Life is fleeting. The spectre of mortality hangs over each of us, our own personal sword of Damocles. This anxiety is a subliminal one for the most part, for to confront the inevitability of our ultimate destination is too troubling an image for us to comfortably dwell upon. And yet we still find ourselves morbidly drawn to art and imagery which depict death in all of its forms. L’appel du vide, the French call it. All roads inevitably lead to the grave.
Within the automotive realm, there too is a similar attraction, in this case to abandoned hulks of decaying automobiles. There is a poignant allure to such images; the often stark contrast between these one-time objects of desire and the entropic state which neglect and the passage of time has wrought upon them. All cars contain a narrative. Who owned these vehicles? What were their lives, their passions, their stories? Are there still some spectral remnants of these lived experiences held somewhere within these rusting carcasses? Continue reading “Exquisite Corpses”
Simca’s underappreciated mid-liner under the spotlight.
Editor’s note: This piece first appeared on DTW in March 2017 as part of the Simca Theme.
The Simca 1300/1500 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. The casual seeker after knowledge might therefore 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 style, 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, one which saw even conservative businesses like BMC, GM, and Rootes trying to Continue reading “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie”
There is a quality about Italy and Italian cars in particular that brings out the romantic in us all – and as we know, often to our cost, romance often impels us to carry out impetuous acts. Like driving from Lüneburg in Lower Saxony to Naples in a 45-year old motor car for example. And not just any 45-year old car, but an Alfa Romeo. Why? For a nice photograph and more to the point, to take the car back to its birthplace.
Some of you might know that a 1978 Alfasud Sprint entered our lives in 2014, supplementing a 1990 Alfa Spider — now departed. We purchased the Sprint partially restored and in sound, fully roadworthy condition. And while it wasn’t exactly the Alfa Romeo we had been looking for, (I was after a 1750 Berlina), we’ve had no regrets since. It’s not a daily driver, but we use it as a normal vehicle several times a week.
It’s nothing special to drive an old car, especially as the Sprint drives just like a modern one, despite being 45 years old. Yesterday for instance, our 17-year-old neighbour’s boy (who is currently learning to drive) sat behind the wheel for the first time. His comment: “Yes, a bit easier than in the tank I’m currently learning in, but it’s got everything you need”.
But sometimes having everything you need just isn’t enough and having already taken the Sprint on a most enjoyable 4000 km ‘Tour de France’ in 2022, my wife and I decided to embark upon a more ambitious and romantic mission. To Continue reading “Sud by ‘Sud”
I like walking at night. There is a meditative quality to the endeavour —the mind drifts into neutral, you navigate by instinct and by curiosity — ‘where does that street lead, and what might I discover down here’? There’s a frisson to the streetscapes at this hour of night that appeals to the dramatist in me, but also the chance to Continue reading “Nightcrawling”
You can enjoy quite a few regional specialties in Hong Kong. They serve milky, sweet tea in ‘tea cafés’ and a pineapple bun accompanies this very well. Or try a Hong Kong-style French toast. Other local specialties, or regional specialties, are the JDM/emerging market cars that we don’t get in Europe. I am not saying all of these cars would be sure-shooting successes if sold here but it would be a little boon if Japanese companies could at least Continue reading “係本田 Mobilio Spike”
Now an exposition centre and museum, the factory in Romorantin-Lanthenay where once Matras were made started out as a spinning mill and weavery. Designed by the architect François Hennebique, it saw one of the earliest applications in France of reinforced concrete in its construction.
Owned by the Normant brothers, the business went very well for decades but saw a sharp decline after the end of World War Two. One of the main customers of the Normant factory had always been the military(2) so, when hostilities ceased, so did demand for uniforms. Forced by the arduous economical situation, in 1961 the Normants decided to Continue reading “Book of the Dead – Matra”
Like many English language words, Grace carries multiple meanings. Given the Japanese carmakers’ often approximate relationship with what must be for them, a veritable minefield of misappropriation and malapropism, it’s somewhat unclear exactly what, if any meaning Honda’s product strategists intended by so naming its B-segment sedan.
The Honda Grace is a car I had never heard of, let alone encountered until a couple of days ago, when confronted by an example nestled somewhat appropriately perhaps, in the car park of the local Catholic church. After all, one takes one’s blessings where one can in this vale of tears. I must say that I was rather taken by its appearance, but despite having long put all religious observance behind me, I still felt slightly reticent about entering church grounds to Continue reading “Grace Note”
The SpaceWagon is not all that renowned but this particular example might claim to be almost famous (at least in our circle).
DTW saw this particular car in Copenhagen at the very end of May. Since it exuded an intriguing banality, I decided would be a good idea to photograph it for an article. Much to my surprise I found the very same car featured in Curbside Classic on April 6, 2023. You can Continue reading “Get up! The Sun Rises For Everybody.”
It was not realised by many, except perhaps for the senior management of the troubled Packard company itself, but the 1956 model year would turn out to be the last that a customer looking for a large American luxury car could still choose between all four domestic manufacturers that traditionally served this field(1). Using illustrations from period brochures, we examine the models offered by Lincoln, Packard, Cadillac and Imperial for 1956.
1955 had been a record-breaking year for the domestic US car industry. The forced austerity and hardships of World War Two and the immediate post-war period were, thankfully, increasingly distant if still unpleasant memories. 1956 also proved to be a good year for the car manufacturers, although not quite as stellar in terms of sales numbers as the previous year and, within a year, the country’s economy would be suffering a recession. For the time being, however, things were just fine and putting a lavishly equipped, fast and confidently styled luxury car on their driveway was the ultimate ambition of just about every American driver. Continue reading “Luxury Problem”
You can’t polish a turd, but can you sully a diamond?
Editor’s note: This piece was first published in July 2014 as part of DTW’s facelift theme.
Once, whilst Europe was happy to go on producing the same identical model year after year until the dies got too worn out to function, the United States car manufacturers doggedly changed models every three years, with a facelift every year in between. Thus, any reasonable US car spotter will be able to identify the exact year of a Ford Thunderbird, first by the shape, then by the radiator trim or the rear lamps. Any domestic manufacturer who didn’t Continue reading “Facelifts – Loewy’s 1953 Studebaker”
The opportunity was there for the taking. With Nimrod (my Volvo S90) in for his annual service, the weather dry and bright and only myself to fall out with, I wandered from Service Desk to Sales Area with some trepidation. There is always that certain feeling of unease when handing over the key — butterflies regarding the dreaded phone call, ‘nothing to worry about, Mr Miles, but… Continue reading “Sensitive Initial Conditions”
And Westminster. Quite a list for those interested in cars named after UK destinations.
Editor’s note: On behalf of the editorial team, I’d like to wish all our readers a very happy Easter. This article first appeared on DTW in December 2016 as part of the ‘Places’ theme.
They don’t do that anymore, do they? Yet the Americans are still happily driving around in their Aspens, Tahoes, Malibus and Colorados. Seat, to my knowledge still sell an Ibiza, Ateca and Leon. The French and Germans are less willing to use their place names for their products, are they not?
The case of the United Kingdom is curious. The French and Germans never really went in for celebrating their lovely towns: Bamberg, Bordeaux, Aix-en-Provence, Miltenberg, say. The Spanish are still doing it. The British did and gave up. That change makes it an interesting case. What has happened to the British (I am not British, by the way) to make them Continue reading “Places: Oxford, Cambridge, Blenheim, Hereford, Somerset”
Established and trusted brand names are too valuable to be taken lightly or bandied about carelessly. Were this not so, why would businesses spend €millions dreaming up suitable examples, before market-testing them across global audiences, then expending years nurturing, marketing and developing them? Has Groupe Renault somehow missed a memo?
For decades now, Espace meant only one thing to those of an automotive bent. A large French monospace MPV — for many European motorists (and their passengers), the original (and best) of the species. Renault, as much by good fortune as outright bravery, got to market first with a product which would prove so utterly definitive that no other carmaker could Continue reading “Espace – The Final Frontier”
I used to enjoy driving. Manual gearboxes, open roads, the process of learning routes, freedom. These days most of my driving consists of commuting. This boils down to hoping the traffic light Gods remain green, that the pedestrian doesn’t ‘chance it’ or that we can make the next junction. Apex-carving or rewarding it’s not. Driving has become a chore but at least Nimrod, my Volvo S90 offers luxurious seats, excellent sound quality and the bonus of automatic everything. Steering involves the fingertips, the occasional furious (in more than one sense) braking manoeuvre and often futile attempts to Continue reading “Heaven 17”
Editor’s note: Owing to a mix-up on the chronology of the Car magazine article, the text has been altered to reflect the correct date.
It is hardly an unusual occurrence for a design concept to begin life as one thing before emerging some time later as something else — such after all is the speculative nature of freelance car design. This was certainly the case at the height of the design-consultancy era, when proposals would often undergo significant change to accommodate altered realities.
In 1974, the Italian house of Coggiola displayed a pretty concept coupé proposal at the Paris motor show. Dubbed Sylvia, the car was shown by Opel — intended it is said as a proposed replacement for the existing 1900 GT — it made a couple of appearances (also at Turin, later that year) before disappearing, like most such concepts into obscurity.
Although ostensibly a Coggiola design, the concept was in fact designed by British stylist, Trevor Fiore, who had by then made a name for himself with work for, amongst others, Fissore, Bond, TVR and Trident. A tidy, well composed shape, while the Sylvia might appear a little on the anodyne side to modern eyes, it was by contemporary standards, rather modish. Russelsheim clearly didn’t Continue reading “Plan B”
Closer inspections can lead to sleep deprivation – or is it the other way around?
Temptation is a fickle mistress. Every single new iteration of the Range Rover series has made me, even for a moment, ruminate over the possibility of owning one. Many factors halt any form of progress in this area, usually, but not exclusively financial. I’ve enjoyed my Volvo S90 (Nimrod, for that is its name) for two and half years now, and the occasional thought of change does enter my mind. Why, is difficult to explain, for it never lasts long.
Recently, on a night when slumber evaded me, and having up to now successfully avoided any form of S90 update, I found myself looking more deeply. The results surprised me, not all of it being of the pleasant variety. Continue reading “Staying Up. Not Keeping Up”
It has been happening for some time, and while it hasn’t gone entirely unnoticed around these parts, it has until now been largely unacknowledged. Ferrari design has once more become a seat of elegance. This change in visual course from the visual coarseness of the post-millennial period has been a gradual one. It can probably be ascribed to the current design leadership, under the supervision of Flavio Manzoni, with perhaps some assistance by way of Pininfarina, while under the assured baton of Fabio Filippini.
This shift towards classicism was previewed by a number of low-volume, high-cost model runs aimed at the serious collector of Maranello ephemera, harking back to the much-revered designs of the 1950s, when Ferrari was first making a name for itself on the racetracks and amid the nascent jet-set. However, it was the 2020 advent of the Roma, a 2+2 coupé of surpassing elegance that this shift in stylistic direction truly landed.
In truth, Ferrari was on a losing pitch with its more combative post-millennial style, largely because no matter how aggressively outré their designs became, they would always be upstaged by their Sant’Agata Bolognese rival, for whom striking visual statements is their entire raison d’être. And latterly, with the likes of McLaren, Pagani and other more niche ateliers nipping at Lamborghini’s kitten heels, there really was only one logical direction for Maranello to Continue reading “All Roads Lead to Rome”
Benchmarks come and then they go. Personal luxury coupes occupied the hottest sector of the American car market in the late ’70s and early ’80s. What were they?
Editor’s note: This piece originally appeared as part of the Benchmarks Theme on DTW in March 2015.
A personal luxury coupe is understood as a two door, four seat car with at least a V6 or ideally a V8. Whilst the advertising for these may have suggested sporting capability, the body-on-frame and bench seat reality spoke of cars whose main talent lay in getting quickly up to 65 mph and staying there from Baker, Ca. to Frederick, Md.
The image above is my idea of the archetype of this car. I don’t think Europe had equivalents of the PLC. Two-door Ford Granadas (such as the 1975 example owned by our stalwart contributor Myles Gorfe) don’t strike the same note. Whether with two doors or four they retain their Granada-ness (the Ghia fastback came a bit closer to the concept). The Opel Monza offered a sporty experience and isn’t formal enough. BMW’s 1976 633 CSi also promised and provided athletic capabilities. Perhaps Mercedes 450 SLC came closest of all as it was certainly luxurious, it had a V8 and the back seats were cramped for occasional use, despite the car’s length. Continue reading “Benchmarks – Personal Luxury Coupés”
It was somewhere mid-pandemic, and the book shelves had been exhausted. The situation could only be remedied with the delivery of a book called Shenanigans. Written by Arnold O’Byrne and with the sub-heading ‘Lifting the hood on General Motors’, it is the lively memoir of a Dublin native whose career in the motor industry began in 1966 as a senior financial clerk at Vauxhall’s Luton plant, to his retirement as Opel Ireland’s Managing Director at the turn of the millennium.
According to O’Byrne’s period characterisation of Luton, it was “not a pretty place.” The Bedfordshire town was home to a large Irish population at the time, many of whom worked either on building the new M1 motorway or in nearby factories, Vauxhall Motors being a major employer. O’Byrne’s account is littered with stories of him dealing with fiery senior staff, bullies and corporate ladder climbers – some better than others. His first encounter saw him about to Continue reading “Opel: Ireland’s No.1 Supporter”
When the ADO16 1100 was introduced in 1962, it had few natural rivals, nothing comparable from a technological or conceptual basis at least – a matter which did much to enhance its appeal. A decade later, when Allegro landed as its successor (and not withstanding its relative qualities), the landscape had altered considerably. Front-wheel drive was becoming, if not quite yet the norm, certainly a good deal more common amongst the more progressively minded of Europe’s carmakers, if not the outposts of the American multinationals. Furthermore, BLMC’s European rivals were making rather a good fist of it.
The Allegro has never been a car synonymous with the notion of frivolity, not of the intentional variety at least. It was however, no stranger to satire or derision, not least its somewhat self-important looking flagship model. But while the Vanden Plas 1500 variant may have represented the zenith of Allegro’s upmarket ambitions, it was not the rarest of the breed. That plaudit rests with the most exotic of Allegri, the Crayford Convertible. Continue reading “Allegro Aperto”
An affectionate tribute to the Leyland Royal Tiger coach, once the king of the highway jungle.
Some enjoy vintage cars, some vintage commercial vehicles, others vintage aircraft. I have been fortunate enough to enjoy all three as I myself, a 1941 model, was attaining my own vintage status, yet one old warhorse still shines among many happy memories.
Browsing Dick Gilbert’s Classic Buses website, I jumped on the brakes upon seeing my old friend, Leyland Royal Tiger NCD 662. Dick himself had taken this photo in his younger days, and remembers the coach working out of Eastbourne. Continue reading “The Tale of a Tiger”
Editor’s note: This piece first appeared on DTW in December 2016 as part of the ‘Places’ theme.
When I was 17, a few months after passing my driving test, I took the family Fiat 124 up to London on my own. This was the first time I had driven in a city and I was both wary and excited. Various bits of that trip remain vivid. Although the M4 was opened by then, I came in on the A4 Great West Road so that I could pass the various factories at Brentford, including the Art Deco Firestone Factory.
I remembered these from the back seat during earlier trips with my parents, and they seemed an essential part of the romance of visiting London. After Hammersmith I joined Cromwell Road and found myself in the centre lane of quite fast moving traffic rising up a flyover on a left hand curve. This seemed a great challenge, but I held my nerve and learned Rule One of city driving – as long as there’s space ahead, just keep going, don’t Continue reading “Places – The Multi-Storey”
Nobody can truly escape their past, a statement that holds as true in the automotive domain as it does in the human one. Legacies, either from prior or existing BLMC products would become a leitmotif of Allegro’s dolorous story – a statement underlined by the issues surrounding its powertrain, which consisted of both the venerable A-Series engines and the more latterly developed E-Series units, inherited from the Maxi programme.
Allegro’s predecessor had been offered in 1098 and later on, in 1275 cc versions, the latter being something of a late addition to the range and one which proved popular with the buying public; improved performance having become a selling point with customers given the manner in which the UK’s motorway network had grown. It is likely that a further stretch in capacity would have gone down better still with more affluent buyers, but when a larger capacity engine did become available, it became earmarked for other purposes.
To many, including UK residents, the M1 motorway was not Britain’s inaugural Special Road, that honour goes to what was enigmatically entitled the Preston Northerly Bypass, now part of the M59. While the UK began to contemplate 70mph limits and new styles of signage, the M1 of today’s piece is across the Atlantic, owning a longevity along with its own unique history – Woodward Avenue.
Many years before Detroit was even a township, native Americans had developed trading routes and trails, one of which was the Saginaw. By the early 19th century, that path had become a 120ft wide right-of-way for the now burgeoning city. The aftermath of a devastating fire saw a city layout redesign, somewhat mirroring Washington DC and labelled the ‘Paris of the West’. Continue reading “Detroit, Michigan 48226-3473”
The power of the written word can be sometimes overstated, although this is not a position the gentlemen of the press generally care to acknowledge. Certainly, a poor review can hurt a new product, but it usually takes more than an unfavourable report to fatally damage its prospects, just as it takes more than one breathless review to create a hit. But for the historian attempting to Continue reading “Running With Scissors [Part Five]”
Upon a recent return to the old workplace, my peripheral vision was piqued by a small blue craft as I journeyed past the garage opposite. Office tasks completed in well under an hour, I sauntered across the road to inspect this gem a little closer. An Autozam Carol – goodness!
For the uninitiated (myself at first, included), in the 1990s, Mazda were not only cash rich but ambitious enough to launch five sub-brands: Xedos, Eunos, Efini, Amati and Autozam. Many of this parish will already Continue reading “Meet Me In The City”
Here we’re back in Dublin for a look at some vintage Toyota goodness.
The last items of my personal possessions to linger in my childhood home are a stack of Autocar & Motor/Autocar magazines, from the period 1989 to about 1997, the last year of childhood and the early years of adulthood. This is a period when one is getting use to how the world is, to what constitutes normal. For most of human history it was likely that you could Continue reading “Montain Green-Veined Whites – Everywhere.”
How could such a design exist without my prior knowledge? I almost felt anger, frustration certainly; emotions usually tethered to unassuming teenagers surfaced upon first setting eyes on such a machine. To exist and spin its intricate web so enigmatically, after so many years we can only dream as to what may have been had circumstances played out more beneficially.
At a time when the United States unveiled the Mercury Turnpike Cruiser and Britain, the Riley Pathfinder, the industry as a whole was in the midst of unleashing a plethora of postwar conformity. Alfa Romeo were undisputed Formula One kings but financial matters began to alter their gaze. The Biscione needed to Continue reading “Me L’ero Persa”
During the early years of the 1950’s, the American auto industry was blossoming into previously unknown avenues, at times ambitious and in certain cases, downright arresting. Springtime 1954 saw head of Lincoln’s pre-production studio, John Najjar sketch five concept cars, only one making it past the papyrus stage. Known internally as Mandalay, the sketch pupated into the XM Turnpike Cruiser, “a four passenger cross country car for tomorrow.” XM denoting eXperimental Mercury.
Outré perhaps, even in the jet age, the design caught the attention of future Ford whiz-kid Francis ‘Jack’ Reith. Pushing the top brass for backing, an internal competition set the partnership of Najjar and Elwood Engel over that of Gene Bordinat and Don DeLaRossa. Both teams presented full size clay models (around 18 feet in length) knowing full well only one would be green lighted. Reith took an instant shine to the Najjar design, justifying tweaks and alterations, gaining approval that autumn. Continue reading “Najjar’s Butterfly Develops Seventy Years Late”
Is this really the progenitor of the modern sports saloon?
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on Driven to Write in March 2015 as part of the Benchmarks theme.
In the early 1960s, the average British driver on an average income would have ended up with a leaf-sprung wheezer, comfortable maybe, but hard-pushed cruising above 70 on expanding and unrestricted motorways, a handful in a panic stop and an entertainment-free and potentially scare-laden prospect on corners.
Collecting car brochures can be a serious business.
For those with a hobby that is somewhat outside the mainstream, it can be difficult to give a satisfying reply to questions from new acquaintances when the nature of one’s objects of affection is revealed. Collecting art or antiques seldom requires an explanation, but other forms of collecting often do; the collecting of car brochures and related materials such as press kits – which would be your author’s poison – is a good example.
The horse and horseless carriage are more connected than we give either credit for. In this second episode of the car’s youthful attraction, we have to step back to the US state of Missouri, 1930. One James Otto Hahs decided to create for his children a most wonderful Christmas gift, a mechanical horse ride. Inventive as he was, Hahs obtained some mohair and a cow’s tail from the local abattoir which he then fashioned over a hand-carved wooden buck, all connected to a mechanism within.
The Hahs children loved their horse ride, as did their friends. Realising its sales potential, he then set to work making a more production friendly and therefore commercially viable version with one key aspect in place – paying for the ride. Carving wood and using real hides was expensive and heavy. Hahs found a way of casting aluminium and using lighter materials for dressing. Teaming up with a distributor earned him 5% of the profits but it would take a score more years for the ride’s true impact – that of the shopping centre.
Monsieur Hulot is the creation of Jacques Tati, who in this 1971 film plays a car designer for Altra, a small Parisian manufacturer. Hulot is a tall, greying haired, bumbling yet loveable fool of advancing years. Dressed in a lightweight faded beige overcoat, grey slacks that are too short, revealing yellow socks with black hoops, Hulot’s character is defined by the ever-present furled umbrella on his arm, a never-lit pipe and battered trilby. His walk and general mannerisms are exaggerated, adding further comedic demeanour to the film’s storyline. Hulot rarely speaks and when he does his speech is almost imperceptible.
The film begins within the Renault factory; shots of panels being pressed (one wrinkled door pressing halting the process), tyres on overhead gantries, almost complete Renault 16s followed by a cinemascope of hundreds of completed cars. The film then cuts to the bustling, chaotic Altra atelier. The hapless workforce in paint splattered or filthy overalls aimlessly fuss about, not at all desperate it seems to Continue reading “Trafic”
Three brochures for the X1/9 illustrate Fiat’s differing marketing approaches.
Editor’s note: This piece was first published on Driven to Write on march 1st, 2017.
Despite having an instantly recognisable house style, FIAT Auto’s 1970s brochures were often rather stark looking affairs. Studio shots, no background and just the facts. For an economy hatchback or suchlike, there was an element amount of logic to this approach, but for what many dubbed a Ferrari in miniature, it risked underselling what was at the time a unique proposition.
Conceived to replace the popular Fiat 850 Sport Spider, the 1972 X1/9 would prove long lived. Claimed figures vary but at least 160,000 were produced over a 17-year lifespan. The story goes that faced with the likelihood of FIAT taking production of the 850 Spider’s replacement in-house, Nuccio Bertone pushed for a mid-engined concept, ensuring that his business would Continue reading “Midship Triptych”
In a recent piece on the Austin Healey ‘Fright’, DTW Author, Robertas Parazitas made an interesting observation. “In the post-war period, and long after, Britain was a nation of tweakers, tinkerers, fixers and improvers …. I would contend that it was a practical manifestation of the democratic intellect of the nation’s people, most particularly young working men who would enthusiastically Continue reading “Are You Sure You Know What You’re Doing?”
In May 1974, the little sports car we all still called the Spridget reached its sixteenth birthday. Its presents were belated by a few months, not arriving until October, and were of the sort that a polite mid-teenager might outwardly welcome with smiling gratitude, while being internally aghast.
Its in-house rival – perhaps, in teenage-speak, its frenemy – gifted a new engine. Newness was a relative term in this case. The Triumph SC engine originated with the 1953 Standard 8, Standard-Triumph’s deservedly successful response to the Austin A30 and Morris Minor. Like the completely unrelated Austin A series, it had started out with a mere 803cc, but had the space to Continue reading “Elemental Spirit Part 7: Molestam Senectutem”
Weird wipers, helium gas gyroscope-operated early navigation systems and a horny knob: welcome to Japan.
For a westerner or gaijin, visiting a big city in Japan for the first time is at first a mildly confusing experience (as well as an often amusing one) filled with sensory delights in many senses of the word. Strolling outside the familiar surroundings of your internationally styled hotel, it doesn’t take long to discover that this is a different world; high tech and traditional values and customs go hand in hand, thereby creating a unique atmosphere.
Cars are expensive for a reason. When shelling out the hard-earned one expects the thing to function, which calls for a punishing test regime to iron out defects. Nothing new there but almost forty years ago, plans were afoot to structurally place aluminium in a car almost at the end of its production life – introducing the Bertone built X1/9.
Wishing to demonstrate proof of concept, Canadian company Alcan turned to Bertone to produce five replica models in what would appear to be a drive towards using the ever-abundant silvery grey material. However, your author could not Continue reading “Atomic Element 13”
The most prolific period for Spridget engine transplants was the 1970s. By then there was a good supply of second-hand Midgets and Sprites cheap enough for experimentation, and a far broader range of suitable engines. Fiat twin-cams were a popular choice, available cheaply from rotten or written-off 124s and 125s, and often with the added attraction of a five speed gearbox. In the USA and Australia, some Japanese engines found favour, including the twin rotor Mazda 12A. In Britain, the Ford Kent variants were the default choice, plentiful and easily fitted, with far more power than could be cheaply and reliably extracted from an A-series.
Founded by Yataro Iwasaki in 1870, what was then named Mitsubishi Shokai would eventually grow into one of the largest and most diverse companies in Asia. Shipbuilding was the company’s initial field of business but, as time went by, diversification took place into activities such as mining of coal and precious metals, insurance, banking, aircraft production, real estate and, of course, automobiles.
The name Mitsubishi is made up of two words: ‘Mitsu’ meaning three in Japanese, and ‘Hishi’ which is a species of water chestnut. When these two words are combined, the ‘h’ of hishi is pronounced in Japanese as a ‘b’, hence Mitsubishi. The logo of the company was chosen by Yataro Iwasaki himself and combined the triple crest of the coat of arms belonging to the Tosa clan, Iwasaki’s ruler and employer before the Meiji restoration(1), and the Iwasaki family sign, which was three stacked diamond shapes. Continue reading “Hercules’ Celestial Steed”
News broke this week that London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone is now certain to be extended outwards as far as the London Orbital Motorway (M25) which encircles the outer reaches of the metropolitan area, a decision which will be greeted with some dismay amongst certain (older) car owners amid the UK capital when it comes into force next August. And while most can probably agree in principle that a reduction in airborne pollutants is likely to benefit air quality, it will mean that swathes of perfectly serviceable older vehicles will be taken off the roads – or simply shunted out of London entirely.
Similar strictures would decimate the car pool in this part of the Costa del Sol, given what remains in daily use there, but I would posit that it’s only a matter of time before such matters eventually come to pass. But in the meantime, we at least get to Continue reading “Sketches of Andalucía ”
From the moment the Austin-Healey Sprite met the world in Monte Carlo in May 1958, there was a widespread and urgent demand for much more power than the 42.5 bhp at 5000rpm delivered by its Healey-fettled 948cc A-series engine. Professional and amateur racing drivers, and road car owners who just wanted to Continue reading “Elemental Spirit Part 5: Building the Perfect Beast”
Twenty-five years after the nameplate made its debut, “just in time for the 21st Century”, and six years since the introduction of its astonishing looking predecessor, Toyota have revealed a new generation of their hybrid trailblazer. Billed as the “Hybrid Reborn” by its maker, the 2023 Toyota Prius is set to Continue reading “Who Shall Go to the Ball and What Shall Go to the Ball?”
The revered Italian styling house of Pininfarina has designed, and in some cases also built, cars for a multitude of manufacturers spanning the globe. As far as French triumvirate of mass-market automakers is concerned, the decades long collaboration with Peugeot is, of course, well known. With Renault, however, the only styling work commissioned has been for the Argentinian IKA-Renault Torino and, with what could be argued is the most distinctively French of the trio – Citroën – the counter stands at zero.
A little over two decades ago, Pininfarina did, metaphorically speaking, ask for the hand of PSA’s ‘other daughter’ by presenting the Osée research prototype at the Geneva Motor Show in 2001. This was the first and so far only Citroën conceived and clothed by the Italian styling house. The word Osée is French for daring and, even ignoring its rather radical appearance, the moniker was certainly apt as the Osée was a mid-engined rear-wheel-drive sportscar, a specification unheard of for a Citroën. Continue reading “Talk to the Hand”
Editor’s note: David Pye OBE (18 November 1914 – 1 January 1993), was Professor of Furniture Design at The Royal College of Art, from 1964 to 1974, in addition to being a respected wood turner and designer in his own right. He also wrote several notable volumes on design theory. This article was originally published as part of DTW’s Compromise theme in January 2017.
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 Continue reading “Compromise – The Paradox of Failure”
At the dawn of its existence, painting an automobile was done in the same manner as one would apply a coat of paint to a horse-drawn carriage: by means of a brush and, in some cases, paint-rollers. Since cars were in those days built more or less in the same manner as their animal-powered predecessors, this was only to be expected.
The introduction of the moving assembly line by Ford in 1913 and the consequent rising demand for cars revealed the limitations of this method of application(1), but it would not be until 1924 that the first car to be spray-painted rolled off an assembly line, not at Ford, but at competitor GM with the Oakland model, a precursor to the later Pontiac. Continue reading “Gems on the Assembly Line…”
Designers reap the plaudits whilst manufacturers soak up the awards, but without the hidden practice of metal stamping, the car making process would remain firmly in the carriage days, accompanied by a dirge rather than a more symphonic assurance.
While the engineering technology was pioneered in the Victorian era, nowadays many groups and global corporations deal with the stamping of metal. Today, we look at two well established companies who shape metal for a variety of manufacturers, whose methods, size and ownership have changed far beyond their humble beginnings. One must add that from this layperson’s perspective, the process is not only fascinating, but quite musical.
Schuler, now a member of the Austrian Andritz Group, was established in 1839 by Louis Schuler and a single apprentice. Based in Göppingen, a town around 40 kilometres east of Stuttgart, his small firm began to produce fruit and cider presses. By 1852, he believed his company had taken on too many projects too quickly and rather hot-headedly took an axe to his existing machinery in order to Continue reading “The Man Machine”