London Photoblog

Classic design

Whenever I see a classic car I think about design. Last week I saw this 1969 Ford Galaxie 500 near London Bridge in London.

It’s not difficult to create a beautiful photograph with such a good looking subject. To my taste, the 1960s and 1970s produced some of the most beautiful motor vehicles. Perhaps, older, vintage cars were more ornate. But there is a balance of the functional and the ornate in the design of the Galaxie.

Throughout my childhood I loved cars. While other kids played with Subbuteo or Star Wars toys I only had eyes for toy cars and trucks.

My joy for cars hasn’t survived the modern age of car design. For a couple of decades now automotive design seems to have converged to a number of standard looks. The super mini, the SUV, the executive saloon etc. Just the other week I saw a Mercedes that looked indistinguisable from the Peugout it was parked next too.

What made the design of the 1960s and 1970s attractive? At first glance there’s the use of chrome.

At a deeper level I might imagine that the designers aimed to give each car a clearly distinguishable identify. This would let it stand out in the crowd.

This makes sense if we think about cars as the passion purchase they often were in the 1960s and 1970s.

What factors direct car design in the modern age?

Health and safety has certainly been an influence. A flat solid front-end like that of the Galaxie 500 would no doubt fail pedestrian impact standards in the modern day. This explains the somewhat similar front-ends design of many modern cars.

Looking a bit deeper, perhaps modern high volume semi automated manufacturing is a factor, it’s no doubt simpler to mass manufacture simpler shapes.

From an economic perspective the I would expect the manufacturers aim to produce a single model in each category with as broad an appeal as possible. This leads to fairly bland design decisions.

It’s wouldn’t be right to finish a blog post on the automotive industry in 2020 without mentioning Tesla. Elon Musk’s firm has probably been one of the most exciting things to happen to the industry in recent days. What a shame that most of the Tesla models sport such boring design.

But, I’m a little excited by the CyberTruck. It’s certainly nothing like the ornate design of classic cars, but it’s a step away from what most manufacturers are producing today in an interesting direction.

In the meantime I’ll continue to keep my eye out for beautiful classics.

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