Thoughts on Automotive Styling, aka old cars are obsolete.

Carmine

Old Man with a Hat
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I don’t know about you, but I don’t find the styling of new vehicles to be attractive. There are a few I like, but for the most part, I know they’re either compromised because of aerodynamics, packaging or safety regulations.

The first shows up in the lack of “tumblehome”, which is basically the signature of fuselage cars. (Narrow roof, wide center section, narrows again at the floor pan).

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A modern car typically presents a large, blunt “face” to the wind, because (believe it or not) that’s better than a bunch of smaller surfaces like tires, bumper edges, and concave/convex surfaces which disrupt airflow and create drag. What drives this is many faceted, but the first is fuel economy and the need to meet Federal standards. Secondarily it’s reduced wind noise.

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Packaging is what explains tall rooflines. Basically for every inch you’re sitting upright; you can reduce an inch of length. No one sits three-abreast (not that many really did in olden days), and everyone wants a console to store their junk. That allows a narrower width, which again decreases drag. The result is shorter-taller-narrower; the exact opposite of longer-lower-wider; a design mantra that lasted from about 1935 to 1975.

Safety regulations as they pertain to pedestrians have more effect on design than passenger safety. This manifests as shorter hoods, taller, blunted and flush front end details. The idea being you “flop and tumble” off the front of a car as opposed to having your hip/legs broken, or submarining under the front wheels.

The current Dodge Challenger is the most obvious example of bucking these trends, but it’s an outlier in 2019, not the more/less typical shape as it was in 1970.

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I wrote the above as context for explaining the conversation I had yesterday with a citizen while at work within Chrysler. By “citizen”, I mean a person who is employed by Chrysler, but isn’t at all involved with design/testing/production/sales, etc. Sort of like how the mafia looks at guys who aren’t in-the-business. He is one of thousands of support people here that does HVAC, IT or one of dozens of other non-automotive functions. That part doesn’t matter. A bunch of co-workers were talking about the opening sequence of “Get Smart”, to which he interjected “I’ll be you guys didn’t know the car he drove was called a Sunbeam, and was made by the same company who made mixers!”

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To which I said, “Stop. We’re all car people and now we’re going to laugh at you.” Then, “Rootes group from the UK, Ford V8, etc.” And when I Googled it to show him, a bunch of other 60s cars popped up, to which he said “Yuck. Old cars were so ugly”.

Now that statement stopped me dead in my tracks.

Giving him a chance to recover, I said “You mean all these little English economy pods, right?”

“No, all old cars.”

“You’re ******* nuts.” As I googled a nice, long-low-wide C-body…

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“That’s so obsolete. Nowadays they can do so much more with plastics, LED lights, and special steels, blah, blah…”

To which I said, “The first part of that statement is true. We CAN do a lot more with those materials; BUT no one does. They create aggressive-looking insects with hunched up rear ends that look like a dog laying a deuce.”

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*Now to be fair, I think Chrysler/Jeep/Dodge/Ram is the LEAST guilty of this. The Asian brands are the worst, followed by Ford and GM. Some European cars still look acceptable.

My argument was that regulation was driving the use of these advanced materials, not aesthetics. I contend that I am correct, but realize it means nothing. We debated this a bit more until we agreed a truce would be called and we’d go back to doing something productive. I must tell you that I find 90% of what’s on the roads to be literally dystopian blight. What's wrong with this picture?

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Oh yeah, there's a roach in it.

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And we needn't limit this to mid-century style. The "Formal/Spanish Castle" era seems 100 years ago as well.

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Whereas those rare moments when I see an older car in traffic bring a smile to my face.

Your thoughts?
 
I hate the Monster Grill fascination designers have with everything from sub-compacts to HD trucks. It's become worse than the fins craze of the late 50's.

Wtf
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Wtf 2
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Wtf 3
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Too me the current style leaders are Mercedes Benz and BMW. Most other companies seem to copy there lead. Chrysler and Dodge's offering are definitely different and likable, but are dated.
Styling took a turn for the worse for most makes after 1984.
 
There was once a time where you could tell what make a car was from about a block away. The body styling, even the sound of the engine, was unique to each manufacturer. Today you need to actually look at the logo on the car or truck to see what it actually is. So sad.
 
Too me the current style leaders are Mercedes Benz and BMW. Most other companies seem to copy there lead. Chrysler and Dodge's offering are definitely different and likable, but are dated.
Styling took a turn for the worse for most makes after 1984.

To an extent. But you have to lay down six-figures for anything resembling style. I'd rather just buy a truck or a Jeep, which many people likely do.

Quick, what's this? Nissan? Honda? Kia? 3 series. Bleah.

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Too me the current style leaders are Mercedes Benz and BMW. Most other companies seem to copy there lead. Chrysler and Dodge's offering are definitely different and likable, but are dated.
Styling took a turn for the worse for most makes after 1984.

I think the term is brand identity styling, you can look at any Mercedes from the 30's on up and know at a glance what it is, same with BMW from the 60's.
 
I wonder what a modern take on a fuselage car would look like?

Lighter, stronger steels, crumple zones and all the modern safety equipment, surely your designers could rough up a concept?

Anyway, we can still buy, restore and drive our fuselage cars- or at least Doc can as he seems to be buying them all up.

Lol
 
As more and more regulation comes into play and less and less imagination the slide into humdrum everyone looks the same while a computer has determined the ultimate design I am quite happy that I work for a company that produces cars like the Hellcat/Demon. I couldn't in good conscience sell a Corolla to anyone. The problem today is that so many people see cars as transportation and little else. There is nothing like the feeling of sitting on 707 barely controlled horsepower that your Civic will never deliver. If Exner was alive what would his cars look like? I am guessing not like a Kia......
 
For me it's the short wide hexagon that the grill of every other car on the road has some variation of. It's to the point that I have to look at the branding to identify the car. I used to be able to tell a car by the styling ques regardless of year or make, now they're all a blend of indiscernible crap painted white, black, or 35 shades of grey. It's truly pathetisad.

Subaru
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Ford
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Audi
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Chevrolet
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Hyundai
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Toyota
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Honda
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For me it's the short wide hexagon that the grill of every other car on the road has some variation of. It's to the point that I have to look at the branding to identify the car. I used to be able to tell a car by the styling ques regardless of year or make, now they're all a blend of indiscernible crap painted white, black, or 35 shades of grey. It's truly pathetisad.

Subaru
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Ford
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Audi
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Chevrolet
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Hyundai
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Toyota
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Honda
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Chrysler was not immune

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Just traded in a 2016 Charger. My last LX car. I think they are just getting old. Only changes in the last 10 years have a new color options.
I went with a BMW 435i xDrive coupe. Germans seem to still take the sedan market seriously.
 
Safety regulations as they pertain to pedestrians have more effect on design than passenger safety. This manifests as shorter hoods, taller, blunted and flush front end details. The idea being you “flop and tumble” off the front of a car as opposed to having your hip/legs broken, or submarining under the front wheels.

I have no direct experience as a pedestrian, but as a kid I once got in the way of a Sunbeam-like car while underway with my bicycle. The car slung the bicycle away from under me and I landed safely on the hood, without a scratch.
 
Interesting thread as I have had similar thoughts lately as well. But I maintain that BMW (and Mercedes) still haven't sold out to the lumpy or worn out looks of all the other pass cars and suvs out there these days.

I would like to think that if Elwood Engle were still alive today, a Chrysler 300 coupe would have looked something like this BMW 6 series, which is probably my favorite car among all of todays offerings. Still plenty of tumblehome in it and it doesn't have to be expensive to look this way - it just happens that is what BMW can get for it because it really does evoke emotion and eye pleasure.

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And the 4 door versions don't lose much either:

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However, the Chargers still have some desirability to me these days:

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