QOTD: Can We Have Something Truly Unique?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
qotd can we have something truly unique

With the gradual disappearance of regular, affordable coupes now almost complete, and with sedans soon to follow, a time will come when the light truck realm makes up nearly the entirety of our automotive selection.

It’s not looking good. There’s only so many ways to package a crossover or SUV in an interesting manner before practicality and cargo capacity suffers, thus leaving the model off many buyers’ shopping lists. Automakers wouldn’t want that. It seems that, in terms of daring design and packaging, we’ve gone backwards, not forwards.

A small-town car show helped make this clear.

Gassing up on my way to meet a friend last night, I noticed the glint of vintage iron across the road, all congregated in a corner of a grocery store parking lot. Fantastic, I thought — I’ve got a few minutes to kill. Amid the legions of retirees in their C6 and C7 Vettes were numerous rarities you don’t often see, and one stood out among all others: A 1952 Studebaker Champion Starlight. Yes, the one with acres of rear glass.

In my dad’s youth, his father drove a Champion, only his was the staid suicide-door model. This Champion, however, was an altogether new way of packaging a two-door. By eliminating the C-pillar and installing a panoramic, wraparound rear window, the boys in South Bend created a mass-produced family automobile that was unmistakable when viewed on the road or in a parking lot. A design and style all its own. Love it or hate it, the vehicle was undoubtedly a Studebaker.

(Honestly, I’d rather discuss Studebaker than Porsche, which might explain why I never fit in anywhere.)

Anyway, my brain churned as my eyes finished feasting on this pristine Stude. Why can’t we have something like this, I thought. Something daring but accessible, and more-or-less practical. As we move towards a landscape composed solely of crossovers, SUVs, and trucks, it seems we’ve lost much of our bodystyle diversity. Even in the utility vehicle realm, past diversity fades even as models multiply. Where there was once the Isuzu VehiCross and drop-top Amigo, the pint-sized Geo Tracker and Suzuki Samurai (and its Vitara replacement), the less-appealing-but-thanks-for-trying GMC Envoy XUV, the Subaru Baja, Honda Element, Toyota FJ Cruiser, hell, even the Suzuki X-90, there’s now a bottomless ocean of bland four-doors and the Jeep Wrangler.

If small, affordable coupes and sedans have no purpose in today’s world, what do we replace them with in the high-riding vehicle realm? Funky styling (a la Toyota C-HR and outgoing Nissan Juke) only goes so far. Where is the diversity in door count, or even door hinge location? Is it worth holding out hope that automakers ditch the current one-meal recipe book and come up with an actual interesting way of packaging our future grocery getters?

What say you, B&B? And what would you like to see offered in the crossover/SUV space?

[Images: Steph Willems/TTAC]

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4 of 76 comments
  • PrincipalDan PrincipalDan on Jun 21, 2018

    No we can't have unique things because even when we do dealers actually have no idea how to sell them. https://jalopnik.com/buick-has-no-idea-how-to-actually-sell-the-regal-tourx-1826984906 I would argue the product is unique as far as "American" brands are concerned but dealers have no interest in selling anything that's not a truck or a crossover. FYI my local Buick dealer still has had NO TourX or Regal GS for the current model year and only ONE SportBack in a fairly low trim level.

    • See 1 previous
    • Vulpine Vulpine on Jun 22, 2018

      @WallMeerkat Confirm? No, I can't do that. However, GM has made far too many mistakes over the last three decades, one of which was to rely so heavily on Opel to build many of their US-spec models and then turn around and sell Opel to Peugeot. Yes, cost-cutting accountants have destroyed what was once a very popular lineup of cars. And GM is in worse shape now as most of their cars (not trucks) are all imports in one way or another--especially Chevy and Buick. The Regal name, however, is still American. As such, Peugeot will not receive royalties on the Regal name, though the Regal is apparently still being built on an Opel platform. That said, GM is paying Peugeot for the vehicle, not the name.

  • Boxermojo Boxermojo on Jun 22, 2018

    Gearheads moan that there's nothing new or distinct on the market, but when something new and distinct appears on the market, they complain en masse that it's objectively hideous, horribly designed, and not half as good as what THEY would have made...and they don't buy them, so they go away. I'm reminded of this watching people drool over one shiny CGI VW Microbus concept after another, and point out to people that the next generation Microbus, the Honda Element, came and went and hardly anyone bought them despite their well-executed high concept. The market gets the SUVs and dullmobiles that the fear-addled design conservativism of the buying public deserves. God forbid Uncle Harry or the neighbors make fun of you for buying a Juke...maybe we should just go with the Explorer...again.

  • Zerocred So many great drives:Dalton Hwy from Fairbanks to the Arctic Circle.Alaska Marine Highway from Bellingham WA to Skagway AK. it was a multi-day ferry ride so I didn’t actually drive it, but I did take my truck.Icefields Parkway from Jasper AB to Lake Louise AB, CA.I-70 and Hwy 50 from Denver to Sacramento.Hwy 395 on the east side of the Sierras.
  • Aidian Holder I'm not interested in buying anything from a company that deliberately targets all their production in crappy union-busting states. Ford decided to build their EV manufaturing in Tennessee. The company built it there because of an anti-union legal environment. I won't buy another Ford because of that. I've owned four Fords to date -- three of them pickups. I'm shopping for a new one. It won't be a Ford Lightning. If you care about your fellow workers, you won't buy one either.
  • Denis Jeep have other cars?!?
  • Darren Mertz In 2000, after reading the glowing reviews from c/d in 1998, I decided that was the car for me (yep, it took me 2 years to make up my mind). I found a 1999 with 24k on the clock at a local Volvo dealership. I think the salesman was more impressed with it than I was. It was everything I had hoped for. Comfortable, stylish, roomy, refined, efficient, flexible, ... I can't think of more superlatives right now but there are likely more. I had that car until just last year at this time. A red light runner t-boned me and my partner who was in the passenger seat. The cops estimate the other driver hit us at about 50 mph - on a city street. My partner wasn't visibly injured (when the seat air bag went off it shoved him out of the way of the intruding car) but his hip was rather tweaked. My car, though, was gone. I cried like a baby when they towed it away. I ruminated for months trying to decide how to replace it. Luckily, we had my 1998 SAAB 9000 as a spare car to use. I decided early on that there would be no new car considered. I loathe touch screens. I'm also not a fan of climate control. Months went by. I decided to keep looking for another B5 Passat. As the author wrote, the B5.5 just looked 'over done'. October this past year I found my Cinderella slipper - an early 2001. Same silver color. Same black leather interior. Same 1.8T engine. Same 5 speed manual transmission. I was happier than a pig in sh!t. But a little sad also. I had replaced my baby. But life goes on. I drive it every day to work which takes me over some rather twisty freeway ramps. I love the light snarel as I charge up some steep hills on my way home. So, I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Passat guy.
  • Paul Mezhir As awful as the styling was on these cars, they were beautifully assembled and extremely well finished for the day. The doors closed solidly, the ride was extremely quiet and the absence of squeaks and rattles was commendable. As for styling? Everything's beautiful in it's own way.....except for the VI coupe....it's proportions were just odd: the passenger compartment and wheelbase seemed to be way too short, especially compared to the VI sedan. Even the short-lived Town Coupe had much better proportions. None of the fox-body Lincolns could compare to the beautiful proportions of the Mark V.....it was the epitome of long, low, sleek and elegant. The proportions were just about perfect from every angle.