Trouble fulfilling promises: Outside vs Inside

The Carchive has, once again, reached critical mass. The shelves are so densely packed that inserting one more brochure could lead to a black hole forming, and my study wasn’t built with that in mind. This morning the 1985-2000 North American section nigh on exploded off the racking, and Camaros, Imperials, Intrepids and many more fluttered down like massive obsolete confetti.

And when one particular brochure landed open at the interior view, there formed in my mind a topic for Hooniversal discussion. That is, out of all the cars on planet earth, which one has the biggest contrast between the promise of its exterior and the reality of its cockpit? We want to know your thoughts, so take the jump, where you can vehemently disagree with my nomination.

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Project Car SOTU: Rover 800 gives Sterling service

Chris Haining September 10, 2018 Project Car SOTU

“Relax, it’s a Rover”. That was the defunct British firm’s late ’90s advertising strapline, and I could never have credited it with being so prophetic. I mean, we all know that cars from the brand’s twilight era weren’t exactly geared towards exuberance at the wheel, so the the fact that the strapline could be interpreted as a driving instruction comes as no real surprise. On the other hand, though, they’ve never been world famous for reliability, have they?

This thought has been foremost in my mind ever since I took the key to my ’97 825 Si Fastback, a car which I initially accepted from my Grandfather out of sentimentality more than anything, but which I have since bonded with far more than I could ever possibly have imagined. That comes in spite of the car’s long, long list of shortcomings, or ‘character traits’ as I prefer to think of them. Not so very long ago, I wrote in fear that my summer driving plans might have written cheques that the Rover’s mechanical complexity would have trouble to cash.

I shouldn’t have forgotten to relax.

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Carchive: The 1966 Renault 16

Here’s a debate worth having: what did the major car producing nations contribute during the 1960s, really? Here’s my take on it in really broad strokes. Britain? Well, there were two areas that the UK had a firm grip on; posh stuff and cheap stuff. The middle ground, the kind of stuff that families drove around in, was pretty nondescript to say the least. Germany? Fantastic engineering, but not a huge amount of imaginative design with the middle classes in mind. Italy? Elegance and advanced engineering was everywhere, but the really good stuff was — as with the UK — pretty much reserved for the wealthy and wealthier. Japan was nowhere, Sweden was as eccentric as it always was, and the USA was power, marketing and status crazed, but didn’t do a great deal of thinking outside the box — aside from the Chevy Corvair Greenbrier, which essentially was a box.

France, though, was another matter, as we’ve already seen with the Citroen ID19, and we’ll see again in this ’66 brochure for the Renault 16. Welcome back to The Carchive

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Pondering automotive fidelity
Finding the answer at a music festival

Driving a car is wildly abstract, analogue process. As much as we enjoy it, there’s so much going on that the individual sensations served up can be hard to pin down. To feel them individually, sometimes you have to leave the blacktop and use another vehicle. For example, the tiller of a boat offers steering feel in its purest, most undiluted form, while pedalling a bike up a hill puts you in no doubt whatsoever as to the effort that your engine puts in. If you want to feel chassis flex, you can get a sense of what your car’s body goes through by riding the waves in an inflatable kayak.

But what about the complete package? What about a metaphor for the whole shooting match, how a car feels overall, and whether it’s “right” or not? After all, this is the judgement made by car reviewers every day. ‘Experts’ are forever putting cars through their paces, evaluating them against some mythical perfect datum point. The “optimum” car, which, of course, doesn’t really exist.

I put it to you that, in order to understand how any car correlates against theoretical perfection, you gotta go to a music festival.

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The Carchive: 1991 Saab 900

It’s been a while since we last put the TV on mute, signed out of social media and drew the curtains to prevent the modern world from getting in, and turned our attention to the cosy, familiar and occasionally embarrassing past.

So far, dredging the murky depths of The Carchive has brought up the Saab 90 and the Saab 9000, but the middle model has somehow been omitted. This being my 900th Redusernab post, I thought it was a fitting moment to redress that egregious neglect.

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Ghostly Spirito: R.I.P Fiat Punto – 1993-2018

Earlier this week, dozens of Europeans and a sprinkling of souls from further afield, united in a common shrug, when the news came that the Fiat Punto has finally been axed after spending years in conditions of wilful neglect.

While it’s been a long, long time since the Punto has fought rivals on a level playing field, that hasn’t always been the case. Once upon a time, the Fiat Punto was a force to be reckoned with, and genuinely one of the most desirable superminis in the showroom. With its number finally up, please join me in a little Redusernab celebration, eulogy and post-mortem of Fiat’s forgotten family favourite.

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Car design today: Is baroque back?

Hey, yo, slam your eyeballs against this. Few cars are as iconic as the 1959 Cadillac Eldorado, especially in its convertible Biarritz form. There can be few people of any age who aren’t aware of its form, even if they don’t know exactly what it is. As a non-American, my curiosity was piqued by seeing it in animated form as the transport of choice for Rude Dog and the Dweebs in 1989, but its outlandish befinned silhouette had plagued my subconscious since I was far younger.

Today, the ’59 is celebrated for almost ironic reasons. It’s more of a symbol of the age than it is an object of design triumph. There are many stories of its rapid plunge from high fashion to loathed throwback, with folk sawing the fins from their Eldorados in an effort to distance themselves from a particularly faddish fad. Indeed, the fact that restoration candidates invariably end up pink is a strong hint that we’re looking at what has become a novelty item.

Thing is, though generally accepted as being among the most overwrought designs ever to be signed off, the ’59 achieved immortality through being fiercely individual. Visually, it represented the very most of everything, with more stuff for the eyes to process than virtually anything else on the road. And today, well, blow me down if we haven’t come full circle. And yet, will any of today’s wildest designs be celebrated at all 59 years from now?

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When you can’t unsee the similarity

Year in, year out, I take a holiday in Cornwall, South-West England. I inevitably end up at the same campsite, commanding a view from the cliffs above a tiny resort village called Millendreath. Just off the beautiful sandy beach, there juts a large, rounded rock, and on my first visit to the village at age seven, I excitedly exclaimed to my parents “that rock looks just like a frog.”

Thirty years on, my wife joins me on this annual pilgrimage. Every year I point out the same rock, and every year she reminds me just how much like a frog it doesn’t look. And that’s the way of things. Sometimes you’ll see a resemblance between two things you find so striking that you’re baffled that others don’t make the same association. And so it goes with cars.

These days, there’s a certain amount of follow-my-leader in car design. It seems there’s not quite enough imagination to go round, and there are certain cars that are tricky to distinguish from one another. But sometimes I’ll see a car and it summons up images of another that I really thought had disappeared from my conscience altogether.

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Mad Mike’s Modified Mazda: MADBUL

The greatest thing about any hobby is variety. The determined reader has endless books to choose from, the whisky connoisseur might spend a lifetime tracing some elusive expression that was distilled 80 years ago and thought lost to history. Meanwhile, motorists and car enthusiasts can either satisfy themselves with the machines plentifully available in their home country, or they can import something a bit more obscure from elsewhere.

Thing is, a surprising number of people have a taste for the obscure, and there’s only a certain amount of variety out there. Head to a meeting of JDM car fanatics in your wildly-specced Nissan Leopard, and you might well end up parking next to another. There’s only really one way to avoid this happening: Build something that nobody has ever thought of.

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Rally cars of Goodwood: All the world’s a stage

Ah, just when you thought it was over. For the three or four individuals who have yet to tire of our 2018 Goodwood Festival of Speed coverage, you’ll be pleased to know that I have a swollen bag of images and things to release in dribs and drabs over the coming weeks. This’ll be my last mention of the FoS as an event, for a while, though. We’ve established that it’s awesome; now we can concentrate on what really makes it. Yes, the catering. It’s delicious.

The cars are pretty spectacular, too. The supercars, bikes and racers thrusting their way up the hillclimb are a treat to behold, but not, through my eyes, as spectacular as their off-road brethren. The Goodwood rally stage, a ten minute ride away in a suspensionless tractor-hauled trailer with slatted wooden seats, offers a different kind of excitement. And an awful lot more dust.

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