Theme : Values – So Where Are The Drag Queens Now?

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.

1982 Audi 100 - image : drive-my.com
1982 Audi 100 – image : drive-my.com

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?”

Micropost: Syd Mead’s 1977 Artwork for Yokohama

DTW has considered the work of Fitz and Van. Now it’s time to compare it to Syd Mead’s artwork.

1977 Yokohama advert by Syd Mead: Motor Trend, May 1977.
1977 Yokohama advert by Syd Mead: Motor Trend, May 1977.

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”

Two Wheels Good. Three Wheels Better?

DTW Looks at Bikes for Non-Bikers

What if you're not actually rebelling against anything, Johnny?
What if you’re not actually rebelling against anything at all, Johnny?

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?”

Gamma: Signs and Portents – Part Ten

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…

Image:drive-my
Image:drive-my

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”

Theme : Japan – The Giant Finally Moves Forward

How Toyota finally put the horse before the cart in what was, in one sense at least, a bit of a Triumph.

Spot The Difference - image : japanclassic.ru
Spot The Difference – image : japanclassic.ru

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.

By the end of the 1960s, it was clear that front wheel drive was no fad. Even GM had started dabbling with it in, of all things, the 7 litre Oldsmobile Toronado. Continue reading “Theme : Japan – The Giant Finally Moves Forward”

Theme: Suspension – The Comfort Trap

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.

An early active ride Lotus Esprit prototype. Image:sportscars.tv
An early active ride Lotus Esprit prototype. Image:sportscars.tv

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”

Theme : Suspension – When Independence Goes Wrong

Defying convention and chiselling away at costs can be a recipe for disaster, as one manufacturer who ought to have known better found out.

chassis4c

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”

Theme : Suspension – Hydrolastic Rubbery Goodness

A long time ago the Midlands of Britain were at the cutting edge of suspension design.

Hydrolastic suspension: source
Hydrolastic suspension: source

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”

Theme : Suspension – Swinging On A Star

The missing link, or just missing a link. We consider the much maligned swing axle.

A Spitfire demonstrates the swing axle's graceful poise - image : triumphexp.com
A Spitfire demonstrates the swing axle’s graceful poise – image : triumphexp.com

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”

Theme: Suspension – It’s A Kind Of Magic

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…

1983 Peugeot 604. Image: www.lrm-collection.fr
1983 Peugeot 604. Image: http://www.lrm-collection.fr

…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”

Theme: Suspension – Cheap and Cheerful

What do most modern small and medium-sized cars have in common? Well, nearly everything.

As modern as can be, at the time. Image: honestjohn.co.uk
1950 Ford Consul. As modern as can be, at the time. Image: honestjohn.co.uk

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”

First Of Its Kind/Last Of Its Kind: The Mercedes W126 – Part One

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.

317

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”

Whatever Floats Your Boat

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.

MY Azzam + Applique Rodius to scale - original image : schiffbilder.de
MY Azzam plus, if you look very hard, SsangYong Rodius to scale – original image : schiffbilder.de

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”

Gamma: Signs and Portents – Part Eight

The Gamma’s most formidable rival may surprise you, but should it really have surprised Lancia’s lords and masters?

Image: autorevue.cz
Image: autorevue.cz

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”

Theme: Suspension – Not As Good As It Sounds But Still An Improvement

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?

Mercedes-Benz S 63 AMG (W222) 2013: autoevolution.com
Mercedes-Benz S 63 AMG (W222) 2013: autoevolution.com

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”

BMW Is A Hundred Years Old

BMW celebrates its century with a blizzard of PR bafflegab

2016 BMW Vision 100 is not a CUV: source
2016 BMW Vision 100 is not a CUV. Small dots are the future though: source

They got a little mixed up with the concepts of ends and means though. BMW has cited four elements that constitute its values and have sketched a new and thrillingly meaningless corporate logo. Continue reading “BMW Is A Hundred Years Old”

Theme: Suspension – Not Quite De Dion

I spotted this on the Suzuki stand at Geneva. It’s the rear axle of the Vitara, the Hungarian-built Poor Girl’s Evoque.

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At first I thought that it was a De Dion axle, on closer examination it turns out to be a torsion beam with driven rear wheels. Possibly other manufacturers have done this before, but it’s the first I’ve encountered. I’d have expected to find a live axle, or a multi-link or double wishbone fully independent system. Continue reading “Theme: Suspension – Not Quite De Dion”

Theme : Suspension – Only Fools & Horses?

We have a look at the humble leaf spring and ask whether it deserves universal scorn.

Leaf Spring

I’ve always been a suspension snob, especially on the subject of leaf springs, normally referred to by fellow scorners as cart-springs. And indeed, the use of something that you’d have found on a one horse power medieval cart on a 150mph Ferrari still seems as wrong to me today as it did when I was a picky kid and first realised what lurked under those exotic red bodies..

The first car I ever ‘owned’ was a Ford Prefect E93A that I used to drive as a 14 year old around a bit of woodland. Even at the 20 mph maximum it was possible to achieve weaving around all the trees, I still managed to turn it onto its side, a tribute to my recklessness, a high centre of gravity and its very, very basic suspension which stretched back to the Model T, comprising a beam axle at the front and a live axle at the rear, both mounted on transverse leaves. Continue reading “Theme : Suspension – Only Fools & Horses?”

Geneva Bites – Morgan EV3

As Britain’s four grandest car manufacturers prepared their four wheel drive SUVs, Morgan defied the new conformity, and introduced a one wheel drive vehicle in late 2011.

Morgan (9)
image: autovia-media

The three wheeler has vastly exceeded sales expectations with over 2000 sold to date. Morgan may well prefer that we didn’t know just how well their three wheeler is doing by comparison with the rest of the range. 2013 and 2014 three wheeler sales were well over double the combined numbers for the four wheeled offerings, and over its four full years of production it has accounted for 55% of Morgan production. Continue reading “Geneva Bites – Morgan EV3”

Theme : Suspension – Introduction

The Editor asks is it a Science or an Art?


Motoring history has a select group of people who can be seen as the creators of outstanding suspension systems, among them are Jean Baudin at Peugeot, Richard Parry-Jones at Ford, Colin Chapman at Lotus, André Lefèbvre at Citroen, Bob Knight at Jaguar and Alex Moulton for BMC. But there were far more who didn’t care for, or understand, the subtleties of suspension, notably Enzo Ferrari who seemed to think that its only reason for existence was to prevent the sumps of his beloved engines from scraping along the road. Continue reading “Theme : Suspension – Introduction”

Gamma: Signs and Portents – Part Six

The Gamma’s engine became its Achilles heel, but what choice did Lancia have? In this part we look at some of the options available to them.

Image via roadsmile
Image via roadsmile

The central pivot of the Gamma’s failure is encapsulated in one area of its specification that should have been inviolate. Because the Gamma’s engine was a pure-bred power unit based on a design produced under the stewardship of the late Dr. Antonio Fessia. But why this configuration at all? As we know, Sergio Camuffo originally schemed Tipo 830 to replace the mid-range Flavia, making this engine a logical choice, if not one entirely in keeping with Fiat’s rationalisation plans. Continue reading “Gamma: Signs and Portents – Part Six”

Bentley Recreate The Magic Of Formica

But it’s actually a veneer of stone made to look like a cafeteria counter-top.

2016 Rolls Royce stone_veneers
Bentley’s nice formica trim: blouinartinfo.com

Fatuously, the sales pitch makes a point of noting the stone is 200 million years old. Most stone is very old. 200 million years is nothing. You would have to be very ignorant of the age of the earth to feel 200 million years is a special number. I think the reasoning for stressing the age of the stone is derived from the world of vintage wines. Older vintages are indeed rarer. A 1970 is probably rarer than a 1980. A 1930 would be priceless and scarce. Continue reading “Bentley Recreate The Magic Of Formica”

The Origin of the SpeCies – Aeroglazing

Perhaps we might be coming to the end of this particular strand. Here are three concepts from Ford/Ghia and GM that show the gestation of the glazed C-pillar.

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The last vehicle, the GM, is the most convincing as it shows the floating roof though more importantly, the glazing carrying from the side-glass around the C-pillar. The Fords show a will to glaze the C-pillar yet retaining a small radius from the side to the rear. GM’s stylist had the insight to make the radii from side to front and side to back bigger. It had a dramatic effect on the shape of the wing-to-bonnet as well. Notice Continue reading “The Origin of the SpeCies – Aeroglazing”

Gamma: Signs and Portents – Part Five

The Gamma’s fiery descent.

Image via lanciagamma.altervista
Image: lanciagamma.altervista

From a stylistic perspective at least, 1976 was a good time to introduce an unorthodox-looking luxury saloon, the market being temporarily disposed towards difference. Two years previously, Citroen had introduced the futuristic CX model and Rover were about to début the similarly forward-looking SD-1. Both cars offered a divergence from the classic three volume saloon template and for a time at least, buyers were prepared to accept this. Continue reading “Gamma: Signs and Portents – Part Five”

Car Free Cities and ICE-Free Cars?

Here are a trio of stories that add up the sea-change of which we are in the midst.

Obsolete transportation mode.
Obsolete transportation mode.

The Guardian reports that more and more cities are banning cars. Car and Driver reports that eight states and five countries including Holland want to end the use of ICE cars by 2050. And finally, Automotive News reports that Hyundai want to make their own chips for their vehicles. That would be for autonomous vehicles. Continue reading “Car Free Cities and ICE-Free Cars?”

Mod Culture

How sacred is originality?

Cord

I first became aware of the Cord 810 / 812 in the mid 60s. The Author James Leasor owned one and made it the car of Jason Love, the hero of a series of spy novels. His own car even featured in a film of one of the books, ‘Where The Spies Are’, starring David Niven. Introduced in 1936, the 810 was fitted with a V8 Lycoming engine with a gearbox ahead of the engine driving the front wheels. Apart from the engineering, the car had a Gordon Buehrig designed body that made it stand out from anything else at the time, and it still does. Continue reading “Mod Culture”

Socket To ‘Em: The Chirpy, Cheapie EV

Car and Driver recently ran a feature about second-hand electric cars, pointing out that battery-powered conveyances are creeping on to the American used market in ever larger numbers, and at very enticing prices.

2015 Renault Zoe white

A cursory glance at Auto Trader shows that this is indeed the case in the UK too. Leaving aside quadricycles, milk floats and cars from niche manufacturers boasting the crashworthiness of a yoghurt pot placed in a pressure cooker, the site lists more than 450 full electric cars currently for sale across this decreasingly green and pleasant land. Two things are surprising here: how inexpensive they are, and how little mileage the cars have accrued. Continue reading “Socket To ‘Em: The Chirpy, Cheapie EV”

Theme : Disappointment – All Steam & Mirrors

We look at a literal piece of Sixties vapourware – The Lear steam car

Lear & Turbine

One person’s disappointment is always another person’s gratification. We have seen this over the past few years as various electrical vehicle projects have been announced. Many people have been open-minded about their feasibility, but many more have allowed other agendas to make them either blindly enthusiastic, whatever the scheme, or similarly antagonistic.

In the late 60s, the extra-urban EV was not a practical proposition in any way, unless it was followed by a trailer full of lead-acid batteries or a very long extension cord. The once-mooted gas turbine had come to nothing. However, the need to do something about the environmental effects of the internal combustion engine was on the agenda, so there was an impetus to look at other types of propulsion. Continue reading “Theme : Disappointment – All Steam & Mirrors”

That Was the Future: GeoMechanical Style

Around the year 2000 there was a wave of concept cars that had geometrical themes. These stood out among a sea of concept cars that today, 15 years later, merely look concepty.

2000 Mitsubishi SSS concept car:
2000 Mitsubishi SSS concept car:

The geomechanical look cropped up on Japanese and American cars more than European ones. Only the Renault Modus van fits the theme and even then that might be because it’s a van.

What characterises the geo-mechanical look is that the main elements are not blended together; there are flat or flattish surfaces and quite small radii. The graphic elements of the windows and lights tend to be treated in such a way as to be sharp.

It’s safe to say the Mitsubishi SSS is not among the most talked-about concept cars. At this distance the reason it ended up going nowhere are also the reasons it looks intriguing today. Notice the way the lamps are submerged into dominant horizontal lines. The stated aim to Continue reading “That Was the Future: GeoMechanical Style”

Good News and Other News

Citroen plan to bring back a unique suspension system in 2017, reports Autocar.

One of Citroen´s hydropneumatically suspeneded cars: carstyling.ru
One of Citroen´s hydropneumatically suspeneded cars: carstyling.ru

“Comfort is a core value of the Citroen brand, and this is our way to recreate the benefits of the hydropneumatic set-up in a more modern, more appropriate way,” said Citroen CEO, Linda Jackson in Autocar.

This is rather heartening news. The report says that Citroen have been working in this for some time but no details were provided on what it might be. The system is going to Continue reading “Good News and Other News”

What Drives Jaguar?

Last year we had a monthly theme on engines. I would like to return to this topic with the aim of understanding Jaguar’s engine line-up. 

2015 Jaguar XJ frolicking in the snows of Warwickshire: jaguar.co.uk
2015 Jaguar XJ frolicking in the snows of Warwickshire: jaguar.co.uk

Jaguar has five basic models. Those are the XE, XF and XJ (saloons), F-Type and F-Pace. Is that a good naming system, I idly wonder. F-Pace seems not to fit in. It makes the F in F-Type somewhat meaningless as there was no E-Pace or D-Pace. I digress. Continue reading “What Drives Jaguar?”

Gamma: Signs and Portents – Part Four

Examining the Gamma’s technical specification and its initial press reception.

Image via lancianet
Image: lancianet

Technically speaking, the Gamma was classic Lancia in that it mated an unconventional powerplant to a largely orthodox chassis layout. However, the big Lancia’s mix of conventional components came with an added dash of élan. The engine was a development of the proven Flavia unit, bored out to 2.5 litres. Sergio Camuffo outlined why he chose to enlarge the engine capacity saying, Continue reading “Gamma: Signs and Portents – Part Four”

Great Idea, Let’s Not Do It.

Autocar reported that Gordon Murray, Shell and Geo Technology have designed a three-seater city car capable of 100 mpg. And they have no intention to build it. 

Gordon Murray and the T25: thesun.co.uk
Gordon Murray and the T25: thesun.co.uk

After a fascinating lead in with a fistful of interesting insights on how to get an engine to eke out the petrol, this sentence appears: “There is no intention to bring T.25S to market. It is a ‘capability for analysis’ vehicle, said Shell Lubricant’s innovation technology manager.” Continue reading “Great Idea, Let’s Not Do It.”

The Jaguar XJ-S as Dinner Time Conversation

In September I mentioned an article about a road trip from Coventry to Munich in the Jaguar XJ-S and I said I would write a bit more about it. Finally.

1976 Jaguar XJ-S: uncredited photographer, Motor Sport , April 1976
1976 Jaguar XJ-S: uncredited photographer, Motor Sport , April 1976

Motor Sport were curious as to whether Jaguar’s claims to have made a car that would frighten Mercedes and Ferrari were valid. They initially tested the car (Oct ’75) in the Cotswolds which is not really a place to stretch the legs of a sporting grand tourer. A better test was to take it 2,435 miles on a trip that led to Munich. The Motor Sport people addressed two points in their article. One, quantitative. With three people (did they really put someone in the back?), luggage and 20 gallons of Super they achieved 150.1 miles per hour. “We know of no other car in the world which would Continue reading “The Jaguar XJ-S as Dinner Time Conversation”

Honda NSX – What’s Really Interesting About It

Autocar have had a chance to review the new Honda NSX. This is a long awaited car. The most exciting thing about it has been oddly overlooked.

2015 Honda NSX: Autocar.co.uk
2015 Honda NSX: Autocar.co.uk

That’s the suspension. Yes, the engine arrangement is novel enough for a supercar. It has a 3.5 litre engine and three supplementary electric motors and this yields a less than stellar 17-20 MPG, very nearly down to Jensen levels of dipsomania. Continue reading “Honda NSX – What’s Really Interesting About It”

Volvo and Jaguar On The Same Road

This VW diesel scandal is going to take a heavy toll on that fuel as a means of propulsion. For some companies it is a great opportunity.

Nineteen sixites Mercedes straight six: automobile magazine dot com why not.
Nineteen sixties Mercedes straight six: automobile magazine dot com why not.

In the same week the good people at Car and Driver have offered some insight on the upcoming Volvo S90 and Automobile have some news on the electric Jaguar E-Pace. Before getting around the to main points of those articles, I note with some pleasure that there will be a Volvo S90. Having had a chance to visit Volvo’s museum (all of Sweden, apparently), I have seen at first hand Volvo’s unique contribution to the art of the quite large car. Rather I was reminded of this. From the 240 to 760 to the magnificent 960 estate, Volvo have made robust and practical cars that manage to Continue reading “Volvo and Jaguar On The Same Road”

Theme : Economy – Effort

Why make a mountain out of a molehill?

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When compared to the human body, even a small, light car is a powerful and relentless device. Once under way, momentum builds up and, as anyone who has been in or just considered any car accident at a speed of more than single figures knows, a car deserves great respect. So, it’s maybe understandable that some people treat driving a car as they would wrestling with a bear. For them, the car is a beast to be tamed, and each turn is a matter of hauling on the steering wheel, maybe with an inverted hand inside the rim for extra leverage. The wheel is clenched, the car lurches round and the sweat finally recedes from their brow as another herculean task is completed – just in time for the next bend. Continue reading “Theme : Economy – Effort”

The One-Sided Argument

DTW might wonder if symmetry is overrated. Sean is sure it isn’t.

Dab (Limanda limanda)

There’s a lot to be said for a well-balanced world. At least I think so though, never having experienced one, I can’t be sure. Nature has a liking for symmetry and does its best. Sure, one side of our face is never a complete mirror image of the other, and there’s always the odd flatfish, but that’s splitting hairs and, generally, it seems that nature abhors asymmetry.

And so to motoring. Based on the ‘if it looks right, it is right’ principle, to my way of thinking a car that is supposed to go round both left and right corners should be symmetrical through its longitudinal centre. And, at first glance, most cars do seem symmetrical when viewed from the front, back or top. That suits me, since I have always had a liking for symmetry that, in the past at least, has bordered on the obsessive. Continue reading “The One-Sided Argument”

Concept Cars and One-Offs

So, rapid prototyping is accelerating the design process. This comes with pitfalls as well as advantages. 

2008 Rolls Royce Hyperion: madle.org
2008 Rolls Royce Hyperion: madle.org

As someone pointed out, the Hyperion concept car could be said to have an unfinished or immature look to it. What is this quality exactly? It has to do with the reduced time available to evaluate the forms in the cold light of many days. While a design is a finished and static thing, there is a dynamic and iterative process leading up to its creation. Designers begin with raw ideas and select from these the most plausible concepts. The process goes from a sketch to a clay model to a final, definitive version and in so doing the designers must Continue reading “Concept Cars and One-Offs”

Theme: Economy – Cost Cutting the Digital Way

Every month that a project runs costs a car company money. In the ’80s a major car project could last 8 years, of which four was probably fully manned. These days the figure is 36 months but it could drop to 24. How?

There will be less of this in future. It´s a hand-modelled shape: ophelia.sdsu.edu
There will be less of this in future. It´s a hand-modelled shape: ophelia.sdsu.edu

One aspect of the drive to cut development time is in rapid prototyping. This has been going on for quite some time. In 2006 it was normal practice to mill quick models of car interior trim prior to tooling so as to see how the form looked in three real dimensions. Non-visible parts have also been made quickly so as to speed production. Even CAD modelling itself is a time-saver (or can be) which is now taken for granted. Continue reading “Theme: Economy – Cost Cutting the Digital Way”

Gamma: Signs and Portents – Part Three

If there was a single over-riding theme to the Gamma’s gestation, it can be summed up in one word. Politics.

An undisguised Gamma prototype. Image via lanciagamma.altervista1
A disguised Tipo 830 prototype. Image: lanciagamma.altervista1

As Fiat management began the process of ingesting their new acquisition, they found they were being thwarted by Lancia’s core of loyalist engineers. Like most grand marques, Lancia was engineering / manufacturing-led, so naturally all resistance to Fiat’s integration was centred here. Camuffo one imagines, must have been viewed with suspicion; seen as Agnelli’s man and schooled in what was probably viewed as an inferior tradition. Continue reading “Gamma: Signs and Portents – Part Three”

NOxgate – Through a Looking Glass, Darkly

With the particulates still settling over the VW emissions scandal, automakers are under scrutiny like never before. Yet VW may not end up being worst off – not by a long shot.

VW-TDI-motrolix
Three tainted letters – Image via motrolix

Almost a month into the VW emissions scandal, repercussions remain within the realm of conjecture and the view ahead no clearer. Everyone wants answers – VW owners who feel cheated and in possession of a tainted product, legislators (complicit or no) who now have to deal with the political fallout, and us – the faceless commentators who dole out harsh judgements from a safe distance, before scuttling back to the safety of our caves. Continue reading “NOxgate – Through a Looking Glass, Darkly”

What the Others Are Saying About the Tesla X

Automotive News did some useful opinion aggregation. We like it so we link it. 

2016 Tesla Model X: autobodyprice.com
2016 Tesla Model X: autobodyprice.com

On the downside, this is a critical comment: “Rather than bringing Tesla closer to the goal of the Model III, the Model X may be a 2.5-ton warning sign that the company is either unwilling or unable to pull it off. The Model X’s prohibitively expensive technology, including its low-volume aluminum construction, batteries and propulsion system, is virtually identical to that of the Model S. In other words: The Model X may Continue reading “What the Others Are Saying About the Tesla X”

Cutting Corners: Jaguar XF 2.2 Premium Luxury

Over the past couple of months I’ve skirted the peripheries of the XF, but now it’s time to address the core of the XF – its road behaviour.

IMG_2328

Lets begin with a positive. For what can be described as a fairly mundane executive saloon, the Jaguar’s steering response is from the top drawer. In my experience I’ve only driven one other car fitted with a power-assisted rack (which wasn’t a Citroen) that had nicer steering than the XF. That was a Lotus Evora.  Continue reading “Cutting Corners: Jaguar XF 2.2 Premium Luxury”

2015 Citroen C4 1.6 BlueHDi Roadtest

The Citroen C4 has been on sale for half a decade. The time is right to put one to the test.

2015 Citroen C4 BlueHDi: it has nice interior lamps.
2015 Citroen C4 BlueHDi: it has nice interior lamps.

During the course of this weekend test I really did struggle to think of something to say that did not over-emphasise my feelings about the car. The thing is that the C4 is a collection of details that don’t hang together. The character of the car is not in the measurable dimensions. It doesn’t actually have any character at all.

Looking at the outside of the vehicle there can be found a collection of modish features that are there to conceal quite flat sides and a less than thrilling profile. You would imagine this is to Continue reading “2015 Citroen C4 1.6 BlueHDi Roadtest”

Aston Martin DB9 / Ford Fiesta Review: Family Ties

There I was, a lowly commoner, behind the wheel of an Aston Martin DB9, one of the finest cars in the world by anyone’s measure. Before me, beyond the long, long bonnet, was a circuit laid out on an abandoned airfield. And no speed restrictions.

Shagged
Aston Martin DB9. That is some other pillock behind the wheel but I suspect it is the same car I drove. I hope they have retired it by now, it must be shagged. Source: t’internet.

The occasion was a “supercar experience”. Held both for and by people too impoverished for supercar ownership, a variety of “exotics” were available, ranging from a mark 1 Lotus Elise, through a slightly ratty 997 Porsche 911, to a visibly distressed Ferrari 355. The Aston Martin, immaculate and barely a couple of years old, was an easy choice.

A hundred grand’s worth of England’s finest conveyance was a nice place to sit. The seats and steering wheel where covered in soft leather. Only the analogue clock in the centre of the dashboard jarred, perhaps purely through association with the mark 2 Mondeo.

Time for my four laps. Anticipation building, I pressed the starter button to Continue reading “Aston Martin DB9 / Ford Fiesta Review: Family Ties”

Bringing It All Back Home

Automotive News reports that expansion in the use of robotics and the increased use of battery packs will drive the repatriation of car production to Europe and the US.

Not many people work in the factory of the future: Reuters.
Not many people work in the factory of the future: Reuters.

The gist of the story is that it will make less sense to have production of vehicles in places such as China (far from the West) when robotics can replace labour, when the parts are costly to ship and when the cost of over-seas labour is rising. The effect will be to make it once more economically sensible to have car production in the US and Europe that might previously have been unprofitable. Continue reading “Bringing It All Back Home”

It’s the Hard NOx Life – VW in the Dock

A week is a long time in the motor business.

I think they call this an open goal. VW launches the 2016 Tiguan at Frankfurt IAA. Image via VW.AG
I think they call this an open goal. VW launches the 2016 Tiguan at Frankfurt IAA. Image: VW.AG

I sat down today to write something of a Frankfurt IAA overview; a sofa-eye view of the trends, winners, losers and the why-botherers. Post-NOxgate however, there’s only one story and one loser. Or perhaps there’s several…

Just seven days ago it was all looking quite jolly for the German auto industry at their home show. New car announcements rubbed shoulders with credibly exciting concepts while the World’s press gathered to listen to the accumulated wisdom of the likes of Zetsche, Winterkorn and Müller; although BMW CEO, Harald Krueger’s collapse prior to his scheduled press conference sounded a decidedly minor note amidst all the chest thumping. Continue reading “It’s the Hard NOx Life – VW in the Dock”

Theme : Wheels – Citroën’s Plastic Wonder

From a time when Citroën led the way – and, of course, nobody followed

SMs
I know which I’d choose

The standard wheels for the Citroen SM were heavy steel items, clad with hubcaps. These are made from stamped stainless steel, held firmly to the wheel by a centre bolt. The centre section is painted satin black and the sections between the outer fins are painted in satin silver-grey. There are holes in the hubcaps that allow the actual wheel bolts to show. Although that might not have been the intent, there is the distinct feeling that they were trying to ape the fancy US wheels fitted to any US muscle car of the period. As such, I have never found these hubcaps entirely convincing and, although time has made me more tolerant of them, at the time I even found them a bit tacky. As I know, they are also a pain to restore, since paint never likes sticking to stainless steel. Continue reading “Theme : Wheels – Citroën’s Plastic Wonder”

2015 Citroen C4 Picasso Review

Driven to Write took a Citroen C4 Picasso on a 186 mile trip. It does one thing better than an Opel Zafira. We’ll come to that later….

2015 Citroen C4 Picasso in diesel guise
2015 Citroen C4 Picasso in diesel guise

Introduction

There’s so much wrong with this car. Ahead of you are 1740 words, almost none of them are complimentary.

More introduction

The C4 Picasso is a car that I am sure that you have all seen on the school run, launched in 2013. It has seven seats and an electrically powered tailgate. DTW took charge of a C4 Picasso with the express intention of seeing how it coped with three adults and two children. Normally I would structure a review like this along the lines of: general description, design, engineering, driving, comfort and conclusion. That general ordering assumes that all of those things are of equal value and you’d want to read them in that sequence. I will dispense with that and focus on the aspect that occupied most of my attention: the driver interfaces. Continue reading “2015 Citroen C4 Picasso Review”