Talk to the Hand

He who dares, not always wins.

Image: Pininfarina SpA

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”

Expectation Management

Patience is a virtue. Well, sometimes…

Image: supercars.net

Over the past two and half years or so, we have all experienced a harsh, if valuable lesson in the music of chance, in how unforeseen events can derail all best-laid plans and forecasts. Viewing matters though this chaotic prism, Maserati’s more or less decade-long deliberation over the future of its heartland GranTurismo offering appears almost wilfully indulgent.

However, one should also Continue reading “Expectation Management”

Concepts: 2003 Lancia Granturismo Stilnovo

The 2003 Lancia Granturismo Stilnovo concept illustrated that size and proportion matters. 

Still credible. 2003 Lancia Stilnovo. Image: media.stellantis

Editor’s note: As a companion to this week’s Saab concept retrospective, we turn to a near-contemporary from Turin. This piece was first published on 4th October 2014 as part of the Concepts theme.

One of the last Lancias had a five year gestation from concept car to production. In this case there were two concepts, a real one and a pre-production model. One of them was not helpful.

Lancia showed the Lancia Granturismo Stilnovo at the 2003 Barcelona motor show as a genuine kite-flying concept car, one of quite a few quite credible studies they showed around this time. Three years later these ideas were translated into the production ready Lancia Delta HPE concept which was first revealed at the 2006 Venice International Film Festival. This then took a remarkable two years to Continue reading “Concepts: 2003 Lancia Granturismo Stilnovo”

Number Nine Dream

Getting it right at precisely the wrong moment.

Saab biohybrid
2008 Saab 9X biohybrid. Image: Netcarshow

As the world’s auto press converged at Geneva in March 2008 for the annual motor show – blissfully unaware of what would unfold within the global financial markets that Autumn – it was all very much business as usual. For General Motors however, already fighting several fire-fronts at home (to say nothing of their perennial loss-making volume European arm), there were increasingly dissatisfied voices being raised with the performance of their upmarket Swedish satellite[1].

Relations with Saab AB had become strained, with senior GM management viewing the troubled marque as simply a problem child to be dispensed with. But while keen disagreements at senior board level over Saab’s future were still taking place, a striking concept was prepared for landing at Palexpo 2008, intended to demonstrate the mothership’s continued backing for the Trollhättan carmaker while its future was being decided.

With a good deal of Saab’s development being twinned with Opel’s Rüsselsheim engineering centre by then in an effort to curb costs, there was a belief that a smaller, C-segment Saab offering could broaden the marque’s appeal, especially in European markets where such cars still sold strongly. The 2008 concept did not however simply emerge out of the ether, it was in fact the apogee of a dialogue that had been initiated at the turn of Millennium[2] to Continue reading “Number Nine Dream”

Highly Volatile

Ten years ago, MG’s future looked something like this.

Image: Autocar

Since the desiccated remains of MG Rover was picked over by Nanjing Auto, later merged with Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC), the resultant MG-badged products have left observers and MG marque aficionados somewhere on a spectrum between bemusement and outright horror. Taking ownership of a heritage brand always comes with a measure of responsibility – certainly if one hopes to Continue reading “Highly Volatile”

Swiss Riv

The final Riviera’s missing link?

1988 Buick Lucerne concept. Image: Deans Garage

The Mid-1980s downsized GM range would prove a step into the unknown for the US car giant, one which could be said to have been successful, at least in terms of raw sales numbers. But while the C-body Buick sedans proved popular with buyers[1], the E-bodied personal coupés would prove a far tougher sell. There was a good deal of trepidation amid the design leadership at Buick’s studio in GM’s Warren, Michigan Design Centre as the 1986 model year Riviera was made ready; doubts which would crystallise as the drastically downsized model failed to appeal to existing Riviera customers, who not only baulked at the style, but also its notable lack of road presence[2].

As soon as was deemed possible, Buick Design chief, Bill Porter (who had overseen the E-body design) supervised a revised styling scheme, based upon one which had originally been proposed featuring a sloping tail motif, the victim of engineering package requirements (in this case luggage capacity)[3]. With this heavily revised Riviera, the work of a team under Steve Pasteiner, the model’s fortunes were revived to some extent, but still failed to return to pre-downsized levels. Continue reading “Swiss Riv”

Where There’s Muck, There’s Brass

 Exemplar 1: More Riviera-based goodness. 

Coggiola sketch for Exemplar 1. Image: neautomuseum.org

While the name of Sergio Coggiola might be known to the enthusiast, that of Mario Revelli de Beaumont may not. Roman born Revelli made his name submitting handsome designs to coachbuilders in the nineteen twenties and thirties with Rolls-Royce, Lancia then post-war, with Fiat. Coggiola on the other hand spent time under Pietro Frua at Ghia before setting up his eponymous carrozzeria in Orbassano, a district of Turin during 1966. Around that time, the two Italians collaborated, with the use of atomic element number 29: copper.

Bridgeport, Connecticut may not be the automotive centre of the universe but the Bridgeport Brass Company (henceforward referred to as the BBC) had plans to Continue reading “Where There’s Muck, There’s Brass”

Living Room

 It’s a Škoda, Jakub, but not as we know it…

Image: Car Magazine

When Volkswagen successfully took control of the storied Škoda Auto business in 1991, it did so, like many larger, more powerful entities, primarily for its own betterment. So while any residual altruism on their part was largely incidental, to its credit, Wolfsburg did take a fairly enlightened approach to their acquisition. By then, the Czech carmaker was in need of considerable investment and redirection, for despite having left behind the dated automotive fare it served up to widespread derision for decades, it remained prey to the snide dismissals and cheap jokes, primarily from the motor-jock element of the journalistic cohort.

Rebuilding reputations has never been the job of a moment, but as the decade progressed and the engineers at Mladá Boleslav, working alongside a reinvigorated design team created a more credible range of cars, the joke really started to wear thin. Škoda (and its well-heeled German backer) was no longer prepared to Continue reading “Living Room”

The Hurricane is as Tame as the Kitten

Toyota once took turbines very seriously indeed. We look back at Aichi’s efforts.

1987 Toyota GTV. Image: oldconceptcars.com

Automotive technologies have a natural tendency to evolve. With Rover of Solihull firmly closing the door on gas turbines by the mid-1960s, we open an eastward-facing door, to see how Toyota took up the baton.

First mooted in 1965, sixty months of intense development took place at an undisclosed cost. The results brought forth a two-shaft gas turbine, intended for a bus chassis. A further five years of research entailed, the outcome being a car based turbine, the flagship Century being the chosen home for such a noble power unit. With its V8 removed, the gas turbine was not mechanically connected to the drivetrain. Instead, those ultra high revolutions charged a bank of batteries, in turn feeding motors to both front wheels – the gas turbine hybrid[1].

The Century tests were reasonably positive but Toyota’s engineers quite naturally wanted to Continue reading “The Hurricane is as Tame as the Kitten”

Lady in Waiting

Honda meets 1970s modernism.

Image: autonxt.net

Founded in 1966, Carrozzeria Coggiola is located in the Turinese suburb of Orbassano, then also home to Giovanni Michelotti’s styling bureau. Coggiola is not nearly as well known to the general public as storied names such as Bertone, Pininfarina or Ital Design because, apart from cars like the SAAB Sonett III, not many Coggiola designs ever became available in showrooms. This small carrozzeria instead specialised in manufacturing bespoke cars for private clients. It was also employed by mainstream manufacturers to build prototypes and one-off concept cars, for example, the pyramidal 1980 Citroën Karin and 1988 Renault Mégane concept. Continue reading “Lady in Waiting”

Eighties Eco-Concept Marvels: Epilogue – Endgame?

Where next for the Eco-car?


Citroen Ami (Source: Automotive News Europe)

Having enjoyed researching and writing about our three eighties eco-concept marvels, what thoughts now come to mind about the current state of the small car market? After all, the future as predicted by the ECO 2000, for example, has long since passed.

The car as we know it is, without doubt, experiencing something of a fin de siècle. Personally, I have felt a growing sense that car design and development has plateaued, become complacent and intellectually flabby, with form increasingly disconnected from function. I have also realised that this is reflected in my writings for DTW, which recently has been focused very much on the past rather than today or the future.

So, much as I enjoyed writing this short series, it has left me a little flat in terms of thoughts about the status quo and the future. Cue a stream of consciousness … Continue reading “Eighties Eco-Concept Marvels: Epilogue – Endgame?”

Confidence Might Be Z-Shaped but Knock-backs Wear Iron Marks

We take a brief dive into Volvo’s Italian coachbuilt past. 

Volvo GTZ Zagato. fijen.se

Turin based coachbuilder, Carrozeria Fissore had confidence aplenty. Founded in 1919 by the four brothers; Antonio, Bernardo, Giovanni, and Costanzo, the reins fell under Bernado’s control in 1936. Originally horse carriage experts then car repairers, by wartime the carrozzeria had moved on to manufacturing – mail cars, vans, even hearses after military service.

No prizes for guessing much of Fissore’s work lay within the Fiat purview. By the 1960s, Fissore may not have been the household name far outside the confines of their homeland but their reputation had grown. To the point that Motauto, the Italian import agent for Volvo believed the carrozzeria possessed the skills to Continue reading “Confidence Might Be Z-Shaped but Knock-backs Wear Iron Marks”

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)”

Theme: Concepts – 2012 Lada X-Ray by Steve Mattin

The 43rd Most Influential Briton in the Car Industry 2004 was Steve Mattin.

2012 Lada X-Ray concept
2012 Lada X-Ray concept

Formerly the senior design manager at Mercedes Benz until 2004, he moved to Volvo when it was under Ford’s management. I happen not to care a great deal for the Mercedes cars designed while Mattin was in Sindelfingen. And it surprises me very little that while at Volvo Mattin oversaw the creation of the Volvo S60, V60, and XC60 concept cars.

Continue reading “Theme: Concepts – 2012 Lada X-Ray by Steve Mattin”

Theme: Concepts – The Sir William Test

Driven to Write ponders lost hopes with Jaguar’s 2003 R-D6 concept.

(c) automobilesreview

Most concept cars are created to invite a dialogue with the customer about the future, or at the very least, nudge them towards one the manufacturer has already committed to. However, in the case of the concepts prepared under the design leadership of Ian Callum, it was a little more akin to forensic research. With Jaguar’s styling atrophied under the weight of over two decades of introspection, it became a case of asking: ‘what would Sir William Lyons have done?’ Continue reading “Theme: Concepts – The Sir William Test”

Theme: Concepts – 1980 Ferrari Pinin

In some ways, the 1980 Ferrari Pinin is a mess. But some of its details inspired later cars, none of which were Ferraris.

1980 Ferrari Pinin
1980 Ferrari Pinin (c) oldconceptcars

The proportions work quite well but one gets the impression Pininfarina had a hard time with the details and with marrying a form language that wanted to Continue reading “Theme: Concepts – 1980 Ferrari Pinin”

Theme : Concepts – Small Is Beautiful

The 1983 Opel Junior concept marked a new, friendlier frontier in small car design. Its impact was to be lasting. 

opel-junior-05

The 1983 (is it really that old?) Opel Junior was one of the stars of that year’s IAA at Frankfurt, where it debuted. Small and really rather perfectly formed, the little Opel was the work of a team of designers at Opel’s Rüsselsheim styling centre, under the direction of Hideo Kodama. Alongside Kodama was Gert Hildebrand and neophyte, Chris Bangle, who it’s said, was responsible for the concept’s modular interior.  Continue reading “Theme : Concepts – Small Is Beautiful”

Theme: Concepts – 2013 Honda Gear

It seems Honda didn’t think too much of this little concept car. They showed it at the Montreal Motor Show in 2013, at the same time the Detroit Motor Show was being held.

2013 Honda Gear concept car (c) forcegt.com

To be honest, I found this by accident. In 1992 or 1993 Honda showed a small concept car with a feature that has become a very common, the false reverse-raked c-pillar. I wanted to Continue reading “Theme: Concepts – 2013 Honda Gear”

Concepts: From Dialogue to Thesis

The 1998 Dialogos concept previewed the full-sized Lancia’s final fling.

proto_dialogos_51

During 1996, Lancia began work on a new large car concept. Lancia design director, Mike Robinson was briefed to create a car that would honour marque traditions, while also being a showcase for upcoming in-car technology being developed by Fiat at the time. The concept was also intended to preview the next generation full-sized Lancia saloon style.  Continue reading “Concepts: From Dialogue to Thesis”

Theme : Concepts – Ride A Rocket

Mini raised every enthusiast’s hopes to the stratosphere with their 2011 Rocketman Concept, only to have them burn up on re-entry. 

(c) autoblog

At the 2011 Geneva Motor show, MINI debuted the Rocketman concept and from Palexpo to Phibsboro, Mini aficionados wept with relief, because here at last was a proper Mini-sized MINI, rather than the lumbering behemoths that were actually available for purchase. Continue reading “Theme : Concepts – Ride A Rocket”

Theme : Concepts – Yet Another DS Stunner!

Steaming Hot News From Paris!

DSuperficiale

Following on the heels of the Divine, the Paris Salon was today stunned by another offering from PSA’s ambitious DS brand, its latest concept the DSupérficiâle. Originally thought by diehard enthusiasts to be a homage to the D Super, itself the successor to the classic ‘no-frills’ ID19, PSA was anxious to dispel such misconceptions. At the press launch, DS spokesman Jean Conneries, standing in front of a still-shrouded shape, explained the philosophy behind the car.

We are foremost a French brand. We must build on that as the 21st Century progresses. However, in the past we have mistakenly concentrated too much on those aspects of heritage that are specifically Citroën. France has a huge heritage that it has bequeathed the World and foremost in that is philosophy. The philosophy of this car is ….. philosophy itself! Continue reading “Theme : Concepts – Yet Another DS Stunner!”

Theme: Concepts – 2000 GM Precept

This was inspired by Sean’s post about Tatra’s retirement from making road-going automobiles and what might have been.

2000 GM Precept concept car in motion
2000 GM Precept concept car in motion

In the last few years of the Clinton administration a sizeable grant was made to the US car builders to help them develop fuel efficient large cars. Among the goals, the companies were to aim for was to reduce fuel use to 80 mpg. We seem to be slowly getting to this although with smaller cars. GM’s response to this grant was the Precept, the appearance of which seems to me to not too unlike a Tatra. Whether this is a case of convergent evolution or actual direct inspiration, I can’t say. Continue reading “Theme: Concepts – 2000 GM Precept”

Theme : Concepts – Armchair Motorshow : DS Divine

What is to be made of the DS Divine concept car? Is it a Good Thing that PSA now has Peugeot, Citroen and the DS brands to manage?

2014 DS Divine concept front three quarter

As we know, PSA has decided, in its wisdom, to divide its efforts no longer in two, but three. From hereon in (or, at least until PSA has gone to the hereafter), the Sino-French giant will furnish the market with Peugeots, Citroens and DSs (the latter to be shorn of the Citroen moniker sometime next year, in the UK at least, so it is reported). Continue reading “Theme : Concepts – Armchair Motorshow : DS Divine”

Theme: Concepts – Renault’s Mixed Message

Look at the future as it was in 1995 and look at the future circa 2015. Are we going back in time? Sideways?

2015 Renault Laguna or Initiale or Safrane or something
2015 Renault Laguna or Initiale or Safrane or something

I was moved to write this when I saw a breathless announcement at French Cars In America that there was a new Renault Laguna on the way. They alleged that the car was going to be shown at the Paris Motor show (happening around now, if you reading this in 2016 sometime) They got their story from Auto Plus. While cross checking it I found that Auto Express had nothing to say on the matter at all. So, I don’t know if the car really will be sold or is just a Photoshop story.

Assuming the car looks a little like the one shown above we have another big, grey bloater with a high waistline and a busy front end. Renault have not really grasped what they might need to do to Continue reading “Theme: Concepts – Renault’s Mixed Message”

Theme: Concepts – Obendorfer’s Retrofuturism

Not all concept cars are designed by design consultancies or manufacturer’s own studios.

2013 design for Fiat 127 by David Obendorfer
2013 design for Fiat 127 by David Obendorfer

I have covered the work of the Pforzheim Design School recently. Today, presented as freelance concept designs, rather than as student work, here is David Obendorfer’s work. He graduated from the MOME Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design of Budapest and has been working for the Officina Italiana Design of Mauro Micheli and Sergio Beretta for 5 years; they mainly deal with Riva boats and general ship design too.

Obendorfer has taken some 70s themes and presented them in a modern idiom. We can take this to really mean Continue reading “Theme: Concepts – Obendorfer’s Retrofuturism”

Theme: Concepts – Introduction

What is a concept car? What was its past like and how did its future evolve? Why do we have concept cars at all?

1951 GM Le Sabre concept car
1951 GM Le Sabre concept car

We are late in the automobile era. It is ending as cars become banalities and as the illusion of mass personal transportation dissolves. Consequently, the car’s future might even be over already. In 1971 the future was staggeringly unlike the present. In a properly realised future all signs of the present are gone. Continue reading “Theme: Concepts – Introduction”