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Monday, May 16, 2005

Some People Like Retro

James Lileks, for example (HT: Joe Sherlock):
Today we went through many web pages looking at many cars, and it was depressing; most mid-priced sedans were designed by graduates of the International Institute of Boring Your Ass Off, and have the same dull front and the same dull back and the same dull middle. I repeat my earlier contention: bring back a car that would have looked at home in 1957 and they would sell a kajillion units. Something that leaned into the wind, had boobie headlights and forty-nine tons of chrome, two colors, poke-your-eye-out fins and a hood ornament in the shape of a rocket or a nuclear weapon. But no: we get the same old same old, over and over.
Not me. Except for maybe the 2005 Mustang, I don't get much out of retro-styled cars like the Chrysler PT Cruiser or the Chevrolet HHR. I guess I'm too young, and I don't have any nostalgia for the pop culture of the 1950's. Fins on cars look silly, and so does too much chrome.

I think that Cadillac has a much better idea: drag people kicking and screaming into a new design theme, something edgy and different. When you see a Cadillac drive by, now, you know that it is a Cadillac, not some creased jellybean that might be a Lexus, Infiniti, Toyota, Honda, or Hyundai. It may alienate some of the older customers, that is true. But let them put their vinyl roofs on Towncars.

6 comments:

The Angry Engineer said...

Or let them put vinyl roofs on CTSs and 300Cs, as has occasionally been spotted. Eeeww.

I don't mind "retro design", as long as it's a bridge to the right time in the past (to paraphrase Bob Dole). The new Mustang did a great job of capturing design cues from the most popular period of the pony car. The HHR, on the other hand, probably doesn't jerk at the heartstrings of too many people, be they young or old - how many buyers long for the days of post-WWII delivery vehicles?. The success of the Jeep Commander will hinge on how many still have a fondness for the old Wagoneer, which might be a rather small market.

I'd still like to see our generation turn out the equivalent of a '55 Chevy or '69 Camaro, instead of a knock-off of either. I just don't see a custom Ford Five Hundred or Chevy Malibu gracing the pages of the March 2050 issue of Hot Rod.

John B said...

I have to agree - most retro styled cars to my eye look weird. I think it has to do with the modern materials and plastics used in modern cars – but then who would want to go back to the days of ultra heavy chrome laden cars. Whenever I see a well restored 1960’s vintage car (the era I grew up in) I can’t help but notice how sloppily put together they were - 1963-67 Stingray excepted ;-)

I agree the Mustang does a fine job of capturing the exuberance of the period as does the Mini although the Mini is too small for me. I certainly prefer the Cadillac CTS to any of its chrome laden, finny predecessors.

NextGenAuto said...

Would you consider the Chysler 300 retro? In a way it is, but it really is not. What about the Ford Thunderbird?

Eventually, people will get tired of the copy-retro trend... and look for more dynamically styled vehicles. What those will look like, i'm not sure. As long as it doesn't look like a melted jelly bean, i'm good.

The Angry Engineer said...

A 300C is retro - go park it next to a mid-80s Chrysler 5th Avenue, and think of that moment in time just before the Taurus came along and started the current jellybean/low-beltline styling trend.

The 300C doesn't reach as far back as the Mustang or Thunderbird, and it certainly isn't reaching back to a point in time that most folks remember fondly (at least not from the standpoint of automotive design), but make no mistake - it's retro.

Anonymous said...

Have we forgotten about the Plymouth Prowler? It seems to me that is what started all this retro styling.

9 said...

I think it's interesting that even in today's day and age as far as car designs go, the retro look is still in. You see it in the design of vehicles like the new Camaro and the new Mustang all time. I guess the theory that if it's not broke don't fix it applies here

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