History Repeating – XJ40 Part 15

XJ40 history Phase Four: 1986-1994 – The dream unravels. Once the launch hysteria abated, the press began to appraise Jaguar’s new star more critically.


Because the press had given (Sir) John Egan the benefit of the doubt, there was bound to be a backlash at some point. Sure enough, words like dated started to appear with increasing frequency in relation to XJ40’s styling, particularly criticism over the headlight and tail lamp treatments. Moreover, the press were of one mind regarding the instrument display and minor controls: they hated them. Continue reading “History Repeating – XJ40 Part 15”

PSA’s Tale of Two Continents

Peugeot/Citroën’s European D-sector sales collapse is not the catastrophe it first appears.

2015 DS5 - image via car24news
2015 DS5 – image via car24news

As we know, the motor industry is riven with contradiction, but nevertheless, some things remain beyond debate. Take the fact that the European mid-sized saloon market has been in serious and (some say) terminal decline since 2007, with sales across the sector falling by half. Yet, with Europe-wide volumes of almost half a million cars last year, there still remains a good deal to play for in what’s left of the segment. This month, PSA Groupe have posted their first profits in three years on the back of vast and painful cost-cutting including the axing of unprofitable models. So today we ask where this hollowing out has left PSA’s mid-sized saloon offerings?  Continue reading “PSA’s Tale of Two Continents”

Marketing Wisdom From Cadillac

Car and Driver carried an interview  with Uwe Ellinghaus, Cadillac’s marketing boss. He said a few surprising things.

2007 Cadillac DTS

As an industrial designer by training, I noted that Ellinghaus is tired of what are called “personas”.  These are stereotypical identities that embody the essential character of a vehicle’s target customer. For a Ford Fiesta the persona was probably a female, aged 25-35 with an urban lifestyle and perhaps one or two children.  The designers were told to imagine this person when creating the car’s look and feel. All car companies use these strategies.

Continue reading “Marketing Wisdom From Cadillac”

Renault : Putting the Sole Back Into Design

Stop looking at your feet, Boy!

Kadjar 1After we discussed Renault’s desperate ‘Dare To Live’ bit of internet marketing a few weeks back, I’d entirely forgotten it related to an new crossover, the Kadjar. I’ve now just reminded myself of it and seen a picture. From front and rear it’s a forgettable enough lump, it only distinctive feature being the side view featuring a kick up from the sills. Continue reading “Renault : Putting the Sole Back Into Design”

Danish Car Sales For January 2015

What are the Danes buying? In at number 20 in January is the Kia Rio. What else?

2015 Kia Rio: one of Denmark´s most popular car (20th most popular). It outsold the BMW 3-series anyway.
2015 Kia Rio: one of Denmark´s most popular car (20th most popular). It outsold the BMW 3-series anyway.

First, they are buying small cars. The VW Golf and Peugeot 308 are the largest cars in the top ten and the top spot goes to a sub-B car, as does position 6 and 7. Secondly, Danes are buying the latest thing. The Peugeot 108’s cousin the Aygo has been on sale for six months or so and buyers have Continue reading “Danish Car Sales For January 2015”

Geneva 2015 Motor Show Update: a Danish supercar

The Danish designed and built Zenvo has a 6.8 litre, hand-built V-8, a 69 litre fuel tank and weighs 1688 kilos. They are exhibiting at stand 2040. 

2015 Zenvo ST1: at the Geneva Motor show this year.
2015 Zenvo ST1: at the Geneva Motor show this year.

Right at the end of the list is a Danish firm, Zenvo. I had read a little about this in the Danish press and it was a surprise to see a real car manufacturer among the less recognisably automotive names. Continue reading “Geneva 2015 Motor Show Update: a Danish supercar”

Theme: Passengers – The Non-Existence Thereof

If we can ask what that sportscar is doing on that rough, narrow road or jammed in urban traffic can we also ask where are the passengers for all those lovely saloons?

This is for carrying passengers: 2004 Nissan Cube
This is for carrying passengers: 2004 Nissan Cube

With a sportscar or indeed any performance orientated car one is aware of a contrast between what the vehicle is capable of versus what it is asked to do. When I see a Lamborghini in Ireland, for example, you clearly see that the car’s capability is at odds with the environment it sits in, like seeing a speedboat on a mill pond.

At a less extreme level, the saloon car suffers a similar problem, unless it’s a taxi. The missing passengers in the back make one wonder about the real purpose of the car. Why did the owner buy it? You can see this on any long drive on a motorway as you pass car after car with three empty seats.

You also notice it when you take a look inside of any old car. There will be a worn bolster on the driver’s seat and when you inspect the back seat it will be box-fresh or, at worst, a bit faded. Evidence, then, of under-use. In its own way, the saloon car is as over-engineered as any high performance two-seater.

How often do you see four people get out of a car? It’s rare enough that I notice it. For example, last year I saw two couples emerge from a Peugeot 508 somewhere in NW Denmark. The car had Dutch plates so I concluded this was one of those rare occasions when four adults decided to have a motoring holiday together. I can’t recall the last time I saw what should be an occurrence too banal to remark.

2004 Opel Signum: no one here.
2004 Opel Signum: no one here.

Why then do people buy four seater cars when 98% of the time the extra seats are unused. The ashtrays remain pristine. The armrest is always tucked up in the seat back. Some people even leave the plastic on the rear seats for as long as they can, a conceit I always despised as it’s laughably suburban to want to have furniture that looks like no one ever uses it.

Think of those semis with a “good room” that visitors are shown into now and then. If you contrast that with the opulent tattiness of many stately homes you can see that the rich don’t have “good rooms”. Rich people wreck stuff. Middle class people can only afford to buy it once.

What I am getting at here is that the passenger is a rather mythical creature. They exist on public transport though or in taxis. The passenger compartment is generally an underused area, designed to look nice enough in a showroom when the buyer – for one time – opens the rear door, pats the seat and finds nothing alarming. For the rest of the car’s career the rear footwell is a good place to put a bag of shopping so it won’t fall over. The boot is even further from their thoughts.

2002 Renault Vel Satis rear compartment - as new, never used.
2002 Renault Vel Satis rear compartment – as new, never used.

This is perhaps why in recent decades mainstream saloon cars have developed rather cramped and unwelcoming rear comparments and designers’ time is rarely spent bothering with the rear of the centre console. On my 25 year old car the rear console is a little piece of design excellence: an ashtray and an electric socket nicely styled to look of a piece with its surrounding trim.

These days I see cars with a blank expanse of plastic. There’s £185,000 worth of development cost saved. Pity the person who put all that effort into the rear centre console of the last Saab 9-5. It was lavishly worked-over. Not only would no-one see it if it was used as normal but the car ceased production after a few months.

As a fan of saloon cars I have to admit that my fond notions of travelling four up to somewhere other than the in-laws’ house with kids are probably never going to be realised. And the kids don’t really appreciate the limousine-like space they are perched in.

More often than not the saloon is a statement of aspiration just like the sportscar. It suggests uses to which it is seldom put. I wonder how many times the walnut tray of an Allegro Van Den Plas was ever pulled down in anger. And Opel know to their cost that designing a car that put rear seat passengers as a high priority was not a path to profitability.

The Signum, with its huge rear leg room and unusual packaging didn’t go over as too few people thought “Yes, this is the car I’ll take my friend in on that trip to the Ardennes”. The Renault Vel Satis* is another passenger’s car and again, it fell on stony soil.

You might not think it at first glance but passenger cars are mostly statements of intent or the manifestation of dreams never realised. These days as saloons become more sportscar-like they are getting even further away from a felicitous blend of utility and form.

*This is a super article from The Truth About Cars dealing with the Vel Satis.


German Lessons With Claudia Schiffer

Opel blew the budget on Ms. Schiffer, because there’s certainly nothing left for anything else. You know, like production values, creativity, wit …

Confusing isn’t it Claudia? You are, the Astra isn’t. Got it? Image: autoevolution

I feel for Claudia, I really do. Times must be tough in the Schiffer household, because she really must have needed the money for this. Each time this spot airs, I fight the urge to hurl the nearest available blunt object TV-wards. Surely no advertising agency with a shred of dignity would willingly put their name to drivel of this magnitude, yet someone did. Did they Continue reading “German Lessons With Claudia Schiffer”

A Photo For Sunday – 1996 Alfa Romeo 146 Ti

I like to imagine that if you were going to write a review or article about the Alfa Romeo 146 Ti (or any older Alfa) a suitably Italian background would be appropriate.

1996 Alfa Romeo 146 Ti
1996 Alfa Romeo 146 Ti

Quite by chance it has worked out the other way and the car and background suggest the feature.

The Ti was the highest level in the 146’s engine and trim hierarchy. These models had colour-coordinated side skirts, a boot spoiler and 12-hole alloy wheels (the car above does not). Two-litre cars had stiffer suspension, uprated brakes, ABS, lower-profile tires and a different steering rack that had a small ratio as on the 156 but a worsened turning circle, something to do with an attempt to deploy pure Ackerman steering geometry. Continue reading “A Photo For Sunday – 1996 Alfa Romeo 146 Ti”

More 2015 Geneva Car Show Highlights: Lemon Scented Swiss Washer Fluid

DTW is pleased to present some more information of the exhibitors at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show.

2015 EDAG Light Cocoon conceot car.
2015 EDAG Light Cocoon concept car.

What are Amstutz Produkte showing? Who are “Behind the Wheel”? And at what stand can Borgward be found? Christ Wash Systems seems fairly self-evident so I won’t spend too much time on them. Read on to find out more. Continue reading “More 2015 Geneva Car Show Highlights: Lemon Scented Swiss Washer Fluid”

1953 Ferrari 212 Inter Road Test

“A newcomer from Italy!” Archie Vicar takes a short look at a new motor car from Italy’s Ferrari concern and determines whether or not it cuts the mustard in an increasingly competitive market.

1953 Ferrari 212 Inter
1953 Ferrari 212 Inter: http://www.Ferraristuff.com

From “Sports And Racing Motor Car Gazette” November  1953. Photographs by Noel Rupert Beresford. Due to the poor quality of the original images, stock photos have been used.


For those ‘in the know’, Ferrari manufacture road cars that are closely related to their more famous racing cars. Two years ago a car not unlike this won the Carrera Panamericana with Chinetti and Taruffi at the wheel and a second car came second, with two other Italians driving. Not many marques can Continue reading “1953 Ferrari 212 Inter Road Test”

Geneva Motor Show 2015 : Lancia Have a Stand Shock

The last press release for Lancia was December 2014. There is no news of what Lancia is showing at Geneva this year at stand 5139.

2014 Lancia Ypsilon
2014 Lancia Ypsilon

But the fact they are listed among the exhibitors means that Lancia is still not quite dead. Qoros Automotive are also attending, by the way as are SKB Krattinger. They make equipment for garages. Continue reading “Geneva Motor Show 2015 : Lancia Have a Stand Shock”

Theme : Passengers – A Hire Education

Remembering who Hertz put in the passenger’s seat

Dole Queue

In the mid Seventies, living in London, fresh from college, unsure of myself and facing a stagnant economy, I took employment doing something I knew I’d be capable of. I became a Hertz delivery driver. Back then, Hertz were the envy of Avis. All car hire chains end up with too many, or the wrong type of cars in one place, and not enough in another. Avis solved this by loading cars onto a big transporter and dropping them off where needed, imagining that one guy driving 6 cars around would be cheaper than six drivers. Hertz knew differently.

The Hertz scheme was simple and old-fashioned. They employed drivers on a casual basis. You signed on with them, showing a clean licence. There were three shifts, and you could only attend one a day. You turned up at Hertz in Marble Arch and signed in. The dispatcher would start at the top of the list and call out as many names as he had drives for. If your name wasn’t called you could hang about on the off-chance, but you normally went home. If you had a drive, you would normally be part of a team of two or more. One person was appointed Lead Driver – he was the lucky one. If there were, say, four Cortinas to be brought down from Birmingham, Continue reading “Theme : Passengers – A Hire Education”

How Well is Nissan’s Pulsar Doing?

Not as well as the Qashqai but the Qashqai has outsold the Ford Focus in January 2015.

2015 Nissan Pulsar
2015 Nissan Pulsar

According to Nissan UK, the Qashqai cross-over/softroader has achieved sales of 19,500 units. The Pulsar has shifted 3,322 units in January. By comparison the Focus, (Ford’s evergreen mid-size family hatchback), does much better. Ford claim 14,500 vehicles sold. However, if we do not compare like with like, the Qashqai shows people are willing to stray out of the obvious categories when shopping for a mid-price, mid-sized car.

Some of those Qashqai buyers may very well have cross-shopped for a standard C-class car (Golf, Astra, Focus) as well as other soft-roader/crossovers. The Nissan costs £16,500 in the UK for a 1.6 litre model. A Focus begins at £16,445 (with a 1.0 litre Ecoboost) according to Car’s recent price list. CarBuyer claims it’s £1500 less and Ford UK says so too: £13,995. The Pulsar starts at £14,995.

With a generalising wave of the hand one can say these prices are not wildly dissimilar and once you’ve begun adding options and comparing non-quantitative elements, the distinction blurs to nearly nothing. Why did Car not list the lowest price Focus? (I looked in the January 2015 edition.)

We look forward to seeing how the Pulsar fares in what is a very competitive market sector. If sales drift along at 3000 units a month you might very well wonder if Nissan did not miscalculate with the Pulsar. I quite like the Pulsar’s no-nonsense “this is a car you can drive” approach but perhaps customers might want something more. A Qashqai, perhaps?

Interestingly, Renault are soon to offer their own entrant in what is Nissan’s most successful segment. Do they think they can add to the total number of cars sold or will they cannibalise sales? Will some people prefer to stay stuck in their meaningless ruts (that would be the Nissan buyers and everyone else) or will they go the Kadjar way and drive into a future of limitless freedom and soul-enriching self-empowerment?


Tinseltown in the Rain – Reflections on Jaguar’s XJ

Driven To Write’s resident Jaguariste remembers a more innocent time when life and advertising met, sniffed one another before hurriedly going their separate ways


In 2009, I became a little over-excited about a car launch. Following a good 40-years of diminished return styling, to be presented with a 21st century interpretation of the Jaguar XJ saloon was exciting beyond  comprehension.  Continue reading “Tinseltown in the Rain – Reflections on Jaguar’s XJ”

Kimona Over To My Place, Drive Here In Your Rolls

This year Rolls Royce is showcasing the things it is willing to do to its cars for its wealthier customers. A one-off car, the Serenity, will be shown at Geneva this year to this end.

2015 Rolls Royce Serenity interior concept drawing. Thanks to RRMC for the image.
2015 Rolls Royce Serenity interior concept drawing. Thanks to RRMC for the image.

The aqua leather and wooden accents work very well indeed. It might even be that the silk used extensively is fetching. I remain unconvinced by the Kimona-esque detailing in the roof that looks like a strange blood spatter rather than a delicate tree in blossom.

You can read Rolls Royce’s more generous description here:

Continue reading “Kimona Over To My Place, Drive Here In Your Rolls”

Ride Engineered – 1980 Mercury Monarch

The Ford Granada/Mercury Monarch pair are not known to be among Ford’s finest cars. Recently I had a closer look at a 1980 Mercury Monarch to see what it was really like.

1980 Mercury Monarch

Given that reputation, it may come as a surprise to some (it surprised me) that Ford marketed it as a rival to Mercedes’ W-123 in its 280E guise. Ah, that car again. The car shown here is a 2-door Monarch with the “Windsor” 4.9 V8. Ford also made 3.3 and 4.1 straight sixes available along with a 5.8 V8. The Ford version was almost the same barring cosmetic details at the front and back.

Production ran from 1975 to 1980. The intention with the Granada/Monarch was to Continue reading “Ride Engineered – 1980 Mercury Monarch”

An American View of Bristol

Via the Bristol Owner’s website I found this nice American take on Bristol cars. The photo is from the Curbside Classics website which I can’t recommend highly enough.

This is a Bristol 411 from the time when Bristol cars were beautiful.
This is a Bristol 411 from the time when Bristol cars were beautiful: thanks to Curbside Classics for the image.

The 411 looks like a combination of the proportions of a Jaguar XJ-6 and the surface treatment of a Rolls Royce Silver Shadow. We have had some debate about the British ability to style cars. This one shows that a British car need not be heavily ornate to look good.

Recharging Your Electric Car the Danish Way

One of the questions hanging over electric cars is about how inner city residents can recharge them if they don’t have off-street car parking.


This photo shows the Danish approach: put the recharging stations on the street. I don’t know how this works but will endeavour to find out. At the moment there are no signs to say these parking places are exclusive to electric cars (though this might be implied). There are several dotted around where I live and I have seen them in the middle of Dublin too.

I have also read that the US government is thinking that the best way to Continue reading “Recharging Your Electric Car the Danish Way”

Good To Go?

Following our recent discussions on both Advertising and the Borgward revival, DTW have received an unsubstantiated transcript of a meeting between Borgward’s Head of Marketing and the Creative Director of their London-based Advertising Agency.

Storyboard B

Dieter, Dieter, Mein Herr Geezer. How goes it?

Good morning Miller. Very good to see you. Everything is fine at our end. We’re gearing up for Geneva – very confident, though a bit nervous at the same time, naturally. It is all a big step. But we must discuss the film. I showed your rough edit to the board yesterday.

So they loved it, right?

Not exactly Miller. They did not feel that it projected Borgward values.

And what are they Dieter?

As we told you before. As they always were, so will they be. Solid. Dependable. Discreet. Middle Class.

So what’s the problem? That describes the guy driving the car in the ad perfectly. It took ages to find him you know. What don’t they like? Continue reading “Good To Go?”

Ah, the Romance of a Picnic

The ongoing replacement of the entire American Buick line-up with Opel vehicles has taken a step onward. At the Chicago motor show, the Cascada has been unveiled wearing the Buick Tri-Shield.

Whatever you do, don´t drive quickly with that stuff in the back.
Whatever you do, don´t drive quickly with that stuff in the back.

Much as I like Opel’s current range, and much as I want Buick to succeed, I am beginning to get a little disturbed by how little effort GM is making to translate Opel into Buick. Further, it is important there is at least one car that is uniquely Buick in the way the Regal, Lacrosse and Verano aren’t.

The Park Avenue is gone and perhaps the Avenir concept is a sign of there being a distinctly N American car in the Buick range. That’s a help but it is not enough. It would be nice to have a Senator for Opel’s range. If this is the case with the Avenir, it must be Buick first and Opel second and not the other way around. At bottom, Buick’s credibility rests on there being a car that truly represents Buick and which is not just a rebodied vehicle from another part of GM’s empire.

The Lacrosse seems distinctive enough but it is a model on the way out. The Regal is too much an Insignia to be anything other than a nice car with a Buick badge. I really like the Cascada and it does feel consistent with the Buick image. In isolation it’s a fine machine. And if it were slotted into a range of cars that was more intrinsically Buick, I’d be less alarmed. As it is, the Buick badge is now one model away from losing its believability.

2016 Buick Cascada
2016 Buick Cascada

Here’s some of the official copy from the Chicago Motor Show: “Harkening back to the glory days of the Buick Roadmaster, Skylark and Le Sabre convertibles, a new droptop model from Buick will be on display for the first time at the Chicago Auto Show, Feb. 14-22, 2015.  For the record, the Cascada is the first open air Buick in the U.S. in 25 years. Designed from the outset as a convertible, the distinctive Cascada has a flowing, sculpted profile, Buick’s signature wing-shape light-emitting diode (LED) daytime running lights. Around back, the LED-lit wing-shaped taillights are bridged by a handsome chrome trim accent.

A comprehensively equipped four-passenger interior feature the instrument panel wrapped with soft-touch material featuring authentic stitching, and heated front seats and steering wheel for added comfort. Performance and an engaging driving experience awaits with the 1.6-liter turbocharged engine that delivers a total of 200-horsepower. That calculates to more than 100-hp per liter. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard equipment, as is a rigid body structure, HiPer Strut front suspension and responsive Watts Z-link suspension in the rear.

Dropping the insulated soft top takes only 17 seconds at speeds up to 31 mph, and when the roof is up, it provides superior thermal and acoustic insulation.  Unique rollover protection bars are built-in to deploy behind the rear seats when the possibility of a rollover is detected. Other safety features include lane departure warning, rear park assist, rearview camera and Rainsense windshield wipers. Cascada also offers the latest in infotainment technology. The 2016 Buick Cascada provides 13.4 cubic feet of cargo room with the top up and 9.8 cubic feet with the top down. The rear seatbacks fold down electronically to expand cargo capability for longer items.”

Passengers: Testament of Faith

They’re not like us – well, not much like us anyway

Opel Manta 400 - image via showerks
Opel Manta 400 – image via showerks

Sean’s fine piece on Denis Jenkinson earlier this week prompted this clip of rally legend, Ari Vatanen giving his co-driver an education in belief during stage 4 of the 1983 Manx Rally. Vatanen gets his Opel Manta 400’s tail wagging alarmingly on the narrow Isle of Man lanes prompting the now immortal exclamation from normally unflappable co-driver, Terry Harryman. (About 2 mins in, if you don’t want to watch the whole thing)Continue reading “Passengers: Testament of Faith”

1984 Opel Senator 2.5E Road Test

DTW has been taking a look at old, large saloons. Recently a 1984 Opel Senator was been subjected to a small test. Read on to find out what was found out.

1984 Opel Senator 2.5E
1984 Opel Senator 2.5E


Every time one has a reason to discuss the large cars from the 70s and 80s, the large cars that aren’t BMW, Mercedes or Audi, one seems obliged to talk about the status and success of these products in comparative terms. It seems incorrect to speak of the Granada, 604 or Senator without mentioning how they fared relative to the BMW 5 et al. I’ll avoid re-treading all that ground again. Continue reading “1984 Opel Senator 2.5E Road Test”

Post For The Day

A Valentine’s Gift


As you know, Mr Editor Kearne keeps us under a tight rein. His reputation as the Elliott Ness of transport publishing means that the industry knows that he can’t be bought so, unfortunately, this preconception unfairly passes on to his team of writers.

As such, it was rare for this piece of blatant bribery from Vauxhall to pass through the net and, so desperately grateful am I, that it would be wrong of me not to draw your attention to the car it refers to.  Continue reading “Post For The Day”

Another Niche Within a Niche is Filled: BMW Active Tourer 7-seater

The old shibboleths are invalid. Not only has BMW launched a five-seater, front drive hatchback, they now have revealed a 7-seater as well. Zafira watch out. BMW watch out too.

1983 bmw-733i-06 reworked

I think the doctored photo shows the 7-seater but I am not entirely sure. It probably doesn’t matter a whole lot. It’s very much just a car that was bound to happen. It isn’t hard to turn a five seater MPV into a 7 seater. This is the version of the car that has finally erased my core image of BMW which is a gleaming black 1986 528i (E12) with grey cloth and a manual transmission parked outside an ad agency on Fitzwilliam Square, Dublin. Now my core image of a BMW is

Continue reading “Another Niche Within a Niche is Filled: BMW Active Tourer 7-seater”

Can the Anti-Bahar Rescue Lotus? – Part Two

Driven to write concludes its examination of Jean-Marc Gales’ plans to save Lotus

evora tail

Many of Lotus’ apologists incline towards the view that Dany Bahar had the right basic idea, but was thwarted by DRB-HICOM’s lack of imagination. Unsurprisingly then, their view on Jean-Marc Gales appointment is of a similarly reactionary hue. Gales made a mess of PSA they contend, and will do likewise at Hethel. Leaving aside the steaming lake of ordure their spiritual leader left behind at Lotus for a moment, the question is worth considering. Is Gales the right man?

Continue reading “Can the Anti-Bahar Rescue Lotus? – Part Two”

Anniversary: The Peugeot 604 is 40 This Year.

Large and lovely, the Peugeot 604 was launched amidst an economic crisis and a sharp upward turn in the price of oil. Today, PSA is largely ignoring a car noted for its outstanding ride, superb steering and odd seating position.

FullSizeRender (17)

Peugeot are not making a very big deal about the 604 which was launched in 1975. Peugeot’s museum throws the anniversary in with about nine others when they throw a party this summer. If you want to catch a bit of 604 magic, Peugeot might have one on display at Montlhery race track on May 2nd this year. French Cars in America are also silent on the topic. And that’s all a Google search threw up on the matter.  Continue reading “Anniversary: The Peugeot 604 is 40 This Year.”

Can the Anti-Bahar Rescue Lotus?

Part 1: Driven to write fixes its gimlet eye towards Jean-Marc Gales and asks if he has what it takes to transform Lotus’ fortunes in a post-Bahar era.

Don’t mention the Bahar – Jean-Marc Gales with the team behind the Lotus Elise-S Cup. Photo via automotivpress

Four years ago at the Paris Motor show, Lotus attached a rocket to its back and aimed for the stars showing five audacious concepts. Rocketman, Dany Bahar, Lotus’ shamanic leader attained perihelion before learning a valuable, if rather messy lesson in physics. Bahar told The Telegraph recently he in fact never intended making all five concepts, his intention merely being “to make a lot of noise”. It clearly escaped his notice that it’s a lot easier and ultimately less time-consuming to just set fire to huge wads of cash in public. Just ask the KLF.  Continue reading “Can the Anti-Bahar Rescue Lotus?”

Ashtrays: 1984 Opel Senator 2.5E

DTW is known to be a champion of Opel’s magnificent Senator “A”. This post scrutinises the ashtray in the rear passenger door of an 1984 Opel Senator 2.5E. Read on to see if the Opel Senator’s ashtray design was class competitive.

1984 Opel Senator 2.5 E ashtray.
1984 Opel Senator 2.5 E ashtray.

Opel used a top hinged ashtray in this context, setting it in the armrest. This seems to me not to be a very good position. You can’t lean on the armrest while the ashtray is open. So, one can hold the cigar in the other hand and risk dropping it as you move your hand over your legs to the door.

Alternatively, you keep the cigar in the hand near the door and lean on the centre armrest. In that case you need to make an uncomfortable movement to bring your hand near to where your elbow needs to be. You risk dropping ash on the seat just below. The ashtray is not illuminated and remember, the car may be in motion.

Continue reading “Ashtrays: 1984 Opel Senator 2.5E”

Death Has a Revolving Door: Here’s Borgward!

The coffin lid groans as the once lifeless corpse reanimates


It was revealed earlier this week that Borgward, the long-dead German quality auto marque will announce their first new vehicle in over 50-years at this year’s Geneva Motor show. Borgward, who last produced cars in 1961, join Saab and Bristol amongst deceased marques making belated and in Saab’s case, serial comebacks from the grave. Although amazingly, neither have as yet produced anything tangible apart from a few blurry photographs and some vaguely muttered promises. Continue reading “Death Has a Revolving Door: Here’s Borgward!”

Theme : Passengers – The Ultimate Passenger

Who was the greatest passenger of all time?

In My Dreams - Jim Clark showing how to drift.
In My Dreams – Jim Clark showing how to drift – source petewindsor.com

I don’t know about you, but I have shameful memories of my motoring youth. The worst was the time when a mother walking her two young children on a country road flung them into a ditch at the sight of me executing what I imagined was a most elegant four wheel drift through a long corner. Her action wasn’t necessary, I wasn’t actually intruding into their space, but she wasn’t to know that and I had a chastening lesson that day. Not that I’d pretend that quelled my driving style entirely, but I became more thoughtful of what other road, and pavement, users might think. I tried to keep a comfort area between them and me.

Continue reading “Theme : Passengers – The Ultimate Passenger”

Ashtrays: the 1980 Mercury Monarch

DTW is in the middle of preparing a consideration of the 1980 Mercury Monarch which was all but identical to the 1980 Ford Granada (the US version).

1980 Mercury Monarch driver´s ashtray cover.
1980 Mercury Monarch driver´s ashtray cover.

It is a legendarily mediocre car, even with a 5.0 litre Windsor V-8. More on that soon. In the meantime, I thought I would fillet some of my findings and present this amuse-gueule or Häppchen: the driver’s ashtray.

I wondered what the very large panel next to the glove compartment was and it turned out to be the aperture for a substantial ashtray and a cigar-lighter. Alas I was not able to gauge the dimensions of the ash receptacle: 100 ml would be an estimate based on my many years of valuable research on this neglected topic. Continue reading “Ashtrays: the 1980 Mercury Monarch”

2015 Fiat 500C Review

DTW takes a Fiat 500C on a road trip. What did we learn? For one, don’t trust the fuel gauge and for another, it’s amazing people buy the Ford Ka. 

2015 Fiat 500C and some close relatives.

DTW is a bit late to the party in the case of the 500 as we aren’t yet on the invitation lists of the major car companies. By now the 500 is getting on a bit, launched as it was in 2007 when George Bush was still president. Nonetheless, we have got a hold of one now and if this isn’t a review of the car, at least it provides a check against the opinions of the motoring journals.

The model in question is the 500C semi-convertible version, on sale since 2009. I drove a 1.2 litre five speed manual without the stop-start technology and without the Twin Air engine. As the weather was dire, I didn’t open the roof except once to Continue reading “2015 Fiat 500C Review”

Unforgetting: Ford GT70

I vaguely recall seeing photos of this car in a magazine somewhere, but never knew much about it. But having watched this short film from 1970, I now know more – if only a little…

GT70 - photo via autowp.ru
GT70 – photo via autowp.ru

During the late 60s, Ford was taking motorsport rather seriously. Ford’s 1970 rally weapon was the newly announced Escort – the sort of no-nonsense rugged warhorse that was perfect for forest stages and Safari’s. But on faster asphalt rallies, they were being humbled by more specialised machinery – notably the all-conquering Alpine A110’s.  Continue reading “Unforgetting: Ford GT70”

A photo for Sunday – 1979-1992 VW Transporter (T2)

The vehicle here could be said to chime with our monthly theme, passengers. Further, the vehicle itself is a place to stay when you get to your destination. 

1979-1992 VW Transporter: air cooled and slow. Best left parked.
1979-1992 VW Transporter: air cooled and slow. Best left parked.

I notice that none of the Transporters that I ever see are well-cared for in a cosmetic sense. Rust is always there somewhere. The passenger saloon with its fold down tables and simple bench seats are almost always littered with debris. I don’t imagine that the owners’ home is similarly strewn with discarded items such as cables, cartons, items of clothes or old boots. Why the difference?

While at one level these machines are vehicles they also seem to ask to be treated like an old rucksack or cycle pannier. Over time these pieces of baggage Continue reading “A photo for Sunday – 1979-1992 VW Transporter (T2)”

Etceterini, Etceterini, Etceterini …

It Wasn’t Just Ferraris You Know?

Moretti 2

Last year, in Southern Germany, I came across an ‘Oldtimer Rally’ and I put a small gallery of photos up in December. There was a nice variety of cars, but what stood out for me was this little Moretti 750. Moretti was just one of a good number of small Italian manufacturers including Abarth, Stanguellini, Nardi and OSCA who produced small sports and racing cars in the post War period, and whose products are known, with affection and respect, as Etceterini.

There is no absolute definition of what makes an Etceterino, but it doesn’t mean any car not made by a major Italian manufacturer, so Fiat 500s rebodied as beach cars, fun as they are, are not Etceterini. Continue reading “Etceterini, Etceterini, Etceterini …”

Theme: Passengers – Mitfahrergelegentheit

Imagine being stuck for six hours in car with a total stranger. It’s terrific. 

It´s great to stand around a car and chat while taking a break on a long trip.
It’s great to stand around a car and chat while taking a break on a long trip.

For a while I was a long-distance taxi, ferrying strangers from the middle of Europe northwards and sometimes from the north of Europe downwards. I’d get a message via an in-box on a web-board that, say, someone wanted to get from Cologne to Hamburg, or to Flensburg or to Aarhus. After some short discussions on price, (the passengers dictated as supply exceeded demand) I’d arrange to meet the passengers at an agreed point and off we’d go on a six or seven hour trip together. “Hi, I’m Richard….you must be Helen/Erich/Jonas…” Continue reading “Theme: Passengers – Mitfahrergelegentheit”

Lovely, Lovely Numbers

Opinions are fragile things, aren’t they? Left alone and sheltered from the cold gusts of fact, they thrive but a few small bits of data can destroy them in an instant, like hail shredding the most tender of blossoms.

This is the only image of thsi car I could find that was not black-ish or white-ish.
This is the only image of this car I could find that was not black-ish or white-ish.

The ACEA (European Automobile Manufacturer’s Association) released data for car sales in 2014 recently. Automotive News made a bit of a meal of the matter of who would take next-to-top spot. Would it be Renault, Opel or Ford who will take the number two position in the future? At the moment Ford holds this honour, with just under a million cars sold. GM, perhaps because one or two models are below par, sold a bit less again. But that part of the story, the cars-as-sports story, didn’t really interest me so much as the way the numbers reset my expectation. Continue reading “Lovely, Lovely Numbers”

More Lost in Translation: 2016 Nissan Maxima

North American sports fans were treated to a look at the next Nissan Maxima during the Super Bowl intermission**. 

2015 Nissan Sport Sedan concept
2014 Nissan Sport Sedan concept

Many were impressed by the sentimental video and debate raged about the car’s overall style. Few disliked it. I noticed that a lot was lost in translation from the 2014 Nissan Sport Sedan concept to the 2016 car. Reminiscent of the Citroen Cactus concept car, the 2015 Nissan sport sedan concept had rather flashy glass work. The A-pillar was blacked out to look as if the glass of the windscreen Continue reading “More Lost in Translation: 2016 Nissan Maxima”

Something Rotten in Denmark: 1991 Volvo 960 Executive

Something Rotten in Denmark has turned up this curiosity. It’s the Volvo 960 Executive.

1991 Volvo 960 Executive
1991 Volvo 960 Executive

It’s labelled a Volvo S90, but sold as a 1991 960. And it has the c-pillar treatment of the Volvo stretch limousine but appears to be at best, just a long-wheelbase version of the car. I found this car for sale at Vallensæk Bil Centre, somewhere south of Copenhagen. It’s for sale without an MOT for 9,900 kr. I wrote to ask if it could Continue reading “Something Rotten in Denmark: 1991 Volvo 960 Executive”

The Renault 16 Is Fifty This Year. There Are None Left.

Our good friends at Renault UK’s press office have sent us a reminder that the Renault 16 is fifty years old this year.

1967 Renault 16 TX
1967 Renault 16 TX

Philippe Charbonneaux is credited with the design of this car which was in production from 1965 to 1980. Its main claim to fame is related to its innovative deployment of a hatchback in the middle-to-large sized car class. At that point there developed a marked fork in the road in car design. Some manufacturers followed this path, those makers most like Renault. Continue reading “The Renault 16 Is Fifty This Year. There Are None Left.”

Sierra Shock – Ford’s Aero Banana Skin

Ford’s shapely Cortina replacement proved to be less aerodynamically accomplished than its slippery wrapping suggested. 


Sierra was intended to mark a fresh direction for the Blue Oval. The brainchild of Robert Lutz, Ford’s Eurocentric Director of operations, it was designed to take on the upper-middle class European marques in sophistication and appeal. Lutz wanted a more dynamic, technological image, especially in Germany, where the ancient Cortina and Taunus’ models were viewed as throwbacks. Continue reading “Sierra Shock – Ford’s Aero Banana Skin”

Theme : Passengers – Threesomes

Three for Two – Why not Supersize?

GM Bench

As soon as cars got wide enough, it was taken for granted that you would fit three people in front. So the bench seat was joined in the 1930s by the column mounted gearstick allowing three people to sit abreast in comfort.  Of course, as GM’s rather coy little illustration above suggests, the bench had other attractions but, for most, it meant you could squeeze more people in.

Continue reading “Theme : Passengers – Threesomes”

Theme: Passengers – The Passenger by Iggy Pop

Iggy Pop’s song The Passenger springs to mind now that Simon has launched another theme of the month.

David Bowie and Iggy Pop (but not in Berlin). The alternative photo was of the 1997 Avensis and I thought that was too boring to use.
David Bowie and Iggy Pop (but not in Berlin). The alternative photo was of the 1997 Avensis and I thought that was too boring to use.

In the great tradition of advertisers misunderstanding lyrics, Toyota chose Iggy Pop’s 1977 song to sell the 1997 Avensis, a car so incredibly uninteresting** that even I won’t be caught trying to discover its appeal. The external appearance is as close as you can get to a characterless vehicle while still being convincingly realistic. The theme Toyota were trying to get us to understand was that by being so incredibly relaxing, driving an Avensis was like being a passenger. Continue reading “Theme: Passengers – The Passenger by Iggy Pop”

A Photo For Sunday: 1997 VW Golf Estate

Continuing the theme of colour, here’s a VW Golf from the 1997-2004 series.

1997 VW Golf estate
1997 VW Golf estate

It’s the cheerful metallic green I want to draw your attention to. The interior had cloth seats with panels of a similar hue. Presumably this was a special edition but the car had no badges to indicate this. This iteration of the Golf was the most neatly refined, in my view, the one where competitors gasped at the subtle refinements such as the legendary cloth covered a-pillars. Quite why people Continue reading “A Photo For Sunday: 1997 VW Golf Estate”

Theme : Passengers – Introduction

Passengers? What are they good for?

HondaSince you are on this site reading this, I’m sure that you probably agree with me. Passengers are of limited worth. They have their uses. They can coo in admiration of your driving skills. They can unwrap sticky sweets and pass them to you. They can scurry out into rainy nights and get you fish & chips. They can ….

Continue reading “Theme : Passengers – Introduction”

Aerodynamics: The Shape We’re In

We ask whether aerodynamics’ post-war, post-aviation beginnings have anything in common with tomorrow’s hydrogen-powered wonders.

The future? Volkswagen-xl1-photo via motortrend
The future? Volkswagen XL-1. Image: Motor Trend

Car manufacturers have historically enjoyed a somewhat patchy relationship with the concept of aerodynamic theory. During the post-war period only a handful of motor manufacturers paid more than lip service and of those, most had their origins in aircraft manufacture. Bristol and Saab, for example were both forced to diversify during post-war austerity when demand for their mainstay aircraft businesses collapsed in peacetime. Continue reading “Aerodynamics: The Shape We’re In”

Theme : Aerodynamics – Release The BATs

Aero could be fun too…

The three BAT cars - photo via carnewscafe
The three Alfa Romeo BAT cars – photo: carnewscafe

Aerospace iconography permeated everywhere throughout the 1950s, particularly car styling. So when Alfa Romeo commissioned a series of concept cars, science fiction melded with aerodynamic theory, creating the extraordinary BAT cars.  Continue reading “Theme : Aerodynamics – Release The BATs”

Honda Legend Versus the Citroen C6

Recently DTW reminded readers of the overlooked Honda Legend. And the resultant discussion brought up the fact that Car magazine ran both a C6 and a Legend on their long term fleet in 2007.

2006 Citroen C6
2006 Citroen C6

Car magazine asked at the end of their introductory comparison whether the two cars were “viable executive choices or pointless follies, vanity projects for their respective makers?” The general tone of the article was that even though they had chosen to run both these cars, Car itself didn’t really know why it was bothering. Continue reading “Honda Legend Versus the Citroen C6”