Theme: Simca – The Road To Success!

In what very much resembles a transcript of a period road test, the celebrated motoring scribe, Archie Vicar, takes a critical gander at Simca’s 1967 rear-engined saloon. Has it been improved since 1966?

1967 Simca 1000 GLS: source

This article first could have appeared in the Carlisle Evening Reporter, 16 March 1967. The original photos by Douglas Land-Windermere. Due to their poor quality, stock photos have been used.

It’s all change at Simca which for good reason is one of France’s most successful manufacturers of motor cars. In these increasingly competitive times, every car producer must ceaselessly revise, update and otherwise improve their products and Simca have made some changes to their evergreen 1000 saloon so as to keep it in the race for customers which means that in order to appraise the new version, I have subjected it to a road test and present now my findings that readers may Continue reading “Theme: Simca – The Road To Success!”

Theme: Brochures – 1964 Skoda 1000MB

In 1964 the Skoda 1000MB went on sale, replacing the first Octavia of 1959 (which stayed in production anyway). It had a 1.0 litre  four-cylinder engine.

1964 Skoda 1000MB brochure front covers.
1964 Skoda 1000MB brochure front covers.

And it started a long series of rear-engined Skodas. It’s not a car I know a lot about. The Wikipedia web-page reeks of fandom: “Apart from the use of cooling vents in the rear wings and rear panel, everything else about the 1000 MB’s styling was normal, which was undoubtedly in an attempt to appeal to all the conservative-minded buyers in export countries like the UK. This car was highly successful both for Škoda and the Czech economy”.

Continue reading “Theme: Brochures – 1964 Skoda 1000MB”

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:

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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”

Archie Vicar’s Motoring Week : July 28 1972

This item is from legendary motoring scribe Archie Vicar’s motoring diary for the Chester Mail, July 1972. 

1972 Fiat 128 Rally: source
1972 Fiat 128 Rally: netcarshow.com

Time stops for no man but Fiats can stop for everyone, at any time. While out on test with the revised Fiat 128 I found myself stuck by the side of the road near the Swan at Tarporley: failed brakes. The wretched car juddered to a halt with engine braking just as the lunch menu reached its final dregs. Only the rabbit brawn remained (foul) and I followed that with some Cheshire pudding and followed that by coaxing the stricken car back to life. Luckily I had some Bleedmaster which is made by Holts. Using it one can bleed a brake or clutch system single-handed. The kit included the brake bleeder and a tin of Castrol Girling brake fluid. The whole job took under three hours meaning I had a chance to Continue reading “Archie Vicar’s Motoring Week : July 28 1972”

Connect the Dots: Solution

I invited readers to find the links between the 1963 Hillman Imp, the 1970 Cadillac Eldorado and 1995 Peugeot 406 (I showed a coupé). This is my solution: 

1976 Renault Le Car: source
1976 Renault Le Car: source

It’s not the shortest path. Peugeot manufactured the 406 coupé. The 406 replaced the 405 which Peugeot manufactured at Ryton-in-Dunsmore, in England. That factory formed part of the Rootes group which Chrysler bought in 1967, including the Hillman brand. The Imp was part of group’s range. One of the designers of the Imp was Mike Parkes who died while working on development of the Lancia Stratos (not in the car, at the time of). Marcello Gandini designed the Stratos but also cars for Maserati who were once part-owned by Chrysler. He also designed the Renault Super 5 which succeeded the original Renault 5 (or Le Car). The Le Car was sold in the US by AMC for whom Larry Shinoda worked as a consultant. One of Shinoda’s colleagues was Bill Mitchell and he was the chief designer of the 1970 Cadillac Eldorado.

Theme : Sudamerica – Nothing Is Quite What It Seems

The various manufacturers involved in the South American market over the years can cause some confusion to casual car spotters.

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Willys / Renault Dauphine

The US maker Willys had set up in Brazil in 1953. Seeking to diversify from its US based cars, it built a version of the Renault Dauphine under licence ….

Continue reading “Theme : Sudamerica – Nothing Is Quite What It Seems”

If Only …

… every car looked as good when launched as it does two decades later.

1994-2001 Renault Laguna
1994-2001 Renault Laguna

For this small meditation the kick-off is the 1994 Renault Laguna I saw today. It helps if the car is shiny and in good order, of course.

Two weeks ago I saw the 1995 Vectra in the same flattering light.What seemed uninspiring 20 years ago seems clean, fresh and straightforward. This morning a Fusion caught my eye: Continue reading “If Only …”

A Picture and Some Questions

A while back I alleged that, if nothing else, the mainstream saloon had more visual variety than that found among C-class family hatches.

Top selling saloons and others
Top selling saloons and others

A recent bit of news concerning Volkswagen’s Phideon saloon led me to put that in with seven other medium sized cars. See how many you can identify. How different are they? And which one stands out? Doesn’t the Phideon look a lot like a BMW 5-series proposal? Can you tell which one is the Phideon?

[Photo sources: Autocar, caranddriver, BMW, Mercedes, Toyota, Ford, Renault]

2016 Paris Motor Show Colour Palette

Driventowrite is pleased to present an exclusive examination of the colours used on concept cars at the 2016 Paris Motor show.

2016 Paris Motor show colours for concept cars.
2016 Paris Motor show colours for concept cars.

You’ll notice green is still missing from the palette. Renault’s yellow was really a pearlescent gold. Honda’s Civic had a stainless-steel character to it. Renault’s Trezor’s surface appeared to be textured with a honey-comb effect. Mitsubishi went for white on the Ground Tourer but a vibrant yellow on the (very similar) EX. Mercedes used black paint for the EQ bonnet which disrupted the graphic effect of the fancy grille decoration.
Continue reading “2016 Paris Motor Show Colour Palette”

Designing the Unfamiliar

What do mock-wood panelled estate cars and electric cars have in common?

2016 Mercedes EQ concept car: source
2016 Mercedes EQ concept car: money.cnn.com

Design is often about managing incremental change to existing forms and the use of metaphors from existing products to “explain” new features or new technology. Our mobile phones show the icon of a camera to identify the image -capture function even if nearly nobody uses cameras any more. I’d hazard that 75% of the owners of a mobile telephone have never used a camera. By analogy, the wooden panelled estate car existed long after wood was a necessary material in the construction of such vehicles. Designers felt customers expected their estate car to Continue reading “Designing the Unfamiliar”

2017 Renault 4 Revealed at Paris

Or rather Suzuki showed the 2017 Ignis. Or rather they presented same car the Japanese public saw at the Tokyo motor show in 2015.

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The new Suzuki Ignis has two marketing points. One is the possibility of 4wd and the other is the robust and chunky styling. The 4wd option sets it apart from the Renault Captur. The sensible and tough look sets its apart from the Nissan Juke. The Ignis won’t replace the Jimny which has quietly become one of those reliable, steady sellers that won’t die. We wondered here about a Renault 4 for our times. Is the Jimny really that car? It’s cheap, efficient, useful and simple. Maybe the Ignis also meets the brief. Continue reading “2017 Renault 4 Revealed at Paris”

Question of the Day

Why does the VW ID concept have to look more styled than a VW Golf?

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The ID concept is claimed to have a 371 mile range (compared to the 248 miles of a Renault Zoe). At present Chevrolet’s Bolt promises around 230 or so (and Car and Driver have confirmed this). I’m more interested in the visual semantics of electric cars though. Tesla have chosen to make their cars look quite conventional (less so with the X). BMW have opted for po-mo design while the Zoe could conceivably be an ordinary modernist car: not Tesla’s classicism and nor either obviously outré. Continue reading “Question of the Day”

Micropost: 2002-2009 Renault Megane

Ostensibly I am writing about the Megane. Really I am concerned with something else.

2002-2009 Renault Megane
2002-2009 Renault Megane

Earlier this week contributer, Chris lamented the sameness of midsized family cars today. This Megane looks like nothing else and only looks better with age. Alas, its durability does not live up to the standard set by the aesthetics. I’m not going to write about that though.
Continue reading “Micropost: 2002-2009 Renault Megane”

Ashtrays: Renault 4

We are very proud of our focus on this aspect of car design: ashtrays.

Renault 4 ashtray- closed.
Renault 4 ashtray- closed.

This one serves in a Renault 4. The quattrelle had a three decade production run; it’s not fanciful to wonder if it could have endured as long as the Defender had it been marketed as slightly separate to Renault’s modern range. Continue reading “Ashtrays: Renault 4”

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”

Theme: Colour – She Wore Lemon

Mimosa yellow must be one of the most distinctive paint names after whatever the heck it is Ferrari calls its red.

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Over the last few weeks I went in search of yellow cars and, for the sake of completeness I’ve thrown the Tesla into the pile. None of these manage to be Mimosa yellow. That would have been very pleasing. From a safety point of view, a bright yellow car must be among the most visible against the widest range of backgrounds. Apart from that rather dull reason to prefer it, I find yellow a cheerful colour which to my eye, seems quite gender neutral whereas Continue reading “Theme: Colour – She Wore Lemon”

1970 Simca 1000

The fate of extinct marques is that fewer and fewer people care to cherish the name and burnish the heritage. 

1970 Simcy 1100
1970 Simca 1000: timeless classic or forgotten for a reason?

It depends entirely on the interest in classics magazines, the numbers made, how far back in time since the marque died and the numbers of cars made whether the cars stay in the broader motoring mind. All of this is a preamble to the fact I know even less about Simca than you do and this one is the first I have seen in the metal since last year at the same place and event. Continue reading “1970 Simca 1000”

Theme: Material – Plastics

An interesting report shows how plastics can contribute to improving vehicle efficiency. 

2015 BMW i3: www.bmwedison.com
2015 BMW i3: http://www.bmwedison.

By one estimate, 10% of the average weight of a vehicle needs to be removed to reach future EPA fuel economy standards. One way to do this is to make increased use of plastic. These can improve aerodynamics and also make the cars easier to produce and more durable. The use of fibre-reinforced composites means that less metal can be used for the body-in-white. Plastics can also be used in the drivetrain and electrical system. Continue reading “Theme: Material – Plastics”

Our Cars: 2009 RenaultSport Clio 200 Cup

A free-wheeling act of random charity leaves our correspondent flummoxed.

2015-10-07 10.19.13

A strange thing happened last Saturday. Gawping out of the lounge window in the semi-comatose state common to the domesticated house male, I clocked a silver Golf GTI driving slowly down the road. As it passed, I noticed that the driver was peering intently at my house. Odd, especially as I was not even performing naked star jumps in the bay window, which is usually what attracts the eye (and the ire) of passer’s by.

The GTI performed a three-point turn and pulled up in front of my house. The driver, a man whom I did not recognise, got out and walked up the drive. He then set about examining my Clio, which was parked in front of the garage. Continue reading “Our Cars: 2009 RenaultSport Clio 200 Cup”

2016 Renault Scenic Reconsidered

Yesterday we reported on the new Renault Scenic. I can see what inspired the shape of the side glass, a concept car from five years ago, the R-Space.

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That car has a suicide rear door (not unlike the Lancia Appia we had on a while back). That made the precise character of the shutline feasible: a curve over the rear wheel intersecting at a point with the curve of the side glass of the front door. The way I see the actual production car, it’s a wobbly line and when the window rubbers at the B-pillar begin to become unmoored as they always do it’ll look appalling. So, I revised it. It would be nicer for kids sittting in the back.

Understanding Blandness

There is a fine line between the severely rational and the bland. The 1997 Toyota Avensis is bland yet there is a hint of something else there too.

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What little character the car has did come from somewhere. So, what inspired the theme? To try to understand this car is to try to guess at what else Toyota had in mind when developing it. If the car was launched in 1997 then the designers were looking at cars launched or on sale in three years before: 1994. What do we find? The Opel Omega and Renault Laguna had the most impact. The Peugeot 406 and Mazda 626 estates also guided the packaging targets. Continue reading “Understanding Blandness”

Austerity Motoring and the Market for Hairshirts

Today is Ash Wednesday, when devout Christians wear ashes as a prelude to six weeks of Lenten privation. So as the faithful mortify themselves, we ask is there still a place for austerity in a recovering European car market?

Image: Dacia UK
White and good. Image: Dacia UK

Austerity: The ​condition of ​living without ​unnecessary things and without comfort, with​limited ​money or ​goods, or a ​practice, ​habit, or ​experience that is ​typical of this.

So goes the definition. But surely there’s a difference between offering up your chocolate habit for the holy souls and replacing your over-ambitiously financed automotive indulgence with a penitential Logan? Continue reading “Austerity Motoring and the Market for Hairshirts”

Our Cars: 2009 RenaultSport Clio 200 Cup

David and Goliath? This question springs to mind in this report of life with a RenaultSport Clio 200 Cup.

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The modern SUV. Image: thisiswhyimbroke.com

I once shared a university house with a man who studied Physics. He was tremendously good at it. As a lazy English student, I envied the clarity of his thought processes, of his ability to harness complex mathematics to make sense of the forces that shape our world. Meanwhile, I struggled to marshal the energy to make a toasted cheese sandwich. (And this despite me keeping a Breville sandwich toaster on my bedside table. And my bedside table being a mini fridge liberated from a caravan, filled with cheese and booze.) Continue reading “Our Cars: 2009 RenaultSport Clio 200 Cup”

Horror Vacui: More C-pillar Madness

Evidently the C-pillar invites useless decoration. Here are four examples of the meaningless groove.

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The first one is the 2005 Mercedes ML-class which was the first one I noticed. The aim is evidently to lead the eye from one place to another, and to draw one’s attention to the felicitous alignment of shapes. We have discussed the 2004 Ssang Yong Rodius before: the aim is hard to fathom as it gets in the way of understanding that the rear graphics are supposed to recall the essence of a luxury yacht.
Continue reading “Horror Vacui: More C-pillar Madness”

Sunday Matinée – The Renault 5 Story

Following our recent Benchmarks piece on the Renault 5, you are quite naturally burning to know more about this little French marvel.

Ever obliging, we offer this (not particularly short) film on the development and history of the Cinq. Made by Renault themselves, it’s a little hagiographic in parts, but an enjoyable (and informative) trawl nonetheless. Enjoy.

Theme : Benchmarks -The Renault 5 in Five Easy Pieces

Five reasons why the Cinq was a benchmark small car

Every living room should have one. 1972 Renault 5 - image via curbsideclassic
Every living room should have one. 1972 Renault 5 – image via curbsideclassics

1. Like many significant cars, the 5 was the brainwave of one man; originally created as something of a thought experiment. In 1968, Renault designer Michel Boué sketched the design proposal in his spare time; marking out the now familiar outline superimposed upon a photo of a contemporary Renault 4. Hence the silhouette and unusually tall canopy. Renault design bosses, upon seeing his work, adopted it for production virtually unaltered. Based on the engines and drivetrain of the popular Renault 4/6 models, the R5 is a rare case of inspiration undiluted.  Continue reading “Theme : Benchmarks -The Renault 5 in Five Easy Pieces”

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Laguna?

Last week we poked a stick at PSA’s sector-D saloon offerings to see if there was any life in them. Today we cast a glance towards their domestic rivals and ask how Renault can keep churning out Lagunas at a loss of around €3,500 a pop?

Renault-Laguna-2014.autompv
The 2014 Renault Laguna – image via autompv

Last year, Renault sold 16,019 freshly minted Lagunas across Europe and given it probably isn’t offered in too many markets outside the territory, that’s probably about as good as it got. What keeps Renault shooting themselves in both feet when on the face of things, more successful players are picking up sticks and leaving for good?  Continue reading “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Laguna?”

Renault : Putting the Sole Back Into Design

Stop looking at your feet, Boy!

Kadjar 1After we discussed Renault’s desperate ‘Dare To Live’ bit of internet marketing a few weeks back, I’d entirely forgotten it related to an new crossover, the Kadjar. I’ve now just reminded myself of it and seen a picture. From front and rear it’s a forgettable enough lump, it only distinctive feature being the side view featuring a kick up from the sills. Continue reading “Renault : Putting the Sole Back Into Design”

Has the Sky Fallen in on Convertibles?

Sales of dropheads have halved. So is the convertible on the skids? 

vauxhall-cascada

Nothing says ‘I’m living the dream’ like driving a convertible. There is no rational or practical reason behind it other than to demonstrate to the world you have reached a point of affluence, crisis or sheer devil-may-care indifference that can only be manifested by driving into a roseate sunset with a piece of inappropriate headwear wedged in place to prevent your hair being ruined. As pointless indulgences go then, convertibles are right up there with chocolate teapots.  Continue reading “Has the Sky Fallen in on Convertibles?”

Theme : Books – Robert Opron : L’Automobile et l’Art by Peter J Piljman

A book about one of Citroën’s two great designers.

Opron Photo

A while ago, having come across this by chance on the Internet, I bought a new copy direct from Sagitta Press in The Netherlands. First published in 2002, it’s not cheap, but it is a heavy, handsome and copiously illustrated book about a relatively unsung giant of car design. Continue reading “Theme : Books – Robert Opron : L’Automobile et l’Art by Peter J Piljman”

The Three Brothers – Part Deux

panhard24b2I’ve just spent a few days and 2,500 km driving around Eastern France. In that time, I saw two Citroën CXs, a Renault Dauphine, a Renault 12, a Simca 1100 and a Peugeot 504. And I also saw an Onze Legere Traction, but that was UK registered. Those staple cliches for the location director setting an episode of a popular UK TV series in France, the DS and the 2CV, were nowhere to be seen, save for a battered Snail sitting on the roof of a scrapyard. Of course a French person visiting the UK would notice the dearth of Morris Minors and Rover 2000s but, somehow, the homogeneity of the modern French industry is so much more depressing. Even a Peugeot 406 and a Renault 21 were almost cheering sights, being pretty Gallic compared with today’s eurocars.

Continue reading “The Three Brothers – Part Deux”