If there is one car in the past two decades that has, above all others, defied rational explanation, it is surely the Pontiac Aztek. Launched in 2000, this vehicle, which can be described retrospectively as a mid-sized crossover, was met with gasps of amazement and incredulity by potential buyers, rival automakers and pretty much everybody else not directly involved in its development.
There was nothing much wrong with the concept of a crossover and, in some ways, the Aztek was ahead of its time, but why General Motors decided to Continue reading “Breaking Bad”
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”
Watching television was once a simple act. As youngsters, the choice was scant, yet memory suggests programs containing both interest and drama. With modern day 24 hour, on-demand supply, choices of what and when to be entertained with often raise anomalies when one is forced to observe a production that might not be one’s first choice.
Andrew Miles recalls an Italian-American design highlight from the creative heyday of the Latin carrozzeiri.
The late and prolific Tom Tjaarda left behind an amazing legacy of work; take at look at Richard Herriott’s obituary to him from June 2017, but for me there is one unusual, yet standout design I knew nothing about. That is until Matteo Licatta and his Roadster-Life website introduced a conceptual one-off from the hand of Michigan born, but Italian based sculptor, the Rondine.
Pronounce it Ron-deen -ay and to these eyes, this car is as pretty as a peach, as distinctive as any Ferrari whilst offering a symphony of speed that only the Hirundinidae can deliver. For the Rondine is underneath a Chevrolet Corvette C2. And here’s an unusual twist; General Motors’ Bill Mitchell commissioning Pininfarina to give the bodywork a good scrub up and tailor a new suit which made its Paris Motor Show debut in 1963.
As if the Corvette requires any form of introduction, but the Rondine, with that sharp suit of fibreglass adds a divine lightness to the form. Whereas the Corvette might Continue reading “The Italian Swallow”
Long-standing Driven to Write readers will undoubtedly be aware that the site once hosted a monthly theme. Amongst them, the DTW Brochures section has lain dormant for quite some time, so in an attempt to Continue reading “If the Hue Fits”
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)”
On the quiet streets of Skive I found this alien space ship, gently landed from the end of the 1960s.
Pedestrian safety and low-speed crash regulations did away with this kind of design. Subsequently, General Motors’ own mismanagement and a radical shift in the car market gradually killed the brand attached to the car. If we want to Continue reading “Brisk Business in the Bakery”
Like so many ill-considered marriages, GM’s entanglement with Saab was destined to end badly. We conclude the story of this unhappy union.
Having taken full ownership of Saab Automobile AB in 2000, GM was free to continue its planned transformation of the company into a premium competitor to Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. The existing 9-3 was looking dated, appearing little different to the New Generation 900 launched in 1994, and its five-door format was out of step with its intended competitors, the A4, 3 Series and C-Class.
A new 9-3 was developed in parallel with the Opel Vectra C, based on the new GM Epsilon platform. Both cars were launched at the Geneva Motor Show in March 2002. The 9-3 adopted a four-door Sport Saloon format. A convertible followed in 2004 but the arguably more important SportWagon estate didn’t Continue reading “Irreconcilable Differences (Part Two)”
Like so many ill-considered marriages, GM’s entanglement with Saab was destined to end badly. We look back over this unhappy union.
Throughout the late 1980’s and 1990’s, GM looked on enviously as its arch-rival Ford carefully and methodically assembled the pieces of what would become its Premier Automotive Group* (PAG), a stable of European premium, sports and luxury car marques to which it would add its own Lincoln and Mercury brands.
Ford began by acquiring an interest in Aston Martin in 1987, then assuming full control in 1991. It purchased Jaguar in 1989, followed by Volvo’s car business a decade later. In 2000, Ford acquired Land-Rover from the wreckage of BMW’s failed ownership of Rover Group, which it folded into the newly formed PAG.
The latter acquisition was particularly painful for GM because, in March 1986, it had agreed the purchase of Land-Rover, then part of the nationalised British Leyland, from the UK government before a public outcry and political pressure forced Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to Continue reading “Irreconcilable Differences (Part One)”
Daniel O’Callaghan’s digest of Bob Lutz’s 2011 book, ‘Car Guys vs Bean Counters’. In this concluding part, GM hits the buffers and goes cap in hand to the US Government.
At the start of 2008, the outlook appeared quite promising for GM. Its more recent models had been well received and the company had won North American Car of the Year for 2007 and 2008 with the Saturn Aura and Chevrolet Malibu. The company had agreed with the UAW a new wage deal and a plan to move the worker healthcare liabilities off the GM balance sheet and into a new fund that GM would set up, but would Continue reading “The Fate of Empires and Search For Survival (Part Five)”
Daniel O’Callaghan continues his digest of Bob Lutz’s 2011 book, ‘Car Guys vs Bean Counters’, examining GM’s latterday approach to alternative propulsion.
GM’s expansion to become a global company had largely been built on acquisitions: Opel and Vauxhall in Europe, Holden in Australia and Daewoo’s automotive business in South Korea. These companies continued to operate with a high degree of autonomy in product design and engineering. It was argued that this enabled the companies to Continue reading “The Fate of Empires and Search For Survival (Part Four)”
Daniel O’Callaghan continues his digest of Bob Lutz’s 2011 book, ‘Car Guys vs Bean Counters’, charting the decline of GM and Lutz’s decade-long struggle to rescue it.
Even before officially starting work at GM on 1st September 2001, Lutz had the opportunity to preview GM’s forthcoming models. He attended the company’s August board meeting and met Wayne Cherry, GM’s Vice-President of Design, at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance event the same month. Cherry shared with him photos of models in different stages of development and Lutz was horrified by what he saw.
An industry insider’s account of the decline of General Motors and his struggle to revive its fortunes.
In the last quarter of the 20th Century, General Motors went from being one of the most highly respected and successful US corporations to the butt of stand-up comedians’ jokes. In his 2011 book, Car Guys vs Bean Counters, Robert A (Bob) Lutz charts the decline of the once great company and describes his decade-long struggle to rescue it. What follows is a digest of that book, supplemented with additional information where appropriate.
The announcement of Holden’s retirement on February 17 should have come as no surprise, but the finality and totality of General Motors’ exit from Australia and New Zealand has made worldwide headlines.
As of January 1 2021 GM will withdraw from the Australian and New Zealand markets, even as an importer. They will meet their statutory obligations on service and parts supports and recalls.
It’s a rapid decline to oblivion, given that car production only ended at Elizabeth, South Australia in October 2017. However, the sales numbers tell it all; tenth place in the sales charts, 43,176 vehicles sold in Australia in 2019, a fall of 28.9% over the previous year.
An Italo-American curiosity receives a broad DTW brushstroke.
Some cars emerge into the world fully formed, and regardless of where one lands upon their aesthetic merits, defy the facelifter’s scalpel, or indeed much in the way of subsequent enhancement. In stating this, I must add, I am not suggesting these cars were never the subject of facelifting exercises, more that perhaps they really ought not to have been.
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)”
Today, we’re pleased to introduce DTW reader, Bruno Vijverman, who poses a question which has been bothering him of late.
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”
We seem to be having an unplanned American car theme at present. Today we take a closer look at an example of the third generation Chevrolet Camaro, in rare convertible guise.
I saw this one in what I consider to be its natural habitat, a vast suburban car park, surrounded by big box retail units and convenience food outlets. It fits right in, I think. And in so doing corresponds to my prejudices about a certain type of American-market American car.
You can’t accuse the Camaro of being over-styled or chrome-laden. This one has no brightwork and the surface treatment is extremely straightforward. If you Continue reading “Beans Under Toast”
Cadillac is in the midst of yet another revival. For real, this time. Honestly.
Cadillac may never have been a noteworthy brand to Europeans on the basis of sales figures on the old continent. But that hasn’t prevented the erstwhile Standard Of The World from gaining fame (and some notoriety) on this side of the Atlantic, on the simple basis that Cadillac is one of the most storied, evocative brands of all time, anywhere. Continue reading “Caddy Lack”
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”
Somewhat lost amid Cadillac’s varied (and ongoing) revival efforts, this superb concept car proved that there’s still mileage in some traditional concepts and values.
There’s no better symbol for the American car industry’s post-oil crisis’ struggles to change and evolve than Cadillac.
For the past four decades at least, the former Standard Of The World has found it difficult to come to terms with changing demographics, markets and tastes. For too long, an increasingly outdated concept of luxury was upheld, before numerous attempts at bringing Cadillac up to date have largely failed for one reason or another. Only the ongoing success of the gargantuan Escalade SUV has prevented the marque from falling into utter oblivion. Continue reading “Denied: Cadillac Elmiraj (2013)”
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.
When it came to translation a car design sketch into a tangible object, craftsmanship and even cultural background used to be of the utmost importance.
As described earlier on, the technique and style any car designer chooses to depict his ideas is highly informative.
Back in the golden era of the Italian carrozzieri, however, this did not matter as much, as most of the legendary Italian car designers didn’t much care for impressive illustrations. Viewing the sketches of the likes of Leonardo Fioravanti, Marcello Gandini or Aldo Brovarone from today’s perspective, their artistic qualities appear rather naïve, to put it mildly. Continue reading “Adding Dimensions (II)”
Today automotive News posted an item headlined “VW says next generation of cars with combustion engines will be the last”. The next sentence is “Volkswagen Group expects the era of the combustion car to fade away after it rolls out its next-generation gasoline and diesel cars beginning in 2026.” Hey sister, that’s 8 years away. Bloomberg has much the same story, by the way.
In my October 6th article I wrote “A car launched in 2018 might be replaced in 2025 leaving a short product cycle to recoup investments. That makes the period around now the last point at which it will be worth bothering to engineer for ICE engines.” I did not expect that. It means that VW will Continue reading “Is There A Way Forward Through The Frozen Glass?”
The standard of the world. That’s what they called Cadillac. Details like this ashtray console in the rear passenger door would be the kind of thing supporting the idea of Cadillac’s general excellence…
The following is a counterfactual version of a news-story published recently at Automotive News. Chery plans to tackle the European market, they say. They are moving in as General Motors abandoned the market entirely as it was all simply too much trouble for them.
To understand the weirdness of GM’s decision, try reading the ANE story with “GM” in place of Chery. Here is how it now reads:
“Detroit, MI – American automaker General Motors (GM) has selected Germany to be the base of its coming move into Europe. GM says it is America’s largest car exporter. The company is determined to Continue reading “Bang! Bang! Click.”
A single black and white photo of a 1982-1992 F-body Chevrolet Camaro or Pontiac Firebird, seen in my district. But what does it portend?
I could bemoan the proportions. That´s pointless. Maybe a potted model history? No, thanks. The photo could lead us down a rabbit hole regarding General Motors’ body nomenclature. Considering the depth, breadth and sheer squiggliness of that byzantine horror, I am not sure if I can force myself to Continue reading “We Will Certainly Be At Your Wedding, Brian”
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?
As Cadillac’s Johan de Nysschen prepares to stun the World with a flagship model, we look back thirty years to a previous attempt at shock and awe.
Throughout Cadillac’s rich and honourable a history of so-called dream cars, what distinguished the concepts of the marque’s heyday was that they accurately signposted the direction styling would take, whereas latterly, they appear to exist only in order to Continue reading “Fantastic Voyage”
GM’s plans for Cadillac sound ambitious, but the gulf in product and perception terms facing the US luxury car brand appear to reflect that of another, more familiar luxury marque.
When General Motors sold their European outpost to Groupe PSA last year, many believed the US car giant had upped sticks and left the Old World for good. But this week there was some fairly solid grounds for reviewing that assessment.
Speaking at the NADA-JD Power Automotive Forum at the eve of the New York auto show, Cadillac President, Johan de Nysschen announced to delegates, “Ladies and gentlemen, I can assure you that things are about to Continue reading “Building On Daring”
Today’s car can claim to be special by dint of its rarity. GM never sold the G6 in Europe and so this vehicle must be one of a very small handful of examples on this side of Atlantic. In Denmark it has no peers**.
Three hypotheses: it came from the US as a by-product of work secondment from the US to Denmark (“We have to bring the Pontiac, Carol”). Two, it is a very specific and personal import for someone who just happened to really like the G6 (“There is nothing like this car, I must have it”). Three: it came to Denmark via a US soldier stationed in Germany (“We have to bring the Pontiac, Nick.”). A quick call might answer that and maybe I’ll find out.
Generally I prefer to avoid memoirs of car ownership except en passant. I will try to do so here when having a small look at the afterlife of the 1984 Buick Century.
The reason I am in any way concerned with a car like this is that for a year and a half I owned such a vehicle, almost exactly like the one in the main photo. It differed only in that it had plate sized-rust patches on both front doors.
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).
Despite the enormous size of the automotive industry and the enormous importance of aesthetics, the academic literature on the topic is sparse.
There can be found in any bookshop a shelf of ten to thirty books on marques, full of glossy images and I am not talking about these. A few books supposedly on automotive design exist and these are inadequate. This has a few nice pages on rendering. The rest is fluff, sorry to say. The same goes for this book which is mostly about drawing not design.
… 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”
The most interesting part of this car is on the inside
But my phone ran out of power. Drat.
I paid close attention to the dashboard and trim and didn’t find very much to criticise. Specifically, I looked at the dashboard which is a terrific slab of shiny wood and convincing plastic with an immense dual ashtray (hanging open – unphotographed). The two things which let it down were the coarse steering column cover which had rather crude detailing and the ashtray liners which were zinc-coated stamped items that were far smaller than you’d expect given the 15 cm width of the drawer they sat in. Continue reading “Long”
If only there had been more time to study this one: a 1976-1979 Cadillac Seville.
With some impatient passengers in the car, I promised this was the last time I’d stop and photograph something interesting that day. Patience was wearing thin. By the time I got back after two minutes and five snaps a brawl had already broken out. I sensed a small battle by photo four.
Made in Germany, this is the 2018 Buick Regal saloon.
We know this car already. It will be a curiosity in years to come, the Buick made by PSA but designed by GM. Of most immediate interest is that it will be sold as hatchback (is this Buick’s first since the Skyhawk?) and as an estate, the first Buick long-roof since the Roadmaster of 1995. Given that large, agile station wagons have something of a cult appeal (brown, with manual transmission is best) this is a good move. The question is whether the buyers of Volvo, Mercedes and Subaru estates Continue reading “2018 Buick Regal Saloon”
Robertas Parazitas looks back on a memorable Geneva Salon, and can’t quite decide whether to praise the Cadillac Escala, or rant against the sustained assault on the English language.
The concept is not new, having had its premiere at Pebble Beach in August 2016. It is intriguing on several levels. The design language is a departure from the distinct vocabulary of present Cadillac offerings. Like the Pininfarina H600, the Escala could fit into a number of manufacturers’ ranges: Jaguar, Lexus, DS.
It is always chastening to see humanity’s schemes laid low. From the grand boasts that accompanied the launch of the Titanic to some of the pledges that Barack Obama was not able to fulfil; even with the best of intentions we sometimes underperform.
Earlier this month we looked at the first brochure for the 1998 Fiat Multipla. Brimming with optimism, or some have suggested hubris, the public generally avoided the enthusiasm of that car’s creators. And now we look at another ‘failure’, the Opel/Vauxhall Ampera. Introduced in early 2012, the Europeanised version of the Chevrolet Volt was on sale in the UK for little more than two years. Continue reading “Theme : Brochures – Vauxhall Ampera”
In 1981 GM went to all the trouble required to get type approval for a range of their US-market cars, on the expectation that customers might want to buy them.
GM picked a small range of cars to lure customers: two Cadillacs, one Buick and three Chevrolets. At the top of the list sat the 6 litre V8 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham. The Sedan de Ville d’Elegance cost a little less for a little less length. From Buick´s list of cars, GM chose the Century Limited with a 3.8 litre V6, for just under £10,000. Upsetting the hierarchy, the Chevrolet Caprice came (as saloon and estate) with a 5.0 V8 and cost more than the Buick, a few hundred pounds. Finally, the Chevrolet Monte Carlo with the same engine as the Buick but had two fewer doors and cost a shade more. All quite baffling. Continue reading “Notes and Curiosities: GM in Britain in the early 80s.”
In the third of a short series, I will remind readers of what was on sale in 1984, courtesy of the much missed “World Car Guide”.
In this little delve into the World Car Guide I’ll take two attempts to dress mutton up as something finer. The Chrysler Executive and Cadillac Cimarron saw two companies desperately or cynically trying to pass off low-end platforms as much finer vehicles. The Cimarron is famously awful and there might still be a retired executive alive who looks into the mirror every day and sees the face of the man who signed off Cadillac’s least good car. Continue reading “World Cars 1984 (3): Chrysler Executive and Cadillac Cimarron”
There might even be one of these cars in the United Kingdom. A GM concessionaire in Manchester provided this brochure by post one day in 1998.
After this iteration, Buick gave up on the personal two-door coupe in 1999, ending a line that had existed since 1963. It began with Bill Mitchell’s hallowed car that supposedly blended the power of a Ferrari with the presence of a Bentley.
After the first version only the 1971 “Boat-tail” which lasted a mere three years, had any further claim to fame. My entrée to the car is the re-styled seventh series which Bill Porter transformed from a car resembling a Buick Somerset Regal but costing much more, into something deserving of the name. Continue reading “Theme: Brochures – 1995 Buick Riviera”
Not so very long ago I presented half of a study on what GMC actually sold. Today I have decided to present my Chevrolet vs. GMC comparison as an infographic.
Not all of GMC’s range is on the infographic. I left out the Denali versions. Denali means adding about circa roughly $10,oooo to the cost of each base vehicle. Every GMC has a Denali line. As it stands, the price differences of the base Chevrolet and base GMCs are small. What might happen is that all the base GMC trucks get deleted and the “Denali line” becomes standard but with more options, to keep the price range the same. Or maybe all the Denali cars get their own sheet metal and the Denali brand is born. GMC could be shuttered or left to
A little while back I mentioned I’d take a look at the GMC brand to see what it was all about.
So, I threw some coal into the furnace and got my computer (an Osborne portable) up and running.
The GMC range is divided into two groups: trucks in one groups and cross-overs and SUVs in the other. The truck range has two basic models dressed up to appear like eight. The Canyon and the Sierra form the core truck range, starting at $21,000 for the Canyon, and $28,000 for the Sierra. Three sub-models form the Sierra range: 1500, 2500 and 3500 at $28,000 to $34,000 for the base models. To
This is a micropost. Chevrolet have a huge range in Uruguay. This is what is looks like when seen from space:
The Chevrolet Celta Mk1 (see below) was based on the Corsa B, on sale from 2000. It seems to have stopped production. In 2006 Chevrolet revised the car but it still seems to have its roots in the Corsa B. The Onix is a partial replacement. The giveaway is the split A-pillar: the front window frame is half of the A-pillar, just like the Corsa B (1993-2000). GM have done really well out of the Corsa and indeed Opel. I notice a lot of what they sell around the world has its roots in Rüsselsheim. There is no way they are shutting down Opel and there is no way Opel actually makes a loss. Its an accounting wheeze. Continue reading “Theme: Sudamerica – Chevrolet in Uruguay”
Very recently I mentioned the Calais cloth in a Buick Electra 225 . That reminded me that a long time ago I thought I would explore the world of GM name references to France. Today I will deal with one town in France. It turns out that GM has quite a thing for Calais, applying the appellation to trim, car lines and whole models. We chart the rise and fall of the Calais name today. Continue reading “The French Connection”