Registering Discontent

Everybody’s gettin’ down at the Disco, so Land Rover’s CCO gets his boogie shoes on.

Asymmetric or just plain odd? Image: autoexpress

Since Land Rover announced the current L462 Discovery last year, JLR and Land Rover’s Chief Creative Officer, Gerry McGovern have been batting away varying degrees of critical opprobrium over the vehicle’s rear-end styling – the Discovery’s offset numberplate positioning to be exact. A few weeks ago IGMG expressed his defiance at the critical backlash associated with his creation, suggesting the problem was not of his making.

Speaking to Auto Express, McGovern made it clear that he saw no issue with the styling feature, instead suggesting LR dealers Continue reading “Registering Discontent”

IAA 2017 – Pillar of Style

Augmented by colourful accents and/or a girth suggesting they’d last a thousand years – this year’s Frankfurt Motor Show showed that creativity rests on the D-pillar 

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When Marc Newson met Zaha Hadid

For once, I shall let the pictures do the talking. Continue reading “IAA 2017 – Pillar of Style”

Should The Waves Of Joy Be At One With The Tide? Well, Should They?

Despite the enormous size of the automotive industry and the enormous importance of aesthetics, the academic literature on the topic is sparse.

Citroen C5 sketch: source

There can be found in any bookshop a shelf of ten to thirty books on marques, full of glossy images and I am not talking about these. A few books supposedly on automotive design exist and these are inadequate. This has a few nice pages on rendering. The rest is fluff, sorry to say. The same goes for this book which is mostly about drawing not design.

Car Styling and Auto & Design purport to tell the design story and do often have revealing studio photos of rejected clay models and theme sketches that lead to the final cars. Both, however, are essentially very dependent on the industry that provides the information and so, apart from Robert Cumberford’s articles, they only Continue reading “Should The Waves Of Joy Be At One With The Tide? Well, Should They?”

Micropost: Why Design Matters

German news magazine, Der Spiegel, didn’t have to look very hard to find the right image to accompany its cover story on the alleged German car manufacturers’ cartel

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Photo (c) Der Spiegel

Continue reading “Micropost: Why Design Matters”

Bringing ‘Sexyback’

Well yes, that may be overstating matters, but Hyundai’s i30 Fastback is an attempt to offer something a bit less crossover and a little more louche. Stop giggling back there, it’s better than nothing.

Image: motorward

As mainstream car manufacturers increasingly rationalise (read cull) available body styles, it’s somewhat refreshing to see someone offer something (slightly) different. The recent announcement of the Hyundai i30 Fastback was not an event the motoring press dwelt upon overmuch I’d have to observe. Continue reading “Bringing ‘Sexyback’”

1970 Ford Cortina Revisited: Form

Some time back I promised that I would return to the topic of the form language exemplified by the 1970 Ford Cortina. Well, here we are.

1970 Ford Cortina: source
1970 Ford Cortina: autoevolution.co.uk

Prompting this much-delayed exegesis is the coincidence of an academic paper (Carbon, 2010) which I came across (check out Google Scholar) and the fact that someone parked a new Mazda3 outside my front door.

To start with the easy part, we can talk about the concepts of angular and curved. Two prototypical examples might be the VW Beetle (rated as very curved in Carbon’s paper) and angular as embodied by the 1968 Carabo Concept (Carbon showed a 1986 Alfa Romeo 75, please note). So, where does the 1970 Ford Cortina fit in? What is it like? Continue reading “1970 Ford Cortina Revisited: Form”

Rio Grande

Disappointment takes many forms. Today it looks something like this – the 2017 Kia Rio.

2017 Kia Rio. Image: Autocar
New but not necessarily improved. 2017 Kia Rio. Image: Autocar

Having shown us a stylist’s render of the forthcoming Kia Rio about a week ago, the Korean car giant’s PR machine has released the first photos of its new supermini contender. The new Rio is more ‘grown up’ and of course, ‘sportier’, which is another way of saying it’s wider, lower and longer both in overall length and in wheelbase. Autocar described it thus; “the 2017 car will evolve the design of its predecessor with an aggressive nose and more muscular and vertically angled rear”, which sounds like a straight lift from the press pack if you ask me. Continue reading “Rio Grande”

Mind the Gap!

More shutcrimes from Sindelfingen…

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The early noughties’ S-class coupé in all but name

Far from being the worst offspring of the late Sacco/Peter Pfeiffer era at Mercedes-Benz, the CL-coupé (C215) still exhibits a very poignant reminder of what went wrong at Untertürkheim during this particular period of time. Its proportions are actually very pleasing indeed (unlike those of its immediate predecessor), yet the CL is utterly let down by its detailing. Continue reading “Mind the Gap!”

Theme: Japan – 1985 Nissan CUE-X

Japanese automotive engineering went into warp-drive mode in the middle 1980s. The Nissan CUE-X of 1985 remains an impressive tour de force of the purest styling and technical experimentation.

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Starting under the skin of this elegant and minimalistic design, we find electronic air suspension which controlled the spring rates, ride height and attitude. The damping could be altered as well making this a car which had the potential to fill a brief written by Citroen. Going further than Citroen did with their 1988 XM, the Cue-X also boasted four-wheel steering* The description of how it works is very similar to that of the XM: sensors sent signals to the vehicle’s central processor. The data described vehicle height, road speed, steering input, braking forces, throttle position and gear position. Continue reading “Theme: Japan – 1985 Nissan CUE-X”

A Quarter Century of the Unexceptional – Citroen ZX

Let’s look back at a quarter of a century of disappointment from Citroen. The ZX is 25 years old today.

1991 Citroen ZX: motorstown.com
1991 Citroen ZX: motorstown.com

Such was the let-down of seeing the first photos of the Citroen ZX that I can remember exactly where I was and what I was doing at that moment. You don’t normally remember this kind of thing. If you recall that Citroen’s previous big launch had been the XM, then you can understand the shock of the ZX’s all-round ordinariness. Continue reading “A Quarter Century of the Unexceptional – Citroen ZX”

2017 Lincoln Continental Facelift

Further to our discussion of the visual attributes of the 2017 Lincoln Continental, here is a view of the current car and one where I generously added more length front and back.

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Put together like this you can see how wrong the Lincoln really is. There is no point in making Lincolns off Ford platforms. They should do it the other way around. It looks like the front wheel is about half a wheel’s diameter too far back on the existing design. It could be that my version would be too long in reality. It just shows you can’t design a car piecemeal. Proportions matter.

More Harbingers

In the not too distant past DTW covered the matter of the slow end of the internal-combustion engine era. The matter comes up again… It’s not so bad really. In fact, it’s great.

Pedestrian street in the Nordrheinwestfalen: source
Pedestrian street in the Nordrheinwestfalen: source

This time the prompt for this article is a proposal by the German Green party to essentially do away with petrol and diesel engines by 2036. Their proposal is reported by Der Speigel. The alternative is to use electric cars and more buses and trains. In my earlier article I mentioned that certain north European and North American states were planning to be rid of ICE vehicles within forty years. I suggested that Continue reading “More Harbingers”

Car Noise 2015? Part 1

A few days ago we took a general overview of the year past and reviewed the big trends.  In this article we will look at the pointless details, the stuff you’ll have forgotten by the time you swipe the screen and return to your mince pies.

2016 Alfa Romeo Giulia - was this the most discussed car of the year? www.autoexpress.com
2016 Alfa Romeo Giulia – was this the most discussed car of the year? http://www.autoexpress.com

January
Land Rover’s Discovery Sport made the front pages of the magazines and as far as I recall I didn’t read another word about this life-style accessory for the rest of the year. Jean Marc-Gales discussed his plans to save Lotus which reminds me of the perennial stories about [insert name of manager]’s attempts to save Alfa Romeo. Among his promises: a four-door Lotus, an SUV. At present, the only hybrid they have is a concept Evora  and that was from 2012. Continue reading “Car Noise 2015? Part 1”

A Bit More Volvo 780 ES: It’s 30 This Year

Murilee Martin used to post Down At The Junkyard at Jalopnik. Here’s a discovery from 2010, a 1989 Volvo 780 ES. Alas, there’s no commentary, which is puzzling.  

1989 Volvo 780 ES:better parts.org
1989 Volvo 780 ES:better parts.org

The 780 ES was presented the 1985 Geneva motorshow, and went on sale in 1986. That means this is its 30th anniversary year. Skol!

There is a nice collection of photos here plus a little bit of history. What I didn’t know is that the 780 ES was not only sold with the 6-cylinder PRV engine. One could also have a 2.0 L turbo I4,  a 2.0 L turbo dohc I4 ,2.3 L turbo I4 and 2.4 L I6 turbodiesel. They only made about 6000 of the things so some of those must have been made in very small numbers indeed. Continue reading “A Bit More Volvo 780 ES: It’s 30 This Year”

Into the Magimix Goes National Style

Renault have not one but two design studios in India. What is the result?

2016 Renult Kwid: topspeed.com
2016 Renult Kwid: topspeed.com

One of way of looking at it is that you get a competitive and competent looking vehicle. As a raised-height hatchback it is what Indian customers want: “This is because the project was both Indian as well as French. Most of the data collection, however, was done from here, on the ground. It had to be. Renault was keen on an immersive experience for its design team. It wanted the design staff to be drowning in the local culture and local tastes, and there was a special emphasis on what Indian customers disliked too. This is how they discovered what Indian customers really meant when they said they wanted more car for their money.” Continue reading “Into the Magimix Goes National Style”

Theme: Shutlines – Look, No Sills.

We don’t really think much about sills. On some cars they were not even visible, as in the 1978-1993 Saab 900. It’s a case of the missing shutline.

1986 Saab 900 automatic. The door extends down and fold inward, out of site.
1986 Saab 900 automatic. The door extends down and fold inward, out of sight.

Admittedly this example is rather dented. Looking past that, notice that the door comes all the way down to where the sill or rocker panel is normally visible. There is a sill there, but it is about ten centimetres in-board, with a thick rubber seal to Continue reading “Theme: Shutlines – Look, No Sills.”

Theme: Shutlines – Mind The Gap

Some collected, if slightly disconnected thoughts on this month’s theme gives us an opportunity for a little gratuitous Mercedes-bashing. 

Stand clear of the doors - image via The Telegraph
Stand clear of the doors – image: The Telegraph

So much is known and quantified, be it politics, cuisine, architecture or indeed recognising a decent pasodoble when we see one. It’s all out there to be discovered, downloaded and co-opted into our lives and dinner party conversations: we’re all experts now. Continue reading “Theme: Shutlines – Mind The Gap”

Small Details

What is it with those slightly sagging window lines of the late 1970s?

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A few days ago we posted an article about the 1978 Colt 1400. I noticed the window line sags slightly. The Opel Manta did this along with a few other cars of the era. What effect would it have had if the window line was dead straight? I did a simple edit on the original photo and found the difference between a dead straight line and the actual line is small. Does it look better? Continue reading “Small Details”

Theme : Evolution – A Road To Nowhere?

Is design still evolving? As part of this month’s theme, Driven to Write republishes a post from the beginning of last year

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Does Car Design Have a Future?

Car design is usually late to the party. This isn’t because designers aren’t up to it – consider the bold output of the Bauhaus in the 1920s and 30s, when run by Walter Gropius, then consider his rather conventional design for an Adler car of the same period. It wasn’t until the late 1990s that critics felt that a car, an Audi, deserved the Bauhaus soubriquet.

Compare 50s modernist and brutalist buildings with the florid vehicles produced then. Cars did vaguely get round to Continue reading “Theme : Evolution – A Road To Nowhere?”

Theme: Benchmarks – The Moving Goalpost

Legend has it that Lexus’ engineers explicitly used the 1991 BMW E-36 version of the 3 series as a benchmark for their 1999 IS200, right down to giving it rear wheel drive and a straight six engine.

1999 Lexus IS 200 - from Wikipedia.
1999 Lexus IS 200 – from Wikipedia. There’s a balance problem, isn’t there? The front of the car is visually lighter than the rear.

By the time the IS200 came out, the E46 had replaced the E36. The benchmark that Lexus had chosen was obsolete. At this point BMW had settled on a slow detachment from its roots as a “hard as nails” small sports saloon and was well on the way to becoming, in ordinary trim versions, a Munich Mondeo, though to be fair, that’s unfair to Ford’s Mondeo of the same period. As I see it, the car Lexus benchmarked was already Continue reading “Theme: Benchmarks – The Moving Goalpost”

Kimona Over To My Place, Drive Here In Your Rolls

This year Rolls Royce is showcasing the things it is willing to do to its cars for its wealthier customers. A one-off car, the Serenity, will be shown at Geneva this year to this end.

2015 Rolls Royce Serenity interior concept drawing. Thanks to RRMC for the image.
2015 Rolls Royce Serenity interior concept drawing. Thanks to RRMC for the image.

The aqua leather and wooden accents work very well indeed. It might even be that the silk used extensively is fetching. I remain unconvinced by the Kimona-esque detailing in the roof that looks like a strange blood spatter rather than a delicate tree in blossom.

You can read Rolls Royce’s more generous description here:

Continue reading “Kimona Over To My Place, Drive Here In Your Rolls”

Ride Engineered – 1980 Mercury Monarch

The Ford Granada/Mercury Monarch pair are not known to be among Ford’s finest cars. Recently I had a closer look at a 1980 Mercury Monarch to see what it was really like.

1980 Mercury Monarch

Given that reputation, it may come as a surprise to some (it surprised me) that Ford marketed it as a rival to Mercedes’ W-123 in its 280E guise. Ah, that car again. The car shown here is a 2-door Monarch with the “Windsor” 4.9 V8. Ford also made 3.3 and 4.1 straight sixes available along with a 5.8 V8. The Ford version was almost the same barring cosmetic details at the front and back.

Production ran from 1975 to 1980. The intention with the Granada/Monarch was to Continue reading “Ride Engineered – 1980 Mercury Monarch”

2015 Fiat 500C Review

DTW takes a Fiat 500C on a road trip. What did we learn? For one, don’t trust the fuel gauge and for another, it’s amazing people buy the Ford Ka. 

2015 Fiat 500C and some close relatives.

DTW is a bit late to the party in the case of the 500 as we aren’t yet on the invitation lists of the major car companies. By now the 500 is getting on a bit, launched as it was in 2007 when George Bush was still president. Nonetheless, we have got a hold of one now and if this isn’t a review of the car, at least it provides a check against the opinions of the motoring journals.

The model in question is the 500C semi-convertible version, on sale since 2009. I drove a 1.2 litre five speed manual without the stop-start technology and without the Twin Air engine. As the weather was dire, I didn’t open the roof except once to Continue reading “2015 Fiat 500C Review”

The Renault 16 Is Fifty This Year. There Are None Left.

Our good friends at Renault UK’s press office have sent us a reminder that the Renault 16 is fifty years old this year.

1967 Renault 16 TX
1967 Renault 16 TX

Philippe Charbonneaux is credited with the design of this car which was in production from 1965 to 1980. Its main claim to fame is related to its innovative deployment of a hatchback in the middle-to-large sized car class. At that point there developed a marked fork in the road in car design. Some manufacturers followed this path, those makers most like Renault. Continue reading “The Renault 16 Is Fifty This Year. There Are None Left.”

Customerless Car Companies

Newspapers are interesting. You can pick up a sheaf of pulped wood and read articles about all sorts of fascinating topics. Just the other day I read a small piece about driverless cars. This made me wonder about two things.

2015 Mercedes Benz customerless car concept. Note the horrible melange of anti-urban architecture in the background. Let´s get out of here.
2015 Mercedes Benz customerless car concept. Note the horrible melange of anti-urban architecture in the background. Let’s get out of here.

The article I read (in the International New York Times) reported how last Monday at the International CES, a large trade show themed on technology, Dieter Zetsche showed off Mercedes Benz’s vision of a driverless car. Zetsche described the car as a sort of “luxury carriage” that could provide a peaceful and pleasant space for its passengers. Continue reading “Customerless Car Companies”

Theme : Aerodynamics – Buttresses, A User Guide

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

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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: Dashboards – Toyota’s Subtle Game

Little credit goes to Toyota’s designers for their contribution to dashboard design. Let’s change that and reconsider the seventh generation of the Corolla, the E100, on sale from 1991 to 1995.

1993 Toyota Corolla interior (EU model).
1993 Toyota Corolla interior (EU model).

Toyota has always carefully controlled the extent to which the fashions of the times have influenced its dashboards’ appearance. Corolla customers are such that they want the car to be as unobtrusive as possible and perhaps they are even unaware of this powerful desire. For any designer to make a shape that meets this requirement is far from easy. It is like designing unspoken rules, design for the tacit. To do what designers often do, driven by ego, is to seek attention. Continue reading “Theme: Dashboards – Toyota’s Subtle Game”

Audi’s Prologue – Drawing Restraint

Audi has previewed its new styling direction. It looks a lot like the old styling direction.

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Judging from the cumulative audience reaction to Audi’s new design direction embodied by the recent Prologue concept, Marc Lichte and his designers may have considerably more work to do if Audi is not to become viewed as creatively becalmed. Continue reading “Audi’s Prologue – Drawing Restraint”

1988 Renault Megane – Here’s One They Made Earlier

Patrick Le Quément’s legacy of convincing, but unrealised Renault concepts begins here…

megane1

Renault seem to have been making attempts to crack the luxury car market for decades now. During the 1970’s they offered us the R30 hatchback – a kind of updated R16 with a V6 engine and luxury trim. It wasn’t a bad car – in fact contemporary reports suggest it was rather good. But success eluded it – Continue reading “1988 Renault Megane – Here’s One They Made Earlier”

Death of a Carrozzeria

We bid a tearful adieu to one of the greats.

bertone504

This year, Bertone has joined the doleful list of recently deceased Italian styling houses, having held out against the inevitable longer than most. The quantity and quality of Bertone’s output had been in decline, particularly as commissions from major manufacturers began to dry up. The era of the great Italian styling houses is over and the centre of gravity has moved away from its traditional Italian heartland. Continue reading “Death of a Carrozzeria”

How to shape the future : 2

We ask a new-fledged car designer a few questions.

Byungyoon Min and the 2063 Porsche concept design
Byungyoon Min and the 2063 Porsche concept design

As I was interested to find out what was on the mind of some of the designers from Pforzheim University´s MA automotive course, I asked Byungyoon Min, a recent graduate, some questions. Min’s design was for a Porsche 911 for the year 2063. As of this month, Byungyoon Min is an exterior designer at Mercedes-Benz, Sindelfingen. Continue reading “How to shape the future : 2”

A Question of Form

Has Centro Stile Fiat ever produced a design of lasting significance?

centro stile alfa romeo

This is the question I found myself asking having read a recent driventowrite piece on Lorenzo Ramaciotti – (which I urge you to read). Because like many, I held firm to the view that Turin’s fabled carrozzerie were responsible for everything worthy of note. On the other hand, memory can sometimes prove a faulty co-driver, so I did what any self-respecting auto-nerd would at this point and revisited the Fiat group’s styling back catalogue in a quest for answers. So what we have here is a list of significant Fiats of the last 50 years and who was responsible for their styling*Continue reading “A Question of Form”