know your audience

 

F-Type Coupe

I want an F Type based on looks alone.

While aesthetics are rather subjective, the general consensus seems to be that Jaguar’s new F-Type coupe is the best looking car in quite some time, and I couldn’t agree more. The proportions are spot-on. It walks the line between elegant and sporty better than any car since Aston Martin’s DB9.

Yet the F-Type’s stunning looks also serve as a painful reminder of the sad state of contemporary automotive design. Jaguar’s designers certainly did their job. What’s every other manufacturer’s excuse? I ponder this question every single day. My completely unscientific theory centers around the notion that designers are too educated for their own good.

The general public has not studied automotive design. We understand and thus can only appreciate the basics. Part of the attraction of classic cars stems from their simplistic approach to design. There is an honest functionality to it. Their styling has purpose that is self-evident to even a layman.

straightforward design

straightforward design with Porsche’s 911

Contemporary automotive design stems from a much deeper understanding and appreciation of design. While there is undoubtedly aesthetic merit to contemporary designs, today’s seemingly overstyled and fussy designs are lost on the public. Best to keep it simple.

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bare essentials

My favorite aspect of superbike design is the uncompromising emphasis on functionality. It is simply on another level compared with what we see in sports cars. Sure, a GT3 looks legit with a huge rear wing and fat chin spoiler, but the fact remains that the car’s design is largely based on aesthetic merit. Not to pick on Porsche, this is true for most brands. How many production cars look like LeMans prototypes?

Ducati 1199 Superleggera-photo-leak-04

Ducati’s 1199 Superleggera has nothing to hide

While cars are fully draped in frivolously contoured sheet metal, the motorcycle is relatively naked. There’s a minimalistic approach to the bodywork. Much of the motorcycle eschews covering, and the panels that are in place, feel almost shrink-wrapped to the underlying chassis. F1 design follows the same philosophy with body panels wrapped tight across the hard points of the car.

Contemporary car design occupies the opposite end of the spectrum. Huge sculpted sheets of metal cover the chassis, and that’s fine. The requirements of a passenger sedan simply do not align with those of a superbike. However, the fact that this philosophy hasn’t really caught on with sports car manufacturers is puzzling as there is an industrywide push for lightweight solutions. If you look beyond the mainstream brands, this approach has already driven one brand to prominence.

the body panels appear almost pull tight across the chassi

No fat on an F1 body

Looking closer to a motorcycle than a conventional car, the BAC Mono wholeheartedly embraces the minimalistic approach. The car revels in its lack of aesthetic compromise; sharing it’s mechanical guts with the outside world. Beyond the fact that it merely looks the business, by shedding unnecessary body panels (and everything else) in the name of performance, it is terrifyingly fast with a sub 1,200lb curb weight and 285hp.

Mono's lovely guts exposed

Mono’s lovely guts on display

There is so much visual drama that is missing when cars are fully clothed in metal. The exposed componentry adds to the car’s sense of purpose. The underlying engineering that goes into developing a car is nothing short of incredible. No reason to keep it hidden.