Settling Back Into The Deep, Familiar Ruts Of Despair

December 1998: what was being reviewed in those sunny, happy times?

1998 Suzuki Jimny 1.3: source

As luck would arrange it, dear old Car magazine took it upon itself to review the Suzuki Jimny 1.3 JLX as well as the Skoda Octavia estate and the Alfa Romeo 166 2.0 (is really 20 years since the last big Alfa appeared on the scene?). The Jimny is the most germane review subject as the new one has only been launched. Having read the reviews, I think the UK press has been more circumspect about their comments this time around, saying that the Jimny is for off-roading and not biased to the road so, yes, it does a very fine job of that former task. By the end it had become a legend.

In 1998 the critiques did not take account of the Jimny’s (shout it) off-roading focus. Roger Bell, normally a voice of sanity, got this one wrong on behalf of Car. He began the review as follows: “Suzuki’s almost legendary ability to Continue reading “Settling Back Into The Deep, Familiar Ruts Of Despair”

Parliamentary Privilege

Rover’s 1958 3-Litre was a class act, but it was a class in the grasp of profound change.

(c) datch.fr

On the 30th of April 1958, Royal assent was given to an act of parliament which changed the constitution of the upper house (the House of Lords) from being a male-only chamber, composed exclusively of hereditary peers. The Life Peerages Act led to a significant modernisation of parliament, lending the Lords a degree of legitimacy it had hitherto lacked, while better reflecting a changing UK society. Continue reading “Parliamentary Privilege”

In The End It Ends In Tears That Mark The End

It’s high time to quench the thirst for all things Citroen that I know smoulders among the denizens of this little corner of the World Wide Web.

And Jaguar comes into the story too, so that’s another little need satiated. If I push it I can also mention Lancia*. First we’ll start with the source. My reading today is Autocar & Motor January 30 1990 Vol. 187 No 5 (4901). A delightful little snippet about A&M is that in those days a certain Mr James May acted as the chief sub-editor.

And Jesse Crosse served as the technical consultant; now there’s a journalist whose work I always like to read because he has a knack for explaining things with concision and clarity.  With those preliminaries out of the way we can now
Continue reading “In The End It Ends In Tears That Mark The End”

Along Came a Spider

In 1978, Pininfarina made one final pitch to gain Jaguar’s business. It didn’t succeed, but did it precipitate another, more tangled narrative web?

(c) car-revs-daily

By around 1976 the automotive world had broadly coalesced around the belief that Jaguar’s XJ-S was, in stylistic terms a rather poor show from a carmaker renowned for being the business of beauty. It didn’t really matter that this particular set of shared assumptions had largely been formed by a UK and US press corps who had whipped themselves into a frenzy on the false premise that Jaguar would reprise the E-Type’s impact and ambition and by consequence required a scapegoat when reality proved somewhat different.

Blaming Jaguar was perhaps cathartic and while some argued the carmaker might have controlled the narrative a little better in the run up to the XJ-S’ announcement, in reality, the embattled residents of Browns Lane couldn’t Continue reading “Along Came a Spider”

Death Disco

As the Audi TT hits a significant historical milestone, it appears to be on the verge of taking an altogether different kind of hit. 

(c) audiphile

It isn’t every birthday celebration that doubles as a wake, but the times are not what they were. Twenty years after Audi unveiled the production TT sports model, speculation is rife that the current iteration is likely to be its last – at least in the format we have come to know and love.

Indeed, this last component may form part of the problem, since the love affair has, it appears, run its natural course. Certainly, senior Ingolstadt management, when they can Continue reading “Death Disco”

Song to the Siren

Volkswagen’s upmarket Passat derivative – was it misunderstood or simply misconceived? 

(c) privatefleet

If one was to plot the course of Volkswagen’s design heritage in purely aesthetic terms (if indeed such a thing were possible), it would be represented on a somewhat undulating graph, and it could be argued with some conviction that overall, the troughs have tended to outweigh the peaks. But automotive design is a cyclical discipline and all styling studios must move with, or at least reflect the times. Continue reading “Song to the Siren”

The Mystery Of Other People And Me A Mystery Too

By December 24th, 2006 the Blackpool-based, sportcar-making, Russian-owned-firm TVR had entered administration. In February 2007, Evo (“the thrill of driving”) magazine reported proposals for a 200 mph supercar.

2007 TVR Typhoon: source

The article is still on-line (dated Jan 2007) with the same text as appeared in the published magazine. “Reports of TVR’s death have been greatly exaggerated,” began the article. That phrase is such a clichée I’d never even examined it until now, which shows the danger of hackneyed phrases.  Death is all-or-nothing and so can’t be exaggerated any more than one can be slightly pregnant. Deaths being exaggerated is thus a kind of lame joke.

I suppose this particular reported car was a form of phantom pregnancy because it didn’t Continue reading “The Mystery Of Other People And Me A Mystery Too”

L’anima di Tridente

Maserati’s cornerstone product also happens to be its oldest, and by some margin. Where now for the GranTurismo?

(c) car and driver

Prior to his untimely demise, former FCA helmsman, Sergio Marchionne was frequently characterised as a heartless technocrat entirely lacking in marque fealty. It was a narrative he did little to disavow and while the truth may not have been quite as cut and dried as his many detractors alleged, there can be little doubt that he was a gimlet-sharp pragmatist who would employ all tools at his disposal to Continue reading “L’anima di Tridente”

Rotary Survivor

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

1978 Mazda Rx-7. (c) flickr

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

Logical Imperative

The 1978 Saab 900 could be dismissed as merely an evolution of an older model, but it became far more than that. It became the ur-Saab.

(c) wheelsAge

The car has become an indispensable part of our everyday life. We need it so that society will not grind to a halt and so that people will serve society efficiently. looking ahead a little further, will the car continue to be as essential in our everyday lives as today?

Yes – provided that: We Continue reading “Logical Imperative”

Style Council

The Jaguar S-Type was intended to spearhead Ford’s growth plans for the leaping cat. That didn’t quite work out as planned.

(c) driving.ca

Now is the winter of our discontent: In November 2004, Ford appointee, Joe Greenwell faced a panel of hostile UK parliamentarians at the Trade and Industry select committee in Whitehall, seeking explanations for his parent company’s decision to Continue reading “Style Council”

Neo Class

A class in retrofuturism from 1989. Driven to Write dons a black polo neck to pronounce upon Nissan’s Neo-X concept.

(c) old concept cars

During the late 1980s, Japanese car design appeared to be going through something of a purple patch. By way of illustration, the 1989 Tokyo motor show marked the introduction of three fine Nissan concepts – the Primera-X, (not to be confused with the 1990 production car it prefigured), the ‘Pike Factory’ Figaro concept, but also the subject of today’s retrospective – Nissan’s take on a full-sized saloon for the 1990s.

Three years earlier, Nissan had shown the highly acclaimed Cue-X concept, a superbly accomplished Euro-centric take on luxury saloon style which anticipated their Infiniti premium brand. However, while clearly intended to Continue reading “Neo Class”

A Different Shade of Beige

Best known as Germany’s Taxi of choice, the Mercedes /8 has languished under the shadow of more celebrated siblings. Time for a fare hearing.

(c) gdtm

Prior to 1970, all licenced taxis within the Federal Republic of West Germany were painted black. They also for the most part consisted of the products of Stuttgart-Untertürkheim. During the wirtschaftswunder era, the diesel-powered Mercedes came to embody virtues of solid dependability, frugality and long-life, as endorsed by the huge, largely trouble-free mileages these vehicles amassed in the public hire trade.

When Mercedes-Benz launched what were termed the ‘new generation’ cars in 1968, perhaps unsurprisingly, the values they espoused were of a familiar, conservative nature. Yet in its own way, the /8 (or Strich Acht – a term employed to denote the model year), was itself something of a revolutionary. Continue reading “A Different Shade of Beige”

The Car That Killed Sobriety

The previous generation of Mercedes’ E-class was supposed to mark a return to the marque’s traditional values. Instead, it turned a great many of them into damaged goods henceforth. 

E350 CDI Elegance (W212) 2008
Round is out, photo (c) Daimler AG

Willkommen zu Hause. Die E-Klasse. Upon its market introduction in 2009, the newest Mercedes-Benz E-class was ‘welcomed home’. Attentive observers may ask when and why the E-class had left in the first place – an answer to which would require a return to the decade most people of Stuttgart Sindelfingen and Untertürkheim would like to forget : The 1990s.

The E-class for the ’90s, unveiled in the middle of that decade, was of course the W210 generation, which has since gained notoriety for issues of rust, profit-optimised engineering and styling that has aged as gracefully as the materials the Benz was made of. Continue reading “The Car That Killed Sobriety”

Through These Architect’s Eyes

A 1951 art exhibition would change the way we viewed the automobile forever.

(c) MoMa

Since the Museum of Modern Art (MoMa) was founded in 1929, it has been a leading proponent of contemporary and modernist art, encompassing not only what is commonly known as fine arts, but architecture, product design, photography, film, installations and electronic media.

Perhaps the most influential host to the conversation around latter-day aesthetics, its current location, designed by architects, Philip Goodwin and Edward Stone in 1939 on New York’s West 53rd street has staged some of the most celebrated and controversial art exhibitions of the 20th century.

In 1951, the motor industry was still struggling not only to Continue reading “Through These Architect’s Eyes”

Little Wonder

The 1978 Midas and its talented creator appear largely forgotten. Neither really ought to be.

1978 Midas. (c) bright-cars

Even amongst those who breathe petrol vapour for pleasure, Harold Dermott is not a household name. And this is a pity, for he is intrinsically linked to two of Britain’s cleverest and most dynamically accomplished enthusiast cars. That they represent polar opposites upon the affordability spectrum is largely irrelevant – both are equally rare sights today.

But while one is rightly celebrated as arguably the pinnacle of road-car development, the 1978 Midas remains a neglected automotive footnote – a matter which not only belies the craft and ingenuity of its design and construction, but also speaks volumes as to how the automotive world values its innovators and outliers.

Having graduated with a BSc in mechanical engineering, Harold Dermott joined BL in the early ’70s, working on engine development for Jaguar. However, following the notorious Ryder Report, prospects looked bleak for a young, ambitious engineer, and having departed the embattled carmaker, he obtained the rights to Continue reading “Little Wonder”

The Quintessence : (Part Nine)

The XJ6 was and always will remain the quintessence of Jaguar. 

© Jaguar Heritage

“All I try to do is make nice cars…” (Sir William Lyons)

Throughout its history Jaguar have produced faster, more visually arresting, more technically dense cars; indeed, more commercially successful cars (and with over 400,000 units built over three distinct series the XJ was successful), but it’s debatable whether they ever produced as complete a car. A forward looking design which transcended its convoluted gestation, last-minute revisions and troubled career to become something which far outweighed the sum of its parts.

It’s difficult to Continue reading “The Quintessence : (Part Nine)”

Cars That Could Have Been Citroëns – 1977 Ghia Megastar

Driven to Write’s chevron-shaped codex gains a new entry.

Megastar I (c) http://www.allcarindex.com

It’s possible to argue that by 1976 the world of car design had attained peak-wedge, exemplified by William Towns’ startling Aston Martin Lagonda. The projectile-shaped luxury saloon so defined the dart theme, there was really nowhere else it could be taken, not that this prevented the likes of Marcello Gandini and others within the design community from trying. However, as evidenced by subsequent efforts, the returns were rapidly diminishing.

But while change was in the offing, the 1977 Geneva motor show was business as usual, with Ford-owned carrozzeria Ghia displaying a striking wedge-shaped saloon, dubbed Megastar. Created to Continue reading “Cars That Could Have Been Citroëns – 1977 Ghia Megastar”

Conservative Values

Before the revolution came this final flowering of traditional BMW expression. It’s possible they never quite surpassed it.

(c) favcars

As BMW themselves fondly state, the Three-Series represents the beating heart of the Bayerische Motoren Werke brand, and as such, they have (until comparatively recently at least) managed its evolution with some caution and no little care. Certainly throughout its earlier iterations, it remained a conceptually faithful evolution of the ur-Dreier, the epochal 02-Series, which the E21 Three supplanted some 42 years ago. Continue reading “Conservative Values”

The Quintessence : (Part Eight)

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

(c) Autocar

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

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

1976 Renault 5 GTL Review

This looks very much like an authentic period review of the 1976 Renault 5 GTL by revered motoring writer Archie Vicar.

1976 Renault 5 GTL: source

The text first appeared under the headline “Another New Renault” in The Amman Valley Chronicle and East Carmarthen News, June 5, 1976. The original photographs were by Douglas Land-Windermere. Due to the effects of xylophagic fungi, the original images could not be used.

Renault, Renault, Renault. This firm does try hard and is to be commended for its efforts to keep up with trends sooner or later. That means they are once again on the “hatchback” bandwagon, or staying on the bandwagon in the case of the 5 tested here today. The 5 appeared on the market in 1972 and the firm is sticking with the formula of front-drive and a hinged opening panel on the rear of the car in place of a proper separate boot.

It remains to be seen if British buyers can Continue reading “1976 Renault 5 GTL Review”

Definition Point

We profile Ford’s 1998 sector-defining Focus.

(c) namu.moe

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

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

The Quintessence : (Part Seven)

A revised XJ appeared in late 1973, just in time for the sky to fall in.

(c) Jaguar Cars

At the 1973 Frankfurt motor show, Jaguar displayed the facelifted Series II XJ series, billed in the launch material as “the logical evolution of British Leyland’s most coveted car.” External revisions were largely confined to the nose treatment which lent the car a fresher appearance. The revisions were made partly with one eye to the XJ’s duration in the marketplace, but mostly in accordance with increasingly stringent US regulations. Continue reading “The Quintessence : (Part Seven)”

Viking Burial

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

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

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

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

The Quintessence : (Part Six)

As Jaguar steadily broadened the XJ6’s appeal, the headwinds kept coming.

(c) IMDb

In 1968, when XJ launched, Jaguar was, in addition to future XJ4-derived models, seeking funding for a number of new product lines. These comprised of XJ21 – a V12 powered GT on the E-Type platform, XJ17 – an all-new compact 2+2 coupé and XJ27 – a large luxury coupé based on XJ4.

While Jaguar’s own deliberations saw XJ21 abandoned, BLMC product planning policies meant XJ17 was also culled, with Lord Stokes decreeing that Jaguar would no longer Continue reading “The Quintessence : (Part Six)”

Selling the Cat (short)

In 1972, Jaguar didn’t need to convince buyers of the XJ6’s virtues, but their BLMC masters had other ideas. 

(c) hiveminer

Marketing a car like the Jaguar XJ6 shouldn’t have been the most onerous of tasks. Demand for the car was enormous and the biggest problem facing prospective customers was getting hold of one. To some extent, Jaguar dealers were essentially order-takers and fulfilment houses. So while the rationale behind this print ad from the spring of 1972 appears somewhat ill-wrought, it isn’t as confused as the execution itself. Continue reading “Selling the Cat (short)”

The Quintessence : (Part Five)

Manufacturing was Jaguar’s fatal weakness. It would become XJ6’s undoing.

Browns Lane production tracks. (c) curbside Classic

Through a combination of genius, skill, misfortune and at times, sheer good luck, the Jaguar XJ6 proved to be precisely what the market realised it wanted. Offering all the glamour and visual allure of the E-Type in a four-door package, customers quickly discovered it fitted their needs very nicely indeed. The trouble was obtaining one.

When Lyons sanctioned the model, he set production targets of a thousand cars a week. This would have amounted to slightly over 50,000 cars per annum, a figure Jaguar wouldn’t meet until the 1990s, and certainly one the XJ-series never came close to meeting – for a whole host of reasons.

The first of these manifested itself as Jaguar struggled to ramp up XJ6 production in the advent of the car’s launch. The XJ bodyshell was built at PSF in Castle Bromwich. Made up of hundreds of small pressings, the XJ shells were designed this way, firstly to Continue reading “The Quintessence : (Part Five)”

The Quintessence : (Part Four)

Fifty years ago this week, Sir William Lyons announced his magnum opus.

(c) Classic Cars

On the 26th September 1968, amid the opulence of the Royal Lancaster Hotel on London’s Bayswater Road, Sir William Lyons revealed Jaguar’s long-awaited saloon. Neither a particularly confident nor enthusiastic public speaker, the intensely private Jaguar Chairman was persuaded to record his introductory speech to the assembled dealers, dignitaries and members of the press, as the still secret new XJ6 was revealed over four successive nights.

The lavish series of functions climaxed with Guests being directed to a darkened function room where Sir William, picked out by spotlights, announced, “ladies and Gentlemen, I should like to introduce to you my new car.” The lights would then gradually brighten to reveal a single XJ6 on a raised turntable, surrounded by nine further examples arranged around the room’s perimeter. The reception throughout was rapturous, with dealers and motoring press alike lining up to Continue reading “The Quintessence : (Part Four)”

The Quintessence : (Part Three)

In 1968, Jaguar put all its saloon car eggs in one decidedly comely basket. We examine the likely causes.

(c) forum-auto

In 1964, a series of factors led Sir William Lyons to take the momentous decision to replace Jaguar’s multiplicity of saloon models with a single car line, betting the entire enterprise upon its success. Retrospectively of course, one could say he needn’t have worried, but at the time, it must have been a deeply anxious moment.

How did this state of affairs come to pass? To answer this, we must Continue reading “The Quintessence : (Part Three)”

Surf’s Up

Sometimes it’s necessary to look back in order to move forward.

Image: (c) Auto-Didakt

It’s a slightly forlorn image would you not agree? An elegant, if vaguely unsatisfying looking 1960s Italian GT is parked upon a deserted beachscape. The photo comes courtesy of the estimable Mr. Christopher Butt, he of the influential and painstakingly curated Auto-Didakt. The car? Well, you can read Christopher’s well-chosen words on this carrozzeria unicorn here, should your curiosity get the better of you.

The image serves as something of a visual metaphor – for the demise of the carrozzieri, of course, but also for something more. But first, some background. As our Auto-Didaktic cohort points out, during the post-war period, French and Italian coachbuilders struggled to Continue reading “Surf’s Up”

Selling England by the Pound

In an anti-climax to the series on the Triumph Acclaim, we summarise the legendary LJKS’s first review of the car for Car Magazine.

Car November 1981
Oddly, Car failed to feature BL’s Triumphant Acclaim on the cover of its issue in which LJKS’s legendary review appeared (Source: Pinterest).

“It is a delightful car to drive, but it is so ugly that too few people will ever discover that. Or so I thought when I was fresh from trying the Acclaim, lamenting the need to fetch customers into the showroom and put them into the car and onto the road before they closed their minds to the purchase. If only they could Continue reading “Selling England by the Pound”

The Quintessence : (Part Two)

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

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

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

Ripples

The bland Triumph which owed everything to a low-key Honda led to the next collaborative effort which Car Magazine headlined as a ‘Bland Rover’. From such inauspicious beginnings came something of a revolution.

Project XX in launch guise. (c) Classicandperformancecar

“England Expects – but Austin Rover Struggles to Deliver”. Cover of Car Magazine in the issue which covered the launch and first drive of the Rover 800.

Looking back, the 800 could probably be acclaimed as a commercial success, in the UK at least, but its launch and early years were dogged by poor quality, bad reliability and uneven capabilities. It represented a faltering of the emerging track-record of BL-Honda cars in terms of reliability.

From the outside looking in, it is easy to Continue reading “Ripples”

The Quintessence : (Part One)

William Lyons’ masterpiece. In a series of articles, we celebrate an automotive high watermark as it marks its 50th anniversary.

(c) Jag-lovers.org

Without any doubt at all, the XJ6 is my personal favourite. It comes closer to than any other to what I always had in mind as my ideal car.” Sir William Lyons.

One bright spring morning in 1967, two men strode towards a lock-up garage in the grounds of an imposing Victorian stately home, amid the rolling Warwickshire countryside. As the dew shimmered on the immaculately tended lawns and borders of Wappenbury Hall, Sir William Lyons, Chairman, Chief Executive and spiritus rector regarding all matters aesthetic, led his European Sales Director, John Morgan to where Jaguar’s vitally important new car lay sequestered, in seemingly definitive prototype form.

An autocrat to the tips of his highly polished brogues he may have been, but Lyons nevertheless regularly canvassed the opinions of those he trusted, although having done so, he would Continue reading “The Quintessence : (Part One)”

The Mayfly

The 1998 S-Class attempted something of a rebalancing act after the critical wobbles experienced by its predecessor. Today it is as forgotten as it was forgettable.

(c) auto-agress

The German general election of 1998 was fought against the backdrop, not only of increased European integration, but growing pains on the domestic front stemming from the 1990 reunification project. With incumbent centre-right Chancellor, Helmut Kohl campaigning on a continuity mandate, the opposition Social Democrats portrayed themselves as the ‘new centre’. The results saw Europe’s strongest economy Continue reading “The Mayfly”

Afterglow

The Acclaim did not live that long a life, but, in a quiet and unnoticed way typical of the car itself, its legacy can be considered to be enduring.

TA late
A late Triumph Acclaim – taken in the Heritage Motor Museum.

“NO OFFENCE. Reliability, something not always associated with BL products, was the most memorable characteristic of our LTT Triumph Acclaim, though the spritely Honda drivetrain also won it approval”. Title of Car’s Long Term Test article regarding an Acclaim HL which it ran over 28,000 miles in 18 months.

So, the Acclaim did achieve a reputation for reliability.

Ian Forster would have been delighted to Continue reading “Afterglow”

Dreams of Reason Produce Monsters

Chris Bangle may have been maligned for a good deal during his tenure at BMW, but there are some things one can never quite forgive.

(c) RAC

All evolutionary pathways have their variances, those points of deviation from the natural course, most of which lead to dead-ends. Some however mutate, leading to strange and unnatural creations. In 2007, BMW unveiled one such grotesquery, an incongruously formed fastback SUV concept, dubbed a Sports Activity Coupé, which was revealed the following year in production form as the X6.

Chris Bangle is a man who seems content to Continue reading “Dreams of Reason Produce Monsters”

Jury-Rigged?

The 1987 ECOTY winner was something of a DTW stalwart. Even more so however was the fifth placed entrant, one championed by longtime panellist and judge, L.J.K. Setright. 

1987 winner. Image credit: (c) wheelsage

Since its inception in 1964, the European Car of the Year has been an annual award, adjudicated by a panel of leading European motoring journalists. Its stated aim has been to acclaim the most outstanding new car to go on sale within the 12 months preceding the adjudication.

The ECOTY jury currently consists of 60 members, representing 23 European countries. National representation is based on the size and significance of the country’s car market. France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy and Spain each Continue reading “Jury-Rigged?”

Re-1998 Part 8 : ダイハツ シリオン

Initially the plan was to write about the Peugeot 406 Coupé, pictured below. The plan deviated when news came in that the Daihatsu Sirion+ celebrates its twentieth anniversary this month and as a present, I’ll give it some airtime.

Peugeot 406 coupé

James May is today one of the three huge faces carved out of the Mount Rushmore of motoring journalism, along with Richard Hammond and Jeremy Clarkson. In August 1998 he still wrote for Car magazine, and could be found offering interesting and balanced views. That month he wrote up the Daihatsu Sirion +, (ダイハツ シリオン in Japanese) as it was called officially.

May was able to Continue reading “Re-1998 Part 8 : ダイハツ シリオン”

Re-1998 Part 4 : Suzuki Grand Vitara

DTW seems to really like Suzuki. Autocropley hated the 1998 Ignis. We like it anyway because we like Suzuki.

It´s bigger than you think: 1998 Suzuki Grand Vitara

Today we will get our loafers muddy as we venture off road in order to Continue reading “Re-1998 Part 4 : Suzuki Grand Vitara”

Cowley’s Japanese Boy

In this fourth part of our look at the Triumph Acclaim, we dwell on what at times seemed to be a bitter-sweet truth for BL; everyone knew the latest car from Cowley had a heart made in Tokyo.

Duran+Duran+1981
Ah, 1981, wasn’t it so … androgynous! It’s Duran Duran, for those too young or old to remember or care.

“We shouldn’t call this car British. When BL took over the standard of their cars went down. There’s no pride left in their work, only pride in opening their pay packets”; a quote in an article in Autocar from its survey of 200 members of the British public at the time of the launch of the Acclaim.

The best known and remembered aspect of the Triumph Acclaim was that it was originally designed, engineered and manufactured by Honda as the Ballade. Indeed practically every written reference to the Acclaim that can be researched from that time makes early, direct reference to the fact, for example: Continue reading “Cowley’s Japanese Boy”

Re-1998 Part 3 : Skoda Octavia

You wouldn’t call the 1998 Skoda Octavia an interesting car. From any other manufacturer at any other time it would have been damned as finally as the last Escort or legendary Mitsubishi Carisma.

1998 Skoda Octavia: wikipedia

But like the Datsun 1oo-A or first Corollas the Skoda is a car that had the amazing power to Continue reading “Re-1998 Part 3 : Skoda Octavia”

Toro de Lidia

Today, We enter the medios, and recall one of Lamborghini’s better efforts.

Image credit: (c) classiccarsforsale

Automotive exotica are not what they were. Traditionally selfish devices, aimed at those who preferred to enjoy their pleasures in isolated splendour. Hence the requirement for additional perches not being terribly high on the exotic carmakers’ priority list. However, a gap in any market simply begs to be filled and Ferruccio Lamborghini was not an individual to Continue reading “Toro de Lidia”

The Cambiano Connection

Pininfarina’s 1973 take on the seminal Jaguar saloon wasn’t their finest hour. But while it served to highlight a fundamental weakness in the Italian carrozzieri’s business model, it did lead to something more worthwhile.

1973 XJ12 PF. Image credit: (c) wheelsage

For the Italian carrozzieri it was a matter of intense pride that no manufacturer was creatively off limits, even one with as strong and universally lauded a design tradition as Jaguar. Predominantly the result of one man’s exceptional taste and unswerving vision, the craftsmen of Piedmont time and again Continue reading “The Cambiano Connection”

Re-1998 Part 1: Volvo S80

I know we’ve talked about this car before but the theme is summer 1998 and around then, a worrying two-decades back, this car was fresh and  new.

1998 Volvo S80.

“Volvo S80 takes the fight to BMW,” roared What Car in 72 point lettering. “It may be unmistakably Volvo but the all-new S80 has enough style and appeal to give rival luxury saloons a fright. And it won’t cost the earth either,” they continued. This claim x or y car will frighten BMW et al is a constant.

Somewhere (I’ve lost it) I have a copy of Autocropley with a headline saying Continue reading “Re-1998 Part 1: Volvo S80”

A Longer Read – The Great Curve

Aviation’s loss was very much UK motorsport’s gain in the case of Frank Costin and Malcolm Sayer, twin pioneers of applied aerodynamic theory.

photo credit: (c) motortrend

Britain’s motor industry may now be a pale shadow of its heyday, but it remains a centre of excellence in motorsport research, development and manufacture. Once derided by Enzo Ferrari as a collection of ‘garagistas’, the UK motorsport business rose to dominance by the ingenuity of visionaries like John Cooper and Colin Chapman, aided by gifted engineers, who could Continue reading “A Longer Read – The Great Curve”

Kenosha Kid

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

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

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

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

Critical Acclaim?

In this third chapter, we find out more about the fruit of the Bounty, and review some of the prose written by esteemed journalists on the cuckoo Triumph.

1972_cars_triumph_dolomite_sprint
What came before – a very nice example of a 1972 Dolomite

“The Triumph Acclaim is a good replacement for the aging Dolomite.  It is fast, comfortable, economical, and should be very reliable. Providing that the self-imposed restrictions of Japanese imports remain, the car should produce a handsome return for BL, but if cars like the excellent four door Accord become readily available, will people be prepared to accept less Honda for about the same price?” AutoTEST, Autocar, w/e 24 October 1981 (BC – Before Cropley!).

A review of technical specifications reveals that there is little that is remarkable about the three box, four door, saloon that was launched as the Triumph Acclaim on the 7th of October 1981. It had a modern, 1,335cc, four cylinder engine with eight valves and a single overhead camshaft, driving the front wheels via a 5 speed all synchromesh gearbox. The chassis was a steel monocoque, with a suspension system of coil springs over independent MacPherson struts and an anti-roll bar at the front.

A few aspects and features did give brochure-drafters and motoring journalists something to Continue reading “Critical Acclaim?”

The Future of the Future Will Still Contain the Past

An anachronistic brute in finely tailored Italian couture, the 1968 Ferrari 365GTB/4 nevertheless successfully transcended its seemingly fin de siècle status.

Image credit: (c) Talacrest

Sometimes legend can act as a blind, obscuring an object’s true nature or broader relevance. This is especially true of the products of Maranello, prized for their speed, exclusivity, competition-bred spirit, and in many (although not all) cases, visual allure. The 1968 365 GTB/4 combines a good number of these traits, yet comes up slightly short on the pure aesthetic side of the equation. So why has it become amongst the most revered of the breed?

There are two main reasons for this. The first is that despite its somewhat brutish appearance, the Daytona as it was unofficially known, while no ravishing beauty, is nevertheless something of a handsome brute. Secondly, and of perhaps greater significance is that the 365GTB/4 was the last front-engined two-seater Berlinetta produced by Maranello for a good thirty years – indeed for a time, it looked as though it might have Continue reading “The Future of the Future Will Still Contain the Past”

Trimming The Edges Of Reason

Let’s go back to 1999 right now. We will refresh our memories about the Isuzu KAI.

1999 Isuzu KAI: source

Isuzu ran a concept design studio in the UK, led by designer Simon Cox. Among the products of the studio was the Vehi-Cross (1997-2001). For the Kai Isuzu used very different form language, though one in keeping with the geometrical themes manifest most obviously in the Mk1 Ford Focus. If the surfacing and detailing are very 1999, the package is very now. Think of the BMW GT5 or Mercedes GLC. There is an arcing roofline and a raised chassis. It’s a hatchback on stilts in very simple terms. Continue reading “Trimming The Edges Of Reason”