The Truth About Cars » proportion The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 30 Jun 2014 13:18:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » proportion Vellum Venom Vignette: The Next Iconic American Sedan? Sat, 28 Jul 2012 16:00:46 +0000 The (mainstream) staying power of GM’s B-body is pretty much history.  Panther Love shall live for the next decade or so, not much longer.  I was in this state of mind when auto writer extraordinaire Alex Nunez posted a picture to my Facebook wall, suggesting that the Chevrolet Caprice’s proportioning is somehow a worthy successor to these Iconic American Sedans.   My response? Relative to the Chevy Impala, sure.  But proportioning is more than having rear-wheel drive and a lot of real estate.  If you proportion it wrong, you create a Fool’s errand. You create the Chevy Caprice.

While we say Panther Love, we really mean Cab Backward design for an Iconic American Sedan. Can you dig it?

Cab backward is the complete opposite of what we see today. The passenger compartment doesn’t interfere with the natural placement of the engine, axles and front/rear overhang.  While the original Chrysler LH cars were a fantastic case study in Cab Forward awesomeness, the concept’s absolutely ruined today. Not that every car should look like a Rolls Royce Phantom…

But perhaps the Iconic American Sedan should! Just look at the Town Car’s massive hood and short A-pillar, compared to the Caprice’s vast wasteland of dashboard and visibility-hampering A-pillar.  And look at how tiny the nose is compared to the green house: like a body builder who reached their caves’ growth limitations. It’s disproportionately small. Iconic American Sedan?  Not a chance.

That said, you won’t see me giving the last Town Car a free pass, its proportions are still on the wrong side of the Cab Forward spectrum.



If you were there for the beginning of Panther Love, you’ll remember this photo. The 1988 Town Car had far better visibility from a lower belt line, the space between the dashboard and front wheel is unabashedly delicious, and the fascias make it clear: this isn’t an import wannabe.  Again, Iconic American Sedan. Not the only one, it’s one of many.

Not just many, a cornucopia of Automotive Americana. Sadly, the Iconic American Sedan has been under attack for decades.  Perhaps one day an empowered design team will have the right platform, the right motivation, etc and make a proper sedan for us Yank Tank Fans. Unfortunately, I won’t hold my breath.



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Vellum Venom: 2012 Fisker Karma Mon, 02 Apr 2012 12:00:13 +0000

One of my Transportation Design teachers insisted that cars were just like restaurants: success depends on proportion, proportion, proportion!  And while the mere thought of his lectures makes me want to vomit in terror, the dude is right: cars need to be perfectly proportioned to prove a point. And my goodness, the Fisker Karma is just that. Put another way…

Pull up to any Cars and Coffee gathering in a Fisker and you only need to say this, “Karma’s a bitch, bitch.”

Why? Because you just won at Cars and Coffee, that’s why!


You know it when you see it:  a car designed around the vision of a single person.  In this case, the work of Mr. Henrik Fisker isn’t gonna leave anyone on the fence.  More to the point: inside and out, this is a far more honest luxury sedan than the nauseatingly badge-engineered Aston Martin Rapide, and looks even sleeker.

Yes, the grille looks like a mustache, but it’s a very dashing look for a proper gent.  The triangle theme on the lower valence is seen in the rear, and all cut lines flow from logical points: note how the hood lines accentuate the “hips” above the wheels, and how their turning point is the corner of each headlight. The only bummer is the black foam crash pads behind the bumper. You can’t see it from my camera phone, but they stick out like a sore thumb. Maybe those mustache grilles need a re-think.


The headlights also have a nice flow to them.  The black plastic “waves” are what Mazda should have done with their Nagare design language: left in a hard to find but easy to appreciate location.  And the LED’s elegant arrangement needs to be seen in person to really appreciate.  The only question: did Visteon cut Fisker a break on pricing to have their name so prominently presented on the bi-xenon headlamps?  One can hope.


Again: sorry for the lousy photos, but what you see from my phone is what I experienced.  And did I ever see some amazing proportions!  This is a classic luxury sedan with a long hood and short deck, a notion that’s been around since the day when custom coachbuilders still worked on cars with wood spoke wheels. When you think luxury, this is the proportioning that’s been mandatory since DAY ONE.   Detroit would be wise to remember that.

The only stick in the mud is the oversized wheels.  While I am sure everyone loves big-ass hoops for no reason, the Karma looks clownish with so much rim. The front wheels sit as high as the front door handles!  The Karma is dying for a staggered wheel setup like a C5 Corvette. And yes, this 5300lb cruiser would ride better with less metal and more rubber sidewall.


With the monster rims out of the equation, you can see the Karma’s real beauty. The greenhouse is just so right. Kudos to Fisker for keeping true to the original concept.  This is no small feat.


This is just stunning: every line just falls naturally into place, as if Mother Nature herself drew on the vellum.  While I’d like less rim, the 22′s make more sense back here.  And the oh-so-subtle door handles are a lost art: why can’t we have flush fitting door pulls again? Yes the Dodge Charger comes close…but no, it’s not close enough.


While the (metal) panel gaps are shockingly wide, the Karma is just so right.  As I said when I first introduced TTAC to the Karma concept car, Fisker really shoulda named it the “Karma” Sutra. This body has so much tumblehome and is so deliciously curvaceous in every contour. This is actually a production car? Someone had the balls to green light a design this daring?


Once again, note how much tumblehome there is in the greenhouse, relative to the edges of the fenders. Wow. Even the cutlines for the decklid provide the right amount of curvaceous flair and firm angles to the package.  And the triangles from the front are here on the back, in chrome.  My only beef is with the oh-so-delicate taillights. This is a wide and low machine, a little more heft to the taillights toward the center would add some gravitas to the package. But just a little more, because it is almost perfect.


You might already know what this design feature accomplishes, but that’s not the point.  When a designer needs to make a “feature” perform a certain duty, the gifted ones integrate it with the entire package.  And here is the rear’s “feature” mimicking the front triangle theme.  No doubt Fisker is a gifted designer, but kudos to him for seeing it through to production.  This car is literally a concept car made for the streets.

Once more: this looks like a concept car.  It could be vaporware. But it rides and drives…quite well I might add.  But that’s not the point.


While I will not give any driving (or interior design) impressions on Vellum Venom, anyone who ever experienced the low-slung appeal of the C4 Corvette understands what makes the Karma so appealing.  Both cars have similar hood bulges and fender flares from behind the wheel.  And while the low-slung position means you see plenty of hood in your sightlines, who cares? This car is straight up impressive: all the appeal of the C4, with none of the ingress-egress difficulty.



Here’s another important design term to learn, so you can impress people with your mad skills: dash-to-axle ratio.  The Karma is balanced at a proper ratio.  Perhaps there will be a day when more automakers will get back to something “proper”.  And perhaps Lincoln will make the 1977 Continental Mark V all over again. Yeah right.

Oh, and that exhaust pipe for the 2.0L Turbo mill is pretty cool too. Mercedes SLR aside, when was the last time you saw an exhaust pipe between the front wheel and the firewall?  It’s been way too long, son…that’s what’s up.



Interesting note: the front passenger door handle has a conventional lock cylinder, but the driver’s door has nothing.  While I appreciate the need for minimalism where a driver really needs it, there’s something not right about this.  The driver always has the key, and he deserves a lock to go with it.


So what’s left to say?  Fisker needed to prove itself to rich people.  They also needed a vehicle that could capitalize on our need for alternative propulsion.  My goodness, did they ever do both.  Combining nearly 100 years of luxury coachbuilding elements, modern production capabilities and impressive attention to detail in every corner, the Fisker Karma is the reason why mammal skin is sacrificed in order to make vellum: it actually made production!

If you agree, do yourself a solid and seek one of these in person.  Your eyeballs will not regret it.

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