The 1996 Alfa Romeo Nuvola would underline in eloquent fashion the power of the past.
Editor’s note: This article first appeared on DTW in December 2017.
History has always weighed heavily upon the Biscione of Milan. Few carmakers with such an illustrious past could remain immune to its siren call, although throughout the 1970s and ’80s its centro stile denizens seemed bent on ignoring it; bracing modernity being more the Alfa Romeo design leitmotif throughout this period.
During the pre-Millennial decade, Alfa Romeo’s stylistic output had become a combination of the sublime and, if not entirely ridiculous, at least unconvincing. On one hand we had the ageing, but still elegant Pininfarina-designed 164, the equally sharp-looking (in-house) 145, and the striking 916-series GTV / Spider, while on the other, there was the 146 and 155 saloons – more akin to the stark product design inflected Ermanno Cressoni era.
But change was in the offing, and with a new generation of Alfa Romeo saloons nearing completion, these designs would break with the angular aesthetic which had for so long been Arese’s visual calling card. Under Design Director, Walter de Silva’s purview, the Biscione would increasingly Continue reading “Both Sides Now”
Running an errand recently facilitated a rare sighting for me: not one but two first-generation Audi R8s passed me by within seconds of each other. Notwithstanding the pouring rain, I paused to take the pair in, a silver example closely followed by one in black, both on 2008 plates. Hang on, I thought, has the R8 really been around for that long? Longer still, it turns out: launched in hot and dusty Nevada in 2006 following its Paris Salon unveiling, Audi’s everyday supercar has lost none of its sparkle over the intervening years.
Styled under the supervision of Italian design chief, Walter de Silva, the R8 cannot readily be pigeonholed as a conventionally beautiful mid-engined supercar. Instead, it is unorthodox, complex and, in front and rear three-quarter views, most definitely muscular and imposing. Continue reading “Making Sense of the Supercar”
2004’s (B7) Audi A4 was a highly significant (re)design, if not entirely for the right reasons.
The four rings of Ingolstadt were a long time in the ascendant, frequently taking one step forward and several backwards, before hitting a more assured stride. Indeed, according to former design director, Peter Schreyer, it was at one time considered an embarrassment to Continue reading “Under the Knife – No Advance”
The 2004 facelift of Alfa’s 147 was of the light-touch variety. We check for residual scarring.
It wasn’t possible to know it at the time, but the immediate pre and post-Millennium period would represent the final creative and commercial flowering of FIAT Auto (as then known), a statement which is particularly apt when it comes to matters surrounding the fabled Biscione of Milan.
Part of FIAT’s sprawling auto group since 1986 and in the wake of a somewhat chequered start in product terms, a cohesive and (from a purely design perspective at least) credible strategy had been formulated for Alfa Romeo; matters taking a decidedly more upbeat tone with the Enrico Fumia-helmed 1993 Spider and related GTV models. Continue reading “Under the Knife – A Kiss of the Blade”
Ten years ago, Volkswagen attempted to challenge the dominance of the Toyota Camry in the United States with a Passat developed specifically for that market. This is the story of the New Midsize Sedan.
For 22 of the past 23 years(1) and over five generations, the Toyota Camry has been the best-selling car in the United States. Over that time, a staggering total of over 9.6 million(2) Camrys were sold, an average of around 417,000 a year. It was a highly consistent seller too: the lowest annual sales total was 308,510 in 2011(3). The Camry successfully weathered the 2008-9 Global Financial Crisis and a simultaneous unintended acceleration controversy that turned out to be caused by ill-fitting floor mats.
This morning I came across two of these on my drive to work. Long forgotten in my mind, once I’d recalled them as being Toledos (should that be Toledi? maybe not), I realised how good they looked in today’s traffic.
The Mk2 Seat Toledo preceded the more popular Mk1 Leon hatch to market in 1998 and remained in its catalogues until 2004. Styling was attributed to Giugiaro and it does look credibly like one of his from that era. It was built on the same PQ34 platform as the Mk4 Golf/ Bora, Audi A3 and Skoda Octavia.
Everyone loves the styling of the Mk4 Golf, and I have to say I was always partial to the original Leon – it having echoes of the Alfasud – but this is a really nice small saloon (4-door notchback, if you want to be precise) with the rear pillar blending smoothly into the rear wing and boot panel. If I could criticise it, I’d say that Continue reading “A Toledo Triumph”
The most visual social media network, Instagram, provides car designers with the perfect platform to present their work. Or themselves.
In a sense, Harley Earl was too early (no pun intended). If he’d waited three quarters of a century before pursuing his career as chief designer and PR innovator, he wouldn’t have needed lavish GM roadshows and the likes to showcase the fruit of his and his underlings’ labour. He could just Continue reading “Paths Of Glory”
Commonly regarded as the most beautiful Alfa Romeo saloon shape of recent times, the Alfa 156’s svelte lines remain a credit to its designer. But questions remain as to its authorship.
Over the past sixty-odd years, Alfa Romeo berlinas and the notion of ravishing beauty were (for the most part) mutually exclusive. Now of course this doesn’t necessarily mean Arese wasn’t home to some very fine and finely wrought motorcars, but it’s difficult to avoid the view that the habitual centro stile fare hasn’t exactly been an art curator’s dream.
The 1992 Alfa 155 certainly wasn’t. Based on the Tipo-derived Type Three corporate platform, its tall, narrow-looking silhouette combined with skin surfacing endowed with an over-abundance of character lines, and clumsily placed shutlines was a clear evolution of its 75 predecessor, but hardly a car to Continue reading “Beauty Stab”
The troubles and subsequent changes at Volkswagen AG have led to an unforeseen departure.
Walter de’ Silva, overall head of the entire group’s stylistic development and one of the most powerful men in this line of business, has chosen take early retirement, merely a few weeks after having become appointed president of Italdesign, Audi’s semi-independent design branch. Continue reading “Müllering VAG (Part 1): Walter de’ Silva Retires”