Interview: Mario Bellini, Designer

Not many designers get to venture outside the boundaries that divide the discipline. Mario Bellini is one of them: furniture, architecture, product design and automotive work are all included in his remarkable portfolio.

Mario Bellini
Mario Bellini

Bellini is the winner of, among others, 8 Compasso d’Oro and prestigious architecture awards including the Medaglia d’Oro conferred by the President of the Italian Republic. Seen from an historical point of view, the activity we call design is a process with as wide a variety of final products as there are material human needs.

From that standpoint, product design, architecture, graphics, car design and clothing, for example, would be seen as variations on the theme of working out what form things take to solve a problem. Continue reading “Interview: Mario Bellini, Designer”

Theme : Dashboards – The Demise of the Column Shift

A Change for the Worst?

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If you drive a manual car, where do you look for the gearshift? As a default, central and forward of the front seats. Until the late 1960s, this was not always so. At one time, a piece of bent metal originating directly from the gearbox and capped with a Bakelite knob, was a sign of a cheap car. A better car, a quality car, more often had its gear change mounted on the steering column. This was only logical. This put it in easy reach of the steering wheel and freed up floorspace for a central passenger on the bench seat, or made for a more congenial driving experience when you were with a close friend. Who would have it any other way? Other types of gearboxes, such as torque converter automatics and pre-selectors followed this pattern.

Continue reading “Theme : Dashboards – The Demise of the Column Shift”

Devourer Of Worlds – The Inexorable Rise Of The S-Class

Mercedes’ new W222 S-Class is decimating its European and Asian rivals. A renaissance for a declining sector or the final gasp? Driven to write investigates.

The All New Mercedes-Benz S-Class (2)

The S-Class is the quintessential Mercedes and the centre of gravity around which the entire Stuttgart-Untertürkheim behemoth pivots. None more so than today’s W222 series; which if current sales are a reliable barometer, is shaping up to be the fastest selling iteration in the model’s history. Continue reading “Devourer Of Worlds – The Inexorable Rise Of The S-Class”

Theme: Dashboards – 2011 Nissan Moco

A lot of expense can go a long way to making an uninteresting dashboard design seem acceptable.

2010 Nissan Moco: look at that cloth. It's brilliant.
2010 Nissan Moco: look at that cloth. It´s brilliant.

[Images courtesy of this excellent blog minimally minimal]

Soft touch plastics, chrome trim, lots of accessories: throw all that at some shapes and maybe the customer won’t notice how boring their car interior really is. The 2011 Nissan Moco is a kei-car and that means it’s small and cheap. The designers couldn’t use costly tricks and so did it the hard way: careful and creative styling.

Continue reading “Theme: Dashboards – 2011 Nissan Moco”

Extreme Rustproofing the Danish Way

The Danish climate is tough on older cars, especially those designed for drier climates. One solution is complete after-market galvanisation. Look at this Citroen 2CV to see how it appears when so treated….

Galvanised 2CV in Aarhus, Denmark
Galvanised 2CV in Aarhus, Denmark

There are two 2CV specialists in Jutland, one is the Danish 2CV Centre and the other is the 2CV Expert. One of these two offers a complete galvanising option on refurbished 2CVs. The Danish 2CV Centre has a museum which I have not visited. I had a look at this car which seems to have undergone the maximum degree of protection but has not been painted. Continue reading “Extreme Rustproofing the Danish Way”

Death’s Revolving Door: More Saab/NEV News

The rumours discussed earlier this month that Mahindra might be about to step in and invest in NEV (“the troubled Swedish car maker” in journalese) are nearing confirmation.

More interior room than a Rolls-Royce, so said the advertising copy. (1986 Saab 9000).
More interior room than a Rolls-Royce, so said the advertising copy. (1986 Saab 9000).

Automotive News reported. Their news came from the Financial Times. The article said that “Mahindra wants to acquire the remnants of Saab to accelerate its expansion into Western markets and into premium and electric cars”. Mahindra is slated to take a controlling stake in National Electric Vehicle. Continue reading “Death’s Revolving Door: More Saab/NEV News”

Peter Stevens On Electric Cars

Peter Stevens has asked if electric cars need a new form language. His contention is that at present they either look conventional like the Tesla, or have “a strange self-righteous appearance”. What else does he say?

1900 Lohner Porsche: "Lohner Porsche cars used electric motors mounted within the wheels. That eliminated the weight and friction of a conventional drivetrain. "
1900 Lohner Porsche: “Lohner Porsche cars used electric motors mounted within the wheels. That eliminated the weight and friction of a conventional drivetrain. “

Stevens’ article first appeared at www.formtrends.com but is also republished at Car Design News.  In the article he makes the claim that while electric power might suit buses and van-like vehicles, the format presents too many conflicting requirements to work well:

“The batteries are huge and heavy and like to sit together like school friends; they become very inefficient if they are spread around the car so rather than liberating the designer they restrict new possibilities for vehicle architecture.” Continue reading “Peter Stevens On Electric Cars”

Theme : Dashboards – The Fiat Multipla

A Clever Clown at a Conference of Dull Suits?

Multipla 5

I won’t detail my admiration for the concept and design of the 1999 Fiat Multipla here. Suffice it to say that if you don’t get it and, if you can only go ‘aargh it’s so frigging ugly’, you are wrong. I realise that you are a fine person in all other things but, in the matter of one of the few original and worthwhile cars of the past 30 years, you are sadly misguided.

But here we shall confine ourselves to the Multipla’s dashboard. Somewhere on the web, another misguided soul has posted something on the 10 Strangest Car Dashboards with “If you think the dashboard is ugly, you should see the exterior…..”. But is it strange, is it weird, is it ugly?

Continue reading “Theme : Dashboards – The Fiat Multipla”

Fiat’s Nightmare Continues – Sales Are Up

Despite well-publicised woes, Fiat is actually doing decent business in the lower reaches of the European market, with 2014 sales figures suggesting a recovery – well, of sorts…

500m

European car sales figures from Jan-September 2014 illustrate an unexpected bright spot at FCA’s beleaguered Fiat division. It’s not much to write home about, but the former Torinese powerhouse is once again dominating the sub-compact car market. Between the top selling 500 and second placed Panda, Fiat have the mini-car sector sown up, with joint recorded sales of over 239,000 in the year to September. The 500 has performed well above expectations this year; especially so given the model’s age, with sales up 16% on 2013. The good news for Sergio continues with a small miracle occurring at Lancia. Continue reading “Fiat’s Nightmare Continues – Sales Are Up”

God is in the Details : 2015 Subaru WRX STi

God is in the details, as Mies Van der Rohe said. Subaru’s recent WRX STi has attracted my attention with an engineering choice that deserves respect.

2015 Subaru WRX STi
2015 Subaru WRX STi

I have two reasons for this article. One is the subject itself, Subaru’s devotion to steering quality, and two is to make up for our neglect of the brand. During our recent foray into engines, DTW failed rather spectacularly to mention Subaru who have championed boxer engines on the grounds that these make for a car with a lower centre of gravity, to the benefit of handling among other boons.

As LJK Setright noted, lowering the centre of gravity is a more effective means to ensure stability than widening the track of a vehicle.  Continue reading “God is in the Details : 2015 Subaru WRX STi”

A Photo for Sunday

Sunday is a day of reflection. DTW would like to offer this image as the subject for today’s consideration.

1984 Mercedes duo
The two cars are 1983 Mercedes W123’s: a 230 CE and a 280 CE. Both are the same colour whose proper name I don’t know. These park on my street and are owned by two people who don’t know each other. What a strange coincidence.  Continue reading “A Photo for Sunday”

Weekend Number Crunching: Renault

Renault’s November sales figures have been released. Good or bad or what? 

Among the 75% of smaller cars that make up Renault´s UK sales, is the Zoe.
Among the 75% of smaller cars that make up Renault´s UK sales, is the Zoe.

Renault UK released their latest sales figures on Wednesday. The headline, as they present it, is that their sales are still increasing, a 20 month upward trend. They make the point that their percentage change is ahead of the general market trend too. They sold 61,172 vehicles in the year to date, which is almost a 50% improvement on last year. 5,586 of those were sold in November.

The biggest contributor to this increase is probably the popularity of the Continue reading “Weekend Number Crunching: Renault”

Theme: Dashboards – Toyota’s Subtle Game

Little credit goes to Toyota’s designers for their contribution to dashboard design. Let’s change that and reconsider the seventh generation of the Corolla, the E100, on sale from 1991 to 1995.

1993 Toyota Corolla interior (EU model).
1993 Toyota Corolla interior (EU model).

Toyota has always carefully controlled the extent to which the fashions of the times have influenced its dashboards’ appearance. Corolla customers are such that they want the car to be as unobtrusive as possible and perhaps they are even unaware of this powerful desire. For any designer to make a shape that meets this requirement is far from easy. It is like designing unspoken rules, design for the tacit. To do what designers often do, driven by ego, is to seek attention. Continue reading “Theme: Dashboards – Toyota’s Subtle Game”

Downgraded from Economy

This wasn’t what I expected.

A rented vehicle.
A rented vehicle.

At the very least, a rental car offers the chance to drive something new even if it’s not the car of your dreams or as good as your normal vehicle. On my recent visit to Baden-Württemberg I’d expected to be driving a Ford Ka. This didn’t excite me very much but, as I said, it was a new car and not something I’d otherwise experience.

To my disappointment, Continue reading “Downgraded from Economy”

Theme : Dashboards – The Rover P6

An Ignored Classic

Rover V8 Int

In Simon’s introduction he mentions the original P6 Rover dashboard, and I think this merits more scrutiny. The P6 Rover ceased production in 1977, ending its life as a British Leyland product built in 2.2 and 3.5 litre forms, and viewed as a rather staid design with a latterly gained reputation for poor build quality. Continue reading “Theme : Dashboards – The Rover P6”

Death’s Revolving Door is Now Spinning

They are digging up Saab again.

1980 Saab-Lancia 600
1980 Saab-Lancia 600

Automotive News has reported another turn of the swing door in Trollhattan. Those of you keen on re-gravedigging will have been following the death-rebirth-death-rebirth of Saab. At this point the cycle is akin to an automotive version of Buddhist re-incarnation except Saab keeps coming back as an about-to-die brand. The last news (May) was that some of Saab’s putative investors declined to throw more money into the open grave in Trollhattan and the stake was once again hammered into Saab’s turbo’d heart.  Continue reading “Death’s Revolving Door is Now Spinning”

2014 Citroen DS3 – Quick Review

The 3 was the first of the new DS line – does consideration of it now give any clues to the new marque’s future?

DS3ext

The silver lining to having a car that spends more time than one would like “being serviced” is that one usually gets a courtesy car to try whilst one’s (un)faithful steed is being restored to full health. Previously, I’ve written about how a “lowly” Ford Fiesta provided in such circumstances proved to be one of the nicest drives that I have ever experienced; today it is the turn of the DS3. Continue reading “2014 Citroen DS3 – Quick Review”

Theme : Dashboards – Be Careful What You Wish For

Today a certain homogeneity has swept over automotive design, both inside and out.

1991 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham d'Elegance
1991 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham d’Elegance

For a long time before this it was routine to mock the over-wrought interiors favoured by US luxury makers and here we have an example of what the target of this derision looked like. These days, while recognising that the 1991 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham d’Elegance is most likeable as an ironic statement, it is true to say one could miss the diversity in automotive design that was available then. For some people this was precisely what they wanted. Continue reading “Theme : Dashboards – Be Careful What You Wish For”

History Repeating – XJ40 Part 12

Phase three – 1981-1986: The Legend Grows Old Waiting. As the AJ6 engine breaks cover, the press lose patience.

0000471_xjs-red-36
The 1983 AJ6-engined XJ-S 3.6 – image: Jaguar Heritage

The autumn of 1983 saw Jaguar offer an AJ6-engined car to the public. The 3.6 litre XJ-S was launched in the familiar coupé bodyshell with the added novelty of a drophead two-seater version. Both were powered by the new AJ6 unit in 225 bhp 24-valve form. The British motoring press devoted pages of copy to the introduction, this being the first all-new Jaguar engine since the V12 of 1971. Expectations were high, given the peerless refinement of the larger-displacement unit. The fact that this engine would become the mainstay power unit for XJ40 only added to its significance.  Continue reading “History Repeating – XJ40 Part 12”

Something Rotten in Denmark: 1998 Chrysler Stratus

The Chrysler Stratus: all the bad qualities of American cars, Japanese cars and European cars rolled into one unappetising shape. In 1995 these cars had the power to thrill.

How to sell a car´s charms
How to sell a car´s charms

This car has two claims to our attention today. The first is that in the cold light of day, it is hard to believe this car and its almost identical stable-mates were nominated on Car & Driver’s 10 best list. I wasn’t aware of this at the time. The second reason I’m drawn to it is because it was the first car I was ever paid to review**. I wrote 1000 words and saw the editor chop out 200 of them, more or less killing the nuances of the text stone dead. I wanted to write a Continue reading “Something Rotten in Denmark: 1998 Chrysler Stratus”

Theme : Dashboards – Introduction

The Editor Dashes Off an Intro

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The first car dashboard to be noted was, probably, the eponymous one used in the Curved Dash Oldsmobile of 1901. However this simply referred to the low barrier at the front of the car that stopped dirt and stones being ‘dashed’ up against the occupants, and which had been inherited entirely from the world of horses and carriages.

Continue reading “Theme : Dashboards – Introduction”

Theme : Books – The Observer’s Book of Automobiles for 1963

DTW Considers a Well-Thumbed Volume

Observers

As Simon has pointed out in his excellent introduction, there was a time when information did not exist at your fingertips. Back then, you had to go out and find it or, if you wanted it to come to you, you needed to invest in as much printed reference material as you could afford. As an 11 year old, I had not yet discovered the world of motoring books, and it’s unlikely that my pocket money could have supported such an addiction, so what I knew of cars was what I picked up from a knowledgeable friend of my parents who was restoring a Bentley 3 Litre (the sort of thing that people did in their garages back then) who loaned me about ten years back issues of Motor Sport and what I read in the pages of Autocar, which came through the letterbox once a week.

Continue reading “Theme : Books – The Observer’s Book of Automobiles for 1963”

Ashtrays

Some of us smoke. Some of us don’t. Some want to smoke and can’t. All of us here drive and have ash or small coins to store somewhere. This means we all have some interest in ashtrays in cars.

1995 Buick Riviera interior
1995 Buick Riviera interior

As regular members here know, I drive an elderly Citroen. Apart from a graunchy gearchange and dangerously pointy doors, it’s the ashtray that causes me the most dissatisfaction. The ashtray is well sized and illuminated by a nice green lamp that creates a ghostly wonderland of cigar ash as I travel about the land under the cover of darkness. I’d call this a selling point.

Continue reading “Ashtrays”

2014 Opel Zafira 2.0 CDti Ecoflex roadtest

The Opel Zafira Tourer went on sale in late 2011 as an addition to the Opel family, rather than a replacement for the existing Zafira. 

2014 Opel Zafira 2.0 CDti
2014 Opel Zafira 2.0 CDti

That remains on sale as a cheaper, smaller MPV, albeit in facelifted form. DTW gained access to a Zafira Tourer Ecoflex, with a 2.0 diesel engine fitted with stop/start technology. Read on for a short review…The Zafira does such a good job it is hard to write about the car´s demerits without seeming to make too much of rather small details. All the good points can fly past unnoticed since getting it right is often just a way to go unnoticed.

Continue reading “2014 Opel Zafira 2.0 CDti Ecoflex roadtest”

Superman In Milton Keynes

Almost three decades ago, a couple of cheapskate film producers believed they could whisk the quintessential American superhero to Buckinghamshire and people wouldn’t notice. Now Daimler AG is following their example. 

superman_4_en_busca_de_la_paz_1987_3-1024x576

Back in the late 1970s, Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus were the undisputed moguls of Israeli cinema, thanks mainly to the success of their Lemon Popsicle series of raunchy comedies. By the early 1980s, they wanted to enter the big leagues, which meant entering the US market, big time. Golan/Globus invested serious amounts of money in order Continue reading “Superman In Milton Keynes”

Audi’s Prologue – Drawing Restraint

Audi has previewed its new styling direction. It looks a lot like the old styling direction.

audi-prologue-25-970x646-c

Judging from the cumulative audience reaction to Audi’s new design direction embodied by the recent Prologue concept, Marc Lichte and his designers may have considerably more work to do if Audi is not to become viewed as creatively becalmed. Continue reading “Audi’s Prologue – Drawing Restraint”

History in Cars: Midlife Krisis KA

If you’re going to have a mid-life crisis, at least get a decent set of wheels.

images_ford_ka_1996_1

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a man in his forties has a higher than average propensity to some form of mid-life introspection. As we know, the clichéd route to self-actualisation ranges from an inadvisable tattoo, to an inappropriate affair with a younger member of whichever gender he’s attracted to. Some choose to experiment with various derivations of the above. The more conventional opt for a sportscar or convertible. After all, just because you’re in the throes of a life event doesn’t mean you have to be original about it.

Continue reading “History in Cars: Midlife Krisis KA”

What’s the Difference Between a Mercedes CLA and a Mercedes C-class?

How does £208 per litre sound? I’ve been looking through the spec sheets again.

2014 Mercedes saloon.
2014 Mercedes saloon.

We know that the CLA is a front-wheel drive vehicle, related to the A-class which is now essentially MB’s offering in the Golf/Focus/Astra sector. The C-class is a monument in the automotive firmament, with roots going back to the rear-wheel drive 190E of the ’80s. That car was the first sign that Mercedes was interested in capitalising on its prestige by bringing their quality down to a smaller class of car than they had been offering up to that point. Continue reading “What’s the Difference Between a Mercedes CLA and a Mercedes C-class?”

1976 Simca 1307, Chrysler 150 and Talbot 1510 review

“Vive La Difference!” Archie Vicar compares some new products in the family sector, the Simca 1307, the Chrysler 150 and the Talbot 1510.

[Note: It has been drawn to our attention that significant parts of this article are factually incorrect.]

1976 Simca 1307
1976 Simca 1307

From The Motoring Weekly Gazette, October 1976. Photography by Terry Loftholdingswood. Owing to the poor quality of the original images, stock photos have been used.

Introduction

All of a sudden there are three entirely new cars fresh on the market to rival the Ford Cortina, the Vauxhall Cavalier and the ancient Renault 16. From England comes the Talbot 1510: good day, sir! From France, we say bonjour to the Simca 1307. And we say “howdy” to the Chrysler 150 from the Americans. There would appear to be something for everyone’s taste here, I say. Continue reading “1976 Simca 1307, Chrysler 150 and Talbot 1510 review”

Theme: Books – Auto And Design

Auto & Design is not quite a book, but it is printed matter and it’s not an advertisement**.

Auto & Design: as glossy as the cars illustrated within.
Auto & Design: as glossy as the cars illustrated within.

For anyone interested in getting some (but not much) insight into the car design process, you can take out a subscription to Auto & Design, one of two long-running automotive design journals. This one hails from Italy and is written in both English and Italian. The other is Car Design, which is Japanese and slightly more technical and academic in its style. Continue reading “Theme: Books – Auto And Design”

The Turning of Tables: European Car Sales Grow in Korea

DTW has often noted that the Koreans, in the form of Kia and Hyundai, have been selling very competitive products in Europe. But what is happening with European cars in the Korean market?

2014 Renault Samsung SM7: not big in Europe.
2014 Renault Samsung SM7: not big in Europe.

The New York Times reported that Koreans will soon be spending more on imported cars than they earn exporting vehicles. The situation is not symmetrical. While mainstream European brands have probably lost most to the Koreans’ competitive edge, in Korean it is the “prestige” brands that have thrived. The main reason for the change in the mix of cars sold in Korea is a trade agreement dating from 2011. Additionally, Koreans are less shy about buying foreign cars. In the past a major disincentive was that foreign cars were often vandalised. Continue reading “The Turning of Tables: European Car Sales Grow in Korea”

1965 Renault 16 Review

“Hatchback of Notre Dame” – In this transcript the respected motor-correspondent, Mr Archie Vicar, dons his beret to try the new Renault “Sixteen”.

1965 Renault 16: it has five doors.
1965 Renault 16: it has five doors.

From Driving Illustrated May 1965. Photos by Mr Douglas Land-Windermere. Due to the poor quality of the original images, stock photography has been used.

Olive oil and garlic in the kitchen, filterless Gitanes in his pocket and a pair of slip-on shoes. We all know the fellow. He likes his chicken chasseur and, in the late evening, Jacque Brel croons on his stereophonic record player. Coffee for him, never good old tea. Heaven forbid if the coffee is powdered. Not for this chap a splendid Humber, a stout Riley or even a fine Rover. Such motor cars are not sufficiently sophisticated, too British. Since 1955 the only car for Monsiuer Different has been a Citroen, usually the DS, fitted with its dreadfully overwrought hydropneumatic suspension, fibreglass roof and marshmallow chairs. Continue reading “1965 Renault 16 Review”

Glass : It’s Clear to See

Reflections on Glazing

Tinted Windows

The phrase ‘privacy glass’ has always concerned me. Do you have a right to privacy when you are on the public road? Despite my not always restrained driving style, I get on pretty well with my fellow road users. The reason is that I acknowledge my errors and praise other people’s politeness. If someone seems to stop to let me through, even if I suspect they might be dropping someone off or that they are just stopping because the sight of me swinging round the corner and accelerating towards the contended space is too much to bother dealing with, I always wave and smile as though they have done me a fine favour. And I like it when I am on the receiving end. In both cases, I don’t fool myself that we have established a lasting bond, but it’s just a simple acknowledgment that we both share the road and that one of us has taken what the other has been graceful enough to give. Continue reading “Glass : It’s Clear to See”

Hideous Hides

Now that even modest compact cars can be equipped with stitched leather look for almost every surface imaginable, the upper echelons have to up the cow skin ante – to, in some cases, dubious effect.

2014-aston-martin-vanquish-volante-stitching-photo-521318-s-1280x782

The recent troubles at Aston Martin have almost overshadowed an event that has become a bit of a rarity in recent times: the unveiling of a rather attractive car coming from Gaydon. The automobile in question, the Lagonda Taraf, is – despite its lavish grille – the most restrained and, it could be argued, tasteful design coming from Gaydon’s most prestigious car maker.

The Taraf’s surfacing is uncluttered, its detailing not overwhelming and the overall proportions are spot-on. An unexpected, yet welcome surprise, one might conclude – before setting sights on the Lagonda’s interior. Continue reading “Hideous Hides”

History Repeating – XJ40 Part 11

Phase three – 1981-1986: Free at last. Jaguar’s independence becomes a reality as Sir William takes a more active role.

Egan and Lyons
Two Knights, two Jags – Egan and Lyons – image: Jaguar Heritage

When John Egan made contact with Sir William Lyons in 1981 to sound out the Jaguar founder for the role of company President, he was taken aback by his response. ‘I already am, lad!’, Lyons informed him. Amid the turmoil of the previous eight years everyone appeared to have forgotten. Lyons warmly embraced the new incumbent, believing the Lancastrian was the man to reconstruct Jaguar after the disastrous Ryder years. The two men quickly developed a rapport and Egan became a regular visitor to his Wappenbury Hall home where he would take advice from Jaguar’s venerable founder.

Continue reading “History Repeating – XJ40 Part 11”

Has the Sky Fallen in on Convertibles?

Sales of dropheads have halved. So is the convertible on the skids? 

vauxhall-cascada

Nothing says ‘I’m living the dream’ like driving a convertible. There is no rational or practical reason behind it other than to demonstrate to the world you have reached a point of affluence, crisis or sheer devil-may-care indifference that can only be manifested by driving into a roseate sunset with a piece of inappropriate headwear wedged in place to prevent your hair being ruined. As pointless indulgences go then, convertibles are right up there with chocolate teapots.  Continue reading “Has the Sky Fallen in on Convertibles?”

Theme : Books – Midnight Plus One by Gavin Lyall

Cars, Guns & Guts, Sixties-Style

Cover

Having run out of James Bond books (see earlier post), I read this book as a teenager. It’s a well written adventure thriller, but with a narrative that’s very much of its time, presumably with an eye on the then burgeoning Ian Fleming / Len Deighton / John Le Carré market. Gavin Lyall was a crime and spy thriller writer and the husband of the excellent Katharine Whitehorn. He was known for his meticulous research.

Continue reading “Theme : Books – Midnight Plus One by Gavin Lyall”

2016 Honda FCev Design Analysis

In 2013 Honda showed their highly aerodynamic FCev concept car. The production version has been revealed and is surprisingly close in feel to the ’13 car.

2015 Honda FCev
2015 Honda FCev

The objectives with the FCev are for a vehicle to produce 100kW from its fuel-cell stack and carry four adults. The aerodynamically creased body shell reduces the cD in an overt way we have not seen for two decades. This promises 300 miles of range, which is not so bad if you recall that the Citroen CX GTi got by with a 280 mile range. If you drive an Aston Martin hard you can get considerably less.  Continue reading “2016 Honda FCev Design Analysis”

Teutonic Displacement: Volkswagen Konzern (Part 2)

Having looked at the issues besetting the mighty Volkswagen AG (VAG) recently in Part 1 – which can be read here – we can now try and shed some light on the depth of the problems and likely solutions. 

Today, the problem is that these cars are all on the verge of being replaced (or have already been replaced, in the Golf VI’s case). The new range taking their place will, even once the glitches related to MQB have been ironed out, not be as lucrative, with profit margins shrinking by as much as two thirds, compared with the Bernhard-era models. This should make future subsidising of models such as the Amarok pick-up (which is said to have a profit margin of -25%) with the Tiguan II’s yields considerably more difficult. Continue reading “Teutonic Displacement: Volkswagen Konzern (Part 2)”

1988 Renault Megane Concept: Some Thoughts

Recently Driven To Write posted a reminder of Renault’s 1988 concept car, the Megane. It struck me as having distinctly Citroen overtones. 

1988 Renault Megane concept car
1988 Renault Megane concept car

That’s the side view: a very raked bonnet and headlamps set low. Notice the long wheelbase and short rear over-hang. There is also the blacked-out a-pillar. Compare it with the Citroen XM of the next year… Continue reading “1988 Renault Megane Concept: Some Thoughts”

Theme : Books – Robert Opron : L’Automobile et l’Art by Peter J Piljman

A book about one of Citroën’s two great designers.

Opron Photo

A while ago, having come across this by chance on the Internet, I bought a new copy direct from Sagitta Press in The Netherlands. First published in 2002, it’s not cheap, but it is a heavy, handsome and copiously illustrated book about a relatively unsung giant of car design. Continue reading “Theme : Books – Robert Opron : L’Automobile et l’Art by Peter J Piljman”

1988 Renault Megane – Here’s One They Made Earlier

Patrick Le Quément’s legacy of convincing, but unrealised Renault concepts begins here…

megane1

Renault seem to have been making attempts to crack the luxury car market for decades now. During the 1970’s they offered us the R30 hatchback – a kind of updated R16 with a V6 engine and luxury trim. It wasn’t a bad car – in fact contemporary reports suggest it was rather good. But success eluded it – Continue reading “1988 Renault Megane – Here’s One They Made Earlier”

157 KM Only: 1984 Lancia Trevi Volumex

Would you dare drive a 30 year old car with only 157 km on the odometer? This Lancia Trevi VX (registered in 1985) is for sale. 

1984 Lancia Trevi
1984 Lancia Trevi

Every now and then a museum-quality rarity shows up. This has to be the oddest I’ve seen in the last few years. Beating an unused 1975 Peugeot 604 (delivery miles) and an 8,000 km 1983 Ford Granada we have this delivery-miles 1984 Lancia Trevi VX, registered in 1985. It’s for sale at mobile.de and if you want to see it, you’ll need to take a trip to Bavaria and head northwest to Affing-Mühlhausen, a town noted mostly for its association with the Wittelsbachs who ruled Bavaria from 1180 to 1918.  You can stay in the Hotel Ludwigshof and make a trip of it. Continue reading “157 KM Only: 1984 Lancia Trevi Volumex”

Shaping the Future 3: Narayan Subramaniam

DTW has approached another design student to find out what they think. This time we have put questions to Narayan Subramaniam who is a multiple-award winning design student, currently at work on his second MA in design at Umea, Sweden.

Ferrari Impulse Concept
Ferrari Impulse Concept

So, what sort of career has our subject had so far? In 2012 Narayan won the Michelin Design Challenge and his work was shown at the Detroit Motor show. Last year he won the First Moves award. In 2007 he claimed first prize in the All-India Engineering Competition for the best functional prototype. This list is much longer than this selection. Continue reading “Shaping the Future 3: Narayan Subramaniam”

1987 Jaguar XJ-6 3.6 Versus the Rover Sterling and Vauxhall Senator 3.0 CDi

How bad were Jaguar’s quality problems in 1987? And what was Car magazine thinking when the XJ6 won a giant-test against the Rover Sterling and Vauxhall Senator? The Jaguar was rusting before their eyes.

1987 Jaguar XJ-6 3.6 automatic, with OEM rust.
Jaguar XJ-6 3.6 automatic, with OEM rust.

On page 129 of the November 1987 edition of Car, there is photo of a door-seal parting company from the door of a Jaguar XJ-6, a new Jaguar XJ-6 provided by Jaguar Ltd for a comparison test. Did they not check before loaning it out? Or was it fine the day it left Brown’s Lane and then rusted in the interim? Continue reading “1987 Jaguar XJ-6 3.6 Versus the Rover Sterling and Vauxhall Senator 3.0 CDi”

Mercedes Rework Their Naming System… Again

Naming systems can be confusing. Mercedes Benz is having another bash at designating their bewildering array of vehicles. And other news. 

2002 Mercedes Vaneo
2002 Mercedes Vaneo: brand extension at its extendiest.

As we speak Cadillac is bringing in a 3-letter system; Lincoln is forgetting its long standing convention of Mk-cars. Who knows what a MKZ might be? And is a Mercedes GLA a G-class or an A-class? In philosophy classification has been a problem since Plato, or perhaps before. The difficulty lies in reducing the messy fuzziness of the universe to a few categories. A system needs to be simpler than reality. Continue reading “Mercedes Rework Their Naming System… Again”

Theme : Books – The Cars of Ian Fleming

My credentials to write about the cars of Ian Fleming are mixed.

Casino

In my favour, I had read the entire canon of 14 James Bond books by the time I was 14 and I am, more or less, the same age as the very first Bond book. Against that I’ve never read them since, and that was a long time ago, though it’s a sad reflection on the state of my mind how much I still remember. Ian Fleming was an accomplished writer of children’s stories. Some people forget that he wrote Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang, but his best kid’s stories were the ones featuring Commander James Bond of the Secret Intelligence Service. At 14, I was so seduced that I anticipated a life of breakfasting on scrambled eggs, ham and plenty of strong, black coffee following on with a day’s light indulgence in cold-blooded violence, rounding off with lobster thermidor, a ‘49 Montrachet chilled to 37 degrees, fresh alpine strawberries and, later on …….

Continue reading “Theme : Books – The Cars of Ian Fleming”

Fiat Punto 1.3 “Alfa Romeo”- Edition, Engineered By Ferrari

How much can a brand be stretched? Should Alfa Romeos carry an ‘engineered by Ferrari’ badge? Or shouldn’t Alfa’s engineering speak for itself?

Image: thanks to Autocar. They seem to have put a huge card saying "Autocar" inside the test car.
Image: thanks to Autocar. They seem to have put a huge card saying “Autocar” inside the test car.

While trawling other news sites, I read at Autocar  that Alfa Romeo’s forthcoming SUV will be based upon the Maserati Ghibli. That bit doesn’t surprise me so much as the remark that “….there have also been unconfirmed rumours that the top of the range Alfa engines will feature ‘developed by Ferrari’ sub-branding.” This has all the hall marks of an idea designed to appeal to Sergio Marchionne. It also reminds me of Silvio Berlusconi’s idea that Fiat could sell more cars by badging them as Maseratis. You might as well Continue reading “Fiat Punto 1.3 “Alfa Romeo”- Edition, Engineered By Ferrari”

2014 Renault Twingo Review (Resumed)

Following on from DTW’s earlier impressions, we finally drive the Renault Twingo SCe70

2015-Renault-Twingo-10-520x346

The first thought on driving the Twingo is Why? Had I never read about the car, and had you sat me in it, I might have driven for hours before I finally twigged that something was, mechanically speaking, different from its competitors. The engine starts and a quiet burble appears in the cabin. It is unobtrusive, for a small car, and comes from no particular direction. Continue reading “2014 Renault Twingo Review (Resumed)”

Theme: Books – Iain Banks

Can you use a car brand convincingly in a novel without merely leaching off its existing image? Iain Banks shows the answer is yes and no.

1993 Complicity by Iain Banks
1993 Complicity by Iain Banks

Placing cars in books is a specialised version of the use of brands generally. Iain Banks often referred to or even used specific cars as elements of his plots (Bristol is name-checked in his novel The Bridge). In this Banks shares something with Ian Fleming, another story-teller in the traditional mould. There are two specific instances where Banks did this which I would like to discuss. One case succeeded very well, since the reference resonated with the character and story involved. The other instance seemed to me to definitively indicate the entire novel in question had not itself worked. Continue reading “Theme: Books – Iain Banks”