Tuesday, March 30, 2021


BMW designs have endured a fair share of criticism over the past 20 years, especially since the arrival of American Chris Bangle in 1999. Bangle was almost universally scorned for what was referred to in design circles as ‘flame surfaced’ shapes, and ‘The Bangle Butt’ – most noticeable on the design of the (E65) 7 Series.

In 2008 Bangle presented a sports car theme he called the GINA, an acronym for some unfathomable description of obscure design aesthetics. The GINA was out there, and some flavours reoccurred in the Z3 and Z4 when convex and concave surfaces met at extreme angles. Bangle admitted his designs did not look so good in photos, and advised critics to see the cars themselves before forming an opinion.


To be fair the term ‘flame surfacing' did not come from Bangle, but was an epithet heaped on his design cues by some unnamed automotive journalist. However, as the shape of BMW sedans and coupes veered off on a different path, the changes Bangle inspired, also inspired a new cadre of young automotive designers keen to join him in Munich.


The question often asked by critics and outsiders is: “How did Bangle convince the BMW Board his designs would be commercially successful?” One of my BMW moles in Munich told me in Geneva in 2014, that you had to see him in action. My mole said Bangle was theatrical and artful in his seduction of the Board members.

Prior to Bangle’s resignation from BMW in March 2009 to start his own design consultancy, Dutchman Adrian van Hooydonk (right) had joined the Munich design team the same year, after a successful stint running BMW Designworks in California.

Between them they hatched all the new, and most recent BMW designs – sedans, sports cars and SUVs.

Adrian van Hooydonk was named Head of Design following Bangle's departure.


It’s probably true to say that apart from Bangle’s 2001 X-Coupe concept, his designs weren’t really considered genuinely ‘avant garde’ – however, his successor has splashed a new BMW design DNA across the automotive world with exceptional confidence, and bravery.


Quite a few of van Hooydonk’s contemporaries, and many automotive journalists described the Concept 4 coupe, which debuted at the 2019 Frankfurt auto show, as ‘one of the ugliest cars of all time’ thanks to its huge, vertical kidney grille. The concept car isn’t too far away from the sketches, but the dominance of the grille seems to destroy any aspect of pleasant cohesion in the proportions.

In profile the production 440 coupe appears conventional, but head on it appears to glower at you with a combination of aggression and menace.

However, after some diligent research it appears that van Hooydonk looked back to a 1970 BMW concept designed by Marcello Gandini when he was in charge of design at Bertone. The man who penned the Lamborghini Countach and Muira, produced a design exercise for BMW called the ‘Garmisch’.


Pretty it wasn’t. Eschewing the curved surfaces of the early 70s, Gandini settled on a convergence of straight lines, which resulted in a stiff, angular shape, adorned with a huge almost diamond-shaped grille which followed Gandini’s own concept of the kidney grille.


The car was hustled off to a storage garage immediately after the 1970 Geneva Salon, but last year, after gathering up photos, sketches, and eventually the original concept car, van Hooydonk embarked on a recreation of the Garmisch, which (like the original) was built on a 2002 coupe platform.

Adrian van Hooydonk and Marcello Gandini with the re-created 'Garmisch'

Despite the contemporary result being high on integrity to the 1970 concept, in my opinion, it’s just as ugly second time around – but I think you can see where van Hooydonk’s inspiration for the next phase of BMW designs has come from.


Adrian van Hooydonk says, in response to widespread criticism of the ‘new look’, that BMW now has ten model lines across its catalogue, and he favours moving the segments apart from a design perspective - so only he knows what the next SUVs will look like.

I guess the iX EV (right) gives us a clue – and it hasn’t been widely-praised either.


Our roving correspondent, Paul Gover, has recently driven a range of 4 Series BMWs, and I look forward to his review of the cars’ dynamic performance. I guess the deal is, ‘when you’re behind the wheel’ you can’t see the bloody awful grille.

John Crawford

Thursday, March 25, 2021


My good friend Roger Putnam has sent me this wonderful memento of Jaguar’s 1988 victory at Le Mans.


The dust had settled, TWR had brought the winning car to Jaguar’s Browns Lane head office, along with the team which raced to victory, the team which funded it, plus the man who made it happen.

Left to right: Johnny Dumfries, Andy Wallace, Jan Lammers, Jaguar Chairman Sir John Egan, Director of Sales and Marketing Roger Putnam, Director of Public Relations David Boole and the mercurial Tom Walkinshaw.


After an unsuccessful tilt in 1987, TWR built FIVE identical XJR-9LMs, put a fantastic team of drivers and support crew together, and with healthy sponsorship from Silk Cut, and a full corporate commitment from the Board Members in this photo the first win at Le Mans since 1957 became a reality.


However, it’s worth revisiting some details of the race, because in the aftermath it turned out to be a spectacular tale of survival. Although Car #2 led from the start, the Porsche 962s were in hot pursuit, and between them the leading Porsche team drivers Bell/Stuck/Ludwig, had 10 Le Mans victories among them!

Two of the five Jaguars withdrew, and as the Lammers, Wallace, Dumfries car entered the final hour, it was clear to Lammers there was something wrong with the gearbox.

The two previous Jaguar withdrawals had come about because of gearbox failure. With 45 minutes to go Lammers drove as smoothly as he could whilst still keeping the 962 at bay.

There was one more pit stop for the leading Jaguar, and Lammers stayed in the car, slipping the clutch so that the torquey V12 would pull away from rest in fourth gear and back on the track, without alerting the Porsche pits of trouble.

We should all pay tribute to Lammers' skill and experience in endurance racing, that he knew instinctively how gently to treat the car, circulating for the last stint with only fourth gear, yet still maintaining consistent lap times and his lead over the Porsche, which had a big hill to climb, because a 90 second gap is practically half a lap around Le Mans. By then the German cars were suffering excessive fuel consumption, and even speeding up would probably never have closed the gap.

Tom Walkinshaw ordered the three remaining Jaguars to finish line astern, as if to throw the sense of total domination at the Porsche team.


The week after the event race engineer for car 2, Eddie Hinckley, opened the gearbox, and as he split the casing most of the innards fell to the ground.


Eddie reported to TW that the main shaft had broken, about two hours from the end. Fortunately, said Eddie, it broke in the middle of the 4th/5th gear hub, which is splined onto the main shaft and this carried the drive-through.


Walkinshaw said later: “One more gear change could have ended our run, Jan was very smart with how he dealt with the gearbox problem, and the pursuing Porsche.”


John Crawford

Wednesday, March 24, 2021


Johnny Dumfries, 7th Marquess of Bute, has died of cancer at the young age of 62, and it is a very sad loss for those of us who observed him close-up in his motor racing forays.


Johnny was a loveable, genial and yet serious racer, who had an impressive F3 career, who competed as a teammate to Ayrton Senna, raced Lotus in Formula One, but most importantly, in my opinion, he was part of the team which won the 1988 Vingt Quatre Heures du Mans for Jaguar.

I was there that day, with tears in my eyes as the marque won for the first time since 1957. He mounted the winners’ podium with his teammates Andy Wallace and Jan Lammers.

And, what a win it was!

Up until it began to rain on Sunday, Porsche had Jaguar’s measure, but when it rained the 962 co-driven by my mate Derek Bell was able to take the lead

However, when the rain stopped the Jaguars regained the lead, because all the 962 Porsches were suffering from high fuel consumption.

It wasn’t until after the race, Tom Walkinshaw announced that the gearbox on Jaguar #2 was a bloody mess. He had been telling the media toward the end of the race, they had slowed the car to save fuel – so car #2 literally limped across the line, with the other team cars lined up behind (1st; 4th; 16th).

Whatever! It was an historic victory.


I started attending the 24 Hour race in 1984, and after missing out in 1987, 1988 was a really full-bore effort by TWR, because Jaguar had made a huge investment.

In the paddock I had a chance to follow every development, discussing tactics with Henri Pescarolo, and keeping up to date with TW himself. 

Occasionally I managed to watch the action in Pit box #2.

That year I did have a brief connection with Johnny. Part of the duties of members of the Jaguar driving team, was that drivers were required to occasionally ‘drop in’ to the Jaguar hospitality suite to hob-nob with Chairman Sir John Egan, Board members, celebrities and other executives.


Mid-morning on Sunday, Andy Wallace and Johnny Dumfries stopped by, and after Andy returned to the pits for another driving stint, Johnny appeared to be at a ‘loose end’ and was clearly uncomfortable with all the fuss.

I said to him: “Do you want me to rescue you?” To which he replied: “Please.” 

After we had left the enclosure he said, “I should have eaten something, I’m starving.”

It was then I suggested I take him to the Grand Marnier crepe stand, and we could have a couple of the famous orange liqueur-flavoured crepes.

We had a brief, but enjoyable time together. He was a pretty quiet bloke, amicable and jovial, but at the same time, serious. 

He was a good pick for a long-distance racer, because he was neither impetuous or unpredictable.


After he retired from racing he returned to the tiny isle of Bute (50 square miles – 122 hectares) to take over the reins of the family estate and family home at Mt. Stuart.

Just 7000 people live permanently on Bute, which is served by a car ferry from Wemyss.

History will show he was a steady manager, great family man, a philanthropist and worked tirelessly for the residents of Bute up until his untimely death.

Everyone who came in contact with him admired him, and his racing record speaks for itself.


RIP Johnny Dumfries.



Tuesday, March 16, 2021


After VW's acquisition of Bentley in October 1998, Dr. Piëch told the Bentley team in Crewe that something was needed to 'get the ball rolling' and we should do something 'spectacular'.

During its ownership of Rolls-Royce & Bentley Motor Cars, Vickers plc had kept the resources tap tightly turned off. Bentley Motors had no funds to do anything, let alone anything 'spectacular'!

In December Dr. Piëch called in VW's Design Director, Hartmut Warkus, to come up with 'something'. This was December, and the Geneva Salon is the first week of February!

Dr. Warkus certainly delivered something 'spectacular'. When the new Bentley Chairman, Tony Gott, whipped off the covers, the Hunaudieres concept took the crowds' breath away - it was spectacular!

"Wow" was heard all over the place. It wasn't a 'runner', but VW had created a W16 engine on a stand which was said to be the planned engine for the concept car. 

What we didn't know was that VW never intended to build the car - it was just intended as a 'show stunner' - and it certainly was that.

Needless to say Bentley trucked it, and air freighted it to every American function we held in 1999 to 'announce' the 'new' Bentley Motors. I was able to persuade Tony Gott that we should show it at Pebble Beach in August 1999, and that's where this photo was taken - on the Concept Lawn.

On my first official visit to Wolfsburg in June 1999, during a tour of the design studio, I had learned the true background to the Bentley Hunaudieres, and its 'future'.

Because time was of the essence Wartmut and his team used a Lamborghini Diablo platform as the basis for the Bentley. The W16 engine was created by putting two Audi V8s together.

During my tour of the studio in June, one of the clay modellers had shown me finished drawings of a hypercar, wearing Bugatti badges, but whose lines were clearly similar to the Hunaudieres. The project code was EB 16/4.

Hartmut Warkus is credited as the Bugatti Veyron's creator, but the exterior team was led by VW designer Jozef Karbañ. The EB 16/4 featured the four-bank W16
 engine architecture, with four turbochargers, and a 7-speed DSG transmission.

In fact TWO projects were developed at the same (both intended as Veyron, directed by Dr. Warkus). The second concept was drawn by Andy Mindt. So Karbañ's design became the Veyron; and Mindt's design became the Hunaudieres.

Just 350 original Veyrons would be built, at a million U.S. dollars each, but the Veyron did boast 1001bhp! Bugatti sold them all!

John Crawford

NOTE: At the end of 1999 the Hunaudieres went into storage in Wolfsburg, until VW finished building its AUTOSTADT 'marque park', and it was placed on permanent display in the Bentley pavilion.

BENTLEY IN AMERICA - MAKING A MARQUE (Part 2) - by John Crawford

As North America dug itself out of the second worst blizzard of the 20th century in January 1999, I was sitting down in a conference room on the Rolls-Royce and Bentley display at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, discussing Bentley’s ‘invisible’ status in the US market with a passing parade of auto magazine editors and journalists.


Whilst I was warmly welcomed back to the USA, most of my friends agreed we had a huge task ahead of us to build visibility and knowledge of the Bentley marque in an extremely bijou segment of the US market.


Market research would later reveal excellent recognition of Rolls-Royce among wealthy Americans – but Bentley? What? Bentley had sold just 314 cars across the USA in 1998, the year it was acquired by VW Group. When shown the company’s logo – recognition was again, absent!

As I previously mentioned, the ‘Lifestyle’ magazines would be highly relevant to establishing the Bentley brand as a luxury icon; a fashion accessory, or as a status symbol – aspects far removed from its true identity as a high performance, premium luxury automobile. 


However, to get visibility, for ‘cars’, in non-auto magazines was virtually unheard of at the time, and was a very big mountain to climb – however, I was convinced we would reach the peak, providing all the key, influential automotive publications and motoring writers afforded Bentley validation and credibility as a performance brand to be desired.


This established the first steps, win over the automotive media (hopefully, en masse), so that all the publicity about Bentley cars firmly established their true status as long-established British luxury performance cars. Then, when I later approached ‘lifestyle’ magazines, which had never in their publishing history ran a ‘car story’, their writers would immediately turn to the automotive media to establish just what a Bentley was! At least that was the multi-layered plan I had concocted.


However, in 1999 there was a small problem – budget. Both in financial and mechanical terms. 

I started my campaign with just three press cars to use for the programs I was devising, for use across the USA. 

An Arnage sedan based on the East Coast; a Continental R coupe on the West Coast; and a Continental R coupe which spent most of its time on a Reliable Transporter travelling around the country, being dropped off for road tests with regional media.

However, there was another layer we couldn’t ignore – the enthusiast media.

They were usually comprised of former auto writers, car club members and amateur racers.

There are literally dozens of small groups of enthusiast writers in associations spread across the USA.

So President Alasdair Stewart and I arranged speaking dates with as many as we could, and also attended the various automotive test days which were held in the summer months at various race circuits around the country.

I figured the full implementation of multi-layer strategy would take at least three years to pull off, which dictated the shape and direction of the programs to follow. Hopefully as the tactics turned into publicity, we would even be able to create events, where we could blend motoring and lifestyle writers together on the same events, providing the opportunity for each to extract unique angles from the shared experience – further validating Bentley’s credentials.


Initially, I devised a series of driving events for the automotive media called ‘The Grand Tour’ leveraging Bentley’s existing European reputation as grand touring cars. The format included not only current production cars, but with the willing assistance of the Bentley Drivers Club, we also included a range of original ‘Cricklewood’-built Bentleys and allowed the writers to swap from old to new and back again over a testing route covering about 250km.

We chose picturesque locations, with outstanding driving roads and always included a special guest; people like America’s first F1 champion Phil Hill; plus Board Members, design and engineering staff from Bentley’s works in Crewe, UK. Then we often threw in exotic means of transport to the events and mixed in some vintage Bentleys.


Each Grand Tour targeted a different tier of the American media, which also informed the choice of the guests – emphasising either luxury, performance, design or heritage. I have to say, the input from the members of the Bentley Drivers’ Club was invaluable. We never ‘prepped them’ – we let the cars and their enthusiast owners do all the talking.


Alternatively, the enjoyment the writers experienced in the modern Bentleys soon delivered thousands of words of praise and validation for the cars from Crewe – which was essential to the next phase of models from the venerable British car factory.


In 2000 I attended an exclusive viewing in Dr. Piëch’s personal ‘viewing room’ on the 11th floor of VW’s Wolfsburg HQ, when Bentley’s Design Director Dirk van Braekel unveiled the ‘frozen’ design of the Continental GT coupe.

It is the first time in my experience, that as the cover came off, 14 executives simultaneously expressed a sharp intake of breath – followed by a round of applause.


Now, back to the USA, and in 2003 Stage Three of the PR plan to win American’s hearts and minds for the really ‘new’ Bentleys. It was time to move the needle by replacing our existing road test fleet with the new range led by the Continental GT coupe.

The ‘Grand Tour’ format continued, but now included Continental GT coupes, as well as vintage Bentleys, plus the ‘special guests’. We were lucky to have Bentley's 'special consultant' Derek Bell attend many of our media events.


At the same time, consistent with the end results we were striving for with the combination of the automotive and lifestyle media, it became apparent that more and more celebrities were hooked on the Bentley mystique. The first group consisted of ‘Friends of Bentley’ – personalities from film, music and the art world we had cultivated, by loaning them a Bentley, which usually resulted in them buying a car.

Clockwise (from top left): Candy Spelling, Cher, Cindy Crawford, Jennifer Lopez & Nicole Kidman

But, then Bentley ownership caught on in a much bigger way, and soon the celebrity mags often featured ‘stars with cars’ posing next to their Bentley. It was like a 'club', and price of entry was Bentley ownership. Great idea!


All the events we created were arranged in a modular format, so we could mix and match the events/locations/guests to achieve the ‘crossover’ we believed would secure Bentley’s status in the USA as ‘the car’ to own.

So much so, our sales estimate for 2004, after one year of Continental GT coupe sales, was bang on target at 2394. I’m also pleased that the year after I retired Bentley’s USA sales in 2007 exceeded 4000. Job done.

John Crawford

Monday, March 15, 2021


The real battle in the crossover market in Australia which I find most interesting is the segment known as ‘SUV Light’, where, according to the February market registrations its share of the total vehicle market has almost doubled, from 2.9% to 4.8% in 12 months.


The segment is dominated by the Mazda CX-3, with growth coming on strong for the Toyota Yaris Cross and the Volkswagen T-cross. Hyundai’s Venue and its sibling, the Kia Stonic, are just behind, but in a heartening development for the Ford Motor Company, the just-introduced Puma sold 256 vehicles in February, for a share of 6.3%.


That’s a performance best described as ‘out of the gate and bolting’. Both Paul Gover and I ranked this light crossover very highly. After comparing notes we found it hard to categorise as a crossover because it’s much more like a ‘high riding’ hatch.

This latest Ford entrant in this segment follows the rather lacklustre Ecosport, and from its first month’s sales the Puma looks set to find a home in a lot more garages as the year rolls on.


Mind you, generally speaking the Ford team are wearing big smiles most of the time with the Mustang and Ranger cruising along very nicely, thank you.


My recent straw poll of some Gold Coast vehicle wholesalers told me that, women especially, are finding that their menfolk’s attraction to crew cab utes and tradie trucks with 5-seats is not going down too well. There's a lot of crew cabs in the wholesale yards.

Women describe them as ‘agricultural’ and not pleasant to drive, so Ford’s sporty little Puma is likely to win lots more hearts. It’s comfortable, drives well, has excellent storage for its small size and its three-cylinder turbo returns excellent fuel economy.

What’s not to like?


John Crawford

Saturday, March 13, 2021

BENTLEY IN AMERICA - MAKING A MARQUE (Part 1) - by John Crawford

Really, the USA sales data for 1998 framed the challenge for the then 80-year-old British upper luxury marque – Rolls-Royce sold 1315 cars, Bentley sold 314. As a Brand, Bentley was invisible!

Volkswagen Group had acquired Bentley after a very public legal tussle with BMW Group, which ended up with the better-known brand heading to a new home in München, leaving most to assume VWAG got the raw end of the deal, via some sloppy trademark investigations and ineffectual work by VW’s legal team.


However, when the dust had settled, VW’s Chairman, Ferdinand Piëch insisted he got the brand that meant more to him than the stuffy, pompous luxo-barges bought by British toffs, and self-made men who merely wanted to emphasise how successful they’d become.

Dr. Piëch at Geneva Salon 1999 with Hunaudieres concept and Arnage sedan

I was headhunted to lead the PR effort in the USA in October 1998, and by the time I was interviewed by Dr. Piëch in his Wolfsburg office in February 1999, it was clear there was a lot of work ahead, to take Bentley from zero to hero in the world’s biggest luxury market.


The VW Chairman told me that there would be no budgets for advertising, marketing or promotion. It was his view that a sustained PR campaign was the way to deliver visibility and presence for Bentley with US buyers, and that’s where the resources would be directed.

He then told me I had been highly recommended by the former Chairman of the British company, Graham Morris, and he would leave it to me to create the appropriate PR approach.


From December 1998 to March 1999, I regularly commuted between Sydney and Crewe, returning home via the USA, so I could catch up with initial progress being led by the young new President, Alasdair Stewart (below).


It turned out many of the existing dealers treated ‘sales’ as an unwelcome activity. They were content to have a Rolls-Royce demonstrator, which would be provided for their wives to drive. As there were few marketing stimuli, nor sales bonuses, nor marketing plans, the dealers simply waited for a potential buyer to come in and place an order for a Rolls-Royce – often paying for the car with a briefcase stuffed with $100 bills!


I think most of Alasdair’s activities in the first six months was telling dealers he expected them to step up and ‘sell’ cars, a demand which often resulted in dealers deciding it was all too hard, and handing back the franchise. Which was a great outcome, saving our company millions in compensation.

Pischetsrieder & Piëch
However, there was a delicate balancing act in play. Dr. Piëch had assured BMW AG Chairman, Berndt Pischetsrieder, that VW would hand over the Rolls-Royce brand to BMW in 2002 in 'good order and condition'.

This ‘gentleman’s agreement’ boiled down to me having to devote at least one third of my meagre PR budget (and activities) to supporting Rolls-Royce, a brand we would lose in three years.

We introduced two new models, a Corniche convertible which was identical to the latest Bentley Azure (although wearing the ‘Parthenon’ grille and Flying Lady); and the Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph ‘Final Edition’. We quit the brand in 2002 after selling all the cars shipped to the USA, so – job done!

Now, finally, to Bentley, and how to shift focus on a brand few Americans (even the wealthiest) knew anything about, let alone have any impetus for demand for this invisible marque.


Early in 2002 we got humiliating insight into the status of recognition of the brand. We held a research clinic in New York City, where 30 or so carefully chosen wealthy potential customers were invited to an anonymous hotel ballroom, where six identically-painted competitors’ cars were arranged, all with their badges removed to avoid identification.

Problem was the clinic staff were concerned about removing the Bentley’s winged badge on the trunk lid, fearing it would be damaged, so they left it on.

During the morning a purple-haired matron summoned one of the clinic staff over, and pointing at the Winged B badge, asked: “What’s this car, honey, a Buick?”


The outcome was the realisation that although she was in the target group, it would be a tiny group.

So we had to rethink the whole exercise and come up with a PR plan to broaden visibility of the marque, and create demand across a far wider cross section of the top 1% of Americans.


Thanks to my former role as Vice President for Public Relations with Jaguar Cars North America, I already enjoyed excellent relations with the top echelon of the American motoring press, and I determinedly, struggled through one of North America’s biggest-ever blizzards in January 1999, to attend the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.


After re-acquainting myself with all of the magazine editors, market strategists and auto journalists whose opinions I deeply respected, I began to assess both the scale of the challenge, and started to plan the PR strategy for the next two years.


Clearly, this battle to create a visible presence for Bentley needed a multi-layered approach. The brand produced only expensive premium luxury cars, so the targets would be best reached by what was being newly-christened, the ‘Lifestyle Media’. However, using Lifestyle magazines to reach luxury car buyers was (at the time) a completely ignored channel, which needed support from the specialist automotive press.


I figured the program would probably take about three years to have any impact, and it was vital that the automotive media was fully informed and briefed on the attributes of the Bentley brand, and to simplify communications I created a three-word communication to be used by all our executives and dealers during that time. We told anyone who would listen that Bentley was all about ‘Power, Performance and Presence’.

This brief description strongly resonated with one of the key, new target markets – the music icons, like Sean Combs (P.Diddy), and other rappers and recording stars.

It may have been seen as irrelevant to establishing Bentley’s credentials with the more conservative elements of the market, but the speed with which the stars’ car choices resonated through the media would speed up the process of establishing Bentley’s status founded on ‘Power, Performance and Presence’.


However, we spread Bentley’s appeal across the sporting arena as well, attracting basketball star Shaquille O’Neil to the Brand by building him a personally-commissioned Bentley R coupe, which could accommodate his incredible height of 2.16m.


In 2001 Bentley NA President Alasdair Stewart, created a vital connection with fashion designer Ralph Lauren, who was already an owner of several significant vintage Bentleys, by delivering a personally-commissioned Bentley Arnage sedan.

A short time later we managed to co-opt help from actress Kim Cattrall (‘Sex & The City’) by ensuring she had the use of a Bentley R coupe, to visit her weekender in the Hamptons.


Once these associations broke cover in the media, we were ‘on the way’.

John Crawford