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.
DTW has a thing about brightwork. We also have a thing about quality.
The 1990 Lexus LS400 famously had nitrogen-filled tyres because mere air caused a resonance. Despite the car’s astonishingly careful conception, these aren’t much loved and few are they now in number. It’s successor (above) is a crouton in the same soup bowl. Yesterday I got a chance to
… 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. 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”
DTW comes to the Half Century for the Oldsmobile Toronado, a 1966 example of which was supposed to be the 100 millionth GM vehicle. Did they really keep count that carefully? What about Johnny Cash’s Cadillac?
Personal Car? That would be my Nissan Cube. However there is also a ‘Personal Luxury Car’, a US category comprising gargantuan, two door cars, such as the Sixties Ford Thunderbirds, which I suppose was shorthand for the head of the nuclear family’s gross personal indulgence. I admit to a liking for most of the personal luxury cars from that era and, looking at GM’s offerings, I would be hard pushed to choose between a ‘67 Cadillac Eldorado, the outrageous, ‘71 boat-tailed Riviera or an original Oldsmobile Toronado. Continue reading “Because They Could : The Oldsmobile Toronado.”
Automotive News has a timely editorial concerning the EV-1 which I once drove. Here are some of the photos.
Prompted by AN, I took out my photos from 1997 and found the shots from the day I drove the EV-1 (top, right) in California. The salesman at the car dealership presented the EV-1 as a something for enthusiasts (which contrasted with the sludge I expect he was selling). The idea was that the EV-1 would appeal to people still interested in the technology and car-ness of cars. At the time I was a bit cynical about the GM car. 90 miles didn’t really seem that impressive although even today a 90 mile range would be very useful for most people’s daily needs. I got that wrong then. The Bolt has a 238 mile range.
The contrast between the Caprice and Mini coupe caught my eye.
The Caprice is a car I’ve wanted to photograph for a long while. It’s thrillingly basic. The loadbay might be long and wide yet it’s also quite shallow. I don’t know what’s under the high floor: fuel tank and transmission I suppose. Continue reading “The Long and the Short”
This could be about the Cadillac De Ville convertible, which is enough of a car to write a few hundred words about. What rose to the top of the froth was that I don’t really know what year this car is from.
That’s the badge on the car. I didn’t see others. Presumably one of our very knowledgeable US visitors knows the serial number and which dealer it was sold from. The part I’d like to deal with is the way GM/Cadillac managed to change the appearance of their cars with such incredible rapidity. These days a car might get a new set of bumpers every three years and even then the difference is often slight due to the need to retain common feature lines and shapes. In the good old days of square, modular styling the car could be chopped up quite markedly and large parts changed without the carried over bits looking wrong. Continue reading “Theme: Bodies – The Cadillac Confusion”
Cadillac’s latter-day Art and Science design theme saw many fine concepts, but this perhaps was its finest.
For a company that has experienced as many false dawns as Alfa Romeo and as many brilliant unrealised concepts as Renault, the fact that latter-day success continues to elude Cadillac remains one of automotive’s more absorbing melodramas. Recently, exterior design director, Bob Boniface told an Automotive News reporter; “There’s still this misperception in the public’s eye that Cadillacs are these big, heavy cars that your grandparents used to drive. We haven’t built those cars in generations. But you almost have to overachieve in the messaging.” One can see his rationale. Continue reading “Sixteen Shells From a Thirty-Ought Six”
Detroit’s SL fighter wasn’t a winner, but was that the point of the exercise?
The Cadillac Allanté was not a brilliant commercial success. In fact its best year was its last, with just over 4,500 cars sold. It’s unlikely the Allanté was a profitable car, even at the (really quite optimistic) prices Cadillac were charging. Its convoluted production process most likely saw to that, even if the warranty claims already hadn’t. Nevertheless, the Cadillac two-seater was perhaps a more significant car than appearances might first suggest. Continue reading “Mid-Atlantic Caddy – 1986 Cadillac Allanté”
Last week I mentioned a bit of news from Cadillac and promised I would return to that when the car had been revealed. That happened. Here is my response.
As you might recall the teaser photo drew our attention to the spangly OLED technology which is going to grace Cadillacs in future. I expected the follow-up news to deal with a new exterior form-language for Cadillac. Much of the commentary dealt with that, with less on the interior. Previous Cadillac show cars at Pebble Beach included the well-received Ciel of 2011 and the Elmiraj coupe from 2013 and people expected something more production-ready. They discussed that too. Continue reading “2016 Cadillac Escala Concept Car Interior”
By the time this is published you may very well know what the concept design in question looks like. I think it’s an interior concept but may involve a new exterior form language. I didn’t want to nudge any of our other articles to one side for a teaser so the first available place to discuss it is here, after your breakfast. Continue reading “News From a Few Days Ago”
When confronted by a question of taste, I always ask myself, what would Bryan Ferry do?
[First published Oct 10, 2014]
My extensive research has thrown up a nice example of a sub-set of a subset, designer accessories for designer editions of mass produced cars. It’s Gucci fitted luggage for the 1979 Cadillac Seville. Would Bryan Ferry go for this or not? The Big Two and a Half in the US have been more prone to tie-ins and designer editions of their cars than we have here in the social-democratic paradise of Western Europe. Cartier have been associated with Lincoln; Bill Blass added his magical touch to the understated elegance of the 1979 Lincoln Continental Mk V; there was the 1984 Fila-edition Ford Thunderbird; AMC asked Oleg Cassini – yes, that Oleg Cassini – to trim the 1974 Matador, for example. Just recently I have become aware of the Gucci fitted luggage that came with the Gucci-edition Cadillac Seville, truly a part of this very fine tradition. Continue reading “DTW Summer Reissue: Matching Designer Luggage”
By now we ought to be seeing the replacement for the Cadillac Cien but there was nothing to replace.
The Cien broke cover in 2002 as a showcar penned by Simon Cox. It’s fourteen years later and Cadillac are still trying to find their feet. The Cien concept car might have been a help in getting some credibility to stick to Cadillac’s tarnished brand. Looking at the photos of the car’s exterior, there’s not much about the car that strikes ones as unfeasible. Perhaps it doesn’t conform to the strict details of pedestrian safety. The finish has the hallmarks of something one could manufacture. Lamps are normally a giveaway Continue reading “Looking Back to the Future”
The headlamps of this car never appealed to me. Gestalt theory explains why.
For a quick resume, Gestalt Theory is about how the mind is disposed to try to make sense of visual data. Your mind is inclined to fill in gaps to make whole outlines, and turn collections of individuals into groups and to pick exceptions from ordered arrays. The mind wants to sort out moving objects from a stable background. In short, it’s the equipment a mind would need to distinguish a moving thing in a complex background. Continue reading “Some More Gestalt Theory: 2008 Chevrolet Cruze”
We all know the “Alfa is back” narrative. Cadillac has a similar line in deja vu.
Automotive News ran a story which had such an eerie air of familiarity that I thought it was a summer reprint. As well as the Camaro and Corvette, the CT6 and XT5 will be made available in Europe, here and there. It’s yet another “Cadillac returns” story that doesn’t add up. Continue reading “Not Again?”
According to a new report, Cadillac is America’s least wanted brand. No car spends longer on the showroom floor.
This image accompanied the story. As you know I really dislike adverts that show cars parked on sterile pavements outside modernist houses. The vast expanse of dark grey hardcore caught my attention here. Can you imagine how hateful it is when all that crushed rock throws out its stored heat on a hot evening? And how large is that runway of stone anyway: it seems to be at least half the length of the house and twice as wide, with the actual countryside well off in the far distance. Continue reading “Another Reason Not To Buy This Car”
The 1965 Chevrolet Impala shown here waits outside Frederiksborg castle, Hillerød, Denmark. From a distance the style suggested an Opel Admiral.
As I got closer the florid Chevrolet script corrected my misapprehension. The driver filled me in on the year. This is another GM car to add to the network of influences cross-crissing and cut-jumping between Germany and the US. Up to now my idea has been to compare Opels and Buicks.
The Impala adds another strand to the weave. Were these similarities as clear then as they are now? Does the period where Saturn and then Buick took Opel platforms provide a recent parallel? And it is only parallel – the distance varies depending on how much of the Opel body Saturn and Buick got to mess with. In the 1960s Buick and Opel and Chevrolet might only have shared stylists.
This reminds me that I will be preparing an item on Opel in America soon.
This is one for someone with patience, some spanners, some paint and a lot of money for petrol.
“Tatty” describes this remnant of Detroit’s golden years, a Buick Skylark which descended from the base-model Special as a line of its own in 1964. That´s a recurring theme in GM’s model evolution, how separate lines would emerge from trim variants and sometimes fade back again. It makes these cars somewhat hard to pin down if you are not into the cladistics of the USican automotive zoo. That bifurcation of product lines is something that doesn’t happen so much now. Maybe the Ford Vignale might be a recent example of the type (though Top Gear’s 2016 Car Buyers [sic] Guide does not even deign to Continue reading “Something Rotten in Denmark: 1964-1967 Buick Skylark”
GM’s head of design, Ed Welburn, is retiring in June. What is his legacy?
This was reported here. It seems like only yesterday that he was appointed: 2003. He replaced Wayne Cherry. One of his goals was to unify the design studios of GM, much in the way that the engineering and production has been streamlined (for good and for ill). Continue reading “GM’s Chief Designer To Retire”
This brief article, written for the short-lived “Sports Driver & Road Monthly”, is what looks like a transcription of Archie Vicar’s impressions of the 1977-and-a-half Chevrolet Camaro Z-28.
During the late 1970s the motoring correspondent Archie Vicar was in demand on both sides of the Atlantic. He would fly from Heathrow to New York on Concorde, do a test drive and fly back to his next assignment in the Midlands, six times a month. Photos by Karl Olsensen. Due the poor quality of the original images stock photos have been used.
What is this then? A sporty Camaro? It sounds like a contradiction in terms but somehow Chevrolet have decided to have a go at making a Camaro that can negotiate bends in the road. It still looks brash and crudely assembled in the American style. There is nothing here to scare even the most careless assembly-line workers at British Leyland. The nose cone evidently comes from a different car and the rear bumper is made of a plastic as convincing as an amputee’s orthosis. Is it a kind of American XJ-S? Continue reading “1977 Chevrolet Camaro Z-28 roadtest”
At the Detroit Auto show Buick showed off the rather handsome Avista concept car which is based on Chevrolet’s Camaro.
And at Geneva ’16, Opel is planning to show off a GT inspired by the GT of the 1960s, a car many admired for its pretty styling.
I’ve lumped Buick and Opel together because these days they are interchangeable (for better and for worse). When the Avista was revealed I immediately saw that the Tristar badge could be replaced by an Opel propeller flash if something like the Avista was sold in Europe. This would be a good thing because the Avista would be a Buick first and an Opel second. For too long the traffic has been from Rüsselsheim to Detroit and at this stage Buick is a nameplate lacking its own identity, nice and all as some of those Buickised Opels are. Continue reading “Whither Buick and Opel?”
The last example of an automotive mudge that we looked at was the Ssang Yong Rodius of 2004. In comparison with the 2001 Pontiac Aztek, it’s almost good.
As part of some other research I did a visual analysis of the Aztek. The quintet shows the car as it is, the vertically stacked confusion, the two conflicting themes and a detail look at the shutline horror at the front. An interview I found with Bob Lutz revealed that prior to the Aztek GM had decided to ensure 40% of their cars were innovative. Without needing a degree in philosophy you can see how this kind of planned spontaneity is self-contradicting. Continue reading “Rubbernecking the Pontiac Aztek”
Here it is, the our Top Fifty Best Cars Ever finalist. The engine is behind the driver. It has two seats, strong performance and agile handling…
For the Fiero, Pontiac used a range of engineering concepts not previously seen on an American two-seat sports car. The engine resided aft of the driver and Pontiac engineers opted to deploy plastic panels to clothe the chassis. This reduced weight, tooling costs and gave new freedom in styling. Although considered by some to be less than the sum of its parts, the Fiero sold well during its five year run, earning it a Car & Driver Ten Best award in 1984. Continue reading “Driven To Write’s Top Fifty Best Cars Ever: Number One”
We return to our countdown of the all-time best cars ever. We’re now in the Top Ten so we’ll slow the pace and increase the tension! In at number nine, a car everyone rented, drove, saw, bought or sold in the 80s…
Throughout the 70s more and more Americans noticed the allure of European cars like the sharply-styled BMW 5-series and peerless Mercedes W-123 series. GM fought back with the Chevrolet Celebrity. And it worked. Using the flexible architecture of the renowned GM A-body (made in this case by Fisher Bodies), the Celebrity provided a compact but spacious vehicle which turned heads and won customers. The Celebrity was an important car for Chevrolet as it had to at least draw more customers than the outgoing Malibu. It is important to Continue reading “Driven to Write’s Best Cars Ever Top 50: Number 9”
Car and Driver published a spy shot of the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt. It has a zany C-pillar.
It’s hard to tell if this is one of the good ones. Plainly, to my eyes, this feature has become a cliché very quickly. You can view the full spy shot image at the Car and Driver website and we recommend you do because it’s a good magazine.
The prolific and incredibly talented Art Fitzpatrick has died. We take an appreciative look back at his remarkable body of work.
We have featured a number of Fitz and Van’s illustrations at DTW over the last two years and we are very sorry to hear of his passing. His work was an inspiration to many in car design and anyone interested in drawing.
Between 1959 and 1971 Art Fitzpatrick worked with former Disney illustrator Van Kaufmann to create lush and evocative imagery for GM cars, primarily Pontiac. Continue reading “Art Fitzpatrick”
Car & Driver, who are usually quite sensible, betrayed a distinct, glaring flash of silliness when they complained about the size of the gear lever in the new Buick Lacrosse.
This is what C&D wrote about the interior: “Outside is a handsome exterior; inside, the cabin is vastly improved over the old model’s. With a simple, flowing design and much nicer materials, the Buick’s innards are spoiled only by the oversize, BMW-style electronic shift lever. It is the only interior component seemingly still geared toward geriatric users (look at the size of an outgoing LaCrosse‘s dashboard buttons and you’ll know what we’re on about here). Otherwise, the Buick is lighter, sweeter, and we’re looking forward to driving it.”
This is the 2017 Buick Lacrosse. There’s more to it than a return of colour to its badge.
The Detroit Free Press and Kelley Blue Book have reported the unveiling of the 2017 Buick Lacrosse. As well as echoing aspects of the Buick Avenir concept last year, the 2017 car also allegedly harks back to the 1954 Buick Wildcat concept car. Personally I can’t see any obvious links. Missing from the new car are 130 kilos. The chassis, seats and sound-proofing all felt the engineer’s scalper in the quest to Continue reading “The Coloured Tri-Shield Is Back”
Who, just a decade ago, would imagine Buick would be sliding down the slope to being a Geo for our times?
According to Motor Trend and other sources, GM is close to finalising a plan to import the Chinese-made Buick Envision to the US. This would bring to three the number of crossovers the marque is offering in the US. From the side there’s nothing very distinctive about the vehicle and nothing very offensive either. The identity of the car resides with the waterfall grille and the badges.
If you were following our diligently curated Top 50 cars series you might recall the Geo Prizm as one of the candidates. It was an American-made clone of the Toyota Corolla. The rest of the Geo range consisted of re-badged offerings from parts of GM’s far east empire. The brand aimed at making some money from those customers who were probably never going to Continue reading “Buick’s Path Towards Being An Import Brand”
One of the 50 best cars ever was the Saturn L200, at least according to our capricious, contradictory and downright random list.
As luck would have it, this is a good time to be reflecting on the failure of Saturn. Pending my own careful meditations on the topic I’d like to draw your attention to this very good article at TTAC. In addition to the article, a reader who goes by the name 28-cars-later offers a very good precis of Saturn’s history which I will take the liberty of reprinting here (see under the “Continue Reading” button). I immediately thought the chap writes well enough to deserve to be on the other side of the author/reader divide. Others at TTAC did too. Continue reading “Saturn: 5 Years Dead”
It’s a real pleasure to be able to present this car’s ashtray. It’s not that the ashtray is all that good it is more because…
…it’s a chance to see Cadillac’s attempt to get away from land-yachts and move in the direction of a more roadable car before it got out of hand and they forgot their values. The ashtray itself is just about alright. If you are driving then the gear-selector will be pulled rearwards and out of the way of the ashtray. If you are sitting in the car waiting and kippering yourself with cigar smoke then the relationship of the T-selector and tray is less satisfactory. As in the Citroen XM for RHD cars, you need to Continue reading “Ashtrays: 1991 Cadillac Seville STS”