Did They Really?

What are we looking at here – is it possible to tell?

2002 Peugeot 307 c-pillar.

In all the excitement arising from recent Opel Astra articles here, we utterly overlooked the events of October 2001. Peugeot UK’s press fleet had a busy time with the launch of the “radical hatch” 307 (as Car called it). Today I will have a closer look at a car I really don’t think about. Rather than dig into its specification and features, I want to ask if we can see it as an example of design vagueness? There is nothing to hang on to, visually. How can we Continue reading “Did They Really?”

Back to Nature

Astra battles West Cork foliage. Foliage wins.

Astra fans of a delicate disposition should look away now. Image: Driven to Write
Astra fans of a delicate disposition really ought to look away now. Image: Driven to Write

Editor’s note [1]: This article originally appeared on DTW on Jan 4 2017. In light of yesterday’s piece, it seemed appropriate for it to make a reappearance…

As middle age steals upon me, I find that many things I still view as contemporary are in reality, decades old. Music, fashion, events – cars even. The subject of this photo is a case in point. Old enough to be dismissed as a banger, yet to my addled mind at least, still sufficiently contemporary for this scenario to appear out of the ordinary.

Yet the Opel Astra G was launched as long ago as 1998, marking a shift in style from the more curvaceous F model which preceded it. In retrospect it appeared to be an attempt by Rüsselsheim to Continue reading “Back to Nature”

Waku Waku?

Sadly not, just a perished rubber seal…

Image: The author.

Now that my company’s premises have finally moved (after 27 years of failed attempts…) memories swiftly return to the family run garage, directly across from the old plot. Dealing mainly in the average, everyday eurobox, pleasant surprises could often appear, sitting forlornly outside, awaiting attention.

The last such surprise before the move was no less than a Honda Stepwgn Spada – sadly not a misprint, but Honda’s way of saying Step Wagon. As for Spada, well, what were they imbibing in Hiroshima? Had swords been this slab-sided, the weapon would have an altogether different history. But drop your nomenclature concerns and Continue reading “Waku Waku?”

A Postcard From Wales (via Trollhättan)

Our man in Sheffield innocently goes on holiday, gets Saabed for his trouble. 

All images: The author.

Holidays: Billed as the great getaway from it all, but even with the nine to five out the window, nerves can still get frazzled, just in different ways. Extra traffic and roadworks, snaking ice cream and café queues, soaring blood pressure under a relentlessly torrid sun, along with phrases I have no wish to hear – staycation being the current one to infuriate. Add to this, the plethora of grey utilities which, no matter how remotely one wanders, seem to permeate every car park, blocking the high streets.

Enamoured more with the mountainous and coastal beauty of Northern Wales’ Llyn Peninsula than perambulating amidst the more populated areas, it was difficult to Continue reading “A Postcard From Wales (via Trollhättan)”

Between Brooklodge and Riverstown

The fading embers of the commercial conflagration of Rover produced a few final sparks. Here is one.

2003-2005 Rover Streetwise. All Images: the author

The errant apostrophe serves as a hint about the state of affairs on the 34th floor at Rover Towers in Longbridge when this car hit the market. Let’s overlook the sub-editorial infelicity and see if we can Continue reading “Between Brooklodge and Riverstown”

Something Rotten in Denmark: Chrysler Stratus

Cab-Forward was the design buzz-word of the mid-’90s. It didn’t age well.

Chrysler Cirrus. In 1995 these cars had the power to thrill. Image: carfigures

This sideways view of the JA-Series was originally published on DTW in December 2014.

This car has two claims to our attention today. The first is that in the cold light of day, it is hard to believe this car and its almost identical stable-mates were once nominated on Car & Driver’s 10 best list. I was not aware of this at the time. The second reason I am drawn to it is because it was the first car I was ever paid to review[1]. I wrote 1,000 words and saw the editor chop out 200 of them, more or less killing the nuances of the text stone dead. I wanted to Continue reading “Something Rotten in Denmark: Chrysler Stratus”

“Blow-ins from Castlejane, no Doubt!”

A special edition Citroën BX, the 1989-1990 Palmares. 

White Citroën BX. All images: the author

It’s named after a place that’s hard to find on a map. It might be in Buenos Aires. This example lurked in a gravelly forecort in the east of Jutland, about half an hour from Aarhus. Seeing it came as a surprise. It has been a while since I had the pleasure of slamming on the brakes and pulling up so I could hop out of the car to take some hasty photographs. The kids simply hate this kind of adult behaviour, that and visits to castles, roadside churches, ancient monuments, striking views and pretty much anything that isn’t a petrol station, shop or other opportunity for retail activity. But, now and again, I insist on making the kids Continue reading ““Blow-ins from Castlejane, no Doubt!””

Keeping it Real

Musings on the US automotive landscape.

Image: the author

I am writing this on our flight home from Chicago after spending ten most enjoyable days exploring the city and surrounding areas. Chicago is one of the great American cities and, with so much to see and experience, it is well worth a visit. Over the past thirty-something years, I have had the opportunity to travel to the US many times for both business and pleasure. One of my abiding fascinations is the country’s automotive landscape and how it has evolved over these decades.

When I first arrived on those shores in the late 1980s, the US car market was still dramatically different to its European equivalent, thrillingly so for a car-obsessive like me. Despite the downsizing precipitated by the 1973 fuel crisis, there were still plenty of US-manufactured ‘land yachts’ traversing the streets of the big cities and the country’s broad highways. American cars retained their highly distinctive style amongst a plethora of different marques, each with its own signature design features. Continue reading “Keeping it Real”

Nicer Than a Pint of Plain at the Widows Pub

The first Renault Kangoo (1997) is now old enough to be a bit of vintage street furniture.

1997 Renault Kangoo in east Cologne, Germany.

You can tell this is series 1 Kangoo because of the fun and slightly incongruent indicator lamps. Renault once had a bit of a habit of putting in one design feature that caused you to Continue reading “Nicer Than a Pint of Plain at the Widows Pub”

Romance in Rougrane Throws Light on the Meadows

 Festival of the Unremarkable.

Ford Fiesta Mk 3 (BE13) circa 1989 seen in Köln, Easter, 2022

For many people Cologne is a city people don’t even know well enough to associate with the smelly liquid that goes by the same name. Due to pure good fortune I had the amazing opportunity to Continue reading “Romance in Rougrane Throws Light on the Meadows”

From Today Until Tonight, Onward They March To Yesterday

The 1990 E31 shown here is an example of what was up to then a rare bird in the BMW cage.

All images: the author.

The E31, also known as the 8 Series, embodied everything BMW knew about making cars. Oddly, it didn’t really move many people, didn’t change the gameplay or influence anyone much. What it did do was to exist as an example of excess everything. It also trotted in a race in which the public had lost interest, the race to make the fastest, most technically accomplished production road car in the world. As it happened, BMW won that contest, zooming over the finish line ahead of the competition(1).

Mercedes-Benz’s much-vaunted W140 S-Class appeared a year later and it too was met with a chilly disdain. (Audi was still trying to Continue reading “From Today Until Tonight, Onward They March To Yesterday”

Three Glasses Half-Full or Half-Empty

Automotive sightings that leave your author perplexed.

Dirty. Image: the author

The striking of a recently repaired nearby church clock signalled the end of another tedious morning in the office, and a fine spring day invited me outdoors to take the air. There followed a pleasant stroll, enlivened by some interesting, if conflicting, automotive observations.

Within seconds of leaving my place of work, the first of three wildly different vehicles caused my automotive radar to blip. It was a current (fourth) generation Mazda MX-5. Not a rare sighting by any means, but the unusually scruffy condition of this particular example gave it an aged, neglected and rather morose demeanour. I inferred from its condition that its driver may have travelled great distances with neither the opportunity nor inclination to Continue reading “Three Glasses Half-Full or Half-Empty”

Arc de Triomphe

The 2006 Citroën C-Triomphe didn’t quite live up to its billing.

Citroën C-Triomphe. Image: carinpicture

Editor’s note: This article was first published in Driven to Write on 24 October 2017. Owing to the poor quality of the original images, stock photos have been used.

PSA announced this particular iteration of their C-segment contender in 2004, a car which replaced the unloved and visually unimpressive Xsara model line. The C4, believed to have been the styling work of Donato Coco and Bertrand Rapatel under the supervision of Jean-Pierre Ploué marked the beginning of a stylistic renaissance at Citroën’s Vélizy design centre. Au revoir to the creative torpidity which characterised the Jacques Calvet era, welcome back creativity. Theoretically at least. Continue reading “Arc de Triomphe”

John Harris Insists You Try

It’s Grin up North…

All images: The author.

Car trials are practically as old as the motorcar itself. Take a vintage automobile and point it in the direction of a steep hill. Throw in muddy, rutted tracks and/or forest areas. Combine this with unpredictable British weather and you have the makings of a most rewarding, if rather sodden day out.

The Setting: A former limestone quarry in the heart of the picturesque Derbyshire dales. Now verdant and a haven for walkers and bike riders, its industrial heritage has become well hidden unless you Continue reading “John Harris Insists You Try”

Making Sense of the Supercar

Ingolstadt does it differently.

Image: newcarnet

Running an errand recently facilitated a rare sighting for me: not one but two first-generation Audi R8s passed me by within seconds of each other. Notwithstanding the pouring rain, I paused to take the pair in, a silver example closely followed by one in black, both on 2008 plates. Hang on, I thought, has the R8 really been around for that long? Longer still, it turns out: launched in hot and dusty Nevada in 2006 following its Paris Salon unveiling, Audi’s everyday supercar has lost none of its sparkle over the intervening years.

Styled under the supervision of Italian design chief, Walter de Silva, the R8 cannot readily be pigeonholed as a conventionally beautiful mid-engined supercar. Instead, it is unorthodox, complex and, in front and rear three-quarter views, most definitely muscular and imposing. Continue reading “Making Sense of the Supercar”

One Beermat, a Coat and a Brass Key (Worn).

Words have an effect, according to an old saying.

Volvo 480 headlamp and bumper plus litter. Image: the author

Journalist Richard Bremner’s ‘Parting Shot’ article on the Volvo 480 in the September 1995 issue of Car magazine is worth another look. I am revisiting it following my sighting of this late example of the car when in Dublin recently. It’s not a car one sees often. Volvo made just shy of 80,000 of them during a nine-year production run, beginning in 1986. Whenever I observe a 480, I think of my first impressions of one I spotted outside the Shelbourne Hotel (good) and Bremner’s caustic words (less good).

The irritating fact is that Bremner’s flippant goodbye to the 480 cast an unwanted pall over what is really an interesting, appealing and notable bit of design work. Volvo considered the design good enough to remind customers they should Continue reading “One Beermat, a Coat and a Brass Key (Worn).”

Your Sleepy Voice Tells Me It´s Late Where You Are

A pleasant encounter on the streets of Dublin.

1989 Lancia Thema – enduring excellence

You might feel that we have featured the Lancia Thema rather too often on the pages of Driven To Write, but I would contend that it makes up for the blizzard of articles on the Citroën DS, Corvette, E-Type and Beetle found elsewhere on the Internet. With that said, here’s another Thema.

I had to double-check the facts: the Lancia Thema first emerged in 1984, launched in October of that year.  Hence, it is something of a shock to realise the Thema’s 40th anniversary is almost upon us.  The message I draw from this is that core industrial design principles amount to an enduring and time-proof way to resolve a product. Continue reading “Your Sleepy Voice Tells Me It´s Late Where You Are”

Blit Spirit

An alien presence in rural Yorkshire.

Image: jpdjapan.com

Our typical Sunday morning walk involves a drive long enough to warm the vitals through, but short enough to get back home quickly, should the capricious Yorkshire weather intervene. We drive through farmland and on to a pretty village where, if it weren’t for the hourly strike of the church clock, time might have stood still for decades.

The automotive  population of the village usually comprises the inevitable assortment of SUVs, so mundane and commonplace as not to warrant a second glance. Today, however, an arresting sight met my eyes in the riverside parking area, an alien presence that had crossed both time and space to land in this rural idyll. The object of my fixation was a Toyota Blit. Continue reading “Blit Spirit”

Something Growing out of Season

An early spring arrival in Sheffield:

All Images: autotrader.co.uk

Goodness, it seems a long winter: early December snow followed by unseasonably mild conditions, yet the days are still too short, the daylight pallid and grey. One looks forward eagerly to spring, when the brightness and warmth of the sun lifts the mood and instils new energy and vitality: folk smile, appear more relaxed and less hurried to retreat indoors – and they change their cars. The swapping of cars can happen at any time, of course, and for wildly different reasons, but the auto trade eagerly anticipates the green shoots of spring for the new business it brings.

On a recent dash for urgent supplies of dried coriander(1), I witnessed a previously unseen and unseasonably early new shoot: where once resided an ignoble looking red Fiesta Mk3, that space had been well and truly filled by a product of Pym’s Lane, a white Bentley Continental GT. In the bright sunshine, one’s hat brim required tipping to Continue reading “Something Growing out of Season”

The Splendour of the Empire He Took With Him Away

Five short years. Not long for such a long car.

1991-1996 Chevrolet Caprice. All images: the author

It was launched 1991. By 1996, GM had given up on their RWD, body-on-frame sedans, a mere five summers later. The last North American market(1) Caprice served really as a stop-gap. Underneath the deceitfully aero-looking body lurked technology dating back to the Carter era. The engine and underbody could be largely swapped between the 1977 Caprice and the 1991 model.

That is not necessarily a criticism. It reflected the fact that the demands placed on big, comfy sedans simply had not changed that much. It also reflected the fact that more and more American drivers wanted to Continue reading “The Splendour of the Empire He Took With Him Away”

The Hidden Side of Affalterbach

AMG: Big in Japan. 

Mitsubishi Debonair AMG. MMC.com

Prior to Mercedes-Benz rule, AMG was not limited to providing its services to just the products bearing the three-pointed star. A 51% subsidiary of Mercedes-Benz since 1999 and completely taken over and wholly integrated six years later, the company established by Hans Werner Aufrecht and Erhard Melcher (the G stands for Grossaspach, the birthplace of Aufrecht) has for obvious reasons been strongly associated with Mercedes-Benz from the outset.

To be sure, some sanctioned outside co-operations with Pagani and lately Lotus and Aston Martin has taken place but before AMG became part of the Stuttgart giant, there was nothing to Continue reading “The Hidden Side of Affalterbach”

Stayin’ Alive (Part 2)

Exiles off main street – a conclusion. 

Austin Yema. Image: Cartype.com/ Autohome.com

Returning to our brief review of the automotive afterlife, we pop across the channel to arrive in the United Kingdom. Bidding here is opened by the Austin Maestro (1982-1994) which ended its days in China as the Yema SQJ6450 in 2010, resulting in sixteen years of continued production in exile. Yema also sold the F12 until 2014 which did use the old Maestro/Montego platform but with a totally different body and interior. Continue reading “Stayin’ Alive (Part 2)”

I Want to Tell You a Story

Singalonga’ Sirion.

Image: Parkers

Mention the name Max Bygraves to anyone under fifty and you will inevitably elicit blank stares. In the 1970s when UK television was in its heyday, Max[1] was the doyen of Saturday night TV entertainment. Crooning a ballad, he would then relocate to his armchair, emit the title phrase (which had the public impersonating, ad Infinitum) to begin his raconteur session, replete in chunky knit cardigan. Adored for years, by housewives and knitwear aficionados alike, he most likely encouraged an entire generation into the pleasures of yarn.

Looking out my workplace window recently, you can only imagine my surprise to find the automotive version of the London born troubadour – a twenty year old Daihatsu Sirion. Cardigans are somewhat unfashionable garments nowadays but this story contains a few twists, as cable-knit. Get settled in your comfiest chair, grab (carefully) a hot drink and a biscuit and Continue reading “I Want to Tell You a Story”

空と、風と遊ぼう

The Suzuki method: Just add joy.

What’s Japanese for ‘Jazz-hands’ again? Suzuki.co.jp

Venturing onto Suzuki’s Japanese Domestic Market web portal is not only a journey of discovery in itself, its colourful site is quite the joy to behold. And should you find the succinctly melodious Alto not to your liking, there’s a whole host of radical, sophisticated and downright interesting models to whet those with a JDM appetite.

Our Western values place freedom, and power alongside that ole chestnut, sex appeal – not to forget the wonders of that new-fangled electricity in brand advertising. Add in easy terms at every opportunity. That’s our way – the choice is yours to accept them or not. The Japanese, to eyes unaccustomed to such a varied culture, appear to promote fun, safety and economy, alongside more subtle allusions to attracting the attention of whomever one is attracted to. Having had electrical cars since Adam was a lad, Suzuki wish to Continue reading “空と、風と遊ぼう”

Stayin’ Alive (Part 1)

Automotive exiles. A two-part study. 

Image: Nairaland.com/ Peugeot/ Favcars.com

The average shelf life of a newly introduced car before it is withdrawn and replaced by a new model has steadily shrunk over recent decades.[1] Whether this is due to the exponential speed at which technology is now developing or simply marketing-driven is a matter of debate, but in a number of cases the cessation of production in its country of origin does not necessarily mean that the car’s production life is over, many car lines continuing to thrive elsewhere around the globe.

There are several well known cases but equally some that have continued their career in relative obscurity. The ubiquitous Volkswagen Beetle will probably jump to mind for many because it was in production for close to 70 years. However, if we Continue reading “Stayin’ Alive (Part 1)”

A Car for Sunday: 1971 Ford Cortina Mk3

Once ubiquitous on the streets of the British Isles, the Mk3 Cortina is now vanishingly rare, and worthy of reappraisal.

1971 Ford Cortina Mk3. Image: The author

Walking through the lanes of the Suffolk market town I call home recently, I happened upon a car that I haven’t seen in the metal for many years. It was an arresting sight.

The car in question was a 1971 Ford Cortina, an early example of the Mk3 generation of Ford’s family stalwart. It was a four-door saloon, resplendent in dark metallic green. The lack of any additional badging on the boot lid and an absence of brightwork indicated that it was an entry-level base model. The cod-heraldic shields on the lower front wings behind the wheel arches proudly proclaimed it was a 1300, the smallest engine option available. Continue reading “A Car for Sunday: 1971 Ford Cortina Mk3”

Gardening Leave

Today we plough a different furrow.

A ram, but not as we know it, Jim: carsguide

Gardening and plucky optimism; British affairs if ever there were. From hoping the weather will turn to running a cheaper, underdog of a motor, this sceptred isle revels in such hopes, however forlorn. 

Starting life as the Proton Wira, which is Malay for Hero by the way, the Mitsubishi Lancer-derived platform gave life to an unpretentious pick-up that caused your author to gasp out loud as not one but three examples were viewed in extremely quick succession recently.

In the UK, Australian and Taiwanese markets, it wore the Jumbuck badge, elsewhere known as the Arena. On sale from 2002-07, the Shah Alam-manufactured pick-up had a market pretty much to itself. As other manufacturers’ furrows lay with larger platforms, diesel engines and distinctly un-British characteristics bordering the violent, Proton appeared quite happy to Continue reading “Gardening Leave”

Espace Invaders

The Matra-Renault Espace sired a number of imitators, but what about outright copies? Bruno Vijverman investigates.

Autodeautos.com/ Renault

The Renault Espace opened up a whole new market segment when it was introduced in 1984 (across the Atlantic the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager did likewise) and as soon as its commercial viability was confirmed, competitors rushed to their drawing boards to join the party. Not long after, several competing brands would introduce their own take on the monospace theme. And although conceptually they obviously followed the trail cleared by Renault, within the styling constraints of the monospace concept they produced designs that remained reasonably faithful to each make’s family appearance.

Years later however two suspiciously similar vehicles would surface in both India and Brazil. Even though one of them only went on sale shortly before the original Espace would be replaced by a new generation model, Renault nevertheless successfully threatened legal action, while the other clone never really reached series production at all. Let’s Continue reading “Espace Invaders”

The Gamine

Dodging bullets, our resident Mr. Miles offers his thoughts on an underappreciated Pentastar. 

Jalopnik

I’m Fortunate enough to have a scenic commute to and from work, the route encompassing rolling hills and open moorland before plunging headlong into suburbia and masses of unwashed vehicles. Vicious in winter, the summer weather has allowed occasional non-use of wipers alongside higher external temperatures, accompanied by regular morning sightings of a car whose rarity increases daily. DTW’s Richard Herriott wrote about the Chrysler Crossfire six years ago. Inspired by his words and my daily flash past this black bolide, I wanted to Continue reading “The Gamine”

Migratory Species

Birdwatching – of a kind. The relevant authorities have been notified.

Stock photo – uncredited

Pity the poor swallow, flying several thousand miles from a baking African continent to settle on these shores for the summer – and the weather turns, even for our country, wintry. The marble sized hailstones play havoc with the birds’ food supply as little flies in such conditions. But these hardy souls return year on year to grace our skies with their aerial displays and high pitched screams, or perched atop a telegraph wire in comedic looking gatherings.

These are common visitors, observed from bucolic scenes to city landscapes. What of those lesser frequenting species, maybe sent off course or whose inner sat-nav has maybe blown a fuse?

Just as bird watchers (or twitchers) squeal with delight on hearing (emphasis on seeing) that something rare has come to town, we car enthusiasts are not so different. For recently, within yards of each other, your author found not one but two such examples of cars on no account previously heard of or seen. With trusty (and in this case metaphorical) binoculars, flask, bobble hat and recording device, one began to Continue reading “Migratory Species”

If A Thousand Clarinets

Creative design and solid engineering count for little when the regime looks in the opposite direction.

Agromobil. Image: autobible.euro.cz

When the (super)powers that be ask you to jump, you tend to ask how high – included in that equation is which way? Late 1950’s Czechoslovakia saw the Ministry of Agriculture ask their most prolific supplier of vehicles, AZNP, to solve the thorny issue of providing a vehicle that would be compact in dimensions, light on its feet, manoeuvrable and be capable of all terrain capabilities. Oh, and whilst you’re solving that conundrum, the army would like to Continue reading “If A Thousand Clarinets”

We Interrupt This Programme

Is that a gun in your pocket?

Image: Corrado Belli

The name of this vehicle has nothing to do with Auntie Beeb, being simply composed of the initials of Messrs. Beretta, Benelli and Castelbarco – all three of them distinctly Italian. The first two names will sound familiar as they are those of the arms maker and motorcycle manufacturer respectively; the third was a member of the Italian nobility.

Pietro Beretta had inherited the family company, founded in the 16th century, in 1903 but found his factories seized by the German army upon the allied invasion of Italy in 1943. When hostilities ended two years later there was understandably little demand for Beretta’s traditional offerings. Postwar Italy – its confidence, its infrastructure and its economy – had to be rebuilt and providing mobility for as many private individuals and businesses as possible was of course one of the vital aspects that needed to be addressed in order to Continue reading “We Interrupt This Programme”

Short Story (Part Two)

Keeping it brief.

Image: automobile

Audi Sport Quattro

The spectacular but dangerous Group B rally class produced some mythical, awe-inspiring cars during its short existence; the Audi Sport Quattro being one of them. Group B regulations required competitors to produce a minimum of 200 roadgoing versions of the car they entered, resulting in an elite group of highly sought after collector’s cars.

Obviously derived from the standard Audi Quattro, the short wheelbase Sport Quattro with its body partly made from Kevlar was not simply a cut-and-shut job. Opening the bonnet one found a 5-cylinder engine alright, but this was an all-aluminium version delivering a potent 306 hp out of a displacement of 2.1 litres: the sub-five seconds 0-62 dash it could propel the Sport Quattro to being highly impressive at the time. Continue reading “Short Story (Part Two)”

Short Story (Part One)

Brevity is an art.

Image: The Author/ Encyclautomobile fr/ Wouter Huisman

Although a much less common course of action compared to stretching a pre-existing vehicle, several car manufacturers have at times explored this avenue nevertheless. There can be several reasons for this; the main ones being motorsports competition requirements, creating a smaller and cheaper entry level variant, responding to customer requests or complaints, and unique geographical market circumstances.

The just for fun variants are left out of the equation here, those (however amusing in some cases), for the most part being one-off amateur concoctions and mobile billboards. Continue reading “Short Story (Part One)”

Grace and Favour

We consider the Mercedes X-Class. No, not that one…

Mercedes CLA Progressive Line. Image: Mercedes-Benz

Much metaphorical ink has spilled forth on the pages of Driven to Write since its 2014 debut, a sizeable proportion of which has been flung in the direction of Sindelfingen’s current styling leadership. Not without justification either, for little of Mercedes-Benz’s stylistic output has risen above the level of banality for longer than we’d care to acknowledge.

Not everyone has been gripped with paroxysms of delirious pleasure over the broadly welcome shift in Mercedes’ Sensual Purity-themed styling away from the more striking forms and graphic elements of yore, with what some might discern as calmness equally being viewed as a lack of definition. Perhaps the most convincing case for that point of view lies with the current era A-Class. The W177 has been with us a number of years now, carving for itself a position in the European C-sector sales charts that might have given VW more to Continue reading “Grace and Favour”

Double Take

Mondeo in Focus. 

Separated by a decade, this pair of blue oval offerings made for an interesting contrast as I walked past on my way into town the other day. Neither the second generation Mondeo nor the saloon version of the third generation Focus[1] are uncommon sights in this part of our moist and verdant isle, but seeing them together, parked tail to tail in this manner lent an element of fascination which might otherwise have eluded them.

The Mondeo, a tidy-looking pre-facelift car is a local fixture, clearly well looked after and is a saloon; a bodystyle which this writer would unscientifically suggest proved more popular than the five-door hatch, which was favoured on the other side of the Irish Sea. I would also posit the view that the three volume Mondeo of this ilk was a very nicely resolved design, and a measure more pleasing to that of the (still handsome) hatch.

The Focus may also be a local for I know; these cars simply do not Continue reading “Double Take”

Look What the Tide Brought In – A Caledonian Curiosity

Ireland’s loss is Scotland’s gain. 

Image: R. Parazitas

It is early spring 2009, and Central Scotland is in the grip of an unexpected invasion. They came by the transporter load, unfamiliar little saloons and hatchbacks, unacknowledged by their Japanese maker. As I pounded the M8, M9, M90, and M74, I was briefly mystified – were they merely passing through, bound for another country? Nissan UK was glorying in a Qashqai-led purple patch – they had gambled the farm on an SUV for Focus / Astra money and hit the jackpot. What place was there for a nondescript and regressive basic transport tool?

If I’d been a keener reader of the nation’s red-top dailies, the mystery would have been solved sooner. Scotland’s largest car dealership chain had secured a job-lot of Nissan C11 Tiidas, originally intended for the Republic of Ireland, and now offered exclusively at tempting prices with an impressive equipment specification.

Had it been any other dealership, I’d have expected that a rap on the knuckles and a reminder of the terms of their franchise contract would have been delivered forthwith. In Arnold Clark’s case, I suspect complicity with Nissan to Continue reading “Look What the Tide Brought In – A Caledonian Curiosity”

OCD plc

A collector speaks.

Image: Batucars

Mocking the afflicted is pointless when practically everyone suffers in one form or another. Collecting after all is part of what it is to be human. Possibly derived from our early hunter-gatherer instincts or maybe we’re just aping magpies – drawn by the shiny, fascinated by the interrelation? Far from being self conscious, my collections are varied; for instance, twelve Citroën books, genres of CD’s, scale model cars.

When you scratch below the surface or try to intuit the meaning, most of it is pointless. But it’s my pointless and over the years they have given me great pleasure. To enhance or alter a mood, my cd collection can rise to the occasion. Should my eyes wish to Continue reading “OCD plc”

Strip Club

Sorry gentlemen, no lucite heels and garterbelts here, just painted metal and blanked out switches.

Image: Balconistasa com

There can be a quiet sort of dignity in an austere car. Shorn of distracting embellishments, the observer has an excellent opportunity to judge the essential purity – or lack thereof – of the design in question. But there are limits to how far a manufacturer can Continue reading “Strip Club”

Failure to Launch

I think it’s gonna be a long, long time…

Image: DPA.com

Muammar Mohammed Abu Minyar Gaddafi: dictator and terrorist to many, hero and martyr to others. The late Libyan ruler has been associated with many things, most of them of the unpleasant variety. But few could imagine the self-proclaimed brother-leader as a car designer. Yet colonel Gaddafi really did order the development of Libya’s first car, and had a considerable say in its styling and design concept, with the lofty aim of producing the safest car in the world.

Colonel Gadaffi named the car Saroukh El-Jamahiriya or Libyan rocket (once a military man, always a military man) and it was unveiled at a special summit of the Organisation of African Unity in 1999, organised to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the revolution.

The car was described by the press officer at hand as an elegant sedan and that Gaddafi “had spent long hours thinking of ways to Continue reading “Failure to Launch”

A Car for Sunday: 1997 Toyota Camry

Not exactly ubiquitous in the UK when in production, this 1997 Toyota Camry was a welcome surprise.

1997 Toyota Camry (c) the author

I have mentioned previously that my rural backwater, while having charms aplenty to commend it, is not exactly a car spotter’s paradise. There are plenty of shiny and expensive new cars around, but few one might describe as interesting, esoteric or left field.

I have also mentioned my habit of heading for the remotest corner of public car parks in the hope of minimising the risk of picking up a parking dent or scrape. Pulling into my local supermarket car park this morning, my usual space was occupied by this Toyota Camry, an XV20 model manufactured between 1996 and 2001. Although a best seller in the US, the Camry barely made a dent in the UK sales charts, so it was an unusual and welcome sight.

In my opinion, this generation Camry was one of the very best in design terms, with a smooth, linear and unfussy style that might owe more than a little to Peugeot’s 605 and 406 models. There is not a single detail of the design I would change, and Toyota’s 1999 facelift merely altered but did not improve the front and rear ends. It stands as a quiet rebuff to the excessively fussy and overwrought fashion that currently prevails in automotive design. Continue reading “A Car for Sunday: 1997 Toyota Camry”

Rockstar Meets Dolphin

Two forms of US retro from the far East. 

Image: The author

Both the Japanese and the Chinese car industry have on several occasions been accused of copying successful examples of their established colleagues in the west. The former never really produced an exact facsimile (cars built under licence such as the Hino Renault 4cv excepted) but rather an amalgam of those styling and engineering details of the competition deemed most worthy to emulate; this practice endured into the eighties but since those times the Japanese have clearly found their own way and are in some cases even leading it.

Having embarked upon mass production of passenger cars much later, the Chinese have taken a much more unscrupulous approach almost from the start; China’s first passenger car, the DongFeng CA71 of 1958 was a virtual, and unauthorised, copy of the Simca Vedette. Several Chinese upstarts continued the practice from there, mostly undeterred by threats from the carmakers in question to Continue reading “Rockstar Meets Dolphin”

Creativité, Rationalité, Pragmatisme

A trio of Citroën oddities in this take on that famous French creed – Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité.

1982 Citroen BX Coupé prototype

Seasoned Citroën fans are no doubt aware that Citroën toyed with the idea of a BX Coupé but never allowed it to reach the production stage; a full size mockup, looking somewhat like a mix of BX and Renault 11 3-door hatchback has survived and can be viewed at the Citroën Conservatoire.

There was however another, far more ambitious BX-derived Coupé in development for a time, also styled by carrozzeria Bertone. This project was initiated early in 1982, some months before the introduction of the BX hatchback at that year’s Paris Motor Show. Surviving documents reveal that this coupé was intended for a higher marketing segment and was also to Continue reading “Creativité, Rationalité, Pragmatisme”

Pumpe Düse

How swiftly time passes – one moment you’re the talk of the town, the next, tomorrow’s chip paper. 

Owing to the poor quality of the original images, stock photos have been used. Image: autoevolution

Recently, a more mature Audi A3 in black arrived in our vicinity. Hardly worthy of a fanfare, especially as my initial introduction to this car was as follows; bonnet up, engine internals strewn roadside, stationary. Owner holding aloft the camshaft, almost trophy-like as I drove by. This did not bode well for such a car. If the old girl posses life, ’tis but a glimmer.

For this version of the PQ34 is now a late teenager – and whilst aged is far from long in the tooth, but now appears to follow a darker path. This new to my locale version of the A3 (Type 8L for you nomenclature completists out there) was manufactured sometime in the latter part of 2001, first registered in January of 2002, denoting this model to be post-facelift version.

With the original only being available as a three door, this five door (Sportback) variant has that cleaned up frontal version of Dirk van Braekel’s urban runabout. The headlight treatment still looks fresh, even when most examples have now taken on that milky effect when plastic ages. Can much light emit from lenses so? The car does have a current MOT pass, an effective guarantee for all matters mechanical… and I Continue reading “Pumpe Düse”

Destined To Shine

Gilded lilies, like most things in life are relative. The Golden Angel Wing however, out-guilds most.

A regular Mercedes (Ponton) 220S. Image: wallpaperup

Like us poor scribes, the brains behind the processes of car making spend countless hours honing and perfecting, improving and re-checking to ascertain the best that is possible at a given moment in time. Midnight oil is a precious resource which, dependant on the individual, can prove somewhat finite, with unfortunate consequences lingering by.

Concerning cars, now factor in updates, facelifts, upgrades – call them what you will – they must be considered. The 1953 Mercedes-Benz W120 (or Ponton as it was better known) was a plain but honest, safe yet somewhat bland quality conveyance. Built primarily in Stuttgart, these one eighties (as they were badged) made impacts the world over. Continue reading “Destined To Shine”

Act of Defiance

Amid the Pandemic’s height, a reminder of a more resilient time.

All images: the author

There is a certain perverse satisfaction in driving what in automotive terms amounts to an old shoe. Banger, beater, clunker or jalopy – whatever term you prefer, once a car reaches a certain level of decrepitude, the keeper soon realises that not only is there no route back, but that they have been released – freed from the grinding tyranny of upkeep. It is now possible to Continue reading “Act of Defiance”

Kiwi? Czech!

From Bradford via Mlada Boleslav to Middle Earth – DTW takes a circuitous (if scenic) narrative route. 

All images (c) Škoda Storyboard.com

The story of an expatriate entrepreneur from Blighty by the name of Arthur Turner, who created an Aoterean automotive empire from a milk delivery business is an unlikely one, but stranger things have probably happened in the Land of the Long White Cloud. Free from governmental import license fees, the Jowett Bradford van delivering that milk proved the spark that lit the Turner flame. Soon enough, the Javelin landed on Kiwi soil, along with Turner’s new facilities to make them there, sadly just as the Bradford firm hit the skids.

Turner sought out a deal with Heinrich Nordhoff who insisted VW could Continue reading “Kiwi? Czech!”

2020 Vision.

We’ll have no shouting here…

Are you sure this is Cork? All images:  CB

Despite life returning to a semblance of normality around these parts over recent months, the sighting of 2020-registered cars remain something of a novelty. Of course cars have been registered – some having even been sold – but in a country where new car sales had already been in state of contraction before the pandemic swept all before it, the current situation facing the Irish retail sales trade must be sobering indeed.

One of the more superficial downsides to this is that sightings of new models, while normally a relatively frequent prospect, have been sporadic at best. Amongst the more recent arrivals to these shores is Opel’s current generation Corsa (none of your Vauxhalls in these parts), but to be honest, and in contrast to the (closely-related) Peugeot 208 which preceded it to market, it has been a comparatively rare sight.

During my twice-daily dog walking duties I Continue reading “2020 Vision.”

Curtain Call (Part 2)

Comecon in and enjoy part two of Bruno Vijverman’s trawl through the former USSR’s automotive waifs and strays. 

Moskvitch 1974 C1. (c) Wroom.ru/ Autodata1 com

Moskvitch C1, 1975

AZLK, or Avtomobilny Zavod imeni Leninskogo Komsomola – which translates as Lenin-communist Youth Union – sold its vehicles under the more palatable brand name Moskvitch (Moscovite). In February of 1975 the C1 prototype was readied in response to a demand for a successor to the dated 412 model. Under its SAAB-esque skin, the work of chief designer Yuri Tkachenko, still beat the 412’s 85hp four; the hump stamped into the driver’s side of the bonnet accounted for by the engine’s height. Sharp eyes may spot the Opel Ascona B headlights. Still, the C1 looked modern- sporting even.

The bad news however was that the C1’s underpinnings were carried over from the car it was intended to replace. One would expect to Continue reading “Curtain Call (Part 2)”

Sighting and Seeing

A Laguna Coupé ought to be both a rare and welcome sighting. But it doesn’t do to look too closely. 

Image: the author

The Renault Laguna, especially in its third and final iteration was a popular car in Ireland. Not popular in Passat or Avensis terms, but sold in quite respectable numbers nonetheless, notwithstanding Irish motorists’ long-standing distrust of the larger offerings from our esteemed French neighbours.

This was all the more surprising really, given the frightful reputation its immediate predecessor earned over its lifespan – riddled as it was by electronic gremlins which cost the carmaker dear, both in market share and in warranty costs. But then, Renault’s Irish importers were (perhaps through grim necessity) somewhat generous when it came to sales incentives. Continue reading “Sighting and Seeing”