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Hooniverse Asks- What Brand’s Long Lost Styling Trope Would You Like to See Make a Return?

Robert Emslie January 30, 2013 Hooniverse Asks

BMW Double Kidneys

Did you know that the toothed tail lights of the seventies and early eighties Mercedes Benz vehicles were designed not as a styling aesthetic, but to improve visibility when dirty? That kind of functional beauty is an element of the Swabians’ products that I miss in this era of form over function. Other brands have maintained – sometimes for decades – design elements that immediately identified their lineage, it was a comforting reminder of that marque’s stability and sense of tradition. 

Today, companies like Mercedes and BMW are casting off their traditional styling tropes, or are morphing them to the point where they are unrecognizable. In their defense the designers frequently profess that the  essence of the element still remains. I don’t know about you, but when it comes to pretty much anything, I prefer the real McCoy to the essence.

Jaguar is another brand that, for its sedans at least, has abandoned many of its past styling tropes for more modern interpretations that – sadly – could have come from any other high-end car maker. And don’t get me started on the new Corvette. But what of these cast-offs, the styling memes that used to define brands, which of those do you miss the most? Which long lost styling trop would you like to have back?

Image source: [BMWCoop]

Currently there are "90 comments" on this Article:

  1. muthalovin says:

    Acura.

    Though, the can opener/beak is growing on me.

    • pj134 says:

      Snaggletooth.

    • Vairship says:

      I STILL don't understand why Acura dealers don't mount aftermarket grilles on every car they have on the lot. Although Acura FINALLY seems to be de-emphasizing the beak on their latest designs, after the designer himself finally admitted it probably cost them quite a few sales…

  2. Vavon says:

    The simple but pretty Peugeot family look of the 80s. Just 2 or 3 bars in the grille instead of a gaping big hole!

    <img src="http://www.caranddriverthef1.com/sites/default/files/peugeot-205-gti-09.jpg&quot; width="660/">

  3. C³-Cool Cadillac Cat says:

    Did you know that the toothed tail lights of the seventies and early eighties Mercedes Benz vehicles were designed not as a styling aesthetic, but to improve visibility when dirty?

    Somewhat embarrassingly, yes…yes I did.

    Aerodynamics and harnessing wake what is effectively wake turbulence, though it likely has a different name, to swirl air in the recesses, 'scrubbing' it. Well, preventing dirt/snow from packing on to the lens.

    A few things I really miss:

    Both pop-up and merely flip-up cover, headlights.
    Tail fins.
    Hood ornaments.
    Useful names. Not physical styling, of course, but still styling of a sort.

    Even number/letter nomenclature used to be useful, but isn't…at least as much…anymore.

    A Mercedes 380SDL was, as you can tell by the nomenclature, a 3.8L, four-door extended wheelbase sedan, which was diesel.

    Simple.

    With 'Murrican cars…sigh. Yo, Cadillac and Lincoln. Stop with the retarded lettering crap. XTS, ATS, MKX, MKX, WTF… Granted, I own an STS, however, at least that used to stand for Seville Touring Sedan. SLS was Seville Luxury Sedan. Same goes for DTS/DHS.

  4. Number_Six says:

    Greenhouse and shark prow.
    <img src="http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8018/7446980790_f73258927d_z.jpg&quot; width="500" />

  5. domino_vitali says:

    BMW is going in a direction I'm not happy with. The front end of the current 3 series looks more generic than any BMW I can remember. What happened to the little E30 with the cute face that I fell in love with as a child?

  6. SSurfer321 says:

    I remember when they used to design door pulls/window cranks.

    <img src="http://i.ebayimg.com/t/1967-1972-Chevy-Truck-Door-Window-Handles-67-68-69-70-/24/!B7h0mRQ!Wk~$(KGrHqJ,!l8Ey+jC)VjTBM0cV)pSNw~~-1_35.JPG">
    IMG from Ebay

  7. Hopman says:

    The Ford / Chevy / Dodge trucks from the 80's – early 90's. No bull, just ready to work. And they weren't so tall you needed a step ladder to see over the bed side.

    Hell, if they get much bigger, the next F150 driver I see will be sitting eye to eye with me in my work truck ( Class 7 a Internatioal box truck)!

  8. Devin says:

    <img src="http://images.forum-auto.com/mesimages/47198/0401_14z+1986_bmw_e28_635csi+side_view.jpg&quot; width="500">
    Thin pillars. I do drive a vehicle with rather thick pillars, and it doesn't bother me as much as it bothers other people, but I could still go for more cars with really thin pillars, especially in the A-pillar area.

    • M44Power says:

      Yes! I recently drove a Buick (for work, promise) and the combination of tiny greenhouse and stupendously thick A-pillars made me uncomfortable driving the car. I don't see how people feel safer in cars they can't see out of, but apparently they do. I bet thin pillars can be made to meet rollover standards. They are sorely missed.

      • SSurfer321 says:

        It's not all rollover standards fault that causes fat pillars. It's also the airbag inside the pillar.

        I too miss being able to see around a corner whilst turning.

        • M44Power says:

          I maintain that those can be integrated better (or just find some other way of minimizing head injuries during side impacts) and give us back our visibility.

          • SSurfer321 says:

            yeah, put them in the B pillar and rear seat passengers airbags back in the C pillar. Give us back our skinny A pillars

      • danleym says:

        I've driven two relatively new rentals in the last two weeks, a Versa and an Accent (they're the only cars I've ever driven made since 2010, so they're all I have to go off of). Both had absolutely awful C pillars. I was backing the Accent into a parking spot in a parking garage, and I just had to trust I wasn't about to hit the car next to me.

        Also, Hyundai's TCS on the Accent will actively try to kill you in 1 inch of snow. I know what I'm doing in snow, and I was constantly fighting that car to keep it straight. I turned off the TCS, instant improvement.

        • FuzzyPlushroom says:

          That's how I felt about the (possibly malfunctioning) ABS in my Volvo 740. Modern ABS is helpful when it's slippery, but earlier systems just refuse to let you put your foot down and bite through an inch of snow, because oh lordy that would mean locking up the wheels for a second, so you're going into the intersection instead, sorry, buddy.

          Run-on sentence intentional.

          And yes, giant pillars can go to Hell, too.

          • M44Power says:

            That sounds like early BMW attempts at traction control. "Hey, you seem to be slipping a bit. Let me kill the engine power to throw you further off balance and keep you from recovering with the throttle."

    • C³-Cool Cadillac Cat says:

      Saw a very clean 633csi this past weekend, and was almost surprised at how open and airy it is. Just goes to show how disproportionately small windows are, today.

      I really like the looks of that 6-series. The 5-series of that era really appeals to me, too.

    • Irishzombieman says:

      I've got one of these sitting in my backyard. I wish it was pre-smog. One of the sweetest looking cars ever, but it's gotta go before it nickels and dimes me to death.

    • salguod says:

      I've lost whole vehicles on a turn behind the near A pillar of my Saturn Outlook. I guess had I crashed into that car, the airbag in the pillar would have protected me. A thinner pillar would mean I could have actually seen them and not crashed.

      My daughter's '98 Escort has nice thin pillars. That's the only thing on the car I'd describe as 'nice'.

    • alain says:

      its easier to see out of the back of my e28, than out of the front of a lot of modern cars, my e30 was even better!! ergonomics FTW!!

  9. stigshift says:

    You know what I miss? Being able to order any car with whatever options you wanted on it. I've seen, and owned, some weird combos. Now it's all package A or package B, with a black interior or a beige interior. You want a sunroof? You have to get leather and nav and backup cameras with it. Backup cameras? Remember when we could actually turn our heads around to look backwards?

    • OA5599 says:

      Backup cameras give a different perspective from what you can see from the driver's seat. I can line up the trailer with the hitch on the first try, by myself, instead of getting out of the truck, looking, getting back in and moving it a couple inches (repeat 3-6 times). I can also parallel park and get to within an inch of the car behind me without tapping it. I can back out of my sister's L-shaped driveway without backing over her ground-level landscaping lights along the perimeter.

      I don't think backup cameras should be mandatory, but neither do I think they are evil.

    • Devin says:

      I wish I had a backup camera back when I was helping my dad with farming. Backing a massive grain truck into a tiny spot using only the mirrors was eventually second nature – and it's oddly more difficult to be that precise with my much smaller car now – but it sure would have been nice to see what the hell I was driving into.

    • Vairship says:

      Remember when turning your head to look backwards allowed you to actually see something behind the car? On the Range Rover Evoque, the bottom of the rear window is likely higher than the driver's eyeball, so the only thing you'll see is the sky… This used to be called Bad Product Design.
      <img src="http://www.landroversj.com/dealerimages/Dealer%202722%20Images/range%20rover%20evoque%20rear%20exterior.jpg&quot; width="600">
      Source: landroversj.com, who I'm sure love the "styling".

  10. pj134 says:

    This is like the opposite of Monday's question. Thinking about ridiculous cars that I want to own makes my heart leap with joy. This just makes me depressed in the age of the jellybean.

    Lincoln abandoned all style
    Mercedes look like costume jewelery instead of well engineered suits
    BMWs look like retarded sharks that have had their faces pounded in with a fist
    Cadillacs are small (Not that I mind, but a big fucking land yacht would be nice)
    Lexus makes angry, fat sofas
    Acura is confused and trying to compete with BMW and Lexus so they make Honda Sport Sofas
    Hondas are enormous and the new Accord actually copied the Genesis sedan
    Ford either copies mazda or aston martin (dumbass grin or poorly executed gaping maw) with no style at all on the interior
    Dodge has boats or jellybeans
    Jeeps are enormous
    Chryslers are… something
    Toyota hasn't had style in 20 years, but are now styled after people who spent too much time in Chernobyl
    Chevy's are uninsipiring to say the least
    Buick is stuck between trying to young it up and keep the old people they're losing to the angry sofas (How about a Riviera again? Something with a little style for once…)
    Lotus are going to gigantic
    Land Rovers have Mercedes syndrome
    Ferraris… eh, are they still even trying to make them sexy?
    Lamborghinis look sane
    Audi's have over played the smooth Teuton look and are slowly starting to look like mold

    Basically, I hate everyone and everything and I'm going to sit in my angry chair. Everyone could do well to examine their past successes and continue to build on the. Although… Jaguars have changed, but they're still sexy as hell and I love them.

  11. schigleymischke says:

    I never did get the connection between those two BMWs at the top. Pontoon fenders, attached headlights, and a fold down windshield on the left does not equal what I see on the right.

  12. wisc47 says:

    I miss the four round headlights of BMW vintage.
    <img src="http://www.motorstown.com/images/bmw-30-cs-04.jpg"&gt;

  13. Alff says:

    Fake spare tire bulges on short rear decks.

  14. buzzboy7 says:

    The G-Body front end. I love the G-Body cars for some reason. I know they aren't great, but they are very good looking IMHO.
    <img src="http://onfinite.com/libraries/1261336/840.jpg&quot; width="600">

    • Felis_Concolor says:

      Many of the gorgeous styling cues from the 60s had become caricatures as the 70s plodded onward, making the transition to GM and Ford's boxy G- and Fox-Bodies seem refreshing in comparison. GM's early G-Bodies got the slab sided look right; just enough rake to keep the front and rear interesting, with a nice rolling shutter look to give the vehicle an aspect of motion even when standing still.

      While later iterations and models would offer their own – often questionable – variations on the original theme, that first generation Malibu was an excellent start to a still ubiquitous automobile platform.

  15. Devin says:

    For something brand specific, I miss when Rolls Royce treated their headlights and indicators like jewels.
    <img src="http://french-news-online.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/photo-rolls-royce-corniche-conv.jpg&quot; width="500">
    Now they're kind of begrudgingly included and no effort is made to make them special.
    <img src="http://www.shrustitravels.in/mysite/ecars/rolls-royce-ghost.jpg&quot; width="500">

  16. VolvoNut says:

    How about square? I'm bored with the swoopy blob look.
    <img src="http://cimbeon.com/data_images/volvo-240-dl/volvo-240-dl-06.jpg"&gt;

  17. Sjalabais says:

    Let me cite the legendary Jan Wilsgaard:

    "The functional is often the beautiful, too. Follow the laws of nature and don't make things more complicated than they really are.
    Functional and rational solutions are often the most attractive, too."

    Good old times…

  18. stigshift says:

    I also miss true b-pillarless hardtops of all types. Remember when Ford, Chrysler, and GM even had hardtop wagons? Cool.

  19. POLAЯ says:

    REAL METAL BUMPERS!

    <img src="http://blog.lenovo.com/images/legacy/files/2011/01/cadillac-bumper1.jpg"&gt;

    But the really effedup part? Google "real metal bumpers" and you get THIS!

    <img src="http://i01.i.aliimg.com/photo/v0/449468681/BLADE_PREMIUM_METAL_BUMPER_FOR_IPHONE_4.jpg"&gt;

    I'm really starting to hate technology.

  20. Tanshanomi says:

    I really wish GM would bring back the side creases from the Gen2/3 Monte Carlo. They look as though the wheel arches are simultaneously leaning forward into the wind and being blown back down the sides of the car, like a comet's tail, or pennants in the slipstream, or windblown hair. That's so awesome.

    <img src="http://www.tanshanomi.com/temp/75MonteCarlo.png"&gt;

  21. jeremy![™] says:

    wow! what the hell is that bmw concept?

  22. Dutch says:

    I know the "retro" movement is over, but I would see a modern take on a 1967 Chevrolet Impala SS Sport Coupe. Somewhere along the line, all GM styling pretty much sucks (Camaro excluded). Bring back people like Bill Mitchell and Pete Estes!

  23. C³-Cool Cadillac Cat says:

    POLAЯ remined me.

    Cadillac's Dagmars!!!

  24. Tanshanomi says:

    The old Bimmer in the lead photo actually reminded me of an Anglia E494A.

    <img src="http://farm7.staticflickr.com/6002/5947023728_4d671b5021.jpg"&gt;

  25. HSA says:

    Front, middle section and back that clearly belong to the same car. Bonus points if there is a proper grille. Bumpers? Cars used to have bumpers?
    <img src="http://foto.motorionline.com/auto/plog-content/thumbs/lancia/lancia-aurelia-b20-gt-1951/large/54457-lancia-aurelia_b20_gt_1951_001.jpg"&gt;

  26. Rover1 says:

    Rear wheel spats, last seen on the Honda Insight Mk1 and sadly missed from their days on Big American cars and Citroens, specially missed on Citroens since it was a styling flourish that was practical (aerodynamic), and marque defining like BMW's Hofmeister kink.

    Also, how can we have a Syd Mead future for ourselves without them?

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