Norfolk Broad

With perhaps the shortest gestation of any production car, 1977’s Chrysler/Talbot Sunbeam personified the term, ‘rush job’ – and it showed. But one variant burned brightly, courtesy of Lotus.

Image: copie-petites-observations-automobile

In 1977, the TV ad-breaks were awash with the mellifluous tones of Petula Clark, exhorting us all to put a Chrysler Sunbeam in our lives. I was around 11 at the time, so there wasn’t much I could do to obey the Surrey songstress’ siren call but since we did have an Avenger parked outside, my level of interest in Linwood’s newest offering was perhaps keener that it might have otherwise have been.

The Sunbeam was the result a neat piece of industrial blackmail on the part of Chrysler UK, the failing former Rootes car business, which under US management had merged with Simca but was struggling with a dated range of cars and a loss making production facility in Scotland making fewer of them than was economical. Faced with the plant’s closure, the UK government agreed to Continue reading “Norfolk Broad”

Theme: Compromise – The Paradox of Failure

As David Pye observed, every design is a failure.

Failure.
Failure.

His argument rested on the idea that no design can optimise every aspect. The more complex the object the more likely this is to be the case. If we take a simple example of a knife, it’s a compromise because unavoidably the designer had to work within constraints of time and materials. The knife has to function but be affordable and attractive to enough people to make it an economically feasible proposition.  The best knife can’t appeal to everyone. For some consumers the design is unacceptable  – it remains unsold for reason of price or appearance. Continue reading “Theme: Compromise – The Paradox of Failure”

Far From the Mainstream: Donkervoort

Today we peer again into the world of marginal car makers. In this instalment we deal gently with Donkervoort.

1981 Donkervoort S8: source
1981 Donkervoort S8: source

There are 15 Donkervoort cars advertised at mobile.de and above, a 1981 S8 is the cheapest at €19,950 with a mere 52,000 km up. Next is a similar roadster from 1988 for €24,000. A 1998 2.0 Zetec-powered D8 costs €36,000. From 2001 an Audi-powered D8 costs nearly €50,000. So, who are Donkervoort? Continue reading “Far From the Mainstream: Donkervoort”

Hethel’s Outcast – 2006 Lotus Europa S

A more expansive Elise or a Norfolk Cayman? Lotus themselves seemed a little unclear.

2006 Lotus Europa S. Image: RAC
2006 Lotus Europa S. Image: RAC

Lotus hasn’t a great track record when it comes to recycling storied nameplates. Elite, Elan, Esprit – the originals have tended to be more memorable. This no-exceptions policy seems to have extended to 2006’s Europa S too, cynics deriding it as a re-bodied Opel Speedster. Similarities between the cars are undeniable of course, sharing as they did the same Elise-based extruded aluminium chassis and GM sourced 2.0 litre Ecotec turbocharged engine. Others have suggested it was a still-born Lotus consultancy project re-purposed and shoehorned in to broaden the model range. Continue reading “Hethel’s Outcast – 2006 Lotus Europa S”

Theme: Suspension – The Comfort Trap

We conclude March’s theme by wondering if the engineering ideal of suspension that thinks for itself is any closer to reality now than it was thirty years ago.

An early active ride Lotus Esprit prototype. Image:sportscars.tv
An early active ride Lotus Esprit prototype. Image:sportscars.tv

Pity the unfortunate suspension engineer, saddled with the seemingly impossible task of reconciling the hugely complex operating range of the motor vehicle against the twin imperatives of providing a comfortable ride for passengers, while allowing sufficient body control to allow for accurate and consistent handling. Under such constraints, the successful melding of conflicting forces acting vertically in ride and horizontally in cornering and steering, can only result in unhappy compromise. Continue reading “Theme: Suspension – The Comfort Trap”

Is The Everyday Sportscar Dead?

As we get news of another relaunch, we ask who buys sportcars any more?

Austin Healey
Although TVR ceased production of cars nine years ago, under then owner Nikolay Smolensky, it never really died, it just seemed to be asleep. Someone, somewhere was always hinting at its imminent awakening. This year’s announcement, with Gordon Murray and Cosworth involved, seems the most credible and substantial to date. But, however good the product, if most of its targeted customers live in Europe, as with previous TVRs, will it succeed, or has the world changed too much whilst it slept? Continue reading “Is The Everyday Sportscar Dead?”

Etceterini, Etceterini, Etceterini …

It Wasn’t Just Ferraris You Know?

Moretti 2

Last year, in Southern Germany, I came across an ‘Oldtimer Rally’ and I put a small gallery of photos up in December. There was a nice variety of cars, but what stood out for me was this little Moretti 750. Moretti was just one of a good number of small Italian manufacturers including Abarth, Stanguellini, Nardi and OSCA who produced small sports and racing cars in the post War period, and whose products are known, with affection and respect, as Etceterini.

There is no absolute definition of what makes an Etceterino, but it doesn’t mean any car not made by a major Italian manufacturer, so Fiat 500s rebodied as beach cars, fun as they are, are not Etceterini. Continue reading “Etceterini, Etceterini, Etceterini …”

Dany Bahar’s Lotus Fantasia

Dany Bahar: Misunderstood visionary or public enemy number one? 

The Great Behar - photo via Jalopnik
The Great Bahar surrounded by his pet unicorns – photo via Jalopnik

It’s probably safe to assume that disgraced ex-Lotus boss, Dany Bahar believes in unicorns. It remains the only reasoned assumption following his abrupt career at the storied Sportscar brand. Appointed in 2009, Bahar took Lotus on a journey into the heart of darkness, edging them closer to the abyss than at any time in their chequered sixty three-year history.  Continue reading “Dany Bahar’s Lotus Fantasia”

Theme : Aerodynamics – The Great Curve – Costin & Sayer, Part Two

In this second part, Driven To Write continues its examination of Britain’s twin aerodynamic pioneers – Frank Costin and Malcolm Sayer

Lotus Eleven - photo via lotuseleven.org
The delicate wind cheating lines of the Lotus Eleven – photo: lotuseleven.org

By 1953, Frank Costin too had gravitated to the racetracks, becoming involved with the fledgling Lotus company and with Sayer’s services already secured by Jaguar, Costin rapidly became the freelance aerodynamicist to work with, if race victory was your aim. His work with fellow ex-De Havilland engineer, Colin Chapman produced the body skin shapes for Mark’s Eight though to Eleven, including some detail aerodynamic changes to Peter Kirwin-Taylor’s Type 49 Elite. His designs combined low drag, stability and clever use of airflow – his understanding of air pressures, ducting and how they could be used for cooling and extraction meant that Costin’s designs may not have always been easy on the eye, but they worked.

Continue reading “Theme : Aerodynamics – The Great Curve – Costin & Sayer, Part Two”