Why do so many car designers and manufacturers insist on revamping more or less successful models from the past, when they could be inventing something new? That is the question considered in Robert Cumberford’s Opinion piece in Auto & Design 144, which is inspired by the 2004 edition of the Detroit Auto Show.
From the miniaturised revamp of the Corvette Nomad concept by GM designer Simon Cox to the update of the 1965 Ford Bronco that was no triumph of design in the first place. Why are Directors of Design so obsessed with the past? True, in some cases, these makeovers are based on significant and successful models from the past. The new Ford GT, for example, is an intelligently conceived update of a Sixties concept that introduced several significant ideas all those years ago. But on all too many occasions it’s hard to see what purpose such remakes serve. So, the roadster on the Lincoln stand superimposed styling cues from 1961 on the Thunderbird’s floorpan and bodywork. Similarly, Ford’s Shelby Cobra is a discreet makeover of the Sixties racing cars that bore the same name, though not a detailed copy of the original shape, while the DaimlerChrysler Jeep is an imitation of the reconnaissance vehicle Dodge was producing during World War II. And in all of this, it is hard to identify the marks of any specific era.
Turning from these “new” models on display in Detroit, Cumberford considers such models of the recent past as the Mini, the New Beetle, the Mazda Miata inspired by the Lotus Elan, not to mention the Defender and the Range Rover. Cumberford ends by expressing the hope that designers will start doing their creative duty and offering the public some genuinely original ideas.
The article continues in Auto & Design no. 144