The Thinker's Garage Pondering Automotive History, Design and Culture

The Thinker's Garage
Beyond Premium – The Resurgence of the Automotive Atelier
Beyond Premium - The Resurgence of the Automotive Atelier

In the early days of the automobile, when car ownership was still preserve of the very wealthy, the car purchasing process was very different from today. With the ‘body on frame’ construction technique being the accepted car manufacturing method at the time, buyers had two major decisions – who should build the chassis and mechanical […]

Citroën C4 Cactus – Bold Focus
Citroën C4 Cactus - Bold Focus

When Citroën pulled the covers off the C-Cactus show car at the 2007 Frankfurt Motor Show, it seemed that, while interesting, it was destined to eventually become another forgotten concept. Instead, it was the catalyst that led to arguably one of the most interesting (and polarising) production cars of recent times. It was this concept […]

Where to for smart?
Where to for smart?

It started with such feather-ruffling promise: when the smart City Coupe broke cover in 1998 it changed Europe’s streetscape with its tiny footprint, clever design, innovative engineering and cheeky attitude. It hit its target market and by 2001, with the cars only officially available in some Western European markets, smart sales were well over 100,000 […]

Why Volvo is a brand to watch
Why Volvo is a brand to watch

It may have a reputation for conservatism and safety, but Volvo’s past catalogue of cars shows a company that has always had a strong culture for innovation. Despite some struggles in the late 2000s thanks to then owner Ford’s financial difficulties, since Geely Automotive Holdings’ 2010 purchase of the Swedish brand, there have been some […]

Review: Fiat 500L
Review: Fiat 500L

From the 500 Topolino to the Nuova 500 that succeeded it in the 1950s, and the boxy and eager Cinquecento Sporting of the 1990s, the Fiat 500 name has been attached to a great variety of robust, practical and characterful city cars over the years. The current Panda based 500 has been a massive success […]

Remember – stay open minded
Remember - stay open minded

I recently had the opportunity to drive a Nissan Leaf, the first electric car I’ve actually driven and the first I’ve had a ride in since the Mitsubishi i-MiEV. I came away from the i-MiEV thoroughly unimpressed. Yes it was silent and seemed to move acceptably but the basic city car appearance and terrible interior […]

Small cars – Simple pleasures
Small cars - Simple pleasures

As nice as it is to have all the modern comforts in a car, sometimes the sheer number of features found in so many new cars does seem to be overkill. Although this kind of technology is very impressive in the showroom, in the real world, when longevity and ease of use become more important […]

Fast & Frugal – the synergies between performance and efficiency
Fast & Frugal - the synergies between performance and efficiency

There seem to be a large number of ‘car enthusiasts’ who rubbish the idea of embracing clean technology and improving the efficiency of cars. From drivers who lament the rise and rise of hybrids and forced induction to motorsport fans who bemoan the quietness of some modern racing cars, it seems to be an oft […]

Motorsport – Sporting regulations won’t fix the show
Motorsport - Sporting regulations won't fix the show

As the motorsport year commences, a number of the world’s major racing categories have caused controversy by announcing rule changes aimed at ‘improving the show’. It starts at the top – Formula 1’s double point finale rule has caused outcry amongst the sport’s followers, and I still don’t fully understand the new knockout format of […]

Subaru – Substance over style
Subaru - Substance over style

It’s difficult not to respect Subaru. In an era where cars seem to become more generic by the generation, Subaru’s steadfast adherence to its engineering principles is not only admirable, but one of the reasons behind its success. The marque’s unique DNA has earned its vehicles a reputation for safety, quality and ruggedness. Indeed, building a range […]

Tesla – Bold, brave and here to stay
Tesla - Bold, brave and here to stay

The greatest cars have a person with a vision behind them. I have mentioned this theory before on this website, and am still a firm believer that while a vehicle designed by committee might be perfectly acceptable, it will always be too conservative, its intent too distilled to reach greatness. It’s a shame then, that […]

The Porsche 911 – all things to all people
The Porsche 911 - all things to all people

The Porsche 911. It appears in almost every ‘greatest car ever’ article. A 911 is a popular culture icon, and could be a motorsport enthusiast’s race car of choice, a blue chip classic car or maybe a seriously nice new one. They can have all sorts of meanings to people of all types – Porsche enthusiasts and the ways they […]

Capri – The beginning of the end for Ford Australia?
Capri - The beginning of the end for Ford Australia?

Much has been made recently of the seeming demise of Australian volume car manufacturing, with Ford and Holden leaving and a Toyota decision due in a few months. While many column inches have been devoted to the current product being offered by these companies, it’s also interesting to look back at some of the missteps which […]

Cars and our senses
Cars and our senses

While there are indeed people who view cars as no more than transport and want them to be as unnoticeable as possible, there are also a number of people who lament the lack of ‘personality’ of most modern cars. One of the reasons people fall in love with cars is the overwhelming sensory experience they can […]

On brand diversification
On brand diversification

With a product as emotional as a car, brand loyalty among niche manufacturers can be extremely high. Enthusiasts take the decisions of ‘their’ brands personally so when a brand famous for its niche products like Porsche or MINI diversifies, some hardcore fans will inevitably cry foul about the brand’s apparent selling out. But as much […]

Peter Schreyer & Kia – Proving the power of design
Peter Schreyer & Kia - Proving the power of design

I’m often asked to recommend cars to people who aren’t particularly knowledgeable about them and almost every time I bring up Kia they turn up their noses. This is usually around the time I wonder why they bothered asking my advice at all, because Kias these days aren’t what they used to be. Another time: The Kia […]

Some thoughts on General Motors
Some thoughts on General Motors

I have been asked a lot recently to give my opinion on the impending end of Holden’s manufacturing operations. While it is understandable that so many people are disappointed to lose another local icon to overseas production, we have to put our emotions to one side for a moment and remember that Holden was always […]

Motorsport – Why F1 needs to be careful
Motorsport - Why F1 needs to be careful

So Formula 1 has yet again announced new rules designed to ‘improve the show’ and it seems that fans are more outraged than ever. Times are tough in F1 – the financial struggles of multiple teams are well documented, the importance of cash more than outright speed when it comes to driver choices is evident higher up the […]

Celebrating the Volkswagen Up!
Celebrating the Volkswagen Up!

I am often asked what my favourite new car design is. My response that it is the base model Volkswagen often raises eyebrows, but there are plenty of reasons why the Volkswagen Up! is one of my favourite new cars. In an age where car design is often not much more than simply styling, the […]

On fashion, innovation and design integrity
On fashion, innovation and design integrity

We all know people who we would describe as “different”. Some of these people are different because they are true to themselves and aren’t really fussed by others. Others try really hard to be different to get attention or maybe even divert attention away from the fact they may actually be really boring. The latter […]

Analysis – Alfa 166 Pre & Post Restyling
Analysis - Alfa 166 Pre & Post Restyling

The 166 was Alfa Romeo’s flagship sedan for almost a decade, yet is often forgotten or overlooked by enthusiasts. I feel the early shape 166 is underappreciated and sometimes misunderstood as a design and while I appreciate the facelifted model, I believe it is the earlier car which is the stronger of the two designs. […]

Jaguar – Heading in the right direction
Jaguar - Heading in the right direction

As an English speaking person with a penchant for European cars, I find myself reading a lot of British automotive journalism. Recently, I have become accustomed to great hype and positive reviews when it comes to the press’s treatment of new Jaguar cars. And from afar it is easy to understand why. Jaguar, a British icon freshly […]

Alfa Romeo’s 4C – Why the Alfisti are excited
Alfa Romeo's 4C - Why the Alfisti are excited

A lot of buzz has surrounded the launch of Alfa Romeo’s new 4C sports car, particularly among Alfa Romeo’s diehard fans, known as the Alfisti. On the face of it, Alfa returning to rear wheel drive and finally building an uncompromising and focused sports car are cause enough for celebration, but there is a deeper reason for the excitement because it […]