Are LED lights and spindle grilles the new fins?


To put it bluntly, I think new cars look like crap. Apart from a select few contenders like the Mazda6, any Aston Martin, the gorgeous Lincoln MKZ [You may be alone there -KK] and Lexus’s almighty LFA supercar; just about everything else looks… boring. Let the comments section explode.

How much more generic can we get with styling these days? Have you flipped through the pages of a new car buyers guide or driven past dealer lots lately? Staring at row after row of plain-Jane looking automobiles just bores me. It’s almost as if it’s more exciting to go refrigerator shopping. Sure manufacturers, gaudy up your car with tacky trim levels that add big wheels, bits of chrome everywhere and special chintzy badges all over, but it still won’t excite me.

It’s just a shame that they (OEMs) don’t make cars look like the way they used to. Passover the 1990s with exception of the Acura NSX, don’t even look at anything built in the 1980s or late 70s, and gush at just about every vehicle that rolled off dealer lots from the 1920s up until the start of the disco era. Cars like the original Ford Thunderbird, legendary Hudson Hornet, old Cords, the Chevrolet Bel Air, any Duesenberg, the Nash Ambassador and all those swinging, ocean liner-sized Cadillacs. Those aren’t just four-wheeled heavy blocks of transportation- they’re gorgeous pieces of art.

Sure, not everybody buys a car based on looks but come on, at least buy something that looks interesting. Oh you just bought the best-selling family sedan in the country? Great, my dishwasher looks more attractive.  There are so many styling trends that are just goofy. Angry-eyed taillights that remind me of Angry Birds characters, ridiculous spoilers, butterfly doors, plastic insets below headlamps, etc. It just needs to stop.


Thankfully, some automakers have stepped up their game to introduce new exterior design cues that do occasionally catch the eye. From LEDs in headlights, kudos Audi, to obscure spindle front grilles, I’m looking at you Lexus. But these two styling elements, which are becoming more and more alarmingly common, I think, are just going to fall prey to the shiny toy syndrome. We’re wowed by shiny LED accent lights and spindle grilles now, but give it a few years and we’ll just ignore their existence. Then automakers will ditch these ideas and move onto the next  “big thing.”

This whole process will repeat again, again and again until the death of the automobile. Look at fins, which exploded in the 1950s, when Cadillacs, Mercedes, Chrysler, Studebakers, you name it; had them towering off the rear end of their cars. It looked badass and still does. But like spaceship/jet airplane-styled taillights, fins died off by the time the 1970s were alive and kicking. There hasn’t been a car since with any kind of prominent fins. 

LEDs are already overplayed, sorry Mercedes S-Class, that Nissan Sentra wearing a price tag almost one hundred grand less than yours also has LEDs in its headlamps. They’re (LEDs) are just too mainstream now, and while some cars wear them well, like the BMW i8, others on models like the Ford Escape make giggle at its chintzy-ness. Hell walk into any local auto parts store and find aisle after aisle of cheap, stick-on LED strips you can put all over your…bumper or side mirror or hood scoop…or license plate frame. Oh your 1995 Ford Explorer has five-rows of tape-on LEDs in your grille? That was cool… back when I was in high school. Come on folks; stop embarrassing yourselves and the rest of the automotive community. If you’re going to put any kind of after-market light on your car, buy brighter and safer headlight bulbs.


Spindle grilles looked cool when Lexus debuted the new IS sports-sedan, but now almost its entire line-up adopts that same hourglass look. Then Infiniti, Nissan followed with their own variation. Come on guys, make your vehicles stand out and look more unique. Your full-size SUV should not have an almost identical front-end as your luxury flagship sedan.  Cadillac and Acura obviously have a fancy for grilles that look like shields.

I thank you though Fiat, Jeep and Dodge, for selling cars that look very similar to their famed ancestors. Thank you for making the new Challenger look strikingly similar to the old Challenger. Thank you Jeep for still making your Wrangler hold true to its simple, “Amurican” off-road pedigree styling. Thank you Fiat for making the new 500 appear just like the old 500 just a bit more bigger and up-to-date. Bravo to you, bravo you styling Maestros.

There needs to be more model differentiation and a styling revolution. Stat.

Images Copyright 2014 Hooniverse/Robby DeGraff

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