Postcard from Schleswig 2

If only there had been more time to study this one: a 1976-1979 Cadillac Seville. 

Standard of the world

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.

If had a chance to Continue reading “Postcard from Schleswig 2”

2018 Buick Regal Saloon

Made in Germany, this is the 2018 Buick Regal saloon. 

2018 Buick Regal saloon: source

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 want a Buick estate?

This is what Motor Trend says: Continue reading “2018 Buick Regal Saloon”

Geneva 2017: Cadillac want us to Dare Greatly

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’s also a hatchback. Most will refer to the Audi A7, I’m thinking of the Rover SD1. Continue reading “Geneva 2017: Cadillac want us to Dare Greatly”

Theme : Brochures – Vauxhall Ampera

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.

ampera-7

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”

Notes and Curiosities: GM in Britain in the early 80s.

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.

1981 Chevrolet Monte Carlo: source
1981 Chevrolet Monte Carlo: source

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.”

World Cars 1984 (3): Chrysler Executive and Cadillac Cimarron

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”.

1984 Chrysler Executive: source
1984 Chrysler Executive: source

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. I’ll start though with the Executive, which was very much a poor replacement for what were once quite fine cars. Here’s what the Guide said: “ An impressive looking business car based on a stretched Le Baron. Although there has been a revival of demand for the traditional big

Continue reading “World Cars 1984 (3): Chrysler Executive and Cadillac Cimarron”

Theme: Brochures – 1995 Buick Riviera

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.

1995 Buick Riviera brochure front cover
1995 Buick Riviera brochure front cover

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. I saw these in the early 90s and really liked the full-width lamps, the elegant C-pillar the pleasing lamp and grille arrangement.

Continue reading “Theme: Brochures – 1995 Buick Riviera”

More Badge Engineering

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. 

2017 Cheverolet and GMC ranges: Driver to Write studios.
2017 Cheverolet and GMC ranges: (c) Amalgamated Driventowrite Studios Office C.

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

Continue reading “More Badge Engineering”

Understanding GMC – Is It Possible?

A little while back I mentioned I’d take a look at the GMC brand to see what it was all about.

2017 GMC Canyon: GMC.com
2017 GMC Canyon: GMC.com

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

Continue reading “Understanding GMC – Is It Possible?”

Theme: Sudamerica – Chevrolet in Uruguay

This is a micropost. Chevrolet have a huge range in Uruguay. This is what is looks like when seen from space:

2016 Chevrolet Urguaguay range: source
2016 Chevrolet Urguguay range: source

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”

The French Connection

Calais is more than just a Town in France.

1966 Cadillac Calais: source
1966 Cadillac Calais: source

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”

Because They Could : The Oldsmobile Toronado.

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?

1966 Oldsmobile Toronado - image : momentcar.com
1966 Oldsmobile Toronado – image : momentcar.com

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.”

A Picture for Sunday: An American in Sweden

A recent tour in the country between Gothenburg and Trollhättan, reminded me how much Sweden there is the NE of the US but also how easily American cars sit in the Swedish landscape.

1962 Buick Electra 225 hardtop coupe
1962 Buick Electra 225 hardtop coupe

The photo shows a Buick Electra 225 two door, four-window hardtop coupe (the 1961-1964 body). It also shows a 2005-2014 Saab 9-3 estate.  The image captures two enthusiasms of the Swedes: their own cars and the cars of the US. Continue reading “A Picture for Sunday: An American in Sweden”

A Photo for Sunday: 1972 or 1973 Buick Centurion Convertible

British cars have more dignity when parked in a mittel European setting. American cars don’t fit into the landcape of the British Isles at all. How do these cars look in Scandinavia?

1972 or 1973 Buick Centurion 445 V8
1972 or 1973 Buick Centurion 445 V8

Here’s a 1972 or 1973 Buick Centurion, famous as Buick’s shortest-lived model. Behind it, some Denmark. Continue reading “A Photo for Sunday: 1972 or 1973 Buick Centurion Convertible”

I’ll Second That

Automotive News has a timely editorial concerning the EV-1 which I once drove. Here are some of the photos.

image
GM EV-1 (right) in 1997.

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.

Continue reading “I’ll Second That”

The Long and the Short

The contrast between the Caprice and Mini coupe caught my eye.

1991 Chevrolet Caprice and 2012 Mini coupe.
1991 Chevrolet Caprice and 2012 Mini coupe.

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”

Theme: Bodies – The Cadillac Confusion

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.

image

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”

Sixteen Shells From a Thirty-Ought Six

Cadillac’s latter-day Art and Science design theme saw many fine concepts, but this perhaps was its finest.

Image: motorauthority
Image: motorauthority

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”

Mid-Atlantic Caddy – 1986 Cadillac Allanté

Detroit’s SL fighter wasn’t a winner, but was that the point of the exercise?

Image: scorpiosgarage
Image: scorpiosgarage

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”

2016 Cadillac Escala Concept Car Interior

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.

2016 Cadillaci Escala interior: source
2016 Cadillac Escala interior: source

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”

News From a Few Days Ago

Is Art and Science on the way out?

1999 Cadillac Evoq: source
1999 Cadillac Evoq: source

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”

DTW Summer Reissue: Matching Designer Luggage

When confronted by a question of taste, I always ask myself, what would Bryan Ferry do? 

1979 Cadiilac Seville Gucci edition
1979 Cadiilac Seville Gucci edition

[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”

Looking Back to the Future

By now we ought to be seeing the replacement for the Cadillac Cien but there was nothing to replace. 

2002 Cadillac Cien concept car: source
2002 Cadillac Cien concept car: source

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”

Some More Gestalt Theory: 2008 Chevrolet Cruze

The headlamps of this car never appealed to me. Gestalt theory explains why.

2008 Chevrolet Cruze: source
2008 Chevrolet Cruze: source

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”

Not Again?

We all know the “Alfa is back” narrative. Cadillac has a similar line in deja vu.

2016 Cadillac CT6: caranddriver.com
2016 Cadillac CT6: caranddriver.com

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?”

Another Reason Not To Buy This Car

According to a new report, Cadillac is America’s least wanted brand. No car spends longer on the showroom floor.

Vile: source
Lens flare, clicheed modernist house, no signs of life. Vile: source

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. These people in the image are confused: so drawn to nature they want their greenhouse right in the middle of it but don’t want anything organic growing anywhere near the building, hence the lunar landscape of carparking. Where’s the sense in that?  Continue reading “Another Reason Not To Buy This Car”

On the Move: 1965 Chevrolet Impala

The 1965 Chevrolet Impala shown here waits outside Frederiksborg castle, Hillerød, Denmark. From a distance the style suggested an Opel Admiral.

1965 Chevrolet Impala - the sun landed at the wrong angle.
1965 Chevrolet Impala – the sun landed at the wrong angle.

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.

Something Rotten in Denmark: 1964-1967 Buick Skylark

This is one for someone with patience, some spanners, some paint and a lot of money for petrol.

1964 Buick Skylark
1964 Buick Skylark

“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 Chief Designer To Retire

GM’s head of design, Ed Welburn, is retiring in June. What is his legacy?

Ed Wellburn - GM´s head of design retires on July 1, 2016: source
Ed Wellburn – GM´s head of design retires on July 1, 2016: source

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”

Theme: Special – 1999 Buick Regal Joseph Abboud edition

From 1999 to 2004 Buick sold a version of the Regal with a trim pack supposedly designed in co-operation with the designer Joseph Abboud.

2004 Buick Regal Abboud edition: hooniverse
2004 Buick Regal Abboud edition: hooniverse

I’d have thought that designer editions would use a designer people had heard of. I am not the only one who hasn’t heard of Mr Abboud until Buick put his name all over some of their Regals. Abboud is “the first designer to win the Council of Fashion designers of America (CFDA) award as Best Menswear Designer two years in a row in 1989 and 1990” according to Hooniverse.  Continue reading “Theme: Special – 1999 Buick Regal Joseph Abboud edition”

1977 Chevrolet Camaro Z-28 roadtest

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.

1978 Chevrolet Camaro Z-28: source
1978 Chevrolet Camaro Z-28: wikipedia.org

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 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”

When the Dust Clears

It’s only with a good bit of hindsight can you see what has really happened. 

1995 Buick LeSabre: cardomain.com
1995 Buick LeSabre: cardomain.com

When I started writing about Opel and Buick my view of the relationship rested on the idea that if Opel could provide some useful platforms to Buick then that would be a good thing. I recently noted that not only are Buicks not wholly designed in America but in future may not be made there. Continue reading “When the Dust Clears”

Whither Buick and Opel?

At the Detroit Auto show Buick showed off the rather handsome Avista concept car which is based on Chevrolet’s Camaro. 

2016 Buick Avista blue front
Buick Avista: automobilemag.com

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?”

Rubbernecking the Pontiac Aztek

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.

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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”

And he could have had a Cadillac. If the school had taught him right

Driven To Write chanced upon a 1973 Cadillac Eldorado in NW Denmark.

1973 Cadillac Eldorado
1973 Cadillac Eldorado

David Bowie´s 1979 album, Lodger, is remarkable for a number of reasons. Among them is the scope of the record, which is partly a set of postcards back from the wider world, partly rather political (“Fantastic Voyage”, for example) and finally part social commentary. I´ve been listening to it since 1990 and haven´t tired of it. One of the songs on the album is relevant to today´s car. “Repetition” is sung from the point of view of a dissatisfied and angry man, Johnny, who has come home late, hungry and enraged with his wife and probably his entire life. She will bear the brunt of Johnny´s rage and “the bruises won´t show if she wears long sleeves”. The song´s deadened vocals and falling note sequence captures the numbness Continue reading “And he could have had a Cadillac. If the school had taught him right”

Theme : Engines – GM´s General Purpose Nail

The Iron Duke engine: an American interpretation of a European staple.

Not an engine, an Astre
Not an engine, an Astre

The Americans have a different approach to engines than do Europeans. First, they hold the view that bigger is better which means that for many decades the smallest engines were usually 6-cylinder units. 8-cylinder units were considered standard. When the oil crises of the 70s struck, the main US manufacturers were not so experienced with the 4 cylinder devices that were needed to cope. That meant that when they arrived their small engines weren´t even all that small. GM´s offering in the smaller compact class was the Iron Duke, a 2.5 litre pushrod engine with power outputs of between 85 hp and 110 hp. Second, Americans had a preference to build engines for durability rather than refinement (which makes sense in the US context). So, when it came time for GM to develop a general purpose engine, it was not in a good position to Continue reading “Theme : Engines – GM´s General Purpose Nail”

Theme : Facelifts – A Facelift Better Than the Car It Was Meant To Save

How Bill Porter turned the sow´s ear of the 1986 Buick Riviera into something so much better.

1990 Buick Riviera
1990 Buick Riviera

In 1986 Buick in the US sold a medium-sized two door version of the Somerset, built on the N-body. In the way of GM´s demented renaming strategy, the Somerset tag was once a trim level of the Regal saloon but it escaped to become a separate line. The Somerset only lived for three years – the public didn´t take to the name, apparently. The Somerset had a tranverse, front-mounted 2.0 litre 4-cylinder or 3.0 V-6 engine driving the front wheels. The wheelbase was 103 inches (Americans don´t do metric). In terms we´d understand on this side of the Atlantic, it addressed the market that Volvo does with the C30 or Audi with the A3. Or if you imagine a 2-door Ford Focus notchback in Ghia trim you wouldn´t be wide of the mark. At the same time, Continue reading “Theme : Facelifts – A Facelift Better Than the Car It Was Meant To Save”

Cross-currents: From Tsingtao to Rüsselsheim to Michigan

Why does Opel matter to GM? How about sales of 500,000 cars a year in China and continued survival of Buick in the US.

How do we get from China to Warren, Michigan via Rüsselsheim? By Astra, of course.

2012 Buick Verano: engineered in Germany and the US and sold in China
2012 Buick Verano: engineered in Germany and the US and sold in China (in some form)

In the late 70s the science journalist James Burke had an engaging series of programmes called Connections. It traced the links, innovations and the important contingencies that led from the distant past to the technology that we take for granted around us, such as plastic, for example. Behind the invention of this material lay the story of how the 17th Century Dutch preferred not to build warships but bulk carriers called hoorns; how the efficiency of these boosted the volume of trade which led to a need for more sophisticated finance methods… Continue reading “Cross-currents: From Tsingtao to Rüsselsheim to Michigan”