Brave and Interesting – Steve Randle Interview Part One

Driven to Write meets an industry high flyer.

Image: AeroMobil
The AeroMobil in prototype form. Image: AeroMobil

Speaking with engineer, Steve Randle these two words crop up a good deal, but if ‘brave and interesting’ describe the vehicles and engineering solutions that inspire him, it’s also a fairly accurate description of the man. With a career encompassing Jaguar, McLaren Cars – where he was responsible for the suspension, engine mounting system and dynamic package for the legendary F1 supercar – through to projects at his own engineering consultancy with clients as diverse as Bentley, JCB, Tata Motors, and the Ministry of Defence, Randle’s bushel has up to now been well hidden, to say nothing of the light therein. Continue reading “Brave and Interesting – Steve Randle Interview Part One”

Theme: Bodies – Protecting Them

As well as providing the location for the suspension system and being sufficiently durable, a car body needs to protect the bodies of the occupants. And to look alright.

1972 Volvo Experimental Safety Car: source
1972 Volvo Experimental Safety Car: source

If we compare the smooth bodies of contemporary vehicles with early attempts at safety engineering you notice how safety was first ‘added on’ by means of obviously larger bumpers and also by the use of safety padding inside the car. Volvo took this approach as did the GM ESV (1972) and Fiat with the ESV (1973). GM did also provide for passive safety by removing the A-pillars and fitting airbags.
Continue reading “Theme: Bodies – Protecting Them”

Micropost: Jaguar E-type 4.2

The colour is original and is very attractive. 

Jaguar E-type 4.2
Jaguar E-type 4.2

What caught my attention is the very sharp corners of the shutlines: bonnet and door. Would rounded ones as on aeroplanes not have provided greater strength? The owner of this rather grand vehicle runs an XM as a daily driver, as far as I know.

Theme: Suspension – It’s A Kind Of Magic

The suspension system is where the car comes into contact with the road and tries to a) keep it there and b) pretend as if the road doesn’t exist. That’s a lot to ask…

1983 Peugeot 604. Image: www.lrm-collection.fr
1983 Peugeot 604. Image: http://www.lrm-collection.fr

…and then get precious little thanks in return from customers or indeed motoring journalists. The former probably don’t know what suspension is. The latter want all suspension to do the same thing, namely to keep fast cars stuck on the tarmac at 145 mph. This conflict is as big as the one facing the suspension itself, which must mediate between the undulating road and the dynamic system that is the car in motion. The other circle to be squared is that of ride comfort versus handling. Continue reading “Theme: Suspension – It’s A Kind Of Magic”

Theme: Suspension – Cheap and Cheerful

What do most modern small and medium-sized cars have in common? Well, nearly everything.

As modern as can be, at the time. Image: honestjohn.co.uk
1950 Ford Consul. As modern as can be, at the time. Image: honestjohn.co.uk

They are almost all front-wheel drive, with the four-cylinder in-line engine in the front. And almost all of them have MacPherson suspension. Prizes if you can think of an exception. In 2004 the market for small cars consisted of the Fiat Panda, Daewoo Matiz, City Rover, Skoda Fabia and Daihatsu Charade (among others). They all had MacPherson struts. Moving to the present day this is still true nearly all the medium-sized cars are so equipped. Continue reading “Theme: Suspension – Cheap and Cheerful”

Theme of Last Month: Shutlines – A Trend

Will this theme not tire us all? This BMW i3 caught my eye because of the novel arrangment of the bumper and bodysides.

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Another element is the way the tailgate covers the lights. Audi have deployed this on some of their Q-series SUVs and good old Opel have managed it on their delightful Insignia estate. I have some history with this feature: as a newbie-designer (in 2002) I proposed this concept for a saloon and was told it was “not feasible”. Note to other designers, unless the laws of physics are challenged, everything is feasible given time and money. Always dispute the power of “no.”

Theme: Shutlines – The One Good Thing About the 1995 E-class

It’s taken me two decades to find the one worthwhile detail on the W210: the rear wing of the Estate model is assembled properly.

1995 Mercedes E-class rear quarter. Note the way there is no visible line under the rear lamp.
1995 Mercedes E-class rear quarter. Note the way there is no visible line under the rear lamp.

Recently I was regurgitating some of my thoughts on plastic bumpers. I showed some examples of how manufacturers typically had a visible weld on the extra bit of metal under the rear lamp.   Continue reading “Theme: Shutlines – The One Good Thing About the 1995 E-class”

Theme: Shutlines – The Body In White Recedes

A look at some rear bumpers illustrates changes in the way cars are constructed

classics.honestjohn.co.uk
classics.honestjohn.co.uk

Around the mid 1980s the bumpers of most cars were quite separate items added to the front and rear of the car’s metal structure or “body in white” as it is sometimes known. If you look at a Volvo 340 in its first iteration, for example, the bumper is a plastic coated metal item wrapped around the wings and front valence. The same goes at the back. Clearly the bumper is not an integrated element of the car and you can see the painted metal all around it. Continue reading “Theme: Shutlines – The Body In White Recedes”

Theme: Secondhand – Rooting in the Parts Bins

Car advertising (like almost all advertising) commonly emphasises the new and the improved. There is not a single advert drawing attention to the subtle and not-so-subtle second lives of components intended for one car but which lived on in another…and another…and another…

The whole design takes its starting point from the door handles: www.spannerhead.com
The whole design takes its starting point from the door handles: http://www.spannerhead.com

Last week we discussed the afterlife of the Buick aluminium 215 engine. Such a re-use is not what I have in mind in terms of rooting around the parts bins. Rover had the decency to rework the engine –endlessly – to make it work so that by the time they had stopped fiddling in 2004 there was little a Buick engineer from 1957 might recognise other than the porosity problems and flagrant thirst. Continue reading “Theme: Secondhand – Rooting in the Parts Bins”

Unforgetting: 2003-2007 Chrysler Crossfire

One of these cars flashed past me today, prompting this small item. Now that I come to think of it, there was one parked on my road a few years back. It was the Chrysler Crossfire (2003-2007).

2003 Chrysler Crossfire. In 2003 it cost £1000 more than the faster Nissan 350Z: yakmee.com
2003 Chrysler Crossfire. In 2003 it cost £1000 more than the faster Nissan 350Z: yakmee.com

We all have small car moments, don’t we? For reasons unclear, our synapses fizz and fuse a little harder when we see a car and forever more the image, time, feeling and moment are irremovably etched on our memories. It’s a wholly random process, note. Some of my car moments involve worthless heaps of mediocrity.

The Chrysler Crossfire is taking up some of my limited and diminishing RAM with a set of memories related to Continue reading “Unforgetting: 2003-2007 Chrysler Crossfire”

The Next Astra is Already Being Tested

The 11th generation of the Astra on its way. Autocar were allowed to test a disguised prototype and reported on the apparent changes in comparison with the outgoing car.

2015 Opel Astra estate: www.opel.de
2015 Opel Astra estate: http://www.opel.de

The next Astra is going to be smaller and lighter but roomier inside. I am a little anxious that the next car is going to be less pleasant to look at than the current car which I regard fondly, especially in bechromed estate guise. However, one compensation is that Opel intend the new Astra to dispel the lingering criticism that they are duller to drive than its arch enemy, the Ford Focus. How will they do this? Continue reading “The Next Astra is Already Being Tested”

A Photo for Sunday: 1960-1980 Saab 96

Our visiting Saab experts can probably identify this car more precisely.

1960-1980 Saab 96 seen in Aarhus, Denmark.
1960-1980 Saab 96 seen in Aarhus, Denmark.

It lives near my home and comes out at the start of summer and disappears in the autumn. It never seems to move in the meantime. I think it may be a piece of conceptual art. The timeline for the Saab 96 shows you could buy a new one until 1980. Similar living-fossils such as the Mini, Beetle, Renault 4 and 2CV all existed into this period so the 96 was not so out of place. However, the 96 must have seemed very archaic compared to the Golf which in many ways Continue reading “A Photo for Sunday: 1960-1980 Saab 96”

Photo Series: 1976 Ford Granada 2300 V6 GXL

It’s not that I have a Ford fetish. This is just the kind of car that keeps cropping up. 

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We have Myles Gorfe’s ’75, Steen Larsen’s Consul and now this ’76 Granada with its wonderfully clear trim designation: 2300 V6 GXL. You know precisely where you are with this car. Tricky lighting confounded the front three quarter view. The light was behind the car at the time and it was hard to Continue reading “Photo Series: 1976 Ford Granada 2300 V6 GXL”

Jaguar’s XF Is Not Alone

Or Ford’s 2015 Mondeo is not alone. They are both guilty of the same crime. That crime is to offer a new model that differs very little from the predecessor.

2015 Ford Mondeo
2015 Ford Mondeo

Here’s the new 2015 Mondeo (above). Granted, it’s black and the lighting is terrible. It does look incredibly like the last one though. Ford does not usually do this. Usually they make it really clear that a new model has superceded the old one, for better and for worse. This time they Continue reading “Jaguar’s XF Is Not Alone”

A photo Series for Sunday: 1982 Buick Skylark Sport

This car falls into the same category as the Mercury Monarch I wrote about a few weeks ago. 

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It’s a dented working car. It’s a pretty ordinary car too, possibly even more ordinary than the Monarch. It’s a small, front wheel-drive monocoque vehicle from the lower end of the price range. The engine is mounted transversely and the front suspension uses McPherson struts. In concept terms, it’s the same a VW Golf. Or, in image terms, think of it as a Rover 45 saloon with sporting accents. Continue reading “A photo Series for Sunday: 1982 Buick Skylark Sport”

Who is the Second Largest Supplier to the Car Industry?

Here’s something interesting. Car and Driver reckon that the Mercedes C-class has the best automotive interior under $40,000. Let’s say that interior is not better than the one fitted to the S-class coupe.

Made by the same people who supply the Peugeot 508. Image: Faurecia.com
Made by the same people who supply the Peugeot 508. Image: Faurecia.com

Then consider the interior of the Citroen DS5 and while it’s nice enough it’s not stellar. Now visualise the interior (or much of it) for the Audi Q7. Audi interiors regularly get called the best in the business. Then sit inside the unremarkable Peugeot 508. What do the S-class, Q7, DS5 and Peugeot 508 have in common?

Continue reading “Who is the Second Largest Supplier to the Car Industry?”

Production and design: EDAG´s research into additive manufacturing

Recently under the rubric of the Geneva Motor Show 2015, I mentioned the Light Cocoon concept car produced by the consultancy EDAG. This work highlighted the possibilities of additive manufacturing methods. Does it have a meaningful place in the future of car manufacture?

2014 EDAG Genesis
2014 EDAG Genesis

First, let´s find out a bit more about additive manufacturing. In contrast with standard mass production, additive production relies on building up material layer by layer using lasers to activate and bind particles together to the required shape. Lasers follow a path through a mass of granules and cause selected ones to fuse. The path is defined by a mathematical model generated using CAD programmes. Other additive methods use extrusions of hot plastic laid down in layers. Again, the layers are defined by CAD data. The key thing is that material is addded and not removed. (Sculpture using stone is subtractive manufacturing, so is wood turning.) In automotive production the methods used to make thing usually involve stamping where a flat sheet of metal is pressed into the required shape using a specially made one off tool. In moulding processes a liquid is introduced to an empty form and takes up the shape of the tool. In both cases the CAD data is mediated by costly forms or dies which need to be milled slowly from tough materials. These are usually finished (polished) by hand to

Continue reading “Production and design: EDAG´s research into additive manufacturing”

Recharging Your Electric Car the Danish Way

One of the questions hanging over electric cars is about how inner city residents can recharge them if they don’t have off-street car parking.

IMG_0845[1]

This photo shows the Danish approach: put the recharging stations on the street. I don’t know how this works but will endeavour to find out. At the moment there are no signs to say these parking places are exclusive to electric cars (though this might be implied). There are several dotted around where I live and I have seen them in the middle of Dublin too.

I have also read that the US government is thinking that the best way to Continue reading “Recharging Your Electric Car the Danish Way”

Customerless Car Companies 2

Further to the article about driverless cars, I’d like to draw your attention to Bosch’s path towards driverless cars.

1958 driverless car

According to Automotive News the four main steps are as follows:

• Integrated highway assist: In 2017, the vehicle would travel up to 75 mph on the highway, remaining within its lane, while the motorist keeps his eyes on the road. Continue reading “Customerless Car Companies 2”

We Like, We Link: The Thinker’s Garage

While looking for details of the Citroen XM, this site turned up the Thinker’s Garage which ponders “automotive history, design and culture”.

The Lancia Kappa: overseen by Ercole Spada
The Lancia Kappa: overseen by Ercole Spada

Among the recent topics are a look at Tatra, an overview of Chinese car brands and an essay about the Citroen XM. Fiat Chrysler is discussed and there is a nice feature on electric cars and how design and efficiency are related. Clearly the author, Andrew Marshall, takes the same kind of view of cars as we do at DTW.

Peter Stevens On Electric Cars

Peter Stevens has asked if electric cars need a new form language. His contention is that at present they either look conventional like the Tesla, or have “a strange self-righteous appearance”. What else does he say?

1900 Lohner Porsche: "Lohner Porsche cars used electric motors mounted within the wheels. That eliminated the weight and friction of a conventional drivetrain. "
1900 Lohner Porsche: “Lohner Porsche cars used electric motors mounted within the wheels. That eliminated the weight and friction of a conventional drivetrain. “

Stevens’ article first appeared at www.formtrends.com but is also republished at Car Design News.  In the article he makes the claim that while electric power might suit buses and van-like vehicles, the format presents too many conflicting requirements to work well:

“The batteries are huge and heavy and like to sit together like school friends; they become very inefficient if they are spread around the car so rather than liberating the designer they restrict new possibilities for vehicle architecture.” Continue reading “Peter Stevens On Electric Cars”

What’s the Difference Between a Mercedes CLA and a Mercedes C-class?

How does £208 per litre sound? I’ve been looking through the spec sheets again.

2014 Mercedes saloon.
2014 Mercedes saloon.

We know that the CLA is a front-wheel drive vehicle, related to the A-class which is now essentially MB’s offering in the Golf/Focus/Astra sector. The C-class is a monument in the automotive firmament, with roots going back to the rear-wheel drive 190E of the ’80s. That car was the first sign that Mercedes was interested in capitalising on its prestige by bringing their quality down to a smaller class of car than they had been offering up to that point. Continue reading “What’s the Difference Between a Mercedes CLA and a Mercedes C-class?”

1968 Saab 99: Review

“The new Saab 99 tested”. In this transcript Archie Vicar samples what is now viewed as one of the top-ten great Saabs. Is it more than the anti-Volvo? 

1968_Saab_99_006_4822

From “Mass Motorist” Dec. 1968. Photos by Douglas Land-Windermere. Owing to the poor quality of the original images, stock photography has been used.

Introduction

When people think of Sweden and Swedish cars, they often think of Volvo who make sturdy machines capable of withstanding the horrors of the Scandinavian climate. But it’s worth remembering that Sweden has a second car maker, Saab, who also make fighter jets. Like our friends at Bristol, Saab use the experience they have gained in aerospace to Continue reading “1968 Saab 99: Review”

2014 Hyundai i30 1.6 GDI Review

In search of family transport, DTW rents a Korean mid-ranger and exposes it to mud, apples and half a dish of aubergine parmesan gratin. 

2014 Hyundai i30 1.6 GDI
2014 Hyundai i30 1.6 GDI: Bore and stroke (mm) 77 x 85.44

Introduction

Welcome back to the dead centre of the car market. The Hyundai i30 1.6 GDI** is a Focus and Golf competitor but may gun most accurately for the likes of the Peugeot 308 and any other mid-market also-rans. This type of car is very hard to write about in isolation as most of what you experience verges on the bland. Only a spread-sheet analysis of the cost and features along with a back-to-back test would reveal the precise differences in the qualitative and quantitative elements between this car and its peers. Nonetheless, even on its own, there are aspects of the car which please and those which irritate. Continue reading “2014 Hyundai i30 1.6 GDI Review”