TTAC commentator Darth Lefty writes:
I was looking at a new Fusion in the company parking lot and noticed how its center brake light (CHMSL) is basically a very thin flap jutting out of the top of the window. Subtle… The center brake light is always like this. We are right now in a golden age of headlight and tail light design. The complex shapes and chrome and LED’s and rocket thrusters dominate the style of a car. But the center light gets none of this.
It’s as small and cheap as it can be made. It gets no chrome interior, it has a plain red lens and it’s shaped like a Tylenol, or it’s a single row of LED’s. It’s always stuck under the rear window or or in the spoiler or some other trim where it could be easily deleted and it’s never really integrated into the styling of the car. Why?
Why not booster engines or Terminator eyeballs or light-up logos?
Why no style at all?
Is there some other large market where they are not required, or are the companies expecting the requirement to suddenly disappear some upcoming model year?
Or is it just too difficult to do styling other than badges along the center line?
I find the Fusion’s CHMSL (from the recent Vellum analysis) pretty ballsy for a modern car. Damning with faith praise, but still: when’s the last time you saw a CHMSL sticking out like that? It reminds me of the air grabber intake on old-school Mopar Muscle…except not that cool. The Fusion’s CHMSL is better off integrated into rear window’s form, be it at the base (the parcel shelf) or above (the headliner). That’s cleaner, sleeker and (by extension) more timeless.
There’s only one CHMSL that actually 1) has the balls that you speak of and 2) satisfies my need for using your whole ass when going out on a limb. This is how you highlight a design element, how you make it part of the body.
This is how you make a good design, that stands the test of time.
To answer your questions: who cares? Those are restrictions designers must fight every damn day/week/month of their careers. If you want to make something beautiful, fight until management (bean counters) approve and the implementation people (engineers) eagerly implement it. You even get the marketing people talking about your “cool design” so they promote it for you. A loveless and thankless job, perhaps?
But you just gotta Do It, To It…Son!
Oldsmobile did just that, proving it with a flagship…and what a flagship indeed!
Spend a few years bending sheet metal to completely re-theme a rear end with CHMSLs, innovate and continue to push that envelope. Conversely, look at the mediocre decklid implementation of the 1974 Buick Riviera: it doesn’t cut the mustard like the Toronado. But, inevitably every good thing must come to an end…
Like many other downsized designs of the malaise era, the butt of the Oldsmobile Toronado went from stunning to somewhat subtle. Not necessarily a bad thing, except the Oldz Boyz threw away years of hard work to vanilla-fy the Toronado.
While I (don’t laugh) enjoy many elements of the 1980s Toronados, they’d look so much better with the 1970s CHMSL implementation. GM design ain’t what it once was, what it was for decades. Perhaps when you water down an American Automotive Design Icon, you give a Flagship-less Camry its wings.
Goodbye best-selling Oldsmobile Cutlass, hello Toyota Camry. Inevitable, indeed.
Thanks for reading, I hope you have a lovely week.