by Gunnar Heinrich ::: img Warner Bros
THIS simple, ceremonial post marks the two thousandth and one article posted on Automobiles De Luxe since November of 2006. While that milestone might compare to our online peers like Pagani’s annual production tally vs. Ford’s global output, we feel it worth noting.
Thank you, dear readers for doing your part. And for ours, we’ll keep on keepin’ on – as the man says.
FOR the United Kingdom, the 1960s were strange and interesting times.
As a nation, we had finally regained some national confidence after the devastation and long-term rationing of the Second World War (the rationing, after all, had only ceased for Britain in 1954). To add to this, there had been the political embarrassment of the Suez crisis, and the population was rapidly rising.
From the midst of all this turmoil emerged many notable things. Primarily, these included hippies, the Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow, and a ‘New Town’ called Milton Keynes.
If we discount the hippies for the moment, there is more similarity between the latter two than one might at first imagine.
In order to relieve pressure on housing in London in light of the population increase, it was decided by Parliament that several waves of ‘New Towns’ were to be built in the southeast of the country. Milton-Keynes was to be by far the largest and most ambitious of the scheme.
Consequently, on the 23rd January 1967, Milton Keynes was officially designated a ‘New Town’. What was fascinating about Milton Keynes was the forward thinking, modernist approach to town design and planning of founding architect, Derek Walker.
Walker took his inspiration from the Californian urban theorist Melvin Webber, and this inspiration is plain to see if one looks at Milton Keynes from above.
Unlike the majority of towns and cities in the UK, which have grown from little village centres over hundreds of years, the ‘clean sheet’ approach taken by the town planners allowed complete freedom to use any layout they chose.
Thus, Milton Keynes’ roads followed the American style grid and road naming system much preferred by Webber, rather than the somewhat higgledy-piggledy nature of roads in most British cities.
By now, you might well be wondering why on earth a piece on a 1960s British ‘New Town’ has appeared on a luxury car website. Indeed, that would be a very fair question.
The fact is, the similarities between one of the World’s best known luxury cars, the Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow and Milton Keynes are pretty strong.
You see, as with Milton Keynes, the Silver Shadow followed a modernist approach towards design. The head of the styling team, John Blatchley, was charged with shaking off Rolls-Royces’ hitherto old-fashioned image.
To his credit, Blatchley managed this feat without losing all the elements of character that allowed Rolls-Royce the undoubted success it had enjoyed until then.
Like Milton Keynes, the design of the Silver Shadow employed all the new fangled technical expertise available at the time, though this author would suggest that the lines of some of the more concrete ridden 1960s buildings of Milton Keynes have not mellowed with age quite so well as those of the Silver Shadow.
I must confess that I really warmed to Milton Keynes, much as I did to the Silver Shadow. Both are obvious contrasts to the accepted wisdom of what went before, yet both manage to retain an element of their predecessors charm and character.
Perhaps it is for this reason that both designs succeeded in their aim of subtle modernisation in such a big way.
IT’S possible I have this whole post-Bangle BMW business all wrapped up ’round my mental axle, but I don’t think so.
Driving the new Z4 shortly after driving the new 7 leaves me curious as to what the gang in Munich have on their collective minds in terms of their product line and their design language. For the sake of this conversation let’s leave SUV’s aside.
As stated in a previous posting I see little brand cohesiveness in BMW’s product line.
The 1 and the new 7 both share a high beltline that make them look similar if unnecessarily heavy.
The 5 is a mess.
The 6 has supporters and detractors in about equal number.
The 3, oddly enough, is both the most beautiful (read purposeful) and the only one recognizable as being a direct descendant of previous BMW’s.
You could be forgiven for thinking the 1 and 7 came from one company. The 5 from another. The 6 from another. The 3 from another. And in the new Z4′s case, from yet another auto firm.
The primary unifying element should have been the classic kidney grilles, but no longer. On some products they look familiar while in others they have become cartoonish. The 7 and the Z4 now sport the new ungainly snout that is rapidly morphing into an old Jaguar grille – just picture a chrome strip instead of paint separating the halves and you’ll see my point.
That said, there is something tying these cars together. Regardless of engine option, given a decent set of summer tires, they are all crazy capable. I have owned a boatload of BMW’s over the years and every one was just plane fun to chuck around. The M’s a little more so, but all were just great.
So along comes the new Z4. Visually it is a giant improvement over its predecessors . Not necessarily a direct descendant, but much nicer. The power retractable hardtop is a winner. The Z4 drives like a dream. So why don’t I have any desire to own one? Even if it were to some day arrive in an M package?
Once again, BMW have given us a Boxster without a 911. If I’m going to buy a BMW roadster, I want it to be the ultimate. Where’s the ultimate in a BMW Boxster?
Now that I am out of short pants I don’t want a Miata, Boxster, 370Z, Z4 or any other sports car lite. I want the real deal; a sports car heavy!
A BMW version of the 911, Vette, Viper, Ferrari, AMG SL, Audi R8, or some other full sized thundering 8 to 12 cylinder pavement-pounder. I am not getting out of my M5 for anything less.
When I see a real sports car in my rearview, I think “let him by or step it up.” I see something like the Z4 in my rearview and I think “cute car.”
That, my friends, is some difference. The Z4 does not look ferociously purposeful in it’s size or intent. It just looks cute. And that’s perfectly fine. As an entry level sports car.
But entry level to what? Where is its big brother? And I am not talking about some retro nonsense like the unlamented Z8. Where Is BMW’s two passenger, no kidding, ultimate, go fast driving machine?
Sometimes life presents the nice kind of hard choices.
Harvard or Yale? Paris or Rome? Oil or gold?
If you had to boil the benefits of both down to experiencing just one long term – and both presented impeccable qualifications to justify your expenditure of time and money… how could you choose?
Would you opt for Yale only to miss Beantown’s nightlife? Would you vie for Paris and do without Villa Borghesi? Or what if you put all your chips down on gold only to watch oil futures rocket beyond the horizon?
The debate between which BMW convertible the 1-Series or 3-Series, presents a similarly luxurious dilemma. To buy both would be a foolhardy expenditure of $100K. And at $100K, there are many more enticing cars that you should be considering- used Aston Martins and Ferraris come to mind.
So sense and sensibility dictate that you should opt for just one BMW drop top for your garage. Trouble is…or was… I just couldn’t. Whether it was color choices or amenities or character – both the 1er and 3er present strong, if endearing cases.
That’s why in this segment, we took the 128i and 328i to Block Island (a scenic spit of hills off Rhode Island’s coast) and asked SoCal native and one-time Infiniti owner Alexandra Harbushka to judge which convertible might entice her to switch to a roundel badged car.
To say the least, we were surprised by her choice. TRT: 09:30.
Executive Producers: Gunnar Heinrich & Neil Rogers
Line Producer: Tiffany Hopkins
Editors: Neil Rogers | Kevin Kusina
Camera: Neil Rogers | Chris Reo | Ben Winchell
Writer | Host: Gunnar Heinrich
Special Thanks: BMW | Block Island Chamber of Commerce| Dres. Ward Heinrich, Sr. & Jr.| J.M. Ficca
FIRST impressions are hard to get past, although this Seven will give you reasons to try.
The appearance of this car did not evoke the “Gee I’d like to have one of those,” response. Instead, I thought, “Christ, this thing is giant.” And it makes up for its size – in ugly.
Size is a large part of this new Seven’s stylistic challenge. And this begs the question: when something, anything is overly large isn’t it the designer’s job to help lighten its appearance? Lend it a little grace?
That just hasn’t happened here.
The high beltline actually makes the sedan’s profile look taller and fatter. Why on Earth would BMW borrow this styling element directly from their least expensive car – the One – and use it on their new flagship?
I wouldn’t mind necessarily, but the aesthetic faux-pas looks lousy on the baby Bimmer, too.
Too big is sometimes just that. And the length of the car consists of a mass of cutlines that do nothing shrink this boat, visually. Even this model’s predecessor, portly though it was, somehow managed to look lighter on its feet.
Look, I know how popular it has been in recent years to pick on BMW styling.
On the other hand, perhaps there’s good reason to do so.
Has BMW now become the least homologous line of cars out there? The One and the Seven now look similar and I’m pretty sure that’s not a good thing.
The Six looks like no other car in the lineup, as is true with the Ugly Five and the beautiful Three.
BMW’s rivals have a smart visual continuity in their lineups which makes any Audi look like an Audi and any Benz look like a Benz. Damned If I can say that about BMW’s family.
Back to the Seven. The interior, while clearly well done, is a bit cold in its presentation. It’s sort of fussy industrial, rather than warmly inviting. There are acres of cow, dark wood and shiny metal. And despite all this luxurious gluttony, the cabin still remains uninviting.
All that mass and all that ugly disappear when you drive this car.
Simply put, it’s got tons of power. Just a few minutes in the twisties and you’re left feeling totally comfortable flinging it into and powering out of every turn. You would not find a stick shift out of place here at all, if BMW offered one.
High praise indeed.
The new 750Li provides a terrific, engaging, driving experience that you would never tire of.
But the car does present us with the automotive equivalent of choosing to marry an ugly partner because they’re great in bed. It’d be a thinking person’s move, but still, as thoughtful individual you’d still have to get past that first impression.
Richard Wolf is a Connecticut based architectural designer and owns an E39 gen. M5. We featured Richard in both our BMW Enthusiast and Lime Rock segments that aired on CPTV. In the past, Richard has owned three 7er’s: two E23 gen. 733i’s and one (magnificent) E32 gen. 735i.
I love California’s car culture.
A trip to the Golden State guarantees sightings of great cars, both old and new, and in pristine condition – thanks to the mild weather and friendly roads.
On a recent trip to California, I parked by two BMW M6s, one a pre-facelift E24, and the other a pre-facelift E64 coupe.
And in the cool silence of the morning, you could swear the cars were whispering to each other, long lost friends reunited and exchanging stories about where the time had gone.
Maybe even sharing a laugh at the expense of a nearby Prius?
The conversation would have flowed easily. Despite being very different cars from a technical standpoint, they share a similar story and context in the automotive world.
Both cars were considered radically styled when they debuted. The controversy over Chris Bangle’s recent 6er design (among others) is not unlike the reaction that met Paul Bracq’s E24 design in the late 1970s.
Looking at the cars side-by-side, the older car looks more purpose built, it’s crisp pleats tailored neatly over the machinery like a bespoke suit. Truly a testament to the design mantra of the day: form follows function.
The newer M6’s body work has been let out a bit, like a pair of pants who’s wearer has gained a few pounds – those few pounds, in this case, being a myriad of electronics and amenities.
The E64’s rounder forms give it the appearance of being a much larger car, despite their similar proportions. And this seems apropos, given that the sheet metal conceals much more.
For starters, there’s the engine…
Proof that if the new M6 has put on a few pounds, it’s not all fat. This extra muscle rockets the current-gen M6 from zero to sixty, 2.3 seconds faster than its predecessor (4.5 vs. 6.8 seconds). And as Hans Stuck has showed us on the autobahn, with the top speed limiter removed, the E64 pulls strong to 200 mph.
“Motor” is BMW’s middle name, and when they build a great one they’re quick to find as many applications as possible.
Now, as then, the M6 shares with its M5 brethren. In the 1980s, they shared a modified version of the M1’s engine. Today, the M5 and M6 share a monstrous 5.0-liter V-10.
Happily, the modern M6 occupies the same spot in automotive culture today, as the E24 did two decades ago. Both M6s combine luxury with racetrack credentials, and exist in limited numbers for enthusiasts willing to pay a premium for something more exclusive than a 5.
The E64 is proof that the German GT concept has stood the test of time and been successfully reinvented for modern day.
But perhaps even more impressively, the E24 itself has stood the test of time and enjoys a devout following in enthusiast circles to this day. Drivers have spent thousands of dollars to keep E24s on the road, both during the 6’s absence during the 1990s, and even now that it has been reincarnated.
For all of its classic attributes, it’s easy to see why. And here’s hoping the E64 enjoys the same longevity. But unless BMW botches the E64’s successor, I don’t see it happening.
At the rate that technology is changing in cars, and because leasing has trained drivers to demand the latest and greatest instead of savoring the joy of ownership, it’s hard to imagine the current-gen 6er garnering the same cult status twenty years from now.
For more on the E64 M6, check out ADL’s BMW Enthusiast Segment >>>
Editor’s Note: Hardy Drackett worked for BMW of North America from 2007-2008. Automobiles De Luxe featured Hardy as an E60 5er owner in our BMW Trio segment which aired on CPTV.
Automobiles De Luxe & CPTV
By Gunnar Heinrich
SOMETIMES you just can’t get enough ADL…
Automobiles De Luxe airs tonight (Sunday, May 3rd) six o’clock on WEDH, WEDN, and WEDW – the three glitzy stations for CPTV, the Constitution State’s PBS member station.
Yes, I know what you’re thinking, that’s the same li’l network that could and did bring the world Barney, the purple dinosaur along with Thomas & Friends™.
From our P.O.V., the giddy T. Rex and self confident choo-choo should be so honored.
- About CPTV -
CPTV and WNPR serve the entire state of Connecticut–reaching an estimated 750,000 television viewers and more than 180,000 radio listeners each week. The company operates with a $20 million annual budget, funded in large part through community support from individuals, corporations and foundations.
CPTV and WNPR’s community-supported, statewide public broadcasting networks are dedicated to serving diverse communities with a mix of educational, news, public affairs, children’s, and entertainment programming and services.
The Mercedes-Benz S-Class made one of the lists…
By Gunnar Heinrich
IN a blogosphere filled with year-end automotive “Best” lists, it’s ADL’s turn to contribute its vibrato to the chorus. That having been said, and as is our M.O., we’re going to do things a little differently…