Anniversary Waltz 1998 – In the Aeroplane Over the Sea

As we complete our retrospective of 1998, we ponder air and water.

(c) airliners.net

Not simply one the World’s busiest airports, but amongst the most challenging from a pilot’s perspective, Hong Kong’s Kai Tak airport had by the 1990s become something of a liability. Situated in the heavily built-up Kowloon district, the technically difficult approach over mountains and city skyscrapers not only looked and felt alarming, but the abrupt banked descent to the single runway in Victoria Harbour required both nerve and experience.

The World’s largest airport terminal building when it officially opened in 1998, the newly built Hong Kong International airport at Chek Lap Kok put paid to the hair-raising sight of 747’s skirting the tips of the Hong Kong skyline. Built on a reclaimed island in the South China Sea, flights into the Kowloon Peninsula became a good deal less dramatic and a whole lot more frequent.

A consequence of its lengthy connection with Mazda, Ford had for some time been attempting to Continue reading “Anniversary Waltz 1998 – In the Aeroplane Over the Sea”

Wings of Desire

Driven to Write profiles the black sheep of Crewe.

(c) inews

Even the most aristocratic families have their outcasts. Whether it’s cousin Geoffrey the bounder, serial adulterer and spendthrift, or aunt Gertrude with the secret laudanum habit, a noble bloodline is no barometer of respectability.

This is as much a truism at the House of Crewe as anywhere else, and while the halls of Pyms Lane may shimmer with any number of Wriaths, Clouds, Shadows or Spirits, within a secluded chamber in a little-visited wing of the facility lies the Seraph, brooding in gloomy seclusion. Continue reading “Wings of Desire”

Lord Nothing-Much* Smokes Another Cigarette

We are still rifling through the footnotes of 1998 and now the examination has produced the Saab 9-3.

1998 Saab 9-3: source

The back-story to this 1998-for-1999 car can be traced to 1994, the year the NG900 appeared as the headstone to Saab’s career as maker of indestructible doctors’, engineers’ and professors’ cars. In 1998 the 900 became the 9-3 and fitted under the 9-5 in Saab’s small range.

You are damned if you do and damned if you don’t Continue reading “Lord Nothing-Much* Smokes Another Cigarette”

I Would Wait For You Like The Patient Swans Of Inish Glora

In 1978 Audi withdrew from the lower end of the market when the daring and distinctive 50 ceased production. While it might have been a landmark for Audi, it was a molehill for everyone else.

Fancy some Golf?: Autoevolution.com

The 50 didn’t sell awfully well and Audi felt it ought to focus its efforts on larger cars. The penny dropped that premium car makers could offer smaller cars as the 90s wore on. BMW chopped up the 3-series to make the Compact (1993) and Mercedes got with the programme in 1997 with the A-class.

In between, Audi reworked the Golf platform so it could Continue reading “I Would Wait For You Like The Patient Swans Of Inish Glora”

You Can Only Really Break Your Heart Once

Subaru Legacy: good, practical, reliable, not very expensive, not as popular as they should be. What gives?

1998 Subaru Legacy: source

Although made in Japan by a Japanese company, the Subaru Legacy has experienced moments of popularity around the world (I mean the EU and N USA) now and again: episodic, sporadic. It’s not really unwanted and not massively in demand but appeals to a group of customers unevenly distributed. If only Subaru could imagine a way to Continue reading “You Can Only Really Break Your Heart Once”

In Between Dawn and Daybreak

Today we take another look at the world of 1998, or at least one small part of it to do with car reviews. We end up considering the problem of judgements.

classics.honestjohn
1998 Alfa Romeo 166: source

I should put my cards on the baize here and say I don’t remember reading this review, from Car magazine 1998 so I am digesting it for the first time tonight (it took two hours to read carefully). Isn’t that odd? This article has sat around for two decades before I noticed it the other night How did I miss it?  In the late 90s I would keep a close eye out for Car in the newsagent shop and would devote a good evening to reading it more or less entirely along with a nice cigar or a few bad ones.

After than initial inspection the magazine would float around the kitchen or sitting room to dip into when, say, I had to Continue reading “In Between Dawn and Daybreak”

Could Tiresias Have Foreseen This?

In 1998 the Lexus brand had only reached its ninth birthday. Up until 1998 it had two cars on sale in the Euromarket, the LS400 saloon and the GS300. With the LS200, Lexus extended its range into BMW 3-series territory. Was it a Good Thing?

1998 Lexus IS200: source

While consistency can be a bit tedious in the arts, in business it is generally a positive attribute. In some ways, Lexus had consistency nailed down. All their cars have been screwed together by black-belt, Olympic level robots and technicians.

The LS400 itself had already become a legend for quality. Intended to be the world’s best car until the next one came along, a case can be made that it is still the world’s best car when all measurable parameters have been balanced. In a more shallow way, Lexus did not manage consistency, not the kind valued by people who value consistency for its own sake and are utterly unwilling to Continue reading “Could Tiresias Have Foreseen This?”

Settling Back Into The Deep, Familiar Ruts Of Despair

December 1998: what was being reviewed in those sunny, happy times?

1998 Suzuki Jimny 1.3: source

As luck would arrange it, dear old Car magazine took it upon itself to review the Suzuki Jimny 1.3 JLX as well as the Skoda Octavia estate and the Alfa Romeo 166 2.0 (is really 20 years since the last big Alfa appeared on the scene?). The Jimny is the most germane review subject as the new one has only been launched. Having read the reviews, I think the UK press has been more circumspect about their comments this time around, saying that the Jimny is for off-roading and not biased to the road so, yes, it does a very fine job of that former task. By the end it had become a legend.

In 1998 the critiques did not take account of the Jimny’s (shout it) off-roading focus. Roger Bell, normally a voice of sanity, got this one wrong on behalf of Car. He began the review as follows: “Suzuki’s almost legendary ability to Continue reading “Settling Back Into The Deep, Familiar Ruts Of Despair”

Death Disco

As the Audi TT hits a significant historical milestone, it appears to be on the verge of taking an altogether different kind of hit. 

(c) audiphile

It isn’t every birthday celebration that doubles as a wake, but the times are not what they were. Twenty years after Audi unveiled the production TT sports model, speculation is rife that the current iteration is likely to be its last – at least in the format we have come to know and love.

Indeed, this last component may form part of the problem, since the love affair has, it appears, run its natural course. Certainly, senior Ingolstadt management, when they can Continue reading “Death Disco”

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”

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”

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”

Formula Libre

Today we remember Ford’s 1998 roadster concept which championed the freedom of the open road for four, and pay tribute to its designer.

Ford Libre concept. (c) autowp

While four-seater convertibles are reasonably common commodities, four-door roadsters, have never quite caught on. But just as nature abhors a vacuum, car designers tend to view received wisdom as something to be challenged.
At the 1998 Chicago Auto Show, when such events took place in the ‘Windy City’, Ford’s US design team, under the leadership of J Mays presented a concept, while not entirely new, had not really been attempted at this scale before. Continue reading “Formula Libre”

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”

Re-1998 Part 8 : ダイハツ シリオン

Initially the plan was to write about the Peugeot 406 Coupé, pictured below. The plan deviated when news came in that the Daihatsu Sirion+ celebrates its twentieth anniversary this month and as a present, I’ll give it some airtime.

Peugeot 406 coupé

James May is today one of the three huge faces carved out of the Mount Rushmore of motoring journalism, along with Richard Hammond and Jeremy Clarkson. In August 1998 he still wrote for Car magazine, and could be found offering interesting and balanced views. That month he wrote up the Daihatsu Sirion +, (ダイハツ シリオン in Japanese) as it was called officially.

May was able to Continue reading “Re-1998 Part 8 : ダイハツ シリオン”

Re-1998 Part 4 : Suzuki Grand Vitara

DTW seems to really like Suzuki. Autocropley hated the 1998 Ignis. We like it anyway because we like Suzuki.

It´s bigger than you think: 1998 Suzuki Grand Vitara

Today we will get our loafers muddy as we venture off road in order to Continue reading “Re-1998 Part 4 : Suzuki Grand Vitara”

Re-1998 Part 3 : Skoda Octavia

You wouldn’t call the 1998 Skoda Octavia an interesting car. From any other manufacturer at any other time it would have been damned as finally as the last Escort or legendary Mitsubishi Carisma.

1998 Skoda Octavia: wikipedia

But like the Datsun 1oo-A or first Corollas the Skoda is a car that had the amazing power to Continue reading “Re-1998 Part 3 : Skoda Octavia”

Re-1998 Part 1: Volvo S80

I know we’ve talked about this car before but the theme is summer 1998 and around then, a worrying two-decades back, this car was fresh and  new.

1998 Volvo S80.

“Volvo S80 takes the fight to BMW,” roared What Car in 72 point lettering. “It may be unmistakably Volvo but the all-new S80 has enough style and appeal to give rival luxury saloons a fright. And it won’t cost the earth either,” they continued. This claim x or y car will frighten BMW et al is a constant.

Somewhere (I’ve lost it) I have a copy of Autocropley with a headline saying Continue reading “Re-1998 Part 1: Volvo S80”

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”