Niels van Roij – in Conversation

Today, we talk to freelance car designer and coachbuilder, Niels van Roij.

(c) nielsvanroij.com

Very graciously, automotive designer, Niels van Roij allowed me an hour of his time to indulge upon subjects such as tailor-made suits, music and of course, the modern coach-built motor car.

Like so many car enthusiasts, the passion begins at an early age. For this author, Matchbox cars and their exaggerated engine and tyre sounds. For Niels however, the pencil and paper called from around the age of four. His mother has kept some of these youthful outpourings though it’s doubtful his infant designs would have bearing on today’s products for reasons discussed later.

Andrew Miles: What the first car that made you Continue reading “Niels van Roij – in Conversation”

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”

In Memoriam : Jürgen Hubbert

As another motor industry luminary takes a final bow, we look back at the career of the man dubbed, Mr. Mercedes. 

Jürgen Hubbert and A-Klasse – 1997. (c) Automotive News

Jürgen Hubbert passed away last week at the age of 81. Best known for his tenure at the helm of Mercedes-Benz AG from 1997 to 2005, a period of considerable expansion and no small amount of tumult. Indeed, when one looks back at the Mercedes-Benz products of the time, one cannot but wonder what manner of legacy Hubbert leaves behind.

So let us Continue reading “In Memoriam : Jürgen Hubbert”

A Pillock In Charge

Andrew remembers a giant of the special stages.

Colin McRae’s Subaru 555 gets some air. (c) dukevideo

Time flies: A quarter century has passed since Colin McRae famously clutched the winning trophy for not only the event but the main prize, that of 1995 World Rally Champion. Hoisting the trophy aloft, navigator, Derek Ringer had to inform Colin he’d dropped the trophy lid, the pillock.

Whilst far from the Cheshire finishing line that particular day, McRae’s, co-driver, along with the other protagonists’ results and welfare were prominent in this rally enthusiast’s mind. For the more cynical, this was also the championship where Toyota were subsequently banned; it having come to light that they were using illegal turbo restrictors, but that as they say, is another story.

During the mid-’90s, regardless of the day’s itinerary, my search for rally information would be avid; the BBC’s Teletext service (wot no Internet?), next morning’s newspaper (rarely anything), the eternal wait for the highlights television show the following weekend and that week’s Autosport magazine, which I might Continue reading “A Pillock In Charge”

Old Red Wine

We mark the passing of a much respected British engineer.

Don Hayter (second from left) marks the completion of the half-millionth MGB at Abingdon. Image: Hemmings

Don Hayter, was born in Oxfordshire on 24th January 1926. His father, a retired policeman, took up a job delivering MG TF Midgets from Abingdon to the docks for export. Meanwhile his son had shown not only aptitude but a flair for technical drawing. Upon leaving Abingdon school, he took an apprenticeship with the Pressed Steel Company at Cowley working on aircraft such as the AVRO Lancaster during the war, progressing to bodywork panels for Jaguar’s XK120 and the ZA Magnette.

Don had taken up an offer from then Feltham-based Aston Martin Lagonda as a draftsman in the early fifties with a return to Oxfordshire when AML upped sticks to Continue reading “Old Red Wine”

LocoDiscoBox (16+)

What have you planned for the festive season?

All images: group.renault.com

What’s the first thing you think of when considering gearboxes? Have you parked in gear? Does the manual action satisfy your taste? Is that a dog-leg set up? Why won’t the automatic change when I want it to? Where’s my Lego set? That latter, more pertinent point being what led to Renault seeking out a new way of changing gears. Settle in, pop it into D and grab your Lego Technic manual.

Christmas 2010 and we find Renault’s Nicolas Fremau, Powertrains and Hybrid expert, ordering boxes of Denmark’s most prodigious export. Not for his son, either. Fremau hit on the idea that the plastic cogs along with connecting rods could form the potential of a real world use gearbox for use in the coming hybrid/ electrification vehicles. The holiday period allowed him to Continue reading “LocoDiscoBox (16+)”

Because They Could

Few unique car designs hail from Ireland. Fewer still as thorough as this. Bruno Vijverman investigates the story of the DAWB. 

DAWB 6. Image: David Heatley

As the name implies, the Ulster Transport Museum in Cultra, Northern Ireland harbours a variety of modes of transport. Trains, trams, airplanes, bicycles, motorcycles and of course cars are on display. Among the exhibited cars, one stands out as a unique showcase of what could be achieved when a determined cohort of men set out to make their dream car, and were not prepared to Continue reading “Because They Could”

Doisneau’s All Seeing Eye

A slice of contemporary automotive life through the lens of an artist.

citroen

Principally known in his later years, alongside better-known contemporary Henri Cartier-Bresson for his photojournalism work, Robert Doisneau captured on camera the working atmosphere of the Renault factory at Boulogne-Billancourt during their pre-war peak in the mid 1930’s. Drawn to the camera aged around sixteen, Doisneau was so shy he preferred to Continue reading “Doisneau’s All Seeing Eye”

In Memoriam – Aldo Brovarone

We salute a departed master of form.

Brovarone’s magnum opus. Prototype Dino 206 GT. Image: stylepark

In an ideal world, the deserving always rise to the top. In such a environment a young stylist might perhaps serve his time, building up a body of work before branching out on his own, culminating with his name atop the doorway of a stand-alone carrozziere. Instead, the name of Aldo Brovarone, who departed the surly bonds of earth in mid-October, remains (outside of enthusiast automotive circles at least) largely unheralded.

Life has never been fair, and despite Brovarone being one of the very best of his era, the reasons for his low-key passing owe as much to the nature of the man as they do to the depth of auto-design apprehension that existed amid the contemporary motoring media.

Should we therefore view Brovarone as simply another in a long line of stylistic talents who mortified their egos to Continue reading “In Memoriam – Aldo Brovarone”

New Frontier (Part One)

Over a series of articles, we examine yesterday’s vision of the future – peak chevron, Sa Majesté – the incomparable Citroën SM.

(c) stubs-auto.fr

Observing events through a half-century old prism can make for a faulty tool; contemporary visions of the future appearing to modern eyes, slightly naïve and somewhat inaccurate. Not necessarily a consequence of inexperience or ill-thought execution; certainly not in this particular case, it is as likely to pivot around the manner in which socio-economic factors, and customer tastes evolve, to say nothing of the relentless march of time itself.

Has any carmaker done more to Continue reading “New Frontier (Part One)”

Dole It Out, Samuel

A big car for a big country. Introducing the very first Duesenberg. 

It’s a Duesie. (c) Hemmings.com

This is pure American history. It’s definitely the most significant vehicle now in the museum’s collection – even if it weren’t restored, it’d still be at the top of that list. It’s not just a car, it’s a family’s history and legacy.” Brendan Anderson. 

Using nothing but my imagination, the American car industry of the mid-teens to late 1920s conjures images of cityscapes swarming with Model Ts, Oldsmobiles, Buicks and the like in fast-paced black and white. Or, in glorious technicolour, causing rooster tails of dust on the plains, perhaps outrunning the law or maybe enjoying the thrill of newfound speed. Never once considering the idea of fruit and cars to be connected – other than a vehicle for moving the produce – it has come to light more recently that this fruit/ car intersection goes far deeper than peel.

Fred and August Duesenberg were highly regarded motor racers. With cash from victories and contracts connected with the Great War, they decided to Continue reading “Dole It Out, Samuel”

Handmade In Chile

We examine Škoda’s short-lived South American assembly operation. 

One from the museum. (c) Škoda-storyboard.com

The country with the elongated coastline and rugged backbone consisting of the Andes mountain range is hardly renowned as a hot bed of car production. But true to form, Škoda found an infinitesimally small opening to make all but a handful of cars amidst the dusty plains of Chile, some fifty years ago.

Bohuslav Čtvrtečka, who shall from this point be named BC, began his working life at Škoda’s Kvasiny plant as a welder, progressing to head the welding shop in a little under ten years. Keen, knowledgeable and highly proficient in the construction of the then ten year old Octavia Estate, an offer was made to BC to Continue reading “Handmade In Chile”

Fifteen Years after LJKS

Fifteen years ago today LJK Setright departed this life at the age of 74. Bereft of his guide, one DTW writer looks at the years which followed, and considers how this extraordinary man might have viewed them.

Image: The author’s collection

Firstly, I will assume that the reader has some level of familiarity with Setright’s work. He was best known as a writer on automotive and engineering matters, but that scarcely defines him; polymath, autodidact, wordsmith, bebop clarinettist, classicist, libertarian, controversialist, modern-day Jehu, dandy, Ba’al teshuvah. I could go on…

His description of Frederick Lanchester: “The most accomplished gentleman ever wasted on the motor industry” could equally apply to Setright himself.

Even for those of us well into middle-age, the day in September 2005 when this other-worldly man proved to be as mortal as the rest of us seems long in the past, more so since Setright’s last column in CAR* appeared in February 1999**, and afterwards his output was sporadic and thinly spread. Throughout his time as a writer, Setright viewed the world with scant regard for the preoccupations and fashions of the day, and was never afraid to Continue reading “Fifteen Years after LJKS”

A Right Pair of Nymphs

Designer, Tom Tjaarda took two very different bites at the Lancia Flaminia during the 196os. Only one however is truly memorable. 

topcarrating
1969 Lancia Flaminia Marica: (c) topcarrating

During the Autumn of 1969, carrozzeria Ghia debuted the Marica concept at the Turin motor show, a styling study based upon the platform of the Lancia Flaminia, a car which had already ceased production. Not only that, but its maker had also gone bankrupt and was desperately seeking a benefactor.

Enter Alejandro de Tomaso, a phrase which would be uttered with increasing regularity within the Italian motor industry over the coming decade or so. Having purchased carrozzeria Ghia in 1967, he is alleged to have sanctioned the Marica study as a means of assisting Lancia’s bid to find a buyer – a statement which sounds suspiciously altruistic for such an automotive opportunist as he. But we are perhaps getting a little ahead of ourselves. Allow me to Continue reading “A Right Pair of Nymphs”

A Democrat Crushed By A Dictator

A brave attempt at autonomy snuffed out before its time. 

IBAP Democrata. (c) Lexicarbrasil.com

Large country though it is – the fifth largest in the world by area – the República Federativa do Brasil has never had a national car maker of any far-reaching market significance. Foreign makers had, and continue to have factories that produce cars in Brazil of course: Volkswagen, Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Fiat and Ford to name the major ones, and also exiles such as DKW, Borgward, Kaiser and Willys who with varying degrees of success sought to prolong their activities in Brazil, after the feasibility of the business case in their home countries evaporated.

At the dawn of the 1960’s, Brazilian business tycoon Nelson Fernandes attempted to finally give his country its own car. Fernandes had become wealthy building country clubs and a large hospital through a fund-raising drive targeting affluent Brazilians. One of his funders (and friends) was Luis Carlos Fagundes, a director of Willys do Brasil. Together, they hatched plans to Continue reading “A Democrat Crushed By A Dictator”

Beautiful Vision – Evolution of the Jowett Javelin (Part 2)

As we (somewhat belatedly) rejoin Robertas Parazitas’ commemoration of the Jowett Javelin, the design begins to take shape.

Image: The author

1943 has just begun, Britain is at war. Jowett has an ambitious visionary as its Managing Director, and a 32 year old engineer with an impressive record of achievement has joined the company to lead its most important project. Would extraordinary circumstances produce an exceptional car?

While Charles Calcott Reilly had found his engineer, the brief for his task was far from set. The design which evolved defined the aspirations of Calcott Reilly and Palmer – a compact but spacious saloon, was described by its designer as a utility car. The target price was £500, coincidentally Gerald Palmer’s starting salary when he joined Jowett in 1942. Exportability was a priority; despite the company’s characterisation as Yorkshire’s national vehicle, in the pre-war period, Jowetts were exported to at least 60 countries. Continue reading “Beautiful Vision – Evolution of the Jowett Javelin (Part 2)”

An American In Red Square

Goodness, it’s May already. I started writing this in BC-19, that’s Before Covid-19 and planned it as a light-hearted retrospective on otherwise terrifying geopolitical matters. Well, how was I to know?

(c) Thetimes.co.uk

Leonid Brezhnev was astute in having cars offered as sweeteners for diplomatic (or otherwise) talks to occur. Thus, wildly differing guesses flit anywhere from fifty to five hundred cars being accrued by the former Soviet Leader.

With the Russian Bear (as always) rather keen on security, most of the information is speculative at best, we simply do not know what happened to the majority of those automotive gifts. Those we do however, have quite the  story to tell. Brezhnev preferred the foreign motor but would occasionally Continue reading “An American In Red Square”

Diamond Life

Architects and motor cars have not always co-existed harmoniously. Today’s subject however, is something of an exception. 

(c) Motori corriere.it

Richard Buckminster Fuller’s foray into the automotive world with his Dymaxion car of 1933 is frequently brought forward when the discussion topic is raised about car concepts that were simply too far ahead of their time for their own good. The radical ideas and look of the Dymaxion were indeed in clear violation* of MAYA (Most Advanced Yet Acceptable) – the guiding design principle of well known contemporary, Raymond Loewy.

Two decades after Buckminster Fuller presented Dymaxion, another famed architect came up with a car design that was considered too far out at the time of its introduction: Gio Ponti. The Italian’s Linea Diamante dates from 1953 but its styling and interior concept were very much of another, future decade. Continue reading “Diamond Life”

Der Lebensretter

Thousands of motorists owe their lives to one man’s quest to design safer motor cars. We pay tribute to a engineering pioneer. 

Béla Barényi. (c) Mercedes-Benz

The Mercedes-Benz legend was built on principles of engineering excellence; its reputation founded upon the work of legendary engineers, names which include Fritz Nallinger, Josef Müller and Rudolph Uhlenhaut. However, there is another name – one to whom every motorist ought perhaps to say a silent prayer of thanks – that of Béla Viktor Karl Barényi, engineer, inventor, known to some as the lifesaver. Over a lengthy career, primarily at Mercedes-Benz, his innovations led to more than 2500 patents, some of which have gone on to save countless thousands of lives.

Born in Hirtenberg near Vienna in March 1907 to one of Austria’s wealthiest families, Béla Barényi grew up amid the dawn of the motor car. Automobiles were a part of his life from an early age, his family owning an Austro-Daimler, which he is said to have adored. But fate and geopolitics would change his life dramatically, the combination of the Great War (in which his father was killed) and the ensuing depression which saw his family’s fortune dwindle, meant he was forced to Continue reading “Der Lebensretter”

The Fate of Empires and Search For Survival (Part Two)

Daniel O’Callaghan continues his digest of Bob Lutz’s 2011 book, ‘Car Guys vs Bean Counters’, which charts the decline of General Motors and Lutz’s decade-long struggle to rescue it.

(c) consumer guide auto

In an effort to understand better what gave the Japanese manufacturers such an edge in terms of quality and reliability, GM established a joint-venture with Toyota in 1984, the quaintly named New United Motorcar Manufacturing Inc. (NUMMI) to Continue reading “The Fate of Empires and Search For Survival (Part Two)”

Always Crashing in the Same Car

“Deep assignments run through all our lives. There are no coincidences.”

J.G. Ballard’s Crashed Cars exhibition, 1970. Photo (c) Wesley/Keystone/Getty Images

The car crash is the most dramatic event we are likely to experience in our entire lives apart from our own deaths.” J.G. Ballard

As any automotive marketer will be at pains to remind you, there is nothing sexy about safety, because as we’re repeatedly told, the customer simply doesn’t want to know. This being so, it’s relatively unsurprising that few carmakers have made their fortune or reputation by reminding buyers of the mortal risks they run every time they Continue reading “Always Crashing in the Same Car”

Ritorno al Futuro

At long last, Pininfarina has a new Chief Creative Officer.

Kevin Rice. (c) autodesignmagazine

The last ten months must have been a rather tumultuous period for those working at Pininfarina’s headquarters in Cambiano. First there were rumours of a fierce conflict with erstwhile loyal customer, Ferrari, over the design of Automobili Pininfarina’s Battista EV hyper car, in the wake of its unveiling at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show.  This was shortly followed by a facelift of Battista’s front end.

Much of the blame for these costly, distracting shenanigans was put at the feet of Pininfarina chief designer, Carlo Bonzanigo, who wasn’t seen or heard in public for months, until his resignation ‘for personal reasons‘ was unceremoniously announced in September. Since then, the post of chief designer has remained vacant. Not anymore however, as Kevin Rice has just been announced as Bonzanigo’s successor. Continue reading “Ritorno al Futuro”

The Fate of Empires and Search For Survival (Part One)

An industry insider’s account of the decline of General Motors and his struggle to revive its fortunes.

(c) iveho.com

In the last quarter of the 20th Century, General Motors went from being one of the most highly respected and successful US corporations to the butt of stand-up comedians’ jokes. In his 2011 book, Car Guys vs Bean Counters, Robert A (Bob) Lutz charts the decline of the once great company and describes his decade-long struggle to rescue it. What follows is a digest of that book, supplemented with additional information where appropriate.

Bob Lutz would, I’m sure, proudly describe himself as a Car Guy to his core. In this, his second book, Lutz describes his efforts to Continue reading “The Fate of Empires and Search For Survival (Part One)”

Dawn of the Iconoclast (Part one)

The Mini is one of the most ingenious, most innovative cars ever, but is also one of the most maddeningly inconsistent. In this two-part essay, DTW considers both icon and author.

(c) pinterest

The problem with icons is that often their venerated position can act as a shield against scrutiny, an insuperable barrier to unsentimental analysis or critique. How after all does one approach one of the most significant motorcars of all time objectively, without skirting the boundaries of iconoclasm?

Because to look at the Mini through one narrow prism is to Continue reading “Dawn of the Iconoclast (Part one)”

Yorkshire Grit

Nature and technology meet at Woking.

(c) Auto design magazine.com

Huddersfield, set in the old West Riding which is now plain West Yorkshire since the 1974 border alterations, is a former mill town. In the very heart of England’s Backbone, the Pennine Hills, it’s a welcoming place. At times (locals say Always) the weather can prove bleak and those surrounding millstone grit hills can make for an ominous backdrop – when the rain isn’t horizontal.

Folk round here are rounded as well as grounded. They’ll call a spade a shovel and are open with advice and generosity. Patrick Stewart and James Mason were born and raised here – a few silver screen appearances between them. And a fellow named Wilson went on to Continue reading “Yorkshire Grit”

Back From The Brink – A Review

We welcome stalwart reader and commenter, Daniel O’ Callaghan to the ranks of DTW guest-writers with a latter-day review of the combatative former BL Chairman’s 1983 memoir.

Image: The Author

This book tells the story of the author’s five years as Executive Chairman of BL (formerly British Leyland). Sir Michael Edwardes joined the 99% state owned company in November 1977 at the invitation of the Labour government of James Callaghan. The book charts the many crises faced by the company as it struggled to Continue reading “Back From The Brink – A Review”

An American in Paris

As Citroën’s SM turns 50, we trace an unlikely inspiration.

(c) Conservatoire Citroen

During a cocktail party at the French consulate in Detroit in 1960 – it is not known if any Ferrero Rochers were served – Citroën president Pierre Bercot met a man by the name of Henry de Ségur Lauve. Present as an interpreter because of his excellent command of both French and English, de Ségur Lauve was soon engaged in animated conversation with Bercot as the Citroën boss discovered that the Franco-American had considerable previous experience in car design.

Born in 1910, in Montclair, New Jersey, Henry de Ségur Lauve’s family had roots that went all the way back to the French colonists who Continue reading “An American in Paris”

Conduct Unbecoming

Lady Docker – a woman out of time.

Lady Docker – 1955. (c) Popperfoto/Getty via The Guardian

Amid these two broadly similar, yet so different Islands, ideals of propriety were for some considerable time, strictly constrained. In Fifties Ireland for instance, this was a task enthusiastically carried out by the Church, who policed matters with an iron will. Across the channel in post-war Britain, the repressive atmosphere was a little less orchestrated, but no less restrictive. There, the engrained social stratifications of money and class were for the most part sufficient to keep people firmly in their place.

Within such an environment, anyone who exhibited the temerity to step outside of decorous norms opened themselves up to a fearsome backlash. It therefore took bravery and perhaps no small portion of self-confidence to Continue reading “Conduct Unbecoming”

Album Review

In a Driven to Write first, we diverge into music critique. Japanese pop or Lebanese Blond? You decide.

goshn
Original image (c) LAtimes

Charlie Ghost and The Cakes of Boofe hope to storm the hit parade with their eloquently titled first album, Kettle Boiling. Being virtually unknown to the music industry with no gigs nor internet activity, their raucous blast fusing various musical themes, styles, instruments and presumably guilt free performances should see these surprisingly none too young expedites of tune propel at a rate of knots. That, or flounder like a fish gasping for air.

With such enforced secrecy, getting a handle on this outfit is hard; no photos, no social media just this, rather flippant message from the record label, Convenient Subsidence stating “A red notice to the world” – so let’s Continue reading “Album Review”

Škoda by Stefani

Former Škoda designer, Jozef Kabaň has been in the news of late, but what of his successor at Mladá Boleslav?

The man himself – twice. (c) Škoda-storyboard.com

It’s two years since Jozef Kabaň left Škoda to be subsumed into the shadows at Rolls Royce (will we see or hear from him again? Well, yes as he’s now back with VW…) leaving the gap to be filled by German-born Oliver Stefani. In that time, he’s had plenty to get stuck into, Škoda Auto A.S. becoming rather prolific in pumping out model after model and whilst Kabaň’s input is obviously still there, Stefani’s style is now beginning to Continue reading “Škoda by Stefani”

The God of Fire at the Seaside (3)

Concluding our trip to the West coast, we return, demob happy to the Vulcan story.

The rather sinister sounding (to me) C.B. Wardman took over reins of a changed name again: Vulcan Motor Engineering, and at the close of hostilities bought a football club. Thus Southport Vulcan entered the football league as the first sponsored club. This was yet another short lived affair as the Football Association banned the club because of that very sponsorship; Southport FC returned.

Speaking of returns, cars as well as commercial vehicles were built once again but in 1919 under a different guise, that of a consortium of manufacturers under the title British Motor Trading Corporation with Harper Bean being the majority shareholder. The plan was for the Vulcan side to Continue reading “The God of Fire at the Seaside (3)”

The Big Idea

Who were I.D.E.A anyway? 

(c) auto-forever

And then there were four. 

Once dominated by the twin pillars of Bertone and Pininfarina, the leading Italian car-design consultancies found their hegemony (and profitability) threatened by the dramatic arrival during the early 1970s of a precocious interloper by the name of Giorgetto Giugiaro. His ItalDesign consultancy quickly established itself as a formidable adversary, capable of delivering turnkey projects in both product design and engineering.

A decade or so later, and seemingly just as abruptly, another significant player entered the field. By the tail end of the 1980s, the Institute of Development in Automotive Engineering (I.D.E.A) was going head to head with the big-hitting Italian carrozzeiri, having gained the patronage of Fiat with perhaps the largest and most ambitious vehicle programme in its history. Yet they appeared to have arrived from nowhere. Continue reading “The Big Idea”

Full Circle

We profile a local lad who ‘done good’ – both for himself and the industry he served. 

Ello Tom, Gotta New Motor? Tom Purves outside RR’s Goodwood HQ. (c) thisismoney.com

Tom Purves spent forty three years within the car industry; roughly half each for Rolls Royce and BMW, thus, in essence for a German carmaker. From his apprentice years though to management at Crewe, rising to become CEO and Head of the entire American division for BMW from the mid ‘80’s to concluding his career at the very top of Goodwood’s silently slick factory.

Proudly Scottish with twangs of American vernacular; through interviews made nearly twenty years ago, some just before his retirement in 2010, Mr Purves informs us of a world changed beyond recognition. Spoiler alert: there are no mentions of SUV’s. Continue reading “Full Circle”

Sir Michael Edwardes. 1930 – 2019

Sir Michael Edwardes has left us at the age of 88. It should be less of a shock given his advanced years, but the bold colonial boy called to rescue British Leyland at the age of 46 somehow seemed ever-youthful. We reflect on his five years in the hardest job in the motor industry, and his influence on the years which followed.

(c) quazoo

When Michael Edwardes was appointed Chief Executive of British Leyland in October 1977, on a three year secondment from his post at the head of Chloride Group, the company was an industrial disaster zone. Eight years from its formation, it was state-controlled, chronically loss-making and blighted by turbulent industrial relations and product quality failings which were the talk of the nation.

Edwardes was either an enlightened or desperation-led choice. From Southern African business aristocracy, and far from the core of the motor industry, he was an outsider taking on a task which had been beyond those born to the industry. Continue reading “Sir Michael Edwardes. 1930 – 2019”

Shamrock Green to Cream

Personally using the phrase “Gordon Bennet” whenever a profanity cannot be justified, his name became almost mythical. But just who was Gordon Bennet? And what can be the relevance to this site?

(c) Laoistourism.ie.

Mr Bennet could quite easily be compared to one Bernard Charles Ecclestone for ideas and plans concerning motor racing. Whereas Ecclestone made his money (though the means are not for here), Gordon Bennet was gifted the wealth. Employing nothing but his interest in the ways and means of transportation, Bennet wanted to sell newspapers, he being the owner/ editor of the New York Herald Tribune. Conjuring up the plan to sponsor races by boat, balloon and a little later into the future, aeroplanes. 

Naturally our gaze falls upon the auto side of racing. Bennet had moved to Paris, bringing his newspaper with him and witnessed the growth of the motor industry. With France at the forefront of it all, Bennet saw and seized the opportunity to Continue reading “Shamrock Green to Cream”

In Memoriam : Ferdinand Piëch

A giant of the automotive world has departed. His like will not be seen again.

(c) hvilkenbil.dk

Ferdinand Piëch was not easily satisfied. Anything less than the relentless shedding of blood, sweat and tears he considered insufficient initiative – an approach many found misanthropic, yet from Piëch’s perspective, it was a mere matter of applying a categorical imperative. He would never expect more from anybody else than from himself. Continue reading “In Memoriam : Ferdinand Piëch”

Goodyear? For Some (Part One)

We rarely notice them, but they’re the only things which keep us in contact with the road surface. In a new series for DTW, Andrew Miles gets up to his neck in the black stuff.

Charles Goodyear offers a rubber napkin. (c) Flickr.com.

Charles Goodyear died in debt. Frank Seiberling did no such thing. What links the two is a story of endeavour, brutality, aggressive tactics and a whole host of honest “Ites”. Oh, and a rather large balloon.

The tyres on all our road vehicles today are, in the main, synthetic rubber * Oil and various chemical compounds are brewed together in order to Continue reading “Goodyear? For Some (Part One)”

Jim Randle 1938-2019

Today we remember former Jaguar technical director, Jim Randle in the words of the man who perhaps knew him best.

Jim Randle. (c) Steve Randle collection

My Dad, Engineer Jim Randle, died at home on the 6th July after a prolonged battle with cancer.

Jim served his apprenticeship at Rover, where the P6 2000TC was his first major project. He then moved to Jaguar, where he was swiftly promoted to Head of Vehicle Development. As a boy I often accompanied him to his office in the corner of the development shop at Browns Lane on a Saturday morning. Continue reading “Jim Randle 1938-2019”

In Memoriam : Jim Randle

There are some things a writer never wishes to put to paper, so I write these words today with a heavy heart.

The late Jim Randle in 2016. (c) DTW / Auto-Didakt

In the summer of 2016, I did what one should never do and met a personal hero, fulfilling a long-held ambition by interviewing former Jaguar Director of Vehicle Engineering, Jim Randle. At the time, he had been out of the public gaze for some time and was perhaps understandably wary of this pair of interlopers from afar asking him questions about a past he had largely put behind him.

Yet as he warmed to his interrogators, the memories of people, places, events and above all, the vehicles he helped create flooded back and between the quiet ironies and the uproarious laughter, he not only lent us almost five hours of his time but for myself, memories I treasure. Continue reading “In Memoriam : Jim Randle”

The Art of Departure

Ian Callum is leaving his ‘dream job’. We examine the possible motives.

Change of guard: Ian Callum (left). Julian Thomson (right). (c) leblogauto

There many qualities one requires in public life, but the apprehension of the correct moment to leave the stage is perhaps the trickiest to navigate successfully. Five years ago, Ian Callum told an enthusiast publication that he would stay on in his role at Whitley to “set up the next generation of aesthetics” before stepping down as Jaguar’s Director of Design.

Of course it is neither correct nor entirely fair to Continue reading “The Art of Departure”

Pushing the Envelope

The 1999 C215 Mercedes CL redefines the term ‘back of an envelope design’.

(c) Autoevolution.com

Like most major carmakers, Mercedes-Benz design under Bruno Sacco’s leadership at Stuttgart-Sindelfingen assigned individual design teams to specific product lines. However, it was policy that all members of the styling team, irrespective of discipline could submit proposals for consideration whenever a new model was in gestation.

These would be whittled down to a shortlist, the favoured proposals then going forward to be produced in scale model form. A further evaluation would see this being reduced to a final shortlist of three, which would Continue reading “Pushing the Envelope”

End Of Line

Ian Callum has left Jaguar design. Time to reflect on his achievements. 

Ian Callum in front of one of his proudest achievements. (c) autodevot

After years of turmoil, suffering from an ill-fated growth strategy and management oblivious to the marque’s inherent qualities and character, Jaguar all of a sudden found itself with a new chief designer, whose main task was to Continue reading “End Of Line”

The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

The BMW brand has a new chief designer. Again. 

Jozef Kabaň – former newly-appointed BMW chief designer, photo (c) BMW Group

Two years and one month isn’t a long time by the standards of the automotive industry. Creating a car from scratch within such a period of time would be extremely difficult. Truly changing a marque’s design ethos would be utterly impossible.

Two years and one month is exactly how long the tenure of Jozef Kabaň as BMW chief designer turned out to last. During that period, the Bavarians unveiled an onslaught of new models, which left more than one commentator baffled (new 3 series) or even shocked (X7, 7 series facelift). Obviously, none of these cars were designed under Kabaň’s watch. Continue reading “The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same”

Life After Munich

A group of high-profile designers have left BMW’s design studios over the past few years. Time to assess whose loss turned into whose gain. 

Designer Interview: Adrian van Hooydonk, Director Design, BMW Cars
Happier times: Chris Bangle amid his brand chief designers. (l-r): David Robb (BMW Motorrad), Ulf Weidhase (BMW M & Individual), Ian Cameron (Rolls-Royce), Adrian van Hooydonk (BMW), Gerd Hildebrandt (Mini),  photo (c) Car Design News

This photo, taken in about 2006, depicts BMW Group design at the height of its creative powers. Unlike giants such as Ford, GM or VAG, BMW achieved the seemingly impossible in running each of the company’s core brands (BMW, Mini, Rolls-Royce) as a creatively self-sufficient unit. For that reason, a Mini didn’t come across like a de-contented BMW, nor did anybody mistake a Rolls-Royce for a tarted-up 7 series. Every BMW brand’s design possessed its own set of stylistic rules and values.

More than a decade later, none of the people depicted in the photo are in charge any more – apart of course from Adrian van Hooydonk, who’s been running BMW Group’s design fortunes for a decade this year.

The last two years of that reign have been somewhat overshadowed by an unprecedented creative drain though – unprecedented not just regarding BMW Group, but within the industry as a whole. With the Bavarians’ stylistic fortunes currently shrouded in controversy, it would appear to be the right time to Continue reading “Life After Munich”

(Film) Review: The Borgward Affair

More than five decades after the incident, Borgward’s dramatic bankruptcy is retold in dramatic fashion. 

18-08-31_affäreborgward_plakat
photo (c) Nordmedia

Carl F W Borgward is driving his wife in a Hansa 2400 saloon along a deserted stretch of b-road when he hears that the end for the company bearing his name has come over the radio. He immediately stops the car, gets outside and gasps for air, staring into nothingness.

This is the not particularly subtle introduction into Die Affäre Borgward (The Borgward Affair), a tv movie about the downfall of Germany’s then fourth largest car maker, which was first broadcasted in January 2019. The somewhat fragmented narrative is divided into story strands about Carl Borgward himself, Borgward’s Insolvenzverwalter, Dr Johannes Semler, the goings-on inside Bremen’s senate and, because no German tv movie can Continue reading “(Film) Review: The Borgward Affair”

Betting The Empire

Can Fiat-Chrysler’s new CEO deal with FCA’s lopsided business or is it time to bring out the bonesaw?

FCA’s new CEO, Mike Manley. (c) Forbes

FCA’s late CEO, Sergio Marchionne was at various times hailed as something of a visionary, and without doubt, he achieved the seemingly impossible once he orchestrated Fiat Auto’s audacious takeover of the embattled Chrysler business in 2009. Nevertheless, an equally cogent argument could be posited that should Marchionne’s legacy simply be that of FCA’s continued existence, then it is built largely upon failure.

Why? Because despite his efforts, he was unable to Continue reading “Betting The Empire”

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”