Style Council

The Jaguar S-Type was intended to spearhead Ford’s growth plans for the leaping cat. That didn’t quite work out as planned.

(c) driving.ca

Now is the winter of our discontent: In November 2004, Ford appointee, Joe Greenwell faced a panel of hostile UK parliamentarians at the Trade and Industry select committee in Whitehall, seeking explanations for his parent company’s decision to Continue reading “Style Council”

A Different Shade of Beige

Best known as Germany’s Taxi of choice, the Mercedes /8 has languished under the shadow of more celebrated siblings. Time for a fare hearing.

(c) gdtm

Prior to 1970, all licenced taxis within the Federal Republic of West Germany were painted black. They also for the most part consisted of the products of Stuttgart-Untertürkheim. During the wirtschaftswunder era, the diesel-powered Mercedes came to embody virtues of solid dependability, frugality and long-life, as endorsed by the huge, largely trouble-free mileages these vehicles amassed in the public hire trade.

When Mercedes-Benz launched what were termed the ‘new generation’ cars in 1968, perhaps unsurprisingly, the values they espoused were of a familiar, conservative nature. Yet in its own way, the /8 (or Strich Acht – a term employed to denote the model year), was itself something of a revolutionary. Continue reading “A Different Shade of Beige”

Little Wonder

The 1978 Midas and its talented creator appear largely forgotten. Neither really ought to be.

1978 Midas. (c) bright-cars

Even amongst those who breathe petrol vapour for pleasure, Harold Dermott is not a household name. And this is a pity, for he is intrinsically linked to two of Britain’s cleverest and most dynamically accomplished enthusiast cars. That they represent polar opposites upon the affordability spectrum is largely irrelevant – both are equally rare sights today.

But while one is rightly celebrated as arguably the pinnacle of road-car development, the 1978 Midas remains a neglected automotive footnote – a matter which not only belies the craft and ingenuity of its design and construction, but also speaks volumes as to how the automotive world values its innovators and outliers.

Having graduated with a BSc in mechanical engineering, Harold Dermott joined BL in the early ’70s, working on engine development for Jaguar. However, following the notorious Ryder Report, prospects looked bleak for a young, ambitious engineer, and having departed the embattled carmaker, he obtained the rights to Continue reading “Little Wonder”

The Quintessence : (Part Nine)

The XJ6 was and always will remain the quintessence of Jaguar. 

© Jaguar Heritage

“All I try to do is make nice cars…” (Sir William Lyons)

Throughout its history Jaguar have produced faster, more visually arresting, more technically dense cars; indeed, more commercially successful cars (and with over 400,000 units built over three distinct series the XJ was successful), but it’s debatable whether they ever produced as complete a car. A forward looking design which transcended its convoluted gestation, last-minute revisions and troubled career to become something which far outweighed the sum of its parts.

It’s difficult to Continue reading “The Quintessence : (Part Nine)”

Conservative Values

Before the revolution came this final flowering of traditional BMW expression. It’s possible they never quite surpassed it.

(c) favcars

As BMW themselves fondly state, the Three-Series represents the beating heart of the Bayerische Motoren Werke brand, and as such, they have (until comparatively recently at least) managed its evolution with some caution and no little care. Certainly throughout its earlier iterations, it remained a conceptually faithful evolution of the ur-Dreier, the epochal 02-Series, which the E21 Three supplanted some 42 years ago. Continue reading “Conservative Values”

The Quintessence : (Part Eight)

In the spring of 1975, the XJ finally went on sale in coupé form, but the timing proved somewhat inauspicious.

(c) Autocar

From the point of inception, it had been Jaguar’s intention to produce the XJ in two door coupé form. Indeed, during 1967, Jaguar’s North American distributors stated that they were only interested in this body style. But with the XJ4 programme already a good 18-months behind schedule, and other BLMC programmes being accorded priority, PSF ceased development of the coupé body entirely.

This remained the state of affairs in 1969. With XJ6 production getting under way, PSF were in no position to expedite matters and with demand for the saloon so high, all hands were set to Continue reading “The Quintessence : (Part Eight)”

Definition Point

We profile Ford’s 1998 sector-defining Focus.

(c) namu.moe

The advent of a defining car, while largely something of a singularity, can only truly be recognised as such once a period of time has elapsed. Over time, the Ford Motor Company has created a number of cars which have in their way, defined their eras, largely due to their ubiquity, and popular appeal. However, the number of truly outstanding Euro-Ford car designs are fewer in number.

The 1998 Focus recalibrated not only what a C-segment car looked like, but how it could Continue reading “Definition Point”

The Quintessence : (Part Seven)

A revised XJ appeared in late 1973, just in time for the sky to fall in.

(c) Jaguar Cars

At the 1973 Frankfurt motor show, Jaguar displayed the facelifted Series II XJ series, billed in the launch material as “the logical evolution of British Leyland’s most coveted car.” External revisions were largely confined to the nose treatment which lent the car a fresher appearance. The revisions were made partly with one eye to the XJ’s duration in the marketplace, but mostly in accordance with increasingly stringent US regulations. Continue reading “The Quintessence : (Part Seven)”

The Quintessence : (Part Six)

As Jaguar steadily broadened the XJ6’s appeal, the headwinds kept coming.

(c) IMDb

In 1968, when XJ launched, Jaguar was, in addition to future XJ4-derived models, seeking funding for a number of new product lines. These comprised of XJ21 – a V12 powered GT on the E-Type platform, XJ17 – an all-new compact 2+2 coupé and XJ27 – a large luxury coupé based on XJ4.

While Jaguar’s own deliberations saw XJ21 abandoned, BLMC product planning policies meant XJ17 was also culled, with Lord Stokes decreeing that Jaguar would no longer Continue reading “The Quintessence : (Part Six)”

The Quintessence : (Part Five)

Manufacturing was Jaguar’s fatal weakness. It would become XJ6’s undoing.

Browns Lane production tracks. (c) curbside Classic

Through a combination of genius, skill, misfortune and at times, sheer good luck, the Jaguar XJ6 proved to be precisely what the market realised it wanted. Offering all the glamour and visual allure of the E-Type in a four-door package, customers quickly discovered it fitted their needs very nicely indeed. The trouble was obtaining one.

When Lyons sanctioned the model, he set production targets of a thousand cars a week. This would have amounted to slightly over 50,000 cars per annum, a figure Jaguar wouldn’t meet until the 1990s, and certainly one the XJ-series never came close to meeting – for a whole host of reasons.

The first of these manifested itself as Jaguar struggled to ramp up XJ6 production in the advent of the car’s launch. The XJ bodyshell was built at PSF in Castle Bromwich. Made up of hundreds of small pressings, the XJ shells were designed this way, firstly to Continue reading “The Quintessence : (Part Five)”

The Quintessence : (Part Four)

Fifty years ago this week, Sir William Lyons announced his magnum opus.

(c) Classic Cars

On the 26th September 1968, amid the opulence of the Royal Lancaster Hotel on London’s Bayswater Road, Sir William Lyons revealed Jaguar’s long-awaited saloon. Neither a particularly confident nor enthusiastic public speaker, the intensely private Jaguar Chairman was persuaded to record his introductory speech to the assembled dealers, dignitaries and members of the press, as the new XJ6 was revealed over four successive nights.

The lavish series of functions climaxed with the room’s spotlights gradually brightening to reveal the car on a raised dais, surrounded by nine further examples arranged around the perimeter. The reception throughout was rapturous, with dealers and motoring press alike lining up to Continue reading “The Quintessence : (Part Four)”

The Quintessence : (Part Three)

In 1968, Jaguar put all its saloon car eggs in one decidedly comely basket. We examine the likely causes.

(c) forum-auto

In 1964, a series of factors led Sir William Lyons to take the momentous decision to replace Jaguar’s multiplicity of saloon models with a single car line, betting the entire enterprise upon its success. Retrospectively of course, one could say he needn’t have worried, but at the time, it must have been a deeply anxious moment.

How did this state of affairs come to pass? To answer this, we must Continue reading “The Quintessence : (Part Three)”

The Quintessence : (Part Two)

In this second instalment, we examine the XJ6’s technical package.

Proving engineers, Don Currie and Richard Cresswell with a disguised XJ4 prototype, sporting Lyons’ ‘Studebaker’ grille. (c) Classic Cars

Sanctioned in 1964, XJ4 was intended to launch in 1967, which seems in hindsight to have been a rather optimistic timescale. The project team would be led by Bob Knight, Jaguar’s senior development engineer and one of the finest conceptual minds of his era. The Browns Lane engineering department at the time was something of a collection of minor fiefdoms, most of whom Continue reading “The Quintessence : (Part Two)”

The Quintessence : (Part One)

William Lyons’ masterpiece. In a series of articles, we celebrate an automotive high watermark as it marks its 50th anniversary.

(c) Jag-lovers.org

Without any doubt at all, the XJ6 is my personal favourite. It comes closer to than any other to what I always had in mind as my ideal car.” Sir William Lyons.

One bright spring morning in 1967, two men strode towards a lock-up garage in the grounds of an imposing Victorian stately home, amid the rolling Warwickshire countryside. As the dew shimmered on the immaculately tended lawns and borders of Wappenbury Hall, Sir William Lyons, Chairman, Chief Executive and spiritus rector regarding all matters aesthetic, led his European Sales Director, John Morgan to where Jaguar’s vitally important new car lay sequestered, in seemingly definitive prototype form.

An autocrat to the tips of his highly polished brogues he may have been, but Lyons nevertheless regularly canvassed the opinions of those he trusted, although having done so, he would Continue reading “The Quintessence : (Part One)”

The Mayfly

The 1998 S-Class attempted something of a rebalancing act after the critical wobbles experienced by its predecessor. Today it is as forgotten as it was forgettable.

(c) auto-agress

The German general election of 1998 was fought against the backdrop, not only of increased European integration, but growing pains on the domestic front stemming from the 1990 reunification project. With incumbent centre-right Chancellor, Helmut Kohl campaigning on a continuity mandate, the opposition Social Democrats portrayed themselves as the ‘new centre’. The results saw Europe’s strongest economy Continue reading “The Mayfly”

Dreams of Reason Produce Monsters

Chris Bangle may have been maligned for a good deal during his tenure at BMW, but there are some things one can never quite forgive.

(c) RAC

All evolutionary pathways have their variances, those points of deviation from the natural course, most of which lead to dead-ends. Some however mutate, leading to strange and unnatural creations. In 2007, BMW unveiled one such grotesquery, an incongruously formed fastback SUV concept, dubbed a Sports Activity Coupé, which was revealed the following year in production form as the X6.

Chris Bangle is a man who seems content to Continue reading “Dreams of Reason Produce Monsters”

Summer Reissue : Visa? That’ll Do Nicely Madam…

This weekend finds Simon in less peevish form. Well, only slightly…

Image credit: Partsopen

I love the smell of floor polish in the morning. Floor polish is an excellent product for cleaning the wood trim in Jaguars. I don’t own a Jaguar incidentally – in my experience, one really ought not. Like all examples of the treacherous genus Felis, it owns you, and one might reasonably add, one’s bank balance.

But I haven’t asked you here today to Continue reading “Summer Reissue : Visa? That’ll Do Nicely Madam…”

Toro de Lidia

Today, We enter the medios, and recall one of Lamborghini’s better efforts.

Image credit: (c) classiccarsforsale

Automotive exotica are not what they were. Traditionally selfish devices, aimed at those who preferred to enjoy their pleasures in isolated splendour. Hence the requirement for additional perches not being terribly high on the exotic carmakers’ priority list. However, a gap in any market simply begs to be filled and Ferruccio Lamborghini was not an individual to Continue reading “Toro de Lidia”

Kenosha Kid

The immortal ‘Frogeye’ Sprite appeared to be a typical example of British design ingenuity, but its roots may have lain further West: Kenosha, Wisconsin to be exact.

Box of frogs. Image credit: (c) stubs-auto.fr

The compact two-seat sportscar wasn’t necessarily a British invention, but for a period of the twentieth century, the UK was arguably, its prime exponent. Hardly surprising, given Britain’s traditionally serpentine network of narrow undulating roads and a taxation regime which dictated lower capacity, longer-stroke engines of limited outright power.

But the British are an inventive people and soon found ways to Continue reading “Kenosha Kid”

Eine Zukunft

BMW hasn’t a brilliant track record with open two-seaters. As the Bavarian carmaker prepares its latest sports car salvo, we examine one of their better efforts.

Image credit: (c) bmwblog

Given its current status as a generalist manufacturer with an increasingly thin residual veneer of aspirant prestige, it is with some incredulity one recalls how thirty years ago the BMW range consisted almost entirely of three volume saloons of an athletic mien.

Not that the Bayerische Motoren Werke lacked interest in more, shall we say, emotive vehicles, but an innate conservatism, coupled to a weak financial position meant that apart from the 507 model (a low-volume halo car created entirely for the United States market in 1959), and 1978’s M1 supercar, BMW cleaved to what it knew best. Continue reading “Eine Zukunft”

Eurochild

Vittorio Ghidella presided over one of Fiat Auto’s rare periods of growth and prosperity. The 1988 Tipo exemplified his pragmatic approach, but all gains would become subject to the Fiat Charter.

Don’t worry, it’s galvanised! 1988 Tipo perilously close to water. Image credit: stubs.centreblog

Boom and bust appears to have been as essential a part of the Fiat charter as ill-judged facelifts. Periods of prosperity punctuated by blind panic when the balance sheet nosedived. In 1979, Gianni Agnelli appointed former engineer, Vittorio Ghidella to head the Fiat Auto division. The Turin carmaker was in desperate straits, emerging from the 1970s battered from the legacies of the ’73 fuel crisis and from labour disputes which threatened the future of the business.

Within a decade, the picture would be vastly different. Fiat Auto was profitable, nudging VW to become Europe’s largest carmaker by volume, bouyed by the huge success of the B-segment Uno, the sales resurgence of Lancia and the 1988 introduction of the Tipo, arguably the most significant model programme in Fiat’s history and perhaps its most far-seeing. Continue reading “Eurochild”

The Born Identity

Like another much-loved ’80s C-sector stalwart, Volvo’s turn of the decade hatchback was aimed at two market sectors concurrently, satisfying neither. We ask, was the 440-series Volvo’s Maestro?

1988 Volvo 440. Image credit: (c) autoevolution

Volvo’s long-lived 300-series proved something of a mixed blessing for the Swedish car maker by the late 1980s. On one hand, a firm and remarkably consistent seller (a regular in the UK’s top ten), while on the other, something of an embarrassment given its age, hapless dynamics and the fact that it was a car Gothenburg engineers never had much appreciation for in the first place.

Volvo were understandably keen to Continue reading “The Born Identity”

Ritmo Della Strada

Fiat’s Seventies C-segment style statement is largely a neglected footnote today, but there’s more to the Ritmo than a bunch of robots and some confusion over its name.

Style statement. Image credit: cargurus

Was any decade as truly modern as the 1970s? One retrospectively characterised in a roseate glow of giddy colours and lurid sartorial fashions; of long hair, beards, beads and ABBA songs, what chroniclers choose to ignore was how genuinely, thrillingly new it all appeared at the time and after an interval of four decades, seems even more so now.

In terms of product design, little that occurred in the decade that followed came even close to the impact of the ’70s. Unfortunately this was probably equally true in other areas. Ah Italy. Bastion of culture, impeccable taste; leaders in industrial innovation and design, but fatally prey to political instability. Certainly no product of this land can Continue reading “Ritmo Della Strada”

Five in Time

Cometh the hour, cometh the car. 1988’s E34 BMW 5-Series arrived at just the right moment, redefining the model line and clarifying a template that arguably hasn’t been bettered.

Image credit: bmwguide

If 1961’s Neue Klasse saloons served to define Bayerische Motoren Werke’s style template and 1966’s 1600-2 popularised it, the Paul Bracq-inspired E12 5-Series of 1972 would take the design principles of Wilhelm Hofmiester and recast them in a modish, yet still highly disciplined context.

A design which married a sharply pared and engineered steeliness with an almost Latin softness, the E12 became BMW’s visual touchstone for almost two generations. So much so that its replacement, 1981’s E28 was essentially a reskin of the outgoing car. Continue reading “Five in Time”

A Company Car

With Ford poised to officially reveal its spiritual successor, we examine the car which fifty years ago paved its path, becoming the fifth best selling car of all time.

Image credit: viaretro

It’s a curious choice of name when you think about it, connotating little by way of glamour or allure, unlike for instance its Cortina sibling. The car as companion perhaps? A no-nonsense non-specific name for what began as a practical, utilitarian no-nonsense car.

The Escort name in fact predated this model, first turning up on a variant of the 1950s British Ford 100E range, but more salaciously, it was also the title of a popular UK top-shelf publication, beloved of the school playground and travel motel dweller alike.

But the Escort in basic form at least, was hardly going to Continue reading “A Company Car”

Herbie Dies Again

Death’s door revolves once more for VW’s retromobile. Perhaps we’ll miss it this time, but only if it promises to go away.

Image credit: volkswagen.com

At the recent Geneva motor show, Volkswagen’s research and development chief, Frank Welsch confirmed the much rumoured demise of the Beetle. Many commenters had speculated since VW’s fortunes (both reputational and financial) took a dive in the wake of the firm’s emissions-revelations, that niche models like the Beetle were on deathwatch, so in many ways this news comes as no surprise.

Indeed, according to some sources, production could Continue reading “Herbie Dies Again”

Two Cities, One Car

A clumsy name for a rather clumsy car. Ten years ago, Alfa Romeo took aim at the MINI (and its ilk) and missed. We plot the MiTo’s wobbly trajectory.

Image credit: autokult

Alfa Romeo has throughout its long history enjoyed a distinctly patchy relationship with small cars. Pre-War, such a notion would probably have been laughable but even in the latter half of the 20th century, despite the occasional prototype, the smallest car Portello actually got round to sanctioning was the troubled Alfasud, a programme which proved aberrant insofar as it was what we would now class as a C-segment vehicle and was, by a Neapolitan country kilometre, a dynamic front-drive benchmark Alfa would never again match. Continue reading “Two Cities, One Car”

Anniversary Waltz 2017: Sweet Smell of Success

Our final retrospective waltz in this series lands in 1957.

Bert Lancaster as JJ Hundseker and Tony Curtis as Sidney Falco from the 1957 Alexander McKendrick release, Sweet Smell of Success. Image: video city

1957’s Sweet Smell of Success was an unusual film for its era, made by a director better known for lighthearted comedies, casting its two leads against type and portraying a seedy, rapacious twilight world behind the gloss of celebrity culture. In that respect, it was a very modern film, but it was one the public were not quite ready to accept. Continue reading “Anniversary Waltz 2017: Sweet Smell of Success”

Anniversary Waltz 2017: Reflections in a Golden Eye

Ah 1967: The Summer of love. Sgt. Pepper. Twiggy. Bond.

Adieu Panhard. Image: hemmings

But leaving popular culture aside, the mood music was more sombre. In the UK, land speed record holder, Donald Campbell died attempting to break the water record on Lake Coniston in his Bluebird K3 jetboat. While back on terra firma the advent of the Road Safety Act set a maximum permitted blood alcohol level, allowing breathalyser tests to be performed on drivers for the first time.

Across the Atlantic, the National Transport Safety Board was created to Continue reading “Anniversary Waltz 2017: Reflections in a Golden Eye”

Anniversary Waltz 2017: ‘Oh the Eastern Sea’s So Blue’

The waltz continues its overdue retrospective sweep through 1987.

LJK Setright liked it so much he bought one. 1987 Honda Prelude. Image: Japanese SportCars

By the mid-80’s the Japanese car companies were beginning to really give the European car business the willies, with the UK’s Car magazine bewailing their advent in luridly melodramatic terms. With Honda’s existing midliner being Accorded viable 3-Series rivalry status, Minato-Tokyo prepared a fresh salvo into the hearts and minds of their European rivals with this third generation Prelude.

Utilising the core body structure of its 1982 forebear, the ’87 car’s smoother, softer style and lower nose (made possible by the engine being canted back 18°) lent it a visual grace its predecessor slightly lacked, but its distinctly three-volume silhouette meant its styling appealed more to US eyes than to those here in Europe. Continue reading “Anniversary Waltz 2017: ‘Oh the Eastern Sea’s So Blue’”

Anniversary Waltz 2017 : Things Can Only Get Better!

Continuing DTW’s meta retrospective, we dial the time machine back to 1997.

LR Freelander. Image: RAC

1997 was an eventful year (weren’t they all?) which in a series of reversals for establishment-Britain saw the Chinese regain control over Hong Kong, and the dominant Conservative party lose power domestically following an 18-year run. In Paris that autumn, Princess Diana died in a car accident, the Hale-Bopp comet had its initial sighting, and oh yes, the Titanic sank again.

But if the number of débutantes profiled over the past twelve months is any indication, 1997 proved a good deal more fecund a year from an automotive perspective. Nevertheless, some stories remain untold, which leads us to the point of today’s exercise. Continue reading “Anniversary Waltz 2017 : Things Can Only Get Better!”

Anniversary Waltz 2017: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

In a series of articles, Driven to Write gives 2017 the meta treatment.

2007 Audi A5. Image: CBG.ie

It’s normally customary at this time to reflect upon the just-departed year, its themes, its happenings and how these events might offer some guide to the coming one, but my DTW colleague-in-arms has already covered that. No, what I am offering today (and over the coming days) is to all intents and purposes a series of retrospectives on a series of retrospectives. Well after all it’s Driven to Write you’ve blundered upon, what exactly were you expecting?

Over the past 24 months, I’ve chronicled various (arguably?) significant cars, marking their various anniversaries and have found it to be a rich seam. After all, it’s pleasing to Continue reading “Anniversary Waltz 2017: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”

The Death of Romance

A (modest) commercial success, but ultimately a creative failure, the 2007 XF opened Jaguar up to a non-traditional audience, but in the final analysis, probably cast too many values on the fire.

Image: Car and Driver

By 2005, Ford’s ambitious growth strategy for Jaguar lay in tatters following a series of misguided creative decisions based on a discredited retro aesthetic. As Ford’s Premier Automotive Group began its slow dissolve, the storied luxury car maker’s consistent inability to Continue reading “The Death of Romance”

Terrible Angel

The 1957 Lotus Type 14 was uncommonly beautiful, brilliantly courageous but ultimately doomed.

Image: MK14 Components

“Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angelic Orders? And even if one were to suddenly take me to its heart, I would vanish into its stronger existence. For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror, that we are still able to bear, and we revere it so, because it calmly disdains to destroy us. Every angel is terrible.”  René Karl Wilhelm Johann Josef Maria Rilke – First Elegy.

Anthony Colin Bruce Chapman was no angel, but a visionary, risk-taker, rascal, genius? He’s been called many of these things and indeed some of them may Continue reading “Terrible Angel”

Beauty Stab

Commonly regarded as the most beautiful Alfa Romeo saloon shape of recent times, the Alfa 156’s svelte lines remain a credit to its designer. But questions remain as to its authorship.

Image: cars data

Over the past sixty-odd years, Alfa Romeo berlinas and the notion of ravishing beauty were (for the most part) mutually exclusive. Now of course this doesn’t necessarily mean Arese wasn’t home to some very fine and finely wrought motorcars, but it’s difficult to avoid the view that the habitual centro stile fare hasn’t exactly been an art curator’s dream.

The 1992 Alfa 155 certainly wasn’t. Based on the Tipo-derived Type Three corporate platform, its tall, narrow-looking silhouette combined with skin surfacing endowed with an over-abundance of character lines, and clumsily placed shutlines was a clear evolution of its 75 predecessor, but hardly a car to Continue reading “Beauty Stab”

Anniversary Waltz 2017 : Wirtschaftswunder-Wagen

Three German cars, each of which share a birthdate and a complex web of gestational links, share one further distinction. Each helped put post-war Germany back on four wheels.

1957 BMW 600. Image: MODern deSign

Sixty years ago, Europe was still reeling from the effects of World War Two. Germany was inching its way back to political credibility and prosperity thanks to the economic miracle and a little help from an American named Marshall. Mobility was very much the name of the game, with most domestic manufacturers focusing on simple, affordable cars for everyman.

BMW’s Eisenach works found itself on the wrong side of history by the end of hostilities, situated in what had become the Russian sector of a partitioned Germany. Producing exclusive and unprofitable V8 engined luxury cars wasn’t going to Continue reading “Anniversary Waltz 2017 : Wirtschaftswunder-Wagen”

Anniversary Waltz 2017 : A History of Lessons

A decade ago, Alfa Romeo wowed the faithful with the 8C Competizione, a car which ultimately amounted to less than the sum of its parts. But weren’t we here before?

8C Competizione. Image: autocar

The philosopher, Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás once essayed the line, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Following this logic, amnesia clearly runs as deeply within Alfa Romeo as blind optimism. The perennially crisis-ridden Italian car brand seems locked into a habitual cycle of hope and despair, with each new dawn promising that this time all will Continue reading “Anniversary Waltz 2017 : A History of Lessons”

Celestial Being

Overshadowed by its more lionised ‘gullwing’ predecessor, the 1957 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL roadster was in many ways the superior car. DTW recalls a time when Daimler-Benz was a superior motor company.

Image: Classics Honest John

Mercedes-Benz: A name that at one time symbolised a continuum stretching back to the dawn of motoring and an ethos that embodied the sternest, most rigourous engineering ideals with a relentless Swabian logic. By 1957, the Mercedes-Benz 300SL was the most modern, most eloquent exponent of these principles and perhaps the most technically accomplished car in production – this side of a Citroën’s homegrown goddess anyway. Continue reading “Celestial Being”

Four Ring Cycle

1997’s A6 saw Audi choosing bravery over stylistic torpidude. A lesson they could do well to re-learn.

Was this the earliest application of the lower-door-mounted rub-strip? Image: autowp-ru

By the early 1990s, Audi appeared to have run out of steam as the successes of the previous decade began to fade. Having lit up the automotive firmament with technological marvels such as the Ursprünglich Quattro coupe and the aero-influenced C3 100 / 200 series, the early ’90s saw the four rings of Ingolstadt comparatively becalmed.

Consolidation was the operative word, the feeling along the Danube being that enough had been done to Continue reading “Four Ring Cycle”

Two Fingered Salute

In 1987, Maranello went back to its roots, launching the precursor to today’s track-bound limited edition wonders. But in looking to the past, was F40 the modern Ferrari of all?

Weapons grade material. Image: fastestlaps

The Ferrari F40 is a car that brooks no ambivalence. Like the company’s founder and imperator, F40 is indifferent to the notion that you might find it vulgar, somewhat silly, a virtually unusable statement of machismo and status, because it’s all of those things and a great deal more besides. Because, perhaps more than anything, F40 remains the essence of Enzo. Continue reading “Two Fingered Salute”

Harriman’s Folly

If a car can embody the legacy of its creator, the 1967 Austin 3-Litre will forever be linked with the fall of BMC boss, George Harriman. Hubris or simply bad timing? Driven to Write investigates.

Quadruple headlamps quickly replaced the more modern looking ovoid units fitted to the car at launch. Image: Oldtechnology.net

An unwitting metaphor for a car company which had fundamentally lost its way, the 1967 Austin 3-Litre was an unmitigated failure in both creative and commercial terms. Received at launch with an embarrassed silence from the UK press corps, shunned by the buying public and withdrawn from sale in 1971 with a mere 9,992 examples built, the 3-Litre, along with the Austin Maxi would prove to be the final nails in BMC’s coffinlid and all the evidence Donald Stokes and his Leyland cohorts needed to Continue reading “Harriman’s Folly”

Norfolk Broad

With perhaps the shortest gestation of any production car, 1977’s Chrysler/Talbot Sunbeam personified the term, ‘rush job’ – and it showed. But one variant burned brightly, courtesy of Lotus.

Image: copie-petites-observations-automobile

In 1977, the TV ad-breaks were awash with the mellifluous tones of Petula Clark, exhorting us all to put a Chrysler Sunbeam in our lives. I was around 11 at the time, so there wasn’t much I could do to obey the Surrey songstress’ siren call but since we did have an Avenger parked outside, my level of interest in Linwood’s newest offering was perhaps keener that it might have otherwise have been.

The Sunbeam was the result a neat piece of industrial blackmail on the part of Chrysler UK, the failing former Rootes car business, which under US management had merged with Simca but was struggling with a dated range of cars and a loss making production facility in Scotland making fewer of them than was economical. Faced with the plant’s closure, the UK government agreed to Continue reading “Norfolk Broad”

Stretching a Metaphor

Ford’s post-acquisition strategy for Jaguar was one of aggressive growth, but it came at some cost – particularly to their core model line.

Jaguar flagship. 1997 long-wheelbase Daimler Super V8. Image: motorstown

Having taken a multi-billion dollar hit on the acquisition of Jaguar in 1989, Ford executives saw only one way out of the mess they have got themselves into. In order to gain the return on investment they craved, Jaguar would need to be transformed from a specialist 35-40,000 car a year business to one pushing out at least five times that number. To achieve this, they would need to Continue reading “Stretching a Metaphor”

Bobcat by Another Name

Another in a series of lasts: The 1997 Ford Puma. We won’t see its like again.

Image: carcatalog

The 1990s saw Ford’s European outpost embark upon a period of reflection; a polar realignment from the provision of lowest common denominator perambulatory devices to a respected and critically lauded manufacturer of class-leaders. This process began in earnest with the 1995 debut of the BE91-series Fiesta. While retaining the body structure and basic mechanicals of the critically unloved preceding model, a series of chassis and engine refinements in addition to a major external and internal restyle saw the Fiesta Continue reading “Bobcat by Another Name”

Sons of the Silent Age

Part one: Driven to Write meets (and briefly drives) one of its heroes.

Image: Driven to Write

A commonly espoused orthodoxy warns us that close proximity to our idols can only lead to disappointment. Some go further, suggesting that the renunciation of hero worship is the mark of a mature mind. This being the case, I can categorically claim not to have attained it. But surely it is preferable to Continue reading “Sons of the Silent Age”

Henry’s Bequest

One model has defined Volvo’s rebirth, but its backer deserves some of the credit as well.

‘Ford Gives You More’ – Volvo XC60. Image: Car and Driver

It’s customary for a new car line to hit its sales-stride within the second full year of production, before plateauing and gradually ebbing downwards. This fall is normally arrested by a mid-term facelift, before once again, the graph pitches inexorably Southwards as the model is run out and ultimately replaced. While I wouldn’t necessarily Continue reading “Henry’s Bequest”

In the Name of the Son – 1967 Dino 206 GT

The car with which Alfredo Ferrari’s name would become synonymous did not carry the famous Cavallino Rampante emblem, but is arguably the most significant (and beautiful) Ferrari of all.

Mastery from the house of Pininfarina. Image: jdclassics

Enzo Ferrari preferred to be addressed as ‘ingegnere’, which was something of an irony, given his somewhat reactionary views on the subject. A staunch traditionalist, his principles were firmly rooted in the pre-war era; pivoting around the notion of a powerful, high revving power unit combined with a driver of sufficient bravery and skill to Continue reading “In the Name of the Son – 1967 Dino 206 GT”

Transalpine Hightail

Disappointingly uneven, despite occasional flashes of brilliance, the 1977 Giulietta personifies Alfa Romeo’s 1970’s wilderness years.

Image: wheelsage

The much-loved 105-Series Giulia was the model line that put Alfa Romeo back on a World stage. This compact sporting saloon was a concentrated blend of Portello engineering knowhow wrapped in a highly aerodynamic, if superficially four-square package. Belying it’s ‘boxy’ appearance however, the 105 drove beautifully becoming a firm favourite from its 1962 inception until its ultimate demise 15-years on.

Replacing a car of its stature was no job of a moment, so Alfa not only took their time, but elected to Continue reading “Transalpine Hightail”

Car is a Four Letter Word

The fourth generation of the series proved to be the quintessence of Golf. Twenty years later, it still is.

1997 Volkswagen Golf Mark IV. Image: 3dtuning

In 1974, a teetering VW took a risky punt into the relative unknown by launching a car, which by no means avant garde, (even by the standards of the day), was nonetheless some way left of centre. While it would be facile to suggest it was anything but a commercial success, it wasn’t perhaps until its second permutation that it began to truly dominate the sector it would ultimately define. Continue reading “Car is a Four Letter Word”

Theme: Porsche – ‘Flow Motion’

A brave and modernist masterpiece from Porsche – of all people.

Image: Autowp.ru

During the early 1970s, contemporary music’s centre of gravity saw a shift away from the UK and America, Eastwards to Germany, where so-called ‘Kosmiche’ bands like Can, Cluster, Faust, Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream and Neu! forged an alternative soundscape, laying down a sonic basis for the post-punk, new wave and electronic music that followed. Dismissed at the time as ‘Krautrock’, without its influence, music would most likely have evolved in a very different direction.

Porsche’s 928 is one of perhaps six outstanding car designs from the 1970s, a half-dozen vehicles that in their own disparate manner, eloquently Continue reading “Theme: Porsche – ‘Flow Motion’”