Drop the Subject – (Part One)

We break out the wool tufts for a two-part story documenting the early days of streamlining. 

1936 Arrowhead. Bob Cunningham

In the 1930s they were widely publicised as the shape of automotive things to come, the so-called raindrop-shaped streamliners. That raindrops are tadpole-shaped is a common misconception however; falling raindrops are perfectly round. Ball bearing and lead-shot manufacturers exploit this phenomenon of falling liquids: molten lead is dropped from a great height into a cooling liquid with perfect spheres as a result.

Some raindrop cars made it to the actual volume production phase; early Tatras, the Fiat 600 Multipla and of course the SAAB 92-96 being amongst the best known examples, but most efforts would fail to find investors or public interest and remained one-offs or extremely limited production at best. Nevertheless some of the endeavours, initiated by people as diverse as a geneticist, a rocket scientist and a carrot juice maker are worthy and interesting enough to Continue reading “Drop the Subject – (Part One)”

White Elephant Or Red Herring?

Bruno Vijverman profiles Amsterdam’s Witkar.

The Witkar. Image: Hart Amsterdam.nl

The late sixties and early seventies: it seemed as if Amsterdam and this era were made for each other. Expansion of the mind by means of a wide range of stimulants, breaching of the traditional sexual mores, and challenging the establishment in general – all against a background of a nasty conflict in Southeast Asia and a looming end by atomic bomb.

The summer of love might have faded since its heyday in Haight-Ashbury but its spirit was still very much alive in the Dutch capital. However, like any other reasonably sized city that attracted new residents, new businesses and more tourism every year, Amsterdam could not Continue reading “White Elephant Or Red Herring?”

Thesis On Thesis

Saving Lancia – one Thesis at a time…

Image: Top Speed

Attraction is a difficult feeling to describe or give substance to, one man’s glass of Chateau Neuf de Pape is another’s Suzuki X-90. And while I’ve never been allowed into DTW Towers (for reasons that cannot legally be divulged), there is widely believed to exist amid its expansive halls an unbridled acceptance of most things wearing a particular shield badge.

It was through a search for Lancia that these eyes did land upon Driven To Write, a smattering of time ago. Realising the sheer depth upon all matters motoring but leaning heavily towards the FCA (now enigmatic Stellantis) subsumed manufacturer, I dived in – eyes wide – head first. No arm bands, either.

Lancia have had poems of love written about them. Journalists were once known to Continue reading “Thesis On Thesis”

Sun(beam) Up At 424

The dawning of a new car. 

1977 Chrysler Sunbeam. Image: avengers-in-time

John Riccardo, Chrysler chairman Diary entry October 29 1975: Hold press conference regarding corporation’s loss of £116M in the first nine months. Inform UK government Chrysler can be a gift or closed down – their choice. Rescue package of £55M from HMG plus £12M from US parent snatched up. Use wisely!

December 1975 was crunch time for Chrysler UK. Now propped up mainly by government money, a new small car was a must to Continue reading “Sun(beam) Up At 424”

Bulletproof, Baby

The art of protection.

Looks can be deceiving. Image: Motor1.com.

Well, you’ve made it. King of the hill, head honcho. Now to get the country sorted, getting to grips with the nitty gritty. But, you’ve made more enemies than friends getting here. Some of those policies have disgruntled the populace. Changing the whole economy didn’t help, nor banning Sunday morning lie-ins. And as for pulling out of the Tufty Club.

Fortunately, some bright spark in procurement realised you might Continue reading “Bulletproof, Baby”

Understanding the Welsh Air. And Yoghurt.

Lucid dreams. 

Lucid Air. Image: yankodesign

We aim to make not only the best electric car but also the best car in the world.” This may sound somewhat boastful but the chap expressing these words has quite the curriculum vitae to back it up.

Peter Rawlinson began life in South Wales, raised and schooled in the Vale of Glamorgan, later graduating in Engineering at Imperial College, London. Jaguar employed his young talent, where he reached the heights of Principal Engineer before quitting to assist Lotus. During his stint at Hethel, Rawlinson managed to Continue reading “Understanding the Welsh Air. And Yoghurt.”

The Brakeman

Let’s slow things down for Sunday.

I’ve driven under this bridge many times in my home town. The bridge remains but the slogan, lost. Sheffieldhistory.co.uk

Ever since cavemen realised the wheel was more conducive to transportation, reducing vehicular speeds safely has been a problem, to say the least. Fine to get motion rolling but just how do you make that cart or wagon slow down and stop, preferably before the impending river/edge/group of people?

Boughs from trees, old boots, metal, bricks, rocks – all of the above have at one time or another been employed to Continue reading “The Brakeman”

Formula Toast

The appliance of… well what exactly?

Image: Motorbox

Alejandro Agag is clearly a well connected sort of chap. It was he who had the bright spark of introducing electrically powered racing cars to the world with the advent of Formula E. Yes, there were teething problems as one could reasonably expect with something so technically unproven. The set up took time, Dallara were chosen for chassis, Williams sorting out the sparks, Hewland the cogs.

In that first season, Formula E needed two cars per driver; the battery simply could not Continue reading “Formula Toast”

Henry Wiggin’s Contribution

“The industrial gas turbine that’s good enough to fly.”

Image: autospeed.com via revivaler.com

Unless you have personal involvement within the industry, Henry Wiggin is unlikely to register upon your radar, for his products are hidden, yet well known. But for a brief time some seventy years ago, the automotive world came knocking at his door; the first customer from nearby, Rover of Lode Lane, Solihull. Wiggin’s business was the carburising of steel – extremely hard and durable nickel plating for items that spin at both high speeds and temperatures – conditions typical gas turbines are routinely subjected to.

Based close to the banks of the Birmingham canal on a street bearing his name, Wiggin produced  Nimonic 90, an alloy consisting of nickel, chromium and cobalt, coating turbine wheels conducive to smaller applications. For Rover, this meant its JET 1 gas turbine programme could now live.

Consider at that time, Britain was still under wartime rationing, yet pushing engineering boundaries. In the smoky wake of Frank Whittle’s jet engined aircraft, Rover, followed by a select handful of other interested parties believed gas turbines to have a promising automotive future. This palpable excitement sadly failed, but today we can at least Continue reading “Henry Wiggin’s Contribution”

Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

The best bread never lasts.

Gutbrod Superior. Image: Motor-car.net

For a company that claims to have brought mass produced direct petrol injection to the engine world, few have heard or remember the short lived German firm of Gutbrod – the English translation being good bread. If Lloyd were a flash in the pan for their eleven years, Gutbrod was the mayfly – forty two months and gone.

Founded in Ludwigsburg 1926 by Wilhelm Gutbrod, their initial wares were motorcycles under the Standard brand name. Light agricultural machinery soon followed as did their first car – the rear engined Standard Superior. Expansion saw them Continue reading “Best Thing Since Sliced Bread”

Nordstjärna (Part Three)

Desperate times. Desperate measures. 

Image: carthrottle

The early 1960s had been good years at Trollhättan. Saab sales had risen exponentially, the export performance of the 96 showed considerable promise, and its rally exploits further bolstered its appeal. But it was clear that to consolidate upon this success, a more modern, more adaptable Saab motorcar was required. In April 1964 management initiated Project Gudmund which would culminate in the 99 model, unveiled to the press in November 1967.

But meanwhile sales of the two-stroke 96 were stalling, and technical chief, Rolf Mellde recognised the need to act. Not that his engineers had exactly been warming their hands in the interim. Between 1960 and 1964, a number of four-stroke engines were evaluated in Saab bodyshells. Initially three powertrains were selected, a longitudinal 897 cc four cylinder Lloyd Arabella unit, a transversely mounted 848 cc BMC A-Series (à la Mini) and a 1089 cc V4 Lancia Appia unit.

Despite this however, Saab CEO, Tryggve Holm remained implacably wedded to the two-stroke concept, vetoing any move by Mellde to Continue reading “Nordstjärna (Part Three)”

Light Fogging

Dirty Great Volvos: Part Two – the 780 ES.

Image: carpixel

The success of the Bertone and Volvo partnership bred goodwill, long term relationships being established between manufacturer and carrozzeria, which maintained their longevity, thirty-plus years from their labours – enough to tip the scales in favour of a second attempt.

Once the final 262C had trundled off the forecourt early in 1981, the new project coupé was planned under the P202 code number. Lengthy concept briefings took place in both countries over a period of three years, the Torinese producing some typically flamboyant early renders.

Imagine the reaction. Nuccio Bertone himself being informed the initial drawings were “too aggressive.” Paolo Caccamo, Bertone chairman states, “Three designs were drawn. One too similar to the 760, one too sporting, the final of the scissor designs a compromise that both parties were happy with. It may not be innovative but it is elegant.” A further development saw the Italians Continue reading “Light Fogging”

The Transalpine Formation

A closer look at the SM’s Maserati-sourced V6 engine. 

Alfieri’s production SM unit. (c) citroen-sm.uk

Like most aspects of historical record, the story behind the development of Maserati’s 114-series 2760 cc V6 engine is dependent upon whose account one reads; the orthodoxy suggesting that the engine supplied to Citroën was a derivation of an existing Maserati V8 unit. However, its bespoke basis has been placed beyond doubt.

When the request from Paris came through, Maserati technical director, Giulio Alfieri took a pre-existing 4.2 litre 90° V8 unit from his workshops, and by effectively slicing two cylinders from the block, fashioned a 2.9 litre prototype engine. However, while the subsequent production engine may have shared the original unit’s included angle, it was in fact new from the ground-up and designed specifically to Continue reading “The Transalpine Formation”

One Small Drive For Mankind

Andrew Miles documents a space oddity.

A pleasant Saturday evening drive ahead. (c) Thisdayinaviation.com.

As a professor of ignorance based within the university of life, complex issues such as remembering which side the fuel filler flap is on (even with the pointy arrow!) can, dependant upon time of day, prove vexing. How on Earth therefore does one Continue reading “One Small Drive For Mankind”

Insight in Hindsight

Honda’s 2010 CR-Z was not without precedent. Quite the contrary.

(c) autoevolution

Of all the mainstream Japanese carmakers, Honda have perhaps the longest track record of going about things their own way. Yes, one can point to someone like Subaru and suggest an element of stand-alone behaviour, but while Fuji Heavy Industries has for the most part cleaved doggedly to one central idea, one never quite knows what Honda is likely to get up to next.

Take the 2010 Honda CR-Z: A compact 2+2 hybrid coupé was not the epicentre of automotive orthodoxy ten years ago, the intention being to create something of a halo model to help nudge customers towards Honda’s more prosaic range of Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) petrol-combustion hybrid drive models. But not only was the drivetrain shared with the concurrent Civic Hybrid and stand-alone Prius-baiting Insight model, so too was the platform, in this case with a sizeable chunk excised from the centre section.[1]

The CR-Z also arrived with a palpably strong sense of déjà-Vu, insofar as more observant Honda watchers were likely to Continue reading “Insight in Hindsight”

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+)”

A Matter of SMantics

Separated by two decades, and a good deal of ideology, we trace the seemingly improbable; the similarities between Honda’s 1990 NSX and Citroën’s 1970 SM. 

(c) dyler-com

For a short period of time during the close of the 1980s, it did appear as though the Japanese auto industry were poised to, as the UK’s Car Magazine rather hysterically headlined in 1988, “tear the heart out the European industry.” The reality behind this seemingly overnight transformation was quite naturally, anything but; Japanese carmakers after all, have never been in the business of impulse.

By mid-decade, the land of the rising sun had learned about as much as they felt they needed from the established players and were confident enough of their abilities, particularly from a technical standpoint. Furthermore, it had dawned upon the leading Japanese carmakers that European and US lawmakers were unlikely to drop the punitive barriers to unfettered trade; not when the domestic producers were incapable of competing on quality, durability or increasingly, sophistication.

The only route for Japanese carmakers was to Continue reading “A Matter of SMantics”

Beautiful Vision – Evolution of the Jowett Javelin (Part 6)

To the bright side of the road – The Jowett Javelin meets the world

Image: Jowett Car Company

In little more than a year, the Javelin emerged as a production debutante and established itself as one of the brightest stars of a reawakening British motor industry. Charles Callcott Reilly, Jowett’s swashbuckling joint Managing Director, had made an extraordinary effort to Continue reading “Beautiful Vision – Evolution of the Jowett Javelin (Part 6)”

Curtain Call (Part 6)

A further peek through the iron curtain, courtesy of Bruno Vijverman, taking in the GDR, Czechoslovakia, Poland and mother Russia herself. 

Trabant P610. (c) trabantegyegy.uw/ hupommerngreif.de

Trabant P610 1974

Powered by an 1100cc Škoda engine, this was yet another failed attempt, started early in 1974- to replace the old P601. Four P610 prototypes were made, of which at least one has survived. In November 1979 the SED
(Socialist Unity party of Germany) ordered Trabant manufacturer, VEB Sachsenring Automobilwerke to Continue reading “Curtain Call (Part 6)”

Electric (Tonka) Dreams

Andrew Miles plays with his trucks.

The sports truck does its thing… (c) Liebherr

I was five years old that Christmas when the bright yellow truck arrived – chunky tyres, opening doors and that tipper truck action – get me to a sand pit, now! Tonka toys were large, usually painted bright yellow and virtually indestructible. Since that time my interest into the real-life enormous dump truck has never waned. 

Think electric power is the preserve of cars future? Think again…

The Erzberg open cast mine, near the Austrian town of Eisenerz, is roughly forty miles northwest of Graz. They found stuff to Continue reading “Electric (Tonka) Dreams”

Cap 112 (180)

Sitting comfortably? Buckled in safe? Then we’ll begin…

(c) Drivingtorque.com

Since its inception in 1927, Volvo Cars has given the world a lot to think about. At least as safety-focused as Mercedes-Benz (but with added acronyms), 1959 saw the Torslanda-based car firm installing front seat three-point safety belts as standard, allowing free use to any other manufacturer, not that many took up the initiative.

A concerned friend of mine once amassed a comprehensive file of seat belt data, weighing up the pros and cons from dozens of firms back in the early 1960s. After weeks of cogitation, he spent a weekend fitting Irvine belts (initially a parachute manufacturer) to his Morris 1100, which gave sterling service. The file carried weight – influencing one of his employer’s directors to Continue reading “Cap 112 (180)”

Saving The World, Volvo Style

Forty years ago Gothenburg tried its hand at an eco-car. It didn’t catch on. 

(c) Popularmechanics

Large scale manufacturers have the ability to try new technologies, regardless of their commercial non-success. On these pages we have read of countless millions budgeted for a non-starting project or concept, at the time heralding new automotive beginnings, only to forever reside within the confines of a museum. A historical artefact from a less well informed period.

One such previously unsung example being Volvo’s LCP2000 project. The Light Component Project for the year 2000 started life in 1979. After an exemplary twenty five career with fellow Scandinavian carmaker, SAAB, where he had input with the Sonnet, in addition to rally-driving and engine development (tied with being an executive), the ever genial engineer, Rolf Mellde sought a new challenge at Volvo.

The simple brief being to Continue reading “Saving The World, Volvo Style”

Beautiful Vision – Evolution of the Jowett Javelin (Part 5)

In the face of extraordinary challenges, Gerald Palmer’s vision becomes reality.

Happy days ahead Image: Jowett Car Club

As the hand-built prototype Jowetts pounded the roads of Eastern England and war ended, the intrepid Yorkshire company faced new challenges of recovery and reconstruction. In March 1945 the entrepreneur Charles Clore bought out the Jowett brothers’ holdings and thereby took control of the business. The new capital was welcome, but Jowett was no longer a family firm, and the new master would soon Continue reading “Beautiful Vision – Evolution of the Jowett Javelin (Part 5)”

Steamrollered

The pursuit of pure aerodynamics is rarely pretty – as this unusual story from Croatia illustrates – in abundance.

(c) Yuri Samoylik

The vehicle in a sorry state seen here, slowly decaying in an impound lot in Split, started out as a radical aerodynamic concept from Croatia that piqued the interest of both Ferrari and Mercedes-Benz. What is it, how did it end up here, and what happened to it? No, it has not been the victim of an unfortunate steamroller mishap although at first glance you could be forgiven for thinking that: it really was designed to look like this.

Lifelong Ferrari aficionado Zlatko Vukusic (he named the restaurant-café he owned after Enzo’s firm) dabbled in car design and specifically aerodynamics in his free time. Through contact with erstwhile Ferrari chief engineer Giotto Bizzarini in the early nineties, the Croatian was able to Continue reading “Steamrollered”

Rear Entrance, Door Furniture, Re-Evaluation No. 13 (or Should We Call It Mind The Doors?)

Hidden door handles – see what you did there…

(c) Auto evolution

The Alfa Romeo 156: when I clapped eyes on that car, well, it really was love at first sight. Those looks, that stance, look at the wheels! The aura surrounding the badge, the singular, front door handle… hang on. Where is the rear door handle? This a four door saloon..

Rewind to the car’s Frankfurt Motor Show introduction, to the world and everyone who was anyone waxing lyrical concerning that hidden rear door handle. This, momentarily, having already eulogised over those svelte, Italian lines. Those lines and looks have faded, and while no longer wowed when one is (increasingly rarely) seen out and about, I can still appreciate the lines. Too quickly do my eyes Continue reading “Rear Entrance, Door Furniture, Re-Evaluation No. 13 (or Should We Call It Mind The Doors?)”

Beautiful Vision – Evolution of the Jowett Javelin (Part 4)

Hard Nose the Highway – the Javelin takes to the road

The first Javelin prototype. Image:  Jowett Car Club

The first prototype of Jowett’s still un-named new saloon was completed on 25 August 1944 arriving into a nation in transition, still anxious, yet optimistic, and at the peak of its technological and manufacturing prowess. It was a land where a computer was a job description for a person adept with a slide rule and log tables, and star engineers and scientists enjoyed the same level of recognition and celebrity as the top sportspeople and entertainers.

For the British car industry, preparing tentatively for the postbellum world, steel allocations were more of a concern than scoop photographers. Gerald Palmer described the in-house built prototypes as “virtually created from raw materials”, by a small development and engineering team, working constantly, even through evenings and weekends. The first car had an 1184cc engine, probably with an iron cylinder block. From the second prototype onwards, the 1486cc export engines were installed. Continue reading “Beautiful Vision – Evolution of the Jowett Javelin (Part 4)”

Beautiful Vision – Evolution of the Jowett Javelin (Part 3)

With the Javelin’s revolutionary credentials established at an early stage of development, evolution towards running prototypes and production reality gathered pace in a harmonious and efficient manner.

First full-size Javelin prototype Image: Jowett Cars

Possibly the most successful element of the Javelin’s design is its suspension and steering. At the front, double wishbones are employed in conjunction with longitudinal torsion bars. Telescopic shock absorbers are used, and the wheels are steered through a sector and pinion mechanism, located behind the engine which is mounted just forward of the front axle line.

At the rear the live axle is located by four fully trailing links and a Panhard Rod. Springing is again by torsion bars, this time in a transverse arrangement. Telescopic shock absorbers are mounted at a 45 degree angle to reduce intrusion into the interior space. Continue reading “Beautiful Vision – Evolution of the Jowett Javelin (Part 3)”

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)”

American Pioneer

Mention hybrid vehicles and one immediately thinks of Toyota and the 1997 Prius, the first commercially successful passenger car of this type. There are, however, earlier examples and today we look at an unlikely pioneer, Briggs & Stratton.

(c) hegarty.com

Outside the US, the name Briggs & Stratton is most often associated with lawnmower engines of modest capacities and power outputs. This understates considerably the size and global reach of the company. Founded in 1908, Briggs & Stratton is the world’s largest manufacturer of small-capacity internal combustion engines for agricultural, industrial, marine and recreational applications.

Headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the company manufactures around ten million engines annually in plants located in North and South America, Europe and Australia, and sells in over 100 countries worldwide.

In the late 1970’s, following the fuel crisis earlier in that decade, Briggs & Stratton began thinking about the viability of hybrid power. It recognised that most road vehicles of that era were highly inefficient: their large capacity internal combustion engines were required to produce enough power and torque to accelerate them up to the speed limit on highways but, thereafter, only a fraction of the power output was required to Continue reading “American Pioneer”

Londinium Trio 3 : Latex in London

Our Sheffield-based scribe hasn’t tyred of his rubber fixation. Not by some stretch…

(c) bhsproject.co.uk

The Firestone Tire & Rubber Company was inaugurated on 3rd August 1900 in similar fashion to arch rival, Goodyear. Harvey Samuel Firestone had previous business experience prior to moving from Chicago to the rubber town of Akron, Ohio, a minuscule, hard working and honest workforce (all employees names known), followed by an explosion of fortune and growth. Fierce amidst board and courtroom alike, Harvey S Firestone was a philanthropist at heart – employees were paramount.

Appalled at the shoddy condition of America’s roads in 1919, Firestone invited an army-led Transcontinental Motor Convoy, shod in his firm’s rubber over to his Columbiano based farm to Continue reading “Londinium Trio 3 : Latex in London”

Computer World

After almost five decades of sporadic appearances and false dawns, is the digital dashboard finally in inexorable ascendency?

computer word - rhino
(Source: Rhino)

I have been meaning to write something on this subject for some time now.  Unfortunately, the nasty virus has meant that my working life has gone into overload as I have responsibility for keeping a small UK bank operating with it’s entire staff working out of bedrooms, kitchens, dining rooms and even landings, and so time and energy has been in short supply.

I had also been Continue reading “Computer World”

Small Faces

Andrew Miles enters the crystal maze.

volvo
(c) Autocar

Steve Marriott was lead singer and co-creator of 1960’s Mod four-piece, The Small Faces. In their 1968 track, Donkey Rides, A Penny, A Glass… Marriott alludes to wasting his days in idyllic fashion in a caravan at the seaside. Mind you, the band’s subject matter also included (and indubitably entertained) various substances; references being made to the breakfast cereal All-bran, tin soldiers jumping into fire and life affirming measures that only those of a certain age could possibly appreciate.

As a ‘70s child, blissfully innocent of free-love and mind expanding powders, for me the band produced consistent results, a little like some Swedish artisans cooking up glass, deep in Småland.*

Orrefors (end it with a shh) are producers of fine glassware and have been shaping crystals for many years. Building a smithy and forge by the river which flows into the lake Orrenas, the company’s name translates as the Iron Waterfall. The car connection appeared when Volvo asked them to Continue reading “Small Faces”

Limiting Screentime

Good news for a change. Honda is switching back to rotary dials, Autocar reports.

2020 Honda Jazz, with added rotaries. (c) Autocar

It has been something of a Driven to Write hobbyhorse to not merely bemoan, but berate carmakers about the dereliction of responsibility they have for the people who variously operate their products. I speak of the wholesale refutation of years of ergonomic and haptic research into the user-functionality within vehicle cabins by the adoption of touch-screen interfaces.

There is little doubt (and even less evidence to the contrary) that the widespread and still-growing use of touchscreens is occurring primarily due to matters of fashion and cost – it now being both cheaper and easier to Continue reading “Limiting Screentime”

Body of Evidence (part 3)

Unfinished sympathy.

The completed Type 64 recreation at the Mullin Museum. (c) fineartamerica

The mysterious power of the Bugatti nameplate has over the years, led a significant number of individuals to part with often huge sums of money, often to little lasting effect. In addition, the carmaker’s legend comes freighted with tales of hubris, stark reversals of fortune, suicide and accidental death. It is therefore, with some caution that one ought to approach the fabled name so intrinsically linked with speed, glamour, elegance, indulgence, and the town of Molsheim, Alsace.

We therefore return to the unbodied Type 64 chassis and the stark dilemma it posed for new owner, Peter Mullin. Firstly, given that the chassis itself won a best in show award at Pebble Beach in 2013, it was considered the utmost vandalism to cover it with a body, especially so many years after its creation. But having convinced himself that it would be appropriate to Continue reading “Body of Evidence (part 3)”

When Alfa Romeo Beat Bosch

The tale of CEM, Alfa Romeo’s in-house electronic engine management system, which redefined what was ‘state of the art’ in engine technology, outdoing Bosch with a fraction of its research budget. To no avail.

The 1983 Alfetta 2.0 CEM (c) wheelsage.org

The history of tailpipe emissions regulations started, as many may know, with the USA’s Clean Air Act of 1966. Alfa Romeo’s share of the US market was minuscule, but the engineers at the Milan HQ could see the writing on the wall: it was now just a matter of time before similar measures would be enacted in Europe as well.

The Italian company needed to find ways to Continue reading “When Alfa Romeo Beat Bosch”

EGV The Friendly Ghost

A peek under the cover at Mladá Boleslav’s design process.

All New Latest Exclusive Top Secret Undercover Groundbreaking Ghost Car Type 17. (c) Skodastoryboard.com

Car companies are rarely known for the philanthropy, charity work or comedy. Surely those who work within must see forms of any (or hopefully all) of these at some point. Making cars though is a serious business; livelihoods and reputations are at stake and those stakes are high. Thank goodness then for a small window opening into what is normally the most secretive of worlds – that of the prototype.

In this domain, security is king; no mobile phones, no contact with outsiders, no leaks to press. Over three hundred souls are committed to Continue reading “EGV The Friendly Ghost”

Cars That Could Have Been Citroëns – 1981 Mercedes Auto 2000

Three pointed stars and chevrons are mutually exclusive. Or are they?

(c) mercedes-benz-passion

A Mercedes that could have been a Citroën? Surely, DTW’s acting editor has taken leave of his senses. But please bear with me. Because while this vehicle is every inch a product of Stuttgart-Sindelfingen, could there be enough double chevron goodness sprinkled over this concept for it to form part of this unique to DTW series of chevronesque curiosities?

The background to the Auto 2000 lay in a late-1970s initiative laid down by the German government to Continue reading “Cars That Could Have Been Citroëns – 1981 Mercedes Auto 2000”

Tilting the Scales : (2)

As the crisis-torn Lybra programme came under microscopic scrutiny, longstanding Lancia engineer Bruno Cena took responsibility for its salvation. 

(c) bozhdynsky

Cena, a talented engineer who came to mainstream attention for his work on the dynamic setup of the Alfa Romeo 156, was a self-described ‘Uomo Lancia’ from way back. Joining Fiat in the early 1970s, he had moved to Lancia in 1978, working under Ing. Camuffo on the initial stages of the Type Four project.

Appointed head of four-wheel drive development for the marque in 1984, he was promoted to head of Lancia development two years later, and given responsibility for vehicle testing across Fiat, Lancia and Alfa Romeo in 1991. In October 1996, he was made Fiat Auto’s ‘D-platform’ director – just in time to Continue reading “Tilting the Scales : (2)”

Weekend Reissue – Taking Sides

When it comes to matters of symmetry, DTW takes the centre ground.

Syncopated rhythm.  (c) Autoweek

 Back in the early days of Driven to Write, when life was more innocent and we hadn’t entirely lost the run of ourselves, we had both the time and the inclination to exercise our more whimsical thoughts, impressions and observations, at length.

Our cloth is cut a little more snugly nowadays, I regret to note, but what cannot be altered must, as I’m sure any tailor can agree, must Continue reading “Weekend Reissue – Taking Sides”

The Quiet Revolution

Our Northern correspondent gets off his trolley.

trolleybus
(c) Bancroftsofyorkshire.blogspot.com

Not wishing for one moment to hasten the demise of our favoured personal transport, we must take into account the future. With planners believing we’re all to live in mega cities and have no need to own or run a car, we seek out alternatives and as is so often the way, we must look to the past to see the future.

In March 1972, the last of the UK’s once huge trolley bus network was hooked down from the frog* in Bradford, West Yorkshire. Neighbouring Leeds toyed with resurrecting such a wild idea in the early 2000’s but came to nought. A sixty year fling with this curious hybrid (that ironically had started in Bradford), of an omnibus and a railed, electrified tram was deemed non-standard and the spiders web of must-be-followed grid was removed, never to Continue reading “The Quiet Revolution”

Taming the Cat

Four years in and Utah gets a hard reboot.

(c) Jaglovers

The compact Jaguar saloons were landmark cars for the company and did much to raise the carmaker’s profile and profitability, but in its first generation form it was not a model which Browns Lane engineering staff viewed with terrific pride, owing to a number of significant compromises buried beneath its shapely envelope.

As development progressed upon the more powerful 3.4 litre version, the handling deficiencies consequent to its narrow rear track (acceptable in the lighter, lower powered car, but less so here), forced engineers to Continue reading “Taming the Cat”

Pioneer State

The 1955 Jaguar 2.4 was overshadowed by its successor, but in many regards, was a more significant car in Jaguar’s evolution as a serious carmaker.

jaguar-mark-one-1
(c) jaglovers

In 1955, Jaguar committed their most ambitious act up to that point with the introduction of the 2.4, an all-new, compact saloon of a sporting mien – every inch a Jaguar, but no hand-down version of its larger sibling. Far from it, because despite the announcement the same year of the revolutionary Citroen DS19, the compact Jaguar was probably as advanced a product as could reasonably be envisaged from what was then a low-volume, specialist carmaker.

Initiated around 1953/4, the Utah (in Jaguar parlance) compact saloon programme would mark their first departure from traditional body-on-frame construction to a stressed unitary bodyshell. Owing to uncertainty over its strength, two stout chassis legs ran the length of the floorpan, rearmost of which (beneath the rear seatpan) would house the mountings for the unusual inverted cantilever semi-elliptic springs, so devised to Continue reading “Pioneer State”

Bridge Across The Humber

Today, our Northern correspondent admires a civil architectural landmark.

Humber Bridge
The central vertical object is the crane, cause of the roadworks. Author’s picture

The Romans: famous for liking wine, partial to dividing and conquering, proficient with straight ways and bridge building. But what to do when your legions find a wide estuary literally, in the road? Diversions are costly and in this instance, a bridge too far*

Study a road atlas in North Humberside and you will see from Lincoln (Lindum Colonia) the dual carriageway A15 or, to Roman aficionados, Ermine Street, leads to junction 4 of the M180, the A18 to steel town Scunthorpe but also depletes to what is now a minor road. Roman historians believe a ferry crossing was made from either Winteringham or Whitton in order to Continue reading “Bridge Across The Humber”

Ghost Stories

Today we examine the UK motor industry prospects for the 1963 automotive graduate, and ponder what we’ve lost along the way.

All images – the author

Reading and being able to write are a huge staple in life. Do you remember when it all suddenly became clearer? I’m suspecting many of you (including me) out there don’t; though what you will remember is how wonderful it was to pick up a book and start to enjoy those words and pictures.

Sadly, as life in general often delivers at the most opportune moments, someone then told me ‘Don’t believe everything you read.’ Memories of being disappointed, deflated and downright angry spring to mind. But you Continue reading “Ghost Stories”

Goodyear? For Some (Part two)

Andrew continues his episodic history of Goodyear

The Brougham carriage with pneumatic tyres by Thompson. (c) nms.ac.uk

After a huge renovation programme and fundraising operation, with a full thirteen employees, November 21st 1898 was the first day of Goodyear production. Bicycle tyres, rubber bands and poker chips were the original products. Goodrich had fire hoses, bottle stoppers and billiard cue-tips. Over in Europe, Michelin had pneumatic tyres fitted to cars in Paris.

Goodrich had managed to Continue reading “Goodyear? For Some (Part two)”

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)”

The Alfa Romeo Experimental Wankel Engine Programme

Tales from futures past: the Alfa Romeo engine you’ve never heard about.

Display parts leftover from the Alfa Romeo Wankel programme (picture from the Author)

During the entire Sixties decade, the rotary engine as conceptualized by the German inventor Felix Wankel and developed by NSU became something of the auto industry’s darling: compact, light, powerful yet smooth, and made of few moving parts, it looked like the future.

No car company wanted to Continue reading “The Alfa Romeo Experimental Wankel Engine Programme”

Into the Mystic

The Great Contraction is no longer a theoretical construct. It’s here.

First cross my hand with silver… (c) cwallpapersgallery

The era of unfettered expansion and niche-filling is not only over, it would appear to be in the process of being unceremoniously dumped at the hard shoulder. As European carmakers face a deeply uncertain commercial and regulatory future, previously inviolate marque-orthodoxies are being stuffed into hessian sacks and abandoned, as auto executives contemplate an epochal shift.

While this is a phenomenon affecting the entire industry, it is one that appears to be hitting one with particular force. Already somewhat embattled, having rather publicly persuaded its former CEO to step down, Bayerische Moterenwerke, as reported by Automobile magazine recently by veteran German automotive soothsayer, Georg Kacher, appears to either be (a) in worse shape than their compatriot prestige rivals or (b) is taking decisive (if not precipitous) action to Continue reading “Into the Mystic”

Opus di Busso

Further to last week’s dissertation on the 1979 Alfa Six, we examine the contemporary reception to Giuseppe Busso’s Alfa Romeo 2.5 litre V6 unit, through the acerbic eye of LJK Setright.

The Busso V6 as fitted to the 1979 Alfa Six. (c) movitcars

Some engines arrive fully formed, others however, enter the world imperfect, but through a process of development and retrospective correction evolve to defy their early criticism.

A fundamental element of Alfa Romeo’s iconography was intrinsically linked to its engines, especially its pre-war thoroughbreds, those patrician in-line fours, sixes and eights which powered the carmaker into history books, not to mention the hearts and minds of all those with the blood of Portello coursing through their veins. Continue reading “Opus di Busso”

Summer Reissue : Another Country

A nice pair of Bristols? We go in search of shutline nirvana – by air and by road.

Bristol Beaufighter

Earlier in the week, we spent a fair amount of time examining shutlines and the lengths to which some carmakers will go to engineer solutions to the issues left by the stylists, not to mention the depths to which the marketing team will descend to cast them in the best possible light.

So it is perhaps timely that we Continue reading “Summer Reissue : Another Country”