Tilting the Scales : (2)

As the crisis-torn Lybra programme came under microscopic scrutiny, longstanding Lancia engineer Bruno Cena took responsibility for its salvation. 

(c) bozhdynsky

Cena, a talented engineer who came to mainstream attention for his work on the dynamic setup of the Alfa Romeo 156, was a self-described ‘Uomo Lancia’ from way back. Joining Fiat in the early 1970s, he had moved to Lancia in 1978, working under Ing. Camuffo on the initial stages of the Type Four project.

Appointed head of four-wheel drive development for the marque in 1984, he was promoted to head of Lancia development two years later, and given responsibility for vehicle testing across Fiat, Lancia and Alfa Romeo in 1991. In October 1996, he was made Fiat Auto’s ‘D-platform’ director – just in time to Continue reading “Tilting the Scales : (2)”

Škoda by Stefani

Former Škoda designer, Jozef Kabaň has been in the news of late, but what of his successor at Mladá Boleslav?

The man himself – twice. (c) Škoda-storyboard.com

It’s two years since Jozef Kabaň left Škoda to be subsumed into the shadows at Rolls Royce (will we see or hear from him again? Well, yes as he’s now back with VW…) leaving the gap to be filled by German-born Oliver Stefani. In that time, he’s had plenty to get stuck into, Škoda Auto A.S. becoming rather prolific in pumping out model after model and whilst Kabaň’s input is obviously still there, Stefani’s style is now beginning to Continue reading “Škoda by Stefani”

Tilting the Scales : (1)

Fables of the reconstruction: Another inglorious tale of Lancia.

(c) autodata1

It would hardly be inaccurate to suggest that under Fiat Auto’s purview, Lancia was never Job #1. In fact, it has been an awfully long time since the presence of Lancia earned more than a grudging acknowledgment and a, “Huh, is that still around?” grimace from Elkann’s crew. Would that we knew it at the time, but the restructuring of the marque’s residual engineering independence into the Fiat Group morass towards the end of the 1980s was, in hindsight, the harbinger for the extinguishing of Lancia’s brief revival in the ‘executive set’ ranks under Fiat ownership.

Certainly, within a decade, matters had reversed dramatically, Lancia’s record levels of production at the beginning of the nineties an already-distant memory. With sales of its larger models having almost entirely collapsed outside its native Italy, the brand was carried then – as now – by the indefatigable Y. Continue reading “Tilting the Scales : (1)”

A Ship Called Dignity

Pride cometh before a fall. 

Proudia to meet you. Hope you guessed my name. (c) wheelsage

In more innocent times when Lexus was but a glint in the Toyota board’s eye, our collective impression of full-sized Japanese luxury saloons probably looked something a good deal more like this. Not precisely of course, since this particular duo debuted a full decade after Toyota’s creative moonshot, but Mitsubishi’s 1999 flagship was both in name and appearance very much JDM plutocratic business as usual.

As such, European (or American for that matter) nostrums of luxury to say nothing of prestige car semantics were quite obviously deemed not only unnecessary, but inappropriate. Sober and imposing was what the domestic market expected and in both Proudia and Dignity models, sobriety and imposition was what they got. Continue reading “A Ship Called Dignity”

State of Independence

We return to Utah, examining its third significant iteration.

(c) Jaglovers

Right up to the late 1960s, Jaguar product planning operated very much on the whim of what its founder considered necessary. Constantly seeking a competitive advantage, Lyons would latch onto an engineering or stylistic innovation and would not be satisfied until it was brought to fruition. Needless to say, this caused no end of headaches for the engineers and technicians tasked with making them a reality.

Legend has it that in 1957, Sir William, making his daily rounds of the factory, arrived at Bob Knight’s small office in experimental. In passing, he shares his view that Jaguar ought to develop an independent rear suspension and asks Mr Knight how long it would take to Continue reading “State of Independence”

He’s Behind You!

Great news everyone; it’s pantomime season and who better to kick off this most joyous of entertainments than Tesla?

The Cybertruck desperately seeking the stage exit. (c) Tesla

I’m sorry to sound rather curmudgeonly. I actually like pantomime. It’s as much for the adults as the kids with a little innuendo, some (not so) subtle jokes and plenty of genuine laughs. As for the season, well, the curmudgeon levels within me-rise. As age creeps ever on I see less appeal in Christmas and more irritation.

All through the year, we get dragged into things we don’t wish to deal with yet somehow in December, everything has to be completed before the 25th, as though the world may Continue reading “He’s Behind You!”

Thirty Minutes

Andrew Miles takes the M1 to model nirvana.

(c) thetruthaboutcars.com

Scrubs up well for a forty year old. She’s kept her figure, had her wild years, now slowly gravitating toward middle age with maturity and style. 

As a child I was mesmerised by the BASF colour scheme on the BMW M1. The car screams out speed, aggression, power; language that only red can truly deliver. The white circles emanate a sense of power, creating reflections akin to water ripples or the blast wave of an explosion, placed on the bodywork at jaunty angles.

Maybe on my tenth birthday the model arrived, not to be raced or hurled into the garden with abandon. No, this Red Devil was for cherishing, made centre stage, set apart from all those lesser model cars; pretty well untouched. My memory does not serve me well, did I Continue reading “Thirty Minutes”

Big Time

Further observations on Lexus’ 1989 gamechanger.

(c) : carsguide.com.au

Attempting to second-guess the United States customer has been the rock innumerable carmakers have perished upon over the past fifty years or so. It ought to be quite simple really. Large capacity engines, plenty of equipment, a sense of visual definition or style coupled with ease of operation. Durability too, since vehicles are likely to do large mileages in often hostile climatic conditions amid owners sometimes averse (it’s been alleged) to the prospect of preventative maintenance.

So much for generalisations, but those who have wilted under America’s often unyielding glare have largely failed to sufficiently cover the basics. Not so the Japanese, who like the Europeans before them learnt the hard way not only how difficult the US market can be to crack, but also how lucrative it could be if you Continue reading “Big Time”

An Afternoon Like Dusk – The 604 Story, Pt. 9

It’s time to round off this short examination of a much-respected, iconic car.

(c) carjager

The 604’s particular failing, being composed of elements from a cheaper, older design, was not unique. There were other cars which attempted to make something rich out of what might be considered lesser ingredients. The main difference, which dignifies the 604, is that Peugeot made a very good job of this expediency.

People rather liked the car and it sold decently (153,266 units in total) until the 505 arrived, which itself was partly made of 604 components. The 604 is therefore unique in the pantheon of sow’s ear cars. The Lincoln Versailles of 1977 was based on the US-market Ford Granada and is a legend in the lore of marketing cynicism. Ford wanted a smaller Lincoln to Continue reading “An Afternoon Like Dusk – The 604 Story, Pt. 9”

Moonshot

In 1989, Toyota shot for the moon. Cars will never be made like this again.

(c) carsbase

We choose to go to the moon in this decade, and do these other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” These are the much quoted words of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy in 1962, pledging his country’s commitment for the Apollo space mission.

The Apollo programme cost $billions and was only a qualified success, insofar as it did not precipitate a more widespread and far-reaching programme of space exploration. It did however succeed in demonstrating what the American government could do when the finest minds were provided with almost unlimited resources to Continue reading “Moonshot”

Sublime to Ridiculous

Taking lessons in style and taste from Japan. 

(c) Lexus.com

Today’s Sunday sermon comes as something of a compare and contrast. Admittedly it also lays itself open to accusations of shooting fish in a barrel, but I’m prepared to take that risk. Here at Driven to Write, we have something of a soft spot for underdogs. However, some are more equal than others, and in the case of Lexus and in particular, the flagship LC 500, its continued lack of appeal to European eyes is mystifying.

In the year to June, the LC posted perhaps the greatest sales drop (58.5%) of any make or model across Europe. Which is proof, if proof were required that people’s taste is in their… well, perhaps you ought to Continue reading “Sublime to Ridiculous”

Quicksilver

In 1995, Honda displayed two distinct and distinctive roadster concepts. Did they make the right choice?

1995 SSM Concept. (c) innermobil

In 1995, Pininfarina, in conjunction with Honda – who enjoyed a long-term relationship with the carrozzeria, presented Argento Vivo, a purely conceptual two-seater roadster. Designed very much in the classic idiom, Argento Vivo (as the name suggested) employed aluminium for its extruded substructure and its upper body cladding – the resultant weight loss intended to allow for the use of smaller-capacity engines than might otherwise be considered.

There was little meaningful correlation between them it seems, (although there were reports of Pininfarina putting Argento Vivo into small-scale production), but the very same year, Honda themselves debuted a two-seat concept at that year’s Tokyo motor show, dubbed the Honda Sports Study Model (SSM for short). A more determinably ‘Japanese’, modernist and conclusively less romantic shape than that that of the Italians, SSM was created at the carmaker’s Wako Design Centre near Tokyo; Honda stating that it showcased “the company at its innovative best applying state of art solutions to Continue reading “Quicksilver”

Herding a Dromedary’s Lost Siblings (2)

We conclude our Global tour of Méhari-derivatives.

(c) PT Alun

FAF, Portugal 

The acronym FAF stands for “Facile A Fabriquer – Facile A Financer” (Easy to build, easy to fund). FAF was Citroën’s official response to the Baby Brousse that predated it. The aim was to have a range of vehicles based on the “A” platform intended for assembly in developing countries with limited -or no- resources and experience in producing cars.

The first FAFs were produced in 1973 in Portugal but later, factories were opened in Guinée Bissau, Central African Republic, Senegal and Indonesia. There were six available bodystyles: a Saloon, 3-door Estate, Van, Pick Up, 4×4, and a Runabaout in Méhari fashion. The 4×4 version was purchased by the Portuguese army and saw action in the Angolan civil war. Continue reading “Herding a Dromedary’s Lost Siblings (2)”

Altered States

Examining Utah’s transitory visual life.

(c) jaglovers.org

The Jaguar iconography was founded upon a small number of significant characteristics, but of these, visual appeal was perhaps the most crucial – and certainly the most obvious. For any car design to succeed in the marketplace, and to do so for an extended period of time, this appeal must be apparent, not only from the outset, but be capable of being maintained throughout a lengthy production run.

Fortunately, in Sir William Lyons, Jaguar had an arbiter of form, line, proportion and more importantly still, taste, which gave the carmaker a significant edge over both domestic and non-domestic rivals. However if Lyons had been a chef, he would have been one who had himself never cooked a meal, yet could still Continue reading “Altered States”

Herding a Dromedary’s Lost Siblings (1)

Citröen’s Méhari was a far more fecund species than one might have imagined. We plot the mutations. 

Original of the species. (c) avengers in time

From the mid-seventies until sometime in the following decade, I spent most summer holidays with my family at my uncle’s second home in Les Marines de Cogolin near St. Tropez. Being in my early teens at the time, amongst the things I always looked forward to -apart from the usual French Riviera attractions – was getting to ride along to get groceries and bread in the Citroën Méhari they had at their disposal for local errands.

I can still Continue reading “Herding a Dromedary’s Lost Siblings (1)”

The Big Idea

Who were I.D.E.A anyway? 

(c) auto-forever

And then there were four. 

Once dominated by the twin pillars of Bertone and Pininfarina, the leading Italian car-design consultancies found their hegemony (and profitability) threatened by the dramatic arrival during the early 1970s of a precocious interloper by the name of Giorgetto Giugiaro. His ItalDesign consultancy quickly established itself as a formidable adversary, capable of delivering turnkey projects in both product design and engineering.

A decade or so later, and seemingly just as abruptly, another significant player entered the field. By the tail end of the 1980s, the Institute of Development in Automotive Engineering (I.D.E.A) was going head to head with the big-hitting Italian carrozzeiri, having gained the patronage of Fiat with perhaps the largest and most ambitious vehicle programme in its history. Yet they appeared to have arrived from nowhere. Continue reading “The Big Idea”

An Afternoon Like Dusk – The 604 Story, Pt. 8

And so we turn to the matter of the 604’s image and fate.

(c) momentcar

 

The 604’s history reveals how the buyers of the 1970s were less constrained by expectations of brands. What one notices in the reviews from the time of the 604’s launch is that there isn’t a single mention of image. Today motoring writers have internalised perceptions of what constitutes a desirable car: it is what others might also desire.

Even if a particular model is objectively deemed to meet measurable expectations one can find remarks to the effect that the car lacks image, or the brand has insufficient appeal. Quite simply journalists now would never put a large, powerful and luxuriously equipped Peugeot into a test with similar vehicles from established prestige marques simply because it isn’t deemed to be a prestige brand.

But in 1977 Car compared the 604 to competitors from Mercedes and BMW, a test the 604 won quite convincingly. There were no caveats. A modern reviewer would almost certainly be under compulsion to Continue reading “An Afternoon Like Dusk – The 604 Story, Pt. 8”

Top-Line, Entry Level

DTW once again abases itself at the bottom rung.

Image: The Author

I am no expert when it comes to the subject of car design, lacking as I do the in-depth knowledge, training, vocabulary, or indeed, ‘eye’ to interrogate or illuminate a car’s form in a truly meaningful manner – mercifully, others upon these pages are better placed to do just that.

Nevertheless, I do spend more time than is either productive or conducive to a healthy mind (or body) studying cars and attempting to Continue reading “Top-Line, Entry Level”

The Fate of Empires

“Black Badge is for those who reject conformity and live life on their own terms. It’s for the innovators, trailblazers, rulebreakers – and above all – those who dare.” Rolls Royce Motors.

Be indoors by nightfall… Black Badge Cullinan, recently. (c) Autocar

The highly decorated former British soldier, subsequent historian and writer, Lieutenant-General Sir John Bagot Glubb published his noted essay, The Fate of Empires and Search for Survival in 1978. Having spent over forty years in the British army observing England’s Glorious Empire wither into insignificance, he was probably well placed to Continue reading “The Fate of Empires”

Euro Standard

The 1989 Dedra brought Latin style and a more competent package to the compact executive segment. Sadly, it left behind a few more pressing concerns.

(c) carsfromitaly

Italians have never needed to be convinced that a luxury car could also be a compact car. With a land and cityscape which militated against corpulence and a taxation system which proscribed large-capacity engines, Italian carmakers made something of an art out of geographical and fiscal necessity.

As artforms went however, it wasn’t the most expressive, the post-war Italian upmarket berlina conforming to a degree of visual rectitude that was almost flamboyant in its subtlety. Foremost amongst its exponents was Lancia. From the Ardea, its Appia successor, to the seminal Fulvia, these saloons gave the upwardly mobile a refined, well engineered and reassuringly patrician vehicle – one which could Continue reading “Euro Standard”

Taming the Cat

Four years in and Utah gets a hard reboot.

(c) Jaglovers

The compact Jaguar saloons were landmark cars for the company and did much to raise the carmaker’s profile and profitability, but in its first generation form it was not a model which Browns Lane engineering staff viewed with terrific pride, owing to a number of significant compromises buried beneath its shapely envelope.

As development progressed upon the more powerful 3.4 litre version, the handling deficiencies consequent to its narrow rear track (acceptable in the lighter, lower powered car, but less so here), forced engineers to Continue reading “Taming the Cat”

Driven, Written: Maserati Quattroporte V (2008)

A flawed masterpiece is still a work of art, as our German correspondent discovers in Maserati’s most comely of four-door models.

Sometimes, one can win the lottery without ever having to enter. As on the occasion of our recent trip to Antwerp, when we weren’t at the mercy of the Rental Car Lottery, but had, thanks to a generous friend, a confirmed reservation for the front seats of a car I’d always admired – the Maserati Quattroporte V, also known as Tipo M139 in marque parlance.

First unveiled in 2003, the Quattroporte V re-established the model at the luxurious end of the performance car market, after its immediate predecessor had gone for a more unusual/contrived positioning. As originally developed by Ferrari, Tipo M139 was initially available only with the kind of sequential gearbox Modenese engineers were besotted with in those days. The inherent clunkiness and appalling lack of refinement of this set-up did little for the sales prospect of a model that was otherwise deemed spot-on for its brand and intended market.

The example we sampled during our 1400 kilometre trip across western Europe was, thankfully, a later Sport GT model, which means it was equipped with a more mundane, yet far more serviceable ZF torque-converter six-speed auto. The Ferrari-based V8 engine’s output remained unchanged though, at 400 hp.

To get the most obvious points out of the way quickly, I feel compelled to Continue reading “Driven, Written: Maserati Quattroporte V (2008)”

An afternoon like dusk: The 604 story, Pt. 7

Today, we turn our attention to the 604’s cabin.

1975 Peugeot 604 dashboard

A great deal of attention is paid to the exterior of cars though the interior is where we spend our time as drivers and passengers. For the 604 Peugeot had, for at least some of the time, the services of Paul Bracq. In the 60s he oversaw some of Mercedes-Benz’s finest vehicle exteriors, the ones that people think of when they think of a Mercedes (our image of these cars is four decades out of date). They are chromed, formal, upright, solid and faultless.

It is ironic then that Bracq arrived at Peugeot too late to perhaps do more than Continue reading “An afternoon like dusk: The 604 story, Pt. 7”

The Cost of Entry

Here’s one you won’t find in the brochure.

The disappointing reality. Entry level.  (c) DTW

We’ve all experienced it at some point in our lives, have we not? You want something so badly, you feel there’s almost no privation you wouldn’t endure to obtain it. Rationality be damned; even to the point of detriment, just as long as you Continue reading “The Cost of Entry”

Long Term Test: No Longer Surprising Skoda (Part 3)

In the final part of our ownership experience review of the Skoda Octavia Estate, we discuss service intervals, sloths and dodgy DRLs.

Skoda Estelle (5) honest john
They don’t make them like this any more. The glorious Estelle (did the lady with the bag forget the handbrake?). (Source: Honest John)

Living with the Skoda Octavia is a pretty pain-free affair.  As mentioned previously, it’s very parsimonious with respect to fuel consumption, it’s comfortable and spacious to sit in and drive, it rides well enough (with a decent level of pliancy), and it’s reasonably quiet.

The Skoda has also been pretty reliable – but not flawless.

I’ll start with the niggles. The Tyre Pressure Monitor Sensors (TPMS) are irritatingly sensitive, and I feel like I have had an ongoing battle with them.  The near-side rear, in particular, goes off every other journey, and yet every time I check it, it’s only within 1 or maximum 2 PSI of where it should be. I have had the Skoda service centre have a look at it on many occasions and they can never Continue reading “Long Term Test: No Longer Surprising Skoda (Part 3)”

Pioneer State

The 1955 Jaguar 2.4 was overshadowed by its successor, but in many regards, was a more significant car in Jaguar’s evolution as a serious carmaker.

jaguar-mark-one-1
(c) jaglovers

In 1955, Jaguar committed their most ambitious act up to that point with the introduction of the 2.4, an all-new, compact saloon of a sporting mien – every inch a Jaguar, but no hand-down version of its larger sibling. Far from it, because despite the announcement the same year of the revolutionary Citroen DS19, the compact Jaguar was probably as advanced a product as could reasonably be envisaged from what was then a low-volume, specialist carmaker.

Initiated around 1953/4, the Utah (in Jaguar parlance) compact saloon programme would mark their first departure from traditional body-on-frame construction to a stressed unitary bodyshell. Owing to uncertainty over its strength, two stout chassis legs ran the length of the floorpan, rearmost of which (beneath the rear seatpan) would house the mountings for the unusual inverted cantilever semi-elliptic springs, so devised to Continue reading “Pioneer State”

An afternoon like dusk – The 604 story, Pt. 6

Deep breath. I don’t think the 604’s styling has been given this level of consideration before.

(c) blog-moteur

Peugeot had a long standing relationship with carrozzeria Pininfarina, who prepared the basic design of the the 604. As was typical for Pininfarina, the design owed as much to other work they had done as it did to the character of their actual clients’ cars.

The exterior design was by what we might call the school of Paulo Martin, designer of the Fiat 130 coupé and Rolls-Royce Camargue. The record is not clear on the matter of authorship but a clear affinity among these cars can be seen in the angularity of the surface transitions and the flatness of the panels. Continue reading “An afternoon like dusk – The 604 story, Pt. 6”

Don’t Look Now

As the World begins to face up to a growing climate emergency, the motor industry illustrates just how tone-deaf it has become.

Decadence: defined as a state of decay; a decline from a superior state, derived from the Latin, décadentia (dé denoting down and cadere, to fall)

The question of social responsibility is one with which carmakers have been (vainly) grappling for some considerable time now. Indeed, what little has been shown up to now appears to have been jettisoned by many in a heedless dash for market dominance.

This decadent spiral has (as we have previously discussed) taken corporeal form in the wholesale embrace of needlessly aggressive visual tropes and ‘to-hell-with-it’ consumption, and nowhere has this state been more vividly illustrated than amongst the three foremost rival German prestige marques; excesses not simply embodied in the vehicles these carmakers serve up, but also in the manner in which they Continue reading “Don’t Look Now”

All Sound and Fury

Today’s Andalucían postscript is Seat’s shortlived Fura. What, if anything can it signify?

When Seat parted from its Italian benefactor and fell into the arms of Wolfsburg, it was necessary to place some distance between the two former partners. So while prior to the severance of connubial relations, all Seat models simply took the equivalent Fiat nameplate (or number), from around 1981/2, Seat products would have (to varying degrees) their own, distinctly Spanish identity. Continue reading “All Sound and Fury”

I Fancy Her Sister

While undoubtedly both clever and worthy, the Toyota Mirai has up to now singularly failed to ignite automotive lust at ten paces, but this could be about to change. 

The original Mirai. Not in Rotherham. (c) Motortrend.com.

Bypassing me and virtually everyone else it would seem, is the fact that you can now pop into a Toyota showroom and purchase a hydrogen powered car. Well, in theory. Reality always tastes differently, for you’d have to meet many and varied criteria, more of which later.

What began for the company that originally built looms as the Fuel Cell Vehicle experiment, continues with the Mirai (Japanese for The Future), which Toyota brought to the UK market in 2016. Prior to this, you needed to be Californian or Japanese to steer one. Few did. Numbers suggest a little over 5000 sold globally. In Blighty, we’ve scraped into the teens – just. Sales were never meant to Continue reading “I Fancy Her Sister”

Working Class Hero

How did the ultimate 1960’s bit of rough evolve into the best loved classic Jaguar saloon of all?

(c) storm.oldcarmanualproject

It has been said that by the mid-Sixties, it was common operational procedure for UK police patrols to stop and search any Mark 2 Jaguar with two or more male occupants aboard – such was the car’s association with criminality. After all, Mark 2’s were easy to purloin and were the fastest reasonably inobtrusive getaway car that could be obtained by fair means or foul in Blighty at the time.

It was perhaps this aura of transgression, coupled with its exploits on the racetracks (at least until the US Cavalry arrived) which sealed its iconography. So it is perhaps ironic that despite the forces of law and order also adopting the 3.8 Mark 2 as a high-speed pursuit car, that it latterly would become synonymous with that most cerebral of fictional police detectives.

The Mark 2 Jaguar was a paradox in that while it was undoubtedly handsome – a finely honed conclusion of styling themes which had begun in earnest with the 1948 XK120 – it was not only a bit of an overweight brute, but a car which never quite managed to Continue reading “Working Class Hero”

Long Term Test: No Longer Surprising Skoda (Part 2)

In this middle section of our long term look at the Octavia Estate, we review how the mid-range Skoda drives.

skoda-octavia-estate-front three quarter carwow
Front three quarter view – still not quite the right colour. Can you see Concorde in it yet? (Source: CarWow)

Driving the Octavia is a bit of an unexpected bonus – it’s a much sweeter drive than I expected. The steering is direct, well-weighted and helped by a well sized, shaped (it’s actually round!) and covered steering-wheel. When I say ‘well weighted’, actually, that depends on which driver setting you choose – in this case it’s ‘normal’ as ‘sport’ is just heavy and gloopy.

One can also Continue reading “Long Term Test: No Longer Surprising Skoda (Part 2)”

An Afternoon Like Dusk – The 604 story, Pt. 5

Let’s review the reviews of the 604 and maybe go a little further.

(c) blog-moteur

Having looked (in the last instalment) at the engine from the strategic and the cost-accountant’s point of view, I turn now to how it compared in road tests. The matter of performance is far from clear. Conventional wisdom now has it that the 604 couldn’t move fast enough. A look at reviews spanning from 1975 to 1983 shows a more complex story than this.

In 1975 Motor claimed the carburetted SL was the quickest of a group of likely competitors which included the BMW 520, Ford’s Granada 3000, the Jaguar XJ 3.4, the Renault 30 and the Volvo 264. In 1977 Motor Trend felt the car was only just about able to keep up with American traffic, adequate but not brilliant.

This remark was qualified by noting the 604’s handling was far above average which, as mentioned above, made up the speed deficit quite pleasingly. In 1977 Car found the carburetted 604 SL to be slower than the Mercedes 280E and BMW 728 but only by a matter of half a second. It won the test overall so the slight tardiness did not hold the vehicle back.

A year later the fuel-injected version of the 604 was found to Continue reading “An Afternoon Like Dusk – The 604 story, Pt. 5”

The Glare

Driven to Write suffers from heat stroke – for your benefit. 

It’s hardly revelatory of me to point out that in this corner of the Costa del Sol, the ratio of sunshine to overcast is overwhelmingly in the favour of the former – after all, the hint is in the name. No great insight either in suggesting that in the warm glow of a sunbaked afternoon, everything looks more attractive – except perhaps, pale, light-averse Irishmen. The effects of ambient lighting is a subject that has reared its head on more than one occasion on these pages, so if I repeat myself, I can only suggest you Continue reading “The Glare”

Gerboise Bleu

“I call it the Blue Rat.”

Image: The author

The works car park is frequently a mundane beast. The same people in the same cars, day after day. Occasionally though, a visitor might just drive here in something a little more exotic, expensive or preferably just different. 

In the past we’ve had a few Porsche’s, Boxsters and Cayennes though never any form of 911. Once a Mustang was heard burbling through but we believe the driver was lost, for once the exit was pin-pointed, the throttle was floored and the dust disturbed.

There’s even been a Rosso Ferrari 360 and a Rolls Royce Phantom in predictable black when I happened to Continue reading “Gerboise Bleu”

Dos Marbelleros

Well, what is one supposed to do on vacation anyway?

How much is that Panda in the window in amongst the muebles? All images (c) Driven to Write

As regular readers may have appreciated, I have of late been on holiday. I don’t do this sort of thing as often as I ought, but when I do, I like to set myself a little intellectual challenge, and given that my predilections tend towards the automotive, it is here these exercises more than usually rest.

The last time I ventured to this part of Southern Spain, the task I placed before myself was that of Green Car Bingo, which was an enjoyable (for me at least) divertion, but not really replicable. So given that the Andalucían city of Marbella would form my base for the duration, the quest I set myself was to was to Continue reading “Dos Marbelleros”

Long Term Test: No Longer Suprising Skoda (Part 1)

Continuing a habit of testing cars which other motoring journals have already tested ad-nauseum, here’s a LTT of my Skoda Octavia Estate 2.0L Diesel SE-L

octavia-estate-gateway2lease
Brochure-photo of the Octavia Estate – wrong colour, but it does have the chrome window-surround and roof bars (Source: Gateway2Lease)

We have had our Octavia since the middle of July 2017.  In that time, it has travelled over 37,000 miles and proved to be a very capable and worthy steed.  it’s painted in vibrant metallic Rio Red (in the sunshine it looks a bit like Heinz Tomato Soup – other tomato soups are available), with a very fine, tough, finish.

The Octavia arrived as part of my rejig of our car portfolio (pretentious, moi?) where a Mazda3 Fastback (also subjected to numerous LTT articles here) and Xsara Picasso (ditto) were replaced by the Skoda and a FIAT 500 (which I have, again, written about here). A C6 still lurks on the driveway.  By and large, the Skoda is driven by me to get me to Continue reading “Long Term Test: No Longer Suprising Skoda (Part 1)”

You Could Have it So Much Better

That difficult second album syndrome.

Neither fish nor fowl.   All images (c) by the author

Music history has frequently been littered with the broken wreckage of bands who blasted into the public consciousness with an precocious debut, only to lose it with the follow-up. Artists such as the Stone Roses, The Sugarcubes, Franz Ferdinand and perhaps most notoriously, 80’s pop sensation, Terence Trent D’Arby all followed their well-reviewed debuts with what were varying degrees of disappointing to disastrous.

Of course the pressure upon new bands is often immense – the record company is clamouring for another hit, fans are salivating over the prospect and the artists themselves require more material to Continue reading “You Could Have it So Much Better”

Too Pretty To Race

We owe the existence of the gorgeous Giulietta Sprint Speciale to the racing career it never actually got.

alfa-romeo-giulietta-sprint-speciale-1
From 1960, the slightly restyled Giulietta SS was marketed as a GranTurismo (wheelsage.org)

From the moment the Giulietta Sprint was unveiled in 1954, it was clear that its technical specification made it a phenomenal contender for class wins in both circuit and road racing.

Alfa Romeo knew this well, and in 1956 the Sprint Veloce was born: power from the 1290cc twin-cam four was up to 90HP, while bonnet and doors (which got Perspex sliding windows) were aluminium instead of steel. Nevertheless, Portello was considering a Giulietta variant aimed even more explicitly towards motor racing, based on the short-wheelbase platform made for the Giulietta Spider.

The success of the Sprint made Nuccio Bertone a trusted partner of Alfa Romeo, so it was up to his designer, Franco Scaglione, to Continue reading “Too Pretty To Race”

An afternoon like dusk – The 604 story, Pt. 4

Engines! The 604’s was less than ideal.

Turning to the engine, one can see how an attempt to save money here also proved forlorn. The one clear advantage of using the 504 architecture was never exploited: the 604 never had the same range of engines as the earlier car. What it had was a 60° V6 engine designed in co-operation with Renault and Volvo.

As Motor pointed out in 1975, engine development requires a very large investment. Peugeot did not see the sales volumes of the 604 being large enough to justify designing a wholly new V6 on their own. This strategy certainly saved investment costs but did not lead to Peugeot having a competitive motor.

The powerplant faced the problem that it didn’t turn out quite enough motive force (though it was hardly slow by the day’s standards) and the 604 was a seen as a heavy car, presumably a result of an attempt to Continue reading “An afternoon like dusk – The 604 story, Pt. 4”

A Line Foreshortened

A rare encounter prematurely cut short. Sorry about that.

(c) Driven to Write

I’m aiming to keep this brief, given that it’s Sunday and I’m nominally on holiday. A two week sojourn on Spain’s Mediterranean coastline is hardly anyone’s concept of a mortifying act and let’s face it, there are plenty of other, more pleasant diversions to be found around these parts.

Consequently, it’s probably just as well that I am driven to write, because otherwise you, dear readers would stand a better than even chance of facing an empty page today. But my duty to DTW, as I trust you appreciate, is absolute.

But to the subject at hand. One of the more diverting aspects of places such as this are the areas of diversity and digression – and the automotive end of the spectrum is no different. The Southern European markets have long diverged from their Northern neighbours, although needless to say, a growing and regrettable conformity is starting to Continue reading “A Line Foreshortened”

The Riviera Set

A brake (or should that be a break?) from the norm for the Lion of Belfort. 

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(c) Ebay

The idea of the three-door shooting brake estate probably originated in the US (the 1955 Chevrolet Nomad being a prime example), but it was popularised – if such a term can be considered appropriate for such a rarefied product – by Ason Martin’s 1965 DB5; itself initially a one-off, built for AML’s chairman, David Brown, and later produced in miniscule numbers at owners’ behest by the Harold Radford coachworks.

In 1968, the Reliant Scimitar GTE also employed a shooting brake silhouette to positive effect, which not only proved transformative for the carmaker’s profile and reputation, but also gained them patronage from the British Royal family. Continue reading “The Riviera Set”

Express Yourself!

Just as the choice of car tells a lot about its owner, car advertising can say a great deal about its subject’s sensitivities.

Here we have the BMW 3 series, hitherto known as the Dreier or 3er in its home market – before it was recently rechristened ‘The 3’, because nothing rolls off the German tongue with quite as much aplomb as a ‘TH’.

Like the car’s overstyled appearance, this tv spot tries hard to Continue reading “Express Yourself!”

Fin de Siècle

We compare a pair of late ’50s fintails.

Nobody quite realised at the time, but 1959 would mark peak-tailfin – this styling device falling out of fashion almost as abruptly as it emerged. But while the tailfin’s retreat would be particularly rapid in its country of origin, the European industry, having been slower to adapt in the first instance, was equally tardy in abandoning it.

Of course, it’s worth reminding ourselves of motor industry lead-times – the period between styling sign-off and job-one. Certainly, when Ford’s UK arm conceived the 105E-series Anglia, nobody could possibly Continue reading “Fin de Siècle”

An Afternoon Like Dusk – The 604 story, Pt. 3

In part 3 of the Peugeot 604 story we consider the market of the mid-1970s.

1975 Peugeot 604

The market in the mid 70s was open to a wide variety of contenders in the upper price ranges. Opel in particular was just on the cusp of reaching what we now call the rank of “prestige” with its Senator saloon and Monza coupé. Lancia outsold BMW in the UK.

The mid 70s were also still a time of strong national markets and of far less global competition than today. However, the world of 1975 was not what Peugeot’s planners envisioned when the 604 programme began in 1970. Oil prices had increased markedly, making the 604’s thirsty V6 seem unattractive, the more so over time. Continue reading “An Afternoon Like Dusk – The 604 story, Pt. 3”

Civic Minded

A municipal stroll through an Andalucían streetscape elicits a shameful case of neglect.

All images (c) DTW

There’s something almost unbearably sad about a nice car being left to ruin that even a sun-dappled Costa del Sol setting cannot quite assuage. Initially somewhat thrilled by the now ultra-rare sighting of this 1988-1991 era second generation Honda Civic CRX, your (temporarily) Andalucían correspondent’s initial enthusiasm quickly gave way to dismay at the manner in which it’s been maltreated.

The CRX was one of those brief flowerings in coupédom which promised much but somehow fizzled out in the end. While Europe had put all that frivolity behind them during the 1980s, establishing that instead of expensively developed bespoke coupé bodystyles, they could Continue reading “Civic Minded”

Il Sarto Piemontese

We compare a couture twinset from the tail-end of the GT era.

It’s an incontrovertible fact that the end of the 1960’s marked the apogee of the Gran Tourismo concept, both in design terms and in appeal to the broader swathe of the car market. Certainly by then, the choices available to the upwardly mobile individual who wanted to express their more indulgent side were of the more fecund variety. However, those who couldn’t Continue reading “Il Sarto Piemontese”

The Brightest Hour Is Just Before Twilight (2)

In the second part, we examine R8’s mid-career and consider the heart of the matter – the all-new K-Series power unit.

In mid-life, the proliferation continued with three wholly Rover developed variants codenamed Tracer (1992), Tomcat (1993), and Tex (1994), respectively a convertible, T-roofed coupe, and sporting estate car. Continue reading “The Brightest Hour Is Just Before Twilight (2)”

The Brightest Hour Is Just Before Twilight (1)

30 Years ago this week, the Rover Group launched perhaps its best realised product. We look back at the R8, née Rover 200-Series.

Image: Rover Group

In the late 1980s it really did seem that at last Rover Group had finally found its place.  Much of the credit was due to their new Japanese friends, but the rump of British Leyland was at last demonstrating a new found competence and confidence. However, agony would eventually follow the ecstasy of these heady days.

On 11 October 1989 Rover Group presented, with justifiable pride, the second-generation Rover 200 series, and with it the eagerly anticipated and all-new K-series engine. Every new Rover of the era had an equal and opposite Honda, and the 200’s was the Concerto, which had gone on sale in Japan in June 1998, only 16 months after Rover and Honda had signed the contract to build Project YY as a joint venture. Continue reading “The Brightest Hour Is Just Before Twilight (1)”

No Mr. Bond, I Expect You To Die

The carmaker synonymous with Ian Fleming’s fictional superspy is in a tight spot. Just how bad does it look for Aston Martin?

Aston Martin DBX at St Athan. Photo: (c) Aston Martin

It really wasn’t supposed to go this way. Following in the footsteps of Ferrari, in the wake of their highly successful floatation on the stock market, Aston Martin’s fortunes, while shining fleetingly, increasingly look like reverting to all too familiar type. But this time the stakes are much higher.

Ever the British second fiddle to the eternally gilded Maranello stallion, Aston’s Martin’s balance sheets can only be viewed as consistent insofar as they inevitably end up drowned in scarlet ink. Last year AML was floated on the stock exchange, its management attempting to Continue reading “No Mr. Bond, I Expect You To Die”