During the last decade of the 20th century a wave of retro cars were shown as concept cars or sold as production cars.
These vehicles re-used details and characteristics of designs from the 1950s and 1960s or perhaps ideas of these times. I will not discuss the reasons for this trend but rather retro design itself, and the two alternatives, modernism and classicism. I take the view that the best industrial design is impersonal. Continue reading “Retro: Yes or No?”
Or Calibre, if you are writing using British English.
I only remembered this one because I saw an example other day. I didn’t know what it was so I thought it must be one of those Chrysler things. Or Dodge things. Or maybe a Plymouth. Whatever. There was a time when American car interiors were cherishably bad. They might have been a bit careless but they had a humour and brio to them. The Calibre’s is simply bad and dispiriting but is a great example of when simple (good) becomes banal (not good). All the great simple designs have a twist or an inflection or a grace note. This set of straight lines (above) is Continue reading “Unforgetting: 2007 Dodge Caliber”
I started this a bit of a joke. Having looked at a very great many of Pininfarina’s cars, I had to work hard to find this selection of duds.
Actually, I was reminded of a lot of very good concept cars which look great today and should have been made. Also, while the 1971 Pininfarina Ro80 concept has an odd decorative feature on the side, I am convinced this car served as eventual inspiration for a decade of Cadillacs and other GM cars in the 80s. Continue reading “Pininfarina – An Appreciation”
As it happens, Jaguar unveiled its new XF today, hailing it as the best looking car in its class.
I misread the headline at Automotive News and thought they had done some more unveiling of the XE. You know how these unveilings run and run. Maybe this was the official unveiling of the car for actual sale as opposed to the unveiling for the automotive press or some car show or other. Cars seem to spend a third of their lives being gradually unveiled. Continue reading “The Hunt For a Green Car: Jaguar”
While The Truth About Cars was informing us on the business model of the Autolib concept, I was thinking about something else.
This is some of what the Truth About Cars wrote: The technology involves lithium metal polymer batteries, developed by Bollore’s Blue Solutions. The batteries, which don’t need liquid electrolytes to store power, are not only lighter in weight than lithium-ion packs, but can be charged up to 3,000 times, and are stable at temps up to 338 F. No one else has gone for the technology thus far, however; Bollore invested €3 billion ($3.2 billion) over three years to develop the EVs and the battery technology now in use by his ventures.” Continue reading “Finally, Something Good From Pininfarina”
This is not yet another of my pleas for the world to acknowledge the subtle allure of the 2000-2007 Ford Mondeo.
Rather it’s a chance to meditate on the impact of trim on the perception of a car. In this instance we see something quite rare: a Ford Mondeo with all the options thrown at it. The version here is a Ghia in 2.0 diesel guise. It has a body kit which makes it look lower though not excessively so. Chrome accents give the door-handles a boost.
A concept that does nothing more than entertain – which is no bad thing
Showcars often drive me up the wall by giving us an idealised version of something that actually will be produced, thus diminishing the effect of the production model. In the case of the 2006 Mille Miglia, I doubt anyone expected to build either it, or a watered down version. Continue reading “BMW Mille Miglia 2006”
Five reasons why the Cinq was a benchmark small car
1. Like many significant car designs, the Cinq was the brainwave of one man, originally created as something of a thought experiment. In 1968, Renault designer Michel Boué sketched the design proposal in his spare time, marking out the now familiar outline superimposed upon a photo of a contemporary Renault 4. Hence the silhouette and unusually tall canopy.
Motoring history has many concepts and show cars that disappointed when they were turned into production models, but equally tantalising are the occasions when a manufacturer has looked back into its own history and tried to re-create one of its own supposed ‘classics’.
This is sometimes commercially successful, sometimes critically successful, but those of us in the world of motoring who spend our time considering the automotive equivalent of fitting angels onto pin heads are usually frustrated. Here are some of my own personal disappointments and maybe a success or two. Continue reading “Theme : Benchmarks – Lost In Translation”
Boredom drove me to find out what sorts of colours are available for cheapish cars in Brazil. Then I came back to Europe via Japan.
I started out thinking that because Brazil is full of warm and spontaneous people they would have a very lively palette of vehicle colours. Not so. No greens, no yellows and no oranges. And guess which company offers 12 exterior shades for their base model car? We’ll leave that to the end. Continue reading “Full Brazillian Colour Analysis”
At DTW we pride ourselves on our rigorous analysis and our capacity to separate the news from the hype.
Having looked at literally hundreds of thumbnail-sized photos I have been able to sort out the top six yellowest cars from all the other cars that weren’t yellow. I had to be careful though as one yellow car that came up in the search was from 2014. I didn’t include that. By the way, one of these cars, the Mila Plus, is the work of Magna, the Austrian Tier 1 supplier. Continue reading “2015 Geneva Motor Show – The Top Six Yellow Cars”
DTW has taken a look at a lot of show cars and tried to see if there are any colour trends apparent.
Most of these are concept cars rather than new launches. What is noticeable is that green is a rarity. Both the greens shown here come from Bentley. The flat orange is distinctive and is from Opel’s Karl. Notice that it is redder than the 021C orange that has been in use for a decade, made famous by Marc Newson’s Ford concept car of the same name. Continue reading “2015 Geneva Motor Show – The Colours”
What is the link between a Swedish train, a BMW concept car and a fabric firm from Denmark?
A chance encounter via my day job led me to to discover the link between the Danish fabric firm Kvadrat and the Bavarian automobile manufacturer, BMW. To my knowledge the two collaborations have not led to Kvadrat supplying fabrics for the production cars. It´s not that it´s not possible. The same firm has supplied material for a Swedish train and if a fabric and survive public transport it can Continue reading “2010 Living Lab – Danish fabrics meet a BMW interior”
After we discussed Renault’s desperate ‘Dare To Live’ bit of internet marketing a few weeks back, I’d entirely forgotten it related to a new crossover, the Kadjar. I’ve now just reminded myself of it and seen a picture. From front and rear it’s a forgettable enough lump, it only distinctive feature being the side view featuring a kick up from the sills. Continue reading “Renault : Putting the Sole Back Into Design”
This year Rolls Royce is showcasing the things it is willing to do to its cars for its wealthier customers. A one-off car, the Serenity, will be shown at Geneva this year to this end.
The aqua leather and wooden accents work very well indeed. It might even be that the silk used extensively is fetching. I remain unconvinced by the Kimona-esque detailing in the roof that looks like a strange blood spatter rather than a delicate tree in blossom.
You can read Rolls Royce’s more generous description here:
Via the Bristol Owner’s website I found this nice American take on Bristol cars. The photo is from the Curbside Classics website which I can’t recommend highly enough.
The 411 looks like a combination of the proportions of a Jaguar XJ-6 and the surface treatment of a Rolls Royce Silver Shadow. We have had some debate about the British ability to style cars. This one shows that a British car need not be heavily ornate to look good.
North American sports fans were treated to a look at the next Nissan Maxima during the Super Bowl intermission**.
Many were impressed by the sentimental video and debate raged about the car’s overall style. Few disliked it. I noticed that a lot was lost in translation from the 2014 Nissan Sport Sedan concept to the 2016 car. Reminiscent of the Citroen Cactus concept car, the 2015 Nissan sport sedan concept had rather flashy glass work. The A-pillar was blacked out to look as if the glass of the windscreen Continue reading “More Lost in Translation: 2016 Nissan Maxima”
Our good friends at Renault UK’s press office have sent us a reminder that the Renault 16 is fifty years old this year.
Philippe Charbonneaux is credited with the design of this car which was in production from 1965 to 1980. Its main claim to fame is related to its innovative deployment of a hatchback in the middle-to-large sized car class. At that point there developed a marked fork in the road in car design. Some manufacturers followed this path, those makers most like Renault. Continue reading “The Renault 16 Is Fifty This Year. There Are None Left.”
Ford’s shapely Cortina replacement proved to be less aerodynamically accomplished than its slippery wrapping suggested.
Sierra was intended to mark a fresh direction for the Blue Oval. The brainchild of Robert Lutz, Ford’s Eurocentric Director of operations, it was designed to take on the upper-middle class European marques in sophistication and appeal. Lutz wanted a more dynamic, technological image, especially in Germany, where the ancient Cortina and Taunus’ models were viewed as throwbacks. Continue reading “Sierra Shock – Ford’s Aero Banana Skin”
Continuing the theme of colour, here’s a VW Golf from the 1997-2004 series.
It’s the cheerful metallic green I want to draw your attention to. The interior had cloth seats with panels of a similar hue. Presumably this was a special edition but the car had no badges to indicate this. This iteration of the Golf was the most neatly refined, in my view, the one where competitors gasped at the subtle refinements such as the legendary cloth covered a-pillars. Quite why people Continue reading “A Photo For Sunday: 1997 VW Golf Estate”
We ask whether aerodynamics’ post-war, post-aviation beginnings have anything in common with tomorrow’s hydrogen-powered wonders.
Car manufacturers have historically enjoyed a somewhat patchy relationship with the concept of aerodynamic theory. During the post-war period only a handful of motor manufacturers paid more than lip service and of those, most had their origins in aircraft manufacture. Bristol and Saab, for example were both forced to diversify during post-war austerity when demand for their mainstay aircraft businesses collapsed in peacetime. Continue reading “Aerodynamics: The Shape We’re In”
Aerospace iconography permeated everywhere throughout the 1950s, particularly car styling. So when Alfa Romeo commissioned a series of concept cars, science fiction melded with aerodynamic theory, creating the extraordinary BAT cars. Continue reading “Theme : Aerodynamics – Release The BATs”
Britain’s Aerodynamic Pioneers – Frank Costin and Malcolm Sayer profiled.
During the 1930s, rapid advancements in aviation were in no small way fuelled by a growing understanding of the science of aerodynamics. Following the outbreak of hostilities in 1939, with scientific interest supplanted by urgent necessity, the pioneering research into airflow management would now come with an added dimension. The increased application of wind tunnel testing allowed engineers to Continue reading “The Great Curve”
Here is Peter Stevens on the concept car and here is his second article on the subject. I think we can say we covered the topic more thoroughly in October but it nice to see what a professional thinks.
It’s nice to see that Peter Stevens agrees with my analysis of the Ford Probe concept car: “Ford Motor Company’s European arm presented a concept vehicle, the Ford Probe III, at the Frankfurt show in 1981 for totally different reasons. Its new mid-size family car, the Sierra, was to be launched in 1982. It was a fairly avant-garde design that, within Ford, suddenly caused the senior management to Continue reading “Peter Stevens On Concept Cars”
Recently I noticed a nice looking Audi saloon outside a super-market near where I live. That A4 looks pleasing, I thought. Except it was no A4 at all but the A3 saloon, on sale since early last year. In what way does the A3 differ from its bigger sibling? The A3 saloon’s price list begins at £23,295 and for that you get a neatly styled boot holding 425 litres of air along with a rather handsome exterior.
Driven To Write attempts to decipher an aerodynamic staple but finds the going surprisingly turbulent.
In architectural terms, a buttress is defined as a structural member built against or projecting from a wall serving as a support or reinforcement. They were more prevalent at a period when structural engineering was more of a naive art, employed as a support against sideways forces. As architect’s skills developed, the need for buttressing decreased, latterly viewed as something of an admission of failure, much like an air dam or spoiler in automotive terms. There are several types of architectural buttresses, the most visually spectacular probably being the ‘flying buttress’, a structural device used in the design of many Gothic cathedrals.
Some things, as they say, do just what it says on the tin. To my mind, the rear boot excrescence is generally well named. There are some exceptions but, generally, if a car’s designed right, it shouldn’t need an add-on. And, if it does, what about those poor buggers in lesser variants who can still get within 20 kph of the bespoilered version. Are they safe?
In 1995 Oldsmobile presented their Aurora, a car that was originally intended as a two-door coupe to replace the Toronado.
The origins of the Aurora go back to a 1989 concept car known as the Tube Car, one of Oldsmobile’s numerous designs inspired by aerodynamics. Much of the feeling of the Tube car is retained though the very straight sills are far from an aerodynamic ideal. The role of the Aurora was to help alter customers’ perceptions of the brand as being staid and rather dull and to distinguish it from the upper middle class styling that Buick had made its own. Despite the aerodynamic appearance, the Aurora’s cD was only 0.32, by some margin worse than Audi’s less obviously rounded 100 of 1982 which had a cD of 0.30. Continue reading “Theme : Aerodynamics – 1995 Oldsmobile Aurora”
J Mays replaced Jack Telnack in 1997 and was responsible for Ford’s sprawling empire of brands. Sean showed us some of Mays’ retrofuturism. What else did he do while in office ? The worst vehicle – in design terms – that Mays can be held responsible for is the 2005 Ford 500 which married VW geometry with softer, more amorphous shapes from somewhere else entirely. Continue reading “J Mays’ Ford Legacy II”
I start by admitting an unjustifiable antipathy towards J Mays, which I must put to rest, now. It is based purely on the fact that he once called a 1 Series BMW a ‘shitbox’. Although I have admired several Bangle era BMWs from first viewing, the 1 Series was never one of them, but there is something unseemly about one designer slagging off another designer’s work in public. Continue reading “J Mays’ Ford Legacy”
A chance to look inside Audi’s A3 presented itself. I found what is referred to as a smoker’s pack.
These are to ashtrays what “cotton rich” is to shirts. For a costly motor car such as the A3, the quality of the plastic is far below the expectations of this writer. Audi must have saved a lot of money by deleting the standard ashtray and replacing it with a cupholder and a fireproof mug. At least a few extra euros could have been spent to design something more convincing than the Hasbro-level of moulding shown above. Does Audi really think their customers will overlook a lame effort such as this?
The first cars were not fast enough for anyone to be particularly concerned about the amount of air that stood in the way of their progress. Therefore, although drivers soon learnt to hunch themselves over the wheel to reduce the passing air’s effect on themselves, it took longer to realise how important it might be to reduce their effect on the passing air.
Before we come to Aerodynamics, we must come to Streamlining. Streamlining is not the father of Aerodynamics, it is the somewhat camp uncle. Streamlining is to Aerodynamics as Gastronomy is to Nutrition. It is more fun. Although based on the concept that air should pass unhindered over the vehicle body, Streamlining was not usually scientific. It was sometimes based on theory and experimentation, Continue reading “Theme : Aerodynamics – Introduction”
Driven to Write uses a Visa to explore the mysteries of the Lunules
There is a strong risk that this piece will just become a rosy-spectacled trip down memory lane from this contributor, but hey, it’s the festive season, so indulge me …
Given this month’s theme, I wanted to write about Citroën from the days when the company had decided that (almost) everyone else had got it wrong about pretty well everything. Citroën seemed to believe that the essential concept when designing a dashboard was to Continue reading “Theme: Dashboards – Citroën Visa”
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”
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”