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The devolution of automotive design

Discussion in 'Cars and Transportation' started by Twiddler, Jun 22, 2015.

  1. Twiddler

    Twiddler Member

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    #1 Twiddler, Jun 22, 2015
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2015
    [/RANT/]

    Browsing my facebook news feed today, I see a link to this:
    2016 Chevrolet Chevelle SS Concept Predictions and Price

    I guess it started with the Mustang redesign in 2005 (and then every iteration thereafter becoming more gaudy), or maybe it started with the PT cruiser? The 1994 Dodge Ram? Well somewhere along the way, the retro styling has made a comeback. And now, it is way overstaying its welcome.

    At first, I was into it. I gushed over the 1994 Dodge Ram. Being 14 years of age at the time, I kept shoving pictures of the concept in my dad's face until he finally caved and bought one, brand new. 16 miles on the odometer, the first new vehicle in his life. I still have it, mint condition, with 60K babied miles on the odo. Then, after scrimping and saving, I bought my first vehicle at 17 - my sister's 1993 Ford Probe. When I brought it home, my mother's words were almost prophetic: "wow, look at it - no hard edges, so smooth and rounded - where else can automotive design go from here?" Well, apparently not that much further after all.

    In the late 90s, we were headed fast to the jellybean look and most cars were leaning toward that styling, so I found the retro styling refreshing and unique. I grew up wanting to design cars for a living, and was obsessed with 40s-60s styling, so this was right up my alley. Fast forward, now we have the newest generation Mustang, which looks more like a '67 than the 64.5 from 2005. I wonder if they are going to evolve it to the Mustang II on the next "freshening"? Also, we have the Camaro, Charger, Challenger, Thunderbird, soon to be Firebird and now this monstrosity. Of course let us not also forget the Fiat 500, Mini, and VW Beetle.

    Since the inception of the automobile, its styling underwent a natural, fairly stepwise progression up until the 1990s. Then, something happened. We hit a wall. We went the furthest that we could at the time - the jelly bean. Since then, sure there have been technological developments here and there - projection and then LED headlights, alloy wheels, better bumper materials, more use of aluminum, etc, but no real advancement in vehicular design with regard to function and efficiency. I mean, the war between engineering and aesthetics is supposed to be what automotive design is about, right? Apparrently not.

    Now, what we seem to have is nostalgia gone awry, with more and more catering to the Joe-Dirtish lowest common denominator. Art, efficiency, and function are being replaced by nostalgic pseudo-machismo, but apparently that is what sells. Look, I am not arguing that all vehicles should look the same, and there is always room for nostalgic niche vehicles. However much like some of the classic movies over the past several years, the dollar's lure is just too great and crappy sequels get made with basically no attempt at advancing the plot. The new Chevelle SS is 2016's Dumb and Dumber To. Don't get me wrong, I know that the Ford Probe was not necessarily the pinnacle of design, but the sad fact is, after 22 years it would still look downright futuristic parked next to some of these abominations.

    [/END RANT/]
     
  2. Drucifer

    Drucifer Active Member

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    agree. I think the Pontiac Aztek caused everyone to run screaming toward modernized retro designs.
     
  3. Twiddler

    Twiddler Member

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    Hahaha yes the Aztek - the AMC Pacer of the 90s! Oddly though, one of the biggest criticisms at the time was the vehicle's angular, exaggerated features. We never saw that design trait again, right?
     
  4. mknox

    mknox Well-Known Member

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    I actually liked the AMC Pacer styling, but hey, that's just me. I personally think automotive design hit its low point in the 1980's. All of the so-called "downsizing" made pretty much everything into very boxy designs. There was some great styling in the '50s, 60's and 70's and things started (in my mind) to get back on track in the '90s but I can't think of an attractive 1980's vintage car, although I'm sure there were some.
     
  5. Drucifer

    Drucifer Active Member

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    Most cars in the 1980's looked like bars of soap. Horrible.

    The only 80's cars that didn't look like crap are: Chevy Beretta, Ford Probe, Honda Accord, Honda Prelude, BMW anything, Porsche anything, Jaguar anything, Italian Exotic Supercars and of course MY 1986 Acura Legend. That pretty much ends my list. Feel free to add your own.
     
  6. mknox

    mknox Well-Known Member

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    My 87 year old mother still drives her white '87 Chrysler LeBaron (identical to this image I found on Google) that she's had since new. No rust (shocking for Canada) and it's been very reliable. The a/c gave up the ghost about 2 years ago. Horrible design, but a pretty reliable 28 year old car.

    24982140001_large.jpg
     
  7. Twiddler

    Twiddler Member

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    Great discussion - I like to think of the 80s cars as 'when function went too far over form' - basically the opposite of the 50s. Still a necessary landmark to reach IMO, given the state of the oil economy and the need to test the limits of what will pass stylistically. We had a 1985 Chrysler New Yorker and I though it was pretty friggin classy - or as I like to say, the 1985 new yorker : 1985 Rolls Royce :: 2005 Chrysler 300 : 2005 Rolls Royce. Plus, we had Ricardo.. Ricardo Montalban - Chrysler Turbo New Yorker 1985 - YouTube
     
  8. Drucifer

    Drucifer Active Member

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    Looks like a bar of soap.
     
  9. beeeerock

    beeeerock Active Member

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    When I see an Aztek, I see Pumbaa...:

    latest?cb=20140606172116

    Pontiac_Aztek.jpg
     
  10. Johan

    Johan Took a TSLA bear test. Came back negative.

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    I notice this thread revolves around US car design which is, forgive my bluntness, not looked upon as of very high standard internationally since the 80's. Before that it was great. This why they went retro to the 60's - that was the golden age of US car design.

    My personal favorite car design of all time are the early 70's (71-74) Corvette Stingrays.
     
  11. beeeerock

    beeeerock Active Member

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    I'd refine that to say 'up to 1972' because I think the chrome front bumpers disappeared in 1973. My favorite American car would probably be the '65 'vette convertible.

    But you're right - there were some really interesting shapes in the early days. Big engines, poor handling. The opposite to the European way, where smaller engines were offset by tight handling characteristics. You were either in one camp or the other. I grew towards the European ideal. Certainly the 80's 'K-Car' didn't do much to keep me loving 'domestic'... ;-)
     
  12. rage_777

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    Really? You liked these car design:
    Porsche_944_Frontansicht.jpg
    Porsche_928_Parkers_Piece.JPG
    E21_BMW_316.jpg


    But not this:
    1987-buick-regal-grand-national-side-2.jpg
    vector-w2_8aa94.jpg
    VectorW8.jpg

    Technically, the W2 was a prototype and the W8 started production in 1989 so still in the 80's.

    What about this one:
    21001590001_large.jpg


    My uncles car in the 80's:

    ps2zylx8jnlqhok4tr2i.jpg
     
  13. Drucifer

    Drucifer Active Member

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    Yes. I liked the Porsche 928 and the 924/944 and the BMW. I did mention to feel free to add to the list, and you have added some good ones. And I have to agree, the Buick Grand National really kicked ass.
     
  14. wws

    wws Member

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    Lots of great looking cars in the 1960s. The real problem was the 1970s. The cold hand of the U.S. gov't got involved in auto design/manufacturing in a big way (smog regs, bumper regs, CAFE regs, EPA regs at the manufacturing plants, etc.) A perfect storm to which the automakers could not respond fast enough to avoid some truly horrific products. It has taken a long time for them to recover. I think we are actually witnessing a new golden age of ICE car design that will be ending soon - thanks to upcoming CAFE regs again. Buy those Hemi Challengers now.

    As for the 944, Tony Lapine nailed the styling - especially on the Turbo and S2. It is one of my favorite cars of the 1980s. (Which is why there has been one sitting in my garage/driveway for the past 28+ years.)
     
  15. rage_777

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    Those were the only Porsche designs I didn't like. I could live with the 914, even though I am not a big fan of it but the 928 amd 944 seemed to wide to me. Although the 959 is still my favorite Porsche.

    Same goes for the BMWs with the bubble tops, only the M1 looked good to me. But I know this is all subjective so I wouldn't blame anyone for liking any car design I don't like. Of course I liked the looks of my Ford EXP, so I am not the one to judge anybody.
     
  16. polything

    polything Member

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    if you watch Breaking Bad, Pontiac Aztek is extremely durable!
     
  17. Twiddler

    Twiddler Member

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    Except the windshield... the fatal flaw in its design
     

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