Theme : Rivals – The Cat Takes The Bird

Some Theme Music for our Theme.

In 1964 my Dad made one of his visits to the USA and brought back with him ‘The Latest And The Greatest’ by Chuck Berry. At least that’s how I remember it but, as any Berry anorak will tell you, that album was a compilation record put together by Pye in the UK. So did they export it only for it to be returned, did my Dad become such a Berry fan on his visit that he bought it locally as soon as he came back, or is it all just a false-memory? You never can tell. Continue reading “Theme : Rivals – The Cat Takes The Bird”

Theme : Rivals – The Light and The Dark

We look at two proud Frenchmen who were really quite similar and so very different.

Renault, left and Citroën, right

There are certain notorious rivalries in motoring history. Many of them were sporting ones, in the Senna-Prost mould, which sometimes went beyond good sense and risked the lives of those involved. But there are also rivalries that at first seemed less visceral, but that had equally grim endings. One such is that between André Citroën and Louis Renault. Neither were self-made men from humble backgrounds in the vein of Herbert Austin or, even more so, William Morris. Both had comfortable upbringings, André’s possibly less stable due to the suicide of his father. Born within a year of each other, they actually first met as young children attending the same Lyceé. André studied engineering at the prestigious École Polytechnique whereas Louis was self-taught, building his first car before the end of the 19th Century and becoming part of the early history of motoring after forming a company with two of his brothers. Continue reading “Theme : Rivals – The Light and The Dark”

Theme: Rivals – The Serpent and the Cat

Alfa Giulia is available to own and steeling to give Gaydon’s finest a lash of its tongue. We look at how it’s faring against its sternest rival.

Image: caradvice.com.au

Wouldn’t it be interesting to spend a day around FCA towers? If only to truly discern the degree of reality evinced by the likes of Big Reidland et al. Because even the big fella must now realise the German trio of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz are conclusively beyond reach. Last year, luxury sector leader, Mercedes-Benz shipped 176,038 C-Class badged vehicles to waiting customers across the European market alone. What hope for Alfa Romeo’s ambitions against those kind of numbers? Continue reading “Theme: Rivals – The Serpent and the Cat”

Brochures Redux – A Retro Retrospective

In 1999, when retro was all the rage, BMW’s Z8 roadster did its best to exploit the sense of nostalgia that prevailed at the dawn of the new millennium. Surprisingly though, its sales brochure proves more creative. 

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Start your engines, Herr Bond! (This, lest we forget, was published in 1999, when car keys were still in regular use.)

For the launch of its luxury roadster – by some margin the most expensive series production car offered by the Bavarians, at 235.000 Deutschmarks – BMW threw everything but the kitchen sink at its potential customers.
Continue reading “Brochures Redux – A Retro Retrospective”

Theme : Rivals – An Introduction

Simon gets his piece in before the others. Result!

Image : Painting by F Gordon Crosby / Louwman Museum

The motor industry is, by nature, driven by rivalry. But unlike the more creative sort of rivalry, where two or more points of view are competing energetically for the same goal, much of our industry’s rivalry is in trying to persuade customers to choose their product over another one that is virtually just the same. It’s all rather dull, just football teams trying to prevent each other from scoring. Continue reading “Theme : Rivals – An Introduction”

Theme : Simca – Retirement Home

We end this month’s theme with some good news for those of you mourning the loss of Simca.

Image : vanityfair.com

We live in a world where brand has an enhanced currency. Familiar names are forever cropping up in unfamiliar places. Clothing manufacturer’s names appear on cars. Car manufacturer’s names appear on clothes. But, in terms of sheer scale, the continuation of the Simca brand takes some beating, being applied to 270 acres of lush, jungle covered island. Continue reading “Theme : Simca – Retirement Home”

Theme: Simca – The Vibrations That Lived On

As this month’s theme draws to a close, we give you something to ponder…

1963 124 prototype. Note the Simca 1300 grille. Image: Automobilia

In 1963, Oscar Montabone was recalled from Chrysler-controlled Simca to manage Fiat’s Automobile Technical Office. His primary task was to develop Project 124, a putative 1100 replacement in direct competition with Dante Giacosa’s Project 123, which was not so much a defined car as a series of studies with various front engine/front wheel drive and rear engine/rear drive configurations based around a 1157cc three cylinder opposed-valve ohc engine. Continue reading “Theme: Simca – The Vibrations That Lived On”

Theme: Simca – The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie

The Simca 1300/1500 had a tough act to follow and stepped elegantly into the Aronde’s shoes yet, despite good looks and strong sales, it never really escaped the rather ‘grey’ reputation bestowed by its casting as the universal anonymous saloon in Jacques Tati’s 1967 film “Playtime”.

Image: homemcr.org

The casual seeker after knowledge might too easily conclude that the mid-size Simca’s sole contribution to the advancement of the automotive art was the availability, in the estate cars only, of a Formica-faced boot floor which could double as a picnic table. The reality is that it was a well-balanced product, both in engineering and styling, for which Simca adopted ‘best’ practice, rather than joining the technological revolution which was sweeping through the car industry in the late fifties and early sixties, which saw even conservative businesses like BMC, GM, and Rootes trying to rewrite the engineering rule-book. Continue reading “Theme: Simca – The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie”

Theme : Simca – Hangin’ Tuff – 1977 Matra-Simca Rancho

Faux by four or pre-emptive strike? We cast a (largely) unprejudiced eye over the Rancho.

“It’s gripped, it’s sorted, let’s offroad!” Image: carinpicture

The 1973 oil embargo had a profound effect upon all auto manufacturers, but the low volume specialists were most exposed. Mécanique Aviation Traction, better known as Matra were no exception and in the aftermath of the fuel crisis, found it necessary to broaden their automotive base. Best known for sports cars, Matra had introduced the Simca powered Bagheera in 1976 and were now seeking a second Chrysler-Europe-derived model programme to boost revenues in addition to providing a buffer against further geo-political shocks. Continue reading “Theme : Simca – Hangin’ Tuff – 1977 Matra-Simca Rancho”

Theme : Simca – Making The Turkey Last

A title chosen more for a cheap laugh than accuracy, the big Simcas actually did OK for a while and, as usual, their manufacturers ensured they wrung the most from them.

The UK’s only surviving Simca Ariane – Image : Eóin Doyle

I have three particular memories of the big Simcas. First was in France in 1961, driving across the Camargue with my parents. On a long stretch the bonnet of a light blue Ariane coming in the other direction flipped fully open, completely blinding the driver who swerved into the side of the road, thankfully without injury to anything except his pride. Seeing that at a tender age has always made me careful about securing my bonnet and, at the time, it also made me wonder unfairly if Simcas were that well made. The second memory is from twenty years ago when I spent Christmas in Alsace at a place called the Hotel Beaulieu. When I arrived at night, parked in front sitting in the entrance floodlights surrounded by snow was a Santa red and white Simca Vedette Beaulieu. Continue reading “Theme : Simca – Making The Turkey Last”

Theme: Simca – And All This Is Folly To the World.

Very reluctantly I have decided to try to make sense of Simca’s slow fade from the market. 

History of Chrysler Europe´s demise

I have our monthly theme to thank – my interest has been piqued. Up to now Simca has meant little and I didn’t plan to write a lot on the topic. Simon Kearne insisted slightly too.

My findings are partly just a bit of editorial reworking of the mess that is already publicly available at Wikipedia. My contribution is to put in some bits about Chrysler and Peugeot. And also to make a DTW exclusive “infographic”. It is barely legible, frankly. The main use has been to explain (to me at least) the chronology of Chrysler/Talbot/Simca’s model terminations. Continue reading “Theme: Simca – And All This Is Folly To the World.”

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.

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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.

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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.

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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”