, given that car production only ended at Elizabeth, South Australia in October 2017. However, the sales numbers tell it all; tenth place in the sales charts, 43,176 vehicles sold in Australia in 2019, a fall of 28.9% over the previous year.

Adding in the 11,245 New Zealand registrations, total 2019 sales come to 0.93 White Hens, to Continue reading “Satellite’s gone – Holden 1948-2020”

Mad For It

More MINI-based shinanigans. With added Gallagher brother-based goodness.

(c) wheelsage

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.

Yes, I’ll admit, it’s probably a little mannered, and I’m not sure I’d necessarily Continue reading “Mad For It”

Have You Got The Time?

Returning to our Toyota/Lexus micro-theme, Andrew Miles takes a detailed look a the art of craftsmanship.

(c) Lexus.blog.com

Takumi is not a job description, nor a role you can apply for. Takumi is a state of mind, a calling, an undeniable load and bearing on your whole existence. Takumi is not for those faint of heart. 

Artisans by their very nature have dedication, but those who Continue reading “Have You Got The Time?”

Die BMW Dit Was Nie’n BMW*

We all know our BMWs, don’t we? 

(c) 3bp blogspot com

This car, especially from the angle shown above, looks at first glance to be an ‘E3’ BMW 2500-3.3Li, but is nothing of the sort. In fact, it did not even start life as a BMW. In the mid-60s, Praetor Monteerders, the South African BMW importer – was in discussions with Munich, the aim being to be allowed to Continue reading “Die BMW Dit Was Nie’n BMW*”

Quiet Confidence

Profiling the R129 Mercedes SL – the silent sportscar.

(c) zombdrive

There is little question that successive generations of Mercedes-Benz SL would never have come into being without the patronage of the more affluent and socially aspirant United States car buyer. After all, there simply wasn’t a sufficient market for such wilfully indulgent fare in the old world – nor available spaces one imagines on the car-train to Sylt. Also beyond doubt is that by the close of the 1980s, the SL had become the automotive marker of choice for those who really wished to Continue reading “Quiet Confidence”

BMW’s MINI Misadventure (Part Two)

Concluding our retrospective on the difficult birth and growing pains of BMW’s precocious but troubled child.

(c) Miniofwestchester

In Part One we covered the evolution of MINI from its birth in 2000 to 2013. Today we continue the story, examine the company’s current state and imagine its future in the years ahead.

Late 2013 saw the launch of the F56 generation Hatch. Unlike its predecessors, this one was all BMW’s own work, hence the BMW, rather than Rover, model code. It is based on the BMW UKL1 platform, a larger derivative of which, the UKL2, now underpins MINI’s Clubman and Countryman as well as all BMW’s own smaller front and four-wheel drive models. The F56 MINI grew significantly in an effort to Continue reading “BMW’s MINI Misadventure (Part Two)”

Born of Frustration

The creative apex of Toyota and Lexus’ latterday ambitions – we examine the LF-A’s backstory.

The LF-A at home on the track – but presumably out of petrol. (c) Media.lexus.co.uk

With Lexus celebrating thirty years of production (though only fifteen in Japan, where until 2004 they were still Toyota) the Japanese firm are keen to share some of their three decades of stories. They are to be congratulated on their openness. Exactly five hundred Lexus LF-A’s were made over a two year period which equates to one built per day after holidays. By hand too I might add, no production line for this exclusive halo-car. As to their cost… we’ll come back to that shortly.

The Lexus Fuji-Apex was a true supercar from every conceivable angle but the car’s birth proved difficult. In fact for its short life, drama and tragedy clung to the cars flanks, fortunately bowing out on a high, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s Continue reading “Born of Frustration”

BMW’s MINI Misadventure (Part One)

A retrospective on the difficult birth and growing pains of BMW’s precocious but troubled child.

This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the launch of the first BMW-era MINI, so it’s an appropriate time to look back over the company’s highs and lows, and to imagine how it might evolve in years to come.

The circumstances that led to BMW’s outright ownership of MINI were, to say the least, rather controversial. After struggling for six years to Continue reading “BMW’s MINI Misadventure (Part One)”

Relative Values

Rover’s great aunt marks her 70th. Time to pay our respects.

(c) classics-honestjohn

Reputation can be make or break. Whether it be gained through dynamic prowess, stylistic excellence, or for other, more negative traits, once it has been established, there is little chance of a well orchestrated perception being altered. Certainly by the time production finally ceased, the image of the Rover P4 as stuffy, outdated and overtly conservative had been broadly codified in the consciousness of the press and thereby the public. But it wasn’t always thus.

By the outbreak of the second world war, the Rover motor company was established as the purveyor of finely engineered, upmarket driver’s cars of quality and bearing, favoured by the establishment and by what might have been termed, the professional classes. Dignified, conservative, but by the time hostilities had ceased, somewhat old-fashioned in design and execution.

Like everyone else, Rover’s senior management, led by the Wilks brothers (Maurice and Spencer), were keen to Continue reading “Relative Values”

10, 8, 6… (Part Two)

Let’s wind the clock back to see some thoughts on the SC from our recent history.

(c) Lexus

The RAC in 2008 said the car was “too soft for Europe” in both style and set up. Honest John (no date specified) thought red best to show off the shapely curves, whereas What Car? opined that non-metallic colours were less desirable, avoid red like the plague and choose black. Ok…

Parker’s have their Pro’s and Con’s section right at the top. Clear and concise, splendid. Pro’s: “Superbly built and reliable, excellent refinement and smooth V8“. Con”s: “Ugly (don’t Continue reading “10, 8, 6… (Part Two)”