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.

img018

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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: 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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


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. 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 : 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 “Theme : 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”

Theme : 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 “Theme : 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, but that didn’t stop enthusiasts howling in frustration and thwarted desire. Derived from earlier 9X concepts, the C-sector 9X BioHybrid concept not only looked fantastic, but also successfully imagined Saab’s entry into a sector that should have proven both lucrative and sustainable – hybrid technology or no. 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”