I was driving around the other day, and I got passed by a mid-2000s Mercedes M-Class. If your brain doesn’t immediately pull up an image of this particular M-Class, I’m not sure how to describe it to you. Just think of a dull SUV with a Mercedes badge on the front.
I remember when this particular M-Class came out, back in 2006, because it was panned for including a column shifter. A lot of automotive journalists — and, frankly, vehicle owners — laughed at the idea that a modern luxury brand would use a column shifter, the mark of the full-size pickup in the 1980s.
“And now Mercedes is using one?” they would say. “Mercedes?! HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!”
Then the journalists laughed and laughed, while Mercedes was simultaneously developing autonomous cars that would one day render these journalists useless.
I recently started to think about automotive over styling. This is because many of today’s cars are styled to the point where you wonder if they had some contractual obligation with the supplier to put in as many unnecessary curves and creases as humanly possible.
This all got started when I walked by an E36 BMW 3 Series a few weeks ago. That is a handsome car. It has clean lines, and clean panels, and virtually no unnecessary curves or surfaces or trim. The thing is all purpose, all business, and somehow it still manages to be beautiful. I love it.
Why aren’t we seeing diesel/electric hybrid cars and light duty trucks? Wouldn’t the fuel economy be phenomenal? Gas hybrids do well in their own right, as do diesels. So what’s holding up the diesel/electric Passat? Many cities have gone to diesel/electric buses for fuel savings, so we know the technology is real for passenger vehicles. Is the combined torque simply too much for mere mortals to use responsibly?
What gives, Sajeev?
Julien Montousse, the man who designed the interiors of the new Miata and Mazda6 for Mazda, and the last-generation Camaro for General Motors, will lead the automaker’s California design team, Mazda announced Tuesday.
Montousse takes over for Derek Jenkins, who left the company in July for a “stealth project” according to Automotive News, who cited Jenkins’ LinkedIn page. (Read More…)
A Brooks Stevens concept.
Aaron Cole’s post about automotive patent art gladdened my heart. Years ago, I decided to check out some of Les Paul and Leo Fender’s original patents on their electric guitars and I discovered the artistry of patent drawings. These days the United States Patent and Trademark Office, as well as patent offices around the world, accept digitally produced artwork. However, before the digital age, an inventor had to hire someone skilled at technical drawing to produce the various exploded and see-through sketches needed to describe the “preferred embodiment” of a process patent.
Of course the “inventor” of a design patent — a slightly different form of intellectual property that protects the design and look of a product — is more often than not, the actual designer.
Following up on Aaron’s post, I decided to put the names of some notable automotive designers into a patent search engine to see what I could find. My hypothesis was that in the case of a design patent, particularly for a car, the artwork for the patent application was likely to have been drawn by the designer. A patent is a big deal to any engineer or designer and he’d likely want to be the one responsible for representing his own idea best.
Hyundai released Wednesday a new concept sketch of the coming Elantra, which shows that the new model will sport a large hexagonal grille, sleeker and lower headlights, and a steeper dropping C-pillar.
The Elantra is scheduled for a redesign for 2017 and outlets are reporting the new sedan will debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November. It’s not clear what engines may power the new Elantra.
I suspect there’s more than a handful of Transportation Design students finding employment in the toy business and I know my fellow design classmates at CCS collected diecast model cars. They’re inspirational, personally helping me render light/shadow reflections on the vellum.
Visits to (Pasteiner’s) Auto Zone happened regularly, sometimes with the same higher regard than local religious institutions. So spare me, oh mighty autoblogosphere, from the manufactured excitement of Lego’s F40 kit.
I reckon it’s a designer’s 8-bit nightmare. (Read More…)
Polymath sports marketer Fred Sharf is known in the art world for finding underappreciated genres, collecting them, researching and writing about them at an academic level, curating exhibits about them, and then donating much of what he collects to museums so others can share his eclectic interests. Among those many interests, Sharf has almost singlehandedly gotten the fine art world to start appreciating the art involved with making automobiles. Drawings and paintings long considered disposable styling studio work product by car companies are now considered collectible and worthy of art museum exhibitions. (Read More…)
Regulation. It dictates the majority of modern car design. Whether it be for pedestrian safety, crash worthiness, economies of scale, or fuel efficiency, the basic building blocks of modern cars are decided well before pencil is met with freshly-bleached paper (or, these days, before stylus meets tablet).
That last item – fuel efficiency – is as much a matter of aerodynamics as it is what’s under the hood, and aerodynamic efficiency isn’t just about fenders and trunk lids.
Which brings me to wheels – specifically, OEM wheels – and how absolutely ugly they’ve gotten the last few years.
Those dealing in luxury vehicles and high-performance exotics may need to improve their relations with women soon, as more women seek such wares.