Irreconcilable Differences (Part One)

Like so many ill-considered marriages, GM’s entanglement with Saab was destined to end badly. We look back over this unhappy union.

(c) petrolicious

Throughout the late 1980’s and 1990’s, GM looked on enviously as its arch-rival Ford carefully and methodically assembled the pieces of what would become its Premier Automotive Group* (PAG), a stable of European premium, sports and luxury car marques to which it would add its own Lincoln and Mercury brands.

Ford began by acquiring an interest in Aston Martin in 1987, then assuming full control in 1991. It purchased Jaguar in 1989, followed by Volvo’s car business a decade later. In 2000, Ford acquired Land-Rover from the wreckage of BMW’s failed ownership of Rover Group, which it folded into the newly formed PAG.

The latter acquisition was particularly painful for GM because, in March 1986, it had agreed the purchase of Land-Rover, then part of the nationalised British Leyland, from the UK government before a public outcry and political pressure forced Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to Continue reading “Irreconcilable Differences (Part One)”

Limiting Screentime

Good news for a change. Honda is switching back to rotary dials, Autocar reports.

2020 Honda Jazz, with added rotaries. (c) Autocar

It has been something of a Driven to Write hobbyhorse to not merely bemoan, but berate carmakers about the dereliction of responsibility they have for the people who variously operate their products. I speak of the wholesale refutation of years of ergonomic and haptic research into the user-functionality within vehicle cabins by the adoption of touch-screen interfaces.

There is little doubt (and even less evidence to the contrary) that the widespread and still-growing use of touchscreens is occurring primarily due to matters of fashion and cost – it now being both cheaper and easier to Continue reading “Limiting Screentime”

Boulevard of Broken Dreams

Spain may not be famous for coachbuilders the way their colleagues to the North and on the opposite side of the Mediterranean are, but that is not to say there were none.

Dodge Serra (c) Autopista es

Pedro Serra Vidal (1926-2017) was born into the automobile business. His father owned a large automotive workshop and coachbuilding business in Barcelona, where the young Serra Vidal learned the trade and gathered the necessary experience.

His talent quickly became obvious and he would go on to Continue reading “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”

The Fate of Empires and Search For Survival (Part Five)

Daniel O’Callaghan’s digest of Bob Lutz’s 2011 book, ‘Car Guys vs Bean Counters’. In this concluding part, GM hits the buffers and goes cap in hand to the US Government.

(c) leblogauto

At the start of 2008, the outlook appeared quite promising for GM. Its more recent models had been well received and the company had won North American Car of the Year for 2007 and 2008 with the Saturn Aura and Chevrolet Malibu. The company had agreed with the UAW a new wage deal and a plan to move the worker healthcare liabilities off the GM balance sheet and into a new fund that GM would set up, but would Continue reading “The Fate of Empires and Search For Survival (Part Five)”

The Fate of Empires and Search For Survival (Part Four)

Daniel O’Callaghan continues his digest of Bob Lutz’s 2011 book, ‘Car Guys vs Bean Counters’, examining GM’s latterday approach to alternative propulsion.

1996 GM EV1. Image: oldcarbrochures

GM’s expansion to become a global company had largely been built on acquisitions: Opel and Vauxhall in Europe, Holden in Australia and Daewoo’s automotive business in South Korea. These companies continued to operate with a high degree of autonomy in product design and engineering. It was argued that this enabled the companies to Continue reading “The Fate of Empires and Search For Survival (Part Four)”

15 shades of GIMS (Part 2)

Part two of Lukas von Rantzau’s ‘virtual Geneva’ review considers the more rarefied air amid the luxury marques. 

Bentley

Bentley’s CEO Adrian Hallmark welcomes us to a walk around the Crewe flagship of flagship showrooms. With the former Top & Fifth Gear presenter, Vicki Butler Henderson firmly by his side the conversation flows rather pleasantly. Eloquence, we are reminded, is a more important precondition for career success in Britain than in other European countries.

We are not quite finished thinking these thoughts, when the presentation turns to the coach-built Bentley Bacalar and its similarly overstyled designer, Stefan Sielaff. If one were to conduct a study on the varieties of German accents, GIMS wouldn’t be a bad place to start.

In the post-Motor Show Age, charismatic CEOs will Continue reading “15 shades of GIMS (Part 2)”

The Fate of Empires and Search For Survival (Part Three)

Daniel O’Callaghan continues his digest of Bob Lutz’s 2011 book, ‘Car Guys vs Bean Counters’, charting the decline of GM and Lutz’s decade-long struggle to rescue it.

2000 Chevrolet Malibu. (c) Edmunds

Even before officially starting work at GM on 1st September 2001, Lutz had the opportunity to preview GM’s forthcoming models. He attended the company’s August board meeting and met Wayne Cherry, GM’s Vice-President of Design, at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance event the same month. Cherry shared with him photos of models in different stages of development and Lutz was horrified by what he saw. 

Amazingly, Cherry admitted to feeling the same and explained that, despite his nominal position, he was subordinate to the Vehicle Line Executives (VLEs), who oversaw every aspect of each new model’s development. Their explicit priority was to Continue reading “The Fate of Empires and Search For Survival (Part Three)”

15 shades of GIMS (Part 1)

Welcoming a new contributor to DTW; Editor/Director of Transport Museum, Lukas von Rantzau, who opens his account with an acerbic two-part overview of ‘virtual Geneva’.

All images (c) GIMS

When the Geneva International Motor Show (GIMS) was cancelled only four days before its scheduled opening, some predicted this to be yet another nail in the coffin of the Motor Show per se. While visitors and exhibitors have been equally disappointed by the most recent iterations of the once glamourous celebrations of the automotive industry, the neutral ground of Geneva remained something of a last stronghold for a dying concept. Founded on Swiss neutrality, blessed with the presence of the largest variety of car manufacturers, it was supposed to be the one go-to-show in Europe this year. Alas, it was not to be at all.

More so than the Force Majeure cited in this year’s cancellation statement however, the limitless broadcasting possibilities of the internet have chipped away at the Motor Show’s raison d’être. Meeting at an agreed date and place, gathering all journalists in the same venue and holding world premieres back to back was a pragmatic way to Continue reading “15 shades of GIMS (Part 1)”

The Persian Bodyswappers

Novels such as ‘Vice Versa’ and ‘Freaky Friday’ have inspired a long list of films about body swapping, but in the rare cases the automobile industry has resorted to the practice, it hasn’t exactly resulted in any award-winning performances.

(c) Pedal.ir/Flickr/Gomotors.net/Pakwheels.com

Since the Ayatollahs assumed power, Iran’s relationship with Western nations has been complicated. This has not stopped the country from developing a thriving automobile industry however – after oil and gas it is the third in economic importance – and to achieve licensing deals with a number of major car manufacturers such as Peugeot, Citroën, Renault, Nissan, KIA, Chevrolet and Cadillac. In some cases, this has lead to results that can only be described as bizarre. Continue reading “The Persian Bodyswappers”

All Together, All Alone : Car of the Year 2020

Geneva has been cancelled, but in some respects at least, the show goes on. There is after all, a car of the year to be decided. Robertas Parazitas reports, from the comfort of home. 

image: radical-mag.com

Surreal is a word both over and mis-used, but it could apply to the 2020 European Car of the Year ceremony, delivered in the usual room in Palexpo, but with the rest of the exhibition complex near deserted, with dismantling and demobilisation already underway even before the first official press day. This time there’s no free fizz and media camaraderie, but by the grace of YouTube, the show goes on.

I’m delivering this from my desk at home, 1500km from Geneva, owing to the vigorous spread of “Novel Coronavirus Covid-19“. Dare one say it is a lot more ‘novel’ than some of the seven shortlisted contenders. Which are, let us Continue reading “All Together, All Alone : Car of the Year 2020”

The Fate of Empires and Search For Survival (Part Two)

Daniel O’Callaghan continues his digest of Bob Lutz’s 2011 book, ‘Car Guys vs Bean Counters’, which charts the decline of General Motors and Lutz’s decade-long struggle to rescue it.

(c) consumer guide auto

In an effort to understand better what gave the Japanese manufacturers such an edge in terms of quality and reliability, GM established a joint-venture with Toyota in 1984, the quaintly named New United Motorcar Manufacturing Inc. (NUMMI) to Continue reading “The Fate of Empires and Search For Survival (Part Two)”

A Geneva Gaffe?

The ninetieth rendition of the Geneva Motor Show, billed as Europe’s largest, is almost upon us. It seems barely five minutes since the last one.

(c) gims.swiss.

Several manufacturers have chosen not to play this time. Bats and balls safely stored away. Lamborghini are preferring to chose more bespoke events to launch models. The PSA combine, which these days includes nearly ever other car on the road it seems, are staying home with the fire turned up to the third bar. JLR are most definitely not leaving Blighty either, an odd decision for when new Def’ner is almost ready to Continue reading “A Geneva Gaffe?”

Ritorno al Futuro

At long last, Pininfarina has a new Chief Creative Officer.

Kevin Rice. (c) autodesignmagazine

The last ten months must have been a rather tumultuous period for those working at Pininfarina’s headquarters in Cambiano. First there were rumours of a fierce conflict with erstwhile loyal customer, Ferrari, over the design of Automobili Pininfarina’s Battista EV hyper car, in the wake of its unveiling at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show.  This was shortly followed by a facelift of Battista’s front end.

Much of the blame for these costly, distracting shenanigans was put at the feet of Pininfarina chief designer, Carlo Bonzanigo, who wasn’t seen or heard in public for months, until his resignation ‘for personal reasons‘ was unceremoniously announced in September. Since then, the post of chief designer has remained vacant. Not anymore however, as Kevin Rice has just been announced as Bonzanigo’s successor. Continue reading “Ritorno al Futuro”

The Fate of Empires and Search For Survival (Part One)

An industry insider’s account of the decline of General Motors and his struggle to revive its fortunes.

(c) iveho.com

In the last quarter of the 20th Century, General Motors went from being one of the most highly respected and successful US corporations to the butt of stand-up comedians’ jokes. In his 2011 book, Car Guys vs Bean Counters, Robert A (Bob) Lutz charts the decline of the once great company and describes his decade-long struggle to rescue it. What follows is a digest of that book, supplemented with additional information where appropriate.

Bob Lutz would, I’m sure, proudly describe himself as a Car Guy to his core. In this, his second book, Lutz describes his efforts to Continue reading “The Fate of Empires and Search For Survival (Part One)”

Dawn of the Iconoclast (Part one)

The Mini is one of the most ingenious, most innovative cars ever, but is also one of the most maddeningly inconsistent. In this two-part essay, DTW considers both icon and author.

(c) pinterest

The problem with icons is that often their venerated position can act as a shield against scrutiny, an insuperable barrier to unsentimental analysis or critique. How after all does one approach one of the most significant motorcars of all time objectively, without skirting the boundaries of iconoclasm?

Because to look at the Mini through one narrow prism is to Continue reading “Dawn of the Iconoclast (Part one)”

Satellite’s gone – Holden 1948-2020

The announcement of Holden’s retirement on February 17 should have come as no surprise, but the finality and totality of General Motors’ exit from Australia and New Zealand has made worldwide headlines.

Image: ANCAP

As of January 1 2021 GM will withdraw from the Australian and New Zealand markets, even as an importer. They will meet their statutory obligations on service and parts supports and recalls.

For more details, the official announcement can be found here: https://www.holden.com.au/announcement

It’s a rapid decline to oblivion, given that car production only ended at Elizabeth, South Australia in October 2017. However, the sales numbers tell it all; tenth place in the sales charts, 43,176 vehicles sold in Australia in 2019, a fall of 28.9% over the previous year.

Adding in the 11,245 New Zealand registrations, total 2019 sales come to 0.93 White Hens, to Continue reading “Satellite’s gone – Holden 1948-2020”

Have You Got The Time?

Returning to our Toyota/Lexus micro-theme, Andrew Miles takes a detailed look a the art of craftsmanship.

(c) Lexus.blog.com

Takumi is not a job description, nor a role you can apply for. Takumi is a state of mind, a calling, an undeniable load and bearing on your whole existence. Takumi is not for those faint of heart. 

Artisans by their very nature have dedication, but those who Continue reading “Have You Got The Time?”

The Case Is Altered

Is the unthinkable finally happening?

Golf 8. (c) autoscout.de

Nothing can be maintained indefinitely – even the most successful careers eventually end in failure. In 2017, when a drop in Volkswagen Golf sales was reported, it was viewed as an aberration, a blip in a broadly upward graph. However, just three years later, the realisation is dawning that the Golf as we know it not only has peaked, but is in serious decline.

Several weeks ago, I raised the question on these pages as to whether the new 8th generation would the first Golf debut that really didn’t matter? It was, to some extent a rhetorical query, and one which at the time was not picked up upon. I return to Continue reading “The Case Is Altered”

Differential Calculus

A not-so-serious look at the dark art of automotive one-upmanship.

(c) Ford UK

Buying a new car these days is an exhausting process. Manufacturers, in their quest to fill every imaginable (and some unimaginable) micro-niches, now offer ranges that are truly bewildering in their breadth. Your first task is to trawl through the 38 different models and bodystyles (Mercedes’ current UK tally) and choose the one that best suits your needs and pocket.

Then you Continue reading “Differential Calculus”

The Idea of North

An Italo-American curiosity receives a broad DTW brushstroke.

Ghia’s Thor concept, gets the late ’60s split screen treatment. (c) Coachbuild.com

Some cars emerge into the world fully formed, and regardless of where one lands upon their aesthetic merits, defy the facelifter’s scalpel, or indeed much in the way of subsequent enhancement. In stating this, I must add, I am not suggesting these cars were never the subject of facelifting exercises, more that perhaps they really ought not to have been.

Of the cars in question (and you can Continue reading “The Idea of North”

Yorkshire Grit

Nature and technology meet at Woking.

(c) Auto design magazine.com

Huddersfield, set in the old West Riding which is now plain West Yorkshire since the 1974 border alterations, is a former mill town. In the very heart of England’s Backbone, the Pennine Hills, it’s a welcoming place. At times (locals say Always) the weather can prove bleak and those surrounding millstone grit hills can make for an ominous backdrop – when the rain isn’t horizontal.

Folk round here are rounded as well as grounded. They’ll call a spade a shovel and are open with advice and generosity. Patrick Stewart and James Mason were born and raised here – a few silver screen appearances between them. And a fellow named Wilson went on to Continue reading “Yorkshire Grit”

A is for Acronym

What need could we possibly have to RTFL? Rather a lot, as it happens…

(c) Fimfiction.net

Men. We do not require an instruction book; perhaps only to enforce our knowledge upon those who know not. Nor hints to work the car. We are men. We know. Even if the eyes are strained and the arm becomes trombone-like, we shall not bow down to the book.

That is until we need to tap into the sub-menu that operates the dual heating options. And the stay on lights‘ length: do we need them at twenty five, or thirty seconds? I know a chap who was openly boastful at not knowing how to Continue reading “A is for Acronym”

Drowning By Numbers

Actions have consequences. The Irish car market is unwell.

Top seller 2019. (c) : caroftheyear.org

It’s about three years since I wrote one of these analyses. Back in 2017, when I last did so, the side-effects of Britain’s referendum decision had yet to filter through in any meaningful way. However, some three years later the effects are plain to see. Because despite being outwardly one of the better performing EU member-states of late, the Republic of Ireland’s economy has been hobbled, without Britain having left the EU at all.

Amongst the sectors adversely affected, the car market is amongst the most apparent. Having been on a steady post-crisis growth curve up to 2016, with deliveries that year of 146,672, car sales have bucked more favourable economic trends, aligning closer with Sterling’s value against the Euro – a state of affairs resulting in a significant fall in new car sales with all the resultant knock-on effects that brings. Continue reading “Drowning By Numbers”

The Flying Nimbus

Not simply keen on filling out streets with their wares, Toyota and Lexus are now about to launch a mobility scheme to the world.

(c) Dakar.com.

Kinto, from their phrase Kinto-un, a fast moving service getting you wherever you need to go, is their mobility solution for every occasion. With life becoming increasingly dependent on internet connections and lives refusing to follow a set pattern, this Japanese idea of motion plans to cover every base, morning, noon and night.

My eyes were first alerted to this service in of all places, the desert. The Dakar Rally was recently held in the extreme dunes and sandy plains of Saudi Arabia where many an off-road bike, quad, car and truck competed in its Empty Quarters. Spaniard, Fernando Alonso who used to Continue reading “The Flying Nimbus”

Back From The Brink – A Review

We welcome stalwart reader and commenter, Daniel O’ Callaghan to the ranks of DTW guest-writers with a latter-day review of the combatative former BL Chairman’s 1983 memoir.

Image: The Author

This book tells the story of the author’s five years as Executive Chairman of BL (formerly British Leyland). Sir Michael Edwardes joined the 99% state owned company in November 1977 at the invitation of the Labour government of James Callaghan. The book charts the many crises faced by the company as it struggled to Continue reading “Back From The Brink – A Review”

NewsGrab

Our first (for 2020) look at the current stories that matter. To us. 

Bentley Mulsanne. (c) autoblog

As the motor industry gears up for the first (and possibly most significant) motor show of the season, powder is being for the most part kept snug, warm and dry. However, 2020 is shaping up to be a pivotal one for European carmakers as European Union-imposed emissions regulations begin to take effect. It’s likely that this, and the industry’s response will define the coming year, for better or in some cases, for worse.

Which of these two states this week’s announcement from Bentley Motors represents is reliant upon a number of factors, not least one’s viewpoint. The Crewe-based luxury carmaker’s own impressions can be gleaned from their website thus; “The Mulsanne, with its understated elegance and phenomenal power, remains Bentley’s consummate saloon. It is the purest expression of luxury and performance.Continue reading “NewsGrab”

Anniversary Waltz 1959 – Neatness Is Always the Result of Deliberate Planning

“This matter is best disposed of from a great height, over water”.

Eve Marie Saint, James Mason and Martin Landau in a still from Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest. (c)

Amid a year of cinematic gems such as swords and sandals epic, Ben-Hur and Billy Wilder’s Some Like it Hot, Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller, North by Northwest might not have drawn as many cinemagoers, but if it wasn’t the auteur-director’s finest film, it was probably his most enjoyable. Starring an at-his-peak Cary Grant as the film’s suave but unsuspecting Mad Man, a diverting Eve Marie Saint as the requisite femme-fatale, combined with a strong supporting cast, a sharp, pithy script by Ernest Lehman and some of the best-known set-piece scenes in movie history, North by Northwest remains something to Continue reading “Anniversary Waltz 1959 – Neatness Is Always the Result of Deliberate Planning”

Fifty Shades Today

If this sounds too shady for you, best head to Practical Housekeeping, pronto. This is very blue.

Larkspur Blue. (c) Sherwin Williams Automotive Finishes.

Skilfully avoiding the TV new years sales adverts by heading for the internet, I found a Chevrolet Bel Air for sale. The price and to be honest the car, were immaterial; the colour on the other hand had me transfixed. What turned out to be called Larkspur Blue led me to Continue reading “Fifty Shades Today”

Anniversary Waltz 1969 – I Didn’t Expect A Kind of Spanish Inquisition

“This morning, shortly after 11:00, comedy struck this little house on Dibley Road. Sudden…violent…comedy.”

Monty Python. (c) Whatculture

As the 1960s drew to a close, centuries of hierarchy and forelock-tugging deference were under attack in class-riven Blighty. Television shows like The Frost Report saw a younger generation of university-educated writers and performers taking increasingly accurate potshots at a hidebound establishment who deserved every critical drubbing they received. The 1969 debut of Monty Python’s Flying Circus on BBC television therefore marked a watershed in what was deemed admissible for a primetime audience.

Owing a debt to the earlier Goon Show and Round the Horne radio formats, the Python’s anarchic, whimsical and often downright silly TV sketch series brought absurdist comedy into living rooms across the length and breadth of Britain, sending up authority and making household names of its creators – at least amidst those who understood, or at the very least appreciated its gleefully skewed logic. Post-Python, comedy would never Continue reading “Anniversary Waltz 1969 – I Didn’t Expect A Kind of Spanish Inquisition”

Coincidence Is Logical

There is no such thing as coincidence, we are told. Bruno Vijverman (and a certain Mr. Cruyff) beg to differ.

Author’s collection

Similarity in looks is a fact which has been associated with the car industry almost since the very beginning and has sparked many a discussion. The factors causing some cars to Continue reading “Coincidence Is Logical”

That Was 2019

Before we begin afresh, we should first cast one glance in the rear view mirror.

Who ‘nose what 2020 will bring? (c) Auto-Didakt

The prosecco has been sipped, the good wishes made and 2019 has already slipped into the past tense. So let us pause briefly before we set out into a new decade and consider the significant moments of the past year as (mostly) documented upon these pages.

We began the year at the shoreline, tearfully bidding Renault’s Twingo farewell from Britain and Ireland. It wasn’t a car which ever really ignited the imagination of the marketplace in either country (we were denied its more inventive and more charming first generation model), but its withdrawal could be read as something of a metaphor. A prefiguring too, since the announcement brought forth a slew of similar announcements from rival carmakers casting serious doubt to the ongoing viability of A-segment cars such as these, owing we’re told to rising costs of emission compliance.

2019 was also the year that the German Prestige Grille Wars got real, with Munich’s Vierzylinder illustrating to us all, but most notably to their domestic rivals, that we really wouldn’t like them when they’re angry. But while the Petuelring’s saloon flagship has the sheer visual bulk to carry its rhinoplasticised proboscis with some credibility, the same certainly cannot be said of its hapless entry-level sibling which also made its unfortunate debut this year. But then, the poor thing is such a plump, undercooked confluence of seemingly unrelated styling features, perhaps the grille is the least of its problems.

March saw the European Car of the Year awarded in somewhat irregular fashion to JLR, who had so much faith in their product’s winning potential they seemingly hadn’t bothered to Continue reading “That Was 2019”

Anniversary Waltz – Never Get Out of the Boat

“Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not, then they are enemies to be feared”.

Time.com

Dystopian paranoia and reactionary politics were the order of play as this turbulent decade faded out. Having become inured to kidnappings, airline hijackings and low-level terrorism, 1979 witnessed the Islamic revolution in Iran, the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, and the ascent to power of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. In Britain, Margaret Thatcher led the Conservative Party to power, proving Britain could Continue reading “Anniversary Waltz – Never Get Out of the Boat”

Anniversary Waltz 1989 – Tin Roof, Rusted

If you see a faded sign at the side of the road…

The B52s (c) Orlando Times

Formed in Athens Georgia in 1976, the US alt-surf-rock band The B52s had existed relatively contentedly on the peripheries of the contemporary music scene for a good decade and a half before a single taken from their 1989 album, Cosmic Thing propelled them into mainstream international chart success, and an element of immortality.

Written partly to recall their early years as impecunious art-loving musicians, and to honour their guitarist Ricky Wilson who had died in 1986 from a HIV-related illness, Love Shack was not so much the B52s shifting their retro-futurist sound and aesthetic to Continue reading “Anniversary Waltz 1989 – Tin Roof, Rusted”

Anniversary Waltz 1999 – Pre Millennial Tension

Waltzing into a new Millennium.

(c) Brittania Row

As fireworks crackled over the midnight skies and the twentieth century was bid adieu, we peered hopefully, if somewhat tentatively into a technologically dominated future, on one hand embraced, yet quietly dreaded. At least amongst those who weren’t gleefully predicting, if not the end of days itself, then at least imminent technological catastrophe. Y2K, aka the millennium bug was (loosely speaking), a coding issue pertaining to the storage of calendar year data, meaning that the rollover to the year 2000 carried with it the potential for all manner of unsavoury consequences.

It was widely believed at the time that without adequate mitigation, Y2K could precipitate widespread system malfunctions, and in the most doom-laden scenario (of which there was no shortage at the time), the complete failure of the digital networks which were increasingly dominating our lives, to Continue reading “Anniversary Waltz 1999 – Pre Millennial Tension”

When Alfa Romeo Beat Bosch

The tale of CEM, Alfa Romeo’s in-house electronic engine management system, which redefined what was ‘state of the art’ in engine technology, outdoing Bosch with a fraction of its research budget. To no avail.

The 1983 Alfetta 2.0 CEM (c) wheelsage.org

The history of tailpipe emissions regulations started, as many may know, with the USA’s Clean Air Act of 1966. Alfa Romeo’s share of the US market was minuscule, but the engineers at the Milan HQ could see the writing on the wall: it was now just a matter of time before similar measures would be enacted in Europe as well.

The Italian company needed to find ways to Continue reading “When Alfa Romeo Beat Bosch”

EGV The Friendly Ghost

A peek under the cover at Mladá Boleslav’s design process.

All New Latest Exclusive Top Secret Undercover Groundbreaking Ghost Car Type 17. (c) Skodastoryboard.com

Car companies are rarely known for the philanthropy, charity work or comedy. Surely those who work within must see forms of any (or hopefully all) of these at some point. Making cars though is a serious business; livelihoods and reputations are at stake and those stakes are high. Thank goodness then for a small window opening into what is normally the most secretive of worlds – that of the prototype.

In this domain, security is king; no mobile phones, no contact with outsiders, no leaks to press. Over three hundred souls are committed to Continue reading “EGV The Friendly Ghost”

Under that Electric Glare – The 2020 ECotY shortlist

The 2020 European Car of the Year announcement is but three months away. As the shortlist is announced, DTW looks at the seven hopefuls.

Image: tannistest.com

Will we ever again experience the like of last year’s CotY final? Two desirable cars, well off the mainstream in affordability  and conventional functionality, race ahead of their run-of-the mill rivals to a dead heat.

When the winner is declared – on a frenzied count of first placings – its manufacturer is found to have no official representative at the Salon. Jaguar’s soon-to-retire styling chief, in Geneva on a day trip, steps up to Continue reading “Under that Electric Glare – The 2020 ECotY shortlist”

Anniversary Waltz 2009 – Crash!

We begin our review of cars we couldn’t write about this year, with a brief look back at 2009.

(c) New York Post

On a bright January afternoon in 2009, US Airways flight 1549 took off from New York’s La Guardia airport en-route to Seattle-Tacoma via Charlotte, Carolina. As the Airbus A320 climbed out of La Guardia airspace it struck a flock of Canada geese, instantly disabling both engines. Quickly deducing that the aircraft lacked sufficient airworthiness to attempt a conventional emergency landing, and fast running out of options, Captain Chesley B Sullenbeger, along with First Officer, Jeffrey Skiles, elected to Continue reading “Anniversary Waltz 2009 – Crash!”

Ferdinand’s Mexican Standoff

Herr Piëch, about that recent Lamborghini acquisition…. do you have a moment?

Lamboghini Latinoamerica Coatl.  (c) favcars.com

Desperate times sometimes call for desperate measures, but can result in unwise decisions. Lamborghini has never been a stranger to challenging episodes- the relatively young company having changed hands several times before eventually landing on safe ground within the VW group.

In 1995, Automobili Lamborghini was owned by MegaTech, an Indonesian company with (former Lotus CEO), Michael Kimberley at the helm. MegaTech had purchased Lamborghini from Chrysler for around 40 Million (USD) the year before but was having trouble making the enterprise Continue reading “Ferdinand’s Mexican Standoff”

Cars That Could Have Been Citroëns – 1981 Mercedes Auto 2000

Three pointed stars and chevrons are mutually exclusive. Or are they?

(c) mercedes-benz-passion

A Mercedes that could have been a Citroën? Surely, DTW’s acting editor has taken leave of his senses. But please bear with me. Because while this vehicle is every inch a product of Stuttgart-Sindelfingen, could there be enough double chevron goodness sprinkled over this concept for it to form part of this unique to DTW series of chevronesque curiosities?

The background to the Auto 2000 lay in a late-1970s initiative laid down by the German government to Continue reading “Cars That Could Have Been Citroëns – 1981 Mercedes Auto 2000”

The God of Fire at the Seaside (3)

Concluding our trip to the West coast, we return, demob happy to the Vulcan story.

The rather sinister sounding (to me) C.B. Wardman took over reins of a changed name again: Vulcan Motor Engineering, and at the close of hostilities bought a football club. Thus Southport Vulcan entered the football league as the first sponsored club. This was yet another short lived affair as the Football Association banned the club because of that very sponsorship; Southport FC returned.

Speaking of returns, cars as well as commercial vehicles were built once again but in 1919 under a different guise, that of a consortium of manufacturers under the title British Motor Trading Corporation with Harper Bean being the majority shareholder. The plan was for the Vulcan side to Continue reading “The God of Fire at the Seaside (3)”

NewsGrab

We don’t do a lot of this on DTW, but here’s a brief roundup of the (UK-centric) news highlights from w/e 6/12/19.

Hotwheels? (c) Jaguar.com

December is generally a quiet time of the year for most carmakers, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s all tumbling weeds within the automotive universe. But rather than highlight any one aspect, let us take this opportunity to Continue reading “NewsGrab”

The God of Fire at the Seaside (2)

In this second instalment, we turn to the story of Vulcan. 

(c) T. Shambrook

At a similar time to Lea, the Hampson brothers, Thomas and Joseph were setting up their business just East of Liverpool in the town of Wigan. Young Thomas was a keen pupil at Bolton Technical college in the late nineteenth century. Both brothers were mad for motoring; an article from the Wigan Reporter dated September 1899 stating that Joseph had been fined 40 shillings for “driving a motor car to the danger of passengers!” Sadly it is not stated as to what vehicle he was driving nor what happened to his passengers.

Misdemeanours notwithstanding, the brothers had an idea to Continue reading “The God of Fire at the Seaside (2)”

The God of Fire at the Seaside (1)

Walking the lesser trod pathways of the UK motor industry, so you don’t have to, Andrew Miles profiles pioneering Liverpudlians, Lea and Vulcan.

(c) mytransportblog.com.

The English Northwest is more associated with other kinds of industry. Mills for cloth, wool, but pioneering car factories? Like many others in the Victorian era, Liverpool, long known as a port and Southport a seaside resort, prospered. This being DTW, we’re not here for fish, chips, the Beatles or a stroll along the pier; Southport (and its environs) had a car production past.

William Lea was an early adopter of the motor car. Born in Cheshire in 1845, he moved to Liverpool in his early twenties and over his 77 years, had eleven children to three wives. Making his money through the sale of musical instruments with his Pianoforte and Organ Warehouse in Liverpool centre (not as unusual a starting point for a career in the motor business as one might otherwise imagine), his focus was always on satisfying the customer. Continue reading “The God of Fire at the Seaside (1)”

Big Time

Further observations on Lexus’ 1989 gamechanger.

(c) : carsguide.com.au

Attempting to second-guess the United States customer has been the rock innumerable carmakers have perished upon over the past fifty years or so. It ought to be quite simple really. Large capacity engines, plenty of equipment, a sense of visual definition or style coupled with ease of operation. Durability too, since vehicles are likely to do large mileages in often hostile climatic conditions amid owners sometimes averse (it’s been alleged) to the prospect of preventative maintenance.

So much for generalisations, but those who have wilted under America’s often unyielding glare have largely failed to sufficiently cover the basics. Not so the Japanese, who like the Europeans before them learnt the hard way not only how difficult the US market can be to crack, but also how lucrative it could be if you Continue reading “Big Time”

Sublime to Ridiculous

Taking lessons in style and taste from Japan. 

(c) Lexus.com

Today’s Sunday sermon comes as something of a compare and contrast. Admittedly it also lays itself open to accusations of shooting fish in a barrel, but I’m prepared to take that risk. Here at Driven to Write, we have something of a soft spot for underdogs. However, some are more equal than others, and in the case of Lexus and in particular, the flagship LC 500, its continued lack of appeal to European eyes is mystifying.

In the year to June, the LC posted perhaps the greatest sales drop (58.5%) of any make or model across Europe. Which is proof, if proof were required that people’s taste is in their… well, perhaps you ought to Continue reading “Sublime to Ridiculous”

Herding a Dromedary’s Lost Siblings (2)

We conclude our Global tour of Méhari-derivatives.

(c) PT Alun

FAF, Portugal 

The acronym FAF stands for “Facile A Fabriquer – Facile A Financer” (Easy to build, easy to fund). FAF was Citroën’s official response to the Baby Brousse that predated it. The aim was to have a range of vehicles based on the “A” platform intended for assembly in developing countries with limited -or no- resources and experience in producing cars.

The first FAFs were produced in 1973 in Portugal but later, factories were opened in Guinée Bissau, Central African Republic, Senegal and Indonesia. There were six available bodystyles: a Saloon, 3-door Estate, Van, Pick Up, 4×4, and a Runabaout in Méhari fashion. The 4×4 version was purchased by the Portuguese army and saw action in the Angolan civil war. Continue reading “Herding a Dromedary’s Lost Siblings (2)”

Herding a Dromedary’s Lost Siblings (1)

Citröen’s Méhari was a far more fecund species than one might have imagined. We plot the mutations. 

Original of the species. (c) avengers in time

From the mid-seventies until sometime in the following decade, I spent most summer holidays with my family at my uncle’s second home in Les Marines de Cogolin near St. Tropez. Being in my early teens at the time, amongst the things I always looked forward to -apart from the usual French Riviera attractions – was getting to ride along to get groceries and bread in the Citroën Méhari they had at their disposal for local errands.

I can still Continue reading “Herding a Dromedary’s Lost Siblings (1)”

The Big Idea

Who were I.D.E.A anyway? 

(c) auto-forever

And then there were four. 

Once dominated by the twin pillars of Bertone and Pininfarina, the leading Italian car-design consultancies found their hegemony (and profitability) threatened by the dramatic arrival during the early 1970s of a precocious interloper by the name of Giorgetto Giugiaro. His ItalDesign consultancy quickly established itself as a formidable adversary, capable of delivering turnkey projects in both product design and engineering.

A decade or so later, and seemingly just as abruptly, another significant player entered the field. By the tail end of the 1980s, the Institute of Development in Automotive Engineering (I.D.E.A) was going head to head with the big-hitting Italian carrozzeiri, having gained the patronage of Fiat with perhaps the largest and most ambitious vehicle programme in its history. Yet they appeared to have arrived from nowhere. Continue reading “The Big Idea”

The Fate of Empires

“Black Badge is for those who reject conformity and live life on their own terms. It’s for the innovators, trailblazers, rulebreakers – and above all – those who dare.” Rolls Royce Motors.

Be indoors by nightfall… Black Badge Cullinan, recently. (c) Autocar

The highly decorated former British soldier, subsequent historian and writer, Lieutenant-General Sir John Bagot Glubb published his noted essay, The Fate of Empires and Search for Survival in 1978. Having spent over forty years in the British army observing England’s Glorious Empire wither into insignificance, he was probably well placed to Continue reading “The Fate of Empires”