Art and design are subjective. What appeals to some may be abhorrent to others. Car design is no exception. No car designer in the world can pen a design so perfect it earns unanimous praise. There are some cars that manage, however, to earn widespread acclaim and appreciation for their styling. Conversely, there are some designs that are derided by the vast majority of commentators and consumers. My question is: are there are any oft-maligned car designs you find appealing?
When I first pondered this question, the first car that came to mind was the 1996 Ford Taurus. Read the comments section of any article on the third-generation Taurus and you will encounter a heaping helping of scorn for this controversial design. It seems to fly in the face of what is commonly regarded as aesthetically appealing in a car design: it doesn’t look longer, lower, wider or meaner than its predecessor and its abundance of oval shapes appears to many observers to be gimmicky and contrived. I beg to differ: I find its design intriguing and multi-faceted and I feel it has aged well. I loved it as a child and I love the design to this day.
While a somewhat similar and equally poorly-received design, the 1998 Ford AU Falcon is one I didn’t have such strong feelings about at its launch but I have come to admire. Like the ’96 Taurus, it was replaced with a heavily restyled version that was more restrained and elegant. However, the AU Falcon’s design is one that I feel has aged well and presaged the advent of the now ubiquitous “four-door coupes” like the Volkswagen CC and Mercedes-Benz CLS.
Coming directly after the slinky 1997-2004 Grand Prix was bound to hurt the 2005 Grand Prix’s reception but, long front overhang aside, it is a muscular and aggressive design and similarly echoes a four-door coupe design.
Paul’s recent article on the Chevrolet Lumina APV had me admiring the photos included within. While the expanse of dashboard inside and overall practicality vis-à-vis rival minivans were valid concerns, the exterior design – to my eyes – is clean, futuristic and elegant. These were a funky, fresh design without looking like an over-inflated water balloon à la the Toyota Previa.
Of the same era, the 1991 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight is also frequently criticized for its design. Other large General Motors sedans of this time, like the Chevrolet Caprice, were pilloried for incoherently juxtaposing traditional design elements with more aerodynamic lines. The Ninety-Eight, however, managed to retain a fairly conservative roofline and chrome rocker panel trim – stylistic elements rapidly becoming déclassé – without looking awkward. Well, to my eyes at least. Its platform-mate, the Buick Park Avenue, is regularly praised for its elegance and comparatively flowing lines but I prefer the Oldsmobile.
In some respects, the Oldsmobile Achieva appears almost like a mini-Ninety-Eight. I find this small Olds rather handsome. After a decade of almost identical-looking cars, General Motors was finally exhibiting some design flair. I feel it is better to take a risk with a design rather than continue trudging along with bland, anonymous designs. Alas, the market tends to disagree.
I also rather fancy the wild 1992 Buick Skylark, especially in sporty GS trim. Its wedgy lines are intriguing, its pointed prow like nothing else on the road.
Some other cars come to mind as well, like the daring 1961 Dodges…
…or the 1961 Plymouths with their piercing prows.
Finally, the 2007 Lincoln Navigator may have made the Cadillac Escalade look subtle by comparison, but inside and out these look the very definition of a 21st century Brougham…
…or like some modern day interpretation of a fuselage Town & Country.
Seriously, aren’t these almost 1970s-retro? I know Lincoln was going for a ’60s vibe with the grilles of some of their products last decade, like the first MKX, but these Navigators seem to harken back to the days of shag carpet and leisure suits. And I love it.
So, what cars do you love the look of that everyone else seems to be repulsed by?