Sons of the Silent Age

Part one: Driven to Write meets (and briefly drives) one of its heroes.

Image: Driven to Write

A commonly espoused orthodoxy warns us that close proximity to our idols can only lead to disappointment. Some go further, suggesting that the renunciation of hero worship is the mark of a mature mind. This being the case, I can categorically claim not to have attained it. But surely it is preferable to Continue reading “Sons of the Silent Age”

Altered Images

Today we explore alternative realities – one where perhaps Rover didn’t necessarily take the fork in the road marked ‘SD1’. What would that have looked like?

Image: Autocar

Counterfactuals are for the most part, exercises in futility, or at best, wishful thinking. When it comes to the products of what used to be British Leyland, added layers of poignancy come as standard. Few cars embody this like the Rover SD1 series; a car of enormous visual promise, fatally undermined by Continue reading “Altered Images”

Something Wicked This Way Comes

Quiet and unassuming by day, the 262C saw the distinctly suburban 200-Series loosen its tie and show a slightly darker side to its personality.

Image: boitierouge

Loved by owners, derided by the UK motoring press, the 200-series Volvo seemed even by mid-Seventies standards, something of an anachronism. Its upright and uncompromising appearance made few concessions to fashion, majoring on values of practicality, durability, comfort and occupant safety. Not that this prevented it from becoming a firm favourite and the model that Continue reading “Something Wicked This Way Comes”

Fleeting Star

A commercial hit for Mercedes-Benz at launch, but Father Time has not been kind to the 1997 CLK.

Image: carinpicture

We didn’t know it at the time, but when Mercedes-Benz ceased production of the C124 coupé line in 1996, its terminus would be more than a stylistic one. If not quite the final example of the legendary ‘Vertical Affinity, Horizontal Homogeneity’ design ethos overseen by Bruno Sacco, the C124 would prove to be the last mid-sized Mercedes coupe built upon its saloon counterpart’s platform for another two generations. Continue reading “Fleeting Star”

Henry’s Bequest

One model has defined Volvo’s rebirth, but its backer deserves some of the credit as well.

‘Ford Gives You More’ – Volvo XC60. Image: Car and Driver

It’s customary for a new car line to hit its sales-stride within the second full year of production, before plateauing and gradually ebbing downwards. This fall is normally arrested by a mid-term facelift, before once again, the graph pitches inexorably Southwards as the model is run out and ultimately replaced. While I wouldn’t necessarily Continue reading “Henry’s Bequest”

Finding Dino

We conclude our 50th anniversary ruminations on Ferrari’s Dino by tracing its stylistic forebears.

1965 Dino 166P. Image: Ferrari.com

In December 1964 the press convened at Modena’s Hotel Real-Fini, where Enzo Ferrari would conduct his annual sermon on the mount. As the gathered press corps waited breathlessly as the ‘Pope of the North’ held forth regarding the Scuderia’s programme for coming season, the commendatore dropped a surprise, telling journalists Ferrari’s race engineers were advanced on a new ‘168 Dino GT’ to be campaigned the following season.

The wily puppetmaster wouldn’t Continue reading “Finding Dino”

In the Name of the Son – 1967 Dino 206 GT

The car with which Alfredo Ferrari’s name would become synonymous did not carry the famous Cavallino Rampante emblem, but is arguably the most significant (and beautiful) Ferrari of all.

Mastery from the house of Pininfarina. Image: jdclassics

Enzo Ferrari preferred to be addressed as ‘ingegnere’, which was something of an irony, given his somewhat reactionary views on the subject. A staunch traditionalist, his principles were firmly rooted in the pre-war era; pivoting around the notion of a powerful, high revving power unit combined with a driver of sufficient bravery and skill to overcome the inevitable chassis-related deficiencies. Continue reading “In the Name of the Son – 1967 Dino 206 GT”

A Question of Attribution

Mystery and intrigue on the banks of the Neckar.

It all began with a casual conversation at a motor show, which touched on the Ro80 and its stylist, Claus Luthe. An acquaintance, with an extraordinary nose for the rarely trodden byways of automotive history said “You do know that Luthe probably didn’t design the Ro80?” I confessed I didn’t, but I was keen to know more.

“It’s in an old copy of CAR”, I was told. I asked if there was a possibility of a scanned copy of the article. “I’ll do better than that”, I was told; “I’ll send you the magazine”. Continue reading “A Question of Attribution”

Six Degrees of 116

Or, putting it another way, getting the most out of your platform architecture. We count the branches of the Alfa Romeo 116-Series’ family tree.

1972 Alfa Romeo Alfetta Berlina. Image: Autoevolution

Since its post-war reconstitution under semi-state ownership, Alfa Romeo was forced to cut its cloth in ever more inventive ways. Budgets were tight and new model programmes hard-won. Expensive unitary body architectures needed to be well and truly amortised, which led to production runs that in retrospect probably lasted too long. Continue reading “Six Degrees of 116”

Transalpine Hightail

Disappointingly uneven, despite occasional flashes of brilliance, the 1977 Giulietta personifies Alfa Romeo’s 1970’s wilderness years.

Image: wheelsage

The much-loved 105-Series Giulia was the model line that put Alfa Romeo back on a World stage. This compact sporting saloon was a concentrated blend of Portello engineering knowhow wrapped in a highly aerodynamic, if superficially four-square package. Belying it’s ‘boxy’ appearance however, the 105 drove beautifully becoming a firm favourite from its 1962 inception until its ultimate demise 15-years on.

Replacing a car of its stature was no job of a moment, so Alfa not only took their time, but elected to Continue reading “Transalpine Hightail”

‘Harmony With Nature’ – 2006 Daihatsu D-Compact X-Over

Another day, another Daihatsu.

Image: favcars

Daihatsu’s concept cars have been many, varied and in a good many cases, quite bonkers. Which is not to denigrate either them or the company which inspired them. Ideas they had aplenty, the real shame was that owing as much to their straitened circumstances as a lack of corporate nerve (perhaps), much of the invention and wildly creative thinking never particularly manifested itself in production form. Continue reading “‘Harmony With Nature’ – 2006 Daihatsu D-Compact X-Over”

Car is a Four Letter Word

The fourth generation of the series proved to be the quintessence of Golf. Twenty years later, it still is.

1997 Volkswagen Golf Mark IV. Image: 3dtuning

In 1974, a teetering VW took a risky punt into the relative unknown by launching a car, which by no means avant garde, (even by the standards of the day), was nonetheless some way left of centre. While it would be facile to suggest it was anything but a commercial success, it wasn’t perhaps until its second permutation that it began to truly dominate the sector it would ultimately define. Continue reading “Car is a Four Letter Word”

Rearview Revisited: 1987 Toyota Corolla Liftback

Arguably the Hyundai i30 Fastback’s spiritual ancestor, the 1987 Toyota Corolla Liftback is 30 years old this year.

First published by Eóin Doyle in July 2015.

1987 Toyota Corolla Liftback GLi - image via toyotaoldies.de
Is a posh Corolla an oxymoron? Not in Ireland during the 1980’s. 1987 Toyota Corolla Liftback GLi – image: toyotaoldies.de

It might surprise you, but the (AE92-series for Toyota geeks) Corolla, in 1.6 GLi Liftback guise at least, was considered an upmarket car in Ireland during the latter part of the 1980’s, before we became brand snobs like everyone else. This era also coincided with two other quite appealing, slightly upmarket Japanese hatchbacks – Mazda’s 323F and Honda’s 5-door Integra. Continue reading “Rearview Revisited: 1987 Toyota Corolla Liftback”

DTW Summer Re-Issue: “Let’s Sort This Out, Shall We?”

Recently we have been discussing the origins of the Citroën XM.

[First posted Nov 28, 2016, but well worth a second read as it’s a first rate bit of research.]

1989 Citroen XM
1989 Citroen XM

Here are as many of the influences I can find, not counting the aspects of the car that draw on Citroen’s own general heritage. The roll call is long and not exclusive. However, it begins with the 1974 Lotus Eclat which has a similar dropped window line, one of the XM’s signature features. Deschamp’s drawing looks like a saloon Eclat, if you Continue reading “DTW Summer Re-Issue: “Let’s Sort This Out, Shall We?””

SEAT Again Giorgetto

I’m not sure they heard you the first time… or the second.

Porsche 932 design study by Ital Design. Image: car-revs-daily

So what have we here? Well it appears to be Ital Design’s 1991 proposal for Porsche’s abortive 989 four-door saloon project. As detailed previously on these pages, Porsche had been investigating a four-seater saloon ever since the 928’s inception, the 989 concept being the culmination of Zuffenhausen thinking at the time. But while the in-house proposal reflected Porsche’s enthusiasm for traditional silhouettes, there was clearly some hand-wringing as to whether this was the best way forward. Continue reading “SEAT Again Giorgetto”

Returning to a Theme – 2003 Jaguar R-D6

My initial intention was to revisit a DTW piece from 2014 celebrating Matthew Beaven’s 2003 Jaguar concept. But further reflection suggested it made far more sense to start afresh.

Image: Jaguar Heritage

It’s been fourteen years now since the Jaguar R-D6 concept debuted at the Frankfurt Motor Show – a debut I can recall vividly. After years of stylistic Disneyfication under the staunchly conservative guidance of the likes of William Clay Ford and J. Mays, here was the first clear indication that Jaguar stylists saw a way out of the retro straitjacket. Continue reading “Returning to a Theme – 2003 Jaguar R-D6”

Sliding Doors – 2004 Peugeot 1007

The Peugeot 1007 was an abject failure, but could the story have played out differently? Driven to Write gets the popcorn out.

Image: auto-selection

In the 1998 movie of the same name, the eponymous sliding doors were a plot device or portal into an alternative reality – a form of magical thinking akin to the notion that one’s life can turn on a sixpence. On one hand: lose job, meet nice John Hannah on the underground. Romance ensues, as do more plot devices, Get run over by car. (I haven’t seen the film, so I’m paraphrasing here). Continue reading “Sliding Doors – 2004 Peugeot 1007”

Porsche Theme Redux: Fast and Loose

A V8 powered 911? Did I read that right?

A styling model for the 965/969 at Zuffenhausen. Image: total911

Following the 1984 reveal of the technical wondercar that was the 959, Porsche planned to sprinkle some of that car’s allure onto the ageing 911 line. The 959 was only ever going to be a low-volume homologation special, but this car, dubbed 965 in factory-speak but to be marketed as the 969, was intended to Continue reading “Porsche Theme Redux: Fast and Loose”

Theme: Porsche – Lend Me Some Sugar, I Am Your Neighbour

When Mercedes-Benz were looking to build their late-’80s supersaloon, they decided to keep things in the ‘hood. Zuffenhausen to be exact.

1989 Mercedes 500E. Image: Gear-Patrol

In 1989, Mercedes-Benz engineers were well advanced with development of the W140-series S-Class, a car which they determined would underline their utter dominance in the luxury saloon field. The W140 had been delayed owing to changes in the car’s specification which were intended to Continue reading “Theme: Porsche – Lend Me Some Sugar, I Am Your Neighbour”

To Judge And To Foresee

From 1972 to 1981 BMW sold the E12, part of its small range of sport saloons. We think of them as quintessentially German. Are they?

1972-1981 BMW E-20 525

When I saw this recently I couldn’t help noticing the almost subliminal Italian feel along with a certain French lightness. How would that be explained? If you Continue reading “To Judge And To Foresee”

Charbo Sbarro Renault

Philippe Charbonneaux is known for this work on the Renault 8, the Renault 21 and the Renault 16. In 1984 he teamed up with Franco Sbarro to produce a proposal for a Renault 25-based limousine.

1984 Charbonneaux R25 limousine: source

Charbonneaux showed the car at the 1984 Paris automobile salon. Sbarro fabricated the showcar while Charbo (hereafter) conceived the theme – an antimodern limousine. If the actual Renault 25 is a study in French design rationalism, the limousine version seems to be a study in undoing most of that concept.

In revising the R25, Charbo sought to make a car that would Continue reading “Charbo Sbarro Renault”

Theme: Porsche – Cheaper by the Million

Zuffenhausen recently celebrated production of the millionth 911. How the heck did that happen?

Image: autobahnhound

Let’s allow this one sink in for a moment. A million 911s. It’s a staggering achievement for a car that should never have lived as long, much less become the default ‘usable performance car’, given an inherently unbalanced mechanical layout considered retrograde even by mid-Sixties standards. Thought: could it have been a reaction to the original 911’s propensity to Continue reading “Theme: Porsche – Cheaper by the Million”

Torinese Marina – 1977 Fiat 132

Dud big Fiat or misunderstood mongrel? Lets get our feet wet, shall we?

All images taken from original Fiat sales material.

We should get a couple of provisos out of the way before I commence. Firstly, the 132 began its lengthy career in 1972, so by 1977, it had already entered its third iteration. Secondly, while I admit it’s probably a little unfair to directly compare Fiat’s big saloon with British Leyland’s cynically conceived Cortina-baiter, some compelling parallels do suggest themselves. Continue reading “Torinese Marina – 1977 Fiat 132”

Theme: Porsche – 928 – Less and More

Over the 928’s production life, various attempts were made at producing additional variants. Few were successful and fewer still went beyond the prototype stage. We look a few notable examples.

B+B 928 Targa. Image: wheelsage

When the 928 was being schemed during the early 1970s it appeared as though several US states would outlaw convertibles. This led many European marques to abandon the format entirely, lest they wind up saddled with an expensively developed product they couldn’t sell. This explains the lack of a convertible 928 at launch, if not the fact that Porsche never quite got around to Continue reading “Theme: Porsche – 928 – Less and More”

Theme: Porsche – ‘Flow Motion’ – 1977 Porsche 928

A brave and modernist masterpiece from Porsche – of all people.

Image: Autowp.ru

During the early 1970s, contemporary music’s centre of gravity saw a shift away from the UK and America, Eastwards to Germany, where so-called ‘Kosmiche’ bands like Can, Cluster, Faust, Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream and Neu! forged an alternative soundscape, laying down a sonic basis for the post-punk, new wave and electronic music that followed. Dismissed at the time as ‘Krautrock’, without its influence, music would most likely have evolved in a very different direction.

Porsche’s 928 is one of perhaps six outstanding car designs from the 1970s, a half-dozen vehicles that in their own disparate manner, eloquently Continue reading “Theme: Porsche – ‘Flow Motion’ – 1977 Porsche 928”

Stoop They Too, The Blue Men Of The Minch?

If memory serves, Piet Mondrian had a huge row with Paul Klee or Wassily Kandinsky about whether diagonal lines should be allowed in art.  Has there been such an argument in car design?

2015 Peugeot 508 rear bumper

It’s to do with bumper to body shutlines which leads to what might be the only semi-scholarly study of the evolution of the rear car bumper on the whole of continental Europe.

Continue reading “Stoop They Too, The Blue Men Of The Minch?”

Commercial Break – 2001 Mercedes-Benz Vaneo

If the W168 A-Class was a poorly executed answer to a question few had posed (and nobody at all had asked Mercedes), how do we even begin to assess the Vaneo?

Mercedes-Benz Vaneo. Image: cars-data

Lets get two things out the way here. First: The Vaneo not only was frightful, it was an inferior product that did Mercedes more reputational harm than any additional revenue or scale it garnered. Second: It clearly began life as a commercial vehicle. Let’s imagine for a moment the product planning meeting that took place when the Vaneo was greenlighted. Continue reading “Commercial Break – 2001 Mercedes-Benz Vaneo”

Maxximum Attakk! – Mercedes A160 Formula Hakkinen Edition

Having a special edition named after you is normally something of a compliment. But there’s an exception to every rule.

1999 žMercedes A160 Formula Hakkinen Edition. Image: mercedesclass.net

The world of Formula One is brutal and uncompromising. Few make it to its pinnacle, fewer still achieve greatness. Double World champion, Mika Häkkinen appears to have been one of Grand Prix’s more pleasant individuals – famously taciturn when fixed in the camera’s glare, but said to have been considerably better company once they were turned off. Quick too – perhaps the only driver of his era who gave seven-time champion, Michael Schumacher a genuine run for his money. Continue reading “Maxximum Attakk! – Mercedes A160 Formula Hakkinen Edition”

Fallen Star – 1997 Mercedes A-Class

With total sales of over a million, the W168 Mercedes A-Class is possibly the best selling commercial flop ever. We chart its fall.

Green wheelie bin. Image: mercedesclass.net

The 2012 announcement of Mercedes’ current-generation A-Class and its re-alignment in ethos and market position was viewed by most observers as an expedient business decision based upon 15 torrid years in the compact car game. While Daimler’s U-turn elicited little by way of overt criticism, it could equally be regarded as a potent symbol that the Stuttgart-Untertürkheim car giant had conclusively lost the argument. Continue reading “Fallen Star – 1997 Mercedes A-Class”

Loss of Vision – 1994 Mercedes-Benz Studie A

The 1993 Vision A and ’94 Studie A were everything the ensuing A-Class failed to be. A genuine Mercedes in miniature.

1993/4 Mercedes Vision/Studie A. Image: mercedes-benz-passion

One doesn’t get to the size and scope of Mercedes-Benz by being incautious, even if at times, an element of risk is sometimes both prudent and necessary. For example, the W201 programme saw the German car giant risk a move downmarket, albeit one taken only after a great deal of consideration and iterative trial. That programme, instigated during the dark days of the post oil-shock 1970’s, wouldn’t see series production as the 190-series until 1982. Continue reading “Loss of Vision – 1994 Mercedes-Benz Studie A”

Cars That Could Have Been Citroëns – 1983 Lincoln Quicksilver

We’re definitely not in Kansas any more, Toto. But where in heck are we?

1983 Lincoln Quicksilver by Carrozzeria Ghia. Image: cardesignnews

Acquisitions by Detroit big-hitters was not a phenomenon restricted to the latter-1980’s – it began well before that. Ford had made several stabs at acquiring Ferrari in the late ’60s to no avail, but in 1970, they purchased (from Alessandro de Tomaso of all people) the Italian coachbuilder, Carrozzeria Ghia. In addition to using the Ghia logo as a ‘brougham’ trim level, initially for their European model lines, Ford also used Filippo Sapino’s Ghia studios as an advanced styling skunkworks, commissioning a series of conceptual styling studies and pre-production prototypes over the following two decades. Continue reading “Cars That Could Have Been Citroëns – 1983 Lincoln Quicksilver”

Via Biturbo

Pierangelo Andreani didn’t necessarily pluck the Biturbo’s bodystyle from thin air. Like everyone else, he was influenced by others, although it must be emphasised, his Giugiaro impression was a showstopper.

1981 Maserati Biturbo. Image: carinpicture

One of the enjoyable things about writing for this site is how much one learns, whether it’s from research for these stories, insights from our incredibly well-informed reader/commenters or occasionally, from random sightings that occasionally take place when carrying out some otherwise unrelated task.

One of the latter prompted this – a chance sighting which led to a question, an inner dialogue and finally, the article you’re reading now. Having written (at length) on the Maserati Biturbo family, (and the 228 model in particular), the thought occurred; wouldn’t it be interesting to trace some of the influences Pierangelo Andreani may have drawn upon when creating these cars? Continue reading “Via Biturbo”

The Citroën Dyane is Fifty This Year

Was it the 2CV’s slightly duller brother, or the car the 2CV should have become?

Image : favcars.com

In all practical respects the Citroën Dyane was an improvement on the 2CV. The sliding front windows were more convenient, the two position fabric sunroof easier to use, the hatchback more versatile, the bodywork a little more slippery. Yet, despite comprising nearly 17% of total 2CV derivative Citroen production in its 15 years, against the 2CV saloon’s 45% over 42 years, it is a bywater in Citroën history because, of course, it isn’t a Deuche and, in terms of original intent, it isn’t even strictly a Citroën, since it was intended to be a Panhard. Continue reading “The Citroën Dyane is Fifty This Year”

Trident Inversion – 1987 Maserati 228

The Biturbo’s bigger brother appeared very much the sober Italian aristocrat. Unfortunately, both breeding and manners were slightly suspect.

Image: betterparts

The Biturbo could be said to have saved Maserati, yet is perhaps best remembered for its troubled reputation than any commercial, aesthetic or performance-related virtues. Whether such a reputation remains entirely justified is perhaps a question for another time, but what is often forgotten amid the flow of water under the Tridente’s bridge is what a significant step the Tipo AM331 was when first introduced in 1981. Continue reading “Trident Inversion – 1987 Maserati 228”

Not Alone Is The Winter’s Chalice Replenished

Very clearly the work of one person’s vision, Michel Boué, the Renault 5 impresses with the clarity of its concept. This example shows how it could be more than a basic conveyance.

Renault 5 TX automatic

In this instance we have here a really tidy, timewarp example with very little sign of tear or wear. We’ll get to the interior in a moment, with its comfortable sports seats and very inviting ambience.

Continue reading “Not Alone Is The Winter’s Chalice Replenished”

A photo for Sunday – Alfa Romeo Montreal

I sometimes think I’m fated to have encounters with unusual Alfas when I least expect to… 

The 2600 duo in Friedrichstadt, the SZ in Dorridge, and the decaying Fadesa Romeo van on the road into Fornells spring immediately to mind.This Montreal was spotted on an unremarkable suburban street in Basel in March 2008. I imagine that the massive rise in classic car prices would make such encounters far less likely now. Continue reading “A photo for Sunday – Alfa Romeo Montreal”

Theme : Rivals – That Never Were

The members of the motor industry are prone to adopt each other’s ideas, even if they are flawed, then stick to them dogmatically.  So what might have happened if ….?

We at DTW are fascinated at the what-ifs of the motor industry. Two of them celebrate their 70th birthdays this year. Next year one of these will commemorate 70 years since its demise, the other’s will be in 2019. So they are both short-lived failures and, you might say, justifiably so. But, if you add in another, longer-lived model and imagine a different financial and/or political climate, the large car of today could have been very different. Continue reading “Theme : Rivals – That Never Were”

In the Kingdom of the Blind the One-Eyed Man Is King – 1994 Citroën Xanae

Vélizy’s 1994 riposte to Renault was no masterpiece, but perhaps the best of a bad bunch. It’s not saying much, is it?

Xanae. Image frenchcarforum

It’s relatively difficult to imagine now, but in the early 1990’s, the future was looking decidedly MPV-shaped. Particularly amongst European manufacturers, who were falling over themselves to get something vaguely monospace to market, following the creative and commercial success of the innovative Renault Espace. The MPV concept appeared to especially chime with the French motorist, who was generally characterised by preferring pragmatism over pretension. In 1991, Renault once again set the pace with the Scenic concept, but it wasn’t until 1994 that Art Blakeslee’s Citroën studio presented Xanae. Continue reading “In the Kingdom of the Blind the One-Eyed Man Is King – 1994 Citroën Xanae”

Opposite of Avant – 1997 Citroën Xsara

The opposing polarities of the double chevron are unlikely ever to be satisfactorily reconciled, but was this any way to go about trying?

Citroen as white goods – in Gold. Image: buyacar

There are those content to view Citroën’s role as being that of the pre-Traction Avant era: fundamentally a purveyor of pragmatic, rather ordinary cars. The earthbound Goddess of course (temporarily) put paid to such notions and forms the boundary for an opposing camp who view Citroën’s descent from those Olympian heights as being somewhere between tragedy and outright crime. So if the car we’re gathered here to commemorate today falls into the former category, how should we view it, twenty years later? Continue reading “Opposite of Avant – 1997 Citroën Xsara”

To the Batcave! – Peugeot 406 Toscana

Searching for your inner hero? This 1996 Peugeot concept had the key.

Peugeot 406 Toscana. Image: toplowridersites

The same year the Pininfarina bodied 406 Coupe was first shown, Peugeot also displayed this, the Toscana concept. What the Sochaux-based motor company’s intentions were remains unclear, but whatever the intent, it cannot have been all that serious. With a bespoke body marrying key styling elements of the 406 saloon – nose treatment, rear lamps, body swage line – to a distinctly sci-fi canopy section, the Toscana was as frivolous a concept could be while still loosely based on a production model. If anything, it puts one in mind of some of GM’s Motorama concepts from the 1950’s – or indeed Adam West’s Batmobile. Continue reading “To the Batcave! – Peugeot 406 Toscana”

Depth Charge – 1997 Pininfarina Nautilus

Hailed by Pininfarina as a celebration, Nautilus marked the final act in an unravelling relationship dating back to 1951.

Image: cavallivapore.it

The same year as 406 Coupe’s began leaving Pininfarina’s San Giorgio Canavese facility, the carrozzeria displayed Nautilus at Geneva; a concept for a full-size four-door luxury saloon, said by the coachbuilder to be “an exciting stylistic exploration of the high class sporty saloon, created as a tribute to our partnership with Peugeot.” But behind the scenes, this already souring relationship was entering its death throes. With Murat Günak appointed as Peugeot styling director in 1994, one of his first acts was to enlarge the styling team to bolster both numbers and influence; the aim being to further eclipse the Italian coachbuilder and favour the in-house team. Continue reading “Depth Charge – 1997 Pininfarina Nautilus”

Lion of Beauty – 1997 Peugeot 406 Coupé

A Suave Swansong. The 406 Coupé embodied values which had seen a Franco-Italian marriage survive and prosper for a generation. Sadly, it wasn’t to last.

Image: theautoz.com

At some unspecified point during the 1990’s something quite seismic took hold within Automobiles Peugeot. A profound cultural shift which saw a gradual jettisoning of not only the marque’s highly regarded engineering principles but also its reputation for dignified styling. Their long-standing association with carrozzeria Pininfarina was unravelling. PSA President, Jacques Calvet, believed to have been irked by the attention Patrick le Quément’s Billancourt studios were receiving, pressed Peugeot Style Centre chief, Gérard Welter for more visual excitement; a move which saw Welter poach rising star Murat Günak from Mercedes-Benz in 1994. Continue reading “Lion of Beauty – 1997 Peugeot 406 Coupé”

Theme : Rivals – The Light and The Dark

We look at two proud Frenchmen who were really quite similar and so very different.

Renault, left and Citroën, right

There are certain notorious rivalries in motoring history. Many of them were sporting ones, in the Senna-Prost mould, which sometimes went beyond good sense and risked the lives of those involved. But there are also rivalries that at first seemed less visceral, but that had equally grim endings. One such is that between André Citroën and Louis Renault. Neither were self-made men from humble backgrounds in the vein of Herbert Austin or, even more so, William Morris. Both had comfortable upbringings, André’s possibly less stable due to the suicide of his father. Born within a year of each other, they actually first met as young children attending the same Lyceé. André studied engineering at the prestigious École Polytechnique whereas Louis was self-taught, building his first car before the end of the 19th Century and becoming part of the early history of motoring after forming a company with two of his brothers. Continue reading “Theme : Rivals – The Light and The Dark”

Louwman Museum III : The Pebble Beach Boys

Back at the Louwman Museum, we ask how far is too far.

I’ve always liked the Mercedes 500K and 540K cars despite the fact that they seem tainted, through no real fault of their own, by association with high-ranking Nazis. In 2 seater form, it’s one of those cars of inordinate length that accommodates just a couple of people. Were all cars like this, our roads would have become gridlocked many years ago, but there’s a harmless decadence to it in my eyes. The Louman’s 500K is one of those fairytale barn-find stories. A Spezial model, one of just 25, it was first purchased in the UK and spent 30 years stored behind a butcher’s shop in Walsall. Discovered and auctioned late in the 1980s, it was beautifully restored in Germany and was a prizewinner at Pebble Beach in 1994. Continue reading “Louwman Museum III : The Pebble Beach Boys”

Theme: Simca – The Vibrations That Lived On

As this month’s theme draws to a close, we give you something to ponder…

1963 124 prototype. Note the Simca 1300 grille. Image: Automobilia

In 1963, Oscar Montabone was recalled from Chrysler-controlled Simca to manage Fiat’s Automobile Technical Office. His primary task was to develop Project 124, a putative 1100 replacement in direct competition with Dante Giacosa’s Project 123, which was not so much a defined car as a series of studies with various front engine/front wheel drive and rear engine/rear drive configurations based around a 1157cc three cylinder opposed-valve ohc engine. Continue reading “Theme: Simca – The Vibrations That Lived On”

Theme: Simca – The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie

The Simca 1300/1500 had a tough act to follow and stepped elegantly into the Aronde’s shoes yet, despite good looks and strong sales, it never really escaped the rather ‘grey’ reputation bestowed by its casting as the universal anonymous saloon in Jacques Tati’s 1967 film “Playtime”.

Image: homemcr.org

The casual seeker after knowledge might too easily conclude that the mid-size Simca’s sole contribution to the advancement of the automotive art was the availability, in the estate cars only, of a Formica-faced boot floor which could double as a picnic table. The reality is that it was a well-balanced product, both in engineering and styling, for which Simca adopted ‘best’ practice, rather than joining the technological revolution which was sweeping through the car industry in the late fifties and early sixties, which saw even conservative businesses like BMC, GM, and Rootes trying to rewrite the engineering rule-book. Continue reading “Theme: Simca – The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie”

Theme : Simca – Hangin’ Tuff – 1977 Matra-Simca Rancho

Faux by four or pre-emptive strike? We cast a (largely) unprejudiced eye over the Rancho.

“It’s gripped, it’s sorted, let’s offroad!” Image: carinpicture

The 1973 oil embargo had a profound effect upon all auto manufacturers, but the low volume specialists were most exposed. Mécanique Aviation Traction, better known as Matra were no exception and in the aftermath of the fuel crisis, found it necessary to broaden their automotive base. Best known for sports cars, Matra had introduced the Simca powered Bagheera in 1976 and were now seeking a second Chrysler-Europe-derived model programme to boost revenues in addition to providing a buffer against further geo-political shocks. Continue reading “Theme : Simca – Hangin’ Tuff – 1977 Matra-Simca Rancho”

Theme : Simca – Making The Turkey Last

A title chosen more for a cheap laugh than accuracy, the big Simcas actually did OK for a while and, as usual, their manufacturers ensured they wrung the most from them.

The UK’s only surviving Simca Ariane – Image : Eóin Doyle

I have three particular memories of the big Simcas. First was in France in 1961, driving across the Camargue with my parents. On a long stretch the bonnet of a light blue Ariane coming in the other direction flipped fully open, completely blinding the driver who swerved into the side of the road, thankfully without injury to anything except his pride. Seeing that at a tender age has always made me careful about securing my bonnet and, at the time, it also made me wonder unfairly if Simcas were that well made. The second memory is from twenty years ago when I spent Christmas in Alsace at a place called the Hotel Beaulieu. When I arrived at night, parked in front sitting in the entrance floodlights surrounded by snow was a Santa red and white Simca Vedette Beaulieu. Continue reading “Theme : Simca – Making The Turkey Last”

Theme: Simca – And All This Is Folly To the World.

Very reluctantly I have decided to try to make sense of Simca’s slow fade from the market. 

History of Chrysler Europe´s demise

I have our monthly theme to thank – my interest has been piqued. Up to now Simca has meant little and I didn’t plan to write a lot on the topic. Simon Kearne insisted slightly too.

My findings are partly just a bit of editorial reworking of the mess that is already publicly available at Wikipedia. My contribution is to put in some bits about Chrysler and Peugeot. And also to make a DTW exclusive “infographic”. It is barely legible, frankly. The main use has been to explain (to me at least) the chronology of Chrysler/Talbot/Simca’s model terminations. Continue reading “Theme: Simca – And All This Is Folly To the World.”

Louwman Museum II : 5 Year Plan / 35 Year Production

Carrying on our look at the exhibits in the Louwman Museum, we consider a rarity, a car manufactured by a city.

China’s first production car was built by the Shanghai City Power Machinery Manufacturing Company. Supposedly a copy of the 1954 ‘Ponton’ Mercedes 220, on actual viewing the Shanghai SH760 seems to have been copied through the wrong end of a telescope. Its introduction in 1958 as the Fenghuang (Phoenix) coincided with the start of the odious Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward and this was the car that lower ranking officials might have toured the country in whilst implementing the Chairman’s ill-informed industrial and agricultural schemes. Later on, as long as they weren’t too ‘intellectual’, these same officials might have monitored progress of the Cultural Revolution from the seats of a Shanghai. A probably conservative 40 million deaths from starvation, murder and suicide later, the SH760 was still in production. Continue reading “Louwman Museum II : 5 Year Plan / 35 Year Production”