Noisome, Necessary, Brilliant and Bad

Sometimes I worry that Driventowrite is nothing but a collection of Lancia, Citroen and Opel musings strung together with bits of Ford Granada in between.

Historic Toyotas: Toyota UK

In order to make a token effort to acknowledge the wider world I went in active search of the news the manufacturers themselves put out.

At Toyota, the most exciting thing I found (and it really is exciting because we love Japanese cars here) is that there will soon be news about the Toyota heritage press fleet. They also have an advanced technology seminar on automated driving. I must look at that soon.

Nissan UK proudly report that the Leaf has been awarded AutoExpress prestigious “best used EV award”. Further, they also have news on automated driving and use an image of an Infiniti to Continue reading “Noisome, Necessary, Brilliant and Bad”

Armchair Guide to the 2017 Detroit Auto Show

The Detroit Auto show is over for another year. What caught our eye? What hurt our eye?

2018 Audi Q8 concept: source
2018 Audi Q8 concept: source

Audi showed the 3.0 TFSI SQ5: a CUV. They also showed the Q8 concept, some kind of crossover but sized extra-large. It’ll be ideal for bringing 17 kg children to kindergarten in Chelmsford. Notably the grille has burst out of its frame and now the silhouette of the lamps is involved in the party, as if the engine and lights are expanding out from under the bonnet like a weird blossoming mechanical monster. At the back the lamps stretch the full width across the car. Continue reading “Armchair Guide to the 2017 Detroit Auto Show”

Nissan March Bolero

While the Irish car market is characterised by quite pronounced conservatism, there is a mad streak in there. There are people who buy cars like this:

image

Most of it is a Nissan Micra but it has a different grille and bumper. The rear and side are much the same as the Micra. It has a 1.2 litre, 4-cylinder engine and as such is stock Micra.  Continue reading “Nissan March Bolero”

Everything You Know Is Wrong

While the mainstream UK motoring press likes to pretend it tells it like it is, they often don´t.

image
Dented and unloved. 2002 Nissan QX 3.0

The 1995 Nissan QX served as a butt of jokes at Car magazine who reminded us ironically that “it exists“. Autocar took a more charitable view, summing it up as a superbly built revelation on the road. Apart from this this, the QX is quite forgotten. Not by me for whom these kinds of neglected cars are some kind of mild obsession. I suppose it’s the fact the press told us not to bother that makes me want to know what it is that we must ignore.  Continue reading “Everything You Know Is Wrong”

Concept Car Du Jour

What’s hard to believe is that this design was the product of seasoned designers.

1993 Nissan AQ-X: source
1993 Nissan AQ-X: source

The 1993 Nissan AQ-X has several small and large errors that add up to something of a disaster. But we will learn from this. Being charitable, it’s a packaging car. The rear compartment has stupendous legroom. The doors open wide for easy ingress and, when you need to, egress. Up close the vehicle is finished to a professional standard (I mean at about 10 cm distance). At 10 metres you begin to wonder whether the person who had sketched the car had sketched many cars before this. Continue reading “Concept Car Du Jour”

Paint News Digest

Driventowrite leaves no corner of the automotive world unexamined. Today we look a bit at paint, Mazda paint, Toyota paint, Opel paint…

Soul red crystal paint: source
Soul red crystal paint: source

Mazda presented their new colour in November, ending their press release with the memorable line: “colour is an element of form”.

Soul Red Crystal is a development of an existing Mazda colour,  Soul Red that “balances vibrant energy and vividness with clear depth and gloss.” So, it’s rich and shiny. Mazda estimate that it has 20 percent higher colour saturation and 50 percent more depth”. I don’t know how the depth is estimated. There is no insight here. There might be some here.

Continue reading “Paint News Digest”

Theme: Places – Pakistan (classic motoring)

One of the things I like about libraries is that you find things by chance in a way that an internet search does not. 

1983 Chevrolet Caprice (?): www.pakwheels.com
1983 Chevrolet Caprice (?): http://www.pakwheels.com

Exceptions occur such as this discovery of the Vintage & Classic Car Club of Pakistan. Pakistan’s most popular cars are the Toyota Corolla, the Suzuki Mehran and the Sukuki Cultus which we know as the Swift and sometimes the Subaru Justy. Next is the Alto which now looks very aggressive… and so on through a list of practical, useful and not very expensive cars. However, it’s not all low-cost motoring… Continue reading “Theme: Places – Pakistan (classic motoring)”

Theme: Sudamerica – Are There DAFs for Sale in Suriname?

Suriname is South-America’s smallest country and it has a strong Dutch connection.

2016 Chevrolet SUV range in Suriname: source
2016 Chevrolet SUV range in Suriname: source

Until 1975 it was part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and Dutch is still the official language of state. So, I wondered, is it possible that DAF cars were sold there and do any remain? So, I tapped in “Suriname autos te koop” and discovered that the only DAFs are trucks. There are no Volvos there either.
Continue reading “Theme: Sudamerica – Are There DAFs for Sale in Suriname?”

Theme: Colour – Flat Blue Is the Colour

Some months ago I photographed a flat blue Nissan QX. Shortly after I deleted the series despite the rarity of the car. Why, Richard, why?

Ford Transit: it wasn't this blue but darker.
Citroen Relay: it wasn’t this blue but darker.

Despite the good lighting I could not get the forms to stand out. Tonal treatment failed as did all the other variables. That says something about that colour which makes you want to ask why Nissan offered such an anonymising shade for an already anonymous vehicle. Continue reading “Theme: Colour – Flat Blue Is the Colour”

2002 Nissan Murano: Americo-Japanese Rationalism

Few Murano’s roam about Jutland. I’ve always liked this car even if I am not a fan of softroaders. 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Murano shows what we might call Japanese design rationalism although the designers did their work in California. The bit we ought to notice is the very intelligent shutline management of the tailgate, rear lamps and rear quarter panel. The tailgate is oversized so as to eliminate the need for the roof panel to join to the C-pillar. Continue reading “2002 Nissan Murano: Americo-Japanese Rationalism”

Theme: Materials – Convince Me

We have staked out our positions on the use of wood and mock wood inside cars. One day this will be resolved with a water pistols duel at dawn. And then a nice breakfast.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Until then here are some after-market products to give your car a little extra visual warmth and some OEM work to show how it should be done. This really is not good for my argument, is it?

Continue reading “Theme: Materials – Convince Me”

What A Month It Has Been!!

…as they like to say in the world of automotive print journalism.

Nissan Autech Zagato
Nissan Autech Zagato: wikipedia.org

We covered a lot of ground in our theme of the month, Japan, and the response from our clique of readers has been heartening. Most of what I read this month from our readers and contributors was new to me, as was the material I waded through when researching my own items.

Dealing with the Japan theme first, Sean Patrick and others handled the origins of Japan’s post-war development. The general theme is that Japan watched closely what Europe did but its selection of references showed its special set of values and interests. We dealt with notable examples of Japanese concept car design, production design. and the state of the product ranges. Under the production cars, the kei car phenomenon came under scrutiny from several angles such as this and this along with a few apparently randomly chosen examples of neglected classics and unloved daily drivers. Continue reading “What A Month It Has Been!!”

Theme: Japan – Nissan SilEighty – Sideways Thinking

Scouring the varied cars of Gran Turismo yielded a JDM gem – the Nissan Sileighty.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Don’t go scouring your collections of official Nissan brochures for a SilEighty though; this one is special. Torquepost describes it thus:

“Drifters and street racers who… raced their Nissan 180SXs found that replacing their front ends when they became damaged was very cost prohibitive… due to the pop-up headlamp assemblies. To remedy this… the Nissan Silvia S13’s cheaper parts, including the lighter panel headlamp assemblies, front fenders, hood, and front bumper would be installed instead. Thus, the car would have the front end of an S13 Nissan Silvia, and the rear badge of the original 180SX. And so, the name SilEighty emerged.”

So there you have it: the Nissan SilEighty. An ingenious piece of sideways thinking from Japanese drifters. Continue reading “Theme: Japan – Nissan SilEighty – Sideways Thinking”

Theme : Japan – Boxing Clever

Why is Japan so good at thinking inside the box?

1989 Nissan Chapeau image : conceptnissan.com
Chapeau, Nissan? Well, it’s a start, I guess. 1989 Nissan Chapeau image : conceptnissan.com

An obvious introduction for an obvious concept. If you want to fit people shaped people into a car, the architecture that allows them the most room to sit in comfort is a box. An empty volume bounded by a series of flat rectangles. In the early days lots of cars were like this, now they are not. A common criticism of car design, used in the UK at least, is that a car is ‘boxy’. This comment needs no expansion – the fact that the car resembles a box condemns it. Yet, of course, a box is the best shape if you want to maximise on internal volume.  Various European manufacturers have experimented with boxiness but, except for the Quasar Unipower, whose designer, incidentally, was from Vietnam, they have generally lacked conviction. Continue reading “Theme : Japan – Boxing Clever”

Theme: Japan – The Gentleman

It’s a peculiar entity, Toyota. More like a small landless nation than a company. It can produce remarkably effective entrants and also miss the mark in its own unique way. Nobody understands it. I try to.

2000 Toyota WillVi: www.carsensor.net
2000 Toyota WillVi. They don´t do much of this, do they?: http://www.carsensor.net

Like GM, Toyota is a sprawling enterprise, with operations all over the world and a large range of vehicles. Unlike GM, Toyota’s failures are seldom mystifying acts of dunderheadness. Even the least successful Toyotas are quality machines which demonstrate the relentless application of diligence. In contrast, GM cars can be entertainingly terrible which can be put down to missing diligence. What Toyota can possibly match the legendary Pontiac Aztek for its florid incompetence? The Solstice’s boot held only a spare wheel. Which Lexus failed as spectacularly as the Cimarron or Catera? Continue reading “Theme: Japan – The Gentleman”

Theme: Japan – Tokyo, Twinned With Turin

Much has been written on the contribution of Italy’s styling houses to the Japanese motor industry in the crucial years when it went from being a tentative exporter to a seemingly unstoppable force.

1965 Mazda Familia Coupe Source: cartype.com
1965 Mazda Familia Coupe Source: cartype.com

I have taken a closer look at cars from the last five decades with an Italian connection. Unsurprisingly, the activity was at its most intense in the 1960s. Almost every carmaker was using the Italian styling houses then.   They were not so much a service to industry, more a regional art form, but as well as being masters of form and proportion, the carrozzieri could Continue reading “Theme: Japan – Tokyo, Twinned With Turin”

Making It All Add Up

The challenge of car design is partly about  the harmonious integration of complex forms. What happens when the body-side crease falls into the orbit of the front wheel arch? Nothing good.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


One of the things that catches my eye on the 2004 Mercedes-Benz CLS is the very unsatisfactory way the wheel-arch lip and the body-side crease (one of two) intersect. Underlying that is the problematic way the bodyside crease runs forward and then tries to go parallel to the wheel-arch. Mercedes can’t claim original authorship for this trope. As far as I can tell, that honour goes to the 1988 Nissan Skyline. Continue reading “Making It All Add Up”

Theme: Japan – The Structure Of Their Product Ranges and An Overview Of Their Pricing

Do you think we do this for fun? Here is the result of two evenings tediously clicking around slow websites, looking at confusingly arranged line-ups. This is what the Japanese brands are selling in the UK and what they charge.

Adieu Accord - image via motorauthority
No more Accords – image: motorauthority

How did I do this? I tried to count the number of distinct models under the category “passenger cars”. I then noted the base price of each. The “Brougham effect” might alter the absolute numbers somewhat but not enough to alter the general, relative nature of the findings. By that I mean if there’s a Nissan Micra Super De Luxe “Montecarlo” model which costs £9,000 more than the base model I won’t have included it. Continue reading “Theme: Japan – The Structure Of Their Product Ranges and An Overview Of Their Pricing”

Theme: Japan – Milestones

I’m about halfway through my life or a little over, if I take the actuarial figures for Irish males seriously. Underway I have changed some opinions and made some discoveries. About time, too.

1986 Honda Accord Aerodeck
1986 Honda Accord Aerodeck: source

One of these discoveries is that fortified wines from Jerez, Spain are wonderful with sushi. A good fino like Lustau Jarana  or a Manzanilla such as Solear go really well with this class of food. And that brings me to Japan, via raw fish. I discovered that raw fish is delicious, an oriental analogue of the way Europeans consume raw beef in the form of steak tartare though sushi is not about disguising the taste as Europeans do with capers, tabasco, onion and egg. The Japanese must find Europeans rather distasteful in some ways.

Sushi brings us finally to Japanese car design which provides plenty of visual interest and more simplicity than complexity. While I feel I am certain that there is more design Continue reading “Theme: Japan – Milestones”

Theme: Japan – 1985 Nissan CUE-X

Japanese automotive engineering went into warp-drive mode in the middle 1980s. The Nissan CUE-X of 1985 remains an impressive tour de force of the purest styling and technical experimentation.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Starting under the skin of this elegant and minimalistic design, we find electronic air suspension which controlled the spring rates, ride height and attitude. The damping could be altered as well making this a car which had the potential to fill a brief written by Citroen. Going further than Citroen did with their 1988 XM, the Cue-X also boasted four-wheel steering* The description of how it works is very similar to that of the XM: sensors sent signals to the vehicle’s central processor. The data described vehicle height, road speed, steering input, braking forces, throttle position and gear position. Continue reading “Theme: Japan – 1985 Nissan CUE-X”

Geneva Bites – Japanese Concepts: The Good

Roving reporter Robertas Parazitas sifts Japanese conceptual wheat from chaff at Geneva.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Japanese car makers treated us to a veritable host of concept cars. Some were production cars in all but detail, others are pointers to the more distant, but credible future, which probably still includes doorhandles and window frames, and possibly, just possibly sub-20″ diameter wheels.

In the best pre-Boring Boring CAR tradition, I’ve divided them into the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Continue reading “Geneva Bites – Japanese Concepts: The Good”