How much fun do you really get out of driving like you stole it?
Speed is a measurable quantity. One of the characteristics of the modern age is the increasing dominance of quantity over quality. I see the two as dependent parameters, as necessary as the left and right wing of a jet. In the spirit of the times motoring journalism in recent years has tended to focus on the measurable and to underplay the quality of speed. Perhaps more precisely, they underplay the quality of motion. If you take the time to read a review of almost any very fast car you can find shards of statistics but very little intelligible insight on the character of the driving experience beyond attempts at subjective descriptions of on-the-limit handling. Continue reading “Theme : Speed – Quantity and Quality Thereof”
A new Jerusalem, or nothing but the same old story? In this series, we examine the car’s turbulent backstory and ask, was this the last Jaguar?
Taken as a single model line, the Jaguar XJ40 appears likely to remain the best-selling XJ series ever. Billed as the Jag without tears; a high-tech culmination of an unprecedented level of proving in some of the world’s most hostile environments, XJ40 represented a fresh beginning for an embattled marque. Launched in the aftermath of Jaguar’s escape from the restrictive influence of its British Leyland parent, XJ40’s 22-year journey encapsulates the most tumultuous period in its history and vividly symbolises the poisonous relationship between Jaguar management and their paymasters at BL. Yet for years now the car has been widely regarded with derision.
So many car design concepts intrigue and delight upon initial viewing but date as quickly. A notable exception to this truism sits below :
The 1992 Ghia Focus. First displayed at that year’s Turin Motor show to rapturous acclaim, it was a compact barchetta style roadster, and it’s radical form language prefigured a new direction for Ford. Its influence however, would ultimately extend further beyond Ford’s Dearborn, Dunton, Merkenich and Turin studios.
You’ve come a long way, baby. So goes the cliche. How far then?
Glostrup Cars in Denmark are selling this two-stroke body-on-frame fossil for just under €10,000. Introduced in 1959, the Juniors (renamed F11 or F12) were discontinued in 1965 when VW bought the firm, ending DKW’s post-war association with Mercedes*. These diminutive DKWs were built in Ingolstadt, at a new factory. The car´s run ended when it became clear that it was just not up to facing the competition presented by VW’s Beetle and Opel´s smaller cars (possibly the 1962 Kadett). Interestingly, the Junior was a cut above the Beetle, offering a bigger boot and faster cabin heating than the people´s car but it cost that bit more. In one sense you can see Audi´s precursor being a slightly more prestigious product than its peers. Yet, even taking into account the technology of the day, the Junior looks a lot more toy-like and agricultural than similar cars at this price. The two-stroke engine, in particular, was even rougher, noisier and smellier than VW´s air-cooled nail though. It´s hard to see where this car lies in Audi´s product evolution but perhaps we can say it was the precursor of the current A3, in which case we can say that a lot has happened to Audi in the intervening period but some things have stayed the same.
Which cars are for today´s ophthalmologists, vets and professors of Medieval law?
About three decades ago certain makers sold cars for easily identifiable groups in society. Saabs were for well-paid university lecturers. Citroen could appeal to the Francophile and arty middle-class man. Lancia sold to intellectuals and business men who probably saw their work as a vocation. Humber appealed to bank managers of the bigger branches. But today, these brands are gone or unrecognisable. I was trying to think of appropriate cars for these people and I could see all of them in a Ford, an Opel or an Audi. Or a BMW. They are quite interchangeable. It´s hard to convincingly think of a car for the intellectual motorist (if there is such a thing, present company excluded). By chance a Nissan Leaf caught my attention and perhaps this car might have a rather specific niche in the market. The owner came by and in the course of a short chat revealed he was working in IT.
Today I had the chance to experience a car I consider to be among the most disappointing of recent years – the successor to the flawed yet glorious Quattroporte V. Gone is the lithe elegance of Ken Okuyama’s styling, making way for considerably more competitive technology, as well as simply gargantuan proportions.
It really is an ungainly-looking barge, trying to marry its enormous size with some stylistic nods to its predecessor. The result I’d consider something akin to Jaguar’s unfortunate X350 XJ – an ill-advised pastiche, borne by the misconception that certain cues are independent of scale and proportions. If I want a giant Maserati, I’d personally go for Giugiaro’s Mk III version instead, in all its Passat-on-steroids glory.
And What Is Wrong With Putting the Engine in Front of the Wheels?
Audi are in danger of becoming the Phil Collins of the petrolhead world, an act that even people who know little about music like to cite as being a bit off. Speaking as someone who can, hand on heart, swear that he has no murky Genesis related skeletons in his youthful musical vinyl rack and hopes he’ll never hear Against All Odds on the radio again, I’d judge that Mr Collins is no worse than many, and better than scores. Changing fashion means that he has just become a lazy symbol for bad comedians and the generally undiscerning to latch on to in order to suggest, quite undeservedly, their musical connoisseurship. Likewise Audi. In bars and on motoring websites everywhere, you will hear the drone of “overrated and overpriced …. style over content …. they’re all designed on a photocopier …. no driver involvement ….. they’ll never really be premier league until they go rear drive”. Is any of this justified?
Has Centro Stile Fiat ever produced a design of lasting significance?
This is the question I found myself asking having read a recent driventowrite piece on Lorenzo Ramaciotti – (which I urge you to read). Because like many, I held firm to the view that Turin’s fabled carrozzerie were responsible for everything worthy of note. On the other hand, memory can sometimes prove a faulty co-driver, so I did what any self-respecting auto-nerd would at this point and revisited the Fiat group’s styling back catalogue in a quest for answers. So what we have here is a list of significant Fiats of the last 50 years and who was responsible for their styling*. Continue reading “A Question of Form”
While reading about the Humber Super Snipe and its competitors I stumbled across this.
It’s a very nicely filmed piece about a Fiat 2300S and its owner, Pierantonio Micciarelli. I have to say that the man´s elegant dress sense made me yearn to be Italian. They do know how to choose their threads.
June’s Theme : The Editor Posts Some Thoughts on Speed
We get used to thinking that we, meaning whoever amongst us are young and fit enough to command the technology, are probably the best informed and highest achieving people in history. The knowledge and achievements of our forebears, though impressive perhaps in the context of their age, pales in absolute comparison with our own. Such is the arrogance of The Present and, though it might not have always been this way, it seems set to remain.
A few years ago, brand consultants Landor redesigned the Citroën logo to be more rounded and, in their words, ‘liquid’. That is a strange adjective, since the chevrons famously represented the helical gear teeth that André Citroën patented and whose success he built his company on. In their current form the chevrons no longer seem to suggest precise technology and, therefore, it could be argued that Landor has done its job well in capturing the essence of 21st Century Citroën.
This thread looks at a period of transition as injection moulding, safety legislation and changing taste in colours acted to markedly alter how car interiors looked. The late 70s was the period when the dashboard became seen as an integrated whole rather than a set of items screwed to a bulkhead. Of course, Citroen´s SM got there in 1971 but did it without injection moulding on the scale possible in 1981.
In this article I examine the change-over from metal and glass to all-plastic interiors that occurred in the mid 70s.
This thread looks at a period of transition as injection moulding, safety legislation and changing taste in colours acted to markedly alter how car interiors looked. The late 70s was the period when the dashboard became seen as an integrated whole rather than a set of items screwed to a bulkhead. Of course, Citroen´s SM got there in 1971 but did it without injection moulding on the scale possible in 1981. Continue reading “Transitions : Car Interiors as They Turned Plastic”
Driven To Write has some news for anyone who has been reading the UK motoring press.
Far from being “an undiscovered bourne from whom no traveller returns” (copyright W. Shakespeare 1599-1602), it appears death is a place car brands can pop over to and come back from much like an obscure place with an out-of-the-way airport served by Ryanair. I think Saab is dead but it might not be. Or it might be. It died spiritually under GM, it died again physically, was reborn under Spyker but soon expired. National Electric Vehicles revived the firm in 2012.
This being, unofficially, the Fiat/FCA themed month, I feel like shedding some light on Fiat’s current styling policy and the man responsible for it.
And when I say “shedding some light”, I actually mean pointing out all the dark and shadowy areas that currently make up Fiat’s styling. More questions will be asked than answered, inevitably.
Superficially, the reorganisation of Fiat’s different Centri Stile in the wake of the company’s Marchionnisation seems to have been a straightforward example of streamlining. And, unlike the most famous jumper lover’s financial and fiscal shenanigans, this move appears to be both easily graspable and logical. Continue reading “What Exactly Is Lorenzo Ramaciotti Doing?”
A badge can often tell you a lot more than what exactly it is you’re driving behind…
The badging on the rear of this first series Lancia Fulvia coupé is rather lovely. It resembles a signature and perfectly encapsulates Lancia’s quality ethos at the time. This wasn’t a cheap car and the badge told you this with elegance and eloquence.
I´ll begin this badge-themed item with a nod to Eoin´s sterling work on the future of FCA. Can I ask people to note the rather cheap ugliness of the FCA logo? The letters seem not to be aligned. But more relevant is the flaked badge of an Alfa Romeo 156, a rich metaphor if ever one was needed.
The second of a two part examination of FCA’s European operations and the feasibility of Sergio Marchionne’s four-year plan to revive them.
Part two – There will be blood:
FCA’s presentation made a point of telling the financial and automotive worlds just how much Marchionne is prepared to accept for the sale of Ferrari, suggesting the fabled Marenello concern is for sale; despite firm denials from within FCA itself. Some might say that he would be insane to do so – the ‘Cavallino Rampante’ being probably the most valuable automotive brand in the universe right now. But look at it another way. If we believe the hype, everybody wants to own a Ferrari – and as any petrolhead with rosso corsa flowing through their veins will attest, what could be better than that? Continue reading “FCA – State of the Empire – Part Two”
A two part examination of FCA’s European operations and the feasibility of Sergio Marchionne’s four-year plan to revive them.
Now that the captives have escaped, the presentations are complete and fruit and vegetables been thrown, perhaps it is germane to take a look behind the figures and statistics at the state of affairs facing Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in Europe as they painfully inch towards their eventual fate.
Sergio unveils his elaborate masterplan for FCA’s future and it’s a staggering work of fiction.
Last week Sergio Marchionne kept a selection of the world’s auto journalists captive for a ten hour marathon outlining his vision for the next five years at the newly merged FCA. Those who managed to sit through the numbing PowerPoint presentations, the staggering level of detail, the sheer grinding onslaught of facts, statistics, projections, flying unicorns and outright fantasies probably needed more than a few restorative shandies to steady their shattered nerves.
Lovely and wrong: Richard Herriott assesses Lancia´s former flagship.
When the Thesis was launched in 2002, Lancia wanted a flagship to re-position the brand as a maker of convincing luxury cars, an Italian Mercedes if you like. The Thesis´predecessor, the Kappa, had been less successful than the Thema, despite receiving plaudits for its refinement, packaging and capable chassis. The Thesis was supposed to recover ground lost during the Kappa´s production run and also to re-affirm the company´s tradition of top-drawer refinement and visual elegance. Continue reading “2002 Lancia Thesis 3.0 V6 Review”
After discussing the dead centre of the car market, we take a visit there: the Ford Focus 1.6 CDTi Econetic.
This is the third generation Focus that I have tried. The Mk1 is a landmark and indeed a benchmark for many. It casts a long shadow over its successors. The Mk2 added refinement at the expense of driver enjoyment. Compared to the Mk1, the successor felt like being in a fat suit. So, what is the Mk 3 like now I have finally gotten behind the wheel? The main impressions are described below. Continue reading “2014 Ford Focus 1.6 CDTi Econetic Review”
What´s it like to wander around the on-line show room of Ferrari?
Recently I´ve felt curious about the customer experience for prospective Ferrari owners. You don´t need to be out of your pyjamas to visit Ferrari´s website so I thought I´d see what happened and what I´d feel like if I did a little virtual tyre kicking. What I found is described below. Continue reading “Window Shopping for a Ferrari”
We convene the committee one final time and examine the defamation of the XJ-S.
Widely seen as the most outspoken and irreverent of the UK’s automotive titles, Car was the journal most automotive journalists and commentators looked to and emulated. It’s evident the ‘committee-design’ assertion emanated from this source, which illustrates that journalists are as prone to suggestion as anyone. The press subsequently appropriated this assertion which over time morphed into established fact. Car editor Mel Nichols made his views clear in October 1975, stating; Continue reading “XJ-S: Reconvening the Committee (Part 5)”
Do car badges have intrinsic value? We investigate.
We all misread the obvious sometimes. Our world is frequently confusing, as are the brands and symbols that surround us. The car badge or emblem embodies a narrative – an entire marque history distilled into a small piece of moulded plastic.
In line with the theme of the month I will post this eloquent symbol of excessive cost-cutting. The badge symbolises the company. If the firm can´t spend enough so its symbol endures, you have to wonder about their commitment to the rest of the car. Of course, the likelihood is that this is just an unforeseen consequence of a minor change in paint formula. However, many people will feel that this says as much about this brand as needs to be said. For brand managers, this sort of thing is the worst PR, worse even than the message sent out by curling window rubbers and blisters of rust on the rear wheel arch lip. I can only remember seeing one other badge so badly weathered in so short a time, and that was the badge on Alfa Romeo´s 156.
It is always useful to consider a counterfactual. For example, by asking what would have happened if Franz Ferdinand had survived his assassination attempt, we ask about how avoidable the first World War was. Another counterfactual might be to ask what if REM had disbanded after their drummer Bill Berry retired? That is to ask what was the importance of Bill Berry to the band. The answer to that second question is easier than the first. REM should have disbanded. Berry´s drumming was as integral as Michael Stipe´s vocals.
I still use the same tailor my Father first took me to as a boy. Their jackets have a small label sewn into the inner lining on the right breast, showing their name but nothing else. Were I to ask them to put the label on the outside, they would be aghast. But they are an old fashioned firm and, I fear, not much longer for this World. Although my preferences have never changed, those of the rest of the World appear to have. It might seem understandable that cheap sports clothing should incorporate free advertising for the maker, since it could be argued that it subsidises the cost, but what seems stranger is that it has become acceptable for an expensive fashion brand to do the same. Don’t their customers object to being walking billboards, or are they simply boasting?
Mistakes from which one can learn come in forms such as these.
About once a year I visit a relative in a very small village on the south fringe of the Black Forest. Every time I do, I see a different Lancia Kappa coupé. But they only made about 3000 of these cars and production ceased 14 years ago. I assume then that the region in which the car was seen has an unusual density of the vehicles. Continue reading “Another in a Long Line: Lancia Kappa Coupé (1997-2000)”
Whilst trying to find a download of a W211 Owners Manual for a friend’s ten year old E Class, I came across the above (full text below). Now, although the US website did finally provide the manual, Mercedes’ UK site appears to provide no such service. Despite the fact that it would only cost them a tiny sum to make electronic manuals for older cars available to owners, it’s telling that MB UK don’t see this as a priority.
The Ford Ka, 1996 – 2009: one of the better and cuter designs of the last two decades.
The alternative Ford Ka concept followed the jelly-bean school of design that Ford had been exploring with the Taurus, Mondeo and the Puma. But in the internal design competition Ford Europe went for a radically different surface treatment of the same package and proportions. Continue reading “Theme : Cute Car Hall of Fame – 1996 Ford Ka”
Bertone gives Issigonis’ box on wheels some sharp-suited Italian style and demonstrates how cute doesn’t always mean curvy.
The 1970’s can be seen as a bit of a lost decade when it comes to cute cars apart from this – the Innocenti 90/120L. Innocenti’s association with BMC began in 1960, producing cars like the Austin A40, 1100 and more notably, the Mini under licence for the Italian market. Innocenti’s versions of BMC models tended to be plusher; the subtle restyling undertaken often appearing better judged and executed than those of their UK counterparts.
I seem to have had a few opportunities recently to drive different cars for shortish periods, enabling some rare insight into them as ownership opportunities. Previously I commented on the pleasant surprise that was a lowly latest gen Fiesta; now it’s the turn of a 2WD VW Tiguan that I hired whilst on holiday in France. Continue reading “Crushed by a German Faux-SUV”
There are a great many conflicting facts and inconsistencies surrounding the deity Porsche’s successor to the 356 has turned into over the course of a few decades. Above all else, there is the incontestable fact that its basic layout, the core of its engineering, is of the idiosyncratic kind.
That in itself wouldn’t raise any eyebrows, but such eccentricity – despite oftentimes inviting critical acclaim, at least initially – usually excludes lasting success. That the 911 overcomes the usual reservations towards alien solutions may be due to two facts. Continue reading “Dial 911 For Cute”
We take a more in-depth look at the Jaguar XJ-S’ styling.
The world fell in love with the E-Type, but what many fail to realise is that by the early ’70s, Jaguar’s sports car icon was virtually unmarketable, the curves everyone loved in 1961 now hopelessly out of fashion. Yet when Jaguar announced the XJ-S as lineal successor, traditionalists had apoplexy on the spot. But was it really that much of a departure?
The problem with ‘cute’ is that it’s such a nebulous term. It can be an adjective, a noun or an adverb and its meaning has shifted markedly since its origins in the 18th century. After all, one person’s pretty or dainty is another’s contrived and calculating. So when it comes to cute, which is it? However you view the term, you simply can’t escape the cute. A cursory glance of the internet suggests that it consists almost entirely of babies and small animals amusing us.
Why I’d recommend : Motor Sport / The Automobile / The Rodder’s Journal / Classic & Sports Car
One particular magazine might use this title this as a wishful strapline but, of course there is no universal World’s Best Car Magazine. if your taste ran to tits and tailpipes, then how can I argue that, for you, the late Max Power was not TWBCM? When, after loyal decades, I finally gave in and stopped my subscription to the magazine that styles itself thus, Car Magazine, I looked around for alternative places to spend my pocket money.
I’ve asked myself if I can think of a large car that is ‘cute’ and, at present, can only think of one, but perhaps that is because this particular vehicle will always have a dominant place in my memories. In the late Seventies, I filled in for the European Motoring Correspondent on Soldier Of Fortune magazine when he was unavoidably detained for several months by the German security services. Apart from it being the introduction to my beloved Alvis Stalwart, when I tested one for the ‘Used and Bruised’ feature, that time also has more tender memories for me.
I had the opportunity to drive a basic (plastic wheel covers), new shape Fiesta with the “old” (these things are relative these days, I find) 1.25 4 cylinder engine the other week. I’m not going to comment on the styling inside or out, because I’m not a big fan of either and it’s got nothing to do with the point here. Continue reading “Viva Fiesta”
The new Formula 1 regulations have thrown up the usual complaints about the inelegance of modern racers. Despite my disinterest in The Circus, I actually find the new batch some of the more interesting looking racers of recent years though, of course, interesting is not beautiful.
Patrick Le Quement´s little wonder, the Twingo. A reference for anthropomorphic design.
Twenty one years later, the Renault Twingo still holds up as both a very decidedly un-threatening car and a solid bit of industrial design. Seldom are cuteness and aesthetic discipline united in such a successful way.
Has there ever been a more unselfconsciously cute car than the Frogeye Sprite? From that grinning air intake, amphibian headlights, and pert form, to the dainty little tail-lights; the little Austin-Healey is about as friendly and cuddlesome as a miniature Schnauzer. If Pixar had created it, it really couldn’t have been as maddeningly lovable. Continue reading “Theme : Cute Car Hall of Fame – Austin Healey Sprite”
To celebrate Cute Month at DTW, we are offering Mitsubishi, FREE OF CHARGE, the attached name restructuring for their UK vehicle range.
Our consultants have come up with names that celebrate the ever maximising lifestyles of the 21st Century motorist whilst silently vocalising the informal outlook filtered through the standpoint of pertinent social media. Prices have been raised accordingly to reflect the added desirability these cute but cutting-edge names will surely engender.
Cute. I’d been hearing it a lot that day. Moose Molloy’s gaze shifted towards the window and his expression changed slowly. It was like watching a landscape erode but, after that eternity had passed, there was a big lake of a smile rippling across his face and, somehow, I knew I was going to hear that C word again.
“Hey Marlowe, is that cute pink Figaro outside yours?”
A guy like Moose was big enough not to need to humiliate you with your choice of wheels, but I thought it best to offer him some clarification.
The image is a screen shot of Alfa Romeo UK´s website. Notice that there is a rather glaring gap to the right. They do actually sell (or try to sell) three cars but only show two. I wondered why this might be. Are they so strapped for cash that they don´t have the resources to insert the third car into the image? Or is there another “third car” coming soon to fill the space? The German AR website at least adds the Quadrifoglio versions to the array to pad things out a bit.
A good question relates to the state of Mitsubishi in the UK car market. I am asking it today.
1984 Mitsubishi Colt: sold out
What do Mitsubishi sell today? Though the Lancer and Colt are still listed in Mitsubishi UK´s website, they are described as sold out. The remaining range consists of an electric car, a sub-B hatch called the Mirage, several flavours of sport utility vehicles and the very specialised Evolution X FQ-440 MR. Continue reading “Idle Thoughts: ボディカラー”
Cute. A word derived from acute, therefore originally suggesting someone (generally female) who was quick witted, has ended up, in United Kingdom English at least, more usually suggesting someone or something that is attractive, but in a rather dainty or childish sort of way. When applied to a person, it suggests a distinct lack of seriousness and, when applied to a car, the situation is no better. So do we want cute cars? Well, for the traditional, stereotypical male ‘petrolhead’, whose choice of motor says as much about what happens below his waist as above, a cute car is unlikely to cut the mustard, unless it’s a gift to keep the little lady sweet. But we at DTW are not like that – well at least the Lads aren’t being, of course, hardened metrosexuals.
After “New Edge” came what exactly? And when? And why?
For some considerable time I have been wondering about the legacy of Ford Europe´s design director, Chris Bird. What did he achieve and where is he now? First a short review of the received wisdom. Prior to taking up his position at Ford in 1999, Bird was at Audi (where he did the first A8) then renowned for its ice-cool design approach. Continue reading “Industrial Design Archaeology: New Edge to Kinetic Design”