By on February 27, 2020

PSA Group

No, this question has nothing to do with a certain Subaru; rather, it’s a call to gaze into the past while still keeping an eye on the present.

Retro styling cues, little design nods to a model’s heritage, are common in the auto industry, but the practice normally takes a one-size-fits-all approach. In other words, a storied nameplate dons a retro or near-retro design encompassing the entire body. Think Mustang, Challenger, or the upcoming Bronco.

Alternatively, an automaker can go the sneaky route, slipping in a single cue from the past to keep that tenuous link intact. What’s your favourite example of this… or can you even think of one?

This week, France’s PSA Group revealed a flagship plug-in hybrid sedan. It’s called the DS 9, and it’s the latest vehicle from an upscale brand that started off as a famous model. A Citroën model.

Hmmm. This fairly attractive front-drive four-door looks pretty contemporary, doesn’t it? Where does the heritage Easter egg come in?

Look at the rear turn signals.

PSA Group

Yes, in a nod to the famous Citroën DS of the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s, PSA opted to mount those amber blinkers near the top of the C-pillar. It’s subtle, but it’s there. Despite the automaker’s modern and often funky lineup, PSA hasn’t forgotten its roots; like late French president Charles de Gaulle, it certainly owes a great debt to the 1955 Déesse.

What other modern cars or trucks can you think of that incorporate not a buffet of heritage/retro cues, but just a single one?

[Image: PSA Group]

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23 Comments on “QOTD: Looking for a Legacy?...”

  • avatar

    The body side “accent” on the Charger that harkens back to the 68 model year is one of the first obvious examples. In ’68 it was a double reverse scoop, but the newer models single version does take one back.

  • avatar

    The Hofmeister kink on BMWs, which seems to be on the verge of disappearing based on spy photos of upcoming models.

  • avatar

    Cadillac sharkfin tail lights.

    Round headlights on a Wrangler.

    White roof on a Defender.

    Suicide doors on Continental.

  • avatar

    Plaid upholstery on the Golf GTI

    (oddly, the U.S. market first-gen GTIs didn’t have plaid seats but Euro market cars did, as did the U.S. Jetta GLI in 1984 only and some Sciroccos.)

    The two-door Golfs of the current generation which are no longer sold also had a rear side window that had the distinctive shape of the Mk.1 side windows.

  • avatar

    Mustang taillights.

    • 0 avatar

      @PrincipalDan – those sequential taillights were first used on the Mercury Cougar and found their way onto the Shelby Mustangs. One could view it as the automotive equivalent of “cultural appropriation”.

      • 0 avatar

        I recall the 65 Thunderbird being the first with the sequential turn signals. The 64 was slated to have them, but the feature was delayed because of bugs.

        • 0 avatar

          They should have been delayed further.

          Repost from 5/27/19:

          “My first car was a 1968 Thunderbird, way past 1968.

          My friends in high school thought the sequential turn signals were super cool when they worked – which they rarely did.

          JimZ, thank you for the link to the cam and switch mechanism. The unit was laid out in such a way that the motor saw an increasing load from the pressure of the second and third switch springs *at exactly the same time* that it was receiving lower supply voltage due to the heinous amperage draw of the incandescent bulbs it was energizing – sort of cutting its own oxygen supply while climbing an increasingly steep mountain.

          So the failure mode was – motor turns cheerily, engages first switch and first lighting element, slows slightly and engages second switch, sees additional voltage drop, and never makes it past the third switch/lighting element. Just a horrible design. (Sort of works when brand-new, doesn’t hold up in real life – sound familiar?)

          Even as a high-schooler I had enough experience with electrical stuff to realize that even if you were stuck with the mechanical actuator, the mechanism could’ve been designed a lot better (using normally-closed vs. normally-open switches, for example) to balance out the friction and spring loads with the varying current draw (analogous to workload leveling).

          That turn signal actuator, combined with the miserably poor design of the driver door armrest/inside door handle made quite an impression – I never bought another Ford.”

          I was very pleased to see the modern iteration of these using solid-state electronics.

      • 0 avatar

        Or you could look at “number of years” the sequential tail light has been standard on the Mustang and argue that it now belongs to that model.

        • 0 avatar

          @PrincipalDan – valid point.

          @210delray – right you are. Ironically, they never seemed to work right on my friend’s T-Bird or Cougar.
          Cue @EBFlex saying that Ford’s legacy is POS products. LOL

  • avatar

    I can only recall stuff based on car’s I’ve owned since I became so familiar with all their various bits…

    When the Nissan Z came back in 2003 it had the triple gauge pod on the dash like the original 240. The car had several little Z logos with 3 dots hidden inside. For example the A/C duct in the door – this Z could only been seen when the door was open so it was a nice little Easter egg.

    In a throwback to the early Corvettes the C7 has an engine hour meter.

    The Volvo C30’s rear hatch featured a lift gate handle that looked like the one on an old P1800 hatchback.

  • avatar

    With the upcoming merger, I wonder if we’ll get the Deep Space 9 over here. Looks nice.

  • avatar

    66-67 Malibu. French cut rear window. Design element never duplicated in “modern” vehicles.

  • avatar

    The Jeep grill being used on all of their badged products.

  • avatar

    Round tail lights on the circa 2000 Impala, even if there only two instead of three on each side.

  • avatar

    The Rover 2000 was one of the last cars to have tailfins – vestigial tailfins, actually. A subtle, well-executed feature on a handsome car.
    And the Rover 2000 is one of rare autos that looks good in purple.

  • avatar

    CRV has what, 4 generations – all have vertical tail lights

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    My Fiesta ST mentions the Contour SVT in the owners manual supplement which I thought was odd and cool. Most stuff with any retro goes all in though it seems nowadays…hard to pick vehicles with just a single element.

    Not factory, but someone near me has a Toyota 86 with rear window louvers that look good on it.

    My favorite was how the Corvettes through the C6 all kept the 2 rear taillight set up. Way nicer IMHO than the C7/8 rear end.

  • avatar

    Around 2003(?) when Ford celebrated its 100 years, they brought back the “Art Deco” V8 badge on Explorers so equipped. I liked that a lot, even if I didn’t love the vehicle it was attached to.

    Acknowledging heritage or place in pop culture is one thing (i.e Bullitt Mustangs). Totally cashing in on nostalgia is weird and with mixed results, like the PT Cruiser (which led to Chevy HHR) and the last Thunderbird for just two examples. I know the PT was a pretty good success for Chrysler, but by the end of the run, who was buying them? See also the VW Beetle.

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