Great European Cars: Help Driven To Write Decide

Over the Easter period there will be a series of articles on the best European cars. I have my own ideas of what these might be.

Reassuringly British inside and out: the 1976 Talbot 1510

However, I would like to ask the DTW readership if they have some suggestions. You can propose attributes of a great European car or you can suggest actual candidates for the list. I would probably prefer discussion on the attributes though: is it engineering, style, quality, handling or performance? It is about aristocratic manners or it is about democratic good taste? Is it about the ability to Continue reading “Great European Cars: Help Driven To Write Decide”

The Tri-Arrow Takes Aim

Two impressive Geneva concepts from India’s largest carmaker suggests a growing maturity and ambition. We investigate.

Tata 45X concept. Image credit: burlappcar

It may surprise you to learn that Tata Motors have been part of the Indian automotive landscape for over 70 years. For most of that time, Ratan Tata’s motor business concentrated on the commercial field, before becoming famous for the Nano, billed as the World’s cheapest car. But they are probably best known for their surprising (and lucrative) 2008 acquisition of what became Jaguar Land Rover.

In its two and a half decades in the passenger car business, Tata have been predominantly a domestic player, but as the Indian car market has grown both in size and relative sophistication, Tata, in conjunction with its design and engineering satellites in both the UK and Italy, has reshaped its domestic offerings to compete with the big names.

The commercial failure of the entry-level Nano illustrated how difficult it is to Continue reading “The Tri-Arrow Takes Aim”

Geneva 2018 Reflections – The Lion the Cross and the Curve

Two significant saloon cars debuted at Palexpo this week, but according to our man pounding the show floor, only one makes the grade.


As any traveller will tell you, getting upgraded from economy is much easier said than done. Indeed, the more habituated one is to travel economy, the key to that threshold appears even more arbitrary and capricious. PSA knows all about this. Having squandered brand-Peugeot’s upmarket credentials during the 1980s and having got their creepy ‘drive-sexy’ phase out of the way latterly, the Lion of Belfort has been painfully clawing its way back to some semblance of stylistic and reputational credibility.

Last year’s EcotY-winning 3008 crossover marked a turning point for Peugeot, being perhaps the first Sochaux product to Continue reading “Geneva 2018 Reflections – The Lion the Cross and the Curve”

Geneva 2018 Reflections – Above and Beyond

Reporting from the 88th Geneva motor show, Driven to Write, in conjunction with Auto-Didakt searches in vain for signs of progress amid the weaponised SUV landscape.

Image credit: new atlas

Having launched what is quite likely the star of the Geneva motor show in the comely form of the Jaguar I-Pace, JLR are quite understandably basking in peer-group approbation and the warm glow of being on-zeitgeist. But meanwhile, there is more conventional fare to be made and sold – and a bottom line to be protected. After all, introducing a BEV is a witheringly expensive business, especially one whose sales potential still remains a relative unknown.

So offering what is arguably the yang to the I-Pace’s ying, JLR also debuted the limited-run Range Rover SV Coupé – all £220,000 (before options) of it. To be constructed at JLR’s Special Vehicle Operations atelier in Coventry, only 999 examples will Continue reading “Geneva 2018 Reflections – Above and Beyond”

Geneva 2018 Reflections – Song to the Sybil

Continuing his review of the 88th Geneva motor show press days, Kris Kubrick consults with the oracles at GFG Style.


Last week, we presented the CAD-rendered images of GFG Style’s newest concept. GFG is the latest business venture of perhaps the World’s most famous (certainly most influential) car designer following his surprise departure from the VW-owned Ital Design, a carrozzeria now rendered doubly irrelevant.

The Sybilla concept was reviewed here in less than eulogistic fashion and to be fair, the official images were Continue reading “Geneva 2018 Reflections – Song to the Sybil”

Geneva 2018 – Reflections in a Golden-I

Our Auto-Didaktic Geneva correspondent casts his eye over Jaguar’s I-Pace and comes away impressed.


Last week we discussed the advent of JLR’s EV pathfinder and pondered how many brave pills Dr. Speth and Jaguar’s Ian Callum had ingested prior to the car’s reveal last thusday. The answer? Continue reading “Geneva 2018 – Reflections in a Golden-I”

Geneva 2018 Reflections

Not content with one, DTW has two embedded correspondents roaming the fleshpots of the 88th Geneva show press days. Today, Kris Kubrick casts an Auto-Didaktic eye on Palexpo’s highlights.

Aston Martin’s “daft” Lagonda EV concept. All Images: Auto-Didakt

First up is the Mercedes i30, sorry – A-Class. (It gets so confusing these days) So having taken lines and creases out of everything, one is left with… well, this one supposes. Best Continue reading “Geneva 2018 Reflections”

Free Ideas, Playful Minds

Far from simply purveyors of amusing retro-curiosities, Japan’s 10th most significant car maker is in fact at the forefront of modern luxury.

Image credit: kingautos

You’ve got to hand it to the Japanese. For a country which is often characterised by rigid social conformity and deep-rooted behavioural reserve, they do seem to have an interesting sense of humour, albeit one that doesn’t always translate that well.

While one wouldn’t necessarily Continue reading “Free Ideas, Playful Minds”

European Car of the Year 2018 – The Winner Is…

Never mind the Oscars, today is ECotY time.

As is now a Driven to Write tradition, roving reporter Robertas Parazitas reports live from Geneva at the 2018 Car of the Year awards. Continue reading “European Car of the Year 2018 – The Winner Is…”

Mainly Found Wanting – The European CotY prospects

It’s amazing what you’ll find washed up on beaches these days…

Source: European Car of the Year

Is it only for me that the first two months of 2018 have flown by? On Monday it will be time to gather in the rather gloomy hall in the backlands of Palexpo to hear the results of European Car of the Year 2018, along with the grandees of the world’s automotive media, and a few captains of the motor industry feigning insouciance, in the face of the reality that a CotY win still has real sales and profits value.

The Salon des Refusés is often more interesting than short list nominees. We should not be surprised that Continue reading “Mainly Found Wanting – The European CotY prospects”

A Tale of Two Towers

Two of the more storied automotive marques happen to have owned representative headquarter buildings at some point. The respective fates of these edifices has proven somewhat poignant.  

photo (c)

High-rise buildings inevitable lend themselves to illustrate human hubris. As the building of a monument to oneself is among the least humble of acts imaginable, skyscrapers typically invite less-than-kind comparisons: From the bible’s Tower of Babel to JG Ballard’s High-Rise, architecture aiming for the skies regularly acts as a metaphor for an aloof state of mind.

The automotive industry, whose core business of selling a commodity finds itself in constant battle with that product’s simultaneous role of a social entity, is even more prone than others to Continue reading “A Tale of Two Towers”

Stroke of Fortune

Another future postponed. Today we look at an engine technology from the early 1990’s which, for a short time at least, looked like a certainty.

Posterchild for Orbital, the 1993 Pininfarina Ethos. Image credit: hooniverse

Where do ideas go to die? Are blueprints simply rolled up and secreted away, to be dusted off by historians in decades hence or are there engineers in a quiet workshop somewhere in Australia (or Toyota City) still burning with religious fervour for what now appears to have been something of a lost cause?

Founded by engineer, Ralph Sarich, the Orbital Engine Corporation was based in Perth and during the early 1990’s attracted the interest of a number of big name manufacturers for a clever reworking of the time-honoured but somewhat flawed two-stroke engine design. For a short period of time, it sounded tantalisingly like Continue reading “Stroke of Fortune”

A Terrible Cloud of Unknowing

Almost three years on from VW’s monumental lapse of judgement, the only thing that is clear amid the noxious murk is an overwhelming and potentially damaging lack of clarity.

Image credit: greenfleet

Not simply a colossal failure and a swingeing indictment of VW’s corporate culture as espoused by the management style of former chairman, Ferdinand Piëch, the repercussions of VW’s 2015 betrayal are proving even wider and faster-accelerating than anyone might reasonably have anticipated.

The savage irony of course is the fact that as predicted on these pages, VW itself has Continue reading “A Terrible Cloud of Unknowing”

Crossed Over

The recent crop of new models coming from Munich inevitably leads to a simple question: What on Earth has been going on at BMW in recent years?

 Backside design, photo (c)

Ever since the Neue Klasse reinvented and saved the brand, BMW could only ever, leaving matters such as personal taste aside, be described as assertive.

Assertively conservative insofar as an adherence to driven rear wheels, straight six engines and the evolution of the themes established by the Neue Klasse were concerned. Assertively daring when it comes to Continue reading “Crossed Over”

No Resistance

As Tesla outsells its German flagship market rivals on home turf, have we reached that much anticipated watershed or are the majors about to nick Elon’s lunch money as he’s about to cash in?

Everybody say Ohm. Image credit: Tesla

Last week it was reported that European sales of the Tesla Model S outstripped those of the German luxury flagship saloons for the first time, marking an alleged pivot point for the adoption and acceptance of electric vehicles across the region. A watershed moment perhaps or simply sensationalist reporting?

Fair question, because firstly there is some conjecture as to whether the Model S is a direct rival to the S-Class Mercedes and its ilk, especially when Elon Musk himself describes it more as an E-Class and Five Series competitor. Sizewise, Musk is broadly correct, but in terms of price, he most certainly isn’t. But regardless of which segment of the market it’s aimed, for a section of society who have the financial wherewithal to Continue reading “No Resistance”

A Proton Saga

At Driven to Write, we believe all marques have a story to tell and today’s subject, from a half-forgotten outlier is no exception. But before we get to the subject at hand, it’s probably worth a little recap.

Okay, not a Saga, but a Savvy. Image credit: Parkers

The Proton motor company was founded in 1983 and until the advent of rival, Perodua a decade later, was the sole indigenous Malaysian carmaker. Initially partnered with Mitsubishi, who for a time owned a minority stake in the business, Proton cars were mildly reheated Mitsubishi models, like the unfortunately named Saga, which was Perusahaan Otomobil Nasional’s earliest offering in the United Kingdom – first introduced in 1989.

But despite its senior citizen connotations, the Saga proved a successful model line, with over 30,000 sold in the first three years. Indeed, Proton was for a time at least, viewed as Continue reading “A Proton Saga”

Two Cities, One Car

A clumsy name for a rather clumsy car. Ten years ago, Alfa Romeo took aim at the MINI (and its ilk) and missed. We plot the MiTo’s wobbly trajectory.

Image credit: autokult

Alfa Romeo has throughout its long history enjoyed a distinctly patchy relationship with small cars. Pre-War, such a notion would probably have been laughable but even in the latter half of the 20th century, despite the occasional prototype, the smallest car Portello actually got round to Continue reading “Two Cities, One Car”

Geneva Motor Show 2021 Preview: Mercedes-Benz A-class

In an exclusive preview ahead of its unveiling at the 2021 Geneva show, Driven To Write can reveal the significantly refreshed Mercedes A-class.

Official designer’s sketch of the 2022 A-class, photo (c) Driven To Write

The current Mercedes A-class, internally dubbed W177, receives an extensive mid-life facelift, to be officially presented at the 91th Geneva International Motor Show. Ahead of the world premiere, Driven To Write can provide exclusive insight into the most significant overhaul the A-class model has ever received.

“It’s time to be bold. It’s time for creases”

Daimler AG’s Chief Creative Officer, Gorden Wagener proclaims that the refreshed A-class is more than the regular nip-&-tuck-job. “The A-class is one of our icons. It is the most premium car in its class, and this new design shows that more than ever.”

Styling, incidentally, is the focal point of W177’s overhaul. Since its market introduction in 2018, the current A-class has turned out to Continue reading “Geneva Motor Show 2021 Preview: Mercedes-Benz A-class”

German Ambassador – Karl-Heinz Kalbfell

The history of the motor industry is littered with lost causes and alternative realities. Today, we look at one of the more poignant examples.

Karl-Heinz Kalbfell. Image credit: speedweek

Even in automotive terms, Karl-Heinz Kalbfell is not a household name, although perhaps he ought to be. The late German engineer and product supremo enjoyed a stellar career at BMW and in 2004, landed what appeared to be not only a dream job, but one which promised truly great things.

Kalbfell, an engineering and marketing graduate, joined BMW AG in 1977, gaining responsibility for such programmes as Continue reading “German Ambassador – Karl-Heinz Kalbfell”

Hammer Time

Another year, another Maserati sales crisis. But just how tarnished are the Trident’s prongs?

Image credit: motor16

It does appear at times that the only Maserati news is bad news. When we last reported on the Tridente’s fortunes in 2015, a woebegone tale was unfolding, with FCA’s Harald Wester revising his forecasts downwards in the wake of disappointing sales.

Last Autumn it was widely reported that production at the Mirafiori plant which builds the Levante crossover (and Alfa MiTo incidentally) was temporarily halted, owing to changes in Chinese regulations regarding the manner in which manufacturers and dealers should Continue reading “Hammer Time”

The Company You Keep

Alfa Romeo’s choice of ‘brand ambassador’ is inspired – and telling, maybe in more ways than intended.

The new face of Alfa Romeo, in front of a non-Alfa Romeo, photo (c) Kinja

Unlike so many ‘brand testimonials’, Giovanni Giorgio (or Hansjörg, as his mother referred to him) Moroder isn’t the kind of person who caught the public eye for all the wrong reasons. He never had his own reality TV show or featured in a programme of this kind as a guest. He didn’t enjoy a very public, tabloid-filling affair of the romantic or some other variety.

Giorgio Moroder is merely a pop music giant. Which makes his appointment as ‘brand ambassador’ for Alfa Romeo’s still relatively new Stelvio SUV appear Continue reading “The Company You Keep”

Doubt and Disbelief

There’s little doubt. Toyota have a hit on their hands in the C-HR crossover. But what are the implications for its more reserved hatch sibling?

‘Fierce ugly’? C-HR. Image credit:

As even the dogs in the street know by now, the way of the Crossover is the path the European industry is hell-bent on pursuing. Decry it all we wish, the buying public appear to prefer the cut of its jib, its loftier driving position, its faint (if somewhat fraudulent) air of go-anywhere capability.

The automotive equivalent perhaps of a pair of Sketchers* trekking shoes, the marketing message exudes that ‘I’ve just emerged from my mindfulness class and now I’ll probably Continue reading “Doubt and Disbelief”

Signs of Our Times

Is the rejection of historical displays of excellence a sign of daring boldness – or the revelation of glaring ignorance?

photo (c)

For the sake of readership enjoyment, we shall not again repeat the litany about how Mercedes-Benz ‘ain’t what it used to be’ and how Swabian diligence has given way to Sensual Purity®.

NuMerc is upon us, there’s no doubt about it. So rather than Continue reading “Signs of Our Times”

The German Patient’s Geneva Sicknote

What are we to make of the news that Opel will not be exhibiting at the Geneva Salon in March?  The announcement came on 16 January, just over six weeks before the show opens to the world’s media.


The official justification from new owners Groupe PSA is that “If there is no new product, then the brands won’t be there”. The under-performing PSA premium brand DS will also not be represented at Palexpo; that’s a distraction I’ll not pursue further.

The corporate excuse is unconvincing. The Grandland X has only recently gone on sale, likewise the Insignia GSi, drearily named but interestingly specified.

Even in the belt-tightening Tavares era, it wouldn’t be beyond PSA’s means to Continue reading “The German Patient’s Geneva Sicknote”

Breakfast In Bath

Occasionally I trawl randomly among the newsroom pages of various car manufacturers. What did I find this time?

2018 MG GS: MG Cars UK

The first marginally interesting snippet involves MG Cars. Despite it all, they are selling more and more cars albeit not many more cars.

“More than 4,440 new cars were registered by the iconic MG Motor UK brand in 2017, an increase of around 6% year-on-year, according to the latest data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) released today (4th January 2018). In December alone, MG Motor UK achieved 100 additional unit sales over 2016 figures, thanks largely to the roll-out of the new MG ZS Compact-SUV. ”

Another thing I discovered was that Continue reading “Breakfast In Bath”

Fiat Nox (I)

Apart from contributing more than a few inventions of enormous importance and automobiles of superior significance, Fiat have also established themselves as true masters of the counterproductive facelift.

Ritmo, post surgery, photo (c)

Italy unquestionably is a country of immense creative energy. More to the point, it is one of the hotbeds of automotive design and style, not to mention: taste.

And yet few marques have so comprehensively struggled to give its products a stylistic boost halfway through their respective productions runs as Fiat has. So much so, in fact, that describing any facelift effort as ‘Fiat bad’ acts as a fixed term denominating a particularly ill-advised attempt at refreshing a car’s design.

So, in order to Continue reading “Fiat Nox (I)”

Hope Springs

Suspending his disbelief, Driven to Write asks whether Citroen’s claims for their Advanced Comfort® programme are worth their weight in hydraulic fluid.

The face of convergence. Nu-Cactus. Image: Autocar

Last October, Citroën announced a heavily revised C4 Cactus, intended not only to boost the fortunes of the established (and fading) model, but also to replace the moribund C4 hatch. As we know, in so doing, Citroën abandoned the original car’s distinctive and pleasingly unaggressive style, reverting to a less polarising, yet also more generic look. More grown-up, as the gentlemen of the press might put it.

Views on the car’s visual transformation have already Continue reading “Hope Springs”

Three Lions

You wait decades and three motoring ‘big beasts’ relaunch at once.

Hot and Cool. Nu-Gee. Image: daily express

Every movement has its icons and given where we are now I think we can probably describe the current SUV contagion as a movement. In terms of icons, the holy trinity of sports utility vehicular worship appears to consist of the Jeep Wrangler, Land Rover Defender and Toyota Landcruiser. Just outside, but banging rather conspicuously at the door is Mercedes with its interloper G-Wagen.

The original Willys MB Jeep is known to all – man, woman and small dog. Created as a military vehicle during the second World war, it entered full-scale production in 1941, going on to Continue reading “Three Lions”

Those are the Headlines – Happy Now?

No sticklers for current affairs are we, (spin cycles etc…) but given that it’s my first dedicated 2018 post, I thought I’d confound expectations. Mine, as much as yours.

Ford CEO, Jim Hackett. Image: CNBC

Earlier this week, Autocar’s reverse-cassandra, [this analogy doesn’t entirely hold water, but bear with me] spoke to Ford Motor Company CEO, Jim Hackett, obtaining assurances that the American car giant has no intention of following General Motors out of the European car market. “I have in my hand a piece of paper…”, Steve Cropley didn’t quite say.

What he did however was to Continue reading “Those are the Headlines – Happy Now?”

Anniversary Waltz 2017: Sweet Smell of Success

Our final retrospective waltz in this series lands in 1957.

Bert Lancaster as JJ Hundseker and Tony Curtis as Sidney Falco from the 1957 Alexander McKendrick release, Sweet Smell of Success. Image: video city

1957’s Sweet Smell of Success was an unusual film for its era, made by a director better known for lighthearted comedies, casting its two leads against type and portraying a seedy, rapacious twilight world behind the gloss of celebrity culture. In that respect, it was a very modern film, but it was one the public were not ready for, dying on its feet in cinemas.

Its two leading men, Bert Lancaster and Tony Curtis whose on-screen relationship was characterised by Continue reading “Anniversary Waltz 2017: Sweet Smell of Success”

Anniversary Waltz 2017: Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow

Driven to Waltz writes into 1977.

Image: carsbase

Whether it was Liz’s Jubilee, BL’s annus horriblis, the death of Elvis, the first space shuttle flight or the beginning of the Star Wars juggernaut, 1977 was a year of transitions. Even the music business reflected this, with Fleetwood Mac’s cocaine and divorce epic, Rumours topping the album charts while David Bowie (now off the white powder) offered the icy sheen of Low, a record which suggested a future (if not necessarily the future).

Meanwhile the auto business was still trying to make sense of a drastically  altered set of realities and perhaps beginning to Continue reading “Anniversary Waltz 2017: Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow”

Anniversary Waltz 2017: ‘Oh the Eastern Sea’s So Blue’

The waltz continues its overdue retrospective sweep through 1987.

LJK Setright liked it so much he bought one. 1987 Honda Prelude. Image: Japanese SportCars

By the mid-80’s the Japanese car companies were beginning to really give the European car business the willies, with the UK’s Car magazine bewailing their advent in luridly melodramatic terms. With Honda’s existing midliner being Accorded viable 3-Series rivalry status, Minato-Tokyo prepared a fresh salvo into the hearts and minds of their European rivals with this third generation Prelude.

Utilising the core body structure of its 1982 forebear, the ’87 car’s smoother, softer style and lower nose (made possible by the engine being canted back 18°) lent it a visual grace its predecessor slightly lacked, but its distinctly three-volume silhouette meant Continue reading “Anniversary Waltz 2017: ‘Oh the Eastern Sea’s So Blue’”

[Badge] Engineering Failure: VW

I realise it’s an old and oft-discussed issue, but I have experienced VW shooting itself in the badge.

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I was recently loaned a brand new VW Golf Estate for the day whilst my Octavia of similar form was in for its 10k oil-change. I have frequently read over the past few years how the differential between VW Group’s brands has blurred, but this is the first time I was presented with an opportunity to witness the phenomenon so directly. And, although I should not have been, I was a bit taken aback at the experience.

I’ve always kept the view that the Golf is a bit special. A cut above. Very cleverly set aside from Continue reading “[Badge] Engineering Failure: VW”

Anniversary Waltz 2017: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

In a series of articles, Driven to Write gives 2017 the meta treatment.

2007 Audi A5. Image:

It’s normally customary at this time to reflect upon the just-departed year, its themes, its happenings and how these events might offer some guide to the coming one, but my DTW colleague-in-arms has already covered that. No, what I am offering today (and over the coming days) is to all intents and purposes a series of retrospectives on a series of retrospectives. Well after all it’s Driven to Write you’ve blundered upon, what exactly were you expecting?

Over the past 24 months, I’ve chronicled various (arguably?) significant cars, marking their various anniversaries and have found it to be a rich seam. After all, it’s pleasing to Continue reading “Anniversary Waltz 2017: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”

Westminster Sketches 2: Len Lord’s Revolt Into Style

1955 was a decisive year for the British Motor Corporation, as it set its product direction for the next decade. A certain gentleman of Graeco-German parentage was said to have played an important part in the process.

The person I refer to is not, as some might think, the confirmed bachelor from Smyrna, but the husband of Queen Elizabeth II.

It is unlikely that HRH The Duke of Edinburgh was aware of Alec Issigonis’ imminent return to BMC when he visited Longbridge on 8 December 1955, but the supposed interaction of Lord and the duke, and the repercussions thereof have become part of the daemonology of BMC.

The widely reported version is that the royal visitor was taken Continue reading “Westminster Sketches 2: Len Lord’s Revolt Into Style”

Paths Of Glory

The most visual social media network, Instagram, provides car designers with the perfect platform to present their work. Or themselves. 

Screen Shot 2017-12-05 at 18.05.02
Nothing Can Keep Gordenstagram Down

In a sense, Harley Earl was too early (no pun intended). If he’d waited three quarters of a century before pursuing his career as chief designer and PR innovator, he wouldn’t have needed lavish GM roadshows and the likes to showcase the fruit of his and his underlings’ labour. He could just Continue reading “Paths Of Glory”

Anniversary Waltz 2017 : Wirtschaftswunder-Wagen

Three German cars, each of which share a birthdate and a complex web of gestational links, share one further distinction. Each helped put post-war Germany back on four wheels.

1957 BMW 600. Image: MODern deSign

Sixty years ago, Europe was still reeling from the effects of World War Two. Germany was inching its way back to political credibility and prosperity thanks to the economic miracle and a little help from an American named Marshall. Mobility was very much the name of the game, with most domestic manufacturers focusing on simple, affordable cars for everyman.

BMW’s Eisenach works found itself on the wrong side of history by the end of hostilities, situated in what had become the Russian sector of a partitioned Germany. Producing exclusive and unprofitable V8 engined luxury cars wasn’t going to Continue reading “Anniversary Waltz 2017 : Wirtschaftswunder-Wagen”

Sensuelle Pureté

An oddball concept car by an almost forgotten French coachbuilder retrospectively turns out to be an almost eerily prescient source of inspiration. 

Was this on Gorden Wagener’s bedroom wall? photo (c)

Daimler AG Chief Creative Officer and creator of hot & cool Sensual Purity®, Gorden Wagener, once stated that he doesn’t worship any other car designer, preferring to Continue reading “Sensuelle Pureté”

Leaping Sideways Into the Morning

I know very little about the history of European automotive engines. Were I to spend five months finding out about the topic, this is how I would organise the information…

Image: gamma.consortium

First, I would outline the principles of petrol engine design: thermodynamics, fluid dynamics and on to cylinder count, cylinder arrangement, displacement, cam design and further on. But I can’t cover it all so I would define a period to cover, say 1955 to 1995 (which is the most interesting for me). Next I would try to Continue reading “Leaping Sideways Into the Morning”

In China They Eat Dogs

Chris Bangle has returned to car design, but isn’t back.

Yes. This is an Automobile. photo (c) CNET

The most influential car designer of the past two decades has returned to the automotive realm. His message is more radical than ever – but his audience is an altogether different one than in the past. We needn’t listen to what he has to say, for we are not his audience anymore. Continue reading “In China They Eat Dogs”

Casting the Die

Lamborghini launched the Urus earlier this week, opening a ghastly new front in the SUV wars. But is its significance greater than simply its unabashed aggression? We have gathered some thoughts on the matter.

Weapons grade. Image: CNET

South of Revenna, and situated between the cities of Forli and Rimini, flows the Rubicone. From its source in the Apennine mountains, the river travels for about 80 km eastwards before meeting the Adriatic. In Roman times, it marked the border between Cisalpine Gaul and what we might call the greater Roman state. In 49 BC, General Gaius Julius Ceasar crossed this body of water with his army in direct contravention of the Republic’s laws, precipitating what can best be described as a military coup. As he did so, Ceasar not only unintentionally created a metaphor for the ages but is believed to have Continue reading “Casting the Die”

‘Car’, Car of the Year 1970

I recently purchased a reprint of Car’s Car of the Year 1970 feature (printed for publicity purposes for the UK distributor of a certain car company from the March 1971 issue by George Pulman and Sons Ltd Bletchley Bucks).  Almost (but not quite) as old as I am (what’s three years amongst friends?), it served to remind me what we are missing these days from motoring journalists.

OK, so the cover rather gives the identity of the car and its manufacturer away, but I’m not here to write about either, honest!

First, I refuse to mention the main subject of the feature, the car which won this prestigious award in 1970, on the basis that we get complaints that the manufacturer of said winning car receives far too much coverage on this site. Second, it’s the quality of the journalism which has bewitched me, much as it was the featured car which captured my attention to said publication in the first place. Third, I’ve given up on Citroën these days in any case (damn!).

The first thing to note is Continue reading “‘Car’, Car of the Year 1970”

Westminster Sketches 1: The Pre-Farina Cars

 Austin’s Ford Zephyr and Vauxhall Velox rival of the mid-1950s is scarcely remembered now, but it turns out to be a something of a forgotten hero.

Source: The Austin Motor Company Ltd.

The Austin Westminster story began with the launch of the A90 series in October 1954, nearly four years before the start of the momentous eleven month period in which Farina’s new styling ‘language’ for BMC was unveiled, layer by layer.

Austin’s chief stylist, Buenos Aires-born Ricardo Burzi, was responsible for shaping the thoroughly up-to-date, unitary bodied saloons and estates. His hands were somewhat tied by Continue reading “Westminster Sketches 1: The Pre-Farina Cars”

Hot and Cool. (But Mostly Hot…)

With the third generation CLS, Mercedes-Benz dials down the Purity but ups the Sensuality. Oh Gorden!

Blessed be his name. Prof. Dr. h.c. Gorden Wagener, Chief Design Officer, Daimler AG. Image: mercedes-benz

Having trawled through Mercedes-Benz’s predictably hyperbole-laden press release for the new CLS, the temptation to point both barrels feels overwhelming, but the author nevertheless promises to do his best. Instead, I’d like to reflect upon whether nu-CLS embodies a return to form for a model which perhaps did more to Continue reading “Hot and Cool. (But Mostly Hot…)”

Dirk’s Demise vs Luc’s Lamento

Bentley’s Bentayga SUV turned out to be an instant smash sales success. Yet the car that was intended to preview it was not only met with fright – it also cost its chief designer his job. 

Dirk’s swansong, photo (c) Car and Driver

Dirk van Braeckel’s career at Volkswagen had been one of sustained corporate ladder climbing. Having joined VAG’s Audi branch in 1984, he rose through the ranks at Ingolstadt, before being chosen to help re-launch the much-maligned Škoda brand. He did as he was asked with some aplomb, leading to a generation of Škodas that were not just competently styled, but, more importantly, conveyed a sense of thorough quality.

With hindsight, this first generation of VAG-engineered Octavia, Fabia and Superb models must be considered as conservative, competent, long-lasting pieces of design which stood the test of time without anyone really noticing. Continue reading “Dirk’s Demise vs Luc’s Lamento”

Word on a Wing

On the surface, Renault’s 1983 Gabbiano was simply an innocuous concept, but could it also stand as a metaphor for a decades-spanning rivalry?

1983 Ital Design Gabbiano. Image: Weilinet

Following former head of Citroën bureau d’études, Robert Opron’s move across Paris to head Renault’s styling studios in 1975, design responsibility appeared to remain an in-house arrangement. However over time, a decision was taken either by senior management or by Opron himself to Continue reading “Word on a Wing”

DS’ New Horizon

As brand-DS’ pathfinder model becomes available to order, we find ourselves once again asking, what on earth is the distinctive series for?

It’s the Louvre, so it must be art. Image: Evans Halshaw

Yesterday, Autocar reported that PSA’s new DS7 Crossback crossover is now available to order in the UK market, with RHD deliveries starting in early 2018. Pricing ranges from about £28,000 in entry-level Elegance trim to over £43,500 for the highest specification ‘Ultra Prestige’ model. That’s right up there with ‘Premium Luxury’ in the redundant nomenclature stakes wouldn’t you say? Isn’t ‘Prestige’ prestigious enough any more? One could be forgiven for imagining DS’ marketers Continue reading “DS’ New Horizon”

Fifty-one Times Maybe is Still Maybe

Earlier in the day we had a close look at a bit of the Peugeot 605. What was missing?

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The short answer: Peugeot’s design and production dodged the ugly groove that normally indicates a weld, right under the lamp. This means that a not inconsiderable amount of work had to be done to match the weld seam to the metal on either side of it. Audi avoided this by bringing the bootlid right down to the bumper. Mercedes didn’t. Continue reading “Fifty-one Times Maybe is Still Maybe”

A Concept for Sunday – A Break With a Backstory

The 1986 Eole was an exploration of what would happen if one truly applied aerodynamic theory to a Citroën CX Estate. The results were somewhat mixed.

Image: oldconceptcars

Truly aerodynamic vehicles tend to be fairly uncompromising looking devices for the most part. Citroën’s Eole concept from 1986 certainly wasn’t conventionally handsome, but it contained a lot of thinking that would become more widely adopted. The work of UK car designer, Geoffrey Matthews at the PSA/Talbot facility at Whitley, Eole was sanctioned ostensibly to give Citroën something new to show at that year’s Geneva motor show; the AX model (also styled by Matthews) not being due to Continue reading “A Concept for Sunday – A Break With a Backstory”

The Citroën C4 Hatchback is dead. All Rejoice.

The outgoing C4 is a car that will pass without comment or eulogy. Except here. Well, of sorts anyway…

Shut the door on your way out, there’s a love… The Citroen C4, yesterday. Image

They say that above every cloud lies blue sky, so while we get over our disappointment with the creative execution of the heavily facelifted C4 Cactus, its advent has brought about the demise of perhaps the least worthy bearer of the double chevron ever. Seemingly killed for lacking that now essential Citroën quality, its lack of joie de vivre and cynical adequacy has ensured that it no longer fits within Linda Jackson’s (bouncy) castle moat.

Announcing the decision to Continue reading “The Citroën C4 Hatchback is dead. All Rejoice.”