When it comes to car design, one common thread you’ll find throughout the car industry among a wide variety of car manufacturers is a throwback to older, iconic styles. It has been seen prominently in auto makers such as Ford, Chevrolet, and Dodge, and even in European brands such as Volkswagen and Mercedes. Read on to learn more about this design trend and how it might fare in car design of the future.
Case Study: The Ford Mustang
One standout example of the old car being made new is that of the Ford Mustang. The iconic muscle car, which first saw production in 1964, has seen six different generations. The first generation ran for nearly a decade until 1973; the second generation from 1974 to 1978; the third from 1979 to 1993; the fourth from 1994 to 2004; the fifth from 2005 to 2014; and the sixth starting in 2015. The very first generation of the Ford Mustang is perhaps the most iconic, and it even appeared in the James Bond film Goldfinger in September of 1964. The first generation Mustang featured a Ferrari-like front end, air intakes on the sides to cool the rear brakes, an overall heavy and sporty look, and a 2+2 profile with two seats in the front and two smaller seats in the back. The car truly became an instant classic. It’s no wonder, then, that in 2005 Ford redesigned the look of its fifth generation Mustang to mimic the styling of the first generation fastback Mustang models of the late-1960s. The new Mustang encapsulated a design trend that Ford’s senior vice president of design, J Mays, called “retro-futurism.” It had many of the same features of the original first generation Mustang, such as straight lines, a forward-leaning grille, sculpted flanks, set-back bucketed headlamps, tri-bar taillamps, and the fastback 2+2 profile. The major difference with this new Mustang, of course, is in what lies under the hood. The fifth generation Ford Mustang sat on a new D2C platform and was initially powered by a 210-horsepower, 4.0-liter V6 in base models, or by a 300-horsepower, 4.6-liter V8 in GT trims. Here, the Ford Mustang truly encapsulates going full-circle in design while incorporating the latest in engine and luxury technology in new models.
Other Design Throwbacks
The Ford Mustang isn’t the only iconic car to have seen a return to its roots. The Chevrolet Camaro and the Dodge Challenger saw similar throwback redesigns at around 2005. The Chevrolet SSR is another prime example, with a design that never saw mainstream success but has garnered popularity in the niche truck/hot-rod collectors crowd. In 2001, the Mini Cooper underwent a major facelift, yet still clung to its retro aesthetic. Then in 2002, Ford revived its Thunderbird (a revival that would last only a few years) with a design centered around the car’s original features, like its boat-like physique and round headlamps. And Volkswagen, of course, unveiled a new design of its Beetle in 2012 that saw a major change in the car’s bubble-shape top in favor of a flatter design reminiscent of the original Volkswagen Type 1 Beetle.
Meanwhile, some newer cars seem to have been designed with retro in mind from their very beginnings. The Chrysler PT Cruiser, for example, which premiered in 2000, features a vertical grille and flared fenders, resembling an old gangster getaway car or a street rod of the 1930s.
It should prove interesting in the years to come to see where car manufacturers take the designs of their most-loved models. Ford, for example, just unveiled this year a new, futuristic looking Mustang, with the 2015 model serving as the first in the Mustang’s sixth generation. A turn from the designs of years past in popular car models such as this is really to be expected, especially in today’s car industry when high-tech autonomous and luxury cars are so heavily talked about.