Why Retro Design Should Die...
As a kid obsessed, intrigued and constantly fascinated by cars, I always wondered in the back of my little head what futuristic driving machines would be like. As cool as cars were in the seventies and eighties, what might they look like when I was a grownup?
Now that the 21st century is firmly upon us, there's a pesky theme that continues to pervade thoughts and pens of car designers everywhere: retro design. I don't even like that word, since retro design implies nothing more than re-hashed, resurrected, evolutionary, iconic continuation cars that harken back to their glory days of wildly successful sales. Like a fat person letting themselves go, automakers are saying, “We throw in the towel. We've so completely exhausted all our ideas, we can only look backwards to move forwards.” They cannot manage to differentiate themselves with fresh product without looking over their shoulder; cobbling together new cars out of old ideas.
The worst offender? Chrysler. Not only have they produced such dog crap in their storied past as the milquetoast Plymouth Prowler and the breadvan Chrysler PT Cruiser, they've now topped themselves with the new Dodge Challenger SRT8. At a time when high fuel prices dominate the evening news, and SUVs continue to be assaulted as iceberg melting, planet-destroying tools of the Apocalypse, Chrysler struggles to re-create an extra-large, overweight, gas-slurping pig of a car that should remain rooted in history. The 1970 Challenger is cool. Why must previous success be dredged up to create new sales?
And Chrysler is not alone. The “new” Chevy Camaro, Ford Mustang, Ford Thunderbird, Jeep Wrangler, Mini Cooper, Porsche 911 and Volvo C30 all engage retro design in one form or another. Even the mighty Ford GT, a car I love and aspire to own, is exactly based upon a 40 year old design, despite the fact they did a better job this time around!
In this brave new world of hybrids and global warming, automakers should lead with new ideas and innovative, creative design: cars that are polarizing in style; different, creative, interesting, thought-provoking & future-thinking.
I'm not saying that every crazy concept car should be brought to market exactly as conceived. They can't be. For reasons such as production realities, cost, feasibility, crash standards and federal law, not all concepts appear on the showroom floor as designed. Increasingly, many features born at the concept-car level are finding their way into production automobiles. For me though, new ideas can’t come soon enough. At this point we should be using flying cars, and entire meals should be available in small capsule form. Honestly, shouldn't we be controlling the weather by now?
I love to admire and appreciate old cars as much as anyone. The very reason classic car shows exist is to celebrate early cars' rolling-sculpture bodywork, or the unrestrained enthusiasm of the post-war years, or the power and fury that define 60's musclecars. I understand the nostalgia that classic cars represent. It's exactly the reason they should stay classic and not be interpreted as “new.”
Leave my classic car shows alone. Go play in someone else's sandbox.