128 vs Maxi Part 3 : Spring Song

We return to our two stars of the spring 1969 season with a look at the different approaches to chassis design adopted at Longbridge and Lingotto.  One car defied convention, the other defined the new orthodoxy.

Image: BMC

Raw facts first:  The Fiat 128 uses MacPherson struts at the front, with coil springs and a transverse anti-roll bar, and a fully independent system at the rear, comprising a transverse leaf spring, struts, and a single wishbone per side. The Austin Maxi has Hydrolastic springing and interconnection, with upper and lower links in a parallelogram arrangement at the front, and fully trailing arms at the rear.

That disregards the detail, which is significant in the understanding of the designers’ mindsets. Continue reading “128 vs Maxi Part 3 : Spring Song”

128 vs Maxi Part 2 : Function over Form

We continue our look at the spring 1969 debutants, contemplating heady matters of gestalt

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The rather Lancia Beta-like profile rendering from the early stages of BMC’s ADO14 project shows considerable promise. Too short in the nose, probably at Issigonis’ prompting, but otherwise elegant in spite of the ‘carry-over’ 1800 doors. So what went wrong along the road to BLMC’s five-door fiasco? Continue reading “128 vs Maxi Part 2 : Function over Form”

128 v. Maxi Part 1 : Last Tango of the Titans

A little over 50 years ago, two of Europe’s leading automotive businesses introduced a pair of rather utilitarian cars to the world. One was hugely successful and influential, the other turned out to be a prophet with little honour in its own time.

In bombastic terms, there’s a ‘clash of giants’ story to be told. Issigonis v. Giacosa. BLMC v. Fiat SpA. Maxi v. 128. It’s not quite ‘rumble in the jungle’, but a comparison tells a lot about the way things were done at Lingotto and Longbridge.

In a curious coincidence, the Austin Maxi and Fiat 128 were the last cars developed by their lead designers which reached production, although Issigonis’ input to the Maxi project was sporadic and remote.

In Dante Giacosa’s words, “On 3rd January 1970, the chequered flag signalled my arrival at the finish of my career”. He had reached the age of 65, and resigned in compliance with company rules. Continue reading “128 v. Maxi Part 1 : Last Tango of the Titans”

Theme: Values – Britain

Ah, this is a tricky one. It´s like trying to understand your family.

2001 Mini: aw retro as New Beetle but nobody objects. Image: topcarrating.com. I wonder what that site is about.
2001 Mini, old and new British style. Image: topcarrating.com.

I’m not British but the British have loomed large in the culture of the Irish, and “Ireland” is written on the front of my passport. British cars once dominated the Irish car market and now Germans and Japanese predominate. The interplay of convoluted historical strands influenced the character of British cars. In sketching all this can I do so without being too kind or too critical? Continue reading “Theme: Values – Britain”

Matters of a Spiritual Nature

It’s Sunday and in keeping with our unofficial Mini theme, DTW suggests four good reasons BMW was correct not to proceed with Rover’s 1995 Spiritual concept. 

The 1995 Mini Spiritual twins first shown in 1997. Image via smallblogv8/MVerks
The futuristic 1995 Mini Spiritual twins first shown in 1997. Image via smallblogv8/MVerks

It would have cost a fortune to develop:
The investment in a bespoke floorpan and drivetrain, modifying hydragas, body & interior tooling and of course refitting the factory to build it would have been huge. New concepts also mean teething problems, so warranty costs were likely to have been high. Even as a sales success, Spiritual would struggle to recoup its development costs, meaning Rover would most likely have lost £millions on it.

Continue reading “Matters of a Spiritual Nature”