A Longer Read : Signs and Portents

This week, the Lancia Gamma receives the DTW Longer Read treatment.

Image credit: (c) lanciagamma.altervista

It’s a question I’ve been asked on a number of occasions: Why the Gamma? Why devote well over ten thousand words to a car whose failure hastened Lancia’s headlong spiral towards infamy and oblivion. The answer is, like the Gamma’s story itself, somewhat convoluted.

The French have an elegant phrase; l’appel du vide, which roughly translates as the call of the void, which neatly encapsulates not only our ingrained fascination with disaster, but may also go some way to Continue reading “A Longer Read : Signs and Portents”

A Longer Read – Trompe le Mondeo

The latest in our repackaged series is this, a meditation, first published in 2014 upon Jaguar’s pariah-status executive class cross-breed. 

Image credit: (c) dieselstation

Worst Jaguar ever. A reskinned Mondeo. Brand-killer. Just some of the vitriol hurled at the Jaguar X-Type over the years.

Of all the Ford-financed cars to bear the storied leaping cat, the X-Type was perhaps the most (retrospectively) vilified, and while my personal ambivalence for the car remains undimmed, to Continue reading “A Longer Read – Trompe le Mondeo”

A Longer Read – History Repeating

Continuing our Longer Read series with DTW’s XJ40 opus magnum.

Image: (c) Auto-Didakt

This I’m forced to admit is somewhat off the meta scale: A repeat of a repeat of a series, entitled ‘History Repeating’.

The lengthiest of our Longer Reads, this piece began taking form as far back as 2009. Over that (close to) ten year period, it has probably been subject to nearly as many changes and midnight-oil revisions as the car itself during its even more protracted and strife-ridden gestation.

Writers occasionally speak of Continue reading “A Longer Read – History Repeating”

A Longer Read – The Great Curve

Aviation’s loss was very much UK motorsport’s gain in the case of Frank Costin and Malcolm Sayer, twin pioneers of applied aerodynamic theory.

photo credit: (c) motortrend

Britain’s motor industry may now be a pale shadow of its heyday, but it remains a centre of excellence in motorsport research, development and manufacture. Once derided by Enzo Ferrari as a collection of ‘garagistas’, the UK motorsport business rose to dominance by the ingenuity of visionaries like John Cooper and Colin Chapman, aided by gifted engineers, who could Continue reading “A Longer Read – The Great Curve”

Mutiny About the Bounty

S.V. Robinson discusses the political and industrial shenanigans that presaged the Triumph Acclaim, sired by Project Bounty.

(c) Classicshonestjohn

“Would the Government be prepared to throw away this pioneering agreement between a British and a Japanese motor company, which might encourage wider moves to transplant the benefit of Japanese technology and efficiency to Britain?Sir Michael Edwardes, ‘Back from the Brink’.

As a car, the Triumph Acclaim can claim little of note that is ground breaking. It is a car that, infamously, was not conceived as a Triumph. More subtly, by the time Acclaim came to be, Triumph itself was a brand without a range of cars, just a single model, built in Morris’s Cowley factory to design, engineering and production specifications developed in Tokyo.

Were it not for BL’s product planners’ persistent and ultimately futile attempts to Continue reading “Mutiny About the Bounty”

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 has several strands. Throughout the torrid ‘Seventies, 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 cost.

XJ40’s lengthy gestation meant the end result was viewed by some 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 tarnished by an early reputation for build and durability 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.

Continue reading this article

More on XJ40