Theme : Simca – Le Mini

The Simca 936 is a bit of a mystery, and I’m not going to clear up much of that mystery.

Simca 936 Prototype - Image : goodwood.com
Simca 936 Prototype – Image : goodwood.com

It was obviously Simca’s proposal for a Mini competitor. You’ll find it dated on the ever-reliable web as coming from 1963, or 1966 or 1967 which possibly results from Simca toying with idea for a long time. It wasn’t a hatchback, but it was a four door and was to have the Simca 1000 engine mounted transversely with a 3 speed automatic option. Continue reading “Theme : Simca – Le Mini”

Theme: Simca – 1966 1000 LS road test

This appears to be a transcript of a review of the 1966 Simca 1000 LS by the well-known motoring author and journalist, Archie Vicar.

1966 Simca 1000: source
1966 Simca 1000: source

[The item appeared in the morning edition of the Minehead Bugle on July 9, 1966. Due to the poor quality of the original images stock photos have been used. Original photos by Ernest Pallace.]

In these increasingly competitive times, it pays for a manufacturer to stay ahead of the game, far ahead. Several marques have established themselves at the forefront of engineering with their recent deployment of rear-engined technology. Of course there is the long-established Volkswagen Beetle and the not dissimilar Porsche 911, both with handling that will challenge Continue reading “Theme: Simca – 1966 1000 LS road test”

Theme : Simca – By Their Concepts Shall You Recognise Them

One car illustrates why Simca weren’t quite like the other three.

fulgar-2
It’s a misty morning in 2000 and, having just sorted out a minor malfunction with one of the core control rods, Madame is setting out to the Boulangerie.

Unlike the other French manufacturers, the Italian born Henri Pigozzi of Simca wasn’t scared of a bit of Transatlantic-style showmanship. His big Simcas, derived from the Ford Vedettes, didn’t shy away from chrome, wings and two-tone. Already, Aliens had helped present the 1954 Simca Ghia Coupe, now they were going to give those Aliens the car they’d want to buy. Continue reading “Theme : Simca – By Their Concepts Shall You Recognise Them”

Theme – Simca: 1965 1000 GLS Short Road Test

This may very well be a transcription of a short review of the Simca 1000 GLS by Archie Vicar, the renowned motoring scribe.

1965 SImca 1000: source
1965 Simca 1000: source

[The article first appeared in the Isle of Man Herald, October 4, 1966. Due to the poor quality of the images stock photos have been used.]

For those who admire Gallic motoring, there is nothing as French as a Simca. Now, there are some who view French cars as being unreliable but Simca’s 1000 has been on the market for five years and many of its demerits, problems and deleterious characteristics have been tackled with the vigour and vim of a rugby scrum-half.

For 1965 the 1000 has been revised and adds even more weight Continue reading “Theme – Simca: 1965 1000 GLS Short Road Test”

Theme : Simca – Going the Distance

The transverse-engined, hatchback 1100 is undeservedly overshadowed by other trailblazers. But not only did it get there very early, its influence travelled surprisingly far.

Simca 1100
Simca 1100

Introduced in 1967 and available as 3 and 5 door hatchbacks, a neat estate as well as van and pickup versions, the Simca 1100 had a sizeable niche of the French market available to itself for years. Renault didn’t fill the hatchback gap between the 4/5/6 and the 16 until the 14 of 1976, the same year that conservative Peugeot put a fifth door into the 104. Structurally zealous or just snobbish, Citroen previously allowed a hatchback only on the Dyane until the Visa of 1978 and the GSA of 1979. Despite this, and its 18 year life, it is another of those cars, like the Autobianchi Primula with which it shares conceptual roots, that seems to have been excluded from the condensed history of the evolution of the motor car. Continue reading “Theme : Simca – Going the Distance”

Brochures Redux – Midship Triptych

Three brochures for the same car demonstrate Fiat’s marketing skills – or lack thereof.

All images: Driven to Write
All images: Driven to Write

Fiat’s 1970’s brochures were often stark affairs. Studio shots, no background and just the facts. With an economy hatchback like a 127 or suchlike, there was a certain amount of logic in this approach, but for what many dubbed a mini-Ferrari, it risked underselling what was at the time a fairly unique proposition. Continue reading “Brochures Redux – Midship Triptych”

Theme : Simca – An Introduction

For the first time, the month’s theme tackles a single manufacturer. An erstwhile giant of the French industry, often overlooked and even more often underestimated, yet for a time bigger than either Citroën or Peugeot.

Ceci n'est pas un Fiat. Simca 5 - Image : beyondthesprues.com
Ceci n’est pas un Fiat. The Simca 5 – Image : beyondthesprues.com

From a multitude in the early days of motoring, through a reasonable glut after the end of the Second World War, culled by the possibly well-intended but drastically prescriptive Pons Plan, the French motor industry has now whittled itself away to three names, Renault, Peugeot and Citroën. Or you might say effectively just two. Except there was also Simca, and Simca doesn’t fit well into an easy history of the French industry as an essentially parochial one, blithely plowing its own furrow, haughtily ignoring the products of foreign makers. Continue reading “Theme : Simca – An Introduction”

Theme: Brochures – Ford Zephyr Mk.4

Big but not necessarily better, Ford’s late 60’s Zephyr brochure lays out its stall.

zephyr-cropped

The cover is bereft of the expected seductive image of the car it describes. There is only blackness, a small head-and-shoulders photo of a well-groomed, confident looking individual and the title, “Motoring for the 15,000 a year man”. 15,000 miles that is, not Pounds Sterling, but the implication is there. Even £5000 per annum would have been a top-rank salary in 1970, when this brochure rolled off the presses of Alabaster, Passmore and Sons Ltd in Maidstone.
Continue reading “Theme: Brochures – Ford Zephyr Mk.4”

Theme: Brochures – Vanden Plas Princess 4 Litre R

The 1964 brochure describes it as “A golden milestone”, but BMC’s Rolls-Royce powered luxury flagship had a curious history and turned out to be a rotund failure, a white elephant which was to be an embarrassment to the reputations of both companies.

vanden-plas-4-litre-r_inner
1964 Vanden Plas 4-litre brochure

My copy of the brochure is rather dusty and faded, but is a splendid thing, printed on heavy, high quality paper, with a stiff card cover. There are thirteen fine hand-painted illustrations – not one photograph in sight – and fulsome letters from the managing directors of the new car’s proud parents, Sir George Harriman of BMC, and Dr. Fred Llewellyn Smith, of Rolls-Royce’s Motor Car Division. Continue reading “Theme: Brochures – Vanden Plas Princess 4 Litre R”

Theme: Brochures – From Countryside Manor to Vodkaloungeland: The Jaguar XJ Through The Ages

Being the quintessential British stalwart car, the Jaguar XJ serves as a poignant illustration of what constituted ‘the good life’ through the ages. 

dsc_0022
Almost five decades of British luxury in flat shape

Germany has the Golf and S-class, Britain’s got the Jaguar XJ. A car that has been part of the automotive landscape for decades, all the while being adapted (to differing levels to success) to changes in tastes and demographic.

So what do the different generations of XJ brochures tell us about the car itself, its creators and the people it was supposed to appeal to? Continue reading “Theme: Brochures – From Countryside Manor to Vodkaloungeland: The Jaguar XJ Through The Ages”

Theme: Brochures – Just Right?

Already a decade old in 1977, the SAAB 99-series perhaps best embodied the Swedish ideal of ‘Lagom’ .

All images: Driven to Write
All images: Driven to Write

The 99 saw Saab come of age. A bigger, more commodious, more mainstream model than the somewhat home market-specific 96 series which not only preceded it, but was sold alongside. By 1977, the 99 was a very mature product, and what bugs may have arisen in earlier incarnations were fairly thoroughly expunged. Continue reading “Theme: Brochures – Just Right?”

Theme: Brochures – 1975 Lancia Beta HPE

In contrast to the recent rather insipid Beta brochure, I can present a thoroughly aspirational 1975 Lancia HPE brochure such as this.

Use as directed: 1975 Lancia HPE.
Use as directed: 1975 Lancia HPE. Richard-Ginori is still in business.

It shows how the product is intended to be used and the kinds of people who might be attracted to it. Shooting, diving, sitting down, gardening, conversing outside a hotel late at night: Lancia did not want for ideas to show how this rather fabulous vehicle could be used. What the brochure made you want to do was to Continue reading “Theme: Brochures – 1975 Lancia Beta HPE”

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”

Theme: Brochures – Beta than expected but not as good as hoped

The 1973 Beta Coupé was slightly underwhelming – and to be honest, its sales literature was as well.

All images: Driven to Write
Well proportioned, neatly styled yet somehow lacking. The Beta Coupe. All images: Driven to Write

A year after the berlina’s launch, Lancia announced the first of four sporting Beta derivations, the 2+2 Coupé. Designed in-house in conjunction with Pietro Castagnero, the man responsible for the much-loved Fulvia amongst other pre-Fiat Lancia designs. This is an early sales brochure and it is notable for a number of reasons – some of a pedantic nature, others of a more whimsical stripe.  Continue reading “Theme: Brochures – Beta than expected but not as good as hoped”

Theme: Brochures – Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star…

A sober brochure for a distinctly sober car – the 1982 Mercedes-Benz 190-series.

img018

Daimler-Benz were not in the business of hyperbole when they presented the W201-series in 1982. Instead, they were offering a purity of an entirely different order.  “The new Mercedes models will set the standards for the engineering and the styling of compact cars for years to come”, they said. Prescient words. The 190 was a benchmark car, arguably the apogee of a once-dominant, now deceased engineering-led Swabian modus. Continue reading “Theme: Brochures – Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star…”

Theme : Brochures – The Myth, The Truth & The Alternative Truth

Deluded though the Brochure often is, what lies behind it can be equally deluded, albeit differently so.

kangoo-brochure

Back in 2009, we bought a Renault Kangoo Estate for work. It replaced a series of similar vehicles, starting with a Mark 1 Kangoo, then two Citroen Berlingos in succession. When I first visited the showroom, the New Kangoo had just been introduced to the UK and brochures had not been printed so, in response to my request for a brochure, the salesman gave me instead a full 55 page print-out of the ‘Distance Learning Guide’, a dealer sales briefing for the then newly introduced Mark 2 Kangoo. This made interesting reading alongside the public brochure that eventually arrived. In essence the brochure showed the usual, gurning, happy, young, lifestyle types of high-functioning humanity whereas the dealer briefing identified the Kangoo’s potential owners as ageing, low-ambition losers. OK, I’m exaggerating … but just a bit. Continue reading “Theme : Brochures – The Myth, The Truth & The Alternative Truth”

Theme: Brochures – Pushing Tin

A decade apart, two brochures illustrate how Citroën’s marketers viewed the evergreen Tin Snail.

Image: Driven to Write
Image: Driven to Write

1975: Two years after the oil embargo and deep into a period of political instability and economic austerity. Frugality was back, as was a yearning for a more authentic mode of living. In keeping with the mood music of the time, BBC sitcom, The Good Life portrayed a professional couple turning their backs on the rat-race, embarking on a ‘back to the land’ subsistence in their Surbiton semi. Continue reading “Theme: Brochures – Pushing Tin”

Theme: Brochures – When the Kitty Was Purring

Jaguar’s XJ6 saloon was a landmark car. Its marketing did it justice.

dsc_0011

Collecting brochures is, in the grander scheme of things, a rather sad pastime. One goes to great lengths to get one’s hands onto something that was supposed to have, at best, a short-term effect and be forgotten immediately afterwards.

Continue reading “Theme: Brochures – When the Kitty Was Purring”

Theme: Brochures – 1971 Wartburg Knight

 A 46 year old brochure prompts some thoughts on – arguably – the most idiosyncratic Comecon car to cross the Iron Curtain.

wartburg-353-brochure-1970-1

It is neither big, nor French, nor Italian, and had an embarrassingly prolific production of over 1.2 million, but the Wartburg 353 is deservedly a DTW favourite.

The price list accompanying the brochure is from April 1971. The £749 asked for the Knight (the name was only used for the British market) deluxe saloon was £26 more than a Mini 1000. A four door Viva deluxe was £883, the equivalent Avenger was £20 dearer.  More off-beat choices were the Morris Minor 1000 4 door at £775, the Skoda S110L at £775 (The Octavia wagon was still available at £710), and the new 1500cc overhead camshaft  Moskvich 412 matching the Knight exactly for price. Continue reading “Theme: Brochures – 1971 Wartburg Knight”

Theme: Brochures – “Of the Same Noble Breed as the Fabulous Cheetah”

From the Parazitas collection, a journey into a gentler time.

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It is quite possible that I have never seen a Simca 1200S, nor its tamer 1962 predecessor the 1000 Coupe, in real life, but this English language brochure from around 1970 is testament to its existence. Checking a November 1970 issue of Motor confirms that it was indeed offered in the UK at a hefty £1595. Just £1398 would have bought you a Capri 3000GT. The Simca’s more natural rivals, the Alfa  Romeo Guilia 1300GT, and Lancia Fulvia Coupé Rallye S are listed at £1848 and £1871 respectively. Continue reading “Theme: Brochures – “Of the Same Noble Breed as the Fabulous Cheetah””

Theme: Brochures – Volvo 740

Most of the brochure is just like all Volvo brochures from the late 80s. It’s horizontal, mostly white and assembled with extreme restraint.

1998-volvo-740-cover
circa 1990 Volvo 740 brochure

The best part of the story of the Volvo 740 (1982-1992) is that the car it should have replaced only went and outlasted it: the 240 (to 1993). Yet the 740 did a lot of things better and was probably a bit more pleasant to drive (Car even rated it as being better than a Granada and a 604 in 1983). It had more room, used less fuel and offered decent reliability. All this is well-known. What makes this brochure more interesting is the location for the photography: the wilds of Ireland, just a few short years before

Continue reading “Theme: Brochures – Volvo 740”

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”

Theme: Brochures – 1964 Skoda 1000MB

In 1964 the Skoda 1000MB went on sale, replacing the first Octavia of 1959 (which stayed in production anyway). It had a 1.0 litre  four-cylinder engine.

1964 Skoda 1000MB brochure front covers.
1964 Skoda 1000MB brochure front covers.

And it started a long series of rear-engined Skodas. It’s not a car I know a lot about. The Wikipedia web-page reeks of fandom: “Apart from the use of cooling vents in the rear wings and rear panel, everything else about the 1000 MB’s styling was normal, which was undoubtedly in an attempt to appeal to all the conservative-minded buyers in export countries like the UK. This car was highly successful both for Škoda and the Czech economy”.

Continue reading “Theme: Brochures – 1964 Skoda 1000MB”

Theme: Brochures – 1998 Fiat Multipla

I picked this brochure up at the Birmingham Motorshow in 1997 or 1998. 

1998 Fiat Multipla brochure
1998 Fiat Multipla brochure

The graphic design goes with the fun theme of the car’s design. You could even call it populist and it is soaked in the carefree feeling of that period. Even today the exterior and interior aesthetics are fresh and novel. What must not be forgotten is the ingenuity of its flexible framework architecture which was usefully cheep, meaning Fiat broke even at 40,000 units a year.

While the public had mixed feelings, most of the press disdained the eye-catching style. And yes, it is not conventionally beautiful;  Continue reading “Theme: Brochures – 1998 Fiat Multipla”

Compromise Redux – The Generous Generalissimo

And finally, another tale of compromise, recounted by M. Seidler.

kolnische-rundschau-ford-taunus-xl-tc-jpg
A German registered Taunus, quite some time ago. Source: Kölnische Rundschau

Once work on the Almusafes plant was underway, Ford negotiated with the Spanish tax authorities to import some cars for use by their staff and management.  Presumably the notion of using Chrysler 180’s or Seat 132’s would be too much to countenance. The sticking point was a rigidly enforced annual limit of 250 imported cars for the entire country. Continue reading “Compromise Redux – The Generous Generalissimo”

Theme : Brochures – Introduction

The Editor considers this Month’s theme.

Image : Citroënët
Image : Citroënët

Once upon a time the juvenile car lover in the UK looked towards Autumn as a period of plenty. For that was Motor Show time, when a glut of exciting new cars was guaranteed to surprise and delight. And if that car lover was fortunate, they travelled to Earls Court or, later, the NEC to attend the British International Motor Show. For many, great as the opportunity was to be able to see these new models in the metal, just as fine was the fact that they could struggle back home laden with a selection of lush brochures. Continue reading “Theme : Brochures – Introduction”

Theme: Compromise – The Fiesta Mk.1 – Blood on the Boardroom Floor

So you thought there was only one Fiesta Mk.1? In fact there nearly were two, and the one we never saw almost tore Ford apart.

wolf004

From its inception in 1969, Ford’s small car project had always had inter-continental ambitions. An early project structure saw engines manufactured in Brazil being used in cars made first in Europe, with a production base in Brazil following on, which would not only serve the home market, but would also export to the USA. US and Asia-Pacific production sites would follow. Other visions included a simplified low-powered variant adapted for production in developing countries, a third world car maximum speed of 55-60mph, a 0-50 time of 25-30 seconds, capable of being sold at 50-60% of the price of the cheapest Ford Escort.
Continue reading “Theme: Compromise – The Fiesta Mk.1 – Blood on the Boardroom Floor”

Theme : Compromise – Setting a Limit

Another fine mess…

Impossible to miss. On the other hand .... image : Bristol Post
Impossible to miss. On the other hand …. image : Bristol Post

The more I have considered this month’s theme, the more I have realised that it is far too wide ranging. Compromise is everywhere in our lives, or at least in mine. I could write about any topic and, in very little time, the subject of compromise will come up.

Last week I sent off my driving licence for my first ever speeding endorsement. After 48 years. Damn, it could almost have been a full half-century. Still that’s impressive, no? Actually, no it isn’t. The circumstances of the fine are irritating, but I can’t complain. To have lasted this long says a fair amount about my vigilance, a bit more about our policing, and a lot about my good luck. Continue reading “Theme : Compromise – Setting a Limit”

Theme: Compromise – The Fiesta Mk.1 – Almost Revolutionary

Let us consider the conventional wisdom about the first generation Fiesta.

autocar-2-october-1976-koln-dom
Source: Autocar

It arrived some time after the revolutions in small car design which raged through Europe in the fifties and sixties, and continued to bear fruit into the early seventies.  It was thus a rationalised ‘best practice’ car, standing on the narrow but solid shoulders of at least four influential and successful rivals which arrived early enough in the 1970s to influence and inform Ford’s designers. Continue reading “Theme: Compromise – The Fiesta Mk.1 – Almost Revolutionary”

Theme: Compromise – One Born Every Minute

Necessity might be the mother of Invention, but her second child is named Compromise. 

nissan-qashqai-being-built-on-nmuk-line-1-with-an-operator
The maker of your own demise. (Image: Auto Express)

For anyone with an ounce of petrol in their veins, few experiences necessitate compromise more than parenthood. Children may be small, but their interminable things are not. The gravitational pull of a gurgling baby Katamari attracts hitherto unimaginable mountains of clutter.

Continue reading “Theme: Compromise – One Born Every Minute”

Theme: Compromise – Ford’s Valencia engine. A Curious Orange?

A missed opportunity or a masterpiece of compromise?  We look at the unassuming little engine that drove the Fiesta’s success.

car-march-1974
The cack-handed rendering is inexcusable given that that the magazine includes a close-to-production photo mischievously taken by an attendee at a customer clinic in Düsseldorf earlier in 1974.  Security was tightened considerably thereafter.

CAR March 1974 was confident in its prediction about the Fiesta’s engine; “it is a completely new water-cooled, in-line four with single overhead cam and Heron head. It will come in two sizes – a little over 900cc and 1090cc for the top of the range model.” As we now know, the “scoop report” could scarcely have been more wrong, but it is easy to understand the reasons for their conjecture. Continue reading “Theme: Compromise – Ford’s Valencia engine. A Curious Orange?”

Theme: Compromise – The Paradox of Failure

As David Pye observed, every design is a failure.

Failure.
Failure.

His argument rested on the idea that no design can optimise every aspect. The more complex the object the more likely this is to be the case. If we take a simple example of a knife, it’s a compromise because unavoidably the designer had to work within constraints of time and materials. The knife has to function but be affordable and attractive to enough people to make it an economically feasible proposition.  The best knife can’t appeal to everyone. For some consumers the design is unacceptable  – it remains unsold for reason of price or appearance. Continue reading “Theme: Compromise – The Paradox of Failure”

Compromise: On the road to Fiesta – Part 1

Driven to Write looks in depth at the Fiesta’s development.

fiesta-1

Lest it should pass un-noticed, January 2017 is the fortieth anniversary of the Ford Fiesta’s launch in the UK. Production at Ford Germany’s Saarlouis factory began in July 1976, with the core Almusafes plant coming on stream in October 1976, so the lucky continentals were introduced to the car a few months earlier. Continue reading “Compromise: On the road to Fiesta – Part 1”

Theme : Compromise – Playing the Fuel

Over 100 years ago the inventor of the compression ignition engine died under mysterious circumstances. Too late however – his monster had been unleashed.

Kenworth W900 - image : fitzgeraldgliderkits.com
One of the few good looking diesel installations. Kenworth W900 – image : fitzgeraldgliderkits.com

It’s recently been Christmas in the UK and round about that time, with the traditional Christmas dinner imminent, an inevitable jokey question is “does anyone really like brussel sprouts?”. Actually, I live with someone who does, so the answer is inexplicably “yes”. But far harder for me to accept is that there are people who actually like diesel engines – who prefer them to petrol ones. You could force feed me sprouts for a month and I could never even pretend to have any affection for the clattery, stinking, slippery product of Rudolf Diesel’s over-fertile mind. Continue reading “Theme : Compromise – Playing the Fuel”

Theme : Compromise – The Crucial Balance

As Mr Editor Kearne said in his introduction to this month’s theme, compromise is inevitable in the motor industry. The trick is knowing where to apply it and where to not.

Coherent : Peugeot 403
Coherent and Cohesive : Peugeot 403

Ask any industry accountant and they will tell you that making cars and making money aren’t natural bedfellows. Margins are often small, the customer base fickle and, with relatively long development and production runs, like an oil tanker, once committed you don’t change direction easily. Of course there are exceptions, companies who through a combination of prudence, intelligence, excellence or maybe just fashion, are able to make a healthy profit, year after year, and even swallow up a few of the lacklustre performers in one or more of the above categories whilst they do. Continue reading “Theme : Compromise – The Crucial Balance”

Theme: Compromise – One Car

Once in a lifetime…

Source
Source

The number of independent car manufacturers in the U.K in 1922: 183. Germany’s complement around the same time: 86. The number of cars produced in France in 1929 (then by far Europe’s largest producer) by a truly wide and varied number of companies: 253 000. This figure would remain a record till well after 1945. If you had a few bob between the wars and motoring was your fancy the choice available to you was truly vast. Mind you researching the purchase must have been a little more difficult than today. Nowadays we are told how much choice we have but anyone reading this site knows just how much crap that is.
Continue reading “Theme: Compromise – One Car”

Theme : Compromise – An Introduction

The Editor tries to come up with a theme that everyone will like.

drivers

Hello again and welcome to 2017.  This month’s theme smacks of Compromise. I’m torn between my absolute loathing for compromise in any shape of form, and my evangelical desire to broker compromise in any situation. So I’ll just say that compromise is, more or less, alright. Continue reading “Theme : Compromise – An Introduction”

Theme : Places – Another Snapshot from Occupied Europe

It’s Spring 1981, and I’m in Charlottenburg, on the western edge of the British Occupied Sector of West Berlin.

lloyd-arabella

The picture is taken on Wundtstraße at the edge of the Lietzensee. These names are still powerfully evocative of the time I spent in Berlin, half a lifetime ago. German big city carscapes are, in my experience at least, underwhelming. The urban dwellers’ favoured cars are small, cheap, usually French, Japanese, or Korean, and very old by British standards, but not quite old enough to be interesting. Continue reading “Theme : Places – Another Snapshot from Occupied Europe”

Theme : Places – Snapshots from Occupied Europe

Let us briefly remind ourselves of Leslie Poles Hartley’s words, ‘The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there’. 

viva-in-e-berlin
All images: The Author

The country photographed is now in the past, the Deutsche Demokratische Rebublik, a failed state which ceased to exist in 1990, and they really did do things differently there. When I took these photos nine years before the fall of the Berlin Wall, the DDR was dysfunctional, but very much extant, and didn’t look as if it would be brought down any time soon. Continue reading “Theme : Places – Snapshots from Occupied Europe”

Theme: Places – Destinations, Take 2

A car is for more than driving to Ikea, the shops and the petrol station. 

Chantilly, France
Chantilly, France

On the way we are supposed to enjoy the experience (driving dynamics and all that) yet they are a means to an end point, aren’t they? So, how much of car ownership is about the idea of going somewhere nice whenever the mood takes you? This provides me with the opportunity to reflect a little on the destinations I have not yet reached with a car. Continue reading “Theme: Places – Destinations, Take 2”

Theme : Places – Mountains

‘Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour…’ 

mountain

I’ve already expressed my infatuation with the confines of the underground car park. Now I visit the other extreme, my desire to Climb Every Mountain – as long as I can do it in a car. Although I’ve shaken off most my youthful fears, some things remain. I’ve always hated heights for instance, even though a part of my working life has involved climbing ladders and towers, but I’ve never been at my ease. And take me to the edge of a precipice and the inevitable desire to either launch myself off it or to run away takes hold. So I guess I’d make a lousy mountaineer. But put me in a car driving along the edge of that precipice at 100kph and I’m fine. Mid-Summer sun, torrential rain or snow are all fine by me too, though the last does demand the right tyres to make it less of a gamble. And the view from a mountain top is one of those rare times you do get a reasonable and refreshing confirmation of your own insignificance. Continue reading “Theme : Places – Mountains”

Theme: Places – Oxford, Cambridge, Blenheim, Hereford, Somerset

Indeed. Quite a list of destinations for the person interested in cars named after UK places.

1961 Morris Oxford: source
1961 Morris Oxford: source

And they don’t do that anymore, do they? Yet the Americans are still happily driving around in Aspens, Tahoes, Malibus and Colorados. Seat, to my knowledge still sell an Ibiza, Ateca and Leon. The French and Germans are less willing to use their place names for their products, are they not? Continue reading “Theme: Places – Oxford, Cambridge, Blenheim, Hereford, Somerset”

Theme: Places – Destinations

Much driving tends to be routine: schools, works, shops, petrol stations and futile trips to Ikea…

Hell: source
Hell: source

…where you remember why it is you hate the place and never want to come back. I am quite far along with that resolution now. It has taken about 14 years to realise that everything they sell is worse than useless and that even focused purchases such as a child’s desk will end in disappointment (the hole in the top surface for the lamp cable is very annoying).

The Ikea experience is heavily suburban. It relies on a large, cheap expanse of land which is usually a long way from human habitations. This entails a large expanse of carparking. In tandem then there is a bleak desert packed with cars (MPVs, estates, SUVs and never interesting old roadsters) and a massive blue oblong into which one’s soul and life force is sucked. The interior is designed like an intestine: it is long, sinuous and arranged to present seemingly essential items to

Continue reading “Theme: Places – Destinations”

Theme: Places – Cortina

The joke’s on me: Cortina isn’t just a 70’s Ford. The 1956 Olympics took place there. The car came in 1962.

Cortina, Italy: source
Cortina, Italy: source

Ford make decent affordable cars for people like you and me. Even if we may never buy one, most people could imagine owning a Ford whether they really want to or not. So, how plausible is the Cortina name?

I will immediately admit that until I started writing this, I knew nothing about Cortina other than that it was a town in Italy. Prior to that (sometime about a year ago) it dawned on me it was a place-name. If you

Continue reading “Theme: Places – Cortina”

Theme : Places – The Multi-Storey

Concrete Hell, or one of life’s small pleasures?

When I was 17, a few months after passing my driving test, I took the family Fiat 124 up to London on my own. This was the first time I had driven in a city and I was both wary and excited. Various bits of that trip remain vivid. Although the M4 was opened by then, I came in on the A4 Great West Road so that I could pass the various factories at Brentford, including the Art Deco Firestone Factory. I remembered these from the back seat during earlier trips with my parents, and they seemed an essential part of the romance of visiting London. After Hammersmith I joined Cromwell Road and found myself in the centre lane of quite fast moving traffic rising up a flyover on a left hand curve. This seemed a great challenge, but I held my nerve and learned Rule One of City driving – as long as there’s space ahead, just keep going, don’t lift. Continue reading “Theme : Places – The Multi-Storey”

Theme: Places – The Danish/German border

One drives at a sedate 120 kmph along the Danish motorway to the border with Germany. Not so long ago there were guards controlling this boundary.

Space-time breach: source
Space-time breach: source

One stopped or came to a rolling halt. If you were sufficiently ethnically correct you’d be waved through. Or, if they didn’t like the cut of your jib, a quick look at the passport might have been required.

Either way, one usually had to go from standstill or walking pace back up top speed (unrestricted on the German side). At this point I commonly experienced a shock as a car doing light speed would zoom past, seemingly having accelerated from near-zero (just like me) to 220 in the time it took me to get to

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Theme: Places – Ascona

A reflection on the car and the town: Ascona.

1972 Opel Ascona: source
1972 Opel Ascona: source

Ascona could be a place that takes you to other places, as in the driver’s seat of the Opel Ascona (1970-1988) or it could be the town in the Locarno district of Switzerland. I have to admit that until very recently in my life the Opel’s Swiss association lingered at the very far back of my mind. It lurked somewhere with Portuguese kings and medieval musical instruments. For most of my time on earth Ascona meant not a nice Swiss town but an unremarkable shape that usually rusted by the side of the road.
Continue reading “Theme: Places – Ascona”

Theme: Places – Pakistan (classic motoring)

One of the things I like about libraries is that you find things by chance in a way that an internet search does not. 

1983 Chevrolet Caprice (?): www.pakwheels.com
1983 Chevrolet Caprice (?): http://www.pakwheels.com

Exceptions occur such as this discovery of the Vintage & Classic Car Club of Pakistan. Pakistan’s most popular cars are the Toyota Corolla, the Suzuki Mehran and the Sukuki Cultus which we know as the Swift and sometimes the Subaru Justy. Next is the Alto which now looks very aggressive… and so on through a list of practical, useful and not very expensive cars. However, it’s not all low-cost motoring… Continue reading “Theme: Places – Pakistan (classic motoring)”

Theme: Places – Petrol Stations

For about a century, petrol stations have been the one place all cars had to go to. Their time may be running out though.

Gone: wikipedia.org
Gone: wikipedia.org

In Europe, Italy has the most petrol stations (21,000), followed by Germany (16,000). Quite possibly in less than a few decades, the petrol station will be as rare a sight as a horse trough. Already their numbers seem to be dwindling. Three quarters of UK petrol stations have closed since 1975. In Londonland there are 34,000 cars per petrol station. Part of the loss is to do with changes in the economic geography of the stations. Many of the oldest ones were in urban centres and quite probably it is more profitable to put an office or apartment building in the same location than to Continue reading “Theme: Places – Petrol Stations”

Theme : Places – Introduction

Our Editor returns late to his desk following an unfortunate delay at the hands of an industry PR man holding a particularly fine Oloroso and is, for the first time in his life, late with his copy.

Image : Les Hill Collection: Mount Gambier Library via abc.net.au
Image : Les Hill Collection: Mount Gambier Library via abc.net.au

The year’s end approaches and our thoughts traditionally drift to where we have visited this year, and where we might visit next year. This last month, our minds have been on South America, a place that distance still renders as slightly mysterious and exotic to we Europeans.

If you travel with a car, it’s impossible to avoid noticing that its character can suddenly make more sense or, conversely, that it can become out of its depth, depending on where you are. It’s a matter of place. Continue reading “Theme : Places – Introduction”