Sunday, March 8, 2009

Enduring Designs

First of all, I'd like to apologize to my tens of loyal readers for not posting in a while. I just came back from California (for the first time in a while) and drove some sweet cars while there, so there will be another post on those to follow shortly.

This post, however, fits with the recurring theme of this blog: random thoughts. I was on the road tonight, and saw a car that sparked a familiar thought of mine: That's a nice-looking car, even though it was designed over 15 years ago. The car I was looking at was actually a Ford Probe (the second generation; I'm not a big fan of the first). 
There were actually two other cars which came to mind that fit a similar bill, the last Mazda RX-7 and the 2nd-gen Toyota MR2, and I've had the thought about all three multiple times, but now I've decided to pull them together and find a few others that I think have enduring style. 
Mazda deserves a special mention in this post for its solid styling stint in the '90s, when it had some of the sexiest coupes around. I actually had to take another look at the MX-6 and MX-3 to make sure I didn't want to include them, too (some might consider that thought ridiculous). 

Clearly there's a theme with these cars, though. They're all sporty coupes with rounded contours and pop-up headlights, which have clearly gone the way of the dodo. But aside from that anachronistic feature, I think that each of these designs, were they to be introduced today--with a collective societal brain-wipe of the memory of their existence--could stand on their own.
I'll admit that the MR2 is pushing it a bit, since it was designed in the '80s (and introduced for 1990), and it's a bit before the point which I would consider the cutoff for "modern" design. You can see that in some of the details, like the black trim line on the side, and the lack of shaping in the lower air dam. But I think that makes its styling achievement all the more remarkable, and I'd bet it still turns heads occasionally. 

In searching for a few more examples of vehicles that have aged extraordinarily gracefully, I was able to come up with two more, though I'm sure that every one of these vehicles will have several people calling me crazy.  

The first is not that far out there, since it is yet another sports coupe. I always thought the 2nd-gen Mitsubishi Eclipse was a knock-out. The 3rd was an abomination, but the 1995 Eclipse continues to stand the test of time as a great looking car. And just like Mazda, Mitsubishi had some solid styling chops in the '90s, and you can see how they've tried to return to that era, as some of the lines from the latest Lancer mimic some earlier Galant themes. I remember seeing the 2nd-gen Diamante in Australia (called the Magna there) in 1997, and thinking it was a great design. If you look at it today, it's still a handsome car.

The last car is probably the most controversial, since it's a sedan, and its brand had achieved the highest heights of stodginess before getting the ax by the early 2000s. I still believe it is one of the great shames of modern automotive history that Oldsmobile had to die just as its designs were getting good. (Ironically, it looks like GM is about to be forced into the same decision with Saturn.)

The Intrigue was the best-looking mid-size sedan on the market when it debuted, and its untimely death, with the attending lack of a replacement to make it look old, has helped this design stay pretty fresh, notwithstanding the usual state of disrepair in which you find many current examples on the road. 
So what do you think? Am I nuts. Am I on to something? Please post a comment and let me know your thoughts. It's good to be back!


Liza said...

You had a great theme going with the slick red paint jobs. Too bad the Intrigue had to ruin it. :P

Adena said...

Agreed...really the Intrigue, really? You're definitely crazy fo picking that one. You had me up until there, well, mostly. The MR2 was a stretch too...looks more like an old Porsche to me.

What about the Acura Integra (Kim's version)? I still like the design of that car.