Phase One – 1972-1975: A Question of Style. Jaguar knew how XJ40 should look, but BLMC management had other ideas.
In October 1973, the complete XJ40 styling prototype was presented to BLMC’s Donald Stokes and John Barber. The car’s styling had evolved noticeably within the intervening twelve months, but the XJ-S-inspired lineage remained clear. The major differences lay in the height and shape of the canopy, the daylight openings – which now featured a six-light treatment – and the addition of an XJ-S-inspired lineal shoulder line. Overall, it presented a cohesive mid-1970’s projection of Jaguar saloon style. Continue reading “History Repeating: XJ40 Part 2”
Driven to Write met three (of four) Germans outside a supermarket in Aarhus. They had travelled in a VW camping van with two Simson mopeds.
We don´t really do motorbikes at DTW and VW camping vans aren´t part of our repertoire either but here is a brief report on the trip of Markus, Judith, Ludwig and Victoria from the Bodensee in Germany to Nordkapp in Finnmark, Norway. I met them as they were eating a spot of lunch outside my local supermarket. They were travelling in a rather used series T3 VW camper van (1979 to 1992) and two Simson mopeds. Simson were an east German firm based in Suhl. The firm also made firearms and cars during its existence between 1856 and 2002. It´s best known for its two stroke mopeds which are referred to by their fans as Simis and these constituted its post-war production. Continue reading “Northward Bound”
Driven To Write descends into facelift hell. Pray for us.
Today’s foray into facelift hades also stems from recent past. The original 2003 R230 SL series was, (like most Mercedes’ of its era), a good 35% less attractive than its far more comely (R129) forebear. Nevertheless, amongst the less than stellar offerings emerging from Sindelfingen under design chief, Professor Peter Pfeiffer during the post-Sacco era, the R230 in its original form was at least cohesive. Continue reading “Theme : Facelifts – New Adventures in Rhinoplasty”
This is a rather absorbing article from the good people at the Truth About Cars. It discusses the Renault Espace´s life in Brazil.
“Originally conceived by Renault and its partner, Matra, the first Espace appeared in 1984 and was initially greeted with a combination of intrigue and scepticism – nothing like Espace had ever been seen before. Flying in the face of accepted wisdom, the Espace epitomised Renault’s desire to push the boundaries of conventional design and create a car which met the changing needs of a rapidly evolving society.” (Automobiles Review, 2009)
It’s been going on for so long now, it almost seems a tradition. Fiat’s styling has always been variable. They have produced some great designs and some disappointingly dumpy ones, often in the same generation. But what is constant is that, when it comes to facelift time, however good or bad the original was, the facelift is always worse.
There are various theories I can offer and, not being a Fiat insider, that is all I can do.
In the repository of automotive facelifts, this example is something of an aberrant one. BMW’s E65 7-Series is commonly and perhaps justifiably regarded as BMW’s ‘they’ve gone stark raving bonkers’ moment. Adrian Van Hoydoonk’s styling was on one hand a genuine breath of fresh air, yet at the same time, a visual challenge of epic proportions.
How Bill Porter turned the sow´s ear of the 1986 Buick Riviera into something so much better.
In 1986 Buick in the US sold a medium-sized two door version of the Somerset, built on the N-body. In the way of GM´s demented renaming strategy, the Somerset tag was once a trim level of the Regal saloon but it escaped to become a separate line. The Somerset only lived for three years – the public didn´t take to the name, apparently. The Somerset had a tranverse, front-mounted 2.0 litre 4-cylinder or 3.0 V-6 engine driving the front wheels. The wheelbase was 103 inches (Americans don´t do metric). In terms we´d understand on this side of the Atlantic, it addressed the market that Volvo does with the C30 or Audi with the A3. Or if you imagine a 2-door Ford Focus notchback in Ghia trim you wouldn´t be wide of the mark. At the same time, Continue reading “Theme : Facelifts – A Facelift Better Than the Car It Was Meant To Save”
I am unable to address the Lamborghini Aventador LP700-4.
I´d wanted to write that I could say nothing about Ferrari´s current range of cars. However, as a matter of fact I devoted a whole post to their website some months back. That said, there is nothing much about Ferrari´s actual cars that attracts me. The last time I saw a new one (I really don´t know which it was but it was red) I was as unmoved as if I had been shown a trough of diamonds being tipped in a lake. Nonetheless, to be strict, I need to find a similar sort car to not talk about, one I haven´t even mentioned. The one in question is treated here. Continue reading “Cars I can´t write about 4: The 2014 Lamborghini Aventador LP 700-R”
The facelift, once a rather quirky thing, has become accepted. A nip, a tuck, a chop, a stretch. No-one seems embarrassed. Your Editor is aware of these things because, much as he would prefer to always shop at Fortnum and Mason, circumstances (thank you Eoin and Sean) dictate that he has to stand in supermarket queues with everyone else. Therefore he cannot avoid the temptation to browse through those strange little magazines on offer beside the tills and read about these things.
Some cars are gob-stoppers. I can´t bring myself to do more than glance at them much less expend any breath. Here´s one: the 2014 VW Passat.
So far I have picked a shopping trolley and a sportscar in my excursion through the list of cars I can´t write about. Keen observers of my output will say this is because I am an enthusiast for saloon cars. You can infer from this a low-self esteem if you like, or you can imply a liking for four-door cars from mainstream makers is an automotive version of a taste for “reader´s wives”. To deal with the second argument, I present the current VW Passat. Continue reading “Cars I can´t write about 3: 2014 VW Passat”
Some cars defy one’s capacity to describe or discuss them except in the most general terms. Here´s another, a Porsche of some type.
There was a 1970s example of one of these things parked on the road today. They are very rare around my district. I chose to look at a Vectra parked one space ahead of it. I’ve always admired the 2002 model’s headlamp design. When I was in Germany at Easter I saw a rare high-spect 2002 saloon in green metallic that made me catch my breath. The Porsche, on the other hand, doesn’t say anything. I can imagine a comfortable life trickling around in a Vectra, not being very bothered by much and enjoying the Opel´s robust easy-going nature. Continue reading “Cars I can´t write about 2: Porsche”
Some cars defy one´s capacity to describe or discuss them except in the most general terms. One of them is the 1996 Mazda Demio.
Here at DTW we spend a lot of time staring into the walls trying to fight off the ideas that spring up. The problem is that there are more ideas than time to do them justice. I´ve just blown three hours of my life penning a tract about Buicks and Opels. This was based on half a thought about the Opel Astra saloon that nobody cares about. How then can I say anything about the 1996 Mazda Demio which even I don´t care about?
Why does Opel matter to GM? How about sales of 500,000 cars a year in China and continued survival of Buick in the US.
How do we get from China to Warren, Michigan via Rüsselsheim? By Astra, of course.
In the late 70s the science journalist James Burke had an engaging series of programmes called Connections. It traced the links, innovations and the important contingencies that led from the distant past to the technology that we take for granted around us, such as plastic, for example. Behind the invention of this material lay the story of how the 17th Century Dutch preferred not to build warships but bulk carriers called hoorns; how the efficiency of these boosted the volume of trade which led to a need for more sophisticated finance methods… Continue reading “Cross-currents: From Tsingtao to Rüsselsheim to Michigan”
Pantomime Horses : Just how good is the 1986 Volvo 360 GLT?
by Roderick Darndon-Dramb. Photography by Bart Chappel. From “Autocarriage & Performance Drivercar” (March 1986).
The advertising says this is the Volvo that thinks it´s a Porsche. Clearly Volvo wants us to see this car as the driver´s choice. The people at Volvo have lost their minds. The 360’s aerodynamics remain submerged below the bottom of the league. The exterior is reminiscent of the Seagram Building rather than an F-40 jet. This is not a Porker.
Phase One – 1972-1975: A New Jag Generation. We examine the landscape within Jaguar as the initial XJ40 concept coalesced.
XJ40 underwent several distinct phases in its path to production, the first of which began with the 1968 launch of the XJ saloon, a car upon whose shoulders Jaguar would unknowingly place the next 18 years of its existence. The XJ was a superb car, its excellence the sum of several factors. The careful honing of proven hardware, a gifted development team, Jaguar’s V12 engine, and the appliance of stylistic genius. It would be the pinnacle of Sir William Lyons’ vision but as a new decade dawned, it was necessary to plan for its successor.
Daihatsu´s Japanese production declines for the first time in 8 months…
…but production overseas increased to compensate. And generally sales are down overall. Daihatsu gave up on Europe a few years back so the news that the Copen sportscar is to be revived may not do so very much to improve the sales picture. Still, it´s nice to imagine. What sort of a range does the Copen fit into? There is the Terios hatchback in five and seven seater guise, the Sirion hatchback and the Gran Max van which also comes as a pick-up. That make the Copen something of an outsider in a range of very practical vehicles, but it is still at least as small as the others. Continue reading “Death has a revolving door 3: 2014 Daihatsu Copen”
Sold in large numbers and once part of the corporate car-park, the 505 is now a rarity. But here is one example that almost looks attractive. But looks deceive.
PSA launched the 505 in 1979 with the purpose of providing a product in their middle ranks to replace the venerable 504. What the ´05 succeeded in doing was killing off interest in the 604 which had been on sale and doing quite well since 1976. The 505 was very slightly smaller and about 30% cheaper than the 604 and lot easier on the eye; the main differences between the two cars were that the newcomer lacked the messy dashboard and thirsty V6. The 505 range offered all the engines the 604 could and should have had. What Peugeot forgot to do was to Continue reading “Something Rotten In Denmark: 1986 Peugeot 505”
The sensation of speed is often as much a function of proximity as it is of exposure. The less there is between you and the road below, the more immersive the experience, as any Caterham owner will tell you as he attempts to draw your attention from the rain soaked, hand-tooled moccasins he knew he shouldn’t have worn. But really, if you want to experience speed at its most unadulterated, the racing bicycle stands supreme.
Design Footnote: somewhere inside Ford, someone nodded quietly to the firm´s past.
A few months back, while studying the parked cars in my area, I noticed that there was something deeper to the design of late-model Ford Mondeo Mk2s. Not very many cars have a solution that avoids both a horizontal and a vertical wraparound at the front end. The 2005 Mondeo has a design where the strongest line runs down the edge of the wing, down the lights and then goes horizontal under the valence, requiring a twist from forward to sideways mediated by a vertical descent. Usually the bumper and bumperettes interfere with this sort of a fold line being so clear. For this (and its generally extremely handsome, reserved form) the Mondeo deserves a credit. Continue reading “1965 Ford Taunus Versus 2005 Ford Mondeo”
How much fun do you really get out of driving like you stole it?
Speed is a measurable quantity. One of the characteristics of the modern age is the increasing dominance of quantity over quality. I see the two as dependent parameters, as necessary as the left and right wing of a jet. In the spirit of the times motoring journalism in recent years has tended to focus on the measurable and to underplay the quality of speed. Perhaps more precisely, they underplay the quality of motion. If you take the time to read a review of almost any very fast car you can find shards of statistics but very little intelligible insight on the character of the driving experience beyond attempts at subjective descriptions of on-the-limit handling. Continue reading “Theme : Speed – Quantity and Quality Thereof”
A new Jerusalem, or nothing but the same old story? In this series, we examine the car’s turbulent backstory and ask, was this the last Jaguar?
Taken as a single model line, the Jaguar XJ40 appears likely to remain the best-selling XJ series ever. Billed as the Jag without tears; a high-tech culmination of an unprecedented level of proving in some of the world’s most hostile environments, XJ40 represented a fresh beginning for an embattled marque. Launched in the aftermath of Jaguar’s escape from the restrictive influence of its British Leyland parent, XJ40’s 22-year journey encapsulates the most tumultuous period in its history and vividly symbolises the poisonous relationship between Jaguar management and their paymasters at BL. Yet for years now the car has been widely regarded with derision.
So many car design concepts intrigue and delight upon initial viewing but date as quickly. A notable exception to this truism sits below :
The 1992 Ghia Focus. First displayed at that year’s Turin Motor show to rapturous acclaim, it was a compact barchetta style roadster, and it’s radical form language prefigured a new direction for Ford. Its influence however, would ultimately extend further beyond Ford’s Dearborn, Dunton, Merkenich and Turin studios.
You’ve come a long way, baby. So goes the cliche. How far then?
Glostrup Cars in Denmark are selling this two-stroke body-on-frame fossil for just under €10,000. Introduced in 1959, the Juniors (renamed F11 or F12) were discontinued in 1965 when VW bought the firm, ending DKW’s post-war association with Mercedes*. These diminutive DKWs were built in Ingolstadt, at a new factory. The car´s run ended when it became clear that it was just not up to facing the competition presented by VW’s Beetle and Opel´s smaller cars (possibly the 1962 Kadett). Interestingly, the Junior was a cut above the Beetle, offering a bigger boot and faster cabin heating than the people´s car but it cost that bit more. In one sense you can see Audi´s precursor being a slightly more prestigious product than its peers. Yet, even taking into account the technology of the day, the Junior looks a lot more toy-like and agricultural than similar cars at this price. The two-stroke engine, in particular, was even rougher, noisier and smellier than VW´s air-cooled nail though. It´s hard to see where this car lies in Audi´s product evolution but perhaps we can say it was the precursor of the current A3, in which case we can say that a lot has happened to Audi in the intervening period but some things have stayed the same.
Which cars are for today´s ophthalmologists, vets and professors of Medieval law?
About three decades ago certain makers sold cars for easily identifiable groups in society. Saabs were for well-paid university lecturers. Citroen could appeal to the Francophile and arty middle-class man. Lancia sold to intellectuals and business men who probably saw their work as a vocation. Humber appealed to bank managers of the bigger branches. But today, these brands are gone or unrecognisable. I was trying to think of appropriate cars for these people and I could see all of them in a Ford, an Opel or an Audi. Or a BMW. They are quite interchangeable. It´s hard to convincingly think of a car for the intellectual motorist (if there is such a thing, present company excluded). By chance a Nissan Leaf caught my attention and perhaps this car might have a rather specific niche in the market. The owner came by and in the course of a short chat revealed he was working in IT.
Today I had the chance to experience a car I consider to be among the most disappointing of recent years – the successor to the flawed yet glorious Quattroporte V. Gone is the lithe elegance of Ken Okuyama’s styling, making way for considerably more competitive technology, as well as simply gargantuan proportions.
It really is an ungainly-looking barge, trying to marry its enormous size with some stylistic nods to its predecessor. The result I’d consider something akin to Jaguar’s unfortunate X350 XJ – an ill-advised pastiche, borne by the misconception that certain cues are independent of scale and proportions. If I want a giant Maserati, I’d personally go for Giugiaro’s Mk III version instead, in all its Passat-on-steroids glory.
And What Is Wrong With Putting the Engine in Front of the Wheels?
Audi are in danger of becoming the Phil Collins of the petrolhead world, an act that even people who know little about music like to cite as being a bit off. Speaking as someone who can, hand on heart, swear that he has no murky Genesis related skeletons in his youthful musical vinyl rack and hopes he’ll never hear Against All Odds on the radio again, I’d judge that Mr Collins is no worse than many, and better than scores. Changing fashion means that he has just become a lazy symbol for bad comedians and the generally undiscerning to latch on to in order to suggest, quite undeservedly, their musical connoisseurship. Likewise Audi. In bars and on motoring websites everywhere, you will hear the drone of “overrated and overpriced …. style over content …. they’re all designed on a photocopier …. no driver involvement ….. they’ll never really be premier league until they go rear drive”. Is any of this justified?
Has Centro Stile Fiat ever produced a design of lasting significance?
This is the question I found myself asking having read a recent driventowrite piece on Lorenzo Ramaciotti – (which I urge you to read). Because like many, I held firm to the view that Turin’s fabled carrozzerie were responsible for everything worthy of note. On the other hand, memory can sometimes prove a faulty co-driver, so I did what any self-respecting auto-nerd would at this point and revisited the Fiat group’s styling back catalogue in a quest for answers. So what we have here is a list of significant Fiats of the last 50 years and who was responsible for their styling*. Continue reading “A Question of Form”
While reading about the Humber Super Snipe and its competitors I stumbled across this.
It’s a very nicely filmed piece about a Fiat 2300S and its owner, Pierantonio Micciarelli. I have to say that the man´s elegant dress sense made me yearn to be Italian. They do know how to choose their threads.
June’s Theme : The Editor Posts Some Thoughts on Speed
We get used to thinking that we, meaning whoever amongst us are young and fit enough to command the technology, are probably the best informed and highest achieving people in history. The knowledge and achievements of our forebears, though impressive perhaps in the context of their age, pales in absolute comparison with our own. Such is the arrogance of The Present and, though it might not have always been this way, it seems set to remain.
A few years ago, brand consultants Landor redesigned the Citroën logo to be more rounded and, in their words, ‘liquid’. That is a strange adjective, since the chevrons famously represented the helical gear teeth that André Citroën patented and whose success he built his company on. In their current form the chevrons no longer seem to suggest precise technology and, therefore, it could be argued that Landor has done its job well in capturing the essence of 21st Century Citroën.
This thread looks at a period of transition as injection moulding, safety legislation and changing taste in colours acted to markedly alter how car interiors looked. The late 70s was the period when the dashboard became seen as an integrated whole rather than a set of items screwed to a bulkhead. Of course, Citroen´s SM got there in 1971 but did it without injection moulding on the scale possible in 1981.
In this article I examine the change-over from metal and glass to all-plastic interiors that occurred in the mid 70s.
This thread looks at a period of transition as injection moulding, safety legislation and changing taste in colours acted to markedly alter how car interiors looked. The late 70s was the period when the dashboard became seen as an integrated whole rather than a set of items screwed to a bulkhead. Of course, Citroen´s SM got there in 1971 but did it without injection moulding on the scale possible in 1981. Continue reading “Transitions : Car Interiors as They Turned Plastic”
Driven To Write has some news for anyone who has been reading the UK motoring press.
Far from being “an undiscovered bourne from whom no traveller returns” (copyright W. Shakespeare 1599-1602), it appears death is a place car brands can pop over to and come back from much like an obscure place with an out-of-the-way airport served by Ryanair. I think Saab is dead but it might not be. Or it might be. It died spiritually under GM, it died again physically, was reborn under Spyker but soon expired. National Electric Vehicles revived the firm in 2012.
This being, unofficially, the Fiat/FCA themed month, I feel like shedding some light on Fiat’s current styling policy and the man responsible for it.
And when I say “shedding some light”, I actually mean pointing out all the dark and shadowy areas that currently make up Fiat’s styling. More questions will be asked than answered, inevitably.
Superficially, the reorganisation of Fiat’s different Centri Stile in the wake of the company’s Marchionnisation seems to have been a straightforward example of streamlining. And, unlike the most famous jumper lover’s financial and fiscal shenanigans, this move appears to be both easily graspable and logical. Continue reading “What Exactly Is Lorenzo Ramaciotti Doing?”
A badge can often tell you a lot more than what exactly it is you’re driving behind…
The badging on the rear of this first series Lancia Fulvia coupé is rather lovely. It resembles a signature and perfectly encapsulates Lancia’s quality ethos at the time. This wasn’t a cheap car and the badge told you this with elegance and eloquence.
I´ll begin this badge-themed item with a nod to Eoin´s sterling work on the future of FCA. Can I ask people to note the rather cheap ugliness of the FCA logo? The letters seem not to be aligned. But more relevant is the flaked badge of an Alfa Romeo 156, a rich metaphor if ever one was needed.
The second of a two part examination of FCA’s European operations and the feasibility of Sergio Marchionne’s four-year plan to revive them.
Part two – There will be blood:
FCA’s presentation made a point of telling the financial and automotive worlds just how much Marchionne is prepared to accept for the sale of Ferrari, suggesting the fabled Marenello concern is for sale; despite firm denials from within FCA itself. Some might say that he would be insane to do so – the ‘Cavallino Rampante’ being probably the most valuable automotive brand in the universe right now. But look at it another way. If we believe the hype, everybody wants to own a Ferrari – and as any petrolhead with rosso corsa flowing through their veins will attest, what could be better than that? Continue reading “FCA – State of the Empire – Part Two”
A two part examination of FCA’s European operations and the feasibility of Sergio Marchionne’s four-year plan to revive them.
Now that the captives have escaped, the presentations are complete and fruit and vegetables been thrown, perhaps it is germane to take a look behind the figures and statistics at the state of affairs facing Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in Europe as they painfully inch towards their eventual fate.
Sergio unveils his elaborate masterplan for FCA’s future and it’s a staggering work of fiction.
Last week Sergio Marchionne kept a selection of the world’s auto journalists captive for a ten hour marathon outlining his vision for the next five years at the newly merged FCA. Those who managed to sit through the numbing PowerPoint presentations, the staggering level of detail, the sheer grinding onslaught of facts, statistics, projections, flying unicorns and outright fantasies probably needed more than a few restorative shandies to steady their shattered nerves.
Lovely and wrong: Richard Herriott assesses Lancia´s former flagship.
When the Thesis was launched in 2002, Lancia wanted a flagship to re-position the brand as a maker of convincing luxury cars, an Italian Mercedes if you like. The Thesis´predecessor, the Kappa, had been less successful than the Thema, despite receiving plaudits for its refinement, packaging and capable chassis. The Thesis was supposed to recover ground lost during the Kappa´s production run and also to re-affirm the company´s tradition of top-drawer refinement and visual elegance. Continue reading “2002 Lancia Thesis 3.0 V6 Review”
After discussing the dead centre of the car market, we take a visit there: the Ford Focus 1.6 CDTi Econetic.
This is the third generation Focus that I have tried. The Mk1 is a landmark and indeed a benchmark for many. It casts a long shadow over its successors. The Mk2 added refinement at the expense of driver enjoyment. Compared to the Mk1, the successor felt like being in a fat suit. So, what is the Mk 3 like now I have finally gotten behind the wheel? The main impressions are described below. Continue reading “2014 Ford Focus 1.6 CDTi Econetic Review”
What´s it like to wander around the on-line show room of Ferrari?
Recently I´ve felt curious about the customer experience for prospective Ferrari owners. You don´t need to be out of your pyjamas to visit Ferrari´s website so I thought I´d see what happened and what I´d feel like if I did a little virtual tyre kicking. What I found is described below. Continue reading “Window Shopping for a Ferrari”
We convene the committee one final time to examine the defamation of the XJ-S.
Widely seen as the most outspoken and irreverent of the UK’s automotive titles, Car was the journal most automotive journalists and commentators looked to and emulated. It’s evident the ‘committee-design’ assertion emanated from this source, which illustrates that journalists are as prone to suggestion as anyone. The press subsequently appropriated this assertion which over time morphed into established fact. Car editor Mel Nichols made his views clear in October 1975, stating; Continue reading “XJ-S: Reconvening the Committee (Part 5)”
Do car badges have intrinsic value? We investigate.
We all misread the obvious sometimes. Our world is frequently confusing, as are the brands and symbols that surround us. The car badge or emblem embodies a narrative – an entire marque history distilled into a small piece of moulded plastic.
In line with the theme of the month I will post this eloquent symbol of excessive cost-cutting. The badge symbolises the company. If the firm can´t spend enough so its symbol endures, you have to wonder about their commitment to the rest of the car. Of course, the likelihood is that this is just an unforeseen consequence of a minor change in paint formula. However, many people will feel that this says as much about this brand as needs to be said. For brand managers, this sort of thing is the worst PR, worse even than the message sent out by curling window rubbers and blisters of rust on the rear wheel arch lip. I can only remember seeing one other badge so badly weathered in so short a time, and that was the badge on Alfa Romeo´s 156.
It is always useful to consider a counterfactual. For example, by asking what would have happened if Franz Ferdinand had survived his assassination attempt, we ask about how avoidable the first World War was. Another counterfactual might be to ask what if REM had disbanded after their drummer Bill Berry retired? That is to ask what was the importance of Bill Berry to the band. The answer to that second question is easier than the first. REM should have disbanded. Berry´s drumming was as integral as Michael Stipe´s vocals.
I still use the same tailor my Father first took me to as a boy. Their jackets have a small label sewn into the inner lining on the right breast, showing their name but nothing else. Were I to ask them to put the label on the outside, they would be aghast. But they are an old fashioned firm and, I fear, not much longer for this World. Although my preferences have never changed, those of the rest of the World appear to have. It might seem understandable that cheap sports clothing should incorporate free advertising for the maker, since it could be argued that it subsidises the cost, but what seems stranger is that it has become acceptable for an expensive fashion brand to do the same. Don’t their customers object to being walking billboards, or are they simply boasting?
Mistakes from which one can learn come in forms such as these.
About once a year I visit a relative in a very small village on the south fringe of the Black Forest. Every time I do, I see a different Lancia Kappa coupé. But they only made about 3000 of these cars and production ceased 14 years ago. I assume then that the region in which the car was seen has an unusual density of the vehicles. Continue reading “Another in a Long Line: Lancia Kappa Coupé (1997-2000)”