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.
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.
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.
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”
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.
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)”
When two of the most prominent car designers recently left their posts, each left a ‘legacy’ awkward SUV model behind. Coincidence?
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?
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.
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)”
From Panhard toBMW’s i-Series, Steve Randle talks cars – and bikes.
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”
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”
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.
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”
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.
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!”
In this second part of our interview with Jonathan Partridge, XJ40’s foibles come under the spotlight.
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”
In part three, Jim Randle speaks candidly about what was possibly the XJ40’s most controversial aspect – its advanced electronics system.
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”
As we continue our XJ40 commemorations, we examine the car through the prism of sales and marketing with Jaguar Heritage’s Jonathan Partridge.
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”
In part two, Jim Randle talks about the challenges facing Jaguar’s styling team, and skewers a few more holy orders along the way.
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”
To mark the 30th anniversary of XJ40’s launch, we speak exclusively to former Jaguar Engineering Director, Jim Randle.
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”
Recent talk of 5 cylinders causes our Editor to conflate two of his pieces from DTW’s very early days
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.
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.
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”
In a recently unearthed transcription, Simon A. Kearne matches wits with engineering legend, Sir Basil Milford-Vestible.
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.
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”
As a car stylist, you’re only as good as your last design. Oh dear…
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”
An old-fashioned Glamour Girl, or an unlikely precursor of Girl Power. We look at Norah Docker’s Golden Years.
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”
‘Talent borrows, genius steals’, the saying goes. It’s still bad manners though.
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”
The prolific and incredibly talented Art Fitzpatrick has died. We take an appreciative look back at his remarkable body of work.
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”
We look at a literal piece of Sixties vapourware – The Lear steam car
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”
The troubles and subsequent changes at Volkswagen AG have led to an unforeseen departure.
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”
Few car manufacturers are as closely associated with their styling director as Jaguar is.
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?”
Car Design News reported the death of the car designer and educator, Bryon Fitzpatrick.
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.”
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 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”
Where Driven to Write leads, the mainstream press follow: Autocar finally gets around to examining the Marchionne plan.
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: Marchionne’s Merger Mania Examined – Again”
In the second of our postscripts to the XJ40 story, we profile its architect.
“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”
Has FCA’s on-off romance with GM entered a new phase?
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”
Today we profile a man who did more to define not only the XJ40 concept, but also Jaguar’s overall engineering direction than perhaps any other single individual – Bob Knight CBE.
“The idea that development towards the ultimate should ever stop is anathema to Bob Knight. [He] never failed to use every last available moment to perfect some detail. So it was hardly surprising that without any curb on modifications, any car in Knight’s sphere of control was ever signed off unconditionally.” Andrew Whyte (Auto historian)
Were I to suggest that an entire generation of Jaguars embodied the character and personality of one man you’d probably immediately leap to the conclusion I was talking about Jaguar founder, Sir William Lyons. But while Lyons’ creative vision formed the core of Jaguar’s being, it was Bob Knight who largely dictated the engineering direction and character of virtually every model from his appointment in 1944, through to his departure 36-years later. Continue reading “The Men Who Made the ’40 – Bob Knight”
I don’t know about you, but I have shameful memories of my motoring youth. The worst was the time when a mother walking her two young children on a country road flung them into a ditch at the sight of me executing what I imagined was a most elegant four wheel drift through a long corner. Her action wasn’t necessary, I wasn’t actually intruding into their space, but she wasn’t to know that and I had a chastening lesson that day. Not that I’d pretend that quelled my driving style entirely, but I became more thoughtful of what other road, and pavement, users might think. I tried to keep a comfort area between them and me.
Dany Bahar: Misunderstood visionary or public enemy number one?
It’s probably safe to assume that disgraced ex-Lotus boss, Dany Bahar believes in unicorns. It remains the only reasoned assumption following his abrupt career at the storied Sportscar brand. Appointed in 2009, Bahar took Lotus on a journey into the heart of darkness, edging them closer to the abyss than at any time in their chequered sixty three-year history. Continue reading “Dany Bahar’s Lotus Fantasia”
Driven To Write concludes its examination of Britain’s aerodynamic pioneers – Frank Costin and Malcolm Sayer
We’ve seen how both Costin and Sayer’s career trajectories dovetailed but the similarities between the two men run deeper still. Both men emerged from the aircraft industry – a place where ego and self publicity were frowned upon. Hence both were publicity-shy, quietly spoken men with broader interests outside the automotive world.
In this second part, Driven To Write continues its examination of Britain’s twin aerodynamic pioneers – Frank Costin and Malcolm Sayer
By 1953, Frank Costin too had gravitated to the racetracks, becoming involved with the fledgling Lotus company and with Sayer’s services already secured by Jaguar, Costin rapidly became the freelance aerodynamicist to work with, if race victory was your aim. His work with fellow ex-De Havilland engineer, Colin Chapman produced the body skin shapes for Mark’s Eight though to Eleven, including some detail aerodynamic changes to Peter Kirwin-Taylor’s Type 49 Elite. His designs combined low drag, stability and clever use of airflow – his understanding of air pressures, ducting and how they could be used for cooling and extraction meant that Costin’s designs may not have always been easy on the eye, but they worked.
Britain’s Aerodynamic Pioneers – Frank Costin and Malcolm Sayer profiled.
In the years prior to World War Two, developments in aeronautics led to rapid growth in the science of aerodynamics. Through the war years, aerodynamicists continued the pioneering research begun during the 1930’s into streamlining, but now with an added dimension – applied science. The use of wind tunnels allowed engineers to properly assess the behaviour of aircraft in simulated flight and accurately determine the most efficient shapes. Continue reading “Theme : Aerodynamics – The Great Curve – Costin and Sayer, Part One”
Not many designers get to venture outside the boundaries that divide the discipline. Mario Bellini is one of them: furniture, architecture, product design and automotive work are all included in his remarkable portfolio. Bellini is the winner of, among others, 8 Compasso d’Oro and prestigious architecture awards including the Medaglia d’Oro conferred by the President of the Italian Republic.
Seen from an historical point of view, the activity we call design is a process with as wide a variety of final products as there are material human needs. From that standpoint, product design, architecture, graphics, car design and clothing, for example, would be seen as variations on the theme of working out what form things take to solve a problem. Further, industrial design and architecture would be on an equal footing with all the other branches of design: among which are transport, furniture, interaction and fashion. Continue reading “Interview: Mario Bellini, designer”
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.
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?”
After “New Edge” came what exactly? And when? And why?
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”
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”
Only 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’”