Brochures Redux – Midship Triptych

Three brochures for the same car demonstrate Fiat’s marketing skills – or lack thereof.

All images: Driven to Write
All images: Driven to Write

Fiat’s 1970’s brochures were often stark affairs. Studio shots, no background and just the facts. With an economy hatchback like a 127 or suchlike, there was a certain amount of logic in this approach, but for what many dubbed a mini-Ferrari, it risked underselling what was at the time a fairly unique proposition. Continue reading “Brochures Redux – Midship Triptych”

Theme: Brochures – Ford Zephyr Mk.4

Big but not necessarily better, Ford’s late 60’s Zephyr brochure lays out its stall.

zephyr-cropped

The cover is bereft of the expected seductive image of the car it describes. There is only blackness, a small head-and-shoulders photo of a well-groomed, confident looking individual and the title, “Motoring for the 15,000 a year man”. 15,000 miles that is, not Pounds Sterling, but the implication is there. Even £5000 per annum would have been a top-rank salary in 1970, when this brochure rolled off the presses of Alabaster, Passmore and Sons Ltd in Maidstone.
Continue reading “Theme: Brochures – Ford Zephyr Mk.4”

Theme: Brochures – Vanden Plas Princess 4 Litre R

The 1964 brochure describes it as “A golden milestone”, but BMC’s Rolls-Royce powered luxury flagship had a curious history and turned out to be a rotund failure, a white elephant which was to be an embarrassment to the reputations of both companies.

vanden-plas-4-litre-r_inner
1964 Vanden Plas 4-litre brochure

My copy of the brochure is rather dusty and faded, but is a splendid thing, printed on heavy, high quality paper, with a stiff card cover. There are thirteen fine hand-painted illustrations – not one photograph in sight – and fulsome letters from the managing directors of the new car’s proud parents, Sir George Harriman of BMC, and Dr. Fred Llewellyn Smith, of Rolls-Royce’s Motor Car Division. Continue reading “Theme: Brochures – Vanden Plas Princess 4 Litre R”

Theme: Brochures – From Countryside Manor to Vodkaloungeland: The Jaguar XJ Through The Ages

Being the quintessential British stalwart car, the Jaguar XJ serves as a poignant illustration of what constituted ‘the good life’ through the ages. 

dsc_0022
Almost five decades of British luxury in flat shape

Germany has the Golf and S-class, Britain’s got the Jaguar XJ. A car that has been part of the automotive landscape for decades, all the while being adapted (to differing levels to success) to changes in tastes and demographic.

So what do the different generations of XJ brochures tell us about the car itself, its creators and the people it was supposed to appeal to? Continue reading “Theme: Brochures – From Countryside Manor to Vodkaloungeland: The Jaguar XJ Through The Ages”

Theme: Brochures – Just Right?

Already a decade old in 1977, the SAAB 99-series perhaps best embodied the Swedish ideal of ‘Lagom’ .

All images: Driven to Write
All images: Driven to Write

The 99 saw Saab come of age. A bigger, more commodious, more mainstream model than the somewhat home market-specific 96 series which not only preceded it, but was sold alongside. By 1977, the 99 was a very mature product, and what bugs may have arisen in earlier incarnations were fairly thoroughly expunged. Continue reading “Theme: Brochures – Just Right?”

Theme: Brochures – 1975 Lancia Beta HPE

In contrast to the recent rather insipid Beta brochure, I can present a thoroughly aspirational 1975 Lancia HPE brochure such as this.

Use as directed: 1975 Lancia HPE.
Use as directed: 1975 Lancia HPE. Richard-Ginori is still in business.

It shows how the product is intended to be used and the kinds of people who might be attracted to it. Shooting, diving, sitting down, gardening, conversing outside a hotel late at night: Lancia did not want for ideas to show how this rather fabulous vehicle could be used. What the brochure made you want to do was to Continue reading “Theme: Brochures – 1975 Lancia Beta HPE”

Theme: Brochures – Beta than expected but not as good as hoped

The 1973 Beta Coupé was slightly underwhelming – and to be honest, its sales literature was as well.

All images: Driven to Write
Well proportioned, neatly styled yet somehow lacking. The Beta Coupe. All images: Driven to Write

A year after the berlina’s launch, Lancia announced the first of four sporting Beta derivations, the 2+2 Coupé. Designed in-house in conjunction with Pietro Castagnero, the man responsible for the much-loved Fulvia amongst other pre-Fiat Lancia designs. This is an early sales brochure and it is notable for a number of reasons – some of a pedantic nature, others of a more whimsical stripe.  Continue reading “Theme: Brochures – Beta than expected but not as good as hoped”

Theme: Brochures – Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star…

A sober brochure for a distinctly sober car – the 1982 Mercedes-Benz 190-series.

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Daimler-Benz were not in the business of hyperbole when they presented the W201-series in 1982. Instead, they were offering a purity of an entirely different order.  “The new Mercedes models will set the standards for the engineering and the styling of compact cars for years to come”, they said. Prescient words. The 190 was a benchmark car, arguably the apogee of a once-dominant, now deceased engineering-led Swabian modus. Continue reading “Theme: Brochures – Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star…”

Theme: Brochures – “Of the Same Noble Breed as the Fabulous Cheetah”

From the Parazitas collection, a journey into a gentler time.

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It is quite possible that I have never seen a Simca 1200S, nor its tamer 1962 predecessor the 1000 Coupe, in real life, but this English language brochure from around 1970 is testament to its existence. Checking a November 1970 issue of Motor confirms that it was indeed offered in the UK at a hefty £1595. Just £1398 would have bought you a Capri 3000GT. The Simca’s more natural rivals, the Alfa  Romeo Guilia 1300GT, and Lancia Fulvia Coupé Rallye S are listed at £1848 and £1871 respectively. Continue reading “Theme: Brochures – “Of the Same Noble Breed as the Fabulous Cheetah””

Theme: Compromise – One Born Every Minute

Necessity might be the mother of Invention, but her second child is named Compromise. 

nissan-qashqai-being-built-on-nmuk-line-1-with-an-operator
The maker of your own demise. (Image: Auto Express)

For anyone with an ounce of petrol in their veins, few experiences necessitate compromise more than parenthood. Children may be small, but their interminable things are not. The gravitational pull of a gurgling baby Katamari attracts hitherto unimaginable mountains of clutter.

Continue reading “Theme: Compromise – One Born Every Minute”

Theme: Compromise – Ford’s Valencia engine. A Curious Orange?

A missed opportunity or a masterpiece of compromise?  We look at the unassuming little engine that drove the Fiesta’s success.

car-march-1974
The cack-handed rendering is inexcusable given that that the magazine includes a close-to-production photo mischievously taken by an attendee at a customer clinic in Düsseldorf earlier in 1974.  Security was tightened considerably thereafter.

CAR March 1974 was confident in its prediction about the Fiesta’s engine; “it is a completely new water-cooled, in-line four with single overhead cam and Heron head. It will come in two sizes – a little over 900cc and 1090cc for the top of the range model.” As we now know, the “scoop report” could scarcely have been more wrong, but it is easy to understand the reasons for their conjecture. Continue reading “Theme: Compromise – Ford’s Valencia engine. A Curious Orange?”

Theme: Compromise – Second Best

Wish fulfilment takes many forms…

Image: Kris Kubrick
Image: Kris Kubrick

Life isn’t fair. By rights we’d have our needs and wants fulfilled but circumstances, finances and events conspire to deny us our true heart’s desire. Take the owner of this perfectly innocuous Audi TT. A first generation model; the nicest looking of the series, if not the most dynamically adept. ‘A Golf in a party dress’, sniffed the more snobbish automotive commentators, but nevertheless a perfectly nice and still quite stylish way to get around on a moderate budget. Continue reading “Theme: Compromise – Second Best”

Theme : Places – Another Snapshot from Occupied Europe

It’s Spring 1981, and I’m in Charlottenburg, on the western edge of the British Occupied Sector of West Berlin.

lloyd-arabella

The picture is taken on Wundtstraße at the edge of the Lietzensee. These names are still powerfully evocative of the time I spent in Berlin, half a lifetime ago. German big city carscapes are, in my experience at least, underwhelming. The urban dwellers’ favoured cars are small, cheap, usually French, Japanese, or Korean, and very old by British standards, but not quite old enough to be interesting. Continue reading “Theme : Places – Another Snapshot from Occupied Europe”

Theme : Places – Snapshots from Occupied Europe

Let us briefly remind ourselves of Leslie Poles Hartley’s words, ‘The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there’. 

viva-in-e-berlin
All images: The Author

The country photographed is now in the past, the Deutsche Demokratische Rebublik, a failed state which ceased to exist in 1990, and they really did do things differently there. When I took these photos nine years before the fall of the Berlin Wall, the DDR was dysfunctional, but very much extant, and didn’t look as if it would be brought down any time soon. Continue reading “Theme : Places – Snapshots from Occupied Europe”

Theme: Places – Scene of the Accident

There are some places you simply don’t want to go.

Image: Motorauthority
Image: Motorauthority

In his transgressive 1973 novel, ‘Crash’, novelist JG Ballard explored a netherworld where a group of symphorophiliasts play out their fetishes of eroticism and death amid the carnage of motor accidents. But while most of us might find ourselves staring luridly against our better instincts at some roadside crumplezone, we recoil in dread from the blood and the bone. It could after all so easily be ourselves trapped and lifeless inside some shattered hatchback. Continue reading “Theme: Places – Scene of the Accident”

Theme: Places – Petrol Stations

For about a century, petrol stations have been the one place all cars had to go to. Their time may be running out though.

Gone: wikipedia.org
Gone: wikipedia.org

In Europe, Italy has the most petrol stations (21,000), followed by Germany (16,000). Quite possibly in less than a few decades, the petrol station will be as rare a sight as a horse trough. Already their numbers seem to be dwindling. Three quarters of UK petrol stations have closed since 1975. In Londonland there are 34,000 cars per petrol station. Part of the loss is to do with changes in the economic geography of the stations. Many of the oldest ones were in urban centres and quite probably it is more profitable to put an office or apartment building in the same location than to Continue reading “Theme: Places – Petrol Stations”

Theme : Sudamerica – Argentinian Soul, Hanseatic Heart

As we conclude our trip across South America, we do so in a small truck with a surprising powerplant. IAME’s faithful Rastrojero.

rastrojero-borgward-drivers-club
Image: Borgward Drivers’ Club

Argentina’s Peron-initiated IAME (Industrias Aeronáuticas y Mecánicas del Estado) technology and manufacturing vehicle, turned out some weird and less than wonderful machinery in its 38 year existence; from small Goliath-like front wheel drive cars with highly unconventional split-twin two stroke engines, to a sports car with a 2.5 litre air-cooled modular V8. Yet IAME’s most successful and enduring product was the Rastrojero, a light truck truly down to earth in its concept and engineering. Continue reading “Theme : Sudamerica – Argentinian Soul, Hanseatic Heart”

Theme : Sudamerica – Lafer LL – The SLC from São Paulo

A Brazilian beauty comes under the DTW microscope.

lafer-gt

Controlled markets create their own phenomena, and the autarky imposed by the Brazilian government from early 1976, when all car imports were effectively forbidden, resulted in the emergence of a small scale luxury car industry whose high ambitions were often thwarted by economic and technical reality.

At the 10th  Automobile Salon in late November 1976, local manufacturer Lafer presented the LL, an elegant and innovative grand tourer, immediately dubbed the Brazilian 450SLC. Continue reading “Theme : Sudamerica – Lafer LL – The SLC from São Paulo”

Theme: Japan – Toyota’s First Supra-Car

Commercially speaking, Toyota seems to have fared perfectly well without image-building halo cars. While enthusiasts have been well served by numerous performance models over the decades, the Japanese car giant eschewed outright exotics.

Image:wheelsage.org
Image:wheelsage.org

Not so fast though. As long ago as 1965, crowds at the Tokyo motor show were enraptured by the introduction a sleek and beautifully proportioned coupe from that most conservative of Japan’s burgeoning manufacturers. Deliveries began two years later, but by the decade’s end, after a mere 337 cars, the Toyota 2000GT evaporated from view as quickly as it emerged. Continue reading “Theme: Japan – Toyota’s First Supra-Car”

Theme: Japan – Subaru Legacy Saloon (BL), 3.0R Spec B

I’ve been fighting this for a while, but have given in to myself and written up some fond memories I have of the fourth generation (BL), 2004 to 2009, Subaru Legacy 3.0R Spec B.

Subaru Legacy Spec.B - Image:betterparts
Subaru Legacy Spec.B – Image: betterparts

Feel free not to read this piece, it’s pure self-indulgence. This is the car that, in many respects, I wish I had never sold, but I did for the love of the idea of owning a big, oleopneumatically suspended Citroen. In fact, I bought two – one after the other – which was stupid in itself, but I was overcome with a childish desire to have what seemed to be, and indeed was, an upgraded and improved version of a car that I already loved.

Oh dear, this article is already reading like a therapy session. Continue reading “Theme: Japan – Subaru Legacy Saloon (BL), 3.0R Spec B”

Theme: Suspension – Not quite De Dion

I spotted this on the Suzuki stand at Geneva. It’s the rear axle of the Vitara, the Hungarian-built Poor Girl’s Evoque. At first I thought that it was a De Dion axle, on closer examination it turns out to be a torsion beam with driven rear wheels.

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Possibly other manufacturers have done this before, but it’s the first I’ve encountered. I’d have expected to find a live axle, or a multi-link or double wishbone fully independent system. Continue reading “Theme: Suspension – Not quite De Dion”

Theme: Glamour – A Very Irish Coupé

Tainted Love: There wasn’t a lot of glamour to be found in 1970’s Ireland. Not too many coupé’s either. (Originally published on 23 February 2014)

Image via autobild.de
Behind the smiles, Nuala and Rory mostly communicate through the medium of silence. Image: autobild.de

The coupé evokes a variety of adjectives in our automotive lexicon, most of which we broadly aspire to; words like glamour, sophistication, affluence. As an ideal it’s suffused with images of impossibly salubrious locations; languid cocktails on the shores of Lake Como, nibbling swan canapés on the Croisette, driving west on Sunset. So from the foregoing it’s fairly safe to assume that Ireland is not a place that readily springs to mind when the subject of the coupé is raised over the hors d’oeuvres. Continue reading “Theme: Glamour – A Very Irish Coupé”

Theme: Disappointment – Feline Gloomy

As our December theme chokes on the very last mince pie, we celebrate four decades of disappointment, brought to you by Jaguar.

Romance is dead. Image via carnewsmodel
Romance is dead. Image via carnewsmodel

It’s an emotion depressingly familiar to Jaguar enthusiasts from Burbank to Burnley. From the chaotic post-Lyons era, the catastrophic BL years, the Egan Miracle, the Ford débâcle, to the current underwhelming JLR era. The big cat’s roaring again, the UK press delight in telling us, but is it really?

Continue reading “Theme: Disappointment – Feline Gloomy”

Theme: Economy – The Durable Car

Ideally, an article on the theme of economy should contain no words at all – a conceit I did explore briefly, but the results proved unsatisfying. Instead we reprise a piece from DTW’s early days which I’m forced to concede, runs to 1919 words. So while on one hand it does meet the brief, it also misses it by several nautical miles. Sorry.

Image via morrisminor.org.uk
Image via morrisminor.org.uk

The fact that ‘Durable Car Ownership – a new approach to low cost motoring‘ didn’t knock Jackie Collins off the best seller lists in 1982 is probably due as much to its minority subject matter as a sorry lack of carnal shenanigans. It wasn’t a fashionable subject then and given that it’s been out of print for some years, probably wouldn’t be now.  Continue reading “Theme: Economy – The Durable Car”

Theme: Wheels – The BBS RS

A prince amongst wheels – in praise of a design classic

The BBS RS - image via devianart
The BBS RS – image via devianart

Power ballads and poodle hair weren’t the only big things in the 1980’s. Wheels were too, particularly the aftermarket alloy variety. At a time when most cars were still fitted with pressed steel wheel rims, the aftermarket was big business. With bodykits and Rude Mercs abounding amongst the hotshoe contingent, having the right set of mags mattered. Continue reading “Theme: Wheels – The BBS RS”

Theme: Shutlines – The Difficult C-Pillar Junction

I’ve spent a lot of time looking at shutlines this past month…

How it used to be done. Original image via carsbase
How it used to be done. Original image via carsbase

… and one thing inevitably leads to another, so today we’re taking a (not particularly comprehensive) look at how manufacturers used to deal with another, often tricky junction. The one at the base of the C-pillar.

Continue reading “Theme: Shutlines – The Difficult C-Pillar Junction”

Benchmarks: Lancia Flaminia Super Sport

Benchmark or swansong? A short film from the very pinnacle of the automotive ziggurat

Just beautiful - Image via tuningpp
Lancia’s finest hour? – Image via tuningpp

If we collectively believe the current Ypsilon represents Lancia’s nadir – (although I would beg to differ) – I think we can agree this car represents the marque’s apogee.

Continue reading “Benchmarks: Lancia Flaminia Super Sport”

Aerodynamics: The Shape We’re In

We ask whether aerodynamics’ post-war, post-aviation beginnings have anything in common with tomorrow’s hydrogen-powered wonders.

The future? Volkswagen-xl1-photo via motortrend
The future? Volkswagen XL-1. Image: Motor Trend

To be fair, car manufacturers have historically enjoyed a rather patchy relationship with the concept of aerodynamic theory. During the post-war period only a handful of motor manufacturers paid more than lip service to the concept and of those, most had their origins in aircraft manufacture. Bristol and Saab, for example both needed to diversify during post-war austerity when demand for their mainstay aircraft businesses collapsed in peacetime. Continue reading “Aerodynamics: The Shape We’re In”

Aerodynamics: Index of Efficiency

They don’t get any more aerodynamic than this…

Photo via ultimatecarpage
Photo via ultimatecarpage

What you’re looking at here is the last of the pure streamliners – the 1964 Panhard CD Le Mans. This Index of Efficiency contender for the 1964 Le Mans race boasted a drag co-efficient of a mere 0.12, reputedly the lowest of any racing car to date. This car is significant for two reasons: Continue reading “Aerodynamics: Index of Efficiency”

Concepts: Saab 9X BioHybrid

Getting it right at precisely the wrong time.

Saab biohybrid
Stunning. Saab 9X biohybrid

At the 2008 Geneva Motor Show, Saab presented a concept that perfectly encapsulated the future direction the marque needed to take. Given the multitude of factors massed against it, its non-adoption was perhaps inevitable,

Continue reading “Concepts: Saab 9X BioHybrid”

Theme: Headlamps – The View Ahead

We’re not still sticking lights on the front of our cars, are we? Time for some fresh thinking perhaps.

2010-RDX-Racedesign-Peugeot-207-Headlight-1024x768
Image: RDX-Racedesign

Modern life isn’t necessarily rubbish, but on balance, it is somewhat disappointing. Not just the gnawing pointlessness of so much of it, but the nagging sense that the brave new world we were promised back in the 70’s has decisively failed to materialise. Because laying aside for a moment the jet-scooters, orgasmatrons and robotised dogs we were all expecting to enjoy, there remain aspects of the motor car which really should have met the rendezvous with the eternal. Take headlamps for example. After more than a hundred years of almost almost constant automotive development, surely we could have come up with something better by now?

Continue reading “Theme: Headlamps – The View Ahead”