Chrysler

Art of the Car Concours. It All About the Details.

This afternoon my friend Tim and I spent a few hours at the Art of the Car Concours on the grounds of the Kansas City Art Institute. The annual event is a scholarship fund raiser for the school, and over the last seven years has grown into a world class automotive event. The two of us spent a hot humid summer afternoon, walking through 100 or so vehicles taking photos, admiring the design styling, engineering, and distinction of the cars shown. At one point both of us commented on how each car, each brand, had unique looks that set it apart from it’s contemporaries.

Both of us remarked that in todays world, most people can’t tell a Nissan from a Honda, from a Volkswagen, from a Chevy, from a Hyundai, from a Kia, from a Ford (although Ford is arguably ahead of the curve in distinctive styling). Aside from a few marquee brands, or higher end autos, most look the same, and no one making a car for the masses puts the attention to detail in things like badging any more. Looking at a 49 Ford coupe, and 66 Covair it made me long for the days when each car brand looked distinct, and the exterior styling was as important as the creature comforts like iPhone connectivity that we lust after today.

Below is a sampling of some of the photos that I took today. Realistically some of these shots are for cars that would cost a small fortune in todays dollars. None the less, the attention to detail, the quality of materials, the small things, are what made these cars part of the golden age of automobile design. Personally I wish the big three, Ford, Chrysler, and Chevy would step up to the plate and bring this kind of styling back. Raise the bar, set a new standard based on vintage design styling that was in many ways simply better. No I don’t want the old school technology. What I want is a car that looks as cool as these, with all the comforts my 2013 model offers me today.

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Four American Cars I’d Buy Today, if They Were Available as a 2 Door Coupe.

In the world of American cars, I’ve never understood why so many models are only offered as a sedan, and not as a coupe. I have nothing against four door cars, I simply prefer the look and slightly smaller size of the two door model. Part of this probably stems from the fact that when I was growing up, four doors cars were driven by my “uncool” parents, or my grandparents. Perhaps that stigma has held with me in some subconscious form. Then again, it might just be my design aesthetic coming in to play.

20121223-121740.jpgThere are four American cars I would have purchased if they had been available as a coupe. Two of them are available in Europe as two door coupes already. The Ford Focus hatchback, and the new Dodge Dart, which Alfa Romeo sells as the Giulietta in both a two door coupe, and as a hot two door hatchback. The other two vehicles I would have jumped on if they were available as two door models are the Chevy Volt, and the Chrysler 200.

20121223-121533.jpgAll four of these cars look good as four door models, with improved styling that can compete with European, and Japanese cars. This applies to both interior and exterior styling. Having driven each one of these models, I’d also say that build quality, amenities, and materials rival their foreign counterparts as well. After decades of poorly design, poorly styled and subpar materials, the American car companies (especially Ford and Chrysler. Chevy your design department needs to step up) are making a comeback.

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A fifth car that I would consider is the new Lincoln Mk Z, although I hate the grill styling. The folks at Lincoln should have stuck with the 1960’s grill style they were using about ten years ago. It looked better, and it stood out from the crowd. None the less, this is another Ford product that would look stunning with the lines of a two door coupe, instead of a four door sedan.

20121223-122308.jpgAll of these models need to look at Cadillac and what they did with XTS sedan and the CTS coupe. This is a great example of the same basic model available in two styles, and yes I’d buy a CTS coupe. I think it looks as good as any European, or Japanese luxury car on the market today.

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FutureLAB Interactive Car Windows for GM.

Just in case you missed it, earlier this week all the major news networks announced how GM is back on top as the number 1 automobile manufacturer in the world. Ford is making huge gains, and both companies are being heralded for design innovation and product quality. Hopefully Detroit will do something about the plethora of over sized trucks and SUV’s that clog American roads, by making smaller more stylish cars that appeal to the masses the way the previously mentioned did over the last 20 years. I mean seriously, do you really need a Ford F-250 with a Triton V-10 engine if you don’t work on a farm or haul something daily? Anyway, I digress…

Recently GM, in challenged the FutureLAB at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Israel to make back seat windows interactive for kids. “Windows of Opportunity” project is designed to take advantage emerging technologies, and convert the rear windows of a car into an interactive playground for kids. The students from  FutureLAB worked directly with General Motors Human-Machine Interface Group to explore the possibilities of the future. The result of their research and work is an entertainment center built around applications designed to deliver gaming, social networking, information, and creativity for kids.

It is this kind of exploration, and design development that will help propel GM, and other US car makers forward over the next few years. GM, and Ford having conquered the challenges of fit, finish, and style need something to set themselves apart from European, Japanese, and Korean brands in the future. This kind of technology might just do the trick.

My Top 5 I mean 6, Super Bowl TV Spots for 2011.

Last night I DVR’d the Super Bowl, not so I could re-watch the game, but so I could re-watch the TV ads that ran during it. While there is no actual science to this, these are my top picks. The way I came to these results was pretty simple.

  • Was the ad memorable?
  • Did I remember the actual product being sold or promoted?
  • Did the ad reinforce or establish the brand message?

Based on these three factors, here are what I considered to be the 5 best TV spots that ran during the game, (and yes VW’s “The Force” didn’t make the cut because they butchered the 60 second version in the 30 second cut down.)

These Ads are in no particular order, for the most part I think they were all pretty effective. A couple of points though. The Doritos ad featuring the pug was produced for 500 dollars by a website designer, so it scores extra points on the budget and consumer buzz front. The Chrysler ad featuring Eminem  scored extra points for me because it conveyed the same visual and editorial brand voice that Wieden & Kennedy has established for Chrysler’s sub-brand Jeep.

I forgot to add this to my list this morning. I was pairing things down to five so it didn’t make the top cut but I was going to include with an honorable mention, because I am a MINI owner, and I thought it was a pretty damn funny ad. Thanks to my buddy Paul for reminding me to include it.