I am writing this on our flight home from Chicago after spending ten most enjoyable days exploring the city and surrounding areas. Chicago is one of the great American cities and, with so much to see and experience, it is well worth a visit. Over the past thirty-something years, I have had the opportunity to travel to the US many times for both business and pleasure. One of my abiding fascinations is the country’s automotive landscape and how it has evolved over these decades.
When I first arrived on those shores in the late 1980s, the US car market was still dramatically different to its European equivalent, thrillingly so for a car-obsessive like me. Despite the downsizing precipitated by the 1973 fuel crisis, there were still plenty of US-manufactured ‘land yachts’ traversing the streets of the big cities and the country’s broad highways. American cars retained their highly distinctive style amongst a plethora of different marques, each with its own signature design features. Continue reading “Keeping it Real”
Continuing our guided tour of the works of Brooks Stevens.
1962 and 1964 Studebaker Lark facelifts: In 1956, Studebaker parted ways with Raymond Loewy, the designer responsible (in name at least) for the creation of most of the Indiana company’s cars of the preceding decades. The reason was not so much dissatisfaction with Loewy’s services, but a lack of money: Studebaker’s sales were in the doldrums and the company simply could not afford him anymore. Styling responsibilities would henceforth lie with its in-house design team, led by Randall Faurot and Duncan McRae.
The compact Lark(1) was McRae and his colleagues’ first design. They ingeniously re-used the rather dated central body section of the company’s existing large Champion model, which had been introduced in 1953. Initially, the Lark sold very well and was wholly responsible for saving Studebaker from bankruptcy, at least for the time being. Sherwood Egbert became CEO of the troubled company at the end of 1960. Having previously worked for the McCulloch company, Egbert had already met Brooks Stevens on a few occasions, so it was to the Milwaukee designer that Egbert would turn to Continue reading “The Milwaukee Magician (Part Four)”
A guided tour through some of the notable works of Brooks Stevens.
1936 Zephyr Land Yacht: One of the earliest automotive creations of Brooks Stevens is this unusual trailer vehicle combination, the Zephyr Land Yacht. It was commissioned by thirty year-old millionaire playboy William Woods Plankinton Jr., heir to his father’s vast fortune. The tractor was based on an International Harvester chassis, while the trailer used a Curtis Aerocar as a starting point. The lucky occupants of the trailer wanted for nothing during their travels across the country: a complete kitchen, bathrooms with showers and hot and cold water plus sleeping accommodation for Plankinton, six guests and the butler were provided. Plankington was an avid hunter and fisherman, so ample storage for rifles and fishing rods was also incorporated into the design. Continue reading “The Milwaukee Magician (Part Two)”
Another good idea poorly executed by Jeep – did the Compass simply start out with bad directions?
By the mid-2000’s it was becoming clear that the market for SUV-type vehicles was changing. The vast majority of buyers liked the looks and versatility of such vehicles, but never put their off-road abilities to the test on anything more challenging than a high kerb in the supermarket car park. Good ground clearance and steep approach and departure angles were largely irrelevant to such customers. What buyers really wanted was to Continue reading “Missing the Marque: 2006 Jeep Compass”
The idea of a seven-seater Jeep model to compete with vehicles such as the 2002 Volvo XC90, 2002 Ford Explorer and 2004 Land-Rover Discovery 3 was a sound one. The execution, however, was disappointingly poor.
The 2002 Volvo XC90 brought the benefit of viable accommodation for seven adults in a sophisticated large SUV. Other similar SUVs, like the 1999 BMW X5, were either strict five-seat vehicles or, like the 1998 Series 2 Land-Rover Discovery, had third-row seats that were only really suitable for children, or for adult passengers to Continue reading “Missing the Marque: 2005 Jeep Commander”
The author recalls his experience of the Jeep Cherokee XJ, an impulse and irrational purchase that turned out rather well.
My partner and I had the use of a Land-Rover Discovery as my perk company car for three years until 1999. It was a thoroughly useful device and we missed it after it went back, especially as our other vehicle was a 1997 Mercedes-Benz SLK 230K convertible, by no means the most practical (or reliable) of cars.
Although not as instantly recognisable as the Wrangler, the 1983 Jeep Cherokee was a well-conceived and thoroughly engineered vehicle that served its maker well over three decades.
Genericization is a rather ugly word, but it describes a phenomenon whereby a market-leading proprietary brand name becomes so dominant that it is used to describe a generic product. It can be a double-edged sword for manufacturers. On one hand, it recognises their market leadership but, conversely, it can lead to the loss of valuable trademark protection.
You wait decades and three motoring ‘big beasts’ relaunch at once.
Every movement has its icons and given where we are now I think we can probably describe the current SUV contagion as a movement. In terms of icons, the holy trinity of sports utility vehicular worship appears to consist of the Jeep Wrangler, Land Rover Defender and Toyota Landcruiser. Just outside, but banging rather conspicuously at the door is Mercedes with its interloper G-Wagen.
The original Willys MB Jeep is known to all – man, woman and small dog. Created as a military vehicle during the second World war, it entered full-scale production in 1941, going on to Continue reading “Three Lions”
Excuse my deliberately wrong headline. Dodge sold this one as the Nitro, on the same platform as the Jeep Rendition*.
It does look like they followed the same playbook as the 2002 Range Rover L322. It also looks like the pencil line thickness on the drawing guided the depth and breadth of the wheel arch lip grooves. It resembles a car to be seen from a good distance. Continue reading “Micropost: 2007 Dodge Landrover”
Space is infinitely divisible, marketing space doubly so.
The 2017 Jeep Compass sits between the sub-compact Renegade and compact Cherokee. This sector is boiling, steaming hot and people will buy pretty much anything that does not burst into flames upon ignition. Continue reading “LA Motor Show Shorts 3”
Who would have thought it? Kaiser-Willys are stablemates with Ferrari and Maserati…
The word ‘icon’ was tediously ubiquitous in the media day presentations, but Jeep served us up a veritable triptych on their stand: Willys Jeep in military trim, Willys Jeep Station Wagon, and a fine example of the 1963-91 Jeep Wagoneer. The original Jeep needs no introduction, but the station wagon possibly does. It is significant that Willys carried over the military vehicle’s name for the steel-bodied passenger utility, even though 4WD only became available three years after its 1946 launch. Continue reading “Geneva Bites – Origin of the SUV Species”
This could have been a Picture for Sunday. Instead it’s more about materials and form.
Background: the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee (which is what I think this is) appeared on the world stage as a derivative of the Mercedes W-166 platform which also made its way to showrooms in 2011. That’s news to me. Did Mercedes license this? The whole of the Grand Cherokee Wikipedia entry reads like it has been airbrushed by someone with corporate interests so I have my doubts. Continue reading “Reflections On Chrome II”
Of course, this is no obscurity to most of our American Readers (both North and South) but we in the UK do tend to imagine that we elevated the 4WD from the farm to the polo fields with the first Range Rover. Actually, the first Rangie was admirably austere and, if it’s social climbing you’re looking for, designer/showman Brooke Stevens’s 1946 Willys Jeep Station Wagon gave new life to the ubiquitous wartime military vehicle. Continue reading “Theme : Evolution – The Missing Links 5”