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”

Theme: Evolution – Lancia and Others

For a decade and a bit, Lancia’s principal cars evolved, if you want to be generous about it.

1963 Lancia Fulvia GT: autoviva.com
1963 Lancia Fulvia GT: autoviva.com

The Flavia saloon debuted in 1961 and soldiered on until 1975 (though renamed 2000 in 1971). The Fulvia saloon appeared 1963 and hung about until 1972. Fiat took over Lancia in 1969 and by 1972 the Beta had appeared. There was a quiet interregnum after which the old guard were put out to pasture and shot with silencers. Continue reading “Theme: Evolution – Lancia and Others”

Theme : Evolution – The Missing Links 6

The Surprisingly Fast Family Car

Jeff Uren’s Personal Savage Estate : www.sussexsportscars.co.uk
Jeff Uren’s Personal Savage Estate : http://www.sussexsportscars.co.uk

Once, saloon and estate cars behaved soberly. Some of them got a bit spritely with the addition of a second carburetor and 1/2 inch wider tyres, and indeed I offered the 1962 Alfa Giulia as the partial template for the modern hot hatch/saloon a while back. Then, of course, there was the Lotus Cortina. The Mk2 Jaguar doesn’t count because it was always supposed to be fast anyway, so only surprised people who bought it in 2.4 litre form and found it slow. Continue reading “Theme : Evolution – The Missing Links 6”

Theme: Evolution – Cant Rails and Window Gutters

Today we take a look at a small but important area of car body design, the window frames and cant rails. 

2015 Land Rover Defender. Possibly the last passenger car with guttered side-glass: Topgear.com
2015 Land Rover Defender. Possibly the last passenger car with guttered side-glass: Topgear.com

Up until 1982, the standard solution for mating the roof to the sides of the glass house was a rolled flange. In simple terms, the edge of the roof panel was mated to the edge of the bodyside and welded after being rolled by two folds along its length. The resultant u-shaped structure was rigid and provided a useful gutter to stop water flowing down the sides of the car. In some cases, a chrome sheath was slid over the outer edge of the gutter to Continue reading “Theme: Evolution – Cant Rails and Window Gutters”

Theme: Evolution – The Rolls-Royce/Bentley L410 V8

Slow, incremental change could be said to represent one of the hallmarks of the Rolls Royce marque. Something similar could be said of its engine.

1998 Bentley Turbo RT: www.rrsilverspirit.com
1998 Bentley Turbo RT: http://www.rrsilverspirit.com

The L410 V8 engine was born in the early 50s with the role of powering Bentleys and Rolls-Royce cars. From the 50s to 1998 the engine found homes in cars of both brands. After BMW acquired Rolls-Royce (the name and nothing else), the engine then became the sole preserve of Bentley where it is still in use, very highly modified, in the Mulsanne. This engine has a rough parallel with the Buick V8 talked about recently, in that it is simply a very long lived V8. The differences are that the L410 is still in production and that nobody seems to have tried to use the engine in other commercial applications. Continue reading “Theme: Evolution – The Rolls-Royce/Bentley L410 V8”

Theme: Evolution – Proliferation

Ode to Joy…

Untitled-1Four decades ago, BMW’s range looked like this.

The body copy here attempts to challenge the contemporary perception that BMW was essentially a niche manufacturer with a tiny range of specialist cars by highlighting the broad scope of BMW’s 1975 UK range: 14 cars. Today there are as many variations of the current 3-door 1-Series available upon these shores. So while the 40-year old range could fit on an single A4 sheet, BMW’s entire 2015 range would now require a good 38 pages – and most likely a glossary of terms. Continue reading “Theme: Evolution – Proliferation”

Theme : Evolution – When Genes Mutate

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

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 : Evolution – When Genes Mutate”

Theme: Evolution – Adaptation, Diversification, Survival

Maserati’s natural history came to an abrupt halt in 1975. Survival meant change – not just a new model, but an entirely fresh approach.

For a Hybrid, it's a fine piece of work. The 1976 Maserati Kylami
What expediency looked like in 1976. For a Hybrid, it’s a rather fine piece of work. Frua’s Tipo 129 Maserati Kyalami. Image: maserati-alfieri

It’s tempting to view evolution as a continuous series of gradual mutations, but events throughout history have demonstrated it only takes a single catastrophic event to send it in an entirely different direction – or stop it entirely. The 1973 oil embargo for instance was the motor industry’s very own fiery catastrophe and 1975 the year when the conflagration really took hold, consuming a swathe of specialist marques including Jensen and Iso.  Continue reading “Theme: Evolution – Adaptation, Diversification, Survival”

Theme : Evolution – The Missing Links 5

The Classy Looking 4×4

The 1946 Version
The 1946 Version

Of course, this is no obscurity to most of our American Readers (both North and South) but we in the UK do tend to imagine that we elevated the 4WD from the farm to the polo fields with the first Range Rover. Actually, the first Rangie was admirably austere and, if its social climbing you’re looking for, designer/showman Brooke Stevens’s 1946 Willys Jeep Station Wagon gave new life to the ubiquitous wartime military vehicle. Continue reading “Theme : Evolution – The Missing Links 5”

Theme : Evolution – Or Metamorphosis?

We trace a direct descendent.

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In 1922, against great opposition from his board, Herbert Austin introduced his Seven into a market dominated by the rudimentary cyclecars that had sprung up in the wake of the First World War. The Seven was a proper small car and, unlike other ‘people’s cars’, it had no radical and untried solutions. Continue reading “Theme : Evolution – Or Metamorphosis?”

Theme: Evolution – From Iron Bars To Plastic Assemblies

The role of the bumper can be inferred easily from the name.

2015 Nissan Altima: where does the body start and bumper end? http://vietq.vn/so-sanh-xe-sedan-honda-accord-va-nissan-altima-d55126.html
2015 Nissan Altima: where does the body start and bumper end? Source: vietq.vn

Originally they were mere metal bars attached to the front of the car, and were visually separate from the wings and grille they were intended to protect. Let’s take a quick look at how they changed over time from a piece of steel to complex plastic assemblies merged seamlessly to Continue reading “Theme: Evolution – From Iron Bars To Plastic Assemblies”

Theme: Evolution – Coming Soon…

Next year’s E-Class will be a tech-fest. We lift the lid.

The S-Class' younger, smarter and slightly cheaper brother. Still want that top of the range Merc? Image via Autocar
The S-Class’ younger, smarter and slightly cheaper brother. Still want that top range Benz? Image Autocar

Next year’s Mercedes E-Class is primed to evolve ‘in-car connectivity’ and autonomous driving to the next level, says a report in Automotive News Europe this week. Thomas Weber, Daimler’s head of development, told ANE journalists; “Innovations in this area are coming thick and fast,”. Just how thick and how fast Sindelfingen’s 2016 mid-liner will be, DTW can now exclusively reveal. Continue reading “Theme: Evolution – Coming Soon…”

Theme : Evolution – The Missing Links 4

The Full Width Grille

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The linear, full-width grille was a staple of production car design for years. Always incorporating the headlamps, often sidelights and indicators, it was a logical reduction. The idea can be seen appearing in the States at the start of the 60s with the Ford Falcon, but where do we first see it in Europe? I’d propose the Glas 1004, introduced in 1961. Continue reading “Theme : Evolution – The Missing Links 4”

Theme : Evolution – A Road To Nowhere?

Is design still evolving? As part of this month’s theme, Driven to Write republishes a post from the beginning of last year

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Does Car Design Have a Future?

Car design is usually late to the party. This isn’t because designers aren’t up to it – consider the bold output of the Bauhaus in the 1920s and 30s, when run by Walter Gropius, then consider his rather conventional design for an Adler car of the same period. It wasn’t until the late 1990s that critics felt that a car, an Audi, deserved the Bauhaus soubriquet.

Compare 50s modernist and brutalist buildings with the florid vehicles produced then. Cars did vaguely get round to Continue reading “Theme : Evolution – A Road To Nowhere?”

Theme : Evolution – The Missing Links 3

THE NON-BOXY HATCHBACK

Mazda 323F

Today, there is a dearth of truly practical hatchbacks. VW’s excellent Golf routinely gets lambasted by various enthusiasts as ‘boring’. Everyone wants their family runabout to look like it belongs at the ‘Ring, and much of what is now on the market seems designed to flatter the driver’s self-image whilst ignoring their passengers needs. The lack of rear headroom, visibility and easy access in so many current bread and butter vehicles in the quest for someone’s idea of a cool exterior is now the norm, rather that the exception. But, if I wanted to point at a car that, at the time seemed rather refreshing for breaking away from the ubiquitous boxiness, I’d nominate the Mazda 323F from 1989..

Theme : Evolution – The Missing Links 2

The Four Door Coupe

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The Mercedes CLS is rightly cited as the direct production inspiration for today’s coupe saloons, but can we look back to the Rover P5 as being the first car to offer the option of less headroom for more money? Today, I agree it looks quite good but, at the time, as a rather dogmatic kid, I found it rather illogical. It’s not as if the high-sided P5 was ever svelte, but I suppose its appeal is a slight one of menace, more akin to that of a chopped Mercury. Continue reading “Theme : Evolution – The Missing Links 2”

Theme : Evolution – It’s Just A Bloody Lump Of Metal!

Driven to Write asks how important is Bloodline?

Beetle Sphere by Ichwan Noor
Beetle Sphere by Ichwan Noor

In the spirit of the biomorphism that we just can’t help applying to so many inanimate objects, with cars we try to emulate natural processes by using the term DNA to describe the hard-to-otherwise-define traits of a particular brand, and speaking of Evolution, a natural process about which we remain relatively ignorant, when one model supplants another.. Continue reading “Theme : Evolution – It’s Just A Bloody Lump Of Metal!”

Theme: Evolution – Refining a Theme

What do the Mercedes CLS, VW Passat CC and a forgotten 1982 rendering have in common? The stylist associated with each of them – Murat Günak.

Designer, Murat Gunak - photo via Stern.de
Designer, Murat Gunak – photo: Stern.de

The world of the international car design is a small and frequently incestuous one. Take the career of Turkish car designer, Murat Günak. Having studied design at the Royal College of Art during the 1980’s under Patrick Le Quement and Claude Lobo, he worked for Mercedes-Benz under then Styling Director, Bruno Sacco. During his time at Stuttgart-Untertürkheim, he was credited with the styling for the W202 C-Class and R170 SLK. With time came greater responsibility, so while the 2004 W219 Mercedes CLS body style was the work of American, Michael Fink, the project came under the supervision of Günak, reporting to Styling Director Peter Pffifer. Continue reading “Theme: Evolution – Refining a Theme”

Theme : Evolution – The Missing Links 1

For those of you who remember Car’s now lost Forum pages, we make no apologies if we sometimes revive themes from them.

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THE COMPACT MPV

One day you wake up and notice how much everything has changed. Did they do it whilst you were asleep? Likely not, you just weren’t paying attention. So it is with automotive design – changes happen, genres appear and a simple history is confected. But often the actual genesis is more complex, and credit, or otherwise, is given to the wrong people. Continue reading “Theme : Evolution – The Missing Links 1”

Theme: Evolution – What Citroen Did Next

While we’re on this Citroen kick, I wondered idly about an alternative evolutionary pathway from where the XM left off. What could Citroen have done next?

2016 Citroen Grande Berline
Citroen Grande Berline. Image: Richard Herriott

Here is the Citroen C8 of the year 2000. In order to avoid giving critics ammunition, PSA invested in a new platform for the C8 which was adaptable such that a large Peugeot saloon and a corporate monospace were also spun off it at a later date. The main details were that it involved extensive use of lightweight steel and aluminium for the doors, bonnet and liftgate. The goal was to make a car slightly larger than the XM but weighing 10% less. Continue reading “Theme: Evolution – What Citroen Did Next”

Theme: Evolution – 1985 Nissan Maxima 4DSC

Today the blogosphere is alive with comments about Nissan’s new Maxima, the one with the iffy decoration on the C-pillar.

1985 Nissan Maxima 4DSC: tomsforeign.com
1985 Nissan Maxima 4DSC: tomsforeign.com

Nissan has chosen to associate this new Maxima with the 4DSC tag, which means 4 Door Sports Car, a name which originated in 1985 with the Nissan Maxima 4DSC. What’s this got to do with evolution? It is more a case of a lack of evolution, at least in stylistic terms. It is not that the Maxima hasn’t changed but that it has had revolution not evolution. This lack of continuity from one generation to the next troubled me 25 years ago. I noticed Renault tended to Continue reading “Theme: Evolution – 1985 Nissan Maxima 4DSC”

Theme: Evolution – Introduction

This month’s theme explores change over time.

2005 Bugatti Veyron: motorauthority.com
2005 Bugatti Veyron: motorauthority.com

Car design is driven by the combination of the needs of society, the imperatives of marketing and the possibilities of engineering. All of these factors are in constant flux and interact with other in complex ways. “Longer, lower, wider, that’s how you sell a car.” A quote something like this has been attributed to the godfather of designers, Harley Earl. For a long time this was true and since 1940s cars were usually incredibly tall there was a long way to go before it became impossible to wear a hat in a car and “lower” didn’t work. Evolution reaches dead ends.

Continue reading “Theme: Evolution – Introduction”