If you’re a muscle car enthusiast you’ve had to have noticed the husky mid sections of retro styled modern muscle cars like the Camaro, the Challenger and the Mustang. As a custom car and hot rod designer, I sure have.
Every time I see one of these new AmericanV8 powered beasts thundering down the street, I’ve asked myself why contemporary car stylists have become so infatuated with these chubby looking profiles in the last ten years.
Never being one to just leave questions like this unanswered, I decided to do a little research to find out for myself, and after what I found out I must say I have an even greater respect modern car designers for designing cars as good looking as they are with all the issues they have to design around.
Growing up in the Sixties and Seventies and always being fascinated with car design I intently watched the styling trends move to longer lower profiles and wider stances. Cars designed in the Sixties for the most part were designed from the outside in, and the styling department dictated to the engineering department how the car should look, of course that would all change in the succeeding decades as the economics of building cars in this country changed due, government safety standards, fuel economy, smog standards, and competition stiffened from foreign manufactures.
Today the pragmatic concerns of building a modern car demand that the engineering department dictates to the styling department. Now days every square inch of space needs to be occupied by some functional part of the car whether it’s a crumble zone or an air filter box with very little room for form just for forms sake.
However, it’s without a doubt late model safety standards that have had the largest impact on car design in recent years, for example in 1998 Government safety standards mandated that all passenger cars have taller door heights after crash tests done by Mercedes Benz showed that taller door heights turned the doors into more of a structural member with greater frontal energy suppression on front impact resulting in a more safety capsule effect, this coupled with the introduction of side impact air bags which required more door height to work effectively.
Older cars from the Sixties and especially in the Seventies had sexy over hangs in front and back of the wheel arches which added to the long low and lean look, but now a days the overhangs are virtually gone coupled with the shorter wheelbases that are required to achieve lighter more cost and fuel efficient platforms have translated into somewhat stubbier looking cars.
While looking at a new Dodge Challenger this became very apparent, especially when I set a photo of a ’70 in profile right next to a ’10 in profile. Don’t get me wrong I think the new Challengers’ great looking car. I think the designers did a great job on it, even with all those pragmatic concerns they had to design around that I mentioned before, but it’s still has a little of that baby python that just swallowed a cat look to it.
So I had to ask myself what would a ’10 Challenger look like with a section job? You know what if I was able to cut let’s say 2 to 4 inches out of the mid section of body, how much sleeker would the car get?
My Dr. Frankenstein car customizing mentality said I had to do it, so what the hell; I was already in working in Photoshop at the time, so I had to do it, I couldn’t resist, and best of all I got to do it without any of those pesky pragmatic concerns to deal with.
I took approximately three inches out of the mid section, using the ’70 Challengers door as a guild but I couldn’t just stop there, no I had to reshape the wheel arches to look more like the original Challengers, then I lengthened the door to match the ‘70’s, and finished by giving the car much needed longer overhangs in the front and rear.
When I was done, my sectioned ’10 Challenger looked more like the one I couldn’t stop starring at when I attended the Los Angeles Auto Show with my dad way back in the fall of 1969.
Yes my little design exercise got me thinking that the manufacturers when designing their flagship cars should consider going back to the old way they designed cars in the Sixties from the outside in and let the styling department dictate at least; to more of an extent to how the rest of the car will get built.
After all, cars like these should be head and shoulders in styling above the rest of the cars in a manufacture’s line up, keeping within the safety standards of coarse but with sex appeal being a much larger guiding factor.
It seems to me from a safety standard point of view, that more over hang in the front and rear of the cars would only add to the crumple zone, thus making the car even safer, they can take the weight out some- where else by perhaps using lighter materials, of course cost will go up some, but these cars are flagships for God sakes they should demand a premium.
After looking at my Photochopped ‘10 Challenger again I had to wonder would it be worth an extra let’s say $3000- $4000 in cost to have a Challenger, a Camaro, or a Mustang that have profiles truer to the originals? I say most definitely hell yeah.