Monday, October 17, 2011
Every time I see one of these coming down the street I instinctively think it's a Buick
THAT'S WHAT HAPPENS when so many car designers are trained in Southern California, where hot rods, Nike sneakers and Japanese cars are bigger influences than classic European designs.
Jaguar, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Alfa-Romeo used to build beautiful cars that were distinct products of their national cultures. But there is nothing distinctively British about the XJ above, and its styling cues come from Detroit and Tokyo.
One thing that used to distinguish those cars were their proportions, which either came from the tradition of harmonic proportions (1 to 2, 1 to 4, 3 to 4, etc.), or from the Golden Section proportions Le Corbusier used. The drawing below is a proportion study for a car Corb designed, the Voiture Minimum.
These were combined in a harmonious whole epitomized by cars like the Jaguar XKE and the Mercedes 280 SE convertible. Americans like Chris Bangle, the former head designer at BMW, who never designed a harmonious car he liked. Instead, he repeated all the Modernist cliches about "challenging design" while designing cars that emphasized details and parts that shouted "Look at me," like the Bangle Bustle. His philosophy is enormously influential at all the international auto design schools - and we get ugly cars.
Some might say it's better looking than the Jag. There's another 2012 Buick or Oldsmobile with a radiator almost identical to the Jaguar's, I believe. Or maybe that was last year's car.
I agree...I have a pre-Bangle BMW (2001 325i) and I absolutely love the design while hating most of the following cars.
Isn't one of the reasons, though, for recent car design trends new safety standards for rear bumpers? You see the bloated bumpers across the market...so is it only because of the designers?
Posted by: Brian M at Oct 20, 2011 7:55:13 PM
I heard your BMW rant before. :o) I'd love to hear about new cars you like. Maybe your top 5 2011/2012 cars?
Posted by: Rick at Oct 26, 2011 2:57:34 PM
You do know that "rant" is a negative description. And I've listed some favorite contemporary cars.
The "industrial design' that VW uses produces many good cars: I like the Golf very much. Some of the very expensive cars are great. The Aston Martin is probably the most beautiful car made. Some of the Maseratis are beautiful. Moving down the scale, the Boxer is good, and the Porsche SUV is one of the best looking, although the some of the VW SUVs are very good too. We just came back from a trip to Europe, and I was admiring some of the ALFAs. I think they're about to come back here.
I liked many Mercedes and Audis just one generation ago.
Some good cars are "retro": the Mini-Cooper, the FIAT 500, and the Miatas. None look dated. Too bad the Land Rover is about to be updated.
Posted by: john at Oct 26, 2011 4:14:26 PM