Theme : Benchmarks – The Rover 620 SLi And Its 1993 Peers

In 1993 the Rover 620i faced the BMW 318i, the Citroen Xantia 2.0 and Ford Mondeo 2.0. 

1994 Rover 620 Si
1994 Rover 620 Si

All of these cars had something going for them. Car magazine judged all four to be “formidable”. Car estimated the BMW to cost €17,000 with a few options thrown in to make it habitable; ditto the Rover though it came with more features as standard. The Mondeo cost only £14,000 in GLX trim (I miss trim designations like that). Citroen wanted £17,500 for their car. So what are these cars worth now?

If you Continue reading “Theme : Benchmarks – The Rover 620 SLi And Its 1993 Peers”

Theme : Benchmarks – Le Système Panhard

The horse before the cart – or was it the other way round?

GM X Frame
GM’s notorious X-Frame showing the layout in its simplicity

It hardly seems like an invention but innovators often do something that, with the benefit of hindsight, the rest of us think is so bloody obvious that we can’t see what the fuss is about. So, in 1892, after a couple of years of fiddling around with alternatives, Émile Levassor decided to put an internal combustion engine in the front of the car he was developing with René Panhard, then he connected it to a clutch with, behind that, a simple gearbox which took drive back to the rear wheels. This they continued to develop, producing the forerunner of the manual gearbox we recognise today in 1895.

Continue reading “Theme : Benchmarks – Le Système Panhard”

Theme : Benchmarks -The Renault 5 in Five Easy Pieces

Five reasons why the Cinq was a benchmark small car

Every living room should have one. 1972 Renault 5 - image via curbsideclassic
Every living room should have one. 1972 Renault 5 – image credit (c) curbsideclassics

1. Like many significant car designs, the Cinq was the brainwave of one man, originally created as something of a thought experiment. In 1968, Renault designer Michel Boué sketched the design proposal in his spare time, marking out the now familiar outline superimposed upon a photo of a contemporary Renault 4. Hence the silhouette and unusually tall canopy.

Renault design bosses, upon seeing his work, adopted it for production virtually unaltered. Based on the engines and drivetrain of the popular Renault 4/6 models, the R5 is a rare case of inspiration undiluted.  Continue reading “Theme : Benchmarks -The Renault 5 in Five Easy Pieces”

Theme : Benchmarks – Lost In Translation

Let’s re-create a winner. What could go wrong?

Jaguar Presentation

Motoring history has many concepts and show cars that disappointed when they were turned into production models, but equally tantalising are the occasions when a manufacturer has looked back into its own history and tried to re-create one of its own supposed ‘classics’. This is sometimes commercially successful, sometimes critically successful, but those of us in the world of motoring who spend our time considering the automotive equivalent of fitting angels onto pin heads are usually frustrated. Here are some of my own personal disappointments and maybe a success or two.

Mini to MINI : Starting with an obvious one that produces greatly polarised opinions. The styling of Frank Stephenson’s relaunch MINI was a clever update on the original, not too slavish, with its own distinctive detailing and more than a hint of Aston Martin at the front, which made the point that this was not intended as a true successor to Issigonis’s peoples car. Continue reading “Theme : Benchmarks – Lost In Translation”

Theme – Benchmarks: Glovebox Capacities

What one remembers often has little to do with what is important. I clearly recall James Ruppert deriding the 1998 Mazda 626 as being a car whose sole claim to fame was that it had the biggest glove box in its class.

2010 Toyota Prius glove boxes. Neat. Rattly.
2010 Toyota Prius glove boxes. Neat. Rattly.

This small and apparently modest claim is a good example of the problem of epistemology. That relates to how we know what we know and how much faith we can have in our beliefs. On the face of it, a glovebox is a simple structure with measurable dimensions. It ought to be easy to determine which glove box is biggest.

However, on closer examination the claim turns out to Continue reading “Theme – Benchmarks: Glovebox Capacities”

Theme: Benchmarks – The Biggest Boot On a Passenger Car

….is, according to my research, the one fitted to the 2008-2015 Skoda Superb. 

633 litres of luggage capacity. The 2015 Skoda Superb. Image: best-carz.com
633 litres of luggage capacity. The 2015 Skoda Superb. Image: best-carz.com

It holds 633 litres. The rear leg room is astonishing as well. You can fit loads of legs back there. This trumps the one I had imagined was the largest, the discontinued 1996 Continue reading “Theme: Benchmarks – The Biggest Boot On a Passenger Car”

Theme : Benchmarks – A Random Selection From A Random Industry

Some Very Personal Benchmarks

Panhard 24

Since Simon has granted us the discretion to be reasonably subjective, I make no apologies for presenting a set of purely personal benchmarks, which I will make little attempt to defend with any objective data.  Continue reading “Theme : Benchmarks – A Random Selection From A Random Industry”

Theme : Benchmarks – Peugeot 306 to 307 = Immediate Loss of Status

In these days, it is usually described as a loss of “mojo”, although I’ve never been certain of what that word actually means.

Peugeot 307 - image from caroftheyear.org
Peugeot 307 – image from caroftheyear.org

In terms of the launch of the 307, I’d prefer to describe it as a fall from grace. I suppose I could also have picked the transition from 205 to 206 from the same stable, but I think it less obvious and memorable for me. I think I need to become instantly more specific. The 306 was the chassis benchmark in its class. It was also one of the more lovely looking mid-range hatches of its time, but I think aesthetics are much harder to benchmark, and I am certainly less comfortable opining on the way a car looks under such a heading.

Continue reading “Theme : Benchmarks – Peugeot 306 to 307 = Immediate Loss of Status”

Theme : Benchmarks – Lancia Flaminia Super Sport

Benchmark or swansong? A short film from the very pinnacle of the automotive ziggurat

Just beautiful - Image via tuningpp
Lancia’s finest hour? – Image via tuningpp

If we collectively believe the current Ypsilon represents Lancia’s nadir – (although I would beg to differ) – I think we can agree this car represents the marque’s apogee.

Continue reading “Theme : Benchmarks – Lancia Flaminia Super Sport”

Theme: Benchmarks – The Moving Goalpost

Legend has it that Lexus’ engineers explicitly used the 1991 BMW E-36 version of the 3 series as a benchmark for their 1999 IS200, right down to giving it rear wheel drive and a straight six engine.

1999 Lexus IS 200 - from Wikipedia.
1999 Lexus IS 200 – from Wikipedia. There’s a balance problem, isn’t there? The front of the car is visually lighter than the rear.

By the time the IS200 came out, the E46 had replaced the E36. The benchmark that Lexus had chosen was obsolete. At this point BMW had settled on a slow detachment from its roots as a “hard as nails” small sports saloon and was well on the way to becoming, in ordinary trim versions, a Munich Mondeo, though to be fair, that’s unfair to Ford’s Mondeo of the same period. As I see it, the car Lexus benchmarked was already Continue reading “Theme: Benchmarks – The Moving Goalpost”

Theme: Benchmarks – From Standard to Acclaim

The only constant is change.

1960 Standard Vanguard Vignale
1960 Standard Vanguard Vignale

What once passed for normal, becomes a rarity (think: Renault 12). Usage debases the value of language so while our words remain set on the page, the meanings attached to them drift off and new meanings, hunting for home, attach themselves. So it is that the world outside our head is unstable and shifting and the words inside our heads lose value like sweating gold coin in a sack or drachmas, lire and roubles in wallets.

This is getting very post-modern, isn´t it? The word for a fixed reference changes its meaning and the thing it refers to changes as well. It´s all relative now, kids.

Continue reading “Theme: Benchmarks – From Standard to Acclaim”

Theme : Benchmarks – The Alfa Romeo Giulia Berlina

Is this really the progenitor of the modern sports saloon?

Alfa Giulia 6

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.

If you had a bit more to spend, and fancied something with sporting pretentions, then pretentions were certainly on offer with bits of real wood, a bigger carburetor, a rev counter and oil pressure gauge, fog and driving lamps and maybe a chrome strip up the side. Continue reading “Theme : Benchmarks – The Alfa Romeo Giulia Berlina”

Theme: Benchmarks – Personal Luxury Coupés

Benchmarks come and then they go. Personal  luxury coupes (PLC) occupied the hottest sector of the American car market in the late 70s and early 80s. What were they?

1976 Olds Cutlass Supreme: America´s best selling car that year. Isn´t it quite like the Ford Granada we looked at recently?
1976 Olds Cutlass Supreme: America´s best selling car that year. Isn´t it quite like the Mercury Monarch we looked at recently?

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 European 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 Continue reading “Theme: Benchmarks – Personal Luxury Coupés”

Theme : Benchmarks – Introduction

Benchmarking – The Editor ask if it measures up?

FrankensteinBenchmarking has become a common practice in our world. Even estate agents ‘benchmark’ their performance but, of course, the original benchmarks were just what they suggested, marks on a bench for an artisan to use for fast measuring of standard lengths of material. As such, in an industry that has its basis in engineering, the term is used more reasonably in the automotive world than in politics or banking though, this month, we consider automotive Benchmarks in the broader, more modern sense.

Continue reading “Theme : Benchmarks – Introduction”