If Only …

… every car looked as good when launched as it does two decades later.

1994-2001 Renault Laguna
1994-2001 Renault Laguna

For this small meditation the kick-off is the 1994 Renault Laguna I saw today. It helps if the car is shiny and in good order, of course.

Two weeks ago I saw the 1995 Vectra in the same flattering light.What seemed uninspiring 20 years ago seems clean, fresh and straightforward. This morning a Fusion caught my eye:

Ford Fusion
2002-2012 Ford Fusion (a decade!)

Slowly a car goes from unfamiliar to uninteresting and then emerges as something all of its own. This process might take less than two decades. It depends on the car. What does it mean?

My theory is that a car’s visual appeal over time begins high (above zero, ideally) and falls as familiarity breeds indifference. Then as the car goes out of production it becomes rarer. When you eventually see an example you see it partly afresh. It gains from being seen in the context of newer cars going through the indifference phase and by having a contrasting form-language. I can see more clearly now what Renault’s designers saw in 1990/1991. I can see it isolated from the trends of the year it came out: I see difference. The same goes for the Fusion which seems fresh and refreshingly unadorned.

2003-2012 Mazda RX-8
2003-2012 Mazda RX-8

The RX-8 managed to be a rarity from 2003 onward so it always seems like 2003 for this car. Those vents kicked off the reappearance of that flourish, I suppose.

The designers must loathe it when their lovingly-crafted work emerges into a crowd of similar cars and ages in a few years. Parents might have a similar form of regret if they get to see their wonder-children wrinkle and distort in middle-age. Though more so.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

7 thoughts on “If Only …”

  1. I think it’s called “the test of time”. Good design/styling can withstand it.

  2. Luvvin’ the RX-8, and rather liking the Laguna too. I sometimes fear I am stuck in the past, but then I just think that so (too?) much car design is contrived in a crass attempt to seek attention.

    1. Yes, this feeling is familiar to me. There are some new cars I quite like, some of which surprise me. You can groan if you like: the new Astra has grown on me. It should be a Citroen due to the falling roofline. The Mercedes C-class meets with my approval. It is their best-looking car. Audi´s A3 saloon is another great looking vehicle. There are some out there, if you look.

    2. Agree on A3 saloon and I also quite like the C-Class (albeit the previous car, pre-facelift was better … there I go again!). Also enjoying Audi A1, A3 3 door, and Skoda Superb. And, the rarely spotted Suzuki Splash!!!

  3. The last model Superb worked better for me. It´s a bit odd and I really like that. The grille, lamps and bonnet are really excellent. Best of all is the ultra-lux Laurent and Klement edition. I would have a hard time choosing between that and a top-flight Opel Zafira with the weird brown upholstery. We see the Splash here in Denmark as the Opel Karl. It is not doing so very well whilst the Adam is proving quite popular. I like that one too and I know I shouldn´t. The colours choices are very good and tend to be rich and very appealing. Plus, I know the interior is very satisfying to be in.

    1. The new Superb wipes the floor with the really shockingly tepid new A4. It’s an enormously competent piece of styling… but not a Skoda as we’ve come to expect them. The lack of pretence and sense of warmth of the Ingenlath-era Skodas has certainly been lost, even though the new Superb is actually a very decent car on its own terms.

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