1988. Let’s read that back: nineteen eighty eight. Which is half a year short of three decades.
There really is something about the form language of industrial design that is verging on the timeless. Credit for this car goes to one J Mays who penned the Audi 80 in 1983. This one is known as the B3 (35i). While there are a few oddities on the car, they are far below the detection limit of normal humans.
The Audi coupe has a very subtle detail which is worth looking closer at. I will come to that later.
The Audi 80 saloon appeared in 1986 (which is 31 years ago), using a longitudinal front drive layout. The advantage of this is not clear as it means the nose of the car is usually quite prominent as you can see on this car. For 1988 Audi launched the coupe which might simply be the saloon with a different back. It is however quite different. The good parts are the consistency of the detailing and overall treatment. The less satisfying thing relates to the proportions and the way the car looks unbalanced: I am subliminally reminded of the Ford Escort Mk2 which also looks like a car missing 10% behind the B-pillar.
It’s quite a stumpy car, that Escort. And so is the Coupe. The difference is in the way most details are handled.
My third slide show shows the odd details. However, most of the 80 is very tidily handled yet quite busy with more little articulations than the succeeding generation of car. The way the side trim is located in a recess is not so different from the BMW shown here recently.
What you detect overall is a studious neutrality. The radii appear to be constant and applied very carefully. Their is not much variation all across the car’s corners and edges. The short wheelbase and high-waistline suggest a very robust vehicle. This is no dainty Italian coupe. I am not sure what they did want us to see: solidity, the solidity the four-door lacks?
This car (above) is not the best example, I grant you.
Now the little subtle detail. Notice the way the bodyside on the saloon appears less full than the coupe. There is a feature line running just under the door handles (black on the 4-door). On the coupe there is a very slight undercut which forces the reflections on surface above the line to make a sharp contrast to the surface below the line. Thus on the coupe the bodyside almost always has a pale upper shoulder and the wheel arches stand clear too, as they also reflect the light more.
On the face of it, the coupe is a straight bit of industrial design. No, it’s more than that. The light management has been achieved through really small but important “nudges”. The BMW doesn’t do that: its subtle curves are elsewhere. The Ford doesn’t do it at all: the flat surfaces meets at small angles, that is all. Added all up, the coupe isn’t just the 80 with two fewer doors. Pretty much every panel has been massaged. Dieter Rams said the best design is the least design. And as I say, it only looks that way.