Anniversary Waltz 1988 – A Groovy Kind of Love

Driven to Write loses an uneven struggle to frame a rather unremarkable automotive year.

Phil Collins – Buster 1988 (c) agreatmovieblog.wordpress.com

Be it economically, politically, or indeed the arts, 1988 proved to be a year of transition. And while the UK music charts were increasingly dominated by the burgeoning counter-culture of dance music, some older orders remained stubbornly implacable.

Following his first solo album release in 1981, actor and former Genesis percussionist and lead singer, Phil Collins had become one of the World’s biggest grossing recording artists, amassing in the region of 150 million album sales. A large proportion of these came on the back of tracks like his chart-topping (across six countries) 1988 release – a cover of the 1965 Mindbenders’ single, Groovy Kind of Love, taken from the soundtrack of Buster, a sepia-toned UK made biopic of ‘Great Train Robber’, Buster Edwards, in which he also starred. Continue reading “Anniversary Waltz 1988 – A Groovy Kind of Love”

Adding Dimensions (I)

The car designer’s sketch, and how it is turned into a three-dimensional object, are no mere technicalities. 

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VW/Porsche Tapiro, styled and sketched by Giorgetto Giugiaro, photo (c) seriouswheels.com

How a designer illustrates his work matters. For any sketch betrays not only one’s technical skills, but one’s sense of proportion, style and, indeed, taste. To compare and contrast illustrations by some of the great car designers of the past with their descendants is therefore rather instructive.

Not just due to changing techniques and technology, the way in which designers depict their designs has dramatically changed over the past six decades. Whereas those stylists who had to rely purely on their hands, eyes and a few templates to create an impression of what they had in mind used to Continue reading “Adding Dimensions (I)”

Gone To Earth

Running the gauntlet of endless repetition, DTW’s resident kitty-fancier asks, how do you solve a problem like Jaguar?

(c) europeancarweb

In 2005, a chastened senior Jaguar executive conceded that both they and their Ford masters had made a strategic error, admitting to British parliamentarians that they had jointly pursued “a failed growth strategy” for the heritage marque. Once this realisation hit home, the residents of Dearborn’s Glasshouse began a fundamental rethink of the leaping cat.

Amongst the changes wrought was that Jaguar would henceforth emphasise its sporting credentials, with the cars’ dynamic dial being shifted from traditional values of NVH isolation and ride refinement towards matters of incisive turn-in and outright handling prowess.

The second strand to this change of ethos lay in abandoning the chase for sales volume, pushing them further upmarket. The key to this transformation was to Continue reading “Gone To Earth”

Think Fast Dr. Speth!

It’s not easy being an automotive executive these days, but spare a thought for one in particular.

(c) motori.ilmessaggero.it

While life for Auto-industry bosses everywhere is, to put it mildly, challenging, the situation facing Jaguar Land Rover CEO, Dr. Ralph Speth appears to be steadily worsening. According to a recent Financial Times report, JLR will announce up to 5,000 job cuts across the UK business in the new year as the carmaker implements a three-year ‘Project Charge’ restructure – a drive to Continue reading “Think Fast Dr. Speth!”

Lotus Rules Apply

Authorities have expressed concern as reports of unicorn sightings are once again rife in Norfolk.

2017 Lotus Elise Sprint 220 (c) Car

When former Lotus CEO, Dany Bahar packed his trunk and said goodbye to the Norfolk broads, the outpouring of relief was not only palpable, but most likely mutual. After all, for the former Ferrari sales and marketing supremo, the unglamorous environs of Hethel were unlikely to have been to his taste and for Lotus themselves, because his ludicrously unrealistic visions and spendthrift policies had to all intents and purposes bled the business dry.

In his stead, former PSA chief, Jean-Marc Gales became the putative safe pair of hands, successfully stabilising the business, arresting an alarming talent-drain and restoring a missing sense of purpose and fiscal rectitude. However, following last year’s partial acquisition of Group Lotus by Geeley Auto, Gales departed, replaced at Group Lotus by the Chinese car giant’s group head of engineering, Feng Qingfeng and directly at Lotus Cars by former JLR and Sunseeker Yacht executive, Phil Popham.

Following Geeley’s controlling stake in the business, many speculators and commentators converged around the notion that the Chinese motor group, who have so successfully stewarded Volvo’s post-Ford resurgence, and currently control Polestar, Lynk & Co, taxi builder, LEVC, Proton Cars and aero-car maker, Terrafugia would set Lotus on a similarly upward trajectory. Even those of a more cynical bent suggested that this would likely be the best (and possibly final) opportunity the historic specialist carmaker would be offered to Continue reading “Lotus Rules Apply”

Is There A Way Forward Through The Frozen Glass?

October the 6th 2018 seems like such a long time ago, doesn’t it?  On that day I posted a small item about the end of the line for ICE engines.

Perfect lead-in curvature

Today automotive News posted an item headlined “VW says next generation of cars with combustion engines will be the last”. The next sentence is “Volkswagen Group expects the era of the combustion car to fade away after it rolls out its next-generation gasoline and diesel cars beginning in 2026.” Hey sister, that’s 8 years away. Bloomberg has much the same story, by the way.

In my October 6th article I wrote “A car launched in 2018 might be replaced in 2025 leaving a short product cycle to recoup investments. That makes the period around now the last point at which it will be worth bothering to engineer for ICE engines.” I did not expect that. It means that VW will Continue reading “Is There A Way Forward Through The Frozen Glass?”

Betting The Empire

Can Fiat-Chrysler’s new CEO deal with FCA’s lopsided business or is it time to bring out the bonesaw?

FCA’s new CEO, Mike Manley. (c) Forbes

FCA’s late CEO, Sergio Marchionne was at various times hailed as something of a visionary, and without doubt, he achieved the seemingly impossible once he orchestrated Fiat Auto’s audacious takeover of the embattled Chrysler business in 2009. Nevertheless, an equally cogent argument could be posited that should Marchionne’s legacy simply be that of FCA’s continued existence, then it is built largely upon failure.

Why? Because despite his efforts, he was unable to Continue reading “Betting The Empire”

All Wrapped Up the Same

ECOTY 2019 is soon to be upon us. Who will learn to accept their reward this coming March?

(c) carscoops

As November slips silently from our grasp, and the season of good cheer has not yet fully broken upon us, we find ourselves at Driven to Write already looking ahead to March. But neither time, news agendas nor indeed my senior editor are known for qualities of patience or mercy, meaning I’m bound at least occasionally to report on the stories (as they say), that matter. The shortlist for the 2019 European Car of the Year award was officially announced this week, so let us take this opportunity to Continue reading “All Wrapped Up the Same”

Fontana di Nettuno

Is FCA’s Poseidon Adventure approaching its climax?

Three Tridents. (c) Maserati.ae

Last week, we examined FCA’s stewardship of Maserati and concluded that under the leadership of former CEO, Sergio Marchionne, several significant mistakes were made. Now that the carmaker is being lead by a newly constituted management team, what fate lies in store for the Trident of Bologna?

As has been reported, Maserati has seen a torrid 2018, shedding volume, margins and becoming an increasingly onerous drain upon the FCA business. At the end of October, as part of their responsibility to Continue reading “Fontana di Nettuno”

Blunting the Trident

Earlier this week, we reported on Maserati’s current woes. Today, we continue our analysis and pose a few uncomfortable questions.

(c)  Maserati

In the aftermath of Sergio Marchionne’s untimely death earlier this year, many observers offered a range of views as to the former FCA Chief Executive’s legacy. As is customary in times of personal tragedy, criticisms were muted and delicacies were observed. In his stead has stepped new CEO, Mike Manley, tasked with steering the still-listing FCA vessel through another four-year plan unlikely to be worth the powerpoint programme upon which it was scribed – both then and given the subsequent turn of events, now.

Armed with a hefty fire extinguisher, a hastily re-scribbled plan (subject to further change, no doubt), and a reshuffled team, his task, even for the more successful of FCA’s brand portfolio looks onerous. But for the ill-performing upmarket end of the spectrum, and especially its embattled Maserati business, it’s impossible to Continue reading “Blunting the Trident”

Smoke and Rob Roy Fridays: Orbiting Heaven

Today DTW turns didactic and we have a short history lesson about wheel cut-outs on the bodyside. Though we covered this a little in 2015 I thought I might elaborate.

1938 Buick Y-Job: source

The wheel cut-out is where all the sculptural activity of the body side has to meet a much more rigidly controlled boundary. To think of its form, imagine cutting a circular hole in a vertical plane. Then tilt the plane slightly so it leans away from the centre line. The next step is to Continue reading “Smoke and Rob Roy Fridays: Orbiting Heaven”

I am faded feathers and old bones on her ladder, enchanted

The Daihatsu Wake is not new, launched in 2014 but might be new to many readers. How does 3.39 metres strike you?

2018 Daihatsu Wake: source

The car conforms to Kei-car rules so it’s tiny, an exercise in very confined creativity. The third side glass stands out as a detail hinting at the car’s robustness, apparently citing the Mk1 Discovery. Notice the way the glass is allowed to Continue reading “I am faded feathers and old bones on her ladder, enchanted”

The Car That Killed Sobriety

The previous generation of Mercedes’ E-class was supposed to mark a return to the marque’s traditional values. Instead, it turned a great many of them into damaged goods. 

E350 CDI Elegance (W212) 2008
Round is out, photo (c) Daimler AG

Willkommen zu Hause. Die E-Klasse. Upon its market introduction in 2009, the newest Mercedes-Benz E-class was ‘welcomed home’. Attentive observers may ask when and why the E-class had left in the first place – an answer to which would require a return to the decade most people of Stuttgart Sindelfingen and Untertürkheim would like to forget : The 1990s.

The E-class for the ’90s, unveiled in the middle of that decade, was of course the W210 generation, which has since gained notoriety for issues of rust, profit-optimised engineering and styling that has aged as gracefully as the materials the Benz was made of. Continue reading “The Car That Killed Sobriety”

The Road to Zero

…is paved with good intentions. But where is it leading us?

(c) The Independent

Recently, Driven to Write held a metaphorical Bunsen burner to the feet of BMW development supremo, Klaus Fröhlich in the wake of some rather petulant comments he made. On this basis, you might be minded to Continue reading “The Road to Zero”

So Much Water, So Close to Home

The ‘first ever’ BMW X7 is amongst us and isn’t it just swell?

(c) BMW

There are increasing concerns for the wellbeing of storied carmaker, Bayerische Motoren Werke following recent revelations that the marque has been diagnosed with a virulent and potentially incurable form of hydronephrosis.

This is a condition where one or both kidneys Continue reading “So Much Water, So Close to Home”

Pour Forth The Vinho Verde

Changan were advertising for jobs in their European design centre. Who are they? What do they make? To find out I went looking. I found a car painted green too.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Since I don’t acually know anything at all about Changan and I know more than almost anyone else about most things, I figured you, dear readers, might likely appreciate this rapid trot through a list of cars from Changan. It’s a long one. I may not be able to deal with their 9-car range without causing this article to Continue reading “Pour Forth The Vinho Verde”

Quiet Please For The Giant Of Coimbra

Ever on the look out for items overlooked by the mainstream media, DTW has been out to land these stories for your delectation.

Recaro´s “seating tomorrow” concept: source

The focus today is on seating and fabrics. I found out that Adient, Johnson Controls and Recaro are part of the same group; Zedtex is an Asian supplier to OEMs and if you want a fabric like a Hermes scarf it seems you must Continue reading “Quiet Please For The Giant Of Coimbra”

To Lisbon, Pedro – Brazil Is In The Past

And that obviously means it’s the Paris Mondial 2018. DTW takes a closer look at some of the offerings on offer there.

2019 Smart For Ease interior: source

There appears to be a dearth of new cars this year. Fiat have nothing much to show for themselves. Lancia are again not presenting anything new and nor are MG, Hillman or Rover. Hybrid variants, re-showings of electric cars, tuned models and some facelifts make up the bulk of the products being touted for our delectation. It’s rather telling that I had to Continue reading “To Lisbon, Pedro – Brazil Is In The Past”

Bang! Bang! Click.

The following is a counterfactual version of a news-story published recently at Automotive News. Chery plans to tackle the European market, they say. They are moving in as General Motors abandoned the market entirely as it was all simply too much trouble for them.

2018 Buick Regal saloon: GM N America

To understand the weirdness of GM’s decision, try reading the ANE story with “GM” in place of Chery. Here is how it now reads:

“Detroit, MI – American automaker General Motors (GM) has selected Germany to be the base of its coming move into Europe. GM says it is America’s largest car exporter. The company is determined to Continue reading “Bang! Bang! Click.”

Lionel Rewrote A List

In recent articles we’ve been looking at over-styling of one form or another. I’ve also been considering the driving forces behind the phenomenon. Counterfactual time…

Another bloody Merc

Let’s take a trip in our time machine. It looks like a W-114 Mercedes but when the car gets to 45 kmph and the fan speed is set to high the car slips back in time to 1990. It also gives the driver the power to Continue reading “Lionel Rewrote A List”

End of the Adventure?

Brand-MINI is facing its biggest adventure yet. This one however, may not end well…

(c) orangewheels

It has been a fairly interesting week for BMW’s Oxfordshire outpost. MINI has been one of many UK-based carmakers predicting doom-laden scenarios should the British government’s hapless negotiating team fail to obtain a workable deal to exit the European Union early next year.

As part of its ongoing (and increasingly necessary) catastrophe-planning, BMW’s Cowley plant is set to Continue reading “End of the Adventure?”

Lost For Words

It doesn’t happen all that often, but the latest confection from DS Automobiles has your correspondent utterly confounded.

(c) vibilagare.se

I don’t know. I genuinely don’t. What does one say nowadays, when every recent new car announcement feels like another assault? Does there come a point when through exhaustion or simple attrition, one is forced to simply Continue reading “Lost For Words”

The Quintessence : (Part Three)

In 1968, Jaguar put all its saloon car eggs in one decidedly comely basket. We examine the likely causes.

(c) forum-auto

In 1964, a series of factors led Sir William Lyons to take the momentous decision to replace Jaguar’s multiplicity of saloon models with a single car line, betting the entire enterprise upon its success. Retrospectively of course, one could say he needn’t have worried, but at the time, it must have been a deeply anxious moment.

How did this state of affairs come to pass? To answer this, we must Continue reading “The Quintessence : (Part Three)”

Surf’s Up

Sometimes it’s necessary to look back in order to move forward.

Image: (c) Auto-Didakt

It’s a slightly forlorn image would you not agree? An elegant, if vaguely unsatisfying looking 1960s Italian GT is parked upon a deserted beachscape. The photo comes courtesy of the estimable Mr. Christopher Butt, he of the influential and painstakingly curated Auto-Didakt. The car? Well, you can read Christopher’s well-chosen words on this carrozzeria unicorn here, should your curiosity get the better of you.

The image serves as something of a visual metaphor – for the demise of the carrozzieri, of course, but also for something more. But first, some background. As our Auto-Didaktic cohort points out, during the post-war period, French and Italian coachbuilders struggled to Continue reading “Surf’s Up”

Selling England by the Pound

In an anti-climax to the series on the Triumph Acclaim, we summarise the legendary LJKS’s first review of the car for Car Magazine.

Car November 1981
Oddly, Car failed to feature BL’s Triumphant Acclaim on the cover of its issue in which LJKS’s legendary review appeared (Source: Pinterest).

“It is a delightful car to drive, but it is so ugly that too few people will ever discover that. Or so I thought when I was fresh from trying the Acclaim, lamenting the need to fetch customers into the showroom and put them into the car and onto the road before they closed their minds to the purchase. If only they could Continue reading “Selling England by the Pound”

After The джудже The исполин Will Be Among Us

A few days ago, I wondered which marque offered the most badge engineered cars in its range. So, shall we make an effort to investigate this?

2018 Fiat Talento: source

Naturally, I will have to go back to Fiat first. What do you think the result will be? Well, Fiat didn’t really Continue reading “After The джудже The исполин Will Be Among Us”

Flicking the Switch

“Electric now has a Mercedes.” Yes, but have you seen it?

(C) Media-Daimler

“EQ or Electric Intelligence by Mercedes-Benz is our electric mobility brand. EQ represents ‘Emotion and Intelligence’, two Mercedes brand values. It comprises of all essential aspects related to customer-focused electric mobility and goes beyond the vehicle itself.” Mercedes-Benz.

A recent conversation with an industry insider prompted an observation that at Driven to Write, we tend to give Mercedes-Benz’s Chief Creative Officer a bit of a hard time. In this individual’s not entirely unwarranted view, we have a tendency (as one might say in football parlance) to Continue reading “Flicking the Switch”

Ripples

The bland Triumph which owed everything to a low-key Honda led to the next collaborative effort which Car Magazine headlined as a ‘Bland Rover’. From such inauspicious beginnings came something of a revolution.

Project XX in launch guise. (c) Classicandperformancecar

“England Expects – but Austin Rover Struggles to Deliver”. Cover of Car Magazine in the issue which covered the launch and first drive of the Rover 800.

Looking back, the 800 could probably be acclaimed as a commercial success, in the UK at least, but its launch and early years were dogged by poor quality, bad reliability and uneven capabilities. It represented a faltering of the emerging track-record of BL-Honda cars in terms of reliability.

From the outside looking in, it is easy to Continue reading “Ripples”

The Quintessence : (Part One)

William Lyons’ masterpiece. In a series of articles, we celebrate an automotive high watermark as it marks its 50th anniversary.

(c) Jag-lovers.org

Without any doubt at all, the XJ6 is my personal favourite. It comes closer to than any other to what I always had in mind as my ideal car.” Sir William Lyons.

One bright spring morning in 1967, two men strode towards a lock-up garage in the grounds of an imposing Victorian stately home, amid the rolling Warwickshire countryside. As the dew shimmered on the immaculately tended lawns and borders of Wappenbury Hall, Sir William Lyons, Chairman, Chief Executive and spiritus rector regarding all matters aesthetic, led his European Sales Director, John Morgan to where Jaguar’s vitally important new car lay sequestered, in seemingly definitive prototype form.

An autocrat to the tips of his highly polished brogues he may have been, but Lyons nevertheless regularly canvassed the opinions of those he trusted, although having done so, he would Continue reading “The Quintessence : (Part One)”

Afterglow

The Acclaim did not live that long a life, but, in a quiet and unnoticed way typical of the car itself, its legacy can be considered to be enduring.

TA late
A late Triumph Acclaim – taken in the Heritage Motor Museum.

“NO OFFENCE. Reliability, something not always associated with BL products, was the most memorable characteristic of our LTT Triumph Acclaim, though the spritely Honda drivetrain also won it approval”. Title of Car’s Long Term Test article regarding an Acclaim HL which it ran over 28,000 miles in 18 months.

So, the Acclaim did achieve a reputation for reliability.

Ian Forster would have been delighted to Continue reading “Afterglow”

Black Puty

Some years ago, a German poultry giant tried to add a whiff of luxury to cold cuts. Today, BMW is attempting something eerily similar. 

black-puty1.jpg
‘Black Puty, are you trying to seduce me?’ photo (c) Wiesenhof

The German word for turkey is Pute (poo-tuh).

This needs to be kept in mind when envisaging a tv commercial playing to the tunes of Ram Jam’s Black Betty, advertising turkey cold cuts by the name of Black Puty. If this sounds utterly absurd, it is not due to cultural misunderstandings – for Black Puty is an utterly daft monicker, regardless of whether one’s mother tongue is German or English.

The company behind Black Puty is Wiesenhof, a German meat industry giant. And a company that, in 2010, when Black Puty was introduced, had even more of an image problem than it does eight years later. First of all, turkey meat never Continue reading “Black Puty”

Setting Son

More contraction. This time it’s Toyota’s unloved and unwanted Avensis. But will its putative replacement fare any better?

Hello Camry. Image credit: (c) motor1.com

Let us not feign shock, or indeed much by way of regret, after all it was signposted as far back as 2015 when DTW reported upon its likelihood, but this week Toyota made it official, announcing the cessation of Avensis production at their UK plant in Derbyshire. Their underwhelming Europe-only D-sector saloon has been in decline for some years now (with pan-European sales slumping to 25,319 last year*), and with the Derbyshire plant now only fulfilling existing orders, the end is only weeks away.

Similarly telegraphed is that it is to be replaced by the larger Camry model, the first breathless sight European customers will get of the storied nameplate in well over a decade. The Camry was withdrawn from sale in 2004, Toyota Continue reading “Setting Son”

This Night Has Opened My Eyes

The Alfa Romeo MiTo dies next year and to be frank, Driven to Write is neither happy nor sad.

Image credit: (c) uscarsnews

So the dominoes continue to fall. A little over a week since FCA announced the UK withdrawal of the Grande Punto (as a prelude to its ultimate demise), there comes the latest slaughter of the innocents.

Speaking to Autocar earlier this week, Alfa Romeo Head of Brand (EMEA), Roberta Zerbi confirmed the MiTo’s imminent appointment with the eternal, telling the Haymarket weekly’s Rachel Burgess; “Mito is a three-door and people are choosing more and more five-door cars,” which is a nice line in marketing spin, albeit one which Continue reading “This Night Has Opened My Eyes”

Missing the Point

Fiat’s geomorphic car crash hits another boulder with the axing of the Punto from UK shores.

Image credit: (c) allaguida

There is a certain grim irony in the fact that Sergio Marchionne’s death was so abrupt and shocking, yet for so many former Fiat Group model lines for which he was responsible, the reaper’s approach continues at a glacial creep. Amidst the halls of Melfi, Mirafiori and Cassino, unconsolidated glacial debris have been noted for some time, but with this week’s announcement of the Punto’s withdrawal from the UK market, the terminal moraine edges closer.

It comes as something of a surprise that Fiat UK saw fit to Continue reading “Missing the Point”

Struck By Lightning

Driven to Write’s pound shop Max Warburton considers Ford’s ongoing European woes and wonders if lightning does indeed strike twice?

(Loss) leader. 2018 Fiesta. Image: (c) cardissection

There has been, one can be assured, better times to be a motor industry executive. But as chilly as it might currently be at the top table of most European automakers, Ford’s Group Vice President, EMEA, Steven Armstrong is in perhaps a more invidious position than most. Because while nearly every rival player is facing similar difficulties, Armstrong’s position is compounded by last month’s announcement of a second half pretax loss of $73 million, a likely prelude to an even heftier one being posted for the year as a whole.

Naturally, since Mary Barra elected to Continue reading “Struck By Lightning”

Jury-Rigged?

The 1987 ECOTY winner was something of a DTW stalwart. Even more so however was the fifth placed entrant, one championed by longtime panellist and judge, L.J.K. Setright. 

1987 winner. Image credit: (c) wheelsage

Since its inception in 1964, the European Car of the Year has been an annual award, adjudicated by a panel of leading European motoring journalists. Its stated aim has been to acclaim the most outstanding new car to go on sale within the 12 months preceding the adjudication.

The ECOTY jury currently consists of 60 members, representing 23 European countries. National representation is based on the size and significance of the country’s car market. France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy and Spain each Continue reading “Jury-Rigged?”

Summer Reissue: The Vision Thing

I really ought to begin with an apology. Yes, him again…

Image credit: (c) motorauthority

Today’s reissue began life in another (now defunct) sphere, one where a good proportion of Driven to Write’s readers and (virtually) all of its editorial team took their initial steps. It was then titled, ‘Oh Dear God, Not Bangle Again!’ and one can readily imagine a similar exclamation from the combined DTW readership in light of this.

One of DTW’s very first articles, and at the time, something more of a hagiography, its subject remains as polarising a figure now as he was when it was first written. However, since then, not only has Mr. Bangle returned to the automotive fold (for better or worse), but perhaps sufficient time has now elapsed and perspective gained to Continue reading “Summer Reissue: The Vision Thing”

End Too Soon

The automotive universe reels as a giant leaves the stage.

Image credit: (c) toledoblade

It wasn’t supposed to end like this. The plan had been to anoint a successor in 2019, perhaps even bow out having secured the deal to end all deals. For almost a decade and a half, FCA’s Sergio Marchionne has been the master of the unexpected, but the sudden news regarding his deteriorating medical condition has brought a controversial reign to a premature, troubling and somewhat ambivalent end.

From his appointment as Fiat CEO in 2004, Marchionne appeared not to have bothered to read, never mind adopt the auto-business-CEO handbook. Arguably the first post-factual auto boss, Marchionne’s stock in trade has been to Continue reading “End Too Soon”

Plugged-In Thinking From Lexus

As the motor industry presses towards widespread adaptation of electric vehicles, a notable voice sounds a cautious note.

Image credit: (c) insideevs

As a rule, the motor industry prefers to speak with a unified voice on the wider issues which affect its interests. Certainly, when it comes to the subject of electric vehicles, the direction of current can probably be best described as direct. Or to put it another way, on this subject at least, most automotive CEOs are broadly speaking, on board.

Ideally of course, having invested billions, they would much prefer to Continue reading “Plugged-In Thinking From Lexus”

By the calm Kłodnica, a Waterfall Runs Dry

Image source: Vauxhall Press Room

We take a moment to reflect on the short career of the Opel Cascada, a glamorous under-achiever, conceived in the most parlous of times for its maker.

Its names were once legion, but the Cascada is no more. Production ended at Gliwice not long into 2018, but Vauxhall and Opel Ireland have only gone public on the matter in the last week. All over Europe, Opel’s national sales operations are Continue reading “By the calm Kłodnica, a Waterfall Runs Dry”

Cowley’s Japanese Boy

In this fourth part of our look at the Triumph Acclaim, we dwell on what at times seemed to be a bitter-sweet truth for BL; everyone knew the latest car from Cowley had a heart made in Tokyo.

Duran+Duran+1981
Ah, 1981, wasn’t it so … androgynous! It’s Duran Duran, for those too young or old to remember or care.

“We shouldn’t call this car British. When BL took over the standard of their cars went down. There’s no pride left in their work, only pride in opening their pay packets”; a quote in an article in Autocar from its survey of 200 members of the British public at the time of the launch of the Acclaim.

The best known and remembered aspect of the Triumph Acclaim was that it was originally designed, engineered and manufactured by Honda as the Ballade. Indeed practically every written reference to the Acclaim that can be researched from that time makes early, direct reference to the fact, for example: Continue reading “Cowley’s Japanese Boy”

AUTOpsy: VW Polo VI (2018)

VW’s staple supermini proves that too much of a good thing is still too much. 

fullsizeoutput_16b8

The Volkswagen Polo may never have matched its bigger brother, the quintessential Golf, in terms of significance or profit margins. And yet it was the previous generation of this car, the Polo V, that proved how serious VW’s then new management under (now) notorious CEO, Martin Winterkorn, was about redefining the brand.

The Polo V was a bit of a minor masterpiece – not just by the standard of this class of motor car. Assured, restrained, with an almost imperceptible, yet clear elegance in its surfacing and discreet detailing. It was, in short, almost everything the Polo preceding it (a heavy-handed facelift model with chintzy rear lights and the brand’s ungainly Plakettengrill at its front) wasn’t. Which leaves the question what this all-new Polo of 2018 has to Continue reading “AUTOpsy: VW Polo VI (2018)”

The Cambiano Connection

Pininfarina’s 1973 take on the seminal Jaguar saloon wasn’t their finest hour. But while it served to highlight a fundamental weakness in the Italian carrozzieri’s business model, it did lead to something more worthwhile.

1973 XJ12 PF. Image credit: (c) wheelsage

For the Italian carrozzieri it was a matter of intense pride that no manufacturer was creatively off limits, even one with as strong and universally lauded a design tradition as Jaguar. Predominantly the result of one man’s exceptional taste and unswerving vision, the craftsmen of Piedmont time and again Continue reading “The Cambiano Connection”

Critical Acclaim?

In this third chapter, we find out more about the fruit of the Bounty, and review some of the prose written by esteemed journalists on the cuckoo Triumph.

1972_cars_triumph_dolomite_sprint
What came before – a very nice example of a 1972 Dolomite

“The Triumph Acclaim is a good replacement for the aging Dolomite.  It is fast, comfortable, economical, and should be very reliable. Providing that the self-imposed restrictions of Japanese imports remain, the car should produce a handsome return for BL, but if cars like the excellent four door Accord become readily available, will people be prepared to accept less Honda for about the same price?” AutoTEST, Autocar, w/e 24 October 1981 (BC – Before Cropley!).

A review of technical specifications reveals that there is little that is remarkable about the three box, four door, saloon that was launched as the Triumph Acclaim on the 7th of October 1981. It had a modern, 1,335cc, four cylinder engine with eight valves and a single overhead camshaft, driving the front wheels via a 5 speed all synchromesh gearbox. The chassis was a steel monocoque, with a suspension system of coil springs over independent MacPherson struts and an anti-roll bar at the front.

A few aspects and features did give brochure-drafters and motoring journalists something to Continue reading “Critical Acclaim?”

Imagining the ‘After-SUV’

We’ve been here before I know, but somewhat akin to the crossover CUV itself, this one simply refuses to go away.

2017 Peugeot 3008: Image Credit: cars.co.za

Everything has a shelf-life, none more so than fashion items. Given their popularity with the buying public and the margins to be made upon their sale, compact crossovers have proliferated to an unsettling degree. So much so, it feels as though we are drowning in a CUV sea, whereas in fact they represent just a quarter of European new car sales.

This being so, the idea that crossovers could eventually Continue reading “Imagining the ‘After-SUV’”

Waiting For the Miracle

Today we posit something of a counterfactual. What if Maestro had preceded Metro?

Madge and Maestro – Downing Street 1983. Image credit: (c) BBC

Picking over the bones of long dead car companies is one of the more futile pastimes one can engage in, but in the case of British Leyland, it’s irresistible. So many factors contributed to the British car giant’s demise however, that to single out one area is to grossly over-simplify the larger, more nuanced, and far more depressing picture.

A former Jaguar engineering director once told me that BL’s senior management were in his words, ‘not of the first order’ and given their respective track records, both during the latter stages of the BMH period, in the years leading up to BLMC’s collapse in 1974, and during the post-Ryder era, it’s difficult to Continue reading “Waiting For the Miracle”

It’s the One From Tokyo, Not Mars.

In the previous instalment, we outlined how BL, under the driving ambition of Michael Edwardes, got in step with Honda, to collaborate on a new model. This time, we focus on the car itself and the choice of manufacturing plant, which took on almost as much significance.

Triumph-Acclaim-CD
In spite of claims at the time, BL’s ‘advanced’ paint and rust-proofing technology failed to prevent the Acclaim succumbing to the curse of the tin worm.

“According to Ian Forster, the men from Honda, who have been worried by problems with ‘orange peel’ in the paintwork of their own cars, are learning to minimise it by adopting BL’s techniques.”  Steve Cropley, Editor, Car Magazine.

The choice of model for Project Bounty, it seems, was largely determined by Honda. Hattori Yoshi (Car, November 1980) explains, “But why did BL pick the Ballade?  Well, they didn’t. The fact is that BL picked Honda as being the Japanese company with the most compatible technology and went cap in hand in search for a car – any car – to help them keep going. 

On the face of it, the Quintet looks a better bet for BL in that it would provide a hatchback where at the moment there is only the old Maxi. Why didn’t they have that? ‘Because we want to Continue reading “It’s the One From Tokyo, Not Mars.”

A Cut Above

As Germany’s full-sized luxury GTs lurch further into decadence and creative atrophy, we appraise (and praise) a Lexus.  

Image credit: (c) Car and Driver

Heritage has become something of a double edged sword for carmakers nowadays. On one hand, it acts as emotional anchor for a marque’s visual identity, and employed with sensitivity and skill, lends a tremendous richness to what marketers might choose to describe as the ‘brand narrative’.

On the other hand however, the anchor analogy can also have a regressive influence, dragging the marque backwards, preventing designers from updating or reinventing a set of visual cues which may over time have lost relevance.

It’s as yet unclear to what extent BMW’s masters have elected to Continue reading “A Cut Above”

Petuelring Ponycar

Here we go again. Another week, another dispiriting announcement from the Vierzylinder. The new 8-Series however represents a new low.

The riches of embarrassment. Image credit: (c) carscoops

At least it isn’t an SAV: It’s doubtful BMW’s all-powerful marketers will employ this line in their advertising for the new 8-Series, yet it just might be the sales pitch it deserves.

A curious car to consider in terms of BMW’s stylistic nadir, you might argue, after all what could be bad about a suave, low-slung GT? However, it does not require much study to realise the full extent of BMW’s current styling malaise which is embodied here. Because quite frankly, if this is the best Adrian van Hooydonk’s design team can muster, the crisis at the Vierzylinder is indeed far worse than feared.

While it’s tempting to Continue reading “Petuelring Ponycar”

The Tailor of Goodwood

Rolls-Royce has lost its design director, just weeks after launching its new Cullinan crossover. Coincidence?

Visible from space? Image credit: (c) Forbes

It wasn’t earth shattering news, even if it was somewhat surprising. The most striking thing about it perhaps was its timing. But even allowing for that, the news that Giles Taylor abruptly resigned his design leadership position at Goodwood within weeks of a major new product announcement might not even have been particularly noteworthy, but for a number of rather more compelling aspects.

The first of course is difficult to miss. Indeed, some have suggested Cullinan can be seen from space, where we’re reliably informed, nobody can hear you scream. The vulgar monstrosity RR has unleashed upon the world in the form of this ‘high-sided vehicle’ has precipitated a high percentage of commentators, both of the professional and armchair variety giving Rolls-Royce a well-deserved critical lashing.

It’s possible to Continue reading “The Tailor of Goodwood”