Photo for Sunday – Volkswagen XL1

You’re engaged in some innocent retail therapy and then this beams down from planet Piëch.

Starship XL1. All images: Driven to Write
The car that fell to earth. XL1 amid the hatchbacks. All images: Driven to Write

As we’ve pointed out, Driven to Write never sleeps and while we don’t always get about as much as we’d like, our eyes and ears are everywhere. So while some of us are battening down hatches in windswept West Cork, others get to swan around a decidedly more temperate Marbella – a matter for which your correspondent is not bitter. Continue reading “Photo for Sunday – Volkswagen XL1”

Mercedes’ Movable Feast

Mercedes-Benz gets aero on everyone’s ass at Frankfurt.

Mercedes Concept IAA. Image via gizmag
Mercedes Concept IAA. Image: gizmag

While this week’s Frankfurt show-stopping Porsche Mission E concept appears to offer a vision of the future where (Porsche) drivers are offered the very latest propulsive technology wrapped up in a reassuringly familiar (if nicely proportioned) package, Mercedes-Benz have taken a sharply divergent approach; Daimler’s brave new world being a starker affair altogether. Continue reading “Mercedes’ Movable Feast”

An American View of Bristol

Via the Bristol Owner´s website I found this nice American take on Bristol cars. The photo is from the Curbside Classics website which I can´t recommend highly enough.

This is a Bristol 411 from the time when Bristol cars were beautiful.
This is a Bristol 411 from the time when Bristol cars were beautiful: thanks to Curbside Classics for the image.

The 411 looks like a combination of the proportions of a Jaguar XJ-6 and the surface treatment of a Rolls Royce Silver Shadow. Continue reading “An American View of Bristol”

Aerodynamics: The Shape We’re In

We ask whether aerodynamics’ post-war, post-aviation beginnings have anything in common with tomorrow’s hydrogen-powered wonders.

The future? Volkswagen-xl1-photo via motortrend
The future? Volkswagen XL-1. Image: Motor Trend

To be fair, car manufacturers have historically enjoyed a rather patchy relationship with the concept of aerodynamic theory. During the post-war period only a handful of motor manufacturers paid more than lip service to the concept and of those, most had their origins in aircraft manufacture. Bristol and Saab, for example both needed to diversify during post-war austerity when demand for their mainstay aircraft businesses collapsed in peacetime. Continue reading “Aerodynamics: The Shape We’re In”

Theme : Aerodynamics – Release The BATs

Aero could be fun too…

The three BAT cars - photo via carnewscafe
The three Alfa Romeo BAT cars – photo via carnewscafe

Aerospace iconography permeated everywhere in the 1950s, particularly car styling. So when Alfa Romeo commissioned a series of concept cars, science fiction melded with aerodynamic theory, creating the sensational BAT cars.  Continue reading “Theme : Aerodynamics – Release The BATs”

Theme : Aerodynamics – Index of Efficiency

They don’t get any more aerodynamic than this…

Photo via ultimatecarpage
Photo via ultimatecarpage

What you’re looking at here is the last of the pure streamliners – the 1964 Panhard CD Le Mans. This Index of Efficiency contender for the 1964 Le Mans race boasted a drag co-efficient of a mere 0.12, reputedly the lowest of any racing car to date. This car is significant for two reasons: Continue reading “Theme : Aerodynamics – Index of Efficiency”

Theme : Aerodynamics – The Great Curve – Costin and Sayer Part One

Britain’s Aerodynamic Pioneers – Frank Costin and Malcolm Sayer profiled.

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In the years prior to World War Two, developments in aeronautics led to rapid growth in the science of aerodynamics. Through the war years, aerodynamicists continued the pioneering research begun during the 1930’s into streamlining, but now with an added dimension – applied science. The use of wind tunnels allowed engineers to properly assess the behaviour of aircraft in simulated flight and more accurately determine the most efficient shapes.  Continue reading “Theme : Aerodynamics – The Great Curve – Costin and Sayer Part One”

Theme : Aerodynamics – Buttresses, A User Guide

Driven To Write attempts to decipher an aerodynamic staple but finds the going surprisingly turbulent.

york cathedral
Flying buttresses on York Cathedral. Image unknown.

In architectural terms, a buttress is defined as a structural member built against or projecting from a wall serving as a support or reinforcement. They were more prevalent at a period when structural engineering was more of a naive art, employed as a support against sideways forces. As architect’s skills developed, the need for buttressing decreased, latterly viewed as something of an admission of failure, much like an air dam or spoiler in automotive terms. There are several types of architectural buttresses, the most visually spectacular probably being the ‘flying buttress’, a structural device used in the design of many Gothic cathedrals.

Continue reading “Theme : Aerodynamics – Buttresses, A User Guide”

Theme : Aerodynamics – Spoiler Alert!

Why do they do it?

Kit

Some things, as they say, do just what it says on the tin. To my mind, the rear boot excrescence is generally well named. There are some exceptions but, generally, if a car’s designed right, it shouldn’t need an add-on. And, if it does, what about those poor buggers in lesser variants who can still get within 20 kph of the bespoilered version. Are they safe?

Incidentally, I’m well aware that you could nit-pick and point out that, Continue reading “Theme : Aerodynamics – Spoiler Alert!”

Theme: Aerodynamics – 2010 Kia Ray

Not all aerodynamic cars have to draw on the same set of forms. The 2010 Kia Ray (or PHEW Ray) manages to look slippery without resembling a blend of Tatra and Citroen shapes.

2010 Kia PHEW Ray concept car.
2010 Kia PHEW Ray concept car.

The most distinctive element is the Kamm tail, a feature Alfa Romeo and Zagato used in  60s. The very sharp rim that defines the cut-off tail is there to improve the airflow break-away. A rounded edge would cause more turbulence (that´s why the tail of the first Audi TT has a small lip attached on the bootlid). Continue reading “Theme: Aerodynamics – 2010 Kia Ray”

Theme : Aerodynamics – Introduction

The Editor Gets All Slippery

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The first cars were not fast enough for anyone to be particularly concerned about the amount of air that stood in the way of their progress. Therefore, although drivers soon learnt to hunch themselves over the wheel to reduce the passing air’s effect on themselves, it took longer to realise how important it might be to reduce their effect on the passing air.

Before we come to Aerodynamics, we must come to Streamlining. Streamlining is not the father of Aerodynamics, it is the somewhat camp uncle. Streamlining is to Aerodynamics as Gastronomy is to Nutrition. It is more fun. Although based on the concept that air should pass unhindered over the vehicle body, Streamlining was not usually scientific. It was sometimes based on theory and experimentation, Continue reading “Theme : Aerodynamics – Introduction”