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”
Call me a Luddite, hurl vitriol to my face, shake your head in disbelief, but one thing cannot be denied. Since strolling onto this site as a wet behind the ears enthusiast, the act of reading, researching and writing about cars has improved my level of knowledge to that of a rounded enthusiast. Few can ever learn everything, but the journey is often more interesting than the destination. And as the saying goes, if beauty is only skin deep, here, the inner beauty of the car is allowed, encouraged even, to shrine through.
Formula One was something of a catalyst, showing the way with their tyre temperature thermal cameras, often making for more excitement than the race itself. Witnessing those temperatures rise and fall drew me like seagulls to tractor’s rear amid a freshly ploughed field, dazzled as those pale blues and burning reds danced a Celsius Cabriole, if you will.
Obviously we see but the tyre, only the sensors (and cameras) can permit such internal vision. Having these secrets revealed has made me Continue reading “X-Ray”
From DLOs to DRGs. Pillars, A through (occasionally) D, manufacturers and commentators spend countless hours unpicking these traits. Directives about placement, rules concerning dimensions, legislative measures, crash tests and, finally, the greasy paws of the customer. However much we admire (or admonish) a car’s looks, our first point of contact with any is that oubliette feature: the door handle.
Through an exhaustive half hour lunch break during the no longer recent summer – cobalt blue skies and the mercury nudging thirty degrees – my gaze became fixed upon the indents and recessed areas our digits seek out in order to Continue reading “For the German Bands”
Geologists, and specifically palaeontologists, have concerns about the degree to which the fossil record represents the variety of life that has existed. Something similar applies to those interested in older cars.
This Ford Escort might be compared to the fossil of a plant-eating dinosaur, a representative of a class that was quite numerous, but which has left a unrepresentatively small trace in the fossil record. For your information, the meat-eating dinosaurs were known for their preference to Continue reading “A Photo For Sunday: 1974-1980 Ford Escort”
During a conference on ugliness, the participants wondered if something could be ugly and still worth a further look.
I didn’t mention this car but I could have done. We’ve discussed here the marked difference between this and the predecessor; this example exemplifies Mercedes’ dropped standards of material quality and diligence of assembly. Even when tatty, the W-126 retains dignity, like an old tweed coat with a few patches. The W-210, in contrast, never looked good new and when the polycarbonate lenses become clouded and the MB star has fallen off, it becomes even worse. Continue reading “Theme: Materials – Decay II (1995 Mercedes W210)”
Cars start decaying the moment they are built. Some manage to accumulate character while most don’t. What do you do?
One response is obsessive polishing and maintenance. The other is stoic acceptance. For many the response is to oscillate in between the two, starting with careful stewardship of the new possession. Why do people fight physics? And why is it that cars don’t last longer? Continue reading “Theme: Material – Decay”
There’s a paucity of new materials being used. Does an old construction technique have a future?
Early aeroplane construction made use of fabric stretched over a lightweight frame. Ex test pilot Charles Weymann adapted this technique for car bodies, patenting his construction method, selling patents and opening factories in France, Britain and the USA in the early 1920s. Using flexible joints for the underlying timber stopped unseemly squeaking, hidden wires held the doors in shape, and the ‘fabric’ comprised layers of chicken wire, muslin, cotton and, finally, self-coloured synthetic leather. Despite the fragility of the structure in the event of an accident and the risk of rotting fabric, the system was well-received and used extensively by coachbuilders. However, as metal body technology improved, by the early 1930s, demand had declined drastically although the technique continued to be used on bus bodies in the UK and the name Weymann continued on until the end of the 80s, when one-time transport manufacturing giant MCW (Metro Cammell Weymann) was broken up. Continue reading “Theme : Materials – Stretch-Fit”
Not by any account the first all-glass hatch, the 1978 Triplex 10-20 Glassback however brought glazing technology into the modern era.
BLMC’s AD071 Princess cleaved faithfully not only to Harris Mann’s original concept, but also to Donald Stokes’ vision for advanced engineering and ‘durable‘ styling in addition to time-worn BL tropes of skewed commercial ambition. Hailed (initially at least) as a visual success, the Wedge as it became known, never gained sufficient traction with the buying public; its styling proving divisive and with reliability woes poleaxing its reputation. Continue reading “Theme: Materials – Triplex 10-20 Glassback”
We reach for the Carnauba Wax and Ostrich Feather duster, then have second thoughts.
There’s something both satisfying and unnatural about a clean car. Cars aren’t like people on any level but, specifically, because they are never going to improve with age. Cars don’t have a difficult teenage period then bloom into mid-life vigour. Apart from a running-in period which might ease up a few parts, and running-in isn’t a big deal anyway these days, cars are on the downhill path from Day One… Continue reading “Theme : Materials – Keeping It Clean”
Originally carpenters made horsedrawn carriages with wooden bodies. They carried this technology over to the horseless carriage.
Then it became clear that for large scale production, a saw, hammer and some nails would not be up to the task. Design involves choosing a balance between what the material needs to do and how it can be formed. The appearance emerges from this compromise – the required look can drive material selection and vice versa. Often the balance is not even something at the forefront of the designer’s mind if they are working out of habit or tradition. Continue reading “Theme: Materials – Body Building”
The humble little Imp was a trendsetter in several ways. But I’m not talking about pneumatic throttles… not today anyway.
Question: Does the 1963 Hillman Imp feature the earliest European production example of a ‘glassback’ or opening rear window? I’m going to stick my neck out and say it does. Yes, the 1959 Austin A40 (Farina) Countryman’s split tailgate arrangement could be said to predate it, as indeed did that of the earlier Chevy Nomad but I’m discounting both on the basis that not only is there a solid looking steel pressing holding the glass in place, it also forms part of a hinged drop-down section. (An arrangement the Range Rover cleaves to). Continue reading “Theme: Materials – Glassback Imprimis”
Imagine a car from the first decade of the 20th Century, with a big windscreen made out of the same sort of glass used in house windows in front of the driver. Some cars could get up to a respectable speed and if, by chance, you hit something, going through the front windscreen would be like skydiving into a greenhouse. Continue reading “Theme : Materials – Reflections on Glazing”
Metal, Glass and Rubber were once the main materials used in any car, plus leather or cloth on the seats and roof and, probably, a bit of timber, either used superficially, as decoration, or maybe structurally. Except for the odd sliver of mica or ceramic and a bit of horsehair, that was it. Continue reading “Theme : Materials – Introduction”