Take Out the Calves and Sing Your Song, Ray.

The only way forwards is back, according to an old dictum. BMW thinks so too.

More premium, uglier. Image: autoblog

In a recent article at Autocropley, Richard Bremner presented without criticism BMW’s plans to “go upmarket”. Firstly, one has to say, aren’t they already supposed to be upmarket?

Well, the answer is no apparently. As we showed here, BMW’s price spectrum has dropped somewhat in the last twenty years. The price of the cheapest cars fell well into territory that was long the preserve of the hum-drum, mass-market brands as BMW traded on its name. Further, the price of its most expensive cars fell too. Altogether this means that as BMW has managed to Continue reading “Take Out the Calves and Sing Your Song, Ray.”

Combing The Hair Underwater Again, Are We?

Among the numerous small obsessions nurtured, nay, incubated at DTW is a concern for brightwork. Here’s another example of the art:

2016 BMW 425d DLO garnish

The car is a BMW 425d, complete with the rather supernumerary, superfluous and unnecessary label in the rearmost sideglass. Isn’t that the kind of thing you’d expect of a lesser marque in the 1980s? (Prizes for finding the kind of thing I have in mind). We’ve reflected on brightwork here (very good) and here (interesting) here (shocking, frankly) and here (a bit technical but ultimately rewarding) but not here (more people need to read that one). At this point, readers might be wonder when we are going to Continue reading “Combing The Hair Underwater Again, Are We?”

IAA 2017: A Culinary Perspective

Despite this particular group of people hardly being renowned connoisseurs of the finer things in life, manufacturers try their utmost to make the Frankfurt Motor Show a palatable experience for the press. Do they succeed?

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The IAA press days are all about hustle and bustle. Most attendees have appointments to make or deadlines to meet, which – coupled with the distances that need to be covered at Messe Frankfurt, not to mention the above average levels of dehydration, (courtesy of the halls’ air conditioning) one is afflicted with – can render grabbing a bite to eat a difficult necessity. Continue reading “IAA 2017: A Culinary Perspective”

Theme: Rivals – Wolfgang Reitzle vs. His Ego

Despite arguably being the most gifted automotive engineer and manager of his generation, Prof Dr Wolfgang Reitzle would only ever enter the captain’s chair once he left the car industry for good. 

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Dr Wolfgang Reitzle with his second wife, TV presenter, Nina Ruge, photo (c) handelszeitung.ch

It is one of automotive history’s more baffling paradoxes that a man of such undisputed talents as Wolfgang Reitzle never reached the post of chief executive at an automotive business. But as with a great many other high achievers, it actually was the same traits that had brought Reitzle so close to the apex that ultimately prevented him from arriving there.

Continue reading “Theme: Rivals – Wolfgang Reitzle vs. His Ego”

Theme: Brochures – 1964 Skoda 1000MB

In 1964 the Skoda 1000MB went on sale, replacing the first Octavia of 1959 (which stayed in production anyway). It had a 1.0 litre  four-cylinder engine.

1964 Skoda 1000MB brochure front covers.
1964 Skoda 1000MB brochure front covers.

And it started a long series of rear-engined Skodas. It’s not a car I know a lot about. The Wikipedia web-page reeks of fandom: “Apart from the use of cooling vents in the rear wings and rear panel, everything else about the 1000 MB’s styling was normal, which was undoubtedly in an attempt to appeal to all the conservative-minded buyers in export countries like the UK. This car was highly successful both for Škoda and the Czech economy”.

Continue reading “Theme: Brochures – 1964 Skoda 1000MB”

Automotive Mayfly

This isn’t much of a Photo for Saturday** more of blue car by the side of the road. What is it?

image

It’s a very Was Then sort of car. From 2006 to 2008 BMW made this car in Regensburg. It’s a variant of the E85 Z4 which had a longer life. The Z4M had one engine, a 3.2 litre six cylinder unit and a six speed ‘box. In some ways you could call it an M3 wearing Z4 clothes. If you want a historical reference, it has the same relation to the Z4 as the Triumph GT6 to the mainstream Spitfire. It’s the kind of car that used to be quite common, a pure sports car which is now rather a freak. Continue reading “Automotive Mayfly”

Benz Buster -1986 BMW (E32) 7-Series

The keys to the executive lounge are hard-won. Sometimes you’ve got to force your way in…

Image: Autoevolution
Image: Autoevolution

The 1986 E32 BMW 7-Series may not have been as polarising a styling statement as its E65 descendant, but was if anything a far more significant car. Bayerische Motoren Werke’s ‘here’s Johnny’ moment; it represented a point where BMW took a metaphorical axe to the boardroom door and gave their Swabian rivals the fright of their lives. It also inspired an entire generation of BMW saloons, introducing the distinctive (and patented) L-shaped tail-lamp motif.
Continue reading “Benz Buster -1986 BMW (E32) 7-Series”

Theme: Sudamerica – +(500) Land of Bikes, Quads and Boats

While it might be culturally, and indeed physically a long way from the rest of South-America, the Falklands are part of the continent. What do they drive?

Port Stanley: source
Port Stanley: source

Outside of Port Stanley, the capital, most of the roads are gravelled and are described as tracks. Furthermore, there is not a very large road network (900 km) due to the island’s low population density: 3000 people reside there. It is tempting to say that the most popular vehicles thereabouts are boats since the Falklands are made up of two large islands and about 700 smaller ones. The road network is being upgraded to Continue reading “Theme: Sudamerica – +(500) Land of Bikes, Quads and Boats”

One Or Two, Asks Henry From Derbyshire

We might be one of the least influential car websites but we are responsive. Sam the Eagle raised the question yesterday. This is the answer.

2007-2013 BMW 1-series coupe: source
2007-2013 BMW 1-series coupe: source

The start point of the discussion is a fictional letter (sent by post, imagine!) from a fictional reader, Henry. Henry is based in northwest Derbyshire and sells office furniture cleaner. He wants to Continue reading “One Or Two, Asks Henry From Derbyshire”

Guangzhou Revelations

The Guangzhou Motor Show has just ended. BMW are hinting at their front-drive future.

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And if you can click here you can see it’s one of a few cars revealed that are not cross-overs so be thankful for small mercies. As a matter of comparative interest I have also posted the BMW 1 and 2 series coupés. They are very alike, aren’t they? Continue reading “Guangzhou Revelations”

A Picture and Some Questions

A while back I alleged that, if nothing else, the mainstream saloon had more visual variety than that found among C-class family hatches.

Top selling saloons and others
Top selling saloons and others

A recent bit of news concerning Volkswagen’s Phideon saloon led me to put that in with seven other medium sized cars. See how many you can identify. How different are they? And which one stands out? Doesn’t the Phideon look a lot like a BMW 5-series proposal? Can you tell which one is the Phideon?

[Photo sources: Autocar, caranddriver, BMW, Mercedes, Toyota, Ford, Renault]

2016 Paris Motor Show Colour Palette

Driventowrite is pleased to present an exclusive examination of the colours used on concept cars at the 2016 Paris Motor show.

2016 Paris Motor show colours for concept cars.
2016 Paris Motor show colours for concept cars.

You’ll notice green is still missing from the palette. Renault’s yellow was really a pearlescent gold. Honda’s Civic had a stainless-steel character to it. Renault’s Trezor’s surface appeared to be textured with a honey-comb effect. Mitsubishi went for white on the Ground Tourer but a vibrant yellow on the (very similar) EX. Mercedes used black paint for the EQ bonnet which disrupted the graphic effect of the fancy grille decoration.
Continue reading “2016 Paris Motor Show Colour Palette”

Economies of Scale

These usually mean big numbers. In Volvo’s case that means only 20,000 annual sales for the S90.

2017 Volvo S90: caranddriver.com
2017 Volvo S90: caranddriver.com

Automotive News mentioned this figure yesterday. There are another 40,000 units annually for the V90. Still, that’s quite modest really. The reviews so far have been good and my static inspection revealed a pleasingly high quality product. Is a figure of 60,000 enough for a firm without multiple brands to

Continue reading “Economies of Scale”

The world’s Oddest Head Restraints

The head-restraints in the Rover 3500 always struck me as overkill, the ones in the back I mean.

1968 Rover 3500 rear headrestraint.
1968 Rover 3500 rear head-restraint.

Sorry about the reflections in the photo. 80% of that head restraint is not adding comfort or restraint. Why did they make them so big? We wrote about the 3500 before. Continue reading “The world’s Oddest Head Restraints”

What Anders Did Next

Last month’s news of head of MINI design Anders Warming’s precipitate and unexplained departure from BMW as was a shock to the industry comparable to Chris Bangle’s exit in 2009.

BORGWARD Group AG - Anders Warming
Image: Borgward AG

That may be as nothing compared with the news of his new appointment as Borgward AG’s Board of Management member responsible for Design, to begin on 1 January 2017. He is belatedly reversing the trend begun by Wilhelm Heinrich Gieschen, Karl Monz, and numerous others who took the one-way journey south from Bremen in the early 1960’s to create the new BMW in Borgward’s image. Except of course, neue Borgward is headquartered in Stuttgart, and answers to Beijing. Continue reading “What Anders Did Next”

Not for Sale Around Here: BMW 1-Series Sedan

…or saloon if you must.

Source: Motor Authority
Source: Motor Authority

We could easily be excused for missing the first official pictures of the BMW 1 Series four-door. It’s reported to be strictly China-only, and a built in the BMW-Brilliance Auto joint venture factory in Shenyang. The design isn’t wholly unfamiliar, having broken cover as the ‘Concept Compact Sedan’ at the Auto Guangzhou salon last November. Continue reading “Not for Sale Around Here: BMW 1-Series Sedan”

Micropost: The Italian Car Park

Here is an Italian car-park: Naples Airport.

image

My casual analysis of the Italian fleet leads me to conclude Fiat, GM, Toyota and VW dominate the low to middle market and thereafter it’s Audi and Mercedes. The losers are Renault and Citroen at one end, Ford in the middle and Lexus and BMW at the top. Subaru, Mazda, Honda and Mitsubishi have no strong presence. Alfa aren’t even all that common. Continue reading “Micropost: The Italian Car Park”

Theme: Values – Germany

In my survey of the values of the motoring manufacturing nations, we have touched on Italy, Britain and France. Now it is time to look at the nation that helped invent the motor car.

1960s Mercedes S-class

The present gets in the way of the past. Today Germany stands on an equal footing with Japan and the US as a powerhouse of car engineering, design and manufacturing. If we go back a hundred years the story would not have seemed so clear. Each car-building nation had a deluge of manufacturers and a certain sameness attached to all of them as they ploughed a vast array of technical furrows, hopeful minnows. Germany’s clever engineers and industrious entrepreneurs offered a wide range of types of car in the search to find something that matched German values and German conditions. Things became clearer in the 20s as most of the small makers died off. The Second World War acted as another selector. Mercedes managed to Continue reading “Theme: Values – Germany”

Two Wheels Good. Three Wheels Better?

DTW Looks at Bikes for Non-Bikers

What if you're not actually rebelling against anything, Johnny?
What if you’re not actually rebelling against anything at all, Johnny?

DTW likes to present itself as a dogma-free zone and, in general, we think that this is so. We cover four wheels without prejudice of value or social status. But once we step outside that, things change. When I was at school, with youth’s preference for factions, it seemed to be that you were either a car person or a motorbike person. I suppose there were people who were neither, but contempt or, at best, pity for them was the only thing that united car and bike lobbies. I was firmly in the car camp, and remained there until my late twenties, when I discovered bikes as well. But many car folk really have no interest in bikes, which makes writing about bikes on these pages a minority pastime. Continue reading “Two Wheels Good. Three Wheels Better?”

Understanding the Market

The world has changed a lot in 20 years. Among those changes are those we have discussed here lately concerning BMW’s astonishing expansion.

BMW-5er-E34-729x486-697f49e2f7154a5d

For this study I have compared the total range and prices of three brands of cars between 1995 and 2014, the last year for which I have the data in one magazine in my living room. (The graph says 2016 though). The prices are inflation adjusted to 2015 values. For example, a 3-series started at £15,000 in 1995 and this is worth £27,000 today. I have selected the base price of the main models and not included options. All of the cheapest cars in standard trim could be specced up and I have omitted this and focused on the lowest standard price.

The figures are remarkable. Continue reading “Understanding the Market”

Our Cars: 2009 RenaultSport Clio 200 Cup

David and Goliath? This question springs to mind in this report of life with a RenaultSport Clio 200 Cup.

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The modern SUV. Image: thisiswhyimbroke.com

I once shared a university house with a man who studied Physics. He was tremendously good at it. As a lazy English student, I envied the clarity of his thought processes, of his ability to harness complex mathematics to make sense of the forces that shape our world. Meanwhile, I struggled to marshal the energy to make a toasted cheese sandwich. (And this despite me keeping a Breville sandwich toaster on my bedside table. And my bedside table being a mini fridge liberated from a caravan, filled with cheese and booze.) Continue reading “Our Cars: 2009 RenaultSport Clio 200 Cup”

Be Careful What You Wish For II

In December 2014 we ran an item about the changing styles of luxury car interiors. 

2017 Lincoln Continental interior in its Rhapsody form.
2017 Lincoln Continental interior in its Rhapsody form: caranddriver.com

A year or so later we find someone answering our calls.

In an article about how Lincoln do not want to copy the Germans, there is also discussion of the Lincoln Continental’s blue interior option. Here is a chance then to see if blue interiors are something that appeal to anyone other than automotive design commentators. My impression is that this is a welcome bit of bravery on the part of Lincoln. The all-blue colourway creates a very pleasant atmosphere that manages to Continue reading “Be Careful What You Wish For II”

Theme : Economy – 7 Degrees of Separation

In a revised piece from the earliest days of DTW we look at the UK’s first true economy car. But we make an even grander claim for it.

Austin 7 Box Saloon
Austin 7 Box Saloon

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 – back then, that sort of car collection was practical, even on a teacher’s starter salary. I think that he considered me a bit of a prat (and history has certainly vindicated him on some levels) so, 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. Continue reading “Theme : Economy – 7 Degrees of Separation”

2016 BMW 7 Series

After all the other things happening in the last few weeks it has been easy to miss less notable news stories. Among them is the 2016 BMW 7 series has been unveiled (June 11, for goodness’ sake.).

2016 BMW 7 series: networm.org
2016 BMW 7 series in concept form: networm.org

Dimensionally the car is not much larger than the existing car so owners won’t have to build a new garage. It is a bit lighter (130kg) and a lot fussier. We are a long way from Ercole Spada’s interpretation which is virtually definitive or the Michelotti-influenced first version.

Continue reading “2016 BMW 7 Series”

The Future’s Bright – (oh, hang on a second…)

The new BMW 7-Series is awash with colour and tech. Oh joy.

'Wanna lift? I've got gesture control!' The new BMW 7-Series in Arctic Grey Brilliant Effect. Or is it Magellan Grey? Oh forget it. Image via BMW UK
BMW’s flagship in Arctic Grey Brilliant Effect. Or is that Magellan Grey? Hang on, that looks more like Jatoba. Oh forget it! Image: BMW UK

According to Autocar, who seemingly troubled the press pack – (something I’ll admit to not being bothered doing) – the newly announced BMW 7-Series will be available in a dazzling array of cheerful colours. Or to put it another way, it won’t. On the surface of things, the new 7’s colour palette looks even more drearily monochrome than its uninspired styling. Continue reading “The Future’s Bright – (oh, hang on a second…)”

Alternative Paths In An Unpredictable Industry

DTW Considers The Alternative German Big Three


At the end of the 1950s, there was a sizeable group of home-owned players in the German industry, but we shall concentrate initially on three of them – Borgward, NSU and Glas. Only the first few paragraphs of this piece are fact, the rest is entirely speculation as to how things could have worked out quite differently, yet might have ended up much the same.

Borgward had been making cars since the 1920s. They were fast to restart manufacture after the War, being the first German company to put an all new car into production, the Hansa 1500. This was replaced in 1954 by the mid-sized Isabella and that was joined in 1959 by both the larger six-cylinder P100 and the smaller Arabella, featuring a flat 4 boxer that Subaru used as a reference point when developing their own engine. Continue reading “Alternative Paths In An Unpredictable Industry”

Theme : Facelifts – Second Coming

Or should that read Coming Second?

BMW-Serii-7-4

In the repository of automotive facelifts, this example is something of an aberrant one. BMW’s E65 7-Series is commonly and perhaps justifiably regarded as BMW’s ‘they’ve gone stark raving bonkers’ moment. Adrian Van Hoydoonk’s styling was on one hand a genuine breath of fresh air, yet at the same time, a visual challenge of epic proportions.

Continue reading “Theme : Facelifts – Second Coming”