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THE RISE OF THE GRILLE
Though in the States production pimpmobiles like the Lincoln Continental Mark V kept the end up, throughout the 70s and 80s car fronts generally became less cluttered,. Whether this was in the quest for aerodynamics or democracy can be discussed. Nowadays however the big, look-at-me-and-get-out-of-my-way grille is well established again, but who started that revival? Again, in Europe I’d neatly nominate Rover again with its retro grilles, as fitted, first to the facelifted 800 in 1992 (here shown in understandably rare coupe form), then to the 1993 600 series, though they were possibly matched in Japan by the 1992 Mazda Eunos/Xedos 6. Today they look rather dinky, but historically I’d contend they have a lot to answer for.
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The rise of the grill continued into the noughties, and for the 2005 model year nobody's grille was naughtier than Chrysler's 300, which instantly gave Ford, Cadillac and even Bentley a grilling. Suddenly the competition had to do make more catch-up than Heinz.
BEAUTIFUL CURVY D-SIZE FLEETMOBILES
The new Kia Optima is currently one of my favourite designs at any price. Ford says that next year's Mondeo will have a premium feel. Who can we thank for suddenly putting pressure on the competition to make this market segment pretty? Could be the 2008 Vauxopel Insignia.
THE LOWER, SPORTIER PEOPLE MOVER
The Ford S-Max has become the acceptable face of family motoring for those who insist they are still capable of a corner-carving good time behind the wheel and a spot of recreational lifestyling in spite of requiring a third row of seating.
But Honda got there first, with the 2003 edition of the Odyssey. Europe never got this car, receiving the squarebacked Accord Tourer instead, and Honda USA developed a suitably big-boned cupholder delivery system replacement also named Odyssey. For those not indoctrinated to believe that Hondas are for old people, interior plastics must reward fondling and tapping and no Japanese front-drive car can dare hold a candle to anything with dynamics developed in the EU it was a very good car.
Whether Honda should have dropped its van lower to the ground rather than hoisting it in the air and calling it a 'crossover' is another matter, but there are other Hondas to cover that niche. A low Odyssey for the Asia-Pacific and a large Odyssey for America are still offered today.
Ah, for goodness sake. Flaps hands and rolls eyes: " Ford says that next year's Mondeo will have a premium feel." Show, don´t tell. Saying it will have a premium feel implies the current car doesn´t. Whether or not you think the current Mondeo is premium is up to you, but isn´t it daft of Ford to tell us that the next car will feel premium? As if the current car is fitted with sack-cloth and wheelie-bin plastics. And while I´m here, I´m tired of the premium cliche. That and "professional."
Thanks seant, car4mh areader et al for your contributions. This is a very good thread and it adds to my stock of knowledge.
THE LUXURY FLAGSHIP FROM A WORKING-CLASS BRAND
It was 1967, and while Ferdinand Piech was working on the 917 at Porsche, Toyota decided to pre-empt the VW Phaeton by 35 years with the Toyota Century. It was the flagship of the domestic Toyota range, and in its original V8-powered form would remain in production for 30 years, operating as limousine of choice for the ultra-conservative business and political elite. Lexus only arrived in Japan in 2005. But the Century remains the Toyota flagship, forming the basis of the Imperial family's royal limousine and the standard government VIP car. In 1997 a new edition was released. This current car retains the Japanese Fauxmericana early '60s styling and may well be one of the only new cars supplied as standard with 'hockey-stick' wing mirrors. But it also features an exclusive V12 engine, which hasn't found its way into a Lexus during the last 14 years.
Perhaps the Phaeton never stood a chance to shine, being born into a domestic industry featuring big daddy Mercedes. Toyota didn't have the problem of an existing local prestige marque when it launched the Century.
I´m tired of the premium cliche.
I´m tired of the premium cliche.
I know what you mean. The good news is that the verbal banality is sometimes accompanied by attractive design.
90s RETRO ROADSTER REVIVAL
At the top of this page, seant noted the "rise of the grille" in the early 90s. This coincided with other post modern trends such as the rebirth of classic British sportscar (initially courtesy of Mazda in 1989 with the MX5 Miata, but quickly joined by TVR's Griffith in 1991). Before long we'd have the Elise and MGF. All this was just a small part of the broader Retro movement which grew through the 90s and on into the 00s.
Ref the post above, I'm not sure if something as well known as the Miata can count as a "missing" link, so I'll also offer up Philip Johnson's 1984 AT&T Building. Here is what wikipedia has to say about it:
"The AT&T Building in Manhattan, now the Sony Building, was completed in 1984 and was immediately controversial for its neo-Georgian pediment (Chippendale top). At the time, it was seen as provocation on a grand scale: crowning a Manhattan skyscraper with a shape echoing a historical wardrobe top defied every precept of the modernist aesthetic: historical pattern had been effectively outlawed among architects for years. In retrospect other critics have seen the AT&T Building as the first Postmodernist statement, necessary in the context of modernism's aesthetic cul-de-sac."
It is interesting how everything goes in cycles. In Ayn Rand's 1940s novel "The Fountainhead" the protagonist Howard Roark is an architect who believes passionately in modernism and fights to keep historical references off his buildings.
Wikipedia is not accurate here. Post-Modernism has its roots much earlier still. Robert Venturi was experimenting with pre-Modernist forms when, for example, he designed the Vanna Venturi house (1961-64). What Pei did was bring a debate which had been simmering in architecture for two decades into the public´s view. Interestingly, while architects have a major bee in their bonnet about adhering to this or that -ism, industrial designers don´t. The reason industrial designers didn´t have a hard time being post-modern is that they have been relatively undogmatic (with exceptions).
Gavin Green mentions how slow car designers to acknowledge trends outside design. In the case of car design I would say it took them about thirty years to acknowledge modernism was not the last word in design thinking. In my experience this has a lot to do with the relative ignorance of most car designers about anything other than design. With exceptions, of course.
For a quite accessibly introduction to architecture after modernism, try Diane Ghirardo´s book called "Architecture After Modernism."
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