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”

Brochures Redux – 928 equals more than 911+17

In terms of prose and style, Porsche’s advertising certainly couldn’t keep up with the modernism of the company’s flagship GT. Yet the Swabian virtues persisted. 

fullsizeoutput_30e

Given the amounts of thought, devotion and creativity that went into the creation of Porsche’s landmark 928 coupé, it comes as a bit of a surprise that the ’78 vintage brochure of the car isn’t terribly advanced in terms of layout or prose.

The overwhelming sense is one of pride and Swabian thoroughness, with just a hint of ’70s glamour and cosmopolitan flair added. Double pages are devoted to the 928’s being awarded ‘Car Of The Year’, obviously, as well as its design and engineering development process.

Continue reading “Brochures Redux – 928 equals more than 911+17”

Fiat al Fredo – 1967 Fiat Dino Coupé

While it’s comparatively easy to dismiss it as something of a parts bin special, the 1967 Fiat Dino Coupé amounted to a good deal more than the sum of its parts.

1967 Fiat Dino Coupe. Image: Wheelsage

By the latter stages of the 1960’s, Fiat management realised the necessity of providing more than just basic transportation for the Italian market. With living standards on the rise, the demand for more upmarket cars grew – at least within the bounds of what Italy’s stringent taxation regime would allow. With Dante Giacosa’s engineers at work on a series of new models to cover the compact to mid-classes – (124 and 125-series’) in addition to a new flagship to replace the dated 2300-series, Fiat’s offerings to Italy’s middle classes reflected this push upmarket, even if the egalitarian Giacosa didn’t necessarily understand the necessity. With these models in hand, it’s therefore a little odd that Fiat saw fit to embark on the Dino programme, because on the face of things, it looked more like a favour to Ferrari than anything that particularly stacked up as a business case. Continue reading “Fiat al Fredo – 1967 Fiat Dino Coupé”

Louwman Museum I : A Prince In Exile

DTW’s correspondent visits a museum and finds his perception challenged.

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Before I start on any negatives and disappointments let me make it clear that the Louwman Museum at Den Haag in the Netherlands is one of the best car museums in the World, possibly the best. Obviously that opinion is subjective and so is the collection, generally the choice of one family. For instance if you’re looking for BMWs, a single pre-war 328 represents many people’s favoured marque, but at least one DTW contributor would be pleased to find three Lloyd cars on show.  The collection tapers out as we get later into the last century and production cars of the 21st Century are illustrated by just a cutaway Prius. But in terms of giving a general overview of the earlier history of the motor car, one that entertains, intrigues and informs by mixing in a good amount of both the quirky and the outstanding, it would be very hard to beat.  Continue reading “Louwman Museum I : A Prince In Exile”

Theme : Simca – Le Mini

The Simca 936 is a bit of a mystery, and I’m not going to clear up much of that mystery.

Simca 936 Prototype - Image : goodwood.com
Simca 936 Prototype – Image : goodwood.com

It was obviously Simca’s proposal for a Mini competitor. You’ll find it dated on the ever-reliable web as coming from 1963, or 1966 or 1967 which possibly results from Simca toying with idea for a long time. It wasn’t a hatchback, but it was a four door and was to have the Simca 1000 engine mounted transversely with a 3 speed automatic option. Continue reading “Theme : Simca – Le Mini”

A Larger Car for a Larger Continent

First, an apology. This sequel to our piece on the Mohs Ostentatienne was originally promised to coincide with the 20 January 2017 Presidential Inauguration. In the event we missed it. Blame the crowds.

Image : conceptcarz.com
Image : conceptcarz.com

The Mohs Safarikar was Bruce Mohs’ next motoring project after the Ostentatienne. Obviously sharing what, back then, was certainly never referred to as DNA, this was a companion to the Opera Sedan, the clue to its function being in the name. As with the Ostentatienne, the Safarikar is an easy target for the smartarse motoring writer wanting to get a few cheap laughs with little intellectual outlay, and forgive me if I don’t manage to rise above my peers. Continue reading “A Larger Car for a Larger Continent”

Theme : Simca – Going the Distance

The transverse-engined, hatchback 1100 is undeservedly overshadowed by other trailblazers. But not only did it get there very early, its influence travelled surprisingly far.

Simca 1100
Simca 1100

Introduced in 1967 and available as 3 and 5 door hatchbacks, a neat estate as well as van and pickup versions, the Simca 1100 had a sizeable niche of the French market available to itself for years. Renault didn’t fill the hatchback gap between the 4/5/6 and the 16 until the 14 of 1976, the same year that conservative Peugeot put a fifth door into the 104. Structurally zealous or just snobbish, Citroen previously allowed a hatchback only on the Dyane until the Visa of 1978 and the GSA of 1979. Despite this, and its 18 year life, it is another of those cars, like the Autobianchi Primula with which it shares conceptual roots, that seems to have been excluded from the condensed history of the evolution of the motor car. Continue reading “Theme : Simca – Going the Distance”

The Pinnacle – 1957 Lancia Flaminia

Sixty this year, Lancia’s zenith gets the DTW spotlight.

Image: autowp-ru via wheelsage
Image: autowp-ru via wheelsage

Pushed to choose one marque defining model I wouldn’t hesitate; after all, there are Lancias, and there is the Flaminia. Others might disagree and that is fine. We all have our icons, and if you believe the sliding pillar era was technically or aesthetically superior I wouldn’t necessarily argue. It’s a personal choice. Continue reading “The Pinnacle – 1957 Lancia Flaminia”

Act of Contrition – Citroën C6 (part one)

Making amends for past indiscretions, Driven to Write takes a long look at the last true Citroën.

Image: Autotitre
Image: Autotitre via Net Car Show

Despite its premier position in Citroën’s iconography, the incomparable Déese never really represented the double chevron’s stylistic North Star. That position is occupied by its less well loved successor, the 1974 CX. Despite being viewed by some ardent Citroënists as the lesser vehicle to its definitive forebear, the CX’s silhouette remains not only the one best associated with the marque, but also one which most aficionados would welcome a return to. Continue reading “Act of Contrition – Citroën C6 (part one)”

Everything You Know Is Wrong

While the mainstream UK motoring press likes to pretend it tells it like it is, they often don´t.

image
Dented and unloved. 2002 Nissan QX 3.0

The 1995 Nissan QX served as a butt of jokes at Car magazine who reminded us ironically that “it exists“. Autocar took a more charitable view, summing it up as a superbly built revelation on the road. Apart from this this, the QX is quite forgotten. Not by me for whom these kinds of neglected cars are some kind of mild obsession. I suppose it’s the fact the press told us not to bother that makes me want to know what it is that we must ignore.  Continue reading “Everything You Know Is Wrong”

An Early Case Of Retro

Recently we’ve been looking at the Lancia Y10 and asking whether luxury and compactness are compatible.

Here’s one they made earlier. Image : autoshite.com
Image : autoshite.com

Seventy years ago Triumph thought so. Introduced in late 1949, like most of the UK Motor Industry production of the time, the Triumph Mayflower was chasing exports. As the chosen name suggests, the United States was a prime potential market but it seems that the UK’s image of the US’s image of the UK is forever distorted. Just like Ford’s stewardship of Jaguar, Triumph felt that a traditionalist approach was what US buyers expected from a UK company, this at a time when everyone was looking to the future. Continue reading “An Early Case Of Retro”

Saab Museum: the Concept Cars

In our previous instalment we featured the production cars. Today we turn our attention to the concepts.

2006 Saab Aero-X
2006 Saab Aero-X:  niels moesgaard jörgensen.

Visitors to the Saab museum will notice that prior to the 21st century, Saab did not do very many concept cars. The photos are again courtesy of Niels Moesgaard Jörgensen (apart from the odd one marked “RH”).
Continue reading “Saab Museum: the Concept Cars”

Anniversary Waltz

So many cars, so little time.

A car to return to. Image: Spiegel.de
A car to return to. Image: Spiegel.de

Like most of what we do here at Driven to Write, our commemoration of significant automotive anniversaries throughout the past year came about largely by accident and was therefore never intended to be exhaustive or definitive. But with 2016 consigned to a blessedly welcome end, we now find ourselves like overindulged children with an embarrassment of riches for which we have little real use. So in the spirit of post celebratory ennui, we propose to take a brushstroke to the cars we never quite got around to last year. Continue reading “Anniversary Waltz”

Theme : Places – Another Snapshot from Occupied Europe

It’s Spring 1981, and I’m in Charlottenburg, on the western edge of the British Occupied Sector of West Berlin.

lloyd-arabella

The picture is taken on Wundtstraße at the edge of the Lietzensee. These names are still powerfully evocative of the time I spent in Berlin, half a lifetime ago. German big city carscapes are, in my experience at least, underwhelming. The urban dwellers’ favoured cars are small, cheap, usually French, Japanese, or Korean, and very old by British standards, but not quite old enough to be interesting. Continue reading “Theme : Places – Another Snapshot from Occupied Europe”

Theme : Places – Snapshots from Occupied Europe

Let us briefly remind ourselves of Leslie Poles Hartley’s words, ‘The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there’. 

viva-in-e-berlin
All images: The Author

The country photographed is now in the past, the Deutsche Demokratische Rebublik, a failed state which ceased to exist in 1990, and they really did do things differently there. When I took these photos nine years before the fall of the Berlin Wall, the DDR was dysfunctional, but very much extant, and didn’t look as if it would be brought down any time soon. Continue reading “Theme : Places – Snapshots from Occupied Europe”

A festive riddle

Three ‘difficult’ automotive children. What links them?

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The Chevrolet Corvair has nine where you would expect to find twelve.

The Alfasud has sixteen where you would expect to find eight.

The Rover 2600 has six where you would expect to find twelve.

What are they?

Concept Car Du Jour

What’s hard to believe is that this design was the product of seasoned designers.

1993 Nissan AQ-X: source
1993 Nissan AQ-X: source

The 1993 Nissan AQ-X has several small and large errors that add up to something of a disaster. But we will learn from this. Being charitable, it’s a packaging car. The rear compartment has stupendous legroom. The doors open wide for easy ingress and, when you need to, egress. Up close the vehicle is finished to a professional standard (I mean at about 10 cm distance). At 10 metres you begin to wonder whether the person who had sketched the car had sketched many cars before this. Continue reading “Concept Car Du Jour”

Bevy of Strangeness: Rayton Fissore

If you think idiosyncratic coachbuilder Zagato is a peculiar kind of company, prepare yourself for the multi-facetted oddness of Rayton Fissore

goldshadow-a112-fissore
Photo (c) http://www.autobiachia112.altervista.org

As there are so many uncertainties about this particularly unusual automotive enterprise, let’s start with the verified facts. This company actually did exist. And while this may seem like a given, this very fact needs to be established, as so much about this business remains shrouded in mystery. Continue reading “Bevy of Strangeness: Rayton Fissore”

Theme: Places – Oxford, Cambridge, Blenheim, Hereford, Somerset

Indeed. Quite a list of destinations for the person interested in cars named after UK places.

1961 Morris Oxford: source
1961 Morris Oxford: source

And they don’t do that anymore, do they? Yet the Americans are still happily driving around in Aspens, Tahoes, Malibus and Colorados. Seat, to my knowledge still sell an Ibiza, Ateca and Leon. The French and Germans are less willing to use their place names for their products, are they not? Continue reading “Theme: Places – Oxford, Cambridge, Blenheim, Hereford, Somerset”

Connect the dots #3: The Answer

Confession time: I said there was no chain involved in this teaser, but there is one. And a couple of shafts.  And one absolutely enormous toothed belt.

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The answer is that the engines of all four cars were also used in motorcycles.  It’s a rarer peculiarity than might be expected, particularly as I applied a self-denying ordinance which excluded tricycles, sidecar haulers (even the Borgward-Goliath-Kröger), and one-offs.  All four two-wheelers here were on public sale as complete, series-produced entities. Continue reading “Connect the dots #3: The Answer”

A Photo For Christmas Day

And a very happy Christmas to our readers.

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Here is a working car, heading the wrong way, from new to neglected. It’s getting tatty and probably won’t have a next owner. These Omegas disappeared quite rapidly after production ceased in 2004. The period reviews had an approving tone, especially with regard to ride quality.
Continue reading “A Photo For Christmas Day”

Piëch Practice – 1996 Volkswagen (B5) Passat

A mighty wind from Wolfsburg marked the Passat’s coming of age.

Image: autowp-ru
Image: autowp-ru

Before we were all persuaded to go and unlearn it, the term ‘Mondeo Man’ was late ’90s media shorthand to describe UK’s Mr. Average. However his German equivalent would have been more likely to have been polishing a Volkswagen Passat ‘of a weekend. Trouble was, outside VW’s home market, comparatively few else were. Volkswagen’s mid-liner sold respectably, but its image remained as studiously underwhelming as its sales figures. Continue reading “Piëch Practice – 1996 Volkswagen (B5) Passat”

Saab Museum: The Production Cars

The Saab Car Museum in Trollhättan, Sweden has a well-presented and thorough collection of production, prototype and concept cars.

1950 Saab 92: niels moesgaard jörgensen
1950 Saab 92: niels moesgaard jörgensen

In this installment I will take a gander around the production cars. DTW is very pleased to present the work of photographer Niels Moesgaard Jörgensen who accompanied me on the visit. A few of my own images are scattered in the collection. A while back a Buick Electra 225 caused me to think about the links between Sweden, American and American cars in Sweden. Now a visit to the Saab Museum took me back down that path. Continue reading “Saab Museum: The Production Cars”