Theme: Porsche – Should We Talk, Should We Pray?

So goes the old saying anyway. In the year 2000 when we were supposed to be floating on hover-drones and wearing alufoil skinsuits, Porsche still had the engine in the back even if air cooling was out.

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And BMW offered the 1950s-inspired Z8 while Aston pursued girth and heft with the Aston Martin Vantage Volante, a V12 topless GT. Where did the future actually go to?

It is hard to be sure of if the three convertibles are comparable even if period reviews seemed to think so.

Continue reading “Theme: Porsche – Should We Talk, Should We Pray?”

Theme: Compromise – The Paradox of Failure

As David Pye observed, every design is a failure.

Failure.
Failure.

His argument rested on the idea that no design can optimise every aspect. The more complex the object the more likely this is to be the case. If we take a simple example of a knife, it’s a compromise because unavoidably the designer had to work within constraints of time and materials. The knife has to function but be affordable and attractive to enough people to make it an economically feasible proposition.  The best knife can’t appeal to everyone. For some consumers the design is unacceptable  – it remains unsold for reason of price or appearance. Continue reading “Theme: Compromise – The Paradox of Failure”

A photo for Sunday: Strange-Looking Mondeo

That’s what I thought when it caught my eye. 

2010 Aston Martin
2010 Aston Martin

It’s not a Mondeo, I realised after 0.45 seconds. That someone sat in it may explain why I didn’t get any closer.

Aston Martin must choke when they see the Astony Mondeos that still ply the roads in moderate numbers. Aston Martin owners may feel there is no comparison – only an idiot of the first order would mistake a house-priced car for a nice-kitchen priced car. They delude themselves.

Aston planned to make the Rapide at Steyr in Graz, Austria but sales never met expectations. Ford knows why.

Future Postponed – 1976 Aston Martin Lagonda

The same year Concorde entered service, Aston Martin introduced a roadgoing equivalent. But like the emblematic supersonic jetliner, the Lagonda embodied a future which ultimately failed to take flight.

Image: 7car.tw
Image: source

Despite the fact that it didn’t run and wouldn’t actually enter production for another three years, the Lagonda’s thrilling sci-fi appearance caused a media sensation in the Autum of 1976 and probably saved Aston Martin’s bacon at a very difficult time. Because a year before, the Newport Pagnell-based car maker was in receivership, falling prey, like Jensen, Iso and Maserati to the fallout from the 1973 oil crisis coupled with the costs of adhering to ever-tightening safety and emissions regulations. Continue reading “Future Postponed – 1976 Aston Martin Lagonda”

Caution, Live Cargo!

Last month, in Vlissingen in the Netherlands, DTW came across a pram museum. They’ve got wheels, so we’ll write about them.

Oudekinderwagens, Vlissingen
Oudekinderwagens, Vlissingen

When I was a student designer, there was a clear difference between the straight from A level bunch, like me, and the ‘mature students’, some of whom were maybe just 3 or 4 years older than me, but who had seen a bit of life. That ‘bit of life’ might have been bumming around the world, or it might have been all that grown-up stuff like parenting, and those people could interest themselves in a project like designing a pram or a baby buggy in a way that I never could. By that, I don’t mean that my ambitions were only to draw ludicrously impractical sports cars – I was quite interested in doing something a bit more worthwhile, especially since, with the Arab Israeli Conflict, the activities of the Baader-Meinhof Group and, as the final nail, Showaddawaddy being near the top of the charts, it was clear that society as we knew it was coming to an end. No, my problem was that I could never really appreciate the difficulty in piloting a clumsy wheeled device with a screaming passenger through a crowded supermarket, since, although I’d read both On The Road and Nausea, I lacked any actual experience of the real problems of life. Continue reading “Caution, Live Cargo!”

Costly Cars, Big Losses

Perplexing this: the market for very costly cars has been booming and Aston Martin have only racked up losses.

2015 Aston Martin DBX: source
2015 Aston Martin DBX: source

Automotive News report that ” a pre-tax loss of £127.9 million ($172.03 million) in 2015, the fifth consecutive year the company has failed to make a profit, as the number of cars it sold fell and as it invests in expansion”. It seems everyone likes Aston Martin but not enough people want to buy them. Hasn’t it always been like this? Continue reading “Costly Cars, Big Losses”

Micropost: Aston Martin Vanquish Zagato Coupe

Autocar announced yesterday without any sense of embarrassment that the AMVZC shown as “a concept” last month will go into production largely unchanged.

2016 Aston Martin Vanquish Zagato Coupe, the same as it was last month: source
2016 Aston Martin Vanquish Zagato Coupe, the same as it was last month: source

What a remarkable sleight of hand, I feel. What has happened is that Aston Martin have shown a production car as a concept car, at the Villa d’Este concours. That has yielded a press-release and lots of coverage. A month later they are showing effectively the exact same car as a production car, with yet more coverage.

In this way AM have been able to avoid producing unconvincing and unfeasible trim as a disguise for a production car and get two bursts of coverage by the showing the same thing with two labels. If anyone can tell me where the difference lies between the “show car” and the production car then I’d be grateful. The entire exercise is quite cynical because, with one month between the “show car” and the “production car” it is clear that production was inevitable and there are no serious differences, no time need to evaluate demand or assess the reaction. Thus what has happened is that a production car has been presented as a show car, and I ask is this a first?

Since the Zagato is very striking and the sales are guaranteed, one wonders if this tricksy behavior is really necessary.

Design Micropost: Zagato versus Citroen

Zagato is interesting and Aston Martin is less so. Citroen was interesting and is less so. What do they have in common?

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Pretty much nothing except that both the rather costly Aston Martin Zagato of 2016 and the rather cheap Citroen C1 have a similarly unappealing faux-wraparound windscreen-to-side-glass.

Continue reading “Design Micropost: Zagato versus Citroen”

Theme: Values – Britain

Ah, this is a tricky one. It´s like trying to understand your family.

2001 Mini: aw retro as New Beetle but nobody objects. Image: topcarrating.com. I wonder what that site is about.
2001 Mini, old and new British style. Image: topcarrating.com.

I’m not British but the British have loomed large in the culture of the Irish, and “Ireland” is written on the front of my passport. British cars once dominated the Irish car market and now Germans and Japanese predominate. The interplay of convoluted historical strands influenced the character of British cars. In sketching all this can I do so without being too kind or too critical? Continue reading “Theme: Values – Britain”

Theme: Glamour/Disappointment – The Rise And Fall Of Henrik Fisker

 As a car stylist, you’re only as good as your last design. Oh dear…

henrik_fisker
Would you buy a watch from this man? Photo (c) http://www.stuartmcclymont.com

Once upon a time, there was a dashing Dane who, it appeared, could do no wrong when it came to creating sleek, elegant, timeless shapes for sophisticated sports cars. A mere decade later, little of this reputation remains intact – which also taints his past body of work. I am writing this as someone who used to hold the talents of this particular designer in high regard. Despite my lack of enthusiasm for retro design, I registered an attention to detail in the BMW Z8 he helped pen that outweighed my reservations regarding the very concept of that BMW 507 pastiche. Continue reading “Theme: Glamour/Disappointment – The Rise And Fall Of Henrik Fisker”

A New frontier? Aston Martin’s DBX

Every so often, a concept car symbolises the crossing of an invisible line. Here’s one of them.

Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer next to the DBX concept-Geneva 2015 - image via motorauthority
You’d imagine they’d have found a jacket to fit him… Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer announces the DBX concept-Geneva 2015 – image via motorauthority

The Aston Martin DBX represents the best clue yet to the Gaydon-based marque’s future intentions. Aston Martin’s new CEO, Andy Palmer has stated a version of this car will be produced, telling the Telegraph last week; “The DBX is not an SUV, it’s an expression of a GT sports car; a DB crossing over into that usable space… it will be a five-door vehicle, and it won’t grow much bigger than the DBX.”  Continue reading “A New frontier? Aston Martin’s DBX”

Theme : Books – Introduction

The Editor Consults His Library

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In a previous time, before an age where any jaded old hack and a few opinionated dilettantes could open a website at the flick of a keyboard, a knowledge of motoring history relied on the prodigious memory of chaps like Bill Boddy, piles of magazines in the attic and, of course, lots of books. Once, should I wish to know more about the ill-conceived Lotus 30 (147,000,000 results in Google) it would have meant, at least, a phone call to Motor Books or one of the other specialist shops or mail-order suppliers who dealt with motoring matters. Then, if there wasn’t actually a volume helpfully entitled ‘The Lotus 30′, one would hope that the person on the other end of the phone was knowledgeable enough, as was often the case, to say “there’s a couple of paragraphs in the 1965 publication The World Compendium Of Lethal Racing Cars, which unfortunately is out of print, and I think Denis Jenkinson might be writing something on the subject”. Then would follow a lengthy spell of phone calls and letter writing until, at last, a dog-eared third-hand volume of The World Compendium, etc was in your hands. I can’t begin to tell you what an enormously satisfying procedure that was.

Continue reading “Theme : Books – Introduction”