By on May 28, 2015

Capture

Bob writes:

Hi Sajeev. I’m annoyed by styling that makes the trim height look wrong. Most cars today look like the front is sagging or the rear is too high. The stylists even slant side creases and trim strips down toward the front (Man, I hate that. – SM) to create this look even though a close look at the rocker panel shows that the car is level.

Why are they doing it? Does the public really like it?

Sajeev answers:

The delicate balance of physical + visual trim height adjustment is standard practice, proving itself over decades for both aerodynamic and stylistic enhancement. The problem? Jumping the shark.

But uber radical trim height adjustment must be awesome, because people love the new super-slashy-buffalo-butted Corvette. Even if it gives me violent diarrhea faster than poorly cooked, low-grade beef.

FWIW, the Corvette’s hyper-slashed profile makes sense if the front wheels were 16″ tall. Because that slash, starting subtle and (too) low in the fender and going up to a critical element of the quarter panel, is a mouth writing checks that the body can’t cash.

IMG_4904

Here are two insurance vans inspecting my leaky roof, clearly showing the sadness of over-styled side profiles. (They weren’t parked close enough for a side shot with my phone, sorry.) It’s clear that Chevrolet Nissan over-styled their vanlet while the older Ford retains the logical, rational, and wholly boring contouring of another era.

So, remember: “side styling that looks faster” is a necessary ingredient to car styling. While my professors at CCS demanded rocker panels perfectly parallel to the ground, adding anything (short of a sine wave) along the side profile was fair game, because creativity shouldn’t be hindered by stamped sheets of metal (or plastic). As long as the rockers do not appear pre-bent (that’s less than reassuring to shoppers) from an accident, it’s all good.

Even if we hate the look, others will love it. Or they won’t care enough to stop a new vehicle purchase to replace their clunker!

And opinions are like assholes, hence why this asshole takes forever to justify/publish his Vellum Venom critiques: first complain, then show specific problems and offer “better” alternatives. Half-ass the assholery and prepare to face even more wrath than an end of semester critique at CCS. And I ain’t going through that again.

Thank you for reading.

[Lead image: Chevrolet]

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

61 Comments on “Vellum Venom Vignette: Styling the Shark Jump?...”


  • avatar
    fabriced28

    As far as I’m concerned, I love that styling for 2-seaters.
    In fact I just bought an Alfa Romeo GTV, a car that is probably the most assuming example of that style, pushed to the extreme. The line goes from the front bumper to the rear glass and is dead straight.

    But for family cars, it’s awful because it raises the window line above the sightline of typical rear passengers, ie kids.

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      “But for family cars, it’s awful because it raises the window line above the sightline of typical rear passengers, ie kids.”

      So true.

      I am torn. From the inside, I miss the old school large greenhouse. From the outside, I find these slants attractive (along with flame surfacing).

      I suppose enthusiasts can get tired of this style. But when it was new and on few models, most people loved them, and hence, the style became wide-spread.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        A friend recently purchased a used car, and her son expressed pure joy that he could see out of the windows. It’s unbelievable that such is not a more important requirement for designers to meet.

  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    French. 1930s. What has happened to sleekness since then? Brick and blobs seem to be the dominant themes now.
    :-(

  • avatar
    ajla

    “the new super-slashy-buffalo-butted Corvette.”

    If you think the C7 is bad, what do you think of the gigantic rear on the C5? The C1 and late C4s were pretty wide back there too.

    • 0 avatar

      The C5s rear was large for its time, especially compared to the C4. But it is a far cry from the buffalo butt height of the C7.

      Park the C5 next to the C7 and it might as well be a C4.

      • 0 avatar
        Hoosier Red

        Regarding the C5 and C7 comparison, I’d respectfully challenge you on that. I just looked at a professionally photographed shot of the C5, C6, and C7 and the proportions are very similar. The C6 and C7 appear to be an evolution of the basic C5 shape which to my untrained eye, was a significant departure from the C4. And why was the C5 shaped like that? Two basic reasons: 1. Aerodynamics. 2. The essential design requirement that the rear end of that Corvette be able to hold an adequately functional spare tire. To get the wheels as large as the designers wanted for aesthetics, the rear end had to grow. Obviously the car was never released with a spare tire – again for two reasons: 1. Federal requirements were changed allowing the sale of a passenger vehicle without a spare tire, and 2. Run flat technology advanced enough to allow it to be a viable option. They couldn’t go back and redesign the car at that point and we’re left with the legacy of those decisions.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Flatness and horizontal lines is why the C3 is my favorite Corvette. And directional wheels.

        I love them every single time I see em.

  • avatar
    Car Ramrod

    This really bothers me on longer vehicles with taller passenger compartments. Every time I rent a car (and lately I’ve been stuck with Malibus and Azeras) I stare in disbelief at the huge rump on these things….plus the visibility is atrocious. The least offensive sedan right now seems to be the Accord.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Lower shoulder heights eliminate the need for all that foolishness. I just noticed something else. Obviously modern safety standards have raised shoulder heights leaving acres of confused sheetmetal standing awkwardly in their wake. But a big issue is the moving away from the good old body moulding, which acted as a kind of a “belt” to help break up the side of the car visually. So the sheetmetal acre effect is compounded. Im not a Photoshop guy but I bet the Vette would look a lot better with plain sides and a nice black perimeter belt, just like the C4.

  • avatar
    tonyola

    I don’t mind the slanting lines on the Corvette so much. I do, however, think that the upper crease on the door should run forward and meet the upper crease on the side vent. That would make the sides of the car a little less busy. By the way, the original Avanti had a noticeable front rake that was levelled out in the Avanti II.

  • avatar
    turf3

    I would be willing to wager that there are no standards that require cars to be styled like doorstops, or to replace windows with gunslits. Can someone please provide a reference to these supposed standards?

    I think it’s just the usual fashion over function nonsense.

    Furthermore, it seems to me that if you’re going to hit a pedestrian with the front of the car, a low car would allow the victim to fly up and over the hood, reducing injuries, whereas a high blocky front would tend to drag them down and under the car to be run over.

    And what’s up with all these slanting horizontal creases running down the side? Can’t the stylists think of something more advanced than the late ’70s Testarossa to copy? They all look like they were styled by 9 year olds with a Dustbuster obsession.

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      Not standards, but here’s a synopsis of how pedestrian safety is influencing car design:

      http://www.caranddriver.com/features/taking-the-hit-how-pedestrian-protection-regs-make-cars-fatter-feature

      • 0 avatar

        A good article, but the didn’t mention the underlying “problem”, so to speak: the manufacturer’s desire to design Global platforms that work everywhere.

        This is where and why the notion of Panther Love come into place: it was the well-proportioned, last great American sedan. Even if it wasn’t that great aside from the proportions, it wasn’t designed for Europe or Asia.

        We used to do it our way, baby.

        • 0 avatar
          S2k Chris

          I resent your suggestion that the best Americans do is the raging pile of disgusting garbage that is a Panther.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            $hit just got real…

            Where’s the .gif of that guy grabbing a chair?

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            The domestic OEMs seem to focus their North American attention on trucks and give their designers platforms intended for other markets to work with for cars themselves. Its not that “we” can’t do it better, its executives at “our” firms won’t allow it for the most part (Chryco LX excluded).

          • 0 avatar
            WheelMcCoy

            “Where’s the .gif of that guy grabbing a chair?”

            You mean Steve Ballmer?

          • 0 avatar

            So what part of “even if it wasn’t that great aside from the proportions” did not resonate with you?

            The Last Man Standing doesn’t have to be a Renaissance Man.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          The Panther and 2009 Jaguar XJ were the last two sedan that actually look like sedans.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          You’re right, but I would point out Chrysler’s LX, Toyota’s XV, and whatever code Honda now uses for Accord were all intended for the North American market. Certain other supposed ‘Murican OEMs seem to think “global” works in this market, and it doesn’t work as well.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          Panther? “Well-proportioned?” If there’s one thing a Panther is not, it’s “well-proportioned.” You have a tiny cabin sitting in between an absurdly and pointlessly long hood and trunklid, which are emphasized by the rear bumper that always catches on something and gets bent out of shape because the overhang is so long.

          • 0 avatar
            S2k Chris

            Exactly. The Panther is THE WORST PACKAGED CAR I’ve ever experienced. I remember being a teenager and my mom drove an Accord, and 3-4-5 people would go to dinner. My grandpa would always say “we’ll take my car [Grand Marquis],it’s bigger” and then we’d have to squeeze into the tiny back seat, versus the limo-like Accord we could have taken. And then we’d all get motion sick on the way there from the roly-poly terrible way it floundered around on the way there.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            Agree with both of you 110%. Absolutely miserable excuses for cars that no one who is not wearing a uniform and being paid to drive one should ever have to.

            The love for these POS around here utterly baffles me. Here’s a hint, if you need to jump curbs, buy a truck.

          • 0 avatar
            VolandoBajo

            @dal20402 The long hood leaves enough room to be able to work on the engine and its accessories without the need to pull it from the car. The long trunk enables one of the most spacious trunks available. And stuffing a bunch of gear (toolboxes, camping gear, etc.) into the rear of an SUV or CUV is a poor substitute for placing them in a concealed compartment like the Panther trunk.

            And if you are always catching the rear bumper on something, perhaps you might consider that after it happened once, you might have learned to drive it in a way that matched its proportions, instead of trying to cram it into places an econobox would fit.

            The only problem I have with my Panther’s proportions is that it can be a bit much to try to reach across the front to pick up something from the passenger side floorboard, but I can live with that. I no longer have to listen to my (tall) wife complain that I am bumping into her arm when I am sitting next to her in her Corolla with my arms tucked into my side.

            And if Panthers are so terrible compared to whatever your favorite long-running model is, then where are all of its aficionados?

            In all of my life, I have only known one person IRL who even mentioned an S2K as a good automobile, and he was a lifelong Honda fanboi. I don’t see anyone talking about “Accord love”.

            Sounds more like you are butthurt that your favorite vehicle never attained the popularity of the Panthers, than anything else.

            And five people in an Accord (if they are all full-sized adults) is NOT comfortable, except perhaps for the fanboi who is driving.

            And many of us don’t have to feel all the bumps and potholes on the road to feel like a car is stable, or has road feel.

            Try learning how to drive a Panther properly, and perhaps you might come to understand why it is still popular.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            The only places Panthers are popular are cab companies, police depts, and a few wingnuts on this website. The cars suck, their ONLY redeeming virtue is low cost of ownership. Which if you are a fleet manager should warm the cockles of your heart, but otherwise is a pretty lame reason to be in love with something that wasn’t really modern car in 1979 (I also suspect that an Accord or Camry would actually be cheaper if you don’t bounce it off curbs daily). They are slow, ill-handling, ride terribly, are incredibly space inefficient, are not particularly fuel efficient, and by any rational modern standard a deathtrap. The only enjoyment I have ever found from them is in highly ironic – “Dear God this is terrible” ways. Hertz has a warped sense of humor as to what constitutes an “upgrade”, so I have spent more than my fair share of time in the P.O.S..

          • 0 avatar
            S2k Chris

            LOL!

      • 0 avatar
        CRConrad

        One of the captions to the pic of the BMW 7 in that article: “Now that the roof is higher, the beltline (the base of the side windows) has to be lifted to keep the car from looking bubbleheaded.”

        Ehh… No. That’s the whole problem — we’re complaining that modern cars are NOT “BUBBLEHEADED” ENOUGH! They look like something out of Mad Max: Narrow firing slits in place of side windows.

        On that 7, the lower edge of the side windows (the “belt line”, right?) should be where the pressed character line is now, the one that runs through the door handles. This: http://zombdrive.com/images/chevrolet-lumina-760.jpg is not “bubble-headed” — it just looks like an ordinary car, where the 7 is more reminiscent of a police SWAT truck.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      The cause of the high decklids isn’t standards, it’s aerodynamics. Higher decklids tend to equal lower drag. Then somehow you have to style around the higher decklid. If you don’t, you get something that looks like a Chrysler Cirrus.

      Standards are leading to higher beltlines around the whole car, but that’s a different issue.

  • avatar
    chainyanker

    Thanks to this idiotic, full air-shocks in the back styling trend, your kids won’t see the outside world until two or three years later in their lives.
    “Look Billy! Do you see the horses? Oh, never mind. You don’t. Maybe when you’re older.”

  • avatar
    7402

    “my professors at CCS demanded rocker panels perfectly parallel to the ground”

    What’s the theory here? Mercedes-Benz supposedly kept the same rocker panel angle (very slightly lower in front than in the back) for decades, starting with the Ponton. I’m sure this endured until at least the W123 and possibly well into the 1990s. That subtle consistency was part of what made a Mercedes look like a Mercedes.

    I can’t even remember where or when I heard this, but it’d be great to have a design professional confirm.

    • 0 avatar

      Since I am not, and will not claim to be, a design professional…I don’t know.

      The justification I heard was what I said above: people don’t want to see a car that looks like it’s pre-bent from an accident. Interfacing a design with the engineering department is also a concern. A subtle slope like you suggested is fine, but you can’t go radical at the rockers like you can on all points north.

  • avatar
    niky

    The Vette doesn’t given me diarrhea, but I definitely do feel a little acid reflux whenever I see it.

    Talk about overstyled…

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    I blame the Neon for popularizing the hooker-butt door-wedge profile in regular cars.

  • avatar
    michal1980

    IDK, I think this vette looks awesome.

    If we listen to people like Sajeev, then we just get blandness, aka the sonata, goes from interesting to YAWWWWNNN.

  • avatar
    dwford

    So many cars today give the appearance of a good looking car to start off with that had some drunk designer mess it all up. The Acura TLX is a good example. The upswept window line (making the car look cheaper and smaller than it is) has a character line that breaks away from the window line and curves downward on the rear fender until it meets the taillights, but there is another unrelated character line that starts at the front fender and angles upward along the doors, up and over the real wheel, before also curving downward to meet the taillight in a different spot. Terrible. The Lexus IS is another example. The window line looks identical to the outgoing model, but the new model has crazy lines going everywhere. Like the designer is a kid who can’t color inside the lines. Not attractive.

    • 0 avatar
      CRConrad

      TLX: http://buyersguide.caranddriver.com/media/assets/submodel/5663.jpg – Ah, I see what you mean.

      IS: http://static.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/images/Auto/izmo/371907/2015_lexus_is_250_sideview.jpg – Really? At least in side profile it’s not all that bad, IMO. Sure the lower edge of the rocker panels has the same weird phenomenon as on several other recent cars, where the side skirt that starts from the front wheel tapers out, and then another one grows out just a couple inches behind — or as here, even in front of! — where that ends, and runs on to the rear wheel. “Hey designer boy: If you want side skirts along the whole length, just unite them into a single one already!”, there I absolutely agree with you.

      But I actually like how the rocker panel swings up at the rear end, so the line swings invisibly through the upper half of the rear wheel, continues as the edge between rear fender and bumper, and meets the corner of the rear light. Also, at least this IS has the redeeming feature of rear lights whose front edge in the fender is NOT a continuation of the C pillar down to the lower rear edge of the car, damning most current sedans with a kind of faux-Cadillac-Seville look in profile. Tht’s a huge plus in my book.

  • avatar
    sat7

    So where is (Michi) Trixie ?

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Love, love, love the new Corvette and wish I had the means to buy one!

    Jump the shark? The Corvette? Not on your life!

  • avatar
    cdotson

    While I don’t doubt the prevalence of the sloping belt line has a lot to do with fashion/styling I believe it was largely justified because it makes the inclusion of the buffalo butt more visually appealing. The buffalo butt is the driver, not the result, of the slanting DLO due to aerodynamics of sedans. The mail slot trunk lids are also a result of the same drive to improve aerodynamics. By raising and shortening the rear deck lid the airflow remains attached to the vehicle’s surface at the base of the rear window reducing drag and rear lift. This is very similar to how Kamm-back race car designs worked; maintain proximity to aerodynamic ideals as much as possible and abruptly truncate the body where needed to prevent excessive length.

  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    If I stare at a picture of a new Corvette I can pick out individual elements I don’t particularly like.

    If I see a Corvette out on the road in real life, it always catches my eye and my brain thinks “what bad a** car is that?? Ferrari? Oh, a Corvette, man, does that look cool!”

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      +1

      They don’t photograph well but look great in the wild. I still don’t like how high the diffuser (can you call it a diffuser it if extends halfway up the rear end?) goes and to make it worse it’s not body color.

      Other than that, I really like the design. Horses… courses. Boats…floats. A cup with narrow hips… C cups with a booty.

  • avatar
    nickoo

    Nothing is as bad as the abomination on wheels. Aka the dodge dart.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      I agree with you. One blobby-looking car that makes the Avenger look good, which incidentally is what you got when you took a 1960s Coke bottle-styled car and put it in a vise and squeezed very hard!

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    My beef is that every detail on every car is way over-styled, paradoxically leading to a strange sameness for all of them. There seems to be no brand identity among cars anymore. And certainly no elegance or tasteful restraint. The interiors are even worse, I defy anyone to tell the difference between one brand and another based on interior photos. I think it’s likely due to far greater mobility among designers, who were once likely lifers for one company. Also, I think current designers just aren’t car-guys or girls at heart, they are anime, or furniture, architecture fans who just happen to designing cars for a job.

    • 0 avatar
      VolandoBajo

      @Lightspeed This crushing uniformity, which you have precisely defined, is one of the reasons that Panthers retain their popularity. Except for their resemblance to each other, there is no confusion between a Panther and any other vehicle.

      Modern car choices come down to: Body style: Small blob OR Medium blob OR Utility rear-ended; Color: Black OR White OR Grey OR Silver.

      Now select the badge of your choice, and stand at the end of the assembly line. They might just as well all come out of one plant, most new cars look so much alike, except for grilles and badges.

      • 0 avatar
        derekson

        Most of the similarities of exterior shape and profile are driven by low drag aerodynamics. There’s no unique way to shape a sedan if you want to have a low drag package.

        For the best example of this, look at the new Volt 2.0. It looks almost exactly like a Dodge Dart or a Civic if you squint, because as a PHEV it was designed with low drag as a priority above all else, as most economy cars are.

        • 0 avatar
          VolandoBajo

          @derekson You are correct about the cause being lower Cd, but it still makes for dull uniform designs.

          Doing the math, I find that most recent Japanese econo types have Cd’s in mid point twenties, to point three oh, whereas both my 97 Grand Marquis and my 88 Thunderbird SportCoupe, both considered leaders in aerodynamic styling at the time, have a Cd of about 0.34.

          And that, coupled with a likely much larger frontal area, just about sounded the deathknell for better looking, but less efficient, designs.

          Oh, well, I’m sure there are a lot of other great cars from the past that also would lose in the Cd department, but I wouldn’t have wanted to see their styling mangled to fit a wind-tunnel driven design.

          I forget which automotive exec and what his company was, but when Ford was kicking butt in the sales figure department in the late eighties, he snarkily said that he wouldn’t want a car that looked like it was designed by leaving a bar of soap in a wind tunnel too long.

          As a driver of one of those bar of soap design vehicles at the time, I didn’t appreciate his comment. But having seen where it has gone in its extreme, I have come to sympathize with his viewpoint, even if it was driven in part by sour grapes.

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    I am plainly an outlier, as I have hated every Corvette – aesthetically – that has been released in my lifetime, from the C3 onward.

    And I don’t like the “every car must be as wedge-shaped as possible” thing going on right now.

    I guess it’s slightly better than Curves Everywhere or Bowed Beltlines. This means you, Mercedes.

    (But then I also think the current crop of Mazdas are overstyled. I don’t care how it drives, if I can’t stand to look at it.

    See every Ferrari of the past 45 years or so.)

    • 0 avatar
      DweezilSFV

      So true re: Mazda. The 6 looks like the back end of the horse was placed first with those swooped tall front fenders. Last Gen 3 was obnoxious front to rear

      Taillights are the same shape on everything.

      Glad to see the Dart and 200 eschew some of this maniacal surfacing for cleaner lines and subtle shapes.

      That Hyundai has dialed back the hash on the new Sonata is a little bit of progress. The last generation will look as silly and outdated in 10 years as a 58 Buick would have in 1970.

  • avatar
    CarnotCycle

    The C7 viewed from the front is a poor man’s Ferrari F12, but from the back it’s a rich man’s Camaro SS.

    C7’s are nice, great looking cars to be sure; but definitely a stylistic mashup that will grow dated over time.

    • 0 avatar
      Veee8

      “but definitely a stylistic mashup that will grow dated over time.”
      I tend to agree, there is something about the new vette that doesn’t sit right with me, they are immensely capable but appear delicate, almost toy like (modern transformer styling) perhaps. I find the visual mass of it doesn’t seem there, like an oversized Elise it’s not muscular enough, sure it swoopy and edgy but not heavy, menacing and rigid appearing,,anyone agree?

    • 0 avatar
      niky

      Faddish.

      Basically, all the right ingredients are there… a little GT-R, a little Ferrari, a little Lamborghini, mix and match with a techno-beat stealth-fighter background… voila… modern supercar.

      But this is the modern supercar of five to ten years ago… whereas they’ve started moving on from that.

      Can’t help that the Camaro’s similarly “edgy” styling has been around for an entire model generation, already.

    • 0 avatar
      VolandoBajo

      @CarnotCycle +1

  • avatar
    300zx_guy

    I can always find details to nitpick, but I mostly like the look of the new Vette. However, the rear fascia is trying way too hard – it looks cool and menacing at a glance, but is way too busy, I don’t think it will age well. The other odd thing about the design is that the profile looks very odd on cars with the black roof, easy enough to fix – don’t get the black roof.

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    I always thought that today’s high beltlines and small side windows were a result of side-impact standards (and the popularity of SUVs). When that Escalade hits your driver’s side, better it hit metal than glass.

    • 0 avatar
      VolandoBajo

      Jacked up pickup trucks also might be a driver of the trend.

      But the main thing is that not only would you want to avoid impact with glass, and to have the impact point instead by harder to penetrate steel, but also with the higher beltline, it makes it easier to package more contact area for side impact air bags.

      No way to hide an airbag inside of a piece of glass.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • Inside Looking Out: Can you replace Pontiac badge with Mercedes badge and call it a day?
  • Inside Looking Out: All well and good but they don’t sell. Customers want cheap Huydais, no one will buy...
  • Kenn: Isn’t it time you started talking-up the Colorado? ‘Gotta keep pushing those GM sales, Norm. Got...
  • Kenn: Yuppie? I haven’t heard that term in a while. You apparently have a personal bias against people (you...
  • Inside Looking Out: All these pictures annoy me greatly esp. if they are projected on the windshield. I would prefer...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributors

  • Timothy Cain, Canada
  • Matthew Guy, Canada
  • Ronnie Schreiber, United States
  • Bozi Tatarevic, United States
  • Chris Tonn, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States
  • Mark Baruth, United States
  • Moderators

  • Adam Tonge, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States