Little Wonder

The 1978 Midas and its talented creator appear largely forgotten. Neither really ought to be.

1978 Midas. (c) bright-cars

Even amongst those who breathe petrol vapour for pleasure, Harold Dermott is not a household name. And this is a pity, for he is intrinsically linked to two of Britain’s cleverest and most dynamically accomplished enthusiast cars. That they represent polar opposites upon the affordability spectrum is largely irrelevant – both are equally rare sights today.

But while one is rightly celebrated as arguably the pinnacle of road-car development, the 1978 Midas remains a neglected automotive footnote – a matter which not only belies the craft and ingenuity of its design and construction, but also speaks volumes as to how the automotive world values its innovators and outliers.

Having graduated with a BSc in mechanical engineering, Harold Dermott joined BL in the early ’70s, working on engine development for Jaguar. However, following the notorious Ryder Report, prospects looked bleak for a young, ambitious engineer, and having departed the embattled carmaker, he obtained the rights to Continue reading “Little Wonder”

Summer Reissue: The Vision Thing

I really ought to begin with an apology. Yes, him again…

Image credit: (c) motorauthority

Today’s reissue began life in another (now defunct) sphere, one where a good proportion of Driven to Write’s readers and (virtually) all of its editorial team took their initial steps. It was then titled, ‘Oh Dear God, Not Bangle Again!’ and one can readily imagine a similar exclamation from the combined DTW readership in light of this.

One of DTW’s very first articles, and at the time, something more of a hagiography, its subject remains as polarising a figure now as he was when it was first written. However, since then, not only has Mr. Bangle returned to the automotive fold (for better or worse), but perhaps sufficient time has now elapsed and perspective gained to Continue reading “Summer Reissue: The Vision Thing”

End Too Soon

The automotive universe reels as a giant leaves the stage.

Image credit: (c) toledoblade

It wasn’t supposed to end like this. The plan had been to anoint a successor in 2019, perhaps even bow out having secured the deal to end all deals. For almost a decade and a half, FCA’s Sergio Marchionne has been the master of the unexpected, but the sudden news regarding his deteriorating medical condition has brought a controversial reign to a premature, troubling and somewhat ambivalent end.

From his appointment as Fiat CEO in 2004, Marchionne appeared not to have bothered to read, never mind adopt the auto-business-CEO handbook. Arguably the first post-factual auto boss, Marchionne’s stock in trade has been to Continue reading “End Too Soon”

The Tailor of Goodwood

Rolls-Royce has lost its design director, just weeks after launching its new Cullinan crossover. Coincidence?

Visible from space? Image credit: (c) Forbes

It wasn’t earth shattering news, even if it was somewhat surprising. The most striking thing about it perhaps was its timing. But even allowing for that, the news that Giles Taylor abruptly resigned his design leadership position at Goodwood within weeks of a major new product announcement might not even have been particularly noteworthy, but for a number of rather more compelling aspects.

The first of course is difficult to miss. Indeed, some have suggested Cullinan can be seen from space, where we’re reliably informed, nobody can hear you scream. The vulgar monstrosity RR has unleashed upon the world in the form of this ‘high-sided vehicle’ has precipitated a high percentage of commentators, both of the professional and armchair variety giving Rolls-Royce a well-deserved critical lashing.

It’s possible to Continue reading “The Tailor of Goodwood”

Crossing Continents : Part Two

Having made a less than critically acclaimed stab at reinvention with Ghia’s 1996 Sentinel, Lincoln’s Gerry McGovern hit the bullseye with the 2002 Continental concept.

Image Credit: Top Speed

With the Jack Telnack era of design leadership coming to a close in 1997, Ford’s styling centre in Dearborn entered a new phase under J. C. Mays, who following a two year stint as design consultant for the Blue Oval, was selected as Ford’s new design Veep. With a new face came a new broom, Mays telling journalists at the time, “I have been brought in to make some changes and I fully intend to do that.”

With eight Worldwide styling studios to manage, Mays more consensual approach would Continue reading “Crossing Continents : Part Two”

The Circle Game

The Arese merry-go-round has a fresh face in new CEO, Tim Kuniskis. Will he enjoy better fortune than his predecessors, or will it simply be more of the same?

Tim Kuniskis. Image credit: thenewswheel

Who’d take on a basket-case like Alfa Romeo? A marque with almost boundless potential for greatness, yet equally one with an unimpeachable aptitude for tragi-comic reversals of fortune. A state of affairs which is rooted in successive management failures – from those amid the semi-state Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale who oversaw Alfa’s affairs until 1987 and subsequently, the individuals Fiat Auto appointed to Continue reading “The Circle Game”

German Ambassador – Karl-Heinz Kalbfell

The history of the motor industry is littered with lost causes and alternative realities. Today, we look at one of the more poignant examples.

Karl-Heinz Kalbfell. Image credit: speedweek

Even in automotive terms, Karl-Heinz Kalbfell is not a household name, although perhaps he ought to be. The late German engineer and product supremo enjoyed a stellar career at BMW and in 2004, landed what appeared to be not only a dream job, but one which promised truly great things.

Kalbfell, an engineering and marketing graduate, joined BMW AG in 1977, gaining responsibility for such programmes as Continue reading “German Ambassador – Karl-Heinz Kalbfell”

The Company You Keep

Alfa Romeo’s choice of ‘brand ambassador’ is inspired – and telling, maybe in more ways than intended.

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The new face of Alfa Romeo, in front of a non-Alfa Romeo, photo (c) Kinja

Unlike so many ‘brand testimonials’, Giovanni Giorgio (or Hansjörg, as his mother referred to him) Moroder isn’t the kind of person who caught the public eye for all the wrong reasons. He never had his own reality TV show or featured in a programme of this kind as a guest. He didn’t enjoy a very public, tabloid-filling affair of the romantic or some other variety.

Giorgio Moroder is merely a pop music giant. Which makes his appointment as ‘brand ambassador’ for Alfa Romeo’s still relatively new Stelvio SUV appear Continue reading “The Company You Keep”

Paths Of Glory

The most visual social media network, Instagram, provides car designers with the perfect platform to present their work. Or themselves. 

Screen Shot 2017-12-05 at 18.05.02
Nothing Can Keep Gordenstagram Down

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”

Hot and Cool. (But Mostly Hot…)

With the third generation CLS, Mercedes-Benz dials down the Purity while ramping up the Sensuality. Oh Gorden!

Blessed be his name. Prof. Dr. h.c. Gorden Wagener, Chief Design Officer, Daimler AG. Image: mercedes-benz

Having trudged through Mercedes-Benz’s predictably hyperbole-laden press release for the new CLS, (so you don’t have to) the temptation to point both barrels feels overwhelming, but the author nevertheless promises to do his best. Instead, I’d like to reflect upon whether nu-CLS embodies a return to form for a model which perhaps did more to Continue reading “Hot and Cool. (But Mostly Hot…)”

Thou Shalt Not Poke Fun

Compiling a list of The 100 Prettiest Cars Of All Time sounds like a fairly straightforward task. Until you ask Chris Bangle to cast a vote… 

chris_bangle-1
Chris Bangle, photo (c) car blogger.it

AutoBild Klassik, one of the leading German publications in the field, is currently celebrating its 100th issue with a list naming the 100 most beautiful cars of all time. The jury tasked with naming the entries includes quite a few illustrious names, such as that of Peter Schreyer, Leonardo Fioravanti, Paolo Tumminelli, Simon Kidston, Gorden Wagener, Henrik Fisker and Laurens van den Acker, among others. One name that isn’t included though is that of the most significant car designer of the past twenty years, Christopher Edward Bangle. Continue reading “Thou Shalt Not Poke Fun”

It’s Dare!

BMW’s daring X2 crossover breaks new ground by changing the rules, thereby ruling the game. No really – it totally does.

You’re totally not supposed to ‘read’ those grey bits. Stop looking at them! Image: autorevue

Invent Yourself

In the BBC comedy, 2012 and it’s spinoff, W1A, the standout character is that of Brand Consultant and head of PR agency Perfect Curve, Siobhan Sharpe, played with considerable aplomb by actress, Jessica Hynes. In the show, Siobhan is engaged, enthusiastic, totally on-zeitgeist. Her dial is set to communicate, yet lacks a filter or indeed much in the way of genuine insight. As a communicator, Siobhan never seems to Continue reading “It’s Dare!”

Idée Fixe [3]

In this final part, Steve Randle concludes his proposal for a latterday successor to the seminal Citroën DS. 

Image: citroenvie

Previously, we explored styling, power unit and drivetrain. Today, Steve Randle outlines his thoughts on body structure and vehicle dynamics.

Structure:  “Aluminium and magnesium would dominate the vehicle. The recycling problem with composites – particularly thermosets – are a concern. While both Aluminium and magnesium alloys are expensive in the first instance, they are easy to recycle.” Continue reading “Idée Fixe [3]”

Idée Fixe [2]

In this second part, Steve Randle commences his treatise on how he would shape a credible modern-day successor to the original Citroën DS.

Image: adac

Steve Randle: “First and foremost, while this car would carry the history of its ancestors proudly, it must above all not be a ‘me too’ exercise. The questions have changed since the DS, and hence so too must the answers. An attempt to recreate the DS would be self-defeating by its own definition. We should pause to consider the vehicle from which Monsieur Macron will emerge before the waiting world. It most certainly is not a DS7 Crossback.” Continue reading “Idée Fixe [2]”

Idée Fixe [1]

The idea of an authentic full-sized Citroën now appears entirely beyond imagination. But some of us still think otherwise. Thought experiment or idle fancy, we make no apology. Citroën matters.

Image: freecarbrochures

Why Citroën matters is a question worth asking, although why it has ceased to matter; both in the minds of its PSA masters and more importantly still, the wider public is perhaps a better one. But how to make Citroën matter again is the question we are here today to address. Continue reading “Idée Fixe [1]”

Tom Tjaarda

Car designer Tom Tjaarda has died. He was 82. DTW takes a look back at his career.

1959 Ghia Selene, Tjaarda´s first car: 95octane.com

Two things stand out about Tom Tjaarda. One was the prolific and varied body of work: the 1976 Ford Fiesta, the de Tomaso Deauville, the 1964 Ferrari 330 GT2+2 and Fiat 2300 coupe. The other thing is that he wasn’t as well known as Giugiario, Gandini or even quite a few younger designers with only a few cars from the same brand to their name.

As well as having talent, Tjaarda arrived in the world of car design at a time when there was considerably more room to flourish, not unlike Danish architect Arne Jacobsen – both had space into which their abilities could be projected.  Tjaarda designed a wide range of cars and Jacobsen could do everything from door handles to buildings. Continue reading “Tom Tjaarda”

Theme: Rivals – Wolfgang Reitzle vs. His Ego

Despite arguably being the most gifted automotive engineer and manager of his generation, Prof Dr Wolfgang Reitzle would only ever enter the captain’s chair once he left the car industry for good. 

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Dr Wolfgang Reitzle with his second wife, TV presenter, Nina Ruge, photo (c) handelszeitung.ch

It is one of automotive history’s more baffling paradoxes that a man of such undisputed talents as Wolfgang Reitzle never reached the post of chief executive at an automotive business. But as with a great many other high achievers, it actually was the same traits that had brought Reitzle so close to the apex that ultimately prevented him from arriving there.

Continue reading “Theme: Rivals – Wolfgang Reitzle vs. His Ego”

Non-News

As I roved about the internet, I found this odd non-news-as-news. Despite mentioning a merger with VW, Sergio Marchionne has no interest in a merger with VW.

Sergio Marchionne and friend: Reuters

The story features a very entertaining photo of Mr Marchionne with President Trump.

It’s a rather baffling snippet. Marchionne floats an idea and then says he is not interested in it and, in so doing, explains all the reasons why it would be a good idea anyway. But he’s not doing it. He’s a puzzling chap. As I see it, VW has nothing at all to gain from taking over FCA with its army of problems and horde of underperforming models. VAG makes more money selling alloy wheels and trim options on the Seat Leon than Alfa Romeo makes on its entire line-up (infinitely more). FCA will disintegrate in due course, leaving VW to Continue reading “Non-News”

Making History – Jeff Coope Interview (part two)

In this concluding part of DTW’s interview with the National Motor Museum’s Jeff Coope, he outlines his vision for the museum’s future.

Image: BMIHT
Image: BMIHT

A former motor engineer, Jeff Coope is perhaps unique amongst senior colleagues at Gaydon in that he doesn’t have an old car of his own to tinker with at weekends; a matter of some amusement and no little embarrassment for someone in his position. This probably explains why the previous day he’d been out test driving a variety of Triumph TR6’s with a view to purchase.  “It’s interesting, he tells me, you put you hand on the injector fuel rails for the PI injection system on a TR6 and it’s alive! What else do we make that has a pulse? Effectively, we’re lighting little fires under bonnets aren’t we? Controlled fires at a huge rate and we’ve refined that to great art, although we’ve probably taken it as far it can go now, relatively speaking.” Continue reading “Making History – Jeff Coope Interview (part two)”

Creativity Crushed?

When two of the most prominent car designers recently left their posts, each left a ‘legacy’ awkward SUV model behind. Coincidence?

screen-shot-2017-02-16-at-14-25-24
Two awkward SUVs, photos (c) http://www.motortrend.com

Most commentators were astonished when Luc Donckerwolke, one of the most high-profile design directors at Volkswagen Group, decided to leave the German giant behind and join Hyundai’s nascent Genesis brand. Was it the allure of receiving the call of his former boss, Peter Schreyer, that made him leave his post as Bentley’s chief designer and depart for South Korea? Or was it simply a matter of giant paycheques changing hands?

Continue reading “Creativity Crushed?”

Making History – Jeff Coope Interview (part one)

Driven to Write speaks to the man helping ensure the British Motor Museum in Gaydon is future-proofed for future generations – Director of Operations, Jeff Coope.

British Motor Museum Collections Centre. Image: BMIHT
British Motor Museum Collections Centre. Image: BMIHT

Ensuring the past continues to address the future is a challenge all museums face. To stay relevant they must evolve – or die. Jeff Coope is the man at the sharp end. Having overseen the transformation of what was known as the ‘Heritage Motor Centre’ into today’s British Motor Museum, his ambitions for the facility go much further. The current purpose built Gaydon museum was formally opened in 1993, but despite being supported by industry donations and from the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust itself, it struggled to sustain itself financially. Continue reading “Making History – Jeff Coope Interview (part one)”

Brave and Interesting – Steve Randle Interview Part Two

From Panhard to BMW’s i-Series, Steve Randle talks cars – and bikes. 

Steve Randle with his 1972 Citroen SM. Image: Steve Randle
Steve Randle with his 1972 Citroen SM. Image: Steve Randle

For a motor engineer constantly in pursuit of the next innovation, Steve Randle’s interest in older machinery proves a little disarming. These include a frankly enormous collection of road cycles.  “Bicycles are about as close to perfect as it gets, they’re such delightful, elegant things. You can get help for drugs and alcohol but for cycling, nothing can be done.”  Continue reading “Brave and Interesting – Steve Randle Interview Part Two”

Brave and Interesting – Steve Randle Interview Part One

Driven to Write meets an industry high flyer.

Image: AeroMobil
The AeroMobil in prototype form. Image: AeroMobil

Speaking with engineer, Steve Randle these two words crop up a good deal, but if ‘brave and interesting’ describe the vehicles and engineering solutions that inspire him, it’s also a fairly accurate description of the man. With a career encompassing Jaguar, McLaren Cars – where he was responsible for the suspension, engine mounting system and dynamic package for the legendary F1 supercar – through to projects at his own engineering consultancy with clients as diverse as Bentley, JCB, Tata Motors, and the Ministry of Defence, Randle’s bushel has up to now been well hidden, to say nothing of the light therein. Continue reading “Brave and Interesting – Steve Randle Interview Part One”

Thirty Times ’40 – Jim Randle Interview : Part Four

In the last of this series, Jim Randle describes a Jag with a jinx, XJ40’s presentation to the press and outlines his principles for suspension design.

Jim Randle. Image: Auto Didakt
Jim Randle. Image: ©Auto Didakt

During Jaguar’s brief period of independence, senior management were tasked by Chairman, Sir John Egan to spend time at dealerships, selling cars, meeting customers and seeing issues first hand. Randle was a keen adherent of this policy, holding the record for the most cars sold in one evening. I wondered if he identified himself or chose to remain incognito. Continue reading “Thirty Times ’40 – Jim Randle Interview : Part Four”

Theme : Film – Director!

At a pinch, you might find some old footage of Donald Stokes selling buses to Cuba, or Len Lord playing golf, but one car industry boss had a richer celluloid catalogue. 

Jensen Director
Image from Richard Calver – http://www.richardcalver.com

The only new car launch I have attended was in 1969. It took place in Harrods, and all I knew was that it was to be a Jensen. Jensen had introduced their Interceptor and FF three years previously, so I wondered what this could be. A four door version? A mid-engined sportster? A convertible? I was intrigued. Continue reading “Theme : Film – Director!”

Thirty Times ’40 – Jonathan Partridge Interview – Part Two

In this second part of our interview with Jonathan Partridge, XJ40’s foibles come under the spotlight.

Image: Jonathan Partridge/Jaguar Heritage
Image: ©Jonathan Partridge/Jaguar Heritage

If Partridge views XJ40 with a degree of ambivalence today, it’s partly that his team dealt with the bulk of negative customer feedback firsthand, and on early cars, it didn’t always make for very edifying reading.  “A lot of features were good, you know: corrosion protection, anti-lock braking yaw control, the rear suspension, [but] then the whole electrical thing with low current earth line switching and all the micro-computers was ambitious and at the end of the day I guess they over-stretched themselves. Continue reading “Thirty Times ’40 – Jonathan Partridge Interview – Part Two”

Thirty Times ’40 – Jim Randle Interview : Part Three

In part three, Jim Randle speaks candidly about what was possibly the XJ40’s most controversial aspect – its advanced electronics system.

Image: Auto-didakt.com
Image: ©Auto-didakt.com

It’s been suggested in the past that Jaguar were over-ambitious in attempting to introduce electronic controls into XJ40 when this technology was still in its infancy, but Jim Randle points out a key precedent. Preparing XJ-S prototypes in the early 1970’s, he produced a carburettor and an electronically controlled version for comparison purposes, making the following discovery. Continue reading “Thirty Times ’40 – Jim Randle Interview : Part Three”

Thirty Times ’40 – Jonathan Partridge Interview – Part One

As we continue our XJ40 commemorations, we examine the car through the prism of sales and marketing with Jaguar Heritage’s Jonathan Partridge.

Image: Jaguar Heritage
Image: ©Jonathan Partridge/Jaguar Heritage

There’s more than one dimension to the back story of any car. Up to now, we’ve concentrated primarily on the ’40 from an engineering perspective, but today, we examine the car’s legacy with Jonathan Partridge, former Product Strategy Manager who over a lengthy career at Jaguar, oversaw the marketing strategy for a host of saloon programmes, culminating with the 2007 XF. He is currently Vehicle Collection & Communication Manager with Jaguar Heritage at its Gaydon nervecentre. Continue reading “Thirty Times ’40 – Jonathan Partridge Interview – Part One”

Thirty Times ’40 – Jim Randle Interview : Part Two

In part two, Jim Randle talks about the challenges facing Jaguar’s styling team, and skewers a few more holy orders along the way.

Image: automotorundsport.de
Image: automotorundsport.de

Possibly the toughest hurdle Jim Randle and his engineering team faced with XJ40 was finding an acceptable style for the car. The twin imperatives of reducing complexity and drag inducing features while retaining a recognisable Jaguar silhouette led to years of indecision and delay, but who was actually responsible for the eventual car’s style? Continue reading “Thirty Times ’40 – Jim Randle Interview : Part Two”

Thirty Times ’40 – Jim Randle Interview : Part One

To mark the 30th anniversary of XJ40’s launch, we speak exclusively to former Jaguar Engineering Director, Jim Randle.

Image: taketotheroad.co.uk
Image: taketotheroad.co.uk

If the XJ40-series’ legacy represents a series of lasts, then chief amongst them is that it remains arguably the final mainstream British series production car to embody the single-minded vision of one man. Because if a car could embody the personality and mentality of its creator, then XJ40 is Jim Randle, whose stamp is all over its conceptual and engineering design. Recently Driven to Write spoke exclusively with the father of the ’40 to re-evaluate the final purebred Jaguar saloon.  Continue reading “Thirty Times ’40 – Jim Randle Interview : Part One”

DTW Summer Reissue : Len & Now

Recent talk of 5 cylinders causes our Editor to conflate two of his pieces from DTW’s very early days

Len Brik Cover

Many thanks to Eoin for his kind mention below of my recent little volume on Sir Basil Milford-Vestibule. I’ve been putting away the research material of late and was leafing through the long out-of-print autobiography of Len Brik, who will be remembered by many of us longer serving types as the charismatic Chief Engineer at Victory Cars.  Following the merger of Victory Cars with Empire, he came into close rivalry with Sir Basil. Len was entirely self taught and there was mutual loathing between the two men. Sir Basil is usually reported as referring to Brik as ‘The Blacksmith’, though more exactly he used the phrase ‘The Blacksmith’s Dull Apprentice’, whilst Brik returned the compliment with ‘Sir Beryl’. Continue reading “DTW Summer Reissue : Len & Now”

What Anders Did Next

Last month’s news of head of MINI design Anders Warming’s precipitate and unexplained departure from BMW as was a shock to the industry comparable to Chris Bangle’s exit in 2009.

BORGWARD Group AG - Anders Warming
Image: Borgward AG

That may be as nothing compared with the news of his new appointment as Borgward AG’s Board of Management member responsible for Design, to begin on 1 January 2017. He is belatedly reversing the trend begun by Wilhelm Heinrich Gieschen, Karl Monz, and numerous others who took the one-way journey south from Bremen in the early 1960’s to create the new BMW in Borgward’s image. Except of course, neue Borgward is headquartered in Stuttgart, and answers to Beijing. Continue reading “What Anders Did Next”

Sir Basil Milford-Vestibule. An Interview

In a recently unearthed transcription, Simon A. Kearne matches wits with engineering legend, Sir Basil Milford-Vestible. 

Image: fab50s
Image: fab50s

It has been long assumed that Sir Basil Milford-Vestible never gave interviews, but a moth-eaten copy of The Journal of Automotive Progress – Spring 1959 number recently came to light in Simon’s attic. In a World exclusive, the mercurial engineering genius gossips about rivals, takes issue with aero and heaps vitriol on the double chevron.

Continue reading “Sir Basil Milford-Vestibule. An Interview”

Eternal Flame Surfacing

Chris Bangle – the case for the defence.

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A youngling designer, Photo (c) pakwheels.com

Close your eyes and imagine a car designer who actually has something to say. Who doesn’t just repeat the marketing fluff as dictated by his employer’s PR people. Who understands that there’s a world beyond the automotive, and, simultaneously, a world the car, inadvertently or not, helps to shape. The man this is referring to is none other than one Christopher Edward Bangle. Continue reading “Eternal Flame Surfacing”

Whatever Happened To… Enrico Fumia

We asked that question a while back. Quite by chance I found this concept car done by or under the superivision of Signor Fumia.

2006 Lancia J: source
2006 Lancia J: source

The idea revolves around symmmetry. From such excercises one learns how much one takes for granted in the form language of a conventional design. This is Enrico Fumia and the side profile of the car. Continue reading “Whatever Happened To… Enrico Fumia”

Theme: Glamour/Disappointment – The Rise And Fall Of Henrik Fisker

 As a car stylist, you’re only as good as your last design. Oh dear…

henrik_fisker
Would you buy a watch from this man? Photo (c) http://www.stuartmcclymont.com

Once upon a time, there was a dashing Dane who, it appeared, could do no wrong when it came to creating sleek, elegant, timeless shapes for sophisticated sports cars. A mere decade later, little of this reputation remains intact – which also taints his past body of work. I am writing this as someone who used to hold the talents of this particular designer in high regard. Despite my lack of enthusiasm for retro design, I registered an attention to detail in the BMW Z8 he helped pen that outweighed my reservations regarding the very concept of that BMW 507 pastiche. Continue reading “Theme: Glamour/Disappointment – The Rise And Fall Of Henrik Fisker”

Theme : Glamour – Grit in the Mascara

An old-fashioned Glamour Girl, or an unlikely precursor of Girl Power. We look at Norah Docker’s Golden Years.

One of the more tasteful ones - Blue Clover
One of the more tasteful ones – Blue Clover

In the period after the Second World War, and the long climb out of austerity, the Dockers were the visible end of the malaise of much of UK industry, particularly the motor industry. Most car companies had been started by hard working individuals, often from humble backgrounds, and their energy and ambition had allowed them to prosper, But, by the middle of the Century, many had become personal fiefdoms, run by bosses who were, at best, paternalistic philanthropists such as William Morris (Lord Nuffield) and, at worst, greedy and self-important incompetents.
Continue reading “Theme : Glamour – Grit in the Mascara”

Christmas Competition

‘Talent borrows, genius steals’, the saying goes. It’s still bad manners though.

photo

As Editor, it is with grim satisfaction that I note, with a New Year approaching, the enormous PR machine that lies dormant beneath the DTW offices might need to be put into action to reconsider our ‘World’s Least Influential Motoring site’ strapline. Continue reading “Christmas Competition”

Art Fitzpatrick

The prolific and incredibly talented Art Fitzpatrick has died. We take an appreciative look back at his remarkable body of work.

Image by Art Fitzpatrick and Van Kaufmann: cardesignnews.com
Image by Art Fitzpatrick and Van Kaufmann: cardesignnews.com

We have featured a number of Fitz and Van’s illustrations at DTW over the last two years and we are very sorry to hear of his passing. His work was an inspiration to many in car design and anyone interested in drawing.
Between 1959 and 1971 Art Fitzpatrick worked with former Disney illustrator Van Kaufmann to create lush and evocative imagery for GM cars, primarily Pontiac. Continue reading “Art Fitzpatrick”

Theme : Disappointment – All Steam & Mirrors

We look at a literal piece of Sixties vapourware – The Lear steam car

Lear & Turbine

One person’s disappointment is always another person’s gratification. We have seen this over the past few years as various electrical vehicle projects have been announced. Many people have been open-minded about their feasibility, but many more have allowed other agendas to make them either blindly enthusiastic, whatever the scheme, or similarly antagonistic.

In the late 60s, the extra-urban EV was not a practical proposition in any way, unless it was followed by a trailer full of lead-acid batteries or a very long extension cord. The once-mooted gas turbine had come to nothing. However, the need to do something about the environmental effects of the internal combustion engine was on the agenda, so there was an impetus to look at other types of propulsion. Continue reading “Theme : Disappointment – All Steam & Mirrors”

George Barris – A Kustomary Farewell

George Barris, builder of modified cars, died last week after a full life.

The Hirota Merc
The Hirohata Merc : Image customcarchronicle.com

The creator of such novelties as the Batmobile and the Munster Koach, he was also a prolific customiser to the Stars when, on a (very) slightly less excessive scale, he produced vehicles for a plethora of celebrities. Back in the Sixties, my dad made occasional trips to the USA and brought back various insights into, what seemed then, a rather different culture. There was an LP by the novelty horror actor John Zacherle, including the song Dinner With Drac which had the lines

For dessert there was batwing confetti
And the veins of a mummy named Betty
I first frowned upon it
But with ketchup on it
It tasted very much like spaghetti! Continue reading “George Barris – A Kustomary Farewell”

Müllering VAG (Part 1): Walter de’ Silva Retires

The troubles and subsequent changes at Volkswagen AG have led to an unforeseen departure.

Walter de' Silva, to whom the German media liked to refer to as 'Walter Maria de' Silva' in a case of ill-advised pedantry, Photo (c) http://carplace.uol.com.br
Walter de’ Silva, to whom the German media liked to refer to as ‘Walter Maria de’ Silva’ in a case of ill-advised pedantry, Photo (c) http://carplace.uol.com.br

Walter de’ Silva, overall head of the entire group’s stylistic development and one of the most powerful men in this line of business, has chosen take early retirement, merely a few weeks after having become appointed president of Italdesign, Audi’s semi-independent design branch. Continue reading “Müllering VAG (Part 1): Walter de’ Silva Retires”

Lyons, Sayer, Lawson, Callum… And Then?

Few car manufacturers are as closely associated with their styling director as Jaguar is.

Ian Callum himself, Photo (c) iancallum.com
Ian Callum himself, Photo (c) iancallum.com

Ian Callum, the current incumbent, is acting as both the premier brand ambassador, as well as in his main capacity of aesthetic pontiff. But even the prominent Scot will have to hand over reigns eventually. The question is: to whom? Car designers have turned into their respective brand’s figureheads over the past decade or so. Gone are the days of tie-wearing boffins who tinkering away their days in draughty studios, hardly ever to see the light of day, not to mention the limelight. Today, for better or worse, designers have become the speakers of their employers. Continue reading “Lyons, Sayer, Lawson, Callum… And Then?”

Bryon Fitzpatrick, The Drawing Machine.

Car Design News reported the death of the car designer and educator, Bryon Fitzpatrick.

Bryon Fitzpatrick liked to draw large sketches: artisan-ideaskillproduct.blogspot.com
Bryon Fitzpatrick liked to draw large sketches: artisan-ideaskillproduct.blogspot.com

Bryon Fitzpatrick might be considered one of the godfathers of car design education. In the absence of a proper industrial design course in Australia. As CDN describes it: “Fitzpatrick studied at Queensland Technical College in Brisbane where he pioneered the study of Industrial Design: “The subject of Industrial Design wasn’t offered there in the 1950s, so he went to the head of school and said that’s what he wanted to do,” Bryon’s son Leon has shared with [CDN]. “They basically assembled it themselves – drafting, furniture making, visualisation – which also included courses from the US.” Having done that, Fitzpatrick set off in search of a work and career, to Australia, Denmark (where he designed for B&O), Germany (for Ford under Uwe Bahnsen) and on to the US. Continue reading “Bryon Fitzpatrick, The Drawing Machine.”

‘A’ Departure

What with all the kerfuffle regarding Ferdinand Piech’s stepping down from his post as leader of VAG’s board of directors this summer, it went by almost unnoticed that an era was ending at BMW, too.

Norbert-Reithofer-BMW
Norbert Reithofer, Photo (c) http://ecomento.tv/

Norbert Reithofer is not what one would call ‘showy’. He’s gifted with neither the shock-frosting stare of a Piech nor the gunslinging attitude of a Bob Lutz. Reithofer’s hint of a Bavarian accent and non-boisterous delivery were the most noteworthy elements of his public appearances.

So far, so unexceptional. In keeping with BMW traditions, the end of Reithofer’s tenure also wasn’t accompanied by bells and whistles – it’s as though the office of ‘A’, which is what the CEO of BMW is traditionally being referred to internally, is merely being rented out to another tenant (former head of production, Harald Krüger, to be precise). Continue reading “‘A’ Departure”

Mega-Size Me

Marchionne’s Merger Mania Examined – Again. Where Driven to Write leads, the mainstream press follow: Autocar finally gets around to examining the Marchionne plan. 

Don't panic, there's a high percentage wool mix in this jersey. After all, a man's got to have standards.
Don’t panic, there’s a high percentage wool mix in this jersey. After all, a man’s got to have standards. Image credit: (c) motorionline

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes. Recently, one of our readers took us to task over our coverage of FCA’s latest product plans, suggesting we were being unduly negative about them and about FCA’s knitwear enthusiast-in-chief. It’s easy to see why, but at least we have been applying our critical faculties to the subject – something that has (up to now) been conspicuously absent in the mainstream automotive media. Continue reading “Mega-Size Me”

The Men Who Made the ’40 – Jim Randle

In the second of our postscripts to the XJ40 story, we profile its architect.

Untitled-1Randle2

“To meet Jim Randle and to talk to him is to go into a quiet and refined world. Randle is a precise, immaculately tailored executive, whose voice is pitched so low you immediately know why an XJ12 is so refined.” (Motor historian, Graham Robson)

When auto journalists profiled Jim Randle, the same adjective just kept cropping up. Following the dapper and avuncular William Heynes and the professorial Bob Knight, Randle was an engineering chief from Jaguar central casting. Quiet spoken, brilliantly clever and refreshingly free of ego, Randle was the engineer’s engineer. Continue reading “The Men Who Made the ’40 – Jim Randle”

There’s Something About Mary

Has FCA’s on-off romance with GM entered a new phase?

'I'm sexy and I know it...' Sergio on the pull. Image via benchmarkreporter
‘I’m sexy and I know it…’ Sergio on the pull. Image via benchmarkreporter

Last week two seemingly unrelated news items landed, which taken on face value elicited only mild interest. But to a cut-price Max Warburton such as myself, the two stories add up to something a good deal more intriguing. Continue reading “There’s Something About Mary”