Monthly Archives: February 2012

GARAGE FOCH

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Paris, Place Charles de Gaulle, the point of gravity of this metropole. History meets modern times. Look right and one can feel Versailles, look left to spot la Defense on the horizon. A collection of landmarks on a string. Around the Arc de Triomphe the traffic hectically turns its cycles like a never ending washing program. So what is mobility like in this town? We are here to find out what makes the parisians tick.

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During our hike up to the old arc we have spotted a street full of dealerships. Motorcycles and scooters that is and everything that can be put into this niche. Mp3 anyone? This city is made for it. Scale up the product and you end up with a smart before things get serious. Our final conclusion after three days in the french capitol: you better be smart over here. We wonder why the French did not invent this micro car.

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La France, think of cars and you think of bumps and scratches. How does big and beautiful fit in this picture? We make a turn into the Avenue Foch to search for an answer. We have heard that somewhere beneath this broad street Paris rich park their cars. It takes a little while, but finally we step into an underground walhalla. The floor is oily and the atmosphere petrol-esque. Garage Foch, something between a barn full of forgotten exotics and louis vuitton on wheels. A changing collection of cars, old and new, its size overwhelming.

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Tuck in your car or let it rust away in the dungeons of Paris, here you will find both ends of the spectrum. And yes, someone with a very soft spot for de Tomasos must live just around the corner. Some high lights. Garage Foch, definitely worth a re-visit some day.

-matt.

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FRANKFURT AFTERBURN

Two weeks to Geneva.

Eagerly anticipating the upcoming kickoff to the European motorshow circus, here's some uncategorized snapshots from my carfreax attic – to help kill your countdown time.

Dusted off, they seem a valid addition to Matt's earlier Frankfurt pages. Because, as always, it's a sheer impossibility to catch a motorshow in a few compositions – hell – it's even undoable to catch any single car in a single unit. Still, there's a few more squares that I think deserve a bit of extra attention of you lot.

So here we go.

Kxk 110915 IAA KIA GT

The KIA GT, an audacious big sports saloon in the German lion's den. It blew me away. Sure, it had been shown in teasers leading up to the show, but in the flesh… man, such presence! Fabulous stance. Great how the weight sat over those rear wheels (not very well photographed, sorry) – all power and speed. Loved it.

The golden James Bond interior and ditto outer trim, the tiny geometric details and almost graphical features – awesome. And beautiful detailing, from the generous use of A-surface carbon fibre (to underline the statement of performance, naturally) to that brilliant 'Cosmic Motors' inverted pitot tube. Maybe the rather traditionally soft and soapy front surfaces could've used a bit more of the overall, less traditional surface definition, but – hey – there's only one chance for a first impression.

And man – this was bull's eye!

Kxk 110915 IAA Renault Frendzy

I just can't help it, but somehow the new Renault family keeps reminding me of some of the heydays of American car styling – the mid to late eighties. I was sucking it up in those days, with clear goals of becoming a car designer myself – just a few years away from taking some serious training in that direction. The 1986 Corvette Indy, '88 Buick Wildcat, '89 Pontiac Stinger and California IROC Camaro – all examples of cars that represented clear styling benchmarks in those days. Soft, slippery-creamy curves and generous, full volumes. Perceived aerodynamics and long forgotten 'bio design'; if you ask me, these spirits are back with a vengeance in Guyancourt, from the voluptuous DeZir (which, admittedly, echoes shades of PlouĂ©'s 1990 Laguna showcar – which was clearly US-inspired however) via the beach buggy-like Captur to the IAA debuting, 'hollow cheeked' Frendzy.

Apart from the powerful new chrome-outlined DRG, the interior is probably the Frendzy's most interesting aspect. Unexpected color and trim combinations: beachcomber-found bleached wood, aluminium and checkerboard knittings are mixed with biomorphous LED-backed protrusions and a childishly joyful communication panel. Let's hope the spirits remain unfiltered in the next Kangoo.

Kxk 110915 IAA Ford Evos

My first car was a Ford Capri. There you have it.

So with anything new coming from the Ford studios, which can only be loosely interpreted as the next reincarnation of that European ponycar, you get my attention. The same went for the Evos, which was presented in Frankfurt. Indeed, with a fair few styling cues which would befit an Aston Martin well (…), you can't go very wrong. Seeing is believing, and seeing through the bizarre, over-the-top door mechanisms, I can see it happening with this baby.

Sciroccos beware.

Having said that, it's of course still great to view these crazy over-the-top door kinematics – as there's enough (boring) pre-production statements around on most motorshows. Radiant red metalflake paint with a hard yellow flop and four transformer doors. Dreamcar stuff. Me like!

Kxk 110915 IAA Volvo You

The Volvo You. Gotta see it in the flesh. An impressive and bulky exterior hides a cool and consistently 'Swedish' interior. Whites, woods, (aluminium and leather, of course) – and the typical transparent 'nordic ice cube' touch; this time in the steering wheel spokes. Nice and consistent.

The exterior has the most presence from the front. As with the concept Universe, the overwhelming Ford Interceptor springs to mind. Somehow, I have the feeling there's still work to do here. Although I do like the bold approach, (being a clear break with today's Volvos; a similar approach was followed with the Horbury generation), the slim, almost 'Jaguarish' fastback stern does not convince as a counterbalance to the heavy bow. Which in turn is -really- a very literal interpretation of that iconic P444. Hmm…

Kxk 110915 IAA Land Rover DC100

And last but not least – the Land Rover DC100 twins. Opinions were mixed on these larger than life Tonka toys. Whatever the final verdict by the TATA board of directors – these babies are bold, boxy (like they ought to be) and definitely brave. Because – think about it – how on earth are you going to replace an icon like the original Defender?

Jeep still builds the Wrangler. Should Land Rover stick to their old, clunky gun as well?

These brothers are definitely butch. Stylish Swiss army knives. They're undoubtedly rugged and consistently styled, without going into the car-toonish. Simplified but not overly so. And – this is where the credit's due – not just a simple score by doing a retro version of the old hog. An achievement in itself – as there is a thin line between the icon and the caricature. Take away the brash bling and decor – and it's job done.

- Geert.

ANOTHER LATE NIGHT

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Another late night in a city I have not been before. Tokyo at night. Do we take a taxi to travel from high light to high light or shall we walk the cold and windy streets? We decide the latter. So much input, new views at every corner, we can sleep when we are back home.

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Buzzing, overwhelming and at the same time so tranquil. I don't speak the language so every sign turns into a logo, a graphic, a minimalist and colorful positive impression. The japanese view on aesthetics, the eye for detail everywhere you look, this place is a warm bath for a designers mind.

So far from home, so exotic and at the same time somehow familiar. Akira anyone? The architecture, the elevated high ways, the traffic, every minute I take more pictures as I try to get a grip on the scene. Honda Monkey here, Eifel Tower there and the many Toyota Crown taxis in different colors. Why do they carry their mirrors on the fender? Questions and no answers. A lost Volkswagen bus seems so out of place like a typewriter in Kubrick"s Space Odyssey.

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Our way back home takes longer as expected. Our feet hurt, but we stick to our concept of walking the walk. We take little breaks as we visit the compact local 24h stores to buy some "road beers". Another late and very inspiring night. Enjoy, at least we did!

-Matt.

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TOKYO MOTOR SHOW PART III

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Are you ready? Damn right we are! This is the 42nd Tokyo Motor Show and we are here to soak up the energy. Japan, a country with a positive and sympathetic attitude. The tsunami earlier this year had a major impact. Still one can feel the the aftermath of the catastrophe reverbing. The annual motor show as a kind of catharsis.

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I have always thought of Japan and France being the most creative cultures to push new concepts of mobility. Playful, full of humor and daring. The Tokyo experience seems to underline this hypothesis. For hours we bump from one strange thought dressed up as means of mobility into the other. An eclectic mix of style and technology.

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After the obvious we move to the west halls for some haute couture. Projects seen somewhere else before perfectly tangent to the asian thought of mobility. Off beat, out of sync, over here, nothing is impossible.Wooden cars, a link to tradition, strange packages. The olympic games of the industry. Let's go crazy and be proud of it.

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This is your usual press days hectic, but with a different taste. The difference is in the detail. Why do we so many wind deflectors on cars over here. The use of the climate controls is local and so is the atmosphere. Breathing masks, eye for detail, taking pictures with a strange perspective. We adapt as we move on.

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After a long day I am loaded with impressions. Japan, the country of the hybrid, the mould breaking approach, the friendly and the technological, the robot and the  manga. It is all summed up at the motor show. It is five o'clock as we call it an automotive day. Let's hit the streets of Tokyo to inhale reality while we still have time.

-Matt.

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AKIHABARA

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Tokyo, a long day in the city. Where to go next? So far we have seen the city at night, today we step into a bright and colorful landscape. Some of our group have decided to visit the old part of town. I get out of the underground a couple of stations earlier. "I need to start with a big Tokyo punch in the face for a start!"

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Akihabara is also known as Electric City and we are about to find out why. A long and broad street, on each side colorful narrow buildings full of imagery and signs. I am impressed and dazzled. I walk into a small store to dip a first toe into the water of this hyper specialist, almost freaky district.

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Manga, figurines, collectors items, the palce is packed. The deeper I get inside the stranger it gets. Shelves full of pictures for sale. Akihabara is a world of extremes. From friendly toys and military robots to kinky stuff. Nothing is hidden once you have passed the doorstep. Outside on the street again the overflow of colors, street life and urban impressions.

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This district is also about high tech. I cannot imagine a place on earth where one can find shops so specialized. Akihabara, a buzzing conglomerate of niches piled on top of each other. Step into any building, take the elevator to whatever floor, step into a small room and your jaw will drop. Modell trains, baseball cards, LEDs, transistors. We have seen many specialists. Looking for a headphone? You will find a friendly shop owner who has everything on offer. Crazy Japan.

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One of my high lights? I point out a 8-bit graphic behind a window somewhere on the fourth floor of a building. "Let's take a peak inside Steve, this might be interesting". One minute later we are back in the eighties, surrounded by piles and piles of hand held video games. Eldorado! There are three more floors to go and we take our time. Mint condition retro games, often wrapped in the original packaging. Gold mine. Hand held, consoles, cartridges. At the top floor we step into an arcade of big machines. Ready to play? Akihabara, a must if you want to take a deep dive into japanese crazy culture. 

-Matt.

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