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.
There 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 Continue reading “What Lies Beneath?”
Reassessing Chris Bangle’s Bayerische Motoren Werke Legacy.
Only a handful of individuals shape what we drive and by consequence, what populates our streets and driveways. Our current notions of automotive style were formed during the 1950s in the styling studios of Detroit and within the Italian carrozzieri, who fired imaginations and rendered dreams in hand-beaten alloy. For decades these designers and artisans were largely faceless men but during the 1980’s, the car designer emerged from obscurity and into the consciousness of the auto-literate.
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.
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”
Was the Jaguar XJ-S really designed by committee, as some have suggested? We investigate.
The Jaguar XJ-S polarised opinion to an unprecedented degree at its 1975 introduction, initial incredulity giving way to open disdain as the car was swiftly written off as the conception of a car maker in decline. Almost immediately, the ‘designed by committee‘ sobriquet became the accepted throwaway dismissal, quickly becoming a well-worn justification for the car’s visual and commercial failings. Yet despite its troubled beginnings, the XJ-S went on to become one of the great automotive survivors. Additionally, it represents the final creative legacy of Malcolm Sayer, Jaguar’s brilliant aerodynamicist, whose work on the car was tragically cut short in 1970.
But is the design by committee label justified? To answer these questions, we must examine the factors that helped shape the most controversial sporting Jaguar ever. Please follow the link for the full article. Continue reading here.
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 Continue reading “A Road to Nowhere?”
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.
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.
Many thanks to Eoin for his kind mention below of my recent little volume on Sir Basil Milford-Vestibule.
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”
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 Walter 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.
Simon A Kearne’s long awaited biography of Sir Basil Milford-Vestibule is well overdue. Keenly awaited by enthusiasts of 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.
Kearne, (who requires little introduction), 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”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Many readers struggle to embed images into comments for illustrative purposes, so courtesy of Daniel O’ Callaghan, here is a guide to doing so, using the Imgur application.
Imgur offers you different links to your uploaded photo, but only one option works to embed the photo directly in your post. How you find the correct link depends on the device you’re using.
Using an Android tablet:
1. Upload the photo to Imgur.
2. Touch and hold on the image for a couple of seconds.
3. A window will pop up giving you a number of different Share to options.
4. Touch the Copy URL icon.
5. Paste that URL into your post.
There may be a more technical term for Touch and hold on a touch-screen device, but what is meant by this is to place your finger on the image and keep it there until the window pops up.
Using a Windows Laptop:
1. Upload the photo to Imgur.
2. Right-click on the image.
3. A window will pop up giving you a number of different options.
4. Click on Copy image address.
5. Paste that URL into your post.
Using an Apple iOS device:
1. Upload the photo to Imgur.
2. Click on the Share icon below the image.
3. Click on Copy Link.
4. Paste that URL into your post.
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“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”
“Even Beta: Lancia’s thrilling new Trevi.” Archie Vicar takes a look at an exciting new sporting luxury saloon from Italy’s respected Lancia marque.
Track & Motoring, July 1981. Photos by Greg Orford. Owing to an overwhelming cyan-blue colour cast affecting the original images, stock photography has been employed.
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 Continue reading “1981 Lancia Trevi Review”
“Another Mill From Peugeot.” Archie Vicar takes a closer look at the latest offering from Sochaux- the 505.
The Monthly Car Review February 1979. Original photos by Douglas Land-Windymere. [sic] Due to liquid spillage upon the transparencies, stock photos have been used. Additional images – Parker Pettiswode.
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 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 Continue reading “1979 Peugeot 505 Review”
“Point Counterpoint.” Archie Vicar muses on the meaning of Peugeot’s exciting new saloon, the 505.
Drivers & Motorists Monthly (February 1979). Photo by Crispin Darling. Owing to the poor quality of the original images, stock photos have been employed.
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 Continue reading “1979 Peugeot 505 Review 2”
Encore Again! Archie Vicar tests Citroen’s long-wheelbase CX Prestige.
“Driver & Motorist”, July 1976. Photographs by Dick Trevithick. Owing to shutter spring failure, stock photographs have been used.
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.
Archie Vicar tests three sporting saloons: Triumph’s Dolomite, Lancia’s Fulvia and Alfa Romeo’s evergreen Giulia.
From the Driving & Motoring Weekly Guide, 1972. Photos by Nigel de la Warr. Owing to the unfortunate theft of Mr. De la Warr’s Nikons, stock photography has been used.
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 Continue reading “Triumph Dolomite Review”
Alfa Resurgent! Archie Vicar takes a look at the new executive car from Alfa Romeo, the Alfetta 1.8
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 Continue reading “1973 Alfa Romeo Alfetta Review”
Cortina, Maxi and Victor group test. By Archie Vicar.
From “Driving & Leisure” April 1970. Photography by C. Wadsway. Owing to the unexplained disappearance of Mr. C. Wadsway, stock photography has been used.
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. Continue reading “1970 Ford Cortina Review”
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.
From “Private Motor Car Owner” (pages 34-39, page 109, page 116, December, 1968). Photography by Douglas Land-Windermere. Owing to the very poor quality of the original images, stock photography has been used.
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.
“Uncommon the twain!” In what is probably a purported period review, the motoring writer Mr. A. Vicar considers the choices of car afforded to varietists enjoying a moderately higher-than-average income.
[From “The Motoring and Driving Register”, July 1967. Photography by Cyril Leadbeater. Owing 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 many car builders are merely shadowing one another so that were one to sit inside a Ford, a Vauxhall, an Austin, or a Hillman selling for, say, £800, one could not Continue reading “1967 Humber Super Snipe Review”
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Sporting to a “T”. Archie Vicar drives to Sicily in the new motor carriage from Crewe.
From Motorist’s Illustrated Digest, Dec 1965. Photos by Douglas Land-Windermere. Owing to the very poor quality of the original images, stock photography has 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”
From the Motorist’s Compendium and Driver’s Almanack, Dec 1959. Photographs by Marmaduke Orpington. Owing to the poor quality of the original images, stock photography has been used.
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 certain something. For this author, if were one to Continue reading “1959 Bentley S1 Flying Spur Continental Review”
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? Continue reading “Archie Vicar”