The Truth About Cars » Styling The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 27 Jul 2014 20:45:49 +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 » Styling Vellum Venom: 2013 Lincoln MKZ Thu, 05 Jun 2014 13:07:15 +0000 Car Design college was a wake-up call for this auto-obsessed kid: it festered with two-faced people. There are bastard-coated souls smiling to your face, stabbing you in the back during Portfolio Review. Or friends that pity you, being your crutch via white lies and false kindness.  Bad news, especially for a Lincoln-Mercury fanboi saddened by how the MKZ became as two-faced as the industry that spawned it.


1The Lincoln MKZ trades the sistership Ford Fusion’s wannabe Aston schnoz for a gigantic butterfly smashed on the face of today’s upright, stubby proportioned sedan. It works, as there’s a balance of soft curves and thin lines with hard bends and thick marks.

The butterfly grille is organic but peep that Chevelle SS worthy hood bulge! The bulge has a strong center backbone and “power dome” shape that shrinks as it reaches the front fascia. Very Hot Rod Lincoln.


2The grille’s thick/thin teeth add significant depth. Their harmonizing with the grille frame’s upward bend only adds to the butterfly effect.

2_1Note the bumper’s creased beak: too subtle to catch the eye, yet clashes with Lincoln’s new “point free” emblem.  This nose either needs a belt sander or the 2014 Navigator emblem.

3Aside from the plastic block off plates as the grille reaches the headlight (note how the black abruptly turns gray), this is an elegant piece of kit.

4The butterfly grille effortlessly translates and surrounds the pointy-fast headlight assembly.  It’s a dramatic change from the first MKZ, as you’d be hard pressed to mistake it for a Fusion. (yet) The lower valence’s chrome trim and fog light harmonize with the butterfly too.

4_1The headlights may look flat, but not so!

5_1Note the lighter red section below my finger: an interesting soft bend at the hood’s edge, in contrast to the power done hood. Forehead much? It’d be less flabby if the bend started with the headlight’s leading edge and swept back into the body. Then, instead of being a receding hairline, we’d see a transition between the hood-fender cut line and the central power dome.


6Too bad about the solid grill space on the lower valence. It looks cheap, yet nothing like the yards of fake texture on spindle-grilled Lexi and big mouth Audis.


7Aside from that odd forehead (it really needs to start at the headlights) the MKZ pushes the right buttons.  Everything dances to the same DJ, and the bumper’s soft curve sympathizes with the butterfly grille. And it transitions to the muscular fender haunch well.

7_1No overhang and a very European signal light; tightly constrained by the wheel arch’s flat edge.  And if Edsel Ford’s Continental was influenced by the Europeans…wink, wink!


7_2Interesting interplay between smoked and shiny surfaces!  The MKZ’s rims blends unique ideas seamlessly, in stark contrast to the rough draft originally seen on the MKS.


8Clean, restrained firewall design: good use of what should rightly be a small patch of real estate.


9And then it became all Fusion: the latest iteration of wrong-wheel drive American Luxury is a Fusion with more chrome.  Literally, thanks to the solid chrome DLO Fail between the A-pillar and the door.

11The MKZ chrome DLO FAIL looks more expensive than the Fusion, in the same way Target is classier than WalMart.


10Again, too much of a Fusion…even if it really isn’t.  If you are a badge engineer, my analysis of the Fusion will come in handy. The door skins are different, but something’s lost in translation. Perhaps it’s the BMW style handles. Or the less edgy cut lines that still retain the Fusion’s angular windows. More on those later.

The point? The “let’s avoid badge engineering” mantra that we all believe needed more money, more dedication and less modification of an existing platform to work on the MKZ.


12A fixed vent window paired with DLO fail?  Usually one replaces the other, but the MKZ needs ‘em both to “accomplish” an A-pillar with such speed. Ford’s insistence to honor Aston Martin via family sedan failed. (Aston uses the fixed window, which obviously works on that body.)

13The chrome-y Fusion mirrors work quite well.  Too bad they aren’t unique, but whatever. This isn’t the first (last?) front wheel drive Lincoln to portend the brand’s future, as this isn’t a 1988 Continental.


14Wait, is this one of them fancy flagship BMW 7 series door pulls? A pretty shameful rip off.  So kudos to Lincoln for not raiding Ford’s parts bin, ribbons of shame for raiding BMW’s warehouse instead.

15This MKZ-specific B-pillar cut line works better than the Fusion from whence it came: the door and B-pillar share a common line.

16Too bad about the C-pillar: the MKZ’s cut line is flabby on such a porky side profile. The Fusion’s extra surface tension enhances the package, instead of adding unnecessary rotund-ness.

Perhaps badge engineering ain’t such a bad thing, no?  No, it’s bad…that was a trick question, son!

17And this is where it gets screwy: remember the balance of soft (butterfly) and hard (power dome hood) elements up front? There’s a bizarre, two-faced, ending to this tale. (tail?)

18The problem stems from the razor-sharp tail lights, artificially pushing back to the quarter panel/C-pillar.  And the soft spot once reserved for a “tire hump” or faux Continental kit. It’s the same idea as the power dome hood, taken to an incorrect extreme. What was needed?

The ideal balance of soft and hard elements presented up front.  How the MKZ’s butterfly grille blends with the curves of its lower valence.  This avoids the two faces of the MKZ’s design.

18_1The rear door’s flab looks muscular from here, but the number of cut lines implies “hack job”.  That is, there’s nothing luxurious about three different seams/panels on a trunk lid.


18_3Maybe this would be awesome if the front end ditched the butterfly for something in a Robocop.


18_2Nah, Robocop can’t handle these flabby planes with voluptuous BMW door pulls. But kudos are in order for not adding DLO fail to the C-pillar, like the original, super badge engineered, Lincoln MKZ.

19This is where things get ugly. Perhaps the decklid’s extra black trim is an homage to the Continental tire hump. Perhaps the two antennas (especially the quarter panel’s fixed mast) honors the CB radios that kept the Bandit out of Smokey’s reach. Or it’s just a sloppy workaround for a moving roof panel.

Then there’s the flush mounted spoiler out back: too many parts to make a single trunk lid!

19_1The extra crease adds another harsh element to the MKZ’s contrived tail.  It’s almost an homage to the Bangle Butt 7-series of yesteryear; begging for the refined (refined-ish) butt of today’s 7-series: Vellum Venom review here.

20Here you see the rotund-ness of the lower valence, in shocking contrast to the trunk lid.  Notice how rapidly the tailpipes fade to a distant vanishing point, compared to the gentle curve of the tail light.

21The harsh crease (mentioned above) encapsulates the problem: it lacks the elegance of the power dome hood on the MKZ’s butterfly front schnoz.  TWO-FACED! It’s an edgy and lumpy border, just as looney as a Continental tire hump. At least the tire hump had some precedence, and uber presence.

22The chrome lettering, spread out like the C-O-N-T-I-N-E-N-T-A-L emblems on a 1960-80s Lincoln tire hump, works elegantly.

23As do the flat top haircut with furrowed eyebrow tail lights from this angle.


23_1But there’s nothing Kid ‘n Play about the lower portion’s voluptuousness.


24The MKZ’s harsh creases accentuate with an open moon roof.  The power top must shadow the roof’s elegant curve (lest it never seals to the body), while the quarter panel has none of that.


25Speaking of seals: the smushed rubber at the end is less than reassuring.


26Definitely some “groovy” engineering involved to “channel” that much glass that far back.


27Perhaps my “moonroof must shadow the roof’s elegant curve” comment was incorrect. The glass top isn’t beautiful when unfurled, it’s actually ungainly.


28The shiny black trim looks sleek with the roof closed.  The implication of what’s possible is quite cool: the roof will slide down these rails?

No matter the MKZ’s flaws, this is still a bad ass design feature.

29Ditto the black trunk panel, just don’t  step back to see it’s misplaced round curvature. Maybe a larger swath of deck lid needed the blackout treatment.



While Fusion has poorly finished metalwork here, the MKZ’s rubber needs much detailing to avoid the ravages of time. Totally worth owning such a huge glass roof.  Or not: skip the two faced, almost-there badge engineering and get the Fusion.

Thanks for reading, I hope you have a lovely weekend.

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Eyes On Design Announces Aliterative Show: Mustangs, Maseratis, Mass Market, Military, Muscle & Movies – Cars and Pop Culture Sat, 31 May 2014 16:00:19 +0000 eyesondesign2014poster

The Eyes On Design car show, held every Father’s Day on the grounds of the Eleanor and Edsel Ford estate in Grosse Pointe Shores, just north of Detroit, is a unique event. While many, perhaps most, of the cars on display there are of concours level quality, the show is not about perfection, authenticity or preparation. In fact it’s not actually called a show but rather an “automotive design exhibition”. Eyes On Design is run by the Detroit area automotive styling community so what judging is done and the awards that are given are based on design. The Father’s Day show is the major fundraiser for the organization, which holds a number of other events throughout the year (including design awards at the NAIAS aka Detroit auto show in January) to benefit the Detroit Institute of Ophthalmology, part of the Henry Ford Health System. That’s the hospital system that’s grown out of Henry Ford Hospital, founded by the automotive pioneer. Seventeen vehicle categories for this year’s exhibition, to be held on June 15th, have been announced to complement the overall theme of the event – “Automotive design’s influence on popular culture”.

Over 250 cars, trucks and motorcycles will be on display, chosen for those that “provoke a nostalgic reflection about cars that have, through their design, affected the popular culture of their day”. In addition to the general theme of the event, 2014 will mark four important automotive anniversaries, Dodge celebrates its centennial and this year is the golden anniversary for both the Ford Mustang and the Pontiac GTO. It’s also been 50 years since the New York World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows, where automakers and many suppliers had elaborate displays. Motorcycles will be represented at the show with a selection of Indians. Perhaps the category with the strongest connection between cars and pop culture will be a display of movie and tv cars. While some will be replicas, the authentic Monkeemobile from the tv series and the real Black Beauty from the 1966 version of the Green Hornet with Bruce Lee, both built by the late, great Dean Jeffries, along with a real Smokey & The Bandit Trans Am, will be on display, as will be a few fictional cars made for movies. The complete list of movie and tv cars follows the category listing below.

As part of the publicity runup to the event, the organizers recently revealed the poster for the 27th Eyes On Design exhibition. The artist is Nicola Wood of Los Angeles and it features a blue 1936 Cadillac “Aerodynamic Coupe” in front of the swimming pool on the grounds of the Ford estate. In the foreground a woman’s eye is seen in the reflection from a cosmetic compact’s mirror. Seven other eyes are hidden in the background. The symbolism expresses the charitable goal of the show, medical treatment for eye disorders. Though it’s a commissioned work, the painting was also labor of love for the classically trained Wood, a member of the Automotive Fine Arts Society (AFAS), who continues to paint after losing vision in one eye due to macular degeneration.

The poster was revealed by General Motors former assistant chief designer, Steve Pasteiner, who discussed the origins of the car on the poster. Originally a show car that Harley Earl created for the 1933 Century of Progress world’s fair in Chicago, the Aerodynamic Coupe established what today we’d call the design language for many GM cars in the mid and late 1930s. Pasteiner, whose AAT shop builds concept cars for automakers, is a big fan of the rolling sculpture era of the 1930s. His Buick Blackhawk, which was built to celebrate Buick’s centennial and sold at auction for more than a half million dollars and AAT’s Cadillac LaSalle C-Hawk, which sold for $269,500, were heavily influenced by the Aerodynamic Coupe.

I’ll be covering Eyes On Design this year, God willing and the creek don’t rise, so if there’s a particular car or category you’d like me to check out, let me know in the comments.

Here are the categories for this year’s Eyes On Design exhibition:

50th Anniversary of the GTO – celebrating 50 year’s of Pontiac’s muscle car
Classic Era – high culture becomes pop culture, from the mid-20s to WW2
100 Years of Dodge – a century of survival and success stories
Color, Chrome and Fins – symbols of post-war American optimism
1964 New York World’s Fair – 50-years on from the event in Queens
50th Anniversary of the Ford Mustang – the original pony car
Tuners – the evolution of car personalization from 1967 to today
Muscle Cars – high horsepower straight from Detroit
Working Class of 1928 – American car culture is born – the birth of Plymouth and Ford’s Model A
Pure Michigan – a celebration of some of the lesser-know makers from Flint, MI
Personal Luxury Coupés – a look at the high-end mid-size coupés of the 1970s
Movie & TV Cars – including four-wheeled stars from the big and small screen
Maserati – highlights from 100 years of the Italian maker
Stock to Rock – standard models paired with their heavily customized twins
Collector’s Circle – supporting car collectors and their hobby
Military Vehicles – from war-torn roads to off road heroes
Indian Motorcycles – an enduring and endearing tribe founded back in 1897

The movie and television cars will be:

1965 VW Beetle (“Herbie”) from “The Love Bug” (1969). The anthropomorphic Beetle with a mind of its own and the number “53″ racing number, which starred in six Disney productions through 2005. This is a correct replica owned and put together by a Lynn Anderson, who’s a contributing editor for Hot VWs magazine.

1966 Pontiac GTO from “The Monkees” (1966). California car customizer Dean Jeffries built the original highly-modified GTO convertible, known as the “Monkeemobile,” for use by the pop rock band during their NBC TV series, which originally aired from 1966 to 1968. This is the actual car from the tv series, as “restored” by George Barris’ shop, currently owned by a Detroit area collector who paid more than $300,000 for it. Pics here.

1975 Ford Gran Torino from “Starsky & Hutch” (1975). A replica of the red-with white stripes car driven by the two California detectives in the TV cop series, which originally aired from 1975 to 1979. A “Starsky & Hutch” movie was made in 2005.

Winton Flyer from “The Reivers” (1969). Designed to look like a 1904 car, this one-of-a-kind fictional vehicle driven in the movie by Steve McQueen and owned by him. It was created by the legendary artist and car craftsman Kenneth Howard, aka Von Dutch.

1966 Chrysler Imperial (“Black Beauty”) from “Green Hornet” (1966). Originally created by customizer Dean Jeffries, this modified Imperial rolling arsenal starred with Van Williams and Bruce Lee in the 1966-1967 ABC TV series.

Leslie Special from “The Great Race” (1965). Driven by good guy Tony Curtis in the Warner Brothers movie, this gleaming white roadster was loosely designed to look like a 1907 Thomas Flyer, which actually won the real “Great Race of 1908″ from New York to Paris.

1977 Pontiac Trans Am  from “Smoky & The Bandit” (1977). This special black “T-top” Trans Am was driven by Burt Reynolds in the smash hit Universal Pictures movie, which made $300 million and almost doubled the sales of Trans Ams

1982 Pontiac Trans Am (“K.I.T.T.”)  from “Knight Rider” (1982). A replica of the advanced supercomputer in a bullet-proof body on wheels. The robotic KITT could communicate with humans, drive itself and shoot flames and tear gas in the NBC TV series which ran into 1986.

Nissan 240 SX  from “Fast & Furious IV” (2009).One of the many customized cars used in scenes from the Universal Pictures action movie starring Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster.

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

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Vellum Venom Vignette: 2015 Camry Regression Analysis Wed, 16 Apr 2014 17:39:31 +0000 051-2015-toyota-camry-1

As expected, TTAC’s Best and Brightest called it: the 2015 Camry has Chernobyl-grade DLO FAIL.

Or maybe that’s heavily tinted glass?

I consider myself lucky I’m not attending the NYIAS, this would make my head go explodey all over the show floor.

No transportation designer, wannabe like me or otherwise, wants to see that gigantizoid of a hunk of black plastic go into production.  The years of thankless hard work, the brutal cost of design school on your wallet/social life, etc shouldn’t turn into this.

There was nothing, absolutely nothing wrong with the 2014 Camry’s greenhouse: it was sleek-ish and a completely DLO FAIL free zone before the redesign.  It was a beautiful thing. And now it’s gone.

Thanks for reading, I hope you (can still) have a lovely week.

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Vellum Venom: MINI Cooper Hardtop (2012) Tue, 31 Dec 2013 12:00:03 +0000 title

The end of the year, the end of an era for a famous British Marque.  Let’s get crackin’ before the ink on the vellum dries for the (all new) 2014 model.

1Everyone knows this face, it’s Brand Recognition 101.  Or maybe 202, as the original MINI (the 100% British one) was redesigned even less regularly/extensively than the BMW-owned MINI.  Perhaps not even Ford’s iconic Mustang remained this true to form.  The MINI’s snout sports a traditional grille and round headlights on a small canvas, but the bumper could be any modern car.

The proportions are right.  The elements are well-formed and harmonize together quite well.  Just like it’s always been for this brand.



Both grilles work well together, the bottom opening is almost a mirror reflection of the top, as it pushes into the air dam’s real estate much like the grille’s forcible entrance to the bumper. Well thought out and clean!


And even though this is a small and (somewhat) cheap car where corner cutting is acceptable, well, this lower grille is a rather fancy casting.  The solid portions of the egg crate are deeply recessed, so it takes a while to see the mass-market cheapness.  Add the chrome strip in the middle and perhaps you’ll never even bother to notice this doesn’t belong on a high dollar 7-series BMW!  Well…


If the grille didn’t slide down into the bumper, the MINI would be surprisingly devoid of panel gaps.  That’s the beauty of a clamshell-style hood: the insurance industry may hate replacing these in a minor accident, but the way the hood and fenders blur into one panel is a work of fine art.


MINI’s always had the coolest headlights in its class, if not one of the coolest designs for any budget. Just the right amount of chrome inside the lense (not swept back into functionless blingy real estate) so there’s room for an expensive looking outer chrome ring: a modern interpretation of vintage Jags, Ferraris, etc.

More kudos for not using the chrome signal light body (or the cap for the headlight) for a branding opportunity. That notion’s been played out. And there’s a nice corporate logo on the hood if you think this might be a Ferrari.

OMG YES CLAMSHELL HOOD. But seriously, note the reflection of the lights above: there’s a subtle fender flare from the headlights on back.  It’s beautiful.  It is really such a sin to want more affordable vehicles with fewer breaks in the body for the singular reason of aesthetic delight?


A cheap(ish) car with expensive old world craftsmanship: the chrome trim around the clamshell is another subtle reminder that you coulda bought a more car for the money at damn near any other dealership…except that you actually wouldn’t!

8The Bayswater Edition replaces the standard logo with something straight outta 1981.  I think I have the same pattern when I crank up Giorgio Moroder on my Pioneer cassette player’s VU meter. But still, this mini billboard (get it?) should be binned for straight sheet metal around that light. Cleaner is better on a vehicle with a clamshell hood with such a racy cutline!


Oh yes, I did say racy.


MINIs are all about customization to an owner’s needs, and the Bayswater definitely appeals to my inner Max Headroom. But wait…do I see…


No DLO FAIL!  Even better, the black A-pillar blends nicely into the greenhouse, while that chrome trim continues around the side.  The three blue panels, the clamshell hood, the cowl paneling (for lack of a better phrase) and the door cut lines aren’t necessarily minimal, but they work well together.

If only the clamshell’s end point was the same as the front door’s beginning point like a C4 Corvette!


While that backslash on the clamshell is a MINI hallmark, using another horizontal line above this rocker moulding instead lets the clamshell go all the way back to really spice up the package.

Then again, the (rear hinged) hood probably wouldn’t open if that request came true…damn you reality check!



The gloss black wheels are a unique touch, only because the leading edge of the spokes and the rim’s lip is polished.  The wheel’s lines are logical and symmetric, so this bit of color ingenuity is certainly welcome and not outstanding like a black eye on a pretty face.13

So much for logical!  Perhaps employees of New World Pictures approve, yet both mirror skullcaps should be the same color.  This is nonsense, and not that systematic failure endemic of a failed organization nonsense that brought us the Pontiac Aztek…it’s just plain silliness with no value on an automobile.

Whatever graphical theme the Bayswater name implies, this isn’t how you do a gray and blue color scheme.


Although it might look better if both mirrors were that french gray instead of radioactive blue…what say you?


Invisible B-pillar that lines up well with the door cutline.  Unlike the CTS coupe, MINI did a fantastic job hiding pillars under glass.  Also note the chrome trim that started on the clamshell continues apace.

Sure, this is a round and cute vehicle.  But the round theme is more of an ovoid, and the negative area behind the door pull should emulate the shape seen in the headlights.  Or the ovoidness seen here in the door cutline.  This is “too round”, if such a thing is possible.



No A-pillar. No B-pillar.  No C-pillar. Be it wrapped in glass or covered in gloss black, the MINI does a fantastic job looking far more expensive than anything else at this price point.  All it needs is (illegal) limo tint and the greenhouse would look like a pillarless space ship! Very cool, very much approved.

Cute proportions, charming interplay between design elements, short overhangs and cheap yet expensive detailing.

This is why people love the MINI: staying true to it while advancing the game.  This is what us Panther Love/RWD American Sedan fans wanted.

18Retro gas caps usually look out-of-place (SN-95 Bullitt Mustang) but if there’s one mainstream machine that needs one…and it’s a clean and flowing design elegantly recessed into the body.


19_1Just like the side profile, the MINI’s rear greenhouse looks surprisingly sharp with this chrome strip.  The glossy C-pillar helps, as does the black roof.  A brighter roof color to accentuate the attention to detail in the glass work and pillar trimming is actually preferable! Whether or not the Union Jack treatment is needed is always up for debate.


Like many small hatchbacks, the C-pillar has a ridge to keep the cute little MINI tracking straight in stiff cross winds on the highway.  Supposedly these details matter, consult your local Aerospace Engineer if you don’t believe me.


Another aero touch: the spiraled antenna on the roof.  It’s surprisingly tall for such a small car. Or perhaps the MINI-ature dimensions are why it seems small!


Speaking of, the reflector/marker lights both front and back must be placed on the wheel arches because there’s simply no other place available! Short overhangs have their benefits!  22_1

Because of poor lighting at my “test” vehicle’s location, here’s a stock photo showing the Bayswater from the back.  Note how low the side view mirrors sit (at least on the Euro spec model) and the stilt-like tire width.  This model also has a different bumper (with fake grilles) and a central exhaust, which sells more exotic performance than the wrong-wheel-drive MINI can possibly produce.

22Logical cut lines for the hatch and bumpers. A complete chrome “belt” at the base of the greenhouse.  Chrome rimmed lights and something that only works on British cars like MINIs and Jags: a chrome mustache above the license plate that both adds English charm and is a handy place for a grab handle and license plate lighting.


The sleek rear wiper arm is another modern touch that proves that classic designs can always live to see another day…or millennium.


While not as punchy as the headlights, the logical use of chrome inside and the upscale chrome rim outside are hallmarks of good vintage British design.  25Last and perhaps least, the central lighting pod with backup lights, and used for a rear fog light in Europe (maybe America too?).  It, just like the front grilles, extends into the black lower valance to continue that theme.  All of which is in very good taste, at any price.

Thank you all for reading, I hope you have a lovely New Year’s Eve…and beyond!


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Vellum Venom: 2013 Dodge Charger SRT Mon, 02 Dec 2013 13:26:11 +0000

@willstpierre tweets:

@SajeevMehta Art history teacher talked about using vellum today. Nobody else knew what it was #bringbackvellumvenom




While Ford and GM pissed away decades of heritage for horribly demure (yet disturbingly plump) full size sedans built on a namby pamby FWD globalized chassis, Chrysler took the hard points of the Mercedes-Benz W211 sedan to make America’s one and only four portal bad motherfu*ker.

Get used to this face, because it’s today’s American Bad Ass Sedan.


Pardon me while I remain infatuated with the SRT’s perfect use of subtle bends to make a seriously muscular nose. The phrase “power dome hood” has been around for decades, but this fascia earns that title many times over.


The hood and fenders meet logically, elegantly against the slender headlights. While the bulldog grille accentuates the nose’s massive flatness, the Charger SRT asserts itself like no other machine in its class.


This design feature (assuming it’s radar cruise control) is far from invisible on the Charger’s facade, but at least the horn-shaped bezel complements the lower bumper’s curvature.

The wave at the bottom of the bumper bends harmoniously with the fog light surround and the grille’s teethy edge. The high spot over the foglight needs a belt sander, but this is a super hormonal family sedan by design. And it still looks the part without being cartoonishly overstyled like a C7 Corvette.


Dodge’s signature grille looks great: the original Viper started it and kudos to Chrysler for not blowing it with a switch to something less recognizable. The four pointed grille takes on a new dimension with the honeycomb treatment inside the “star”, proving this design stands the test of time by never remaining stagnant.

If only the other American brands (except Cadillac) could make a grille design and stick with it. Too bad about that.


Brand honesty is a great thing, but a tall and flat truck-y nose is not.  This design would be amazing on the sleek beak of an old school Plymouth Fury. No matter, the face is suitably modern muscle car angry.  And the staggered headlight sizing is the icing on the cake.


There’s an oh-so-subtle straightening of the wheel well arch as it meets the aggressive flaring of the front bumper. Man, now THAT is trick.


While unstoppable on a slender ’70 Fury, the Charger SRT’s gaping maw needs the shadows of black paint to compensate for this much real estate. But still, look at the power dome hood’s hustle and flow as it sweeps to the windshield!  The number of shadows on the hood (like the hard bend at the center of the hood, and the matching bends at the ends of the fenders) shows great attention to detail on the modern muscle car theme.


So many fast, long and flowing lines.  And none fight with each other! Note the negative area needed for the hood scoop:  there’s plenty of space to make a name for itself (i.e. unique shapes) on the Charger’s vellum.

9_2Another bonus: the hood scoop’s honeycomb is wide open: no solid blocks of cheapness here.

9_3Could this be a late 4th Generation Camaro? No matter, this gives the Charger SRT even more street cred, since the Camaro is now a plump tribute to the first generation of Chevy’s Pony Car.

10There’s a reason why that nose is painted black: it’s huuuuuge. The added contrast might remove visual bulk, but the middle band (the part below the grille, above the valence) needs body color paint instead.

11Six point four liters of REPRESENT: no greenwashed pretensions like Ford’s Ecoboost V6 (formerly and rightly called TwinPower), no excuses given. It’s just another American bad ass, right?

12With our last installment in mind, the Charger’s elegant side cove comes correct. While far cooler if the cove started on the fender (like a C5 Vette) it’s still a nice touch considering the height and visual heft of today’s sedans.

12_1Clean integration of the wiper arm and cowl cover. Nice.

The American Bad Ass has no DLO FAIL.


Such a perfect meeting of A-pillar, fender and front door! And to everyone else: how frickin’ hard is this to make?  No excuses, just do it!


Even the panel gaps are close enough to perfect. This is how you craft a sedan!

15_1The black Charger nearby highlighted the door cove’s flowing lines as it reaches the C-pillar. Sure, like all new cars, it’d be nice to section 1-3 inches of door sheet metal to lower the body and visually lengthen it…perhaps one day we will get that design aesthetic back.


Like the A-pillar, the B-pillar is sleek and clean.  The black trim always helps integrate the glass into the rest of the body: necessary when your greenhouse is sleek, fast and a bit on the skinny side.

17Not so great at the C-pillar: the greenhouse ends in a BMW-style Hofmeister Kink, but the door’s cut line refuses to play ball.  Instead of continuing the natural curve, it bends backward before repeating the kink’s curvature. Quite static and sad for a muscle car, actually.

18But there’s nothing but love for the black-chrome SRT rimz with Brembo stoppers. #wheelporn


Apparently the SRT brand has some curb (rash) appeal.  Literally.

19_1Gas filler door bisects the quarter panel with elegance and symmetry.  Nice.

19_2Aside from the usual complaints about sky-high belt lines, huge flat buffalo butts and the need for dubs to fill the gap…well, the Charger still has a nice profile.  I’d lose that spoiler in a heartbeat: it accentuates the buffalo butt.

20The door cut line and that Hofmeister kink look fine from here, even if they are too slow or static. The tapered C-pillar works well with the obligatory muscle car fastback roof line, but it’s a shame the lower half (i.e. the quarter panel) lacks tapering (inwards) to match.This touch helps tremendously in reducing automotive buffalo butt.

21Still, this sedan is a looker. The flat door handles look great, and there’s no DLO FAIL. The flat edge at the rear window gives a little muscle, keeping it from looking flabby.  Just a little more tumblehome at the B-pillar is all that’s needed for maximum style.

22 The C-pillar extends above the plane of the rear window.  Perhaps it’s a hat tip to the earlier Chargers, and perhaps it does a fantastic job keeping this area from being too flat and boring.

23But from this angle, the black plastic finish panel needs to go.  Painted metal would look much cooler.  Or just make the whole thing flush with the rear glass.

24Naaaah.  The effect is that of an American Bad Ass. Close enough to perfection for a mass-produced machine.

25An elegant backside, provided one never steps back to notice the height and bulk.

26A buffalo butt for sure, but the strong vertical cut line at the end of the tail light assembly isn’t without its charms. Too bad this Charger is so tall yet short on overhangs: more style from its 1960s forefather could complete the look.
26_1That hard vertical cut line ends rather abruptly at the base of the bumper’s sweeping bend.  A rounded edge is better than a 90-degree ending in this case.

28I don’t believe an American Bad Ass needs ‘dem fancy ‘furrin diffusers on its bumper. Because this is a bit much.


Especially considering the super clean and recognizable-from-a-mile-away tail lights.  The LED perimeter is a bit of old-school Detroit, from an era when beancounters had no say when a design studio demanded a feature, an era when insurance companies and beancounters didn’t dictate a vehicle’s design (expensive to replace full width lights)…so add the modest brand badging (aside from the dealership tattoo on top of the trunk) and the Charger SRT embodies many of the traits we love in American sedans.

In a modern tall+boxy package, sadly.  With a warranty, gladly.

Thanks for reading, I hope you have a lovely week.

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Ford Fusion Rides Coastal Wave To Sales Success Mon, 18 Nov 2013 14:48:51 +0000 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

From the neon-drenched beaches of Miami and the hipster enclaves in New York, to the high-tech castles in San Francisco and the studio lots of Hollywood, the Ford Fusion is experiencing a coastal market surge in popularity.

Nationwide, sales of the Aston Martin-esque Fusion made up 71 percent of all sales for the Blue Oval last month, with huge gains found on the East and West coasts ranging from 62 percent in Miami to 77 percent in Los Angeles.

The reason? Style, style, style. Aside from goodies such as touchscreen and voice-activated controls and various types of horsepower under the hood, the Fusion’s luxury looks are attracting buyers who would normally be found shopping for clothes at Zara and smartphones at their nearest Apple Store. Further, some of these same buyers are trading in their Toyotas and Hondas just to be seen in something hipper than a cheap toaster, a fact not lost on Ford.

Thus, the automaker opened a second factory to meet demand in Flat Rock, Mich. this past August, allowing for more than 400,000 Fusions to be screwed together annually while putting pressure on Toyota’s best-seller Camry, a title the latter has held for the past 11 years with 460,000 units made per year.

Paired with the decision by Consumer Reports last mont to strip the Camry of its recommended status due to failing new crash tests administered by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, the Fusion could claim 12 percent of the mid-sized car market by the end of 2013 according to analysts at LMC Automotive, up from 10 percent a year ago.

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Vellum Venom Vignette: Art and Design at The 24 Hours of LeMons 2013 Tue, 22 Oct 2013 12:50:40 +0000

My worst moment at the College for Creative Studies was during Portfolio Review: a presentation of one’s body of work since the beginning of the semester.  So it comes as no surprise that my favorite parts of a LeMons race is judging the artistic(?) themes of the cheaty $500 race cars in attendance.  Let’s combine the two for this quick vignette into an alternate world of automotive design: come up with a moderately creative theme, say or do something idiotic, make me laugh and perhaps I’ll forget about that fancy header…or those super cheaty shocks that supposedly “came with the car.”

Did you really think that car design ends in the studio?


A 1990′s Pontiac Trans Am is a great canvas. This aftermarket(?) hood works well with the warning sign cribbed from an OSHA-compliant industrial zone. It’s mounted and cut in a way to harmonize with the body’s cut lines…for a reason…


Right. A toxic waste of a machine. Also note the sweet T-top covers.


Major props for the Terminator 2 style dying hand in a pit of goo!  This was a great theme that made good use of the Firebird’s real estate. This was a short and sweet Portfolio Review, also because F-bodies are so horrible in LeMons!


The Tow-Mater themed Miata is a local favorite.  “His” eyeballs went up for this LeMons race, as it was a full 24 hour running.  While not as cute with those square headlights in play, this team did a fantastic job impersonating the vehicle of many a kid’s fancy: check out the weathered paint on the door!  And since this Miata is only moderately cheaty with good-natured racers in tow, well, it’s hard to hammer them too hard during their Portfolio Review.  IMG_1479

Yup, Escort Service.  You just know these guys will fare well in their Portfolio Review. Because this is probably painted on a…IMG_1480

Ford Escort.  While this platform has uber LeMons potential with enough cheating and a decent crew, many an E30 must die in the paddock before it’ll ever win.  Combine that with the truly tasteless (yet clever) theme involving the famous Escort name…yeah, they got off easy. Ish.


This Shelby (yes, Shelby!) Daytona Z made plenty of friends at the race. Usually Engineers aren’t the most creative with themes…but…IMG_1485

Okay, this isn’t especially clever, but mechanical engineering formulas/jargon on a car tuned by Shelby himself is entertaining. Because we all owe so much to Nikolaus A. Otto!


Supposedly that’s the formula for an automobile’s exhaust composition. Some of the elements look right to my unverified eyeballs, but it didn’t help this Shelby. It barely ran long enough to produce said byproduct of the Otto Combustion Cycle.


Beaker from the Muppets sealed the deal: this Shelby sailed through its Portfolio Review easily.  Great theme on a horrible K-car!  How could it NOT dominate the slowest class in LeMons???   (It didn’t, remember it’s still a K-car.)IMG_1496

I had to dress up for my Portfolio Review, so I appreciate it when racers do the same.  Kudos to the flying sausages!

Great artwork too, by the way.  Someone definitely listened to Rob Zombie when they attacked the hood of this Porker.



Ditto this Toyota Supra with the Texas flag on the hood, made out of Shiner Beer bottle caps. Passed Portfolio Review with flying colors!


They say it’s Chuck Norris, I think it’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad! Plus it’s an E30, so this Portfolio Review might go poorly!


This Buick Century was “hand painted” in support of a local charity in Austin.  Part horrible Art Car, part horrible LeMons racer.  I LOVED IT.  IMG_1510

How can you say no to a vehicle with this much style? With a suspension so soft that the rear sloshes in harmony with the front when you push down on the front bumper?  It literally felt like a water bed with no internal baffles.  Sailed right through the Portfolio Review!


Pretty obvious, but totally worth a laugh on inappropriateness alone. But this was (IIRC) a super-cheaty Integra, and no amount of low-brow humor can overcome that!


A brilliantly executed theme on a VW you’d otherwise forget.   IMG_1519Slapping a mannequin onto a Honda Civic does not a good theme make, but seeing the underwear’s collection of track filth netted a hearty laugh. 

IMG_1520Plus it’s a Honda Civic, so it’ll be driven waaaay too hard and the head gasket will go explodey…Portfolio Review, Passed!


One of my favorite cars is next.  This Ford Probe is an eye catcher in the world of crap cars for a good reason! Note the attention to detail in the paintwork and the craftsmanship in the spoiler made of license plates.


Retaining the (rather cool when new) Probe SE graphic in your custom LeMons mural? Brilliant! IMG_1526_2

Even their name has some style…even if “some other guys” kinda ruined it.

IMG_1526_3Considering Houston is the home of the Art Car scene, this Probe does a good job mocking the genre. Or is it paying homage?


And lastly, the Probe’s roof. Michaelangelo would be proud…except not.


If Upton Sinclair ever ironically drove a Dodge Neon race car in the Land of Steakhouses…


A truly horrible theme for an increasingly less horrible LeMons racer. At least the team (all two of them) dressed to match the Gas Monkey thing.  This Datsun roadster is all-electric, and considering its terrible (but ever improving) on-track performance, “aping” a horrible TV show that grows on you…well, it totally made sense. What’s that sound that Richard Rawlings always makes?  Wow-ooooh!


Because Barbie always wanted a GMC Caballero.  Did they ever make a Ken doll with a mullet? IMG_1569

Another winner in this race for losers, they sailed through the Portfolio Review on theme/vehicle choice alone.  They offered to bribe and we told them it wasn’t necessary!

And with that, an apology: I’m sorry to soil your finely honed eyeballs with these horrible excuses for car design.  I promise to do better next time. But thanks for reading…and I hope you have a lovely week. Still!

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Vellum Venom: 1970 Dodge Charger RT-SE Tue, 17 Sep 2013 13:21:13 +0000

My departure from the cloistered world of automotive design was anything but pleasant: leaving the College for Creative Studies scarred changed me, possibly ensuring the inability to conform to PR-friendly autoblogging. Luckily I am not alone. While Big Boss Man rests in Chrysler’s doghouse, a remotely nice comment about their door handles perked the ears of the local Chrysler PR rep…and she tossed me a bone.

Perhaps you’ve never heard of Hovas’ Hemi Hideout: so here’s a slice of Mopar history worthy of a deep dive into the Vellum. Oh, thanks for the invite, Chrysler.


An unforgettable face: the iconic 1968-1970 design was Chrysler’s most memorable effort to spook insurance and safety special interest groups into forcing “better” vehicles on the public. Sure, we’re better off now, but is a fragile chrome halo of a bumper really that useless?

Isn’t this bumper (and complex hidden headlights) worth the extra insurance premiums? Worth it to have a disturbingly clean and minimalist design?  Probably not…


But still, you can’t argue with how stunning and shocking this is.  While nothing like Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, the Charger’s front clip is a timeless work of art.  The blackout grille extends over the headlights, encased in a deep silver rim, topped with a chrome bumper…wrapped up with a name: Charger R/T.  This nose and this name made a promise to would-be new car racers of the era, and its aged phenomenally well.

That said, my favorite grille of this body style was the cleanest: the 1968 Charger was the one to have. It makes the otherwise clean 1970 Charger look downright fussy!


Things fall apart as you look closer, however.  Maybe the solid grilles over the headlights look cheap, and the panel gaps are too sloppy. The round signal lights look like a leftover assembly from the 1950s. Or perhaps the license plate should be located even lower as to not interfere with the bumper’s strong minimal form.


Even though the front end looks flat from many angles…

Note how the chrome bumper tapers in near the headlights, then pushes back out at the ends of the fenders. The silver rim accentuates this dance, ditto the fenders and hood.  But that black sheet of grille?  It peaks at the middle and nothing more.  The different high/low spots are phenomenally beautiful, it is fantastically executed on this front fascia.  5

The hood’s recesses and that strong center mohawk add a bit of excitement to an otherwise far-too-subtle design for a Mopar Muscle car. If you had a problem with Mopar Minimalism!


Somehow I doubt the meaty rubber trim does anything to protect the Charger’s painted body from the front bumper.  Not to mention the horrible fitment of this (replacement?) trim. I’d hate to be a broke-ass dude in the 1980s when someone slams their 5-mph bumper’d Monte Carlo into my otherwise cherry 1970 Charger.  The damage would be extensive…and would go unrepaired!



Hood pins are cool…but following their cable to this horrendous gap in the rubber trim leaves much to be desired. Damn, son!

7_1But it’s less offensive when you step back a little.


The only thing cooler than Rallye wheels and Goodyear white letter polyglass tires on this Charger would be the new-age 17″ repros with fat steel-belted rubber.  I love the proportioning of a proper 1970s muscle car with 17″ rolling stock: it’s perfection.


The hard bend (with a slight upward angle) at the end of the fenders just “ends” me. It’s another snapshot on vehicle design that emulates the timelessness of the infinity pool in modern architecture. Combine with the Charger’s long front end and deep fenders (i.e. the space between the hood cutline and the end of the fender) and this is simply a fantastic element.


The hood’s negative areas add some necessary excitement, otherwise this would be too boring for an American muscle car.  There’s just too much real estate not to do…something!


The signal repeaters at the beginning of the negative area’s cove are a styling element that I wish could come back.  But no, we need standard bluetooth and keyless ignitions instead…probably.


I’d trade all that standard technology for a hood this menacing, this modern.

Mid Century Muscle?

Mad Men Mopar?

Don Draper’s mid-life crisis machine?

All of the above. 13
The intersection of the cowl, fender, hood and door isn’t terribly elegant.  Newer cars have “hidden” cowls, an advancement that’d make the Charger shine. Because not having the fenders and hood sweep over THIS space does THAT front end a huge disservice.  Plus the panel gaps kinda suck, too.

At least there’s no DLO fail.  But imagine this angle with the 1980s technology of hidden cowl panels!


A little faster A-pillar would also be nice, it’s too static just like the cowl. But asking for such changes 40 years later is beyond idiotic. And while the R/T door scoop isn’t nearly as hideous as the afterthought scoop on the 1999 Ford Mustang, you gotta wonder how “ricey” this looked to old school hot-rodders making sleepers out of Tri-Five Chevys and boring 1960s sedans.


The pivot point for the vent window is an interesting bit of kit.


Chrome elbow sleeves, because a computer couldn’t bend/cut one piece of bling for us back then. Bummer.


Yeah, the R/T’s useless scoop is pretty much Muscle Car Rice.  While it kinda accentuates the genesis of the door’s muscular bulge, it’s completely superfluous. 19

Chrysler’s side view mirrors for the time were pretty cool by themselves…but they didn’t match the max wedge (get it?) demeanor of the front end.  20
I never noticed the three lines inside the R/T’s slash.  Definitely adds some excitement without today’s emblem marketing overkill.


Note how the R/T scoop does match the contrasting muscular wedge of the door.  Problem is, the scoop is obviously a tacked-on afterthought.  Negative area like the hood was a smarter alternative. But the interplay between doors lower wedge and the strong upper wedge coming from the fender is quite fetching.  As if the Charger is ripped from spending years a the gym.


Yup, toned and perfected at the gym.  Too bad the door handles belong on Grandma’s Plymouth.  Perhaps we all shamelessly raid the parts bin…22_1

The SE package was always the Super Classy Excellent model to have.  The vinyl top, these “proto-brougham” emblems and the interior upgrades are totally worth it. What’s up with the pure modern “SE” lettering with that almost malaise-y script below to explain what SE stands for? I’d cut the emblem in the middle and only use the upper half.

I’d save the lower half for the disco era, natch. I mean, obviously!


Vintage Mopar marketing sticker?  Check.


Classic Detroit is present in the Charger’s profile.  Long hood, long dash-to-axle ratio, long fastback roof, long quarter panels and a long deck. That’s a lotta long!

The only thing too short are those doors: the cutline should extend several inches back for maximum flow.  And from the subtle curve in the front fender to the stunning hips above the rear axle, does the Charger ever flow!


Aside from the obvious problem with rearward visibility, how can you hate this buttress’d roof?  The fastback C-pillar is a long, daring and classy affair when trimmed with chrome and textured vinyl.  Keeping the roof from being too boring was the rear window’s use of a different vanishing point than the C-pillar, which translates into a different stop on the blue body.


To make up for the different vanishing points, more chrome and vinyl. I can dig it, but perhaps such design novelties are better off on a less mainstream product.  Or perhaps not…because how many people wanted a Charger back in 1970?  And how many people want one now?  Me thinks the number is exponentially higher today.

Yes, I know these pictures suck. But you can’t imagine how painful it was to coax a cheapie digital camera to do the right thing under the harsh lighting provided by half a million dollars worth of vintage neon lights. And now I hate neon lights.


Chrome and vinyl: so happy together.


The different vanishing points for the C-pillar and rear window make for a little problem: the trunk’s cutline should be much closer to the rear window.  And while that’d make a stupid-long trunk, it would look stupid cool.

Just in case you didn’t know where the new Challenger got that fuel door idea from. Too bad the new Challenger doesn’t have the Charger RT’s sense of chrome trimmings elsewhere to integrate it into the package.  That said, this is a beautiful piece of outstanding metal on a minimalistic body. Which makes it a wart…and by definition, warts must be destroyed.

Killed with fire. Or splashed with acid.  Or whatever it takes for a Dermatologist to knock ‘em off a beautiful body.


A part of me wishes the Charger’s back-end had the same round chrome bumper treatment as the front.  And no chrome around the red tail lights.  Actually just graft the front end entirely back here, and replace the black grille with red tail lights. A bit stupid perhaps, but it’d make a completely cohesive and eye-catching design.


That said, the Charger ain’t no slouch in the posterior.  The vertical bumperettes need to find lodging elsewhere, ditto the round backup lights.  But the space between the lights is the perfect location for a branding emblem, and the impossibly thin decklid looks quite sharp.


There’s a subtle dovetail at the end of the trunk, a nod to modern aerodynamic designs. I love it, don’t you?


Can’t say the same for the undefined space between the rear bumper and the quarter panel.  Yeesh, this was acceptable in 1970?


The trunk’s gap also leaves something to be desired. While I like the interplay between the chrome bumper and the tail light trim above the license plate area, it’s a bit too subtle.  Wait, did I actually mean what I said?

The difference in “heights” at the license plate should either be a bit more aggressive, or completely, exactly the same as the rest of the light/bumper ratio.


Maybe the crude black paint on the tail light’s chrome trim is the byproduct of a terrible restoration…but considering factory correct restorations elsewhere include similarly sloppy craftsmanship to mimic the factory…

Oh boy.


The tail lights are sunken significantly into the body, just like the grille up front.  Me likey enough to adore: such use of aggressive negative areas needs to come back in a BIG way.


There’s something about the chrome trim’s application around the trunk lock…


Even the camera-infurating action of all those neon lights can’t hide the ugliness here. Maybe my idea of having an all-encompassing chrome bumper instead of chrome around the tail light isn’t such a stupid idea after all. It’d certainly address this problem.


The round backup light does this design no favors. Exposed screws on the chrome bezel makes it worse. Weren’t there some square lenses Chrysler coulda parts-bin’d instead?

38 No matter: the 1970 Charger is an unforgettable machines.  I can’t imagine owning one when new, only to move on to tackier metal from the disco era.  And if a 1970 Charger owner was loyal enough to stick around during the Iaococca era and beyond, well, they’d be justified to hate everything made after 1970. Just look at that roof!

Thank you for reading, I hope you have a lovely week.

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Vellum Venom: 1966 Datsun Sports 1600 (Fairlady) Tue, 03 Sep 2013 13:00:32 +0000

Can you remember when sports cars were a staple of design studios?  When these wee-beasties were vellum fodder like today’s CUVs?  Me neither.  But Europe once made these in spades, and–much like today’s utility vehicle craze–Japan regularly followed suit.  Let’s examine that rich history with a deep cut into Nissan’s “Fairlady” series.   



Let’s be clear, the Datsun 1600 will never win a beauty contest if comparable Euro Metal enters the show.  Like most Japanese cars from this era, the styling was far more agricultural and cost-effective: uber voluptuous fenders, lumps, bumps and curves need not apply. The 1600′s box-nosed face belongs on today’s family sedan, and the bumper looks like an afterthought compared to the sexy slope of the MGA’s integrated maw. But the clean (well-organized) lines and tidy details (i.e. well placed signal lights) still makes it a timeless classic.

The practical charm of such nostalgic Japanese iron is clear to every eyeball. Heck, there’s even a fantastic website dedicated to the hobby. Check it.


There’s nothing wrong with a basic design when details like the grille and emblem are presented in such a clean and logical manner.  This is why cheap(er) cars are as cheerful as more expensive iron.


2_1What really makes the Datsun 1600′s nose stand out is the integrated grille/hood cut line.  Simply put, the ends of the grille match the beginning(s) of the hood.  It may seem like a little detail, but go back to the 2nd photo: doesn’t that make everything right on that face?


My, how things change with time! Body parts were screwed together back then?  No biggie: it’s part of the historical charm of many cars from this era.  Not having seen similar British/Italian machines up this close, I don’t know if screwing the front end in such a visible location is par for the course, or part of the Datsun’s value appeal.



I like the scalloping around the signal lights, a subtle touch to make these (universal?) parts look somewhat more unique to this machine.  The crease near the headlight’s center line is nice, but it’d be even nicer if they centered the headlights (i.e. slightly lower) to match it. Lowering the headlights would also help “visually lower” the front end. If the engineers would allow it.

But look at how elegant the front clip appears with the minimal cut lines from the hood+grille treatment!


Again, lower the headlights so they “center” with that very cool crease in the front fascia.  That said, this proto-240Z shows the future nosejob for the Fairlady of the 1970s.

The Datsun 1600′s other hard crease, at the top of the fascia and hood, could use some softening up to empathize with the headlight’s round form: another issue cured by the elongated schnoz of the 240Z.



My need for a rounder top and “centered on the crease” headlights comes to light (sorry) from this angle.  The biggest problem is how that hard fold at the top fights with the rounded headlights and turn signals.


The chrome trimming at the leading edge of this hood scoop is quite the expensive looking touch!  Nice job.


While the snub-nosed face with too many hard edges isn’t the best start for a 1960s sports car, the hood and fenders sweep back quite nicely to compensate. How I long for the days when every automaker had at least one car with a looooooong hood! Which leads to a discussion of “dash-to-axle ratios”…but I’m getting ahead of myself.

10Indeed, that space between the dashboard and the front axle.  The more you have, the more inherently bad ass your vehicle becomes!  The Datsun 1600′s snub nose really kills the mood when you consider the hustle and flow of all those complementary lines from the headlights alllll the way back to the windscreen. Yum.


10_1I love how this elegant and delicate side view mirror’s base compares to (almost?) anything from the 1970s and beyond. While this could be an afterthought/necessity to comply with US safety guidelines, it’s a delightful design element.  The problem is that wart of an antenna(?)…it’s like seeing a pretty girl with a not so handsome guy at a black tie event.

That’s one lucky chrome wart, I say!  Or maybe he’s well endowed. Whatever.


10_3These emblems, while cool by themselves, are far too chunky to live here.  They kill the flow.  Put them further down the fender, perhaps halfway between the chrome moulding and the base of the wheel arch.


Sadly the Datsun’s poor location ruined my side shot, so this hardtop’d interweb photo will suffice. The upright windshield rake and static vent windows make this body look cuter and dumber than the more refined metal from Europe. But perhaps that ain’t no big thang since it echos the boxiness of the front end.

And isn’t it refreshing to see such an advantageous ratio of side glass to side sheet metal these days?

12Dare I call this wheel design a classic from this era?  Purely functional, but elegant and modest.  Ditch the whitewalls, but the sliver slotted steelies with a big face chrome center cap is an element I’ve loved on Porsches, VWs…and Datsuns!




While the exposed screws on the front end look a bit cheap, these fasteners on the cowl vent have a functional beauty about them.  Maybe it’s the silver paint and how this could be a close up on any number of brilliant European sports cars from the 1950-60s, but it just plain works.


12_2Two window panes to make one windshield?  If only Datsun sprung for a fancier sheet of glass in their bargain basement roadster.  That said, the chrome details in the wiper arms, rearview mirror, windshield rubber, etc. look fantastic in their close up shot.  Ditto those exposed screws on the cowl vent.


13Back again to the fantastic real estate between the dashboard and the front axle.  Be it a lovely Ferrari or a lowly Datsun, this is always a delicious treat that’s good for the car enthusiast’s heart and soul.


14The chrome trim is modest enough, but its location between the door lock and door handle appears clumsy as you approach from this angle. This might be the only car more deserving of a body side molding delete than a C5 Corvette.



The ragtop’s boot cover buttons are super-static on this otherwise flowing form.  Is it possible to bend that panel a few degrees in, more aggressively inward as it nears the rear, and still make the buttons snap to engineering specifications?  If possible, it’d certainly help the look.


16Just an ever-so-gentle inward bending: I’m not expecting a Talbot Lago from a reasonable and honest Datsun, but give us a little taste!  And here’s another good reason to eliminate the chrome trim.  From the subtle curves of the quarter panel to the soft contours of the wheel well, the Datsun 1600 is begging for someone to remove its rigid orthodontia.


17And let’s round out the trunk’s cut line…this is brutally rigid.  It’s obviously cheaper than the goodies coming from Britain and Italy at this time. While there are other hard edges and elements in this design that must stay, this one needs the boot…from the boot!




There’s a strong homage to the Aston Martin DB4 and DB5 presented here.  Or perhaps it’s just a cheap knock off.  That’s fine, but punishing the eyes with the “visual sound” of fingernails on a chalkboard comes from the brutally hard edges connecting the rear fascia to the quarter panel.  My kingdom for a little more money to round out some panels!  Please!


19Generation Gap: whatever that says and no matter how poorly integrated it may seem, at least those aren’t Lucas Electronics.  Some scalloping/recessing a la the front signal lights would be nice, too.


20Too many hard corners and Aston Martin rip offs aside, this is a pretty wicked rear end.  Note how the trunk cutlines seemingly disappear like an infinity pool in some fancy spa with overpriced meals and minimalist music piped into every hallway. Nice.


This might be the best angle to photograph.  A well-organized and classically minimal interior only highlights the curvature of the Datsun 1600′s decklid.  And the subtle rib down the middle? Perfection.


Sorry about not blurring the license plate, but this dealership changed names!  Too bad the Datsun 1600′s location was less than ideal for photography.  But shooting outside shows the Datsun 1600′s flat butt…and Cindy Crawford worthy birthmark (gas cap) too.

Note the especially clean integration of the deck lid, rear fascia and quarter panels in a single line at the top. Nice-ish…too bad it all ends on a butt that needs a little Sir Mix-a-Lot in its life.



Requisite twin chrome exhausts are always welcome ’round these parts. The leaf spring perches (left) and back up light (right) are interesting throwbacks to a simpler, stupider time.


25And since the top was indeed down, the Datsun 1600′s interior plays an integral role with the exterior design.  And, simply put, this is a fabulous interior.  There’s nicer bits from the Europeans, but that’s all relative.  Datsun’s intelligent and cohesive design is an Everyman’s ergonomic and stylistic wonder.  It’s what IKEA is to modern furniture, and it’s damn good-looking.

Thank you all for reading, I hope you have a lovely week.

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Chris Bangle On Current Car Design: “Real Need For A Change” Mon, 02 Sep 2013 16:39:54 +0000

Click here to view the embedded video.

Designer Chris Bangle, who was strongly identified with BMW’s brand image and some controversial styling decisions before leaving the company four years ago to open up an independent design studio, says that today’s car designers are doing the same things over and over again, something he calls “mannerism”. In and interview with Automotive News Europe, Bangle said, “There is a real need for a change and that’s just not happening.”

Designers talk about innovation, but don’t really innovate, Bangle opined. “Even concept cars today simply anticipate the next production model coming down the line. Is this innovation? No. And at the end of the day this is what’s preventing car design from moving into a new era.”

When asked if he considered returning to run an automaker’s studio, Bangle confirmed that he’d been offered jobs but insists that he’s not interested at this point in his life, though he said that he loved his time with BMW. “Designing cars consumes you; it has a hold on your spirit which is incredibly powerful. It’s not something you can do part time, you have do it with all your heart and soul or you’re going to get it wrong. You have to know when to leave the party.”

Note: The video above is of a presentation Chris Bangle made last November to Stanford University’s Center for Automotive Research at Stanford (CARS), wherein he discusses some of the same issues.

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Vellum Venom Vignette: Center Stage, High Mounted! Tue, 06 Aug 2013 12:32:06 +0000 31-550x480

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?

Sajeev answers:

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.

1971 Oldsmobile Toronado

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!

1972 Oldsmobile Toronado.

1972 Oldsmobile Toronado.

1973 Oldsmobile Toronado.

1973 Oldsmobile Toronado.

1974 Oldsmobile Toronado.

1974 Oldsmobile Toronado.

1975 Oldsmobile Toronado.

1976 Oldsmobile Toronado.

1976 Oldsmobile Toronado.

1977 Oldsmobile Toronado XS.

1977 Oldsmobile Toronado XS.


1978 Oldsmobile Toronado XS.

1978 Oldsmobile Toronado XS.

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…

1979 Oldsmobile Toronado. Bummer.

1979 Oldsmobile Toronado.

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.

1987(?) Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo.

1987(?) Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo.

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.

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Vellum Venom: 2012 Honda Crosstour Tue, 30 Jul 2013 12:42:32 +0000 title

Here are a few books I consider required reading for Transportation Design students: The Reckoning, Rude Awakening, All Corvettes are Red and Car: A Drama of the American Workplace.  These show what it takes to make a car…to make a designer’s work come to fruition.

Sadly, during my (short) time at the College for Creative Studies, we focused on creativity at all costs: pay no attention to the business behind the curtain.  So while the Honda Crosstour is a curious stylistic exercise, does this dog hunt in the real world?



First, let’s just be surprised (impressed?) this design made production.  The Crosstour’s XXL-sized grin proves something in the land of bloated CUVs, perhaps giving the impression there’s a big rig Cummins Turbo diesel behind it? This grille needs a good head shrinker, so to speak.



While the grille’s 2013 redesign (scroll to the end) helps tremendously, this frame’s massive size combined with its dull gray plastic frame doesn’t impress.  To the 2012′s credit, the wraparound grille’s teeth add visual excitement not available with the 2013′s thick, wholly generic chrome rim.

The hard angles and modest chrome trim catches the eye, though a body color paint job in lieu of the gray plastic is price appropriate.



One of my more favorite angles: the hood sports sweeping and fluid creases, in the proud Detroit tradition of long noses for overt style and swagger.  Unlike every other CUV, the Crosstour has some Vista Cruiser DNA. Not enough wretched excess, but the proportions and general attitude are the closest we’ve seen in a long while to yesteryear’s Olds wagon.


Aside from the appealing wedge at the bumper’s base, this nose is way over-styled. Note the headlight’s uncomfortable transition from the pleasantly proportioned yellow reflector to that massive center signal light with oversized black plastic frame: necessary to integrate the bloated grille into the bumper’s demure-ish form. Honda designer’s did a reasonable job cramming 10lbs of shit into a 5lb bag, indeed.

Then clock the fog light: the negative area (in the paint) at the leading edge of the fog light assembly needs to disappear to reduce the bumper clutter.


That said, the over styled negative area is trick when zooming in. Except for the fake slots in the black plastic: a smarter-textured alternative wouldn’t cost much more! Hell, make it out of  fake carbon fiber instead of this Band-Aid look.


The bumper’s strong lower wedge is also present from here.  The lower grille’s texture is simple, logical, and remarkably well proportioned…unlike so many elements on the Crosstour.


Shades of the Accord: the Crosstour’s headlights, fender flares and the fender/door’s swage line harken back to the last-gen Accord.  It’s all good, because the Crosstour is a station wagon at heart.  Aside from the suspension lift kit, clearly seen here by the big wheels and poseur-tall ride height.

But just wait…the lifted station wagon theme gets worse as we go further back.

6The chamfered edge of this flare is unique, and worthy of possible implementation elsewhere in automobilia.  The only problem? It tends to fight other elements presented on the Crosstour’s body.


Like the rim of the 1999-ish Chevrolet Silverado (and countless other GM products from this era) these fake wheel holes don’t evoke extra strength, performance or curb appeal. They merely look cheap. Either you add a hole at the bottom of this space or you fill it in. No excuses.


The Crosstour’s cowl is tidy enough, except that it’s not: the A-pillar’s bulk(?) requires a plastic filler panel for the fender to meet with the base of the windshield. A poor implementation, perhaps stemming from the Accord cowl’s inadequacies for CUV duty?

9But wait…did this just happen?  NO DLO FAIL?  The A-pillar, fender and door are so happy together?  ZOMG SON THE CROSSTOUR IS TEH BOMB!

9_1Another shot of the Accord-esque swageline.  Unlike most swagelines that start small but grow upwards, the Crosstour’s goes down as it enters the front door.  While not hideous, it’s certainly bizarre…you’ll see why in the next shot.

Combine the odd swage line with the fake slots (nestled in a negative area in the rocker panel) and there’s a lack of correlation. The design gets undefined, busy and generally messy.  That bolt-on mudflap could keep more dirty lines from entering the equation, but the Crosstour’s undersized affairs don’t match the fender flare’s prodigious width, nor do they hide that line separating the fender and the rocker panel.

Visualize the alternative: reduce the fender flare’s width, fatten the mud flap and make the swage line “bend” at the deepest part of the negative area (i.e. the top row of slots) and bingo: a cleaner implementation.


Speaking of, make the fake slots go away!  Banish them to the land of silver painted interior trim and faux fender vents! And, by the way, thank you for not putting fender vents on this beast. 

Unlike the Pontiac Aztek’s profile, the Crosstour isn’t wholly hideous.  There’s a bit of five-door hatch, a smidgen of AMC Eagle wagon, and the sky high beltline of a modern vehicle. Which definitely makes the Crosstour something unique, if not outstanding.

While this Evox image is too perfectly manicured, the Crosstour’s front-to-back flow works well.  There’s a smart up kick around the rear door handle, a tough shoulder line (that shadow) above the taillight, a fast D-pillar, and a strong static line at the base of the doors that elengantly merges with the rear wheel’s arch. It all flows nicely without being too bubbly or too square.

And no DLO fail to speak of. Woot!


Not so pretty in the flesh, eh?  First, the matte black C-pillar needs to be shinier to go with the chrome trimming. Second, the door cut line crashes through the fender flare, instead of following/dancing with that arch. More to the point, integrate the door cut line into the lowest point of the fender flare’s negative area. Sure, this exposes more rocker paneling, but draping door sheetmetal over everything looks decidedly…cheap.

Lastly, the swage line (what’s left of it) slams through the door handle’s negative area instead of flowing over: not elegant.


In case you missed it, here’s how the swage line intersects with the door handle’s negative area.  The line should be further north to avoid this mess. And while you don’t see the BIG problem yet, the body’s increasing height and bulk is becoming a problem.



That’s not to say the rear isn’t without charm: the fast D-pillar, tapered greenhouse (i.e. gets slightly smaller past the rear door) and slight tumblehome looks elegant and somewhat muscular. No other CUV can pull this off…hell, even the Porsche Panamera looks flabbier from this angle.


And now, the moment you’ve been waiting for…drum roll please…the moment when the Crosstour goes from quirky and interesting to just plain offensive.

Because of the increasing height, the hatchback needs glass between the taillights and below the integral spoiler. (to improve visibility?) While that spoiler adds excitement, highlighting the acres of glass with a bubble dome hatchback like the Fox Body Mercury Capri woulda been so much sweeter.

Well, not sweet enough.  The Crosstour’s rounded bottom tries too hard to be a sporty 5-door hatchback. At this (ahem) elevation, that dog won’t hunt.  Instead of soaring upwards (at the side windows) the body’s belt line should remain static, emulating the height of the front door.  Combine that with a flatter/boxier butt (keeping the bubble dome hatchback idea) and there’d be a quirky cool version of the AMC Eagle instead.


The glass has interesting touches, like the floating Honda emblem. The defroster/defogger lines delightfully contour around said emblem and the integral washer nozzle at the top (not pictured, my bad) are also a minimalist’s treat.  In a world of afterthought CUV emblems, oversized and haphazardly slapped on a tailgate’s limited real estate, the Crosstour did a good job right here.



Too bad the wiper arm can’t hide under that spoiler!  While the Crosstour’s strong haunches (above the taillights) and tumblehome are both sporty and elegant, everything goes horribly wrong south of the license plate. No more tall buffalo butts, please!

While the taillights start at the “end point” of the spoiler, they aren’t flush with the hatchback.  The lense’s silver insert has no logical reason for its location: moving lower, where the hatch bends at the base of the glass would help integrate the form and reduce unnecessary “lines” on the body. (i.e. start the silver where that indoor light’s hard reflection is on the hatchback.)


What a mess! These hard lines make no sense with the upper half’s round glass and muscular haunches in the quarter panels. They are too harsh for too “long” of a form on this body.  Unrefined!

Either the northern hemisphere needs some hard bends or this area needs softening up.  Much like how the rear doors blanket over the natural location of the rocker panels, the tail lights shouldn’t be exposed in this bumper fold.  The lights should be smaller to let the painted bumper flow naturally from the bottom of the tailgate to the base of the roof: one simple, logical sweep of painted body. Too bad about that!


Once more: too many harsh lines, accentuated by rounded and beveled tailpipes.  Combined with the softer stuff up top and the excessive height brought about from the rear doors, the Crosstour’s butt steals defeat from the hands of victory.**

**provided you believe that a quirky alternative to a CUV is a good thing!2013_redesignAnd yes, a quirky alternative to a CUV is a worthy endeavor for any designer.  And any would-be CUV buyer, at least in theory.

While the 2013 model looks a bit more interesting (especially in brown, ‘natch) the Crosstour doesn’t fit the CUV bill. When you combine CUV, hatchback and station wagon in this manner, you insult all three automotive genres in one vellum rendering. Too bad about that, because this idea has potential. And possibly merit.

Thanks for reading, have a great week.

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Vellum Venom Vignette: The Emperor Has No Clothes Tue, 16 Jul 2013 12:00:52 +0000

Like Dizzy Gillespie’s cheeks playing trumpet vs. at rest, cars are bigger in every direction compared to their predecessors.  Perhaps you’ve seen a 1980s Honda Accord in front of the latest platform.  Or perhaps an old/new Chevy Silverado. But what about a copiously large Cadillac, like the one made (somewhat) famous in a Moby music video?

What happens when you put that machine, an unrivaled King of The 1970s, against a pair of modern land barges?  You already know, but go ahead and click to see anyway. 

Our good friend with the former LeMons Station Wagon, Brian Pollock, snapped this 1969-1970 Cadillac Sedan DeVille (not a Fleetwood, considering the wheelbase?) sandwiched between a late-model Ford F-150 and Acura MDX.  I assure you that neither Brian nor myself have the photochopping skills to shrink the Caddy: this actually happened.

Unfortunately there wasn’t a modern-day family sedan in the mix, too: that’d show the generational changes far better than a CUV and a truck.  But note how the Caddy’s fenders works proportionally well with its 15″ (14″?) wheels, and how the Acura and Ford do the same with 17″ rolling stock. The Caddy looks even smaller because of a lower ride height, lower belt line and massive overhangs at both axles.  The extra overhang means the Caddy’s nose and butt tapers more elegantly, giving a (dare I say it) sleeker appearance compared to the other two.

Losing overhang isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just kills the ability to shape and taper a form.  Everything must have a flat nose and a (modern-day family sedan) buffalo butt! Can you imagine if this Caddy had the bullet-like face of today’s ATS, but with the same elongated snout?  It would be a seriously wind cheating land barge, slicing the air with less frontal area than modern machines.  I suggest that it’d be a modest aerodynamic victory, even if European regulations have (probably) killed this design language forever. Or at least for a long time.

So what’s the key takeaway here?  We need more cars proportioned after tennis courts. What was big before isn’t so big these days.

Thanks for reading, have a lovely week.

]]> 29 Vellum Venom: 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid Tue, 02 Jul 2013 12:00:25 +0000

Aside from the fame, fortune and talent, my design school stylings were criticized much like the early works of one Mister Lenny Kravitz.  I felt, as idiotic as it seems now, both of us were pigeonholed for our unabashed use of “influence” in our art. Kravitz overcame. I left the College for Creative Studies to pursue a less interesting career.  A career that makes me travel. With rental cars.

How fitting that I’d be blessed (cursed?) with The Son of Aston: the Ford Fusion Hybrid for 8 days and 800 miles. 



This was my constant companion from Oklahoma City to Kansas City.  The Texas plate made me feel more at home while avoiding a horrible storm that pummeled the city of Moore, but that beautifully disgusting Aston Martin grille was a constant reminder that I couldn’t be a car designer while THIS actually made production.

So beautiful, yet so offensive.  Somewhere between Tulsa and the Kansas border, I decided that there’s simply no fv*king way this facade would get an “A” in a design school’s studio review.

I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore, that’s for sure.



There are some vehicles that look overstyled when you mirror the elements from left to right.  The Fusion isn’t busy, it’s downright perfect.  Every crease and muscular fold compliments the other.  The powerdome hood is too cool for any family sedan, the bumper cover is creased to perfectly compliment the grille, and the headlights sweep far back to give an aggressive appearance. And the lower valence’s speed holes add race car style without looking like an afterthought. (cough, Camry SE)

The Fusion looks expensive and assertive.  There’s so much attention to detail presented here!  Question is, how much of that detail was already hashed out by Aston Martin?  And can we approve of this?



Dare I say it, the headlights look BETTER than the pods presented on the Aston Martin from whence this schnoz came from.  From this angle, the Fusion looks like a low slung sports car, not a boxy sedan sitting as tall as a CUV.



Light absolutely dances on the Fusion’s bumper.  The subtle bends turn the sunlight into logical extensions of line that doesn’t technically exist…but they somehow do.  The line I’m pointing to blends nicely into the powerdome hood only inches behind. The details never cease to amaze on Ford’s Fusion.



Even the beveled silver border with recessed blue oval looks far more expensive than any other corporate logo at this price point. Damn.




Many of those logical lines in the front bumper sweep back into this power dome hood. And the plateau is far from a simple square or trapezoid in cross-section: as you can tell from the different grade of shadowing, the Fusion’s dome has (some of) the flair of a late-model 7-series BMW.



The fluted grille reminds me of my first car, a 1965 Ford Galaxie. Perhaps it’s a hat-tip to the Norelco chrome grille of the first Fusion. The detailing is absolutely stunning: this is Cadillac worthy.


Surprisingly, the lower valence’s grille is just as precisely designed…just without the chrome plating.  Even the teeth’s bends and the frame’s shape compliments the main grille.


Of course they match for a reason. Ford even added a little crease in the bumper to make sure you noticed how both grilles “talk” to each other. Nice.

(Disregard the bug splatter, I wasn’t gonna wash a rental car just to make YOU happy!)


The lower valence has a sporty “body kit” feel to it, without being tacked on like many modern Toyota products.  Ford has something to prove in this market, and prove it they do. Even the scalloped area near the lower grille looks like a far more expensive car.



Luckily the solid black plastic panel around the fog light brings us back to reality. Nice touch with the chrome ring’d fog light, however.



While most new vehicles are finally abandoning the googly-eyed, oversized plasti-chrome headlights from the last decade, the Fusion does it the best.  Just the right amount of squinty, never small enough to get lost on this fairly large face…from any angle.



Massive power dome hood is…massive!  Only now does this front end look more like a boxy, modern FWD sedan and not something from Aston Martin. Note how much painted fender there is relative to the front wheel.  Things are getting chunky!

That said, I must compliment Ford on the transition from sexy Aston Martin to boring Camry-competitor.  This transition shows great attention to detail.

15By the way, I saw plenty of other rental cars during my travels.  The only one I really wanted besides the Fusion was a damn Crown Vic Kia Optima.  Note how both family sedans have a somewhat bullet-ish nose, but one doesn’t look like a Chinese knock-off of an Aston Martin.



This Fusion Hybrid sported 17″ wheels that wouldn’t look out of place on a baseline, super cheap to lease BMW sedan. Too bad the nose couldn’t move forward and downward…like the Aston Martin from whence it came. Sadly, nerdy family sedans are just that.


18Welcome to Tallsville: population, this guy. The Fusion’s 17″ hoops are positively lost in the height and bulk of the body.  The fenders need a good 6″ of length to justify that nose. The space between the cowl and the front wheel (dash-to-axle) is short and static.  Which kinda ruins everything: the A-pillar obviously wants to begin at a point between the cowl and front wheel.  Too bad it can’t flow right…because this chassis isn’t shaped like a Crown Vic an Aston Martin.

All the sculpturing of the Aston-inspired nose is gone…or is it?



Like modern BMWs, the Fusion creates many layers that hope to keep you from noticing its lofty height. With all this real estate, the good car designers make something that catches the light, plays with it, and fascinates the onlooker. Since demanding the cowl of a Panther Chassis is stupid even by my brain’s distorted standards, what we see here ain’t half bad.




Oh, except for that clumsy and fat A-pillar.  And the DLO fail.  Demanding the cowl (and resultant A-pillar) of a Panther would be nice, as it wouldn’t mean we’d need a black plastic triangle (with chrome trim!) to give the illusion that the greenhouse (the glass area) is sleeker than it is in reality.

Even worse, there’s a fixed vent window in the door.  Nothing wrong with that on the Aston, because it has a far more “Panther Like” cowl and A-pillar. We can’t expect the Fusion to have a DLO as lovely as an Aston, or a 2004 Nissan Versa Hatchback.



It sure is a pity, that your DLO fail couldn’t be a 2004 Nissan Versa hatchback instead. But from here, the short (width) and tall (height) of the Fusion’s dash-to-axle ratio could branch out into a vehicle that doesn’t try too hard to be sporty, swoopy.


These fancy heated,  bi-focal’d mirrors not only look cool, they definitely help with visibility.  A good thing, since the greenhouse of this faux-Aston is pretty horrible when it comes to avoiding highway traffic. I felt like a kid in a school bus…which isn’t unique to the Fusion in this class, of course.



The different planes and textures of the side view mirrors were fun to analyze in the hotel parking lot.  I only wish the signal light was flush, sharing the same external plane of the silver painted housing.



Everything is fun here.  There’s plenty of surface tension in the fold below the glass work, and there’s a subtle yet speedy crease near the bottom that keeps this tall vehicle from looking static.  It works, mostly because it does the job without looking busy.


The door’s stamping gives extra visual excitement to the form presented by the handle.  The “30-60-90 triangle” look of the lower door handle area compliments the actual door handle, unlike the amorphus blob presented in same area by many other vehicles.  It looks like it’s dying for an old school key lock! Me likey.



Wasn’t too thrilled about the slop in the plastic door handle itself.  And this wasn’t an abused rental…at least not at 1200 miles.


The Lincoln-Mercury fanboi of the 1980s within me totally adores Ford’s new keyless entry interface. Flush, completely invisible until it’s needed: a logical extension of the flush-button’d 1980 Thunderbird that started it all. Too bad I couldn’t find the code to use it.  I checked the trunk hinges for a 5-digit code like a proper Dearborn Man would…until I realized it hasn’t been there in decades, either. Rats.



Aside from the need for 20+ inch rims to put this body in proportion, this is a surprisingly sleek C-pillar and rear door. There’s a big window in lieu of DLO fail, the hard folds from the center section are starting to fade away, and the ever-so-gentle bend of the rear door’s cutline near the rear wheel: all are the marks of a well planned design.

My only concern is the harsh fold around the wheel arches: a more organic bend would keep one’s eyes from fixating on the oversized wheel arches and undersized wheels.



The big plastic pillar needed for the rear window to roll down is a nice, shiny one piece affair.  Good enough.



There’s a mild taper in the C-pillar, and a shocking amount of sculpture in the quarter panels and rear doors.  From this angle, the Fusion is just a two-tone paint job away from being an optimistic 1950s Jet Age design!



This is a faaaaaast C-pillar.  It’s lovely to behold, unless you’re in the driver’s seat. Then you curse it for blocking everything in sight.

Much like the front bumper, notice how light and shadow dance in different shades at the top of the (upper) C-pillar, in the gentle bend of the (lower) C-pillar’s taper as it blends into the hard edge in the middle of the body.


Also note that the fuel filler door is smack dab in the middle of the crease.  While not offensive, illogical, or asymmetrical, the door looks a bit silly with such a strong crease in it.


Our man Ronnie already covered this quality control snafu, and it’s sad to see he wasn’t lying.  I love how many modern cars use “floating” rear glass with no fat black gasket, but what if they don’t finish the metal underneath to the same level of brilliance as every other panel?


The CHMSL lives within a unique polished black container that juts out from the natural sweep of the roofline. This looks cheap and unrefined, like the bad old days of pre-Bankruptcy General Motors designs. (except with better materials, ‘natch.)Why the CHMSL can’t be as flush and invisible as the keyless entry keypad is beyond me. Put it inside the cabin like everyone else!



Ain’t technology grand?  This wouldn’t be nearly as beautiful if there was a big rubber gasket around the rear window. Just a lovely form.




Unfortunately the Fusion’s back end can’t mask the height nearly as well as the front.  The trunk’s cutline extends far below the logical end point (where the bumper normally begins). The rear bumper is flush enough to make that CHMSL up there a little jealous.  It’s all very flat and tall.



Something about these “furrowed eyebrow” taillights isn’t pleasant enough to go with the Aston Martin front end.  If you were ripping off the Aston for the front, why not do the rear too?  If it worked for the Jaguar XF…


And the plastic insert between the taillights looks out of proportion with…WAIT, WHUT?  IS DAT HYBRID BADGE ON CROOKED? Damn son, are you kidding me?



Back to that plastic bit. I’d prefer that cutline started where my other finger’s located on the taillight.


Or even better, eliminate the plastic trim and be like my neighbor here in the hotel’s self-serve parking lot. Much nicer!


The panel gap around the trunk was also a bit unsettling, after you got over the crooked emblem.


And there’s something counter-intuitive about a trunk that cuts this deep into the body.  Perhaps it will make more sense if I look at the cross-section of the trunk itself.



Chunky and clumsy.  I wish the trunk wasn’t flush with the bumper, if only it was sunken in like the Optima in the above photo.


Luckily Ford didn’t cut corners down here, either.  Just like the front valence, the rear’s chrome exhaust, black plastic “visual bulk reducer” and extra reflector (markers or fog lights in Europe, I suppose) lenses look suitably expensive from here.



Note the negative area in the black plastic, and how it matches the same area at the bottom of the silver painted bumper. Shades of the symmetry seen on the front bumper!



I also adore this little bevel to “introduce” the red taillight to the silver quarter panel. It’s a subtle bend that blends with all the more aggressive creases on the same quarter panel.


So what’s the end result?  Is the Fusion too strongly influenced?  Should we care since Aston Martin is also willing slap their face on anything to make a quick buck?


Too much influence!

This wouldn’t fly if a broke-ass design student (peep the tuition rates for design school) used this level of “influence” in design school.  While any student would be publicly, mercilessly humiliated for grafting an Aston Martin nose on their family sedan proposal, they’d be dragged out of the studio by the short hairs for making the C-MAX.

No way in hell this would be considered “A” work for a design student. Is it worth a “B”?  Maybe a “C,”  I think. Then again, FoMoCo writes some big-ass checks to all the major design schools..and offers priceless internships for would-be designers. 



In the end, I’d love the Fusion if it was on the same platform that pinned the GEN III Taurus.  Such a low beltline, low taillights and an open and airy greenhouse.  Put the Fusion’s design elements on this Taurus and you’d have a far more honest tribute to an Aston Martin.  If that’s what Ford actually wanted.

This was taken in front of the birthplace Will Rogers, entertainer and informer extraordinaire.  He famously remarked, “I never met a man I didn’t like.” I suspect he never met the critics in a design studio…

or a snotty auto blogger, for that matter.

Thank you for reading, I hope you have a lovely week.

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Vellum Venom: 2012 Ferrari FF Mon, 13 May 2013 04:05:38 +0000 Jeff Sanders, my best friend and reason for this series’ existence, once said “Ferrari’s are the tits” for all designers.  It’s true, as his immense skill received far more praise from the design boffins at the College for Creative Studies when he set his sights on a Ferrari instead of his beloved American brands.  But tits for all (so to speak) changed when a friend gave me her guest pass to the Ferrari Club of Houston’s monthly meeting. Arriving in appropriate style thanks to my brother’s Testarossa, I chilled out with my Ferrari lovin’ gal pal. I also prepped myself for the Pimp-Mobile Testarossa jokes, often rehearsed by heavily depreciated Ferrari 348/355/360 driving bon vivants. It was a CCS design review all over again, to a lesser extent.

Then I opened the showroom door and saw my first Ferrari FF.  Everything about this day changed. Won’t you join me for the rest of the story?

1Much like the Cheshire Cat’s mischievous grin compared to a normal feline, the FF takes what you know about Ferraris and makes them silly, overwrought and decidedly in need of anger management therapy.  Not that the FF’s predecessor, the 612 Scaglietti, was Enzo’s gift to rolling beauty…but it’s positively tame compared to the FF.

The grille, headlights and body are all way out of proportion.  If only the grille’s smile was more like a normal cat.

2Probably Definitely my favorite part of the FF. The grille to bumper ratio looks about right.  It’s easy to imagine this as a modernized Ferrari 250 GTO.  Hey, a wannabe-designer can dream, can’t he?

3But then you notice just how much real estate the Cheshire Cat grille truly occupies on the front bumper.  This is starting to get ridiculous.


4The headlights look sporty enough from this angle, the need for anger management isn’t obvious when taken out of context with the rest of the front fascia.  The black spot (for headlight washers?) is a buzz kill for a vehicle this expensive. Oh well.

What really kills me is how this angle looks like the perfect foundation for a proper successor for the F-body Camaro. Instead, we got that massive tribute to half-assed retro design…but I digress.

5The F-body references continue here.  Note the interesting mix of a hard bend in the hood’s cutline added to the subtle curves in the hood, highlighted by the twisted, dancing beams from the overhead lights. Being this low and sexy isn’t a bad thing, Chevrolet F-body or Ferrari.

7I know LED thingies are all the rage, but they need toning down.  This pulled back, mohawk-esque, headlight goes into territory that belongs to the fender. Boo.


8But they are mighty pretty!


9One fender, fighting for its precious real estate.  Nothing takes away from the flowing lines, grand touring proportions and cab-backward design of this fender more than ‘dat LED.


9_1And while I have a love and hate relationship with directional wheels, these are horrid.  Seemingly inspired by a plastic wheel cover on a Chinese home market sedan, these overstyled spokes are almost an insult to the brand. Maybe if the spokes were flatter, and didn’t extend into the natural space of the wheel lips/rims.


10Less whimsical wheels belong with a fender this tall and boxy.  Now, let’s be clear: the space between the wheel and the door (dash-to-axle ratio in Car Design speak) is a sight for sore eyes.  Our society killed other GT/luxury coupes with such design, so it’s important to recognize a beautiful form by itself.  Even if that cove and fender grille look a bit like an afterthought from here.


11The cove looks pretty damn logical and necessary from here.  Plus, the yellow Ferrari shield makes sense on a fender this T-A-L-L when residing in such a cove.


11_1Perhaps the cove is a complimentary form to the FF’s bizarre greenhouse. They certainly do make sense together.


12Even better, the dash-to-axle ratio ensures that the A-pillar and fender meet in a certain way.  What IS that way, you say?

In a way that ensures zero chance of DLO FAIL!  The mirror is mounted logically against the A-pillar, no black plastic triangle needed here.  Then again, clock the FF’s asking price. It better not have DLO FAIL!


12_1I was fixated on this mirror’s flat plane base, as it starts innocently enough at the door and cleverly slices through the dome of the mirror assembly.  Quite the slick piece, this mirror.  I wonder what the Ferrari Club of Houston was doing right about now?  Hmm!

Probably not enamored with side-view mirrors, that’s for damn sure!


13While I don’t know how/why the Corvette and modern Ferrari GT cars look so similar, the FF’s rocker panel, quarter panel and door could easily be associated with a C5 Corvette from this angle. At least the top is far more elegantly contoured (yet still overly voluptuous) than said Corvette.

If you don’t see what I mean, peep the flop between bright light and shadow at the top of the door.  You don’t get this subtle attention to detail in a Vette. Hence the Pininfarina badging, naturally.


14But this so isn’t a Vette. And yet it so isn’t a Ferrari. Then again, when your local Ferrari dealer has as many models as an Eisenhower-era Oldsmobile dealership, maybe the four-seat, boxy butt FF makes sense.  Maybe someone does need a Ferrari that looks like, umm, this.

A Ferrari station wagon: someone out there is lusting for it.


15As far as Kammback designs go, this one is a treat.  The C-pillar flows back to the rear elegantly enough and the rear glass fills the void without being anything other than a logical extension of the C-pillar’s lines.


17The cutline at the rear is elegant enough, even if I wish it tucked in (toward the center-line of the car) instead of bulging out to the corners. The round tail lights, seemingly slapped in, remind me of a Terminator-esque cyborg that lost its cosmetic façade while hunting down John Connor. This exposed plastic lens thing doesn’t work with a vehicle so expensive, so exclusive.  It looks…cheap.

More to the point, I’m gonna get you John Connor even if it’s the last thing I’ll do!

18I don’t know why there’s a misplaced eyebrow growing from the FF’s bumper corners.  Perhaps it wouldn’t suck so hard if the rectangular reflector light below didn’t fight ‘dat flow.  The light must empathize with this eyebrow, matching flow and location from start to finish.

The template is set: much like the marker/signal lights that occupy the same space as the fender flare. Take the C7 Corvette, for example. Please.



HASTA LA VISTA, GOOD TASTE! Exposed plastic eyeballs are a sin against automotive design. At least the quad exhaust tips look interesting!

20Little vortex-looking things inside the exhaust? Yup, this must be an exotic car.  A proper exotic, a proper Ferrari.  If only I didn’t have to get up and look at the rest of the FF!


21Unlike the exposed taillight eyeballs, these Euro-Foglight-American-Whatever lights have an elegant plastic housing around them. It looks suitably expensive.  Or suitable for one of those disturbingly well-designed Kias made these days. Hmm!

The lower airfoil thing is quite cool too.  No doubt it makes the FF do something faster and better, because the wind tunnel says so!


22The FF is surprisingly “joyful” here.  The negative area containing the license plate is quite the happy fellow. The cutlines for the trunk give the bumper’s corners a cheeky and jolly presence.  It would be quite silly, but the black trim in the lower bumper (and that cool airfoil) adds a sinister touch.  It waters down the overtly joyous portion that’s painted body color.


23Or maybe not?  This is quite a silly smile on a short (length-wise), tall (height) and flat (facade-wise) buffalo butt.  Then again, your butt would look this goofy too…if you wore the same Cheshire Cat grin as the FF’s front end.



(Put another way, on a vehicle this large and tall, please integrate round lighting forms. This isn’t a pleasant design!)


25And, perched atop the rear glass, here’s the obligatory bump for some sort of in-car entertainment or navigation.  Did you really think they’d give me the keys to look inside and find out?

26The Kammback Ferrari is a bit upsetting, but not without its charms.  Note how different sources of light (natural from the left, artificial from the right) dance on the subtle creases and bends on the FF’s quarter panel.

While my friend Jeff was right about Ferraris being “the tits” for everyone, not all Ferraris are created equal.  I just wonder how the lovers/haters ratio stacks up for the FF.

Thank you all for reading, I hope you have a great week!


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Vellum Venom: 2012 Nissan Cube Mon, 08 Apr 2013 10:00:52 +0000

Haters bust out the Haterade: I mastered your drama back at the College of Creative Studies. My luxury car proposals sported stand up grilles…and why not? The (beautiful-ish) 1990 Lexus LS400 proved an upright grille happily exists on a sleek, masterfully engineered machine. But very talented, well-praised drama queens in the design studio can’t be proven wrong by a talentless schmuck. Even if they get super butthurt when your Lexian-precedent made their grandstanding look like the adolescent ranting of one unfit to judge a grade school art show…

To wit, an extreme argument: The Nissan Cube.

Not that the Cube is remotely as elegant as the original Lexus LS. But unlike the Nissan Juke, the Cube has many logical elements assembled on a boxy body.  The headlights are quite square, but with enough curves to look appealing, not upsetting.  The grille, oversized emblem notwithstanding, looks right: slots and static forms do the job.  The air slot below is another logical element.  Add the lower valence’s strong egg crate grille and you are done.

My only recommendation is to emulate the angular fog lights of the mildly redesigned, 2005 Lincoln Navigator’s fascia.


Imagine the boxy-ish fog lights making more sense with the square-ish elements in the headlights and the slotted grille. This is quite the well-designed piece. Considering the asking price, let’s assume that unique fog lights were never part of the deal.


I wish more non-Cube vehicles had lighting pods this square and logical.  Aside from the side marker lights that bulge out from the body line, these are quite elegant.


And while the lighting pods in the headlight assembly looked square from some angles, note how round they are from this angle!  This is the secret sauce of car design: the perfect balance between soft curves and hard angles.  If the rest of the Cube looked this good, we’d have a stellar machine.


Again, square and round at the same time.  It works, especially adding the depth of the recessed lighting pods in the headlight assembly.  The Nissan Cube is far from an actual cube.  It’s a seriously somewhat complex design.


This is the big problem, or the key selling feature: an upright–yet rounded–A pillar.  It’s jarring.  It’s brutal.  It’s cool and stupid at the same time.  And, after looking at the window sticker, that makes the Cube both cheap and cheerful.

On the plus side: NO DLO FAIL, SON!  Love me some logically beginning glasswork with a distinct lack of plastic triangles.


Pretty clean cowl trim.  A leaf blower will make short work of any debris stuck in these nooks and crannies, probably. Yet, like many vehicles with more concealed wiper arms, the Cube’s goods are somewhat tucked away as to not attract attention.


Unlike the Juke, the Cube has a nice ratio of bumper-to-fender real estate.  The fender does creep into the logical place for the A-pillar: that cutline should be at the base of the windshield, not several inches above.  Too bad about that.

Then again, those 4 spoke wheels are ugly as sin: static and counter-intuitive to the mission of a round element. My design school teachers insisted that 4 spoke wheels are the work of the Devil, and I agree.  Then again, they do take away from the odd A-pillar cut line.


The Cube’s biggest problems are presented here: the wavy door cutline (inappropriately showing a body contour) and a distinctly, overtly round, totally “not cube” B-pillar.


Actually the combo of round elements here (recessed into the sheet metal, much like portholes on a cruise ship) is quite beautiful.The cutline between the doors is super Cube-y rigid.  The window’s DLOs (plural) are round and quite entertaining next to the rest of the package. It’s a delicate balance, balanced.

The problems are elsewhere: and they have an adverse relationship to the B-pillar presented here.  The asymmetric C-pillars (different between Driver’s and Passenger’s side) detract from the quirky anti-Cube design.  You will see it as we progress around the Cube…and I’ll try to make it super memorable for you.


The rounded C-pillar stamping is cute if there wasn’t a gigantic DLO FAIL embodied in a plastic trim…with shockwave ripples casted into the fail.

Of course, this argument hinges on one’s approval of the Cube’s appalling boxy, top-heavy, overtly JDM space-efficient car styling.


I’ll admit that the plastic trim’s ripple effect negates the foolishness of this DLO FAIL, but it’s certainly not enough.  This is horribly ugly.  No doubt, this needs to be a quarter window instead.  Raise the base price by $50 and make it happen, Son.

Or $100. Or whatever: easy credit is flowing like cheap wine once more, just fix it. We can afford it!

So step back and look at the thing: not bad!  The wavy door cut line below the equator is only somewhat upsetting. The big DLO FAIL on the C-pillar is well, still pretty horrible.  But the stylish “I” design present in the B-pillar personifies all that’s right with the Cube: static yet quite dynamic.

And I’m lucky to have both 4-spoke wheels stopped in the same position: they look even more static when double teaming the Cube’s body.


There’s something very right about a vehicle with zero rear overhang.  Maximum space efficiency, just a little bend and stretch at the bottom for a crashworthy(?) bumper. This is a seriously cool piece of shit kit.


Turning the corner, confusion.  The elongated panel between the bumper and the tailgate looks like an afterthought.  While I didn’t have the keys to open and inspect the Cube’s door mechanism, it’s a safe bet there’s some hinge that demands a unique panel.  On a car this cheap, it’s only a mild bummer.


I like how the rear glass emulates the B-pillar’s rounded and recessed glass treatment.  It looks expensive, compared to what you normally see here. (See Scion xB).


The CHMSL gets the job done without overselling, over styling.  Nice. Too bad the rear wiper washer jet pokes out rather cheaply.


I took these pictures last July, so I forgot if this Cube has a backup camera: but this tacked-on thing looks like a backup camera. (Go ahead and Google it, show me up, etc.) On a vehicle this cheap, this is acceptable.  Like Cindy Crawford’s birthmark, it’s just a cute little bump on a cute little curve of sheet metal.

Well maybe not Cindy Crawford cute, but you catch my drift.


I like how this reflector is tucked inside the bumper cover.  It makes a unique plane within the body.  A simple, cheap and often overlooked way to add some texture on an otherwise boring and massive sheet of painted material.


Alright no more teasing: the back-end is head-scratchingly fantastic.  There’s the trim bumper with an elegant, full-width tail light treatment.  Go further up and it’s a tall JDM van-let, except with a flaw: the asymmetrical rear glass treatment.

Honestly, after months of deliberation, I don’t know if this is brilliant or idiotic.  Probably both, since I can’t take my eyes off of it. This isn’t eye-watering like a Pontiac Aztek, it’s just…profoundly interesting.


Something about the full width tail lights makes this design more cohesive and expensive: it makes up for the normally horrid feelings most of us feel about asymmetric design. It’s like Lyle Lovett and Julia Robert’s child, on wheels.


Except the Cube is kinda cute…not this.


More good design: the rear door seamlessly blends into the bumper and quarter panel.  Very trick, and a good use of minimal cut lines to carry out a particular need. Add that unique plane for the reflector light and you have something exciting, and not offensive.


And if the driver’s side of the Cube was the Lyle Lovett, the passenger side is Julia Roberts. RAWR!

Note how the C-pillar is completely encased in glass. And glass equals class.  It makes me wish the other side was this impressive.  Totally worth the extra cost, no matter what it is! (i.e., this isn’t a loss leader Versa, go ahead and ask a little more for being unique.)

Also note how the 4-spoke wheels continue to fight every damn element on the body.


While I’ve mentioned the Cube’s nice use of hard edges and soft forms, the square gas cap needs a good rounding out.  This would help accentuate the “Julia Roberts” C-pillar and it will also match the round negative area behind the door handle.  Shame.


Maybe this DLO (odd fitting black paint between two sheets of glass) isn’t as pretty as Julia Roberts, but this ain’t no Lyle Lovett.  I like how the DLO’s hard edge (Left) and round edge (Right) play with the straight-then-curve demeanor of the rear door’s cutline.  This is just car design cool.


Yes, car design cool.  Offensive? You betcha!  But, aside from the wavy door cutline (just like the driver’s side) that smears reflections (note the Versa’s wheel cover) from an unfortunate curvature, the Nissan Cube is a well-integrated design with moderate attention to detail.

At least on the Julia Roberts side. The Lyle Lovett side?  Not as much.

Thank you for reading, I hope you have a lovely week.


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 16_1 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 Rounder than expected. (photo courtesy: Sajeev Mehta) (photo courtesy: Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 49
Vellum Venom: 2012 Nissan Juke Mon, 11 Mar 2013 07:12:00 +0000 I was in a bad place about a year ago: fighting problems that resurfaced 10+ years of (secret) regret that my life at the College for Creative Studies shoulda ended differently.  But then a few silver linings showed up, motivating me to write the first installment of this series.  While I still am in (occasionally) bad places a year later, designs like the Nissan Juke keep me motivated, excited.

So, to celebrate this series’ First Anniversary: THANK YOU for letting me share my Venom. And know how much I appreciate it when you click that link:

The Nissan Juke is one of those concepts-come-to-life that did the original proud.  If the concept’s truly bizarre styling offended you, well, that’s understandable.  But remember it’s still a well sorted piece of Transportation Design kit.  The six eyes (on the hood, in the bumper, in the lower plastic valence) do offend me…in a good way.

Even though I hate the lighting pods, the multiple grille textures, and the emblem’s “U” chrome surround…I can’t help but admire it. The Juke is just so fantastically well executed.


But still, I could do without the oval grilles on the side.  The Juke is more logical and cohesive with the same “slats” of the grille’s center portion.  Plus, the oval grille casting looks cheaper than the vents in the center.


Much like the curiously placed headlights of the Rolls-Royce Phantom, the Juke uses what would make a fantastic Rally Car fog light for a head light.  Unlike the Roller, the headlight is made to dominate the bumper and grille.  It’s vulgar and beautiful at the same time.

If only the grille had the same texture: the strong linear elements of a “non-ovoid” grill would let you enjoy both the grille and the headlight far easier, with less distraction.


The swept back, lumpy and bumpy signal/marker light?  Pretty insect-like hideous, though I suspect (much like the LEAF) its shape is dictated by the wind tunnel for less wind noise around the A-pillar.  I’d prefer if this lamp assembly was flush-mounted above the grille, matching the linear tone of the center portion of the grille.  Then the Juke would look like a tall (yet right sized) Chevy Camaro. Distraction: gone!

But again, I hate yet wholly admire this element at the same time.  Argh, nothing is ever easy!


Present in the original concept, these round forms made production.  They work, unlike the ovals that dominate the grille.  And looky here: those be the real fog lights, too!


Perhaps if these were the only set of “eyes” on the front end, but since there’s another set of headlights and foglights…no. Too polarizing.

Except polarizing is often a good thing.  Especially when it comes to the Juke.


The windshield/cowl/wiper trim is very well executed: clean and elegantly tucked under the painted hood.  That’s the perk of a vehicle with a retro-sized windscreen, I suppose.


What did I say about a retro-sized windscreen?  Apparently the people who made the roof expected it to go up further: the glass’ natural end point is where the A-pillar turns into a flat roof,  instead we get a “bendy” roof.  Which is truly odd.


Speaking of, the bumper-to-fender crease isn’t especially logical. This is an unfortunate by-product of making a radical concept car come to life, cost effectively.  My suggestion?

Perhaps if that crease started at the trailing edge of the grille instead of some random point at the light.  The hood-to-fender has a similar problem: it should start from the top of the light assembly and end at the base of the A-pillar.

Why did Nissan make the least flowing, smallest possible fender?  Cost effectiveness, insurance repair concerns…or both. Sad.


If the fender was allowed more real estate on this form, the Juke would be a far prettier vehicle.  Or perhaps it’s just best in a panel-hiding black.  No matter, look at those fender haunches, front and rear!  What a quirky and fun design!

(That you must love even if you hate it.)


Note the lack of a black plastic triangle aimed to lengthen the greenhouse (DLO FAIL) on the Juke.  This rig is happy being in the dimensions bestowed upon it.  But while the fender was shrunken elsewhere, it creeps up the A-pillar?  I’d prefer if that fender-to-A pillar seam began at the base of the DLO…


The window weatherstrip smeared over the B-pillar is impossible not to fiddle with.  Good thing I didn’t have an X-ACTO knife handy.


Short wheelbase.  Impossibly short overhangs at each corner. Tall roof that immediately sweeps down. Oversized wheel flares.  Volvo like hatchback design. This rig is just plain cool, even if you’d never buy it. Or would you?

That “slopey” roof just does it for me.  What a fantastic design element!!!


I’ve enjoyed door handles blended into a vehicle’s greenhouse ever since the introduction of the GM-10 Coupes, even if they are magnets for scratches in a super visible place.  Combined with the little black plastic triangle of DLO FAIL in the C-pillar, perhaps it doesn’t work here.  I’d suggest eliminating the DLO fail and making the rear door end in a voluptuous curve instead.  There’s no need for a curvy triangle of FAIL if the door was rounded from the git-go.

While it’s always important to have a blend of hard bends and soft contours, the mix here is off.  Round off the door to match the “thrusting arch” of the wheel wells, eliminate the DLO FAIL and call it a day.


Can you imagine this body if the rear door ended with something as round as these fender haunches?


Here’s a close up of the DLO FAIL so you can imagine a rounded rear door that could eliminate this.


The rounded curves (and inward bending of the body) adds a bit of needed surface tension to the Juke’s very tall profile.  Note the wave in the cutline between the doors.  If that “wave” wasn’t there, this would be a boring panel.


Speaking of waves, the tail lights are a fantastic piece of kinetic lighting art.  Maybe the rear door’s redesigned curve should be just as radical as the lights.  Oh, and replace the dumpy square gas filler door with something as round as the back up lights, please? The natural curve of the tailgate and fender haunches demands something less static.

I wonder if it’s the same filler door as the Nissan Cube. Hmm…


Is this a Volvo or a Nissan?  No matter, this huge slice of non-functional red lense does something I thought I’d never say: be an important design element that looks better than if the same real estate was painted body color.


To my earlier point about having a blend of hard bends and soft contours, the Juke’s rear lights embody that belief.  There’s so much surface tension presented here!  And the way it naturally flows into the rear haunches?  Close to perfect for such a small vehicle.


Note the odd lump at the top of the roof, where it meets with the hatchback.  Considering the downward sloping roof and rather tiny rear dimensions, I suspect these “external” hinge covers are necessary.  It’s much like the bubbly roof on a Dodge Viper GTS, except the Juke didn’t make it into a noteworthy highlight.  If only it had more “oval” like qualities, like the front lower bumper valance, perhaps.


While I usually like clean and minimalist rear window wiper arms, the Juke demands something more garish and over-styled.  Too bad about that.


Tacky rear mud flaps are tacky.  Boo for the lack of integration.


The gray Juke was backed up against a brick wall, so its white neighbor will do.  While very Volvo-like, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Note how the lighting pods add excitement to the body, while complimenting the curves and cutlines: the hatchback cutline doesn’t look out of place…even if it sorta is. I’m even digging the oversized license plate mustache with the Nissan logo.  While the mustache has been done to the point of death elsewhere, it looks good on the Juke.

If only the front end’s lighting pods were as logical as the rear. Then again, the Nissan Juke is impossible to miss, and easy to appreciate. While it may never grace your parking space, it deserves your respect.

The Juke is a nice piece of Vellum, that made production without much Venom. Thank you for reading, I hope you have a wonderful week.

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2012: Year Of The Mediocre Redesign Thu, 24 Jan 2013 14:49:08 +0000

I recently rented a midsize sedan from Hertz.  Hoping for a go in the latest Fusion, I was instead placed into a new Camry, though it may have been a 2007 Camry.  Differences between the two are only discernible to Toyota engineers, though a new campaign gives dealers the ability to tell them apart using a VIN decoder and a magnifying glass.

As I was driving the new/old Camry, I realized something: the phenomenon of cars that look like older versions of themselves isn’t unique to the Camry.  In fact, I submit that 2012 was the year of the mediocre redesign.  Naturally, I have several highly anecdotal examples to back up my grandiose assertion.

Forget about the Camry.  Let’s start with the Camry’s arch-rival, the Honda Accord, which was redesigned for 2013.  Allegedly.  As far as I can tell, the only real revisions are a lane change camera that probably cost $9 from China, and new rear tail lights that cost nothing because they were designed three years ago by Hyundai.

In all the whining about the 2012 Civic, the automotive press largely failed to mention perhaps its biggest flaw: it looks exactly the same as the 2011 Civic from virtually every angle.  This is especially troubling because the previous model was such an enormous leap forward in the compact car world; something of a new refrigerator with ice in the door to a 1920s icebox.  By comparison, the 2012 Civic is a stainless steel fridge that seems new and cool until you find out it can no longer display your magnets.

While you might think it’s hard to find a car more innocuously redesigned than the Accord and Camry, that car is the new Volkswagen Beetle.  Pitched as more masculine than the old model, it’s actually exactly the same, although now it has uglier wheels.  And maybe this time the brake lights will work.

The new Silverado’s tepid redesign has already been covered all over the automotive press, so there’s no need to mention it here.  Of course, that won’t stop me from doing it anyway.  The most important point is that I was wrong in an earlier article when I said the Silverado has no new engines.  In fact, Chevrolet is replacing last year’s 4.3-liter V6, 5.3-liter V8 and 6.2-liter V8 with a new 4.3-liter V6, 5.3-liter V8 and 6.2-liter V8.  In other words, the engines are getting the same “redesign” as the truck.

Meanwhile, Land Rover followed up its highly successful third-generation Range Rover with a beautifully-redesigned fourth-generation model: the 2012 Ford Explorer.

While the latest BMW 3- and 5-Series models are very different from their predecessors, they’re now identical to each other.  Based on my real-world driving experiences, turn signals remain a very unpopular option on both cars.

After seven years, Porsche customers finally laid their eyes on the new 911, only to discover it looks just like the old 911 except with entire paragraphs spelled out on the back.  Of course, the evolutionary 911 never changes much; instead it simply grows larger, wider, and more powerful with each passing year.  Kind of like Warren Buffett.  And like a share of Berkshire A, it also keeps getting more expensive.

It wasn’t just lookalike styling that made 2012 redesigns mediocre.  The Nissan Pathfinder traded its trademark towing capacity for bland lines.  The Acura RLX traded bland lines for even blander ones.  And the Cadillac XTS traded lethargic engines and front-wheel drive architecture for … lethargic engines and front-wheel drive architecture.  But without bland lines.

From the above, you might get the impression that I think all 2012 redesigns were bad.  That’s not the case.  From Escape to Fusion, Ford stands out as the carmaker that’s done a tremendous job this year with clean-sheet redesigns.  You’ll agree the next time you go to Hertz.  Unless they give you a Camry.


 Doug DeMuro operates He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, roadtripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute laptime on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta.  One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer.  His parents are very disappointed.


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Vellum Venom: 2003 Volkswagen Jetta (MK IV) Mon, 21 Jan 2013 13:54:50 +0000

Did you see an instant classic at last week’s Detroit Auto Show?  Maybe that new Stingray. And hearing that the first C7 Vette was on the auction block to support the College for Creative Studies made me a little proud of my former school, too.  But, aside from the always nerve-racking bus ride between CCS and Cobo Hall, my “instant classic” moment from the (1999) NAIAS was the introduction of the MK IV Jetta.  All of a sudden I couldn’t keep my eyes off of Jettas, especially a silver one in the lower hall of Cobo. And time hasn’t changed my opinion…aside from making it more extreme.


14 years later, the MK IV Jetta is still the best looking of the breed.  I sampled this from our old friend Captain Mike Solo, who apparently has a thing for VAG products.   Driving this Jetta around made me feel far superior to the current (MK VI) Jetta, and like a God among Men compared to the MK V. Just park one of these next to one of those.

How many cut lines do you see?  Not many. Because so many cut lines originate from the headlights and most are parallel to the strong grille lines, there might as well be none.  Well, at least compared to so many busy designs from the past 20 years.


The MK IV Jetta has a certain “1970s-80s clean wedge” theme about it…without being a boring wedge. Utilizing “modern” plastic casting technology for the bumpers and headlights, there is the ability to add a flair of curves and circles not seen back then.  But real subtle, never showy. This is perhaps the best of both worlds: a specific design aesthetic adapted to make a new look for a new era.


Note how the base of the headlight sweeps upward, complementing the shape of the bumper, forming the beginning of the fenders and the end of the hood’s horizontal cut line.  The “J” theme presented here is certainly the most distinctive element of the MK IV Jetta.  And damn, it’s so frickin’ beautiful.


Transposed “J” theme.  The body color grille doesn’t take away from the theme, and the power bulge in the hood is a natural extension: filling out the “shelf” of the bumper in the center. There’s another important design concept presented here: surface tension.  Never flabby or overwrought, the Jetta has acres of surface tension in its mid-sized body.


I like round headlight themes confined to square-ish headlights.  It adds excitement, without making a front end look like some sort of goofy creature with roundish, amoeba-ish eyes.  If it had the MK V’s cool VW logo in the headlight’s reflector cap, it would make the MK V Corolla Jetta a wholly extraneous design in the history of the Jetta.  Well, maybe not.


I never liked the emblem butting into the hood’s cut line.  I always wanted it straight up there, doing that with the bumper instead.  This looks like a wart, while my suggestion would be cute and cheeky.  But VW certainly doesn’t agree: this theme continued into the next two generations.  Oh well, can’t win ‘em all. Or any of them.


What do you think of the hood’s little circle of discontent? But the grille slats are very Mercedes SL like. Which is cool.


The strong parallel lines are most obvious down below. But even more surprising, the grilles look surprisingly multi-layered and expensive.  Not like the cheapy one piece units found on many cheap sedans…or the fog light assembly of the Cadillac CTS-V coupe.



The clean lines continue all the way to the front wheel. I like how the flat black lower trim visually thins the bumper.


The clean, parallel rub strip incorporates a marker light that bends and ends as a perfect compliment to the rub strip. Clean.


The “J” theme looks fantastic as you walk around the fender.  While Saturn already did this with the 1996 SL, the bumper’s cut line and gap size makes this a far nicer implementation.  And Ford aped this with their 2005 Focus…and failed.  The Jetta’s tight panel gaps and bullet like shaping trumps ‘em both.


Acres of surface tension on the hood. Note the warpage of the building’s reflection on the domed hood.  Combined with the neatly tucked away plastic cowl trim, this is such a beautifully modern and minimal design.


The base wheels are a snooze, especially how the plump spokes meet the rim.  The double-5 spoke 17″ wheels available from this era (on the VR6 model?) really added punch to the entire design.


The complex reflector design of the side marker light is hip and Euro: no wonder so many moderately aspirational people (i.e. Sorority Girls) flocked to the design.


This quirky mirror mount proves the Germans have a good sense of humor.  Not that I am laughing, I merely applaud a good zinger within a subtle statement.  Well done.


Functional and nicely tucked away door handles.  The negative area doesn’t try to impart a sense of style, it just does the job.  Which is beautiful in itself.


Wrap around door pillars need to make a comeback, even if they are harder to seal or assemble…or something.  With it, the fender, hood and A-pillar blend seamlessly (well, except for the two modest cut lines) into a green house with no non-functional plastic triangle of DLO FAIL. (daylight opening) Instead of the FAIL, there’s a cute little footprint for a sleek side view mirror. While the newest Jetta is by no means hideous from this angle, it isn’t this beautiful.

This car is a modern classic, people.  Stop and stare at one soon.


While this shot exaggerates the size of the greenhouse, there’s so much unfettered space here.  It’s delightful considering the submarine stance of most new sedans, even the latest Jetta.


Such a clean and strong B-pillar. The canted cut line looks both fast and solid at the same time.  And while newer Jettas try to hide this pillar with blackout trim, the MK IV makes it a significant styling statement.  It’s refreshing, because it doesn’t look cheap…even if it is.

Sometimes less is more…see???


The fixed rear window is necessary on the rear door, but VW wisely made the black trim hiding the runner (for the not-fixed window) as small as possible.  Apparently it needs to be a touch wider at the bottom.  Instead of fattening up the whole part, there’s a clever line added to keep your eyes on the slim and tall part, not the fatter part at the bottom.  It works, even though I have mixed feelings about that line…maybe the runner would look slender enough without it.


That’s a lot of glass.  And there’s no fake window/black plastic triangle giving the illusion that the Jetta is sleeker.  Instead, a big ass fixed window.  It looks fantastic.  Any day without the triangle of DLO FAIL is a good day.


I adore a rear door (get it?) that wraps up and over the area above the wheel arch.  It looks curvy, like the hip of a beautiful woman.  Problem is, it makes for a gigantic fixed window (or aforementioned DLO FAIL) as the moving window can’t roll down into the tire. And some people think this design makes it difficult to get in/out of a car.


I beg to differ.  While this vintage Jetta’s door is smaller than the “less sleek door” of the current model, one must remember to aim their head for the center of the interior, even if there’s a temptation to slide towards the back?  And the door makes for a good weapon, as it’s far “pointier” than a blocky door. Which isn’t a problem on the new model, but it’s also stodgy…and this is sleek.


This is just a gorgeous family sedan.  Perfect front-wheel drive proportioning and enough space for 5 non-American adults. Every line in its place, simple and pure.  Also note the low belt line where the glass and sheet metal meet.  This means that visibility is quite good in the Jetta…even with that tall and blocky butt.


Even the door molding is thin and sleek.  More parallel lines to boot.  Just a pretty design!


As mentioned two pictures ago, the green house is low and provides fantastic views of your world.  It’s in stark contrast to the short and fast rear window, which is commonplace in today’s vehicles.  This dichotomy is a blend of past and present.  It’s a fantastic transition, I believe it shows the evolution of passenger car design.  And, for the love of all that’s right with car design, it needs to come back to we can have our visibility again!


More clean cut lines around back, and there’s something unique about the tail light texture.  More on that later.


While everything is sleek and rakish elsewhere, the Jetta’s rear is tall and blocky.  Not a bad thing, if you actually use a sedan to carry people and their crap. There is still, like the front end, plenty of surface tension on this boxy butt: the crease above the license plate, the gentle curves of the bumper and the top of the trunk.  And, as always, the normal looking rub strip on the bumper is much appreciated.  Two things are still outstanding: the tail lights…and something else? Yup, the lack of a flashy tail pipe.  Who cares about pipes on a family sedan with such nice lines?  Much like the butt of the (C4) 1984 Corvette, the turn-down pipes make the exhaust essentially invisible to the casual observer, which is very cool for some designs.  Designs with C4 or MK IV Jetta levels of cleanliness deserve turn-down exhausts.


The extra trunk line (of surface tension) starts logically where the signal lights (within the entire lighting cluster) end.  There is plenty of tumblehome in the roofline, making the Jetta’s body look quite sleek for a small-ish sedan.

The MK IV’s trademark rooftop whip antenna is adorable and annoying at the same time.  Like Mr. T’s mohawk, this is an authoritative statement that also leaves the body sides uncluttered. According to the Wikipedia article on this car, there are aerodynamic advantages here too.  Which makes sense, even if I dropped out of Fluid Dynamics in college…to pursue a car design degree at CCS.  Oh boy, let’s move on to a new subject.


Okay, here’s the big thing about the taillights.  As Capt. Mike mentioned, VW went waaay out of their way to blend all the lighting elements into one form.  The yellow signal lights?  They are striped with red bands. The back up lights?  Tinted a purple-ish color.  Added to this car’s red paint, and the lenses are essentially invisible.

Which is so damn cool.  And musta cost a pretty penny too.  Too bad these tail lights didn’t make it to term with the rest of the MK IV Jetta: the clear bits added to the later lenses are likely a cost-cutting measure masked as a “product redesign.”  Or maybe I’m too much of a cynic.  Whatever.


Another cool detail: dat trunk lock cylinder.  Not resorting to an expensive sliding cover, the MK IV Jetta simply slides the lock within a perfectly sized Vee-Dub logo with black paint in the negative areas.  Damn son…THAT IS SHARP.



While not the MK IV Jetta’s finishing touch, the gas cap is a good ending to this article.  It has a logical location and remains relatively flat (not smeared on a fender flare) and purely functional.  Good design never dies, it only gets better.

The sad reality is these Jettas are far from good cars as they age: expensive and difficult to repair when fully depreciated. And now I see far too many of them in the junkyard.  Which saddens me, much like my shattered dreams as a CCS student dreaming of his career at the NAIAS many moons ago.  But that’s life, and that’s Vellum Venom.

Thank you for reading, I hope you have a wonderful week.

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Vellum Venom: Ferrari 275 GTB Tue, 25 Dec 2012 09:00:58 +0000 I apologize for torturing you, dear reader, with over-analysis of absolutely mundane machinery for far too long. I blame it on my style–or lack thereof–as a student at the College of Creative Studies.  So on Christmas Day, how about I let you in on another secret? No matter which bias (American, German, Japanese) got you into car design school, everyone loved Ferraris.  This predominantly male student body often equated a Ferrari’s universal gorgeousness with that of the female anatomy. Surprised?


Under the lenses of a design student born in the 1970s, a Ferrari of this vintage has no reference point or historical attraction.  Well, at least not a good one: I absolutely adore the 250 GTO after I purchased the 1:18th scale Bburago model when I was a child. Compared to the long, low and mean 250 GTO built solely for race homologation, the 275 GTB looks cute, soft and distinctly Miata like.

Is comparing the 275 GTB to the 250 GTO a fool’s errand?  Perhaps. 

It needs to lose a good 20 lbs in the face. The headlight buckets are too big for the lights themselves.  The fenders are fat with no toned muscles underneath. Worst of all, the transition from front fascia, hood, hood bulge, and fenders lack definition stemming from toned, muscular stampings.  What you see here is just plain fat.


No flab and lack of definition here.  The egg crate grille that’s a Ferrari hallmark looks mighty tasty from here.  Nicely sunken in with a deep chrome lip around it.  The craftsmanship is stunning in person. Plus, exposed mechanical bits are cool.  I’m digging the easy-access radiator cap, but I trying it is probably a bad idea at a Fezza dealership.


The 275′s overt roundness isn’t so obvious when you focus on the middle, without the headlights and the fenders.  But even here, compared to the 250, the hood has round cut lines that accentuate the chubbiness.  With so many round lines, the square hood mohawk in the center has no complimentary forms to blend with.  This one bit of toned muscle needs some “friends” on the rest of the 275′s face.


While there’s too much round elsewhere, the very bulbous windscreen is a work of art.  Visibility must be pretty fantastic inside there.


See how the toned and “muscular” roundness of the headlight itself makes no sense in the fat, amorphic blob of its oval case?  Yes, things like this keep me awake at night.


Well it looks better from this angle.  But still, if the middle of this oval was sucked in a touch like duckface on some chick’s profile pic on twitter, the Ferrari would look much longer, lower and sexier.  Not that duckface is sexy…


And yes, the 275 GTB has a lot of length to promote.  Why not suck the lense in to highlight this car’s fantastic proportions?  This isn’t a CUV that needs to mask all its heft with eye-catching headlight amoebas!

I once said “a Ferrari is whatever the hell Pininfarina says it is” in my Testarossa review…now watch me back pedal.


Perhaps not everything is fat and/or chubby on the 275.  The thin, delicate space between the headlight and chrome wisp of bumper is very elegant.  And taut.  Muscular, with the frenched-in signal light.  How lovely!


The fender starts to look a little plump here, but that teardrop-shaped turn signal is absolutely fantastic.  Considering this is the perfect aerodynamic shape found in nature, why don’t we have more side marker lights looking like this? The imagery, complete with that delicate chrome foundation, is fantastic.


The 275′s round and chunky face translates into a rather tall and blocky side profile.  Is it possible to have too much dash-to-axle ratio (i.e. that space between the front wheel and the A-pillar) when the fender tops are so high off the ground? Compounding the problem is that insanely laid back, thin and fast A-pillar. The roof doesn’t match the fender’s proportions.


I suspect that mere millimeters separate the heights/curves of the 275 to the 250 GTO (and the Jaguar E-Type) it only takes a few subtle changes in dimensions to turn a sexy sports car into a chubby wannabe.  The 275 is unquestionably cute, and certainly an excellent Ferrari. But I still long for more…perhaps Chris Bangle needs to flame surface this to add some excitement and thin down the bulk?

On the plus side, peep that massive stretch between the beginning of the door and the beginning of the A-pillar. It’s grotesquely unnecessary, and I like that.  If only the glass to body ratio was a little better: the door is super tall, round and massive: not a proto-Chrysler 300 by any stretch, but it’s too much red paint and not enough glass.


To my point about paint vs. glass, imagine how sexy the 275 could be if the red paint below was 1-2″ shorter in height? Course, that would probably be the Ferrari 250 LM.  So that’s already been done. And this isn’t exactly a race car, even if it’s trying to look like one.


Look at those massive sidewalls! How I long for the day when we can have a little more rubber…not this much, but you see my point.

This 275 didn’t come with the wire wheels, which is a bit of a shame.  I’ll assume these rims are a lightweight alloy casting far superior to the wires, but they look like the dumpy steelies on a 1980′s econobox.  Do you think these wheels aged well over time?


The Ferrari hub is certainly cool, even if it looks out-of-place on a wheel you’d expect on a Hyundai Excel. I admit this critique is unfair to the era of this vehicle’s engineering, but hey, history can be cruel. And people write on blogs for a reason…probably.



There’s something universally perfect about this A-pillar shot here.  It could be an older Ferrari, or an early Porsche 911…or maybe a the beginnings of the Ford Mustang?  Read on…


Oh yes!  The other side of the door shows a bit of why the 1965 Ford Mustang fastback is such a hot commodity: Ferrari’s classic styling makes for the Perfect Pony Car.  Not to take away from the beauty pictured above, just adding a little context into why this is beautiful.  And why you like it.



Because, without a doubt, this is a gorgeous greenhouse.  The tumblehome, the inward taper of the glass as it nears the “B” pillar, the body’s “hip” below the B-pillar, the scoops, and the eyebrow of the rain gutter is timeless, priceless.


Maybe the rain gutter is a bit too angular and ends rather abruptly.  It should follow the edge of the glass like that Fastback Mustang.


Yup, this is the real reason “we” love Fastback Mustangs. See how the round curves below logically extend into a taut, fit B-pillar that’s so faaaaast?  And just to keep the pillar from being flat and dull, there are three vent cut outs to add some excitement.  Is the excitement necessary?  Perhaps its a bit much.



Round curves and taut straight lines in perfect harmony.  If only the front fenders, hood and fascia had this magic blend of perfection.  As a bonus, the 275 looks much shorter/sleeker from this angle!


Oh yeah! Flat and muscular merges with fat (PHAT?) and curvy so perfectly.  The rear wheel arches just add to the sexiness as the B-pillar extends waaaay back here.


I love the sleek, pure yet functional design of these trunk hinges.


Oh wow, it even has a rear window defogger!


The trunk sports a logical cut line, ending at the base of the dovetail spoiler. The thin, body-hugging chrome bumper looks more than integral with the design: it looks necessary.  Add the period correct tailpipes and the 275 looks mighty smart from this angle.


Doesn’t the bright work say it all?  The nicely chiseled butt, slick spoiler (eat your heart out, 1970s Camaro) and unadorned rear sheet metal is pure Italian design goodness.


Is this too boring?  Maybe more tail lights would help, but then it’d look more like a Corvette.  Add a license plate and call it done: this is a pretty posterior.


The reflector pattern in the stop/signal lights is pretty 1960s groovy.  Compare that to the loony CGI inspired designs of modern lights and we see how design changes with technology over time.


And the license plate lights are a neat bit of kit.  They look far better on the bumper than as warts on the rear end.


Too bad this isn’t a one piece bumper!  But if you have to go multiple parts, the fit and finish of the 275′s bumper is very well executed.


But why fall in love with the 275 GTB when you can gawk at her hotter, more mature sister called 250 GTO? Okay, I know this is unfair to the 275 for several reasons, but just look at this beast!

Thanks for reading, have a very Merry Christmas.


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Vellum Venom: 2012 Lincoln MKX Mon, 10 Dec 2012 15:27:39 +0000 One thing that really burned me about design school: when a student applied their talent outside of their comfort zone, subsequently ruining a famous bodystyle, make or model.  Hey, I’m guilty of it too. VERY guilty. But a foolish, ignorant student at the College for Creative Studies is one thing, getting paid by the manufacturer of said brand is a whole ‘nother.  And while the original, JFK-Continental infused, Lincoln MKX wasn’t far removed from the Ford Edge from whence it came, the redesign takes what was once a solid reinterpretation of the Lincoln brand and well…completely screwed it up.

Again…ever since the Mitsubishi Diamante face of the Lincoln LS, that is.  Let’s get this over with.

Like most all new Lincolns, the MKX has way too much width in the grille and not enough in the painted bumper and/or the lighting pods. While the strong center Mohawk hood crease, slender headlights and cohesive chrome valence (lower bumper treatment) look clean and logical enough, the face isn’t friendly to the CUV’s gigantic real estate.  The original Aviator/MKX design looked JFK-sleek and off-road friendly at the same time: it was pudgy like a proper CUV (so to speak) and had enough brand recognition bling to make it work.

BTW: if you’re upset that I kept dealership’s advertising present, don’t worry: Southwest Lincoln (Mercury) closed this year after being in business since 1966.  Owned by the same person that owned the Houston Oilers, “SWLM” was a fixture in Southwest Houston.  But it, much like the Lincoln brand AND the Houston Oilers, was left for scrap.  At least the Houston Texans don’t suck this season. But I digress.


Another reason why big grilles are a bad, bad idea: they cannot be functional.  When 30+% of the krill-filtering teeth don’t even feed this whale, the designers at Lincoln completely screwed up. This looks Tupperware Pontiac Grand Prix cheap. I wonder how the new MKZ will fare from this angle.


Which is a shame, because the intersection of so many fast lines looks absolutely fantastic up close.  If only this was on something Lincoln Town Car sized, especially in the height department.


Too bad I knelt to look at that valence.  The chrome is fine, but the oversized black trimming around the fog light is a poor (literally) way to integrate a round element into the chrome rhombus-thingie.  And there’s ANOTHER solid plastic grille…why? Attention to detail: not present.


Then again…imagine this pointy profile on a Mustang chassis!  Oh my, I’m feelin’ a little faint!


Another problem with the MKX’s redesign: round fenders on a blocky body, complete with a round crease above the wheel that has to meet up with the original’s hard and straight line from the door and back to the end of the body.  Much like a child hammering a round peg in a square hole, the designers are trying to take Lincoln’s latest design direction on the angular wedge that is the Ford Edge.  It isn’t called an “Edge” for no reason, Son!


Here’s a close up of the round element trying to seamlessly blend into the straight line crease of the Ford Edge.  It’s hideously flabby in its undefined and timid execution, looking like a mistake from this angle. But this is no mistake. Neither is the MKX’s fake fender vent appliqué in the shape of the Continental Star.  And there’s a wonderful black plastic triangle of DLO FAIL with chrome trimming up top, but more on that in the next photo.


The fender extends into logical places for both the door and the A-pillar. And because it does, there’s that black plastic DLO FAIL triangle, trying its best to make the MKX appear sleeker/longer/faster than it is…or ever could be.  I doubt the MKX was ever a credible sales threat to the Lexus RX, and here’s one reason why: the RX is so much prettier with more glass and none of the DLO FAIL.


At least this side marker light in the mirror housing looks pretty trick.  I wonder if they’d fit on a Lincoln Town Car, I’m sure they’d love to “escape” the MKX (get it?) for a proper Lincoln.


Lincoln’s signature keyless entry pad is a slapped on afterthought-like on the MKX, since this is an older design that was heavily based on the Ford Edge.  While this was acceptable in the 1980s with the fox body Lincoln Mark VII, it’s still a shame: the fox body Lincoln Continental had the keypad mounted flush with the aluminum trim around the base of the window. So while we love to complain about Lincoln’s current problems, they’ve been battling this since at least the 1980s.  Too bad about that.


Well, at least the detailing on the panoramic roof is pretty cool.  I like this lip spoiler looking thing…the entire roof panel of the MKX looks pretty sleek.



We used to live on the Edge, until someone heated the MKX’s front fascia and lightly smashed it into a brick wall.  The front end’s ripple makes absolutely no sense with the other 3/4′s of the MKX’s body.  This CUV is another tragic victim of Lincoln’s inability to stick with a design theme.  Or make a cohesive theme.  Or perhaps both.


But the wheels (photographed on another MKX on the lot) are pretty tasty.  Lincoln’s had a bad habit of writing “LINCOLN” in huge lettering around the hubcap, not present here.  I guess nobody’s gonna mistake this one for a Honda, so the letters got the boot.


Even worse, they ruined the original MKX’s taillight treatment too!  Sporting a proper full-width treatment that was impossible to mistake at night, the MKX used to be a catchy design.  With these two amoebas on the tailgate, all that brand equity was flushed down the toilet.  For what reason? The MKT has the same goofy nose with a somewhat sane full-width taillight…why on earth can’t the MKX have the same thing, too?


The new reflector treatment is certainly catchier than the last one.  If only the outgoing model’s dimensionally correct tail light had these inside instead. It would be a logical and proper upgrade for the Lincoln brand.  It would signify the product renaissance Ford says is right around the corner.  Instead, they blanded up the rear end, generic to death.  But at least the chrome inside them is sweet!


Nice afterthought backup camera. Instead of integrating/hiding this in some other element like so many other luxury vehicles, Lincoln seemingly had no choice but to make a new plastic part, slap a logo and a camera in it. I think a camera integrated into the FULL WIDTH TAIL LIGHT of the original MKX would be pretty nice.


How is this a Lincoln?  More chrome than the outgoing MKX? This new tailgate is, without question, a huge step backward for the brand.


Where did it all go wrong?  While I love my Mark VIII, it’s far from a perfect design, and didn’t sell terribly well.  Could Lincoln’s fear of getting stagnant be the reason why we are in our current MK-Hell? I doubt it.  While the personal luxury coupe market dried up in the 1990s, I still get compliments on what a “Great New Lincoln that must be to own!” For real. In my dentist’s parking lot last year, to be precise.

Wanna know the funny part? Comments like that turn my car into a Halo Vehicle in consideration of new Lincoln vehicles in this town.  A Dodge Viper with a fake spare tire hump. Believe that.

And why the hell not? From that long, sleek nose to the short and low rear deck with integral Continental kit, the Mark VIII paid homage to Edsel Ford’s original Continental coupe while still looking like a new car. Is there a lesson to be learned here?

Thanks for reading, you have a fantastic week!

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Vellum Venom: 2012 Honda Civic (Hybrid) Fri, 30 Nov 2012 19:19:12 +0000 Sometimes promises are kept in the car design biz: the 2013 Civic sounds like a big step up from this 2012 model. Which was a big step down from the ’70s concept car chic of the 8th generation Civic. Aside from Wayne Cherry’s professional nightmare, how often does a manufacturer make such significant changes after one year of production?  This model insulted more than one autojourno and countless fanbois, apparently Honda doesn’t mess around when reputation and $$$ are on the line.  But just how bad was it in 2012? What in the hell is that?

The 8th generation Civic’s bumpers had a flat and clean, 1970s People Mover vibe to it. Radical yes, but not offensive. The 9th Gen’s redesign added lumps and bumps to the bumper, with the aesthetic pleasure of a pear-shaped silhouette. Adding insult to injury, all the folds and unique planes on the bumper’s face. This nose doesn’t work on a body this tall and, um, People Mover like.


The pear shape isn’t obvious from this angle.  Aside from the blocky-cheapness of the grille (even in fancy Hybrid trim), the Civic looks okay from here.  A perfectly flat nose (without the high point for the license plate) woulda been nicer, however.


This is a good time to mention that I gladly put my fingers in strange holes for TTAC’s readership. And, that solid casting behind the logo looks even cheaper in real life.  Shouldn’t Hybrids have a flat, solid badge for better aerodynamics?


This blue strip of Hybrid Snobbery is kinda cool.  First green was marketed for unique Hybrid markings, now blue. Which any luck, we will see more brown hues taking over in the Eco-Friendly color challenge.  After all, isn’t the earth mostly made of brown stuff?  There’s just a lot of green and blue on top of the chocolatey goodness!


While I’m all for unique trimmings on unique models, this blue lightbulb umbrella is a bit much.  Anodized(?) blue on a cheap metal stamping doesn’t look better, it accentuates something that’s better left in chrome camouflage. The only thing worse would be my brown remark from above, translated here.


If there was no fender flare, no pear shape to the bumper, this would be a decent enough looking machine. Then again, the 8th Gen Civic already had that covered. Much like the awful Chevy Uplander (CUV-wannabe) to the mediocre Chevy Venture (Minivan) that came before it, sometimes change is a very bad, very half-assed thing indeed.


On the plus side, the plane of the bumper that flows into the headlight is pretty cool from here.  And the bumper to fender seam is logical. There’s a bit of the 1970s wedgy perfection here.  Just not enough of it.


The 9th Gen Hybrid wheels are as contrived and overwrought as the front end.  The 8th Gen’s totally futuristic wheels were so much better.


Contrary to most cab-forward designs, the Civic’s plastic trim on the cowl is quite minimal and clean.  It’s nice to see more painted hood and less black plastic in this manner.


Too bad about this slab of plastic.  The Daylight Opening (DLO) of the 9th Gen is so, so much worse than the 8th Gen.  What used to be a cool ’70s people mover with those sleek bits of glass in front of the door turned into plastic triangles of DLO FAIL.  It’s very sad to see Honda go to Pontiac Aztek levels of cheapness in their quest to…well, I have no idea what they were thinking.

That’s right, they were thinking about the $$$.  And since the 2013 model still has the plastic triangles of DLO FAIL, we see that it’s still all about the money. Ain’t a damn thing funny!


DLO FAIL from another angle, complete with round-ish mirrors that fight the very wedgy greenhouse.  Remember when Honda spent the money to put covered headlights on the 3rd Generation Accord?  Oh, how the mighty have fallen.  Hyundai and Kia: the ball is in your court.


And yet, just like my review back in 2007, I still hear Jazz-Rock Fusion when I see a Civic.  The 70′s never died, it just went mainstream pop. The watered down wheel design, big hunka DLO FAIL, unnecessary muscular crease by the door handles and generic taillights don’t totally negate the wedge greenhouse. Probably.


Ack: bargain basement Hofmeister Kinkery!!! Try saying that three times fast!

Another reason to love the 8th Gen Civic.  While this isn’t DLO FAIL like the front, this cheap bit of (tacked on, not-flush fitting) trim at the end of the DLO means Honda took a page from GM’s beancounting playbook.  A very sad move indeed, son.

Since I am not one of those autojournos that gets all-expense paid trips to the LA Auto Show (sorry about that), I don’t know if the 2013 Civic improved here.  From what I see on the web, I have my doubts. Too bad about that.


Is this one piece plastic casting of parcel shelf and high-mount stop light (CHMSL) a clean and modern design, or a cheap bit from the dark days of GM and Chrysler interiors? I like carpet better, personally.


Most (all?) Civics in the history of Honda Awesomeness sported taillights that were either full width or something close to it. This cheapness is too Toyota like, and shameful.  Luckily the 2013 model goes back to a lamp arrangement befitting the brand and the Civic lineage. Now if only I knew for sure that bumper shelf below the taillights also met the chopping block for ’13.

At least you can’t see the DLO FAIL from this angle.



The strong shoulder line in this panel extends logically into the rear door.  It looks good enough, but the flat and wedgy profile of the 8th Gen was far more appealing from this angle. Mostly because it didn’t over promise on style, in an overwrought Toyota way. Hondas used to be so lithe and clean!


Thank goodness that mustache above the license plate isn’t chrome, as Honda would be just a fender ventiport away from copying every design cliché in the book! And that “shelf” at each corner really needs to go from this angle.  The pear-shaped Civic must never been seen again!


While there is an interesting dynamic of busy angles at the border of the Civic’s body, it is lumpy and frumpy.  This design will not age well.


Dare I say that, compared to what you see here, the 8th Gen Civic was downright gorgeous from this angle? While all the planes and wedges all lead to complimentary vanishing points somewhere out there in interstellar space (hopefully), there are simply far too many of them.


More blue tinting and pointless chrome bits. The lights would look better if they were flush to the body. It would also eliminate many lumps you’ve seen in the last two pictures.


And the spoiler adds a coupla more unique planes into the mix.  Just waaaay too busy.


Too many clichés, too much abandonment of what made the Civic a quality product with progressive and/or upscale design. The best thing you can say about the 2012 Civic is that the 2013 model should be in the showrooms very shortly.

Thanks for reading, you have a lovely weekend! This photo from 2006 will help.

1 1_1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 13 13_2 13_3 14 14_1 15 16 16_1 17 18 19 I DO NOT KNOW WHAT TO SAY HERE! (photo courtesy: Sajeev Mehta) WOW. 2006 Civic Hyrid. (Photo Courtesy: Honda Motor) Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail


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Vellum Venom: 2012 Dodge Avenger Tue, 27 Nov 2012 17:00:38 +0000

A sports car. A luxury car. A truck. A car for third-world nations.  And yet CCS never gave me a project that said, “lower your standards and design a great rental car” for a week of studio work.   Does anyone design anything with unloved dispensability in mind? But I see it that way: leaving the design world to (eventually) to flash my MBA with an occasional corporate trip…with the obligatory rental car.  But how pretty is the Queen?

The fleet queen that is.

Bland and chubby. The password for Dodge’s Avenger is encrypted with elements from big brother Charger, slapped on a horribly chubby and bland body.  But check out the cute little negative area for the license plate.  This car has some, uh, charming elements to it.

But I can’t stand the de-Ram’d grille and logos of the post-Bankruptcy Dodge. And the Corvette Grand Sport-esque twin red hashes by the Dodge emblem. It’s sad to see how Dodge and Ram are split up for some sort of impending fiscal cliff for the MOPAR folk.

Bear with me, because some of the subtle detailing on the headlights are quite significant, and maybe even worthy of duplication on superior vehicles. Note how the lower element is comprised entirely of signal/parking lights.  This could almost be a German vehicle from this angle.  Almost!

There is very little pointless flash on these assemblies, just a little eyebrow of “beveled irrelevance” compared to so many other foolish wastes of space…I’m looking at you, Cadillac ATS.

The bumper’s lower half has a little speed bump, giving a bit of flash for no reason.  You know, like a tunerboi body kit for damn near any import.  I’m not hatin’ because it actually looks cool.

Back up to the lights.  Note how slender and sleek the Avenger looks from here, with a gentle power dome in the hood starting from a logical place in the grille.  The sunken-in headlights are clean and beautiful. I’d eliminate the hard bend in the fender to accentuate the domed hood and minimize the cut line between the hood and fender, but that’s no deal breaker. Rental car and all that.

The shadow of the stamped-in racing stripe doesn’t work for me.  Perhaps if they ended near the two dots (windshield washer nozzles), but certainly not as it stands.

And here is why you will never like the Avenger: the headlights are HUGE!  Only from a few angles do these things squint like the glare of an angry woman. If the front clip was the size of a Dodge Stratus, everything falls naturally into a cereal bowl of nicely proportioned Rental Car Granola.  Too bad about that.

And these not-quite-split 5 spoke wheels are so vanilla that I long for the days of generic rental car hub caps.  Here are plenty of hard edges with no soft contours to add excitement.  The spokes’ overzealous negative area in the rim is too much, but luckily the wheel weight covers one of the offending lines.  And why the chrome center cap?

Whoa dude. NO DLO FAIL. I’m starting to like this machine more than most of its competitors.

Seriously, how frickin’ hard is it to make shit like this on EVERY CAR? Logical, clean and lacking idiotic plastic filler panels to give the illusion of speed and pretension.

The cowl is both clean, skinny and minimal on bends and baubles, too.  I suspect this is another positive byproduct of not having a roof so fast as to encourage DLO fail.

The side-view mirror is recessed in a trick sheet metal stamping around the windows.   This is a logical, cheap and beautiful way to make a greenhouse with…once more…NO DLO FAIL.

Too bad about the floating, trim-less glass and the black rain gutter that ends so cheaply at the top of the windscreen.  While the Avenger is perfectly quiet and comfortable at speed, this looks like a magnet for wind noise.

From the bottom cut line of the doors, you can see a little taper at the bottom of the body.  It looks interesting, if not exciting. The blocky door handles don’t try to be wispy, frou-frou and flashy…and it works.

Black trim on the B-pillars when Chrysler coulda easily left them body color and saved a few pennies. Very nice.  With tinted windows, the Avenger’s greenhouse looks almost pretty.

Okay, so maybe this black b-pillar decal isn’t the highest quality of trim. On many other sedans, this area sports black plastic covers instead of tape. Bummer.

Oh man, that’s a fat, fat hunk of rear door.  Things aren’t looking good for the Avenger.

There’s nothing terribly wrong with the intended greenhouse design, if this was applied to the Dodge Charger instead.  And while the Charger is far from a sleek and sexy C-pillar on a slender body, it isn’t nearly this horrifying. The hard points needed for the C-pillar/Quarter Panel/Rear Door means a ridiculously vertical cut line for the door. Add the flowing glass, round gas cap and the door’s line doesn’t flow…and it doesn’t work.

Those unbelievably timid wheels don’t help, either.

If the vanishing point for the door cut line ended about a 1/2 inch forward, there’d be some rake from this angle.  And the Avenger would look better.

And while the Avenger’s rear greenhouse doesn’t have DLO fail like that of a Chevy Cruze, they had to have this big plastic filler panel…probably so the glass was the right size to roll down the door.  Visualize this design with a fixed vent window instead and things don’t get much better…a solid piece of glass is necessary to give that Charger-esque look.  I feel the designers didn’t have a choice here.

The little black plastic triangle of DLO fail outside turns into some hideous thing you always see when backing out of the airport parking lot.  Very sad.

Then again, you can make this look beautiful.  And the Avenger has some rather flowing lines. Note the gentle crease on the C-pillar near the rear window, and the strong shoulder-line from the base of the rear window that extends into the rear door.  On a shorter car with a little more wheelbase, this would be absolutely stunning.

There’s a reasonable amount of tumblehome too, accentuated by the strong shoulder line mentioned above.  Very cool.  Everything looks even “faster” when adding the divot-and-dip of the decklid.  Provided you don’t step back a foot, and remember this is a tall and dorky rental car.

That floating glass and poorly integrated rain gutter are back again on the Avenger’s hindquarters.

The tip of the decklid tapers in a bit, making for a larger gap at the end.  Not cool.

There she is, in all her rental car beauty.  Like mentioned before, this greenhouse would look so good with more wheelbase and MUCH less height.  Again, superimpose the silhouette of the Dodge Stratus, force that on the Avenger’s design elements and you’ll find the silver lining here.

Wait, can such a silver lining exist?

A very tall and stubby back end.  But there’s something hunky and chunky about the taper of the lights, slope of the decklid and chisels in the bumper. It’s a Dodge, not a Toyota!

Too tall and too much bumper!  I also wish the tail lights had two bright circular elements per corner, to emulate the front end’s headlights. Yes, the brake lights are a happy quartet, but there’s only one pair of white pimples.

I know that computer assisted design and awesome modern plastic casting techniques make seriously complicated stuff, but the Gatling gun look in automotive lighting pods must die a painful death…perhaps with Gatling guns?

But every car needs disco ball back up lights!  DISCO BALL BACKIN’ THAT AZZ UP!

Unlike the last gen Toyota Camry, these emblems look rather fantastic up close: providing contrast to the corners/edges/bends in the white paint, but they are otherwise lost on a gigantic ass when you step back. Too bad about that.

The modest black trim on the rear bumper is actually quite appealing, if the painted bumper above didn’t completely drown it out.  Someone please take 2-3 inches out of the Avenger’s mid section!

Something about the manual release gas cap finger divot is both cheap and cheerful at the same time. It’s not pretty, but it gets the job done for not much cash.  Kind of like IKEA, but without the insane assembly time and those carts that won’t go all the way to your vehicle’s butt in the loading zone.

Thank you for reading, I hope you have a fantastic week!

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 12_1 14 15 16 17 17_1 18 19 19_1 19_2 20 21 22 23 24 25 25_1 25_2 25_3 25_4 25-5 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 DSCN1938 Hertz, don't it? (photo courtesy: Sajeev Mehta) 1 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 52
Vellum Venom: 1986 Audi 4000 CS Quattro Thu, 22 Nov 2012 05:05:17 +0000 Some designs are perfect in their initial run, others need a mid-cycle rethink to make ‘em sing. The 4000 is the latter: cost effectively ushering a new era of modern and luxurious Industrial Design for Audi.  I loved the styling, but a classmate at CCS showed me the light: he was an SCCA racer with a similar CS Quattro in the dorm’s parking lot. And while CCS was a total bummer at times, we enjoyed the 4000 in the horrible winter weather around Metro Detroit. Especially at one of our favorite hangouts: Belle Isle.  At night. In a 4000 CS Quattro. Oh hell yes.


Belle Isle sans sunlight is a scary place for most Detroiters, but many a CCS student knew this was the place to enjoy your machine.  But those days are gone, and I believe the 4000 CS Quattro that I adored found a new owner in Denver about 8 years ago.  Perhaps Murilee will see it soon in the junkyard.

Now this particular 4000 belongs to the somewhat-famous Tony Hoffman, a true genius when it comes to anything VAG related. It is his daily driver, and it shows.  In a good way, check out those factory looking driving lights in the grille.  Problem is, those aren’t factory. But you can still see the new 4000′s nicer bumper, made from fewer offending parts compared to the original 4000.  And the Euro-like headlights that finally made it into production!  It’s a big change from the last 4000 in this series.


Oops, missing reflectors in the bumper, too. But you can see the Audi 5000′s design DNA in the lights and bumpers, even if this isn’t the clean sheet re-think like the flagship Audi. The execution of Audi’s future design elements to its current platform were done fantastically well.


Okay, maybe those driving lights don’t look factory at all.  And maybe they make the Audi logo look like a kid that just bought a certain mouse-like hat at Disneyland. But the smooth bumper finally lets the 4000′s clean lines shine.  I love how the fender, hood, signal lights and headlights all share common cut lines. And how the bumper’s curvature matches that of the hood.


Trying to look like the big brother 5000, this 4000 is certainly a serious entry into the mid-luxury Yuppie market of the 1980s.  Wrap around lights that match the bumper curve for curve? Check.  All front end lines share the same vanishing point?  Check. Too bad the lower light/grille trim is missing, but sometimes I must photograph whatever comes my way.


Unlike the previous 4000′s Tupperware trimmings, this upper bumper trim is a small aluminum strip. And while the connection points are a little crude by today’s standards, this is a wonderful upgrade.


And no center trim buckle here!  Big step up from the original 4000.


I still feel the front end is too thick, static and stodgy from this angle.  If only there was more taper up front so the fender would look “faster” from front to back.


Still an odd mis-mash of seams, but the 4000 was not designed with an Audi 5000 budget in mind.


The front end’s taper looks better from here.  Perhaps the hard-line in the fender (by the hood and up against the headlights) is the only static part that “slows” down the package. And the bumper’s side protection finally looks like a proper Yuppiemobile. Integration at its finest, topped with a layer of aluminum icing.


And the superior bumper-age of the redesigned 4000 continues to the upscale side protection.  Very clean, very Audi and very 1980s.


Yes Tony’s car is rough around the edges.  But the wedgy edges of this fantastic design remain.  Compared to the original 4000′s comprised mouldings, these are superior for many reasons.  One: fancy Audi emblem, instead of a plastic casting.  Two: they cover the lumpy sheetmetal bend and smooth out the lower half of the body, while the older model’s trim was slapped on below the bend.  Three: the negative area for the door moulding to clear the fender is almost invisible. Four: more snazzy aluminum trim.


Okay, perhaps the mouldings are a little too shallow: witness the exposed sheet metal on the doors.  But this certainly helps remove the negative area’s bulk on the rubber, and this is still a huge improvement over the outgoing 4000.


Yes, these mouldings are a work of art on a rather unappealing bend.  All of a sudden, form and function meet, fall in love and get married.


The lower trim panel integrates all of the body’s elements into a nice foundation to hug the earth.


Step back and see what I’m talkin’ about.  With the 4000′s redesign, the whole becomes more integrated, focused on the taut lines of the midsection.  Smooth bumpers keep you away from the corners and the strong horizontal lines in the midsection (mouldings) accentuate the harmony and cleanliness of the aerodynamic wedge styling that was so common in high-class vehicles of the 1980s.


Yes, 4000′s refinement is present: an executive sedan if you want the finer things in life without trying too hard (Mercedes, BMW), without being stodgy (Cadillac and Lincoln) and without being screwball weird (SAAB, Volvo).  All lines are in harmony, all in the right place.

Man, what an amazing piece of work for a mid-cycle refresh.


Now perhaps the moulding is too thick for such a small and tall platform.  It does take away from the clean door cutlines and flowing DLO of the Hofmeister Kink-infused greenhouse. But the moulding’s proportioning is respectful to the rest of the package, so it works.


The front doors are vent window free, unlike most of the earlier 4000s (except for the LE model reviewed last time).  So the look is far cleaner, thanks to one less static line thrown into the mix.


While I love “quattro” props as much as the other guy, this one gets too close to the edges of the glass.  I’d shrink it down a good inch or so.  No need to overdo it, we all know that Quattro Audis totally rock.


Such a clean door cut line.  Such an open and exciting greenhouse.  Exciting?  Well, perhaps I’ve been punished by too many Chrysler 300s…and 300 wannabes.


And the rear bumper!  Oh my!  So clean and so elegant.  We gotta do something about Tony’s love of Audi decals, but the redesigned tail lights and that bumper clean up the 4000, taking it to a new level of snobbery.


There’s a strong sense of Audi 5000 here.  And it gets better the farther you go ’round back.



This isn’t the only 4000 that cracks the (non-functional) lense in this spot. One of my first H-town junkyard trips after I left CCS was to get a replacement for my buddy’s 4000 back in Detroit.  Like most modern/minimalistic art, cars from the 1980s let pure design elements take up a lot of real estate.  Clownish license plate chrome mustaches would be laughed out of town, as lighting pods get center stage.  Think new Dodge Charger, for example.


While this treatment looked far more elegant on the larger 5000, these lights filled up a lot of undefined space from the old 4000.  And that undefined sheet metal clouded the purity of this body’s design.  Clear, logical and minimalistic lenses were a great upgrade.


This looks like a far, far more expensive car than the original 4000.


Just because the lights are minimal does NOT mean they are simple.  Look at the casting work involved to flush them against the license plate.  This couldn’t be cheap back in the days of Atari 2600 technology. Plus, it’s lovely.


And the “quattro” badge reminds all why something this beautiful costs more than a, uh, Honda Accord?


Just like the outgoing 4000, the spoiler is too big in some places. Thin it out so the trunk lock won’t mess up the vibe.


Just like the front, there’s a modest meeting point for the aluminum trim.  Safe!


Even from down here, the bumpers are a HUGE improvement. The clean and organized plastic works well to let the lighting pods shine, so to speak.  Modern art on wheels, for the win.


“Quattro” lettering in the rear window defogger?  Not only is it nicely proportioned with the rest of the glass, it’s a somewhat subtle nod to why Audi’s are different/better than other European marques. If you disagree, fair enough. But I counter with today’s fake fender chrome/vents…and Audi’s lack of bandwagon jumping.


So don’t mess with this guy, he might be crazy enough to know what he’s doing.

When Sajeev the TTAC autojourno turns into the Indian Heritage Wearing Judge in the 24 Hours of LeMons, Tony gives me the keys to this Audi 4000 CS Quattro so I can quickly lay the hurt down on cheaty racers. This car is a joy to behold and drive. Stylistically it’s very crude compared to the Audi 5000, but it promises the same thrills of the honest and entertaining mechanicals underneath.

Happy Thanksgiving from “Indian Judge” Sajeev, and I hope you have a lovely weekend.


Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail 1 Things can only get better. (Photo Courtesy: Sajeev Mehta) finale DSCN2571 24 23 22 21 20 19 18 17 16_2 16_1 16 15_1 15 14 13 12 10 11 9_4 9_3 9_2 9_1 9 8 7 6 4_2 4_1 4 3 2 1 ]]> 24
Vellum Venom: 1984 Audi 4000 LE Mon, 12 Nov 2012 12:07:00 +0000  

One of my Automotive Design teachers at CCS made us take a personality test to determine our strengths(?) as a designer.  It was beyond stupid, or so I thought. To wit, a (paraphrased) question: do you collect old things?  The answer was supposedly neutral: no matter what you answered on this query, your overall score didn’t change.

Which is a total crock. The history of design is so very important, especially for a powerhouse like Audi. Please!

The Audi 4000 signified the impending maturity of the Audi brand in the USA. This is a design that was the harbinger of better things to come: mass appeal with aspirational appeal.  It was seen in the Audi 5000, but that’s for another day. The 1984 Audi 4000 LE is a particularly perfect example of the breed, based on rarity (less than 400 made) alone.  Add the fact that this vehicle’s owner is our own Captain Mike Solo, who visited me in Houston to pick up his impressive 4000 LE a couple of weeks ago.

Now let’s be clear on one thing: like most European iron from this era, the 4000 was a somewhat horrible bastard compared to its homemarket offering.  The Euro 4000 (called the Audi 80) wasn’t handicapped by this battering ram bumper. The nose is overly static thanks to it and the US-spec headlights drowning out the clean lines of the upper half of the fascia.

While styled by the great Giugiaro himself, he did a far better job a couple of years later making the Hyundai Excel‘s bumpers. Perhaps VW was responsible for the US-spec bumpers, and if so, my apologizes to Mr. G and his studio.

Audi fanatics shall note that the LE was front-wheel drive , but there’s a Quattro badge on the grille!  Captain Mike’s LE had front end damage, so this isn’t the original grille.  (The emblem pops off, if you really give a crap about that.)

The quad headlights look a little sleeker from the side, sunken in with a wraparound trim cover and integral reflector. And while that bumper is all kinds of big compared to the Euro 80, let’s not forget that Lincoln loving fools like yours truly sported some seriously scary battering rams on their late-70s Disco Iron.  The point: these bumpers were here for a damn good reason.

Even better, the prodigious lower valance does a good job taking your eyes away from the large bumper.  The overall look is clean, but composed of far too many pieces.

Okay, the headlights look much better from here.  But my beef of too many parts to make the whole is coming to light: the trim between the headlights and bumper exists for…what reason?The extra filler panel abruptly ends with the marker light, adding an unfortunate layer to the already huge bumper.

Is this a Renault Alliance or an Audi 4000?  There’s a reason why people can still lust after aspirational American Iron of this era: they were about the same price, and they looked like a million bucks.  A million tacky and tasteless bucks, but whatever…peep the one piece bumper of the 1980 Ford Thunderbird: hideous car, awesome bumper.

Audi wasn’t on their game just yet, unless you were looking at the Audi 5000 waiting in the wings.

The four rings are a classic design element, and isn’t it such a lovely logo on such a small grille?  Too bad about that center trim thingie!

Too bad this couldn’t be a one piece affair.  Perhaps VW didn’t have the budget to make a fancy hunk of plastic only for America?

Too many parts, too many ways to weather in the Texas sun.  A big gap near my finger, an overlapping trim piece to the left.  The team involved in the US-Federalization of the Audi 80 can’t be thrilled with the end result in the 4000.

As you turn away from the 4000′s US-spec design, the clarity of the Audi 80′s DNA starts to show.  The side marker light is too close to the fender’s subtle crease, but at least it’s a slick affair with no exposed screws.

Like a balding forehead, the upper half of the fender is too thick and static, too Datsun Maxima.  A little less sheet metal above the headlights (ramp up) would make the front a little sleeker and “speed up” the lines as the fenders go to the A-pillar.

The thinner fender at the front wouldn’t change things here, but the overall effect would be far sleeker. Also note the interesting cut line of the fender into space normally reserved for the cowl: this also helps speed up the look.

That cut line made no sense in the last photo, but here you see it blend into the base of the greenhouse’s DLO, where the side view mirror starts the rest of the design.  Logical!

When is the last time you saw a near-luxury car with exposed wiper arms?  Times have changed, for the better.

Go a little lower and examine the bodyside molding, note the large negative area needed for the rubber to clear the path of an opening door: while this is a design pet peeve of mine, the cute Audi logo cast into the space is pretty cool.  The bigger problem?  The molding doesn’t blend into the crease directly above, it adds unnecessary visual bulk by not playing nice with the sheet metal.

Yup, premium imported vehicles have come a loooong way!

Today we hate the hideous black plastic triangle of DLO fail…but the Audi 4000′s black paint doesn’t look much classier.  Why not make an integrated sideview mirror casting to eliminate this waste of space?

Step back. That’s better. The 4000′s greenhouse is large, airy and chock full of glass.  The LE went a step further, eliminating the vent windows on the front doors.  It looks fantastic, also being a hat tip to the redesigned 4000 arriving shortly. The extra window in the C-pillar isn’t a cheap addition, and the contours of the sheet metal below give the impression of more tumblehome to the roof. Epic.

The 4000 is quite a looker from here.  Long hood, short deck and a wide open greenhouse. It looks efficient and sporty.  The C-pillar is fast, but not idiotically so. The decklid’s downward taper is delicious. While Audi’s clean DNA isn’t entirely present, this is definitely not Detroit Iron…and has more logical lines and crisp contours compared to its Japanese wannabe-competitors. Slam dunk win.

Did I mention “crisp contours”?  Note the four bends in the side of the 4000′s profile.  It’s not busy, and adds style without bulk and fuss.

I really like the slender black plastic door pulls with modest chrome overlays, especially since the negative area behind them is logical, not drawing attention to itself. (I’m looking at you, Toyota Venza) And the little release lever behind the slab of plastic is pretty slick.

Until Mike informed me that these release levers break at an alarming rate.  So much for beauty and durability going hand in hand.

Look at the size of that greenhouse!  What I wouldn’t do to see such a fine ratio of glass-to-metal, and for a clean cut line between the rear door and the fender. Everything is in its right place, logically.

The recessed rim is quite a looker too.

The BMW-like Hofmeister kink in the quarter window is a nice touch, sure to upset fans of the Roundel to no end! The horizontal trim bit at the base of the C-pillar upsets me. Was there a vinyl top option I’m not aware of?

While nobody loves black plastic triangles, this one serves a purpose (rear glass movement) and has nothing to do with DLO fail. Win.

This rain gutter is such a period piece, but it’s well-integrated. I wish the front bumper was this slick. Epic win.

Clean, trim and efficient.  The rear bumper has the same deadly sins of the front, but to a lesser extent.  Maybe because there’s an offset bulky spoiler on the deck lid?

A functional gas cap with finger assist (so to speak) and a symmetrical design that isn’t smeared on one of the 4000′s many body creases. Nice.

Tumblehome aplenty.  Me likey. A lot.

I’d still like to know why this trim piece at the base of the C-pillar needs to exist.  My cockamamie vinyl top notion makes sense from this angle!

Walk up, check out those cool halo headrests for rear passengers.  Very upmarket!  And if you want to complain about the aforementioned Hofmeister kink, Captain Mike has a Complaint Department ready to “handle” your concerns.

Yes ladies, he’s single!

Back to the bumper. Just like the front, that intermediate piece between the bumper and the body isn’t an elegant solution.  I know Audi was trying to eliminate the “shelf” appearance of most big bumper’d cars from this era, but this isn’t working.  The intermediate piece’s abrupt ending looks cheap, fading to bumper level as it reaches the rear wheels would have been marginally better.  Better still, stick with the conventional bumper “shelf”.

I do like how the crease ends into nothingness before the tail light.  I just wish the amber portion of the lense used that as a start/end point.

Then again, the 50/50 distribution of amber and red looks better here.

The 4000′s butt is a bit rounder than the front.  The curvy lights give surface tension to the design, even if it’s too VW-like for my tastes. The 4000′s redesign fixed that “problem”.

Like the front end’s significant valence, the rear end’s use of body color paint below the bumper helps lean out the package.

The spoiler is a nice “cap” to the decklid, tucking around the emblems and adding a new element to a somewhat mundane rear end. From this angle it looks like a perfectly curved baseball cap on the chiseled face of a perfectly wealthy baseball player.

Too bad the spoiler is too thick for the trunk lock.  Price point be damned, the 4000 is still a small car, the spoiler needs a bit more whimsy and lightheartedness to really be a part of the whole package.

These exposed license plate lights aren’t exactly the stuff of Yuppie fantasy, but at least you don’t see any exposed screws. And the lense is nicely frenched in.  While the 4000 is a nice piece, consider it as one of the vehicles that ushered decades of unquestionable design authority from Audi. Everyone starts somewhere, and this is a damn good place to start.

And that’s the real story here.

But still: my, what a big…bumper you have!  Thanks for reading and have a fantastic week!

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