Something Rotten in […] Denmark: The Baby Bentley

The quality of the interior has held up better than the quality of the concept of the Rover 827.

ImageGiven the depredations of the Danish climate and the fact this car was assembled in the UK, today´s discovery, a Rover 827 coupe, has held up rather well. Goodness, the leather interior is even developing a patina which I used think was only possible on cars made before I was born.

Continue reading “Something Rotten in […] Denmark: The Baby Bentley”

Donuts – The Indigestible Indulgence

The Alternative Highway Code.

Donuts 1

For the purposes of this piece I will henceforth refer to the Doughnut as the Donut. I choose an American English spelling because I really do hope that this most futile of driving manoeuvres was not invented in the UK. I don’t relish the shame of inventing the Donut being shouldered by America, I just don’t want it to be shouldered by my country. Historically it seems unlikely, since it is not easy to perform in a Ford Anglia, but much easier in a Chevrolet that your Dad has ticked the big V8 option on. The name, of course, is imprecise. An Edible Donut is a Torus, a three dimensional shape. The shape defined by the Driving Donut occupies only two dimensions and is, more or less, circular – just a big zero.

Continue reading “Donuts – The Indigestible Indulgence”

Marchionnne’s Ripping Yarns

How is FCA’s Boss managing?

sergio-marchionneI don’t think I’m necessarily alone in finding Sergio Marchionne’s penchant for jumpers a little unsettling. Yes I concede it is lazy of me to expect an Italian captain of industry to cleave to national sartorial stereotype – I mean, why shouldn’t he buck the norm – even if the result is somewhat unedifying. Fine tailoring might be what we expect, but in Marchionne’s case (for this scribe at least) the knitwear appears a little too studied, just a tiny bit artful. The cosy jumpers appear to be more of a mask than the maverick anti-corporate statement they’re dressed up to be. I’m not fooled.

Continue reading “Marchionnne’s Ripping Yarns”

XJ-S: Reconvening the Committee (Part 2)

Two figures defined XJ-S’ aesthetics: we examine their methods.

jaguar xjs back end
Driven to Write is unable to locate the source of this image

Sir William Lyons not only founded Jaguar Cars but personally supervised all matters of styling. His approach involved working (alongside skilled technicians) from full-sized wooden and metal styling ‘bucks’ which once reviewed in natural light he would have modified until he arrived at a conclusion he was satisfied with. Continue reading “XJ-S: Reconvening the Committee (Part 2)”


Honda have a secret life as a maker of a wide variety of vehicles. They are indeed big in Japan.

2014 Fit Shuttle

Honda are more than a manufacturer of Civics and lawnmowers. In Japan, their range shows clear signs of Galapagos syndrome. It is flourishing. Whereas the difficult European environment has forced Honda to sell a comparatively small range of cars, in Japan the range extends to what looks like enough models to fill the carpark of a moderately sized country hotel.

I turned to this website driven by the parochial nature of both British and American websites.There is a lot we hear little about.

Continue reading “大きな開口部だから、横も後ろも積み降ろしラクラク”

Theme : Headlamps – See the Light?

Electricity is magic so I won’t explain the energy that brings the light but headlamps are a rather complex arrangement of lens and reflector. Until the advancement of computer modelling enabled engineers to design differing types of reflectors most headlamps before the 1970’s were fairly similar and simple. In essence they have a bulb which shines light onto a parabolic reflector and then through the lens into the area in front of the car. The parabolic reflector takes the light from the bulb and directs it parallel to the bulb’s axis in straight lines which means that the light is therefore organised (like a torch) and more useful than the scattered light of say a candle flame. The filament of the bulb will be positioned at the focus of the parabola making full use of the reflector to give the greatest light quantity. The parabola has makes all the light waves nice and straight and organised and the lens can do its work to direct the light. The reason why these early cars had round headlamps was that it is the resulting shape for a parabolic reflector. The ribs on these headlamps’ lens’ aren’t for your pleasure they are called flutes, and it is their job to direct the light into the required direction. Nominally downward away from an oncoming driver’s eyes and to the off driver’s side direction.


Continue reading “Theme : Headlamps – See the Light?”

Director! Memories of a Different Industry

Jensen Cars in the late 1960s

Town Without Pity 2

The only new car launch I have attended was in 1969. It took place in Harrods, and all I knew was that it was to be a Jensen. Jensen had introduced their Interceptor and FF three years previously, so I wondered what this could be. A four door version? A mid-engined sportster? A convertible? I was intrigued.

In the event, my anticipation was ill-placed. The launch was for the Jensen Director. This was an Interceptor, finished in a fetching blue, with an interior created under the direction of top yacht designer, Jon Bannenberg.  A car whose emphasis is on catering to business people might seem a bit odd today, since practically anything on wheels seems to try to give the idea that the driver has a rich and varied leisure life, to which their work is inevitably secondary. You might drive 1,000 km to that meeting in Munich, but only so that you can drop in to the ‘Ring on the way back. Back then business was more exotic. The Bristol was ‘The Businessman’s Express’. Top Fords were ‘Executive’. The idea of pounding along the M1, dictating letters, was sexy – you were building tomorrow. Continue reading “Director! Memories of a Different Industry”

Internal Correspondence 1

Dear Simon:

Please find attached the invoice for my recent posts, as discussed.

The restaurant bill will be sent as a hard copy by post. My sources provided a lot of valuable information on the topics and, in my view, the trip to Milan was entirely unavoidable. As you will readily agree, that my source was three days late entirely explains the duration of my stay at the Principe de Savoia. I´d recommend it for our next team-building workshop.

Vis à vis the other team members, I trust you´ll keep my remarks private.



Richard. There seems a bit of a glitch here. Your bloody note to me has come up on our front page. I emphasised that your trip was strictly ‘Black Ops’ didn’t I? Please exercise more discretion in future. I can’t work out how to delete this post but, as soon as that IT Chappy comes in next week, I’ll take it down. If anyone else is reading this, please don’t! Simon

Not For Sale: Car Museums

A sermon about why car museums are to be avoided if you like old cars.


Every car museum I have visited in the last 2.25 decades has been a disappointment. Cars are inherently space-consuming selfish monsters and even when they are caught, killed and pinned to plinths this quality does not diminish. They need plenty of room, alive or dead.

Alive, the car needs sufficient space for portly passengers to open the doors and affect egress without having to close the door behind them, at a minimum. And dead, in a museum without sufficient space, the car can´t be assessed properly. You need to stand back, fold your arms (essential) and try to gaze at the vehicle with Gestalt theory in mind. First look at it as a set of parts and then as a whole and then as parts, alternating. This is done by looking just above the roof and then concentrating on the entire object while trying to keep your eyeballs still. It’s not easy. If you want to see the car in its entirety while looking directly at it, you need about fifteen metres between you and the body work.

Continue reading “Not For Sale: Car Museums”

Theme: Headlamps – The View Ahead

We’re not still sticking lights on the front of our cars, are we? Time for some fresh thinking perhaps.

Image: RDX-Racedesign

Modern life isn’t necessarily rubbish, but on balance, it is somewhat disappointing. Not just the gnawing pointlessness of so much of it, but the nagging sense that the brave new world we were promised back in the 70’s has decisively failed to materialise. Because laying aside for a moment the jet-scooters, orgasmatrons and robotised dogs we were all expecting to enjoy, there remain aspects of the motor car which really should have met the rendezvous with the eternal. Take headlamps for example. After more than a hundred years of almost almost constant automotive development, surely we could have come up with something better by now?

Continue reading “Theme: Headlamps – The View Ahead”

Something Rotten

Richard introduces an occasional series, kicking tyres in Denmark.

1990 Citroen XM arctic white

Marcellus said to Hamlet “There´s something rotten….isn´t there?” Hamlet turned back, puzzled. “Come again?” Marcellus pulled a mildly irritated expression. “There´s something rotten…you know…something rotten-in-the-state-of-Denmark….” Hamlet´s face clouded. “This no time for cryptic clues, Marcellus….my dad´s been poisoned and I am pretty ticked off about the whole deal. What are you trying to say?”  Taking a deep breath Marcellus then sighed. “I mean, Hamlet, there´s something profoundly wrong with things. Denmark is a metaphor for the situation we´re in. And all is not well. It´s a figure of speech…sorry I mentioned it.”

As this site´s Danish correspondent, I hope to bring you an insight into the world of older Danish cars. The title is not merely an un-amusing reference to my geographical location, but also to the fact that a variety of conditions mean older Danish cars can be perforated, flaky, corroded and shot-through-to-daylight, from the floor pan up.  The snow and ice mean salt. And the rain means drenched roads. This is not California or Alicante. Such conditions mean that the older cars for sale can often be weathered and worn. An under-body inspection is critical. The rough climate has eliminated a lot of variety from the pool of cars, and to begin with the Danes´ preference for conformity means there might not have been so much variation to begin with. But, I hope to trawl through the listings to see what little of interest remains and use these cars as a starting point for a discussion about fairly useless automotive tat.

Continue reading “Something Rotten”

Are Cars Sexy?

Autoerotica Anyone?


My father was an old-school Freudian in his outlook. He wouldn’t miss a chance to make an association, and my obsession with cars was fertile ground. He pronounced that many cars were just phallic compensation symbols and I, in what I thought was a witty response, said that a phallus was just a compensation for not having a decent car – it sounded better when I was sixteen. Cars and Sex, Sex and Cars, they’re an old pairing, but I’ve never been entirely convinced.

Maybe I just look at it the wrong way. For a start, I’ve never had that animist thing with cars. No car I’ve ever owned has had a gender, let alone a name. I’ve never spoken to a car, except when I’d been really let down by it and, even then, my Basil Fawlty like rant was just a device to get the adrenaline flowing enough for me to push the useless heap of metal to the side of the road.

Continue reading “Are Cars Sexy?”

The Alternative Great Car Chase

Bullitt, The Italian Job, Ronin, Goldfinger ….

The list of ‘Great Car Chases on Film’ is generally pretty predictable but, if you look further, you might find this :

Tatra Chase
Click To View

A fabulous car, a skilled and brave driver, even braver passengers and a dysfunctional narrative.  What more could you want?

Theme : Headlamps – Mellow Yellow?

Yellow Headlamps at Night

Once upon a time a trip to France from the UK was special. Not only did the cars look different but, at night, the roads came alive with lamps that were, uniquely, amber coloured. I admit that I enjoyed this. It gave French cars the same ‘interesting’ look that Jean-Luc Godard’s tinted glasses gave him. French cars were more intellectual.

Continue reading “Theme : Headlamps – Mellow Yellow?”

What Lies Beneath?

What is the future for Car Manufacturing?

Car BadgesThere have always been cases of re-skins creating ‘different’ vehicles; and indeed VW Group have become masters at doing this in-house. But between independent brands this has usually been discreet and car companies have remained proud of their ability to manufacture the oily bits, as in the example of the Vauxhall salesman who once vehemently denied to me that the diesel in an Omega was manufactured by BMW. You might have thought he’d use that fact as a selling point – but then he’d probably also have denied that the rest of the car was made by Opel. However, this can’t last.

Continue reading “What Lies Beneath?”

Chris Bangle and ‘The Vision Thing’

Reassessing Chris Bangle’s BMW Legacy.

Chris-BangleOnly a handful of individuals shape what we drive and by dint, what populates our streets and driveways. Our Euro-centric notions of automotive style were formed during the 1950s in the styling studios of the Italian carrozzerie – Pininfarina, Bertone and their ilk, who fired imaginations and rendered dreams in hand-beaten alloy. Continue reading “Chris Bangle and ‘The Vision Thing’”

On the Romance of Certain Old Cars

Is there any reason to buy new?

New Car 01C

The past few years have been difficult for manufacturers trying to sell new cars in Europe. But, even if people can’t afford them, one thing car makers take for granted is that everyone likes a new car.  How many new cars have you sat in as the first driver? I’ve sat in a lot, not because I’d bought most of them, but because I once delivered them as a job. But when the car is yours it’s something else, that very special moment you’ve been waiting weeks, months or, sometimes, years for.

Continue reading “On the Romance of Certain Old Cars”

Museo Nazionale dell’Automobile Torino

I visited here in 2011, just after it had re-opened following a complete restoration. 

It is a large and impressive museum, mixing the informative (exposed engines and bare chassis) with the glib (new Fiat 500s bursting through kitchen walls). But you need to get them in and presentation is important, especially if you are accompanied, as I was, by someone who does not find cars at all exciting. Continue reading “Museo Nazionale dell’Automobile Torino”

XJ-S: Reconvening the Committee – (Part 1)

Re-assessing the stylistic genesis of Jaguar’s maligned XJ-S

Image: The Telegraph

In September 1975 the newly nationalised British Leyland celebrated the Jaguar XJ-S’ launch at Longbridge, the traditional home of its volume car division. A worse time to launch a 150-mph grand turismo it’s difficult to imagine, to say nothing of the chosen setting. The venue was a calculated statement of control; the newly nationalised BL ensuring Jaguar’s workforce knew exactly who was in running things now the gloves were off. Continue reading “XJ-S: Reconvening the Committee – (Part 1)”

A Road to Nowhere?

Does Car Design Have a Future?


Car design is usually late to the party. This isn’t because designers aren’t up to it – consider the bold output of the Bauhaus in the 1920s and 30s, when run by Walter Gropius, then consider his rather conventional design for an Adler car of the same period. It wasn’t until the late 1990s that critics felt that a car, an Audi, deserved the Bauhaus soubriquet. Compare 50s modernist and brutalist buildings with the florid vehicles produced then. Cars did vaguely get round to embracing minimalism, but by then it was the 70s, and architecture had started fiddling with post-modernism. It was only relatively recently that vehicle design started catching on to that, first in a lukewarm way with retro, then by introducing jokey references such as the half-height Citroen DS3 B-pillar, which seemed to support nothing, and the bug eyed lights and grinning grilles of various recent offerings. Why this conservatism? Well, producing items with a relatively long gestation period and a relatively long production life, designers are understandably anxious not to get it wrong although, of course, they so often do. In contrast, architects only really need to please a handful of people, commissioning clients and planners generally, the rest of us just get to look, gasp and wonder why the roof leaks.

Continue reading “A Road to Nowhere?”

A Niche Too Far?

Sometimes it pays to be brave, sometimes it doesn’t. Better luck next time, Renault.

Initiale-ParísBy the final decade of the 20th century, motor manufacturers, having established that engineering integrity would only take them so far in the quest for market leadership, began to realise that the answer to their prayers lay within the spreadsheets and focus groups of the product planning departments. In a mature market, largely populated by feckless new money garnered from illusory internet start-ups and awash with cheap credit, the differentiator between the automotive carnivores and their prey would be defined by one word: Segmentation. Entire departments sprang up in such demographically significant hotspots as Miami, London and Southern California, all tasked with seeking that elusive niche that would give the parent company a jump on their rivals.

Continue reading “A Niche Too Far?”

Straight Eight – The Dilettante’s Viewpoint

The in-line eight cylinder petrol engine has receded into history. It has powered some of the great cars – the Alfa 8Cs, the Mercedes 300SLR, the Duesenberg SJ and the Bugatti Type 35, but its last appearance in a production car was in the early 1950s, in the finely named Packard Patrician.

The reasons for its disappearance are pretty obvious. It is not the greatest packaging solution and, with all those stresses and temperature variations laid out in a long line, it presents a whole series of engineering problems. Why bother when a V configuration is easier? For anything that has to be made to a budget, that is probably a reasonable attitude to take but, for some of us, the engine has a hugely exotic attraction, highlighted by its very impracticality.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Continue reading “Straight Eight – The Dilettante’s Viewpoint”

Falling Star – 1997 Mercedes A-Class

With total sales of over a million, the W168 Mercedes A-Class is possibly the best selling flop ever. We chart its fall.


The 2012 announcement of Mercedes’ third-generation A-Class and its radical re-alignment in ethos and market position has been seen by most observers as as an expedient business decision based upon 15 torrid years in the compact car game. While for the most part Daimler’s U-turn has elicited little criticism, it could equally be regarded as a sign that Mercedes has conclusively lost the argument. Continue reading “Falling Star – 1997 Mercedes A-Class”

Seven Degrees of Separation

Seven Degrees

My French teacher at grammar school, Mr Roberts, had a small collection of Austin 7s from the 1920s, which he alternated using as transport to work. I think that he considered me a bit of a prat (history might have vindicated him on some levels, certainly) and, sensing this, I reciprocated with contempt for his collection of little, old and, at the time, very cheap cars. In hindsight, I might have had a more rewarding time discussing the niceties of the Ulster, Ruby, etc with him and he might have decided that I had some redeeming features. I deeply regret my glib teenage contempt, though it was entirely my loss. He was right, I was wrong.

Continue reading “Seven Degrees of Separation”

Len & Now

Many thanks to Eoin for his kind mention below of my recent little volume on Sir Basil Milford-Vestibule. 

Len Brik Cover

I’ve been putting away the research material of late and was leafing through the long out-of-print autobiography of Len Brik, who will be remembered by many of us longer serving types as the charismatic Chief Engineer at Victory Cars.  Following the merger of Victory Cars with Empire, he came into close rivalry with Sir Basil. Len was entirely self taught and there was mutual loathing between the two men.  Sir Basil is usually reported as referring to Brik as ‘The Blacksmith’, though more exactly he used the phrase ‘The Blacksmith’s Dull Apprentice’, whilst Brik returned the compliment with ‘Sir Beryl’. Continue reading “Len & Now”

Banger Racing in the Eifel

I had a ‘Ring obsession for a short while and trawled for various videos. There are the obvious ones that put you in awe of other’s skill, either flat out driving with Water Rohl or the sight of Sabine Schmitz taking passengers round in the ‘Ring Taxi, chatting to them as though she’s on a country drive whilst effortlessly dispatching day-pass, would-be Ringmeisters.  The nicest I found was an early morning video of an unidentified driver in an Elise, top down, no gloves, driving fast but flawlessly on a near empty track, the dew still drying off.  

The most memorable of all, though, is this.  Somewhere, we are assured that no-one was seriously injured, which I hope was the case, but is pretty miraculous.  If anyone out there has ever wondered why it is so hard to find a nice Fiat 850 Sport these days, here is the answer. Cars have come a long way since then, thanks be.

Click to View
Click to View

Sir Basil Milford-Vestibule – a Life Unstitched

KnittingPatternSimon A Kearne’s biography of Sir Basil Milford-Vestibule has been long awaited and well overdue. Keenly awaited by enthusiasts of both engineering and knitting alike, this comprehensive overview of an almost-legendary engineering genius and his lifetime’s work as chief engineer of The Empire Motor Company. K earne, (who requires little introduction round these parts), was granted unprecedented access to the Milford-Vestibule archive and through painstaking research, has crafted a biography as maddeningly eccentric as the subject himself; a book, one can’t help feeling, Sir Basil would have berated publicly but secretly adored.  Continue reading “Sir Basil Milford-Vestibule – a Life Unstitched”

A Hypocrite Writes

I am a cry from beyond the pale. I have spent all my driving years reining in my hooligan element and, for much of the time, it has been my personal circumstances, rather than my self-control, that have prevented me from totally inappropriate purchases.

Image :

The first Audi RS6 Avant really fulfilled a long-held fantasy for a big, very fast, estate car, marrying the hooner with the homely. Lately, the AMG C63 Estate has taken my fancy, and I now see that they have produced a more powerful version, addressing the problem of the standard model’s woefully inadequate 451 bhp.

Continue reading “A Hypocrite Writes”

Porky Pies

Back in 2010 the media was all over the Wikileaks revelations, but that December another rival site published this shocking indictment of a hitherto unassailable automotive icon. (First published Dec 2010)

Image: arstechnica
Image: arstechnica

Recent revelations from the controversial Autoleaks website have highlighted suppressed tracts from the eminent Dr Herdinband Porke’s journals. These revealing diaries reveal a markedly different personality to the one habitually portrayed by the automotive press. Far from being a dour and serious engineer, Dr Porke was in fact an inveterate practical joker with a highly developed sense of humour. Continue reading “Porky Pies”

Drop Dead Gorgeous?

XJ Hearse

Seeing a Jaguar XJ hearse on the Westway a few weeks ago, made me realise that modern design does not adapt well to the production of a dignified funeral wagon. Consider Coleman Milne’s latest offerings based on Mercedes and Ford base vehicles. Try getting out of those back doors with your top hat in place.

Continue reading “Drop Dead Gorgeous?”

Voisin C7 Lumineuse

There was a nice feature on the Voisin C7 Lumineuse in The Automobile (publisher Mr Doug Blain – late of CAR) a couple of months ago.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It was a very boxy car, so much so that it even came with extra boxes attached.  Distinctive, for a car of that era, and contributing to the name, was a full width rear window, and Voisin apparently had to work hard to get people to accept the need for decent all round visibility.  He’d have the same problem again today. With a few notable exceptions, I don’t spend much time admiring Vintage machinery, but I rather like this.

Although the C7 is one of Voisin’s more conservative designs, particularly technically, Gabriel Voisin, as much as Andre Citroen, could be seen as the godfather of the classic Citroen.  Andre Lefebvre, the engineer behind the Traction Avant, 2CV and DS, worked for Voisin both as an engineer and a competition driver throughout the 1920s, and developed his innovative and uncompromising approach under Gabriel Voisin’s leadership. Compared with its contemporaries, the unfussy nature of the C7 might also be seen in the Traction.

Welcome to Driven To Write

Our editor sets out his stall.

Image via wall321
Image via wall321

“May You Live In Interesting Times” is an apocryphal Chinese curse popularised by Bobby Kennedy and it would have to be said that, for the motor industry at least, these are indeed Interesting Times. For much of the World, the single, most relevant, life-changing invention of the late 19th Century was personal propelled transport. The freedom granted by the ability to move reasonable distances, affordably and independently, might be summed up crudely by the British politician, Norman Tebbit’s infamous, so-called ‘Get On Your Bike’ speech but, for Western Society, the vehicle for change was generally the motor car. Continue reading “Welcome to Driven To Write”

Welcome To Driven To Write

Our editor sets out his stall.

Image via wall321
Image via wall321

“May You Live In Interesting Times” is an apocryphal Chinese curse popularised by Bobby Kennedy and it would have to be said that, for the motor industry at least, these are indeed Interesting Times. For much of the World, the single, most relevant, life-changing invention of the late 19th Century was personal propelled transport. The freedom granted by the ability to move reasonable distances, affordably and independently, might be summed up crudely by the British politician, Norman Tebbit’s infamous, so-called ‘Get On Your Bike’ speech but, for Western Society, the vehicle for change was generally the motor car. Continue reading “Welcome To Driven To Write”

1981 Lancia Trevi Review

Even Beta: Lancia´s thrilling new Trevi

1980 Lancia Trevi 1Track & Motoring, July 1981

Archie Vicar takes a look at an exciting new sporting luxury saloon from Italy´s respected Lancia marque. Photos by Greg Orford.


Without any doubt Lancia´s engineers have been scratching their heads since 1972, trying to think of a way to top the terrific Beta. Despite its front-drive handicap and an engine donated by Fiat, it really is a cracking car, with much to commend it. So how do they go better than the very best? Simple, they don´t. The Beta Trevi has a different interior and new body panels. But the underpinnings of the Beta are all still there and, some say, thank goodness for that. The Beta Trevi was shown in Geneva about a year ago but it´s only now available in the United Kingdom. We tested a 2 litre model to find out Lancia´s formula for building on their achievements of the 70s and taking them into the ‘eighties.

Continue reading “1981 Lancia Trevi Review”

1979 Peugeot 505 Review 1

Here are two items about Peugeot´s famous saloon, the much-loved 505. It is viewed as an icon today and has a strong classic following. If you see an older Peugeot on the road today, chances are it´s a 505 in immaculate condition. These two articles show how the motoring press received the car. The first is from The Monthly Car Review (February 1979).

1979 Peugeot 505 front white


Archie Vicar takes a closer look at the latest offering from Peugeot (the 505).

Photos by Parker Pettiswode

The test drive took place (as of going to press) some fifteen weeks ago. Since then I have found myself polishing shoes and trying to think of an opening paragraph. I shared Boxing day luncheon with my nephew who wanted some advice. I spent most of the meal wondering how I would describe the car (the 505) instead of offering sound counsel. With a quiet pipe of Old Latakia and a few pints at the Bishop´s Head pub in Great Malvern (eight weeks ago) I wondered if it would be permitted simply not to review the car at all. It will sell itself without me. But Peugeot laid on a fairly pleasant jolly for us in Paris. And my editor has a six pages to fill so I began feeling terribly obliged to type a little bit. That was the state of my mind four weeks past. There the matter lay until my editor called (mid January), threatening to cancel the expenses claimed for travelling to the Peugeot´s launch. Continue reading “1979 Peugeot 505 Review 1”

1979 Peugeot 505 Review 2

Point Counterpoint

1979 Peugeot 505 brochure

Archie Vicar muses on the meaning of Peugeot´s exciting new saloon, the 505.

“Drivers & Motorists Monthly” (February 1979).

Photo by Crispin Darling

The keenly contested large car sector is very profitable. 2.46 million large cars were bought in Europe in 1976. Manufacturers pick different weapons with which to capture these customers. Ford uses keen pricing and generous specifications to help the set-square Granada find its customers (300,000 a year!). Vauxhall tries to offer reassuring safe handling and predictability. Citroen insist wild-eyed technology and futuristic styling will be the way forward for the CX. Renault offer us mystery and confusion in the form of the ancient 16 or the purposeless 30. Rover suggest brash Brummie modernism with their rakish 2000 and 2600.

Into this hard-fought fray drives the new 505 from the Lion Marque. What is its unique atttraction? It´s a bit early to say.

Continue reading “1979 Peugeot 505 Review 2”

1976 Citroen CX Prestige Review

 Encore Again! 

1976 Citroen CX Prestige Profile “Driver & Motorist”, July 1976

Archie Vicar tests Citroen´s long-wheelbase CX Prestige. Photographs by Dick Trevithick.

Despite producing some technically intriguing cars such as the GS, Citroen´s finances are not in the best condition. And despite this, Citroen devoted more of their precious francs to developing the CX yet further, with this long wheel base limousine, the Prestige. At least this proves that Peugeot are not going to interfere too much in Citroen´s engineering activities.

We don´t have space here to recapitulate the many interesting features which the CX demonstrates. Suffice to say that luxuriant ride is courtesy of Citroen´s famous “hydropneumatic” suspension. This system also operates the super-direct steering which is quite unlike anything offered on comparably-priced British cars such as Triumph, Rover or Jaguar. Progress being what it is, we can expect the CX to set the standard for steering in future. Does such progress also imply that by 2005 cars will have virtually instant steering? This we can only hope but the auguries are good in this respect, if this CX and Alfa Romeo´s nimble Sud are any gauge.

Continue reading “1976 Citroen CX Prestige Review”

1976 Ferrari 400 Review

Prancing horse or lame nags? Archie Vicar samples Ferrari´s 4-seater oddity, the 400.

Is this the shape of things to come, asks Archie Vicar?
Is this the shape of things to come, asks Archie Vicar?

(From Motor Enthusiast, October 1976.) Photos by Edward Blayliss

 It´s quite peculiar to review a car that already exists. As the only motoring writer in Britain who has been permitted to officially test drive Bristol´s new four-seater, the 603, I can reveal Ferrari´s 400 is the same car but worse.

 Far be it for me to criticise the long, hard lunches put in by Mr Ferrari’s assistants but the 400 is a rather poor show. And Bristol´s car, despite its slightly brash Chrysler lump, trumps the 400 in every major respect. Let us consider the ash receptacles. Bristol places theirs near the steering wheel while Ferrari Continue reading “1976 Ferrari 400 Review”

1975 Triumph Dolomite Review

Archie Vicar tests three sporting saloons: Triumph´s Dolomite, Lancia´s Fulvia and Alfa Romeo´s evergreen Giulia

1975 Triumph Dolomite
(from the Driving & Motoring Weekly Guide, 1975)
Photos by Nigel de la Warr

Small sporting saloons are becoming an important if quite tiny part of the market place. Naturally, the large family car will always remain the most popular choice for the suburban motorist and business-man on the move. But, for the fellow who likes energetic driving and who also needs to chauffeur his wife and children about from time to time, there are three cars offering an alternative to the much loved Continue reading “1975 Triumph Dolomite Review”

1974 Volvo 244: review

“No mashed Swedes!” Archie Vicar on the new Volvo 244 saloon.

1974 Volvo 244 saloon
1974 Volvo 244 saloon

Photos by Ian Cambridgeshire

(Automotorist, September, 1974, pages 23-29).

The Swedish like eating tinned rotten fish. It´s an acquired taste, I am told by those with experience in such things. One is advised to open the tin can under water so as to contain the noxious aromas that would otherwise emanate. And one is also advised to drink plenty of schnapps to kill the taste. That´s really the only part of the whole palaver I can really see my way to agreeing with. I mention all of this by way of an introduction to Sweden´s other acquired taste, their Volvos. And they have a new one on the way, the 244. It´s in the spirit of fellowship between our two great nations that I use the word “new,” of course. The 244 is, in fact, a very slightly rounder version of the venerable 144, a car that has appealed to sandal-wearing feminists and bearded communists ever since King Edward the Fifth reigned over this Sceptred Isle. It comes in six versions, all of them the same: DL, LD, D, L and GL. That´s Swedish socialism for you! Continue reading “1974 Volvo 244: review”

1973 Alfa Romeo Alfetta review

Alfa Resurgent! 

1973 Alfa Romeo Alfetta
1973 Alfa Romeo Alfetta

Archie Vicar takes a look at the new executive car from Alfa Romeo, the Alfetta 1.8

Photos by Reggie Parnassus-Greeb

(Cars and Vehicle Magazine, May 1973)

For too long Alfas have been a car for the heart, but can they build one for the head too? The answer could now be “si.” For those of us fond of the Italian maker Alfa Romeo, there are clear signs that there really is a resurgence afoot. “The Alfetta is a new chapter in Alfa Romeo´s history,” said Angelo Scoria, chief of Public Relations, in a press release. “The Alfetta is full of new engineering thinking and will be a more modern car, one built to a high standard too. It will be a future classic, we believe.” So, reasons to be optimistic. For a very long time Alfa has indeed been guilty of making cars that have been a bit more fragile than was acceptable in today´s increasingly competitive market. Continue reading “1973 Alfa Romeo Alfetta review”

1970 Ford Cortina Review

1970 Ford Cortina GXL page

From “Driving & Leisure” April 1970: Cortina, Maxi and Victor group test.

By Archie Vicar. Photography by C. Wadsway

When Harold MacMillan declared a few years ago that “you have never had it so good,” he wasn’t thinking of motor cars but perhaps he could have been so doing. Mr and Mrs Average now enjoy the comforts of cosy semi-detached homes away from the bustle of the city and all around England´s towns and villages, the large new supercentres and shopping markets that are sprouting up are a clear sign of the advances being made by business and enterprise. The old is being swept away. It seems that things can only get better and better so our expectations are high. Following this trend of the greater conveniences now available to the ordinary working class man as well as to professional chaps, our cars are now also better than ever before, with hitherto unimaginable features fitted as standard to the present crop of family vehicles. Who amongst us could have conceived that a radio would be a normal accessory in a car? Who would have imagined reclining bucket seats would be available other than in exotic sports cars costing thousands of pounds? Wind-down windows? It is a brave new world and promises only more improvements to come!

Continue reading “1970 Ford Cortina Review”

1969 Austin Maxi: road test

Something old, something new!

[Bienvenue a Driventowrite! Nous souhaitons une tres agreeable visite. Nous avons autre articles sur Citroen, Peugeot et Renault. Merci! Sept. 22, 2015.]

1969 Austin Maxi
1969 Austin Maxi

 Archibald Vicar, Dip. Eng., tries the latest sensation from BMC, the Austin “Maxi.”

Photography by Patrick Lamperay. Due to the poor quality of the original source, stock photos have been used.

(From “Today´s Driver” February 1969.)

There it was, an Austin Maxi, Leyland´s latest motor car. And we were in Dublin, Eire, to test it. It was eight o´clock in the morning and photographer, Lamperey, and I were at British Leyland´s small factory in the middle of what was once the Empire´s second city. While I ought to have been taking in the generalities of the Maxi´s technicalities I was more congnisant of my rather delicate physical state, that of a rotten hangover. Said hangover was largely as a result of my failed attempt to anaesthetise myself during the festival of mal de mer that was the ferry from Holyhead to Dublin. The duty-free Guinness was at least remarkably cheap so the experience was merely disagreeable and not costly. I was also able to acquire my full alotment of Sweet Aftons and the tame photographer was able to double the amount on my behalf. Splendid chap!

Continue reading “1969 Austin Maxi: road test”

1968 Jaguar XJ-6 road test: “A load of old Baltics” (Part 3)

Archie Vicar continues touring from London to Latvia in Jaguar´s new XJ-6. His mission, to test this important new saloon and to recover his hand-made shoes left behind on a previous jaunt.

1968 Jaguar XJ-6 at a scenic location in Latvia
1968 Jaguar XJ-6 at a scenic location in Latvia

Photography by Douglas Land-Windermere

From “Private Motor Car Owner” (pages 34-39,  page 109, page 116, December, 1968)

Day Four
Getting into Latvia was a breeze. We presented our passports and sacrificed a few cherished boxes of Craven “A” cigarettes and we were in. Even the sight of the new Jaguar, in De Luxe trim and virtually rust free, didn´t make the unshaven brute at the border blink. It seemed like we would sail through under the dusty hem of the Iron Curtain.

But then we spent 9 hours waiting at a road-block deep in the middle of nowhere.

Dashing through fields the size of Rutland while caning the XJ´s 6-pot engine (cc/170 in³) I appreciated the civil ride (courtesy of the telescopic dampers). Then I noticed what looked like a telephone box. I knew something was skew-whiff since they don´t have ‘phones in Latvia. It was a check-point. Dropping my fag into the deep-pile lambswool carpet, I gripped the controls and stamped on the stop pedal for all I was worth. An alarmed-looking sentry sprang from the wooden crate and noticed a hundred yards of dust rising behind the tail of Browns Lane´s barge. Such was the violence of the braking that Continue reading “1968 Jaguar XJ-6 road test: “A load of old Baltics” (Part 3)”

1967 Humber Super Snipe Review

That the motoring market has seen fit to throw such disparate competitors into a struggle for sales supremacy at this level can only be a source of pleasure to a man about to buy his £1500 car. He can have the comfortable and refined grandeur of the Humber Super Snipe with its Churchillian associations, or the continental exoticism of Fiat´s very respected 2300 saloon. Both cars can convey four adults in comfort and at high speed but do so in markedly different ways.

[Thanks for dropping by. A steady stream of readers view this article. If you liked it, please tell other Humber fans or leave a message. ]

“Uncommon the twain” by Archie Vicar

The super Humber Super Snipe
The super Humber Super Snipe

(The Motoring and Driving Register, July 1967)

Archie Vicar considers the choices afforded to varietists enjoying a higher income.

Photography by Cyril Leadbeater

[Note: due to the poor quality of the original images, stock photos have been used.)

This month´s motor vehicle comparison pits two well-established players against one another. For the gentleman of comfortable means life affords choice. And what is choice if it is not among things that differ? What point is there in being offered a large range of very similar cars for a similar price as many makers seem to want to do these days? That is no choice at all. We can see at the more pedestrian end of the market – and indeed have done for some time now- that Continue reading “1967 Humber Super Snipe Review”

Archie Vicar

An Introduction from the Editor of Driven To Write

Archie Vicar represents a different generation; people who came of age in an uncertain period where a World War followed a World Recession. Few of these men (and we cannot deny that they were all men) set their youthful sights on Motoring Journalism as a profession. They came into it through circuitous routes, bringing with them, for good and for bad, a worldliness that is, perhaps, missing today, where a childhood spent poring over EVO magazine, followed by a spell at journalism school, leads directly to employment on a national magazine. Where is the wisdom; where is the experience of a wider world?

Richard Herriott has spend several years transcribing what appear to be the best of Archie Vicar’s writings from the many magazines he worked for, all now sadly defunct. They evoke a past that is lost, a British Motor Industry ruled by men who were confident that they were the best and who knew that they were right, even if History has shown that they were frequently mediocre and generally wrong. I think that, of all the journalists I have known, Archie’s writings encapsulate that age most accurately.

1965 Bentley “T”-Type Review

Sporting to a “T” –  
Archie Vicar drives to Sicily in the new motor carriage from Crewe.

[Welcome to Pistonhead visitors. Oct 19/20, 2015. Please leave a “like” or comment!]

Distinctive, sporting elegance.

(from Motorist´s Illustrated Digest, Dec 1965)
Photos by Douglas Land-Windermere

(Note: owing to the very poor quality of the original publication´s images, stock images have been used.)

The Bentley marque conjours images of the driver Richard “Dick” Seaman charging along the Mulsanne Straight at a 100 mph. That he achieved this very respectable pace minus a tyre is a tribute to his Bentley and to his boundless idiocy. Great chap. He is very much missed in motoring circles. For a while Bentley´s sporting character has been as absent and as lamented as Mr Seaman. The last batches of Bentleys have, frankly, been a little hard to distinguish from their Rolls-Royce stablemates. Continue reading “1965 Bentley “T”-Type Review”

1959 Bentley S1 Flying Spur Continental review

Bentley makes its mark

1959 Bentley S1 Continental Flying Spur
1959 Bentley S1 Continental Flying Spur

by Archie Vicar

Photographs by Marmaduke Orpington

(from the Motorist´s Compendium and Driver´s Almanack, Dec 1959)

Bentley seem to be finding their feet again after a spell in the shadows of their owner, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. This month it is our privilege to be invited to test drive the evidence of this resurgence, the S1 Continental Flying Spur .

First might I present a little history for younger readers. Bentley started offering steel bodywork in 1946 and many coachbuilders have been continuing to offer their own versions of these car, as if a “standard” Bentley wasn´t sufficiently prestigious. But these later cars have apparently lacked a a certain something. For this author, if were one to search for a proper expression of a coach-built Bentley one would have to go back to the Thrupp & Maberly 1938 Bentley 4 1/4 Litre all-weather touring car. As recorded in the notes of a Bentley works manager at the time (,E.W. Hives) a Bentley should ““answer to the moods of the driver…be driven fast with safety, or will tour without fuss and noise…maximum speed should not be obtained at the expense of acceleration…controls, steering, and brakes shall be light to operate, and the braking shall be adequate for a fast car…maximum speed of the car on the road should be 90 mph, 75 mph in third gear…” And the Thrupp and Maberley tourer certainly met those demands.

In recent times things are a little different. In 1952 the R-type was presented to the world and it had bigger engines than its predecessor. But these cars were really not quite what Bentley customers wanted, as indicated by disappointing sales. Continue reading “1959 Bentley S1 Flying Spur Continental review”