Charges Will Apply

Are we never satisfied?

(c) topgear

On the face of things, Honda’s Geneva e prototype – a thinly veiled (95% production-ready, we are told) version of the forthcoming production Urban EV, marks not only a refreshing change from the over-decorated norm but also a satisfyingly close approximation of the car Honda showed at Frankfurt 2017 to audible gasps of pleasure from the massed cohort of auto-commentators, this non-attending scribe included.

Because if indeed this broadly represents the form the production version will take (and informed speculation suggests it does), it presents a wildly divergent face to the one Honda currently presents to the world. Continue reading “Charges Will Apply”

Saving Grace (Part Two)

Series III’s advent coincided with a number of technical innovations, but one in particular would come with a side-order of calamity. 

(c) Autocar

Despite the outwardly positive manner in which the Series III was presented to the motor press, there was no getting away from the political environment under which the car was developed. Jaguar was reeling under the dictates of the infamous Ryder Report, a series of post-nationalisation recommendations which as implemented, stripped Browns Lane of its leadership, its identity and ultimately its ability to Continue reading “Saving Grace (Part Two)”

Path of Least Resistance

Are we witnessing the slow demise of the inexpensive citycar?

(c) focus2move

Had one been in possession of a crystal ball back in 2009 I’m not sure anyone would have believed predictions for where the motor industry would be placed only a decade later. It would simply beggar belief and yet here we are, still hoping for the best. But the news just keeps on worsening.

This week, a report by Automotive News highlighted something we discussed on these pages a few weeks ago – that being the growing inability for European carmakers to Continue reading “Path of Least Resistance”

Do Want Your Liver Back, Clever Man?

There is a light festival taking place in Copenhagen right now. That’s a valuable reminder of lighting, among the most uncertain aspects of design.

2018 Audi A6: source

Last night as I wandered around the vicinity of Christiansborg Castle, a bright green laser beam divided the sky. The beam stopped on the spire of St Nikolai’s church, a shimmering emerald hue, and it made me imagine Dr Evil demonstrating the power of his laser to destroy ancient buildings unless the Danes paid out one…million…kronor.  I mention this because I very much want to Continue reading “Do Want Your Liver Back, Clever Man?”

Simple Soul

We pay belated tribute to a diminutive giant.

(c) classicandsportscar

What can there possibly be left to say about the Citroën 2CV? Should we simply rehash its backstory, acknowledge its long commercial career, mention the cars it sired, and allude to its afterlife once production ceased? Surely this alone will not do. The problem with approaching cars which have attained the status of holy relics, is finding a means to Continue reading “Simple Soul”

O Wander Into My Dreams

Bob asked a question on Friday. The question is why the Fiat 130 V6 motor was not used in the Lancia Thema instead of the 90 degree PRV6.

1972 Fiat 130 saloon

I will quote the comment in full: “What were the limitations of the 60-degree Fiat 130 V6 that prevented it from being mounted in FWD applications like the Thema / Croma (and Gamma) compared to the 90-degree PRV V6, let alone from receiving further development like later versions of the related Fiat 128 SOHC 4-cylinder engines?”

Let us take as our text the wise word of Wikipedia as a starting point. The Fiat 130 engine had its roots in the what is called the “128 type A” motor, which seems to have been designed at about the same time.

That 128 engine was an in-line four with an iron block and aluminium cylinder hear with an SOHC; the camshaft was belt driven. (So – is that assertion true, that in in-line four can Continue reading “O Wander Into My Dreams”

The Magic of Stones

Today we reflect on the allure of shiny objects…

(c) motor.es

The matter to which we turn our attention today is the Chinese car market, which (and I burn with shame to admit this) for the most part has remained a matter of supreme indifference to me. This is a frightful dereliction of duty on my part; I ought, as one of DTW’s editorial team to Continue reading “The Magic of Stones”

Too Much of a Good Thing?

A couple of experiences recently have got me thinking somewhat more philosophically over the last few days and I wondered what others thought?

z_audi_a8_laser_lights
HD Matrix LED ‘lamps with laser light – clever, but worth the effort? (Source: Car Magazine)

First, I was reading a certain car related website where there was an update from a long term test of the latest Audi A8. It featured thoughts on the latest headlamp technology which had been fitted as an option on that model. It struck me how ‘clever’ the technology actually was, and then also the scale of investment in R&D and production engineering which must have gone into bringing it to market. The cost of the option left me open mouthed, £4,900.  I mean, not so long ago, one could Continue reading “Too Much of a Good Thing?”

Rotary Survivor

Driven to Write profiles a refugee who made it in the new World.

1978 Mazda Rx-7. (c) flickr

During the early 1970s, it appeared as though Toyo Kogyo’s Mazda division had stolen something of a march on the auto industry. Alongside Germany’s NSU, Mazda invested heavily into wankel engine development and while Neckersulm’s all-in commitment saw them Continue reading “Rotary Survivor”

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”

The Quintessence : (Part Eight)

In the spring of 1975, the XJ finally went on sale in coupé form, but the timing proved somewhat inauspicious.

(c) Autocar

From the point of inception, it had been Jaguar’s intention to produce the XJ in two door coupé form. Indeed, during 1967, Jaguar’s North American distributors stated that they were only interested in this body style. But with the XJ4 programme already a good 18-months behind schedule, and other BLMC programmes being accorded priority, PSF ceased development of the coupé body entirely.

This remained the state of affairs in 1969. With XJ6 production getting under way, PSF were in no position to expedite matters and with demand for the saloon so high, all hands were set to Continue reading “The Quintessence : (Part Eight)”

The Road to Zero

…is paved with good intentions. But where is it leading us?

(c) The Independent

Recently, Driven to Write held a metaphorical Bunsen burner to the feet of BMW development supremo, Klaus Fröhlich in the wake of some rather petulant comments he made. On this basis, you might be minded to Continue reading “The Road to Zero”

Definition Point

We profile Ford’s 1998 sector-defining Focus.

(c) namu.moe

The advent of a defining car, while largely something of a singularity, can only truly be recognised as such once a period of time has elapsed. Over time, the Ford Motor Company has created a number of cars which have in their way, defined their eras, largely due to their ubiquity, and popular appeal. However, the number of truly outstanding Euro-Ford car designs are fewer in number.

The 1998 Focus recalibrated not only what a C-segment car looked like, but how it could Continue reading “Definition Point”

Offending Article

BMW’s latest G20 3-Series iteration has already caused no end of offense, but it appears the affront goes beyond the visual.

Flared nostril alert! (c) NYdailynews

The BMW 3 Series Sedan represents the heartbeat of the BMW brand and the epitome of sporty driving pleasure in the premium midsize segment. Exuding dynamic design, agile handling, exceptional efficiency and innovative equipment features, it takes the signature characteristics of a BMW and turns the volume up several notches.

Precisely drawn lines and strikingly contoured surfaces mark out the exterior, which showcases the brand’s new design language. The interior also has a clear, modern and sophisticated design. The new-edition 3 Series sees BMW building above all on the sporting tradition of the best-selling car.” (BMW Press).

You would expect BMW’s PR representatives to Continue reading “Offending Article”

Quiet Please For The Giant Of Coimbra

Ever on the look out for items overlooked by the mainstream media, DTW has been out to land these stories for your delectation.

Recaro´s “seating tomorrow” concept: source

The focus today is on seating and fabrics. I found out that Adient, Johnson Controls and Recaro are part of the same group; Zedtex is an Asian supplier to OEMs and if you want a fabric like a Hermes scarf it seems you must Continue reading “Quiet Please For The Giant Of Coimbra”

Viking Burial

The stillborn Rover P8 remains a fascinating technical fossil, but should the cause of its demise be laid entirely at Jaguar’s door?

P8 in pre-production prototype form. (c) AROnline

Lost causes exert an undying fascination: The Beach Boys’ original Smile LP, Orson Welles’ allegedly destroyed original cut of The Magnificent Ambersons. These and others like them, while unrealised (or unfound) live on in our collective imagination, unsullied by inconvenient reality.

In 1965, the Rover Motor Company was a successful independent carmaker, producing well-regarded luxury saloons and a range of highly capable off-road vehicles. However, its flagship P5 saloon was dating and lacking the resources to replace it, Lode Lane’s developmental head, Charles (Spen) King, working under the guidance of Peter Wilks proposed a modular range of cars to be derived from a single base unit. Continue reading “Viking Burial”

Class Act

Still waters run shallow.

A-Class Saloon
(c) autoexpress

The ideological direction change enacted by Mercedes-Benz for the 2012 W176 A-Class not only precipitated the dying gasp of the German marque’s engineering-led ethos, but went on to vindicate its adoption by becoming a huge commercial success for the carmaker.

This much we know, but the scope and reach to which Mercedes has developed its successor gives eloquent voice of its ongoing significance to the three pointed star. Since its spring 2018 launch, the newest A-Class in five door format can Continue reading “Class Act”

The Quintessence : (Part Two)

In this second instalment, we examine the XJ6’s technical package.

Proving engineers, Don Currie and Richard Cresswell with a disguised XJ4 prototype, sporting Lyons’ ‘Studebaker’ grille. (c) Classic Cars

Sanctioned in 1964, XJ4 was intended to launch in 1967, which seems in hindsight to have been a rather optimistic timescale. The project team would be led by Bob Knight, Jaguar’s senior development engineer and one of the finest conceptual minds of his era. The Browns Lane engineering department at the time was something of a collection of minor fiefdoms, most of whom Continue reading “The Quintessence : (Part Two)”

Kenosha Kid

The immortal ‘Frogeye’ Sprite appeared to be a typical example of British design ingenuity, but its roots may have lain further West: Kenosha, Wisconsin to be exact.

Box of frogs. Image credit: (c) stubs-auto.fr

The compact two-seat sportscar wasn’t necessarily a British invention, but for a period of the twentieth century, the UK was arguably, its prime exponent. Hardly surprising, given Britain’s traditionally serpentine network of narrow undulating roads and a taxation regime which dictated lower capacity, longer-stroke engines of limited outright power.

But the British are an inventive people and soon found ways to Continue reading “Kenosha Kid”

Obscure Alternative

Better known for their two-wheelers as much as a range of small economy cars, the 1985 Suzuki R/S1 was pretty as it was bold. So of course they never made it. Or did they?

1985 Suzuki R/S1. Image credit: (c) allcarindex

For a time during the mid-1980s, it really did appear as though the automotive future was being dreamt up in Japan. With the mainstream European carmakers for the most part mired in creative and technical retrenchment, not to mention chronic overcapacity (some things never change), the Japanese manufacturers had it seemed, invested wisely and emerged as a power to be reckoned with.

Certainly, this period proved to be perhaps the great flowering of Japanese creativity and ambition when carmakers demonstrated to their European (and American) rivals that there really was nowhere to Continue reading “Obscure Alternative”

Asleep On Stage

It’s all platforms, synergies and shared componentry these days. Let’s imagine a more interesting world.

2018 VW Golf with lots of commonality. Lots: VW UK

Economies of scale and platform sharing, hello. That means de Dion axles, narrow angle Vees, odd suspension solutions and three-cylinder boxers are out. Common seat frames are de rigeur. The world car is a five door hatchback with an L4 petrol engine (EFI) and MacPhersons up front and something boring at the back: torsion beams?  Six speed manual box. Check. Discs all around, no doubt. Maybe that’s optimum but it’s not much fun.

I have asked DTW readers for theoretical cars before, focusing on the brand and model range structure. Here I am politely asking you to Continue reading “Asleep On Stage”

Sorry Ms. Jackson

As Citroën reveals the European version of the C5 Aircross CUV, we examine its likely significance within CEO, Linda Jackson’s ‘people-focused’ double chevron reinvention.

Image credit: (c) Citroen UK

Last week, Citroën announced the European debut of its new marque flagship, the C5 Aircross CUV, introduced to the Chinese market last autumn to help arrest the double chevron’s faltering sales performance; PSA citing sales of 40,000 units to the year end. A nice round sum.

The C5 Aircross is significant in three ways to European eyes. Firstly, because it allows us to Continue reading “Sorry Ms. Jackson”

Ghost in the Machine: Peugeot 308 SW Drive Review

A spring break, (or to put it another way, a break in spring) leaves our correspondent in a mildly disturbed state of mind.

A glossy, brochure view of the 308 SW, showing larger alloys that help disguise the rear-end bulk. (source: Peugeot)

One of the many joys of going to the middle of France every spring is that we hire a car for the duration and it never ceases to provide a chance to sample something new from the automotive smorgasbord. This year, for once, we actually got what we expected; Hertz had promised either a 308 SW or a C-Max and we got the Pug.

I wasn’t convinced about the looks – the added bodywork of the SW over the 308 hatch can make the rear three quarters look bulky and like the basic structure is enveloped by rolls of flab, a look which demands larger diameter wheels in order to Continue reading “Ghost in the Machine: Peugeot 308 SW Drive Review”

Javelin at 70 – Part 1: Fortunes of War

DTW takes a look at the advanced and stylish Jowett Javelin on the seventieth anniversary of the delivery of the first car, with some reflections on the machine and its creators. 

The psalmist’s full three score years and ten have passed since the happy owner of Jowett Javelin serial number D8 PA 1 received his or her keys on 16th. April 1948.  It is therefore appropriate to do a little scene-setting before considering the labour and sorrow which led to this remarkable car’s production, and followed it to the end of its days.

What do we think of when we think of Jowett? A family firm? A provincial carmaker? A worthy but vainglorious enterprise inevitably doomed to Continue reading “Javelin at 70 – Part 1: Fortunes of War”

A Viper For Sunday

Nought to sixty in under 5 seconds, courtesy of a V10. No door handles. What do people do with cars like this in Denmark, I have to ask?

1992-2002 Dodge Viper

I really don’t know. What I do know is that cars such as this are where there is overlap between the mainstream mass manufacturers and the fringe enterprises (covered since July 2016 with forensic thoroughness in the celebrated Far From The Mainstream series). The difference is that large-scale manufacturers can call on the expertise of seasoned car designers and costly, advanced specialist manufacturing processes.

Absolutely everyone who wants a car like this to will surely Continue reading “A Viper For Sunday”

Five in Time

Cometh the hour, cometh the car. 1988’s E34 BMW 5-Series arrived at just the right moment, redefining the model line and clarifying a template that arguably hasn’t been bettered.

Image credit: bmwguide

If 1961’s Neue Klasse saloons served to define Bayerische Motoren Werke’s style template and 1966’s 1600-2 popularised it, the Paul Bracq-inspired E12 5-Series of 1972 would take the design principles of Wilhelm Hofmiester and recast them in a modish, yet still highly disciplined context.

A design which married a sharply pared and engineered steeliness with an almost Latin softness, the E12 became BMW’s visual touchstone for almost two generations. So much so that its replacement, 1981’s E28 was essentially a reskin of the outgoing car. Continue reading “Five in Time”

Stroke of Fortune

Another future postponed. Today we look at an engine technology from the early 1990’s which, for a short time at least, looked like a certainty.

Posterchild for Orbital, the 1993 Pininfarina Ethos. Image credit: hooniverse

Where do ideas go to die? Are blueprints simply rolled up and secreted away, to be dusted off by historians in decades hence or are there engineers in a quiet workshop somewhere in Australia (or Toyota City) still burning with religious fervour for what now appears to have been something of a lost cause?

Founded by engineer, Ralph Sarich, the Orbital Engine Corporation was based in Perth and during the early 1990’s attracted the interest of a number of big name manufacturers for a clever reworking of the time-honoured but somewhat flawed two-stroke engine design. For a short period of time, it sounded tantalisingly like Continue reading “Stroke of Fortune”

A Terrible Cloud of Unknowing

Almost three years on from VW’s monumental lapse of judgement, the only thing that is clear amid the noxious murk is an overwhelming and potentially damaging lack of clarity.

Image credit: greenfleet

Not simply a colossal failure and a swingeing indictment of VW’s corporate culture as espoused by the management style of former chairman, Ferdinand Piëch, the repercussions of VW’s 2015 betrayal are proving even wider and faster-accelerating than anyone might reasonably have anticipated.

The savage irony of course is the fact that as predicted on these pages, VW itself has Continue reading “A Terrible Cloud of Unknowing”

Quick Drive: Tesla Model S 75D

An opportunity to ‘have a go’ in a friendly colleague’s new Tesla provided me with a first experience of driving an EV.

Tesla Model S
This is not the actual car I drove, in case you were wondering (Source: Getaround)

I fully realise that it’s not that remarkable to have driven one of Elon Musk’s finest, but it’s a landmark in my longish and ever-lengthening motoring life and so I feel driven to write one of my usual streams of consciousness about the experience and the car itself.

One of the guys in my team has a flat black 75D on order and Tesla has lent him a white car to bridge the gap whilst his is being built / delivered, which is a nice touch. Knowing how much of a car nerd I am, he popped in yesterday to offer me a quick go. It turned out I was not the first that day; given he leads an IT department, a load of tech nerds had got there before me. Interesting that, the Tesla appeals to both car and tech enthusiasts … Continue reading “Quick Drive: Tesla Model S 75D”

Just Listen to the Rhythm of the Gentle Bossa Nova

Continuing this month’s Ka-fest at DTW, we turn our thoughts to a South American curiosity. While Ford of Europe outsourced the difficult second Ka iteration to Fiat Automobiles S.p.A, Ford do Brasil did things rather differently.

The Brazilian Novo Ka went on sale in January 2008, nine months before the European replacement for the 12 year old original. The European car is not really a Ford at all, while the Brazilian car placed an ingeniously re-worked superstructure on its predecessor’s B platform, which originated with the 1989 Fiesta.

From disappointing beginnings, the B platform had Continue reading “Just Listen to the Rhythm of the Gentle Bossa Nova”

Ford Gives You More

Not even two years since its European launch, Ford have got the magic markers out on the KA+. What can it all mean?

Two little toughies. Image credit: The Express

The KA+ was introduced for customers in Europe as a spacious, well-equipped and value-for-money small car that offers excellent fuel-efficiency and fun-to-drive dynamics at an affordable price”. You have been reading the words of Ford’s press department before you write in to complain. A ‘Fiesta Minus’ with ‘milquetoast styling’ is what Driven to Write had to say on the matter in 2016.

Introduced into the European market at the end of 2016, Ford have delivered just over 51,000 KA+’s last year to buyers for whom style has either Continue reading “Ford Gives You More”

Ford ReFocuses its Offer

As Ford readies its 2018 Euro-offerings, Driven to Write asks whether Henry’s Focus remains slightly askew?

Big Festie? Focus IV rendered from spy photos. Image credit: focusfanatics.com

In a Automotive News report this week, it was revealed that Ford will not unveil the new-generation Focus model at the Geneva show in March, electing to do so at a bespoke event the following month. The Ford spokesperson did not explain why this decision was taken (nor, it seems was the question asked) but it does suggest that Ford’s marketers believe they will Continue reading “Ford ReFocuses its Offer”

Hope Springs

Suspending his disbelief, Driven to Write asks whether Citroen’s claims for their Advanced Comfort® programme are worth their weight in hydraulic fluid.

The face of convergence. Nu-Cactus. Image: Autocar

Last October, Citroën announced a heavily revised C4 Cactus, intended not only to boost the fortunes of the established (and fading) model, but also to replace the moribund C4 hatch. As we know, in so doing, Citroën abandoned the original car’s distinctive and pleasingly unaggressive style, reverting to a less polarising, yet also more generic look. More grown-up, as the gentlemen of the press might put it.

Views on the car’s visual transformation have already Continue reading “Hope Springs”

So Lay Upon the Riven Meads the Sullied Rags of Hope

The other day we were talking about the Renault 16 which led us to the Renault 21 which…

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…led me to look for one for sale. Finding one I noticed the unhappy design of the nose cone, the plastic mask around the headlamp and containing the upper grille aperture. Here (below)  are some other cars which demonstrate an attempt at rethinking the way the front fascia was handled.

One of them really works – the Ford Sierra is utterly industrial design. And have you noticed the Dacia Duster uses the same concept but eschews the body-colour for the lamp panel?  In fact the elegance of the concept is hidden by the Duster’s other fussy details.

I have done this theme before, I think – the new bit is Continue reading “So Lay Upon the Riven Meads the Sullied Rags of Hope”

Anniversary Waltz 2017: Reflections in a Golden Eye

Ah 1967: The Summer of love. Sgt. Pepper. Twiggy. Bond.

Adieu Panhard. Image: hemmings

But leaving popular culture aside, the mood music was more sombre. In the UK, land speed record holder, Donald Campbell died attempting to break the water record on Lake Coniston in his Bluebird K3 jetboat. While back on terra firma the advent of the Road Safety Act set a maximum permitted blood alcohol level, allowing breathalyser tests to be performed on drivers for the first time.

Across the Atlantic, the National Transport Safety Board was created to Continue reading “Anniversary Waltz 2017: Reflections in a Golden Eye”

Anniversary Waltz 2017: Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow

Driven to Waltz writes into 1977.

Image: carsbase

Whether it was Liz’s Jubilee, BL’s annus horriblis, the death of Elvis, the first space shuttle flight or the beginning of the Star Wars juggernaut, 1977 was a year of transitions. Even the music business reflected this, with Fleetwood Mac’s cocaine and divorce epic, Rumours topping the album charts while David Bowie (now off the white powder) offered the icy sheen of Low, a record which suggested a future (if not necessarily the future).

Meanwhile the auto business was still trying to make sense of a drastically  altered set of realities and perhaps beginning to Continue reading “Anniversary Waltz 2017: Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow”

Anniversary Waltz 2017: ‘Oh the Eastern Sea’s So Blue’

The waltz continues its overdue retrospective sweep through 1987.

LJK Setright liked it so much he bought one. 1987 Honda Prelude. Image: Japanese SportCars

By the mid-80’s the Japanese car companies were beginning to really give the European car business the willies, with the UK’s Car magazine bewailing their advent in luridly melodramatic terms. With Honda’s existing midliner being Accorded viable 3-Series rivalry status, Minato-Tokyo prepared a fresh salvo into the hearts and minds of their European rivals with this third generation Prelude.

Utilising the core body structure of its 1982 forebear, the ’87 car’s smoother, softer style and lower nose (made possible by the engine being canted back 18°) lent it a visual grace its predecessor slightly lacked, but its distinctly three-volume silhouette meant its styling appealed more to US eyes than to those here in Europe. Continue reading “Anniversary Waltz 2017: ‘Oh the Eastern Sea’s So Blue’”

[Badge] Engineering Failure: VW

I realise it’s an old and oft-discussed issue, but I have experienced VW shooting itself in the badge.

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I was recently loaned a brand new VW Golf Estate for the day whilst my Octavia of similar form was in for its 10k oil-change. I have frequently read over the past few years how the differential between VW Group’s brands has blurred, but this is the first time I was presented with an opportunity to witness the phenomenon so directly. And, although I should not have been, I was a bit taken aback at the experience.

I’ve always kept the view that the Golf is a bit special. A cut above. Very cleverly set aside from Continue reading “[Badge] Engineering Failure: VW”

The Death of Romance

A (modest) commercial success, but ultimately a creative failure, the 2007 XF opened Jaguar up to a non-traditional audience, but in the final analysis, probably cast too many values on the fire.

Image: Car and Driver

By 2005, Ford’s ambitious growth strategy for Jaguar lay in tatters following a series of misguided creative decisions based on a discredited retro aesthetic. As Ford’s Premier Automotive Group began its slow dissolve, the storied luxury car maker’s consistent inability to Continue reading “The Death of Romance”

Terrible Angel

The 1957 Lotus Type 14 was uncommonly beautiful, brilliantly courageous but ultimately doomed.

Image: MK14 Components

“Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angelic Orders? And even if one were to suddenly take me to its heart, I would vanish into its stronger existence. For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror, that we are still able to bear, and we revere it so, because it calmly disdains to destroy us. Every angel is terrible.”  René Karl Wilhelm Johann Josef Maria Rilke – First Elegy.

Anthony Colin Bruce Chapman was no angel, but a visionary, risk-taker, rascal, genius? He’s been called many of these things and indeed some of them may Continue reading “Terrible Angel”

Leaping Sideways Into the Morning

I know very little about the history of European automotive engines. Were I to spend five months finding out about the topic, this is how I would organise the information…

Image: gamma.consortium

First, I would outline the principles of petrol engine design: thermodynamics, fluid dynamics and on to cylinder count, cylinder arrangement, displacement, cam design and further on. But I can’t cover it all so I would define a period to cover, say 1955 to 1995 (which is the most interesting for me). Next I would try to Continue reading “Leaping Sideways Into the Morning”

Anniversary Waltz 2017 : A History of Lessons

A decade ago, Alfa Romeo wowed the faithful with the 8C Competizione, a car which ultimately amounted to less than the sum of its parts. But weren’t we here before?

8C Competizione. Image: autocar

The philosopher, Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás once essayed the line, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Following this logic, amnesia clearly runs as deeply within Alfa Romeo as blind optimism. The perennially crisis-ridden Italian car brand seems locked into a habitual cycle of hope and despair, with each new dawn promising that this time all will Continue reading “Anniversary Waltz 2017 : A History of Lessons”

Celestial Being

Overshadowed by its more lionised ‘gullwing’ predecessor, the 1957 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL roadster was in many ways the superior car. DTW recalls a time when Daimler-Benz was a superior motor company.

Image: Classics Honest John

Mercedes-Benz: A name that at one time symbolised a continuum stretching back to the dawn of motoring and an ethos that embodied the sternest, most rigourous engineering ideals with a relentless Swabian logic. By 1957, the Mercedes-Benz 300SL was the most modern, most eloquent exponent of these principles and perhaps the most technically accomplished car in production – this side of a Citroën’s homegrown goddess anyway. Continue reading “Celestial Being”

Westminster Sketches 1: The Pre-Farina Cars

 Austin’s Ford Zephyr and Vauxhall Velox rival of the mid-1950s is scarcely remembered now, but it turns out to be a something of a forgotten hero.

Source: The Austin Motor Company Ltd.

The Austin Westminster story began with the launch of the A90 series in October 1954, nearly four years before the start of the momentous eleven month period in which Farina’s new styling ‘language’ for BMC was unveiled, layer by layer.

Austin’s chief stylist, Buenos Aires-born Ricardo Burzi, was responsible for shaping the thoroughly up-to-date, unitary bodied saloons and estates. His hands were somewhat tied by Continue reading “Westminster Sketches 1: The Pre-Farina Cars”

Four Ring Cycle

1997’s A6 saw Audi choosing bravery over stylistic torpidude. A lesson they could do well to re-learn.

Was this the earliest application of the lower-door-mounted rub-strip? Image: autowp-ru

By the early 1990s, Audi appeared to have run out of steam as the successes of the previous decade began to fade. Having lit up the automotive firmament with technological marvels such as the Ursprünglich Quattro coupe and the aero-influenced C3 100 / 200 series, the early ’90s saw the four rings of Ingolstadt comparatively becalmed.

Consolidation was the operative word, the feeling along the Danube being that enough had been done to Continue reading “Four Ring Cycle”

Harriman’s Folly

If a car can embody the legacy of its creator, the 1967 Austin 3-Litre will forever be linked with the fall of BMC boss, George Harriman. Hubris or simply bad timing? Driven to Write investigates.

Quadruple headlamps quickly replaced the more modern looking ovoid units fitted to the car at launch. Image: Oldtechnology.net

An unwitting metaphor for a car company which had fundamentally lost its way, the 1967 Austin 3-Litre was an unmitigated failure in both creative and commercial terms. Received at launch with an embarrassed silence from the UK press corps, shunned by the buying public and withdrawn from sale in 1971 with a mere 9,992 examples built, the 3-Litre, along with the Austin Maxi would prove to be the final nails in BMC’s coffinlid and all the evidence Donald Stokes and his Leyland cohorts needed to Continue reading “Harriman’s Folly”

Stretching a Metaphor

Ford’s post-acquisition strategy for Jaguar was one of aggressive growth, but it came at some cost – particularly to their core model line.

Jaguar flagship. 1997 long-wheelbase Daimler Super V8. Image: motorstown

Having taken a multi-billion dollar hit on the acquisition of Jaguar in 1989, Ford executives saw only one way out of the mess they have got themselves into. In order to gain the return on investment they craved, Jaguar would need to be transformed from a specialist 35-40,000 car a year business to one pushing out at least five times that number. To achieve this, they would need to Continue reading “Stretching a Metaphor”

Better Never Than Not at All

Recently we have been debating Opel and Vauxhall. The general consensus is not that good for a brand fielding its best products since the last lot of good products…

1995 Opel Vectra “B”: source

…which, if you think about it, it is pretty much most of their cars with one very debatable model and one not debatable model. For reasons known only to Opel and Vauxhall’s marketing staff, Opel have been tarred with a Clarkson-shaped brush. Good old Sir Jeremy, now Lord, Clarkson, saw fit to damn the Vectra “B” because it wasn’t an Alfa Romeo, Porsche or BMW M3 but happened to suit the needs of regular motorists.

In so doing he seemed to Continue reading “Better Never Than Not at All”

Ambling Between the Walls

This slightly tatty motorcycle caught my attention recently. It’s a Moto Guzzi V-twin, labelled “Indian”.

1965-1974 Moto Guzzi V-7 

For anyone who’s ever enjoyed looking at an engine and trying to find out which bit does what, such a device is a pleasure to behold. The V-2 is arranged longitudinally to the body, presumably for better balance and cooling. The engine rests in a tubular frame which is also clearly visible. Pretty much every important part is easy to find which means that you can Continue reading “Ambling Between the Walls”

Danger, High Voltage

With the motor industry abuzz with the prospect of electric propulsion, just how confident are we they’ve thought this one through?

Image: clker

Earlier in the week we considered the mainstream industry’s lack of leadership when it comes to the design of electric cars. But at the Frankfurt motor show this week, two industry leaders fleshed out some of the challenges they’re facing. Firstly Mercedes’ Dieter Zetsche pointed out to auto journalists the effect the push to electric is likely to have on profitability.

At first glance, this is a case of stating the blindingly obvious, but while the mighty Stuttgart Untertürkheim car giant can weather the loss of 50% of its potential profits, putting aside an alleged €4.0 billion to cover the likely revenue shortfall, it raises questions of how other less financially robust car businesses can possibly Continue reading “Danger, High Voltage”