Dearborn 1967: product segmentation was strictly for the birds.
The 1958 Thunderbird would prove to be a pivotal product for the Blue Oval. Not only did the Square Bird transform the fortunes of the model line, the ’58 T-Bird popularised the concept of the personal luxury car amongst the American car buying public, creating an entire sector it would subsequently bestride. Not only that, the second-generation Thunderbird illustrated to Dearborn management that it was possible to Continue reading “Cats Will Fly”
Even now, well into the 21st century, the automotive industry and its related fields employ and attract more men than they do women, and the styling studios are no exception. There certainly has been a noticeable influx of women in the design departments over the past few decades: Anne Asensio, Marcy Fisher, Juliane Blasi and Michelle Christensen being a few latterday examples.
Wind back the clock some 90 years however and it was a different environment – and not just within the car industry. It took a determined and strong-willed woman to overcome the prejudice, condescendence, resistance and occasionally, outright hostility she would often confront if she dared enter an arena hitherto considered to be the sole domain of men.
Some of the women presented herein might appear a tad overdressed in period photographs, but it is important to Continue reading “Role Call”
Concluding the story of the original Ford Mondeo and how it confounded the expectations of those who drove it.
The launch of a new Ford was always big news in the UK, so it fell to BBC Top Gear motoring journalist Jeremy Clarkson to pronounce upon the Mondeo. Clarkson tested the car in 1.8 litre manual four-door saloon form shortly after its launch in March 1993. He was underwhelmed by the car’s appearance but impressed by both the interior design and quality of finish.
The Ford Mondeo will soon be consigned to automotive history. Today we recall the 1993 original and how it confounded the expectations of those who drove it.
Ford recently surprised nobody(1) by announcing that the Mondeo will be discontinued without a direct replacement in March 2022. The D-segment saloon, hatchback and estate has fallen victim to a fatal cocktail of countervailing forces that reduced European sales to just 21,222(2) in 2020. This is a far cry from the model’s heyday in the 1990’s when annual sales exceeded 300,000 units. Its North American equivalent, the Fusion, was discontinued in July 2020.
The Mondeo was initially hit by the encroachment of smaller premium models, which could be had for similar monthly leasing payments to the mainstream Ford, thanks to their stronger residuals. Company car drivers and personal contract purchasers, who comprised the vast majority of Mondeo customers, were happy to Continue reading “Ford Rediscovers its Mojo (Part One)”
Today we tell the story of the Batmobile, the automotive hero of the 1966 children’s television series that was based on the comic book adventures of Batman and Robin.
DTW readers of more mature years will immediately recognise the apparently random selection of words in the title above. They are lifted from the opening credits of Batman, a 20th Century Fox children’s television programme that ran from 1966 to 1968 and made an indelible impression on one childish mind at least.
The hero of the programme was Bruce Wayne, a wealthy bachelor played by Adam West, who led a double life as Batman, protecting the good citizens of Gotham City from the dastardly deeds of a variety of colourful, if inept criminals including The Riddler, The Joker and The Penguin. At Batman’s side was Robin, a.k.a. Bruce Wayne’s young ward, Dick Grayson, played by Burt Ward, and their indefatigable and unflappable butler, Alfred Pennyworth, played by English actor Alan Napier. Continue reading “WHAP!…POW!…BIFF!…OOOF!”
The silence was deafening, broken only by the faint hum of the ventilation system in Ford Motor Company Vice President Robert S. McNamara’s office. “Bob, you can’t really do that, can you?” uttered general manager Ben D. Mills after a few uncomfortable seconds. “You bet I can do it” was McNamara’s terse response.
McNamara had just announced that based on Lincoln’s dismal financial projections (and it had never made a profit since its inception) he had decided to recommend that the brand be terminated. It was only after a long and heated discussion that Mills, chief engineer Harold McDonald and executive engineer Harold Johnsson managed to persuade McNamara to Continue reading “Knocking On Opportunity’s Door”
Our Under the Knife Series travels to the Americas.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder, or addiction to cosmetic surgery, is no laughing matter. Those afflicted by it, such as American socialite Jocelyn Wildenstein are testament to the fact that one would be wise to Continue reading “The Old Bird’s Case Of BDD”
DTW marks the last of the traditional American body-on-frame sedans.
The Ford Crown Victoria and its Mercury and Lincoln siblings were the last in a long line of traditional body-on-frame full-size rear-wheel-drive sedans that were for decades a defining feature of the American automotive landscape. They were simply engineered, but tough and reliable cars that were perfectly suited to the wide variety of private, commercial and institutional roles in which they served.
So long, farewell, adieu: This week has seen a lot of fervid happenings in the land of the free / home of the brave, but one which perhaps got lost amid the signal and noise of that election was the official cessation of Lincoln Continental production – which has either already ceased or is scheduled to Continue reading “The Art of Saying Goodbye”
Analysing three different takes on the personal luxury car of 1963.
The personal luxury car is a uniquely American phenomenon; its closest cousin in concept would have been the European GT, but this transatlantic specimen was a larger, softer (but on a straight piece of road not necessarily slower) breed. There is a fairly general consensus that Ford was the first to Continue reading “Getting Personal”
It’s now only a matter of time before Ford’s largest European car offering loses its uneven struggle against customer apathy.
It’s all change at the blue oval, as our dear, departed Archie Vicar might have put it. The Ford Motor Company, it seems, has been rather busy of late, not simply rearranging the deckchairs by putting an end to car production in the United States, or announcing the breathlessly anticipated body-on-frame Bronco offroader, but shuffling the deck on the bridge to boot. Iceberg? What iceberg?
The dance of the two Jim’s has kept blue-oval watchers amused for months now; the word at ground level being that (former CEO) Jim (Hackett) hasn’t really lived up to expectations, but that (new CEO) Jim (Farley) is either (a) absolutely and without doubt the chap to steady the ship, or (b) the diametric opposite of the above. It really depends on who you Continue reading “Death to the Mondeo”
We conclude our retrospective on the US Big Two’s somewhat compromised 1970 subcompact offerings, focusing today on the Ford Pinto and examining the controversy that engulfed it.
The Chevrolet Vega was an ambitious clean-sheet design, but Ford took a rather more pragmatic approach to the Pinto. In 1968, Ford President Lee Iacocca set targets of a sub-2,000 lbs weight, a sub-$2,000 entry price and an accelerated development time of just 25 months for the new subcompact.
Fifty years ago, Ford and General Motors introduced their first subcompact models to challenge the rising tide of Japanese and European imports. One was underdeveloped and riddled with faults. The other would become an infamous cause célèbre for US safety campaigners.
In the late 1960’s US auto makers were becoming concerned about the growing popularity of small Japanese and European imports. These tended to be basic and unsophisticated, but were also cheap, economical and reliable, particularly when compared to the alternative of a second-hand domestic model. Ford and GM needed to fight back, so set to work developing what would become known as subcompacts.
The Ford Pinto and Chevrolet Vega were launched within a day of each other in September 1970. Conceptually, they were identical: conventionally engineered front-engined RWD cars that would be available in saloon, hatchback and estate versions. The Vega was slightly larger, with a 3” (75mm) longer wheelbase, although rear seat space in both was occasional at best for adult passengers.
The development of the Vega was highly unusual in that it was controlled, not by Chevrolet, but by an independent team of fifty engineers led by Lloyd Reuss, who reported directly to GM President, Ed Cole. Reuss would himself go on to Continue reading “Subcompact and Substandard (Part One)”
A mid-decade blow-in from the US prompts some blue oval-based soul-searching.
The car which was once so dominant that it came to embody an entire socio-demographic UK class is fading from sight. The decline of the Ford Mondeo signifies a number of things, but perhaps primarily that this, coupled with the recent withdrawal of the Edge SUV from UK market (owing to a lack of buyer interest) illustrates most starkly the upper limits of brand-Ford in 2019.
For clarity, I enclose the following sales figures. Last year the Mondeo racked up sales of 49,596 cars across the entire European region, while this year to July, 25,125 found new homes, suggesting that the model line will struggle to Continue reading “Blowing in the Wind”
Concluding our examination of the 1961 Lincoln Continental’s domestic design influence.
The first major change for the Continental: to silence criticism of its comparatively somewhat stingy rear legroom once and for all, the wheelbase was increased by three inches (from 123 to 126 inches).
The overall appearance of the Continental was unchanged however. Other alterations were a slightly altered roofline/DLO and the replacement of the previously curved side glass with flat glazing. This was a cost-cutting decision which was not universally liked by the press as it was seen as a step backward. The buying public obviously could live with it because sales increased by 20% over the previous year. Continue reading “Continental Congress (Part two)”
Supersize becomes rightsize – how the 1961 Lincoln Continental subtly altered US luxury car design.
The 1961 Lincoln Continental is almost universally regarded as one of the finest car designs ever to come from the USA. Daringly sparse of embellishment and relatively compact (by the standards of the day at least); smoothly geometrical and slab-sided, it marked a breakaway from fins, complicated shapes, panoramic windshields, gaudy colour schemes and superfluous decoration.
This accomplishment would alas prove to be only temporary, as witnessed by the majority of American cars (Lincoln included), that would follow over the next decade. Nevertheless, the 1961 Continental was such an influential design–gamechanger that its competitors Cadillac and Imperial reacted swiftly to Continue reading “Continental Congress (Part one)”
Robertas Parazitas’ 2017 Fiesta opus joins the ‘Longer read’ fold.
As anyone who has tried to manoeuvre a supertanker can probably attest, when a leviathan changes direction, the process is both slow and not without considerable disruption. During the early 1970s, the ultra-conservative Ford Motor Corporation, having toyed with front-wheel drive during the previous decade, made the decision to Continue reading “Weekend Reissue – El Camino a la Fiesta”
What happens when a subspecies falls prey to evolutionary overspecialisation? The 2008 Ford Flex is what happens.
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”
A thirty year-old concept from Ghia comes of age. Perhaps?
It has been stated before upon these pages : The future of the distant past looks considerably more futuristic to our eyes now than that of its more recent equivalent. By way of illustration I urge you to Continue reading “Way To Blue”
We encounter a visitor a long way from the prairie.
There’s a commonly employed saying which goes along the lines of, ‘if you’re going to be a bear, be a grizzly’. The notion being, I suppose, that the apogee of ursine ambition is to be as large, hairy and fearsome as possible. It’s also another way of suggesting that one ought not settle for second-best in life. All in all, as a statement by which to Continue reading “Wild West Hero”
As Ford shuffles its CUV deck on both sides of the Atlantic, do we detect a certain softening in the Blue Oval’s visual palette?
It has been, as DTW’s curiously silent Ford-obsessive, Myles Gorfe might have said, a very busy week in Ford circles, with not one, but three new CUV model lines being revealed. Although, in the interests of accurate reporting that statement might want to be revised downwards, given that the new-generation K U G A and E S C A P E models are broadly one and the same.
But to be even more factually rigorous, one really ought to refine this statement further, given that Ford did not at the time of writing get around to fully revealing the forthcoming Puma – (or should that read P U M A?) badged model, electing instead to Continue reading “This Aggression Will Not Stand”
But it’s not. The next car to bear the name won’t be a Puma, but a vehicle called Puma. Supposedly, the reason for re-using the name, in part, rests on the fact the new car is based on the Fiesta just like the old, and frankly much-missed little pocket rocket (1997-2002). And every one liked the Puma so it’s a name with some emotional weight.
Alert regular visitors to the corner shop we call DTW will certainly recall our recent discussions of American cars sold in Europe.
By way of a follow-up article for what will undoubtedly be a fine spring morning I have been delving into the recent past (2006). This is to look at a few other American vehicles that made it to this side of the Atlantic. That’s just what you want to read as you tuck into your cornflakes and toast. Before some of you jump up shouting “You must Continue reading “I Found A Song For The One Who Visited My Planet”
Design, among many things, is about attempting to control how a product will be seen by the user. Control has limits.
The other day I had the opportunity to see a 1998-1994 Lincoln Continental roaming around the city. Unfortunately for Driven to Write’s readers I could not take a photo in time, so a stock photo will have to suffice. Until that point I had not seen one of these in motion. My impression of the car differed markedly from that based on photos like the image above.
Today we remember Ford’s 1998 roadster concept which championed the freedom of the open road for four, and pay tribute to its designer.
While four-seater convertibles are reasonably common commodities, four-door roadsters, have never quite caught on. But just as nature abhors a vacuum, car designers tend to view received wisdom as something to be challenged.
At the 1998 Chicago Auto Show, when such events took place in the ‘Windy City’, Ford’s US design team, under the leadership of J Mays presented a concept, while not entirely new, had not really been attempted at this scale before. Continue reading “Formula Libre”
Autocar gets its hands on a Ford Thunderbird for a full road test. Its conclusions might surprise you.
While the original 1955 Ford Thunderbird had proven a critical success, its sales were hampered by its two-seat layout and high price; a matter which was remedied in 1958 by the second-generation ‘Square Bird’, a bigger, more ornate looking four-seater personal luxury car.
With sales in the region of 200,000 over its three-year run, the ‘Square ‘Bird’ not only codified the T-Bird template, but became a sizeable profit earner. The third generation, dubbed ‘Bullet Bird’ was introduced in 1961. Its styling, said to have been the work of Alex Tremulis and based on jet fighter iconography and was chosen in favour of a rival design by Elwood Engel, which would itself go on to Continue reading “Riding the Jet Bird”
2019 might seem so very far away now. Who knows what the world will be like then. One thing we do know now is that Ford won’t be present at the 2019 Geneva motor show.
“Ford said the decision was made because the show’s timing didn’t fit its launch schedule and therefore wouldn’t represent good value,” wrote Automotive News Europe. Not launching enough cars, then Ford, eh? Furthermore, we need double quote marks for this next bit: “‘It costs a sizeable amount of money,’ a Ford of Europe spokesman said. ‘If you’re not going make a return on the investment in terms of media attention or people on the stand, why do it?’”.
Sizeable is relative. It costs lots of money in relation to my annual salary, yes, but a few million euros for some wooden stands and pretty ladies in Lycra is a rounding error in Ford’s turn-over, no?
Don’t meet your heroes, they say. They only disappoint. In something of a reverse case, I met an anti-hero in a car park of an Essex airport and was not disappointed at all.
The car in question – shown here in one photo because it isn’t worth any more than one – is the famous Ford 500 or Five-Hundred. It had a mayfly existence if you pardon the pun. Ford revealed it in 2004 at the Detroit Auto Show and they sold it from 2005-2007. Thereafter they renamed and restyled it.
The turn of the century saw the Blue Oval vainly attempting to revisit its late ’50s heyday. But the past steadfastly remains a foreign country.
The 1984 Grammy-winning Don Henley single, Boys of Summer is a meditation on reminiscence and regret. It plays on the slick US West Coast values of the author’s Eagles heyday, subverting its MOR sheen to underline the more mature themes of ageing and loss.
Looking back to the past can be instructive, indeed for some of us, it’s a virtual necessity. However, true folly lies in attempts to Continue reading “Boys of Summer”
To the accompaniment of grinding metal, Driven to Write takes a decidedly Eurocentric view of Ford’s recent retrenchment on domestic saloons.
Last week’s announcement by Ford to discontinue their entire US market saloon lineup, while a shock to some, was not without some fairly broad hints being laid. In movie parlance, we’ve been hearing the ominous cellos in the background for some time, because the US market mood music on sedans has long been of a less than upbeat tempo.
Having made a less than critically acclaimed stab at reinvention with Ghia’s 1996 Sentinel, Lincoln’s Gerry McGovern hit the bullseye with the 2002 Continental concept.
With the Jack Telnack era of design leadership coming to a close in 1997, Ford’s styling centre in Dearborn entered a new phase under J. C. Mays, who following a two year stint as design consultant for the Blue Oval, was selected as Ford’s new design Veep. With a new face came a new broom, Mays telling journalists at the time, “I have been brought in to make some changes and I fully intend to do that.”
The legacy of the 1961 Continental lays heavily upon Ford’s Lincoln division. Today we begin an examination of two concepts aimed at re-establishing that defining car’s visual pre-eminence.
Europe does not have a monopoly on history or heritage. Long shadows of the past also haunt the American automotive landscape, as the big-name US automakers struggle, just like their European counterparts, to reinterpret the past while straining for relevance in a rapidly approaching future.
With Ford’s Taurus the latest sedan nameplate set for a date with the eternal, what does this growing convergence mean for the large blue-collar American saloon?
Cadillac’s recently announced plans to remove a number of sedan model lines in response to shifting commercial realities appears not to have occurred in a vacuum. Last week it was Ford’s turn, first with reports of the Mexican-built Fiesta being phased out, but more dramatically, that executives have elected not to Continue reading “Victim of Stars”
Launched fifty years ago, we examine the fifth best selling car of all time.
It’s a curious choice when you think about it, connotating little by way of glamour or allure, unlike for instance its Cortina sibling. The car as companion perhaps? A no-nonsense non-specific name for what began life as a practical, no-nonsense car. The Escort name in fact predated this model, first turning up on a variant of the early 1950s British Ford 100E range, but more salaciously, it was also the title of a popular 1970s UK top-shelf publication, beloved of both (secondary) school playground and travel motel dweller alike.
This could also have been Something Rotten In Denmark. However, it isn’t listed on-line so it’ll have to be a Photo For Sunday.
I had not taken two photos before the owner leaped out of his workshop nearby to tell me that this beauty had only covered 89,000 km. The green tinted body-work and phenomenal condensation inside the car strongly spoke against the vehicle in practice. In principle, it’s a Mk 1 Ford Probe which detail further argues against it. One other nice aspect of buying this car is that if you absolutely had to Continue reading “A Photo For Sunday: 1990 Ford Probe”
Continuing this month’s Ka-fest at DTW, we turn our thoughts to a South American curiosity. While Ford of Europe outsourced the difficult second Ka iteration to Fiat Automobiles S.p.A, Ford do Brasil did things rather differently.
The Brazilian Novo Ka went on sale in January 2008, nine months before the European replacement for the 12 year old original. The European car is not really a Ford at all, while the Brazilian car placed an ingeniously re-worked superstructure on its predecessor’s B platform, which originated with the 1989 Fiesta.
The current KA+ is a dispiriting sight for those who appreciated the original’s daring style. Today, we consider lost causes in the form of the 2010 Start concept.
Presenting a plausible and attractive evolution of the Ur-KA silhouette, Start came out of Ford’s Californian design centre, allegedly as a conceptual piece of blue sky thinking. Designed by Jeff Nield under the supervision of Freeman Thomas, Start debuted at the 2010 Beijing motor show, touted as a technology trailblazer for the blue oval.
A delightfully organic, podlike shape, the stylistic homages to the original 1996 KA are abundant, especially in the shaping and treatment of the Continue reading “Start at the End”
No sticklers for current affairs are we, (spin cycles etc…) but given that it’s my first dedicated 2018 post, I thought I’d confound expectations. Mine, as much as yours.
Earlier this week, Autocar’s reverse-cassandra, [this analogy doesn’t entirely hold water, but bear with me] spoke to Ford Motor Company CEO, Jim Hackett, obtaining assurances that the American car giant has no intention of following General Motors out of the European car market. “I have in my hand a piece of paper…”, Steve Cropley didn’t quite say.
Today DTW has a short look at some of the cars being presented at the LA Auto Show. Maybe ‘short look’ oversells it a bit. Read on to find out.
After a scroll down Car & Driver’s list of highlights I didn’t find so much to dwell on. This makes me reflect on what there could have been instead. To be honest I can’t think of anything except that I remember a time when reports of American car shows revealed interesting models that were quite unlike anything we had over in Europe.
Ford’s pre-millennial coupé didn’t gestate in an Erlenmeyer flask, but it was something of an amalgam nonetheless. We take a look at the Puma’s moodboard.
The design theme for the 1997 Ford Puma bridged the blue oval’s early ’90s ovoid, organic design era and the ‘New Edge’ theme which arrived at the dawn of the millennium. But the roots of the Puma programme lie deeper. Continue reading “Barchetta to Bobcat”
… it’s full from the middle up. We’re talking of the 1986 Cadillac Sedan de Ville, naturally.
That’s what the photos show. However, more newsworthy is the announcement** that Joel P. is leaving his position as Ford’s European design chief to make way for Amko Leenarts, an RCA alumnus. Previously he oversaw Ford/Lincoln interiors at Dearborn. Joel P. goes back to Dearborn after a few short years to a newly created (read: not very powerful) position. That’s probably because he a) Continue reading “The bottom half of the glass is empty”
Recently I discussed how one detail can ruin a car.
Here we see the 1979 Ford Mustang which, overall, can’t claim to be a very strong or admirable bit of work. All the details accumulate to result in a deeply compromised design. Ford really struggled with this. The decision of production engineers to Continue reading “The Unease Spirals Down”
We’re definitely not in Kansas any more, Toto. But where in heck are we?
Acquisitions by Detroit big-hitters was not a phenomenon restricted to the latter-1980’s – it began well before that. Ford had made several stabs at acquiring Ferrari in the late ’60s to no avail, but in 1970, they purchased (from Alessandro de Tomaso of all people) the Italian coachbuilder, Carrozzeria Ghia. In addition to using the Ghia logo as a ‘brougham’ trim level, initially for their European model lines, Ford also used Filippo Sapino’s Ghia studios as an advanced styling skunkworks, commissioning a series of conceptual styling studies and pre-production prototypes over the following two decades. Continue reading “Cars That Could Have Been Citroëns – 1983 Lincoln Quicksilver”
In 1964 my Dad made one of his visits to the USA and brought back with him ‘The Latest And The Greatest’ by Chuck Berry. At least that’s how I remember it but, as any Berry anorak will tell you, that album was a compilation record put together by Pye in the UK. So did they export it only for it to be returned, did my Dad become such a Berry fan on his visit that he bought it locally as soon as he came back, or is it all just a false-memory? You never can tell. Continue reading “Theme : Rivals – The Cat Takes The Bird”
So you thought there was only one Fiesta Mk.1? In fact there nearly were two, and the one we never saw almost tore Ford apart.
From its inception in 1969, Ford’s small car project had always had inter-continental ambitions. An early project structure saw engines manufactured in Brazil being used in cars made first in Europe, with a production base in Brazil following on, which would not only serve the home market, but would also export to the USA. US and Asia-Pacific production sites would follow. Other visions included a simplified low-powered variant adapted for production in developing countries, a third world car maximum speed of 55-60mph, a 0-50 time of 25-30 seconds, capable of being sold at 50-60% of the price of the cheapest Ford Escort. Continue reading “Theme: Compromise – The Fiesta Mk.1 – Blood on the Boardroom Floor”
Driven to Write looks in depth at the Fiesta’s development.
Lest it should pass un-noticed, January 2017 is the fortieth anniversary of the Ford Fiesta’s launch in the UK. Production at Ford Germany’s Saarlouis factory began in July 1976, with the core Almusafes plant coming on stream in October 1976, so the lucky continentals were introduced to the car a few months earlier. Continue reading “Compromise: On the road to Fiesta – Part 1”
Driven to Write looks in depth at the Fiesta’s gestation.
Lest it should pass un-noticed, January 2017 is the fortieth anniversary of the Ford Fiesta’s launch in the UK. Production at Ford Germany’s Saarlouis factory began in July 1976, with the core Almusafes plant coming on stream in October 1976, so the lucky continentals were introduced to the car a few months earlier.
To mark the occasion, I found myself re-reading Edouard Seidler’s “Let’s call it Fiesta”, the story of the Fiesta Mk.I, along with some other publications from around the time. The “auto-biography” was launched at the same time as the car, so there is no hindsight – Ford were entering unknown territory; a new market sector, their first transverse-engined car, and a huge new production facility in a country in which they had no previous presence. Continue reading “On the Road To Fiesta”