Like most boys, I used to be fascinated by cars, and back when I was a kid, it was the Countach, Diablo, F40, and the Porsche 959 that covered our bedroom walls.
Maybe it's just me being nostalgic, but I feel that today's car design flipped to a new paradigm that sorely affects both style and personality.
Initially there was the American way and the European schools in terms of both engineering and styling. Then the Japanese industry took off and some decades later, the Koreans emerged in force, both inspired mostly by the Europeans.
Back then it was basically impossible to mistake a model for another, whereas now, in this brave new world of technology and target audience, cars look pretty much the same, as they all fall under the same rule, with little exceptions. British cars look Japanese, Korean cars look Italian, french cars look anything but french and German cars look, well, still pretty dull-German, design-wise, of-course.
Then we had funny looking models, practical looking minivans, exquisite looking luxury sedans and mean looking racers, rugged and spartan utilities, all with their own charisma and individuality.
Today I see a blend of all styles crammed into one body, as if the manufacturers didn't want to miss out any feature, and, for some reason, almost all cars look...aggressive, some even menacing. Perhaps this is the secret ego-boosting weapon designers use to seduce customers, by making them feel kings and queens of the road, whether they drive a street legal track monster, a one liter subcompact city car, or a large family carrier. They all seem to share aggressive headlights and air intakes that create this frowning expression.
Every high end limousine that should look refined and serene, every tiny 3 cylinder that should look funny and friendly, every hybrid and every crossover must look like a drag racing mean machine. Whether it's an innocent electric or a big block V8, they all must show brute force today.
Yesterday's cars were designed and engineered to last for ages, they were there to stay a while and hold their ground and so many of them are highly prized collectibles now, in part for that very reason. They had strong characters.
Today, there's a new model every year or so, as well as new cross-models placed to fill every little niche left, and as technology lays out new gimmicks and features by the hour, the vehicle has become a consumer product by excellence, detrimental to its former status - a fine blend of engineering and style that aimed to meet each brand's values and satisfy each brand's followers, the essence of what i call car culture.
Far from trying to sound melancholic and pessimistic, there are still cool brands, designers and shot callers out there, that keep us nostalgic-oldschoolers hopeful and confident that car design will not succumb to the industry's road rage, and that we won't get stuck in a homogeneous world of countless cross-overs.
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