The history of the motor industry is littered with lost causes and alternative realities. Today, we look at one of the more poignant examples.
Even in automotive terms, Karl-Heinz Kalbfell is not a household name, although perhaps he ought to be. The late German engineer and product supremo enjoyed a stellar career at BMW and in 2004, landed what appeared to be not only a dream job, but one which promised truly great things.
Whether it was Liz’s Jubilee, BL’s annus horriblis, the death of Elvis, the first space shuttle flight or the beginning of the Star Wars juggernaut, 1977 was a year of transitions. Even the music business reflected this, with Fleetwood Mac’s cocaine and divorce epic, Rumours topping the album charts while David Bowie (now off the white powder) offered the icy sheen of Low, a record which suggested a future (if not necessarily the future).
Three German cars, each of which share a birthdate and a complex web of gestational links, share one further distinction. Each helped put post-war Germany back on four wheels.
Sixty years ago, Europe was still reeling from the effects of World War Two. Germany was inching its way back to political credibility and prosperity thanks to the economic miracle and a little help from an American named Marshall. Mobility was very much the name of the game, with most domestic manufacturers focusing on simple, affordable cars for everyman.
BMW’s daring X2 crossover breaks new ground by changing the rules, thereby ruling the game. No really – it totally does.
In the BBC comedy, 2012 and it’s spinoff, W1A, the standout character is that of Brand Consultant and head of PR agency Perfect Curve, Siobhan Sharpe, played with considerable aplomb by actress, Jessica Hynes. In the show, Siobhan is engaged, enthusiastic, totally on-zeitgeist. Her dial is set to communicate, yet lacks a filter or indeed much in the way of genuine insight. As a communicator, Siobhan never seems to Continue reading “It’s Dare!”
We recently explored the matter of how long it takes to align two ranges of cars when one company takes over another or there is an administrative merger. In the cases of Ford and GM, covered earlier, the process seems to take under a decade. Are there counter examples?
Today I will take a look at the case of Rover, which marque came under the control of BMW in 1994. Rover (when under BL) had already been part of a co-operative venture with Honda. That process began under the Triumph brand when BL decided to use a slightly modified version of the Ballade as the basis of the Acclaim. The cooperation changed tracks slightly when Triumph was shuttered and Rover began to Continue reading “Mercury White Moonlight Makes Landfall on the Littoral”
Chopping the back off a saloon can lead to unfortunate results.
The 1978 A-body cars at GM lost a lot of fat in the downsizing wave of the mid-70s. Half a tonne of car vanished per model. For the Aeroback cars such as this 1979 Century coupe even more metal got sliced off (the same went for the very similar Olds Cutlass Salon). The 1977 Talbot Sunbeam and 1975 AMC Pacer underwent the same sort of radical surgery in the name of making one car out of another. But if you want to Continue reading “As They To The Lychgate Draw Near So Waxes Quick The Quiet Fear”
Among the numerous small obsessions nurtured, nay, incubated at DTW is a concern for brightwork. Here’s another example of the art:
The car is a BMW 425d, complete with the rather supernumerary, superfluous and unnecessary label in the rearmost sideglass. Isn’t that the kind of thing you’d expect of a lesser marque in the 1980s? (Prizes for finding the kind of thing I have in mind). We’ve reflected on brightwork here (very good) and here (interesting) here (shocking, frankly) and here (a bit technical but ultimately rewarding) but not here (more people need to read that one). At this point, readers might be wonder when we are going to Continue reading “Combing The Hair Underwater Again, Are We?”
Despite this particular group of people hardly being renowned connoisseurs of the finer things in life, manufacturers try their utmost to make the Frankfurt Motor Show a palatable experience for the press. Do they succeed?
The IAA press days are all about hustle and bustle. Most attendees have appointments to make or deadlines to meet, which – coupled with the distances that need to be covered at Messe Frankfurt, not to mention the above average levels of dehydration, (courtesy of the halls’ air conditioning) one is afflicted with – can render grabbing a bite to eat a difficult necessity. Continue reading “IAA 2017: A Culinary Perspective”
The legendary motoring scribe Archie Vicar, takes a look at the 1972 BMW 3.0 CSi in what may be a transcription of a period review.
The article seems to have been first published in the Clitheroe Morning Register, May 17, 1972. The original photos were by Douglas Land-Windermere. Due to the poor quality of the images stock photos have been used.
In these increasingly competitive times, it is now essential that manufacturers must offer continual improvements every year on a rolling basis. The time when a car could be launched and left unchanged for ten to twelve years are long past, except at Citroen, whose antediluvian DS goes back to 1955. With an eye to staying ahead of the pack, BMW, the specialist maker of sporting saloons, has had another stab at another revision to their slow-selling coupé, the 3.0. With its awkward appearance and lack of space, BMW need to do all they can to Continue reading “Jolly Times On Bavarian Roads!”
It’s now autumn, a time to reflect. Recently, DTW has been driving Lancias and we have discussed the decline of this once noble marque. It is not the only brand to have faded away.
In the diagram I have marked the timelines of two other defunct brands: Rover and Saab. Rover closed in 2005 and Saab shut up shop in 2011. You’ll notice that while Rover had no new models in the Phoenix years (I don’t count the MG versions), Saab had new product in the pipeline right until the last minute. Lancia’s demise is more muddled.
First, the badge engineering of Fiat cars increased and then swapped around 2011 to the relabelling of Chryslers. The Lybra (1998) and Thesis (2002) count as the last proper Lancias. The Delta (2008) is a superficially restyled Bravo but nowhere near the quality of the 1998 Lybra. The latest Ypsilon is a reworked Fiat 500. As of 2014 FCA gave up rebadging Chrysler (I left one out – which?). And perhaps Alfa Romeo could be added to this chart… Continue reading “Leaving Off The Saws”
BMW have enjoyed a decade of success selling an ever-expanding range of four wheel drive hatchbacks. Now they are making their largest one yet. What madness is this?
“I think if you try and make something impressive, rather than good, you’re doomed.” Spen King, engineer and creator of the Range Rover.
On paper at least, BMW is the smallest and theoretically most vulnerable of the German premium big three. Daimler is bigger and its business more diverse. Audi is insulated to a large extent by nestling within the VW mothership. This however ignores BMW’s deftness as a business, to say nothing of its profitability and net worth, which may well outstrip its rivals.
(Also, I have learned how to make screenshots on my iPhone). The headline suggests a whole new design, something low and slippery. The car shown is, to the layman, the exact same. Anyone who didn’t love the i3 before will still not love it now. This redesign (if it is one) “counters” Tesla like sending a yoga teacher to fight the Visigoths. Continue reading “Written On the Edge”
BMW have released photos and a rather toe-curling video for their new concept Z4, said to provide broad clues as to how next year’s production Z4 will look. Good grief, it’s an angry looking thing, isn’t it?
Here are some words. They’re lifted from BMW’s website, (verbatim) so I take no responsibility. Apart from the annotated comments of course, which are mine. Continue reading “Anger Is an Energy”
The fifth generation BMW 7 comes under scrutiny here.
Ah, the depths of my ignorance. Only a little bit of due diligence led me to discover that until the fifth generation 7er appeared in 2008, this line had McPherson struts at the front. BMW probably argued that if Lancia deemed Mackers good enough for the Trevi then they would suffice for their flagboat saloon.
After sighting a few dark and tatty examples I saw this conveniently clean and pale W-201 yesterday. Where’s quality hiding?
I asked this of a BMW 3-series (E-30) recently. Both came out the same year, 1982 (as did the Ford Sierra). So, presumably the cars gestated at the same time and without a large likelihood of designers and clay modellers migrating between studios. First let’s take a close look to find Ms. Quality… Continue reading “Can’t, And Will Anyway”
BMW’s new hatchback is upon us. It isn’t better than the last one. In fact it’s worse.
When the mighty Vierzylinder announced the 5-Series GT in 2009, it was met with almost universal ridicule. So much so, its passing last year was at best unmourned and in some quarters, openly celebrated. There was little wrong with the 5-GT, a large, practical hatchback with a cavernous interior and all the versatility this layout entails. No, the big problem appears to have rested upon the fact that BMW produced a vehicle which placed practicality and convenience above style. A conceit which didn’t play all that well with the marque faithful, or indeed the press.
So goes the old saying anyway. In the year 2000 when we were supposed to be floating on hover-drones and wearing alufoil skinsuits, Porsche still had the engine in the back even if air cooling was out.
And BMW offered the 1950s-inspired Z8 while Aston pursued girth and heft with the Aston Martin Vantage Volante, a V12 topless GT. Where did the future actually go to?
It is hard to be sure of if the three convertibles are comparable even if period reviews seemed to think so.
BMW makes lavish claims for its forthcoming 8-Series, saying it will herald an upward shift in product strategy. But will it be enough?
Last week, BMW displayed a concept previewing a forthcoming 8-Series model line which went on display at the sumptuous annual Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este at Italy’s Lake Como. BMW’s Ian Robertson used the occasion to outline the company’s ambitions, telling Autocar magazine, “We want to bring more cars into the upper luxury segment. We are working on other products as we feel there is a lot of opportunity there. The new 8 series is part of this. In the next couple of years we will see the most comprehensive change in the history of BMW.”Continue reading “Number 8 Dream – BMW Reaches For The Star”
Despite being chronically unwilling to be associated with aftermarket tinkering, ALPINA actually represents the ideal of a specialised manufacturer finessing a mass product.
Alpina Burkard Bovensiepen GmbH + Co. KG is a peculiar company, and not just because the ALPINA part is officially written in capitals. Its signature decorative stripes, called Deko-Set, are also but a mere symptom of an underlying quaintness that is truly without equal in the automotive business. Continue reading “Theme: Aftermarket – ALPINA”
Despite arguably being the most gifted automotive engineer and manager of his generation, Prof Dr Wolfgang Reitzle would only ever enter the captain’s chair once he left the car industry for good.
It is one of automotive history’s more baffling paradoxes that a man of such undisputed talents as Wolfgang Reitzle never reached the post of chief executive at an automotive business. But as with a great many other high achievers, it actually was the same traits that had brought Reitzle so close to the apex that ultimately prevented him from arriving there.
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.
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?
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.
How much does the 2017 BMW 5-series differ from its predecessor? Read on to find out.
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 Continue reading “Let’s Do It Like Last Time”
This isn’t much of a Photo for Saturday** more of blue car by the side of the road. What is it?
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”
The keys to the executive lounge are hard-won. Sometimes you’ve got to force your way in…
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”
Two Driven Wheels Good. Four Driven Wheels Better. BMW challenges its own orthodoxy.
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”
My predilection for two and three door cars is already a matter of public record.
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*”
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”
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.
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”
What do the 1982 Ford Sierra, 1985 Mercury Sable and 1988 BMW Z1 have in common? Xenoy.
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””
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.
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”
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”
We have recently discussed BMW’s invasion of the lower end of the market. This is the car that really kicked it off.
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 celebrates its century with a blizzard of PR bafflegab
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”
Now that Renault’s Scenic has got a buff new body, will everybody want one?
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”
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.
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”
What with all the kerfuffle regarding Ferdinand Piech’s stepping down from his post as leader of VAG’s board of directors this summer, it went by almost unnoticed that an era was ending at BMW, too.
Norbert Reithofer is not what one would call ‘showy’. He’s gifted with neither the shock-frosting stare of a Piech nor the gunslinging attitude of a Bob Lutz. Reithofer’s hint of a Bavarian accent and non-boisterous delivery were the most noteworthy elements of his public appearances.
So far, so unexceptional. In keeping with BMW traditions, the end of Reithofer’s tenure also wasn’t accompanied by bells and whistles – it’s as though the office of ‘A’, which is what the CEO of BMW is traditionally being referred to internally, is merely being rented out to another tenant (former head of production, Harald Krüger, to be precise). Continue reading “‘A’ Departure”
The few reviews that have crossed my desk have not been very revealing. This one deserves some scrutiny.
This is how Kamil Kaluski begins his article: “This is the car that people in the 1970s predictedwe would be driving in the year 2000. Fifteen years after the turn of the millennium, the BMW i8 is the machine that looks like no other BMW — and certainly like no other car on the road. Its gasoline and plug-in electric powertrain compliment its looks, bringing together the efficiency of an electric car and the convenience of an internal combustion engine.”Continue reading “The Truth About Cars on the 2015 BMW i8”
This month’s theme provides the opportunity for a mild personal indulgence, a chance to get a slightly geeky obsession with a specific detail out of my system – I hope nobody minds.
I rarely feel very strongly about wheel design, but this particular alloy wheel struck me from the outset as being really well suited to, and integrated with, this version of the 5 Series. The way in which the spokes are dished inwards around the hub and wheel nuts for the first 7” or 8” and then continue on a flat plane to the rim is in sympathy with the surfacing of the body panelling. Continue reading “Theme – Wheels: BMW E60 5 Series 19 inch”
Will this theme not tire us all? This BMW i3 caught my eye because of the novel arrangment of the bumper and bodysides.
Another element is the way the tailgate covers the lights. Audi have deployed this on some of their Q-series SUVs and good old Opel have managed it on their delightful Insignia estate. I have some history with this feature: as a newbie-designer (in 2002) I proposed this concept for a saloon and was told it was “not feasible”. Note to other designers, unless the laws of physics are challenged, everything is feasible given time and money. Always dispute the power of “no.”
… Now You Don’t. We look at the GINA, BMW’s attempt to produce a literal shutline
However much he might have railed, an engineer of Dr Piech’s standing knew that, even by calling it a shut line, it would always be, in reality, a shut gap. Expansion, engineering tolerances, sag and the possibility of damage means that the shutlines of a solid bodied car will always be measured in millimetres, not microns. Even those uniformly narrow gaps on modern VAG products must have been an irritation to him until the end. Continue reading “Theme : Shutlines – Now You See It …”