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 mop up any sales left over.  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 his principles for rear suspension design.

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

During the Egan-era of independence, senior management were tasked to spend time at Jaguar dealers, selling cars, meeting customers and seeing the issues first hand. Randle was a keen adherent to 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 we spoke exclusively with the father of the ’40 to re-evaluate the last 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’.

Brik took designing on the back of an envelope to new levels, never doing drawing board work himself which he considered ‘poofy’.  On one occasion he handed a sketch to an underling to draw up ‘just as is Sonny Jim’. Maliciously, the underling incorporated the envelope folds as exposed seams and, as there was no time to correct it before a board presentation, Brik had to leave it as was, intending to drop all the blame on the hapless draughtsman’s shoulders. When the design was enthusiastically received, going on to become the classic Victory Diva, he naturally accepted all credit himself.  On another occasion, when doodling a design on a flip top packet of Peter Stuyvesant, he unintentionally put Victory at the vanguard of the hatchback revolution.

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”

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. Autocar’s Michael Scarlett said this; “The manner is diffident, the speech soft… but there is a wicked sense of humour which surfaces in quiet ironies and occasional boisterous amusement”. Quiet and likeable then, but where does James Neville Randle stand in the pantheon of former Jaguar Engineering greats?

Continue reading “The Men Who Made the ’40 – Jim Randle”

What Exactly Is Lorenzo Ramaciotti Doing?

This being, unofficially, the Fiat/FCA themed month, I feel like shedding some light on Fiat’s current styling policy and the man responsible for it. 

lorenzo-ramaciotti

And when I say “shedding some light”, I actually mean pointing out all the dark and shadowy areas that currently make up Fiat’s styling. More questions will be asked than answered, inevitably.

Superficially, the reorganisation of Fiat’s different Centri Stile in the wake of the company’s Marchionnisation seems to have been a straightforward example of streamlining. And, unlike the most famous jumper lover’s financial and fiscal shenanigans, this move appears to be both easily graspable and logical.  Continue reading “What Exactly Is Lorenzo Ramaciotti Doing?”

Industrial Design Archaeology: New Edge to Kinetic Design

After “New Edge” came what exactly? And when? And why?

2004 Ford Focus blue

For some considerable time I have been wondering about the legacy of Ford Europe´s design director, Chris Bird. What did he achieve and where is he now? First a short review of the received wisdom. Prior to taking up his position at Ford in 1999, Bird was at Audi (where he did the first A8) then renowned for its ice-cool design approach.  Continue reading “Industrial Design Archaeology: New Edge to Kinetic Design”

Director! Memories of a Different Industry

Jensen Cars in the late 1960s

Town Without Pity 2

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.

In the event, my anticipation was ill-placed. The launch was for the Jensen Director. This was an Interceptor, finished in a fetching blue, with an interior created under the direction of top yacht designer, Jon Bannenberg.  A car whose emphasis is on catering to business people might seem a bit odd today, since practically anything on wheels seems to try to give the idea that the driver has a rich and varied leisure life, to which their work is inevitably secondary. You might drive 1,000 km to that meeting in Munich, but only so that you can drop in to the ‘Ring on the way back. Back then business was more exotic. The Bristol was ‘The Businessman’s Express’. Top Fords were ‘Executive’. The idea of pounding along the M1, dictating letters, was sexy – you were building tomorrow. Continue reading “Director! Memories of a Different Industry”

Chris Bangle and ‘The Vision Thing’

Reassessing Chris Bangle’s BMW Legacy.

Chris-BangleOnly a handful of individuals shape what we drive and by dint, what populates our streets and driveways. Our Euro-centric notions of automotive style were formed during the 1950s in the styling studios of the Italian carrozzerie – Pininfarina, Bertone and their ilk, who fired imaginations and rendered dreams in hand-beaten alloy. Continue reading “Chris Bangle and ‘The Vision Thing’”