When Chevrolet’s seventh
son generation Corvette was introduced, many purists reacted with horror over the fact that the new car no longer has what has been traditional on Corvettes since the C2 in 1963, two round tail lights on each side. “The new ‘Vette has Camaro tail lights!” more than a few said. Though if you look at both the 2013 Camaro and the 2014 Corvette rear lamps side by side, the main similarity is that neither one of them is round. The Camaro’s are trapezoids and the Corvette’s are more parallelogram shaped. Tom Peters is in charge of design at General Motors for full size trucks and performance cars. Something that Peters talked about on the night of the C7’s reveal and now emphasized in a video he made for Autoweek, the three dimensional shaping of the new Corvette’s tail lights, has me thinking that it wasn’t the Camaro’s back end that influenced the new ‘Vette, but rather it was the tail lights of the current Mustang.
One feature that distinguishes the latest refresh of the Ford Mustang are the deeply contoured tail lights and the way the lighting accentuates the three dimensional shape of the lamps. Matt Hardigree waxed ecstatic over them when the 2013 Mustang was first exposed in late 2011.
Car designers are a trendy bunch, in both directions. They set trends, but then they also follow them too. That’s how we get styling fads and cliches. Designers not only notice the same things that the rest of us notice, they also notice what exactly the rest of us are noticing. Their bosses notice that too.
Peters was responsible for the exterior styling on the current Camaro, but if you look at the tail lights on the current model, other than being recessed into the bodywork, the red lenses have very little three dimensional shape themselves. In the video he says that the design team wanted to take advantage of “depth of sculpture” opportunities when it came to the tail lights, as they’d done on other parts of the car.
The Mustang may have started a trend towards tail lights with more actual shape. Perhaps the Corvette team took that concept. If they did, they ran with it. The Mustang’s lights have one layer of depth, a recessed panel that lights up when the brakes are activated and the surface tail lights, which are flush to the rear panel. The Corvette’s tail lamps have a bit more complicated shape
In any case, I see only a vague family resemblance between the lights on the Camaro and those on the new Corvette. If designers, and their bosses, are as trend following as I think they are, we’re going to be seeing more and more three dimensional tail lights.
To see the “depth of sculpture” of the new Corvette taillights, the image above is a “cross eye” stereo pair that you can view in 3D without special glasses.
Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS