How Bill Porter turned the sow’s ear of the 1986 Buick Riviera into something so much better.
This article was first published as part of the DTW Facelifts Theme on July 02 2014.
In 1986, Buick sold a medium-sized two door coupé called the Somerset in the US market, built on the Oldsmobile-engineered N-body. In the way of GM’s demented renaming strategy, the Somerset tag was once a trim level of the Regal saloon but it escaped to become a separate line. The Somerset only lived for three years – the public didn’t take to the name, apparently. The Somerset had a transverse, front-mounted 2.5 litre 4-cylinder or 3.0 V-6 engine driving the front wheels. The wheelbase was 103 inches (Americans don’t do metric).
Time eventually catches up with everyone and everything; the best one can hope for is to age gracefully and this applies to people as much as it does to man-made designs, which with precious few exceptions reflect by their very nature the era in which they were created. As time moves on, there is only so much that can be done to Continue reading “Holding Back the Years”
Today we feature a car that, thanks to a clever facelift, was finally given the desirability to match its dynamic qualities.
The original 1996 Porsche Boxster 986 had all the right mechanical ingredients for a terrific sports car, and so it proved to be. However, the styling was a disappointment, particularly after the excitement generated by the pert and beautifully detailed 1993 Boxster Concept, first shown at the US Auto Show in January of that year.
A smart re-skin and an even smarter nip-and-tuck kept the 1972 Ford Granada at the top of its game for thirteen years.
In the 1960’s and 70’s Ford of Europe was the master of value engineering, designing cars that were highly attractive to potential buyers, but engineered to be little if at all better than they strictly needed to be. The 1962 Ford Cortina Mk1 was just such a car. It was a simple, light and efficient design and it effectively killed off the cumbersome, complex and heavy 1961 Consul Classic after just two years on the market(1).
The Cortina’s winning formula was reprised in 1968 with the Escort, another light and efficient design that was simple to build and was tailored to appeal to a wide range of customers via an extensive range hierarchy comprising basic, luxury and sporting variants. Likewise, the 1969 Capri, which easily shrugged off the Cortina in a party frock jibes because it looked great and gave customers exactly what they wanted.
There were missteps too, notably the 1966 Mk4 Zephyr / Zodiac. The lower-line versions were fitted with a new V4 engine, but the designers wanted a long bonnet as they believed that this was a signifier of power and prestige. Harley F. Copp, an American Ford design engineer on secondment to Brentwood to Continue reading “Under the Knife – Taking Care of the Pennies”
Today we feature a car that was the product of a highly effective facelift of its stodgy predecessor.
The 1997 Golf Mk4 is widely acknowledged as a masterpiece of disciplined and rational design. Its svelte exterior was handsome and timeless, and a huge improvement over the flabby Mk3. The interior was a revelation, bringing a level of quality to the Golf that had not been seen before in C-segment cars. The Mk4 remained on the market for eight years, during which time it remained virtually untouched, Volkswagen sensibly realising that it was impossible to improve upon its near perfection.
When it came time to replace the Mk4, Volkswagen dropped the ball. The 2003 Golf Mk5, whilst not exactly ugly, looked rather corpulent, and much of the detailing was rather too fussy for a Golf. The Mk5 was partly a product of VW Group Chairman Ferdinand Piëch’s aggressive strategy to Continue reading “Under the knife – Bogey to Birdie”
Our Under the Knife Series travels to the Americas.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder, or addiction to cosmetic surgery, is no laughing matter. Those afflicted by it, such as American socialite Jocelyn Wildenstein are testament to the fact that one would be wise to Continue reading “The Old Bird’s Case Of BDD”
Today DTW features a car that was given a new lease of life with an extensive and highly effective makeover.
Ford regularly plays fast and loose with its mark numbers, often applying them to even quite modest facelifts of the outgoing model. However, in the case of the Sierra, the Mk2 designation was well deserved.
Ford launched the original Sierra in 1982 as a replacement for the conventional and conservative Cortina Mk5. The new model was a rear-wheel-drive car like its predecessor, but the aero body (believed to have originally been the work of Gert Hohenester working under the supervision of Design Director, Uwe Bahnsen at Merkenich) was dramatically different, with a hatchback instead of a conventional boot.
The 1971 Fiat 127 proved to be an extraordinarily popular and enduring design. DTW recalls its many iterations, some pleasing, others rather less so.
The Fiat 127 was a supermini wholly in the modern idiom, with its transverse engine, end-on gearbox and a three-door hatchback bodystyle(1). It was not, however the world’s first such design: that title goes to the 1964 Autobianchi Primula. The Primula was, however, engineered by Fiat, which held an equal 33% share in the company alongside Pirelli and the Bianchi family. Fiat was able to Continue reading “Under the Knife – One to Seven”
The 1998 Series II Discovery was a far more thorough and extensive facelift of the original than it might have appeared to be at first glance.
The 1970 Range Rover could not have been more different in conception from the SUVs that carry that name today. It was designed to be more comfortable and civilised on road than the original Land Rover, which had changed little since its introduction in 1948, but was not intended to be anything other than a working vehicle.
Early Range Rovers were still resolutely utilitarian, with vinyl seats and rubber floor mats that could be hosed out after a day’s work on the farm. Its classic style is credited to David Bache, Head of Design at Rover. However, recognising its handsome functionalism, Bache actually made only detail changes to Continue reading “Under the Knife – Rediscovered”
When it comes to facelifts, it’s best to know when to stop.
Assuming one was in possession of the requisite grasp of Italian, it would have been fascinating to have sat in on the product planning meetings at Portello, when Alfa Romeo’s strategists were initially scoping the 1972 Alfetta saloon. Because, looking at it from the distance of close to half a century, it’s difficult to ascertain where this model was intended to fit into the existing model hierarchy. Sitting above the by then rather elderly 105-Series Giulia, but below the latter’s closely related 1750/2000 Berlina sibling, the Alfetta was an entirely new model, with the potential to Continue reading “Under the Knife – When You Should Just Let Things Be”
Despite being an all-conquering touring car champion, the Alfa Romeo 155 wasn’t the commercial or critical success its masters intended. But a subtle, if significant facelift salved its reputation.
Despite its long-in-the-tooth underpinnings and carryover passenger compartment, the Alfa Romeo 75 became a relatively successful and well-regarded sporting saloon until its commercial demise in 1992. The ultimate evolution of the 116-series which made its production debut with the 1972 Alfetta, the 75 excised many (if not all) of the earlier models’ inherent design flaws – most notably a lengthy, tortuous and unwieldy gear linkage owing to its rear transaxle layout.
In 1986, Fiat Auto acquired the Alfa Romeo business from the state-owned body who had been administering it in ever-decreasing circles, and with a successor to the 75 by then a priority, the 167-series 155 model was hastily developed, entering production in 1992 at the former Alfa Sud plant at Pomigliano d’Arco in Campania. Continue reading “Under the Knife – Racing Certainty”
During its thirteen-year lifespan, Fiat’s D-segment saloon went under the knife on four different occasions, with varying degrees of success.
The Fiat 132 was launched in 1972 to replace the 125 Berlina. The latter, although a pleasant enough car, had always suffered somewhat from the inaccurate perception that it was little more than a Fiat 124 in a party frock. Both cars shared the same doors and passenger compartment but the 125 had longer front and rear ends and an 85mm (3.5”) longer wheelbase, courtesy of a platform carried over from its predecessor, the Fiat 1500. This allowed the rear seat to be pushed back slightly to liberate a little more legroom. Notwithstanding the similarity to its smaller sibling, the 125 achieved over 600,000 sales during its five year production life.
Today DTW recalls the 1994 Ford Scorpio Mk2, a car that defies any attempt at rational analysis or explanation.
When Ford launched the Scorpio* Mk1 in 1985, it did so in five-door hatchback form only. This surprised some observers, knowing the resistance that Ford had faced to the hatchback Sierra three years earlier from conservative buyers who preferred the saloon format. Even more surprising was the absence of an estate version, given the popularity of the Granada estate in both Mk1 and Mk2 forms.
Just as with the Sierra, a three-volume booted version was added to the range in December 1989. Estate buyers had to wait until January 1992 for the launch of that version, which coincided with a facelift of the whole range. The facelift was a competent if relatively minor overhaul, comprising a smoother front end with larger light units and smoked tail lights with a matching filler panel at the rear. The saloon forwent the hatchback’s concealed C and D-pillars for a more conventional six-light DLO and was a handsome and imposing design. It was also well equipped and remarkably comfortable over long distances, making it an excellent executive (hire) car.
2007’s X-Type facelift illustrated how one can do more with less.
Few cars are created with an unlimited budget – after all, such a bounteous situation is no guarantee of an inspired result. On the other hand, budgetary restrictions are rarely a recipe for a successful product either. Certainly, when Jaguar’s 2001 X-Type was being scoped during the latter part of the 1990s, the Ford-controlled British luxury carmaker wasn’t exactly awash with cash, even if by then they were at least making money rather than haemorrhaging it as they had been, only a few years earlier.
X400 (as the X-Type was termed at Jaguar) formed the core of the blue oval’s growth strategy for the leaping cat, aimed at catapulting the marque into the big league with annual sales in excess of 200,000 cars. A hugely ambitious programme, which also encompassed the refitting of the otherwise defunct Ford Halewood plant in Merseyside; this latter aspect ladling such costs upon the programme that anything less than total success would be viewed as failure.
Jaguar never quite settled on the 2005 XK’s styling.
For a marque with such a rich stylistic heritage, Jaguar’s relationship with the automotive facelift has been a decidedly patchy one. Even during the creative heyday of Sir William Lyons, the second bite of the visual cherry (so to speak) often left a slightly bitter aftertaste.
Given the timelines, and the circumstances surrounding his appointment, it is perhaps a little unfortunate that the first Jaguar production design Ian Callum would oversee would be a replacement for the long-running and by the turn of Millennium, increasingly dated (X100) XK model. This GT, hastily concocted in the unseemly aftermath of Ford’s hostile takeover married the two-decade old XJS platform with a (then) new, more voluptuous body style. Continue reading “Under the Knife – Call Me Indecisive”
The 2007 XJ facelift was tasteless as it was expedient. But there are things we can learn from it.
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.
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.
A facelift is sometimes an indication that all is far from well with the car’s manufacturer.
In 1958 Humber cars introduced a new body style which was sold under the Hawk and Super Snipe labels. The Super Snipe was the more expensive of the two. For the last word in Humberness, there was the Humber Imperial which was the same as a Hawk and a Snipe in terms of the bodywork but which had “a vinyl roof, automatic transmission and hydrosteer power steering as standard… electrically adjustable rear shock absorber settings, a rear heater and optional West-of-England cloth-trimmed seats”.
When only basic proportions are giving the game away
Plastic surgery may not be limited to people’s faces, but only on few – usually bizarre – occasions do the stylists tempering with flesh and bone go for a change of the entire body. However, in car design, the situation presents itself rather differently: the choice is between either just a facelift or the full Monty. Continue reading “Theme: Facelifts – Bodylifts”
The it really should never have worked but it did facelift: 1983’s Ford Fiesta
The 1976 Ford Fiesta’s sales successes made it so ubiquitous that its appearance ceased to be either noticeable or remarkable. This however belies Köln-Merkenich’s initial design, which under the stylistic leadership of Uwe Bahnsen was neat, well executed and had, by the tail end of the ’70s, worn well. However as a new decade began, it began to Continue reading “Theme: Facelifts – Festie’ Refaced”
Could there be anything wrong with trying to design cars that can avoid an automotive face-lift?
When Simon came up with this topic we all immediately thought of the classic facelift disasters. Then there were the handful of acknowledged facelift successes; these have been touched upon by DTW at various points over the month.
We are also aware that some firms make a routine of “mid-cycle refreshes” as they are termed by those in the know. And this is probably to be deplored since facelifting a car means either a) the first attempt was not good enough or b) the company indulging in planned obsolescence. To which we can add c) the product actually is long-in the-tooth and it really needs some very obvious re-styling to distract from that fact. Continue reading “Theme : Facelifts – Does Your Car Pass the Facelift Test?”
The 2004 facelifted S-Type had it all to do. Unfortunately for Jaguar, it came too late.
While the 2004 facelift to the Jaguar S-Type could never fully excise the visual scars left by its predecessor, it did re-present them in a more broadly palatable form. Given that the original 1998 X200 remains something of a stylistic horror show; the result of an amalgam of three individual styling prototypes unhappily stitched together by Jaguar stylists under a reactionary Ford management, just about anything would have served to Continue reading “Facelifts – Winning the Battle, Losing the War”
For the very rich there are two modes of consumption.
One is to buy the latest thing and replace it as soon as something better comes along. The other mode is to buy something that lasts forever like a castle or a Bristol. The Filton-based firm was a small one and prided itself on the quality of its vehicles. And they are cars that last, being capable of almost indefinite service life, much like a castle, as it happens.
You can’t polish a turd, but can you sully a diamond?
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 US 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 manufacturer who didn’t come up with something new for each season was not going to be taken seriously.
It was no oil painting to start with, but the facelifted C5 was ghastly.
Dan Abramson’s 1994 Xanae concept signposted Citroën’s entry into the compact MPV sector, but additionally, its styling came to inspire an entire generation of production Citroën’s, each displaying an incremental diminution of creative execution. The Xanae’s conception was overseen by Art Blakeslee, drafted in from Talbot to preside over Citroën’s styling after the allegedly rancorous departure of Carl Olsen in 1986. Continue reading “Theme : Facelifts – Dîner pour Chiens”
Driven To Write descends into facelift hell. Pray for us.
Today’s foray into facelift hades stems from recent past. The original 2003 R230 SL series was a good 65% less attractive than its far more accomplished (R129) forebear. Nevertheless, amongst the less than stellar offerings emerging from Sindelfingen under design chief, Professor Peter Pfeiffer during the post-Sacco era, R230 in its original form was at least broadly cohesive.
In the fond past such matters would have been beneath them – largely because the design would have been sufficiently well judged in the first place. In the old Vertical Affinity, Horizontal Homogeneity days Mercedes-Benz were never in the habit of carrying out anything but the most perfunctory of facelifts, but by 2008 Sindelfingen was well and truly in the fashion business. Continue reading “Theme : Facelifts – New Adventures in Rhinoplasty”
It’s been going on for so long now, it almost seems a tradition. Fiat’s styling has always been variable. They have produced some great designs and some disappointingly dumpy ones, often in the same generation. But what is constant is that, when it comes to facelift time, however good or bad the original was, the facelift is always worse.
There are various theories I can offer and, not being a Fiat insider, that is all I can do.
In the repository of automotive facelifts, this example is something of an aberrant one. BMW’s E65 7-Series is commonly and perhaps justifiably regarded as BMW’s ‘they’ve gone stark raving bonkers’ moment. Adrian Van Hoydoonk’s styling was on one hand a genuine breath of fresh air, yet at the same time, a visual challenge of epic proportions.
The facelift, once a rather quirky thing, has become accepted. A nip, a tuck, a chop, a stretch. No-one seems embarrassed. Your Editor is aware of these things because, much as he would prefer to always shop at Fortnum and Mason, circumstances (thank you Eoin and Sean) dictate that he has to stand in supermarket queues with everyone else. Therefore he cannot avoid the temptation to browse through those strange little magazines on offer beside the tills and read about these things.