Apart from matters of horsepower, handling and ashtrays car design is a lens through which one can view a number of philosophical questions.
So today I will have a go sketching out what these might be. This list is not exhaustive, and is more a set of sign-posts pointing at some on-going problems which may not be resolvable: form versus function, aesthetics, semiotics, hermeneutics, phenomenology, approaches to engineering design. I wouldn’t Continue reading “Car Design And Philosophy”
Clandestinely, a minor piece of both automotive and architecture history has been destroyed. And not in Italy either.
Austrian-American car importer, Max Hoffman, is best known for his crucial role in establishing European (mostly West German) car makers in the US market after the Second World War. What is less well known is the fact that Hoffman, was a bonafide connoisseur of architecture.
As such, Hoffman was particularly fond of the seminal work of Frank Lloyd Wright. For this reason, Hoffman commissioned the architect to Continue reading “Wright or Wrong”
Two of the more storied automotive marques happen to have owned representative headquarter buildings at some point. The respective fates of these edifices has proven somewhat poignant.
High-rise buildings inevitable lend themselves to illustrate human hubris. As the building of a monument to oneself is among the least humble of acts imaginable, skyscrapers typically invite less-than-kind comparisons: From the bible’s Tower of Babel to JG Ballard’s High-Rise, architecture aiming for the skies regularly acts as a metaphor for an aloof state of mind.
The automotive industry, whose core business of selling a commodity finds itself in constant battle with that product’s simultaneous role of a social entity, is even more prone than others to Continue reading “A Tale of Two Towers”
Recently I received a very interesting e-mail from a certain Kelley Montieth (Mrs) from the Global Central Bank.
The message informed me that due to a banking error, 893 million euros remained unused from a sewage development project in Alice Springs. Mrs Montieth said that (I quote verbatim) “IF I COULD RETAIN THIS MONEY FOR TWO DAYS” on behalf of the Global Central Bank I would Continue reading “Falling Off the Carousel”
The most visual social media network, Instagram, provides car designers with the perfect platform to present their work. Or themselves.
In a sense, Harley Earl was too early (no pun intended). If he’d waited three quarters of a century before pursuing his career as chief designer and PR innovator, he wouldn’t have needed lavish GM roadshows and the likes to showcase the fruit of his and his underlings’ labour. He could just Continue reading “Paths Of Glory”
DTW’s editor, Simon A Kearne, would like to wish all our readers a very happy Christmas.
Simon would write this if he were available. He has taken a well-deserved break at his usual getaway in the Malverns and has delegated the work. On his behalf then, the team hopes also that our numerous continental readers have had a lovely 24th of December. Continue reading “A Star Appeared One Silent Night”
It’s the Christmas break for many of our readers. Naturally you will be spending quality time with Driven To Write now that you have some free moments. What can we recommend you enjoy responsibly?
I have gained access to editor Simon A. Kearne’s “filing cabinet” and have been sampling some of the adult beverages therein.
Lillet is known for its blanc version (a favourite of James Bond). The less well-known Lillet rouge can be understood as a thinking-person’s Dubonnet. If you’ve tried to Continue reading “Christmas Tipples”
No longer content with the surly bonds of earth, with this Rocheresque alliance with Emirates, the Blessed One’s ambitions have truly taken wing.
Everybody (and their dog) wants at the very least to touch the Blessed One’s hem, and after all, who can blame them? Having successfully reinvented Mercedes-Benz as the last word in modern purity and sensual luxury, the frail ties of the auto business were never going to be sufficient to hold his-blessedness to our leaden promontory, when he can Continue reading “High Flying Adored”
This slightly tatty motorcycle caught my attention recently. It’s a Moto Guzzi V-twin, labelled “Indian”.
For anyone who’s ever enjoyed looking at an engine and trying to find out which bit does what, such a device is a pleasure to behold. The V-2 is arranged longitudinally to the body, presumably for better balance and cooling. The engine rests in a tubular frame which is also clearly visible. Pretty much every important part is easy to find which means that you can Continue reading “Ambling Between the Walls”
Summer is a time for sitting about somewhere new. If you are sitting about on holidays you need two things: something to read (Driven to Write) and something to drink.
And a chair. Three things then. Driven to write has a host of articles for you to trawl through and there will be another one due in a few hours. As you are sitting about you are not driving so you can enjoy a tipple. We can recommend a few things. Continue reading “Summer Drinks For Relaxing With DTW”
It’s that time of the year again, so in honour of Le Tour de France, we reprise this piece in praise of the racing bicycle.
(First published by Eoin Doyle in June 2014)
The sensation of speed is often as much a function of proximity as it is of velocity. The less there is between you and the road below, the more immersive the experience, as any Caterham owner will tell you as he attempts to draw your attention away from the rain soaked, hand-tooled moccasins he knew he shouldn’t have worn. But really, if you want to experience speed at its most unadulterated, the racing bicycle stands supreme. Continue reading “Theme Of Themes : Speed – VELOcity”
In 1964 my Dad made one of his visits to the USA and brought back with him ‘The Latest And The Greatest’ by Chuck Berry. At least that’s how I remember it but, as any Berry anorak will tell you, that album was a compilation record put together by Pye in the UK. So did they export it only for it to be returned, did my Dad become such a Berry fan on his visit that he bought it locally as soon as he came back, or is it all just a false-memory? You never can tell. Continue reading “Theme : Rivals – The Cat Takes The Bird”
Aside from the car collection, the Louwman Museum has an extensive collection of ‘Automobile Art’. But are car paintings ever any good?
Ever since the first photograph was produced, the ‘Death of Painting’ has been trumpeted but painting still carries on. One reason of course is that the camera only catches the momentary image – it doesn’t always explain what is happening or why it is happening. Equally in today’s Photoshop world, it’s reasonable to forecast the ‘Death of Photography’. Certainly it is partly dead – most of today’s more glossy motoring magazines would find it hard to produce a cover, or even a main article image, in an unadorned state. Continue reading “Louwman Museum IV : Capturing The Moment”
We end this month’s theme with some good news for those of you mourning the loss of Simca.
We live in a world where brand has an enhanced currency. Familiar names are forever cropping up in unfamiliar places. Clothing manufacturer’s names appear on cars. Car manufacturer’s names appear on clothes. But, in terms of sheer scale, the continuation of the Simca brand takes some beating, being applied to 270 acres of lush, jungle covered island. Continue reading “Theme : Simca – Retirement Home”
In terms of prose and style, Porsche’s advertising certainly couldn’t keep up with the modernism of the company’s flagship GT. Yet the Swabian virtues persisted.
Given the amounts of thought, devotion and creativity that went into the creation of Porsche’s landmark 928 coupé, it comes as a bit of a surprise that the ’78 vintage brochure of the car isn’t terribly advanced in terms of layout or prose.
The overwhelming sense is one of pride and Swabian thoroughness, with just a hint of ’70s glamour and cosmopolitan flair added. Double pages are devoted to the 928’s being awarded ‘Car Of The Year’, obviously, as well as its design and engineering development process.
The Editor is amazed at quite how quickly time flies. Is it really three years?
One most inclement evening in February 2014 two of my principals convened in the snug of a South London hostelry. The webpages of Driven to Write went ‘live’ that day, meaning the public were free to peruse its content. Sean and Eóin had already stocked the site with pieces written over several previous weeks. Now it could be seen. Think of it like opening a new restaurant. Would customers come? Would they want what was on offer? Had the toilets been cleaned? Continue reading “Driven To Write : Three Years Old and Still Proudly Uninfluential”
The more I have considered this month’s theme, the more I have realised that it is far too wide ranging. Compromise is everywhere in our lives, or at least in mine. I could write about any topic and, in very little time, the subject of compromise will come up.
Last week I sent off my driving licence for my first ever speeding endorsement. After 48 years. Damn, it could almost have been a full half-century. Still that’s impressive, no? Actually, no it isn’t. The circumstances of the fine are irritating, but I can’t complain. To have lasted this long says a fair amount about my vigilance, a bit more about our policing, and a lot about my good luck. Continue reading “Theme : Compromise – Setting a Limit”
Necessity might be the mother of Invention, but her second child is named Compromise.
For anyone with an ounce of petrol in their veins, few experiences necessitate compromise more than parenthood. Children may be small, but their interminable things are not. The gravitational pull of a gurgling baby Katamari attracts hitherto unimaginable mountains of clutter.
A car is for more than driving to Ikea, the shops and the petrol station.
On the way we are supposed to enjoy the experience (driving dynamics and all that) yet they are a means to an end point, aren’t they? So, how much of car ownership is about the idea of going somewhere nice whenever the mood takes you? This provides me with the opportunity to reflect a little on the destinations I have not yet reached with a car. Continue reading “Theme: Places – Destinations, Take 2”
‘Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour…’
I’ve already expressed my infatuation with the confines of the underground car park. Now I visit the other extreme, my desire to Climb Every Mountain – as long as I can do it in a car. Although I’ve shaken off most my youthful fears, some things remain. I’ve always hated heights for instance, even though a part of my working life has involved climbing ladders and towers, but I’ve never been at my ease. And take me to the edge of a precipice and the inevitable desire to either launch myself off it or to run away takes hold. So I guess I’d make a lousy mountaineer. But put me in a car driving along the edge of that precipice at 100kph and I’m fine. Mid-Summer sun, torrential rain or snow are all fine by me too, though the last does demand the right tyres to make it less of a gamble. And the view from a mountain top is one of those rare times you do get a reasonable and refreshing confirmation of your own insignificance. Continue reading “Theme : Places – Mountains”
Much driving tends to be routine: schools, works, shops, petrol stations and futile trips to Ikea…
…where you remember why it is you hate the place and never want to come back. I am quite far along with that resolution now. It has taken about 14 years to realise that everything they sell is worse than useless and that even focused purchases such as a child’s desk will end in disappointment (the hole in the top surface for the lamp cable is very annoying).
When I was 17, a few months after passing my driving test, I took the family Fiat 124 up to London on my own. This was the first time I had driven in a city and I was both wary and excited. Various bits of that trip remain vivid. Although the M4 was opened by then, I came in on the A4 Great West Road so that I could pass the various factories at Brentford, including the Art Deco Firestone Factory. I remembered these from the back seat during earlier trips with my parents, and they seemed an essential part of the romance of visiting London. After Hammersmith I joined Cromwell Road and found myself in the centre lane of quite fast moving traffic rising up a flyover on a left hand curve. This seemed a great challenge, but I held my nerve and learned Rule One of City driving – as long as there’s space ahead, just keep going, don’t lift. Continue reading “Theme : Places – The Multi-Storey”
One drives at a sedate 120 kmph along the Danish motorway to the border with Germany. Not so long ago there were guards controlling this boundary.
One stopped or came to a rolling halt. If you were sufficiently ethnically correct you’d be waved through. Or, if they didn’t like the cut of your jib, a quick look at the passport might have been required.
Either way, one usually had to go from standstill or walking pace back up top speed (unrestricted on the German side). At this point I commonly experienced a shock as a car doing light speed would zoom past, seemingly having accelerated from near-zero (just like me) to 220 in the time it took me to get to
This time the link is a little simpler. The three cars are the 1981 De Lorean DMC12, the 1981 Triumph Acclaim and the 1981 Bitter SC. The year of launch is not the required answer. Continue reading “Connect the Dots : 2”
I invited readers to find the links between the 1963 Hillman Imp, the 1970 Cadillac Eldorado and 1995 Peugeot 406 (I showed a coupé). This is my solution:
It’s not the shortest path. Peugeot manufactured the 406 coupé. The 406 replaced the 405 which Peugeot manufactured at Ryton-in-Dunsmore, in England. That factory formed part of the Rootes group which Chrysler bought in 1967, including the Hillman brand. The Imp was part of group’s range. One of the designers of the Imp was Mike Parkes who died while working on development of the Lancia Stratos (not in the car, at the time of). Marcello Gandini designed the Stratos but also cars for Maserati who were once part-owned by Chrysler. He also designed the Renault Super 5 which succeeded the original Renault 5 (or Le Car). The Le Car was sold in the US by AMC for whom Larry Shinoda worked as a consultant. One of Shinoda’s colleagues was Bill Mitchell and he was the chief designer of the 1970 Cadillac Eldorado.
It’s about roads. A lot of them are a bit too big.
This thought could have occurred to me anywhere in Western Europe but I had it while driving along a motorway-grade road in the middle of Gothenburg, Sweden. Do we really still want 20 metre-wide roads in our cities? And if speed limits are falling in cities, why do we still have roads designed to facilitate rapid driving? Continue reading “This One Isn’t About Cars”
People who love both cars and films love car movies, right? It’s not quite as simple as that, though.
A life without films and cars would be a terrifying prospect to me. I’d have to spend whatever spare time I’ve got cooking and eating, both of which are pastimes with inherent limits in terms of the worthiness of their pursuit. Continue reading “Theme: Film – Undriven”
We look at what once went on in the supposedly dark hours of broadcasting.
Around my middle teens, I was in dire need of displacement activity. Anything to put off revising for exams in those early Summer months. What better than the television. Naturally, back then, there wasn’t 24 hour broadcasting, and there were no afternoon movies, soaps or reality encounter shows. But there were Trade Test Transmissions. Continue reading “Theme : Film – Between The Gaps”
This is an odd subject for a site devoted to automobiles. Have we made a bit of mistake? Can we avoid another?
Two items appeared on the ghostly, glowing timewaste that is my iPhone. In one article the CEO of Lyft, John Zimmer, observed that Americans were pouring away an average of about $9000 a year owing a car. He estimated the occupancy rate was about one percent given that most cars have four seats and are used less than 5% of the time. The Lyft chap predicts car ownership in cities will decline markedly in the next decade: “Every year, more and more people are concluding that it is simpler and more affordable to live without a car,” he wrote. “And when networked autonomous vehicles come onto the scene, below the cost of car ownership, most city dwellers will stop using a personal car.”Continue reading “Joining the Dots”
Car people talk a lot about a car’s behaviour, but what about the driver’s?
A few months ago, our theme was ‘Values’. The term ‘a set of values’ is often used by those self-aggrandising people who want to take moral high-ground and suggest that they, but not other people, have an honourable code by which they act in all things. I’m suspicious of people with inflexible moral rules, either for themselves or other people, but, of course, you can’t analyse each and every situation you find yourself in, so we do tend to develop standard responses to identifiable situations. Continue reading “Morality, Integrity and Etiquette”
In Part 1, we charted the genesis of the New Routemaster. Now, after intense anxiety counselling, DTW’s intrepid correspondent braves the world of public transport in order to see what it’s actually like.
My own view of the New Routemaster’s aesthetics is that they deserve full credit for avoiding any direct references to the original. The lines of the windows are not all mere graphics, they follow the stairs as they drop from the top deck, which would be more pleasing, rather like a piece of old-school modernist architecture, if they didn’t they sit at odds with the curved roof and the pinching as the line drops from the rear right hand corner is clumsy. Rival manufacturer Alexander Dennis was certainly impressed since their recent Enviro 400H copies the glazed staircase. At the front, the asymmetry of the original is hinted at by the diagonal windscreen line dropping right down to the bottom of the door. Little items such as the rear view mirrors seem a crude afterthought, but I like the fact that the exterior avoids some of the fussy detailing favoured by many in the bus and coach industry in the false belief that they make their vehicles look less ‘municipal’.Continue reading “The New Routemaster Bus – Part 2 : ‘Old On Tight, Guv’nor!”
There are two names connected with the New Routemaster London bus, Boris Johnson and Thomas Heatherwick.
The latter is a controversial designer, feted and sometimes scorned. He is maybe, in stature if not style, the UK’s Philippe Starck. Someone who is obviously clever and ambitious, and doesn’t want to be hemmed in by specialising in a particular field. The same, of course, can be said of Mr Johnson which, one might assume, is why they gelled. The original Routemaster, let’s call it RM, a vehicle never a bus stop away from having the ill-used adjective ‘iconic’ added to its name, was a product of a very different era. It was never designed to attract tourists to Brand London but its longevity on the roads meant that it became an ingrained part of the city, viewed with affection by all those who didn’t get stuck on the rear platform on a freezing Winter’s day. Continue reading “The New Routemaster Bus – Part 1 : Room For One More, Love!”
Now that the kaleidoscope has been shaken, what lies ahead for the UK automotive sector as it calculates the cost of Brexit.
In the months leading up to the EU referendum the likely fallout of leaving the European Union was known and quantifiable. Every respected financial and business body urged remain, citing economic turmoil should the nuclear option be taken. So while major multinationals probably had every permutation of Brexit modelled and case-studied, according to figures from the BBC, less than 50% of UK businesses developed a contingency for an exit vote. Now, just over a month since Brexit day-zero, only one thing is certain – we face a wholly new idea of North. Continue reading “Taking Leave (of Our Senses?)”
When confronted by a question of taste, I always ask myself, what would Bryan Ferry do?
[First published Oct 10, 2014]
My extensive research has thrown up a nice example of a sub-set of a subset, designer accessories for designer editions of mass produced cars. It’s Gucci fitted luggage for the 1979 Cadillac Seville. Would Bryan Ferry go for this or not? The Big Two and a Half in the US have been more prone to tie-ins and designer editions of their cars than we have here in the social-democratic paradise of Western Europe. Cartier have been associated with Lincoln; Bill Blass added his magical touch to the understated elegance of the 1979 Lincoln Continental Mk V; there was the 1984 Fila-edition Ford Thunderbird; AMC asked Oleg Cassini – yes, that Oleg Cassini – to trim the 1974 Matador, for example. Just recently I have become aware of the Gucci fitted luggage that came with the Gucci-edition Cadillac Seville, truly a part of this very fine tradition. Continue reading “DTW Summer Reissue: Matching Designer Luggage”
Last month, in Vlissingen in the Netherlands, DTW came across a pram museum. They’ve got wheels, so we’ll write about them.
When I was a student designer, there was a clear difference between the straight from A level bunch, like me, and the ‘mature students’, some of whom were maybe just 3 or 4 years older than me, but who had seen a bit of life. That ‘bit of life’ might have been bumming around the world, or it might have been all that grown-up stuff like parenting, and those people could interest themselves in a project like designing a pram or a baby buggy in a way that I never could. By that, I don’t mean that my ambitions were only to draw ludicrously impractical sports cars – I was quite interested in doing something a bit more worthwhile, especially since, with the Arab Israeli Conflict, the activities of the Baader-Meinhof Group and, as the final nail, Showaddawaddy being near the top of the charts, it was clear that society as we knew it was coming to an end. No, my problem was that I could never really appreciate the difficulty in piloting a clumsy wheeled device with a screaming passenger through a crowded supermarket, since, although I’d read both On The Road and Nausea, I lacked any actual experience of the real problems of life. Continue reading “Caution, Live Cargo!”
Before the internet captured every conceivable niche related to cars, a trip to a German railway station offered a chance to find out about cars from far-flung regions.
If you thirsted after wisdom about the US market, there usually could be found a magazine or two in the Presse shop. As you might have noticed I’ve been auf achse in Germany for most of the month. During that time I’ve travelled by rail from Flensburg to Hamburg and on to Goslar in the Harz and then to Zittau on the Polish-Czech-German border via Dresden; and then I travelled from Schwedt on the Oder river to Bad Bellingen via Berlin and then Continue reading “The State of the Newstand”
In the spirit of fearlessly reporting anything on four wheels, or even more, DTW questions why anyone would want a motorhome?
Whatever the weather might suggest, In Europe we are now in the holiday season. Some of you might be ‘travel as quickly as you can to a destination, then stay put for the duration’ sort of people. And, if you use a holiday as a reason to relax and recuperate, I can’t deny that this is wisest. For myself, I seem to lack the ability to stop still and, if I visit mainland Europe for a week or more, I usually end up putting 4,000 km, at the very least, under my wheels. And whereas I might have a couple of notional waypoints in mind at the start, these are often ignored and I really don’t expect to schedule an itinerary. So booking in advance is a non-starter and the nicest affordable hostelries are usually crammed full by the time I arrive. Continue reading “White Goods : My Other Car’s A Fridge”