Zuffenhausen recently celebrated production of the millionth 911. How the heck did that happen?
Let’s allow this one sink in for a moment. A million 911s. It’s a staggering achievement for a car that should never have lived as long, much less become the default ‘usable performance car’, given an inherently unbalanced mechanical layout considered retrograde even by mid-Sixties standards. Thought: could it have been a reaction to the original 911’s propensity to Continue reading “Theme: Porsche – Cheaper by the Million”
Two of the most distinctive cars of their time; bitter rivals, yet with much in common. Driven to Write counts the ways.
They couldn’t have looked more different, yet the fates of the Porsche 928 and Jaguar XJ-S were intrinsically bound. One seemed more like a car from the Cinzano era, the other from the future, yet both shared a purpose, appealed to the same customer base and lived out similar career paths – misunderstood and derided by those who didn’t expect their preconceived notions to be so roundly challenged.
Even the top-of-the-range AR Giulia has no rear centre armrest.
This is the Quadrifoglio version with a 6-cylinder engine and Brembos all around. An absent rear centre arm-rest is a characteristic of cars from two classss down costing a quarter of the Alfa’s asking price.
The 1993 Vision A and ’94 Studie A were everything the ensuing A-Class failed to be. A genuine Mercedes in miniature.
One doesn’t get to the size and scope of Mercedes-Benz by being incautious, even if at times, an element of risk is sometimes both prudent and necessary. For example, the W201 programme saw the German car giant risk a move downmarket, albeit one taken only after a great deal of consideration and iterative trial. That programme, instigated during the dark days of the post oil-shock 1970’s, wouldn’t see series production as the 190-series until 1982. Continue reading “Loss of Vision – 1994 Mercedes-Benz Studie A”
Despite being chronically unwilling to be associated with aftermarket tinkering, ALPINA actually represents the ideal of a specialised manufacturer finessing a mass product.
Alpina Burkard Bovensiepen GmbH + Co. KG is a peculiar company, and not just because the ALPINA part is officially written in capitals. Its signature decorative stripes, called Deko-Set, are also but a mere symptom of an underlying quaintness that is truly without equal in the automotive business. Continue reading “Theme: Aftermarket – ALPINA”
Some time back I harvested a set of detailed photos of a Mercedes W-123. It wasn’t until recently I had a chance to take a corresponding set of its replacement. Alas the correspondence is not complete. Some details are paired for comparison and the rest are dumped in a ragbag of two slideshows. The conclusion is that in replacing the W-123 Mercedes merely wanted to Continue reading “The Two Mares From the Wild Fellow’s Forest”
Does the Golf have ten engines because VW believes it leads to increased sales (twice as many as the next most popular car)?
Or does such huge sales volume mean VW can pamper its clientele like no clientele has been pampered before? To answer this I needed to crunch some numbers. Statistical research of the most basic kind is very dull indeed. It does reveal some interesting things in return however. Such work is the reverse of golf, I think, which sport some say is fun to do but which is clearly boring to look at. In that spirit (“ah, look, the tassles are flying”) I decided to get stuck in and see what it takes to be in the top ten, engineswise. There was no point in hand-waving. Some maths had to be involved.
As this month’s theme draws to a close, we give you something to ponder…
In 1963, Oscar Montabone was recalled from Chrysler-controlled Simca to manage Fiat’s Automobile Technical Office. His primary task was to develop Project 124, a putative 1100 replacement in direct competition with Dante Giacosa’s Project 123, which was not so much a defined car as a series of studies with various front engine/front wheel drive and rear engine/rear drive configurations based around a 1157cc three cylinder opposed-valve ohc engine. Continue reading “Theme: Simca – The Vibrations That Lived On”
Van Helsing starter kit in hand, roving reporter, Robertas Parazitas comes face to face with another automotive revenant.
The Geneva Salon is still a place where rich men can show their dreams made metal. Jim Glickenhaus was there with his SCG003S hypercar. Not far away, Felix Eaton, Huddersfield’s answer to Glickenhaus, proudly launched his graceful Black Cuillin. More modest in size, but equally single-minded is the Microlino, the creation of Wim Oubouter.
It is always chastening to see humanity’s schemes laid low. From the grand boasts that accompanied the launch of the Titanic to some of the pledges that Barack Obama was not able to fulfil; even with the best of intentions we sometimes underperform.
Earlier this month we looked at the first brochure for the 1998 Fiat Multipla. Brimming with optimism, or some have suggested hubris, the public generally avoided the enthusiasm of that car’s creators. And now we look at another ‘failure’, the Opel/Vauxhall Ampera. Introduced in early 2012, the Europeanised version of the Chevrolet Volt was on sale in the UK for little more than two years. Continue reading “Theme : Brochures – Vauxhall Ampera”
At the same time, I’ve been getting my own low-level insight into the mindset of Ferdinand Piëch. From what I know of him we have little in common, save a desire – realised in his case, unrealisable in mine – to see a rather silly car produced; one that no-one else in the world needs. I started my doodlings thinking of simple things that could, perhaps, be built on top of a scrap 2CV platform. But Dr Piëch has inspired me that, like the Bugatti Veyron, second-best just won’t do. Continue reading “Vanity Of Vanities : Work In Progress”
Let us consider the conventional wisdom about the first generation Fiesta.
It arrived some time after the revolutions in small car design which raged through Europe in the fifties and sixties, and continued to bear fruit into the early seventies. It was thus a rationalised ‘best practice’ car, standing on the narrow but solid shoulders of at least four influential and successful rivals which arrived early enough in the 1970s to influence and inform Ford’s designers. Continue reading “Theme: Compromise – The Fiesta Mk.1 – Almost Revolutionary”
A missed opportunity or a masterpiece of compromise? We look at the unassuming little engine that drove the Fiesta’s success.
CAR March 1974 was confident in its prediction about the Fiesta’s engine; “it is a completely new water-cooled, in-line four with single overhead cam and Heron head. It will come in two sizes – a little over 900cc and 1090cc for the top of the range model.” As we now know, the “scoop report” could scarcely have been more wrong, but it is easy to understand the reasons for their conjecture. Continue reading “Theme: Compromise – Ford’s Valencia engine. A Curious Orange?”
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”
As Mr Editor Kearne said in his introduction to this month’s theme, compromise is inevitable in the motor industry. The trick is knowing where to apply it and where to not.
Ask any industry accountant and they will tell you that making cars and making money aren’t natural bedfellows. Margins are often small, the customer base fickle and, with relatively long development and production runs, like an oil tanker, once committed you don’t change direction easily. Of course there are exceptions, companies who through a combination of prudence, intelligence, excellence or maybe just fashion, are able to make a healthy profit, year after year, and even swallow up a few of the lacklustre performers in one or more of the above categories whilst they do. Continue reading “Theme : Compromise – The Crucial Balance”
Driventowrite leaves no corner of the automotive world unexamined. Today we look a bit at paint, Mazda paint, Toyota paint, Opel paint…
Mazda presented their new colour in November, ending their press release with the memorable line: “colour is an element of form”.
Soul Red Crystal is a development of an existing Mazda colour, Soul Red that “balances vibrant energy and vividness with clear depth and gloss.” So, it’s rich and shiny. Mazda estimate that it has 20 percent higher colour saturation and 50 percent more depth”. I don’t know how the depth is estimated. There is no insight here. There might be some here.
There’s an awful amount of ill-informed, arbitrary rubbish spouted about tyres. Here’s some more.
Tyres are made of rubber and are there to make the ride of your car soft. It’s the air that gives the cushion, so you need to keep them pumped up, but not too hard. They have grooves cut in them called tread that let the rain out and if the grooves aren’t deep enough the police can fine you – I think it’s 1 mm, or maybe 2. I know a garage that keeps some part-used tyres out the back with more than enough legal tread and they will sell them to you at a fair price including balancing, though you don’t really need that as long as you drive at sensible speeds. I wacked my front tyre on a sharp kerb the other day which took a bit of rubber off and you can see some of the canvas stuff underneath, but it isn’t losing air. Maybe they’re the ones with tubes. Anyway they should be OK til the next MOT. Continue reading “The Carbon Black Arts”
There are some places you simply don’t want to go.
In his transgressive 1973 novel, ‘Crash’, novelist JG Ballard explored a netherworld where a group of symphorophiliasts play out their fetishes of eroticism and death amid the carnage of motor accidents. But while most of us might find ourselves staring luridly against our better instincts at some roadside crumplezone, we recoil in dread from the blood and the bone. It could after all so easily be ourselves trapped and lifeless inside some shattered hatchback. Continue reading “Theme: Places – Scene of the Accident”
Opel used lot of design talent on the Meriva. It had a superb interior with some excellent colour and fabric options. The window line was unique in that it recognised the fact the kids in the back might want to see out. That’s user-centred design which I can only applaud. Those doors too.Continue reading “Goodbye MPVs and Other Opel Stuff”
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”
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”
As well as providing the location for the suspension system and being sufficiently durable, a car body needs to protect the bodies of the occupants. And to look alright.
If we compare the smooth bodies of contemporary vehicles with early attempts at safety engineering you notice how safety was first ‘added on’ by means of obviously larger bumpers and also by the use of safety padding inside the car. Volvo took this approach as did the GM ESV (1972) and Fiat with the ESV (1973). GM did also provide for passive safety by removing the A-pillars and fitting airbags. Continue reading “Theme: Bodies – Protecting Them”
We briefly review a method that improves rigidity, helps achieve the goal of a lighter car and also simplifies production. Which car have you sat in that uses this method?
The car body must meet two contradictory requirements: lightness and strength. Lightness abets performance and improves agility: less car to turn. It also usually helps keep the cost down. At the same time, a car must not fall apart while standing still or while in motion. And if the car should hit something it needs to protect the occupants. Usually you may have lightness or robustness but not both.
What do the Triumph Toledo, the Ford Taunus and the Rover 75 have in common?
For a very long time the general trend in automotive drivetrain layouts has been to move from rear-wheel drive to front-wheel drive. It started in earnest in the 60’s with smaller cars from mainstream manufacturers though of course the pioneers were specialists, Citroen and Lancia. Thus a trickle of front-wheel drive superminis exploited the packaging efficiency of front-wheel drive and showed the way forward. Then the Golf/Kadett/Escort class yielded as follows: 1974 for the Golf, 1979 for the Kadett and 1980 for the Escort. Things took a little longer to Continue reading “Throwbacks: Examples and Non-Examples”
You can make 4-cylinder engines bigger but what about making a smaller 6?
We have considered two approaches to bridging the 2.0 to 2.5 litre capacity gap, the enlarged 4-cylinder engines, and the 5-cylinder concept. And while the first is relatively common and the second shall we say not unusual, there is one other method of adding power and prestige to a smaller engine. That route is the road less travelled, 2-litre V6s.
The first small capacity V6 I could think of turned out to be a 1.8 litre V6 used in the Mazda MX-3, a car whose appearance I never got to grips with. In this small feature “two” is the magic number, so the 1.5 litre V6s used in racing will also be overlooked – also because I am not at all interested in motor sport. I am allergic to nylon padded jackets. Continue reading “DTW Summer Reissue – Engines: The Road Less Travelled”
So who uses five cylinder engines and why? Do they have a future? DTW asks these questions today. Read on to accumulate wisdom on this subject.
One might be tempted to think of five cylinder engines as being something of a novelty, if they are not a rarity. However, before Audi and Mercedes in the 1970s, Ford experimented with the concept in the 1930s and 1940s but never put anything into production. The heyday of the five has been from the end of the 70’s until a few years ago. Not a bad run. The window of opportunity for the five-cylinder now seems to be closing. What opened it? Continue reading “DTW Summer Reissue: Throbby, Thrummy Quints”
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.
Cars start decaying the moment they are built. Some manage to accumulate character while most don’t. What do you do?
One response is obsessive polishing and maintenance. The other is stoic acceptance. For many the response is to oscillate in between the two, starting with careful stewardship of the new possession. Why do people fight physics? And why is it that cars don’t last longer? Continue reading “Theme: Material – Decay”
An interesting report shows how plastics can contribute to improving vehicle efficiency.
By one estimate, 10% of the average weight of a vehicle needs to be removed to reach future EPA fuel economy standards. One way to do this is to make increased use of plastic. These can improve aerodynamics and also make the cars easier to produce and more durable. The use of fibre-reinforced composites means that less metal can be used for the body-in-white. Plastics can also be used in the drivetrain and electrical system. Continue reading “Theme: Material – Plastics”
Originally carpenters made horsedrawn carriages with wooden bodies. They carried this technology over to the horseless carriage.
Then it became clear that for large scale production, a saw, hammer and some nails would not be up to the task. Design involves choosing a balance between what the material needs to do and how it can be formed. The appearance emerges from this compromise – the required look can drive material selection and vice versa. Often the balance is not even something at the forefront of the designer’s mind if they are working out of habit or tradition. Continue reading “Theme: Materials – Body Building”
The option of an automatic transmission did little to mitigate the Gamma’s reputation as a disaster on wheels. If anything, it appears to have added to it.
One option missing from the Gamma’s specification at launch was an automatic transmission, not a fatal handicap in the domestic market where manuals proliferated, but rather more so in the UK, where a sizeable proportion of luxury saloons were specified as self-shifters. But in fact, Lancia had foreseen this necessity and in conjunction with UK supplier Automotive Products, engineered a four-speed automatic transmission specifically for the model. Continue reading “Gamma: Signs and Portents – Part Eleven”
What do the 1982 Ford Sierra, 1985 Mercury Sable and 1988 BMW Z1 have in common? Xenoy.
The difference is the extent and application of its use on the BMW. While Ford and Mercury made use of Xenoy on the bumpers, the Bavarian firm used it on the sliding doors, the wings and the rocker panels. The rocker panels are huge on this car so that’s a lot of plastic. Continue reading “Theme: Materials – General Electric “Xenoy””
A good, quantifiable value is a good selling point. It’s an even better selling point if few people know what it actually means, so they can’t really challenge it or compare it.
If you follow Formula 1 these days, you will hear a lot, an awful lot, about ‘aero’. Assuming the drivers don’t all have a fixation on the bubbly, chocolate snack, we can assume this means that the aerodynamics of the overpriced racing cars are very important. They are important for road cars too but, oddly, nowadays manufacturers don’t make a big deal of it in their marketing, leaving you to guess from the often excessively racetrack mimicked shapes of splitters, spoilers and diffusers we see on so many cars. Continue reading “Theme : Values – So Where Are The Drag Queens Now?”
Whereas Fitz and Van tended to offer a rosy picture of today, Syd Mead looked forward. In this image we are invited to imagine that the pilot of the advanced military (?) plane in the background has driven in a very futuristic sports car to get to work. It’s the future so he is wearing a silvery jump suit. Continue reading “Micropost: Syd Mead’s 1977 Artwork for Yokohama”
DTW likes to present itself as a dogma-free zone and, in general, we think that this is so. We cover four wheels without prejudice of value or social status. But once we step outside that, things change. When I was at school, with youth’s preference for factions, it seemed to be that you were either a car person or a motorbike person. I suppose there were people who were neither, but contempt or, at best, pity for them was the only thing that united car and bike lobbies. I was firmly in the car camp, and remained there until my late twenties, when I discovered bikes as well. But many car folk really have no interest in bikes, which makes writing about bikes on these pages a minority pastime. Continue reading “Two Wheels Good. Three Wheels Better?”
Rumours of a turbocharged version of the Lancia flagship proved to be more than hot air, but the Gamma Turbo failed to enter production. Well, not quite…
Even following the car’s announcement, it appears that debate over the wisdom of employing the Tipo 830 boxer engine continued to rage; especially once the powerplant’s frailty in service became apparent. This schism was alluded to by Car magazine’s Italian correspondent, Giancarlo Perini in June 1979, writing; “At Lancia they are developing a new 6-cylinder engine that could be fitted into the Gamma. But a big struggle is going on between the directors who supported the flat-four project (who will not recognise they were wrong) and the other directors who support a change to a six cylinder engine.” It’s likely Perini was getting his timelines muddled, since Fiat were by then firmly in retrenchment mode and would never countenance such expense having already invested in the existing powerplant. Nevertheless, it does suggest a measure of hand-wringing was taking place over the Gamma’s fortunes in Turin. Continue reading “Gamma: Signs and Portents – Part Ten”
How Toyota finally put the horse before the cart in what was, in one sense at least, a bit of a Triumph.
Despite promises of Waku-Doki and its work with EVs, Toyota remains in many ways a cautious company. Once I might have said this with a tinge of contempt, but certainly not now. The motor industry is a dangerous business, yet Toyota has survived and prospered because, generally, they know exactly what they are doing.
We conclude March’s theme by wondering if the engineering ideal of suspension that thinks for itself is any closer to reality now than it was thirty years ago.
Pity the unfortunate suspension engineer, saddled with the seemingly impossible task of reconciling the hugely complex operating range of the motor vehicle against the twin imperatives of providing a comfortable ride for passengers, while allowing sufficient body control to allow for accurate and consistent handling. Under such constraints, the successful melding of conflicting forces acting vertically in ride and horizontally in cornering and steering, can only result in unhappy compromise. Continue reading “Theme: Suspension – The Comfort Trap”
Defying convention and chiselling away at costs can be a recipe for disaster, as one manufacturer who ought to have known better found out.
Cast your eyes over this ‘platform’. If you’re keen on guessing games, you would take in the V-engine perched over the front wheel centreline, front struts, complex looking independent rear suspension, and all round disc brakes, and conclude that it was probably ‘80s or ‘90s, most likely from the upper end of a European or Japanese manufacturer’s range.
In which case you could scarcely be more wrong. The chassis belongs to a British Ford, introduced in 1966, and costing less than £1000 in its basic form. The Zephyr/Zodiac Mk.IV was the first mass-produced British Ford car to feature independent rear suspension. The trouble is, it wasn’t much good. Continue reading “Theme : Suspension – When Independence Goes Wrong”
A long time ago the Midlands of Britain were at the cutting edge of suspension design.
In 1955 Citroen presented their DS which had a suspension system markedly different from the ones with which drivers were familiar. The British Motor Corporation picked up Citroen’s fragrant gauntlet. Their attempt to improve ride and handling went under the name hydrolastic and they offered it first on the period’s equivalent of a bog-standard family car, the 1100-series (born as ADO16). Continue reading “Theme : Suspension – Hydrolastic Rubbery Goodness”
The missing link, or just missing a link. We consider the much maligned swing axle.
The swing axle is the first stop when considering how to make the movement of two rear wheels, previously attached to a solid axle, independent of each other. Simply pivot the shafts either side of the differential and have the two wheels bounce up and down, describing an arc around their respective pivot points. It’s a basic system with many shortcomings but, bearing in mind it dates back to the early days of the motor car, when it was patented by Edmund Rumpler in 1903, that is understandable. Continue reading “Theme : Suspension – Swinging On A Star”
The suspension system is where the car comes into contact with the road and tries to a) keep it there and b) pretend as if the road doesn’t exist. That’s a lot to ask…
…and then get precious little thanks in return from customers or indeed motoring journalists. The former probably don’t know what suspension is. The latter want all suspension to do the same thing, namely to keep fast cars stuck on the tarmac at 145 mph. This conflict is as big as the one facing the suspension itself, which must mediate between the undulating road and the dynamic system that is the car in motion. The other circle to be squared is that of ride comfort versus handling. Continue reading “Theme: Suspension – It’s A Kind Of Magic”
What do most modern small and medium-sized cars have in common? Well, nearly everything.
They are almost all front-wheel drive, with the four-cylinder in-line engine in the front. And almost all of them have MacPherson suspension. Prizes if you can think of an exception. In 2004 the market for small cars consisted of the Fiat Panda, Daewoo Matiz, City Rover, Skoda Fabia and Daihatsu Charade (among others). They all had MacPherson struts. Moving to the present day this is still true nearly all the medium-sized cars are so equipped. Continue reading “Theme: Suspension – Cheap and Cheerful”
The car that would come to be defined as the quintessential S-class actually was a deeply conservative vanguard of modern engineering. However, its legacy was not to last.
A black wreckage with blown-off bonnet and deflated tyres, lying across a cordoned-off street. This is how most Germans of a certain generation remember the Mercedes W126, the S-class model of the 1980s.
In the autumn of 1989, Alfred Herrhausen, chairman of Deutsche Bank, as well as head of Daimler-Benz AG’s supervisory board, was killed on his way to work by the blast of a roadside bomb. Herrhausen had been one of the most influential economic leaders of West Germany, and certainly the most charismatic among them. A proponent of challenging concepts, he advocated the need for global corporate expansion, as well as debt relief for Third World countries. Continue reading “First Of Its Kind/Last Of Its Kind: The Mercedes W126 – Part One”
We discuss the problems of car styling a lot here and, maybe, we’re unreasonably unsympathetic to the designer’s lot. After all, what do you do when you have a 5 metre length of metal to deal with? It’s a daunting task.
Possibly the most universally scorned piece of automotive styling of recent years is the first generation SsangYong Rodius. This car bemused many observers, and the reasoning behind it was only explained slightly by learning that the shape was intended to evoke a luxury yacht, thus insulting yacht designers the World over. So what does yacht design really look like? Continue reading “Whatever Floats Your Boat”
The Gamma’s most formidable rival may surprise you, but should it really have surprised Lancia’s lords and masters?
When Lancia’s half dead remains turned up on Fiat’s doorstep in 1969, the product drawers may well have been empty, but there was a clear and logical model hierarchy in place. So it’s peculiar that Sergio Camuffo saw fit to disrupt this well defined model stratification with the first of his new-era Lancia’s – 1972’s Beta Berlina. Continue reading “Gamma: Signs and Portents – Part Eight”
Suspension systems are inherently reactive. One approach to managing the response of the body to road surface changes is adaptive ride suspension. Is it really any different from passive systems?
In both passive and active systems, the road surface’s variations are the main input to the body and suspension system. Passive systems are designed to build in to the suspension the capacity to absorb energy so that the body movement is controlled and tyre contact to the road surface is maximized. Active suspensions involve the use of actuators to change the height of the body at each corner of the car. This additional mechanism requires the use of variable-rate shock absorbers and dampers. The active ride system needs sensors to Continue reading “Theme: Suspension – Not As Good As It Sounds But Still An Improvement”