Saturday, December 30, 2006


It really does seem that the US fixation with ever-larger 4x4s, never used for their intended purpose, is on the wane. Not so here in the UK where SUV ownership seems to be on the crest of a wave, with the bigger the better as first rule. As I write this, the fading winter light in my inner-suburban street is occluded by a Touareg, an X5, a Jeep Commander and a Hyundai Santa Fe. In each case mud and towbars are conspicuous by their absence.

That's the big stuff. The small ones are now adopting the weapon of hideousness as compensation for lack of bulk. Witness the gargoyle-like visages of the Citroen C-Crosser and Peugeot 4007, and the 'gurning' aspect of latest Honda CR-V, which appears to have frontal treatments intended for two different vehicles, both of them ugly. We can now see that Pontiac Aztek was not an abhorrent aberration as once thought, but a product years ahead of its time. (Then again, as I look at the picture - what were they thinking?)

Hopefully something's going to stop the inexorable rise in the sales of these symbols of contempt for neighbours, other road users and our planet itself. It's reached the point where I'd be prepared to suffer a little just to see the back of them.

It's not the end of automotive history

Audi TT, Smart, MINI, I'm referring to you. In the past when sheet metal was expected to last a decade and engines and gearboxes a generation, new bodywork, often concealed barely changed components. Sometimes the less that was new underneath, the more radical the wrapping, for example the 1994 Ford Scorpio and its fish-faced contemporary range-mates.

This year has seen a succession of entirely new platforms and mechanical components under bodies near-indistinguishable from what preceded them. It's arrogant, creatively bankrupt, and will ultimately do the manufacturers concerned no good. Look at Jaguar, whose present woes are at least partly due to their inability to move forwards from a design vocabulary established in the 1960s.


Not included among threatened species, given its past capacity for survival. The heady days when TVR was the Clown Prince of the British specialist car industry seem a distant memory, the last two years under new ownership have seen nothing but a downward spiral of uncertainty.

The Smolensky era seems to be truly over with the company in administration as of 22 December. With a new buyer sought for the company as a going concern, we once again have some cause to be hopeful. A new owner with a firm commitment to remaining in Blackpool and a return to Griffith / Chiamera era product values would be a great start to 2007.

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