Depends On Your Definition

Fresh on the heels of their long-term review of the Alfa Romeo Giulia (relevance to follow), Car&Driver has published what they consider to be The 15 Most Beautiful Cars You Can Buy Today, i.e. 2019 models, or earlier if unchanged.  (Frankly, I opened the page wondering how they were going to come up with as many as fifteen, but never mind.)  In alphabetical order, they are:

Alfa Romeo Giulia —  No quibbles with that.  We already know how unreliable it is, but beautiful?  Si

Aston Martin DBS Superleggera  —  Not much to argue with this one, either.  As C&D  admits, Aston knows how to make beautiful cars.  Although I’m not that fond of this one:  the grille is too big for my liking.  I actually prefer the DB11.

BMW i8 —  I have to agree with this entry.  I saw one in London for the first time, parked in the street in Mayfair (duh), and I actually stopped in my tracks to marvel at it.  (I know it’s an HO car, but we’re just looking at the skin, remember.)  And let’s be honest:  since the 850i, has BMW had any  models on a “most beautiful” list? 

Bugatti Chiron —  This one, I think is pig-ugly.   Whoever picked the Chiron was seduced by the Bug’s performance, and let that pull it onto the list. 

Infiniti Q60  —  Wait… a Japanese  car on a list of beautiful cars?  Even more surprising is that I agree.  I see them around here in Plano, and they always get a second glance. 

Jaguar XJ —  As with Aston Martin, Jag makes lovely cars (with the notable exception of the foul Ford-inspired S-type of the early 2000s).

Kia Stinger  —  As C&D  says, if you didn’t know it was a Kia, you might vote for it too. 

Lexus LC —  For Lexus (who are trying hard to equal Ford in the Most Boring Design stakes), the LC is a peach.  The fact that it can also out-drag a Kawasaki just makes it all the more memorable. 

Mazda 3 —  I like these cars, even though the protruding nose thing (started by Mercedes) is a little over the top. Still, the Mazda 3 is probably the best-looking of all the hatchbacks (scant praise).

Mazda MX-5 Miata —  I prefer the earlier model shape (true of just about all my car preferences) which was flatter and more true to the British roadster type that the Miata was copying, but the new model isn’t too bad.  (I prefer the Fiat 124 version, but you all knew that.) 

Mercedes-Benz S-class Coupe —  I dunno.  Mercs are more handsome than beautiful, but I have to admit that the new Coupe is quite sexy, especially when compared to their usual 4-door limos. 

Porsche 911 (992 body)  —  Maybe I’m just prejudiced, but I just don’t see how any  Porsche can make a list like this, with the possible  exception of the Cayman.

Rolls-Royce Wraith —  No.  Just… no.  Rollers have always been stately, not beautiful cars.  And the latest incarnation of the Rolls looks like something from a 1990s-era Batman TV cartoon series.  Even the Wraith looks good only because they copied the Bentley shape (again).

Volkswagen Arteon —  Hmmmm.  As much as I liked the VW CC (their proposed “Audi-killer” that didn’t), I’m a little iffy about the Arteon…. actually, no.  The Arteon doesn’t even look as good as the new Toyota Camry coupe. 

Volvo V90 —  I don’t know if I could call any Volvos beautiful, as such.  But I will grant that the V90 is quite striking… for a station-wagon.

Actually, the car most egregiously passed over by C&D  is the Bentley Continental, which is so  much more beautiful than almost all the above. 

Also, some may wonder why there are no Ferraris on the list.  I’m not surprised:  the new Ferraris are hideous, by their own standards let alone empirically.  The Portofino wasn’t nicknamed “The Joker” by accident… 

Noticeable by their omission on C&D’s list:  any American cars.  Feel free to nominate your 2019 Murkin choices thereof in Comments.  (Anything with “Cadillac” in its description will be ignored if not roundly mocked.)

Not The Best Of Times

Foul Reader Paul G. sent me these links to the Concours d’Elegance Suisse (here for the pre-WWII models and here for post-war) which show some magnificent cars — and a couple of howlers.  Take this 1981 Daimler V12 Double Six “shooting brake” (a.k.a. station wagon  to us Murkins):


On a tangential thought:  I seem to be one of the few people of my vintage who actually enjoyed the 1980s.  I liked the music, I liked the clothing, and I sure as hell enjoyed the lifestyle.  (Remember, for me the 1980s straddled two continents:  South Africa pre-1986, and the U.S. from 1987 onwards.)

The cars were… well, patchy.  On the one hand, you had the pretty ones:

Mercedes 380SL

Ferrari 288 GTO

Porsche 959

And then we had the wonderful Toyota MR2 (“Mister 2”)

…which unfortunately led other Japanese car makers to go all wedgey, e.g.:

Subaru XT

Acura Integra

Come to think of it, even the 288 was a wedge, but an Italian  wedge (which makes all the difference).

Of course, there were also the 80’s cars which were horrible and disgusting:

Plymouth Reliant

Ford Thunderbird

…and we won’t even talk about the Cadillac Cimarron

Let’s go back to the goodies.  First, the boxy-boxy look:

Audi Quattro

BMW E30 M3

Lancia Delta Integrale

Maserati Biturbo — the very definition of

Saab 900 Turbo

Volvo 740/760 Turbo (& wagon  — you can’t use the term “shooting brake” for a Swedish  car, it’s illegal))

Golf GTI

Note that many of the above were quite decent performers — the BMW E30 is one of the greatest racing cars ever made, the Audi Quattro dominated rallying for years, and even the Volvo 760 Turbo had quite a bit of poke — but they’re all still pig-ugly as far as I’m concerned.   Speaking of “ugly performance cars”, though, there were the Murkins:

Ford Mustang GT 5.0

Buick Grand National GNX

Both the above were quite hideous to look at, but at least they were fast.  As were a couple of European entrants:

Merkur XR4i (a.k.a. Ford Sierra GT)

Ford RS200

…which was underpowered — for rallying — but which still managed a 0-60mph time of 3.8 seconds, which compares well to the supercars of today.

Speaking of supercars, the 1980s did produce a couple of sublime models like the Ferrari F40

and the Lamborghini Countach

There were others (the above is by no means a comprehensive list);  but these were the ones that caught my eye at the time.  To my mind, though, no car captures the spirit of the 1980s quite like Toyota’s MR 2.

Go ahead and talk about your  favorites, in Comments.

What Did You Expect?

Car&Driver magazine took the hotter-than-fire Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio for an extended 40,000-mile test, and it broke their tiny little hearts.

Why so?  Well, to anyone who’s ever owned or driven an Alfa Romeo for any length of time, it’s quite simple, really:

Of course  the electricals were going to fail — and of course  the hoses weren’t going to be properly clamped, and of course  the indicator lever was going to snap in your hand like a piece of raw spaghetti, and of course  the door-handles  and gear knob were going to come off in your hand — wait, the last three didn’t happen?

Actually, by normal Alfa Romeo standards then, the little Giulia QF is quite reliable.

Here’s the thing:  the more complicated cars become, the greater the chance that things will go wrong.  (Hell, my rock-solid-reliable VW Tiguan has a faulty tire-pressure sensor, and a dicky coolant sensor needs replacing as well — granted, these after 85,000 miles, but still.)

Now add that greater complication to an Italian  car — especially  any Alfa Romeo — and the chance of things breaking will increase exponentially.  All those electrical- and electronic doodads are simply begging to fail, and the more of them there are… well, clearly Car&Driver  didn’t get the memo.

Read the linked article for the testers’ comments, which are priceless.  My favorite:

Just a prediction:  Nobody is going to buy this car when we are done with it.

Wrong.  Serious Alfa Romeo fans will read the critique and see that in just over a year, the car was in the shop for a total of three months.  Then they’ll shrug and say, “I wonder if I can get it in green?”  (Answer:  no.)

Silly rabbits.

More Of Those Things

I know that “keyless entry” systems are all the thing with cars these days, but forgive me if I’m just a little skeptical about their security:

Some new cars on the market are vulnerable to keyless thefts, tests have revealed.
Latest security ratings for seven models you can buy in showrooms today have been released by Thatcham Research, an independent automotive research centre.
Of the seven vehicles reviewed, four were found to offer ‘poor’ resistance to relay crimes that have spiraled in the last few years.

Actually, most cars offering this feature are vulnerable to being hacked by relay devices (available on, of course).  And if you don’t know how a relay device works, you need to disable your keyless system and go back to using a car key.

I of course have no desire ever to activate  any keyless system when I come to replace the Tiguan, so none of the above will apply to me.  And should my choice of car not have deactivation as an option, that choice will shift to another which does, or doesn’t even have the infernal system in the first place.

I am all for progress, by the way, if it represents actual progress and not just a nod to “convenience” (i.e. laziness).  For example, I have always applauded the shift from front-stuffing muzzle-loaders to the brass cartridge — but should some techo-genius come up with an “electronically-activated triggering mechanism” to replace it, I’ll probably shoot him.

With a bullet launched from a brass cartridge case, most likely one of these:

Birth Year V: The Murkins, Part 2

This week as promised, we’ll look at the smaller U.S. car companies and their 1954 offerings:

DeSoto Firedome

DeSoto Powermaster

Hudson Hornet

Kaiser Special

Nash Metropolitan

Packard Caribbean

Studebaker Commander

I know the “Studdy” has many fans, but it’s only the best of a very bad bunch.  By popular demand, here’s the 1954 Corvette:

Thanks, but if we’re going to do 1954 sports cars, I’ll still take the Mercedes 300SL, thank you:

Which brings to the end of the 1954 Birth Year series.  Thank you all for playing along.

…and even though I don’t do Hallmark holidays, here’s one for all us dads, today:

And for the record, here’s Your Humble Narrator and the Son& Heir, each pic taken at age 23:

Didn’t even bounce.

Birth Year IV: The Murkins, Part One

I never saw any of these cars while growing up in South Africa, and I might as well be talking Sanskrit as about them and their characteristics — nor am I that keen to learn much about them either — so I’m counting on my GearHead Readers to step up to the plate and add their thoughts in Comments.  All I can say is that as far as I’m concerned, pretty much all of these behemoths are as ugly as a boil on  a pretty girl’s face.  And just remember:  it’s not a complete catalogue, just a list of cars that came onto the market in 1954, and that caught my eye for one reason or another.

Cadillac Eldorado

Chrysler New Yorker

Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight

Ford Crestliner

Pontiac Star Chief

Chevrolet Bel-Air

Plymouth Belvedere

Lincoln Capri

Mercury Monterey

Ye gods.  And I thought that modern car design was Clone Central.  If someone were to tell me that I had  to pick one of the above for a daily drive, I think I’d go with a Colt 1911 Single Bullet model.

Next week we’ll be looking at the products of the smaller car manufacturers of the time (none of which have survived till today).  Maybe there’ll be some design differences there… but somehow, I’m not optimistic.

I think I’ll just revive my artistic aesthetic with a look at the Mercedes 220A of the period:

Ahhh… that’s better.