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  •   Quentin Willson reacted to this post about 3 years ago
    Vitro updated the cover photo for Peugeot 204
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  •   Quentin Willson reacted to this post about 3 years ago

    FORGOTTEN HERO #Peugeot-204 #1965 #1976

    Sochaux’s Sixties swinger. Andrew Roberts looks fondly at Peugeot’s first-ever (and little known here) FWD car.

    If you conducted a straw poll with British classic enthusiasts as to what was the first ever front-wheel drive Peugeot, it is almost certain that the answers would be divided between the 205 and, from the more mature, the 104, with occasional reference to the 305.

    Today, the #Peugeot 204 is almost forgotten, despite the fact that, when it debuted on 23 April 1965, it caused a minor sensation. This was not only due to it being the first small Peugeot saloon since the 1930s – the 1948-1960 203 was physically imposing despite being powered by an 1290cc engine – but also because it was the first front-wheel drive car from the Sochaux factory.

    Such a lack of familiarity with the 204 is understandable given that British sales were hampered by import duties. The 204 may have been ‘nice to drive, economical and safe’ (the tone of the early English language brochure is much understated), but the UK price of a new Peugeot was inflated to £992 4s 1d, a sum that might have otherwise bought you a Ford Zephyr 6. The only two comparable FWD rivals to the Peugeot were the equally new Triumph 1300 and the Vanden Plas Princess 1100, but even in such company a 204 was an expensive proposition. The French car cost around £80 more than the 1300, while its imitation washable leather door trims compared unfavourably with the walnut-veneered Princess 1100.

    For all that, a select number of British motorists opted for the 204. One reason was that the Peugeot lacked the 1100’s bus-like driving position, and there was also the prestige of owning a foreign car – still a potent form of snobbery in the late 1960s. But what really appealed about the 204 were the qualities that had made it so popular in France – the attention to engineering detail.

    Risky business
    Peugeot’s ambitious plans to build a saloon to compete in the small car market had begun in 1960 with the codename Project D12. At that time, the firm’s cheapest offering was the 403/7, powered by the 203’s 1.3-litre engine.

    The new car had to be less than four metres in length, yet still offer seats for five adults. In addition, the power plant had to be small enough for it to be be classed as a 6CV – at that time, French car tax was based on engine size – but still able to offer a top speed of over 80mph.

    Peugeot adopted front-wheel drive and the new 1130cc aluminium SOHC engine was mounted transversely with gears in the sump à la the Princess 1100. This unit was tilted at an angle of 20º, partly to allow access to the fuel pump and starter motor. The 204 would also be the first Peugeot with allround independent suspension and front disc brakes.

    The development of such a radical car inevitably meant a considerable outlay for the company. Peugeot had little experience with front-wheel drive, while an aluminium transverse engine with integral transmission necessitated a great deal of development, meaning the new model would prove expensive to build. The lion badge had meant quality for generations of motorists and so the 204 would also be built with the skeleton for each side stamped out as a single pressing, as with the 404.

    Development costs were so high that when the 204 was finally launched there was a restricted budget for PR. Financial sacrifices were also evident in an interior that was best described as spartan; very early 204s were started with the press of a button as there was no ignition key.

    To further add to Peugeot’s challenges, Renault had recently been occupying the limelight with their new FWD family car, the 16. There was also the possibility of alienating Peugeot’s traditional customer base – for the average French motor enthusiast of 1965, the name Peugeot bespoke the solid and dependable values of the 404 and 403, to which the 204 bore little or no resemblance aside from sharing a badge.

    At that time, a motorist looking for a small fourdoor saloon might have contemplated a Citroën Ami 6 – also front wheel drive but slightly smaller and occupying a lower taxation class – or the rearengined Renault 10 Major. There was also the option of the larger but more conventional RWD Simca 1300 or such imports as the Fiat 1100, Ford 12M Taunus, Opel Kadett or Auto Union Audi. Compared to these, the 204 was not particularly cheap family transport, despite the quality of its engineering.

    Finding its feet

    Some industry observers note that it was female drivers who first came to appreciate the 204. Although sales were initially slow, by 1969, the 204 succeeded the Renault 4 as France’s most popular new car, a status it held for three years. Factors in the 204’s favour were space (legroom for rear passengers was exceptionally good by the standards of the day), a very precise all-synchromesh steering column gear-change that lacked the strange Z-gate of the larger Peugeots, and first-rate handling and braking. When the light steering and refined engine were added to the equation, it is easy to understand why the 204 was so highly regarded as both a town car and an Autoroute cruiser.

    In October 1965, the four-door Berline was augmented by a Break estate car, and in September of the following year, the 204 was available as a very attractive three-door coupé or an even more desirable convertible. These last two were built on a shorter wheelbase than the standard 204 and boasted a slightly higher top speed and more thrilling dashboard, with three circular dials replacing the usual strip speedometer. However, the use of as many existing components as possible meant for a reasonable price – the drophead cost only 20% more than the saloon – bringing the car within reach of the average suburbanite. And just in case Peugeot customers became worried about an excess of decadence, the 204 was also available as a Fourgonnette van and a basic Luxe saloon that was often used by driving schools and the French army.

    By the end of the 1960s, the 204 was a ubiquitous sight in France, be it complementing a 504 with two-car families, serving as a patrol car for the Gendarmerie Nationale or, in plain black saloon form, being polished by a recalcitrant youth enduring his Service Militaire. The Peugeot looked contemporary yet low-key, with Pininfarina styling at its most subtle. Here was the ideal transport for the motorist who feared being thought nouveau riche as much as they found a Simca 1300 to be too transatlantic, a Renault 8/10 too unrefined and an Ami 6 just too surreal.

    The diesel version of #1967 further expanded the model’s popularity – at that time, it was the smallest oil-burning car in the world – as did the advent of the more upmarket 304 derivative two years later. When 204 production finally ceased in 1976, Peugeot had made more than 1.6 million examples, although it was not a major success in the company’s overseas markets when compared to the 403, 404 and 504. More than 70% of cars produced were sold in the home market, so it was never a common sight in the UK – the first Peugeot to be seen in significant numbers on British roads is the almost equally overlooked 104 – but its importance to the company cannot be overstated.

    The 204 spawned generations of FWD cars bearing the lion badge and it firmly established the notion that the terms ‘small family saloon’ and ‘exceptional quality’ need not be mutually exclusive. Back in 1966, Motor Sport magazine decreed that the Peugeot was ‘one of the most significant small cars of the 1960s. In comparison, other FWD cars feel and sound like tramcars’. And that was not excluding the Mini and the Princess 1100.

    ‘Move over, mate.’ It was female drivers who really turned the 204 into a success.
    Peugeot was insistent that family cars needn’t be dull and unstylish.

    A soft-top version became available a year after launch.

    ‘It was female drivers who first came to appreciate the 204’

    ‘Fast, French and expensive,’ proclaimed the UK advertising. Unfortunately, import taxes made this statement all too true for British motorists.

    Comfy enough for touring the provinces, but small enough for city streets. Convertible version was built on a shorter wheelbase than the standard 204.

    Unfortunately, hubby had to ride in the boot.
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  •   Tony Saggu reacted to this post about 3 years ago
    LOTUS EUROPA SPECIAL
    Year of manufacture 1972
    Recorded mileage 83,100
    Asking price £24,995
    Vendor Sussex Sports Cars, Lewes,
    East Sussex; tel: 01273 477778; www.sussexsportscars.co.uk

    WHEN IT WAS NEW #1972 #Lotus-Europa / #Lotus / #Lotus-Europa-Special /
    Price £1996 (1971)
    Max power 126bhp
    Max torque 113lb ft
    0-60mph 7 secs
    Top speed 123mph
    Mpg 30

    This possibly isn’t an original JPS (the livery remained an option after the first 100 commemorative cars were made), but it wears the paint scheme well. The cabin has been retrimmed in leather the same colour as the original oatmeal vinyl and velour, and the BigValve motor was overhauled by Terry Hoyle at a cost of £4000. The previous owner kept a record of all the detailed fettling he carried out from 2006, too. Prior to that, there are lots of bills from Banks Service Station and from Paul Matty Sports Cars. The Europa was rebuilt at some point on a new galvanised chassis, which is still excellent where you can see it. The paint is fine, with no stars or chips in the gel coat. Chrome is mostly good, bar the ’screen trim fading a bit. The alloys are unscuffed, shod with Goodyear NCTs having plenty of tread, though they date from 2002. There’s an older SP7 on a steel as the spare.

    Inside, the hide is taking on wear and colour, and there’s a battery cut off switch on the bulkhead. The dash wood is smart, with no cracks in the veneer, and there’s a digital odometer indicating a replacement speedo. The engine bay is tidy, and there’s even a Big Valve cam cover – and both of the lid stays remain in place. The bill from 1998 includes £600 for a steel (EN19) crank, so the owner was pretty serious. Its coolant is a good level in the custom swirl pot/header tank, with oil mid-brown at ‘Max’.

    It takes a few goes to start, having stood, and idles in that typically lumpy Twin Cam way, but, once the misfire clears, it spins sweetly to the 6000rpm orange zone, and no doubt some way beyond. This unit has L1 cams that give power to 7500rpm, so it’s probably putting out at least 130bhp. The chassis is sublime: supple, taut and as responsive as a wired cat – probably due to the amount of care that was lavished on it. The gearchange is unusually slick, plus the brakes have easily enough feel and power to bring the front rubber controllably to the point of squealing. Oil pressure is 55psi warm, water temp a reliable 90ºC. The MoT runs to mid-April.

    SUMMARY
    EXTERIOR No stars or chips; nice paint; windscreen trim has dulled
    INTERIOR Leather just taking on character
    MECHANICALS All new or fettled not long ago

    VALUE 5 stars of 8
    For Well kept; drives beautifully
    Against Getting in and out

    SHOULD I BUYIT?

    This is an exceptionally well-sorted Europa at less money but at least as good as a ‘real’ JPS edition. If that’s too grey an area, you could always peel off the pinstripes…
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  •   David Lillywhite reacted to this post about 3 years ago
    NEW DIRECTION PORSCHE 911 996 DESIGN HISTORY

    The New Generation is how Porsche referred to the two entirely new models that would be the hoped-for saviours of a company which had witnessed some lean years. We look at the development of one of those models, the #Porsche-996 … Words: Keith Seume. Photos: Porsche Archiv.

    We hated that drip rail so much! We tried so hard to get rid of that!’ Those were the words of Pinky Lai, the Hong Kong-born stylist responsible for the smooth looks of the 996-series 911, in a reference to the old gutters (drip rails) that were a feature of earlier 911s, and of virtually every car designed in the 1950s and ’60s.

    Of course, getting rid of these archaic details wasn’t the prime reason for giving the 911 such a comprehensive overhaul. The main reason was that the car was starting to look old – and the company had been in financial trouble for some while. In styling terms, the first radical redesign of the 911 had been its transformation from the plastic-panelled 964 – itself little more than a waistline down revision of the original 1963 design – to the more sensual 993. Suddenly the #Porsche-911 was beginning to look a little more up to date.

    Jointly, the 964 and 993 had represented considerable mechanical updates compared to the original air-cooled, torsionbar suspended 911, the roots of which could be traced back to the late 1950s. Coil-spring suspension, with subframes to isolate the body from the running gear, along with technical delights such as power steering and four-wheel drive, meant that the last of the air-cooled 911s were a far cry from the originals, arguably better in dynamic terms, if not to everyone’s taste with regard to styling.

    Porsche had made a loss – no, make that ‘considerable losses’ – back in the early 1990s, and boss Wendelin Wiedeking knew there was only one option available: Porsche had to spend its way out of the financial hole if it was to survive.

    Referred to as ‘The New Generation’, two new models were proposed, one being the mid-engined Boxster, the other a new 911 – the 996. The ‘New’ of ‘New Generation’ was as much a reference to the way the cars were to be manufactured as to any aspects of their design.

    They were the first cars built by Porsche to share major components – and the first ‘world’ cars, where there would be relatively few variations in specification between models offered for sale in different export markets. The first modern Porsches, in fact. Wiedeking persuaded the board to set aside the sum of DM1.5million for the development of the new models, with half – DM750,000 – allocated to each project. In 1994, when the decision was made to proceed, this called for a massive injection of cash into the company’s ailing finances.

    Porsche’s management had already recognised the need for investment, following the lacklustre sales of the 964. But then the 993, which had been produced on something of a tight budget – it was, arguably, little more than a new body over old mechanicals – had turned out to be a big seller. This came as a surprise to the board, some members of which had been expecting the worst.

    The success of the 993 was almost the undoing of plans for the New Generation. Nobody expected it to sell well, so every effort was put behind creating a new car to drag the 911 into the rapidly-approaching 21st Century. Had the board had an inkling that the 993 would sell as well as it did, they might not have been so keen to invest so much money into coming up with a suitable replacement!

    Wendelin Wiedeking and Porsche’s chief financial officer, Walter Gnauert, had successfully argued the need to release funds, pointing out that, despite falling sales, the company was still asset-rich, and had plenty of money tucked away for a rainy day. Plans were drawn up to slim down the workforce and, ultimately, to reduce the product range to just two cars, which shared 36 per cent of their components. But in the meantime, the 968 and 928 would continue in production until declining sales suggested it was time to pull the plug.

    We can thank the research and development department’s Horst Marchart for pushing forward the idea of the two-car line-up. While others favoured the idea of concentrating on one new model – the Boxster – Marchart was a keen backer of the two-car New Generation. But it had to be cost-effective in every way. That meant looking at sharing as many components as possible, including the front bodywork and underside, doors and other components. The challenge would be to give the two cars their own separate identity.

    Ulrich Bez, as head of research and development, turned to senior designer Harm Lagaay to work on the new projects, Lagaay having returned to Porsche and being largely responsible for the 968 and 993. Hong Kong-born Pinky Lai had also been invited by Bez to join the design team (known as ‘Porsche Styling’) as studio chief under Lagaay, having previously worked at BMW (as had his boss). The two had joined Porsche in January 1989 at the start of what was to be a critical era in the company’s history.

    Although it was clear the #Porsche #911 needed to be updated – and not only by the loss of the drip rails and the sharing of components with the Boxster – it was vital that the ‘DNA’ should be clear for all to see.

    Lagaay is quoted by Karl Ludvigsen in his masterwork Excellence was expected as saying of some designers that ‘(they) just cannot do a Porsche. Simplicity has always been a Porsche trait. Proportions and graphics are important, but above all it’s the Formsprache (‘form language’). It’s the sheetmetal being shaped in such a way that you cannot compare it with anything else.’ In other words, it was imperative that a new Porsche had to look like a Porsche.

    There was much discussion about how to achieve a coherent family style with the two new models. In theory, if they could be made to share the same front-end sheetmetal, they would at least look like members of the same family in the rear view mirror. Whether they would be recognised as a member of the Porsche family was another challenge…

    One of the most significant features of the new look also proved to be by far the most contoversial: the so-called ‘fried egg’ headlights. Loved or hated – there was no middle ground – the new light units chosen for the Boxster and 996 were likened to a frying egg, the yoke of which had run to the edge of the pan. It wasn’t a particularly flattering comparison…

    From Lai’s point of view, the project was a designer’s dream challenge come true. The new 911 had to look like a 911 – had to look like a Porsche! – had to look good, and had to be fresh and different.

    The 993 had a distinctive slotted nose, a feature carried over to the #996 and used to accommodate two radiators at the front of the car – the new models being watercooled. Lagaay felt that the design, with two intakes either side of a central number plate, was now recognised as being a ‘symbol for Porsche’. Both the Boxster and the 996 displayed an overall ‘corporate’ look, but detailed differences helped identify them as two separate models.

    The design process was not simply a case of a couple of stylists being given a sheet of paper and a pen, and then told to go away and design a new 911. There was an element of competition about it, with four teams within the design department given the opportunity to prove their worth.

    Each team was asked to lay out their designs as full-sized tape ‘drawings’ on a blank wall, as well as showing a range of sketches to demonstrate how they had reached their decision. Pinky Lai recalls being stressed as each team tried to outdo the other, but there was a happy twist to his tale, as Ludvigsen once again recounts.

    In addition to the drawings, the teams were tasked with creating a full-sized clay model of their proposed design. This called to the services of the highly-skilled in house modellers, among who was an Eberhard Brose. Brose was legendary among the designers, having been part of the team responsible for finalising the shape of the original 901 (911) prototypes.

    After looking at the various design ideas on show, Brose turned to Pinky Lai and casually said, ‘Pinky, I’m going to do yours’. Lai recalls that ‘When he picked mine, I knew I had a winner.’

    Lai’s design was chosen as the best of all the submissions, having succeeded in retaining the original 911’s character yet bringing it firmly up to date. Gone was the need for widened rear wings – the new, more subtly-curved bodywork could accommodate wider rims than before – but the 911’s trademark ‘boomerang’ rear quarter window profile remained, albeit tweaked to give a more modern feel.


    The windscreen was raked back to an angle of 60 degrees, compared to the original’s 55 degrees, while the higher tail and sleeker roofline helped make the car more aerodynamically efficient. Door mirrors were relocated, too, now being mounted in the front corner of the door windows as opposed to the door top itself. The raised tail helped in three ways.

    First it added a ‘power bustle’ to the profile, emphasising the rear engine location and hinting at the car’s performance potential. It also helped airflow over the rear of the car, and finally it provided more space for the bulkier new engines.

    As a carry over from the days of the 964, the engine lid featured a combined intake grille and spoiler that would raise automatically at speed.

    Harm Lagaay is quoted as saying the 996 looked more ‘relaxed’ than the rather more aggressively-styled earlier cars. ‘With the 993,’ he said, ‘we had exhausted the visual possibilities. I wanted the new car (the 996) to look more relaxed, and I think we achieved that.’

    Amusingly in hindsight, he likened the two cars to the two famous American sprinters of the time: ‘The old 911 is like the athlete Ben Johnson, packed with muscle and aggression. The new 911 is like Carl Lewis, still powerful but with a slimmer figure, more elegant and much more perfectly proportioned.’

    Clearly Lagaay was impressed with Lai’s design, going on to say ‘If it doesn’t stir anything inside you, inspire you, then it isn’t a Porsche…’

    Lai’s design wasn’t all about sleek looks, though – it was also very efficient, with a drag coefficient of just 0.30. Whereas in its early days the original 911 had been plagued with problems of rear lift at speed, the new design had a lift factor of seven per cent at the front and just three per cent at the rear. Testing showed that, at 170mph, the overall lift was just six per cent, an extremely low figure.

    Such efficiency was achieved by a number of small but significant details. Early wind tunnel tests showed that drag over the rear bodywork was high, calling for changes to be made that wouldn’t adversely affect rear lift. Underbody cladding helped greatly here, as did a small lip that reduced air pressure in the engine bay, also aiding airflow through fans which helped cool the engine compartment.

    Porsche examined the possibility of using aluminium to build the 996’s basic body structure, with plastic panels used for the front and rear ‘bumpers’. This technque had been used by Honda on the NSX, but Porsche was unimpressed with the way the Japanese company had used the material. Whereas in more recent times cars with an aluminium substructure, such as Audi’s A2 and A8, treated the lightweight material in a different way to steel (smaller complex pressings welded together to make a light but rigid structure), Honda preferred more traditional techniques, similar to those used to press steel body panels.


    This technique left Porsche’s engineers unimpressed, but it was also clear that the process used by Audi was simply not cost effective – indeed, it is still claimed that Audi lost money on every A8 sold, while repair costs were (and still are) so high that many cars would be written off after suffering relatively little damage. Neither problem appealed to the bean counters. In the end, zinc-plated steel body panels were decided upon, these being stamped out by BMW – this was truly a time of cooperation between rival companies, all of whom had been through lean times in the early 1990s.

    Modern manufacturing techniques, such as using laser welding equipment, led to a reduction in the time necessary to complete a body ready for paint. In fact, according to Ludvigsen, the 996 body took 20 per cent less time to make than that of its predecessor, the 993.

    This wasn’t the only major improvement over the old model. The 996’s bodyshell was some 30 per cent more torsionally rigid than that of the 993, with bonded-in glazing, front and rear, accounting for 21 per cent of that increase.

    The torsional rigidity helped the 996 to be one of the safest cars in its day. ‘Our goal was to build the world’s safest highperformance car,’ said Horst Marchart, ‘and all our tests show we’ve done that.’ Whereas the old 911, with body engineering dating back to the early 1960s, was never a car in which you’d expect to have a major accident and walk away unhurt, the 996 was a very different proposition. Increased public awareness of vehicle safety meant that Porsche, like all other manufacturers, was keen to promote this aspect of its product design.

    The latest computer modelling – FEM, or Finite-Element Modelling – was used to demonstrate on-screen how strong the 996 was. This system, which referenced no fewer than 180,000 separate analysis points, allowed engineers to look at the bodyshell in a way that their predecessors could only have dreamed.

    FEM allowed them to simulate crashes from all angles, reducing the amount of time and expense associated with the destruction of prototypes at a preproduction stage. Project leader Bernd Kahnau is quoted as saying that his team ‘put a lot of effort into designing a new car that would meet all anticipated crash safety requirements. It was a fantastic effort!’ Porsche’s engineers would spend literally hours – as many as 40 or more per computer session – assessing the damage inflicted on a 996 bodyshell, primarily in frontal impacts. Only when they were happy would a ‘real’ crash test be performed on a prototype.

    It was the responsibility of Bernd Kahnau, as project leader for the 996, to see that the new car had sufficient customer appeal to be a success. After all, the 911 family had been the flag wavers for Porsche since 1964. With two new cars being marketed alongside each other, it was important that customers be able to differentiate between them.


    To this end, the decision was made to market the Boxster as a more youthful product, the emphasis being on ‘hedonism’ rather than the ‘success’ and ‘evolution’ of the 996 – references to the 911’s long bloodline and competition history. However, the sharing of components and, to a certain degree, styling inevitably meant there was a cross-over between the two models. It was potentially a challenging situation, the task of the sales and advertising people being to separate the products and sell them into two different markets.

    As has been mentioned previously, there was more component sharing here than at any other point in Porsche’s past, unless you compare the six-cylinder 911 and its four-cylinder sibling, the 912, in the 1960s. This was different, though, as the Boxster was an entirely new concept, rather than a ‘less expensive’ 911, its mid-engine layout clearly defining it as a stand-alone model. The front suspension was shared between the 996 and the 986 Boxster, consisting of a MacPherson strut design with aluminium lower links, on an aluminium subframe.

    At the rear, the 996 featured a far simpler layout than the suspension assembly of the 993. The old car had required a substantial aluminium subframe to carry the suspension components, but the greater torsional rigidity of the 996 body allowed the engineers to do away with the 993’s subframe in favour of a less complex design with just one main crossmember. Mounted on four rubber bushes to the bodyshell, the new set-up was both lighter and cheaper to manufacture.


    Of course, there was one other major component shared by the two ‘New Generation’ Porsches: the engine. Both models were now water-cooled, largely to satisfy noise and emission regulations, but the Boxster was equipped with a 2.5-litre six-cylinder engine, the 996 a larger 3.4- litre version. This in itself is a subject worthy of an archive feature in its own right, so we’ll leave the development history of the latterly much-maligned M96 engine to a future issue.

    For Porsche, the launch of the New Generation was a very big deal. On these two models rested the fortunes of a company which had seen many highs and lows over the previous decade. So what did the media think of the new 996?

    Damned as a ‘bastard son of the Boxster and the 928’ by one critic, the 996’s styling came in for a lot of comment. But the influential Auto Motor und Sport probably summed it up best of all, tipping its hat to the efforts of the stylists, Harm Lagaay and Pinky Lai: ‘That the traditionalists sulked a little was only to be expected. The bigger overall dimensions, the nose from the Boxster, with the oddly-shaped headlamps, the lack of muscular bulges on each rear flank, even the loss of the drip rails – all must evoke sadness in a fan of the old 911. But next to the new 911, the old one looks like a relic from days gone by.’

    Time has been cruel to the 996, with its engine problems and criticism of its lack of character, but it was a success for Porsche in marketing terms. It also, along with the Boxster, helped the company keep its head above water…

    The 993 Targa had been seen as a controversial design by many but a triumph as far as the stylists were concerned. The same sliding roof concept was considered at an early stage for the 996, too, as demonstrated here in this 1996 sketch.

    Crash testing took place only after considerable time had been spent acting out various scenarios on computers. But once the design had passed with flying colours, it was time to hit the road – much of the long-distance testing was carried out in North America, while Weissach’s wind tunnel honed the final details (GT2 pictured).

    It’s probably true to say that no other Porsche before had undergone such rigorous preproduction testing as the 996. On the far left a Carrera undergoes wetweather testing, while left and centre, 996 GT2 and Turbo undergo suspension and wind-tunnel evaluation.

    The 996’s bodyshell was some 30 per cent more torsionally rigid than that of the 993…

    At first glance you might guess this was a 993 Carrera 4S, but in fact it’s the original test mule with all the underpinnings of the soon to be released 996. Bonnet pins, roll cage and small bulge in the bonnet hint at something out of the ordinary…

    Under Wendelin Wiedeking (centre) several different projects were investigated, including a stretched four-door cousin to the 911. For the first time, computer modelling played a major part in a design process that led to the creation of the new Porsche 996.

    With the 993, we had exhausted the visual possibilities. I wanted the new “car to look more relaxed…

    Pinky Lai lays out a full-sized tape drawing of his new design. His idea came out on top at an early stage, but he found the whole process ‘stressful’.

    Narrow rear to the glasshouse on this 1994/5 drawing resembles that of the much later Cayman. Sensuous curves reflected a desire to make the 996 look more modern than its predecessors, including the 993, which had itself been regarded as a major departure from the established 911 shape.

    Left front is Harm Lagaay, with back to camera, while behind him is Pinky Lai – studying the painted clay model in daylight for the first time.

    Pinky Lai (in the background, with glasses) watches over the creation of the clay model of his design in. By this stage, the overall style had been established – now it was time to concentrate on the details, such as the controversial ‘friedegg’ headlights.

    The go-ahead was given to the new project in 1994 and within a few months, all kinds of ideas were being kicked around by Harm Lagaay and Pinky Lai, as this range of sketches proves.

    Crude 1995 design sketch (above) demonstrates the stylists’ desire to give the 911 a fresh, modern look. Pinky Lai’s solution was more sensuous than earlier models, but hopefully it was still recognisably a Porsche 911.
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  •   Ben Koflach reacted to this post about 3 years ago
    NAUGHTY BUT NICE

    Duly noting that they do 15mpg, occupy more road than some seven-seaters and are no faster than certain saloons, Russell Bulgin tries to find a place in the world for three, er, lifestyle accessories, the BMW 850i E31 , #Jaguar-XJR-S and new Porsche-928GTS photographs by Ian Dawson .


    Yes, each of these cars is brilliant. As brilliant in all the hard-to-get good stuff - toe-twitch alacrity, down-the-road grip, the ability to tease trouble before slyly electronic king their way out of it - as you might reasonably expect when appending a signature to a cheque for not less than the thick end of £48,000. They are as brilliant as they have to be, glittering atop the price lists of these respected marques, each a complex totem to corporate ego and the ingrained belief that more is better and might will always out.

    And this is no longer enough. That each of these cars also packs a roster of shortcomings which would spell commercial genocide in a less rarefied market sector is worrying, certainly. But once you’ve gloried with the grip and got hands-on with the handling one question bubbles to the fore: are these cars stimulating harbingers of freedom - intellectual, social and small-p political - in a recessionary era, or just a trio of fat old dinosaurs which should go the way of the stegosaurus, the triceratops and, sadly, Raquel Welch in One Million Years SC?

    These three cars - the £66,465 #BMW 850i E31 with Active Rear Axle Kinematics (hey!), the £48,029 #Jaguar XJR-S and the £64,998 #Porsche 928GTS also reflect very accurately the current commercial fortunes and product philosophy of their manufacturers. Try this: Slick as it is, the BMW can’t make up its mind whether it wants to be green irrespective of body colour - environmentally responsible in terms of construction and eminently recyclable - or a snorting two-seater for a clientele which wants to mash autobahns into submission, day in, day out.

    Financially strapped Jaguar does what any budget-conscious individual would do when tarting up a 17-year-old car; throws a bodykit at it and tunes the engine. The reality of Ford and Jaguar's collective short-termism is Essex Man aesthetics pasted on Great British indomitability.

    Having spent the '80s proving you can’t sell BSc products with an O-Level marketing strategy, Porsche faces the essential truth about the 928 - not enough people want one – and revivifies it the only way the company knows: by throwing more engineering at it. More power, more grip, more... just more.

    ‘Are these cars the harbingers of freedom - intellectual and small-p political - or just fat old dinosaurs?’

    And before casting a critical eye over each car, you should file away the following facts. These cars deliver profoundly terrible fuel consumption figures: in the mid-teens after a day of mildly invigorating driving. The Jaguar, for example, has an effective range of around 250 miles, which limits its appeal as a transcontinental mile-eater. You can stuff the glovebox with freebie-tokens in no time at all, though.

    Such is the combination of dynamic competence and sheer mass of these cars that the effort demanded to touch the limit on the public road should be sufficient to have the driver registered clinically berserk.

    You can’t begin to explore the twilight zone of apex-slinging fun in these cars without putting your licence and other road users at considerable - some would say unconscionable - risk. If you can quantify such an intangible, you might surmise that you can use 30 percent of the available performance without attracting attention from any policeman with a Panda car and polite radio manner.

    Each machine displays a rare level of packaging incompetence. Plan area plus a nodding acknowledgement to seating capacity is a good rule of thumb to the sheer zappability - summer morning, winding road, grin gleaming Colgate factor five - of a performance road car. A Mazda MX-5 seats two in comfort and occupies a veneer of asphalt 13ft 1 in by 5ft 6in; each of the cars tested does precisely the same job but takes a lot more metal to make its point.

    These cars are each within an inch of 6ft across the flanks, with the Jaguar and BMW stretching the tape at 15ft 8in long with the Porsche 10in shorter. A #Mercedes-Benz-W124 saloon is 15ft 8in long and can carry four in comfort, plus a week's shopping, the dog and granny’s travel requisites; if you wish to deal in absolutes, note that a Renault Espace is two inches shorter and two inches narrower than the Porsche and can lug five easily, seven if chummy.

    But, you will say, that’s not the point. These cars are not meant to be sensible, to be relentlessly practical. Maybe not; maybe they should be. Why do manufacturers make strenuous efforts radically to improve their everyday cars in terms of fuel efficiency, performance, accommodation and ecological responsibility only to cap the range with a supremely paunchy, uselessly fast old bloater?

    Because, of course, there is a market for the car as jewellery, the car as status, the car as self aggrandisement. If a gold Rolex Daytona chronograph costs £9800 and tells the time with the accuracy of a 12 quid Casio, then a £65,000 #Porsche which cruises the middle lane at 70mph makes perfect sense. To some people.

    So what of the reality of driving these cars? First, the BMW. A great shape - sinewy, taut - is let down by a lack of confidence at the front end. Perhaps the design team's pencil was worn down; more likely we’ve all seen a Toyota Supra in the rear-view mirror once too often.

    Inside, the cockpit is densely black and ergo- BMW to perfection, constructed of a faintly uneasy combination of black synthetics and semi-matt black leather; surfaces of leather-grained plastic abut leather-grained leather. The ambience is Braun travel alarm; blackly black, functional, moderne, eliciting admiration rather than affection.

    But the 850i works. As a place to pass the miles in, as a fax-free adjunct to an office, a Club Europe ticket and a platinum American Express card, the 850i interior is an elegant, soothing and high-tech minimalist home from home.

    Jaguar V12 is stroked to 6.0 litres; gives smooth 330bhp and thunderous performance. XJR-S chassis and substantially tauter than standard XJS steering are Cockpit is hedonistic though hardly efficient.

    To drive, the BMW 850i E31 is good. Good but not exciting, stimulating or particularly communicative. Springing is lovely, compliant and motorway-friendly, but with a Tendency to turn floaty come the twists.

    There’s a wodge of disinformation about the steering at straight ahead and an elasticity, a faintly artificial self-centring which begins to grate after a while. You don’t want to know everything the front wheels are doing - the inevitable Catseye abuse is an relevance, for example - out it would be reassuring to scroll more data than the BMW processes.

    That V12 #M70 engine packs 300bhp, the smoothness of an electric motor and no sense of involvement whatsoever. Even the noise of the motor is fey, like the thrum of distant air- conditioning. The gearbox is clever, with three programmes: E, presumably economy, proving the Germans have a sense of irony; S, sport ditto; and M for manual which no-one would use seriously. S allows you to pull more revs, eke out brio, gusto and a smidge of ker-pow, but the shift quality is always a shade slammy.

    This car also has cockpit-adjustable suspension, activated by touching a rocker marked K and S. This proves that BMW has had two opportunities to get its suspension calibration wrong: K is fine on smooth roads but discombobulated on anything pocked and winding, while S is jiggle-hard and recommended solely for those who are drivers amply provided with natural padding.

    Even in (Komfort), which is 30 percent softer than standard - and feels it - the 850i will switch to Sport in 40 milliseconds if you are being particularly aggressive in a bend and all to no great effect as the ride still isn’t wholly satisfactory. You can also get the #E31 #BMW #850i to flick from Float to Stiff at precisely the time it is changing down with a hint of a thump; the effect is to make the 850i seem slightly hesitant, unwieldy, unsettled by the reality of pitch-and- toss B-road topography.

    Active Rear Axle Kinematics (that’s AHK in abbreviated German) - yours for £4710 in a package which includes the adjustable suspension, ASC+T traction control, Servotronic steering and the electrically adjustable steering column - is BMW’s four-wheel steering. Steering wheel angle and road speed are measured and an electro-hydraulic steering actuator twiddles the rear wheels to suit.

    The result, says BMW, is a reduction in understeer (agreed), more precise handling (agreed), improved levels of safety (agreed) and a feeling that, as the non- AHK 850i was hardly likely to throw you into the hedge thanks to a mistimed wriggle of the right foot, it’s possibly not worth the extra cash. (BMW would presumably disagree on that one).

    Switch off the excellent ASC anti-skid control and you can excite a curious flash of oversteer before the AHK comes over all territorial and nudges the rear end back into line.

    In present company, the #BMW-850i is the slowest, the least engaging in recreational driving and, of course, the most civilised, the easiest to live with, the most elegant, the best built and the car you would pick to drive to Geneva, whatever the weather, whatever the reason. You would always respect such country- crossing abilities, but never fall passionately in love with it as a loyal and faithful servant. Somehow, the #BMW-850i-E31 is a shade too nice, too pinkly soft, too twee: it tries a mite hard to be friendly and accommodating, offers heart but not soul.

    Never forget that the Jaguar XJS began to look remotely acceptable only when it was decapitated into a soft-top. So the bodykit on the Jaguar Sport-developed XJR-S performs an optical illusion hitherto unknown in contemporary motoring: it distracts your eye from just how terrible the basic car looks, with its stunted cabin, runaway nose and bizarre buttressed rear. Then there’s the dreadful new rear end, where neutral density rear lights - late ’80s trendy - have a major artistic quarrel with their chrome surround - late '60s forgettable - and all to no real improvement.

    That the #XJR-S still manages to pack a superb and radically nose-down presence is a credit to the #JaguarSport crew but the whole project remains testament to British antique restoration skills. The 5.3- litre V12 is stroked to 6.0 litres and 333bhp, 18 percent up on the standard car. Uprated springs and Bilstein dampers are a traditional aftermarket stock- in-trade, and the XJR-S also gets a set of slick new wheels wrapped in Goodyear Eagle ZRs.

    The Jaguar has the worst cabin of the three, but it is the one you want to spend the most time in. It is, unforgivably, cramped ahead and impossibly tiny aft. Why insert such vestigial rear seats? Only leather- lining the spare wheel well could be more pointless.

    The shallow screen crams the world into an accelerated Cinemascope and the layout of the dashboard is less considered than the two German cars’.

    This Jaguar brandishes Montegoid column stalks but, then again, it is the cheapest of the three cars by the margin of a #Mercedes-Benz #190E 1.8 plied with a few choice extras. Nasty by the standards of Mum and Dad saloons, these wands have no place in the cabin of a Jaguar, matching a slimy tactility with the fact that they are cack-handedly fiddly. Which is a shame. Because for all its faults, the walnut, chrome and creamy Autolux hide never fails to seduce. Just sitting inside the Jaguar makes you feel good; it flatters you like a favourite shirt.

    This V12 has grunt and flair to spare. A slug of torque from mid-to-top, an easy going gait which turns thunderous when you begin to quantify the silkiness of the carpet with your throttle shoe. What lets the Jaguar down, ironically, is the three- speed GM400 automatic transmission. Conventional wisdom might have it that any car pushing out 365lb ft of eager-to-please torque could get away with only one gear. Conventional wisdom would be wrong.

    The XJR-S likes living in top gear. Activating kickdown or even dropping a cog produces a rumbustiousness and major forward surge: this is a sledgehammer attack compared with hitting the reprogramme button in the BMW to achieve much the same end. When in top, the XJR-S possesses an endearingly positive surge to deal with motorway flotsam: again, winding roads get it all out of kilter.

    Porsche engine is the rortiest here, a multi-valve V8 against the two-valve V12s. It delivers rocket thrust, and the harsh chassis matches it. Cabin is well designed in front, cramped in back, hideous in colour.

    To make the XJR-S handle, Jaguar Sport has, effectively, de-Jaguared the dynamics of the car. Gone is the pillow-ride and Anadin steering. Instead, you get a firm, well damped motion control that gets fazed only on washboard surfaces, plus slightly nervy and reasonably accurate steering. The XJR-S understeers more than either of its rivals, but once you’re used to that, and the way the steering makes you nibble the wheel to the apex, it masters most moves with a real grace.

    And a lot of noises off. Above 50mph that thick A- pillar and a door mirror that looks like a chromed Harold Robbins paperback sluice up unacceptable levels of wind noise. The leather interior creaks expensively: if the velour and plastic panelling of an econobox was this vocal, you would take it to the dealer for warranty rectification pronto.

    James Bond should drive the XJR-S. Tweaked and massaged it may be, but it retains an essentially British charm. As it is, the person who buys this car would be able to lecture you on the benefits of hand-stitched shoes and intends, one day, to own a Bentley Turbo R.

    In hot red, the Porsche 928GTS looks like Marilyn Monroe's lipstick trying to wriggle its way out of the tube. The light plays gooey tricks along its hip-and-thigh flanks: 14 years on, the 928 can still summon gasps from the kerbside. This shape was organic long before designers coined the term.

    Maybe that’s got something to do with the fact that Porsche has relentlessly funked up the shape of the car. Viewed from a car following the GTS, those unfathomably huge 255/40ZR17 Bridgestones coated on sinfully spoked alloy wheels simply drop straight out of the wheel- arches, plop onto the tarmac. If the BMW is sinew and the Jaguar middle-aged spread with a new haircut, then the 928GTS is muscle pumped with clembuterol.

    But inside, the 928GTS displays some hysterically questionable taste. A red exterior was matched to a pimptastic pale grey leather trim with toning carpets hewn from the stuff furry dice are made from. That the 928GTS has some neat accommodation touches - the way the instrument binnacle adjusts with the steering column up-down remains a delight - the best seats and all-around visibility was completely ignored because the synthetic polar-bear fur on the floor irrevocably grabbed your attention.

    The #Porsche-928 GTS is the noisiest. It pokes out a hardcore V8 throb multitracked with a four-valve head-thrash. You love the sound, an American muscle car that has graduated from a top European finishing school. However, you can’t escape it. And, on top of that, the 928GTS splodges a ringing tenor ding which seems to percolate up the gear linkage - the five-speed transaxle, don’t forget, sits between the rear wheels. There is also considerable tyre swish, road rumble and a feeling that this car is rawer, less couth than the other two.

    Your ears do not deceive. The #Porsche-928GTS is blatantly yobbist. It is also the fastest, the most fun to drive, the most rewarding to drive and the car which results from a manufacturer with the clearest vision of things fatso. Porsche's brief to its engineers must have been something like: make this car involving; make punters fall in love with it; make it bloody fast.

    A four-cam V8 taken out to 5.4 litres, 340bhp and hauling 369lb ft of torque seems good enough. When you add in an effective working range of 4000rpm - from 2800rpm to 6800rpm - and a five-speed manual shift which manages to be sloppy, notchy and just about exemplary you have a recipe for real driving fun.

    For once the steering is perfectly weighted and has a wholly mechanical-feeling smoothness as if rifle oil is periodically dripped into its works. Ride? Firm, but consistent - unlike the BMW - and remarkably supple given the tyres look as if they spent a previous life as rubber bands.

    An electronically controlled transverse rear diff lock-up - traction control with added pretension - works with genius subtlety, allowing sufficient tail happiness before cracking the whip. Brakes? ABSed, like in each of these cars, but with a better pedal feel than the slightly softer Jaguar action and more initial bite than the BMW.

    Stick the Porsche in third, let the torque carry the day and the #928GTS does what neither of its rivals can manage: it shrinks around you, seems to fade to Mazda MX-5 dimensions. But it makes more demands on your forbearance than the other two.

    A deep-rooted lack of manners makes it a less amenable long-distance companion than the #E31 #850i or #XJR-S : it may offer the highest reward to the enthusiastic driver, but it will never soothe after a hard day at corporate HQ. This Porsche is pugnacious, up- and-at-’em at all times.

    For serious wing-dingery on roads that turn your knuckles a shade paler, you would take a Lancia Delta HF Integrale or #Ford-Escort-Cosworth-RS in preference to any of these cars: those hot homologators flow on roads where the fatties flail. Crossing Europe in an afternoon? None of these cars comes close to offering slice of all these virtues, buy a #BMW #M5 #E34 instead: a blend of handling and pace which outranks two of the three cars here and proffers discretion, a rear seat and a decent boot to boot.

    But these cars are not transport in the accepted sense. The way each performs is less important than what they say about the owner: they are lifestyle accessories for people who always know the chicest holiday location, get the best table in the restaurant and are on first-name terms with their personal financial r advisers. If thrashing them across Exmoor highlighted their shortcomings, a late- night run from Frankfurt to Milan for a breakfast meeting is their true habitat.

    These are the cars which say that you’ve made it, you’re going to flaunt it and to hell with the petrol consumption. These are cars which, now more than ever, defy rational analysis. They are, of course, brilliant. And stupid. And often at the same time.
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  •   Adam Towler reacted to this post about 3 years ago
    Vibrant Strawberry Red W189 comes with a wealth of paperwork, and is up for £49,950

    Teutonic technicolour / #Mercedes-Benz-W189-Adenauer / #Mercedes-Benz-W189 / #Mercedes-Benz / #Mercedes-Benz-Adenauer / #Mercedes-Benz / #Mercedes / #1961 / #Mercedes-Benz-300d-W189-Adenauer / #Mercedes-Benz-300d-W189 / #Mercedes-Benz-300d /

    Mention the #Mercedes-Benz #W189#Adenauer ’ and, chances are, the image that most people will conjure in their mind is that of black-painted cars whisking highranking West German diplomats around the sombre and gritty streets of 1950s Berlin. Cold War tension and the Mercedes 300 are somehow inseparable, so it’s astonishing to discover that one of the colours offered by the factory was the decidedly avantgarde Strawberry Red. A rather vivid shade of magenta that presaged the late-1960s/early-’70s vogue for wacky colours, it was aimed predominantly at the lucrative American market.

    The likelihood of encountering one of these imposing saloons today in such an unorthodox hue must be fairly scant, but, if you appreciate bold colours, Aston Workshop is currently offering this superb example. Supplied new to a wealthy Canadian family and featuring a cream interior, being a 300d it features a wheelbase that has been stretched by 4in, plus a pillarless body and #Bosch mechanical fuel injection.
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  •   Adam Towler reacted to this post about 3 years ago
    The most elegant motor car in the world

    / #Mercedes-Benz-W189-Adenauer / #Mercedes-Benz-W189 / #Mercedes-Benz / #Mercedes-Benz-Adenauer / #Mercedes-Benz / #Mercedes / #1961 / #Mercedes-Benz-300d-W189-Adenauer / #Mercedes-Benz-300d-W189 / #Mercedes-Benz-300d / #Mercedes-Benz-300d-Automatic-W189 / #Mercedes-Benz-300d-Automatic

    AUTOMATIC WITH FUEL INJECTION ENGINE

    Generous space and luxurious seats are an invitation to the most comfortable travel imaginable. Arm rests, ash trays and huge door pockets aid passenger comfort and convenience. A glass partition for chauffeur-driven cars can be fitted on request.

    The Mercedes-Benz 300d is the pinnacle of achievement in the art of manufacturing automobiles. The only support for the roof is provided by slender pillars of great strength, front and rear, and the four large windows lower completely out of sight, allowing an unprecedented panorama, and bestowing the 300d with a distinctive, regal appearance unmatched by any car on the road. Automatic transmission and the renowned Mercedes-Benz fuel injection engine, complemented by thoroughbred handling qualities, enable the 300d to convey its passengers in town carriage luxury or with surprising verve on cross-country touring.
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