The Truth About Cars » Venom The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sat, 19 Jul 2014 17:00:13 +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 » Venom Vellum Venom: 2012 Chevrolet Cruze LTZ – RS Mon, 07 May 2012 11:11:45 +0000 Here’s the thing about design school, and designers in general: you are taught to fully express your creativity…which sounds like a great idea in theory.  In reality, there’s very little “reality” in the situation.  This is a creative art for profit, by a multinational, publicly traded corporation. Design school students frequently have to un-learn their training if they want to make the nut.

When my freshman year Transportation Design class at CCS was tasked for a third world mode for transport, the teacher chose one country in particular: India.  Luckily, since I’ve regularly visited that nation and know a tad bit more about it than most car designers…well, I thought I’d nail this one.  Because who in India (circa 1998, and still to this day) can afford a car? Rich people, not the masses with no hope of education and/or career advancement…they stick with their feet or perhaps a motorcycle.  Sad, but true.

Would a car maker risk billions in stockholder equity in making a people’s car that ignores the “vehicular reality” of a particular country?  I think not.  And well before the TATA NANO, I tried to do that: super cheap and cute/ugly design sketches designed around an aspirational point: the 4-door sedan.  And sometimes the most formal Three Box Sedan. Because when I think of pushing the envelope in terms of design culture, I think of several other democracies before India.

Unfortunately, my NANO like creations were awful in the eyes of everyone else. I wasn’t trying hard enough at all.  Which is fair, if the teacher never suggested that we research the country…socio-economic conditions make just about every piece of Design School masturbation absolutely irrelevant. And quite possibly, stupid enough to bankrupt a car maker.

You pay a driver to do things for you, would you really want to sit with him?  Absolutely not! This ain’t no damn school, this is Vellum Venom.  Case in point, the Internationally designed and suitably conservative Chevy Cruze sedan.


There are elements that work very well here, most notably the headlights’ strong “brow” against the hood and front bumper.  My problem is the corporate branding of the Chevrolet grille onto the Daewoo body: it’s so big that it crosses the natural boundary between grille and hood, giving the nose a top-heavy and tipsy appearance. Chevy’s trademark split grille needs the bowtie lowered about 3″, so the hood can “breathe” and clean up the package.

To make things worse, the grille looks even taller because it’s too narrow.  If the grille extended to the same end points as the lower valance’s grille, we’d have a far more upscale motor.  We’d have a serious threat to all those conservative Corollas. And we do want to beat the Corolla, right?


Yup, a tall and clumsy grille.  And even from this angle you see how the grille’s top-tier becomes like eyebrows on one’s face.  In the case of the Cruze, it has eyebrows attached to the top of its forehead.  And that’s just not pretty.


The eyebrow analogy not jive with you?  Well, take a gander from here.  Imagine if the grille ended at the same height of the headlights!  Wow, it’d be a beauty!


The chrome detailing on this top drawer LTZ model is pretty cool, if a bit corny and obviously tacked on.  But at this price, who cares?  It’s an eye catcher for all the right reasons.


ADHD moment: the honeycomb treatment on this signal light is quite appealing. It gets the job done without resorting to cliché over styling, which happens far too often in cars that need to look more expensive than their window sticker suggests.


Speaking of, these new Chevy badges have some great material and texture selection going on. While the camera doesn’t do it justice, it makes me more than a little proud of this brand. Ford, Honda, Toyota, Hyundai and the others all have pretty junky brand tributes in comparison.


From this angle, perhaps the grille is acceptable, but the headlights are too short. One of them needs to match the other, because the more you see of the Cruze’s side profile, the more you see a well designed compact car.


Fender. A-pillar. Door. Hood.  They all look horrible butting up to each other in this manner!  While that’s far from ideal, the black plastic triangle is just twisting the knife. I feel more venom oozing out of my wound.

Black triangle in full effect = DLO FAIL!


On the plus side, at least the triangle makes sense with the door cut line.  No wait, that’s still not acceptable. The Cruze would look upscale (so to speak) and downright lovely if the plastic side view mirror holder (and door cut line) was shaped to eliminate the triangle of DLO FAIL.


The RS appearance package is a little silly, but the stick on body-kit is far, far superior to the awful Tupperware they glue to the Corolla “S” model. Plus, I do like the upscale RS badging, even if the irony of such a boldly American trim designation used on a Daewoo design is a little depressing.

Hey wait…are those Michelins on a compact General Motors product?  Maybe the RenCen is taking the Civic and Corolla seriously this time ’round.


I do my best to avoid interior design analysis in this series, but you can see how the greenhouse complements the dashboard from this angle.  It’s very appealing from the outside, and those of us who’ve experienced the Cruze can certainly appreciate it from the inside too. Kudos to the Interior Design folks, they integrated the form very, very well.


Oh my (expletive).   The black plastic triangle shows up once again, this time trying way too hard to extend the Cruze’s DLO into the territory of a more upscale vehicle. Once again, it doesn’t work.

What was the right move?  Add a little more “hip” to the straight-edged door cut line, going up to a more hourglass shape as it reached the DLO.  From there, the rear door glass can elegantly continue the hourglass shape. The smooth curve will look good in both glass and the nearby sheet metal of the C-pillar…thus eliminating the hideous FAIL you see here.


Oh my damn…son!

They even tried to mask this triangle’s hideousness with a bit of chrome trim extension and a contrast texture in the center.  If you have to add chrome to your DLO FAIL, perhaps you are being penny wise and pound foolish. Redesign the rear door contour to make this thing unnecessary instead!

Trust me, eliminating something instead of adding chrome is far, far cheaper! Or not.


This angle normally makes the black plastic triangle look more acceptable.  But this one is so large that any angle is helpless to the cause. Ignore the impossible to close gas cap, this is a rental..and shit happens to rental cars.  Instead notice the clean, unmolested lines separated by only one hard-edged crease.

And while I nailed the CTS-V for its terrible gas cap location, the Cruze’s round door with a hard bend isn’t nearly as offensive as the slimy egg look.  Matter of fact, it’s a cool bit of surface tension.

If it wasn’t for that hideous plastic triangle, this would be an absolutely lovely machine. Of this I am certain.


From here I make another case for a shorter deck, more overhang and less of a fastback C-pillar.  This would eliminate the bumper’s “double chin” and the need for, once again, the black plastic triangle.  And I also hope that one day we don’t need chrome license plate mustaches, as they are totally played out and always look tacked-on.


The way the tail lights play into the bumper’s hard downward slope and the smart-looking cut line of the trunk is quite appealing. This isn’t an amorphous blob like so many other tail light designs in this class, it actually works very, very well!


Seriously folks, the chrome mustache needs to die a quick, yet very painful death. It looks tacky and absolutely ruins a lot of hard work done to the Cruze’s rear surfacing.   I like the extra chrome trim at the bottom, even though it reinforces the fact that this bumper is too tall…because this butt is too tall.


And I’ll let you mull over the contrast of Chevy’s somewhat famous LTZ trim level sharing real estate with the very famous RS trim level.  In the Cruze’s case, RS is just as much of an afterthought as the Corolla “S”.  And I think that’s an insult, to a certain extent.

I don’t much care for it, but perhaps someone in the B&B will prove me wrong in the comments section.


Make note: this kind of trimming is cheap and cheerful, perfect for a car in this price class. When you see gigantic hunks of plastic and/or afterthought chrome accents on vehicles costing far more than a Cruze, like perhaps a Cadillac CTS-V Coupe, it is absolutely inexcusable.  But here, yes…it should bring a smile to your face.

Because I am smiling, and you should too.

Thanks for reading. Have a great week.

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Vellum Venom: 2012 FIAT 500 Gucci Convertible Fri, 09 Mar 2012 13:39:50 +0000


Gucci is no stranger to OEM trim packages for major manufacturers. The House of Gucci originally lent its unique Italian flavor to somewhat of an Intercontinental Bastard: a leaf sprung, Chevy Nova based Cadillac with a Spanish name.

That car is the original Seville, but the 1979 model. And while hideous, the sheer audacity of the Gucci Seville puts every Seville after 1985 to shame. That’s because the second-generation (1980-1985) Cadillac Seville made for the most Gucci worthy platform on the planet. It’s Hooper body throwback design was dying for something as ludicrous as Gucci’s graphics.

But the nicest Gucci for people looking for the basics of this designer brand in a non-offensive wrapper was the 1989 Lincoln Town Car Gucci edition.  The canvas top was solid blue, white paint, and sported a very tame (by Gucci standards) leather and cloth seat design.  This car was a looker, plus the Lincoln Town Car was a machine to be respected on presence, durability and value.  Not so with any Caddy from this era, which sported powertrains about as durable as knock-offs of said designer’s handbags. The sensible Gucci?  Well, perhaps not.

But now we have the FIAT 500 Gucci. Perhaps it’s because both designs are Italian in heritage, the meeting of these two brands is rather seamless. Too bad I can’t say perfect.


The front of the new 500 is cute and pretty enough, and Gucci’s chrome bumper guards don’t necessarily add or detract from the package. From here there’s no reason to question the 500’s staying power against the MINI Cooper.


Not so as we start moving across. Note the ratio of sheet metal in the wheel arch to the wheels. Note the sheer bulkiness of the side view mirrors. This car is becoming less cute. Which is far less cool than a MINI Cooper.


Don’t get me wrong, those Gucci wheels are pure decadence and deliciousness.  And making them body color is even cooler, fashion statement wise.  The B-pillar badging is totally worth bragging about. What lets the whole package down is the fact that the FIAT 500 is taller and clumsier looking than the MINI Cooper. See that body side crease right above the door handle? If the greenhouse started there and the roof line ended accordingly, this would be a very pretty, unquestionably cute vehicle.

Instead, FIAT gave us a dumpy little crossover, an alternative to a Suzuki SX4…but only in styling terms, of course.


Once again, imagine the FIAT 500 if the crease in the middle was where the greenhouse started. We’d have a serious threat to the MINI’s lock on cuteness and fashionista approved style.


That said, the details on the FIAT 500 Gucci drop top do not disappoint. The Gucci fabric for the roof is pretty slick, even though I seriously doubt most men would publicly admit this. But it is true: so go ahead and feel good about it.


Here’s a shot of that B-pillar. Yes, it does make you feel a little more special when you enter the 500’s cabin. And that’s precisely why designer editions of regular vehicles exist!


I don’t normally want to photograph the inside of a vehicle for this series, but the Gucci’s trimmings are worth the effort. The “Double G” leather, two-tone design, Gucci stripe inserts and matching seatbelts are like nothing seen on a modern car.  In this age of boring gray, tan, black or an interesting color merely used as an accent (I’m looking at every car with brown seats but still with black carpets and dashtops) the Gucci 500’s trimmings are a serious breath of fresh air. I like it.

I suspect the polarizing nature of the Gucci combined with the Italian cute factor of the 500 make it a perfect pairing. But if only that belt line went down, since it needs that to be a beautiful car.

Put another way, I wonder what it would take to get a Gucci trimmed MINI Cooper instead. That would be a winner.

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What’s Wrong With This Picture: AC Cobra Redux Edition Fri, 19 Feb 2010 16:17:57 +0000

Other, more enthusiast-oriented blogs have already cooed approvingly at the Hennessey Venom, which is set to debut in the next several months. We take note of it only because of how familiar its formula is. Take a lightweight British roadster, slap in a fire-breathing American V8 (in this case, a 1,000 hp twin-turbo version of the Corvette ZR1′s mill), destroying the donor car’s immaculate balance and creating something that rates higher on the gee-whiz-ain’t-it-cool meter than on any remotely utilitarian measure. Sound familiar? If it doesn’t now, it might in a few decades, when Hennessey unsuccessfully attempts to sue enthusiasts who build replicas of its entirely unoriginal supercar.

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