With news that Lotus won’t be selling any 2015 model year cars in the United States, minuscule sales in their home market of the UK, and announcement of the impending layoff of about a quarter of the firm’s global workforce, many observers think that the company Colin Chapman founded 62 years ago is circling the drain. While there are certainly dark clouds in Lotus’ financial picture, having booked about $447 million in loses over the previous two fiscal years, there is some silver lining some of those clouds. Worldwide Lotus car sales are up dramatically. (Read More…)
Posts By: Ronnie Schreiber
Based on a market research study commissioned by Ford Motor Company rumors are circulating that FoMoCo will change the branding for its high performance vehicles from SVT (for Special Vehicle Team) to 999, the name of Henry Ford’s second race car, popularized by barnstorming driver Barney Oldfield. Marketers have seized on “authenticity” as a lever by which they can move consumers and I suspect that reaching back over a century for a brand name may have something to do with that. As someone who likes history I can’t complain about Ford looking into reusing a historic name, but while its true that the name 999 has been associated with Ford racing since before the establishment of the Ford Motor Company, the name SVT means something to today’s car enthusiasts and for most of them 999 is just the number before 1,000. Today’s performance consumers are more likely to recognize the name Ken Block than Barney Oldfield.
Volvo hasn’t been particularly discreet about the next XC90. Plenty of spy photos have been taken of the car undergoing winter testing in Scandinavia and hot weather testing out in the American southwest, though I don’t believe that this exact combination of swirly camo wrap and plastic cladding has been seen before. From the Arizona plates on the car it was likely used for desert testing as well. The Volvo engineers testing the mule for radio frequency interference weren’t going out of their way to hide what they were doing either. (Read More…)
In general, I think the folks around the Motor City drive pretty well. We have our idiosyncrasies, what others might call poor lane discipline we call going for the open spot, but for the most part I don’t feel like I’m driving among maniacs. Something that I noticed while shooting a video to show our readers the route I take when evaluating a review car for ride and handling is making me question that assessment.
We recently looked at the Volkswagen Type 181, known as the Thing in the United States, along with a couple of World War II era variants on the VW Type I Beetle, the Kubelwagen and Schwimmwagen. By 1960, the Volkswagen company was selling three vehicles that were very similar mechanically, the Beetle (and the Karmann built Cabriolet), the Karmann Ghia and the Type II Transporter/Bus. The folks in Wolfsburg weren’t the only ones who realized that the sturdy platform chassis, suspension and drivetrain could make the basis for an interesting vehicle. First EMPI and then Bruce Meyers made what became known as dune buggies, open fiberglass bodies *mounted on shortened VW chassis. EMPI and Meyers were successful enough that they spawned many imitators, including Volkswagen. The Type 181 was VW’s attempt to capitalize on the dune buggy craze. Off-road enthusiasts were paying attention too, which is how we got kit cars.
Every year, Greenfield Village hosts two large car shows, the Motor Muster for cars built from 1933 to 1976 and the Old Car Festival, for vehicles from the start of the motor age until the introduction of the 1932 Ford. The Henry Ford institutions claim that the Old Car Festival is the longest running antique car show in America, having started in 1955. It’s a charming event, with many of the cars’ owners dressing in period clothing and since folks are encouraged to drive their cars around the Village (with traffic “cops” in period uniforms at the intersections) there’s a “back in time” look and feel to the event. There aren’t many places were you can see a parade of 90 year old cars drive through an authentic covered wooden bridge. (Read More…)
It’s not clear whether they were inspired by one of Doyle Dane Bernbach’s clever ads for the VW Beetle in the 1960s or by the biblical story of Joseph and his coat of many colors, but in the mid 1990s, Volkswagen decided to make some multicolored cars. TTAC previously looked at the Halequin Polo and Golf and you can read more of the story at the link, but the short version is that in 1995 the German automaker decided to offer a colorful option for folks buying the Polo, VW’s hatchback slotted just below the Golf in Europe, *NAH. The car with body panels of different colors turned out to be a bit of a hit, with an initial production run of just 1,000 cars extended to 3,800 units. Probably because of that modest success, VW of America decided to introduce the Harlequin color schemes on the Mk III Golf for the following model year. (Read More…)
Potential military applications of what became known as the Volkswagen Beetle were part of the earliest discussions that Ferdinand Porsche and Adolph Hitler had concerning the “people’s car” in the spring of 1934. However, it was only after what was then called the KdF-Wagen was approaching production in 1938 that Wehrmacht officials formally asked Dr. Porsche about designing a lightweight military transport vehicle, capable of both off and on road use in extreme conditions. The engineer and his design studio got to work quickly, producing a prototype based on the Type 1 in less than a month. (Read More…)
Mike Alexander, the surviving member of Detroit’s preeminent custom car builders, the Alexander Brothers, passed away in July at the age of 80. Mike and his brother Larry made some of the most famous and influential customs of the 1960s and because of a new toy called Hot Wheels and a Beach Boys song & album the “A Bros” ultimately affected American culture and how the world sees us. They were as important to the world of hot rods as Elvis, Little Richard and Chuck Berry were to rock and roll. I had the great privilege of interviewing Mike Alexander last year as part of a project I’m working on about the Dodge Deora show car, and then meet him in person at the 2013 Eyes On Design show, where I was in the right place at the right time to witness Ford GT designer Camilo Pardo hand Mike a blue ribbon for the Deora, which was on display as part of a group of Alexander Brothers’ cars at that show. Mechanical and fabricating geniuses, Mike and Larry were perhaps the most technically adept of all the builders during custom cars’ golden era. (Read More…)
Since it was the last design of consequence that General Motors design chief Bill Mitchell oversaw, Wayne Kady’s 1980 Cadillac Seville is thought by some to be the ultimate expression of Mitchell’s design philosophy. No doubt Mitchell was a fan of what he called the “London look”, and the ’80 Seville had that in spades: a classic vertical grille, a bustle shaped rear end, a raked C pillar and a long hood. When accused of borrowing the bustle-back from a contemporary Lincoln, Mitchell reportedly got indignant and said that he stole it from Rolls-Royce, not the cross-town competition in Dearborn. However, while Mitchell went to bat for the controversial Seville design over the objections of Cadillac management, the Seville was not the ultimate expression of his personal taste. (Read More…)