Director! Memories of a Different Industry

Jensen Cars in the late 1960s

Town Without Pity 2

The only new car launch I have attended was in 1969. It took place in Harrods, and all I knew was that it was to be a Jensen. Jensen had introduced their Interceptor and FF three years previously, so I wondered what this could be. A four door version? A mid-engined sportster? A convertible? I was intrigued.

In the event, my anticipation was ill-placed. The launch was for the Jensen Director. This was an Interceptor, finished in a fetching blue, with an interior created under the direction of top yacht designer, Jon Bannenberg.  A car whose emphasis is on catering to business people might seem a bit odd today, since practically anything on wheels seems to try to give the idea that the driver has a rich and varied leisure life, to which their work is inevitably secondary. You might drive 1,000 km to that meeting in Munich, but only so that you can drop in to the ‘Ring on the way back. Back then business was more exotic. The Bristol was ‘The Businessman’s Express’. Top Fords were ‘Executive’. The idea of pounding along the M1, dictating letters, was sexy – you were building tomorrow. Continue reading “Director! Memories of a Different Industry”

Something Rotten

Richard Herriott introduces an occasional series, kicking tyres in Denmark.

1990 Citroen XM arctic white

Marcellus said to Hamlet “There’s something rotten….isn’t there?” Hamlet turned back, puzzled. “Come again?” Marcellus pulled a mildly irritated expression. “There’s something rotten…you know…something rotten-in-the-state-of-Denmark….” Hamlet’s face clouded. “This no time for cryptic clues, Marcellus….my dad’s been poisoned and I am pretty ticked off about the whole deal. What are you trying to say?” Taking a deep breath Marcellus then sighed. “I mean, Hamlet, there’s something profoundly wrong with things. Denmark is a metaphor for the situation we’re in. And all is not well. It’s a figure of speech… sorry I mentioned it.”

Continue reading “Something Rotten”

The Alternative Great Car Chase

Bullitt, The Italian Job, Ronin, Goldfinger ….

The list of ‘Great Car Chases on Film’ is generally pretty predictable but, if you look further, you might find this :

Tatra Chase
Click To View

A fabulous car, a skilled and brave driver, even braver passengers and a dysfunctional narrative.  What more could you want?

The Vision Thing

Reassessing Chris Bangle’s Bayerische Motoren Werke Legacy.

Chris Bangle. Image credit: Innovation Management

Only a handful of individuals shape what we drive and by consequence, what populates our streets and driveways. Our current notions of automotive style were formed during the 1950s in the styling studios of Detroit and within the Italian carrozzieri, who fired imaginations and rendered dreams in hand-beaten alloy. For decades these designers and artisans were largely faceless men but during the 1980’s, the car designer emerged from obscurity and into the consciousness of the auto-literate.

But within another decade the reign of the Italian styling houses had reached its apogee and with carmakers moving to Continue reading “The Vision Thing”

XJ-S: Reconvening the Committee

Part one:  Arguably the most misunderstood Jaguar of all time, Driven to Write seeks once and for all to put the ‘committee design’ assertion to rest as we assess the stylistic genesis of the 1975 XJ-S.

Jaguar-XJS-Red-Strip-1280x960%5B3%5D
Image: The Telegraph

In September 1975 the newly nationalised British Leyland conglomerate celebrated the Jaguar XJ-S’ launch at Longbridge, the traditional home of its volume car division. A worse time to launch a 150-mph grand turismo is difficult to imagine, to say nothing of the chosen setting. The venue was a calculated statement of power, British Leyland ensuring Jaguar’s beleaguered management and workforce knew exactly who was in charge. Continue reading “XJ-S: Reconvening the Committee”

A Niche Too Far?

Sometimes it pays to be brave, sometimes it doesn’t. Better luck next time, Renault.

Initiale-ParísBy the final decade of the 20th century, motor manufacturers, having established that engineering integrity would only take them so far in the quest for market leadership, began to realise that the answer to their prayers lay within the spreadsheets and focus groups of the product planning departments. In a mature market, largely populated by feckless new money garnered from illusory internet start-ups and awash with cheap credit, the differentiator between the automotive carnivores and their prey would be defined by one word: Segmentation. Entire departments sprang up in such demographically significant hotspots as Miami, London and Southern California, all tasked with seeking that elusive niche that would give the parent company a jump on their rivals.

Continue reading “A Niche Too Far?”

Seven Degrees of Separation

Seven Degrees

My French teacher at grammar school, Mr Roberts, had a small collection of Austin 7s from the 1920s, which he alternated using as transport to work. I think that he considered me a bit of a prat (history might have vindicated him on some levels, certainly) and, sensing this, I reciprocated with contempt for his collection of little, old and, at the time, very cheap cars. In hindsight, I might have had a more rewarding time discussing the niceties of the Ulster, Ruby, etc with him and he might have decided that I had some redeeming features. I deeply regret my glib teenage contempt, though it was entirely my loss. He was right, I was wrong.

Continue reading “Seven Degrees of Separation”

A Hypocrite Writes

I am a cry from beyond the pale. I have spent all my driving years reining in my hooligan element and, for much of the time, it has been my personal circumstances, rather than my self-control, that have prevented me from totally inappropriate purchases.

Image : carmagazine.co.uk

The first Audi RS6 Avant really fulfilled a long-held fantasy for a big, very fast, estate car, marrying the hooner with the homely. Lately, the AMG C63 Estate has taken my fancy, and I now see that they have produced a more powerful version, addressing the problem of the standard model’s woefully inadequate 451 bhp.

Continue reading “A Hypocrite Writes”

Voisin C7 Lumineuse

There was a nice feature on the Voisin C7 Lumineuse in The Automobile (publisher Mr Doug Blain – late of CAR) a couple of months ago.

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It was a very boxy car, so much so that it even came with extra boxes attached. Distinctive, for a car of that era, and contributing to the name, was a full width rear window, and Voisin apparently had to work hard to get people to accept the need for decent all round visibility. He’d have the same problem again today. With a few notable exceptions, I don’t spend much time admiring Vintage machinery, but I rather like this.

Although the C7 is one of Voisin’s more conservative designs, particularly technically, Gabriel Voisin, as much as Andre Citroen, could be seen as the godfather of the classic Citroen. Andre Lefebvre, the engineer behind the Traction Avant, 2CV and DS, worked for Voisin both as an engineer and a competition driver throughout the 1920s, and developed his innovative and uncompromising approach under Gabriel Voisin’s leadership. Compared with its contemporaries, the unfussy nature of the C7 might also be seen in the Traction.

1981 Lancia Trevi Review

“Even Beta: Lancia’s thrilling new Trevi.” Archie Vicar takes a look at an exciting new sporting luxury saloon from Italy’s respected Lancia marque.

1980 Lancia Trevi 1

Track & Motoring, July 1981. Photos by Greg Orford. Owing to an overwhelming cyan-blue colour cast affecting the original images, stock photography has been employed.

Introduction

Without any doubt Lancia’s engineers have been scratching their heads since 1972, trying to think of a way to top the terrific Beta. Despite its front-drive handicap and an engine donated by Fiat, it really is a cracking car, with much to commend it. So how do they Continue reading “1981 Lancia Trevi Review”

1979 Peugeot 505 Review

“Another Mill From Peugeot.” Archie Vicar takes a closer look at the latest offering from Sochaux- the 505.

(C) Automobiles Peugeot

The Monthly Car Review February 1979. Original photos by Douglas Land-Windymere. [sic] Due to liquid spillage upon the transparencies, stock photos have been used. Additional images – Parker Pettiswode.

Here are two items about Peugeot’s famous saloon, the much-loved 505. It is viewed as an icon today and has a strong classic following. If you see an older Peugeot on the road today, chances are it’s a 505 in immaculate condition. These two articles show how the motoring press received the car.

The test drive took place (as of going to press) some fifteen weeks ago. Since then I have found myself polishing shoes and trying to think of an opening paragraph. I shared Boxing day luncheon with my nephew who wanted some advice. I spent most of the meal wondering how I would describe the car (the 505) instead of offering sound counsel. With a quiet pipe of Old Latakia and a few pints at the Bishop’s Head pub in Great Malvern (eight weeks ago) I wondered if it would be permitted simply not to Continue reading “1979 Peugeot 505 Review”

1976 Citroen CX Prestige Review

Encore Again! Archie Vicar tests Citroen’s long-wheelbase CX Prestige.

1976 Citroen CX Prestige Profile

“Driver & Motorist”, July 1976.Photographs by Dick Trevithick. Owing to poor quality originals, stock photographs have been used.

Despite producing some technically intriguing cars such as the GS, Citroen’s finances are not in the best condition. And despite this, Citroen devoted more of their precious francs to developing the CX yet further, with this long wheel base limousine, the Prestige. At least this proves that Peugeot are not going to interfere too much in Citroen’s engineering activities. Continue reading “1976 Citroen CX Prestige Review”

1976 Ferrari 365 GT4 2+2 Review

Prancing horse or lame nag? Archie Vicar samples Ferrari’s 4-seater oddity, the 365 GT4 2+2.

Is this the shape of things to come, asks Archie Vicar?
Is this the shape of things to come, asks Archie Vicar?

From Motor Enthusiast, October 1976. Photos by Edward Blayliss. Owing to the excessive lens flare of Mr. Blayless’ images, stock photography has been used.

It’s quite peculiar to review a car that already exists. As the only motoring writer in Britain who has been permitted to officially test drive Bristol’s new four-seater, the 603, I can reveal Ferrari’s 365 GT4 2+2 is the same car but worse. Far be it for me to criticise the long, hard lunches put in by Mr Ferrari’s assistants but the 365 GT4 is a rather poor show. And Bristol’s car, despite its slightly brash Chrysler lump, trumps the 365 in every major respect.

Let us consider the ash receptacles. Bristol places theirs near the steering wheel while Ferrari throws theirs somewhere down by one’s knees. Both cars are 4-seater GTs. Both cost a king’s ransom but one car will unfailingly Continue reading “1976 Ferrari 365 GT4 2+2 Review”

1975 Triumph Dolomite Review

Archie Vicar tests three sporting saloons: Triumph’s Dolomite, Lancia’s Fulvia and Alfa Romeo’s evergreen Giulia.

1975 Triumph Dolomite

From the Driving & Motoring Weekly Guide, 1975. Photos by Nigel de la Warr. Owing to the loss of Mr. De la Warr’s Nikons, stock photography has been used.

Small sporting saloons are becoming an important if quite tiny part of the market place. Naturally, the large family car will always remain the most popular choice for the suburban motorist and business-man on the move. But, for the fellow who likes energetic driving and who also needs to Continue reading “1975 Triumph Dolomite Review”

1974 Volvo 244: Review

“No mashed Swedes!” Archie Vicar on the Volvo 244 saloon.

1974 Volvo 244 saloon
1974 Volvo 244 saloon

Automotorist, September, 1974, pages 23-29. Photos by Ian Cambridgeshire. Owing to the poor quality of the original images, stock photography has been used.

The Swedish like eating tinned rotten fish. It’s an acquired taste, I am told by those with experience in such things. One is advised to open the tin can under water so as to contain the noxious aromas that would otherwise emanate. And one is also advised to drink plenty of schnapps to kill the taste. That’s really the only part of the whole palaver I can really see my way to agreeing with. I mention all of this by way of an introduction to Sweden’s other acquired taste, their Volvos.

And they have a new one on the way, the 244. It’s in the spirit of fellowship between our two great nations that I Continue reading “1974 Volvo 244: Review”

1973 Alfa Romeo Alfetta Review

Alfa Resurgent! Archie Vicar takes a look at the new executive car from Alfa Romeo, the Alfetta 1.8

The 1972 Alfetta saloon (c. FCA Emea Press)

For too long Alfas have been a car for the heart, but can they build one for the head too? The answer could now be “si.” For those of us fond of the Italian maker Alfa Romeo, there are clear signs that there really is a resurgence afoot. “The Alfetta is a new chapter in Alfa Romeo’s history,” said Angelo Scoria, chief of Public Relations, in a press release.

“The Alfetta is full of new engineering thinking and will be a more modern car, one built to a high standard too. It will be a future classic, we believe.” So, reasons to be optimistic. For a very long time Alfa has indeed been guilty of making cars that have Continue reading “1973 Alfa Romeo Alfetta Review”

1969 Austin Maxi: Road Test

Something old, something new! Archibald Vicar, Dip. Eng. tries the latest sensation from BMC, the Austin “Maxi.”

1969 Austin Maxi
Austin Maxi

From “Today’s Driver” February 1969. Photography by Patrick Lamperay. Due to the poor quality of the original source, stock photos have been used.

There it was, an Austin Maxi, Leyland’s latest motor car. And we were in Dublin, Eire, to test it. It was eight o’clock in the morning and photographer, Lamperey, and I were at British Leyland’s small factory in the middle of what was once the Empire’s second city. While I ought to have been taking in the generalities of the Maxi’s technicalities I was more cognisant of my rather delicate physical state, that of a rotten hangover.

Said hangover was largely as a result of my failed attempt to anaesthetise myself during the festival of mal de mer that was the ferry from Holyhead to Dublin. The duty-free Guinness was at least remarkably cheap so the experience was merely disagreeable and not costly. I was also able to Continue reading “1969 Austin Maxi: Road Test”

1968 Jaguar XJ-6 Road Test: “A Load of Old Baltics” (Part 3)

Archie Vicar continues touring from London to Latvia in Jaguar’s new XJ-6. His mission, to test this important new saloon and to recover his hand-made shoes left behind on a previous jaunt.

1968 Jaguar XJ-6 at a scenic location in Latvia
1968 Jaguar XJ-6 at a scenic location in Latvia

From “Private Motor Car Owner” (pages 34-39,  page 109, page 116, December, 1968). Photography by Douglas Land-Windermere. Owing to the very poor quality of the original images, stock photography has been used.

Day Four
Getting into Latvia was a breeze. We presented our passports and sacrificed a few cherished boxes of Craven “A” cigarettes and we were in. Even the sight of the new Jaguar, in De Luxe trim and virtually rust free, didn’t make the unshaven brute at the border blink. It seemed like we would sail through under the dusty hem of the Iron Curtain.

But then we spent 9 hours waiting at a road-block deep in the middle of nowhere. Continue reading “1968 Jaguar XJ-6 Road Test: “A Load of Old Baltics” (Part 3)”

1967 Humber Super Snipe Review

“Uncommon the twain!” In what is probably a purported period review, the motoring writer Mr. A. Vicar considers the choices of car afforded to varietists enjoying a moderately higher-than-average income.

The super Humber Super Snipe
The super Humber Super Snipe

[From “The Motoring and Driving Register”, July 1967. Photography by Cyril Leadbeater. Owing to the poor quality of the original images, stock photos have been used.]

This month’s motor vehicle comparison pits two well-established players against one another. For the gentleman of comfortable means life affords choice and what is choice if it is not among things that differ? What point is there in being offered a large range of very similar cars for a similar price as many makers seem to want to do these days? That is no choice at all. We can see at the more pedestrian end of the market – and indeed have done for some time now- that many car builders are merely shadowing one another so that were one to sit inside a Ford, a Vauxhall, an Austin, or a Hillman selling for, say, £800, one could not Continue reading “1967 Humber Super Snipe Review”

1965 Bentley “T”-Type Review

Sporting to a “T”. Archie Vicar drives to Sicily in the new motor carriage from Crewe.

Distinctive, sporting elegance.

From Motorist’s Illustrated Digest, Dec 1965. Photos by Douglas Land-Windermere. Owing to the very poor quality of the original images, stock photography has been used.

The Bentley marque conjours images of the driver Richard “Dick” Seaman charging along the Mulsanne Straight at a 100 mph. That he achieved this very respectable pace minus a tyre is a tribute to his Bentley and to his boundless idiocy. Great chap. He is very much missed in motoring circles. For a while Bentley’s sporting character has been as absent and as lamented as Mr Seaman. The last batches of Bentleys have, frankly, been a little hard to distinguish from their Rolls-Royce stablemates. Continue reading “1965 Bentley “T”-Type Review”

1959 Bentley S1 Flying Spur Continental Review

“Bentley makes its mark”. By Archie Vicar.

1959 Bentley S1 Continental Flying Spur
1959 Bentley S1 Continental Flying Spur

From the Motorist’s Compendium and Driver’s Almanack, Dec 1959. Photographs by Marmaduke Orpington. Owing to the poor quality of the original images, stock photography has been used.

Bentley seem to be finding their feet again after a spell in the shadows of their owner, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. This month it is our privilege to be invited to test drive the evidence of this resurgence, the S1 Continental Flying Spur.

First might I present a little history for younger readers. Bentley started offering steel bodywork in 1946 and many coachbuilders have been continuing to offer their own versions of these car, as if a ‘standard’ Bentley wasn’t sufficiently prestigious. But these later cars have apparently lacked a certain something. For this author, if were one to Continue reading “1959 Bentley S1 Flying Spur Continental Review”