Handmade In Chile

We examine Škoda’s short-lived South American assembly operation. 

One from the museum. (c) Škoda-storyboard.com

The country with the elongated coastline and rugged backbone consisting of the Andes mountain range is hardly renowned as a hot bed of car production. But true to form, Škoda found an infinitesimally small opening to make all but a handful of cars amidst the dusty plains of Chile, some fifty years ago.

Bohuslav Čtvrtečka, who shall from this point be named BC, began his working life at Škoda’s Kvasiny plant as a welder, progressing to head the welding shop in a little under ten years. Keen, knowledgeable and highly proficient in the construction of the then ten year old Octavia Estate, an offer was made to BC to Continue reading “Handmade In Chile”

More Equal than Others (Part Two)

Concluding our retrospective on the vehicles that served the Soviet apparatus of state.

1953 GAZ ZIM-12 (c) likegarage.com

Beneath the imperious ZIS and ZIL limousines, sat the ZIM-12, manufactured by GAZ* between 1950 and 1960. This was a full-size saloon with pleasant styling influenced by contemporary American designs. It was powered by a 3.5 litre in-line six-cylinder engine producing a claimed 95bhp and weighed 1.9 tonnes. Unlike its successors, it was notionally available for private citizens to purchase but its price, at 2.5 times the cost of the GAZ Pobeda mid-size saloon, put it out of reach of all but the most prosperous.

There was no significant development of the ZIM-12 during its decade on sale, but it was hastily renamed GAZ-12 in 1957. The ‘M’ in ZIM was a tribute to Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov, the USSR’s powerful Stalinist Foreign Minister. When Molotov lost a power struggle with Nikita Khrushchev in May 1957 and was deposed, his Continue reading “More Equal than Others (Part Two)”

Curtain Call (Part 7)

A penultimate look back at unrequited automotive dreams from the former USSR and its COMECON satellites.

FSO Ogar. Image: Auto Swiat.pl

FSO Ogar, 1977

This four-seater Sports Coupé concept based on Polski-Fiat 125P mechanicals was styled by Cézary Nawrot. The rear end bears a faint
resemblance to the Alfa Romeo Junior Zagato, while the bumpers appear Volvo-esque, but otherwise the look seems quite original, if not exactly
beautiful to most eyes. The body was constructed from a laminate combination of epoxy resin and fiberglass.

An intriguing aspect of the Ogar is that the large bumpers and prominent sidemarker lights were fitted in order to Continue reading “Curtain Call (Part 7)”

A Raft Of Figures, A Wash Of Colour

Get ’em while they’re hot, they’re lovely…

(c) Carsite.co.uk

Everyone loves a bargain – conversations from Aberdeen to Ashby de la Zouch and beyond are frequently overheard concerning the used car game. Bought for a song! – maybe the deal included floormats, a tank of fuel (or these days, electricity.) Considering almost eight million used cars were documented as sold in the UK during 2019 – large numbers by anyone’s reckoning. Those pie slices get ever slimmer, according to the thousands of dealers attempting to bolster profit margins.

Figures mislead as easily as they inform, and our eyes can Continue reading “A Raft Of Figures, A Wash Of Colour”

Curtain Call (Part 6)

A further peek through the iron curtain, courtesy of Bruno Vijverman, taking in the GDR, Czechoslovakia, Poland and mother Russia herself. 

Trabant P610. (c) trabantegyegy.uw/ hupommerngreif.de

Trabant P610 1974

Powered by an 1100cc Škoda engine, this was yet another failed attempt, started early in 1974- to replace the old P601. Four P610 prototypes were made, of which at least one has survived. In November 1979 the SED
(Socialist Unity party of Germany) ordered Trabant manufacturer, VEB Sachsenring Automobilwerke to Continue reading “Curtain Call (Part 6)”

Far-Sighted, or Visually Impaired?

The 2006 R-Class was a rare commercial failure for Mercedes-Benz. DTW asks if it was ahead of its time, or simply misconceived.

2006 Mercedes-Benz R-Class (c) honestjohn.co.uk

Over the past decade, the onslaught of SUV type vehicles has swept through the automotive market like a tsunami, pushing aside traditional formats such as the classic three-box saloon, estate and larger hatchback models. Even more recent innovations such as the monobox MPV have been rendered irrelevant by its irresistible rise. In the mainstream European market, anything larger than a B-segment vehicle now generally plays second fiddle to its SUV sibling, if it has not already been killed off by it. The premium marques’ larger saloons are still selling, albeit in reduced numbers as buyers Continue reading “Far-Sighted, or Visually Impaired?”

Castle on the Hill

A retrospective on the German Democratic Republic’s less well remembered automotive marque.

(c) die-besten.de

Those of us old enough to remember the tumultuous events surrounding the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 and the subsequent collapse of the German Democratic Republic less than a year later will have recollections of a time that seemed to be filled with hope and opportunity. Striking TV images showed thousands of East Germans flooding into West Berlin through breaches in the wall, either on foot or in their Trabants. So frenzied was the rush, so great the anticipation and excitement that not even the sound of David Hasselhoff’s singing* could drive them back.

The Trabant, with its Duroplast body made out of cotton waste and phenol resins and its smelly and polluting 500 cc twin-cylinder two-stroke, was emblematic of both the GDR and its industrial failure. There was, however, a less well known but rather more competent East German car for the masses, the Wartburg 353. Today, we Continue reading “Castle on the Hill”

Curtain Call (Part 5)

Uncovering more unrealised projects of the former USSR and its influence sphere.

Bosmal Beskid. (c) Dziennik.pl

Bosmal/FSM Beskid 106 – 1983

The Polish Bosmal research centre worked together with FSM on a few projects, one of which was the Beskid 106 – named after a mountain range in the Carpathaians. An up to date proposal for a successor to the license-built rear-engined FSM/ Fiat 126 was needed and Bosmal did not disappoint; styled by Krzysztof Meissner, the Beskid 106 presented in the spring of 1983 was more than contemporary.

Its drag coefficient of 0.29 was excellent, and the front-engined and front-wheel drive Beskid offered five person space within dimensions that were not much greater than those of the 126; seven inches longer, while its axles were twelve inches further apart. It did use the same 594cc two-cylinder engine, although a larger 703cc version was fitted to later versions. Development was halted in the late eighties, the most cited reason being that Fiat was going to Continue reading “Curtain Call (Part 5)”

Death At One’s Elbow

It’s the circle of life folks…

Ferrari GTC4 Lusso. (c) automobile

There is, as perhaps you’ll notice, something of a ‘births and deaths’ feeling to our weekend proceedings. Yesterday we reviewed of some of the more significant new arrivals, while today, we don black armbands in doleful anticipation and bid a socially distanced adieu to three storied model lines, soon to Continue reading “Death At One’s Elbow”

Sense and Sensuality

Modern luxury collides with post-opulence. 

W223 S-Class. Image: gtspirit

With summer now officially over, and perhaps more in the spirit of hope than confidence, OEM carmakers are gradually returning to the business of product. This week amid the sudden outpouring of new announcements, previously squeezed and distorted through the narrow pipette of PR drip-feed, we are presented with two super-luxury land-yachts from differing echelons of wealth, privilege and position. Let us first Continue reading “Sense and Sensuality”

Economy Drive (Part Two)

In Part One, we looked at two of the old stagers from the Soviet era. Today, we consider two from the next generation. 

Skoda Favorit. (c) autoevolution.com

By the time the Škoda Estelle and Lada Riva were withdrawn from the market, their engineering was over thirty years out of date and both were hopelessly uncompetitive, selling only on their bargain prices. The countries of the Eastern Bloc realised that they needed to Continue reading “Economy Drive (Part Two)”

Curtain Call – (Part 4)

More Soviet-era conceptual shenanigans, courtesy of Bruno Vijverman. 

Wartburg 313. (c) Stadtarchiv Eisenach

Wartburg 313-2, 1960

This little known sporty prototype in the Renault Floride vein was publicised with a photo in East German newspapers but never shown to the public at any motor show. Standing at just 50 inches tall it was quite a stylistic departure from the 311 and 313/1 models on the road
at the time.

The 313-2 was more modern under the skin as well- it had a monocoque body and coil springs on all four wheels. Powering the 313-2 was the same three-cylinder two stroke however, although here it was fitted with two carburettors increasing the output to 60hp. Continue reading “Curtain Call – (Part 4)”

The Man Who Broke BMC? (Part Four)

DTW completes its investigation into Sir Alec Issigonis’ career and legacy, and arrives at some conclusions.

Alec Issigonis, Technical Director of BMC in his office at Longbridge in 1959. (c) Wired

It is important to state from the outset that we make no insinuation that Sir Alec Issigonis was solely responsible for all the problems that beset BMC and, later, BL. The company’s failure was very much a collective one and there is plenty of blame to share around.

In the first instance, Leonard Lord, then Chairman of BMC employed Issigonis to replace Gerald Palmer, a talented and capable engineer with whom Lord fell out and summarily dismissed. Lord and BMC’s CEO, George Harriman, then promoted Issigonis to the post of Technical Director, a senior management position for which he demonstrably had none of the essential organisational, interpersonal or management skills.

This was extraordinarily ill-judged and the problems it created were exacerbated by Harriman’s excessively deferential attitude to BMC’s technical wunderkind after Lord retired and Harriman became Chairman and CEO of BMC.

A more astute leader might Continue reading “The Man Who Broke BMC? (Part Four)”

Curtain Call (Part 3)

DTW’s Eastern Bloc party of stillborn concepts and prototypes continues.

FSO Warszawa Ghia and Syrena Sport. (c) Autokult.pl /Auto Swiat.pl

FSO Warszawa Ghia, 1957

In search of a suitable replacement for the dated GAZ/Warszawa M20, FSO enlisted Ghia of Italy to deliver a proposal. Designed under Sergio Sartorelli at a cost of US $62,000, this Warszawa Ghia was the result. Looking somewhat like a shortened Lancia Flaminia, the car had a pleasing and up to date look. FSO sent the car to its research and development centre to be stored until further notice. Apparently no action was ever taken to Continue reading “Curtain Call (Part 3)”

Death to the Mondeo

It’s now only a matter of time before Ford’s largest European car offering loses its uneven struggle against customer apathy. 

(c) caradvice

It’s all change at the blue oval, as our dear, departed Archie Vicar might have put it. The Ford Motor Company, it seems, has been rather busy of late, not simply rearranging the deckchairs by putting an end to car production in the United States, or announcing the breathlessly anticipated body-on-frame Bronco offroader, but shuffling the deck on the bridge to boot. Iceberg? What iceberg?

The dance of the two Jim’s has kept blue-oval watchers amused for months now; the word at ground level being that (former CEO) Jim (Hackett) hasn’t really lived up to expectations, but that (new CEO) Jim (Farley) is either (a) absolutely and without doubt the chap to steady the ship, or (b) the diametric opposite of the above. It really depends on who you Continue reading “Death to the Mondeo”

Curtain Call (Part 2)

Comecon in and enjoy part two of Bruno Vijverman’s trawl through the former USSR’s automotive waifs and strays. 

Moskvitch 1974 C1. (c) Wroom.ru/ Autodata1 com

Moskvitch C1, 1975

AZLK, or Avtomobilny Zavod imeni Leninskogo Komsomola – which translates as Lenin-communist Youth Union – sold its vehicles under the more palatable brand name Moskvitch (Moscovite). In February of 1975 the C1 prototype was readied in response to a demand for a successor to the dated 412 model. Under its SAAB-esque skin, the work of chief designer Yuri Tkachenko, still beat the 412’s 85hp four; the hump stamped into the driver’s side of the bonnet accounted for by the engine’s height. Sharp eyes may spot the Opel Ascona B headlights. Still, the C1 looked modern- sporting even.

The bad news however was that the C1’s underpinnings were carried over from the car it was intended to replace. One would expect to Continue reading “Curtain Call (Part 2)”

Curtain Call (Part 1)

You don’t know how lucky you are…. Commonly believed to have been an automotive wasteland, but in fact a hotbed of innovation and inventiveness – Bruno Vijverman goes back to the USSR.

Moskvitch C1. (c) Forocoches.com

From establishment until its dissolution at the end of 1991 the USSR, with its highly centralized government and economy, kept its subjects in check under a stifling regime of five-year plans (pyatiletka) and widespread collectivisation. Stray too much – or too often – from your allocated path within the one-party state system and you risked intimidation, re-education, arrest or worse.

Such an environment of course was hardly conducive to creativity or self-deployment; at first sight this would also seem to be reflected in the vehicles that the (relatively) lucky few were allowed to own, assuming they could Continue reading “Curtain Call (Part 1)”

New Broome

The 1970 X6 Austin Kimberley and Tasman ushered in a fresh start for British Leyland’s Antipodean outpost. But it would prove a short-lived one.

Even prior to becoming part of the British Leyland conglomerate, the BMC motor company was not renowned for making astute product decisions. Certainly, from the point when the ADO 17 (Landcrab) series was introduced, little or nothing to emerge from Longbridge was entirely fit for its intended purpose. ADO 17 entered the UK market in late 1964 as the Austin 1800 (its identical Morris equivalent arrived a bewildering two years later) and was met with a decidedly lukewarm reception from the domestic market, who were not clamouring to Continue reading “New Broome”

It’s Squirrel, Actually.

Sounds odd, doesn’t it? And so it should! Who would’ve thought the thuggish American grey squirrel could do some good?

“Don’t sneeze”. (c) Images.complex.com.

Artwork has been around since man first walked the earth, from those basic but enigmatic cave paintings through innumerable differing themes, spheres and periods. Prior to the automobile entering the scene, the largest canvas one could expect to become embellished by a more detailed approach might have been a carriage, steam engine, a wagon or the mighty locomotive. With these large expanses to adorn, you could really personalise, promote your product.

JJ Deal of Janesville, Michigan was the producer of fine wagons, carriages and buggies powered by natural horsepower. From 1845 Deal swiftly gained a reputation for building not only quality products but also a highly detailed paint finish. Deal’s Chief Striper was a fellow named Andrew Mack. A perfectionist, Mack was never completely satisfied with the quality or performance of his paints and brushes whilst working at Deal, seeking better products and methods in which to Continue reading “It’s Squirrel, Actually.”

Beautiful Vision – Evolution of the Jowett Javelin (Part 5)

In the face of extraordinary challenges, Gerald Palmer’s vision becomes reality.

Happy days ahead Image: Jowett Car Club

As the hand-built prototype Jowetts pounded the roads of Eastern England and war ended, the intrepid Yorkshire company faced new challenges of recovery and reconstruction. In March 1945 the entrepreneur Charles Clore bought out the Jowett brothers’ holdings and thereby took control of the business. The new capital was welcome, but Jowett was no longer a family firm, and the new master would soon Continue reading “Beautiful Vision – Evolution of the Jowett Javelin (Part 5)”

Flattening the Curve

Simplify and add… marketing.

(c) underconsideration.com

It might seem like a lifetime ago, but it was only last September when Volkswagen unveiled its new logo at the Frankfurt Motor Show. The logo was launched in conjunction with the ID.3 EV and was intended to herald a new era for the company, where the wholesale electrification of its model range would take centre stage. Unspoken, but undoubtedly the case, was the hope that it would Continue reading “Flattening the Curve”

Under the Knife – If the Wind Changes, You’ll Stay Like That

Concluding our micro-theme on Volkswagen, while continuing another one.

VW do Brasil’s 1984 Santana 2-door. (c) autogaleria.hu

There is (or ought to be) a rule which states that the longer a car remains in production, the less effective facelifting exercises become – in purely aesthetic terms at least. You will have noticed that Volkswagen (of Wolfsburg) has been in receipt of no small quantum of derisive commentary upon DTW’s pages of late, most of which was largely justified. By contrast, VW do Brasil has been portrayed as the more astute, more ingenious, and more commercially adept of the pair.

This was certainly the case when the mothership remained in hand-wringing mode as to the product-related course it should take in a post-Käfer landscape. But it does appear that as their German counterparts finally got a grip on both itself and its product, the Brazilians appeared to Continue reading “Under the Knife – If the Wind Changes, You’ll Stay Like That”

Wolfsburg Samba

Volkswagen do Brasil – Wolfsburg’s younger, nimbler and more ingenious Latin cousin repeatedly showed up its more torpid German counterpart. Here’s another example.  

1968 Volkswagen 1.600. (c) autoarkiv.dk

Volkswagen’s Heinz Heinrich Nordhoff has repeatedly and justifiably been criticised over the years for his tardiness in sanctioning a replacement to the eternal and best-selling Beetle, before sales collapsed by the tail-end of the 1960s. It was not for the want of trying however, and as far back as 1955, with the Käfer selling in still-increasing quantities, Nordhoff, realising its success alone would not sustain VW indefinitely, put in train a series of Beetle-based prototypes – some to sit alongside, others to Continue reading “Wolfsburg Samba”

Steamrollered

The pursuit of pure aerodynamics is rarely pretty – as this unusual story from Croatia illustrates – in abundance.

(c) Yuri Samoylik

The vehicle in a sorry state seen here, slowly decaying in an impound lot in Split, started out as a radical aerodynamic concept from Croatia that piqued the interest of both Ferrari and Mercedes-Benz. What is it, how did it end up here, and what happened to it? No, it has not been the victim of an unfortunate steamroller mishap although at first glance you could be forgiven for thinking that: it really was designed to look like this.

Lifelong Ferrari aficionado Zlatko Vukusic (he named the restaurant-café he owned after Enzo’s firm) dabbled in car design and specifically aerodynamics in his free time. Through contact with erstwhile Ferrari chief engineer Giotto Bizzarini in the early nineties, the Croatian was able to Continue reading “Steamrollered”

A Goblin Green Plies the Lanes of Ireland

Skoda’s success story in Ireland is such that the Czech carmaker is cementing its position, naming its latest in honour of its most lucrative musical export. No Bono… sit down, it isn’t you.

“Off again, grand day.” (c) All images – Škoda-storyboard.com

The Czech based, German owned, global (excepting the United States) manufacturer, Škoda, has form with odd names; some of whom have been covered on this site afore, the Octavia at least meaning eighth. The Superb is an old name, Rapid too. Then came the K-Škoda’s: Kodiak, Karoq, Kamiq, which, if one listens to or reads to Škoda’s PR treadmill, all have meaningful and charismatic connotations, background: spirit. Along with increasing difficulty in differentiating between them.

Then, from out of the primordial soup leapt something called Enyaq. Yes, you read that correctly: Enyaq. That treadmill must have blown a fuse, for this name is surrounded by Celtic myths, rolling green pastures, and the dulcet ululations of Enya, the Irish singer once of the band, Clannad. Her original name being Eithne Pádraigín Ní Bhraonáin, anglicising to Enya Patricia Brennan. Continue reading “A Goblin Green Plies the Lanes of Ireland”

The Chinese Are Coming… Or Are They?

Chinese automakers have long been expected to make a concerted assault on overseas markets but, so far at least, have failed to do so in any meaningful way. DTW wonders why.

Coming to Europe? Geeley’s Lynk & Co Model 01 (c) Car

The recent (July 2020) decision by the UK government to ban Huawei, the Chinese telecoms giant, from long-term participation in the national rollout of 5G mobile has profound implications for Anglo-Chinese trade relations. In a post-Brexit world, China had been cited as a potentially major trading partner for the newly independent UK, free to make its own bilateral trade deals. Such hopes now look increasingly forlorn.

The government’s decision has undoubtedly been influenced by pressure from the Trump presidency in the escalating trade war between the US and China, but genuine concerns about Huawei’s independence from the Chinese government, President Xi’s increasingly autocratic rule, the Covid-19 pandemic and the suppression of legitimate protest in Hong Kong have all led to a deepening suspicion about China’s political ambitions, benign or otherwise, as a major economic superpower.

The rapidly growing prevalence of the Internet of Things means that a wide range of Internet connected appliances, including automobiles, presents a security risk essentially the same as that feared from Huawei’s telecoms equipment. But while it may sound highly implausible that your Smart TV might Continue reading “The Chinese Are Coming… Or Are They?”

Rear Entrance, Door Furniture, Re-Evaluation No. 13 (or Should We Call It Mind The Doors?)

Hidden door handles – see what you did there…

(c) Auto evolution

The Alfa Romeo 156: when I clapped eyes on that car, well, it really was love at first sight. Those looks, that stance, look at the wheels! The aura surrounding the badge, the singular, front door handle… hang on. Where is the rear door handle? This a four door saloon..

Rewind to the car’s Frankfurt Motor Show introduction, to the world and everyone who was anyone waxing lyrical concerning that hidden rear door handle. This, momentarily, having already eulogised over those svelte, Italian lines. Those lines and looks have faded, and while no longer wowed when one is (increasingly rarely) seen out and about, I can still appreciate the lines. Too quickly do my eyes Continue reading “Rear Entrance, Door Furniture, Re-Evaluation No. 13 (or Should We Call It Mind The Doors?)”

A Democrat Crushed By A Dictator

A brave attempt at autonomy snuffed out before its time. 

IBAP Democrata. (c) Lexicarbrasil.com

Large country though it is – the fifth largest in the world by area – the República Federativa do Brasil has never had a national car maker of any far-reaching market significance. Foreign makers had, and continue to have factories that produce cars in Brazil of course: Volkswagen, Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Fiat and Ford to name the major ones, and also exiles such as DKW, Borgward, Kaiser and Willys who with varying degrees of success sought to prolong their activities in Brazil, after the feasibility of the business case in their home countries evaporated.

At the dawn of the 1960’s, Brazilian business tycoon Nelson Fernandes attempted to finally give his country its own car. Fernandes had become wealthy building country clubs and a large hospital through a fund-raising drive targeting affluent Brazilians. One of his funders (and friends) was Luis Carlos Fagundes, a director of Willys do Brasil. Together, they hatched plans to Continue reading “A Democrat Crushed By A Dictator”

Target In Sight

Sleepless in Sheffield, Andrew Miles turns to tried and trusted methods.

(c) skoda-storyboard.com

Robbed of sleep by frazzled nerve endings, I turned (as one does) to that comfort blanket known as the internet. My searching led to previously unknown (to me) demographic targets that manufacturers use to ascertain future sales. 

The new Škoda Octavia RS (appearing to have dropped the ‘v’) along with the muscular Scout were being virtually revealed in a ninety minute long video. Supported by a cast of dozens of minions introducing their own particular nuance; infotainment, Head up Display, transmissions and engine parameters, to name just a few, the big guns fired the opening salvoes to a sparse audience, seated around circular tables and to practically unsocial amounts of distance. Bottles of water and disposable coffee cups clearly seen on every table.

Bernhard Maier, soon to Continue reading “Target In Sight”

The Italian Swallow

Andrew Miles recalls an Italian-American design highlight from the creative heyday of the Latin carrozzeiri.

All images (c) Carstyling.ru

The late and prolific Tom Tjaarda left behind an amazing legacy of work; take at look at Richard Herriott’s obituary to him from June 2017, but for me there is one unusual, yet standout design I knew nothing about. That is until Matteo Licatta and his Roadster-Life website introduced a conceptual one-off from the hand of Michigan born, but Italian based sculptor, the Rondine.

Pronounce it Ron-deen -ay and to these eyes, this car is as pretty as a peach, as distinctive as any Ferrari whilst offering a symphony of speed that only the Hirundinidae can deliver. For the Rondine is underneath a Chevrolet Corvette C2. And here’s an unusual twist; General Motors’ Bill Mitchell commissioning Pininfarina to give the bodywork a good scrub up and tailor a new suit which made its Paris Motor Show debut in 1963.

As if the Corvette requires any form of introduction, but the Rondine, with that sharp suit of fibreglass adds a divine lightness to the form. Whereas the Corvette might Continue reading “The Italian Swallow”

Landfall

Channelling an older, more illustrious vehicle, Ineos Automotive have shown first images of their upcoming Grenadier. Haven’t we seen you somewhere before?

(c) Autocar

“And did those feet in ancient time walk upon England’s mountain green?”

Classy yet classless. Both of the land, yet above it, the Land Rover Defender, within these islands at least, inhabits its own unique orbit. It’s a name which elicits certain qualities – of no-nonsense, robust self sufficiency, of capable and practical professionals, like country vets, tree surgeons, utility providers, coastguards. That’s certainly the image its makers chose to project, speaking to fond notions of national identity, everyday heroism, practicality and fundamental decency which have been enduring traits of that increasingly peculiar country collectively called Britain.

In production for the best part of 70 years, although it has in fact been refashioned many times, the Landie, over its lengthy and productive life has become a potent symbol of something inviolate, unchangeable – like Dover’s White Cliffs. So much so that in today’s febrile shared-media landscape, vehicles like the original Defender are fetishised – raised aloft and hailed as archetypes – images of authenticity amid a world increasingly laced with fakery and contrivance. Continue reading “Landfall”

Newsgrab

A review of the automotive week ending 26 June 2020.

Just the thing for Glastonbury – oh hang on… (c) motorillustrated

Half the year gone already and not a child in the house washed. But as this little pocket of the world gradually and carefully opens back up, the broader European motor industry too is doing its level best to pretend this crisis never happened, catching up on all of those product launches inconveniently delayed by the dreaded virus.

Not that recent global affairs have had much impact upon Haymarket Publishing’s storied automotive weekly, where fairies and unicorns continue to flit merrily, social distancing notwithstanding. Monday therefore saw Autocar online report (and not for the first time either) upon the possibility that Jaguar might Continue reading “Newsgrab”

Espíritu Independiente (Part One)

A retrospective on Spain’s automotive flag-carrier and the rare occasional flowering of its independent design talent.

(c) favcars

In the late 1940’s Spain was an economic wasteland. The bloody 1936 to 1939 Spanish Civil War, immediately followed by the privations of World War II, had left the country impoverished and largely without an industrial base. The government of General Franco was desperate to improve the welfare of its people and reduce their reliance on subsistence level agriculture and fishing.

One key element of this plan would be the development of an indigenous automobile industry. European manufacturers, still rebuilding their post-war domestic capacity and markets, were largely uninterested in expansion into Spain, but the government realised it had neither the capital nor the technical expertise to build the industry from scratch. Instead, it courted both Fiat and Volkswagen, offering shares in a new auto company and royalty payments in return for permission, not just to assemble but to Continue reading “Espíritu Independiente (Part One)”

Number Nine Life

As inevitable as death, taxes, and global pandemics. What’s that? Ah yes, Jaguar’s in trouble again. Haven’t we been here before?

Unconvincing. (c) car magazine

An automotive reckoning, long-postponed, now seems imminent. We of course should have had it long ago, and had the surging Chinese economy not mopped up all that excess capacity over the past decade or so, we would be talking about a rather different automotive landscape today.

But not only did the Chinese Crouching Tiger to some extent help prop-up otherwise floundering businesses (and certainly, one could point to Groupe PSA’s remarkable resurgence being in no small part aided by Dongfeng’s largesse), it also made a significant contribution to a lopsided industry model with an over-reliance upon high-end, luxury products.

It isn’t wildly hyperbolic to suggest that Jaguar Land Rover’s post-2010 successes were to a very large extent a product of Chinese market forces, and if anyone doubted that, one only had to Continue reading “Number Nine Life”

Deviating Fortunes

How an ultimately doomed American car manufacturer unwittingly laid the financial foundation of one of today’s most successful sports car makers.

(c) Publications International

Ferdinand Anton Ernst (better known as Ferry) Porsche visited the USA for the first time in his life in December 1951. The 42-year old general manager of Porsche AG; his father Ferdinand Senior having passed away earlier that year, was there to carry out consulting work on a military vehicle project for the US Army as well as to discuss sales and distribution with Max Hoffman, Porsche’s importer and distributor for North America.

During that meeting Hoffman suggested to Porsche that providing consultancy services for American carmakers might be a lucrative idea for the enterprising young firm. Shortly before, Hoffman had met with longtime Studebaker executive Richard A. Hutchinson to discuss the future of the American car market and he suggested that Studebaker should offer a true economy car, a kind of American Volkswagen, instead of trying to Continue reading “Deviating Fortunes”

Paradigm Shift

Citroen introduces its first “Non-Conformist Mobility Object“. Well, its first in decades. Is this a glimpse into the future?

(c) noolyo

Despite being embroiled in perhaps the largest and most complicated merger/acquisition in automotive history, Groupe PSA, under the current leadership of Carlos Tavares, appear to be one of the few European automakers who are taking what at least appear to be the decisions that matter. And as the worst of the current C-19 wave recedes for much of Europe at least, it’s becoming increasingly apparent what those are likely to be.

One can of course argue the toss over the value or logic in PSA merging with Fiat-Chrysler (and yes, we all know the basic rationale), there is little doubt that such a move will in the fullness of time, prove either to have been a masterstroke of suitably epic proportions, or the petard upon which Mr. Tavares will eventually Continue reading “Paradigm Shift”

A Tale of Two Cars

Seeing the ‘all-new, all-digital’ (it is neither) Golf VIII being advertised led me to dig out Car’s launch and first drive article covering the Golf II. Both the modern-day car and Car suffer from the comparison.

Golf Car 1
They don’t make or publish them like they used to (source: author)

When I wrote my last effort for DTW, Computer World, I had no idea that VW would go ‘all-digital’ in its portrayal of what is perhaps its most revered existing icon. VW’s version of ‘digital’ isn’t all that different from that of the 1983 Austin/ MG Maestro, and it seems to have paid for the extra gimmickry by de-contenting the new Golf in subtle and yet significant ways. Instantly, it seems they have thrown away that constant sense of superiority and quality which, in my mind, the Golf has always possessed.

I have never owned a Golf, and only relatively recently driven one (it was a courtesy car whilst my Octavia was in for a service). It’s a car I have often revered – starting with the MkII (I was too young to Continue reading “A Tale of Two Cars”

American Pioneer

Mention hybrid vehicles and one immediately thinks of Toyota and the 1997 Prius, the first commercially successful passenger car of this type. There are, however, earlier examples and today we look at an unlikely pioneer, Briggs & Stratton.

(c) hegarty.com

Outside the US, the name Briggs & Stratton is most often associated with lawnmower engines of modest capacities and power outputs. This understates considerably the size and global reach of the company. Founded in 1908, Briggs & Stratton is the world’s largest manufacturer of small-capacity internal combustion engines for agricultural, industrial, marine and recreational applications.

Headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the company manufactures around ten million engines annually in plants located in North and South America, Europe and Australia, and sells in over 100 countries worldwide.

In the late 1970’s, following the fuel crisis earlier in that decade, Briggs & Stratton began thinking about the viability of hybrid power. It recognised that most road vehicles of that era were highly inefficient: their large capacity internal combustion engines were required to produce enough power and torque to accelerate them up to the speed limit on highways but, thereafter, only a fraction of the power output was required to Continue reading “American Pioneer”

Londinium Trio 3 : Latex in London

Our Sheffield-based scribe hasn’t tyred of his rubber fixation. Not by some stretch…

(c) bhsproject.co.uk

The Firestone Tire & Rubber Company was inaugurated on 3rd August 1900 in similar fashion to arch rival, Goodyear. Harvey Samuel Firestone had previous business experience prior to moving from Chicago to the rubber town of Akron, Ohio, a minuscule, hard working and honest workforce (all employees names known), followed by an explosion of fortune and growth. Fierce amidst board and courtroom alike, Harvey S Firestone was a philanthropist at heart – employees were paramount.

Appalled at the shoddy condition of America’s roads in 1919, Firestone invited an army-led Transcontinental Motor Convoy, shod in his firm’s rubber over to his Columbiano based farm to Continue reading “Londinium Trio 3 : Latex in London”

Still Stands Stanley’s Hat Stand In The Spruce Stand?

Around about now-ish (it was actually in September), forty years ago, an important chunk of the British motor industry was rationalised away: in 1980 Triumph’s Canley plant ceased making cars.

The very last Triumph Spitfire comes down the Number One track at Canley in August 1980, as production ceases. (c) Coventry Telegraph

Motor magazine, which itself eventually disappeared into Autocropley’s shadow reported (Sept. 6th, 1980) on how “Triumph production ends at Canley”. On the opposite page there stood an article entitled “Honda launches its Bounty”.

So, the factory closure article begins as follows: “Production of Triumph cars at BL-s ill-fated Canley factory on the outskirts of Coventry has ended. With it go the Triumph Spitfire and Dolomite which will be gradually phased out of the BL model range”. Meanwhile, on page 3, we read: “Announced in Japan last week was Honda’s new medium-sized four-door saloon, a version which will be built in Britain to Continue reading “Still Stands Stanley’s Hat Stand In The Spruce Stand?”

Conflict Diamonds

Two carmakers go head to head over a bright, shiny object. 

Image: Wkipedia

Diamonds are Forever, or so Ian Fleming told us in 1956. It’s not the view of Munich Regional Court No.1, which found in favour of Renault’s challenge to Chinese-owned Borgward AG’s use of a rhombus-shaped badge firmly in the tradition of their 59 years defunct Bremen-based predecessor company.

As if Borgward AG’s present woes were not great enough, the Bremen newspaper Weser-Kurier reported on 9 May 2020 that Groupe Renault have won an injunction against Borgward AG over the use of their diamond badge design.

The terms of the judgement are swingeing: Continue reading “Conflict Diamonds”

Computer World

After almost five decades of sporadic appearances and false dawns, is the digital dashboard finally in inexorable ascendency?

computer word - rhino
(Source: Rhino)

I have been meaning to write something on this subject for some time now.  Unfortunately, the nasty virus has meant that my working life has gone into overload as I have responsibility for keeping a small UK bank operating with it’s entire staff working out of bedrooms, kitchens, dining rooms and even landings, and so time and energy has been in short supply.

I had also been Continue reading “Computer World”

“Sit thysen down fur a bit: hev a glass o’ cowslip wine!”

It’s Sunday. Again.

Mk 2 Renault Espace**

Today’s text has nothing to do with the Espace (above). I wrote a whole other article and scrapped it after Eóin had gone to the trouble of deleting the expletives and formatting it for consumption. What I decided to do with this version of the article was to Continue reading ““Sit thysen down fur a bit: hev a glass o’ cowslip wine!””

Precious Metal

These days, coachbuilding usually acts as a euphemism for customised luxury vehicles of exceedingly high monetary and bafflingly dubious aesthetic value. Usually, but not always.

(c) motorauthority

Limited editions are all about chintzy brass plates and certificates printed onto vellum-look paper. While they may provide a draw to adolescent collectors of action figurines or collectible cards, to today’s class of the super rich, they’re a joke not even worth telling. Or at least one would think so.

In the car industry, a decade-long focus on offering increasingly high levels of customisation options in almost every class of automobile has resulted in a huge spread of personalisation. Just as the number of (non-SUV) body styles has decreased, the availability of customisation options has manifolded. This makes it increasingly more difficult for the luxury wheat to Continue reading “Precious Metal”

What’s in a Name? (Part Two)

Concluding our exploration of the often treacherous practice of automotive nomenclature.

Image: (c) DTW

Given the numerous problems and pratfalls we uncovered in Part One, it might seem simpler to avoid the bear-traps altogether and stick to safe and neutral numbers. These can be used to indicate the range hierarchy, such as BMW’s ultra-logical 1 to 8-Series model designations.

This works fine as long as the manufacturer is happy to Continue reading “What’s in a Name? (Part Two)”

What’s in a Name? (Part One)

An exploration of the arcane and sometimes treacherous landscape of automotive nomenclature.

(c) hobbydb.com

A DTW article on the venerable Ford Cortina raised in my mind the question of the enduring appeal of the name chosen for this model. Was it the association with the glamorous Italian ski resort, or simply that the word was phonetic and tripped off the tongue easily, that was behind Ford’s decision to append it to a fine if unglamorous family car? Probably a bit of both: Ford was already using Capri, another Italian tourist destination, for the coupé version of the Consul Classic.

In any event, I began thinking about the whole business of finding suitable names for new motor vehicles. Fundamentally, this involves choosing words that Continue reading “What’s in a Name? (Part One)”

Show and Tell – (Part Four)

A last look back into the archive takes us into the late Nineties.

All images (c) of the author.

Geneva 1996

Peugeot’s 406 Toscana concept (above) swiftly faded into oblivion after the show, likely because it was not clear even to Peugeot itself what it was supposed to be or demonstrate.

The Opel Calibra 4×4 based Bertone Slalom “fits in between the modern coupé, the station wagon and the people-carrier” according to Bertone’s press kit. If nothing else, it took the concept of stretched headlights to a new level. Continue reading “Show and Tell – (Part Four)”

Your Name In Lights

Today, Andrew Miles gets his Super Trouper out for the lads.

(c) st.automobilemag.com

Research (undertaken by no-one in particular) has shown racing cars to be 0.02 faster and infinitely more aggressive when their lights are switched on. My amazement is that manufacturers haven’t as yet cottoned on to this phenomenon.

Car makers spend spend a great deal of time and resources on those devices that help us to see and be seen. From the rudimentary acetylene lamps of yore to today’s laser beam-like LED’s found in ever more angular and reflective cages. The head, and indeed tail lights can make or break a car’s appearance.

Examples abound regardless of make – does anyone out there NOT Continue reading “Your Name In Lights”

The Numbers Game

With a belated and probably now irrelevant report on February’s UK car sales figures (which is hardly his fault), Andrew Miles reviews the state of play before the world stopped.

Build date Some time away… (c) Accurate-autobody.com.

Sales are king and the king is dead. With new realities affecting every facet of life, buying a new car has become as intangible as believing in Lancia’s return to UK shores or searching the heavens for flying pigs.

But car sales do continue, if only a trickle to their former flood, and practically all on-line as dealerships are firmly closed. Using the UK’s Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) year to date figures (and the up to press February version) reveals this island’s uptake of shiny metal boxes before we were ordered to Continue reading “The Numbers Game”

Turn Your Heels to the Shade and Shuffle Down the Lane, Peggy

Think about the tear-stained debates about whether Jaguar should offer a diesel. Or the debate as to whether BMW and Co. should sell hatchbacks. Or the switch to front drive (and back).

Unthinkable: bmwblog.co.uk

What these discussions have in common is that they relate to the “tension between consistency and relevance”. That is the title of a paper from the J. Acad. Mark. Sci which I have been reading. The authors are Beverland, M. et al who relate design thinking and brand ambidexterity as a means to allow companies to Continue reading “Turn Your Heels to the Shade and Shuffle Down the Lane, Peggy”