Nerdy Worlds United: Citroen-Themed Stamps

Here’s a jolly theme for a set of stamps: the French postal service is offering a range of Citroen-related designs. Two great nerdy worlds united.
1965 citroen_catalogue_news

You can get a look at the series here. Among the cars are the Citroen XM, Citroen DS and the Citroen Xsara. The stamp series looks like this and the XM image is not as striking as the one I’ve selected, alas. Continue reading “Nerdy Worlds United: Citroen-Themed Stamps”

Theme : Dashboards – Japanese Prestige

I am indebted to Eóin for drawing my attention to the repugnant excess of the Mercedes S-class interior.

2015 Toyota Century interior (screen shot)
2015 Toyota Century interior (screen shot)

This has led me to Japan to investigate their approach to boardroom-level transport. Helping me along the way was an article at The Truth About Cars about the Tokyo car show of 1995 and a live web-page showing Nissan’s offerings then.

Apparently the web-page is still live, having been left running in all its 1995 glory these last 19 years. One of the cars on the list was the Nissan President of which I had Continue reading “Theme : Dashboards – Japanese Prestige”

Interview: Mario Bellini, Designer

Not many designers get to venture outside the boundaries that divide the discipline. Mario Bellini is one of them: furniture, architecture, product design and automotive work are all included in his remarkable portfolio.

Mario Bellini
Mario Bellini

Bellini is the winner of, among others, 8 Compasso d’Oro and prestigious architecture awards including the Medaglia d’Oro conferred by the President of the Italian Republic. Seen from an historical point of view, the activity we call design is a process with as wide a variety of final products as there are material human needs.

From that standpoint, product design, architecture, graphics, car design and clothing, for example, would be seen as variations on the theme of working out what form things take to solve a problem. Continue reading “Interview: Mario Bellini, Designer”

Devourer Of Worlds – The Inexorable Rise Of The S-Class

Mercedes’ new W222 S-Class is decimating its European and Asian rivals. A renaissance for a declining sector or the final gasp? Driven to write investigates.

The All New Mercedes-Benz S-Class (2)

The S-Class is the quintessential Mercedes and the centre of gravity around which the entire Stuttgart-Untertürkheim behemoth pivots. None more so than today’s W222 series; which if current sales are a reliable barometer, is shaping up to be the fastest selling iteration in the model’s history. Continue reading “Devourer Of Worlds – The Inexorable Rise Of The S-Class”

Theme: Dashboards – 2011 Nissan Moco

A lot of expense can go a long way to making an uninteresting dashboard design seem acceptable.

2010 Nissan Moco: look at that cloth. It's brilliant.
2010 Nissan Moco: look at that cloth. It´s brilliant.

[Images courtesy of this excellent blog minimally minimal]

Soft touch plastics, chrome trim, lots of accessories: throw all that at some shapes and maybe the customer won’t notice how boring their car interior really is. The 2011 Nissan Moco is a kei-car and that means it’s small and cheap. The designers couldn’t use costly tricks and so did it the hard way: careful and creative styling.

Continue reading “Theme: Dashboards – 2011 Nissan Moco”

Extreme Rustproofing the Danish Way

The Danish climate is tough on older cars, especially those designed for drier climates. One solution is complete after-market galvanisation. Look at this Citroen 2CV to see how it appears when so treated….

Galvanised 2CV in Aarhus, Denmark
Galvanised 2CV in Aarhus, Denmark

There are two 2CV specialists in Jutland, one is the Danish 2CV Centre and the other is the 2CV Expert. One of these two offers a complete galvanising option on refurbished 2CVs. The Danish 2CV Centre has a museum which I have not visited. I had a look at this car which seems to have undergone the maximum degree of protection but has not been painted. Continue reading “Extreme Rustproofing the Danish Way”

Death’s Revolving Door: More Saab/NEV News

The rumours discussed earlier this month that Mahindra might be about to step in and invest in NEV (“the troubled Swedish car maker” in journalese) are nearing confirmation.

More interior room than a Rolls-Royce, so said the advertising copy. (1986 Saab 9000).
More interior room than a Rolls-Royce, so said the advertising copy. (1986 Saab 9000).

Automotive News reported. Their news came from the Financial Times. The article said that “Mahindra wants to acquire the remnants of Saab to accelerate its expansion into Western markets and into premium and electric cars”. Mahindra is slated to take a controlling stake in National Electric Vehicle. Continue reading “Death’s Revolving Door: More Saab/NEV News”

Theme : Dashboards – The Fiat Multipla

A Clever Clown at a Conference of Dull Suits?

Multipla 5

I won’t detail my admiration for the concept and design of the 1999 Fiat Multipla here. Suffice it to say that if you don’t get it and, if you can only go ‘aargh it’s so frigging ugly’, you are wrong. I realise that you are a fine person in all other things but, in the matter of one of the few original and worthwhile cars of the past 30 years, you are sadly misguided.

But here we shall confine ourselves to the Multipla’s dashboard. Somewhere on the web, another misguided soul has posted something on the 10 Strangest Car Dashboards with “If you think the dashboard is ugly, you should see the exterior…..”. But is it strange, is it weird, is it ugly?

Continue reading “Theme : Dashboards – The Fiat Multipla”

Fiat’s Nightmare Continues – Sales Are Up

Despite well-publicised woes, Fiat is actually doing decent business in the lower reaches of the European market, with 2014 sales figures suggesting a recovery – well, of sorts…

500m

European car sales figures from Jan-September 2014 illustrate an unexpected bright spot at FCA’s beleaguered Fiat division. It’s not much to write home about, but the former Torinese powerhouse is once again dominating the sub-compact car market. Between the top selling 500 and second placed Panda, Fiat have the mini-car sector sown up, with joint recorded sales of over 239,000 in the year to September. The 500 has performed well above expectations this year; especially so given the model’s age, with sales up 16% on 2013. The good news for Sergio continues with a small miracle occurring at Lancia. Continue reading “Fiat’s Nightmare Continues – Sales Are Up”

God is in the Details : 2015 Subaru WRX STi

God is in the details, as Mies Van der Rohe said. Subaru’s recent WRX STi has attracted my attention with an engineering choice that deserves respect.

2015 Subaru WRX STi
2015 Subaru WRX STi

I have two reasons for this article. One is the subject itself, Subaru’s devotion to steering quality, and two is to make up for our neglect of the brand. During our recent foray into engines, DTW failed rather spectacularly to mention Subaru who have championed boxer engines on the grounds that these make for a car with a lower centre of gravity, to the benefit of handling among other boons.

As LJK Setright noted, lowering the centre of gravity is a more effective means to ensure stability than widening the track of a vehicle.  Continue reading “God is in the Details : 2015 Subaru WRX STi”

A Photo for Sunday

Sunday is a day of reflection. DTW would like to offer this image as the subject for today’s consideration.

1984 Mercedes duo
The two cars are 1983 Mercedes W123’s: a 230 CE and a 280 CE. Both are the same colour whose proper name I don’t know. These park on my street and are owned by two people who don’t know each other. What a strange coincidence.  Continue reading “A Photo for Sunday”

Weekend Number Crunching: Renault

Renault’s November sales figures have been released. Good or bad or what? 

Among the 75% of smaller cars that make up Renault´s UK sales, is the Zoe.
Among the 75% of smaller cars that make up Renault´s UK sales, is the Zoe.

Renault UK released their latest sales figures on Wednesday. The headline, as they present it, is that their sales are still increasing, a 20 month upward trend. They make the point that their percentage change is ahead of the general market trend too. They sold 61,172 vehicles in the year to date, which is almost a 50% improvement on last year. 5,586 of those were sold in November.

The biggest contributor to this increase is probably the popularity of the Continue reading “Weekend Number Crunching: Renault”

Theme: Dashboards – Toyota’s Subtle Game

Little credit goes to Toyota’s designers for their contribution to dashboard design. Let’s change that and reconsider the seventh generation of the Corolla, the E100, on sale from 1991 to 1995.

1993 Toyota Corolla interior (EU model).
1993 Toyota Corolla interior (EU model).

Toyota has always carefully controlled the extent to which the fashions of the times have influenced its dashboards’ appearance. Corolla customers are such that they want the car to be as unobtrusive as possible and perhaps they are even unaware of this powerful desire. For any designer to make a shape that meets this requirement is far from easy. It is like designing unspoken rules, design for the tacit. To do what designers often do, driven by ego, is to seek attention. Continue reading “Theme: Dashboards – Toyota’s Subtle Game”

Downgraded from Economy

This wasn’t what I expected.

A rented vehicle.
A rented vehicle.

At the very least, a rental car offers the chance to drive something new even if it’s not the car of your dreams or as good as your normal vehicle. On my recent visit to Baden-Württemberg I’d expected to be driving a Ford Ka. This didn’t excite me very much but, as I said, it was a new car and not something I’d otherwise experience.

To my disappointment, Continue reading “Downgraded from Economy”

Theme : Dashboards – The Rover P6

An Ignored Classic

Series 1 V8 Interior

In Simon’s introduction to this month’s theme he mentions the original P6 Rover dashboard, and I think this merits more scrutiny. The P6 Rover ceased production in 1977, ending its life as a British Leyland product built in 2.2 and 3.5 litre forms, and viewed as a rather staid design with a latterly gained reputation for poor build quality.

That isn’t what it deserved, but it had lived far too long. Casting back to its launch, 14 years previously, as the 2000 of the then independent Rover company, it was a well made car and a fresh, new design by any standards, a radical departure for that company. It drew inspiration from the Citroen DS, but in no way slavishly copied it. Continue reading “Theme : Dashboards – The Rover P6”

Death’s Revolving Door is Now Spinning

They are digging up Saab again.

1980 Saab-Lancia 600
1980 Saab-Lancia 600

Automotive News has reported another turn of the swing door in Trollhattan. Those of you keen on re-gravedigging will have been following the death-rebirth-death-rebirth of Saab. At this point the cycle is akin to an automotive version of Buddhist re-incarnation except Saab keeps coming back as an about-to-die brand. The last news (May) was that some of Saab’s putative investors declined to throw more money into the open grave in Trollhattan and the stake was once again hammered into Saab’s turbo’d heart.  Continue reading “Death’s Revolving Door is Now Spinning”

2014 Citroen DS3 – Quick Review

The 3 was the first of the new DS line – does consideration of it now give any clues to the new marque’s future?

DS3ext

The silver lining to having a car that spends more time than one would like “being serviced” is that one usually gets a courtesy car to try whilst one’s (un)faithful steed is being restored to full health. Previously, I’ve written about how a “lowly” Ford Fiesta provided in such circumstances proved to be one of the nicest drives that I have ever experienced; today it is the turn of the DS3. Continue reading “2014 Citroen DS3 – Quick Review”

History Repeating – XJ40 Part 12

Phase three – 1981-1986: The Legend Grows Old Waiting. As the AJ6 engine breaks cover, the press lose patience.

0000471_xjs-red-36
The 1983 AJ6-engined XJ-S 3.6 – image: Jaguar Heritage

The autumn of 1983 saw Jaguar offer an AJ6-engined car to the public. The 3.6 litre XJ-S was launched in the familiar coupé bodyshell with the added novelty of a drophead two-seater version. Both were powered by the new AJ6 unit in 225 bhp 24-valve form.

The British motoring press devoted pages of copy to the introduction, this being the first all-new Jaguar engine since the V12 of 1971. Expectations were high, given the peerless refinement of the larger-displacement unit. The fact that this engine would become the mainstay power unit for XJ40 only added to its significance.  Continue reading “History Repeating – XJ40 Part 12”

Something Rotten in Denmark: 1998 Chrysler Stratus

The Chrysler Stratus: all the bad qualities of American cars, Japanese cars and European cars rolled into one unappetising shape. In 1995 these cars had the power to thrill.

How to sell a car´s charms
How to sell a car´s charms

This car has two claims to our attention today. The first is that in the cold light of day, it is hard to believe this car and its almost identical stable-mates were nominated on Car & Driver’s 10 best list. I wasn’t aware of this at the time. The second reason I’m drawn to it is because it was the first car I was ever paid to review**.

I wrote 1000 words and saw the editor chop out 200 of them, more or less killing the nuances of the text stone dead. I wanted to Continue reading “Something Rotten in Denmark: 1998 Chrysler Stratus”

2014 Opel Zafira 2.0 CDti Ecoflex roadtest

The Opel Zafira Tourer went on sale in late 2011 as an addition to the Opel family, rather than a replacement for the existing Zafira. 

2014 Opel Zafira 2.0 CDti
2014 Opel Zafira 2.0 CDti

That remains on sale as a cheaper, smaller MPV, albeit in facelifted form. DTW gained access to a Zafira Tourer Ecoflex, with a 2.0 diesel engine fitted with stop/start technology. Read on for a short review…The Zafira does such a good job it is hard to write about the car´s demerits without seeming to make too much of rather small details. All the good points can fly past unnoticed since getting it right is often just a way to go unnoticed.

Continue reading “2014 Opel Zafira 2.0 CDti Ecoflex roadtest”

Superman In Milton Keynes

Almost three decades ago, a couple of cheapskate film producers believed they could whisk the quintessential American superhero to Buckinghamshire and people wouldn’t notice. Now Daimler AG is following their example. 

superman_4_en_busca_de_la_paz_1987_3-1024x576

Back in the late 1970s, Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus were the undisputed moguls of Israeli cinema, thanks mainly to the success of their Lemon Popsicle series of raunchy comedies. By the early 1980s, they wanted to enter the big leagues, which meant entering the US market, big time. Golan/Globus invested serious amounts of money in order Continue reading “Superman In Milton Keynes”

Drawing Restraint

Audi has previewed its new styling direction. It looks a lot like the old styling direction.

audi-prologue-25-970x646-c
Image credit: car revs daily

Based on the cumulative reaction to Audi’s new design direction embodied by the recent Prologue concept, Marc Lichte and his designers may have considerably more work to do if Audi is not to Continue reading “Drawing Restraint”

History in Cars: Midlife Krisis KA

If you’re going to have a mid-life crisis, at least get a decent set of wheels.

images_ford_ka_1996_1

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a man in his forties has a higher than average propensity to some form of mid-life introspection. As we know, the clichéd route to self-actualisation ranges from an inadvisable tattoo, to an inappropriate affair with a younger member of whichever gender he’s attracted to. Some choose to experiment with various derivations of the above. The more conventional opt for a sportscar or convertible. After all, just because you’re in the throes of a life event doesn’t mean you have to be original about it.

Continue reading “History in Cars: Midlife Krisis KA”

What’s the Difference Between a Mercedes CLA and a Mercedes C-class?

How does £208 per litre sound? I’ve been looking through the spec sheets again.

2014 Mercedes saloon.
2014 Mercedes saloon.

We know that the CLA is a front-wheel drive vehicle, related to the A-class which is now essentially MB’s offering in the Golf/Focus/Astra sector. The C-class is a monument in the automotive firmament, with roots going back to the rear-wheel drive 190E of the ’80s. That car was the first sign that Mercedes was interested in capitalising on its prestige by bringing their quality down to a smaller class of car than they had been offering up to that point. Continue reading “What’s the Difference Between a Mercedes CLA and a Mercedes C-class?”

1976 Simca 1307, Chrysler Alpine/150 Review

“Vive La Difference!” Archie Vicar compares two new products battling it out in the family sector – France’s Simca 1307, and Britain’s Chrysler Alpine.

1976 Simca 1307
1976 Simca 1307

From The Motoring Weekly Gazette, October 1976. Photography by Terry Loftholdingswood. Owing to a processing error resulting in mishandled transparencies, stock photos have been used.

Introduction

All of a sudden there are two entirely new cars fresh on the market to rival the Ford Cortina, the Vauxhall Cavalier and the ancient Renault 16. From Coventry, by way of America comes the Chrysler Alpine nee 150: good day, sir!, or should that read howdy? From France, we say bonjour to the Simca 1307. There would appear to be something for everyone’s taste here, I say. Continue reading “1976 Simca 1307, Chrysler Alpine/150 Review”

1965 Renault 16 Review

“Hatchback of Notre Dame” – In this transcript the respected motor-correspondent, Mr Archie Vicar, dons his beret to try the new Renault “Sixteen”.

1965 Renault 16: it has five doors.
1965 Renault 16: it has five doors.

From Driving Illustrated May 1965. Photos by Mr Douglas Land-Windermere. Due to the poor quality of the original images, stock photography has been used.

Olive oil and garlic in the kitchen, filterless Gitanes in his pocket and a pair of slip-on shoes. We all know the fellow. He likes his chicken chasseur and, in the late evening, Jacque Brel croons on his stereophonic record player. Coffee for him, never good old tea. Heaven forbid if the coffee is powdered. Not for this chap a splendid Humber, a stout Riley or even a fine Rover. Such motor cars are not sufficiently sophisticated, too British. Since 1955 the only car for Monsiuer Different has been a Citroen, usually the DS, fitted with its dreadfully overwrought hydropneumatic suspension, fibreglass roof and marshmallow chairs. Continue reading “1965 Renault 16 Review”

History Repeating – XJ40 Part 11

Phase three – 1981-1986: Free at last. Jaguar’s independence becomes a reality as Sir William takes a more active role.

Egan and Lyons
Two Knights, two Jags – Egan and Lyons – image: Jaguar Heritage

When John Egan made contact with Sir William Lyons in 1981 to sound out the Jaguar founder for the role of company President, he was taken aback by his response. ‘I already am, lad!’, Lyons informed him. Amid the turmoil of the previous eight years everyone appeared to have forgotten. Lyons warmly embraced the new incumbent, believing the Lancastrian was the man to reconstruct Jaguar after the disastrous Ryder years. The two men quickly developed a rapport and Egan became a regular visitor to his Wappenbury Hall home where he would take advice from Jaguar’s venerable founder.

Continue reading “History Repeating – XJ40 Part 11”

Theme : Books – Midnight Plus One by Gavin Lyall

Cars, Guns & Guts, Sixties-Style

Cover image

Having run out of James Bond books (see earlier post), I read this book as a teenager. It’s a well written adventure thriller, but with a narrative that’s very much of its time, presumably with an eye on the then burgeoning Ian Fleming / Len Deighton / John Le Carré market. Gavin Lyall was a crime and spy thriller writer and the husband of the excellent Katharine Whitehorn. He was known for his meticulous research.

What I have always remembered is that, central to a large section of the narrative, is a Citroën DS that takes on an almost heroic status as it takes the first-person protagonist across France. Its starring role was possibly inspired by the true life escape of French President Charles De Gaulle from an OAS assassination attempt in 1962 (see The Day Of The Jackal) where his driver exploited the DS’s unique suspension to Continue reading “Theme : Books – Midnight Plus One by Gavin Lyall”

2016 Honda FCev Design Analysis

In 2013 Honda showed their highly aerodynamic FCev concept car. The production version has been revealed and is surprisingly close in feel to the ’13 car.

2015 Honda FCev
2015 Honda FCev

The objectives with the FCev are for a vehicle to produce 100kW from its fuel-cell stack and carry four adults. The aerodynamically creased body shell reduces the cD in an overt way we have not seen for two decades. This promises 300 miles of range, which is not so bad if you recall that the Citroen CX GTi got by with a 280 mile range. If you drive an Aston Martin hard you can get considerably less.  Continue reading “2016 Honda FCev Design Analysis”

Teutonic Displacement: Volkswagen Konzern (Part 2)

Having looked at the issues besetting the mighty Volkswagen AG (VAG) recently in Part 1 – which can be read here – we can now try and shed some light on the depth of the problems and likely solutions. 

Today, the problem is that these cars are all on the verge of being replaced (or have already been replaced, in the Golf VI’s case). The new range taking their place will, even once the glitches related to MQB have been ironed out, not be as lucrative, with profit margins shrinking by as much as two thirds, compared with the Bernhard-era models. This should make future subsidising of models such as the Amarok pick-up (which is said to have a profit margin of -25%) with the Tiguan II’s yields considerably more difficult. Continue reading “Teutonic Displacement: Volkswagen Konzern (Part 2)”

1988 Renault Megane Concept: Some Thoughts

Recently Driven To Write posted a reminder of Renault’s 1988 concept car, the Megane. It struck me as having distinctly Citroen overtones. 

1988 Renault Megane concept car
1988 Renault Megane concept car

That’s the side view: a very raked bonnet and headlamps set low. Notice the long wheelbase and short rear over-hang. There is also the blacked-out a-pillar. Compare it with the Citroen XM of the next year… Continue reading “1988 Renault Megane Concept: Some Thoughts”

Theme : Books – Robert Opron : L’Automobile et l’Art by Peter J Piljman

A book about one of Citroën’s two great designers.

Opron Photo

A while ago, having come across this by chance on the Internet, I bought a new copy direct from Sagitta Press in The Netherlands. First published in 2002, it’s not cheap, but it is a heavy, handsome and copiously illustrated book about a relatively unsung giant of car design. Continue reading “Theme : Books – Robert Opron : L’Automobile et l’Art by Peter J Piljman”

1988 Renault Megane – Here’s One They Made Earlier

Patrick Le Quément’s legacy of highly convincing, but unrealised Renault concepts begins here…

megane1

Renault seem to have been making attempts to crack the luxury car market for decades now. During the 1970’s they offered us the R30 hatchback – a kind of updated R16 with a V6 engine and luxury trim. It wasn’t a bad car – in fact contemporary reports suggest it was rather good. But success eluded it – although the smaller-engined R20 model sharing an identical bodyshell can’t have aided matters.

During the 1980’s Renault tried again with the more attractive looking Robert Opron-inspired R25. They got around the issue this time by offering the same model with a range of engines and while the car proved moderately successful outside of its home market, it too failed to make serious inroads upon rivals like the contemporary Audi 100 and Ford Scorpio.

megane2

During 1987, with Opron (and consultant, Marcello Gandini) gone, Renault appointed Partick Le Quément as Vice President of Corporate Design with a remit to shake up Renault’s styling and by dint, its position in the market. Le Quément got to work and one of the first fruits of this new regime was shown at the 1988 Paris Motor Show. The Megane concept was a three volume saloon with a drag coefficient of 0.21; Renault describing the Megane’s appearance as “plump yet not appearing so, a completely new form.” (Note the complete absence of the word ‘sporty’ – although one has to admit, ‘plump’ wouldn’t have been my choice of words)

Megane01

Its huge sliding doors revealed an interior that resembled that of a private jet, the Megane in some ways anticipating the later Avantime in providing exceptional comfort for four occupants – Le Quément calling it “a supercar for living.” Some of the more outré features such as the two luggage compartments and its ability to switch from a three volume to a hatchback by sliding its frameless rear window aft were somewhat far fetched show car frippery, but there was within this concept, the bones of a convincing big Renault for the 1990’s – one that could have given the Citroën XM a bit of a fright. So how on earth they went from this to the 1992 Safrane is anyone’s guess. One can only assume it was an argument Le Quément lost to more risk-averse minds.

1988-renault-megane-concept-car-1

Certainly, it was one that served Renault poorly, given the Safrane’s lack of sales success and Renault’s continued inability to wrest even a decent proportion of their German rival’s market. The Safrane’s lack of appeal saw Renault’s share of the mainstream luxury car market shrink to levels that were frankly unsustainable by the time it was eventually replaced by the Avantime and Vel Satis. A matter that should be borne in mind when considering their eventual fate.

The Megane concept therefore marks the beginning of a generation of avant garde Renault concepts – visions of what would become an impossible future.

Further musings on Renault’s recent design history can be read here and here

Photo credits/sources: howstuffworks.com/ favcars.com/ onliner.by

157 KM Only: 1984 Lancia Trevi Volumex

Would you dare drive a 30 year old car with only 157 km on the odometer? This Lancia Trevi VX (registered in 1985) is for sale. 

1984 Lancia Trevi
1984 Lancia Trevi

Every now and then a museum-quality rarity shows up. This has to be the oddest I’ve seen in the last few years. Beating an unused 1975 Peugeot 604 (delivery miles) and an 8,000 km 1983 Ford Granada we have this delivery-miles 1984 Lancia Trevi VX, registered in 1985. It’s for sale at mobile.de and if you want to see it, you’ll need to take a trip to Bavaria and head northwest to Affing-Mühlhausen, a town noted mostly for its association with the Wittelsbachs who ruled Bavaria from 1180 to 1918.  You can stay in the Hotel Ludwigshof and make a trip of it. Continue reading “157 KM Only: 1984 Lancia Trevi Volumex”

1987 Jaguar XJ-6 3.6 Versus the Rover Sterling and Vauxhall Senator 3.0 CDi

How bad were Jaguar’s quality problems in 1987? And what was Car magazine thinking when the XJ6 won a giant-test against the Rover Sterling and Vauxhall Senator? The Jaguar was rusting before their eyes.

Jaguar XJ-6 3.6 automatic, with OEM rust. (c) Jaglovers

On page 129 of the November 1987 edition of Car, there is photo of a door-seal parting company from the door of a Jaguar XJ-6, a new Jaguar XJ-6 provided by Jaguar Ltd for a comparison test. Did they not check before loaning it out? Or was it fine the day it left Brown’s Lane and then rusted in the interim? Continue reading “1987 Jaguar XJ-6 3.6 Versus the Rover Sterling and Vauxhall Senator 3.0 CDi”

Mercedes Rework Their Naming System… Again

Naming systems can be confusing. Mercedes Benz is having another bash at designating their bewildering array of vehicles. And other news. 

2002 Mercedes Vaneo
2002 Mercedes Vaneo: brand extension at its extendiest.

As we speak Cadillac is bringing in a 3-letter system; Lincoln is forgetting its long standing convention of Mk-cars. Who knows what a MKZ might be? And is a Mercedes GLA a G-class or an A-class? In philosophy classification has been a problem since Plato, or perhaps before. The difficulty lies in reducing the messy fuzziness of the universe to a few categories. A system needs to be simpler than reality. Continue reading “Mercedes Rework Their Naming System… Again”

Fiat Punto 1.3 “Alfa Romeo”- Edition, Engineered By Ferrari

How much can a brand be stretched? Should Alfa Romeos carry an ‘engineered by Ferrari’ badge? Or shouldn’t Alfa’s engineering speak for itself?

Image: thanks to Autocar. They seem to have put a huge card saying "Autocar" inside the test car.
Image: thanks to Autocar. They seem to have put a huge card saying “Autocar” inside the test car.

While trawling other news sites, I read at Autocar  that Alfa Romeo’s forthcoming SUV will be based upon the Maserati Ghibli. That bit doesn’t surprise me so much as the remark that “….there have also been unconfirmed rumours that the top of the range Alfa engines will feature ‘developed by Ferrari’ sub-branding.” This has all the hall marks of an idea designed to appeal to Sergio Marchionne. It also reminds me of Silvio Berlusconi’s idea that Fiat could sell more cars by badging them as Maseratis. You might as well Continue reading “Fiat Punto 1.3 “Alfa Romeo”- Edition, Engineered By Ferrari”

2014 Renault Twingo Review (Resumed)

Following on from DTW’s earlier impressions, we finally drive the Renault Twingo SCe70

2015-Renault-Twingo-10-520x346

The first thought on driving the Twingo is Why? Had I never read about the car, and had you sat me in it, I might have driven for hours before I finally twigged that something was, mechanically speaking, different from its competitors. The engine starts and a quiet burble appears in the cabin. It is unobtrusive, for a small car, and comes from no particular direction. Continue reading “2014 Renault Twingo Review (Resumed)”

After the Great Leap Forward 2: Qoros Cars News Update

So, I presume you are all wondering how Qoros Automotive is doing? I was so I went and found out.

2015 Qoros screen shot

In March I wrote an article about the Israeli-Chinese firm Qoros. The latest news is that Qoros is running into difficulty, leading to reports of a split between the Israeli investors and the Chinese side of things. The Wall Street Journal reported it another way, saying major shareholder, Israel Corp have reiterated their support for the firm. This is as reassuring as saying out of the blue, “I won’t chop off your arm”, I think.

In a letter released to the Wall Street Journal, Israel Corp said they were “looking forward to Continue reading “After the Great Leap Forward 2: Qoros Cars News Update”

1968 Saab 99: Review

“The new Saab 99 tested”. In this transcript Archie Vicar samples what is now viewed as one of the top-ten great Saabs. Is it more than the anti-Volvo? 

Image uncredited.

From “Mass Motorist” Dec. 1968. Photos by Douglas Land-Windermere. Owing to the poor quality of the original images, stock photography has been used.

Introduction

When people think of Sweden and Swedish cars, they often think of Volvo who make sturdy machines capable of withstanding the horrors of the Scandinavian climate. But it’s worth remembering that Sweden has a second car maker, Saab, who also make fighter jets. Like our friends at Bristol, Saab use the experience they have gained in aerospace to Continue reading “1968 Saab 99: Review”

In Emergency Dial ‘F’

Sports models have kept Jaguar in business in the US market for decades, so what’s the matter with their saloons?

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Photo: Jaguar Cars USA

At Driven to Write, we are constantly at pains to point out the repetitive nature of Jaguar’s history, much of which has to do with the marque’s frequent lapses into commercial and financial abysses. For example, during the mid-1960’s Jaguar’s sales in the US slumped dramatically on the back of the commercial failure of the MK 10 and S-Type saloons. Continue reading “In Emergency Dial ‘F’”

Theme : Books – My Father’s Peugeot 604 by Dominique Pagnaux

“My Fathers’s Peugeot 604” (2000) by Dominique Pagnaux. Why would someone whose main interest lies in other areas want to read this book?

2000 Peugeot 604 book cover

Assuming one has a general interest in motor cars, then the Peugeot 604 represents an alternative interpretation of the large saloon. These days the German and Japanese models are the accepted norm. To better understand them one must also Continue reading “Theme : Books – My Father’s Peugeot 604 by Dominique Pagnaux”

The Trident Sharpens Its Prongs

Maserati’s 2014 sales gain is astonishing, but is it a false dawn?

Maserati-range-2014

One of the reasons the motor industry continues to be such compelling subject matter is its almost limitless capacity to surprise. Last week, we looked at FCA’s decision to float off Ferrari as a stand-alone business – a move that surprised many – (if not ourselves). Now however, we are compelled to eat a portion of humble pie on the back of sales figures for Maserati that appear to demonstrate the storied brand’s continued growth to be no mirage, despite strong misgivings we expressed on the subject back in May.  Continue reading “The Trident Sharpens Its Prongs”

1966 BMW 1602: Review

“BM-double-who?” In this transcription from a 1966 article, Archibald Vicar takes a close look at a questionable product from a struggling motor manufacturer from Bavaria. Can the 1602 really compete, asks a sceptical Vicar.

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From “The Modern Motorist”, June 1966. Photographic Plates by Chester of Shipton-On-Stour, M. Phil (Oxon)

When Bayerische Motoren Werke invited us to a test drive near Munich we didn’t know what to expect. This obscure firm is still better known for their bubble cars than for ordinary family vehicles. For those of you unfamiliar with the name, BMW had a reputation for making fine motor cars before the second world war. Since then they have mostly made do with the manufacturing of Isettas under license. Continue reading “1966 BMW 1602: Review”

Renault 1998-2009: A short history of missed opportunities

Créateur d’Automobiles: that’s how Renault styled themselves for a while. And indeed some of the concept cars have been very good. But, we can’t help noticing a gap between the promise and reality.

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Vel Satis concept 1998

Just before the turn of the 21st century, Renault had successfully re-invented itself as a maker of one-box or ‘monospace’ cars of various sizes, from the Espace that started it all in 1984 to the Scenic of 1995, through Patrick Le Quement’s masterpiece: the Twingo Mark I of 1992.

Continue reading “Renault 1998-2009: A short history of missed opportunities”

1965 Porsche 911: review

Air-cooled Tomfoolery: Archibald Vicar on the new Porsche Nine-Hundred And Eleven

1964 Porsche 911
1964 Porsche 911

From “Advanced Motorism” October, 1964. Photographs by Douglas Land-Windermere, Esq.

The “Volk” who make Porsche sportscars (a firm called Porsche, oddly) invited “Advanced Motorism” to drive their new machine, the Nine-Hundred-and-Eleven. I hadn’t been abroad for a while so I accepted forthwith, chiefly so I could Continue reading “1965 Porsche 911: review”

History Repeating: XJ40 Part 10

Phase Three – 1981-1986: Not so Fast Mr. Egan. Was Jaguar really going to launch XJ40 in Autumn 1984?

XJ40pilot
The first pilot-build XJ40 is completed, but are celebrations a little premature? Image: unknown

With Jaguar heading for privatisation, internal BL politics once again reared their head. Sir Micheal Edwardes’ successor, Ray Horrocks was opposed to Jaguar’s independence, lobbying to prevent Egan successfully manoeuvring towards BLexit. With BL at work on an executive saloon to be launched in 1986, Horrocks also moved to ensure there would be no encroachment into Rover’s market. Unsurprisingly, Jaguar’s Chairman had other ideas.
Continue reading “History Repeating: XJ40 Part 10”

Unforgetting: 1995 Suzuki Baleno 4×4 Three-Door

Walking around the other day I noticed this little vehicle. Tucked away on the tailgate was the clue that this was no ordinary bland, three door hatch. This was a candidate for Unforgetting. The 1995 Suzuki Baleno 4×4.

1995 Suzuki Baleno: it´s neat and tidy, you have to hand it that. And these days neat and tidy is rare. So, we like the Baleno.
1995 Suzuki Baleno: it´s neat and tidy, you have to hand it that. And these days neat and tidy is rare. So, we like the Baleno.

The car we all know as the Baleno enjoyed life under several different names, depending on the large number of markets Suzuki offered it in. In Europe, the Baleno name is the one we recognise. For those who appreciate dull and forgotten cars, the Baleno saloon (or estate) has an impressive reputation as a car so ordinary and unremarkable it stands out.

There are only a few vehicles in this class of Continue reading “Unforgetting: 1995 Suzuki Baleno 4×4 Three-Door”

Trading the Bloodstock – Ferrari’s Shock Sell-Off

But just how shocking is it really?

f1-ferrari-f2007-launch-maranello-italy-2007-ferrari-logo

The world’s least influential motoring blog we may be, but that doesn’t prevent Driven To Write being ahead of the curve every once in a while. Back in May, we took a detailed look at Sergio Marchionne’s plan for FCA’s turnaround, offering a hypothesis regarding its likely success – or otherwise.

Continue reading “Trading the Bloodstock – Ferrari’s Shock Sell-Off”

1976 Volkswagen “Golf”: Review

In this transcript of a period review, the legendary motoring writer Archie Vicar casts a critical eye over the new “Golf”, successor to the much-loved Beetle.

1976 VW Golf

“Fore! Can the new ‘Golf’ possibly succeed in a crowded and increasingly competitive market?” Asks Archie Vicar.

From “The London Illustrated News” February, 1976. Photography by Douglas Land-Windermere. Owing to the poor quality of the originals, stock photos have been used

No matter how severely Jack Frost bites, a Volkswagen Beetle always starts. Even a royal Rolls-Royce can succumb to the effects of freezing whereas the humble Beetle’s ingenious design is cooled by air, making the engine as tough as old nails and as reliable as the Queen’s Grenadier Guards. I am reminding you, readers, of this as an introduction to a new car from Volkswagen. Continue reading “1976 Volkswagen “Golf”: Review”