Summer Reissue : Joking Aside

The Yaris was one of Toyota’s better efforts. It still looks good today.

The Yaris was previewed by this 1997 Toyota Funtime concept. autowp.ru

Toyota signalled a stylistic change of heart at the 1997 Frankfurt motor show when they presented the Funtime concept, a cheerful looking five door hatchback marking a significant departure from the rather anonymous looking Starlet, which by then was being left behind by the increasingly sophisticated and considerably more modernist European opposition.

A more Euro-centric design both in conceptual and stylistic terms, it was introduced in production specification the following year at the Paris motor show. Intended to Continue reading “Summer Reissue : Joking Aside”

Commercial Logic

Mercedes-Benz contemplates euthanising the X-Class. Good.

(c) caradvice.com.au

If the current febrile automotive and geopolitical climate is any reliable indicator, there may well after all be limits to growth. Certainly, the premium heyday within the auto sector appears to be hitting the buffers with both BMW and Mercedes recently issuing profit warnings.

The situation at BMW is such that it appears its CEO has been ‘encouraged’ to Continue reading “Commercial Logic”

Best Of The Bez

Intended as the crowning glory of a newly-independent, never-more-glamorous Aston Martin, the One-77 turned out to symbolise something else entirely. 

photo (c) Bonhams

2007 must have been a year of triumph for Dr ing Ulrich Bez. Over the course of the previous seven years, the German engineer and Aston Martin managing director had turned an outdated, but well loved marque trading on past glories and an awful lot of goodwill into a serious prestige sports car brand. On top of that, he’d overseen the sale of the company from Ford to a consortium backed by Kuwaiti investors. Bez was now no mere executive henchman anymore. He was the true boss.

After having spent most of his career playing second fiddle (most notably to his direct superior at BMW, Wolfgang Reitzle, who’d also hired Bez to run Aston Martin during his brief stint in charge of Ford’s Premier Automotive Group), Bez had become the undisputed boss of not just any old business, but a company that had refused to Continue reading “Best Of The Bez”

Space Oddity

Audi’s A2 confounded the buying public and lost its maker billions, but it was a stellar achievement nonetheless. 

(c) bilmodel

Carmakers are for the most part, pathologically averse to matters of risk – and for good reason. The costs of failure can be ruinous. For instance, a cogent argument could be made that Fiat Auto never recovered from the commercial failure of their 2003 Stilo programme, precipitating a decline from which they have never recovered.

Not so Audi, nestled safely within the VW Group mothership, and for decades now, a significant profit centre within the vast German multi-brand automotive titan. Nevertheless, the luxury carmaker is no stranger to the bitter tang of failure, or its financial cost.

Twenty years ago Audi announced the A2, a revolutionary and futuristically styled monopod aimed at elevating the Ingolstadt carmaker’s perception as technological pioneers. Six years later, it was summarily axed, following losses which amounted to around €1.3 bn*, having failed to Continue reading “Space Oddity”

Jim Randle 1938-2019

Today we remember former Jaguar technical director, Jim Randle in the words of the man who perhaps knew him best.

Jim Randle. (c) Steve Randle collection

My Dad, Engineer Jim Randle, died at home on the 6th July after a prolonged battle with cancer.

Jim served his apprenticeship at Rover, where the P6 2000TC was his first major project. He then moved to Jaguar, where he was swiftly promoted to Head of Vehicle Development. As a boy I often accompanied him to his office in the corner of the development shop at Browns Lane on a Saturday morning. Continue reading “Jim Randle 1938-2019”

Summer Reissue : Peak Bristol

The Bristoliste’s Bristol? The 411 turns 50.

Bristol 411 Series 5. Image: (c) bristolcars

The Bristol Motor car, from its 1948 inception has always proven to be a rarefied and somewhat piquant recipe. Because for every individual who admires and covets the earthbound products of Filton, there are those who find them ungainly, crude and overpriced. But even amongst the former group, there are Bristols and there are Bristols.

Like so many articles of faith, aficionados of the marque tend to Continue reading “Summer Reissue : Peak Bristol”

Summer Reissue : Another Country

A nice pair of Bristols? We go in search of shutline nirvana – by air and by road.

Bristol Beaufighter

Earlier in the week, we spent a fair amount of time examining shutlines and the lengths to which some carmakers will go to engineer solutions to the issues left by the stylists, not to mention the depths to which the marketing team will descend to cast them in the best possible light.

So it is perhaps timely that we Continue reading “Summer Reissue : Another Country”

Summer Re-issue : Rocket’s Tale

A timeless flight may be drawing to a close as Rocketman, via China’s Great Wall, finally comes home. Well, maybe…

Rocketman. (c) ausmotive

The word icon is often bandied about and for the most part misplaced, but in the case of the original team-Issigonis BMC Mini, it is probaly a justifiable one. Of course, like most people or objects who have this soubriquet thrust upon them, the Mini’s iconography came about over time and in no small part from a combination of factors: motor racing successes, becoming symbolic of an entire epoch and a certain comedy motion picture filmed amid the streets of Turin. Continue reading “Summer Re-issue : Rocket’s Tale”

Mr. Warburton Writes a Letter

Analysts Bernstein Research rediscover a lost art, but in doing so have they shifted the paradigm?

(c) grandprix247

Something unprecedented has happened. It’s probably too early to tell whether it will prove to be an isolated occurrence or a sign of a wider shift in the manner in which the industry operates, but the implications could well prove to be far-reaching.

Max Warburton, the senior automotive analyst from Wall Street financial analytics firm, Sandford C Bernstein, and leading soothsayer on matters pertaining to the motor business wrote an open letter last week to Renault Chairman, Jean-Dominique Senard, suggesting he Continue reading “Mr. Warburton Writes a Letter”

In Memoriam : Jim Randle

There are some things a writer never wishes to put to paper, so I write these words today with a heavy heart.

The late Jim Randle in 2016. (c) DTW / Auto-Didakt

In the summer of 2016, I did what one should never do and met a personal hero, fulfilling a long-held ambition by interviewing former Jaguar Director of Vehicle Engineering, Jim Randle. At the time, he had been out of the public gaze for some time and was perhaps understandably wary of this pair of interlopers from afar asking him questions about a past he had largely put behind him.

Yet as he warmed to his interrogators, the memories of people, places, events and of course, the vehicles he helped create flooded back and between the quiet ironies and the uproarious laughter, he not only lent us almost five hours of his time but for myself, memories that I treasure. Continue reading “In Memoriam : Jim Randle”

Denied: Porsche Boxster Concept

The Porsche Boxster we ultimately received in 1997 was quite unlike the Porsche Boxster we were promised in 1993. 

DSC_0367.jpeg
(c) Auto-Didakt

Porsche has become so synonymous with success over the past two decades, it’s easy to forget that the erstwhile sports car maker form Stuttgart Zuffenhausen was on the brink of bankruptcy more than once.

On one such occasion, in the early 1990s – amid a significant recession, on top of internal issues (such as poor productivity and ageing products) – the powers that be at Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG decided that the then-current range of products overstretched the company’s resources and therefore wouldn’t be replaced like-for-like.

The evergreen 911, incidentally the newest and best-selling model at the time, was to stay, but the 968 2+2 and 928 GT were to be axed. In their place, Porsche wanted to Continue reading “Denied: Porsche Boxster Concept”

Unsightly Shutline Syndrome

Today, we’re pleased to introduce DTW reader, Bruno Vijverman, who poses a question which has been bothering him of late. 

Image: Author’s collection

Bill Mitchell considered the 1965 GM cars to be his best work. And he may very well have been correct: The already beautiful Buick Riviera’s styling was cleaned up with the hidden headlights it was always supposed to have, the Chevrolet Corvair was restyled in a faintly Italianate fashion, while the regular Chevrolets had a more dynamic and flowing look if compared to the somewhat boxy 1964 models.

The same could be said of the other full-size offerings from Oldsmobile, Buick and especially Pontiac. The GM flagship Cadillac was of course also fully restyled for 1965, and is generally regarded as a handsome, and in view of the era and fashion, relatively uncluttered and cleanly styled car.

I also like the 1965 Cadillac. Apart from one thing: the weird trajectory of the shutline between the front and the rear door on the four-door models. Since this caught my eye I cannot Continue reading “Unsightly Shutline Syndrome”

Summer Reissue : Gear Change

A timely reminder of a fine but forgotten Honda concept leads your correspondent into a bout of fruitless hand-wringing.

2013 Honda Gear concept. (c) autos.ca

Before continuing, I am impelled to point out that I deserve no credit for highlighting this vehicle once more. It was fellow scribe, R. Herriott (currently en vacances) who first brought the Honda Gear to our attention during DTW’s formative months in 2014. I should also make clear that it is purely coincidental (if convenient) that this piece appears the same week that Honda invited journalists to sample its forthcoming electric-drive E model.

More on that in a moment. But first I invite you to Continue reading “Summer Reissue : Gear Change”

Exponential Acceleration

Just how resilient is a strong brand? BMW are in the process of finding out. 

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Photo (c) instagram.com/autodidaktblog

Supposed elitism is one of the car industry’s preferred counter-arguments/excuses. When challenging a particular product, particularly with regards to its design, one is quickly dismissed as a snob, out of touch with what ‘the market’ really wants by those who conceived that product. Any criticism is therefore at best a matter of ‘personal taste’ or, at worst, highly patronising.

The strength of a brand is one of the car industry’s preferred arguments. If the brand is strong, a company should be able to Continue reading “Exponential Acceleration”

Ode to Joy

A mad niche car or a CUV pathfinder? We examine the Honda HR-V.

Better as a 5-door? (c) autoevolution

Had we realised how the mainstream motor vehicle would evolve over the intervening time, we might have paid a little more attention to the announcement of Honda’s HR-V, an event which occurred all of twenty years ago. As it was however, the automotive press were content to file it with all the other amusing, if slightly lightweight offerings from the more whimsical side of the Japanese automotive juggernaut.

The HR-V, which rather un-memorably stood for High Rider vehicle was previewed in mildly conceptual form at the 1998 Geneva motor show as the even more memorably coined J-WJ, where the positive reception was said at the time to have stiffened Honda’s resolve to Continue reading “Ode to Joy”

Driven, Written: VW Golf GTI Performance (2019)

They still know how to design and engineer a decent car at Wolfsburg, as proven by Germany’s premier hot hatch. 

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Three surprisingly meaningful letters, photo (c) Driven To Write

The rental car lottery: Source of frustration, surprise and disillusionment. In the case of myself and my partner, the feeling of an outright win had eluded us so far – until I was handed the keys to the car I’d booked as ‘VW Golf Automatic or similar’, which turned our to be not just a VW Golf indeed – a first in itself. Moreover, this Golf was arguably in the model’s most appealing guise, which meant we would be crossing half of Germany in a Golf GTI Performance. Hurrah!

Typically any special edition model boasting a name like ‘Performance’ is expected to Continue reading “Driven, Written: VW Golf GTI Performance (2019)”

The Fourth Letter

The relative conventionality of the Delta dismayed marque aficionados in 1979, but it would go on to embody marque values of both performance and commercial longevity far beyond its seemly narrow remit. 

(c) Weilinet

The old guard was falling away. After a decade on sale, Lancia’s entry level Fulvia Berlina ceased production in 1973. The patrician compact saloon had proven a modest commercial success in its native Italy over that period, appealing to those who had both the means and the discernment to appreciate a such a finely wrought and technically noteworthy vehicle.

But while its mechanical specification left little to be desired, the level of complexity it incorporated would not square with that of Lancia’s new owners, who were masters of cost-control. Furthermore, its uncompromisingly rectilinear three-volume style had become widely viewed as outdated.

While legions of Lancisti will most likely Continue reading “The Fourth Letter”

Summer Reissue – Daily Grind

The last traditional Peugeot saloon marks its 40th anniversary this year. We look back at the 505.

(c) autoevolution

The final flowering of a fine tradition, the 1979 Peugeot 505 marked the last generation of rear-wheel drive saloons to emerge from Sochaux. A late ’70s update of the popular and durable 504 model, the 505 cleaved so closely to its predecessor’s conceptual template those of a more cynical mien could scarcely Continue reading “Summer Reissue – Daily Grind”

Summer Resissue : Art for Art’s Sake

If cars really can be viewed as Art, where does this leave the 1999 Citroën Xsara Picasso? 

(c) auto-abc.eu

Here at Driven to Write, we are fond of celebrating the worthy, the left of field and the more outlying inhabitants of our vehicular rich pageant. However, nobody in possession of the requisite technical or visual discernment would willingly choose to scribe a hymn of praise for the Citroën Xsara Picasso (to lend it its full name) – a motor vehicle which could perhaps only lay claim to the quality of mercy.

There have been many phases to the double chevron’s creative trajectory over the 100 years of its existence, and it would not be especially uncharitable to Continue reading “Summer Resissue : Art for Art’s Sake”

Unflinching Loyalty

Personal affection for an automotive brand is one of the more peculiar aspects of modern-day culture.  

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Dedication, photo (c) YouTube

Worshipping symbols aimed at identifying one’s affiliation to a particular tribe/race/religion/club are as old as humans’ capacity to create objects. It therefore isn’t a surprise at all that an automotive brand would be appropriated and exploited as a means of signifying status, even beyond the company’s own marketing efforts. What is surprising though is the levels of passion and dedication (or, depending on one’s viewpoint, parochialism and fury) this can elicit.

I recently got to Continue reading “Unflinching Loyalty”

Leap of Faith

It was brave, it was a failure and its fate was etched in Jaguar’s past. 

(c) barrettjaguar.com

Acts of creative reinvention are rarely acknowledged at the time of committal, being far more likely to be misunderstood and derided by those whose expectations were, for a variety of reasons subverted or otherwise denied. Brave or foolish? There is a fine line which separates both polarities, because inevitably, whenever these adjectives are appended to matters of a creative nature, it tends to be connected to its failure.

The X351-series Jaguar was a brave design, attempting to break from the creative straitjacket the over-familiar, and overworked XJ silhouette had evolved into. But now, a decade on from its Summer 2009 debut, and with the curtain soon to fall upon its production career, we can Continue reading “Leap of Faith”

Denied: Lancia Kayak (1995)

More than two decades ago, two proud nameplates in the process of losing their lustre joined forces to create a splendid concept car perfectly in tune with its time. 

1995_bertone_lancia_lancia_kayak_01
Tasteful pensioner’s car, photo (c) carstyling.ru

During the mid-’90s, car buyers and enthusiasts were in an unashamedly romantic mood. Roadsters and coupés were the kind of niche models devised not just to polish a marque’s image, but to actually sell and earn money. Peugeot’s splendid (Pininfarina-designed and built) 406 Coupé being a particularly resonant example of this phenomenon.

In those days, Lancia not only offered a full range of models, but the marque’s image hadn’t been tainted quite beyond repair either. The recently launched Kappa executive saloon and second-generation Delta hatchback may have constituted the first steps of Fiat Auto CEO, Paolo Cantarella’s ambition to Continue reading “Denied: Lancia Kayak (1995)”

Fate Accompli

The lessons of history are fated to be repeated – endlessly.

(c) luxurycarsworld.com

It was all going to plan. In 2002, production of the X308-series XJ ceased at Jaguar’s Browns Lane plant, after all, an all-new replacement was shortly to come on stream to replace it. However, with the decision taken and implemented, a crisis arose. Jaguar engineers hit significant hurdles in the pressing of the X350 XJ’s aluminium bodyshell, necessitating a significant delay in series production.

As it transpired, it would be another year before the XJ was launched and in the interregnum, Jaguar was absent, not only from its core market, but also its most lucrative. When the 2003 XJ did reach buyers, not only did the car itself meet with a less than rapturous reception, but a significant number of former Jaguar customers had taken their business elsewhere. Many failed to Continue reading “Fate Accompli”

Lapin Daze

Readers not wishing to indulge our predilection for all things diminutive, Japanese and fluffy might perhaps wish to look away now.

(c) Suzuki.jp

How predictably Driven To Write, you might suggest, for us to fawn over some cute and unobtainable Japanese Kei car. After all, it’s not as if Suzuki doesn’t also offer a multitude of the SUV and crossover things we’re so frequently critical about on these pages.

Fair point, and I have no intention of singling out Suzuki as a bastion of elevated values. But with the proviso that other, perhaps equally endearing Kei cars are available (in Japan), Suzuki have nevertheless gone to the trouble to Continue reading “Lapin Daze”

A Gran Farewell

As BMW makes plans for Gran’s early demise, we ask what (if any) meaning there is to be derived from it all. 

(c) reviststorque

Holed beneath the waterline for some time now, the European MPV/Minivan market is fast approaching an ‘all hands to the lifeboats’ scenario, as market incumbents seek a means of escape from the cost implications of the sector’s sales implosion.

Until now, it has been the mainstream carmakers who have been for the most part wielding death’s scythe, but as market conditions deteriorate, even the more upmarket brands are starting to Continue reading “A Gran Farewell”

Blown In With the Wind

A (belated) photo for Friday, which comes with a question.

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This is, for those who cannot quite place it, a first-series Volkswagen Golf. It dates from the final year of Wolfsburg production – 1983 – and is, I can attest, in remarkably well-preserved and unmolested condition. Continue reading “Blown In With the Wind”

The Art of Departure

Ian Callum is leaving his ‘dream job’. We examine the possible motives.

Change of guard: Ian Callum (left). Julian Thomson (right). (c) leblogauto

There many qualities one requires in public life, but the apprehension of the correct moment to leave the stage is perhaps the trickiest to navigate successfully. Five years ago, Ian Callum told an enthusiast publication that he would stay on in his role at Whitley to “set up the next generation of aesthetics” before stepping down as Jaguar’s Director of Design.

Of course it is neither correct nor entirely fair to Continue reading “The Art of Departure”

Ventiquattroporte

The history of Maserati’s Quattroporte model line is as intriguing as it is diverse. 

(c) hiclasscar

To most people with an interest in automobiles, the Maserati Quattroporte needs no explanation. The moniker itself may be even older than that of the Mercedes S-class, yet longevity serves, at best, as half an explanation for the strength of the Quattroporte nameplate. Particularly as, in time honoured Italian fashion, there’s little continuity and wildly varying flair to Maserati’s successive four-door super saloons. Yet ‘a Quattroporte’ always remained a statement car. For one reason or another.

Continue reading “Ventiquattroporte”

GLB for Beginners

Today, the DTW hobbyhorse® gets another outing, as we return to the world of the automotive press release – where written English goes to die.

The inoffensive if you like that kind of thing Mercedes-Benz GLB. (c) carthrottle

Simultaneously in both Stuttgart and for some inexplicable reason, Salt Lake City, Utah, Mercedes recently introduced their much-heralded GLB crossover – the latest, but unlikely to be the last of the current A-Class derivations vying for your undivided online attention. Since you will undoubtedly have formed your own opinions as to its merits by now, I will not trouble you with mine.

Instead, let’s gather round and Continue reading “GLB for Beginners”

The Road to Dalmatia

The Driven to Write’s predilection for all things Lancia is known and quantified. Today’s offering however is unquestionably topshelf material. 

(c) Servizo Stampa Lancia

Amid the many series-production outliers the fabled Torinese shield and flag emblem has adorned over many decades, the Flavia Sport from carrozzeria Zagato is perhaps the most visually outré and certainly amongst the most scarce, with only 629 built in total.

First introduced in prototype form in 1962, it was the final and most exotic flowering of the coachbuilt Flavia line, following the 1960 in-house berlina, the Vignale-bodied convertible and Pininfarina’s four-seater coupé – all of whom bore some passing resemblance to one another. But not only did the Flavia Sport Continue reading “The Road to Dalmatia”

Seduce Me With Meringues And Marchpane, Oh Creature Of The Noon

The BMW X2 has managed to attract my attention and it’s not due to the colour.

2019 BMW X2: source

At BMW’s UK website the firm has a set of features it wishes us to be aware of. “With its athletic shoulder line and gently sloping roof line, the dynamic styling of the BMW X2 has a coupé-like character that will definitely grab attention,” they tell us.

Well, yes but at the same time as they have elected to mess with the Hofmeister kink (it doesn’t really have one), they have added a badge to make up for the diminished clarity of the car’s identity. “For true distinction, the BMW emblem has been repositioned next to the Hofmeister kink on the C pillar. Just another case of breaking the rules.” The old saying goes that you should be able to Continue reading “Seduce Me With Meringues And Marchpane, Oh Creature Of The Noon”

Pushing the Envelope

The 1999 C215 Mercedes CL redefines the term ‘back of an envelope design’.

(c) Autoevolution.com

Like most major carmakers, Mercedes-Benz design under Bruno Sacco’s leadership at Stuttgart-Sindelfingen assigned individual design teams to specific product lines. However, it was policy that all members of the styling team, irrespective of discipline could submit proposals for consideration whenever a new model was in gestation.

These would be whittled down to a shortlist, the favoured proposals then going forward to be produced in scale model form. A further evaluation would see this being reduced to a final shortlist of three, which would Continue reading “Pushing the Envelope”

Would They, Could They?

Imagine a thrilling Toyota Corolla. It existed, under another name.

2001 Will Vs: source

In order to get any doubts out of the way this article is about the 2001-2004 WiLL Vs which Toyota designed, produced and marketed under the Will brand name. In order to clarify somewhat, various Japanese companies cooperated to sell their products through a channel aimed at younger buyers and they named this umbrella brand “WiLL“. As well as the cars, the Will brand covered beer, stationary, tourism, sweets and consumer electonics. Wouldn’t you love to Continue reading “Would They, Could They?”

Porte de Javel

Another stylistic dud from the pen of Marcello Gandini, the technically advanced 1974 Maserati Quattroporte expired at birth. We chart its brief life.

1974 Maserati Quattroporte II. (c) carstyling.ru

When the Maserati Quattroporte was introduced in 1963 it became the first Modenese four door super-berlina, offering well-heeled customers the space and practicality of a sedan with the dynamism and vivid performance of a grand turismo. In 1969 however, production of the model ceased, with close to 800 built – a commercial success by Casa del Tridente standards.

A significant cultural shift was taking place at Viale Ciro Menotti by this time – Automobiles Citroën having acquired control of the Modenese carmaker the previous year. With work quickly progressing on a new sub-3.0 litre V6 engine for the double chevron’s forthcoming grand turismo, Maserati engineering chief, Ing. Giulio Alfieri seemingly took a long hard look at Quai de Javel technology, in particular Citroën’s decision to Continue reading “Porte de Javel”

Not A Viewpoint So Much As A Pinpoint

How much better are supercars than Astra/Focus/Golf class cars?


A few years back I perused the page of Top Gear’s BBC Top Gear New Car Buyers (sic) Guide and found out that they think supercars are better than other types of cars.

Today I am going to see if TG’s methodology has improved by focusing on whether supercars are better than the Astra/Focus/Golf class. To do this I had to Continue reading “Not A Viewpoint So Much As A Pinpoint”

Perfect Compromise

Dublin resident Mick reports on life with a Volvo C30. 

It really doesn’t look its age.

There doesn’t seem to be a lot of love in these parts for the mark V Golf. Not so here. I had 4 of them. My favourite was the ’08 black 3 door. So much so I kept it for almost a decade. The TSI engine that was reputedly brittle brought me and my learner clients almost to the moon (well over 300,000 kms).

About 18 months ago it started to Continue reading “Perfect Compromise”

Learning Japanese

Forming the subject of our Sunday deliberations this week takes the form of a Japanese lesson with Toyota’s Carina II (or should that be Corona?) 

1988 Toyota Carina II: DTW

On one hand this last of line survivor lends a somewhat poignant reminder to how our streets and towns used to look. On the other however, it illustrates a curious anomaly in Japanese carmaking. Because unpicking Toyota’s naming logic is something akin to obtaining a working knowledge of Oriental algebra.

The car we in Britain and Ireland remember as the Carina was in fact offered in some markets as a Corona, and in others as a Celica Camry. The Carina as we first came to know and broadly ignore is believed to Continue reading “Learning Japanese”

Reflections On Chrome, Continued

There roam quite a lot of Peugeot 3008 and 308s in my area and generally in Denmark. They have made me think about brightwork and Mercedes.

2018 Peugeot 3008: source

I read recently that Peugeot is climbing up the estimation rankings of consumers in Europe. And I notice that in recent years Peugeot has not been afraid to sprinkle a little and sometimes a lot of brightwork magic on their cars. It seems to be optional but with a lot of uptake. If we think back to maybe ten years ago and further, this kind of thing did not feature much on their cars. It probably had to to with some kind of reticence regarding ostentation. Worthy as that might be, it led to some decent cars looking a lot less attractive than they could have been.

In parallel to this I wonder if I could Continue reading “Reflections On Chrome, Continued”

Genus Felidae

Marcello Gandini is rightly lauded as one of the great Italian car designers of the 20th century. However there is cause to suspect that he may have been allergic to cats.

(c) Motor

The life of a design consultant is fraught with reversals. All that time spent scouting for commissions, late night oil expended preparing and revising proposals only to receive the thanks, but no-thanks brush-off from the prospective client.

For the Italian car design houses, this had become a way of life – some you win, some you lose. This was certainly the state of affairs in late 1973, when Jaguar’s then Managing Director, Geoffrey Robinson requested carrozzeria Bertone (along with rivals, Ital Design) to Continue reading “Genus Felidae”

Romping Home Into Eighth Place

Now the fine powdered debris has settled, I thought I’d gather up some third party opinions on the mooted Renault/FCA merger.

2018 Renualt Espace: Renault Germany

I’ve decided to amalgamate three sources of information. They are the Financial Times, the New York Times and Autocar. My own view is that the merger is a re-run of the value-incinerating union of Chrysler and Mercedes twenty years ago. But what do the other commentators say if Renault and Fiat Continue reading “Romping Home Into Eighth Place”

End Of Line

Ian Callum has left Jaguar design. Time to reflect on his achievements. 

Ian Callum in front of one of his proudest achievements. (c) autodevot

After years of turmoil, suffering from an ill-fated growth strategy and management oblivious to the marque’s inherent qualities and character, Jaguar all of a sudden found itself with a new chief designer, whose main task was to Continue reading “End Of Line”

The Crossback of Amsterdam

During a pleasant, early morning walk in Amsterdam, a surprise first viewing.

DS3Cross3
New DS3 Crossback – front 4/5 view

Apologies for the poor level of just-about-everything about the photos, but, I came across my first DS3 Crossback whilst on a recent work trip to Amsterdam and felt a compulsion to record the event on my phone. I am always terribly self-conscious when taking street-photos of other people’s cars like this, so I got it over with as soon as I could, resulting in this rather sorry gathering of pictures.

Let’s get it out of the way immediately and Continue reading “The Crossback of Amsterdam”

Botched : 2008 Saab 9.5

Shooting fish in a barrel? 

(c) saabworld

Historically, long production runs had been something of a holy writ at Trollhätten. As an independent company, Saab’s engineering integrity, coupled with well-judged updates and their slightly left of centre appeal meant the frequently cash-strapped carmaker could eke out model lines long after rival offerings had succumbed to the inevitable. Continue reading “Botched : 2008 Saab 9.5”

Photos For Sunday: Lancia Thema 8.32

We’ve probably said as much as about this car as can be said, short of taking it for a lengthy celebratory test drive. The only new experience to be registered today is about how the car sounds.

Lancia Thema 8.32

Sitting in the car and, now reflecting on the vehicle in hindsight, it sinks home that the effect of putting a Ferrari engine in a Lancia is to make a car much more interesting than anything Ferrari itself has done since, with maybe the exception of the 1992 Ferrari 456 GT.

How can we understand this car? Do we understand the meaning of this car? If it helps to understand the remarkable nature of the Thema 8.32 maybe imagine an Opel Insignia with a Porsche engine. Even that is not quite an analogue because the Insignia, nice as it is, doesn’t mean the same thing as the standard Lancia does. Continue reading “Photos For Sunday: Lancia Thema 8.32”

Maybe There Are Some Reasons For Why Those Echoes Fade

The year is 1993. At the Geneva show Pininfarina presented the Ethos2 concept car, Aston Martin showed the Lagonda and BMW the supermini Z13.

1993 Fiat Downtown: source

Fiat offered the Downtown, a three-seater with two motors driving the rear wheels. It had sodium sulphur batteries and a 118-mile range. When driven at 30 mph, the range increased to 186 miles. This one came from a time when car manufacturers were more willing to Continue reading “Maybe There Are Some Reasons For Why Those Echoes Fade”

Darwin’s Estate

What happens when a subspecies falls prey to evolutionary overspecialisation? The 2008 Ford Flex is what happens.

Post-facelift Flex (c) cargurus

When J. Mays took over from Jack Telnack as Dearborn’s styling supremo in 1997, his avowed aim was to re-emphasise Ford’s homegrown product identity, appointing former Volvo design chief, Peter Horbury in 2004 as Executive Director for design with responsibility for FoMoCo’s cache of US brands.

By mid-decade, it had already become apparent that the US market was losing its appetite for minivans, but Ford, like most of its domestic rivals lacked the market foresight to Continue reading “Darwin’s Estate”

Every Day Is Judgement Day.

Continuing our meditation on the Austin Maxi and Fiat 128, some thoughts prompted by encounters with two survivors.

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The two cars pictured were photographed in the last 12 months. As well as being impressively original and looking as if they work for a living, they’re also examples of the last of their breeds.

The Maxi is one of the final ‘Maxi 2’ iteration, introduced to a largely indifferent world in August 1980, just 11 months from the end of production. The bright colour – ‘Snapdragon’ in BL parlance – suits it well. Far too many Maxis were specified in Russet Brown, Damask Red, or hearing-aid beige (formally known as “Champagne”), 1950s colours two decades on, in a time when BLMC’s Austin Morris colour pallet suddenly became positively vibrant. Tellingly, the archetypal Maxi customer avoided Bronze Yellow, Limeflower, or Blaze Red. Continue reading “Every Day Is Judgement Day.”

“To The Detriment of His Supreme Imperial Majesty – Hurragh!”

Oh, dear more actual news at DTW. 

Reduces stress
2019 Fiat 500L: source

Without wanting to drag Brexit into this**, I have to note that Larry Elliot at the Guardian is now visibly wrong about another big thing, the Renault-FCA merger (if it is even a realistic prospect). For your information, Elliot has been at the very least tolerant of the lunacy of Brexit. Now he is suggesting that the mooted, hinted, suggested alliance of FCA and Fiat is even worth considering.

The core of his recent article is that “Frosty relations between France’s Macron and Italy’s Salvini could scupper talks over £29bn merger”. It sounds so knowledgeable but Franco-Italian relations are 800 km beside the point.

Second, it’s not 1976 any more, a time when national leaders could push around large corporations as de Gaulle did with Fiat and Citroen. But the problem is so much more fundamental: the idea of FCA linking to Renault is as insane as suggesting someone should consider marrying a syphilitic zombie. In this instance Renault-Nissan is the “someone” and FCA is the “syphilitic zombie”. While Renault has had its downs and up, the F in FCA has been only able to Continue reading ““To The Detriment of His Supreme Imperial Majesty – Hurragh!””

Better By FAAR

Ignoring provisos about spin cycles, we report on some news.

2020 Corsa-e. (c) automotive news

Despite the question marks which remain poised above Groupe PSA’s revival under Carlos Tavares, one cannot deny that the French carmaking giant seems to be playing something of a blinder at present. Last week, following leaked photos which surfaced online, Opel released official images and some details of the forthcoming Corsa B-segment model, due to
go on sale later in the year. Continue reading “Better By FAAR”

A Candle Stick Fell Into The River One Day

Seven fat years: from 1993 to 1997 Fiat sold the Coupé Fiat as nobody calls it.  As if that was not enough Fiat also sold the cheaper Barchetta, which had a good ten year year run. Glory days indeed.

For inspiring the possessed
1997 Coupé Fiat

We’ll discuss the Coupé today. If the body slashes down the side of the car get the most attention, and deservedly so, this view shows another form of design discipline in operation.  The whole lot seems to be defined by very few lines: the outline, the dark trapezoids of the of lamps, grille aperture and the front screen and not much else.

How I wish I could Continue reading “A Candle Stick Fell Into The River One Day”