Sunday, 14 January 2018

Alternative New Year's Message - Quiz - Answers




We live in an age when at the tap of the screen-based finger-touch keyboard the answer to nearly everything can be obtained. Yet, like the modern 'hook-ups' of Tinder App users, such readily available immediacy whilst providing an immediate satisfaction, ultimately leaves a person bereft of the enticement of curiosity, anticipation and discovery.

The previous short quiz deliberately exemplified the best of the 1950s precisely because of the then slow pleasure era – before smart-phones moulding not so smart people – when nuance and delayed delight were the norm in life, from general knowledge quizzes to the flirtation of romantic relationships.

But of course, very few have an encyclopaedic knowledge of Hollywood cinema, and so a few scant red-herrings were used to momentarily delay the electronically sourced answer; the multi-coloured silk hat-band (so inferring a colour film) and the addition of a second 'n' in the stated location name, and likewise the absence of the background musical “leit-motif” of 'La Vie En Rose'.

Of course, the answers were:

1. 'Sabrina' - 1954 Paramount Pictures.
2. Audrey Hepburn and William Holden (and Humphrey Bogart).
3. The Nash-Healey Mk2 Roadster .

As previously mentioned, the car itself the result of cross-continental commerce to crystallise a new politically unified Trans-Atlantic age; though only lasting in all four years between 1951 and 1954, by the Nash-Kelvinator Corporation.

(The company itself was a merger between Nash Motors and a consumer/commerce appliance firm, with the aim of procuring larger volumes of sheet and bar steel and to better deploy the costs of management and engineering staff; to realise improved economies of scale across the board.

The IL6 power-unit and drive-train of the car were shipped from Kenosha, WI, USA to Warwick, UK where it was received by Donald Healey's company (famed for his prewar and immediate post-war rallying prowess and its niche manufacturing) for the addition of an aluminium cylinder head, alternative intake and outlet manifold, provision of SU and Carter carburettors, and vitally, fitment into the racing-embued, much altered, “Silverstone” chassis.

[NB Healey had styled and also built, from aluminium, the Mk1 body, but the Mk2 saw Italian involvement to add greater prestige – with manifest front-end, rear-end and body-side feature-line restyles, including subtle tail-fins - so as to better substantiate the high retail price with a premium associative 'sub-brand'].

Once assembled, tested on the track and further fettled, each rolling-chassis was then shipped to near Turin, Italy for its new body. The contract given to the famed carrozzeria of Pininfarina, who had over the past two decades secured strong styling and body-building stature. Not only did they style and build the new Roadster but also gained the avant-garde styling work for the larger saloon and wagon model-lines.

[NB Done so to compete with famed Loewy's competitor designs – both later believed as too stylistically advanced for the period – removing the visual importance of the wheels by way of near fully enclosed fenders – and with competitively under-powered motors compared to Ford and GM V8s].

Thereafter the cars were transported back to Nash HQ back in the USA for quality control and onto Nash dealerships. However, the target market of well-healed East Coast weekend Cads from old families, and the less flambouyant Euro-aspirational set of Central Coast California, were not convinced. The 'mongrel' pedigree and high price seemed mismatched, even if ironically wholly representative of their own oft Euro-American backgrounds. For that money (over $5,000) they could soon buy cheaper (Corvette and Thunderbird) or wanted status assured European pure breeds.

[The commercial failure of the 'mongrel' or 'jigsaw' business model would be seen again in later decades with the likes of Iso, Bizzerini, de Tomaso, De Lorean and Vector; though the cars themselves have since obviously become collectible. Interestingly - and hardly coincidentally - the name Vallelunga was both model name for de Tomaso and a side-actor in Hepburn's 'Breakfast at Tiffany's']. 

The inclusion of the Nash-Healey in the 1954 film 'Sabrina' was undertaken as an obvious form of product placement for a by then struggling auto-maker, with even the name-dropping use of Bentley and Mercedes by Holden's fiancée character to draw a notional perceived parallel to the Nash-Healey. The producers going so far as to have Hepburn wear an haute-couture white head-cap to subtley mimic the white helmet worn by a racing-driver in the Roadster's PR photos. (Thankfully no reference to any religious garb).

But the combination of Nash-Kelvinator's declined revenues, its 'unbalanced' balance sheet and the reality of unobtainable projected cost-savings (in part because of the additional costs of part-funding the post-war “GI Bill” - which itself supported a new generation of American engineers) took a massive toll. Ultimately leading to merger with likewise ailing Hudson and so the creation of a supposedly rational-based American Motors Corp.

….................................................................................................

The noted obvious reaction to the weblog quiz came from Jay Leno and his Garage production team.

This done with his subtle yet prosaic showcasing of a 1971 240Z / Fairlady Z; with the accoutrement of the 'subway handle' attached to the rear tow hook. In a typical Japanese subtly referential manner to the reverence of Hepburn - since she embodies the Japanese way of courtesy above all to display honour - it both mimics Ms Hepburn's pronounced circular earrings as seen throughout 'Sabrina', and infers that the passengers of such cars should "Hold On".  

As may will know, the Z was given its “Fairlady” name for the Japanese market by a senior Nissan executive because he was so impressed by the Hepburn-Harrison film 'My Fair Lady' and believed the then Nissan-Prince-Datsun corporation to be like Eliza – going through a massive learning curve to become a new competitive force in the global auto industry. First was the original 1959 IL4 Roadster, then applied to the 1969/70 IL6 Coupe.

Another interesting parallel was the way Eliza became as independent (in Prof Higgins words) as “a consort battleship”, when it is rumoured that much of Nissan's sheet-steel in the 1960s and 1970s came from recycled battleships, and instigated the belief that the new Coupe must include independent rear suspension to be 'best-in-class'.

That Datsun 'retort' was followed-up by the appearance of Mike Simcoe – relatively recent new Head of GM Design, kindly providing sight of the renowned (Harley Earl era) 1953 concept cars : by way of Firebird I and III.

That cross-country transportation to LA in a way paid homage to Earl, since the city itself was the starting point for Harley Earl, who himself began in theatre and film set design).

The subtle pun was that Australian born Simcoe himself started at GM-Holden, at the Fisherman's Bend Engineering and Design Centre in Melbourne; with obvious namesake to the Sabrina co-star William Holden.
…...........................................................................................................

The point of that short quiz, was to promote the idea that we should all return to the values of a bygone age – albeit even if overly romanticised - when prosaic yet obvious subtlety in all forms of life took civilised precedence over overt 'empowered' aggression and nasty passive aggression, as so often seems the case in the oft poorly advanced and societally misdirected 21st century.

….........................................................................................................................

Since we seem to live in an age which because of identity politics and tribal member affirmation many believe themselves to be intellectual superwomen and supermen – the ability to 'connect the dots' making them the supposed modern equals of Professor John Nash.

This especially seen in the self-referential entertainment industry, and so because of media saturation, all too often in broader society, which itself is media now wholly saturated by formal and informal media-feed.

A pertinent example herein being Madonna's cross-referencing of Sabrina content in her 2015 'Rebel Heart' show.

The spiral staircase seen in the film is used as a centre-piece as is the inclusion of the song 'La Vie en Rose', with a supposedly subtle reference to Nash Motors' Rebel model. But in today's milieu all subtelty is lost and what was a depiction of less is more (as seen with Hepburn's ankle on her ascent of the spiral staircase), the 'empowered' hyper-liberal crowd are instead fed the old tropes of BDSM, bare breasts and a phallic-crucifix stage disguised as a heart and cross. Hence Madonna's celebrity still reliant upon the supposed shock of sex, today tied to a new generation with sexuality based LGBTQ identity politics.

Sex itself (especially when mixed with alcohol and drugs) has always been the easiest social currency to manipulate the masses, even if they believe themselves to be of greater intelligence than past generations of the overtly conventional middle-ground.

Whether true or not, in the film 'A Beautiful Mind', Professor John Nash deploys an example of everyday Game Theory, with his observation that competitive male participants in the dating game are better off avoiding the obvious self-absorbed Marilyn-esque peroxide blonde, so as to achieve a fair and satisfactory mutual outcome.

…...................................................................................................................................

The lesson for life....instead become 'empowered' by the words of the Audrey Hepburn...

“Nothing is IMPOSSIBLE...the word itself says I'M POSSIBLE”!


“Merci beaucoup” Sabrina, and “Hartelijk dank voor alles” Audrey.

….....................................................................................................................................

And lastly throughout 2018, when possible, so as to think critically for ones-self, periodically avoid the internet and broad media and regain unfettered reality amongst authentic people and places – away from the all too common slave-like 'social actors' (who think themselves 'in the know' but just in fact other's pawns) - to places in the mind, heart and soul within this world where the tentacles of the now near ubiquitous 'web-octopus or web-spider' or cannot reach.

We can't all retreat to the heights of the Swiss mountains as Audrey did to avoid the Hollywood 'Rats Nest', but we can regain our all too rapidly declining higher consciousness if we choose to do so.










Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Alternative New Year's Message - 2018




Previously investment-auto-motives has provided Christmas and New Year's Messages that view economic life from a philosophical perspective, trying to seek a rounded balance in the world.

(As indeed was seen in the overtly moralistic tone of the last web-log).

However, before returning to the matter of a resurgent Brazilian economy – now that there is at long last synchronous global economic traction – this New Year's Message seeks to not moralise but enthuse, in a round-a-bout humouristic way, about the matter of democratic, shared stakeholder capitalism.


A Very Short, Very Topical Film Based Quiz....

Doing so in the form of a question, pertaining to Capitalism's golden age, when it was working for everyone, from those at top of the societal tree to those at the bottom.

As is clear, this weblog has rightly criticised the very damaging socio-economic influence that the worst of Hollywood film and television has created so as to produce an unthinking, overtly self-centric and consumer-centric western society.

At its worst it promotes unfettered sex and violence; at its 'best' it deliberately perpetuates its own self-interests and its associated power-structure without even the pretence of paraody. (ie the film The Rewrite' amongst others). Between these two extremes it regurgitates formulaic low-brow comedies or stretches the sequel idiom ad infinitum.

But there was a time during the 1950s and 1960s when the best of a positively moralistic United States – in its bid to create worldwide economic unity via film's soft-power influence – deployed Hollywood as its idealistic 'temporal and spiritual translator'.

The following is an excerpt of a film script from that golden era, which quite obviously has an automotive overtone that befits this web-log, and the ideals of investment-auto-motives.

….............................................................................................................

An example of America's first post-war sportscar (before Corvette) speeds down a country lane, driven by a man wearing a panama hat with colourful silk band whilst jauntily whistling to himself.

Then a low angle, close-up view of a wire-wheeled, white-walled tyre screeching to stop.

The car reverses (in a long arc) at speed into the empty taxi-kerb of a rural rail-road station (to encounter the female star).

She is a beautiful, elegantly dressed woman, stood with small dog and luggage.

The conversion between the two apparent 'strangers' begins, with a cheeky opening gambit...


M: “Taxi Miss... cheapest rates in Glenn Cove?”
F: “Well hello, how are you?”
“Well I'm fine, how are you...and I might add...who are you?”
“Who am I?”
“Am I supposed to know”.
“Come to think of it, no you're not supposed to know”.
“Are you stranded?”
“My father was supposed to pick me up, but something must have happened”.
“Who ever your father is and whatever happened, I'd be eternally grateful..that is if I can give you a lift”.
“You certainly can, you can drive me home”.
“Good, I'll get your bags....where do you live?”
“Desores Lane”
“Desores Lane...say that's where I live”
“Really”
“Sure...we must be neighbours...and if there's one thing I believe in it's 'love thy neighbour'”.
“Oh, so do I”

The man jumps out, collects the luggage and straps it to the trunk-lid rack.

W: (talking to the dog) “Come on David”
M: “David...is his name David?”
“Yes it is”
“That's funny, my name's David too”
“That is funny isn't it!” (said with a knowing smirk)

Once on the road...

“Are you sure you don't want to tell me your name?”
“Positive...I'm having much too much fun!”
“Alright, if you want to play games...have you always lived here in Long Island”
“Most of my life”
“I could have sworn I knew every pretty girl on the North Shore”
“I could have sworn you took in more territory than that”
“This is maddening...I know I've seen that face before...let me see your profile again...I know I know you. I've a feeling I've seen you with your father. Wait a minute...is your father Admiral Starrit?”
“Hardly” (with slight grin)
“Funny, I keep seeing him in a uniform. Oh come on, give us a hint. What does your father do”
“He's in Transportation”
“Transportation...Rail-Roads, New York Central?”
“No” (burgeoning smile)
“Planes, TWA?”
“No” (broadening smile)
“Boats, United States Lines?”
“No” (beaming smile)
“I Pass”
“Automobiles” (said with glee).

He continues to guess on...

M: “Oh...Chrysler?”
F: “Yes...Chrysler, and Ford and General Motors and Rolls-Royce”
“Is your father on the Board of Directors of all those companies?”
“Well...you might say he runs things”.

…......................................................................................................

(If only people in real life – social, business and otherwise - were as pure, charming and decent as Hollywood characterisation in its yesteryear heyday. The world would indeed be a better place).


For the fun of intrigue itself, identify the film from the clues and character's conversation, the actor and actress, and the vehicle itself, born from an overtly politically projected, complex, cross-continental 'entent--cordial' business model.






Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Alternative Christmas Message - 2017




We now live in a western-led globalised urban culture that has hyper-contextualised the idea of wealth and an apparent ferocious concomitant personal and group demand of the enormously expensive in all consumer items.

Perhaps even Thorsten Veblen himself would be ashamed of the extent his 18th century observations have materialised; sent at warp speed into the 21st century.

It seems that the yesteryear ideal of 'personal wealth' – that of typically hard earned cumulative experience and wisdom that provided the level of an individual's social worth – became redundant long, long ago...often now absent when broken and maladapted societies need it most.

There are of course those relatively few who sit on massive personal and family wealth, the best of whom give back to broad society, ranging from International Aid to sponsorship of high-culture performances; so as to elevate the bodies and minds of those far less fortunate.

But unfortunately, popular culture through music videos and reality shows envelopes little more than 'televisual torture' for the many, seeking to emulate the crassest elements of the 1%.

Hollywood (and now Bollywood and its other EM equals) and the ever more sensationalist seeking fashion industry channeled through formal and social media obviously shapes much of that social consciousness; and has unsurprisingly perpetuated the mass-desire for all that is apparently “glamorous”.

The most prevalent and endemic now being the creation of woman's 'lounge-wear' which in essence transfers the sexuality of bedroom lingerie and nightclub-wear into the ever more everyday public area. Whilst their men are supposed to be driving Lambo's, Ferrari's, Porsche's, Rolls-Royce's and Bentley's whilst simultaneously ordering cases of premium champagne and cutting multi-million dollar deals on gold-plated iPhones.

TV reality-show puppets perpetuate the fantasy for the mass youth whilst their own personal debt piles from education, high rents and lifestyle and experience spending; actually keeps them in an ever more complex high anxiety web, which itself spirals with paradoxically more consumeristic "antidotes".

Money does indeed make the world go around, and 'high finance' through equity and fixed-income does indeed fuel the industrial and services economies by which most earn a living.


But this Christmas, next Christmas and thereafter....don't be stupid enough to make money your religion.






          

Monday, 4 December 2017

Parallel Learning – UK Emergency Service Vehicles – Investment in Scaled Efficiencies for an Ever Broadening Multi-Task Spectrum



Part 5 : Metamorphic Modularisation
“Sketching-Out a Three Phase Future”


The six previous case studies of the modular ideology were obviously only a relative few instances, that have underpinned the modern world. Other examples abound.

Given the UK government's newly announced £44bn focus on the housing sector, a prosaic example of yesteryear was of course the “Pre-Fab” house in the post WW2 era, the quick solution to the need to house hundreds of thousands of people away from the devastation.

The speedy and cost-efficient basis of the “Pre-Fab” (ie pre-fabricated) building – whilst heavily influencing and favoured by much of Europe in very advanced structure – failed to make in-roads in the UK. This precisely because of the structure and interests of the domestic housing sector, from the deep intersection with Finance and Banking, the entrenched '30%-30%-30%' (10% contingency) business model of house-builders, reliance on heavy commodities (bricks, aggregates etc) much low-cost labour, and the sector's contribution to the FTSE 250. In effect a highly fragmented, and so incrementally value-adding process in which much value (ie profit) can be extracted.

Nonetheless, whilst this reality is entrenched in the deep foundations of the UK economy, new policy and CSR thinking for those people most marginalised (the homeless) should take place.

To this end, investment-auto-motives suggests that a policy be created which utilises old, disregarded yet sound shipping containers and detatchable 'Luton' box-van bodies be appropriated, modified and used as micro-homes to end dire suffering.

[NB It seems that BT Openreach (the wholesale comms division of the Group) have been discontinuing their now aged fleet of box-body vans, because of apparent events of fire caused by portions of the wooden internal structure of the box, leading to the humorous term 'the WickerVan' amongst fleet engineers. Unless BT seeks to recycle the sheet plastic, aluminium and extrusions, these bodies could be stripped of flammable internal materials and given to a dedicated charity for adaptation and in which to house the homeless far from the troublesome inner-city streets].

As corporations take on greater social inclination and responsibility, such initiatives for social improvement within western nations should become commonplace. The UK, Europe and North America suffers from often invisible heavy social deprivation which requires proper solutions, not just more formal charities; which appear to better serve their 'private-sector level' paid Directors, Managers and Staff – which is itself is highly alienating given the 'lifestyle chasm' to those in desperate need.

Importantly, ever since the advent of the 2008 Financial Crisis and its devastating effect upon the UK economy and society at large, the product philosophy of necessary re-use, new-use and long life-cycles for old and new products and their sub-components has become increasingly melded into the social and industrial consciousness.

To this end there needs to be a more holistic and long-termist perspective about the fundamental infrastructures of western society, this the prime argument posited herein regards a new modular age for the Emergency Service Vehicles. So as to underpin both the reduced costs of long-term government spending in this arena, and operate as a catalyst for broader change and advancement in public and private transport.

In order to appreciate the possibility for such a rational re-design of society we return to the most prolific military-industrial case study.


The Transfer of Military Learning -

The point to be made here is that the most efficient and effective combined military force in the world, the US Armed Forces is seen as a powerful template for the conceptualised idea of a highly technically capable national emergency services model – one that could be eventually rolled out world-wide.

And so it is only logical that in turn the philosophical template of the armed forces, along with that of the UN, and the 'imagineering' creativity shown by the creators of 'Thunderbirds' should be revisited to construct an enhanced future version of the UK's Emergency Services.

Although at first possibly viewed as seemingly overtly childish, simplistic and ridiculous the fact remains that the central element of the 'imagineering' that went into 'International Rescue' means that the TV show should indeed be used as a highly useful cultural reference when considering the expanded 'real-world' capabilities and increasingly advanced technical development of the Emergency Services.

Presciently then, whilst often intentionally sensationalist and far fetched, the story-lines of Thunderbirds - often requiring the application of hi-tech solutions - introduces the idea of a more systematic process approach toward the marriage of vehicle fleets and specific equipment needs.


The Dire Need For Long Term Planning -

The UK's national budget has been under immense pressure since 2008, the need for Qualitative Easing as a palliative measure (but adding massively to the debt over-hang and its deffered 're-balancing' date of now 2030) plus the reality of relatively slow economic growth within the global downturn from a low baseline, has meant that both the OBR (Office for Budget Responsibility), the Treasury / Chancellor of the Exchequer have all had to undertake a highly challenging financial balancing act between the 'fire-fighting' social needs of today and the mid to long-term economic health of the country.

Today we live in a world of what could be called 'Rationalised Keynsianism' whereby the high Keynesian costs of new and retro-fitted infrastructure planning/development, so as to drive up aggregate B2B and B2C demand, must - unlike the past when central government had the strength and ability to spend and spend - now be much 'Rationalised' by the involvement of far more “measured inputs and outputs” from private capital and commerce.

This process alone then extends and complicates the infrastructure planning time-frame.

During the 19th and 20th centuries, the comparative industrial and economic might of the UK and West meant that high-ideal social projects could be conceptualised and delivered, from the railways of the 1850s to the NHS of the 1950s. Little matter that such grand schemes may have led to cost over-runs and delayed financial break-even, the ROI in respective financial and social terms was assured, whereby strong capital could rely upon a structured society and increasingly healthy and educated workforce.

Things are very different today, increasingly aged society, increasingly sick populace (medication rife across the age range from ADHD medicated children to socially disconnected, long seperated, alienated and rightly distrustful adults) and vitally an equally sick national 'structural debt' burden. A burden which (now as seen) extends the budget re-balancing by 15 years, from the initial 2015 to 2030.

It must only be hoped that the enormous levels of government debt raised will be used beyond the cash injection into the banks and also be effectively used to pump-prime and kick-start a new era in UK commerce.

One which re-invents British commerce and industry far beyond the trite examples of the internet of things seen so far and the extreme over-hype of truly autonomous cars. A model which vitally is directly connected to the rest of the world and indeed leads the world in proper PESTEL advancement.

Rarely has a society faced such endemic challenges yet all the while much of its youth and middle-aged been absorbed into the 'group narcissism' of identity politics fuelled by the media and social-media so as to feel “empowered”, the result has become social division, leading to a permanently “passive-aggressive” society, which has become increasingly dysfunctional.

That dream-scape ideal of Victorian sociologists which came into being with the advent of the largely unified mass middle-class has become but a distant memory for many, and the over-arching social ideology requires a fundamental 're-boot'.

Presently one (potentially dystopian) 'reboot' is being orientated by the increasingly omnipotent Big Tech companies, led by Alphabet-Google and its plans for the Toronto 'Keyside' area cyber-immersed redevelopment.”To rejuvinate the area” is the apparent mission-statement, without recognistion that the humans within it are essentially 'digitally-dependent' and themselves not autonomous beings, but effectively part of the machine, “ghosts in the machine”.

It also seems, that in a new era of slowly reduced Statism, that many central humanistic and sociological 'stakeholder' considerations will be the remit and remote responsibility of those powerful financial institutions (the biggest pension funds, insurance funds, investment funds etc) that operate as primary shareholders in new socio-technological ventures that shape the everyday. These with little or no political leanings; many of which are influenced by the non-partisan, socially lead Norwegian SWF – the biggest singular fund owner in the world.

Thus whilst infrastructure costs and 'pay back' periods will be scrutinised for each project, so increasingly is the real-world 'CSR' impact, from 'Emissions to Education' to ensure as broad an advantageous outcome as feasible.

Thus whilst there is much talk of “HS2” (itself paradoxical in the digital age but obviously serving construction sector – see previous comment) and ideology of the “Northern Powerhouse” as big tractive economic projects, the UK's corporate and political leadership must also look at the basics of society's everyday functional activities for substantive social improvement and financial re-balancing.

To this end, in an age of social fragmentation, much increased individual worry and stress and subsequent highly damaging behavioural outcomes, and wherein the social institutions of the past that promoted respect, discipline and meaningful learning (ie schools and universities) have become little more than containment and profit centres, perhaps the only remaining examples of the combined positive self and society is held within the social ideology of the combined Emergency Services and their innate moral precedence.

It is a moral lead which western societies desperately need to re-awaken, invoke and spread amongst its citizens so as to create social stability and overall advancement.

And it is only via compelling vison, new thinking, approaches, methods and technologies that this could and should be achieved.


The R+D Challenge -

Details behind the recent UK Budget highlighted the truth about Britain's position in the world of today and tomorrow, and given the seemingly never-ending televisual historical documentary boast about the country's past achievements as leaders of the Industrial Revolution, today compariative efforts appear pitiful.

As a comparison: even before advent of the autonomous vehicle, a typical auto-manufacturer needed to spend between 4-6% of its turnover on research and development, this the industrial norm.

Nations arguably have more need and inducement to operate at that level to create society's future, yet the UK ranked 13th out of 15 (largely western) countries in terms of Public R+D at 1.7%, marginally beating Italy and Spain, but far behind its best positioned counterparts which spend approximately 4.5% and 3.0%.

[NB combine the typically business connected efforts of the USA and Israel and the combined spending is near 7.0%; little wonder that Jewish-Americans seized the opportunities of the British invented internet for enormous financial gain whilst the rest of the world fell well behind in industrial terms].

Time indeed for Britain to recapture its industrial heritage and actually live-up to the eternal boast of past achievement.

The £2.5bn now made available for Innovation appears overtly small when compared to Housing's £44bn, so it will have to be directed very, very wisely.


Metamorphic Modularisation -

One such avenue is via an expansive re-design of the Emergency Service's mobile units infrastructure.

It seems that over the decades more than enough has been spent upon an ever bigger, sprawling and complex - and so operationally problematic - IT systems, which have absorbed enormous public funding and indeed rightly added to available information for those Responders on the street; whether Police Officers doing background checks, or Ambulance Para-Medics able to see the patient details of a 999 call from members of the public.

Yet in reality there comes a certain point of information overload or little added value to those on the ground, and thus greater expediency can be gained from a fundamental redesign of the major physical parts of the system itself.

A more rationalised and systemic approach which demands that strategic attention be turned toward the physically mobile entities themselves, not simply the digital communications system.

As illustrated previously, past evolution of the Police, Ambulance and Fire-Rescue depended upon the re-shaping reaction of watershed events (eg the Blitz) to create adequate entities, but this is reactionary and slow when foresight and proactivity is obviously required.

Thus a 'Big Picture' plan is required to serve the remainder of the 21st century.

A fundamental aspect of this being a new totem or system pillar of Service Re-configurable and Mixed Use Core Fleet “Van and Pod” Vehicle Infrastructure(s).

The attached graphic by investment-auto-motives simplistically depicts such a future regards basic 'Van and Pod' architectures, named 'Metamorphic Modularisation' or indeed 'Metamorphic Metropolitan Modularisation' ('3M')

[NB this done to deliberately invoke the innovative icon that is the moveable 3M Post-It-Note, itself oblong and florescent, and so akin to an EMS vehicle, aswell as a major producer of chemical-bonding solutions for many variants of vehicle bodies, from coach-built van-bodies to helicopter airframes].

The key aspect is to view the Module Box as of prime importance, given the role the space muct play to maximise cost and efficiency and the unrecognised enormous potential for the continued evolution of duty-assist equipment, propelled by much from the IoT (Internet of Things) to proper ergonomics to make the Responder or Respond Group more able.

Those groups spanning: Police, Ambulance, Fire-Rescue and the possibility of an additional (light Para-Military like) Civilian Assist which can be deployed for unusual and extreme major events, beyond the everyday and specialised remit of the standard three Services.

The basis then is of a Standardised Module System which can be Task Re-Configured and is Future-Proofed in its construction to befit the conventional industry evolution and deliberately UK EMS designed evolution of the Prime-Mover vehicles, their changing drive-train types (ICE to Hybrid to all Electric) and on-board power supply distribution (from 12V to 48V).

The basic graphic spans a time-line that starts after initial research studies and prototyping, and is set in 3 Phases.

Phase 1 :
Spans from 2025 to 2035

A basic redesign of standard van chassis-cabs from Ford, Renault (also badged Vauxhall, FIAT and of course Nissan), VW, Mercedes-Benzand Peugeot-Citroen, that deploys repositioned  lower mounted rear chassis rails onto which the Module is positioned. This provides for greater standard headroom and so usability, and echoes the changes made to passenger cars in the 1920s and 1930s and to buses in the 1970s and 2000s, and the be. larger class of European campervan conversion companies.

This a relatively low-cost alteration by the manufacturer, requiring a frame-rail stagger and so localised strengthening.

Additionally the design by manufacturer and client would focus upon the mating system for Module Placement and Removal between Box and Van. With also the potential Addition of a separate Trailer Module attached via standard tow-bar, NATO-hitch or A-frame , so providing for the ability to simultaneously deploy 2 complementary Modules.

NB. The fundamental design of the Module 'future-proofed' so as to be the vital and foremost item to which  future power-units are attached.

Otherwise the vehicle appears as normal, with the expected introduction of Hybrid drive by manufacturers for Diesel and Petrol engines, and the possibility of 4WD with inclusion of a electrically-driven rear axle (PSA having led this trend with its 3008 model)

Phase 2 :
Spans from 2035 to 2050

A radical redesign of vehicle architecture, with the van now operating as a smaller scale Tractor-Trailer unit. The van becomes a highly manouvreable short wheel-base 'Traction Head' consisting of of motor and short 3-abreast cabin, pulling the Module Box.

At this stage the inclusion of additional 'Extendor' units attached either front, rear, or both; so expanding the available capacity of the single Module.

The option is to put the Module Box on its own unpowered wheels front and rear to create a 'rolling chassis' or to use a smaller-scale conventional tractor-trailer hitch system.

This mimics the carrying methods seen between the 1920s and 1960s by ports and industry in Germany and the UK, and at airports today, wherein the 'traction-head' (then the likes of a Scammell Scarab) would act as a 'tug' to the separate wagon.

Phase 3 :
Spans from 2050 onward

A radical redesign from today, but natural evolution from the Phase 2 model. Herein the Module again takes even greater precedence, itself the core body to which a medium-sized powered 'Head' and /or 'Tail' is attached to provide propulsion in either 2WD or 4WD forms.

These units being the standard dimensions of the previous 'Extendor' unit, with Both 'Head' and 'Tail' providing all-electric drive (hence pure EV) and providing steering to either front, rear or both.

The latter especially useful for cornering when the Module Box is lengthened (ie configured with 'Extendors' front and rear).


Funding :
An 'off-the-cuff' structure:
Phase 1 : 40% Central Government, 40% Municipal Gov't, 20% Private Capital
Phase 2 : 40% Central Gov't, 20% Municiple Gov't (gradual decline), 40% Private Capital.
Phase 3 : gradual decline of Gov't sources to 100% PFI by 2050.


The Past Informs the Future -

Historically, many if not most new technological eras begin with the dedication of government to both affect change and to later via PFI (Private Finance Initiatives) to attract capital from the financial markets. This achieved through direct seed and incubation funding or via any necessary parliamentary clearance; and indeed both undertaken simultaneously.

In recent decades both the information revolution that is the internet and eco-technology advancements have been often essentially created and initially supported by the state; from academic labs to directly injected exploratory innovation grants.

This seen yet again today with the grant selection and approval process behind the former automotive element of the Technical Strategy Board, leading to 'Catapult' activities. The analytical outcomes of which have led to the nurturing of Driverless/Autonomous Vehicles in two development hub locations: Milton Keynes (private 2 persons transit) and Greenwich (public 10 persons transit).

The point to be made here is that unlike the US (with its far better connected banking-business-industrial leadership) the UK continues to be largely reactive in its innovation stance (very much led by the USA), not proactive, as it must.

And so inevitably lags behind.

This situation, oft told wherein the best of British innovation either stagnates or is 'stolen by' (ie the opportunity taken by) America, has to be reversed; especially now that the UK looks to the rest of the world for its future for new 'special relationships'.


Conclusion -

Given the complexity of tasks dealt with by Police, Ambulance and Fire-Rescue services, those in Whitehall with ultimate long-term policy creation, implementation and budget responsibility for the Emergency Services should recognise that it is high time for a well considered “back to the drawing board” approach.

So as to provide substantive long-term performance and costs improvement and to draw upon the planning, design, engineering and delivery expertise of UK plc to do so.

As seen previously, there are many influences that can and should be drawn upon, not least:

- Military
- Commerce
- Yesteryear Public Projects
- Popular Culture

Yes, the vital aspect of 'Modularisation' of the Emergency Services may at first appear overtly clinical or indeed militaristic, but the devout rationality of a military mindset behind the scenes does not need equate to a seemingly paramilitary presence in urban, suburban, provincial and rural areas.

[NB though the addition of a 'civil defence force' (possibly beginning as an expanded Territorial Army staffed by volounteer civilian “brigades” would strengthen disaster relief reaction and capability]

Of course the gains to be had from ever enhanced IT systems and better systems integration will continue to appear attractive and so gain budgetary backing, but the Emergency Services are a front-line operation, dependent upon people and their machinery. And just as information processes can be streamlined, so should much that is understood as the overtly practical.

All that is sits within the digital realm may be viewed as the glamourous arena for productivity improvement, but it has finite limits, and as such inevitably much reduced “units of marginal return” from ever additional expenditure.

In the end, it is the intersection between the people and their hardware that actually gets things done.

Now is the time that organisational leaderships of the Constabularies, Ambulance Services and Fire-Rescue – both separately as distinctly nationally combined singular forces and indeed combined mixed-forces – make a concerted effort to investigate various scenarios regards the physical 'shape of things to come' from the mid-term horizon onward.

Just how much a 'Metamorphic Modularised' system could vastly revolutionise and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of what is presently a very fragmented legacy-bound system must be explored in detail and with true independence.

Over the next 5 years we will continue to see the monies borne from Quantitative Easing trickle-down into UK commerce. The ongoing low interest rate environment providing a low-cost backdrop to what should be a new-era, next-step change that should see PFI projects expand beyond the standard strictures of rail, road, housing, education etc.

Privately invested British industry reacted to the 1956 Suez Crisis with the emergence of the 'modularised' 1959 Mini (with its radically re-invented packaging, external body seams and rotisserie production). And simultaneously saw the launch of a radically innovative public investment with the advent of the 'modularised' Routemaster Bus. Both of which thanks to wise mixed planning of private and public transport transformed the everyday life of the masses.

The McMillan led Conservative government won the 1959 general election for its third term in office, in no small part thanks to the vitality and ingenuity of a much revived British industry able to react to big-picture issues with the knowledge of political and expected economic stability.

The general base rate during the 1950s was between 2 – 4% and see what was achieved.

Today we sit at an historically unprecedented base rate low – which theoretically should induce a massive impetus for low cost borrowing toward investment in major public and private 'social transformation' projects.

More necessary today than since the end of WW2 given the enormous eco-socio-economic challenges in our midst : climate change, ongoing social deprivation, the wealth chasm between the 'haves' and 'have nots', and the still very anaemic general economy.

Timely then that the ”IR” public-good edict of 'International Rescue' was morphed with the “IR” acronym of 'Investor Relations'.

The UK's Industrial Strategy requires not simply growth-sector identification and backing ranging across the bio-sciences and artificial intelligence, but the re-application of critical human intelligence regards the updating of the man-made systemic world we live within.

As ever, investment-auto-motives continues to provide the thought leadership to do so.





Monday, 13 November 2017

Parallel Learning - UK Emergency Service Vehicles - Investment in Scaled Efficiencies for an Ever Broadening Multi-Task Spectrum




Part 4 : Inspiration of the 'Modular Methodology'

To highlight the gains to be obtained from the use of 'modularisation' – and its foundation of 'the rational method', the following consists of diverse examples that have transformed the productive capacity of society at large.


Best Practice Examples -

As previously described at the beginning of this web-log, “modular systems” have been in use for hundreds of years, indeed in simplistic form, for millennia.

However, there is obviously a world of difference in scale and complexity between the geometrical optimal factory packing of say chocolate Easter Eggs, to that of the pin-point 3D space identification and overtly automated utilisation in Amazon's massive warehouse facilities, to that of the 'box within a box within a box' mentality necessary of a global logistics company such as FedEx, DHL etc for maximum transport space utilisation.

Modularisation then, in its many forms, is in the world around us, and not just the obviously man-made, but also in nature as seen with the fractal, modularised replication of a complete tree echoed in the veins of its leaves.

However, it is modern built infrastructures, and where man-made vision has been made material into reality, that mankind's best practice should once again be recognised so as to inspire a better created future.

The following inspirational examplars from various fields:


1. Military
2. Commercial
3. Public Service
4. Education
5. Automotive
6. Television


Military:

Given the sad history of human war-mongering over resources and riches, it should come as no surprise that innate logic was earliest applied to this arena, this discipline leading to the term 'logistics'.

The efficient transportation of men, supplies and machinery was always paramount, and so the importance of 'vessel' type devices was always much considered, from the humble food-box, to the back-pack to the water or fuel 'jerry-can' right up to the latch-down layouts of heavy transport, from off-road 12-wheel drive TATRA trucks to the floor systems of heavy-haul aircraft like the Lockheed C-130 Hercules or new Airbus A400 Atlas.

Unsurprisingly, the common theme across much military equipment is that of optimisation through standardisation. This well underway in logistics by the early 19th century, this tangibly recognised and popularised by the dimensional accuracy of inter-changable parts for 'deconstructable and reconstructable' Colt revolvers.

Such examples helped the cause of standardisation and so efficiency, especially for any logistics corp. Thus arguably, as advantageous as the standardised weaponry has been likewise in transportation and on the ground deployment.

Of specific interest to this web-log is the seemingly humble transport container has evolved enormously over the preceding decades, especially so in within military use.

Effectively gestated in its modern form during WW1 for train to truck loading by both sides, it evolved again through WW2, and dramatically so by the US immediately after WW2 with creation of the first recognisable modern steel, 'hand-clap' door container – the 'Transporter'.

Thereafter, especially through the Vietnam War, modularisation via the transport container has formed the backbone of the US and thereafter international military operations, which led to the CONtainer EXPress system, or CONEX, allowing for greater modular configurations, improved stacking and storage.

By the 1970s the maturation of commercial systems encouraged use of both 40' and 20' length containers. These set the two typical set sizes used and range from being stored wholly empty with thousands of others awaiting dispatch, to deployed 'dress-ready' into 'the field' whether a stand-alone generator-house, or a conjoined mass, specially kitted-out to become as a unified operations base (possibly including command post, stores, medic, mess, sleeping quarters etc)

The military container has then been developed through space and HVAC rationalisation, user ergonomics aswell as aspects of packaging engineering; from low-level flight drop tests with crushable 'cushion' bases to airtight or vacuum sealed units for highly sensitive equipment

The development of the US Dept of Defense Container System is a story unto itself, affecting NATO and others, a story and productivity phenomenon which the UK Emergency Services would do well to reacquaint itself with.


Commerce :

Obviously, containers in a myriad of forms have been central to the thousands of years of local, regional and worldwide trade.

The first identifiable development with relation to the transferring of specialised carry-boxes between water, rail and road vehicles were thanks to James Brindley and Benjamin Outram in the late 1700s; these morphed into the earilest form of recognised 'containerization, by way of 'loose boxes'. By 1917 Benjamin Frankin Fitch had created his own design of 'demountable bodies' soon used by US railroads. And other efforts were made in Poland and the UK, centred around rail.

But it was only after the devastating effects of the 1929 Great Depression, undermining, fragmenting and halting trade worldwide, that the idea of internationally collaborative containerization came to the fore. Fitch re-entered the scene with 2 dimensions of container (either open or closed) and the 'Fitch Hooking System', and upon this the first container terminal was created by the Pennsylvannia RailRoad Co in 1932.

The ability to move a unified load from one form of transport to another via a standard container is officially called the 'intermodal freight container', spanning sea, rail and road; the first example of this in Canada in1955 between North Vancouver and Skagway, Alaska, USA. Similar efforts were made in mainland USA a year later between Newark, New Jersey and Houstan, Texas.

Success of the general system led to a proliferation of container or “box” sizes, and it was over a decade until ISO standards and regulations were ratified (between 1968 and 1970).

The gains of containerization in terms of speed, efficiency and so cost were enormous, whilst the general operations of ports, rail-heads and haulage depots altered likewise with a reduction of manpower required to transfer loads between transport mediums.

And to befit the now powerfully convenient system, manufacturers changed shipment packaging sizes and methods to suit, with periodically even the dimensions of the innate product itself so as to maximise the utilisation space of the whole container.

Thus the very effect of modularisation had a consequential effect of whole or partial modularisation throughout the supply system.

The influence of the ISO standards latterly meant that (non-stackable) truck bodies – known as 'swap-bodies' – would come to match similar dimensions, and that freight pallets (wooden, plastic and metal) would likewise be sized to fit.

Critically the worldwide adoption of these container standards means that even though there may be regional differences in other transport standards (such as narrow, standard and broad gauge rail) transport of the standard container is largely assured.


Educational:

The simple Lego brick (and its myriad of shaped successors) has become itself locked into the minds of adults and children all over the world regards educational play. Today the company is second only to the enormous Mattel Inc in terms of ranking, but has perhaps an unrivalled brand persona, given that the popularity of old favourites like Barbie, Cindy, Action Man have declined, overtaken by the impact of film, video and internet content related to character based toy merchandising (Disney Corp the obvious beneficiary).

The story of Lego itself has become the stuff of legend, from rustic roots in a carpenter's shed to multi-billion dollar empire, with its own ability to ride trends in popular culture franchises and business alliances.

A succinct article was published in the December 2013 edition of Octane Magazine (p142), which provides a pertinent perspective.

“Near bankruptcy in 1990, Lego fought back.

Founded in 1932 in Billund, Denmark by Ole Kirk Kristiansen a local master carpenter who added toys to his repetoire, the name 'Lego' derives from 'Leg Godt' meaning “play well”, it highlighted later by an external scholar that in Latin it means “I put together”.

The first injection moulding machine was imported in 1946 and Kristiansen decided to use this innovative device to create quicker and more cheaply produced plastic toys to accompany the hand and machine-made wooden ones. His primary plastic creation was “the Automatic Binding Brick” in 1949, which would be re-made as the 'stud and tube' brick in 1957, the coupling system patented in 1958.

[NB The idea itself sprang from the British toy 'Kiddicraft' of 1932, an original creation of the latter large Fishercraft company, slightly modified to include a 'peg' design].

A factory fire destroyed Kristiansen's wooden toy plant and so the company became reliant upon its plastic output.

In 1962 the Lego kits were made more versatile with the introduction of the Lego wheel, and thereafter the bricks adapted in shape, colour and texture to befit various themes, from housebuilding to automotive to characters to iconic architectures, and much else.

Construction with the modular brick(s) is nothing new (Egyptians to Romans to the efforts of a Victorian builder from Ware, Hertfordshire to produce a range of lightweight hollow kiln bricks, to reduce manual input and so costs, which when in situ concrete could poured to set.

But it is the devotion of Lego's founder, his familial successors and the raft of ever so typically Danish executives, until of late, that created the modular icon.



Public Service:

A prime aim of government procurement at national, regional and local levels is to ensure maximum utility/service advantage for minimum cost. As such 'tenders for contract' will seek to best balance the pros and cons of an array of product or service providers.

Thus increasingly procurement officials “go to the market” to evaluate what different firms promise to offer. But depending upon many variables - from the longevity of trading, level of internal efficiencies, ability to tailor standard service – means that in one way or another the product or service offering will rarely be truly optimal. This especially so since to gain best price and supplier flexibility any offered contract will be of a relatively short duration.

This negates the idea of long-term planning and with it the ideal of a long-horizon product / service solution. As such local, regional and even some aspects of national government are not permitted to view their forward requirements in the same manner as say the Armed Forces; these seen as a core requirement which befit long-term planning and related research, development, manufacturing and roll-out.

Increasingly the ideal of “fit for purpose” relates to “befitting the purse”, especially in a budget contrained age such as today. And as such even what should be big impact public projects tend to become watered down.

This the case with London's “New Routemaster” bus in 2012, a bus which whilst housing a hybrid engine, was in reality a basic adaption and trendy re-skin of conventional engineering, replacing the Mercedes 'bendy-bus'. Intended to add renewed identity and pride to Londoners and employment in Northern Ireland, the home of its manufacturer WrightBus.

But this was not always so.

There was a time when long-term planning of 'public good' products was innate to the ambitions and capabilities of Britain.

None more so than the original Routemaster, its own ideal, engineering brief and that of its infrastructure centred around the 'Modular System' for long-term service duration and so a macro-perspective on much reduced 'long-life-cycle' running costs.

Original Routemaster's launch year (as with original Mini) was 1959, the same year that the Conservatives won their 3rd term election.

This is mentioned because only because it appears that it was the expected stability of a single ruling political party – and so the stability of policy and funding – that allowed the lengthy planning and delivery time-frame for what would be a watershed vehicle and holistically integrated transport programme; both using the 'modular approach'.

Whilst the vehicle designers at what was then a very centralised London Transport looked to advanced engineering techniques to incorporate into the future-forward project, infrastructure planners and architects likewise sought to maximise the operations system that would underpin the expected 50 year maintenance and overhaul schedule to keep the buses running long into the future.

London Transport's bus facilities had been used during WW2 to build the Halifax bomber, a process which established the vital importance of standardisation of interchangeable parts via dimensional accuracy. Much had been learned which was utilised in the 1948 mass production of the RT bus (the Routemaster's predecessor). By the mid 1950s London had the world's biggest standardised bus fleet.

Ambitions regards the next generation bus grew commensurately bigger, buoyed by the new engineering age within car design – primarily: monocoque structure, lightweight aluminium, independent coil-sprung suspension, cabin heating, power-steering and automatic gearbox; the central aspects of the Routemaster, many of which were seen years ahead of mainstream cars.

The next bus would likewise use the large Aldenham overhaul centre, but with more designed-in modularity, to allow for even greater efficiencies and so even quicker service, maintainence or full refurbishment turnaround times.

The modular 'space-frame' or 'birdcage' body design mimicked that used on the best of aircraft, and was even more sophisticated than that deployed by the tailor-made Italian carrozzeria on specialist sports-cars. Whereas that type of strong tubular frame carried unstressed panels, the far more modularised Routemaster used its panels to re-enforce the strength of the basic frame. Attached to that frame are front and rear sub-frames to carry axles and engine.

It took 8 years from concept to production via an exhaustive design, engineering and testing programme, the first prototype in 1954 and put into test-service in 1956 to wean-out in-service problems, with SOP (start of full scale production) in 1959, with components made by AEC in Southall S.W. London and build at Park Royal in W. London.

As such a prolific 'public good' achievement, the name of Bill Durrant, Colin Curtis and Douglass Scott should be recognised.

They knew it would be the holistical understanding and application of 'The Modular Approach' that would balance the cost-quality-speed equation and so provide good long-term efficient service through deliberately designed-in cost constraint.


Television / Popular Culture :

Since the writings of HG Wells “going to moon”, Isaac Asimov's ideas about the “ROBOT” and Fritz Lang's cinematic presentation of a future 'Metropolis', the merging of science fact and conjecture has generated science fiction; this 'hyper-contextualisation' – ever since and latterly created at 'warp-speed' on our screens, considered the philosophical nebulous for heralding “the shape of things to come”.

The second-half century backdrop saw the corresponding rise of Sci-Fi hero vs villain comic books, and so as to better animate such figures, by the time the 1960s arrived a broad cast of 'save the day' puppet-based characters were adventuring by air, land and sea; from Captain Scarlet to Joe 90.

The largely Anglo-American televisual popular culture of the time used as an effective 'soft-power' exercise, first for domestic audiences, thereafter international recipients. Plots devised across the world - from the London Underground to Amazonian Rain Forest - to demonstrate a paternal influence regards globally relevant social issues; with of course much of that stemming from lookalikes of Cold War enemies.

None are better known than 'Thunderbirds', especially so in its original 1960s puppet format. (Though also known to younger generations in both live-action and computer generated depictions).

The Tracey sons took on the mantle of highly collaborative modern-day guardians, able to reach the farthest distances of the planet and even into space with a full suite of specialist aircraft and associated equipment; assisted by their 'London Agent' Lady Penelope in her (then ironically) “chinese wheeled” pink Rolls-Royce.
But of particular note to mission success was the big green cargo carrier: Thunderbird 2, its launch sequence the joy of the 1960s school-boy.

Arriving after Thunderbird 1 (the reconnaissance craft), TB2 operated as the multi-role strategic and tactical heavy hauler. It's basic form could be termed a “perimeter air-frame” or “void chassis frame”: an arrangement which allows for the swallowing carrying one of a range of modular cargo 'Pods'.

Each of the 6 pods dedicated to a specific task with suitable equipment inside.

So, unlike the fast response, 'TB1', Thunderbird 2 was the task-master, dedicated to the successful outcome of the specific challenge encountered. Critically it achieved this because of its ability to fundamentally reconfigure itself, in what is essentially a “bolted-on” format for the urgent need.

Thanks to its speedy reconfigurability the functional flexibility afforded meant that in this fictionalised (yet largely factually correct) world, that the right equipment was 'put on the ground' using a highly rational 'mix and match' approach of a separate transport vehicle accompanied by a specifically tailored functional box.

The functional inspiration for this vehicle was undoubtedly the Sikorsky S-61 'heavy-lift' helicopter of the period for its 'empty belly' airframe, whilst the Fairchild C-119 airplane, nicknamed the “Flying BoxCar”, was used for general aero-aesthetic.


Thunderbirds in Context -
The TV series producers, Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, had come from affluent sociological academic backgrounds. Together with bright and informed script-writers, set designers, model-makers and puppeteers, they could see how the best-practices of the armed forces of the period could be adopted for the global social good; from 'Recon to Clean-Up'. This central idea of a worldwide 'International Rescue' task force was a knowing complimentary parallel to the then growing humanitarian remit of the United Nations, itself largely led by the US.

[NB Interestingly in this very vein, in 1981 a real volunteer organisation named the International Rescue Corps was established in Scotland. The work of the UN itself obviously much expanded during the past fifty years].


Automotive:

As states previously the auto-industry has long sought forms of modularisation where feasible, whether from complete vehicle architecture, down to specific fitments. This spanning the rationales of 'Common Components', 'Re-Positionable Items' and 'Changable Parts'

From 'common components' perspective, this the longest industry trend given the obvious cost gains, with application across various different model types of similar segments (eg door frames, door handles, door locks, door hinges, front lamp units, side-lamps, the industry norm right up the the 1990s. This often provided the advantage of an obvious brand style, but increased public design conscious and higher stylistic aspiration began to limit the obvious use of such as ploy hence the need to gain component commonality and cost savings 'under the skin'. This leading to much deployed 'module sets' of sub-systems (as pioneered by VW Group) and reduced aesthetic quality-enginering in “invisible areas” such as the unseen paint coatings behind the dashboard (led by Toyota-Lexus).

[NB Nonethless the drive for as much unseen commonality across as much of the model range as feasible has been, and continues to be, a prime engineering goal, both 'horizontally' across a specific model's variants, 'vertically' typically across two neighbouring segment classes, from city cars to large SUVs, and 'extended horizontally' in the form of JV programmes with other manufacturers].

Historically, vehicle styling trends fluctuated over the decades (in sine-wave pattern) from 'geometric' to 'organic' and back and forth in form, and 'clean' to 'ornamental' and back and forth in accoutrements. With specific broader socially related fashion trends also leading and periodically impacting the designer's mind, from 1930s Art Deco pseudo-intellectual 'Streamlining' to 1950s 'Pop-u-Lux' colour and Chrome' to 1970s New Modernism inspired by the dual impact on the public consciousness of both the Scandinavian-look and the Space-look adopted from futuristic films.

It was the latter which influenced many in the car world, and led to the 'modular' gaining ground where appropriate, best seen through to the use of specifically inter-changable items, such the trend for LHD-RHD 'switchable' instrument binnacles by many makers, the 'Basic-Beauty' idea taken further by others to enhance utility and reduce skin-panel and glazing tooling costs (best shown by the orginal FIAT Panda), with the 'switchable' ideology deployed for the intended mid 1990s revolution of the original SmartCar, offering the ability for owners to easily swap the car's outer panels.

However, whilst the tenets of modularity regards product commonality and re-congiurability / inter-changability is undoubtedly more amenable to utility orientated commercial user-buyer, since the Panda's 1980s heyday the increase in apparent wealth related 'status symbolism' in all things consumerist, over the idea and advantage of functional rationality, has become increasingly entrenched in private car ownership. Differentiation and (believed) uniqueness rates much higher, and so the need for greater stylistic freedom which in turns undermines the foundations for modularisation.

Even so, the idea of 'symbolic utility' remains – even if not used fully – in the premium badge SUV and Cross-Over, with even a noted return of the utilitarian by typically older people, with the popularity of car-based van derived MPVs (PSA's Berlingo/Partner, FIATs Doblo/Qubo, and of course Japan's 'Tall-Boy' kei and small cars still very popular domestically for their comparative 'TARDIS'-like functionality.

Yet carrozzeria and automakers have sought to explore and try to popularise the modular, three of the best illustrations being...


1982 - ItalDesign 'Capsula' Concept -
Further to the MegaGamma Taxi concept of extreme space utilisation, the 'Capsula' was what could be later considered as the first 'skateboard' platform for an ICE package, the term and basis later adopted by GM, Tesla and others regards EVs.

Given Italy's, Europe's, Japan's and South America's small urban roadways Guigario believed that FIAT (or another VM) could create something akin to an updated small 'everyman' Model T : the factory configurable 'task-body-built' car for a myriad of applications and users. It was shown as a full scale model as a private car with enhanced green-house visibility and wide 'gullwing' side-door, to heighten its social interactiveness with the city. But was illustrated with alternative body types on its double-belt-line: School-Bus / Ambulance (Van) / Drop-Side and Canvas-Top Pick Up / Tow-Truck and 'Jolly' (Beach Car).

[NB a short personal conversation with Fabrizio Guigario (Giorgetto's son) in 2001 at the Goodwood FoS (Style et Lux), led to the received understanding – by reading between the lines - that the car was destined as a design exercise to tempt FIAT into targeting 'Capsula' for Brazil so as to grow its local market share and create a true 'Brazilian Car' to surpass the VW Brasilia].

1995 - Mercedes Vario Concept -
At this point in time (before its ill-fated purchase of Chrysler to expand product range and market coverage) Daimler sought to explore the increasingly important issue of dealer-based customer contact as 'service depth' became as hot topic, and lateral thinking regards solutions provision for what was still a somewhat select, comfortably-off luxury audience that had broad lifestyles, and so possibly sought greater vehicle flexibility, depending upon 'mood and mode'.

The outcome was the original Vario concept (not related to the later passenger-taxi van). This mooted the possibility that the vehicle owner could swap body-styles depending upon need or desire, so spanning Coupe, Convertible and Wagon variants.

The base car itself was complete with doors, all except for the upper rear portion behind the A-pillar to mid-point on the rear quarter-panel and inner structure, wherein a descrete shut-line was used to merge a different upper-body style, and the use of a pillarless (ie non-existant B-post) architecture.

The concept itself was soon overtaken, and so still-born before true market testing, by the big picture strategy regards the merger-acquisition with Chrysler.

1994 - Renault 'Modus' Concept -
Though the name is now familiar as the small Modus MPV of 2004, this concept arrived a decade earlier..

The vehicle itself was akin to the new functionality trend being set-out by Japanese automakers, themselves seeking to maximise their own medium, small and kei car related urban and rural functionality, that would themselves range from yet more camping cars to the extremes of personal pods to micro semi-trailers.

The concept Modus drew its inspiration from Renault's other divisions and beyond, from its Van division in terms of innate utility and its Heavy Truck division in terms of a tall passenger cab with tall 'bubble' glazing.

Less technically sophisticated as 'Capsula' the intent was nevertheless to create an urban adaptable vehicle for many different uses.

The central idea was for the vehicle's low rear deck to accept various alternative rear body types, ranging from standard panel van, to glazed passenger unit (so akin to latter city MPVs), to Pick Up, to task specific 'pod' (camping, refrigeration, security, and much else).

In concept it appeared to evolve upon the same principles as the 'camper back' seen fitted to American full size and small pick-ups in the 1970s and 1980s, unlike those retro-fitted campers, with a specific technical solution to allow the pod to slot-into and lock-into the vehicle deck's lower frame and inner-sides.


In Summary -


Across many diverse fields, the central rational of proposed and implemented 'innovative modularisation' has both promised and delivered transformative gains across the realms of lifecycle costs and long-term continuation, overall operational quality and a reduced time-scale of ultimately very necessary repeat procurement..

To this end, those that directly lead and fund the UK's Emergency Services, could and indeed should “create the future” for both the nation itself and the myriad of opportunities for international export sales into tomorrow and far beyond.