I have noticed something on newer cars, and it’s been bothering me for awhile now. Perhaps you, with your deity-like omniscience (and access to inside information) will be able to provide some clarity.
As you can see from the picture below, a new Toyota has this vertical flat area around the wheels. And it’s not just this particular model of car — nearly every modern car I see on the road today has a similar design feature, though they vary in the width of the flat area around the wheel arch. Contrast this the Clinton-era Toyo at the bottom, where the body lines follow a graceful curve all the way to the fender opening.
I thought you might know: What’s up with so many recent cars incorporating an oversized, black plastic, gaping maw in place of what’s been normal-sized grilles on cars? Lexus comes to mind first, with a visage that any Predator could love. But also, Hyundai Veloster, the revamped Yaris, various Audis, and so forth.
Is this related to some Euro pedestrian law, compliance with which mandates some high percentage of very breakable plastic up front? Darned hard to explain otherwise. At least for me. So I thought I’d ask.
While it may or may not be the next-generation Mercedes-Benz CLS-class (note: probably not), the automaker took the wraps off a transforming concept car that grows in length significantly at highway speeds to better cut through air.
The Mercedes-Benz IAA concept (Intelligent Aerodynamic Automobile) was shown off Tuesday in Frankfurt and, according to the automaker, can grow by 390 millimeters to achieve a drag coefficient world record of 0.19. (The current generation Prius is around 0.25, for reference.)
The whole thing is powered by a hybrid powertrain that’ll never see the light of day and sports an interior array of electronics that’s probably something out of “Minority Report.” It’s the moveable aerodynamic elements on the IAA that could see production, and there are a lot of them.
When was the last time you saw a pretty race car? Maybe I’m turning into Walt Kowalski, but it seems to me that the racing machines of my youth looked nicer. Is there a purer shape than Jim Clark’s Indy 500 winning Lotus 38? Is not the Lola T70 sensuous? Some of Jim Hall’s Chaparrals, like the 2H “vacuum” car and the 2J streamliner with its center mounted high wing look a little odd, but even the 2J has an aesthetically pleasing shape, something you can’t say about a modern Formula One racer, with it’s dizzying array of airfoils, winglets and canards.
Regulation. It dictates the majority of modern car design. Whether it be for pedestrian safety, crash worthiness, economies of scale, or fuel efficiency, the basic building blocks of modern cars are decided well before pencil is met with freshly-bleached paper (or, these days, before stylus meets tablet).
That last item – fuel efficiency – is as much a matter of aerodynamics as it is what’s under the hood, and aerodynamic efficiency isn’t just about fenders and trunk lids.
Which brings me to wheels – specifically, OEM wheels – and how absolutely ugly they’ve gotten the last few years.
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?
“Wait! Is that a…”
“Are you British?”
“I haven’t seen one of these since I left Venezuela as a teenager, only rich people had Sierras!”
Behold random responses from gawkers of TTAC’s Project Car. The surprises continue after several hundred miles under the Ford Sierra’s belt, as life with this fish out of water is far from a compromise.
In the 1930s, Chrysler experimented with aerodynamics to deliver a product that could slip through the wind better than the vehicles of the day, bestowing upon the public the Airflow. Alas, not too many people were ready for the future, leaving the concept a commercial failure.
Today, Citroën is giving the name and concept a second try, with fuel economy and the environment in mind.
Click on the settings icon in the menu bar of the video above to watch it in 2D or your choice of 3D formats.
The second best part about the job of writing about cars is not getting to drive expensive cars for free or being flown to resorts with Jacuzzi tubs. No, the second best part about the gig is that I get to see and do some very cool car guy things. How many of you have watched film or video of a car being tested in a wind tunnel and thought to yourself, “that’s neat!”? Well, this week I got to observe the new 2015 Ford Mustang’s aerodynamic features demonstrated in one of those neat wind tunnels.
Gordon Buehrig’s design of the Cord 810/812 was revolutionary for its day. One innovation was that it lacked running boards, something automobiles had featured almost since the dawn of the motoring age. I’m guessing that the origin of running boards has to do with the fact that in the early days car bodies were typically mounted right on top exposed frame rails, putting the body up high, and the running boards were used as step to get up into the interior. From a design standpoint, they also visually connected the front and rear fenders, creating one flowing line. What was stylish in 1913, though, wasn’t necessarily au courant in the mid 1930s. Also automotive design started getting more formally established in the 1930s, with GM and Ford both having in-house design staffs by the end of that decade. Based on the then young science of aerodynamics and the related streamlined aesthetic, new shapes started appearing on cars.
Never forget: people make all the difference. This often overlooked fact in the glamorous world of automotive styling rings true for the life of Mr. Uwe Bahnsen. I froze in my tracks when I heard of his passing on Car Design News. His work at Ford and with the Industrial Design community influenced me, and every American who loved cars in the 1980s.
Do you think that cars have lost their soul? Nina Tortosa, General Motors aerodynamicist for the Voltec/E-Flex programs, says that cars look more and more alike because “we all have to abide by the same laws of physics. It doesn’t matter if we don’t like them,” Nina Tortosa told WardsAuto.
Mere mortals have to contend with two certainties – death and taxes. Car designers are faced with a third one: Cd, or the drag coefficient.
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- The Oracle Here in the mountains of WNC these willbe all over the place.
- The Oracle A proper clunker from a bygone era.
- Zerofoo I'm pretty sure driving this thing in any respectable town is considered probable cause.
- Doc423 Well said, Jeff.
- Urlik My online research seems to indicate it’s an issue with the retaining clips failing and allowing the valve spring retainers to come out. This results in the valve dropping into the cylinder.