Sunday, January 29, 2006

#14: Let's go retro

The latest rumours are:

Lamborghini will build the Miura re-hash they showed at Detroit.

But the Challenger and the Camaro concepts are still in will they/won’t they land, even if commentators (and vast swathes of the motoring public) continue to suggest these nostalgia exploitation devices (NEDs) might just be what their respective manufacturers need in order to drag their sorry asses out of “junk” status. Say what? Oh, alright then – that’s really only an issue for GM. At the moment.

I have to say, the Challenger I like. Even more so than the slightly insipid greatest hits of the Mustang currently on sale, this Dodge NED hits a lot of the right buttons in its history robbing design. The Camaro, however, has a fat ass and looks like it’s short-sighted as well as having a scowl. But it’s the Miura that really leaves me cold.

I can’t understand this. With the Murciélago and the Gallardo, the Big Bull has produced two of the most successful and distinctly unique sports supercars of recent times. They are unmistakably their own. They fizz with brand identity, and you can trace the heritage in their DNA even while they exist inescapably in the now. They are modern cars for a modern Lamborghini; sharp like the handling, fierce like the performance, and technical like the engineering. If Lamborghini persist with the reported madness and build the Miura, they will sweep all this contemporary integrity into the rubbish bin, and the progressive force which must feed the automotive industry if it is to survive will be weaker as a result.

It’s not exactly Lamborghini’s fault, but I have a problem with retro cars at the moment. The original Miura is flawed genius, which probably suits historical reflection on the manufacturer very well. It’s consistently voted one of the greatest looking cars of all time, while also stirring uncomfortable memories of incidental on limit handling and an ill-judged technical design – why not set the latter straight by exploiting the assets of the former. Perhaps it’s harmless, but it seems to undermine everything that they have recently achieved, and makes Lamborghini look like a company that has reached the end of a journey through the great hall of ideas.

I can almost forgive Ford the GT. For whatever reason they wanted to build a supercar, and the only relevant heritage in the history of the marque is a super-successful sports racing car that happens to look as good today as it did then. Given the correlation with their upcoming centenary celebrations at the time, it’s hardly surprising the executives decided to plunder the archive. It was one of the few ways to legitimise the project, and I doubt it would have been half as successful without its predecessor’s styling lines. Shame about the alloy design, especially, but you can comprehend where the GT is coming from.

I suppose you can make a similar argument for the BMW Mini – a car that probably would not be so successful if it didn’t look quite so cute, and has a similar heritage defying problem fully negotiated. However, the Mini’s biggest illegitimacy is in its disrespect for the original thinking that hallowed Issigonis’ creation – the complete absence of useable rear seats being the main exhibit. Totally a NED. And what about the PT Cruiser; I’m sorry to break it to you but if you drive one of those, people are laughing at you. Retro is wrong – at least partly because all others are demeaned by this Daimler-Chrysler mush.

(And will somebody please tell Porsche to get off the fence and build a modern sportscar. Build it alongside the 911 for all I care, but don’t let the rest of us suffer because of the wilfulness of some of your regular customers. Put all that techno-cleverness to use on something that isn’t hamstringed by misguided engine geographics and styling from thirty years before I was born. We won’t suffer the under-nourishment of the Cayman for long.)

Neoteric – that’s an appropriately “cool” sounding word; what’s wrong with neoteric design? Not everything has to turn out as bland as the second generation Ford Focus – look at the new Civic, a spaceship for the road. Nissan’s URGE concept has been received with rapturous bliss. The Bangle-ized BMW’s are a mixed bunch – but perhaps only because of the perceived over-reaction to the Seven, which in hindsight turns out to be the best looking (pre-blur tool facelift, anyway), and the most individual saloon on the road. At least until all the other manufacturers started steeling little bits of its styling cues, which is the certain way to judge its success.

I appreciate there are risks involved, but as many manufacturers are suddenly discovering there are also great dangers in being seen as sitting still. In this era of increasingly rapid technological advancement, any appearance of hesitancy may indicate that you are lost. I need proof from that this isn’t overwhelming you – I need to know you are making the most of the exciting developments available all around us. I want the new, and I want it to look new. Don’t give me warmed-over antiquity with rose-tinted side glass.

Let’s go retro? Let’s not.


Well, the American Lamborghini site is quite fun, so if you'd like to take a look at that it's here.

Dodge Challenger, amongst others [internal]

Pictures are both from, a desktop wallpaper site. The top one - you guessed it - is the "new" Miura concept; the bottom one is the Nissan URGE.


Blogger Torquesteer said...

Might want to check out your spelling on Miura CJ?!


10:42 pm  
Blogger InfinityReversed said...

What spelling?

*he says innocently

(Cheers, G! At least someone bothered to read it!)

10:24 pm  

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