Chavant and Di-NOC

An unsung car design essential under the microscope.

Get it while it’s… hard? Image: Fredaldous.co.uk

We’ve simply never found anything better.

Prosaic words in a modern world where the non-use of a computer or software could be deemed a disability – thank heavens then for a material still requiring skilled human hands to shape and form – clay. Used for eons, clay in the automotive industry requires chemical alterations. Natural clay requires baking to gain its strength and rigidity but which renders the product non-alterable. To allow for modelling complex curves or knife-sharp edges, natural clay contains added oils or waxes and in the early days a volume filler, (sulphur) to maintain its pliable attributes.

Delivered in blocks (or billets), once warmed through, the clay can then be applied to a rudimentary shaped wooden buck or wire armature in clumps, literally thrown on then hand kneaded to express a basic shape. Once air dried, this automotive modelling clay maintains its malleable state and allows the skilled human along with a variety of hands tools to Continue reading “Chavant and Di-NOC”

Reaching for the Stars

Is it a bird, a plane? Nope, it’s a Firebird. 

All three Firebirds. Road & Track

Ještêd, at 1,012 metres is only the 347th highest of the Czech Republic’s mountains yet is a coveted location. The reason being since 1973, at the summit resides an award winning single piece circular building, hyperboloid in shape, pointedly aiming another hundred metres toward the heavens. Partly hotel, but mainly transmitting TV signals, this striking edifice which took six years to construct came from the mind of Karel Hubáček, co-founder of SIAL, a Czech architectural studio. 

Melding elements of beauty with science fiction, a sense of playfulness with functionality, the tower serves the important function of searching further into the great unknown. And whilst Hubáček, surviving enforced wartime labour, concentrated his work upon buildings for humans, he might perhaps have been influenced by something equally futuristic, but on four wheels.

GM’s Firebird I concept stood for high performance. II being the futuristic family car, whereas III was GM’s own trip to the final frontier – an earthbound automobile with otherworldly ideals. Continue reading “Reaching for the Stars”

Boulevard of Broken Dreams

Spain may not be famous for coachbuilders the way their colleagues to the North and on the opposite side of the Mediterranean are, but that is not to say there were none.

Dodge Serra (c) Autopista es

Pedro Serra Vidal (1926-2017) was born into the automobile business. His father owned a large automotive workshop and coachbuilding business in Barcelona, where the young Serra Vidal learned the trade and gathered the necessary experience.

His talent quickly became obvious and he would go on to Continue reading “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”

Sunday Reissue – Gilded Age

Documenting the pre-war streamliner era.

(c) Favcars

As a companion piece to yesterday’s Bugatti article, and its forthcoming episodes, we go back into the archive to an article from DTW co-founder and onetime writer, Sean Patrick, examining perhaps the most glamorous vehicles ever set to hand-beaten metal.

While we can perhaps look at some of them now (like the Delahaye pictured above), and baulk at the profligacy and sheer excess on display, we ought to ask ourselves – are we really any more evolved? I’m rather inclined to doubt it. But disregarding the more outré examples of the carrossier’s art, some of the most sublime shapes of all time emerged from their studios, which Sean’s piece from January 2016 documents, should you wish to delve further this Sunday morning.

Il Designer Dimenticato

The secretive nature of a car designer’s job makes it very difficult to give credit where it’s due, to the point that actual authors of celebrated design icons often remain unknown, even among enthusiasts.

1948 Ferrari scale drawing: The signature of Federico Formenti is clearly visible (c. Petrolicious)
1948 Ferrari scale drawing: The signature of Federico Formenti is clearly visible (c. Petrolicious)

This sad, age-old state of affairs is particularly unfair in the case of Federico Formenti, quite possibly the greatest car designer you’ve never heard of. While the mention of the name “Carrozzeria Touring” is likely to send most car enthusiast’s minds fantasizing about graceful, elegant mid-20th Century cars, it’s far less likely said enthusiast will know that those timeless beauties were mostly designed by one man.

Continue reading “Il Designer Dimenticato”

Saab Museum: the Concept Cars

In our previous instalment we featured the production cars at the Trollhattan museum. Today we turn our attention to the concepts.

2006 Saab Aero-X
2006 Saab Aero-X:  nmj

Visitors to the Saab museum will notice that prior to the 21st century, Saab did not do very many concept cars but eventually they came and we show them today. The photos are again courtesy of NMJ (apart from the odd one marked “RH”).

Perhaps because their cars to some extent already seemed like concept cars, at least until the 1980s, Saab didn’t feel compelled to Continue reading “Saab Museum: the Concept Cars”