By on April 3, 2013

When Chevrolet’s seventh son generation Corvette was introduced, many purists reacted with horror over the fact that the new car no longer has what has been traditional on Corvettes since the C2 in 1963, two round tail lights on each side. “The new ‘Vette has Camaro tail lights!” more than a few said. Though if you look at both the 2013 Camaro and the 2014 Corvette rear lamps side by side, the main similarity is that neither one of them is round. The Camaro’s are trapezoids and the Corvette’s are more parallelogram shaped. Tom Peters is in charge of design at General Motors for full size trucks and performance cars. Something that  Peters talked about on the night of the C7’s reveal and now emphasized in a video he made for Autoweek, the three dimensional shaping of the new Corvette’s tail lights, has me thinking that it wasn’t the Camaro’s back end that influenced the new ‘Vette, but rather it was the tail lights of the current Mustang.

One feature that distinguishes the latest refresh of the Ford Mustang are the deeply contoured tail lights and the way the lighting accentuates the three dimensional shape of the lamps. Matt Hardigree waxed ecstatic over them when the 2013 Mustang was first exposed in late 2011.

Car designers are a trendy bunch, in both directions. They set trends, but then they also follow them too. That’s how we get styling fads and cliches. Designers not only notice the same things that the rest of us notice, they also notice what exactly the rest of us are noticing. Their bosses notice that too.

Peters was responsible for the exterior styling on the current Camaro, but if you look at the tail lights on the current model, other than being recessed into the bodywork, the red lenses have very little three dimensional shape themselves. In the video he says that the design team wanted to take advantage of “depth of sculpture” opportunities when it came to the tail lights, as they’d done on other parts of the car.

The Mustang may have started a trend towards tail lights with more actual shape. Perhaps the Corvette team took that concept. If they did, they ran with it. The Mustang’s lights have one layer of depth, a recessed panel that lights up when the brakes are activated and the surface tail lights, which are flush to the rear panel. The Corvette’s tail lamps have a bit more complicated shape

In any case, I see only a vague family resemblance between the lights on the Camaro and those on the new Corvette. If designers, and their bosses, are as trend following as I think they are, we’re going to be seeing more and more three dimensional tail lights.

To see the “depth of sculpture” of the new Corvette taillights, the image above is a “cross eye” stereo pair that you can view in 3D without special glasses.

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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29 Comments on “Was It The Camaro That Influenced The C7 Corvette’s Tail Lights?...”

  • avatar

    “many purists reacted with horror over the fact that the new car no longer has what has been traditional on Corvettes since the C2 in 1963, two round tail lights on each side.”

    Actually, it dates to the C1 in 1961.

  • avatar

    Circle, square, squircle—whatever. That’s not the real problem with this design. The C7 needs an immediate crash re-style a’la Civic and Malibu. It is not going to age well and already looks dated.

    • 0 avatar

      Mktg Dept say: It wouldn’t look dated with a fresh set of taillights. Yes, in fact a fresh set every year methinks. And we’ll let leak out that the grotesque faceted styling is effective for evading laser and radar speed checking…

  • avatar

    Did I read that right? The same designer for “full-sized trucks and performance cars”?

    • 0 avatar

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought that.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s his title. It’s a supervisory role. I’m pretty sure that Tom didn’t draw the new Corvette or Silverado any more than Harley Earl drew the ’57 Chevy. The next time I see Peters I’ll ask him what it’s like to wear two different hats.

      • 0 avatar

        A spring is a spring, coil, leaf or torsion bar. The “leaf spring” in the Corvette acts no differently than a coil spring or a torsion bar would. As for the truck engine in the Viper, the Magnum V10 and the Viper V10 are both derived from the venerable LA V8 (273/318/340/360) V8. While the Viper and V10 Magnum may share some general architecture and geometry, I don’t believe that they share any parts. The truck engine has a cast iron block while the Viper V10 is all aluminum. I suppose that you could call the Viper V10 a “truck” engine since Dodge did put it in the Dodge Ram SRT 10 pickup.

    • 0 avatar

      What’s suprising about that, afterall the Corvette uses leaf spring suspension. The Viper used a truck engine, so what’s the big deal ?.

  • avatar

    I gotta agree with all those who feel that this car isn’t going to age well. I don’t think it’s bad looking, but it certainly seems to be over-styled. My heart keeps going back to the C5.

  • avatar

    Two taillight designs that actually catch my wife’s eye (she rarely notices cars unless they’re 60s muscle cars or designs from the 1950s or earlier) are the new Mustang (especially flashing sequentially) and the new Dodge design with the ring of lights all the way around.

    Personally with the Vette, square or round makes no difference to me, I still want to see a 3 round taillight design on top trim Impalas.

    • 0 avatar

      “I still want to see a 3 round taillight design on top trim Impalas.”


    • 0 avatar

      I got a 2012 Kona Blue Mustang GT and absolutly love it; when the 2013 came out with the different front end I thought “Thank God I got the 2012!”… until I saw the 2013 tail lights at night.

      It’s not a cheap swap but I’ll do it after I get done under the hood and the suspension… very very very sharp.

      • 0 avatar
        Vance Torino

        We’re into ’69 vs ’70 design debate here (I’m for ’70),
        but the best combo of the current 2011+ mustang would be:
        1.) 2013+ tail-lights
        2.) 2011-12 body color middle panel
        3.) 2001-12 Low hood (not 2013+ humped-up “power-bulge”)
        4.) 2013+ headlamps (with split ’70-style turn signals to the outside)

        Also, make a convertible with a tan top!

  • avatar

    i mean… the c7 looks good and all, but the more you look at it the more it looks like a mashup of popular performance cars that are currently out. there’s not really a cohesive design aesthetic. it’s almost as if individual people were in charge of each portion of the car.

  • avatar

    Agree… about Corvette rear lights already not aging well… about awaiting three rounds for Impala, etc.

    Yet also think that the Camaro restyled rear is a welcome change– not only reminding of the ’69 Camaro lights, but also a nod to ’66 Impala vocabulary of wraparounds in back that somehow resembled a smile. This followed ’65s which had three circles in line higher on trunk lid (two for Bel Air/ Biscayne; one for wagons– or am I thinking ’58s?).

    Good trend: away from tail lights looking pasted on, to dimensional depth and sculptural interest.

  • avatar

    It is funny that you say that it was the Mustang’s tail lights that influenced them. Then as part of the proof, you say you only see a small resemblance between the Camaro and Corvette tail lights. You also suggest that they were inspired by the Mustang.

    Yet, the Corvette and Mustang lights look very very very different. Far more different than Corvette and Camaro. Honestly, I could have seen the Corvette lights being on the next generation Camaro. I think there is a strong resemblance there. They took the lights, made them lean to the outside a bit. Changed the 3D aspect to look a little bit deeper, done.

    It is far closer to the Camaro than to the Mustang. These Corvette and Camaro tail lights look like cousins. To add in the Mustang, it would be like an adopted cousin who is of another race. Seriously, nothing alike.

    • 0 avatar
      Firestorm 500

      I don’t think he means they resemble each other in looks (Mustang/Corvette).

      I think he means that they are more alike in the design language and execution. A more complex, 3-D textured look with more than one depth.

      • 0 avatar

        The Camaro, which came out in 2009 had a 3-D look and depth to it. I also maintain the design language and execution look much more like the Camaro. Seriously, this is a stretch.

  • avatar

    So the next big automotive styling gimmick is sculpted tailights, are you kidding me? Is that all the stylists can think up anymore?

  • avatar

    I really spent a lot of time checking out the new Vette at the NYIAS. The car looks way better in person than in photos. I was very wary of the photos but got really stoked at the show. The convertible on display really looks even better than the coupe because they eliminated the upper vent on the rear flanks and had the cooling duties be served by intakes under the car. That cleans up the look to the perfect point. And the interior looks gorgeous. Now, all you need to do is remove the dopey Stingray off the side of the car…it looks like a discarded logo from Animal Planet.

    The attractive model with a bit too much makeup at the display told me that there is a common lighting unit buried in the bumper assembly and it illuminates the “3D” taillights. So, if that is true, the cost savings probably carried as much weight as the styling…

    • 0 avatar

      From the pictures, I was set to hate the new Corvette. The tail lights that DO look too Camaro for comfort are disappointing. That being said, I also hated the C4 at its introduction (because it wasn’t a C3), but ended up loving it. I liked the C5 from the get go.

      Once I saw the C7 in person (at The NAIAS and Chicago Auto Show), I have to admit, I like it. The front grill is oddly reminiscent of the C1. I also see some C3 in the fenders while at the same time being very evolutional from the C5 and C6. The Camaro tail lights are fine, save for the fact they were taken from the Camaro.

      Yes. They were.

      Most of Chevy’s recent designs have initially underwhelmed me, but in the end, I think they’ve aged well.

      Oh, and way to go Chevy, you finally gave the Corvette a decent interior.

  • avatar

    Does anyone else think that being in charge of both full size trucks and performance vehicles is a little strange, and possibly not the best formula for success?

    • 0 avatar

      “Does anyone else think that being in charge of both full size trucks and performance vehicles is a little strange, and possibly not the best formula for success?”

      Maybe they’re planning on a Real Tree camo special edition Corvette for evading speeding tickets ?. Maybe 4WD with locking hubs to compete with the GTR ?. Maybe an extended cab 2+2 Corvette like the old 300ZX ?. Maybe a dually Corvette with higher towing capacity and better rear grip ?. A diesel Vette to compete with Audi ?.

      This thing could have a lot of potential with aftermarket customizers, even better than the old C3 with a Greenwood body kit. I can see a Vette with chrome running boards that double as a ground effects kit. A rear wing with a gun rack built into it. Wide body kits for more clearance for jumbo mudder tires and Yosemite Sam mudflaps. A chrome lightbar on the roof with a set of KC Daylighters on it. A brushbar on the front with mounts for a cold air intake, etc, etc, etc. The end is listless.

    • 0 avatar

      “Does anyone else think that being in charge of both full size trucks and performance vehicles is a little strange…”

      Depends on his duties and responsibilities. Think of the commander of a Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF). They’re sourced from one of four areas. Aviation, infantry, armor or field artillery. An aviation officer will not know infantry tactics (besides at the most basic level).

      Someone whose commanded tanks won’t know the intricacies of operating the attached aviation combat element.

      The good thing is they don’t need to know everything at an expert level. Their direct reports do. I’d say a similar arrangement is at play in this and many other situations throughout various industries.

  • avatar

    I just assumed it meant the Corvette would be in the next Transformers movie.

  • avatar

    C7 tries to look too much like the screwed-up Cadillac cars of late. Never liked the looks of them. I liked my ’94 Northstar Eldorado. And I like all Corvettes. Now let’s talk about mid-engine Corvettes. Oh wait, zombie thread.

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