The author wonders why some automotive designs end up being not as good as they should or could have been.
In the field of automotive design, there is always a degree of tension between the designers and the body engineers charged with making their designs a reality. Many designs, when first revealed as concepts, are loaded with details that might look beautiful, but are difficult or impossible to incorporate into the body engineering for viable and economic series production. That, and the need to comply with the raft of motor vehicle legislation and regulations, is why production cars are often a disappointment, typically described as ‘watered down’ from the concept.
If the designer is unconstrained, then the result is, for example, the bonnet of the Jaguar E-Type. While undoubtedly beautiful, it was a nightmare to fabricate from many separate pieces of steel, laboriously welded together then lead-loaded and smoothed off to Continue reading “Unforced Errors”
The 2011 Lexus CT200h was an awkwardly proportioned and unhappy design. Could it have been better resolved?
My recent DTW piece on the Lexus CT 200h contained an analysis of its design and identified the rear door profile and C-pillar treatment as the primary cause of its awkward proportions and stance. In particular, the too-short rear door glass and badly drawn shut-line between the door and rear quarter panel are poorly resolved and jarring details.
A nice pair of Bristols? We go in search of shutline nirvana – by air and by road.
Earlier in the week, we spent a fair amount of time examining shutlines and the lengths to which some carmakers will go to engineer solutions to the issues left by the stylists, not to mention the depths to which the marketing team will descend to cast them in the best possible light.
We really went at this topic with gusto. Did we learn anything?
Editor Simon introduced the topic and noted that panel gaps or shutlines at their best become a positive part of the design and not are merely an interruption. And we spent the best part of the month demonstrating all the ways to get it wrong. Sean noted the problem of getting the wheel arch and door shutlines to relate properly. Should they follow the arch or should they form their own discrete shape on the side of the car as on the Renault Laguna or Passat? The case is not proven. I went over some old ground from another angle, looking at how the shutline between the bumper and the body has gained more and Continue reading “Theme: Shutlines – A Review”
Some manufacturers today use a large plastic moulding as a front mask that includes bumper as well as radiator grille. A solution I appreciate for its simplicity and which can be pleasing to look at – but beware the pitfalls!
Not long ago, we discussed an odd triangle, trapped between shutlines, panel folds and functional elements. The object in question was the 2014 Lexus IS’s rear door. I was reminded of this discussion when I saw a short article in my local newspaper about the new Jaguar XF. There it was again – between headlight, bonnet shutline and radiator bulge. What the above Jaguar press photo (!) also shows: it’s not easy to align large plastic and metal pieces. There is a visible offset between the bonnet and the front mask above the left headlight (as seen in the picture), and the shutline itself varies in thickness. Continue reading “Theme: Shutlines – Nose Jobs”
Audi once understood subtlety. I’m not so sure they do any more.
Once upon a time, whilst Mercedes and BMW were attracting critical scorn for their new styling directions (some deserved, some not) over at Audi they couldn’t put a foot wrong. See how they treated the rear side shutlines on the A2. The front wheelarch blister is defined by an inset crease. The rear blister appears the same but, so as not to spoil the balance, the rear door shutline is continued all the way round the arch – the blister is a separate panel. See also how the A pillar flows all the way round to the rear without any door cutouts in it. All the side glasses have the same size border trims.
Does Ford really think that this is acceptable? (Caution : Viewer Discretion Required).
Throughout the month I have been accumulating images with a view to presenting a rogue’s gallery of bad shutlines. Never one to run from the crude and obvious, I had intended giving the post the title of ‘Shitelines’.
However, when I look at my collection, one stands out in my view so much that it deserves its own post. That a major manufacturer who employs some of the best trained designers could have produced something as ugly and inept as the rear light treatment of the current Focus doesn’t just surprise me – it offends me. The left lamp treatment is bad enough, particularly where the rather wide shutline of the hatchback meets it. But the right hand lamp, with the half-arsed attempt to merge the shape of the fuel flap into the shape of the lens is ….. beyond any excuse.
The ubiquity of this car means that I have to see it every day, and time has not endeared it, quite the opposite. I can’t really say any more.
Here at DTW, we have always held Bristol in great respect. If we haven’t written about them that much over the past couple of years, that’s because neither have they. What, if anything, will come from this silence, who knows, but if and when they re-emerge, will they maintain any of their idiosyncratic past?
Bristol, of course, made much of their aviation heritage. I’ve always felt that should be put into perspective. The Bristol Car Company was always a separate entity from the aviation business and, although there might have been some synergy, it doesn’t follow. In truth the aeronautical heritage was more of a marketing tool but, to consider Bristol’s post war aeronautical output, let’s Continue reading “Theme : Shutlines – Another Way”
I imagine all that welding and pressing made it unimaginably strong at the very least. There is a sharp groove at the base of the C-pillar and furthermore another join up at the top of the C-pillar. This triangular patch is held on with a screw. Note the window has four rounded corners and is not bonded into place.
I’ve spent a lot of time looking at shutlines this past month…
… and one thing inevitably leads to another, so today we’re taking a (not particularly comprehensive) look at how manufacturers used to deal with another, often tricky junction. The one at the base of the C-pillar.
Isn’t it interesting how a design feature sometimes pops up in unexpected places, or in cars that are totally unrelated?
I lately crossed the way of a 2006 Lexus IS, and especially its rear door shutline (basically, that’s what I looked at on all cars this month). It has an interesting treatment with its horizontal top part joining the curve of the rear window. Haven’t I seen that before? Right, it was there on the early Imprezas. Continue reading “Theme: Shutlines – The Fake Frameless Window Shutline”
The Alfa 166 had a nine year run. The unfortunate front had a redesign in 2003 but the rear stayed much the same for almost a decade.
I can’t visualise how Alfa Romeo got around to signing-off on the rear bumper of this car. The rest of it has some very eccentric detailing too. But I will concentrate on the bootlid and rear bumper. As the photos show, the bumper seems to mate with the body-in-white in an rather odd way. At the sides the upper and lower edges meet along a horizontal plane. But in the middle of the car, the bumper is tucked behind the bodywork. Continue reading “Theme: Shutlines – The 1998 Alfa Romeo 166 Boot and Bumper”
Yesterday, Driven to Write gave you an overview of the A-pillar. Today however, we’re going a little deeper.
Since we started this month’s theme I’ve spent more time looking at shutlines and panel gaps than is either healthy or rational. Nevertheless, it’s been an absorbing study, giving rise to a number of observations about the manner in which manufacturers have managed these transitions over recent years. From a purely scientific perspective of course, we should really be limiting ourselves to those junctions where at least one of the abutting panels opens, but I’m trusting our editor will let this pass – and lets face it, we’re not about to get into all this again any time soon.
There are a number of ways to skin this particular cat. Do many people notice this? BMW thought so and ran an ad just showing the A-pillar of their 1988 5-series, or it might have been the 1995 version.
The little photo gallery shows a wide variety of ways to deal with the base of the A-pillar. It’s very complex since the glasshouse has to blend to the lower body; the doors need to close with a proper seal (are the doors inset, flush or to they cover the A-pillar?); the windscreen needs to Continue reading “Theme: Shutlines – A-pillars”
… Now You Don’t. We look at the GINA, BMW’s attempt to produce a literal shutline
However much he might have railed, an engineer of Dr Piech’s standing knew that, even by calling it a shut line, it would always be, in reality, a shut gap. Expansion, engineering tolerances, sag and the possibility of damage means that the shutlines of a solid bodied car will always be measured in millimetres, not microns. Even those uniformly narrow gaps on modern VAG products must have been an irritation to him until the end. Continue reading “Theme : Shutlines – Now You See It …”
Audi evidently didn’t want to give anything to the Mercedes E-class in the shutline and craftsmanship battle.
The W-126 had a visible weld crease under its rear lamp. So Audi spent a bit extra to avoid it. 20 years later the C4 Audi A6 is still an object lesson in the pursuit of orderly detailing. The only line visible is one related to the boot aperture.
[Editor’s note: Text altered to correct the A6’s model designation – see comments below]
We don’t really think much about sills. On some cars they were not even visible, as in the 1978-1993 Saab 900. It’s a case of the missing shutline.
Admittedly this example is rather dented. Looking past that, notice that the door comes all the way down to where the sill or rocker panel is normally visible. There is a sill there, but it is about ten centimetres in-board, with a thick rubber seal to Continue reading “Theme: Shutlines – Look, No Sills.”
Some collected, if slightly disconnected thoughts on this month’s theme gives us an opportunity for a little gratuitous Mercedes-bashing.
So much is known and quantified, be it politics, cuisine, architecture or indeed recognising a decent pasodoble when we see one. It’s all out there to be discovered, downloaded and co-opted into our lives and dinner party conversations: we’re all experts now. Continue reading “Theme: Shutlines – Mind The Gap”
Toyota Aygo and Citroen C1. Logic suggests these two cars would have identical constructions, but apparently not.
The previous generation small car from Toyota and PSA, though basically the same vehicle, differed quite markedly in its rear treatment, particularly in 5 door form.
The Toyota is more conventional and looks, maybe, the slightly more substantial, grown-up car with a full body panel, seamlessly integrated with the body structure from sill to roof. All the normal joins are present – bumper to wing/wing to door/door to wheelarch/tailgate to rear wing, etc. Continue reading “Theme : Shutlines – One Car / Two Solutions”
A look at some rear bumpers illustrates changes in the way cars are constructed
Around the mid 1980s the bumpers of most cars were quite separate items added to the front and rear of the car’s metal structure or “body in white” as it is sometimes known. If you look at a Volvo 340 in its first iteration, for example, the bumper is a plastic coated metal item wrapped around the wings and front valence. The same goes at the back. Clearly the bumper is not an integrated element of the car and you can Continue reading “Theme: Shutlines – The Body In White Recedes”
I look at a personal irritation and wonder if I share it with anyone else.
At school, my Technical Drawing teacher once counselled us against mixing straight lines and curved lines in a design. Even at an impressionable age, I could tell that was a crude and general rule, made to be broken. But his words have come back to me now and then over the past decade or more, when I view the shape of the trailing edge of the rear doors of an increasing number of cars.
A nice conceit with shutlines is to try to unite them inside a larger frame.
The 1998 Mitsubishi Colt (or Mirage) is not otherwise a very interesting vehicle. However, students of design might like to look again at the tail gate treatment. The lamps, screen and metal panel are enclosed inside one line which can be traced from the top of the rear glass all the way around to the bottom of the liftgate and back. It could have been done in a nicer fashion though. Continue reading “Theme: Shutlines – 1998 Mitsubishi Colt 3-door”
Once they were called Panel Gaps. These were negatives, they were just places where metal didn’t exist. Cars were assembled from a lot of different bits, leaving gaps between them, especially where one bit might need to be removed again, or where it hinged. These gaps varied in size and it was generally safer to make them a bit bigger in case of mistakes, and maybe to allow for better ventilation. Continue reading “Theme : Shutlines – Introduction”