TTAC Commentator halftruth writes:
I see a lot of manufacturers using the binocular style gauge motif (see Hyundai Elantra, 2011 Avalon, Chevy Cruze for example) and I hate it! I also see a lot of carmakers using the upside down triangle motif in a lot of their steering wheel designs. We can even throw in the obligatory fuel AND coolant gauge.. they all seem to do this same thing with little variation. That said, if we look thru history, this mimicking has always gone on.
But why? Sometimes a bad idea is just that and shouldn’t be copied: I am reminded of huge gaudy consoles that take up legroom- for an automatic.
Many, many moons ago, I studied Industrial Design at the College for Creative Studies. I was deluded enough to think I could be the next Harley Earl/Bill Mitchell/Jack Telnack. Instead I learned a truth of the car business from the perspective of an idealistic college student.
And if you notice an undercurrent of bitterness and sarcasm in my writings, well that’s also a byproduct of my time in design school. But I digress…
Binocular style gauge clusters? They make you feel like you’re on a motorcycle. Which is cool, even if you don’t get it. After all, who doesn’t want a crotch rocket over a family sedan? I guarantee you that every clinic-demographic study done by the automakers justifies this styling trend.
Upside down triangle wheels? Actually, I am okay with this one: tillers are more than just a way to steer and save your bacon (airbag) in a head-on collision. Thanks to cruise control, audio control, climate control and SYNC-like interfaces, the wheel should be a charming piece of design to keep you interested in the technology…when parked.
My point: the car business is a lead-then-follow industry. Someone has the balls to do something nuts, and when said loony activity makes money, everyone jumps on the bandwagon. Cadillacs got tailfins. BMWs got Bangle-Butts, Ford made the Taurus/Sable. Chrysler produced the Minivan. Nissan put clear taillights on the Altima. Technology like SYNC gave new purpose to an old steering wheel. And people like a sedan/CUV that’s influenced by a sporty motorcycle, too.
It all brings home the bacon. As Grandmaster Flash said:
“Cause it’s all about the Money, ain’t a damn thing Funny.
You got to have a con in this land of Milk and Honey.”
Bonus! A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom:
When did you realize this sad truth about car design?
I learned about copycat designs with my favorite car, a 1983 (Fox Body) Lincoln Continental that’s been in the Mehta garage since 1986. At the time, the Hooper inspired “bustleback” coachwork from Lincoln, Cadillac and Chrysler proved that everyone had the same idea. And I am not sure if any other moment in history made the point quite this clear!
Hooper’s designs were famous for a long hood, short deck and a sweeping beltline that dramatically tapered down to the rear bumper: the 1980 Cadillac Seville was the first to see gold in that pre-war styling notion. Chrysler was certainly the wildest with the 1981 Imperial coupe, yet I thought the 1982 Fox Continental’s incorporation of the fake tire hump and Rolls Royce style grille (both Lincoln hallmarks for decades) worked the best on the retro-British theme. Plus, the automotive experts at Motor Trend liked the Foxy Conti better than the Seville, so now I know I’m 100% right.
Who knows, maybe disco music and endless lines of coke was part of the problem in the years leading up to those three redesigns. Or not.
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