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”
With Ford poised to officially reveal its spiritual successor, we examine the car which fifty years ago paved its path, becoming the fifth best selling car of all time.
It’s a curious choice of name 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 as a practical, utilitarian no-nonsense car.
The Escort name in fact predated this model, first turning up on a variant of the 1950s British Ford 100E range, but more salaciously, it was also the title of a popular UK top-shelf publication, beloved of the 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”
What do you do when your product’s character derives from a particular look? Here’s how Ford revised the Mustang for 2015.
The overall change is that Ford have accentuated the horizontal character of the vehicle, front to back. While the old car looked more brutal and Aston-Martin-esque, the new one has smoother blends, and the two features that interrupted the front-to-rear flow are gone: the heavy B-pillar and the J-shaped scallop. At the front the lamps are slimmer and wrap around to the sides, again stressing horizontality and width. I think the previous car looked more masculine and robust. The new one loses some of that in the name of flow. Continue reading “Mustang Micropost: Compare and Contrast”
What’s this if not the inspiration for the Euro-Granada from the early 1970’s.
American readers will know more precisely what this is. My diagnosis is no sharper than to say it’s a 1968-1974 Ford Galaxie. The script is the same as on a Mk 1 Granada GLX which we featured here. So, did Merkenich use the same design, sent over in the post from Dearborn? Continue reading “Micropost: The Granada’s American Cousin”
According to our colleagues over Automotive News, Ford announced plans to build a small-car assembly plant in Mexico. The investment of $1.6 bn will entail 2800 new jobs by 2020. Not everyone is happy. At the same time, the future manufacturing plans of Ford’s Michigan assembly plant are unclear. The production of the Focus and C-Max at the plant will stop in 2018. The President of the UAW union is worried that this means that the Mexican plant will be replacing the Michigan plant and that the Mexican investment is at the expense of US auto workers. Continue reading “How Appropriate: Fiestas Made in Mexico”
I’ve always had a soft spot for the stacked headlamp Ford Galaxie 500.
In 1965, in a moment of family insanity, my Dad and I nearly agreed that he should get a new 4 door Galaxie. Good sense prevailed in the end since, despite my liking for it, it was a stupid car to buy in the UK – overpriced and unsuited to the roads. Here’s a 1966 two door, spotted in Wandsworth a couple of Sundays ago. It’s got a decent sized 390 cu inch V8 (one down from the big 7 litre) and looks good on a set of obligatory Magnum 500 wheels. Old US barges always look incongruous when you come across them in the UK, which inevitably endears me to the people who are odd enough to keep them. Continue reading “A Photo for Sunday : 1966 Ford Galaxie 500”
Everyone else is doing it so why can’t we? That was the plaintive question asked by Irish folk-rock-pop balladeers the Cranberries in 1993.
The Cranberry question applies to Ford’s Lincoln division who must be squirming in their corporate seats. The Genesis G90 saloon will be sold with a V8 as we well know and it looks the part. The other day Car & Driver revealed more details of the V8 Cadillac will be fitting to their CT6 which also looks the part. Considering that Genesis is a newish entrant in the upscale V8 market and that Cadillac is selling fewer cars than they were a decade ago (and so short of cash), Ford’s unwillingness to Continue reading “Oh No, Not Again”
Further to our discussion of the visual attributes of the 2017 Lincoln Continental, here is a view of the current car and one where I generously added more length front and back.
Put together like this you can see how wrong the Lincoln really is. There is no point in making Lincolns off Ford platforms. They should do it the other way around. It looks like the front wheel is about half a wheel’s diameter too far back on the existing design. It could be that my version would be too long in reality. It just shows you can’t design a car piecemeal. Proportions matter.
In December 2014 we ran an item about the changing styles of luxury car interiors.
A year or so later we find someone answering our calls.
In an article about how Lincoln do not want to copy the Germans, there is also discussion of the Lincoln Continental’s blue interior option. Here is a chance then to see if blue interiors are something that appeal to anyone other than automotive design commentators. My impression is that this is a welcome bit of bravery on the part of Lincoln. The all-blue colourway creates a very pleasant atmosphere that manages to Continue reading “Be Careful What You Wish For II”
Ford have announced that they will be investing $4.5 billion in electric vehicles. According to the website the aim is “to create future vehicle user experiences”
The end result is that 40% of its vehicle line up will be electric after they have modified some cars and added others (13 electric nameplates, apparently). Among the changes, the Focus Electric will have a 100 mile range and a quick charge of 80% to Continue reading “Ford’s “Future Vehicle User Experiences””
This makes a change from cars seen around my neighbourhood. It’s a 1995 Mercury Grand Marquis LS, sighted in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Much to my surprise, some of Sweden’s older city centres have a rather American feel, specifically that part of the US in the north east such as Upstate New York. Gothenburg, where this car was seen, has stone and brick houses on streets lined up in grids. That immediately suggests an American way of town planning which is supposedly rational but disrespects topography and leads to stupidly steep roads among other ill-effects. The major roads of the mid-20th century in Sweden are styled after American freeways and have a similar brutal character: ugly to look at and confusing to drive on.
Car and driver headlined an article about Lincoln with wording about the brand’s focus on luxury over performance. They didn’t really address the point.
I’ve been very busy so it’s taken me eleven days to get around to drawing your attention to this one. After the boiler-plate text about there not being any chance of European sales (there will never be European sales of Lincolns), the blog from Car and Driver gets down to the point and notes how luxury not performance is the main focus of the new Continental. This is a theme we like to bang on about at DTW, the by-now tiresome predominance of performance over non-quantitative aspects. You could be cynical and say Continue reading “Can Lincoln Really Do Luxury Luxuriously Enough?”
The LS racked up a few awards, namely Motor Trend’s car of the year 2000 and it was nominated as American Car of the Year though it was pipped by Ford’s Focus and Audi TT. The LS was also Lincoln’s first attempt to fight off its reputation as a car for the nearly dead. That battle is reminiscent of Cadillac’s fight for a younger image, a fight Lincoln is still losing 15 years later. Continue reading “Looking Back: 2000 Lincoln LS”
I would very much like to have been able to open this ashtray on what I think is a 1955 Ford Thunderbird.
The ashtray is a sliding tray and I invite readers to inform me if the ashtray is illuminated. I am betting it is not. Despite the chrome finish, it’s a bit small for the job, isn’t it? I think the ashtray needed to be double the width so that neither the driver nor passenger would have to reach too far.
Today I will turn my attention to Lincoln. How good does it look for Ford’s premium brand? What are they selling? Read on to find out what the main UK-based websites** aren’t telling you.
Lincoln’s range of vehicles has changed dramatically in the last decade. For nearly the entirety of its history the brand sold luxury cars in varying flavours of large. Not all of these have been particularly well-regarded but Lincoln has also managed to avoid overt product disasters. It has no equivalent to the Cadillac Cimarron, for example.
As Lincoln’s Simon Woodhouse gets a quilted leather handbag in the chops courtesy of his Bentley opposite number, are the designer gloves off for good?
This week’s pique-fest courtesy of Bentley’s Luc Donckerwolke is interesting for a number of reasons. Firstly, it breaks a tacit understanding that rival stylists do not publicly criticise one another’s work. Secondly, it prompts the question, is it possible to Continue reading “Continental Drift”
Or Ford’s 2015 Mondeo is not alone. They are both guilty of the same crime. That crime is to offer a new model that differs very little from the predecessor.
Here’s the new 2015 Mondeo (above). Granted, it’s black and the lighting is terrible. It does look incredibly like the last one though. Ford does not usually do this. Usually they make it really clear that a new model has superceded the old one, for better and for worse. This time they Continue reading “Jaguar’s XF Is Not Alone”
The Ford Granada/Mercury Monarch pair are not known to be among Ford’s finest cars. Recently I had a closer look at a 1980 Mercury Monarch to see what it was really like.
Given that reputation, it may come as a surprise to some (it surprised me) that Ford marketed it as a rival to Mercedes’ W-123 in its 280E guise. Ah, that car again. The car shown here is a 2-door Monarch with the “Windsor” 4.9 V8. Ford also made 3.3 and 4.1 straight sixes available along with a 5.8 V8. The Ford version was almost the same barring cosmetic details at the front and back.
DTW is in the middle of preparing a consideration of the 1980 Mercury Monarch which was all but identical to the 1980 Ford Granada (the US version).
It is a legendarily mediocre car, even with a 5.0 litre Windsor V-8. More on that soon. In the meantime, I thought I would fillet some of my findings and present this amuse-gueule or Häppchen: the driver’s ashtray.
I wondered what the very large panel next to the glove compartment was and it turned out to be the aperture for a substantial ashtray and a cigar-lighter. Alas I was not able to gauge the dimensions of the ash receptacle: 100 ml would be an estimate based on my many years of valuable research on this neglected topic. Continue reading “Ashtrays: the 1980 Mercury Monarch”
Automotive News reports that Ford’s Eco-Sport soft-roader/crossover has not been a success in the European market. Is it an example of world cars only selling in parts of the world?
The Renault Captur, Peugeot 2008 and the Opel Mokka all sold remarkably better than the Eco-Sport. How well? For every eco-sporty vehicle Ford sold, Renault sold 13 and a bit Capturs. Additionally, Peugeot sold 11 of their chrome-laden machines and even more additionally, Opel shifted 10 Mokkas for every Ford that drove off the dealer’s yard.
J Mays replaced Jack Telnack in 1997 and was responsible for Ford’s sprawling empire of brands. Sean showed us some of Mays’ retrofuturism. What else did he do while in office ? The worst vehicle – in design terms – that Mays can be held responsible for is the 2005 Ford 500 which married VW geometry with softer, more amorphous shapes from somewhere else entirely. Continue reading “J Mays’ Ford Legacy II”
I start by admitting an unjustifiable antipathy towards J Mays, which I must put to rest, now. It is based purely on the fact that he once called a 1 Series BMW a ‘shitbox’. Although I have admired several Bangle era BMWs from first viewing, the 1 Series was never one of them, but there is something unseemly about one designer slagging off another designer’s work in public. Continue reading “J Mays’ Ford Legacy”
It has a “choice” of a 3.5 or 3.7 litre V6 engine. The smaller one is tuned for economy. And the engines drive the front wheels. Odd looking thing, isn’t it? The customers have been few. In its first full year on sale 7,435 buyers wrote a cheque. And in 2013 just over 6000 customers were found. Ford fondly imagine it is a competitor for the V8 Audi Q7. That’s what Motor Trend reported.
I’ve asked myself if I can think of a large car that is ‘cute’ and, at present, can only think of one, but perhaps that is because this particular vehicle will always have a dominant place in my memories. In the late Seventies, I filled in for the European Motoring Correspondent on Soldier Of Fortune magazine when he was unavoidably detained for several months by the German security services. Apart from it being the introduction to my beloved Alvis Stalwart, when I tested one for the ‘Used and Bruised’ feature, that time also has more tender memories for me.