By on April 5, 2013

If you have a spare four minutes and four seconds (plus time for the commercial) take the time to check out the following discussion over at Bloomberg.com. As a layman, I find these kind of discussions very interesting and would like to hear the best and the brightest, many of whom I know to be connected with auto industry, give a little perspective to what seems to me to be a very shallow look on the subject of modern car design.

The active premise of the Bloomberg piece is that American car design lost its way in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, and is now beginning to return to its former glory. There is no doubt in my mind that improvements automotive technology have ushered in a golden age of performance, dependability and longevity, but I am left feeling cold when I hear people talking about how superior the “new designs,” are to the ones that came before.

There were some fantastic designs in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s and when I look back at the clean, classic lines of many of those cars I miss the days when designers used a straight edge as a part of their work. The Chevrolet Vega and Monza, while mechanically problem prone, are still wonderful looking little cars that have aged quite gracefully. The mid 80s Fox Body Mustangs, shown in the piece alongside both previous and later versions, look especially good to my eye. Of course you already know my thoughts on the Chrysler LH cars of the 1990s – I like them so much I put my money where my mouth is and have a 300M Special in my driveway.

My take is that there were some damn good designs in the eras these people are deriding. Sure there were some uninteresting and even outlandish designs too, but that doesn’t mean that designers have spent the last 30 years sleeping on the job. They were trying new things and some of those really worked. So, tell us now, what are your favorite cars from the much derided ’70s, ’80s and ’90s?

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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89 Comments on “Bloomberg Interview: American Car Design Rennaissance?...”


  • avatar
    b72

    They started to lose me when their examples of “boring” were the Passat and Jetta.

    They lost me when the retort was that the Passat was reliable.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree with them, the Passat and Jetta are the epitome of boring (along the Corolla).

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        My local dealer advertises Jettas for $139 a month and Passats for $169 a month, both with $1,995 down. Is there a US Passat so stripped that you wouldn’t drive it for that money? If I didn’t live in a neighborhood with alternate side parking and street sweeping, I might get one just so visiting friends could borrow it.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        The Passat and Corolla are the most bland cars I’ve ever sat in. They DEFINE the word beige, when used as an adjective.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          I agree. I’m very insulted that VW thinks this is what Americans like. The fact that their previous Passat didn’t sell doesn’t mean that they had to go and out-Impala the Impala. As for the Jetta…that is the *last* compact car I’d ever consider…well, maybe after the Corolla…

          • 0 avatar
            hreardon

            Two things:

            1. The Jetta and Passat are selling very well, bland or not. How long this continues as the models age and the competition increases is up to question, but they have both been off to great starts.

            2. Volkswagen is trying to slay several dragons with these models:
            a) increase volume substantially
            b) improve profitability substantially
            c) improve overall reliability and customer satisfaction

            In order to hit these targets they needed something simpler and less costly. De-contenting and simplifying was the only way to accomplish these goals. I’ve found it admirable that VW has responded quickly to some of the criticisms and remedied some items (rear drum brakes, improved materials in the GLI, etc.).

            VW also needed to make room for the forthcoming A3 sedan which will pick up nicely where the Jetta leaves off in the $28k – $40k range. Decontenting and lowering the price of the Jetta and Passat opens up this space.

            All that said, I have zero interest in driving either the Jetta or Passat. They bore me to tears. Beyond tears. They’re both just…so….blech. I’d pick up a new Mazda6 or Fusion were I in this space.

      • 0 avatar
        945T

        But they certainly are reliable…

    • 0 avatar
      hachee

      I think the B5 Passat is one of the best designs of all time. The B6 was nice, but not nearly as good. And now we have the American Passat, which oddly enough of I’ve come to really like. It’s super conservative, but somehow much better in my eyes than the new Jetta. It sort of strikes me like an old school Mercedes W123, and looks especially good in its higher trim versions. It may not be a B5, but as an alternative to overstyled competitors, I like it.

      • 0 avatar

        I like the B5 as well, but I’m a bit biased as I have a B5-gen Audi A4 and I find it rather handsome. I actually prefer the B6 Passat, though that may just be because I perceive it to have more character. I find a lot of the current VW designs to be a bit too…serious. That seriousness is fine for Audis, but I prefer VW designs to be a bit more playful. That probably explains why I like the more-rounded previous-gen Jetta to the new straight-edged car.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    Early 1970s muscle cars. Nothing else looked THAT cool.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    Watching that makes you wonder about the wisdom of listening to these people on subjects that you’re not well versed in.

    I’d still have loved to hear a few examples of the ‘smart’ aesthetic. Is that the one where the roofline obviously compromises visibility and dictates that the rear seat cushion is at floor height, or the one where having big wheels compromises packaging, fuel economy, ride, and foul weather handling?

    • 0 avatar
      Type57SC

      and how about the high trunks necessitating rear view cameras. ugh

      • 0 avatar
        Steve65

        High trunks are mostly about aerodynamics. That drives the styling, not the other way around.

        The earliest explicitly stated example of this (that I know of) is the second generation Jetta, which had a higher trunk lid than its predecessor with the aim of improving mileage.

        • 0 avatar
          945T

          Have you ever compared a 1985 and 1986 Volvo 240 trunk lid? In 1986 the 1/8″ dip became a pretty pronounced hump – just one way they aero tweaked their existing design for the face lift.

    • 0 avatar

      “I’d still have loved to hear a few examples of the ‘smart’ aesthetic. Is that the one where the roofline obviously compromises visibility and dictates that the rear seat cushion is at floor height, or the one where having big wheels compromises packaging, fuel economy, ride, and foul weather handling?”

      Agree totally

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    “The active premise of the Bloomberg piece is that American car design lost its way in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, and is now beginning to return to its former glory.”

    Evidently the folks down at Bloomberg.com are hitting that crack pipe pretty hard. Today’s awful design cues make me pine for the 80s/90s style. Fat ugly jellybeans with gunslit windows and no power (save the highest trims or specialty models), yeah that’s the right direction. Lets just turn everything into either a CUV or a go kart while were at it.

    • 0 avatar
      Les

      The current direction reminds me too much of old-school ‘for the art’ hot-rod customs, the ones that took a 1920s-30s sedan and turned it into a belly-dragging gun-slit windowed candy-paint-job-wearing showpiece..

      Maybe that’s the idea? Designers of today looking at those pieces of street-art and thinking, “That was pretty cool, I should do something more like that.”

    • 0 avatar
      Steve65

      Let’s not forget the arbitrary and randomly aimed creases and accent lines, apparently intended to create visual drama on an otherwise generic shape.

    • 0 avatar
      CV Neuves

      Crack pipes and all: I fully second “28-Cars” here. Historically and generally spoken, there has hardly ever something been wrong with the way US cars looked. Quite the opposite. What killed the US auto industry was their fetishism for drum-brakes and leaf springs plus other hang-ups with innovation and quality.

      Their unquenchable thirst for gas was unacceptable in markets where they taxed it (which in turn helped keep American pump prices down, but that is another matter). This kept them largely out of European markets. Millionaires, unfazed by that, that wanted to power down the autobahn in style had local alternatives which just did that in a mechanical way.

      Little helpful was also the US-industry’s penchant for bastardizing their brands, eg. Lincoln Continental – a wet dream in its day – became just another downmarket dweller, etc. (Benz and Bimmer are nowadays going down that alley, too – what probably has something to do with intro of MBA courses in European universities).

      Today’s Yankee sheet metal – with a handful of exceptions – is virtually indistinguishable from the offerings from Europe and Japan without having the image of being technology driven.

      And arguably, modern global car design with creases and bulges everywhere and especially all the wrong places, and the supposedly desirable “aggressive” looks is unbearable.

      Elegance, definitely, is an expression from the past, or as author Kreutzer puts it so aptly: “I miss the days when designers used a straight edge.”

      • 0 avatar
        Summicron

        “I miss the days when designers used a straight edge.”

        Nothing I’ve ever read has better distilled my feelings about modern cars into a single epigrammatic jewel of “F***ing A!”-ness.

  • avatar
    Type57SC

    There were many quantum leap designs of that period:

    First Taurus? First Chrysler Minivans? First big-rig Ram? The styling wasn’t as flashy as the 50s but I wouldn’t call it a dark age. Would I have bought an american tempo vs 91 corolla, taurus vs 94 camry or escort vs 92 Civic? No, but I think those Japanese cars were so well thought out and executed that the current closer parity makes it feel like there is an American rennaisance. There are less corners cut today in the D3 than in any period, it seems.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    Funny, but the rounded off Chrysler 300 at the top is looking more and more like an LHS. It’s the ’90s all over again, but with smaller windows.

    Incidentally, the interview reminded me of the criticism of newspapers. Read an article you know something about and it’s all wrong, but people will read the other articles in the same paper, even on the same page, and accept them as accurate and truthful.

  • avatar

    American car design did go some low points in that era, though there were many bright ones. I think, the premise of the discussion, was that American design was going off in directions that nobody else was. Plus the continued relevance of huge cars with huge overhangs, BWD and straight edges when other places were discovering the round.

    From the 70s many American cars were crazily uncool. Specially the ones with the false Rolls Royce fronts. European cars from the era were much tighter. The 80s I think were pretty bad for everyone, albeit the Japanese were developing their own language that, IMO, later, lost their way. In the 90s the Europeans carried the torch again with beautiful cars. American cars of the era were bad copies of Japanese cars that were starting to lose their way. In that decade, the good designs coming out of Detroit were all Chryslers (minivans, Neon, 300), but Mercedes put a stop to that.

    Now, American designers were always talented. We nowadays have the example of J Mays at Ford, Le Quément learned his trade from an American (with an Italian name I forget) and even the much maligned Chris Bangle had a sort of vision (the post Bangled BMWs are very, very boring, while the Bangle ones were at least challenging).

    Another problem for American car design was the industry’s dependence on trucks. I think they tended to concentrate their efforts there. Made for good trucks, with the best design by far, but as trucks have a limited presence outside of North America that didn’t count for much.

    I think the current American design language is evolving. They have their historic substract, Japanese influence, peppered with Euro input (Euro Ford-Fusion, Chrysler-Fiat). I think Americans have the potential to lead soon in this department.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      In defense of the ’80s, I would like to suggest some enduring designs of the era.

      From Germany:
      1983 Audi 100
      1983 Porsche 944
      BMW E28, E30, E31, E32
      Mercedes-Benz W124, R129

      From Japan:
      3rd Generation Honda Civic
      4th Generation Honda Civic
      3rd Generation Honda Accord
      2nd Generation Honda Prelude
      3rd Generation Honda Prelude
      2nd Generation Mazda 626
      1st Generation Mazda Miata
      4th Generation Toyota Celica

      From France:
      Peugeot 205
      Renault Espace I
      Renault 25

      From Italy:
      Fiat Uno
      Fiat Panda
      Alfa-Romeo 33
      Alfa-Romeo 164(okay, I realize I’m reaching a bit here)

      From the US:
      1982 Firebird and Camaro – I realize that this sounds ridiculous because of what they became, but every single rollout version of the 3rd generation F-cars was beautiful. GM couldn’t leave well enough alone, but they got the looks right on day one. From then on, every time they improved the mechanicals, they offset it with gaudier trim. Find some release photos from 31 years ago, and you’ll see how clean these cars were when they arrived.
      1986 Ford Taurus, even if was just a 100 clone
      C4 Corvette – looked exactly as it should have after eons of over-the-top C3 production
      1987 J-body Chrysler LeBaron. The H-bodies looked good too
      I’d have the Fox mustang here too, but it was really introduced in the ’70s, although it was a good look into the ’80s.

      Anyway, I can think of far more good looking cars from the ’80s than I can from the past 15 years.

      • 0 avatar

        I agree with 90% of the cars you mention. The 80s taken as whole though was pretty lackluster. One of my favorite all time cars is from the 80s for example, the Ford Escort. In terms of trucks, the 70s were cool in a nostalgic kind of way, the 80s pretty bad, while in the 90s Dodge revigorated the segment.

        What I’m trying to say is you can pick and pull great designs from all eras. But taken as a whole, I still think the 80s were a low mark, specially as to American cars in America.

      • 0 avatar
        Fordson

        “1986 Ford Taurus, even if was just a 100 clone”

        How many people were introduced to that revolutionary school of design by the Taurus/Sable as opposed to the Audi? I probably see more 1986 Tauruses today than I did Audi 100s in 1983.

        To this list I would add the 1983 Thunderbird, without a doubt. And maybe the 1989 one, also.

        • 0 avatar
          CJinSD

          The 1983 Thunderbird was just an omission on my part. It definitely belongs, as does the LSC version of the Mark VII.

          The 100, or 5000S and Turbo, as they were known here, was a big seller for Audi. Audis US sales peaked at 74,000 cars in 1985, the majority of them 5000s. At least on the coasts, people were very aware of them. One reason put forward for why the 5000 became a target of sudden unintended acceleration lawyers was that it was a very common first imported car for a demographic that was used to American luxury cars. The Audi’s brake pedal was positioned for heel and toe work, while US luxury cars’ brake pedals were not.

          • 0 avatar
            Fordson

            That’s all true – also the 5000 pioneered use of galvanized outer body panels. And for those who managed to see one, they were certainly revolutionary and striking. But Ford sold its one-millionth Taurus in 3.5 years. Mercury sold 300,000 Sables in the first year alone.

            Also, the Audi 5000 had a vestigial grille, even though it was non-functional. Ford and Mercury did away with it, because it was just for show – pretty revolutionary.

            The design process Ford pioneered for the car was as revolutionary as the finished product – nobody has designed or marketed a car the same way since. Customer clinics were used extensively for the first time. Development teams were organized in completely new ways.

            The Taurus was a huge gamble for Ford…and when it succeeded, it shocked GM and Chrysler into radically altering their own designs and perceptions of what the market was prepared to accept. The Audi 5000 was no such an upheaval to its competitors.

    • 0 avatar
      0menu0

      how does high euro fuel taxes keep american pump prices lower?

  • avatar
    mitchw

    Wayne Cherry refused to sign off GM designs, according to Lutz. Didn’t Bill Mitchell have more power over designs than the suits could tolerate? And then the suits won. Lutz freed the designers and engineers to make stuff that looked good. But if you walk around the autoshow in NY you’ll see the designers’ response to govt mandated safety and mileage standards is an attention to details, inside and out. Check out all those head and taillights and stitching galore.

  • avatar
    redmondjp

    And to add to that list for the US automakers [EDIT arrgggh - the @#$% commenting system here did it again - this was supposed to be under CJ\'s reply above]:

    1984 Mopar minivans – a revolution for the U.S. market.

    1985 GM C and H-body FWD cars. My 1988 Buick Electra T-Type was one of the best cars that I have ever owned. That body style still looks good, AND has remarkable space utilization as well as excellent visibility in all directions. I would buy a brand-new one today if I could.

  • avatar
    davefromcalgary

    This opinion may be derided, but I really enjoy the clean simple design of the small to midsize cars of the early 2000′s. I have an Alero coupe and my brother drives a MkIV GLI, and as Sajeev mentioned in a recent Vellum Venom, these type of vehicles have a simplicity and presence lacking in modern design. I particularly like the squared off hind quarters of these type of vehicle, looking more like the power of a pent up animal than the cockroach shell shape of something like the new Sonata. Other vehicle in this category include the Protege5, first gen Mazda6, LH cars as Thomas mentioned, etc.

    I particularly like the A4, every generation it still retains that perfect classic 3 box shape that I like, while still evolving the Audi brand language. Reviewers have been derisive towards the A4 and A6 for the last 15 years as nothing new, but I am happy because I really like them from where they started! The last available RS4 in North America (2006-2008) I believe is perfection to my eye, and I think it is because it retains the basic proportions and shape from the 90′s when the A4 was introduced.

  • avatar
    bryanska

    1985 Thunderbird.

    1989 Thunderbird SC (heavy never looked so good).

    1989 Olds Cutlass Supreme.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I’ve got lots of cars on my mind, but in keeping with the form of the article will list American design greats only. There are PLENTY of French and Italian classics from during this time.

    70s:
    Mark IV/V
    Continental Town Car/Coupe
    Eldorado
    AMX
    Ninety-Eight (the long one with fender skirts)
    Fleetwood 75

    80s:
    Corvette (the flat one)
    Taurus/Sable
    Cadillac STS (1989-91)
    Riviera

    90s:
    B-bodies other than Caprice
    Taurus SHO/Sable AIV ;)
    Town Car (95-97)
    Mark VIII

    I dunno if others round here have the same tastes as me though.

    • 0 avatar

      The Mark VIII is definitely a high point of American design.

      I didn’t address foreign cars in the piece above because the interview didn’t talk about it, but Marcello made a good point about Japanese cars above about – the fact that they lost their way fairly recently.

      The Japanese cars of the 70s, 80s and 90s were all really distinctive and there is something for everyone. The Supra Mark II and III, the Mid 80s 200SX Turbo and the 300ZX as well. Lots and lots of great looking cars, with thoughtful, fururistic interiors too. I love looking for them on craigslist just to get a glimpse.

      If we didn’t move all the time I’d have something from the 80s in my garage (a 200SX Turbo or a Turbo Dodge Shelby Charger/Daytona) for sure. To be honest, these guys picking on prior designs made me a little angry – it came off like a weak marketing scam trying to get people into the showrooms to see these “hot, new designs.” I call BS.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Yeah it’s a bit lamesauce.

        Really the benchmark-genesis of modernity in sedans was the 100, though.

        My favorite 90s item which is attainable would be a 300ZX 2+2, white.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      I liked the Ford Probe’s exterior design, especially the 2nd gen. Put RWD and a 5.0 in that and it would be golden.

      Also, Buick Reatta.

      • 0 avatar
        raph

        “I liked the Ford Probe’s exterior design, especially the 2nd gen. Put RWD and a 5.0 in that and it would be golden”

        Funny you say that, when the 2nd gen Probe GT hit I thought the same, although I admit I preferred the Mazda 626 coupe past the B pillar more than the Probe’s hatchback.

        Anyways, I always liked the fox Mustangs, especially from 87 on to 93. The SN95 was okay and I really didn’t care for the New Edge cars when they first hit but in retrospect they were among my favorites – especially the Mach and Cobras.

        I also like the fox based areo T-birds specifically the last of the Turbocharged coupes. The MN112 T-birds were pretty good looking but just didn’t resonate as much with me.

        IIRC through the 80′s and 90′s the guy in charge of Ford styling was Jack Telnack who was inspired by European cars and had a particular fondness for the big E24 BMW coupes (which shows in the MN112 T-bird) and the fox Mustang itself said to be derivative styling of the Porsche 924.

        3rd Gen Camaro & Firebirds (especially the batmobile nose on the
        Firebird)

        C4 vettes after the introduction of the ZR1

        Monte SS, Grand National and 442 cars were also pretty handsome even if they looked faster than they were.

    • 0 avatar
      Marko

      The ’89-’91 STS? I find the ’86-’91 Seville quite awkwardly proportioned. I guess others see something in it that I don’t. Then again, I’ve never driven one.

      (OK, fine, seeing an ’86-’91 at least doesn’t make me lose my appetite as much as seeing an ’80-’85.)

      Now if we’re talking about the ’92, I’d agree. I find that one timeless.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    Styling is pretty subjective. It has a tendency to trend. Personally, I like the look of the luxury coupes from the 70′s while my Golf driving counterparts feel they are gaudy and hideous. I have a bit of a thing for opera windows.

    Im my opinion, the early to mid 80s was a low point aethetically, but was the beginning of a renaissance period for mechanical innovation and improvement powertrain and chassis-wise. I don’t think it was ever the styling that caused the decline of the Big 3′s domination.

    • 0 avatar

      Hey Danio,

      I’ve been told by Fiat suits more than once that it is styling that sells cars. You and I may not like that, but it seems a fact of life. So maybe the decline of the Big 3 did have a component of that

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Did they happen to mention what did?

        • 0 avatar

          Hey 28 cars later!

          Oh there are so many! A most recent example would have to be the Hyundai HB20 (only for Brazil). Pretty bad to drive, mean finishing, modern design and internal layout..Win! Already 4th place in sales, I don’t want to believe it can pass the ones ahead of it. The Fiat Palio and Uno and VW Gol are all better drives. The Hyundai is a recent product from a just built and factory and trained workforce. The engine is coarser than the rivals, the suspension is a mess and not well suited for Brazil. Parts for it are not very available so much. In spite of it all, the smidgeon of modern design makes it a hit.

          VW is another example. Fiat had to butch up the cars in order to compete. Consumers saw the VW’s thick pillars, little glass and tank like ride and thought: Quality! Reliable! Tough! Fiat’s car had more glass, thinner columns, impact crumple zones, people thought: fragile.

          And the list goes on. In the US just think of Hyundai versus the Japanese. Less refined for sure, but the design is appealing. Growth in sales. I believe the Excel had a long warranty too, or the previous gen Rio, compare those sales with sales for the most recent HyunKia cars.

  • avatar
    lon888

    1970′s – Datsun 240-Z (but only 70 – 72)
    1980′s – 84/85 Toyota Celica convertible and 87 Honda CRX Si
    1990′s – 94 and up Preludes (especially the VTEC Si) and 95 Honda Civic Coupe (before some dumb kid rices it up)

  • avatar
    bunkie

    Just about my favorite American car from that era is the last Eldorado Touring Coupe. It has wonderful proportions and a great roofline. I’m also a sucker for the first-generation LH New Yorker. Despite the obvious Jaguar MkII roofline crib, it’s a very elegant design.

  • avatar
    Mykl

    From the ’80′s…. I’d still love to have a mint 4th gen Monte Carlo SS, or a Pontiac Firebird of similar vintage (a Formula 350 would be awesome). Of course the Fox Mustang is worthy.

  • avatar
    ezeolla

    I actually posted this in the other thread about which car which you ask a company to build.

    I don’t know what it is, but I just love the squareness and simplicity of the 1973-1991 K-5 Blazer (pretty much runs through all the decades mentioned). And if they built something like it now, I would buy it.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Lotta interesting comments here ~

    I too liked to looks of the admittedly wretched Ford Escort , my ex psycho-b*itch girlfriend had an ’82 DL (?base model) that was *so* cheap it made my teeth hurt and I’m a (damn) Yankee born & bred *but* , it ran tops and was ever so easy to fix being simple and designed to be easily taken apart .

    It was also rather more sturdy than I’da thought , handily surviving a major side swipe Vs. truck collision , it ran and drove almost 10 more years until the timing belt snapped & bent all the vales .

    I rather like to lines and looks of my 1980 Cadillac S & S Victoria Hearse ~ it was built on a Fleetwood Commercial Chassis and wears it’s age pretty damn well IMO .

    I also like those early , plain body Camaros ~ not enough to own one but they have simple & pleasing lines .

    Damien happened across a ’72 Toyota Corina (two years only) and i like it too . he saved it and put it back on the road again , is comfy and handles O.K. , he’s a good mechanic so it scoots very well indeed now .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    Dubbed

    How old is this author. He says the best looking cars came from the 70′s. I wonder how many folks in the 70′s said the same things about cars from the 50′s. How many folks in the eighties said the same thing in comparison to cars made in the seventies.. Or would people 30 years from now see the designs created today the same he sees designs from the seventies.

    What I’m saying is, isn’t this the exact same phenomenon with old folks liking jazz and hating rock. A set of stylistic opinions created with things in a particular place and time. An opinion that doesn’t change as the world around you change.

    In short, this reasoning is the exact same that had Al Bundy keep his Dart.

    • 0 avatar

      Just to clarify, I did not say that the best looking cars are from the 70s, I said that there were some great looking cars across all the decades and that he idea we are experiencing some sort of Renaissance today is silly. If anything, I am saying the opposite of what you think – I prefer new shapes and ideas to rehashed looks at old shapes.

      I reject the idea that all the cool cars have to look like the cool cars of old.

  • avatar
    bufguy

    Mk1 VW Scirocco and Rabbit….made small car design classy
    1977 GM Bbody, especially Caprice….made full sie car design classy
    1978 Toyota Celica…made Japanese sport coupe design classy
    1982 Honda Accord…made Japanese sedan design classy

  • avatar
    ehaase

    I prefer the styling of the cars of the 1970′s through the 1990′s better than anything made today. Favorites include all the full size Fords, all the full size GM products, and I even like the boxy Chrysler K cars.

  • avatar
    TW4

    Ford Maverick
    Pontiac Fiero
    Jeep Wrangler :)

    I don’t really care to consider the 70s, 80s, or 90s models for much longer. American manufacturing has always been building decent looking cars, but American manufacturers are also responsible for building eye sores as well. It is the truly hideous cars of the 70s, 80s, and 90s that earned the US manufacturers their reputation.

    Imo, the only pertinent rebuttal is suggesting that the US has been unjustly characterized simply because they designed, manufactured, and sold more ugly cars than anyone else. Foreign manufacturers built plenty of ugly cars during the same time period.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      The Europeans were building cars that were beautiful, but almost universally unreliable, while the Asians produced some very ugly cars that stayed alive like cockroaches…but it must have been doubly-insulting to buy a car from a U.S. manufacturer that was not only hideous, but also a piece of crap mechanically (and there were several examples of such).

  • avatar
    Dimwit

    What a bunch of idiots! No understanding of history and totally clueless about their subject, even from the “expert”! Man, I’m glad I don’t watch TV.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I was born in the nineties, so I really only paid attention to cars from that decade and beyond. It takes a special person to appreciate it, but I’m very fond of the eighth-generation (1995-99) Buick Riviera and its design. The 1991-1996 Chevrolet Caprice (and its Impala stablemate) was also very nice. Lincoln knew what they were doing when they designed that last Town Car. Then there’s the 1996-2001 Honda Prelude. And the 1996-2006 Jaguar XK. And the Land Rover Discovery Series-II (released in 1998) looks pretty cool, though I’m not masochistic enough to actually buy one…

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    2000 thru 2007 Ford Taurus are very attractive with lines more like a Jaguar sedan. 63 Pontiac Grand Prix and 63 Buick Rivera. 65 Chevy Impala SS. 66-67 GTOs, 442s, Chevelle SSs, and Buicks Skylarks. 57 thru 62 Corvettes and 63 Stringray split window hardtop. 55 thru 57 T Birds. Studebaker Avante was also a classic. 70 thru 72 Monte Carlos and Grand Prixs, 70 Ford Torino, 55 or 56 Lincoln Continental, 55 thru 57 Chevy Bellaire, and 67 thru 72 Chevy and GMC pickups.

  • avatar

    Buick Reatta
    1992-02 Cadillac Eldorado
    Chevrolet Vega (and Astre)
    Saturn S-series (especially the SC)
    Pontiac Fiero
    1994-96 Pontiac Grand Prix Coupe
    Oldsmobile Aurora (first gen)
    1992-98 Oldsmobile Achieva/Buick Skylark (esp. coupes)

  • avatar

    Buick Reatta
    1992-02 Cadillac Eldorado
    Chevrolet Vega (and Astre): If nothing else, they looked great.
    Saturn S-series (especially the SC)
    Pontiac Fiero
    1994-96 Pontiac Grand Prix Coupe
    Oldsmobile Aurora (first gen)

    1992-98 Oldsmobile Achieva/Buick Skylark (esp. coupes): Didn’t include Grand Am as I don’t think it looked as nice. Just too curvy and messy in places. And I’m saying that as someone who grew up around a ’92 Grand Am.

    1992-97 Ford Probe
    1999-02 Mercury Cougar
    Merkurs
    Lincoln Mark VII and VIII
    Ford Thunderbird (tenth gen)
    “New Edge” Ford Mustang

    Plymouth Prowler
    Plymouth/Dodge Neon
    Dodge Viper
    Dodge Stealth

    I’m sure there are others, but I…kinda agree with what they’re saying. Those decades produced a lot of “meh” designs, and I feel a lot of the designs they’re producing now are better executed or more interesting. If you look at the mid-eighties there are some good designs, but they tend to get lost in the sea of maroon paint and terrible faux-wire wheels. The nineties were better in some ways, but they got a bit overenthusiastic with organic curves and produced a bunch of amorphous designs. That was largely fixed by bringing back creases and lines, but now the designers have kind been taking that overboard as well.

  • avatar
    CelticPete

    71 Chevelle SS
    85 Camaro IROC-Z
    C-4 Corvette.

    Truth is american car guys like their performance cars so they tend to put the best guys on that. All of those cars match up well to anything out there – even now look wise. And they were fairly affordable when new..

  • avatar
    John Franklin Mason

    General Motors used my designs on the full size downsized rear wheel drive Cadillac’s, Buick’s, Oldsmobile’s and Chevrolet’s produced and sold during the 1977 to 1990 model years. Also my images were the designs of the 1979-1985 Cadillac Eldorado, Oldsmobile Toronado, Buic Riviera as well as the 1980-85 Cadillac SeVille’s.

    After my designs ran their courses at General Motors Cadillac’s lost their groove, Oldsmobile fell off their rocket, consumers Really Rathered not have a Buick and the Japanese ate Chevrolet’s Apple Pie.

    In the current era of automotive design, American Auto Manufacturers are indeed leading the feild of automotive design, as well as engineering and convience.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      So… you worked on designs for the B and E bodies?

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        You’re going to love this one.

      • 0 avatar
        John Franklin Mason

        I conceived and drew the designs while incarcerated from 1972 to 1975. I submitted those drawings as part of an art portifolio to General Motors Institute and the person of Dr. David H. Harry whom I continued to correspond with until I was released.

        Also, Dr. Harry’s friend and associate, Dr. George Bush from Northwood University set up and taught extension courses at the Marquette Michigan Correctional Facility during the time I was serving there.

        Dr. Bush witnessed and copied, in person, my drawings. General Motors produced and sold I estismate around ten million cars with my designs for the 1977 to 1990 model years. Prison staff and inmates were the first to witness and critique those designs.

        Two of Motor Trend Magazine’s “Car of the Year” Awardees were my designs: the 1977 Chevrolet Impala and the 1979 Buick Riviera.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Damn. Truth by far is stranger than fiction.

          If I may ask what was your inspiration? Both B and especially E bodies were radical departures from their predecessors.

          • 0 avatar
            John Franklin Mason

            Heck my insiration was the natural talent and my desire to design cars.

            When you speak of the radial departure from the predcessors I am assuming you are referring to “downsizing.”

            You need to understand I was in no way commissioned nor under contract with, or in contact with General Motors in designing those cars.

            I independently conceived and drew design concepts and images and submitted those renderings to General Motors Institute (a school), not General Motors Corporation, as part of an art portifolio to be used to evaluate my talent and abilities as an artist/designer.

            The situation is such in response to the impact of the Oil embargo General Motors decided on a crash course to downsize it’s product lines in an effort to reduce vehicle weights and save gas. It was a secret program called “Project 77.”

            Thing was; how to compensate for the smaller size when size was a premium in America cars? And how do you maintain the value of full size cars when they would be the same size as mid size cars?

            Answer was General Motors needed design language that conveyed the distinction and maintained full sized car values dispite the loss in size.

            General Motors did not have the talent nor the time available to them, however, they found my drawings, the right designs, which happened to be in the right place, at the right time.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Indeed, I was referring to downsizing. There is a very regal look to the E-bodies of the period vs the Chrysler and Ford/Lincoln counterparts. I would say your designs directly impacted the Personal Luxury Coupe and Full Size Sedan segments well until 1998 (with the demise of the PLC segment and the introduction of the MK II Jaguar-esque TC). The face and long front end of the 90-97 TC look influenced by your B-body designs.

            Pity they stole your drawings without issuing you credit or commission, GM could certainly use some help in the styling department today.

  • avatar
    Compaq Deskpro

    I love absolutely everything from the 80′s. The exotics (Countach, Testarossa, Lotus Esprit), American iron (K cars, Dodge Diplomats, B-bodies), pony cars (IROC-Z, Foxstang), Japanese stuff (Z-cars, Integras, Italian-nose Mitsubishi HVAC guy), German stuff (diesel Mercedes tanks, featherweight BMWs, whale tail Porsches).

  • avatar
    John Franklin Mason

    Did Bill Mitchell donate stolen car drawing(s) to the Henry Ford Museum?


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