Manchester, current location of

The main thrust of this little meditation rests on a sighting of the brightwork on a VW Troc.

“I love the lens flair, Jon… very original, atmospheric, you know…”

Alas, my camera did not lie within easy reach so I have to use a library photo. I can confirm, however that the car had the same paint coat as the one in the image you can see above.

The thought process lasted under a minute. My eventual conclusion is to wonder if I am some kind of relativist. Am I?

Indeed!: source

That bit of brightwork on the t-Roc:  it’s not different in intent from the Opel Astra or Vauxhall Insignia, is it?

Both are fine cars, much appreciated by certain sections of DTW. If it’s okay to do that kind of post-modern design on an Opel why is it a problem for VW?

Ah, that C-pillar. The cant rail looks familiar. We could do a whole month of article on C-pillars here: Opel.de

Let’s start with branding. A brand like Volkswagen’s constitutes a promise though one only ever imagined by the consumer, based on inductive reasoning. Heretofore, VW have delivered sober and refined industrial design, free of kickshaws, doodads and frippery.

2018 Kia Optima: source

Inductive reasoning is not a guarantee of anything though. All swans are white until you go and visit Australia. All VWs are sober designs until it suits VW not to do sober. This detail (glance below) is from the current Polo. Look at those sections, more Toyota (who I admire and respect) than VAG.

2018 VW Polo door

The TR-oc simply builds on that fussiness. How? It is a piece of brightwork that is there for purely decorative reasons. Like the Optima (which I like), it is unmoored from the side-glass where for thousands of years the brightwork has lodged, ever since car designers climbed down from the trees and ordered a cappucino latte grande al americano.

However, VW needs to make a living. If the customer wants post-modern brightwork and fussy sections then that is what the customer shall get.

In response to that point, I could either a) accuse VW of cynicsm and b) accuse their customers of a want of good taste.

In counterpoint, I can then accuse myself of hypocrisy (I don’t mind the Optima or Insignia at all) and superiority. Who am I to stand in judgement over VW’s team of pen-wielders and their customer base.

In order to resolve this one I have to say that in the end, if VW’s fussy sections and superfluous brightwork is what earns a living, then sad as it is, that is simply the way the market is going. Sadly, I also have to look myself in the eye (I bought a mirror for this purpose) and say I seem to have given up on the responsibility and duty of designers to deliver not only what the customer wants but what is, professionally-speaking, the best possible. That makes me some kind of a relativist.

The proper response is for some other, better brand to provide something as attractive to TRO-c customers but done in far better taste.

Author: richard herriott

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

9 thoughts on “Manchester, current location of”

  1. Yes, brightwork does seem to be a lost art nowadays. There are three old Mercs that park in the streets around where I live, an R107 coupe, a W116 S-Class and a W112 Heckflosse. All three have many admirable qualities, but it’s the execution of the brightwork that stands out to me. The W123 was just the same. Mercs of that era had the most wonderful architectural quality to their guttering and other embellishments, which both provided real utility and gave the viewer a visual impression of solidity. There’s also a W124 that parks a few doors up from me which is the complete opposite, almost no brightwork at all, which also works because it brings out the richness in the forms and creates an impression of stark, but expensive, modernism. Either approach works for me, I wish modern manufacturers would take a leaf or three out of either the Braq or Sacco design book!

  2. …or the Geiger design book of course, given the cars I referenced above! Sorry for the double comment.

  3. The belt line treatment on the latest Polo is terrible, IMHO. One of the strengths of the previous generation model was its strong belt line below the windows, giving the impression of solidity. The new model looks fussy, weak and “saggy” by comparison. I recently saw both generations parked nose to nose on the street and I couldn’t identify a single detail in which the latest model represented an improvement.

    1. Not even improvement but acceptable alternatives. The double creases on the new Polo are shocking (in the quiet world of æsthetics). It indicates that the ethos of dignified simplicity is fading. A serious sort of designer would object to things like double creases and unmoored brightwork. It makes the cars trivial and says “We don’t think this is worth doing properly.”

  4. As much as I dislike the Trock, especially details like the wheelarches or the over-featured rear, I have to say that I quite like this chromed arch. It’s not too massive and, even if it’s not following a function and probably not adequate to the sobriety one (who?) wants from a VW, very well and smoothly integrated. In this respect it reminds me a bit of the brightwork on the Peugeot 3008 – yes, a bit over the top, but conveying an impression of value and solidity. The Opels don’t manage that. The Insignia estate is still quite OK, but on the Astra estate, it’s plain terrible. This ‘landau iron’ makes the rear overhang look heavy and bulky, and it suffocates the already minuscule rear window.

    Regarding sober designs from VW, there was already a period when they deviated from that road, adding chrome adornments to their front grilles and playing with round(ish) inserts in the light clusters. The thus misguided Golfs, Passats and Eoses from around 2005 aged very badly and had to be corrected soon by extensive facelifts/reskins. Either today the market today doesn’t care about good design any more, or they will soon have to go a step back again.

  5. I don’t like any of these. Zany brightwork seems to me to be symptomatic of designers who can’t think of anything better to do.

    However, of the examples above, the VW is the best by far. Why? Because until I read this article, I wasn’t even aware of this detail of the VW Troc. Taking a second glance, I can see that it is handled very efficiently and professionally.

    Everything aft of the rear wheel on the Insignia is, frankly, a mess. Why is that rear side window angled upwards and where is it going? Why does the brightwork trim crash into the rear lamps? Why is the join between rear bumper panel and rear wing like that? So many questions, and unlikely to be any answers.

  6. I have one as a courtesy car, today (in white). It looks imposing and you sit eye-to-eye with Range Rover drivers, of course. I’ve noticed that one seems to get treated with more respect on the road in a larger car and that’s perhaps part of their appeal. That said, I think this strikes a nice balance between being reasonably compact, while still being roomy.

    The interior, which features light inserts in dark coloured seats looks and feels to be very nice quality. The seats are very comfortable, too. Overall, it’s a very quiet, comfortable and nippy car. I can easily see why someone would buy one – it’s soothing and makes you feel good. It’s good enough for me to say that the styling, which is perhaps a bit gothic, wouldn’t bother me. The secondhand price is pretty reasonable, too.

    1. Thanks for the little review. I had forgotten this article. Does the car have much identity? I can see a lot of good things in what you write but they seem to be remarks one could easily attach to a good few other motor cars.
      By the way, did anyone notice California will ban the sale of new ICE cars from 2030. What does that mean for someone thinking of buying a new on in 2028 – will they be inclined to be a person who keeps a car forever? Will it really change much if a car bought new in 2029 is still driving in 2042? The rule is step forward but a little one. Maybe something more radical is needed to go with it – increasing restrictions on existing ICE cars (to be compatible with the US´s special social structure and transportation inclinations, perhaps).

    2. It doesn’t have much identity, beyond just being extremely pleasant – it gives a great sense of safety, refinement and quietness. It crossed my mind to what extent other vehicles may be very similar to it. I would never have considered something like this as potential purchase, without having driven it. The major revelation for me is that I can see why someone would say, ‘Yes, I really fancy buying one of these’.

      I hadn’t seen the news about the Californian ban, but overall I guess it will accelerate sales of EVs. Given their geography and smog problems, I think it makes sense.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: