We were discussing design principles recently. Here’s a car that’s technically correct but unlike Audi fails to generate the slightest flicker of emotion or intellectual satisfaction.
I saw this Sunny parked near the Aixam Mega van. It’s neat and orderly. All the parts cohere in a professional way. Yet unlike an Audi of the same period there is missing an element to lift it above ordinary. Continue reading “1985-1990 Nissan Sunny Estate”
From 1990 to 2002 this car represented the very best Nissan could be.
It’s the President. Like the Toyota Century the styling is very formal indeed. It has overtones of Jaguar XJ-40 and Chevrolet Caprice all fused in that unique way the Japanese have of synthesising. Since this version the President has lost its way and is now a variant of something also sold as an Infiniti. Continue reading “Japanese Limousine of the Day: Nissan President”
The Swedes are a pretty rational bunch. At least they were when the Saab 9000 was being designed. This dashboard takes the essential L-configuration of a dashboard’s elements and unifies them.
Oddly, some people found this design unconventional and difficult to take. It’s hard to see where the problem lies with this though unless you like messy arrangements of elements. The various displays and controls are gathered into one very clearly demarcated black area. The rest is given a colour to suit the remainder of the car’s interior.
Everything one needs is to hand. This is clearly an interior that has been designed rather than merely styled. As there are no eccentric inflections and the detail finishing is rational, the concept has aged very well indeed. Continue reading “Theme: Dashboards – 1986 Saab 9000”
Aerodynamics lead car design to repeat certain solutions.
The Czechs were applying most of the tropes on their wonderful Tatras. Here we have the 1955 603 (and a nice nostalgic racing photo below, just for fun). Compare the Czech car with the 2005 Mercedes Bionic and you see some of the same features. The general view of Tatras was that the handling was not their strong point. Violent lift-off oversteer is the chief hazard. Racing one of these must have been like playing Russian roulette with a cross-bow. Continue reading “Some Aerodynamism”
While looking for details of the Citroen XM, this site turned up the Thinker’s Garage which ponders “automotive history, design and culture”.
Among the recent topics are a look at Tatra, an overview of Chinese car brands and an essay about the Citroen XM. Fiat Chrysler is discussed and there is a nice feature on electric cars and how design and efficiency are related. Clearly the author, Andrew Marshall, takes the same kind of view of cars as we do at DTW.
I am indebted to Eóin for drawing my attention to the repugnant excess of the Mercedes S-class interior.
This has led me to Japan to investigate their approach to boardroom-level transport. Helping me along the way was an article at The Truth About Cars about the Tokyo car show of 1995 and a live web-page showing Nissan’s offerings then.
Not many designers get to venture outside the boundaries that divide the discipline. Mario Bellini is one of them: furniture, architecture, product design and automotive work are all included in his remarkable portfolio.
Bellini is the winner of, among others, 8 Compasso d’Oro and prestigious architecture awards including the Medaglia d’Oro conferred by the President of the Italian Republic. Seen from an historical point of view, the activity we call design is a process with as wide a variety of final products as there are material human needs.
If you drive a manual car, where do you look for the gearshift? As a default, central and forward of the front seats. Until the late 1960s, this was not always so. At one time, a piece of bent metal originating directly from the gearbox and capped with a Bakelite knob, was a sign of a cheap car.
A better car, a quality car, more often had its gear change mounted on the steering column. This was only logical. This put it in easy reach of the steering wheel and freed up floorspace for a central passenger on the bench seat, or made for a more congenial driving experience when you were with a close friend. Who would Continue reading “Theme : Dashboards – The Demise of the Column Shift”
Soft touch plastics, chrome trim, lots of accessories: throw all that at some shapes and maybe the customer won’t notice how boring their car interior really is. The 2011 Nissan Moco is a kei-car and that means it’s small and cheap. The designers couldn’t use costly tricks and so did it the hard way: careful and creative styling.
Peter Stevens has asked if electric cars need a new form language. His contention is that at present they either look conventional like the Tesla, or have “a strange self-righteous appearance”. What else does he say?
Stevens’ article first appeared at www.formtrends.com but is also republished at Car Design News. In the article he makes the claim that while electric power might suit buses and van-like vehicles, the format presents too many conflicting requirements to work well:
“The batteries are huge and heavy and like to sit together like school friends; they become very inefficient if they are spread around the car so rather than liberating the designer they restrict new possibilities for vehicle architecture.” Continue reading “Peter Stevens On Electric Cars”
I won’t detail my admiration for the concept and design of the 1999 Fiat Multipla here. Suffice it to say that if you don’t get it and, if you can only go ‘aargh it’s so frigging ugly’, you are wrong. I realise that you are a fine person in all other things but, in the matter of one of the few original and worthwhile cars of the past 30 years, you are sadly misguided.
But here we shall confine ourselves to the Multipla’s dashboard. Somewhere on the web, another misguided soul has posted something on the 10 Strangest Car Dashboards with “If you think the dashboard is ugly, you should see the exterior…..”. But is it strange, is it weird, is it ugly?
Sunday is a day of reflection. DTW would like to offer this image as the subject for today’s consideration.
The two cars are 1983 Mercedes W123’s: a 230 CE and a 280 CE. Both are the same colour whose proper name I don’t know. These park on my street and are owned by two people who don’t know each other. What a strange coincidence. Continue reading “A Photo for Sunday”
Little credit goes to Toyota’s designers for their contribution to dashboard design. Let’s change that and reconsider the seventh generation of the Corolla, the E100, on sale from 1991 to 1995.
Toyota has always carefully controlled the extent to which the fashions of the times have influenced its dashboards’ appearance. Corolla customers are such that they want the car to be as unobtrusive as possible and perhaps they are even unaware of this powerful desire. For any designer to make a shape that meets this requirement is far from easy. It is like designing unspoken rules, design for the tacit. To do what designers often do, driven by ego, is to seek attention. Continue reading “Theme: Dashboards – Toyota’s Subtle Game”
Today a certain homogeneity has swept over automotive design, both inside and out.
For a long time before this it was routine to mock the over-wrought interiors favoured by US luxury makers and here we have an example of what the target of this derision looked like. These days, while recognising that the 1991 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham d’Elegance is most likeable as an ironic statement, it is true to say one could miss the diversity in automotive design that was available then. For some people this was precisely what they wanted. Continue reading “Theme : Dashboards – Be Careful What You Wish For”
The first car dashboard to be noted was, probably, the eponymous one used in the Curved Dash Oldsmobile of 1901. However this simply referred to the low barrier at the front of the car that stopped dirt and stones being ‘dashed’ up against the occupants, and which had been inherited entirely from the world of horses and carriages.
Some of us smoke. Some of us don’t. Some want to smoke and can’t. All of us here drive and have ash or small coins to store somewhere. This means we all have some interest in ashtrays in cars.
As regular members here know, I drive an elderly Citroen. Apart from a graunchy gearchange and dangerously pointy doors, it’s the ashtray that causes me the most dissatisfaction. The ashtray is well sized and illuminated by a nice green lamp that creates a ghostly wonderland of cigar ash as I travel about the land under the cover of darkness. I’d call this a selling point.
Audi has previewed its new styling direction. It looks a lot like the old styling direction.
Based on the cumulative reaction to Audi’s new design direction embodied by the recent Prologue concept, Marc Lichte and his designers may have considerably more work to do if Audi is not to Continue reading “Drawing Restraint”
How does £208 per litre sound? I’ve been looking through the spec sheets again.
We know that the CLA is a front-wheel drive vehicle, related to the A-class which is now essentially MB’s offering in the Golf/Focus/Astra sector. The C-class is a monument in the automotive firmament, with roots going back to the rear-wheel drive 190E of the ’80s. That car was the first sign that Mercedes was interested in capitalising on its prestige by bringing their quality down to a smaller class of car than they had been offering up to that point. Continue reading “What’s the Difference Between a Mercedes CLA and a Mercedes C-class?”
Auto & Design is not quite a book, but it is printed matter and it’s not an advertisement**.
For anyone interested in getting some (but not much) insight into the car design process, you can take out a subscription to Auto & Design, one of two long-running automotive design journals. This one hails from Italy and is written in both English and Italian. The other is Car Design, which is Japanese and slightly more technical and academic in its style. Continue reading “Theme: Books – Auto And Design”
The phrase ‘privacy glass’ has always concerned me. Do you have a right to privacy when you are on the public road? Despite my not always restrained driving style, I get on pretty well with my fellow road users. The reason is that I acknowledge my errors and praise other people’s politeness. If someone seems to stop to let me through, even if I suspect they might be dropping someone off or that they are just stopping because the sight of me swinging round the corner and accelerating towards the contended space is too much to bother dealing with, I always wave and smile as though they have done me a fine favour. And I like it when I am on the receiving end. In both cases, I don’t fool myself that we have established a lasting bond, but it’s just a simple acknowledgment that we both share the road and that one of us has taken what the other has been graceful enough to give. Continue reading “Glass : It’s Clear to See”
Now that even modest compact cars can be equipped with stitched leather look for almost every surface imaginable, the upper echelons have to up the cow skin ante – to, in some cases, dubious effect.
The recent troubles at Aston Martin have almost overshadowed an event that has become a bit of a rarity in recent times: the unveiling of a rather attractive car coming from Gaydon. The automobile in question, the Lagonda Taraf, is – despite its lavish grille – the most restrained and, it could be argued, tasteful design coming from Gaydon’s most prestigious car maker.
The Taraf’s surfacing is uncluttered, its detailing not overwhelming and the overall proportions are spot-on. An unexpected, yet welcome surprise, one might conclude – before setting sights on the Lagonda’s interior. Continue reading “Hideous Hides”
In 2013 Honda showed their highly aerodynamic FCev concept car. The production version has been revealed and is surprisingly close in feel to the ’13 car.
The objectives with the FCev are for a vehicle to produce 100kW from its fuel-cell stack and carry four adults. The aerodynamically creased body shell reduces the cD in an overt way we have not seen for two decades. This promises 300 miles of range, which is not so bad if you recall that the Citroen CX GTi got by with a 280 mile range. If you drive an Aston Martin hard you can get considerably less. Continue reading “2016 Honda FCev Design Analysis”
Patrick Le Quément’s legacy of highly convincing, but unrealised Renault concepts begins here…
Renault seem to have been making attempts to crack the luxury car market for decades now. During the 1970’s they offered us the R30 hatchback – a kind of updated R16 with a V6 engine and luxury trim. It wasn’t a bad car – in fact contemporary reports suggest it was rather good. But success eluded it – although the smaller-engined R20 model sharing an identical bodyshell can’t have aided matters.
During the 1980’s Renault tried again with the more attractive looking Robert Opron-inspired R25. They got around the issue this time by offering the same model with a range of engines and while the car proved moderately successful outside of its home market, it too failed to make serious inroads upon rivals like the contemporary Audi 100 and Ford Scorpio.
During 1987, with Opron (and consultant, Marcello Gandini) gone, Renault appointed Partick Le Quément as Vice President of Corporate Design with a remit to shake up Renault’s styling and by dint, its position in the market. Le Quément got to work and one of the first fruits of this new regime was shown at the 1988 Paris Motor Show. The Megane concept was a three volume saloon with a drag coefficient of 0.21; Renault describing the Megane’s appearance as “plump yet not appearing so, a completely new form.” (Note the complete absence of the word ‘sporty’ – although one has to admit, ‘plump’ wouldn’t have been my choice of words)
Its huge sliding doors revealed an interior that resembled that of a private jet, the Megane in some ways anticipating the later Avantime in providing exceptional comfort for four occupants – Le Quément calling it “a supercar for living.” Some of the more outré features such as the two luggage compartments and its ability to switch from a three volume to a hatchback by sliding its frameless rear window aft were somewhat far fetched show car frippery, but there was within this concept, the bones of a convincing big Renault for the 1990’s – one that could have given the Citroën XM a bit of a fright. So how on earth they went from this to the 1992 Safrane is anyone’s guess. One can only assume it was an argument Le Quément lost to more risk-averse minds.
Certainly, it was one that served Renault poorly, given the Safrane’s lack of sales success and Renault’s continued inability to wrest even a decent proportion of their German rival’s market. The Safrane’s lack of appeal saw Renault’s share of the mainstream luxury car market shrink to levels that were frankly unsustainable by the time it was eventually replaced by the Avantime and Vel Satis. A matter that should be borne in mind when considering their eventual fate.
The Megane concept therefore marks the beginning of a generation of avant garde Renault concepts – visions of what would become an impossible future.
Further musings on Renault’s recent design history can be read here and here
DTW has approached another design student to find out what they think. This time we have put questions to Narayan Subramaniam who is a multiple-award winning design student, currently at work on his second MA in design at Umea, Sweden.
So, what sort of career has our subject had so far? In 2012 Narayan won the Michelin Design Challenge and his work was shown at the Detroit Motor show. Last year he won the First Moves award. In 2007 he claimed first prize in the All-India Engineering Competition for the best functional prototype. This list is much longer than this selection. Continue reading “Shaping the Future 3: Narayan Subramaniam”
The Art of American Car Design: The Profession and Personalities by C. Edson Armi.
Armi’s book (now out of print) rewards repeated reading. Few books seem to be able to find a language to discuss the process of car design. This one does. In giving a vocabulary to the process it becomes instantly more comprehensible and concrete. The interviews with GM designers such as Bill Mitchell and Bill Porter are encrusted with Continue reading “Theme: Books – The Art of American Car Design”
This year, Bertone has joined the doleful list of recently deceased Italian styling houses, having held out against the inevitable longer than most. The quantity and quality of Bertone’s output had been in decline, particularly as commissions from major manufacturers began to dry up. The era of the great Italian styling houses is over and the centre of gravity has moved away from its traditional Italian heartland. Continue reading “Death of a Carrozzeria”
Créateur d’Automobiles: that’s how Renault styled themselves for a while.And indeed some of the concept cars have been very good. But, we can’t help noticing a gap between the promise and reality.
Just before the turn of the 21st century, Renault had successfully re-invented itself as a maker of one-box or ‘monospace’ cars of various sizes, from the Espace that started it all in 1984 to the Scenic of 1995, through Patrick Le Quement’s masterpiece: the Twingo Mark I of 1992.
The 43rd Most Influential Briton in the Car Industry 2004 was Steve Mattin.
Formerly the senior design manager at Mercedes Benz until 2004, he moved to Volvo when it was under Ford’s management. I happen not to care a great deal for the Mercedes cars designed while Mattin was in Sindelfingen. And it surprises me very little that while at Volvo Mattin oversaw the creation of the Volvo S60, V60, and XC60 concept cars.
Driven to Write takes the Sir William test with Jaguar’s 2003 R-D6 concept and asks, could it have been Coventry’s TT?
Most concept cars are created to invite a dialogue with the customer about the future, or at the very least, nudge them towards one the manufacturer has already committed to. However, in the case of the concept cars prepared under the design leadership of Ian Callum, it was a bit more like forensic research. With Jaguar’s styling atrophied under the weight of over two decades of introspection, it was a case of asking; ‘what would Sir William Lyons have done?’ Continue reading “Theme: Concepts – Jaguar’s Lost Gamechanger”
The 1983 Opel Junior concept marked a new, friendlier frontier in small car design. Its impact was to be lasting.
The 1983 (is it really that old?) Opel Junior was one of the stars of that year’s IAA at Frankfurt, where it debuted. Small and really rather perfectly formed, the little Opel was the work of a team of designers at Opel’s Rüsselsheim styling centre, under the direction of Hideo Kodama. Alongside Kodama was Gert Hildebrand and neophyte, Chris Bangle, who it’s said, was responsible for the concept’s modular interior. Continue reading “Theme : Concepts – Small Is Beautiful”
It seems Honda didn’t think too much of this little concept car. They showed it at the Montreal Motor Show in 2013, at the same time the Detroit Motor Show was being held.
To be honest, I found this by accident. In 1992 or 1993 Honda showed a small concept car with a feature that has become a very common, the false reverse-raked c-pillar. I wanted to see the originator of this idea and then show a few of the cars that have used it these last 20 years: Continue reading “Theme: Concepts – 2013 Honda Gear”
The 1998 Dialogos concept previewed the full-sized Lancia’s final fling.
During 1996, Lancia began work on a new large car concept. Lancia design director, Mike Robinson was briefed to create a car that would honour marque traditions, while also being a showcase for upcoming in-car technology being developed by Fiat at the time. The concept was also intended to preview the next generation full-sized Lancia saloon style. Continue reading “Concepts: From Dialogue to Thesis”
Just a few days ago I noted that we at DTW had not treated BMW to some of our ire. Here is some ire. Or something passing itself off as such.
The car above is the 2015 BMW 2-series “active tourer” which is a five-door, front-drive hatchback with a great deal in common with the 2011 Ford C-Max which is five-door, front-drive five seater hatchback (below) that sells for a lot less. And looks better. Continue reading “BMW’s Front Wheel Drive Hatchback”
Mini raised every enthusiast’s hopes to the heavens with their 2011 Rocketman Concept, only to have them burn up on re-entry. Thanks for that…
At the 2011 Geneva Motor show, MINI debuted the Rocketman concept and from Palexpo to Peterborough, Mini enthusiasts wept with relief, because here at last was a proper Mini-sized MINI, rather than the lumbering behemoths that were actually available for purchase.
Spare a thought for the Isuzu Vehicross. Isuzu revealed the Vehicross as a concept at the 1993 Tokyo Motor show and the production car went on sale in 1997. Who thinks about it today?
1999 Isuzu Vehicross
The Vehicross survived for four years until 2001 and has sunk without leaving very much of a trace. However, it merits a second look. In 2013, Michael George at Jalopnik wrote : “Let’s check off all the ways the Vehicross is a unique snowflake in the most boring automotive landscape of all. A design that still seems futuristic today? Check. It comes from a much-beloved dead brand? Check. Sophisticated all-wheel-drive technology that makes it a highly-competent off roader? Check. General mechanical toughness? Check. Rarity? Check. Always designed to be a one-run niche vehicle? Check.” For this reason he sees it as future classic. If you want one, look here where a 1998 with an absurd 3.2 litre engine is for sale for £6500. That´s not a lot of money for a rather interesting motor car. Continue reading “1997 Isuzu Vehicross reconsidered”
This was inspired by Sean’s post about Tatra’s retirement from making road-going automobiles and what might have been.
In the last few years of the Clinton administration a sizeable grant was made to the US car builders to help them develop fuel efficient large cars. Among the goals, the companies were to aim for was to reduce fuel use to 80 mpg. We seem to be slowly getting to this although with smaller cars. GM’s response to this grant was the Precept, the appearance of which seems to me to not too unlike a Tatra. Whether this is a case of convergent evolution or actual direct inspiration, I can’t say. Continue reading “Theme: Concepts – 2000 GM Precept”
Renault have decided to abandon yet another category of car. This time they have given up on space-focused people movers.
The Renault Espace was a trend setter and for two decades ruled the roost in the MPV class. The original version is now three decades old and still has a tidy, neat appearance of purest industrial design. This sat well with Renault’s custom of quite rational cars. The last generation did not get out of the show room fast enough. It was luxurious, large, complex and not really the kind of car you really wanted babies to be sick in. Continue reading “More Renault: 2015 Renault Avantime, Sorry, Espace”
What is to be made of the DS Divine concept car? Is it a Good Thing that PSA now has Peugeot, Citroen and the DS brands to manage?
As we know, PSA has decided, in its wisdom, to divide its efforts no longer in two, but three. From hereon in (or, at least until PSA has gone to the hereafter), the Sino-French giant will furnish the market with Peugeots, Citroens and DSs (the latter to be shorn of the Citroen moniker sometime next year, in the UK at least, so it is reported). Continue reading “Theme : Concepts – Armchair Motorshow : DS Divine”
Look at the future as it was in 1995 and look at the future circa 2015. Are we going back in time? Sideways?
I was moved to write this when I saw a breathless announcement at French Cars In America that there was a new Renault Laguna on the way. They alleged that the car was going to be shown at the Paris Motor show (happening around now, if you reading this in 2016 sometime) They got their story from Auto Plus. While cross checking it I found that Auto Express had nothing to say on the matter at all. So, I don’t know if the car really will be sold or is just a Photoshop story.
At the 2008 Geneva Motor Show, Saab presented a concept that perfectly encapsulated the future direction the marque needed to take. Given the multitude of factors massed against it, its non-adoption was perhaps inevitable, but that didn’t stop enthusiasts howling in frustration and thwarted desire. Derived from earlier 9X concepts, the C-sector 9X BioHybrid concept not only looked fantastic, but also successfully imagined Saab’s entry into a sector that should have proven both lucrative and sustainable – hybrid technology or no. Continue reading “Concepts: Saab 9X BioHybrid”
The received wisdom is that the Juke is an odd-looking vehicle with no obvious purpose. Is this true? I drove one in order to find out.
To avoid disappointing people I’ll get the driving stuff out of the way immediately. After three hours on a route that took me from Stansted Airport to almost exactly the dead centre of Britain I had covered every major road type available in England barring gravel and mud. On motorways the Juke in 1.6 litre flavour can keep up with traffic and proceed to license-losing speed and stay at that pace unbothered for as long as you care to Continue reading “2011 Nissan Juke 1.6 Review”
One of the last Lancias had a five year gestation from concept car to production. In this case there were two concepts, a real one and a pre-production model. One of them was not helpful.
Lancia showed the 2003 Lancia Granturismo Stilnovo at the Barcelona motor show as a genuine kite-flying concept car, one of quite a few they showed around this time. Three years later these ideas were translated into the production ready 2006 Lancia Delta HPE concept revealed at the Venice International Film Festival which then took a remarkable 2 years to get to an official launch by which time the styling had staled somewhat.
Not all concept cars are designed by design consultancies or manufacturer’s own studios.
I have covered the work of the Pforzheim Design School recently. Today, presented as freelance concept designs, rather than as student work, here is David Obendorfer’s work. He graduated from the MOME Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design of Budapest and has been working for the Officina Italiana Design of Mauro Micheli and Sergio Beretta for 5 years; they mainly deal with Riva boats and general ship design too.
When confronted by a question of taste, I always ask myself, what would Bryan Ferry do?
My extensive research has thrown up a nice example of a sub-set of a subset, designer accessories for designer editions of mass produced cars. It’s Gucci fitted luggage for the 1979 Cadillac Seville. Would Bryan Ferry go for this or not? The Big Two and a Half in the US have been more prone to tie-ins and designer editions of their cars than we have here in the social-democratic paradise of Western Europe. Continue reading “Matching Designer Luggage – What would Bryan Ferry do?”
What is a concept car? What was its past like and how did its future evolve? Why do we have concept cars at all?
We are late in the automobile era. It is ending as cars become banalities and as the illusion of mass personal transportation dissolves. Consequently, the car’s future might even be over already. In 1971 the future was staggeringly unlike the present. In a properly realised future all signs of the present are gone. Continue reading “Theme: Concepts – Introduction”