Theme: Evolution – Coming Soon…

Next year’s E-Class will be a tech-fest. We lift the lid.

The S-Class' younger, smarter and slightly cheaper brother. Still want that top of the range Merc? Image via Autocar
The S-Class’ younger, smarter and slightly cheaper brother. Still want that top range Benz? Image Autocar

Next year’s Mercedes E-Class is primed to evolve ‘in-car connectivity’ and autonomous driving to the next level, says a report in Automotive News Europe this week. Thomas Weber, Daimler’s head of development, told ANE journalists; “Innovations in this area are coming thick and fast,”. Just how thick and how fast Sindelfingen’s 2016 mid-liner will be, DTW can now exclusively reveal. Continue reading “Theme: Evolution – Coming Soon…”

Theme: Evolution – What Citroen Did Next

While we’re on this Citroen kick, I wondered idly about an alternative evolutionary pathway from where the XM left off. What could Citroen have done next?

2016 Citroen Grande Berline
Citroen Grande Berline. Image: Richard Herriott

Here is the Citroen C8 of the year 2000. In order to avoid giving critics ammunition, PSA invested in a new platform for the C8 which was adaptable such that a large Peugeot saloon and a corporate monospace were also spun off it at a later date. The main details were that it involved extensive use of lightweight steel and aluminium for the doors, bonnet and liftgate. The goal was to make a car slightly larger than the XM but weighing 10% less. Continue reading “Theme: Evolution – What Citroen Did Next”

What Is The Difference Between A Skoda Rapid And A Skoda Rapid?

…quite a lot if the first one is from India and the second one from Europe.

Images: Skoda India and Skoda UK.
Images: Skoda India and Skoda UK.

As a service to our eagle-eyed readers I have looked up details on the Skoda Rapid’s Indian and European incarnations. I am a bit embarrassed I did not spot the fact I posted an Indian-market Rapid instead of a European one. The Indian Rapid has two engine options: a 1.6 litre four-cylinder petrol and a 1.5 litre four cylinder diesel. They turn out 77 kW or 104 PS respectively. Continue reading “What Is The Difference Between A Skoda Rapid And A Skoda Rapid?”

Wholly Toledo II: the 2012 Seat Toledo

In the previous instalment we looked at the first three incarnations of the Seat Toledo. In this article we ask what, precisely is the difference between a Seat Toledo and Skoda Rapid. And maybe make a few other points as well.

2015 Seat Toledo. I hate these leafless yards that car adverys so adore. These have inspired people across Europe to rip out their plants and cover their front garden with asphalt or gravel. Image: SEAT UK.
2015 Seat Toledo. I hate these leafless yards that art directors so adore. These have inspired people across Europe to rip out their plants and cover their front garden with asphalt or gravel. Image: SEAT UK.

The current Toledo appeared in 2012 and replaced the unwelcomed Exeo. At the same time, Skoda launched their Rapid which shares all the main mechanicals and a good deal of the gross physical form. Both are made in the Skoda factory in Mlada Boleslav. The Toledo first: it’s a hatchback that looks like a saloon. You have to Continue reading “Wholly Toledo II: the 2012 Seat Toledo”

Wholly Toledo: A Two Part Look At SEAT’s Ragbag Nameplate

With apologies to anyone who expected something else when Googling the term “Wholly Toledo”. I just wanted an amusing play on words so I could make this fake magazine cover:

If it doesn't exist, I will invent it. Wholly Toledo is the popular magazine for UK fans of the SEAT Toledo.
If it doesn’t exist, I will invent it. Wholly Toledo is the popular magazine for UK fans of the SEAT Toledo.

The Seat Toledo. How often does this name come up? Answer: not very much. Yet since 1991, SEAT have been selling something tagged as such. Right now it’s a quite conservatively styled medium-small car with the neat conceit of looking like a saloon but actually being a hatchback. Haven’t we heard this before?

Regular readers here will Continue reading “Wholly Toledo: A Two Part Look At SEAT’s Ragbag Nameplate”

The Bavarian Job – 1993 BMW Z13

BMW’s early ’90s attempt at blowing the bloody doors off…

BMW's Mini-like Z13 - image via pixshark
BMW’s Mini-like Z13 – image: pixshark

It’s been suggested that BMW management pushed through the decision to build an overtly sporting concept of Mini against the wishes of Rover engineers, who advocated a more radical approach. There is a nub of truth in this, but only a nub. With Mini’s centre of gravity shifting towards the sporting Cooper model, Rover engineers had been working on Minki, a heavily re-engineered version of the existing car, aimed not only at modernising the concept, but in effect refocusing it. Continue reading “The Bavarian Job – 1993 BMW Z13”

Alternative Paths In An Unpredictable Industry

DTW Considers The Alternative German Big Three


At the end of the 1950s, there was a sizeable group of home-owned players in the German industry, but we shall concentrate initially on three of them – Borgward, NSU and Glas. Only the first few paragraphs of this piece are fact, the rest is entirely speculation as to how things could have worked out quite differently, yet might have ended up much the same.

Borgward had been making cars since the 1920s. They were fast to restart manufacture after the War, being the first German company to put an all new car into production, the Hansa 1500. This was replaced in 1954 by the mid-sized Isabella and that was joined in 1959 by both the larger six-cylinder P100 and the smaller Arabella, featuring a flat 4 boxer that Subaru used as a reference point when developing their own engine. Continue reading “Alternative Paths In An Unpredictable Industry”

Fossil Traces: From Minki to MINI

Before MINI, there was Minki.

Minki schematic - Minki 2 featured a longer and wider body. Image via Austin Memories.
Minki 1 schematic – Minki 2 featured a longer and wider body. Image via Austin Memories.

You’re probably never heard of it, and nor had I until comparatively recently. Minki was a Rover K-Series engined Mini re-engineered with interconnected hydragas suspension, much like that of Dr Alex Moulton’s own modified Mini – and a hatchback. Built to suggest a possible developmental direction for the ageing original, time ran out for the concept, given Mini’s possible sales volumes versus the costs involved. Continue reading “Fossil Traces: From Minki to MINI”

Catastophe

The zenith of Jaguar’s commercial ambitions was this famously unsuccessful 1961 saloon flagship, whose shattered legacy resonates to this day.

Image via Jag-lovers
Jaguar’s most influential car ever – from a styling perspective at least. Image credit: Jag-lovers

Some six months after the euphoric launch of the E-Type, Jaguar launched this radical saloon. Given the project name of Zenith, Mark Ten was a dashingly modern, dramatically styled leviathan of a car, conceived specifically for the all-important North American market. Famed for his astute reading of market trends, Jaguar founder, Sir William Lyons didn’t believe in customer clinics or product planning. Mark Ten was his vision of a full-sized luxury Jaguar Saloon. Bigger, more opulent and technically sophisticated than any European rival.

Shockingly modern to British eyes, yet retaining an elegance of line for which the marque was famed, Mark Ten wove a fine balance between Continue reading “Catastophe”

Theme: Secondhand – The Rover V8

The story of how the Buick aluminium 215 engine became the Rover V8 is often-enough told so I will use this little posting mostly as a short guide to some of the most entertaining versions.

1986 Rover P6 V8 3500: theworldaccordingtomaggie.com
1968 Rover P6 V8 3500: theworldaccordingtomaggie.com

Sold to Rover, the engine powered Range Rovers, Rovers, MGs and TVRs along with Morgan. Jalopnik has a good short version of the story here In a nutshell, Buick wanted a lightweight, small capacity V8. They decided to use aluminium which led to a chain of problems that were still being dealt with 40 years later. Among those problems are slipping liners and porosity. If you scroll down the comments at the Jalopnik article you’ll find a neat list of V8 engines used by GM in the late 60s.   Continue reading “Theme: Secondhand – The Rover V8”

Here’s the Engine for the Next Opel Senator

Automotive News has reported that the 2016 Cadillac CT6 will be equipped with a twin turbo V-6 (below). We wonder if this device will also power Opel’s possible future range topper, the revived Senator.

2016 GM V6 twin-turbo engine
2016 GM V6 twin-turbo engine. Image from Automotive News.

This is what Automotive News said: “[a] spirit of innovation will extend to the sedan’s powertrain, with General Motors announcing that an all-new 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 will be available under the CT6’s hood. The direct-injected V-6 is estimated to generate 400 hp and 400 pounds-feet of torque. At 133 hp per liter, Cadillac claims, the new engine is one of the most power-dense engines of its type. Continue reading “Here’s the Engine for the Next Opel Senator”

Theme : Benchmarks – Le Système Panhard

The horse before the cart – or was it the other way round?

GM X Frame
GM’s notorious X-Frame showing the layout in its simplicity

It hardly seems like an invention but innovators often do something that, with the benefit of hindsight, the rest of us think is so bloody obvious that we can’t see what the fuss is about. So, in 1892, after a couple of years of fiddling around with alternatives, Émile Levassor decided to put an internal combustion engine in the front of the car he was developing with René Panhard, then he connected it to a clutch with, behind that, a simple gearbox which took drive back to the rear wheels. This they continued to develop, producing the forerunner of the manual gearbox we recognise today in 1895.

Continue reading “Theme : Benchmarks – Le Système Panhard”

Production and design: EDAG´s research into additive manufacturing

Recently under the rubric of the Geneva Motor Show 2015, I mentioned the Light Cocoon concept car produced by the consultancy EDAG. This work highlighted the possibilities of additive manufacturing methods. Does it have a meaningful place in the future of car manufacture?

2014 EDAG Genesis
2014 EDAG Genesis

First, let´s find out a bit more about additive manufacturing. In contrast with standard mass production, additive production relies on building up material layer by layer using lasers to activate and bind particles together to the required shape. Lasers follow a path through a mass of granules and cause selected ones to fuse. The path is defined by a mathematical model generated using CAD programmes. Other additive methods use extrusions of hot plastic laid down in layers. Again, the layers are defined by CAD data. The key thing is that material is addded and not removed. (Sculpture using stone is subtractive manufacturing, so is wood turning.) In automotive production the methods used to make thing usually involve stamping where a flat sheet of metal is pressed into the required shape using a specially made one off tool. In moulding processes a liquid is introduced to an empty form and takes up the shape of the tool. In both cases the CAD data is mediated by costly forms or dies which need to be milled slowly from tough materials. These are usually finished (polished) by hand to

Continue reading “Production and design: EDAG´s research into additive manufacturing”

Recharging Your Electric Car the Danish Way

One of the questions hanging over electric cars is about how inner city residents can recharge them if they don’t have off-street car parking.

IMG_0845[1]

This photo shows the Danish approach: put the recharging stations on the street. I don’t know how this works but will endeavour to find out. At the moment there are no signs to say these parking places are exclusive to electric cars (though this might be implied). There are several dotted around where I live and I have seen them in the middle of Dublin too.

I have also read that the US government is thinking that the best way to Continue reading “Recharging Your Electric Car the Danish Way”

The Great Curve

Britain’s Aerodynamic Pioneers – Frank Costin and Malcolm Sayer profiled.

Image credit: (c) Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory/NASA

During the 1930s, rapid advancements in aviation were in no small way fuelled by a growing understanding of the science of aerodynamics. Following the outbreak of hostilities in 1939, with scientific interest supplanted by urgent necessity, the pioneering research into airflow management would now come with an added dimension. The increased application of wind tunnel testing allowed engineers to Continue reading “The Great Curve”

Customerless Car Companies 2

Further to the article about driverless cars, I’d like to draw your attention to Bosch’s path towards driverless cars.

1958 driverless car

According to Automotive News the four main steps are as follows:

• Integrated highway assist: In 2017, the vehicle would travel up to 75 mph on the highway, remaining within its lane, while the motorist keeps his eyes on the road. Continue reading “Customerless Car Companies 2”

Theme : Aerodynamics – Introduction

The Editor Gets All Slippery

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The first cars were not fast enough for anyone to be particularly concerned about the amount of air that stood in the way of their progress. Therefore, although drivers soon learnt to hunch themselves over the wheel to reduce the passing air’s effect on themselves, it took longer to realise how important it might be to reduce their effect on the passing air.

Before we come to Aerodynamics, we must come to Streamlining. Streamlining is not the father of Aerodynamics, it is the somewhat camp uncle. Streamlining is to Aerodynamics as Gastronomy is to Nutrition. It is more fun. Although based on the concept that air should pass unhindered over the vehicle body, Streamlining was not usually scientific. It was sometimes based on theory and experimentation, Continue reading “Theme : Aerodynamics – Introduction”

Trompe Le Mondeo

A Mondeo in drag? Driven to write examines Jaguar’s ‘much-loved’ X-Type to establish whether there is more to it than this shopworn pejorative might suggest.

Jaguar X-Type
Image credit: (c) carpixel

It’s probably accurate to say that the X-Type essentially bankrupted Jaguar. Certainly, the Ford-owned carmaker never recovered from the losses incurred by the X400 programme. According to a study carried out by financial analysts, Bernstein Research, Jaguar lost €4600 on every X-Type built – a net loss amounting to over €1.7 billion. Allow that to sink in for a moment.

Given that it remains the best-selling Jaguar to date with 362,000 produced over an 8-year lifespan, the reasons behind the X-Type’s failure and subsequent pariah status remain a matter of Continue reading “Trompe Le Mondeo”

More On Electric Vehicles: Aixam Mega Van

On a recent trip to southwest Germany I spotted this vehicle on a used-car dealer’s yard: an Aixam Mega Van.

2006 Aixam Mega Van
2006 Aixam Mega Van

You can read about the vehicle here. The range was launched in 2006 and features a choice of electric or diesel engines. The bodywork is made of recyclable and dent-proof polyethylene. The e-Van is the electrical version and the details can be found here. There are three battery pack options. The three battery packs are composed of 36 2-volt open lead elements for power of 8.6 kWh, 11.5 kWH and 17.3 kWH.  Continue reading “More On Electric Vehicles: Aixam Mega Van”

Theme : Dashboards – The Demise of the Column Shift

A Change for the Worst?

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If you drive a manual car, where do you look for the gearshift? As a default, central and forward of the front seats. Until the late 1960s, this was not always so. At one time, a piece of bent metal originating directly from the gearbox and capped with a Bakelite knob, was a sign of a cheap car. A better car, a quality car, more often had its gear change mounted on the steering column. This was only logical. This put it in easy reach of the steering wheel and freed up floorspace for a central passenger on the bench seat, or made for a more congenial driving experience when you were with a close friend. Who would have it any other way? Other types of gearboxes, such as torque converter automatics and pre-selectors followed this pattern.

Continue reading “Theme : Dashboards – The Demise of the Column Shift”

Extreme Rustproofing the Danish Way

The Danish climate is tough on older cars, especially those designed for drier climates. One solution is complete after-market galvanisation. Look at this Citroen 2CV to see how it appears when so treated….

Galvanised 2CV in Aarhus, Denmark
Galvanised 2CV in Aarhus, Denmark

There are two 2CV specialists in Jutland, one is the Danish 2CV Centre and the other is the 2CV Expert. One of these two offers a complete galvanising option on refurbished 2CVs. The Danish 2CV Centre has a museum which I have not visited. I had a look at this car which seems to have undergone the maximum degree of protection but has not been painted. Continue reading “Extreme Rustproofing the Danish Way”

Peter Stevens On Electric Cars

Peter Stevens has asked if electric cars need a new form language. His contention is that at present they either look conventional like the Tesla, or have “a strange self-righteous appearance”. What else does he say?

1900 Lohner Porsche: "Lohner Porsche cars used electric motors mounted within the wheels. That eliminated the weight and friction of a conventional drivetrain. "
1900 Lohner Porsche: “Lohner Porsche cars used electric motors mounted within the wheels. That eliminated the weight and friction of a conventional drivetrain. “

Stevens’ article first appeared at www.formtrends.com but is also republished at Car Design News.  In the article he makes the claim that while electric power might suit buses and van-like vehicles, the format presents too many conflicting requirements to work well:

“The batteries are huge and heavy and like to sit together like school friends; they become very inefficient if they are spread around the car so rather than liberating the designer they restrict new possibilities for vehicle architecture.” Continue reading “Peter Stevens On Electric Cars”

God is in the Details : 2015 Subaru WRX STi

God is in the details, as Mies Van der Rohe said. Subaru’s recent WRX STi has attracted my attention with an engineering choice that deserves respect.

2015 Subaru WRX STi
2015 Subaru WRX STi

I have two reasons for this article. One is the subject itself, Subaru’s devotion to steering quality, and two is to make up for our neglect of the brand. During our recent foray into engines, DTW failed rather spectacularly to mention Subaru who have championed boxer engines on the grounds that these make for a car with a lower centre of gravity, to the benefit of handling among other boons.

As LJK Setright noted, lowering the centre of gravity is a more effective means to ensure stability than widening the track of a vehicle.  Continue reading “God is in the Details : 2015 Subaru WRX STi”

Electric Dreams – Farewell Ampera

Was GM’s EV ever a contender?

Ampera Tunnel

Various things have recently caused me to think of things electric, though I admit that none of them involves me saving this or other planets. I had a mail the other week announcing a blanket 20mph limit in much of the area where I live, a process that is happening in many boroughs of London. Much of my driving in London is carried out in an old Audi S6, that burns both rubber and fuel with abandon, but gets me there no faster than anyone else. I dislike tube journeys. I can’t ride a pedal bike long distances without hurting my back. If I ride my motorcycle in wet weather I drip over people’s floors. I like silence. I want a new motoring experience. All these and more reasons make me think it would be nice to drive an electric car, or at least a part electric car.

Continue reading “Electric Dreams – Farewell Ampera”

Theme: Concepts – 2000 GM Precept

This was inspired by Sean’s post about Tatra’s retirement from making road-going automobiles and what might have been.

2000 GM Precept concept car in motion
2000 GM Precept concept car in motion

In the last few years of the Clinton administration a sizeable grant was made to the US car builders to help them develop fuel efficient large cars. Among the goals, the companies were to aim for was to reduce fuel use to 80 mpg. We seem to be slowly getting to this although with smaller cars. GM’s response to this grant was the Precept, the appearance of which seems to me to not too unlike a Tatra. Whether this is a case of convergent evolution or actual direct inspiration, I can’t say. Continue reading “Theme: Concepts – 2000 GM Precept”

Theme : Engines – A Conclusion

Time to look back on the month of August and see what we have learned.

2014 Jaguar XJ 5.0 V8
2014 Jaguar XJ 5.0 V8

August has drawn to a close and we are now an important amount wiser on the subject of engines. Among the discoveries are that a combination of regulations and fuel prices have made life uncongenial for large capacity engines. Both in Europe and the US, the V6 is increasingly rare. Furthermore, even the staple of mass-market, mid-range motoring, the boring old 2.0 litre 4-cylinder is beginning look much less like the first rung on the ladder to power and prestige.  In a world of buzzy three-cylinders and blown 1.2 litres four-cylinders, the 2.0 litre four has the aura of profligacy once reserved for in-line sixes.  The diminishing technical awareness of drivers means this change remains largely unremarked. What buyers want is Continue reading “Theme : Engines – A Conclusion”

Theme: Engines – The Greatest?

Italy’s engineering giants slug it out for your entertainment.

fiat12821

Given the size of the Italian motor industry by comparison to say, the United States or Germany, it’s difficult to compile a list of the great engine designers without coming to the conclusion that Italy has historically punched well above its weight. The fact that most of them were schooled through Italy’s once thriving aeronautical industry says as much about the era from which they emerged as the political and socio-economic causes, but either way, Italy’s contribution to the pantheon of notable engines is undeniable.  Continue reading “Theme: Engines – The Greatest?”

Theme : Engines – The V6 Also-Rans.

Recently DTW surveyed the decline of the mid-size family car with a V6. Further reflection led me to uncover some of the also-rans that trailed in the category.

2001 Kia Magentis V6
2001 Kia Magentis V6: classic used-car salesman photography.

This post-script adds four vehicles to the list of V6 contenders who have tried but not succeeded to gain sales from the dominant manufacturers. All four are marginal cars from marginal makers. Taken together they comprise a foursome fit for a comparison test in a future edition of Classic and Sportscar, say, 2024.

Continue reading “Theme : Engines – The V6 Also-Rans.”

Theme: Engines – Divine Inclination

The Lancia Fulvia V4

open-hf
Image: vivalancia

The V4 engine layout is synonymous with Lancia, the marque having employed the layout extensively from the 1920’s right up to and sometime after its demise as an independent in 1969. Founder, Vincenzo Lancia had something of a penchant for the vee-formation engine but it’s unclear exactly why he favoured the V4 over its in-line counterpart, given that the layout tends to fall prey to out of balance forces one would really rather not have to deal with.  Continue reading “Theme: Engines – Divine Inclination”

Theme – Engines: The Decline of the Mainstream Euro V6

How does it stand with the gold-standard of engines in the C/D class?

1992 Mazda 626 V6: one for trivia fans.
1992 Mazda 626 V6: one for trivia fans.

Patchy is the answer. Opel and Citroen still offer V6s, a diesel 3.0 and a 2.8 petrol respectively. Elsewhere it is a story of decline, staring in the middle of the last decade.

Ford offered a pint-sized V6 in their Sierra and in the Taunus long before that. Peugeot had a pleasant V6 in their refined and elegant 406. Opel routinely offered a V6 in the Vectra and still Continue reading “Theme – Engines: The Decline of the Mainstream Euro V6”

Theme – Engines: The Road Less Travelled

You can make 4-cylinder engines bigger but what about making a smaller 6?

1990 Alfa Romeo 2.0 V6. Image courtesy of Wikipedia
1990 Alfa Romeo 2.0 V6. Image courtesy of Wikipedia

We have considered two approaches to bridging the 2.0 to 2.5 litre capacity gap, the enlarged 4-cylinder engines, and the 5-cylinder concept. And while the first is relatively common and the second shall we say not unusual, there is one other method of adding power and prestige to a smaller engine. That route is the road less travelled, 2-litre V6s. Continue reading “Theme – Engines: The Road Less Travelled”

Theme – Engines: Throbby, Thrummy Quints

So who uses five cylinder engines and why? Do they have a future? DTW asks these questions today. Read on to accumulate wisdom on this subject.

1976 Audi 100: five-cylinders available
1976 Audi 100: five-cylinders available.

One might be tempted to think of five cylinder engines as being something of a novelty, if they are not a rarity. However, before Audi and Mercedes in the 1970s, Ford experimented with the concept in the 1930s and 1940s but never put anything into production. The heyday of the five has been from the end of the 70s until a few years ago. Not a bad run. The window of opportunity for the five-cylinder now seems to be closing. What opened it? Continue reading “Theme – Engines: Throbby, Thrummy Quints”

Theme: Engines – Top Dead Centre

With engines, as with everything else, there’s a pecking order. But who rules the roost?

Car-engine

Anyone spending time thinking or indeed writing about cars is likely to hold a firm view on the merits or otherwise of the internal combustion engine – few auto enthusiasts choose the comfort of the fence on this. If you cleave to the view that the engine represents the heart of a car, then it should come as no surprise that any marque with pretensions to greatness has designed and produced their own. Furthermore, the truly grand marques have at least one powerplant in their back catalogue that can be viewed in, at the very least, quasi-mythological terms.   Continue reading “Theme: Engines – Top Dead Centre”

Theme: Engines – A Survey of Fiat’s 2004 and 2014 ranges

Then and now: how does Fiat’s present engine range compare to that of 2004? And are they making use of the engines available from Chrysler?

2014 Fiat Qubo
2014 Fiat Qubo

Today we are asking “How bad is it exactly for Fiat, in real terms”? A vibrant company puts effort into engines if only to confuse punters and gain sales. But it can also offer a better match between the car and the complicated needs of the hundreds of millions of potential buyers. If you have a car with just one or two engines for it then it’s a safe bet there are 78 million people who simply won’t Continue reading “Theme: Engines – A Survey of Fiat’s 2004 and 2014 ranges”

Theme : Engines – 2000, the Not-So-Magic Number

Is the end in view for the once ubiquitous 2 Litre?

The First and Second Most Popular 2 Litres in The World?
The First and Second Most Popular 2 Litres in The World?

I’ve never liked 4 cylinders. Part of me has always lusted after pistons and capacity. How I envy a fellow correspondent on these pages his 5.3 litre V12. The only diesel engine I’ve ever been attracted to is Volkswagen’s ludicrous 5 litre V10, which made a mockery of diesel’s assumed economy but where the sheer numbers almost overcome my antipathy to fuel oil. Despite all this, the puritan in me has shown restraint and, in fact, the most cylinders I’ve ever owned in one engine is six and the largest capacity 2.8 litres. But it’s not all size. I like less than 4 cylinders too. I have eternally fond memories of the Citroen Flat Twin and I’ve never been tempted by a Japanese 4 cylinder motorcycle, far preferring my V Twin. I got very excited by Fiat’s TwinAir engine and, despite getting the idea that the real-world consumption, and thus emissions, are less related to the paper ones than they might be, it remains an attractive proposition – if only they’d put it in a car I wanted. The truth is that I’m a 4 cylinder bigot. There are exceptions in my prejudice (obviously an old Alfa Twin cam, probably some Hondas and any flat four, even a Beetle’s, and a Lancia V4 though, very certainly, not a Ford V4) but, generally, four in a row and I don’t want to know.

And of all four cylinder engines, the most clichéd is the 2 litre. The 4 pot in-line engine, with a capacity of more that 1950cc but less than 2000cc was, for so many years, the absolute average engine, both Continue reading “Theme : Engines – 2000, the Not-So-Magic Number”

Theme : Engines – The View from Car and Driver

As a little diversion, we suggest our readers might like to look at Kevin Cameron’s thoughts about the future of the internal combustion engine, published in Car & Driver magazine a day or two ago.

1992 Buick Roadmaster
1992 Buick Roadmaster

There are a views in the article you could take issue with but it’s an interesting American view on the IC engine’s future. I would argue that Cameron discounts the importance of government legislation and he assumes that the externalities of the IC engine (i.e. the costs everyone else pays for its use that are not factored into the sales price) will not be one day accounted for.

I would suggest that the days of the IC engine are numbered though whether this is because there is a) a switch to electric motors b) a switch away from personal transportation or c) global climate disaster that destroys the economic base upon which the IC-engine is predicated is not for us to discuss today. Continue reading “Theme : Engines – The View from Car and Driver”

Theme : Engines – Ford, VW and Opel’s Engine Ranges

Who has the most engines to offer customers? DTW takes a close look at the state of play at VW, Opel and Ford.

This has a V6 under the hood.
This has a V6 under the hood.

The operating assumption behind this small study is that engines matter. More precisely, if a manufacturer can offer a decent range of engines for a given class of vehicles then they are very likely to have a better chance of selling something to someone. I’ll restrict my research to Ford, Opel and VW for this particular study.

I wanted to see the composition of the range of engines and also to find out the average age of the engine families. The second point was rather hard to ascertain and I failed to Continue reading “Theme : Engines – Ford, VW and Opel’s Engine Ranges”

Theme : Engines – France

Do French engines live up to that nation’s fine engineering heritage?

1913 Peugeot twin OHC 16 valve 4 cylinder
1913 Peugeot twin OHC 16 valve 4 cylinder

In Post War Europe, engines were restricted by reasonably arbitrary taxation classes. In Britain, the old ‘RAC Horsepower’ rating was based on an archaic formula that related to the bore only, not the stroke and didn’t actually refer to the actual output of the engine. Despite it being abolished in the late 1940s, it meant that the longer stroke engine, with its relatively low rev limit, lived on far longer in much loved stalwarts such as the Jaguar XK and BMC A Series and it did stem the development of lighter, freer running engines. Italy was less prescriptive and, although there were aberrations, like home market only 2 litre Ferraris and Alfas V6s, it allowed the development of the sweet engines found in the Alfas and Fiats of the 60s. The French tried to be more scientific, with a fiscal horsepower tax that brought in various factors but, generally, encouraged smaller engines of 4 cylinders and less. Thus, in a country that has a fine record in technical advances in motoring, engines struggled to keep up.

Continue reading “Theme : Engines – France”

Theme : Engines – The 1970 Triumph Stag V8

Ah, the Triumph Stag V8, the stuff of classic car legends.

1970 Triumph Stag V8
1970 Triumph Stag V8

It’s all there for a long chat at the pub: dashed hopes, shoddy Midlands workmanship, the dark days of British Leyland’s decline. There’s even a bit of Italian in there, as Giovanni Michelotti styled the car. The bit we’re interested in is the V8 though.

This unit was conceived in the middle of the 60s in response to the growing demands of the UK market for more powerful engines as the motorway system expanded. Continue reading “Theme : Engines – The 1970 Triumph Stag V8”

Theme : Engines – GM’s General Purpose Nail

The Iron Duke engine: an American interpretation of a European staple.

Not an engine, an Astre
Not an engine, an Astre

The Americans have a different approach to engines than do Europeans. First, they hold the view that bigger is better which means that for many decades the smallest engines were usually 6-cylinder units. 8-cylinder units were considered standard. When the oil crises of the 70s struck, the main US manufacturers were not so experienced with the 4 cylinder devices that were needed to cope. Continue reading “Theme : Engines – GM’s General Purpose Nail”

Theme : Engines – The Final Stroke?

The Editor ponders the future

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For much of my motoring life, the hierarchy of car engines was clear, constant and relatively simple. The reciprocating internal combustion engine reigned supreme and the greater the number of cylinders, the more important it often was. The true enthusiast’s choice of fuel was petrol, with diesel an unfortunate option for the miser who had no ear for beauty and even less care for the health of their fellows. Continue reading “Theme : Engines – The Final Stroke?”

Transitions : Car Interiors as They Turned Plastic

This thread looks at a period of transition as injection moulding, safety legislation and changing taste in colours acted to markedly alter how car interiors looked. The late 70s was the period when the dashboard became seen as an integrated whole rather than a set of items screwed to a bulkhead. Of course, Citroen´s SM got there in 1971 but did it without injection moulding on the scale possible in 1981.

In this article I examine the change-over from metal and glass to all-plastic interiors that occurred in the mid 70s.

1971 Morris Marina interior. Spacious and simple.
1971 Morris Marina interior. Spacious and simple.

This thread looks at a period of transition as injection moulding, safety legislation and changing taste in colours acted to markedly alter how car interiors looked. The late 70s was the period when the dashboard became seen as an integrated whole rather than a set of items screwed to a bulkhead. Of course, Citroen’s SM got there in 1971 but did it without injection moulding on the scale possible in 1981. Continue reading “Transitions : Car Interiors as They Turned Plastic”

Theme: Headlamps – The View Ahead

We’re not still sticking lights on the front of our cars, are we? Time for some fresh thinking perhaps.

2010-RDX-Racedesign-Peugeot-207-Headlight-1024x768
Image: RDX-Racedesign

Modern life isn’t necessarily rubbish, but on balance, it is somewhat disappointing. Not just the gnawing pointlessness of so much of it, but the nagging sense that the brave new world we were promised back in the 70s has decisively failed to materialise. Because laying aside for a moment the jet-scooters, orgasmatrons and robotised dogs we were all expecting to enjoy, there remain aspects of the motor car which really should have met the rendezvous with the eternal.

Take headlamps for example. After more than a hundred years of almost constant automotive development, surely we could have Continue reading “Theme: Headlamps – The View Ahead”

What Lies Beneath?

What is the future for Car Manufacturing?

Car BadgesThere have always been cases of re-skins creating ‘different’ vehicles; and indeed VW Group have become masters at doing this in-house. But between independent brands this has usually been discreet and car companies have remained proud of their ability to manufacture the oily bits, as in the example of the Vauxhall salesman who once vehemently denied to me that the diesel in an Omega was manufactured by BMW. You might have thought he’d Continue reading “What Lies Beneath?”

Straight Eight – The Dilettante’s Viewpoint

The in-line eight cylinder petrol engine has receded into history. It has powered some of the great cars – the Alfa 8Cs, the Mercedes 300SLR, the Duesenberg SJ and the Bugatti Type 35, but its last appearance in a production car was in the early 1950s, in the finely named Packard Patrician.

The reasons for its disappearance are pretty obvious. It is not the greatest packaging solution and, with all those stresses and temperature variations laid out in a long line, it presents a whole series of engineering problems. Why bother when a V configuration is easier? For anything that has to be made to a budget, that is probably a reasonable attitude to take but, for some of us, the engine has a hugely exotic attraction, highlighted by its very impracticality.

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Continue reading “Straight Eight – The Dilettante’s Viewpoint”