Under the Knife – Racing Certainty

Despite being an all-conquering touring car champion, the Alfa Romeo 155 wasn’t the commercial or critical success its masters intended. But a subtle, if significant facelift salved its reputation.

1992 Alfa Romeo 155. Image: pistonudos

Despite its long-in-the-tooth underpinnings and carryover passenger compartment, the Alfa Romeo 75 became a relatively successful and well-regarded sporting saloon until its commercial demise in 1992. The ultimate evolution of the 116-series which made its production debut with the 1972 Alfetta, the 75 excised many (if not all) of the earlier models’ inherent design flaws – most notably a lengthy, tortuous and unwieldy gear linkage owing to its rear transaxle layout.

In 1986, Fiat Auto acquired the Alfa Romeo business from the state-owned body who had been administering it in ever-decreasing circles, and with a successor to the 75 by then a priority, the 167-series 155 model was hastily developed, entering production in 1992 at the former Alfa Sud plant at Pomigliano d’Arco in Campania. Continue reading “Under the Knife – Racing Certainty”

Under the Knife – Don’t mention the War

During its thirteen-year lifespan, Fiat’s D-segment saloon went under the knife on four different occasions, with varying degrees of success.

Take one. (c) autoevolution

The Fiat 132 was launched in 1972 to replace the 125 Berlina. The latter, although a pleasant enough car, had always suffered somewhat from the inaccurate perception that it was little more than a Fiat 124 in a party frock. Both cars shared the same doors and passenger compartment but the 125 had longer front and rear ends and an 85mm (3.5”) longer wheelbase, courtesy of a platform carried over from its predecessor, the Fiat 1500. This allowed the rear seat to be pushed back slightly to liberate a little more legroom. Notwithstanding the similarity to its smaller sibling, the 125 achieved over 600,000 sales during its five year production life.

With the 132, Fiat wanted to Continue reading “Under the Knife – Don’t mention the War”

Under the Knife – Rounding Error

Today DTW recalls the 1994 Ford Scorpio Mk2, a car that defies any attempt at rational analysis or explanation.

Not ‘conventionally handsome’… (c) autoguru-katalog

When Ford launched the Scorpio* Mk1 in 1985, it did so in five-door hatchback form only. This surprised some observers, knowing the resistance that Ford had faced to the hatchback Sierra three years earlier from conservative buyers who preferred the saloon format. Even more surprising was the absence of an estate version, given the popularity of the Granada estate in both Mk1 and Mk2 forms.

Just as with the Sierra, a three-volume booted version was added to the range in December 1989. Estate buyers had to wait until January 1992 for the launch of that version, which coincided with a facelift of the whole range. The facelift was a competent if relatively minor overhaul, comprising a smoother front end with larger light units and smoked tail lights with a matching filler panel at the rear. The saloon forwent the hatchback’s concealed C and D-pillars for a more conventional six-light DLO and was a handsome and imposing design. It was also well equipped and remarkably comfortable over long distances, making it an excellent executive (hire) car.

Then something very strange happened: Continue reading “Under the Knife – Rounding Error”

Curtain Call (Part 3)

DTW’s Eastern Bloc party of stillborn concepts and prototypes continues.

FSO Warszawa Ghia and Syrena Sport. (c) Autokult.pl /Auto Swiat.pl

FSO Warszawa Ghia, 1957

In search of a suitable replacement for the dated GAZ/Warszawa M20, FSO enlisted Ghia of Italy to deliver a proposal. Designed under Sergio Sartorelli at a cost of US $62,000, this Warszawa Ghia was the result. Looking somewhat like a shortened Lancia Flaminia, the car had a pleasing and up to date look. FSO sent the car to its research and development centre to be stored until further notice. Apparently no action was ever taken to Continue reading “Curtain Call (Part 3)”

(Not So) Background Distractions

Andrew Miles is watching the detectives. 

(c) Imcdb.org

Watching television was once a simple act. As youngsters, the choice was scant, yet memory suggests programs containing both interest and drama. With modern day 24 hour, on-demand supply, choices of what and when to be entertained with often raise anomalies when one is forced to observe a production that might not be one’s first choice.

Attempting to Continue reading “(Not So) Background Distractions”

Under the Knife – A Late Reprieve

2007’s X-Type facelift illustrated how one can do more with less.

(c) cargurus

Few cars are created with an unlimited budget – after all, such a bounteous situation is no guarantee of an inspired result. On the other hand, budgetary restrictions are rarely a recipe for a successful product either. Certainly, when Jaguar’s 2001 X-Type was being scoped during the latter part of the 1990s, the Ford-controlled British luxury carmaker wasn’t exactly awash with cash, even if by then they were at least making money rather than haemorrhaging it as they had been, only a few years earlier.

X400 (as the X-Type was termed at Jaguar) formed the core of the blue oval’s growth strategy for the leaping cat, aimed at catapulting the marque into the big league with annual sales in excess of 200,000 cars. A hugely ambitious programme, which also encompassed the refitting of the otherwise defunct Ford Halewood plant in Merseyside; this latter aspect ladling such costs upon the programme that anything less than total success would be viewed as failure.

With so much riding upon it, X400 had to Continue reading “Under the Knife – A Late Reprieve”

It’s Squirrel, Actually.

Sounds odd, doesn’t it? And so it should! Who would’ve thought the thuggish American grey squirrel could do some good?

“Don’t sneeze”. (c) Images.complex.com.

Artwork has been around since man first walked the earth, from those basic but enigmatic cave paintings through innumerable differing themes, spheres and periods. Prior to the automobile entering the scene, the largest canvas one could expect to become embellished by a more detailed approach might have been a carriage, steam engine, a wagon or the mighty locomotive. With these large expanses to adorn, you could really personalise, promote your product.

JJ Deal of Janesville, Michigan was the producer of fine wagons, carriages and buggies powered by natural horsepower. From 1845 Deal swiftly gained a reputation for building not only quality products but also a highly detailed paint finish. Deal’s Chief Striper was a fellow named Andrew Mack. A perfectionist, Mack was never completely satisfied with the quality or performance of his paints and brushes whilst working at Deal, seeking better products and methods in which to Continue reading “It’s Squirrel, Actually.”

Earl’s Take On Nature

The Artistry of the 1920s has been widely and lovingly depicted, but colour has been more notable by its absence. Although not entirely. 

All images: The author.

The human mind sometimes works in mysterious ways. Because until relatively recently the fact that photography and film originating from the late 19th and early 20th century was black and white, subconsciously the idea that the world presented in those pictures was one bereft of colour often took hold in our brains, even though we of course knew better in our hearts.

The rediscovery of the amazing body of work by French philanthropist Albert Kahn and his colour photographs using experimental autochrome plates – the oldest ones dating back to 1909 – has done a lot to Continue reading “Earl’s Take On Nature”

Under the Knife – If the Wind Changes, You’ll Stay Like That

Concluding our micro-theme on Volkswagen, while continuing another one.

VW do Brasil’s 1984 Santana 2-door. (c) autogaleria.hu

There is (or ought to be) a rule which states that the longer a car remains in production, the less effective facelifting exercises become – in purely aesthetic terms at least. You will have noticed that Volkswagen (of Wolfsburg) has been in receipt of no small quantum of derisive commentary upon DTW’s pages of late, most of which was largely justified. By contrast, VW do Brasil has been portrayed as the more astute, more ingenious, and more commercially adept of the pair.

This was certainly the case when the mothership remained in hand-wringing mode as to the product-related course it should take in a post-Käfer landscape. But it does appear that as their German counterparts finally got a grip on both itself and its product, the Brazilians appeared to Continue reading “Under the Knife – If the Wind Changes, You’ll Stay Like That”

Wolfsburg Samba

Volkswagen do Brasil – Wolfsburg’s younger, nimbler and more ingenious Latin cousin repeatedly showed up its more torpid German counterpart. Here’s another example.  

1968 Volkswagen 1.600. (c) autoarkiv.dk

Volkswagen’s Heinz Heinrich Nordhoff has repeatedly and justifiably been criticised over the years for his tardiness in sanctioning a replacement to the eternal and best-selling Beetle, before sales collapsed by the tail-end of the 1960s. It was not for the want of trying however, and as far back as 1955, with the Käfer selling in still-increasing quantities, Nordhoff, realising its success alone would not sustain VW indefinitely, put in train a series of Beetle-based prototypes – some to sit alongside, others to Continue reading “Wolfsburg Samba”

Reimagining a Legend

Volkswagen do Brasil used its creative independence to produce a car that, had it arrived a decade earlier, might have been a very credible replacement for the Beetle.

1973 Volkswagen Brasilia. (c) autowp.ru via wheelsage

The Volkswagen Beetle is one of the defining motor vehicles of the Twentieth Century. It remained in production for 65 years and a total of 21,529,464 were built. Although much changed over its lifetime, the distinctive profile remained largely the same, with its smoothly curved roof and bonnet, and separate front and rear wings connected by running boards. Anybody seeing a 1938 prototype parked next to a 2003 final year model would Continue reading “Reimagining a Legend”

Under the Knife – Call Me Indecisive

Jaguar never quite settled on the 2005 XK’s styling. 

2005 Jaguar XK (c) autoevolution

For a marque with such a rich stylistic heritage, Jaguar’s relationship with the automotive facelift has been a decidedly patchy one. Even during the creative heyday of Sir William Lyons, the second bite of the visual cherry (so to speak) often left a slightly bitter aftertaste.

Given the timelines, and the circumstances surrounding his appointment, it is perhaps a little unfortunate that the first Jaguar production design Ian Callum would oversee would be a replacement for the long-running and by the turn of Millennium, increasingly dated (X100) XK model. This GT, hastily concocted in the unseemly aftermath of Ford’s hostile takeover married the two-decade old XJS platform with a (then) new, more voluptuous body style. Continue reading “Under the Knife – Call Me Indecisive”

A Democrat Crushed By A Dictator

A brave attempt at autonomy snuffed out before its time. 

IBAP Democrata. (c) Lexicarbrasil.com

Large country though it is – the fifth largest in the world by area – the República Federativa do Brasil has never had a national car maker of any far-reaching market significance. Foreign makers had, and continue to have factories that produce cars in Brazil of course: Volkswagen, Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Fiat and Ford to name the major ones, and also exiles such as DKW, Borgward, Kaiser and Willys who with varying degrees of success sought to prolong their activities in Brazil, after the feasibility of the business case in their home countries evaporated.

At the dawn of the 1960’s, Brazilian business tycoon Nelson Fernandes attempted to finally give his country its own car. Fernandes had become wealthy building country clubs and a large hospital through a fund-raising drive targeting affluent Brazilians. One of his funders (and friends) was Luis Carlos Fagundes, a director of Willys do Brasil. Together, they hatched plans to Continue reading “A Democrat Crushed By A Dictator”

Turn the Beat Around

Leafing through the sales brochures of two great Hondas with a mere 25 years between their respective gestations.

All images – author’s collection

During those times when CAR magazine was still led by an editorial team that did not shy away from ruffling a few corporate feathers, the June 1991 edition featured the provocative cover slogan: “Where’s the progress“? In four comparisons, similar cars from the same manufacturers offered in 1971 and 1991 were put to the test to find out how much progress and where, if any, had been realised in two decades. If you spot this issue at your local fleamarket, I recommend you Continue reading “Turn the Beat Around”

Photo For Sunday : La Gamme Complète

Renault 82, it says on the cover. 

Image: The author

The image you see here is taken from a 1982 brochure prepared by Publicis Conseil (Renault’s long-standing communications and advertising agency) for Ireland’s then distributor, Smiths Distributors LTD, who also assembled Renault 4s in Co Wexford for the Irish market. More a pamphlet than a brochure, it nevertheless provided a well-produced and reasonably comprehensive overview of what the nationalised French carmaker had to Continue reading “Photo For Sunday : La Gamme Complète”

American Pioneer

Mention hybrid vehicles and one immediately thinks of Toyota and the 1997 Prius, the first commercially successful passenger car of this type. There are, however, earlier examples and today we look at an unlikely pioneer, Briggs & Stratton.

(c) hegarty.com

Outside the US, the name Briggs & Stratton is most often associated with lawnmower engines of modest capacities and power outputs. This understates considerably the size and global reach of the company. Founded in 1908, Briggs & Stratton is the world’s largest manufacturer of small-capacity internal combustion engines for agricultural, industrial, marine and recreational applications.

Headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the company manufactures around ten million engines annually in plants located in North and South America, Europe and Australia, and sells in over 100 countries worldwide.

In the late 1970’s, following the fuel crisis earlier in that decade, Briggs & Stratton began thinking about the viability of hybrid power. It recognised that most road vehicles of that era were highly inefficient: their large capacity internal combustion engines were required to produce enough power and torque to accelerate them up to the speed limit on highways but, thereafter, only a fraction of the power output was required to Continue reading “American Pioneer”

If the Hue Fits

A retrospective glance at Cadillac’s glory days.

All images – courtesy of the author.

Long-standing Driven to Write readers will undoubtedly be aware that the site once hosted a monthly theme. Amongst them, the DTW Brochures section has lain dormant for quite some time, so in an attempt to Continue reading “If the Hue Fits”

Values – Italy

How does one define Italy’s relationship to the motor car? One might start by attempting to define the country itself.

Passionate pragmatism. 1981 Maserati Biturbo by Pierangelo Andreani. (c) carinpicture

[Editor’s note: This piece is a re-run of an article originally published in May 2016, as part of DTW’s Values theme.]

As anyone has read a few books on Italian history will know, it’s a great bunch of countries. Only foreigners lump it all together as one nation. That gives us a bit of a head start in understanding how Italy’s values translate into the broad array of markedly different car companies being stifled under one management.

As recently as the 1950s you could still find people in the deep south of Italy who didn’t know what Italy was. While outsiders consider Italy to have been unified, many Italians still Continue reading “Values – Italy”

Computer World

After almost five decades of sporadic appearances and false dawns, is the digital dashboard finally in inexorable ascendency?

computer word - rhino
(Source: Rhino)

I have been meaning to write something on this subject for some time now.  Unfortunately, the nasty virus has meant that my working life has gone into overload as I have responsibility for keeping a small UK bank operating with it’s entire staff working out of bedrooms, kitchens, dining rooms and even landings, and so time and energy has been in short supply.

I had also been Continue reading “Computer World”

Under the Knife – Introducing the Hard Line

The 2007 XJ facelift was tasteless as it was expedient. But there are things we can learn from it. 

2007 Jaguar X358 XJ. (c) automobilemag

Let us get one thing abundantly clear before we progress. Designing Jaguars is fiendishly difficult and if you doubt this for a moment, try it. Therefore anyone who makes a decent fist of the craft deserves credit rather than opprobrium. Having said that however, there are a few strictures a Jaguar designer ignores at his peril – the primary one being a matter of discernment.

There is a very simple process one can perform: I call it The Sir William Test. It’s quite simple really. When presented with a problem of a stylistic or creative nature, the Jaguar stylist should Continue reading “Under the Knife – Introducing the Hard Line”

What’s in a Name? (Part Two)

Concluding our exploration of the often treacherous practice of automotive nomenclature.

Image: (c) DTW

Given the numerous problems and pratfalls we uncovered in Part One, it might seem simpler to avoid the bear-traps altogether and stick to safe and neutral numbers. These can be used to indicate the range hierarchy, such as BMW’s ultra-logical 1 to 8-Series model designations.

This works fine as long as the manufacturer is happy to Continue reading “What’s in a Name? (Part Two)”

Making An Arse Of It

Does my bum look big in this? 

0353564-Mercedes-Benz-c-class-Sports-Coupe-C320-Sports-Coupe-2002
Mercedes C-Class SportCoupé. Image: (c) Cars Data

As a companion piece to this week’s profile of Mercedes’ W203 C-Class, we’ve chosen to re-run this article, which originally appeared as part of DTW’s Facelift theme on 2 July 2014.

As I’m sure I don’t need to point out to you, dear readers, when it comes to the subject of facelifts, not everyone cleaves to the Partonesque ideal. Because while the tuneful Tennessee songstress has clearly invested wisely upon her augmented visage, others have fallen rather messily at the wayside. They know who they are.

When it comes to the automotive variety, the spectrum too is as broad as it’s nuanced. Some facelifts attempt to Continue reading “Making An Arse Of It”

What’s in a Name? (Part One)

An exploration of the arcane and sometimes treacherous landscape of automotive nomenclature.

(c) hobbydb.com

A DTW article on the venerable Ford Cortina raised in my mind the question of the enduring appeal of the name chosen for this model. Was it the association with the glamorous Italian ski resort, or simply that the word was phonetic and tripped off the tongue easily, that was behind Ford’s decision to append it to a fine if unglamorous family car? Probably a bit of both: Ford was already using Capri, another Italian tourist destination, for the coupé version of the Consul Classic.

In any event, I began thinking about the whole business of finding suitable names for new motor vehicles. Fundamentally, this involves choosing words that Continue reading “What’s in a Name? (Part One)”

Not Just in the Metal, But In Print Too

While adding to his brochure collection, Bruno Vijverman notes a somewhat overt case of borrowed inspiration.

All images: The author

A while back, upon these pages, I wrote about the coincidental (or otherwise) similarities which have occurred in car design over the years. But more recently, since one of my past-times is collecting classic car brochures, it came to my notice that in some cases the practice of copying does not seem to be limited to the actual product, but also to the sales publicity material itself.

To be clear, I am not talking about the obvious broad similarities which are often dictated by the fashions and prevailing tastes of the era – in the sixties and seventies for instance the focus of the illustrations and text was on people and the freedom (real or imagined) and happiness that their new car was supposed to provide them.

In the decades thereafter there was a gradual but unstoppable shift to Continue reading “Not Just in the Metal, But In Print Too”

A View To The East

Casting a covetous gaze, Miles across the ocean. Japan-wards.

(c) autoexpert

Global warming, derisory interest rates, carbon footprints and theatrical leaders – our concerns may skirt those borders but we choose to look beyond them. Further to our recent gaze Eastwards, I have been looking into just what is available from our Japanese cousins, purely for research purposes, you understand.

Several different car club members of my acquaintance have purchased a car from Japan. A Mercedes C180 whose specification resembles nothing to what one buys in Europe, rust-free Lancias, and MX-5s bought on the basis of originality. That’s a pretty wide range of types and pricing. But all were purchased here in the UK, meaning that someone else did the importation and paperwork.  

Should you wish to Continue reading “A View To The East”

Regina delle Dolomiti

We travel to Cortina – by Cortina. In a manner of speaking. 

Back at a time when both the world and DTW was young, we had the time, imagination and intellectual bandwidth to employ a monthly theme, a literary device which would both inform the site’s content over the period in question and serve as something of a creative spur to the writers. And spur it did, garnering innumerable articles on subjects both diverse and arcane – many of which I would urge you to Continue reading “Regina delle Dolomiti”

10, 8, 6… (1) (Part One)

We introduce something of a Japanese (and Toyota-based) micro-theme for the month of February, with an appreciation of a much maligned Grand Turismo from 1999.

Nice road, surroundings and car. Driver not smiling – why?  (c) Media.lexus

No, this is not some Only Connect quiz show number sequence type thing. These numbers actually refer to a decade long tenure (including concept) run of a V8 motor who on its first day of public showing sold six examples. To which do we allude? 

The Lexus Sports Coupé 430, a forgotten car, a misjudged one (in my eyes), and now mellowed in middle age.

So why the SC430 and why Continue reading “10, 8, 6… (1) (Part One)”

Racing Green – (Part One)

“A spectacle of speed and excitement which Ireland may not have the opportunity to see again…”

The Poulavone hairpin at Carrigrohane.  (c) Irish Examiner

It was still dark as they began to gather along the roadway, past the newly erected grandstands, all the way back towards the hairpin at Victoria Cross. As the fading moonlight reflected upon the surface of the river, the people of Cork arrived on buses, by bicycle or on foot as dawn slowly broke across the Lee Fields. In the half-light, amid the red glow of the men’s cigarettes and the hushed voices of the spectators; their breath coming in wisps in the chill morning air, they waited for 6.00 am practice to commence.

Neither Carrigrohane, nor Cork itself had ever seen the like of it.

In this part of the world, people are not particularly au fait with the concept of ambiguity, tending more towards the literal approach. So in the proud city of Cork, should a resident Continue reading “Racing Green – (Part One)”

Fifty Shades Today

If this sounds too shady for you, best head to Practical Housekeeping, pronto. This is very blue.

Larkspur Blue. (c) Sherwin Williams Automotive Finishes.

Skilfully avoiding the TV new years sales adverts by heading for the internet, I found a Chevrolet Bel Air for sale. The price and to be honest the car, were immaterial; the colour on the other hand had me transfixed. What turned out to be called Larkspur Blue led me to Continue reading “Fifty Shades Today”

Ferdinand’s Mexican Standoff

Herr Piëch, about that recent Lamborghini acquisition…. do you have a moment?

Lamboghini Latinoamerica Coatl.  (c) favcars.com

Desperate times sometimes call for desperate measures, but can result in unwise decisions. Lamborghini has never been a stranger to challenging episodes- the relatively young company having changed hands several times before eventually landing on safe ground within the VW group.

In 1995, Automobili Lamborghini was owned by MegaTech, an Indonesian company with (former Lotus CEO), Michael Kimberley at the helm. MegaTech had purchased Lamborghini from Chrysler for around 40 Million (USD) the year before but was having trouble making the enterprise Continue reading “Ferdinand’s Mexican Standoff”

Finally, Ott

Andrew Miles dons his Rally jacket in praise of the WRC.

Who said a Yaris can’t fly? (c) Motorsport.com.

For the past fifteen years, should you be named Sébastien and you hailed from France, you were World Rally Champion. No-one got else got a look in. Some came agonisingly close, but nine championships went to Sébastien Loeb whilst the other six fell Sébastien Ogier’s way. 

That is until late in October in Catalunya, when rally fans the world over witnessed a new dawn. Ott Tänak from Estonia was the new boss, finally. And then promptly four days later informed the world he was to Continue reading “Finally, Ott”

Don’t Look Now

As the World begins to face up to a growing climate emergency, the motor industry illustrates just how tone-deaf it has become.

The question of social responsibility is one with which carmakers have been (vainly) grappling for some considerable time now. Indeed, what little has been shown up to now appears to have been jettisoned by many in a heedless dash for market dominance.

This decadent spiral has (as we have previously discussed) taken corporeal form in the wholesale embrace of needlessly aggressive visual tropes and ‘to-hell-with-it’ consumption, and nowhere has this state been more vividly illustrated than amongst the three foremost rival German prestige marques; excesses not simply embodied in the vehicles these carmakers serve up, but also in the manner in which they Continue reading “Don’t Look Now”

Summer Reissue : Another Country

A nice pair of Bristols? We go in search of shutline nirvana – by air and by road.

Bristol Beaufighter

Earlier in the week, we spent a fair amount of time examining shutlines and the lengths to which some carmakers will go to engineer solutions to the issues left by the stylists, not to mention the depths to which the marketing team will descend to cast them in the best possible light.

So it is perhaps timely that we Continue reading “Summer Reissue : Another Country”

Lapin Daze

Readers not wishing to indulge our predilection for all things diminutive, Japanese and fluffy might perhaps wish to look away now.

(c) Suzuki.jp

How predictably Driven To Write, you might suggest, for us to fawn over some cute and unobtainable Japanese Kei car. After all, it’s not as if Suzuki doesn’t also offer a multitude of the SUV and crossover things we’re so frequently critical about on these pages.

Fair point, and I have no intention of singling out Suzuki as a bastion of elevated values. But with the proviso that other, perhaps equally endearing Kei cars are available (in Japan), Suzuki have nevertheless gone to the trouble to Continue reading “Lapin Daze”

Nib of the Matter

A close shave with the lesser-spotted Citroen Saxo-BIC® edition.

(c) BIC

In 1944, two Frenchmen, Marcel Bich and Édouard Buffard set up a business in Clichy to produce writing instruments. In the post-war era, the company prospered and having adapted László Biró’s original design for a ballpoint pen, Bich introduced the mass-produced BIC Cristal in December 1950, quickly becoming a stationary cupboard essential. Such was its impact, commercial success and design influence that in 2001 a BIC Cristal pen was added to the permanent collection of the Department of Architecture and Design at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

In 1973 the company introduced a range of disposable lighters, while two years later BIC launched the one-piece razor. Three staple products; perfect realisations of product design, made in their millions every year, reliable, ubiquitous and disposable. Yet each were masterpieces in their own right, eminently fit for their purpose, used and thoughtlessly discarded by millions around the world every day. Continue reading “Nib of the Matter”

A Photo For Sunday: 1974-1980 Ford Escort

Geologists, and specifically palaeontologists, have concerns about the degree to which the fossil record represents the variety of life that has existed. Something similar applies to those interested in older cars.

1974-1981 Ford Escort

This Ford Escort might be compared to the fossil of a plant-eating dinosaur, a representative of a class that was quite numerous, but which has left a unrepresentatively small trace in the fossil record. For your information, the meat-eating dinosaurs were known for their preference to Continue reading “A Photo For Sunday: 1974-1980 Ford Escort”

Evolution – Much Ado About Nothing

Exactly three years ago, DTW introduced its monthly theme called ‘Evolution’. So why not come back to it and extend it with a nice example?

Two generations of Subaru XV

This sight of two Subaru XVs in our house’s parking garage is very striking indeed, as it gave me the rare opportunity of seeing two generations of a car next to each other. The colour was perfect too, both cars in white which makes it easy to read the design. This coincidence made me Continue reading “Evolution – Much Ado About Nothing”

[Badge] Engineering Failure: VW

I realise it’s an old and oft-discussed issue, but I have experienced VW shooting itself in the badge.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I was recently loaned a brand new VW Golf Estate for the day whilst my Octavia of similar form was in for its 10k oil-change. I have frequently read over the past few years how the differential between VW Group’s brands has blurred, but this is the first time I was presented with an opportunity to witness the phenomenon so directly. And, although I should not have been, I was a bit taken aback at the experience.

I’ve always kept the view that the Golf is a bit special. A cut above. Very cleverly set aside from Continue reading “[Badge] Engineering Failure: VW”

Green Car Bingo

Driven to Write’s accidental tourist discovers an unusual way to amuse himself on holiday.

Corsa Verde in downtown Marbella. All Images: Driven to Write

Following a recent sojourn back in Ireland, your correspondent has pitched up in the Costa del Sol for a well-merited change of scenery – and climate. But given that I appear to have forgotten how to behave on holiday, how is a Driven to Writer to spend his downtime, other than to Continue reading “Green Car Bingo”

Theme of Themes : Cute – Farewell, My Cutie

“My Velma. She’s cute as lace pants”.

Figaro 02

First published by Sean Patrick in April 2014.

Cute. I’d been hearing it a lot that day. Moose Molloy’s gaze shifted towards the window and his expression changed slowly. It was like watching a landscape erode but, after that eternity had passed, there was a big lake of a smile rippling across his face and, somehow, I knew I was going to hear that C word again.

“Hey Marlowe, is that cute pink Figaro outside yours?”

A guy like Moose was big enough not to need to humiliate you with your choice of wheels, but I thought it best to offer him some clarification.

Continue reading “Theme of Themes : Cute – Farewell, My Cutie”

Theme of Themes: Romance – The Four Seasons

With Citroën occupying our collective minds this month, we celebrate the romance of the double chevron in this piece from the DTW archives.

Originally published by Richard Herriott on 7 November 2015.

Photo by Andre Martin from Quatre Saisons, 1979. Copyright.
Photo by Andre Martin from Quatre Saisons, 1979. Copyright.

Let’s accept there is not a lot of romance left in motoring today. That means we have to look back to when it was still romantic.

That’s around 1979 when Quatre Saisons was published. The book comprises a photo essay with the Citroën CX as the subject. Andre Martin’s images are themed around the four seasons, hence the title. The car speeds through snowy passes, through lavender fields and pauses in autumnal woodland: each shot evokes the mysterious potential of a motor car trip and also sings a hymn to the timeless modernism of the CX. Continue reading “Theme of Themes: Romance – The Four Seasons”

Theme Of Themes : Evolution – When Genes Mutate

We go back to a time before fun was a 24/7 obligation

Originally published by Sean Patrick on 19th June 2015.

Image : citroenet.org
Image : citroenet.org

It’s near midnight early in 1955 in a nondescript French suburb. The scene is an office, deserted except for one man at a drawing board. There is a sudden flash of green light.
Continue reading “Theme Of Themes : Evolution – When Genes Mutate”

Porsche Theme Redux: Fast and Loose

A V8 powered 911? Did I read that right?

A styling model for the 965/969 at Zuffenhausen. Image: total911

Following the 1984 reveal of the technical wondercar that was the 959, Porsche planned to sprinkle some of that car’s allure onto the ageing 911 line. The 959 was only ever going to be a low-volume homologation special, but this car, dubbed 965 in factory-speak but to be marketed as the 969, was intended to Continue reading “Porsche Theme Redux: Fast and Loose”

Theme: Porsche – Lend Me Some Sugar, I Am Your Neighbour

When Mercedes-Benz were looking to build their late-’80s supersaloon, they decided to keep things in the ‘hood. Zuffenhausen to be exact.

1989 Mercedes 500E. Image: Gear-Patrol

In 1989, Mercedes-Benz engineers were well advanced with development of the W140-series S-Class, a car which they determined would underline their utter dominance in the luxury saloon field. The W140 had been delayed owing to changes in the car’s specification which were intended to Continue reading “Theme: Porsche – Lend Me Some Sugar, I Am Your Neighbour”

Theme: Porsche – Don’t say it: “To loud Irena”.

Porsche is a deeply irritating company for the casual on-looker.

1988 Porsche 944 S2: source

Porsche, eh. All I wanted to do was to present a small treatise on the Porsche 944. You know the score: a bit of technical background, some chronology and then a respectful look at the aesthetic elements. But Porsche don’t let outsiders in so easily. Their clubs must be full of people who crouch ready to pounce on those who can’t Continue reading “Theme: Porsche – Don’t say it: “To loud Irena”.”

Theme: Porsche – Cheaper by the Million

Zuffenhausen recently celebrated production of the millionth 911. How the heck did that happen?

Image: autobahnhound

Let’s allow this one sink in for a moment. A million 911s. It’s a staggering achievement for a car that should never have lived as long, much less become the default ‘usable performance car’, given an inherently unbalanced mechanical layout considered retrograde even by mid-Sixties standards. Thought: could it have been a reaction to the original 911’s propensity to Continue reading “Theme: Porsche – Cheaper by the Million”

Theme: Porsche – Should We Talk, Should We Pray?

So goes the old saying anyway. In the year 2000 when we were supposed to be floating on hover-drones and wearing alufoil skinsuits, Porsche still had the engine in the back even if air cooling was out.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And BMW offered the 1950s-inspired Z8 while Aston pursued girth and heft with the Aston Martin Vantage Volante, a V12 topless GT. Where did the future actually go to? It is hard to be sure of if the three convertibles are comparable even if period reviews seemed to think so.

Continue reading “Theme: Porsche – Should We Talk, Should We Pray?”

Theme: Porsche – If Only Tomorrow Could Pass Us By

Not all of the products wearing the Porsche label have received good press. Burns hot, too expensive, can’t breathe. Which Porsche merited these criticisms?

Porsche Design Pipe: source

Well, as a clue, this Porsche is not made in Stuttgart but Holland. Even new it cost in the region of a few hundred euros and it weighed under a 75 grams. The Porsche in question was a pipe, designed by the Porsche Design studio rather than the automotive design studio.

Not unlike Pininifarina and Zagato, Porsche has separate divisions for industrial design and licencing. Rather unusually, I think, for a design consultancy, they tend to stamp all their projects with a distinct look and, indeed, with an actual label saying “Porsche Design”. At Copenhagen Airport one can Continue reading “Theme: Porsche – If Only Tomorrow Could Pass Us By”

Theme: Porsche – And For the Lady, an Umbrella?

Porsche makes a good business out of selling endless variants of the 911. This one seems to have been a bit forgotten. Why?

Forgotten? 2001 Porsche 911 GT2: topcar rating

The 911 GT2 did what buyers expected of Porsche: supply lots of power with a forceful gob of acceleration and a butch price to match. For this version, the 2001 GT2, Porsche’s engineers eschewed all-wheel drive, sending 461 bhp to the rear wheels only. The top speed got close enough to 200 mph too. Was it a bit too much though? Why did … they?

Actually Porsche wanted less weight for this hence the raw result. It was the only weigh to go. Deleting all-wheel drive meant the car weighed a whole Clarkson less than the four-wheel drive variant. However, they didn’t Continue reading “Theme: Porsche – And For the Lady, an Umbrella?”

Theme: Porsche – Turismo Twins

Two of the most distinctive cars of their time; bitter rivals, yet with much in common. Driven to Write counts the ways.

Image: auto-motor-und-sport.de

They couldn’t have looked more different, yet the fates of the Porsche 928 and Jaguar XJ-S were intrinsically bound. One seemed more like a car from the Cinzano era, the other from the future, yet both shared a purpose, appealed to the same customer base and lived out similar career paths – misunderstood and derided by those who didn’t expect their preconceived notions to be so roundly challenged.

It’s easy and perhaps comforting to Continue reading “Theme: Porsche – Turismo Twins”