It’s the One From Tokyo, Not Mars.

In the previous instalment, we outlined how BL, under the driving ambition of Michael Edwardes, got in step with Honda, to collaborate on a new model. This time, we focus on the car itself and the choice of manufacturing plant, which took on almost as much significance.

Triumph-Acclaim-CD
In spite of claims at the time, BL’s ‘advanced’ paint and rust-proofing technology failed to prevent the Acclaim succumbing to the curse of the tin worm.

“According to Ian Forster, the men from Honda, who have been worried by problems with ‘orange peel’ in the paintwork of their own cars, are learning to minimise it by adopting BL’s techniques.”  Steve Cropley, Editor, Car Magazine.

The choice of model for Project Bounty, it seems, was largely determined by Honda. Hattori Yoshi (Car, November 1980) explains, “But why did BL pick the Ballade?  Well, they didn’t. The fact is that BL picked Honda as being the Japanese company with the most compatible technology and went cap in hand in search for a car – any car – to help them keep going. 

On the face of it, the Quintet looks a better bet for BL in that it would provide a hatchback where at the moment there is only the old Maxi. Why didn’t they have that? ‘Because we want to Continue reading “It’s the One From Tokyo, Not Mars.”

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”

Mutiny About The Bounty

In the first of a series of articles about a car already surprisingly well (or not so well) referenced in Driven to Write, S.V. Robinson discusses the political and industrial shenanigans that presaged the Triumph Acclaim, sired by Project Bounty.

Acclaim CD
A Taste of Paradise?

“Would the Government be prepared to throw away this pioneering agreement between a British and a Japanese motor company, which might encourage wider moves to transplant the benefit of Japanese technology and efficiency to Britain?” Sir Michael Edwardes, ‘Back from the Brink’.

As a car, the Triumph Acclaim can claim little of note that is ground breaking. It is a car that, infamously, was not conceived as a Triumph. More subtly, by the time Acclaim came to be, Triumph itself was a brand without a range of cars, just a single model, built in Morris’s Cowley factory to design, engineering and production specifications developed in Tokyo.

Were it not for BL’s product planners’ persistent and ultimately futile attempt to Continue reading “Mutiny About The Bounty”

Eine Zukunft

BMW hasn’t a brilliant track record with open two-seaters. As the Bavarian carmaker prepares its latest sports car salvo, we examine one of their better efforts.

Image credit: (c) bmwblog

Given its current status as a generalist manufacturer with an increasingly thin residual veneer of aspirant prestige, it is with some incredulity one recalls how thirty years ago the BMW range consisted almost entirely of three volume saloons of an athletic mien.

Not that the Bayerische Motoren Werke lacked interest in more, shall we say, emotive vehicles, but an innate conservatism, coupled to a weak financial position meant that apart from the 507 model (a low-volume halo car created entirely for the United States market in 1959), and 1978’s M1 supercar, BMW cleaved to what it knew best.

By the mid 1980s, with the carmaker’s fortunes and upmarket reputation burnished like never before, a growing sense emerged within the Petuelring that BMW’s ‘Ultimate Driving Machine’ credentials were not being sufficiently well served merely by selling emboldened 3-Series’.

The official line, as forwarded by research and development chief, Wolfgang Reitzle, was to push upmarket into Mercedes-Benz territory, where profit and image were considerably more abundant. Reizle advanced his preferred ‘sporting’ model, the technically dense and witheringly expensive range-topping, V12 engined E31 8-Series coupé. However, factions within Munich’s Forschungs und Innovationszentrum had other ideas as to the nature and form of an overtly sporting BMW motor car.

During this period, the Bavarian carmaker created an engineering skunkworks dedicated to Continue reading “Eine Zukunft”

Fun and Games for Sunday

With the 2005 C-Airplay, Citroën aimed to re-introduce the notion of frivolity to the urban runabout. It never came to pass, but it just might have inspired something which did.

c-airplay
Image credit: (c) voiture-de-reve

The problem with writing about cars is the often futile task of establishing and then sifting information with any degree of accuracy. I mention this as preface and by way of cowardly disclaimer. Whether this piece contains anything of merit, or is merely speculative fluff with which to Continue reading “Fun and Games for Sunday”

Eurochild

Vittorio Ghidella presided over one of Fiat Auto’s rare periods of growth and prosperity. The 1988 Tipo exemplified his pragmatic approach, but all gains would become subject to the Fiat Charter.

Don’t worry, it’s galvanised! 1988 Tipo perilously close to water. Image credit: stubs.centreblog

Boom and bust appears to have been as essential a part of the Fiat charter as ill-judged facelifts. Periods of prosperity punctuated by blind panic when the balance sheet nosedived. In 1979, Gianni Agnelli appointed former engineer, Vittorio Ghidella to head the Fiat Auto division. The Turin carmaker was in desperate straits, emerging from the 1970s battered from the legacies of the ’73 fuel crisis and from labour disputes which threatened the future of the business.

Within a decade, the picture would be vastly different. Continue reading “Eurochild”

Gatto di Caprie

Bertone’s Marcello Gandini had about as much luck with leaping cats as he did with prancing horses; this 1977 proposal being another in a long line of cars which could have been Citroëns. So much so, it ended up becoming one.

“The only Jaguar thing I want to see is the leaper on the front!” 1977 Bertone Ascot concept. Image credit: (c) Car Design News

Over time, the Italian carrozzieri made numerous attempts to reimagine the work of Jaguar’s stylists, but with decidedly mixed results and limited success. Pininfarina, Ghia and Bertone had reimagined Jaguar models during the 1950s, while Michelotti also rebodied a D-Type along radically different lines.

But despite Jaguar’s Sir William Lyons maintaining both cordial relations and a weather eye on the major Italian styling studios, it took Bertone’s 1966 S-Type based FT concept to really capture his attention.

The first complete Bertone concept by senior designer, Marcello Gandini, the four-seater coupé was seriously evaluated at Browns Lane in both styling and engineering terms, with the Jaguar board that year exploring possible production. Gandini, like many within the Italian design community was keen to Continue reading “Gatto di Caprie”

The Born Identity

Like another much-loved ’80s C-sector stalwart, Volvo’s turn of the decade hatchback was aimed at two market sectors concurrently, satisfying neither. Driven to Write asks, was the 440-series Volvo’s Maestro?

1988 Volvo 440. Image credit: (c) autoevolution

Volvo’s long-lived 300-series proved something of a mixed blessing for the Swedish car maker by the late 1980s. On one hand, a firm and remarkably consistent seller (a regular in the UK’s top ten), while on the other, something of an embarrassment given its age, hapless dynamics and the fact that it was a car Gothenburg engineers never had much appreciation for in the first place.

Volvo were understandably keen to Continue reading “The Born Identity”

Boys of Summer

The turn of the century saw the Blue Oval vainly attempting to revisit its late ’50s heyday. But the past steadfastly remains a foreign country.

Ford Thunderbird. Image credit: (c) youtube

The 1984 Grammy-winning Don Henley single, Boys of Summer is a meditation on reminiscence and regret. It plays on the slick US West Coast values of the author’s Eagles heyday, subverting its MOR sheen to underline the more mature themes of ageing and loss.

Looking back to the past can be instructive, indeed for some of us, it’s a virtual necessity. However, true folly lies in attempts to Continue reading “Boys of Summer”

Inflammatory Writ

Every story needs an origin fable. Today, we look to a time before the light, when darkness cloaked the earth and the ground trembled beneath the wheels of the Dominator.

1996 Bentley Dominator. Image credit: (c) Motor 1

In the beginning the Lord created Cayenne. And the Lord saw that it was good, and he blessed it and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it”, and it was so. And lo, as the profits had foreseen, Cayenne begat Bentayga  who begat Urus, who begat Cullinan. And the Lord looked upon his works, and he was pleased.

On the seventh day, the Lord was tired, and he thought; “a little nap wouldn’t kill me” And so, the Lord slept but while he slumbered, the confounded things proliferated like the seven plagues, so when the Lord awoke, he was greatly vexed and rent his garment. And the Lord wailed, “what have I done?”

Most ideas appear good in isolation. It’s only when they are tested in real world conditions that one can Continue reading “Inflammatory Writ”

DTW’s Top-Twenty Two Great European Cars – Part 5

Today we take up once again the baton carried by earlier instalments of this mind-provoking series (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4).

2002 Lancia Phedra: source

In the last instalment, we reached number six. The pace will slow down as we near the summit. Today we consider only number 5, an example of the “Italian art of living”.

No list of great European cars would be complete without a Lancia, one of Europe’s most storied and, some would say, venerable marques. Lancia embodies low-key classiness, comfort and style with many landmark cars to its credit. Its great cars include the elegant Flaminia, the ground-breaking Aurelia, the innovative Beta, the nimble Fulvia, the rally champion Delta, the aristocratic Flavia, the agile and distinctive Trevi and the practical and refined Lybra.

In the case of the stylish Phedra you can Continue reading “DTW’s Top-Twenty Two Great European Cars – Part 5”

Broken Rhythm

The early promise of Fiat’s X1/38 design theme was quickly extinguished within centro stile Fiat. Was it a loss of confidence or something more seismic?

Still want that Regata? An unattributed styling proposal for a three volume Ritmo. Image credit: (c) Pinterest

It was perhaps Fiat’s misfortune that the Ritmo arrived at a point where the design zeitgeist was shifting away from the stark modernism of the early ’70s to a more polished, yet more conservative aesthetic. This shift is vividly illustrated by the transition from Ritmo to the three volume Regata model upon which it was based. Continue reading “Broken Rhythm”

Ritmo Della Strada

Fiat’s Seventies C-segment style statement is largely a neglected footnote today, but there’s more to the Ritmo than a bunch of robots and some confusion over its name.

Style statement. Image credit: cargurus

Was any decade as truly modern as the 1970s? One retrospectively characterised in a roseate glow of giddy colours and lurid sartorial fashions; of long hair, beards, beads and ABBA songs, what chroniclers choose to ignore was how genuinely, thrillingly new it all appeared at the time and after an interval of four decades, seems even more so now.

In terms of product design, little that occurred in the decade that followed came even close to Continue reading “Ritmo Della Strada”

Wright or Wrong

Clandestinely, a minor piece of both automotive and architecture history has been destroyed. And not in Italy either. 

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Photo (c) Pinterest.com

Austrian-American car importer, Max Hoffman, is best known for his crucial role in establishing European (mostly West German) car makers in the US market after the Second World War. What is less well known is the fact that Hoffman, was a bonafide connoisseur of architecture.

As such, Hoffman was particularly fond of the seminal work of Frank Lloyd Wright. For this reason, Hoffman commissioned the architect to Continue reading “Wright or Wrong”

Laughing Stock

For every alleged innovation there is always a precedent. Come now, you hardly imagine the Gorden comes up with this stuff on his own, do you?

AMC Eagle Sedan: Image credit: favcars

When Daimler’s Chief Design Officer, Gorden Wagener turned up in his immaculate sport-casual attire for the debut of the Maybach Ultimate Luxury concept, he told assembled journalists it represented “a totally new archetype of kind never seen before.” Of course even the most empty phrases contain a grain of truth because in the manner of a stopped clock, he’s half right.

It’s entirely possible that Daimler’s CDO neither knows nor cares that his verbiage-laden uttering lacked much by way of substance. After all, Mercedes’ resident believer in beauty and intelligence is unlikely to Continue reading “Laughing Stock”

Crossing Continents : Part Two

Having made a less than critically acclaimed stab at reinvention with Ghia’s 1996 Sentinel, Lincoln’s Gerry McGovern hit the bullseye with the 2002 Continental concept.

Image Credit: Top Speed

With the Jack Telnack era of design leadership coming to a close in 1997, Ford’s styling centre in Dearborn entered a new phase under J. C. Mays, who following a two year stint as design consultant for the Blue Oval, was selected as Ford’s new design Veep. With a new face came a new broom, Mays telling journalists at the time, “I have been brought in to make some changes and I fully intend to do that.”

With eight Worldwide styling studios to manage, Mays more consensual approach would Continue reading “Crossing Continents : Part Two”

Crossing Continents : Part One

The legacy of the 1961 Continental lays heavily upon Ford’s Lincoln division. Today we begin an examination of two concepts aimed at re-establishing that defining car’s visual pre-eminence.

Just masterful. Image credit: old car brochures

Europe does not have a monopoly on history or heritage. Long shadows of the past also haunt the American automotive landscape, as the big-name US automakers struggle, just like their European counterparts, to reinterpret the past while straining for relevance in a rapidly approaching future.

European sophisticates are fond of looking at the products of the US automakers with a mixture of Continue reading “Crossing Continents : Part One”

Anticipation Creeps Headstrong Towards Us

We ought to rename this site Le DTW. After yesterday’s Peugeot review we now have a whole slew of early 90s French cars under the spotlight.

L’Automobile, Sept 1991

In 1991 L’Automobile ran an article assessing the comparative strengths of the main three French brands, Renault, Citroën and Peugeot. It was a huge group test: 24 cars.  The magazine passed judgement on the main classes and in this article I will pass judgement on the 1991 verdict. Were  L’Automobile’s assessments in line with mine? Or indeed yours? Continue reading “Anticipation Creeps Headstrong Towards Us”

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”

Drowned Out

Every car design enthusiast and their dog lament the downfall of the Torinese carrozzieri. Yet a recent example illustrates that it’s not simply the industry that’s at fault.

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Tasteful, restrained – barely noticed, photo (c) CAR magazine

With Bertone gone (despite a company of that name still in existence) and ItalDesign churning out the crassest, most tasteless, un-Giugiaro-like concoctions, it’s now up to Pininfarina to wave the flag of Italian automotive design excellence.

Among the carrozzieri, Pininfarina traditionally played the purveyor of good taste. Bertone tended to Continue reading “Drowned Out”

A Few Photos For Sunday: Suzuki Cappucino

Driven to write has something of a jones for these tiny cars. Hell would be being asked to choose between this and a Bristol 411.

Small. Perfect. Perfectly small.

Well, I say Driven to write likes the Honda Beat as if we are a gestalt consciousness devoid of personal preferences. But DTW isn’t really, it’s a concatenation of different automotive tastes that miraculously seems not to be in conflict (except about chrome and brightwork and maybe fake wood in a car interior). We don’t talk about that much.

Today’s car lives in Dublin, Ireland (hence the grey lighting of late March ’18). I’ve seen this example before and indeed, the only other Cappucino I’ve set my eyes on also crossed my trail in Dublin (a black one). Ireland’s roads and traffic conditions being what they are (bad), the Capuccino is a surpassingly intelligent choice alongside a Rover, Cadillac or Jaguar. The roads and country lanes can be narrow. High speed matters a lot less than the sensation of high speed. Being so low to the ground and so Spartan, the Cappucino must Continue reading “A Few Photos For Sunday: Suzuki Cappucino”

Caprie Sunset

Perhaps the greatest edifice ever built on behalf of automotive design is receiving the Italian preservation treatment. 

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Imagine it without the cars inside: Stile Bertone’s former headquarters, photo (c) Ruoteclassiche

There’s no easier task than to accuse corporate America of cynicism. Greed, hubris, soullessness: pretty much any unappealing trait can be attributed to any of the industrial giants.

General Motors, a company of such dubious reputation it enabled a rather shady character like John Zachary DeLorean to Continue reading “Caprie Sunset”

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”

Two Fevered Decades – Taking the Temperature of the European Car Market.

Robertas Parazitas looks at the changing shape of the European car market over the last twenty years.  The numbers tell several stories; some are manifestly obvious, others may surprise you.

Source: Opel Media

The right-hand column lists European sales in 2017, highest to lowest.  The numbers to the left tell several stories, many of them unhappy. Continue reading “Two Fevered Decades – Taking the Temperature of the European Car Market.”

DTW’s Top Twenty Three Great European Cars – Part 3

This is the third instalment of this series which definitively ranks the very best European cars of all time.

An old Audi 100 Image: Simon Stahel

To make cut the cars have been rigorously assessed for engineering merit, technical competence and design quality. Each parameter was subvivided into its essential elements and assigned a number of points. The total number of points possible is 100. The minumum grade was 79. Today we assay an Alvis, evaluate an Audi, weigh up a Wolseley, over-view an Opel and muse about an MG.

If you wish to find out which models made it to the ranks of 15-10, then you only have to Continue reading “DTW’s Top Twenty Three Great European Cars – Part 3”

Fantastic Voyage

As Cadillac’s Johan de Nysschen prepares to stun the World with a flagship model, we look back thirty years to a previous attempt at shock and awe.

1988 Cadillac Voyage concept. Image credit: motor1

Throughout Cadillac’s rich and honourable a history of so-called dream cars, what distinguished the concepts of the marque’s heyday was that they accurately signposted the direction styling would take, whereas latterly, they appear to exist only in order to Continue reading “Fantastic Voyage”

AUTOpsy: Dodge Avenger (2007)

The outcome of the best and brightest Daimler-Benz managers showing the Americans how to take the product side of the business was this. Seriously ?

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Was it ignorance? Negligence? Arrogance?

The motive(s) may be up for debate, but there’s no arguing about the utter lack of lustre this 2007 vintage Dodge Avenger embodies. Or that this utterly cynical product was the result of management decisions betraying one or all the traits mentioned above.

Of course, by the time the Avenger was brought to market, most of the people who had made those decisions had Continue reading “AUTOpsy: Dodge Avenger (2007)”

DTW’s Top-Twenty Two Great European Cars – Part 2

In this instalment we get closer to the top of the list by considering five more European cars which in their own way, were landmarks in motoring.

1984 Ford Orion: flickr.com

In this edition of the series we take a Ford, a Jaguar, a Lotus, a Fiat and a Nissan from their dusty placements in history and shine a light on their significance. The first car is a Ford, a car which showed Dunton simply couldn’t resist the impulse to Continue reading “DTW’s Top-Twenty Two Great European Cars – Part 2”

A Company Car

With Ford poised to officially reveal its spiritual successor, we examine the car which fifty years ago paved its path, becoming the fifth best selling car of all time.

Image credit: viaretro

It’s a curious choice of name when you think about it, connotating little by way of glamour or allure, unlike for instance its Cortina sibling. The car as companion perhaps? A no-nonsense non-specific name for what began as a practical, utilitarian no-nonsense car.

The Escort name in fact predated this model, first turning up on a variant of the 1950s British Ford 100E range, but more salaciously, it was also the title of a popular UK top-shelf publication, beloved of the school playground and travel motel dweller alike.

But the Escort in basic form at least, was hardly going to Continue reading “A Company Car”

DTW’s Top Twenty-Two Great European Cars – Part 1

Some time back, DTW surveyed the world of cars to produce a definitive top 50 of all time. In this series, we narrow the field to European vehicles and present a run-down of the best Eurocars ever. The ratings are based on a weighted combination of engineering, styling, boot capacity and overall significance.  

Borgward P100: reddit

We will start off by a reminder of why a Seat, a Borgward and a Fiat are remembered as they are.

The dubious honour of trailing at number 22 in this list belongs to the 1991 Seat Toledo. That was the one that set the standard the others never quite lived up to. To find out more about the Toledo and the others you have to Continue reading “DTW’s Top Twenty-Two Great European Cars – Part 1”

A Concept for Sunday: 1978 Pininfarina Ecos

In 1978, Fiat and Pininfarina displayed both their environmental credentials alongside the Ecos styling study. Twenty years later, were its themes reprised for of all things, an SUV?

Pininfarina / Fiat Ecos. Image credit: classic car catalogue

As we’re fond of pointing out round here, the storied Italian design houses were not exactly above rehashing and repurposing design concepts for rival clients should the need arise (And it frequently did). After all, there are only so many ideas out there at a given time and if the intended client isn’t biting, why not Continue reading “A Concept for Sunday: 1978 Pininfarina Ecos”

The Muse of Melpomene

Lancia’s 2004 B-sector monospace was that rare thing – a commercial success. But was it a better Idea than its Fiat sibling?

Image credit: car-info

It has been suggested that the Lancia Musa died prematurely, production ceasing when Fiat Auto’s Stabilimento Mirafiori car plant was idled in 2012; victim of the catastrophic fall in Italian new car sales in the wake of the financial crash, sovereign debt crisis, not to mention the legacy of Fiat Auto’s inability to Continue reading “The Muse of Melpomene”

Great European Cars: Help Driven To Write Decide

Over the Easter period there will be a series of articles on the best European cars. I have my own ideas of what these might be.

Reassuringly British inside and out: the 1976 Talbot 1510

However, I would like to ask the DTW readership if they have some suggestions. You can propose attributes of a great European car or you can suggest actual candidates for the list. I would probably prefer discussion on the attributes though: is it engineering, style, quality, handling or performance? It is about aristocratic manners or it is about democratic good taste? Is it about the ability to Continue reading “Great European Cars: Help Driven To Write Decide”

Herbie Dies Again

Death’s door revolves once more for VW’s retromobile. Perhaps we’ll miss it this time, but only if it promises to go away.

Image credit: volkswagen.com

At the recent Geneva motor show, Volkswagen’s research and development chief, Frank Welsch confirmed the much rumoured demise of the Beetle. Many commenters had speculated since VW’s fortunes (both reputational and financial) took a dive in the wake of the firm’s emissions-revelations, that niche models like the Beetle were on deathwatch, so in many ways this news comes as no surprise.

Indeed, according to some sources, production could Continue reading “Herbie Dies Again”

Call Forth The Ravens And See Them Soar

After a binge of new car news and debate on Geneva, it’s time for a little retrospection: let’s Lancia.

1965 Lancia Fulvia Berlina: pinterest

The Danish magazine Motor Classic tempted me and I paid up. It lured me with a feature on the Fiat 124 Special T, Alfa Romeo Giulia and the Lancia Fulvia Berlina. The article argued all were cheaper alternatives to their coupé cousins.

The author characterised the Fiat as the “underknown sportsman”; the Alfa is portrayed as the “playboy from Milan” and not surprisingly the Lancia they called the “noble professor”. It was also called a “cult car for connoisseurs”. What more did they write?

Continue reading “Call Forth The Ravens And See Them Soar”

Free Ideas, Playful Minds

Far from simply purveyors of amusing retro-curiosities, Japan’s 10th most significant car maker is in fact at the forefront of modern luxury.

Image credit: kingautos

You’ve got to hand it to the Japanese. For a country which is often characterised by rigid social conformity and deep-rooted behavioural reserve, they do seem to have an interesting sense of humour, albeit one that doesn’t always translate that well.

While one wouldn’t necessarily Continue reading “Free Ideas, Playful Minds”

A Photo For Sunday: 1975-1983 BMW E-21

We do seem to be having a bit of a BMW binge here, what with last week’s photo having been the illustrious success/catastrophic failure known as the 1977 BMW 7-series. Who can remember the internal code number?

BMW E-something, as seen somewhere along the river Inn.

This week we take a look at another BMW from the same happy era. Can you remember the project code for this? You can find out if you Continue reading “A Photo For Sunday: 1975-1983 BMW E-21”

A Tale of Two Towers

Two of the more storied automotive marques happen to have owned representative headquarter buildings at some point. The respective fates of these edifices has proven somewhat poignant.  

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photo (c) pinterest.com

High-rise buildings inevitable lend themselves to illustrate human hubris. As the building of a monument to oneself is among the least humble of acts imaginable, skyscrapers typically invite less-than-kind comparisons: From the bible’s Tower of Babel to JG Ballard’s High-Rise, architecture aiming for the skies regularly acts as a metaphor for an aloof state of mind.

The automotive industry, whose core business of selling a commodity finds itself in constant battle with that product’s simultaneous role of a social entity, is even more prone than others to Continue reading “A Tale of Two Towers”

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”

Crossed Over

The recent crop of new models coming from Munich inevitably leads to a simple question: What on Earth has been going on at BMW in recent years?

2018-bmw-x4-rear-three-quarter-shot
 Backside design, photo (c) suvauthority.com

Ever since the Neue Klasse reinvented and saved the brand, BMW could only ever, leaving matters such as personal taste aside, be described as assertive.

Assertively conservative insofar as an adherence to driven rear wheels, straight six engines and the evolution of the themes established by the Neue Klasse were concerned. Assertively daring when it comes to Continue reading “Crossed Over”

Plentiful Phlogiston, an Ample Ether and a Strong Vital Force

Saloon or hatchback? Which is it? Why?

We are not interested in the front of this car: iMDB.org

From 1972 to 1984 the VW sold the Passat with the option of a 5-door as well as 2-door and five doors. Today it’s only sold as a saloon and estate. The Citroen XM came as a five-door hatchback and as a fabulously useful estate. Its predecessors and successors could only be had as saloons or estates.

All generations of the Seat Toledo, barring one have been hatchbacks. For 1999, the second generation Toledo Continue reading “Plentiful Phlogiston, an Ample Ether and a Strong Vital Force”

A Proton Saga

At Driven to Write, we believe all marques have a story to tell and today’s subject, from a half-forgotten outlier is no exception. But before we get to the subject at hand, it’s probably worth a little recap.

Okay, not a Saga, but a Savvy. Image credit: Parkers

The Proton motor company was founded in 1983 and until the advent of rival, Perodua a decade later, was the sole indigenous Malaysian carmaker. Initially partnered with Mitsubishi, who for a time owned a minority stake in the business, Proton cars were mildly reheated Mitsubishi models, like the unfortunately named Saga, which was Perusahaan Otomobil Nasional’s earliest offering in the United Kingdom – first introduced in 1989.

But despite its senior citizen connotations, the Saga proved a successful model line, with over 30,000 sold in the first three years. Indeed, Proton was for a time at least, viewed as Continue reading “A Proton Saga”

Two Cities, One Car

A clumsy name for a rather clumsy car. Ten years ago, Alfa Romeo took aim at the MINI (and its ilk) and missed. We plot the MiTo’s wobbly trajectory.

Image credit: autokult

Alfa Romeo has throughout its long history enjoyed a distinctly patchy relationship with small cars. Pre-War, such a notion would probably have been laughable but even in the latter half of the 20th century, despite the occasional prototype, the smallest car Portello actually got round to Continue reading “Two Cities, One Car”

German Ambassador – Karl-Heinz Kalbfell

The history of the motor industry is littered with lost causes and alternative realities. Today, we look at one of the more poignant examples.

Karl-Heinz Kalbfell. Image credit: speedweek

Even in automotive terms, Karl-Heinz Kalbfell is not a household name, although perhaps he ought to be. The late German engineer and product supremo enjoyed a stellar career at BMW and in 2004, landed what appeared to be not only a dream job, but one which promised truly great things.

Kalbfell, an engineering and marketing graduate, joined BMW AG in 1977, gaining responsibility for such programmes as Continue reading “German Ambassador – Karl-Heinz Kalbfell”

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”

The Company You Keep

Alfa Romeo’s choice of ‘brand ambassador’ is inspired – and telling, maybe in more ways than intended.

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The new face of Alfa Romeo, in front of a non-Alfa Romeo, photo (c) Kinja

Unlike so many ‘brand testimonials’, Giovanni Giorgio (or Hansjörg, as his mother referred to him) Moroder isn’t the kind of person who caught the public eye for all the wrong reasons. He never had his own reality TV show or featured in a programme of this kind as a guest. He didn’t enjoy a very public, tabloid-filling affair of the romantic or some other variety.

Giorgio Moroder is merely a pop music giant. Which makes his appointment as ‘brand ambassador’ for Alfa Romeo’s still relatively new Stelvio SUV appear Continue reading “The Company You Keep”

Start at the End

The current KA+ is a dispiriting sight for those who appreciated the original’s daring style. Today, we consider lost causes in the form of the 2010 Start concept.

2010 Ford Start. Image Credit: carbodydesign

Presenting a plausible and attractive evolution of the Ur-KA silhouette, Start came out of Ford’s Californian design centre, allegedly as a conceptual piece of blue sky thinking. Designed by Jeff Nield under the supervision of Freeman Thomas, Start debuted at the 2010 Beijing motor show, touted as a technology trailblazer for the blue oval.

A delightfully organic, podlike shape, the stylistic homages to the original 1996 KA are abundant, especially in the shaping and treatment of the Continue reading “Start at the End”

Monospace di Bertone

Thirty years before Urus, Bertone envisaged a fashionable high-riding Lamborghini four-door. But it wasn’t an SUV – after all, they already made one of those.

Image credit: adoniscars via autowp

Despite being largely associated with mid-engined supercars, Lamborghini remains something of an exception in automotive terms. Perhaps it’s a function of the marque’s beginnings as makers of farm machinery, but the abstract of Lamborghini appears more malleable than most. Debatable of course, but to a large extent, it’s possible to Continue reading “Monospace di Bertone”

Hello Neighbour

An encounter with the Ka’s more glamourous cousin has prompted Driven to Write to seek the word on the Street.

Image: Driven to Write

The 2002 Ford StreetKa was first shown at the 2000 Turin motor show as a concept, but its roots go back to 1996, when Ghia presented the Saetta, a teaser for that year’s Ka hatchback, but also the StreetKa’s direct forebear.

Seven years: Why did it take Ford so long to Continue reading “Hello Neighbour”

A Toledo Triumph

This morning I came across two of these on my drive to work.  Long forgotten in my mind, once I’d recalled them as being Toledos (should that be Toledi? maybe not), I realised how good they looked in today’s traffic.

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Seat Toledo Mk2, source: Motoring Research. The Toledo came before the more popular Leon hatch.

The Mk2 Seat Toledo preceded the more popular Mk1 Leon hatch to market in 1998 and remained in its catalogues until 2004. Styling was attributed to Giugiaro and it does look credibly like one of his from that era. It was built on the same PQ34 platform as the Mk4 Golf/ Bora, Audi A3 and Skoda Octavia.

Everyone loves the styling of the Mk4 Golf, and I have to say I was always partial to the original Leon – it having echoes of the Alfasud –  but this is a really nice small saloon (4-door notchback, if you want to be precise) with the rear pillar blending smoothly into the rear wing and boot panel. If I could criticise it, I’d say that Continue reading “A Toledo Triumph”