We really went at this topic with gusto. Did we learn anything?
Editor Simon introduced the topic and noted that panel gaps or shutlines at their best become a positive part of the design and not are merely an interruption. And we spent the best part of the month demonstrating all the ways to get it wrong. Sean noted the problem of getting the wheel arch and door shutlines to relate properly. Should they follow the arch or should they form their own discrete shape on the side of the car as on the Renault Laguna or Passat? The case is not proven. I went over some old ground from another angle, looking at how the shutline between the bumper and the body has gained more and
more territory in the last decade. I had also dealt with this under our theme of evolution. I was admiring a 2000 Ford Mondeo hatchback today which was an object lesson in rational design, particularly the way the rear bumpers efficiently mated to the rest of the body with no zany angles in evidence. At this point it dawned on us that we meant panel gaps and not shutlines; shutlines are where doors, boot and bonnet meet the fixed parts of the body. That detail notwithstanding, we soldiered on.
Sean looked at the expanding bumper from yet another angle, the clever way Peugeot used a large bumper and large light unit to completely eliminate an entire side panel on their 107. Eóin had a go at Mercedes’ shoddy shutlines here, noting the W-204 C-class’s nasty A-pillar and bonnet shutlines. They do try to get away with a lot of rotten details, those Stuttgarters.
Sills: some cars have quite convoluted designs. Audi lead the way here. And Saab did too at one point by not having a visible sill. P. Thomas quickly spotted my typo in that article. Sean reminded us of the astonishingly ahead-of-its-time BMW Gina concept which managed to avoid having any shutlines to speak of.
I discounted this design at the time but in fact it was one of the good ones that was so far ahead in its thinking I was not ready to understand it. Perhaps few people yet do. It’s anatomical references only make the car seem more appealing, a welcome alternative to the usual physiognomic clichés in car design.
A-pillars are a tricky area of the car. Eóin offered this insight, about the plunging A-pillar while I went out with my camera and found some contemporary examples It was all done very differently in 1970, remember.
Simon S. wrote a nice piece about the fake frameless side glass and the appalling complications such a trick tend to create. We had a chance to reconsider the 2006 Lexus IS, which is car that has slipped the attention of many of us.
The 1976 Audi 100 B2 is indeed a subtle thing. Eóin showed the depths of its creativity in his post on tricky C-pillar. Not for Audi, though. Take a look at that again here.
Finally, Bristol do things differently as Sean demonstrated here You have to give them credit for their imagination but one wishes that Bristol had shown some respect for what industrial design can do. There is no point in engineering a car to work peerlessly if it looks so awful only a few people will buy it.
In essence, the worst examples of shut-lines and panel gaps show inattention to detail. As I have said before here, this can be seen as a failure to see the ‘gestalt’ or entirety of the object. It can also be due to a different set of standards. At one point I think shutlines and panel gaps were not seen or were discounted on the grounds of their incongruousness. Firms – I am thinking Audi here, but also Renault and BMW – started to use them in a creative way. At that point engineering could not be offered as an excuse for shoddy solutions.
It is worth noting that American cuts of meat are much less likely to respect the muscle groups of the animal. French cuts are based on the anatomy while US cuts simply carve the carcass in crude oblongs. With that in mind, the awfulness of the Chrysler makes more sense. A more talented team would not have let the line that flows from bonnet to lamps peter out as it did and thereby they could have avoided that nasty, nasty line running down from the lamps.
Using this metaphor, can we view shutlines as the expression of understanding how the car’s carcass must be divided?
We thank you for your many interesting and thought-provoking comments on these and the other articles we have run this month and look forward to seeing you back for more debate, shin-kicking and discussion next month.