A funny thing happened while reading the comments on Monday’s CTS-V coupe design study: I recalled that car design students are brands unto themselves, complete with perception gaps. I was certainly a Yugo, no “gap” needed. Others were solid BMWs, most of the time. We had a few Ferraris, even if they performed like every other Corvette in class. And there’s the rub: just because a “Ferrari” makes something great looking, did they make the best concept in the class? Is a flashy rendering really that great, if it will never make production without a truckload of compromise?
With that in mind, walk about 100 yards with me from our last case study. Behold: another radical GM coupe on the same lot.
As much as we all like the CTS-V coupe for merely existing, it is sorely lacking in ATD. (Attention To Detail) If you want to rally around the General for making a coupe with brass balls and brilliant ATD, well, you could do much worse than the 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme.
Boring or beautiful? That’s really in the eye of the beholder, but the remarkable level of ATD is impossible to question. While the CTS-V’s headlights are fancy and cutting edge, these projectors were practically state of the art for the time. They are so tiny, but they (barely?) pass Federal regulations! The classic Oldsmobile twin grille is similarly small, but logically extends from the headlights. And the hood? That dent (and the ensuing insurance claim) is the only problem: look how few cutlines convey this shape!
Yes, this design is truly boring by today’s standards. There are far too many parallel and horizontal lines for people outside of the Bauhaus. But look at the time and effort needed to get such harmony to market! The hood stamping alone is a bean counter’s nightmare. And when a bean counter fails, a designer wins. ATD FTW.
Obvious irony of the adjacent Buick notwithstanding, look at the Cutlass’ sleek and integrated design. The 1980s were big on minimalism–which is always popular in design circles–and the Cutlass does what we expect from this era: it makes sense from any angle. Every line sings in harmony with the other. And the ribbed bodyside molding (Detroit’s collective hat-tip to Mercedes) adds the necessary tension to keep the Cutlass from looking like an amorphous blob from the side. While it will never flex its muscles like a modern coupe (consuming whatever hormones they fed Barry Bonds), you can’t call this rig a fat and bloated beast.
More items to mention: the greenhouse is tall and free of black plastic triangles. Compared to the CTS coupe, wheel arches are in a far superior ratio to the rest of the body. Badging is present and obvious, but doesn’t demand your attention. And those A-pillars are stupid, stupid thin: no way that bit of minimalism will ever come back!
And where are the door handles? Their integration into the body is rather CTS-like in attitude and GM-game-changing in persona. The execution is pure brilliance…but I am getting ahead of myself.
How I long for a day when new cars have badges that actually mean something. Perhaps a car with a real name doesn’t need huge badging, as name recognition alone demands a subtle, soft promotion! The hard sell belongs elsewhere, like on every non-Navigator Lincoln.
Heaven help me. After seeing the truly awful execution of the CTS coupe’s door pulls, these B-pillar mounted levers are a sight for sore eyes. Sure, these things were magnets for scratching, but this design is packed with ATD.
Attention to detail is tough to execute, but the designers of the GM-10 platform certainly had a blank check to make this happen. With the CTS coupe in the same place? Not likely.
Your opinion of their functionality is right no matter what, but the sheer number of brass balls needed to get this item green lighted into production is what we all need to appreciate.
There’s an invisible C-pillar. There’s the right ratio of glass to body. I’ve been in one of these coupes, and the visibility is outstanding. If you hate spaceship-themed cars, I am cool with that. But if you can’t appreciate the amount of ATD present between engineering and design departments in this photo, do me a favor and stop reading this blog post.
Seriously, everyone responsible for making this happen deserves a pat on the back. And a free drink, on me.
What did it take to get this into production? Brass balls perhaps? Yes and no. GM probably wanted this quite badly after seeing the success of the original Mercury Sable. But still, someone please bring this trend back: I want rearward visibility again!
Is this still a boring car to you? The sheer volume of line/crease integration presented here will always bowl me over. My favorite element is the license plate: the Cutlass was seemingly designed around it! This was no afterthought, and the final touch was tucking the plate under and behind all the supporting lines around it. Modesty: it’s a good thing.
And while the tail lights are a minimalist tribute to Oldsmobiles from decades past, while the backup lights are almost invisible while remaining gigantic, this coupe is just as ballsy as that CTS-V coupe.
And though I wish the CTS-V Coupe had this Oldsmobile’s level of ATD, I know Cadillac’s “Art and Science” design will have plenty of followers in the year 2035. Flash sells, even if a design school “Ferrari” made it, hoping for the best come implementation time. Not that I know who made the CTS-V coupe, it just takes me back to certain evenings in the design studio.
Sometimes the memories are enough to get the mind wondering. And wandering.
Kudos to the GM-10 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme coupe: this vehicle embodies everything I like about GM when they want to make a statement, and have the balls to incorporate ATD in the final product.