Alfa’s latest offers: no deposit over five years, have another £750. And other sales news too.

Alfa are trying hard to fill the shop window. There are still three models on sale, if you are interested. Read on to see what they thought they’d be selling by now.

Alfa UK´s hard sell (that is, it is hard to sell Alfas).
Alfa UK´s hard sell (that is, it is hard to sell Alfas).

Not so many hours after I made up a slogan for Alfa ““We’re still in business! 25% off a 2014 Giulia for an unlimited period” it turns out this is not far from the truth.  This Alfa UK home page (above) is full of activity but not so full of cars, pretty much as it was when I posted this item

If we take a look at the diagram for Alfa´s plans we see that Continue reading “Alfa’s latest offers: no deposit over five years, have another £750. And other sales news too.”

Luca’s Woolly Nemesis

The sudden departure of Luca di Montezemolo as Ferrari MD has shocked tifosi and surprised analysts. But one key question remains unanswered – what happened? 

marchionne-montezemolo-640

Ever the truth-seekers, Drive to Write appear to have accidentally stumbled upon the answer, gleaned from (admittedly dubious) sources close to FCA itself, revealing the unspoken reason for his departure – the mysterious disappearance of Sergio’s favourite jumper – (A particularly fine blue angora number). Continue reading “Luca’s Woolly Nemesis”

2014 Citroen C4 Cactus – Test Drive

I became the first person at the dealership near to where I work to test drive a Cactus, to the extent that the car itself was in a pre-pre-delivery state and had 1 mile on the clock when we set off in it. 

2014 Citroen Cactus
2014 Citroen Cactus

The salesman (like policemen, they all look young to me these days) seemed bemused that the owner of a C6 might be thinking about “downsizing” to a Cactus (which I suppose is understandable), but he humoured me, nevertheless. Continue reading “2014 Citroen C4 Cactus – Test Drive”

Len & Now 2

A Legend Remembered – Again

The 1957 Victory Diva

A few months ago, I published a snippet from the autobiography of that legend of the British Motor Industry, the Chief Engineer of Victory Cars, Len Brik. Since then I have had a request for a further extract, but I must admit that a small amount of the late Len Brik’s odd grammar goes a long way. However, I can offer you some alternative Brik related information. Continue reading “Len & Now 2”

Theme: Advertising – radio

It´s been said of radio that its advantage over other media is that the pictures are better.

2014 retro radio

This is generally true but when it comes to car advertising it is not. Radio ads can´t hope to convey the visual impression of a car, its most important attribute. Instead they are left to handle other aspects which can be presented verbally. These might include news of special offers and to point customers in the direction of dealers. They might serve to tell listeners of the arrival of a new model but other media must handle the rest. One advantage they do have is that they have a kind of captive audience and they contact the biggest audience for radio, drivers trapped in their cars. Continue reading “Theme: Advertising – radio”

Driving the Future: 1974 Citroen CX 2200 Super road test

Continuing our celebrations of the Citroen CX’s 40th anniversary we present what resembles a period review by Archie Vicar. What did the great man think of the car on a drive from Paris to the West German border with East Germany in 1974?

1974 Citroen CX 2200 Super
1974 Citroen CX 2200 Super

From “The Driving and Motoring Month”, September,  1974. Photos by Douglas Land-Windermere

Indicative of the Citroen CX’s innovative character, the oil level can be checked inside the car thanks to a pneumatic indicator on the remarkably novel dashboard. The CX resembles a futuristic show car but is in fact on sale soon. The body shell joins to the underframe by means of 16 flexible rubber mountings. The steering strongly self-centres so that one only has to apply force when changing direction. The list of exceedingly interesting advances could fill this whole article but these, I earnestly hope, Continue reading “Driving the Future: 1974 Citroen CX 2200 Super road test”

Theme: Advertising -1978 Mazda 1300 DL

Advertising that mentions potential problems draws customers´ attention to them. Mazda´s advert from 1973 does just this. And it uses weasel wording too.

1973 Mazda 1300 DL
1978 Mazda 1300 DL

As I said in the introduction, advertising addresses people’s worries.  Just as Rover handled the problem that their 1993 620 saloon was a Honda Accord in tweed  (“Above all, it´s a Rover”), this ad from 1978 attacks the common prejudice that Japanese cars were vulnerable to rust.  I tried to find one of these cars for sale and found only the precursor to the Mazda 626, the 6 16 LN. It´s from 1975 and probably the only one left.

Continue reading “Theme: Advertising -1978 Mazda 1300 DL”

Theme: Advertising – Off Message

Lexus’ recent creative review ditched more than the message…

Lexus-Poster-2.083_1200

All good advertising embodies an essential truth. For some years now for instance, Lexus has gone with the tagline ‘The Pursuit of Perfection’; a relatively believable goal to envisage. However, despite some success in the US market, Lexus remains stubbornly among the junior ranks of the European prestige car business. In a fit of insecurity, Continue reading “Theme: Advertising – Off Message”

2014 Hyundai i30 1.6 GDI review

In search of family transport, DTW rents a Korean mid-ranger and exposes it to mud, apples and half a dish of aubergine parmesan gratin. 

2014 Hyundai i30 1.6 GDI
2014 Hyundai i30 1.6 GDI: Bore and stroke (mm) 77 x 85.44

Introduction

Welcome back to the dead centre of the car market . The Hyundai i30 1.6 GDI** is a Focus and Golf competitor but may gun most accurately for the likes of the Peugeot 308 and any other mid-market also-rans. This type of car is very hard to write about in isolation as most of what you experience verges on the bland. Only a spread-sheet analysis of the cost and features along with a back-to-back test would reveal the precise differences in the qualitative and quantitative elements between this car and its peers. Nonetheless, even on its own, there are aspects of the car which please and those which irritate. Continue reading “2014 Hyundai i30 1.6 GDI review”

1967 Datsun 2000 De Luxe: Review

“Building on a new tradition!” In this item, we have something resembling a transcript of a 1967 review by Archie Vicar. He finds much that is agreeable.

1967 Datsun 2000 side
The 1967 Datsun 2000 De Luxe (also known as the Datsun Cedric) is one of Japan’s unsung landmarks.

By Archibald Vicar From “Today’s Driver”, November 1967. Photographs by Wentworth Henry. Owing to excessive camera-shake affecting the original images, stock photos have been used.

Rumours abound from the Midlands, such as rumours are, that Jaguar is considering replacements for the venerable, nay, antediluvian 240, 340 (née Mark 2), S-type, 420 (née S-type) and 420G (née Mark X) with a range of motor vehicles which will essentially depend on one single body. Our sources in Coventry hint that among the pressing reasons for this change is that nobody at Brown’s Lane understands which car is which or the purpose for which any of them are intended. And that’s letting alone the matter of the by-now antique elements of which these stalwarts are mostly composed. In any case, Jaguar Ltd is now under the firm tutelage of BMC who will be shaking up Jaguar’s life of gin and tonics and setting the troubled firm on a new course to success. Continue reading “1967 Datsun 2000 De Luxe: Review”

Bristol Returns: the 2015 Pinnacle

Bristol Cars´new owners have announced the launch of the first wholly new vehicle since the Fighter of 2003.

2015 Bristol Pinnacle
2015 Bristol Pinnacle

Called the Pinnacle, the new car is to feature a combination of Bristol hallmarks and modern touches. Carried over are the customs of making the bodies by hand (Bristol require a panel beater) and using very high quality materials. New to Bristol will be the use of battery power and range extension technology. There might even be cup-holders. Also new to Bristol is the notion of merchandising, which to spell it out, is the selling of non-automotive products branded with the Bristol logo. That´s done to promote the brand (something Bristol didn´t try hard to do) and to make money (something Bristol didn´t manage very well towards the end). Continue reading “Bristol Returns: the 2015 Pinnacle”

Theme : Advertising – Who The Fun Do They Think We Are?

Richard’s fine introduction on this topic began with two quotes, both holding a high degree of truth to advertising in general, yet both I’d suggest are not always relevant to that branch of advertising that deals with cars.

VW 2

Edwin Land, who brought us Polaroid, as well as other products of intelligent research, said “Marketing is what you do when your product is no good” but, although Edwin Land was a remarkable inventor, it was easy for him to say that since, for years, his instant film system was the best in a group of one. Car manufacturers don’t have that luxury – if only Karl Benz had employed patent lawyers as good as Land’s we’d all be peering through that silver star on the bonnet. Also the problem is that, essentially, all cars are good these days – it’s a fair time since VW could point to a Korean upstart and state, quantitatively and overtly, that it didn’t make the grade. So you can’t just sell on actual superiority. Continue reading “Theme : Advertising – Who The Fun Do They Think We Are?”

Theme: Advertising – 1973 Citroen GS

1973 a 1.2 litre engine was enough for a medium-sized family car. And we seem to be back to where we started with today´s downsized motors. 

1973 Citroen GS - £1068.
1973 Citroen GS – £1068.

This ad for the Citroen GS shows how, in other respects, we are being served up very ordinary cars where once it was possible to drive something truly advanced.

Theme : Advertising – “Leyland Cars are not rubbish (except Jaguars)”

The spread we are looking at today dates from November 1977. In line with standard advertising practice it preys on the worries of consumers to make its case. Here is the text, neatly indicative of several prejudices of the day.

1977 Leyland Car´s Supercover advertisement
1977 Leyland Car´s Supercover advertisement

“Although man has come a long way since he invented the wheel, he hasn´t yet discovered a way of totally eliminating its deadliest enemy: the Gremlin.
And the gremlin´s favourite hunting ground is brand new cars.
That´s why at Leyland Cars we invented Supercover. With Supercover every new Leyland car is given a thorough 69-point check for lurking gremlins at the garage before it’s allowed to be sold.
And should a gremlin turn up on the road, with Supercover, you´ve the AA´s 2,850 strong team of radio patrol men to call on for assistance.
And if they can´t fix it in reasonable time, your car and your passengers are
transported free to wherever you were going in the mainland UK.
Superpower´s anti-gremlin protection lasts a full year with unlimited mileage and costs absolutely nothing. You can also extend Supercover´s full protection for a second year at low cost.
Man has yet to invent the perfect car.
But with Supercover, you can drive confident in the knowledge that you´re covered by the best back-up service offered by any of the world´s motor manufacturers.” Continue reading “Theme : Advertising – “Leyland Cars are not rubbish (except Jaguars)””

Saab – Dead Again…

Which is more than you can say about Bristol…

08_SAAB_logo.sized

Okay Saab, I know this is a difficult time for you right now, especially with you being dead and everything. Obviously I’m sorry for your trouble, but if I can be completely candid, this whole thing is starting to get a little disturbing. How many funerals is it now? Continue reading “Saab – Dead Again…”

Theme: Advertising – Rover’s RIME EEF.

It was the year 2000 and according to the predictions from 1970 we’d have been traveling on hover-speeders and wearing metallic-nylon bodysuits. Somehow that didn’t pan out. For Rover, it was still 1959 though.

2000 Rover 45 2.0 V6
2000 Rover 45 2.0 V6 print ad.

For your education and general knowledge, today’s item on advertising is an example of exploiting the customer’s worst instincts and distracting them from the selling point. This was done not only by the form of the ad as conceived, but simply by ensuring the message was concealed by the centre fold of the magazine. ‘Rime eef’, it reads. Continue reading “Theme: Advertising – Rover’s RIME EEF.”

1974 Citroen CX Review

The Citroen CX is 40 years old this year. To celebrate this milestone in car design, we present what looks like one of the first reviews printed in the English language.

1974 Citroen CX front view blue

By Archie Vicar – contributing motoring editor of the Worcester Morning Gazette, Sept 23rd 1974. Original photos were taken by Douglas Land-Windermere. Due to the poor quality of the originals, stock images have been used.

Introduction

After a very long time in production, the DS has been (thankfully!) discontinued by its maker, Citroen. Whilst there were some good points in favour of the DS, there were too many oddities. Some of these have been ironed out so the new car will be more palatable to a wider range of customers. The incoming CX will be a more welcome car for motorists who want to drive something other than a Granada or Victor but without suffering the cost and inconvenience that the over-complex DS served up, drenched in garlic. Continue reading “1974 Citroen CX Review”

A small appreciation of a small estate

Further to our Aygo review yesterday, DTW presents this small reminder that once it was a simple matter to make an estate version out of an existing vehicle.

1997 VW Polo estate
1997 VW Polo estate

Here is the 1997 VW Colour Concept Polo estate. I like its vertical tailgate and utter lack of pretension. Such a car could do excellent service as either a practical second car for grocery and kid collection or else serve as a primary family car if the kids were still small. Finally, for Mr and Mrs Retired, it could get them around the country visiting the children and grand children without incurring big fuel bills. Continue reading “A small appreciation of a small estate”

2014 Toyota Aygo 1.0 VVT-i review

This week DTW has the new Toyota Aygo on test. Launched at the 2014 Geneva motor show, it´s only just arrived on the market. So, how did the car fare during a punishing three day investigation involving child-seats, sand and small pebbles?

2014 Toyota Aygo: it´s small but is it practical?
2014 Toyota Aygo: it´s small but is it practical?

The technicalities.
The engine is the 59 HP 1.0 VVTi in-line three pot. The “VVT” part stands for variable valve timing which has been around since 1996. The bore and stroke are 71 mm and 84 mm respectively. The Aygo comes with stop-start technology and this functioned well enough for me to learn to trust it. It can start the car faster than I could and this eliminated a lot of useless idling while waiting at lights.  Simply stop the car, take your foot off the clutch and the engine cuts. When you stand on the clutch again the engine fires up…and off you go. The rest of the engineering details Continue reading “2014 Toyota Aygo 1.0 VVT-i review”

History Repeating: XJ40 Part 6

Phase Two – 1975-1980: Knight Falls. The disastrous 1979 launch of Series III almost sinks Jaguar entirely, indirectly precipitating Bob Knight’s downfall.

On the home stretch - Series III styling elements feature strongly on this 1978 proposal
The home stretch – Series III styling elements feature strongly on this 1978 proposal – image: AROnline

1978 saw a brief reprieve in Jaguar’s fortunes. Under Sir Michael Edwardes, interference eased sufficiently to finally allow a consensus to emerge on XJ40’s style. Customer research backed the assertion that a strong family resemblance was required. The revitalised styling of the Series III XJ also cast a mighty shadow, because despite its age, Pininfarina’s revisions combined to create a sleeker, more modern car. Continue reading “History Repeating: XJ40 Part 6”

Theme of the Month : Advertising – Introduction

“Marketing is what you do when your product is no good, ” said Edwin H. Land. David Foster Wallace said of an ad: “It did what all ads are supposed to do: create an anxiety relievable by purchase.”

1898 adver for Winton. It´s horseless.
1898 advert for Winton. It´s horseless.

This month’s theme is the about the ephemeral products of automotive advertising. As long as cars have been available, there have been people making money trying to help manufacturers get yours. At first, the main theme of car advertising was to Continue reading “Theme of the Month : Advertising – Introduction”

Theme : Engines – A Conclusion

Time to look back on the month of August and see what we have learned.

2014 Jaguar XJ 5.0 V8
2014 Jaguar XJ 5.0 V8

August has drawn to a close and we are now an important amount wiser on the subject of engines. Among the discoveries are that a combination of regulations and fuel prices have made life uncongenial for large capacity engines. Both in Europe and the US, the V6 is increasingly rare. Furthermore, even the staple of mass-market, mid-range motoring, the boring old 2.0 litre 4-cylinder is beginning look much less like the first rung on the ladder to power and prestige.  In a world of buzzy three-cylinders and blown 1.2 litres four-cylinders, the 2.0 litre four has the aura of profligacy once reserved for in-line sixes.  The diminishing technical awareness of drivers means this change remains largely unremarked. What buyers want is Continue reading “Theme : Engines – A Conclusion”

Theme: Engines – The Greatest?

Italy’s engineering giants slug it out for your entertainment.

fiat12821

Given the size of the Italian motor industry by comparison to say, the United States or Germany, it’s difficult to compile a list of the great engine designers without coming to the conclusion that Italy has historically punched well above its weight. The fact that most of them were schooled through Italy’s once thriving aeronautical industry says as much about the era from which they emerged as the political and socio-economic causes, but either way, Italy’s contribution to the pantheon of notable engines is undeniable.  Continue reading “Theme: Engines – The Greatest?”

Theme : Engines – the V6 also-rans.

Recently DTW presented a survey of the decline of the V6 in the mid-size family car. Further reflection led me to uncover some of the also-rans in the category.

2001 Kia Magentis V6
2001 Kia Magentis V6: classic used-car salesman photography.

This post-script adds four vehicles to the list of V6 contenders who have tried but not succeeded to gain sales from the dominant manufacturers. All four are marginal cars from marginal makers. Taken together they comprise a foursome fit for a comparison test in a future edition of Classic and Sportscar, say, 2024.

The first vehicle I´d like to mention is Continue reading “Theme : Engines – the V6 also-rans.”

Theme: Engines – Divine Inclination

The Lancia Fulvia V4

open-hf
Image: vivalancia

The V4 engine layout is synonymous with Lancia, the marque having employed the layout extensively from the 1920’s right up to and sometime after its demise as an independent in 1969. Founder, Vincenzo Lancia had something of a penchant for the vee-formation engine but it’s unclear exactly why he favoured the V4 over its in-line counterpart, given that the layout tends to fall prey to out of balance forces one would really rather not have to deal with.  Continue reading “Theme: Engines – Divine Inclination”

Death has a revolving door: Nimbus motorcycles

DTW spotted this interesting machine: it´s a Danish-made motorcycle from the people who brought you Nilfisk vacuum-cleaners.

1959 Nimbus Model "C"
1959 Nimbus Model “C”

Most countries in Europe had a domestic motorcycle manufacturer or two up until the 1950s. Ireland is almost an exception, having only the Fagan company manufacturing Villiers models for a brief spell between 1935 and 1937. Rather more successful and long-lived, Nimbus produced motorcycles in Copenhagen between 1934 and 1959. Fisker and Nielsen started making electric motorcycles in 1909 and turned to petrol driven machines when they introduced their Model A in 1934. That´s the same Fisker and Nielsen who Continue reading “Death has a revolving door: Nimbus motorcycles”

Theme of last month – facelifts: the 2015 Opel Corsa

This week came more reports of the “new” Opel Corsa. What have they done, we ask, what have they done?

2015 Opel Corsa
2015 Opel Corsa

I didn´t expect two of these articles in one week. Yet here we find Opel having a “what have they done?” moment. Opel describe this as a new vehicle but we´d class this as a very comprehensive facelift. The main architecture of the car remains the same and, in my view, the addition of the black tab on the rear of the 3-door´s sideglass does not distract from this fact, and nor do the new front or rear forms. What else is different? Continue reading “Theme of last month – facelifts: the 2015 Opel Corsa”

History Repeating: XJ40 Part 5

Phase Two – 1976-1980: Speed of Darkness. As Bob Knight continues his search for an acceptable style, a new sheriff enters town. 

Bob Knight & Doug Thorpe examine an XJ40 styling proposal during the summer of 1976.
Bob Knight, George Thomson & Doug Thorpe examine one of two XJ40 styling proposals during the summer of 1976. Image: AROnline

Throughout 1976, the paltry resources available for XJ40 concentrated mostly upon the ongoing struggle to establish an acceptable style. During the spring, Bertone and Ital Design submitted revised proposals, which ended up mouldering under dust sheets. Continue reading “History Repeating: XJ40 Part 5”

Teutonic Displacement: Volkswagen Konzern (Part 1)

After having gone from strength to strength in recent years, Volkswagen AG (VAG) all of a sudden appears to be in an awful lot of trouble. But appearances can be deceiving.

vw-unfaelle-kaefer-08-0136

First in a series on the German automotive industry, seen from a German perspective.

In the not-too-distant past, it seemed as though it was just a matter of time before VAG chairman, Ferdinand Piëch – aided by his obliging CEO, Martin Winterkorn – could finally ascend the throne of the global automotive domain. There may have been the odd mumble regarding disappointing performance in the US market, but, by and large, everything seemed to be rosy in Volkswagenland. Continue reading “Teutonic Displacement: Volkswagen Konzern (Part 1)”

Something Rotten in Denmark: 1991 Chrysler LeBaron 3.0 V6

After a bit of a dry spell, Something Rotten in Denmark has this rather over-valued money pit to present, a 1991 Chrysler LeBaron 3.0 V6.

1991 Chrysler LeBaron 3.0 V6
Rust: 1991 Chrysler LeBaron 3.0 V6

Much like the Rover 620 from last week we are shown a photo of the dark side of the car. You can make out the brightwork and the general top heaviness of the car but there are other things not so visible. For example Continue reading “Something Rotten in Denmark: 1991 Chrysler LeBaron 3.0 V6”

2015 Skoda Fabia: oh, dear.

Skoda´s Fabia appeared first on the market in 1999. Now it´s into its third generation. What have they done? What have they done?

2014 Skoda Fabia
2014 Skoda Fabia

This is the new Skoda Fabia. The previous two generations have been rather good interpretations of a difficult genre, the conservative but attractive small car. The first version displayed some nice automotive design tropes: the smooth flowing bonnet to a-pillar and neatly shaped vestigial boot. The rear graphics and sculpture worked very harmoniously, very much the work of designers who were unafraid to Continue reading “2015 Skoda Fabia: oh, dear.”

2014 Honda Brio saloon

Here at DTW we like to find out about what´s on sale around the world. 

2014 Honda Brio: image courtesy of Honda (SA)
2014 Honda Brio: image courtesy of Honda (SA)

We´ve looked at some Japanese and Chinese market cars. Today we go to South Africa and peer at a Honda Brio, just to see.The Honda Brio is not on sale in Europe, being intended for emerging markets. It comes in two forms, hatchback and saloon. Since tiny saloons are held in almost complete contempt, we present the saloon. What is it that we find of most interest?

Continue reading “2014 Honda Brio saloon”

Theme – Engines: the decline of the mainstream Euro V6

How does it stand with the gold-standard of engines in the C/D class?

1992 Mazda 626 V6: one for trivia fans.
1992 Mazda 626 V6: one for trivia fans.

Patchy is the answer. Opel and Citroen still offer V6s, a diesel 3.0 and a 2.8 petrol respectively. Elsewhere it is a story of decline, staring in the middle of the last decade.

Ford offered a pint-sized V6 in their Sierra and in the Taunus long before that. Peugeot had a pleasant V6 in their refined and elegant 406. Opel routinely offered a V6 in the Vectra and still do so. Others in the C/D class never really tried. The Mazda 626 had a V6 in 1992 but not since then have they tried anything larger than a 4-pot (but did give the Xedos6 a six-cylinder). Honda has majored on 4-cylinder engines and VTEC jiggery pokery. Citroen installed a V6 in late model Xantias and in the first series C5 and still do. That would be to offer comfort to the horse-box drawing classes, I suppose.

Let´s take a further look at the decline… Continue reading “Theme – Engines: the decline of the mainstream Euro V6”

Theme – Engines: The road less travelled

You can make 4-cylinder engines bigger but what about making a smaller 6?

1990 Alfa Romeo 2.0 V6. Image courtesy of Wikipedia
1990 Alfa Romeo 2.0 V6. Image courtesy of Wikipedia

We have considered two approaches to bridging the 2.0 to 2.5 litre capacity gap, the enlarged 4-cylinder engines, and the 5-cylinder concept. And while the first is relatively common and the second shall we say not unusual, there is one other method of adding power and prestige to a smaller engine. That route is the road less travelled, 2-litre V6s.

The first small capacity V6 I could think of turned out to be a 1.8 litre V6 used in the Mazda MX-3, a car whose appearance I never got to grips with. In this small feature “two” is the magic number, so the 1.5 litre V6s used in racing will also be overlooked – also because I am not at all interested in motor sport. I am allergic to Continue reading “Theme – Engines: The road less travelled”

Theme – Engines: Throbby, thrummy quints

So who uses five cylinder engines and why? Do they have a future? DTW asks these questions today. Read on to accumulate wisdom on this subject.

1976 Audi 100: five-cylinders available
1976 Audi 100: five-cylinders available.

One might be tempted to think of five cylinder engines as being something of a novelty, if they are not a rarity. However, before Audi and Mercedes in the 1970s, Ford experimented with the concept in the 1930s and 1940s but never put anything into production.  The heyday of the five has been from the end of the 70s until a few years ago. Not a bad run. The window of opportunity for the five-cylinder now seems to be closing. What opened it? Continue reading “Theme – Engines: Throbby, thrummy quints”

Engineering made it happen: 1977 Lincoln Versailles 351 V-8

Milestones: DTW looks back at significant automotive achievements. Today, the 1977 Lincoln Versailles, the first car to offer clear-coat paint.

1977 Lincoln Versailles: "Now, a car with a 110-inch wheelbase, with a superb luxury car ride."
1977 Lincoln Versailles: “Now, a car with a 110-inch wheelbase, with a superb luxury car ride.”

According to Motor Trend, May 1977, the Lincoln Versailles represented Ford Motor Company´s attempt to compete with GM´s successful and smaller-than-was-usual Cadillac, the ´75 Seville. Lincoln also wanted the Versailles to steal sales from the Mercedes 280 E and BMW 728. As Motor Trend put it “…a significant number of automobile buyers were interested in smaller luxury sedans offering better driveability and handling ease.” The 1975 Seville, Lincoln´s main competitor, had the odd distinction of being the smallest and most expensive Cadillac but it sold well enough to make Ford respond to its challenges. Mercedes also offered what Continue reading “Engineering made it happen: 1977 Lincoln Versailles 351 V-8”

Theme: Engines – Top Dead Centre

With engines, as with everything else, there’s a pecking order. But who rules the roost?

Car-engine

Anyone spending time thinking or indeed writing about cars is likely to hold a firm view on the merits or otherwise of the internal combustion engine – few auto enthusiasts choose the comfort of the fence on this. If you cleave to the view that the engine represents the heart of a car, then it should come as no surprise that any marque with pretensions to greatness has designed and produced their own. Furthermore, the truly grand marques have at least one powerplant in their back catalogue that can be viewed in, at the very least, quasi-mythological terms.   Continue reading “Theme: Engines – Top Dead Centre”

Theme: Engines – a survey of Fiat´s 2004 and 2014 ranges

Then and now: how does Fiat´s present engine range compare to that of 2004? And are they making use of the engines available from Chrysler?

2014 Fiat Qubo
2014 Fiat Qubo

Today we are asking “How bad is it exactly for Fiat, in real terms?”. A vibrant company puts effort into engines if only to confuse punters and gain sales. But it can also offer a better match between the car and the complicated needs of the hundreds of millions of potential buyers. If you have a car with just one or two engines for it then it´s a safe bet there are 78 million people who simply won´t consider that vehicle. Think of the Bravo, for example. Continue reading “Theme: Engines – a survey of Fiat´s 2004 and 2014 ranges”

Theme : Engines – 2000, the Not-So-Magic Number

Is the end in view for the once ubiquitous 2 Litre?

The First and Second Most Popular 2 Litres in The World?
The First and Second Most Popular 2 Litres in The World?

I’ve never liked 4 cylinders. Part of me has always lusted after pistons and capacity. How I envy a fellow correspondent on these pages his 5.3 litre V12. The only diesel engine I’ve ever been attracted to is Volkswagen’s ludicrous 5 litre V10, which made a mockery of diesel’s assumed economy but where the sheer numbers almost overcome my antipathy to fuel oil. Despite all this, the puritan in me has shown restraint and, in fact, the most cylinders I’ve ever owned in one engine is six and the largest capacity 2.8 litres. But it’s not all size. I like less than 4 cylinders too. I have eternally fond memories of the Citroen Flat Twin and I’ve never been tempted by a Japanese 4 cylinder motorcycle, far preferring my V Twin. I got very excited by Fiat’s TwinAir engine and, despite getting the idea that the real-world consumption, and thus emissions, are less related to the paper ones than they might be, it remains an attractive proposition – if only they’d put it in a car I wanted. The truth is that I’m a 4 cylinder bigot. There are exceptions in my prejudice (obviously an old Alfa Twin cam, probably some Hondas and any flat four, even a Beetle’s, and a Lancia V4 though, very certainly, not a Ford V4) but, generally, four in a row and I don’t want to know.

And of all four cylinder engines, the most clichéd is the 2 litre. The 4 pot in-line engine, with a capacity of more that 1950cc but less than 2000cc was, for so many years, the absolute average engine, both Continue reading “Theme : Engines – 2000, the Not-So-Magic Number”

Sure-fire future classic: 2010 Renault Wind

File this under: Forgotten, tiny, open-top cars.

2010 Renault Wind
2010 Renault Wind

Many forgotten cars are forgotten because a lot of time has passed between now and the time they were made.  In the case of the Renault Wind nearly no time has passed at all. Rather than being forgotten, it was barely noticed in the first place. This correspondent has seen just one in the wild.  Let´s take a brief pause from the hurly-burly of the here and now to consider one of the Renault´s more puzzling efforts of recent years.  It seems to have been competitor for the Continue reading “Sure-fire future classic: 2010 Renault Wind”

Something rotten in Denmark: 1996 Rover 2.0 Ti

It´s hard to tell. The seller of this particular orphan has only just learned to use a camera. Two out of the three photos (twelve are allowed for free) at the car-sales website are taken with the sun light coming from behind the car. Thus in two out of three photos the image is mostly a Honda Accord silhouette with some Rover 600 chrome here and there. The third photo shows the front rear three-quarter with no shadow. This says the owner a) knows nothing about photography, absolutely nothing at all and b) they they couldn´t be bothered to walk all the way around the car.

How does Rover´s vanguard of 1996 look today?

1996 Rover 600 2.0 Ti diesel
1996 Rover 600 2.0 Ti

It´s hard to tell. The seller of this particular orphan has only just learned to use a camera. Two out of the three photos (twelve are allowed for free) at the car-sales website are taken with the sun light coming from behind the car. Thus in two out of three photos the image is mostly a Honda Accord silhouette with some Rover 600 chrome here and there. The third photo shows the front rear three-quarter with no shadow. This says the owner a) knows nothing about photography, absolutely nothing at all and b) they they couldn´t be bothered to walk all the way around the car. “Ah, the other view is the same as the one I just took….I´ll stop here.”  Now, if the car was selling for say, 10,000kr (nearly nothing) you could understand a certain carelessness in the Continue reading “Something rotten in Denmark: 1996 Rover 2.0 Ti”

And he could have had a Cadillac. If the school had taught him right

Driven To Write chanced upon a 1973 Cadillac Eldorado in NW Denmark.

1973 Cadillac Eldorado
1973 Cadillac Eldorado

David Bowie´s 1979 album, Lodger, is remarkable for a number of reasons. Among them is the scope of the record, which is partly a set of postcards back from the wider world, partly rather political (“Fantastic Voyage”, for example) and finally part social commentary. I´ve been listening to it since 1990 and haven´t tired of it. One of the songs on the album is relevant to today´s car. “Repetition” is sung from the point of view of a dissatisfied and angry man, Johnny, who has come home late, hungry and enraged with his wife and probably his entire life. She will bear the brunt of Johnny´s rage and “the bruises won´t show if she wears long sleeves”. The song´s deadened vocals and falling note sequence captures the numbness Continue reading “And he could have had a Cadillac. If the school had taught him right”

Theme : Engines – The View from Car and Driver

As a little diversion, we suggest our readers might like to look at Kevin Cameron´s thoughts about the future of the internal combustion engine, published in Car & Driver magazine a day or two ago.

1992 Buick Roadmaster
1992 Buick Roadmaster

There are a views in the article you could take issue with but it´s an interesting American view on the IC engine´s future. I would argue that Cameron discounts the importance of government legislation and he assumes that the externalities of the IC engine (i.e. the costs everyone else pays for its use that are not factored into the sales price) will not be one day accounted for. I would suggest that the days of the IC engine are numbered though whether this is because there is a) a switch to electric motors b) a switch away from personal transportation or c) global climate disaster that destroys the economic base upon which the IC-engine is predicated is not for us to discuss today. Continue reading “Theme : Engines – The View from Car and Driver”

History Repeating: XJ40 Part 4

Phase Two – 1976-1980: Fortress Jaguar. With engineering the last beacon of resistance, XJ40 becomes its talisman.

prodline
Production lines at Browns Lane – image: Birmingham Mail

1975 saw the broken remains of Jaguar in lockdown. Bob Knight’s policy of civil disobedience stemmed the tide of assimilation to some extent, but BL’s operating committees were undeterred. Like most of the industry, they believed the collapse of luxury car sales in the post-oil shock era would be permanent. The prevailing view being that Jaguar were producing dinosaurs. Continue reading “History Repeating: XJ40 Part 4”

Theme : Engines – Ford, VW and Opel’s Engine Ranges

Who has the most engines to offer customers? DTW takes a close look at the state of play at VW, Opel and Ford.

This has a V6 under the hood.
This has a V6 under the hood.

The operating assumption behind this small study is that engines matter. More precisely, if a manufacturer can offer a decent range of engines for a given class of vehicles then they are very likely to have a better chance of selling something to someone. I´ll restrict my research to Ford, Opel and VW for this particular study. I wanted to see the composition of the range of engines and also to find out the average age of the engine families. The second point was rather hard to ascertain and I failed to Continue reading “Theme : Engines – Ford, VW and Opel’s Engine Ranges”

Theme : Engines – France

Do French engines live up to that nation’s fine engineering heritage?

1913 Peugeot twin OHC 16 valve 4 cylinder
1913 Peugeot twin OHC 16 valve 4 cylinder

In Post War Europe, engines were restricted by reasonably arbitrary taxation classes. In Britain, the old ‘RAC Horsepower’ rating was based on an archaic formula that related to the bore only, not the stroke and didn’t actually refer to the actual output of the engine. Despite it being abolished in the late 1940s, it meant that the longer stroke engine, with its relatively low rev limit, lived on far longer in much loved stalwarts such as the Jaguar XK and BMC A Series and it did stem the development of lighter, freer running engines. Italy was less prescriptive and, although there were aberrations, like home market only 2 litre Ferraris and Alfas V6s, it allowed the development of the sweet engines found in the Alfas and Fiats of the 60s. The French tried to be more scientific, with a fiscal horsepower tax that brought in various factors but, generally, encouraged smaller engines of 4 cylinders and less. Thus, in a country that has a fine record in technical advances in motoring, engines struggled to keep up.

Continue reading “Theme : Engines – France”

The Sunday News: VW Golf Plus nameplate dropped shock!!

Goodbye, VW Golf Plus, we´ll miss you. Hello, VW Sportsvan.

2014 VW Sportsvan
2014 VW Sportsvan: it’s  sporty and van-like

Some readers may have missed the news that VW´s much loved GolfPlus nameplate has been discontinued. The new name to watch is Sportsvan and doubtless it will win as much affection as the outgoing one. The replacement car was shown at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2013 and is now on sale.

Let’s have a fond look back at the departing car. Dating from 2004, the GolfPlus concept took the best features of the Golf and added a few percent to them seemingly at random. The Golf Plus was thus a bit bigger in most directions and, I suppose, was exactly as the name suggested, a bit more Golf. When I heard of its launch I was among those who rolled their eyes in exaggerated expressions of amazement. It was hard to believe that VW would bother going to 100% of the expense of engineering car that differed only by 1%-4% in most dimensions from the Golf. Not only did the Plus seem to risk Continue reading “The Sunday News: VW Golf Plus nameplate dropped shock!!”

Cars I can´t write about: Chryslers etc

Chrysler: so what?

Don´t look any closer. There´s nothing to see.
Don´t look any closer. There´s nothing to see.

So far in this intermittent series I have picked on a forgotten supermini, a lavishly expensive sportscar and the VW Passat. Today I feel the need to declare that Chryslers and associated brands are vehicles about which I have nothing to say.

Or almost. I might feel a certain morbid fascination with the K-cars of the Iacocca era, which period also includes the Chrysler-Maserati. Apart from that, Chrysler is a nullity. While Fords and GM vehicles from pretty much anytime after 1960 are in some way interesting to me, Chryslers aren´t. They seem to be nothing more than a spear-carrier in the grand drama of the American car industry. Continue reading “Cars I can´t write about: Chryslers etc”

Theme : Engines – The 1970 Triumph Stag V8

Ah, the Triumph Stag V8, the stuff of classic car legends.

1970 Triumph Stag V8
1970 Triumph Stag V8

It´s all there for a long chat at the pub: dashed hopes, shoddy Midlands workmanship, the dark days of British Leyland´s decline. There´s even a bit of Italian in there, as Giovanni Michelotti styled the car. The bit we´re interested in is the V8 though. This unit was conceived in the middle of the 60s in response to the growing demands of the UK market for more powerful engines as the motorway system expanded. Triumph had some sixes and jolly nice they were too but they were not enough. They also needed more Continue reading “Theme : Engines – The 1970 Triumph Stag V8”