Theme : Engines – The View from Car and Driver

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

1992 Buick Roadmaster
1992 Buick Roadmaster

There are a views in the article you could take issue with but it’s an interesting American view on the IC engine’s future. I would argue that Cameron discounts the importance of government legislation and he assumes that the externalities of the IC engine (i.e. the costs everyone else pays for its use that are not factored into the sales price) will not be one day accounted for.

I would suggest that the days of the IC engine are numbered though whether this is because there is a) a switch to electric motors b) a switch away from personal transportation or c) global climate disaster that destroys the economic base upon which the IC-engine is predicated is not for us to discuss today. Continue reading “Theme : Engines – The View from Car and Driver”

History Repeating: XJ40 Part 4

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

prodline
Production lines at Browns Lane – image: Birmingham Mail

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

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

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

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

The operating assumption behind this small study is that engines matter. More precisely, if a manufacturer can offer a decent range of engines for a given class of vehicles then they are very likely to have a better chance of selling something to someone. I’ll restrict my research to Ford, Opel and VW for this particular study.

I wanted to see the composition of the range of engines and also to find out the average age of the engine families. The second point was rather hard to ascertain and I failed to Continue reading “Theme : Engines – Ford, VW and Opel’s Engine Ranges”

Theme : Engines – France

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

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

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

Continue reading “Theme : Engines – France”

The Sunday News: VW Golf Plus Nameplate Dropped Shock!!

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

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

Some readers may have missed the news that VW’s much loved GolfPlus nameplate has been discontinued. The new name to watch is Sportsvan and doubtless it will win as much affection as the outgoing one. The replacement car was shown at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2013 and is now on sale. Continue reading “The Sunday News: VW Golf Plus Nameplate Dropped Shock!!”

Cars I Can’t Write About: Chryslers etc…

Chrysler: so what?

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

So far in this intermittent series I have picked on a forgotten supermini, a lavishly expensive sportscar and the VW Passat. Today I feel the need to declare that Chryslers and associated brands are vehicles about which I have nothing to say. Continue reading “Cars I Can’t Write About: Chryslers etc…”

Theme : Engines – The 1970 Triumph Stag V8

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

1970 Triumph Stag V8
1970 Triumph Stag V8

It’s all there for a long chat at the pub: dashed hopes, shoddy Midlands workmanship, the dark days of British Leyland’s decline. There’s even a bit of Italian in there, as Giovanni Michelotti styled the car. The bit we’re interested in is the V8 though.

This unit was conceived in the middle of the 60s in response to the growing demands of the UK market for more powerful engines as the motorway system expanded. Continue reading “Theme : Engines – The 1970 Triumph Stag V8”

What Might Have Been : 1991 Tatra MTX V8

Today we bring a slice of an alternative universe, one where Tatra automobiles did not cease production (that was 1999).

1991 Tatra MTX V8
1991 Tatra MTX V8

Today we bring a slice of an alternative universe, one where Tatra automobiles did not cease production (that was 1999). The car here is one of four Tatra MTX V8 sportscars built out of a planned 100. The car was shown as concept at the 1991 Prague motor show and 200 orders were taken by thrilled visitors. Unfortunately, a fire destroyed the production facilities and also destroyed Tatra’s chances of showing the West that Czech engineering was alive and well and able to take on the best. Continue reading “What Might Have Been : 1991 Tatra MTX V8”

Theme : Engines – GM’s General Purpose Nail

The Iron Duke engine: an American interpretation of a European staple.

Not an engine, an Astre
Not an engine, an Astre

The Americans have a different approach to engines than do Europeans. First, they hold the view that bigger is better which means that for many decades the smallest engines were usually 6-cylinder units. 8-cylinder units were considered standard. When the oil crises of the 70s struck, the main US manufacturers were not so experienced with the 4 cylinder devices that were needed to cope. Continue reading “Theme : Engines – GM’s General Purpose Nail”

Something Rotten in Denmark: 1991 Fiat Tipo 1.4 ie

Is this 1991 Tipo suspiciously underpriced?

1991 Fiat Tipo 1.4 ie
1991 Fiat Tipo 1.4 ie

It seems like only a bit of while ago that Fiat were offering the Tipo Mk1 (1988 to 1995). It is however, actually a really long time ago indeed. This car is actually quite old though it seems not to look it, to my eyes at least. When Fiat first offered the Tipo they made something of a big deal about the galvanization and general rust protection. Continue reading “Something Rotten in Denmark: 1991 Fiat Tipo 1.4 ie”

Theme : Engines – The Final Stroke?

The Editor ponders the future

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For much of my motoring life, the hierarchy of car engines was clear, constant and relatively simple. The reciprocating internal combustion engine reigned supreme and the greater the number of cylinders, the more important it often was. The true enthusiast’s choice of fuel was petrol, with diesel an unfortunate option for the miser who had no ear for beauty and even less care for the health of their fellows. Continue reading “Theme : Engines – The Final Stroke?”

Theme : Facelifts – A Facelift Before the Funeral

A facelift is sometimes an indication that all is far from well with the car’s manufacturer.

1964 Humber Super Snipe
1964 Humber Super Snipe

In 1958 Humber cars introduced a new body style which was sold under the Hawk and Super Snipe labels. The Super Snipe was the more expensive of the two. For the last word in Humberness, there was the Humber Imperial which was the same as a Hawk and a Snipe in terms of the bodywork but which had “a vinyl roof, automatic transmission and hydrosteer power steering as standard… electrically adjustable rear shock absorber settings, a rear heater and optional West-of-England cloth-trimmed seats”. That West of England cloth was fitted by Thrupp and Maberley***. These details matter. Continue reading “Theme : Facelifts – A Facelift Before the Funeral”

2010 Chevrolet Epica 2.0 L6 Turbo diesel Review

BIG AND DUMB AND MUCH THE BETTER FOR IT. Driven To Write assesses an underdog.

2010 Chevrolet Epica
2010 Chevrolet Epica

Tinselly, crudely assembled and unattractive sums it up, but luckily that´s just the Chevrolet badge on the bootlid. The rest of the car surprised me by being vastly better than the reputation suggested. The Chevrolet Epica has ended its six year production run and perhaps its reputation needs a little burnishing. I´ll tell you why: there´s very little wrong with the Epica and a lot that´s right. Continue reading “2010 Chevrolet Epica 2.0 L6 Turbo diesel Review”

History Repeating: XJ40 Part 3

Phase One – 1972-1975: Jaguar Year Zero. The Autumn of 1974 marked a point when the sky fell in at Jaguar. 

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Cultural revolution. Even the leaping cat at the factory gates was removed. Image unknown

Government appointee, Sir Don Ryder’s report into BLMC’s collapse was published in April 1975 and its findings were greeted with horror at Browns Lane. Ryder recommended British Leyland should henceforth operate as a ‘single integrated car business’. As such, marque identities would be subsumed into centralised BL business units. Jaguar would cease to exist, with its two plants now managed by separate Leyland Car divisions. The effects of rationalisation would go to ludicrous extremes, but with the UK government picking up the bill, there was little room for sentimentality. Continue reading “History Repeating: XJ40 Part 3”

Theme: Facelifts – Bodylifts

When only basic proportions are giving the game away

Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 19.39.11

Plastic surgery may not be limited to people’s faces, but only on few – usually bizarre – occasions do the stylists tempering with flesh and bone go for a change of the entire body. However, in car design, the situation presents itself rather differently: the choice is between either just a facelift or the full Monty. Continue reading “Theme: Facelifts – Bodylifts”

Theme: Facelifts – Festie’ Refaced

The ‘It should never have worked but by Jingo it did’ facelift: 1983 Ford Fiesta

1979_ford_fiesta-pic-8699712704554326350

The original Ford Fiesta’s sales successes made it so ubiquitous that its appearance ceased to be either noticeable or remarkable. This however belies Tom Tjaarda’s initial design, which was neat, well executed and had, by the tail end of the ’70s, worn well. However as a new decade began, it began to appear dated against newer and sleeker rivals. Continue reading “Theme: Facelifts – Festie’ Refaced”

Theme : Facelifts – Does Your Car Pass the Facelift Test?

Could there be anything wrong with trying to design cars that can avoid an automotive face-lift?

2004 Toyota Avensis
2004 Toyota Avensis

When Simon came up with this topic we all immediately thought of the classic facelift disasters. Then there were the handful of acknowledged facelift successes; these have been touched upon by DTW at various points over the month. We are are also aware that some firms make a routine of “mid-cycle refreshes” as they are termed by those in the know. And this is probably to be deplored since facelifting a car means Continue reading “Theme : Facelifts – Does Your Car Pass the Facelift Test?”

Facelifts – Winning the Battle, Losing the War

The 2004 facelifted S-Type had it all to do. Unfortunately for Jaguar, it came at least four years too late.

0298834-Jaguar-S-Type-4.2-V8-Sport-2004
(c) carpages

While the 2004 facelift to Jaguar’s S-Type could never fully excise the visual scars left by its predecessor, it did re-present them in a more broadly palatable form. Given that the original 1998 X200 remains something of a stylistic horror show; the result of an amalgam of three individual styling prototypes unhappily stitched together by Jaguar stylists under a reactionary Ford management, just about anything would have served to Continue reading “Facelifts – Winning the Battle, Losing the War”

Theme : Facelifts – Bristol Cars and Facelifts as a Way of Life

For the very rich there are two modes of consumption.

1958 Bristol 406
1958 Bristol 406

One is to buy the latest thing and replace it as soon as something better comes along. The other mode is to buy something that lasts forever like a castle or a Bristol. The Filton-based firm was a small one and prided itself on the quality of its vehicles. And they are cars that last, being capable of almost indefinite service life, much like a castle, as it happens.

Continue reading “Theme : Facelifts – Bristol Cars and Facelifts as a Way of Life”

Theme: Facelifts – Leading by a nose

The re-definitive facelift: 1968 Citroën DS

ds

Further to today’s piece on the Studebaker Starliner’s lamentable fall from grace, how on earth does one attempt to facelift a design of the Citroën DS’ magnitude? Continue reading “Theme: Facelifts – Leading by a nose”

Theme : Facelifts – Loewy´s 1953 Studebaker

You can’t polish a turd, but you can sully a diamond

53 Studebaker Starliner Side
1953 Studebaker Commander Starliner

Once, whilst Europe was happy to go on producing the same identical model year after year, until the dies got too worn out to function, the US doggedly changed models every three years, with a facelift every year in between. Thus, any reasonable US car spotter will be able to identify the exact year of a Ford Thunderbird, first by the shape, then by the radiator trim or the rear lamps. Any manufacturer who didn’t come up with something new for each season was not going to be taken seriously.

Studebaker was not in a great position in the late 40s, but it tried making the best of things with good design. First Raymond Loewy’s studio came up with the influential 1947 models, Continue reading “Theme : Facelifts – Loewy´s 1953 Studebaker”

Reflections On Chrome

Only a few puritans and some design dogmatists dislike chrome. However, a bit of tinsel would have made all the difference to emphasize the inherent goodness of some plain-Jane cars of recent years.

1960s Mercedes S-class

Chrome’s application on car exteriors is based on its capacity to resist corrosion, ease cleaning and increase surface hardness. It also has the pleasing ability to draw attention to the outlines of door frames, lamp housings and bumper pressings, among other features. Even at dusk, a chromed window frame shows up clearly and reveals the car’s character which would otherwise be hidden. Continue reading “Reflections On Chrome”

Unforgetting : 1981 Talbot Tagora

If you’ve ever wondered about this famously forgotten car, this is the place to find out why it has become a footnote in automotive history.

1981 Talbot Tagora
1981 Talbot Tagora

The Tagora doesn’t have much of an afterlife. It’s been out of production since 1983 and if anyone remembers it, they aren’t saying much about it. But what was the view of the car at the time of launch? Did it look like it was going to be the flop it turned out to be? I bought a copy of Autocar from 1981 to find out how this car was viewed by contemporary writers. Other magazines followed in the post. This (below) is how I digested the information for Wikipedia. Alas, it was removed shortly after it was published on the grounds that it was “not balanced”. I later revised the text with more “balance”and it seems to have survived. Here is what I wrote first: Continue reading “Unforgetting : 1981 Talbot Tagora”

Arriving – Or Just Travelling Hopefully?

How to define a car

On A Road

It’s hard to explain this to people who view cars as polluting, selfish devices, that kill, maim and generally mess up lives. And it’s equally hard to explain it to people who see cars as pure, powerful pieces of engineering, that mainly offer them control and prestige. But the car is a flawed but hugely romantic device, and that has been its true enduring strength.

What defines a car? For some it’s outright speed, or acceleration. For some status. For some it’s sheer practicality, for others it’s individuality. For some it’s handling, steering feel, lightness of touch, whilst others want weight, bling and intimidation. There are so many criteria for what makes a good car and, if you are trying to explain why you like a car to someone else, it’s tricky. Watch their eyes glaze as you lasciviously trace the curve as the C pillar kinks round the inset vent to join the rear wing. See them shuffle with embarrassment as you present one fisherman’s yarn too many about lifting the front wheel in Tesco’s car park. Risk them questioning your manhood as you mime the ingenious folding mechanism of the rear seats in your MPV.

Continue reading “Arriving – Or Just Travelling Hopefully?”

Theme : Facelifts – Dîner pour Chiens

It was no oil painting to start with, but the facelifted C5 was ghastly.

http://www.autogaleria.hu -
Image: autogaleria.hu

Dan Abramson’s 1994 Xanae concept signposted Citroën’s entry into the compact MPV sector, but additionally, its styling came to inspire an entire generation of production Citroën’s, each displaying an incremental diminution of creative execution. The Xanae’s conception was overseen by Art Blakeslee, drafted in from Talbot to preside over Citroën’s styling after the allegedly rancorous departure of Carl Olsen in 1986. Continue reading “Theme : Facelifts – Dîner pour Chiens”

Critical Faculties: 2010 Ford Mondeo 2.0 TDCi

DTW has a spin in a 2010 Ford Mondeo 2.0 TDCi. If you’re thinking of getting a used one it’s probably going to be one of these.

2010 Ford Mondeo TDCi
2010 Ford Mondeo TDCi

The Ford Mondeo: what do we really know about this car? I had a test drive and can report how an informed but not expert enthusiast experienced it. Zetec trim adorned the vehicle and under the bonnet Ford had kindly installed their 2.0 litre TDCi engine. In many ways this car could be said to be the typical midranger and so is representative of the sort of Mondeo many people choose to live with for six or seven years of their lives. Continue reading “Critical Faculties: 2010 Ford Mondeo 2.0 TDCi”

Engineering As Marketing : 2010 Renault Megane Review

DTW tries on a little silver number from Renault.

2010 Renault Megane
2010 Renault Megane

The apparently irrelevant preamble

In all good faith, motoring writers tend to fixate on problems much as the princess fixated on the pea. For those of us interested in cars, that’s fine: we are also little picky princesses, to a man. Merely knowing that there is some small aspect of a vehicle that impedes its theoretical performance around Thruxton on a dry day is enough to earn a definitive seal of disapproval. That is even if the aspect is wholly unrelated to the intent of the vehicle in question.

Continue reading “Engineering As Marketing : 2010 Renault Megane Review”

History Repeating: XJ40 Part 2

Phase One – 1972-1975: A Question of Style. Jaguar knew how XJ40 should look, but BLMC management had other ideas.

jaguarxj40october1973-1024x521
The apogee of the XJ-S inspired style – XJ40 October 1973 – image: ARonline

In October 1973, the complete XJ40 styling proposal was presented to BLMC’s Donald Stokes and John Barber. The car’s style had evolved noticeably over the intervening twelve months, but the XJ-S-inspired lineage remained. The differences lay in the height and shaping of the canopy, the daylight openings – which now featured a six-light treatment – and the addition of a lineal shoulder line. Overall, it presented a cohesive and not unattractive projection of Jaguar saloon style. Continue reading “History Repeating: XJ40 Part 2”

Northward Bound

Driven to Write met three (of four) Germans outside a supermarket in Aarhus. They had travelled in a VW camping van with two Simson mopeds.

2014 Nordkapp with motor bikes

We don’t really do motorbikes at DTW and VW camping vans aren’t part of our repertoire either but here is a brief report on the trip of Markus, Judith, Ludwig and Victoria from the Bodensee in Germany to Nordkapp in Finnmark, Norway. I met them as they were eating a spot of lunch outside my local supermarket. They were travelling in a rather used series T3 VW camper van (1979 to 1992) and two Simson mopeds. Continue reading “Northward Bound”

Theme : Facelifts – New Adventures in Rhinoplasty

Driven To Write descends into facelift hell. Pray for us.

0373198-Mercedes-Benz-SL-600-2006

Today’s foray into facelift hades stems from recent past. The original 2003 R230 SL series was a good 65% less attractive than its far more accomplished (R129) forebear. Nevertheless, amongst the less than stellar offerings emerging from Sindelfingen under design chief, Professor Peter Pfeiffer during the post-Sacco era, the R230 in its original form was at least relatively cohesive.   Continue reading “Theme : Facelifts – New Adventures in Rhinoplasty”

The Truth About Cars On the Renault Espace in Brazil

This is a rather absorbing article from the good people at the Truth About Cars. It discusses the Renault Espace’s life in Brazil.

Renault Espace I 1984

“Originally conceived by Renault and its partner, Matra, the first Espace appeared in 1984 and was initially greeted with a combination of intrigue and scepticism – nothing like Espace had ever been seen before. Flying in the face of accepted wisdom, the Espace epitomised Renault’s desire to push the boundaries of conventional design and create a car which met the changing needs of a rapidly evolving society.” (Automobiles Review, 2009)

Theme : Facelifts – Fiat’s Facelift Fiascos

Just a selection from a back catalogue of errors

130

It’s been going on for so long now, it almost seems a tradition. Fiat’s styling has always been variable. They have produced some great designs and some disappointingly dumpy ones, often in the same generation. But what is constant is that, when it comes to facelift time, however good or bad the original was, the facelift is always worse.

There are various theories I can offer and, not being a Fiat insider, that is all I can do.

Continue reading “Theme : Facelifts – Fiat’s Facelift Fiascos”

Theme : Facelifts – Second Coming

Or should that read Coming Second?

BMW-Serii-7-4

In the repository of automotive facelifts, this example is something of an aberrant one. BMW’s E65 7-Series is commonly and perhaps justifiably regarded as BMW’s ‘they’ve gone stark raving bonkers’ moment. Adrian Van Hoydoonk’s styling was on one hand a genuine breath of fresh air, yet at the same time, a visual challenge of epic proportions.

Continue reading “Theme : Facelifts – Second Coming”

Theme : Facelifts – Making an Arse of it

Does my bum look big in this? 

0353564-Mercedes-Benz-c-class-Sports-Coupe-C320-Sports-Coupe-2002
Image: Cars Data

As I’m sure I don’t need to point out, there are facelifts and there are, well, facelifts. Not everyone cleaves to the Partonesque ideal – I mean has anybody seen Barry Manilow lately?
Continue reading “Theme : Facelifts – Making an Arse of it”

Theme : Facelifts – A Facelift Better Than the Car It Was Meant To Save

How Bill Porter turned the sow’s ear of the 1986 Buick Riviera into something so much better.

1990 Buick Riviera
1990 Buick Riviera

In 1986 Buick in the US sold a medium-sized two door version of the Somerset, built on the N-body. In the way of GM’s demented renaming strategy, the Somerset tag was once a trim level of the Regal saloon but it escaped to Continue reading “Theme : Facelifts – A Facelift Better Than the Car It Was Meant To Save”

Cars I Can’t Write About 4: The 2014 Lamborghini Aventador LP 700-R

I am unable to address the Lamborghini Aventador LP700-4.

2014 Lamborghini collage

I’d wanted to write that I could say nothing about Ferrari’s current range of cars. However, as a matter of fact I devoted a whole post to their website some months back. That said, there is nothing much about Ferrari’s actual cars that attracts me. The last time I saw a new one (I really don’t know which it was but it was red) I was as unmoved as if I had been shown a trough of diamonds being tipped in a lake.

Nonetheless, to be strict, I need to find a similar sort car to not talk about, one I haven’t even mentioned. The one in question is treated here. Continue reading “Cars I Can’t Write About 4: The 2014 Lamborghini Aventador LP 700-R”

Theme : Facelifts – Introduction

The Editor Reflects on the Need for Change

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The facelift, once a rather quirky thing, has become accepted. A nip, a tuck, a chop, a stretch. No-one seems embarrassed. Your Editor is aware of these things because, much as he would prefer to always shop at Fortnum and Mason, circumstances (thank you Eoin and Sean) dictate that he has to stand in supermarket queues with everyone else. Therefore he cannot avoid the temptation to browse through those strange little magazines on offer beside the tills and read about these things.

Continue reading “Theme : Facelifts – Introduction”

Cars I Can’t Write About 3: 2014 VW Passat

Some cars are gob-stoppers. I can’t bring myself to do more than glance at them much less expend any breath. Here’s one: the 2014 VW Passat.

2014 Passat collage

So far I have picked a shopping trolley and a sportscar in my excursion through the list of cars I can’t write about. Keen observers of my output will say this is because I am an enthusiast for saloon cars. You can infer from this a low-self esteem if you like, or you can imply a liking for four-door cars from mainstream makers is an automotive version of a taste for “reader’s wives”. To deal with the second argument, I present the current VW Passat. Continue reading “Cars I Can’t Write About 3: 2014 VW Passat”

Cars I Can’t Write About 2: Porsche

Some cars defy one’s capacity to describe or discuss them except in the most general terms. Here’s another, a Porsche of some type.

2014 Porsche collage

There was a 1970s example of one of these things parked on the road today. They are very rare around my district. I chose to look at a Vectra parked one space ahead of it. I’ve always admired the 2002 model’s headlamp design. When I was in Germany at Easter I saw a rare high-spec 2002 saloon in green metallic that made me Continue reading “Cars I Can’t Write About 2: Porsche”

Cars I Can’t Write About 1: 1996-2002 Mazda Demio

Some cars defy one’s capacity to describe or discuss them except in the most general terms. One of them is the 1996 Mazda Demio.

1996 Mada demio

Here at DTW we spend a lot of time staring into the walls trying to fight off the ideas that spring up. The problem is that there are more ideas than time to do them justice. I’ve just blown three hours of my life penning a tract about Buicks and Opels. This was based on half a thought about the Opel Astra saloon that nobody cares about. How then can I Continue reading “Cars I Can’t Write About 1: 1996-2002 Mazda Demio”

Cross-Currents: From Tsingtao to Rüsselsheim to Michigan

How do we get from China to Warren, Michigan via Rüsselsheim? By Astra, of course.

2012 Buick Verano: engineered in Germany and the US and sold in China
2012 Buick Verano: engineered in Germany and the US and sold in China (in some form)

Why does Opel matter to GM? How about sales of 500,000 cars a year in China and continued survival of Buick in the US.

In the late 70s the science journalist James Burke had an engaging series of programmes called Connections. It traced the links, innovations and the important contingencies that led from the distant past to the technology that we take for granted around us, such as plastic, for example. Behind the invention of this material lay the story of how the 17th Century Dutch preferred not to Continue reading “Cross-Currents: From Tsingtao to Rüsselsheim to Michigan”

1986 Volvo 360 GLT Review

Pantomime Horses : Just how good is the 1986 Volvo 360 GLT?

1986 Volvo 360 GLT

by Roderick Darndon-Dramb. Photography by Bart Chappel. From “Autocarriage & Performance Drivercar”  (March 1986).

The advertising says this is the Volvo that thinks it’s a Porsche. Clearly Volvo wants us to see this car as the driver’s choice. The people at Volvo have lost their minds. The 360’s aerodynamics remain submerged below the bottom of the league. The exterior is reminiscent of the Seagram Building rather than an F-40 jet. This is not a Porker.

Continue reading “1986 Volvo 360 GLT Review”

History Repeating: XJ40 Part 1

Phase One – 1972-1975: A New Jag Generation. We examine the landscape within Jaguar as the initial XJ40 concept coalesced.

XJ6brochure
The definitive Jaguar? Image: Jaglovers

XJ40 underwent several distinct phases in its path to production, the first of which began with the 1968 launch of the XJ saloon, a car upon whose shoulders Jaguar would unknowingly place the next 18 years of its existence. The XJ was a superb car, its excellence the sum of several factors. The careful honing of proven hardware, a gifted development team, Jaguar’s V12 engine, and the appliance of stylistic genius. It would be the pinnacle of Sir William Lyons’ vision but as a new decade dawned, it was necessary to plan for its successor.

Continue reading “History Repeating: XJ40 Part 1”

Death Has A Revolving Door 3: 2014 Daihatsu Copen

Daihatsu’s Japanese production declines for the first time in 8 months…

2014 Daihatsu Copen concept
2014 Daihatsu Copen concept

…but production overseas increased to compensate. And generally sales are down overall. Daihatsu gave up on Europe a few years back so the news that the Copen sportscar is to be revived may not do so very much to improve the sales picture. Still, it’s nice to imagine. What sort of a range does the Copen fit into? There is the Terios hatchback in five and seven seater guise, the Sirion hatchback and the Gran Max van which also comes as a pick-up. That make the Copen something of an outsider in a range of very practical vehicles, but it is still at least as small as the others. Continue reading “Death Has A Revolving Door 3: 2014 Daihatsu Copen”

Something Rotten In Denmark: 1986 Peugeot 505

Sold in large numbers and once part of the corporate car-park, the 505 is now a rarity. But here is one example that almost looks attractive. But looks deceive. 

1986 Peugeot 505

PSA launched the 505 in 1979 with the purpose of providing a product in their middle ranks to replace the venerable 504. What the ’05 succeeded in doing was killing off interest in the 604 which had been on sale and doing quite well since 1976. The 505 was very slightly smaller and about 30% cheaper than the 604 and lot easier on the eye; the main differences between the two cars were that the newcomer lacked the messy dashboard and thirsty V6.

The 505 range offered all the engines the 604 could and should have had. What Peugeot forgot to do was to Continue reading “Something Rotten In Denmark: 1986 Peugeot 505”

Speed – VELOcity

In praise of the racing bicycle

smithfieldvelo
Image: Driven to Write

The sensation of speed is often as much a function of proximity as it is of exposure. The less there is between you and the road below, the more immersive the experience, as any Caterham owner will tell you as he attempts to draw your attention from the rain soaked, hand-tooled moccasins he knew he shouldn’t have worn. But really, if you want to experience speed at its most unadulterated, the racing bicycle stands supreme.

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1965 Ford Taunus Versus 2005 Ford Mondeo

Design Footnote: somewhere inside Ford, someone nodded quietly to the firm’s past.

2005 Ford Mondeo
2005 Ford Mondeo

A few months back, while studying the parked cars in my area, I noticed that there was something deeper to the design of late-model Ford Mondeo Mk2s. Not very many cars have a solution that avoids both a horizontal and a vertical wraparound at the front end. The 2005 Mondeo has a design where the strongest line runs down the edge of the wing, down the lights and then goes horizontal under the valence, requiring a twist from forward to sideways mediated by a vertical descent. Continue reading “1965 Ford Taunus Versus 2005 Ford Mondeo”

Theme : Speed – Quantity and Quality Thereof

How much fun do you really get out of driving like you stole it?

1990 peugeot-205-

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 Continue reading “Theme : Speed – Quantity and Quality Thereof”

History Repeating – The Tragedy of Jaguar’s XJ40

A new Jerusalem, or nothing but the same old story? In this series of articles, we examine XJ40’s turbulent conception and ask, was this the last Jaguar?

Jaguar XJ40_04 (1)
Image: Jaguar Heritage

Billed at launch 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 new beginning for an embattled marque. As much the story of Jaguar’s dogged resistance as it is of the car itself, XJ40’s 22-year career encapsulates the most tumultuous period in the company’s history.

The tragedy of XJ40 is twin-pronged. Throughout this torrid decade, XJ40 became Jaguar’s talisman, the one hope a demoralised corps could cling to when there appeared to be no future. Central to this were efforts of successive engineering chiefs to maintain the marque’s identity, but success would come at bitter personal cost.

XJ40’s lengthy gestation meant the end result was viewed in some quarters as a disappointment, yet this belies the enormous efforts made to ensure XJ40 modernised, yet maintained marque traditions. The first truly modern Jaguar, the model was critically acclaimed upon release, but the car’s reputation became irreparably damaged by early build issues it never quite overcame.

Despite being the best-selling XJ series of all, XJ40 today remains something of an outlier within the official Jaguar narrative, only latterly being appreciated for its finer qualities and for its status as arguably the most ambitious and technically pure Jaguar saloon ever.

It could also be said to mark the point when Jaguar’s stylists ceased to look forward, resulting in a nostalgic philosophy Ford’s interventionist management subsequently wrung dry with the XJ40 series’ ultimate successor – 2003’s X350 series.

In fact, parallels between XJ40 and its Ford-funded successor run deep. Both were intended to be technological flagships for both Jaguar and their parent. Both attempted to marry technical innovation with traditional styling. Both failed to stabilise the business and indirectly precipitated further changes of ownership.

“…It’s all just a little bit of history repeating…”, Shirley Bassey once purred over a Jaguar TV advert, and this lyric contains a truism, because for Jaguar the past refuses to stay buried for long.

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High Concept – 1992 Ghia Focus

So many car design concepts intrigue and delight upon initial viewing but date as quickly. A notable exception to this truism sits below :

92ghia_ford_focus_09

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.

Continue reading “High Concept – 1992 Ghia Focus”