Automotive genetics

January 19, 2010

Image copyright Coconut photography

Since I was a kid, I’ve noticed that cars have certain features that they share with the rest of the cars by the same manufacturer, that is if the designers care. As each year passes, the cars evolve new looks, but those looks are deeply rooted in the past.

Take the Ferrari 300-series for example. Pictured above is the Ferrari 328GTB, first introduced in 1985. Its successors have followed a very similar design in terms of the main lines of the design. Here’s the Ferrari 360 Modena.

This car was first introduced in 1999. If you look close enough, you can see that the main lines on the sides of the car have remained relatively intact. To me, this creates prestige for the brand. It shows a slow evolution in style and design that few other car designers are able to replicate. The lines evolve gracefully, and those paying attention can really notice the natural progression from one year to the next.

Porsche is another company that does this very well.

Note the graceful progression that the designs take during each iteration. Each of these cars is different, but still easily recognized as Porsche. In some cases, new designs will revert back to previous designs. Take a look at the headlights on this 2005 Porsche 911 Turbo (one of my favourite cars of all time):

Now look at the current design:

When Porsche changed the headlights back to the single-light design back in 2007 (I think), I was a bit disappointed because the design of the headlights was a very important visual feature to me. They looked… technological… complex. Definitely unique to Porsche. I had never seen headlights like the ones Porsche was previously using.

A couple of years ago, Dodge reintroduced the Charger. When I had heard the news about this, I was immediately disappointed, because the original design of the charger was striking and communicated the power and purpose of the car in a very clear way:

1968 Dodge Charger

Simple, boxy, with the aerodynamics of a brick. I love this car. Here’s the new Charger for comparison:

I was thoroughly disappointed. The car bears very little resemblance to its original design. That’s fine, because it’s a new car, but it doesn’t even carry the genetics of the original Charger. It doesn’t do the name justice. They should have kept some of the original design elements that made the original Charger look so formidable, like the front grill and the awesome mechanical headlights. The new Charger is a feeble attempt at rebranding a previous success.

So, there are my opinions on car design and genetics. I could go on and on, but I chose to focus on a few primary areas. Porsche and Ferrari are two companies that care deeply about design, and their cars reflect this in a very elegant way. Other companies, such as Kia and Hyundai pay little attention to design and lineage, and this to me is a big part of what gives cars their design value.


One Response to “Automotive genetics”

  1. Riley Crosby said

    I came across this literally 5 minutes after trying to explain this exact subject to a group of people on an instagram post. I was trying to explain how the Porsche 918 has a large resemblance to the carrera gt. The conclusion i came to is that some people can not appreciate design much less truly understand it. Great article you found a way to explain a really intriquite thing in a simple way, (better than i did myself)! Haha

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