It's a welcome return for William Dickey, who has some thoughts on the current large SUV styling trends. Say your prayers, little one, this one isn't pretty. The words are good, mind.
Over 40 years ago, I wrote a modest monthly column about cars for a medical newspaper. Of course, being a freebie, its survival relied on advertising from pharmaceuticals, medical equipment manufacturers and even the odd carmaker. There was an employee in editorial whose job was to excise any content which might cause offence and adversely affect revenue.
So my suggestion that Vauxhall might have had a suppository in mind when styling their new Mk2 Astra as a riposte to the Ford Capri 2.8 Injection (other methods of medicine administration are available) ended up on the cutting room floor. And in the days when multivalve engines were a big selling point, my comment that a sporty hatchback had more valves than a skip at a well-known manufacturer of cardiac prostheses having quality control issues at the time went down like a lead balloon catheter.
Eventually I threw the head up over the censorship and submitted an article on an Albanian car which, while completely inoffensive to any potential advertisers, was totally fictional. The editors only twigged when the letters came flooding in after publication. We parted company soon after.
Tirana saw us, Rex
Anyhow, it was a luxury four-wheel drive, in the days when all we had were the Range Rover, Mercedes G and a couple of posh Jeeps. The Tirana SRS-X, as I called it, was powered by the same V12 diesel as the Chinese tanks then in use by the Albanian army. It also featured a two-stroke engine built under licence from Briggs and Stratton, mounted in the capacious glove compartment, whose sole purpose was to provide heating for the vast interior.
Fifty percent of respondents called this out as a very poor mickey-take, but what struck me at the time was the other half who wanted the address and contact number of the importer. Even though, milking the Eastern European/bad medical joke theme, I had said they were being brought in by a Romanian haematologist through Whitby. Had I offered to take deposits on his behalf, I could well now be living in a warm country with no UK extradition treaty.
This, of course, was a hint back in those innocent days that truth would inevitably become much, much stranger than fiction. Which brings us logically to the BMW X7.
Maw, he's making eyes at me
Numerous commentators have said rude things about current BMW styling trends, mostly regarding what they’ve done with the traditional kidney grille. Which in the case of the X7 resembles nothing so much as two basking sharks trying to squeeze through a cat flap at the same time. You might feel sorry for BMW, and other German prestige manufacturers, if you assumed that they are genuinely trying to please their customers without really understanding how they’ve ended up with The Ultimate Gurning Machine™.
Until you see this, from Brabus. It's the limited edition Black Ops (sic) version of the Mercedes-AMG Gelandewagen. It appears that there is an actual demand for sinister SUVs which need night vision goggles to see out of. While driving in daylight. Probably included in the limited edition specification is a portfolio of Central American governments needing to be overthrown by covert means. Fair enough: lots of people are in the market for this sort of car because they need to channel their inner Oliver North.
And then you look at the video. Stylish young couple looking enigmatically moody out on the moors – so far so generic ad for, oh anything really, from deodorant to life insurance. And maybe they’re just looking the way people look when they’ve got the right deodorant and proper life insurance.
Then it all goes a bit haywire when they go for a drive. He’s having bother keeping the big fecker on his own side of the road, though maybe he hasn’t passed his HGV test. Next thing she’s doing some exotic dancing with torches in the middle of the night. And then he’s screaming. That life insurance policy won’t be any use to his dependents because the small print specifically excludes the condition of living death that is an inevitable consequence of hanging out with a succubus. Suddenly driving about with a curly cable coming out of your ear is somehow innocent.
It's just the beasts under your bed
Not to be outdone, in mid-July, Spartanburg came out with this. The American blurb for the limited edition X7 Dark Shadow pulls no punches. It’s for those seeking “a darker and more mysterious side to their seven-seater sports activity vehicle”. So it’s already giving children nightmares and they’ve decided to take the horror to an entirely different level. There’s no scary video with this one, but if there had been it might have involved somebody being sucked into the big giant grille, inspired by every film about terrorists taking over an airport ever made.
There is a precedent. Chris Bangle, BMW's previous controversial stylist, was clearly an H.P. Lovecraft fan, whose interesting sheet metal designs on the 5 and 7 series of the time were inspired by the ancient and horrific multidimensional beings known as the Many Angled Ones.
Sleep with one eye open
Industry insiders claim that plans to fit the Land Rover Discovery with sequential LED indicators have been postponed as the combination with an inexplicably offset rear number plate triggers cognitive dissonance symptoms ranging from an extremely severe migraine to mass hysteria. Only postponed, mind you.
Because finally we have a new class of crossover which can be distinguished from conventional sports activity/utility vehicles. Land Rover needs to be in there with a new four-wheel drive, much bigger than the Discovery. It should have the back number plate not only off-centre, but tilted about ten degrees from the horizontal and sticking out a little more from the tailgate on one side. Nothing major, just enough to cause a sense of unease and some nausea. Until the sequential indicator is activated...
Land Rover’s belated entry into the Eldritch Horror Vehicle market. And I for one welcome our new Land Rover Cthulhu overlords (with a soft-spot of course for the Cthulhu Sport which will inevitably follow).