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”

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 “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.

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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.

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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”

Theme: Porsche – 928 – Less and More

Over the 928’s production life, various attempts were made at producing additional variants. Few were successful and fewer still went beyond the prototype stage. We look a few notable examples.

B+B 928 Targa. Image: wheelsage

When the 928 was being schemed during the early 1970s it appeared as though several US states would outlaw convertibles. This led many European marques to abandon the format entirely, lest they wind up saddled with an expensively developed product they couldn’t sell. This explains the lack of a convertible 928 at launch, if not the fact that Porsche never quite got around to Continue reading “Theme: Porsche – 928 – Less and More”

Theme: Porsche – ‘Flow Motion’

A brave and modernist masterpiece from Porsche – of all people.

Image: Autowp.ru

During the early 1970s, contemporary music’s centre of gravity saw a shift away from the UK and America, Eastwards to Germany, where so-called ‘Kosmiche’ bands like Can, Cluster, Faust, Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream and Neu! forged an alternative soundscape, laying down a sonic basis for the post-punk, new wave and electronic music that followed. Dismissed at the time as ‘Krautrock’, without its influence, music would most likely have evolved in a very different direction.

Porsche’s 928 is one of perhaps six outstanding car designs from the 1970s, a half-dozen vehicles that in their own disparate manner, eloquently Continue reading “Theme: Porsche – ‘Flow Motion’”

Theme : Porsche – Introduction

Driven to Write will this month devote itself to drawing to your collective attention the works of Dr. Ing. H.C. F. Porsche AG. Where to begin?

A Holy Relic – Porsche Type 64 – Image : autoblog.com

Normally it is appropriate to start with the facts. It is a fact that Driven To Write has not devoted so very much space to the cars of Dr. Ing. H.C. F. Porsche AG. What we have written has even been about how difficult it can be to write about their output since 1931. It is a fact that Archie Vicar, the renowned motoring correspondent, wrote only one known review which you can read here. It also a fact that, on the face of it, Dr. Ing. H.C. F. Porsche AG’s reputation is either one that needs no burnishing or one that is decaying as rapidly as it can betray its reputation for treacherously mannered, rear-engined coupés. Continue reading “Theme : Porsche – Introduction”

Theme: Aftermarket-Pared Back

“Through a chink too wide there comes no wonder” said renowned Irish poet, Patrick Kavanagh.

Surely this is a nice way to change gears?

I’m guessing Halfords might not thank me for this post. I tend not to be a big fan of what people do to their cars in the name of personalisation or improvement. Anything more than the most discreet of spoilers brings me out in a rash and let’s not even talk about garish graphics or faux carbon fibre bonnets. Continue reading “Theme: Aftermarket-Pared Back”

Theme: Aftermarket – The Months of the Year and What We Did With Them

As Simon Kearne so eloquently pointed out in his introduction to this month’s theme, the world of aftermarket is one richly populated with products.

The list of the top-ten most popular aftermarket products probably includes alloy wheels, car-seat covers, satellite-navigator armatures, chrome strips for the edges of doors, fog-lamps and spoilers.

Continue reading “Theme: Aftermarket – The Months of the Year and What We Did With Them”

Theme: Aftermarket – The ‘Evil Stare’

Few aftermarket items have been as influential as those lids that make any car look angry. 

twingo-09263235943-sn
‘I’m funny how? I mean, funny like I’m a clown?’, photo (c) twingotuningforum.de

Aftermarket adornments are usually about a quaint kind of ill-advised deception. Opel/Vauxhall Corsas with the kind of diffusor – made of fibreglass, rather than carbonfibre, of course – that’s supposed to keep a Pagani’s aerodynamics in check at 300 kph. Peugeot 206s with quad-exhausts usually reserved to American V8-powered muscle cars. Aftermarket is about imitation, pretensions, delusions. But there are a few exceptions to this rule, and none more poignant than the curious case of the ‘Evil Stare’.
Continue reading “Theme: Aftermarket – The ‘Evil Stare’”

Theme: Aftermarket – Let’s All Think About This, Shall We?

I will try to focus this one on the aftermarket wheels and not the car they happen to adorn.

1991 Opel Omega B2

It’s a 1999-2003 Opel Omega (B2 to those in the know). As I said before, in the aftermarket we find tricky ground. Who am I to say these wheels are not the ones for this car? My argument is that the wheels have really low-profile rubber and they do not help the rest of the suspension do its job which in this car’s case was high-speed stability and comfort rather than maximum grip at intermediate speeds. Continue reading “Theme: Aftermarket – Let’s All Think About This, Shall We?”

Theme: Aftermarket – Stroking the Cat

Emboldeners of Jaguars are relatively few. Driven to Write profiles its foremost and longest-lived exponent – Arden Autombil.

Arden’s take on the Jaguar X308 saloon – the AJ13. Image: Arden.de

In the German town of Kleve, close to the Dutch border, Jochen Arden founded his eponymous automotive business in 1976, trading in the usual Teutonic fare of VWs and MBs until 1982, when he took on a Jaguar franchise, prompting his initial forays into the arena of the aftermarket. By the early ’80s, Jaguar was painfully re-establishing themselves in the German market following years of stagnation under British Leyland when their cars came to be regarded by German motorists as being nice to look at, but really not fit for the purpose. Continue reading “Theme: Aftermarket – Stroking the Cat”

Theme: Aftermarket – Plato’s Garments Cloak the Sunrise

Fun fact: for Ireland only this car came with a 1.4 L petrol engine.

That had something to do with Ireland’s punitive car taxation system. Still, it’s a puzzle. The Celtic Tiger roared loudest around then: was Rover (Irl.) Ltd so desperate to sell cars that they had to
Continue reading “Theme: Aftermarket – Plato’s Garments Cloak the Sunrise”

Theme: Aftermarket – They Who Call the Piper Tune The Player

The matter of tuning demands a little diplomacy. 

This photo is as good a representative of tuner culture. You’ll notice the sticker affirming the primacy of self-reliance even if it leads to failure. It says “I’d rather lose by a mile than win by inch if I made didn’t make myself”.

From my own personal experience, tuners seem to be perpetually in search of a new project. They are not alone in this. This is also true of bicycle enthusiasts who are often swapping out parts in the quest to Continue reading “Theme: Aftermarket – They Who Call the Piper Tune The Player”

Theme: Aftermarket – ALPINA

Despite being chronically unwilling to be associated with aftermarket tinkering, ALPINA actually represents the ideal of a specialised manufacturer finessing a mass product.

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BMW ALPINA B6 2.8, photo (c) bmwe21.net

Alpina Burkard Bovensiepen GmbH + Co. KG is a peculiar company, and not just because the ALPINA part is officially written in capitals. Its signature decorative stripes, called Deko-Set, are also but a mere symptom of an underlying quaintness that is truly without equal in the automotive business.
Continue reading “Theme: Aftermarket – ALPINA”

Theme : Aftermarket – Introduction

For some people things are never good enough.

Image : mk1-performance-conversions.co.uk

Pity the car designer. They slave to produce concept sketches, fight with the competition to get them accepted then resist the attempts of mean-minded production engineers and cost accountants to dilute the design until, finally, their original idea is presented in the showroom in an approximation of a certain percentage of its original glory. You might think that, at last, they could rest and draw some contentment as the children of their imagination begin to populate the roads. Yet no, their problems have only started. Continue reading “Theme : Aftermarket – Introduction”

Theme: Rivals – Wolfgang Reitzle vs. His Ego

Despite arguably being the most gifted automotive engineer and manager of his generation, Prof Dr Wolfgang Reitzle would only ever enter the captain’s chair once he left the car industry for good. 

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Dr Wolfgang Reitzle with his second wife, TV presenter, Nina Ruge, photo (c) handelszeitung.ch

It is one of automotive history’s more baffling paradoxes that a man of such undisputed talents as Wolfgang Reitzle never reached the post of chief executive at an automotive business. But as with a great many other high achievers, it actually was the same traits that had brought Reitzle so close to the apex that ultimately prevented him from arriving there.

Continue reading “Theme: Rivals – Wolfgang Reitzle vs. His Ego”