Brochures Redux – A Retro Retrospective

In 1999, when retro was all the rage, BMW’s Z8 roadster did its best to exploit the sense of nostalgia that prevailed at the dawn of the new millennium. Surprisingly though, its sales brochure proves more creative. 

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Start your engines, Herr Bond! (This, lest we forget, was published in 1999, when car keys were still in regular use.)

For the launch of its luxury roadster – by some margin the most expensive series production car offered by the Bavarians, at 235.000 Deutschmarks – BMW threw everything but the kitchen sink at its potential customers.
Continue reading “Brochures Redux – A Retro Retrospective”

The Lily, Gilded

Rather a long time ago there were areas of the car market not occupied by the OEMs. How about a nice bit of plastic for your car, sir?

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Wind and rain deflectors for E20 BMW 5-series

This advert is from the 1992 Daily Mail Motor Review. The back pages of car magazines usually featured this kind of thing. After you bought your car you could get rubber mats, car seat covers (the loud, tweedy ones were best), sun roofs and moon roofs, engine additives and car covers. Fog lamps could also be added, the more the better.

Continue reading “The Lily, Gilded”

Let’s Do It Like Last Time

How much does the 2017 BMW 5-series differ from its predecessor? Read on to find out.

2017 BMW 5 series design changes
2017 BMW 5 series design changes

Yesterday I moaned about the 2017 BMW 5 (G30) series’ lack of presence. It is, as many have pointed out, quite similar to the 2011 BMW 5-series (F10). How similar? How different?

The image above summarises the main findings. The process of redesigning a car has means and it has ends. The means are the physical forms and the ends are what those forms are intended to achieve. If I had been really rigorous I would have simply noted the physical nature (the means) of the change and left the commentary (about the ends) to this part, that is comments about what I think the changes are for.

The dimensions of the two cars are not the same but not very different. The G30 differs most from the F10 by being 36 mm longer. Some of the changes are there to enhance that: Continue reading “Let’s Do It Like Last Time”

Automotive Mayfly

This isn’t much of a Photo for Saturday** more of blue car by the side of the road. What is it?

image

It’s a very Was Then sort of car. From 2006 to 2008 BMW made this car in Regensburg. It’s a variant of the E85 Z4 which had a longer life. The Z4M had one engine, a 3.2 litre six cylinder unit and a six speed ‘box. In some ways you could call it an M3 wearing Z4 clothes. If you want a historical reference, it has the same relation to the Z4 as the Triumph GT6 to the mainstream Spitfire. It’s the kind of car that used to be quite common, a pure sports car which is now rather a freak. Continue reading “Automotive Mayfly”

Benz Buster -1986 BMW (E32) 7-Series

The keys to the executive lounge are hard-won. Sometimes you’ve got to force your way in…

Image: Autoevolution
Image: Autoevolution

The 1986 E32 BMW 7-Series may not have been as polarising a styling statement as its E65 descendant, but was if anything a far more significant car. Bayerische Motoren Werke’s ‘here’s Johnny’ moment; it represented a point where BMW took a metaphorical axe to the boardroom door and gave their Swabian rivals the fright of their lives. It also inspired an entire generation of BMW saloons, introducing the distinctive (and patented) L-shaped tail-lamp motif.
Continue reading “Benz Buster -1986 BMW (E32) 7-Series”

One or Two, Asks Henry from Derbyshire

We might be one of the least influential car websites but we are responsive. Sam the Eagle raised the question yesterday. This is the answer.

2007-2013 BMW 1-series coupe: source
2007-2013 BMW 1-series coupe: source

The start point of the discussion is a fictional letter (sent by post, imagine!) from a fictional reader, Henry. Henry is based in northwest Derbyshire and sells office furniture cleaner. He wants to trade down from his 2004 SsangYong Rodius which is too large for him and his wife. Henry wants a new, small BMW but can’t decide if he wants the 1-series or 2-series. In fact, in the letter Henry says he can’t tell the difference between the two cars. He has seen both in the office car park and considers both “quite smart”. Is the 2 worth more than the 1, he asks. They will look almost the same when ordered in black with badge delete option, he notes.

I turned to BMW´s own website to

Continue reading “One or Two, Asks Henry from Derbyshire”

BMW – Caught On The Back Wheel

Two Driven Wheels Good. Four Driven Wheels Better. BMW challenges its own orthodoxy.

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BMW 5 Series G30 – image : autocar.com

The rest of Europe might or might not care but, on one thing, the UK Brexiteers were right. BMW needs us. Or maybe we need them since our appetite for The Ultimate Driving Machine is unabated. BMW sells as many 5 Series saloons in the UK as in Germany, though there the estate now dominates, and the UK market has been looked at very carefully when developing the next 5 Series that arrives here in February. Continue reading “BMW – Caught On The Back Wheel”

Fifth Nicest*

My predilection for two and three door cars is already a matter of public record

The scalloped headlamps and reduced indicators were very small facelift tweaks. To my eyes though they made a big difference.
The scalloped headlamps and reduced indicators were very small facelift tweaks. To my eyes though they made a big difference.

Four years ago however a growing family (and the ridiculous amount of paraphernalia that accompanies two kids) meant short of a roof box or a trailer a new car was needed. The thought of either an MPV or SUV was never entertained. That pretty much meant I was looking for a saloon. Not just any saloon though, but the 5th best looking* 4 door of all time. When this car was launched in 1994 (and especially in base spec) it had a discreet and maybe even slightly underwhelming presence. By the time it came to it’s run out in 2001, dollied up with MSport skirts and almost totally dechromed (the only silver to be found is on the twin kidney grilles) it truly was a sleek slice of motoring heaven.
Continue reading “Fifth Nicest*”

Not for Sale Around Here: BMW 1-Series Sedan

…or saloon if you must.

Source: Motor Authority
Source: Motor Authority

We could easily be excused for missing the first official pictures of the BMW 1 Series four-door. It’s reported to be strictly China-only, and a built in the BMW-Brilliance Auto joint venture factory in Shenyang. The design isn’t wholly unfamiliar, having broken cover as the ‘Concept Compact Sedan’ at the Auto Guangzhou salon last November. Continue reading “Not for Sale Around Here: BMW 1-Series Sedan”

Requiem for a 5-Series

As BMW readies a new 5 GT for 2017, we pay tribute to their 2009 niche-bender by recounting the dolorous tale of one such car.

Image: Zombdrive
Image: Zombdrive

Back in 2009, BMW introduced the 5-Series GT – a car few have felt much affection for, the poor thing. It’s unclear why BMW felt they needed it. When it first appeared as the Progressive Activity Sedan concept in 2007, it seemed BMW were just toying with niches in a similar manner to their Swabian rivals in Stuttgart-Untertürkheim. But PAS was no R-Class, being far more saloon-like in concept and appearance, even if the desirability of a 5-door BMW hatchback as large as a 7-Series seemed questionable even in those innocent pre-crash days. Continue reading “Requiem for a 5-Series”

Theme: Materials – General Electric “Xenoy”

What do the 1982 Ford Sierra, 1985 Mercury Sable and 1988 BMW Z1 have in common? Xenoy.

1988 BMW Z1: source
1988 BMW Z1: source

The difference is the extent and application of its use on the BMW. While Ford and Mercury made use of Xenoy on the bumpers, the Bavarian firm used it on the sliding doors, the wings and the rocker panels. The rocker panels are huge on this car so that’s a lot of plastic. Continue reading “Theme: Materials – General Electric “Xenoy””

Mid-Decade Midliners

BMW’s E60 5-Series was a landmark design. Thirteen years on, it still is – something that could never be said about its main domestic rival. 

Image:BMWdrives.com
The W124 of its era. Image: BMWdrives.com

How long does it take for a car design to visually mature? I would suggest a good decade for the shape to either embed itself or to become hopelessly dated. Good design doesn’t really date that quickly – a notion I was reminded of the other day as I happened upon two mid-noughties contemporaries parked nose to tail in suburban Pinner and was struck by the modernity of one and the really quite homely appearance of the other. One was a Mercedes W211 E-Class and the other an E60 BMW 5-Series. I think you can guess which was which. Continue reading “Mid-Decade Midliners”

Eternal Flame Surfacing

Chris Bangle – the case for the defence.

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A youngling designer, Photo (c) pakwheels.com

Close your eyes and imagine a car designer who actually has something to say. Who doesn’t just repeat the marketing fluff as dictated by his employer’s PR people. Who understands that there’s a world beyond the automotive, and, simultaneously, a world the car, inadvertently or not, helps to shape. The man this is referring to is none other than one Christopher Edward Bangle. Continue reading “Eternal Flame Surfacing”

Hindsight: The 1994 BMW 3-series Compact

We have recently discussed BMW’s invasion of the lower end of the market. This is the car that really kicked it off.

1994-2000 BMW 3-series compact: for the same money you could get a loaded Astra, Golf or Escort.
1994-2000 BMW 3-series compact: for the same money you could get a loaded Astra, Golf or Escort.

You don’t really notice these vehicles. They are dissolving into the background of the streetscape like any jaded old Escort or roughed-up, worn out and uncared for Astra or Golf. This one is in BMW’s Ignore Me dark blue. Base-model blue if you like.

The motoring press were in awe of this car when it came out. “A new 3-series for a song,” raved Car magazine in October 1994. They showed the front end of the car which, of course, was identical to the standard 3-series, just as the front end of a Chrysler Sunbeam was much the same as that of the Avenger. However, from the A-pillar back it was cost-cutting and decontenting as far back as the tail-pipe. Continue reading “Hindsight: The 1994 BMW 3-series Compact”

BMW Is A Hundred Years Old

BMW celebrates its century with a blizzard of PR bafflegab

2016 BMW Vision 100 is not a CUV: source
2016 BMW Vision 100 is not a CUV. Small dots are the future though: source

They got a little mixed up with the concepts of ends and means though. BMW has cited four elements that constitute its values and have sketched a new and thrillingly meaningless corporate logo. Continue reading “BMW Is A Hundred Years Old”

Taking the Scenic Route

Now that Renault’s Scenic has got a buff new body, will everybody want one?

Yep, it's the flippin' Scenic again. Image:ultimatecarblog
Yep, it’s the flippin’ Scenic again. Image: source

We auto-purists are a tough lot to please, applauding the likes of Renault for creating practical, sensible and versatile car designs which the market promptly shuns. Stung by the lack of acceptance, they attempt a redress and we throw fruit. Last week saw a debate take place here around the merits of the just-debuted Renault Scenic. Without being scientific about it, I’d call the consensus a broadly positive one, but with a mildly grudging undertone. Continue reading “Taking the Scenic Route”

Theme: Special – Karl Lagerfeld’s Salo(o)ns

It isn’t unusual for a fashion designer to sprinkle a bit of his fairy dust onto the humble products of car manufacturers. What is more unusual is for a fashion designer to create a bespoke car for himself. Which is exactly what Karl Lagerfeld did – twice. 

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Space for the hand fan included, somewhere, Photo (c) e38.ru

Franco-German fashion icon, Karl Lagerfeld, is about as illustrious and flamboyant a homo sapiens as can be. That he chose neither a Rolls-Royce, nor a Mercedes 600 covered in mother of pearl, nor a carriage made of solid ivory, but the moderately sporting, restrained shape of BMW’s second and third generations of Seven series saloons as his personal means of transportation can therefore be described as a decision that is as surprising and idiosyncratic as the man himself. Continue reading “Theme: Special – Karl Lagerfeld’s Salo(o)ns”

Theme : Facelifts – Second Coming

Or should that read Coming Second?

BMW-Serii-7-4

In the repository of automotive facelifts, this example is something of an aberrant one. BMW’s E65 7-Series is commonly and perhaps justifiably regarded as BMW’s ‘they’ve gone stark raving bonkers’ moment. Adrian Van Hoydoonk’s styling was on one hand a genuine breath of fresh air, yet at the same time, a visual challenge of epic proportions.

Continue reading “Theme : Facelifts – Second Coming”

Chris Bangle and ‘The Vision Thing’

Reassessing Chris Bangle’s BMW Legacy.

Chris-BangleOnly a handful of individuals shape what we drive and by dint, what populates our streets and driveways. Our Euro-centric notions of automotive style were formed during the 1950s in the styling studios of the Italian carrozzerie – Pininfarina, Bertone and their ilk, who fired imaginations and rendered dreams in hand-beaten alloy. Continue reading “Chris Bangle and ‘The Vision Thing’”