Taming the Cat

Four years in and Utah gets a hard reboot.

(c) Jaglovers

The compact Jaguar saloons were landmark cars for the company and did much to raise the carmaker’s profile and profitability, but in its first generation form it was not a model which Browns Lane engineering staff viewed with terrific pride, owing to a number of significant compromises buried beneath its shapely envelope.

As development progressed upon the more powerful 3.4 litre version, the handling deficiencies consequent to its narrow rear track (acceptable in the lighter, lower powered car, but less so here), forced engineers to Continue reading “Taming the Cat”

An afternoon like dusk: The 604 story, Pt. 7

Today, we turn our attention to the 604’s cabin.

1975 Peugeot 604 dashboard

A great deal of attention is paid to the exterior of cars though the interior is where we spend our time as drivers and passengers. For the 604 Peugeot had, for at least some of the time, the services of Paul Bracq. In the 60s he oversaw some of Mercedes-Benz’s finest vehicle exteriors, the ones that people think of when they think of a Mercedes (our image of these cars is four decades out of date). They are chromed, formal, upright, solid and faultless.

It is ironic then that Bracq arrived at Peugeot too late to perhaps do more than Continue reading “An afternoon like dusk: The 604 story, Pt. 7”

Great Leap Forward

The 1955 Jaguar 2.4 was overshadowed by its successor, but in many regards, was a more significant car in Jaguar’s evolution as a serious carmaker.

jaguar-mark-one-1
(c) jaglovers

In 1955, Jaguar committed their most ambitious act up to that point with the introduction of the 2.4, an all-new, compact saloon of a sporting mien – every inch a Jaguar, but no hand-down version of its larger sibling. Far from it, because despite the announcement the same year of the revolutionary Citroen DS19, the compact Jaguar was probably as advanced a product as could reasonably be envisaged from what was then a low-volume, specialist carmaker.

Initiated around 1953/4, the Utah compact saloon programme would mark Jaguar’s first departure from traditional body-on-frame construction to a stressed unitary bodyshell. Owing to uncertainty over its strength, two stout chassis legs ran the length of the floorpan, rearmost of which (beneath the rear seatpan) would house the mountings for the unusual inverted cantilever semi-elliptic springs, so devised to Continue reading “Great Leap Forward”

An afternoon like dusk – The 604 story, Pt. 6

Deep breath. I don’t think the 604’s styling has been given this level of consideration before.

(c) blog-moteur

Peugeot had a long standing relationship with carrozzeria Pininfarina, who prepared the basic design of the the 604. As was typical for Pininfarina, the design owed as much to other work they had done as it did to the character of their actual clients’ cars.

The exterior design was by what we might call the school of Paulo Martin, designer of the Fiat 130 coupé and Rolls-Royce Camargue. The record is not clear on the matter of authorship but a clear affinity among these cars can be seen in the angularity of the surface transitions and the flatness of the panels. Continue reading “An afternoon like dusk – The 604 story, Pt. 6”

Confronting Thanatophobia

Could your car be trying to tell you something?

(c) Vancello blog hu

Research has shown that the number one fear for most people is speaking in public. Fear of death (thanatophobia) comes second – or as comedian Jerry Seinfeld once concluded: “That means for most that they would rather be in the casket than reading the eulogy“.

Still, fear of death is pervasive enough to generate superstition in many forms around the world. In some cultures this effect is stronger than in others and it can be so powerful as to force car manufacturers to Continue reading “Confronting Thanatophobia”

Working Class Hero

How did the ultimate 1960’s bit of rough evolve into the best loved classic Jaguar saloon of all?

(c) storm.oldcarmanualproject

It has been said that by the mid-Sixties, it was common operational procedure for UK police patrols to stop and search any Mark 2 Jaguar with two or more male occupants aboard – such was the car’s association with criminality. After all, Mark 2’s were easy to purloin and were the fastest reasonably inobtrusive getaway car that could be obtained by fair means or foul in Blighty at the time.

It was perhaps this aura of transgression, coupled with its exploits on the racetracks (at least until the US Cavalry arrived) which sealed its iconography. So it is perhaps ironic that despite the forces of law and order also adopting the 3.8 Mark 2 as a high-speed pursuit car, that it latterly would become synonymous with that most cerebral of fictional police detectives.

The Mark 2 Jaguar was a paradox in that while it was undoubtedly handsome – a finely honed conclusion of styling themes which had begun in earnest with the 1948 XK120 – it was not only a bit of an overweight brute, but a car which never quite managed to Continue reading “Working Class Hero”

An Afternoon Like Dusk – The 604 story, Pt. 5

Let’s review the reviews of the 604 and maybe go a little further.

(c) blog-moteur

Having looked (in the last instalment) at the engine from the strategic and the cost-accountant’s point of view, I turn now to how it compared in road tests. The matter of performance is far from clear. Conventional wisdom now has it that the 604 couldn’t move fast enough. A look at reviews spanning from 1975 to 1983 shows a more complex story than this.

In 1975 Motor claimed the carburetted SL was the quickest of a group of likely competitors which included the BMW 520, Ford’s Granada 3000, the Jaguar XJ 3.4, the Renault 30 and the Volvo 264. In 1977 Motor Trend felt the car was only just about able to keep up with American traffic, adequate but not brilliant.

This remark was qualified by noting the 604’s handling was far above average which, as mentioned above, made up the speed deficit quite pleasingly. In 1977 Car found the carburetted 604 SL to be slower than the Mercedes 280E and BMW 728 but only by a matter of half a second. It won the test overall so the slight tardiness did not hold the vehicle back.

A year later the fuel-injected version of the 604 was found to Continue reading “An Afternoon Like Dusk – The 604 story, Pt. 5”

Dos Marbelleros

Well, what is one supposed to do on vacation anyway?

How much is that Panda in the window in amongst the muebles? All images (c) Driven to Write

As regular readers may have appreciated, I have of late been on holiday. I don’t do this sort of thing as often as I ought, but when I do, I like to set myself a little intellectual challenge, and given that my predilections tend towards the automotive, it is here these exercises more than usually rest.

The last time I ventured to this part of Southern Spain, the task I placed before myself was that of Green Car Bingo, which was an enjoyable (for me at least) divertion, but not really replicable. So given that the Andalucían city of Marbella would form my base for the duration, the quest I set myself was to was to Continue reading “Dos Marbelleros”

You Could Have it So Much Better

That difficult second album syndrome.

Neither fish nor fowl.   All images (c) by the author

Music history has frequently been littered with the broken wreckage of bands who blasted into the public consciousness with an precocious debut, only to lose it with the follow-up. Artists such as the Stone Roses, The Sugarcubes, Franz Ferdinand and perhaps most notoriously, 80’s pop sensation, Terence Trent D’Arby all followed their well-reviewed debuts with what were varying degrees of disappointing to disastrous.

Of course the pressure upon new bands is often immense – the record company is clamouring for another hit, fans are salivating over the prospect and the artists themselves require more material to Continue reading “You Could Have it So Much Better”

Too Pretty To Race

We owe the existence of the gorgeous Giulietta Sprint Speciale to the racing career it never actually got.

alfa-romeo-giulietta-sprint-speciale-1
From 1960, the slightly restyled Giulietta SS was marketed as a GranTurismo (wheelsage.org)

From the moment the Giulietta Sprint was unveiled in 1954, it was clear that its technical specification made it a phenomenal contender for class wins in both circuit and road racing.

Alfa Romeo knew this well, and in 1956 the Sprint Veloce was born: power from the 1290cc twin-cam four was up to 90HP, while bonnet and doors (which got Perspex sliding windows) were aluminium instead of steel. Nevertheless, Portello was considering a Giulietta variant aimed even more explicitly towards motor racing, based on the short-wheelbase platform made for the Giulietta Spider.

The success of the Sprint made Nuccio Bertone a trusted partner of Alfa Romeo, so it was up to his designer, Franco Scaglione, to Continue reading “Too Pretty To Race”

An afternoon like dusk – The 604 story, Pt. 4

Engines! The 604’s was less than ideal.

Turning to the engine, one can see how an attempt to save money here also proved forlorn. The one clear advantage of using the 504 architecture was never exploited: the 604 never had the same range of engines as the earlier car. What it had was a 60° V6 engine designed in co-operation with Renault and Volvo.

As Motor pointed out in 1975, engine development requires a very large investment. Peugeot did not see the sales volumes of the 604 being large enough to justify designing a wholly new V6 on their own. This strategy certainly saved investment costs but did not lead to Peugeot having a competitive motor.

The powerplant faced the problem that it didn’t turn out quite enough motive force (though it was hardly slow by the day’s standards) and the 604 was a seen as a heavy car, presumably a result of an attempt to Continue reading “An afternoon like dusk – The 604 story, Pt. 4”

The Riviera Set

A brake (or should that be a break?) from the norm for the Lion of Belfort. 

pininfarina
(c) Ebay

The idea of the three-door shooting brake estate probably originated in the US (the 1955 Chevrolet Nomad being a prime example), but it was popularised – if such a term can be considered appropriate for such a rarefied product – by Ason Martin’s 1965 DB5; itself initially a one-off, built for AML’s chairman, David Brown, and later produced in miniscule numbers at owners’ behest by the Harold Radford coachworks.

In 1968, the Reliant Scimitar GTE also employed a shooting brake silhouette to positive effect, which not only proved transformative for the carmaker’s profile and reputation, but also gained them patronage from the British Royal family. Continue reading “The Riviera Set”

The New Untouchables (2)

S.V . Robinson concludes his lament for the MPV.

02_renault_espace motor research
The pioneering Espace (in face-lifted form) – love the period wheels (Source: Motor Research)

I have spent 4/5ths of my life growing up with the MPV. Over 40 years, we have seen some memorable cars. In the main, they have stood out for either their styling (the pioneering, TGV-aping Espace, the ovoid Xsara Picasso, the lovably grotesque Multipla, to name a few), or the innovation of their packaging – the latter really being the point and purpose of the genre.

We have had MPVs which have front seats that can turn around to face passengers in the rear to create a mobile meeting space. Rear seats which can fold, tumble, be removed entirely, or disappear into the rear floor. There have been five seaters which enable the middle rear perch to Continue reading “The New Untouchables (2)”

Fin de Siècle

We compare a pair of late ’50s fintails.

Nobody quite realised at the time, but 1959 would mark peak-tailfin – this styling device falling out of fashion almost as abruptly as it emerged. But while the tailfin’s retreat would be particularly rapid in its country of origin, the European industry, having been slower to adapt in the first instance, was equally tardy in abandoning it.

Of course, it’s worth reminding ourselves of motor industry lead-times – the period between styling sign-off and job-one. Certainly, when Ford’s UK arm conceived the 105E-series Anglia, nobody could possibly Continue reading “Fin de Siècle”

An Afternoon Like Dusk – The 604 story, Pt. 3

In part 3 of the Peugeot 604 story we consider the market of the mid-1970s.

1975 Peugeot 604

The market in the mid 70s was open to a wide variety of contenders in the upper price ranges. Opel in particular was just on the cusp of reaching what we now call the rank of “prestige” with its Senator saloon and Monza coupé. Lancia outsold BMW in the UK.

The mid 70s were also still a time of strong national markets and of far less global competition than today. However, the world of 1975 was not what Peugeot’s planners envisioned when the 604 programme began in 1970. Oil prices had increased markedly, making the 604’s thirsty V6 seem unattractive, the more so over time. Continue reading “An Afternoon Like Dusk – The 604 story, Pt. 3”

Il Sarto Piemontese

We compare a couture twinset from the tail-end of the GT era.

It’s an incontrovertible fact that the end of the 1960’s marked the apogee of the Gran Tourismo concept, both in design terms and in appeal to the broader swathe of the car market. Certainly by then, the choices available to the upwardly mobile individual who wanted to express their more indulgent side were of the more fecund variety. However, those who couldn’t Continue reading “Il Sarto Piemontese”

The Brightest Hour Is Just Before Twilight (2)

In the second part, we examine R8’s mid-career and consider the heart of the matter – the all-new K-Series power unit.

In mid-life, the proliferation continued with three wholly Rover developed variants codenamed Tracer (1992), Tomcat (1993), and Tex (1994), respectively a convertible, T-roofed coupe, and sporting estate car. Continue reading “The Brightest Hour Is Just Before Twilight (2)”

The Brightest Hour Is Just Before Twilight (1)

30 Years ago this week, the Rover Group launched perhaps its best realised product. We look back at the R8, née Rover 200-Series.

Image: Rover Group

In the late 1980s it really did seem that at last Rover Group had finally found its place.  Much of the credit was due to their new Japanese friends, but the rump of British Leyland was at last demonstrating a new found competence and confidence. However, agony would eventually follow the ecstasy of these heady days.

On 11 October 1989 Rover Group presented, with justifiable pride, the second-generation Rover 200 series, and with it the eagerly anticipated and all-new K-series engine. Every new Rover of the era had an equal and opposite Honda, and the 200’s was the Concerto, which had gone on sale in Japan in June 1998, only 16 months after Rover and Honda had signed the contract to build Project YY as a joint venture. Continue reading “The Brightest Hour Is Just Before Twilight (1)”

Inseguire!

A long-overdue appreciation of a lost art form.

Don’t try this anywhere: you are not cool enough. (c) Imfdb.com.

Pointless. Arguably polemic. Undeniably watchable. The on screen car chase has been with us for many a year. This isn’t to be a internet best of, a list of you have to see this or indeed real-life chases, they have no place here. My leanings are courtesy of (frequent DTW contributor) Matteo Licata – the more European-centric film chase from the late sixties and nineteen seventies.

Through Matteo’s lovely website “Roadster Life” he introduced me to some, in my eyes, positively excellent entertainment from dubiously acted, scripted and quixotic movies. These films are definitively of their time but have, akin to the cars used, become amenable in their advancing years. Continue reading “Inseguire!”

Bridge Across The Humber

Today, our Northern correspondent admires a civil architectural landmark.

Humber Bridge
The central vertical object is the crane, cause of the roadworks. Author’s picture

The Romans: famous for liking wine, partial to dividing and conquering, proficient with straight ways and bridge building. But what to do when your legions find a wide estuary literally, in the road? Diversions are costly and in this instance, a bridge too far*

Study a road atlas in North Humberside and you will see from Lincoln (Lindum Colonia) the dual carriageway A15 or, to Roman aficionados, Ermine Street, leads to junction 4 of the M180, the A18 to steel town Scunthorpe but also depletes to what is now a minor road. Roman historians believe a ferry crossing was made from either Winteringham or Whitton in order to Continue reading “Bridge Across The Humber”

Kei Car Compendium – 2005 Suzuki LC Concept

As Suzuki prepares more Kei car retro-conceptual joy for Tokyo, we dip into their toybox. Gosh it’s fluffy in there…

2005 Suzuki LC Concept (c) supercars.net

Scribed within the official automotive aficionado manual, [chapter 37, paragraph 8, subclause 14.7] is the injunction that both interest and enthusiasm for that unique Japanese phenomenon, the keijidōsha, or light vehicle is a prerequisite for full and unfettered admission.

Here at DTW, we’re not exactly slavish in our fealty to motor-enthusiast norms, tropes or mores, so it would, you might imagine be in our purview to take a less than conventional position on the subject. Believe me, we tried, but faced with such an unrelenting tsunami of Kwaii, it takes a very firm resolve indeed not to Continue reading “Kei Car Compendium – 2005 Suzuki LC Concept”

The Lotus from Pindamonhangaba

A case of borrowed identity from South America.

Emme Lotus 422T

It is said that the lotus flower comes from the murkiest water but grows into the purest thing. The subject of this story certainly ticks the box for the former part of this saying, but it did not exactly grow into anything even remotely pure.

Perhaps the least known Lotus of all, and it is dubious if it rightfully wore the famous badge at all, is the Emme Lotus 422T. Presented to the public by the Brasilian company Megastar, a company up to then known for producing scooters, the Emme Lotus 422T debuted at the 1997 Sao Paulo Motor Show. Megastar’s facilities were based in Pindamonhangaba, near Sao Paulo. Continue reading “The Lotus from Pindamonhangaba”

Dyna from Dublin

Panhards, for a brief time at least were built in Ireland. You heard that right.

1963 Panhard PL17. (c) Veloce-Today

As Universal truths go, ‘history is written by the winners’, is up there with the best of them. However history is just as often written by the survivors – although this comes with the obvious and necessary proviso that to do so, one must first Continue reading “Dyna from Dublin”

An Afternoon Like Dusk – The 604 story (Pt. 1)

The 1975 Peugeot 604 – smooth, refined and viewed as something of a failure. Today we begin a series taking an unusually close look at the 604’s life and times.

(c) auto-forever

Motor Sport (April 1976 said that “one member of the test team summed up the 604 as a professional car. This takes some explaining because all cars these days are professional or are supposed to be. But one gets the impression that Peugeot engineers never say ‘assez bien‘ but keep on working until each feature is, in their eyes, absolutely right. One may disagree with some of the car’s features but if so it will be because someone at Peugeot actively disagrees with one’s point of view not because they could not Continue reading “An Afternoon Like Dusk – The 604 story (Pt. 1)”

The Sculpture and the Sow : Part two

Sliding then from the sculpture to the sow; Volvo’s Sugga, pronounced Soo-Ga is quite an exaggeration. And a world away from the Bilo.

A brand new taxi, it would seem. (c) Tekniksenvarld.se.

Made strong and robust, which may have been mentioned earlier, initially as a taxi cab. The chassis was given the nomenclature PV800 and being built like the proverbial out-house was adored by taxi drivers for its longevity. Perhaps some Germans were on holiday in Sweden at some point and liked the idea of a strong, forever lasting, easy maintenance taxi cab? Again, hardly an elegant car having an American style with Swedish slants.

Originally conceived in 1938, the Sugga had a twenty year production run with variations from encompassing a glass screen to separate passengers from the driver (PV801) and the version omitting the screen (PV802) which lent itself to be easily converted into an ambulance, the stretcher for the poor soul being fed in through the boot. Still, if this vehicle assisted in saving your life, you could happily and rightfully Continue reading “The Sculpture and the Sow : Part two”

Metropolitian Glide

A chic city car concept from Renault: Denied again.

(c) myrenaultzoe

For mainstream European carmakers, despite the diminutive profit margins they typically engender, small cars have always been big business. But finding a recipe that is equally acceptable to pan-European palates is no minor matter. The ongoing mission to come up with the required blend of practicality, utility, style and indulgence at a price that would attract the urbanite and rural dweller alike might just be the toughest gig in car design. Continue reading “Metropolitian Glide”

The Sculpture and The Sow (Part one)

Andrew Miles casts his eye Northwards for a tale of marble and swine.

In historical terms, Volvo are similar to Citroen; both engineering driven, both regarded as extreme at times, both brimming with frisson and an inbuilt nature to excel and impress, even if looking a tad more internally than we might expect. This tale deals with the Swedes.

1933 was a pivotal year. Volvo was only seven years into producing vehicles, although were already seeking advancement and change. Gustaf Ericsson was an industrialist, noted for working in America and fiercely keen to Continue reading “The Sculpture and The Sow (Part one)”

Social Acceptance

Ten years old this year, we mark the debut of the phat-rumped Panamera and ask, what does the advent of the Taycan EV mean for the Porsche sedan?

Does my bum look big in this? No, but does it…?  2015 Porsche Panamera GTS: (c) Porsche

Following one of the most protracted and anti-climactic stripteases in automotive history, Porsche revealed their first ever series-production four-door saloon in 2009. Not the first four-door saloon to be produced by Porsche, mark you; Zuffenhausen having built the (W124-series) 500E for Mercedes-Benz, but certainly the first to Continue reading “Social Acceptance”

Disco Revival

History repeats at Land Rover.

1989 LR Discovery. (c) Iroac.com

Thirty years ago, in the hope of reviving their ailing business, Land Rover introduced the Discovery at the 1989 Frankfurt motor show, inspired (in part) by the vehicle that had made their name, but aimed at a very different customer. Three decades later, facing an even more precipitous climb, they appear to be doing something broadly similar, this time however, based squarely upon the original.

The eternal Defender, in production in various forms since 1948 had become a very dated proposition by the close of the 1980s. Starved of meaningful investment throughout the previous troubled decade, the Land Rover’s best days were well past. The global market it once enjoyed was being eaten alive by more modern, better developed and more reliable Japanese rivals and with BL’s apathy being equal to its empty coffers, the outlook seemed as stark as a contemporary Landie’s cabin. Continue reading “Disco Revival”

Continental Congress (Part two)

Concluding our examination of the 1961 Lincoln Continental’s domestic design influence. 

(c) cargurus.com

1964  

The first major change for the Continental: to silence criticism of its comparatively somewhat stingy rear legroom once and for all, the wheelbase was increased by three inches (from 123 to 126 inches).

The overall appearance of the Continental was unchanged however. Other alterations were a slightly altered roofline/DLO and the replacement of the previously curved side glass with flat glazing. This was a cost-cutting decision which was not universally liked by the press as it was seen as a step backward. The buying public obviously could live with it because sales increased by 20% over the previous year. Continue reading “Continental Congress (Part two)”

Sir Michael Edwardes. 1930 – 2019

Sir Michael Edwardes has left us at the age of 88. It should be less of a shock given his advanced years, but the bold colonial boy called to rescue British Leyland at the age of 46 somehow seemed ever-youthful. We reflect on his five years in the hardest job in the motor industry, and his influence on the years which followed.

(c) quazoo

When Michael Edwardes was appointed Chief Executive of British Leyland in October 1977, on a three year secondment from his post at the head of Chloride Group, the company was an industrial disaster zone. Eight years from its formation, it was state-controlled, chronically loss-making and blighted by turbulent industrial relations and product quality failings which were the talk of the nation.

Edwardes was either an enlightened or desperation-led choice. From Southern African business aristocracy, and far from the core of the motor industry, he was an outsider taking on a task which had been beyond those born to the industry. Continue reading “Sir Michael Edwardes. 1930 – 2019”

Continental Congress (Part one)

Supersize becomes rightsize – how the 1961 Lincoln Continental subtly altered US luxury car design.

(c) Ford Motor Company

The 1961 Lincoln Continental is almost universally regarded as one of the finest car designs ever to come from the USA. Daringly sparse of embellishment and relatively compact (by the standards of the day at least); smoothly geometrical and slab-sided, it marked a breakaway from fins, complicated shapes, panoramic windshields, gaudy colour schemes and superfluous decoration.

This accomplishment would alas prove to be only temporary, as witnessed by the majority of American cars (Lincoln included), that would follow over the next decade. Nevertheless, the 1961 Continental was such an influential designgamechanger that its competitors Cadillac and Imperial reacted swiftly to Continue reading “Continental Congress (Part one)”

Aces High

When maestro Giorgetto shuffled the deck in 1973, he certainly got his money’s worth. 

audi
1973 Italdesign Asso di Picche (c) Leblogauto

The Ital Design Asso di Picche (Ace of Spades) concept emerged during what can perhaps be described as Giorgetto Giugiaro’s purple patch, when the maestro could barely put a stylistic foot wrong. An expressive styling study for a close-coupled four seater coupé, in this instance created in conjunction with both Audi and Karmann, it made its public debut at the Frankfurt motor show in 1973. Continue reading “Aces High”

Cool For Cats

There are some injustices one can never quite get over. 

2003 Jaguar R-D6 concept. (c) motorsportscenter

The rationale behind this series of articles on the former Jaguar design director’s creative legacy has been to evaluate what was achieved, while not shying away from justifiable criticism. Because we can probably agree that Ian Callum’s Jaguar-related back-catalogue is a somewhat uneven one. Part of this can be ascribed to factors outside of his control, but not all.

However, the reason I have gathered you here today is to Continue reading “Cool For Cats”

Shamrock Green to Cream

Personally using the phrase “Gordon Bennet” whenever a profanity cannot be justified, his name became almost mythical. But just who was Gordon Bennet? And what can be the relevance to this site?

(c) Laoistourism.ie.

Mr Bennet could quite easily be compared to one Bernard Charles Ecclestone for ideas and plans concerning motor racing. Whereas Ecclestone made his money (though the means are not for here), Gordon Bennet was gifted the wealth. Employing nothing but his interest in the ways and means of transportation, Bennet wanted to sell newspapers, he being the owner/ editor of the New York Herald Tribune. Conjuring up the plan to sponsor races by boat, balloon and a little later into the future, aeroplanes. 

Naturally our gaze falls upon the auto side of racing. Bennet had moved to Paris, bringing his newspaper with him and witnessed the growth of the motor industry. With France at the forefront of it all, Bennet saw and seized the opportunity to Continue reading “Shamrock Green to Cream”

Goodyear? For Some (Part four)

We conclude the Goodyear saga as the World once more lurched into global conflict. 

“Ah, the inflatable Sherman. Pop it over there, chaps, at the double.” (c) Messynessychic.com.

Remaining with purchases and the War, Goodyear’s supply of natural rubber was severely depleted once the Japanese took control of the far-East. Previous to hostilities, experiments were undertaken to ascertain a supply of synthetic rubber. The US government had even constructed a Rubber Reserve should stock become depleted.

Goodyear scientists had in fact succeeded in making a synthetic compound, the delightfully named Chemigum which had a negative effect on natural rubber prices; the research all but stopped. The Germans also had a product called Buna-S which they showed off but were curiously Schtum as to its properties and production.

Chemigum and other synthetics became a priority with war looming. It also proved to be more durable and better performing than the German version. Car tyres would have to Continue reading “Goodyear? For Some (Part four)”

Local Takeaway

It’s the weekend, and you’re tired. Why not skip the cooking tonight and order in something decadent and a little, oily?

Nothing wrong with the MG6’s looks. (c) crazy4cars

There is something terribly poignant about the end of days at Longbridge. Having put its troubled past behind, under new ownership and seemingly looking to the future, it all came crashing down, thanks (in part at least) to the hubris and cynicism of its domestic overlords.

Following the firesale of MG Rover’s assets and intellectual property, the first fruit would be Nanjing Automotive’s Roewe 750, a hastily restyled version of the existing Rover 75 saloon. Also planned was a smaller car based upon the RDX60 programme, which had been in development prior to MG Rover’s demise. Another beneficiary of Longbridge’s assets was fellow-Chinese carmaker, SAIC Motor, who subsequently absorbed Nanjing Auto and quickly brought the Roewe 550 to market, engaging specialists in the UK to speed up the process.

But SAIC had plans to Continue reading “Local Takeaway”

CatNip and Tuck

When the S-Type went under Ian Callum’s knife in 2004, the result was a visual success, although only a qualified one. 

(c) auto-database

The 1999 (X200) S-Type was a car which was initially received with an element of enthusiasm from the buying public, but what appeal it had, quickly faded. There were a number of reasons for this – one being the early cars’ frightful cabin ambience and issues with driveline refinement. The other unsurprisingly was its external appearance, which rather screamed its ‘committee design’ gestation.

Certainly, during the post-millennium era, it had become obvious both to Jaguar and to their Ford masters that the creative execution was the wrong one, but with the carmaker committed to additional and expensive model programmes, there wasn’t the money available for a change in course. 2002 did see a series of revisions, most of which were aimed at improving the chassis and interior, but a more comprehensive revision was scheduled for 2004.

This was to be Ian Callum’s first significant opportunity to Continue reading “CatNip and Tuck”

Ghost Stories

Today we examine the UK motor industry prospects for the 1963 automotive graduate, and ponder what we’ve lost along the way.

All images – the author

Reading and being able to write are a huge staple in life. Do you remember when it all suddenly became clearer? I’m suspecting many of you (including me) out there don’t; though what you will remember is how wonderful it was to pick up a book and start to enjoy those words and pictures.

Sadly, as life in general often delivers at the most opportune moments, someone then told me ‘Don’t believe everything you read.’ Memories of being disappointed, deflated and downright angry spring to mind. But you Continue reading “Ghost Stories”

Weekend Reissue : Desio via Toyota City

Another toe in the water exercise from a not so different automotive monolith.

(c) wheelsage

Despite the differences in culture and in product ethos, there really wasn’t a tremendous difference between Fiat Auto and Toyota – apart that is from the minor matter of the two companies’ relative governance and latterday fortunes. But certainly, before Fiat completely lost the run of itself, the two entities probably had more in common than we might have first realised. Continue reading “Weekend Reissue : Desio via Toyota City”

Weekend Re-issue : A Fiat By Any Other Name?

You probably won’t see it commemorated anywhere else.

(c) junglekey.it

Of all the cars which mark their 50th anniversary this year, this is perhaps the most (to non-Italians) obscure and certainly least recalled. Partially a consequence of the marque’s subsequent demise – another piece of bungled stewardship by Fiat Auto – and the fact that the car is not only fairly unremarkable in itself, but lasted a mere three years on the market before being withdrawn in 1972. Continue reading “Weekend Re-issue : A Fiat By Any Other Name?”

Goodyear? For Some (Part three)

From dirigibles to snow cruisers – the inter-war years would see a further inflation of the storied tyre maker’s fortunes.

The Snow Cruiser. (c) Pinterest

Initially in poor financial health, Goodyear maintained progress building more factory space as the oil and car industries grew around them. A favoured construction company, Hunking & Conkey of Cleveland had a great deal of empathy with their workforce; a foreman would sit near a pile of rocks, eager to Continue reading “Goodyear? For Some (Part three)”

In Memoriam : Ferdinand Piëch

A giant of the automotive world has departed. His like will not be seen again.

(c) hvilkenbil.dk

Ferdinand Piëch was not easily satisfied. Anything less than the relentless shedding of blood, sweat and tears he considered insufficient initiative – an approach many found misanthropic, yet from Piëch’s perspective, it was a mere matter of applying a categorical imperative. He would never expect more from anybody else than from himself. Continue reading “In Memoriam : Ferdinand Piëch”

Callum’s Cats : Jaguar R-Coupé (2001)

An early statement of intent, the 2001 R-Coupé marked the beginning of a new design era at Jaguar.

(c) Jaguar Heritage

By the time Ian Callum had settled into his position as Jaguar’s stylistic leader, the bulk of the turmoil which had characterised the previous decade had abated. Under Ford’s Premier Automotive Group umbrella, Jaguar had been in receipt of significant investment, both in terms of plant, production processes but most noticeably in new product. But given that each of the forthcoming production Jaguars had been stylistically finalised prior to his arrival at Whitley, Callum could only Continue reading “Callum’s Cats : Jaguar R-Coupé (2001)”

The One That Got Away

Given its pedigree, the ‘lost’ Aston Martin DBS(C), designed by none other than Carrozzeria Touring, should be an unsung masterpiece. Yet it isn’t. 

The car in front is an Aston.

It sounds like the typical scenario that entails reverberating boos and pronounced hisses from enthusiasts’ quarters.

A much-loved maker of exotic sports cars hires the services of a well-respected carrozzeria to come up with the design for a new model. The carrozzeria in question had previously designed the very same car maker’s most popular models. Due to circumstances (mostly of the business-related variety), that new model is only created in one-off concept car form. Et voilà – the recipe for yet another automotive myth!

Concretely, the car in question is a model retrospectively dubbed Aston Martin DBSC. Originally, it was simply called DBS upon its unveiling at the Paris Motor Show of 1966 – and that’s only where it starts to Continue reading “The One That Got Away”

The Wild Man of Kvasiny

That rare thing: a desirable crossover.

(c) autocentrum

The product planner’s art has never been a particularly straightforward one, even less so when one is dealing with a brand portfolio the size and scope of the VW Group. Nevertheless, during the previous decade at least, the individual business units contained within the sprawling VW Group were allowed to Continue reading “The Wild Man of Kvasiny”

Where’s Wally (R)

Gentlemen, start your engines…

“Brittany Force’s Funny Car. The aerodynamics work” (c) competitionplus.com

What sport spends millions of dollars in pursuit of a foot-high trophy by following a groove, avoiding wheel spin and watching a Christmas tree?

It’s not a trick question. The answer is Drag Racing and for this article specifically the top end of the NHRA, the National Hot Rod Association. There’s a $3M dollar purse. Spread that out and it barely covers the fuel bill. There must be something deeper at stake here.

Classes include Pro Stock, Motorcycles, Top Fuel and Funny Cars. Some of this will be revealed as it can get overly complicated. Top Fuel and Funny Cars are the most dominant, noisy, clearly un-environmentally friendly but the biggest crowd pleasers, home to the sport’s big names. Continue reading “Where’s Wally (R)”

Weekend Reissue : E is for Expressive

Ten years since ‘the car that killed sobriety’ was announced. Time for a backward glance.

(c) autoremes

The 2009 (W212) Mercedes-Benz E-Class is unlikely to go down in history as an indestructible exemplar of marque values like its W123 forebear, or indeed as a design landmark, like its W124 descendant. Indeed, it probably won’t even be remembered with the acute embarrassment which characterises the risible W210 series from the mid-’90s.

Instead, the W212 will be recalled largely for its ‘Ponton’ haunches – a piece of retro styling contrivance aimed at evoking a period when the three pointed star had nothing to prove and no awkward questions surrounding its durability in service to answer.

Is that all there is to the car? Not quite. The ‘212 is significant more for what it represented than for its abilities or its stylistic attributes, such as they were. Mercedes had a job to do, in order to Continue reading “Weekend Reissue : E is for Expressive”

Callum’s Cats

In a series of articles, we examine former Jaguar Design Director, Ian Callum’s stylistic legacy, though some of the more notable designs he oversaw.

Ian Callum. (c) flipboard

The immediate period following Ford’s takeover of the Jaguar marque was a pretty febrile time – for a whole host of reasons, but primarily for the schisms which took place as Blue Oval management took stock of what it had purchased. As the stark realisation dawned that $ billions would be required to Continue reading “Callum’s Cats”

The Prewar Amlux

Bruno Vijverman looks back at a time when not only were cars objects of wonder, but the buildings that housed them.

(c) Citroën

On my first trip to Tokyo, one of the must-visit locations would probably not have made much sense to the typical tourist, but it did to me, being not only a car lover but in particular a brochure collector: Toyota Amlux.

This huge flagship showroom, housed in an equally impressive building, showcased all Toyota’s cars over six floors. Each one employed a different
theme- for instance there was a floor with only SUV’s and one containing luxury cars.

It was always relatively easy to Continue reading “The Prewar Amlux”