During the last 20 years or so, people have been rather critical of contemporary car designs. Most, argue that manufacturers don’t spend enough time styling a car or that they don’t care anymore. They tend to say that old cars have had a more timeless design and that, modern cars are designed in a way which will ultimately make them look outdated just a few later after their reveal. I disagree with such a statement simply because just like there are ugly or controversial car designs now, there were in the past as well. Let’s also not forget that 40-50 years ago, a car was considered old and outdated, not just design-wise but technologically as well, in less than 10 years after its production began. My father had bought a Porsche 924 turbo during the 80s for 5,000£ because the car was considered old when in reality it was just 8 years old. Let me explain to you why in 40-50 years today’s cars will be considered true classics and timeless. (Talking specifically about sportscar manufacturers like Ferrari, McLaren etc)

What’s considered beautiful in a car is something very subjective and unique to its person, therefore, it is difficult to deem one car beautiful and another ugly but there are some designs that the majority of people like and dislike respectively. Beginning from the late 50s and up until the late 90s, I would say that, car manufacturers considered the exterior design of their car as a top priority during production and I don’t just mean important, I mean that the car would be built around its aesthetic needs. Even though we see a continuous improvement throughout the second half of the 20th century in engine power and efficiency, handling and weight distribution among others, I find it difficult to believe that aerodynamics were considered when designing sportscars. No matter what manufacturers said about their cars at that time, the only aerodynamic aspect of the cars would be their pointy front-end or a -useless- rear spoiler. Any ad that tried to promote aero, would probably read ‘The all-new Ferrari that cuts through air like a hot knife through butter’ just because they were pointy, just like Supreme Leader Aladdin insisted on for his nuclear head in the movie ‘The Dictator’. Any car that was co-developed with any racing-house or was developed with the help of a wind-tunnel of sorts, was criticized, well at first at least. The Ferrari F-40 that had lines to direct air along its body and thus improve performance, downforce and even fuel consumption -in the case that it used the same engine but had no aerodynamics- would probably make for a great debate. Its reveal had to be controversial because it was something that had never been done before, something that came from the future. I am pretty sure that many car enthusiasts were disappointed just because it wasn’t anything like the 308 or 208 GTS but GUESS WHAT, even though these 308 and 208 variants have gone up in value and cost ridiculous amounts of money today, the car that’s the most famous and expensive of that era, the one that changed the automotive industry moving forward, is none other than the F-40.

F-40's airflow

F-40's airflow

In today’s automotive industry, car manufacturers have discovered aerodynamics. Not only have they discovered them but have figured out how vital they are to a car’s performance. Contemporary cars are full of aerodynamic bits and pieces, others to cool the brakes and the engine and others to reduce drag while increase downforce. Cars of the past compromised practicality and performance just to have that perfect line that goes from the front of the car to the back. These days that’s impossible to do for two reasons, the first one being the safety regulations which block any effort to make them as sleek and natural as before and the second one being that they just can’t ignore the enhancement in performance aerodynamics offer. Remember how I said that beauty is unique to every person? Well for me, even though I adore classic cars don’t get me wrong, beauty is the balance between exterior design and aerodynamic design. One example is the Ferrari F8 Tributo, I know that most people won’t agree with me because they find it too performance-orientated but the S-Duct at the front, the side air-intakes, the blown spoiler and even, yes, even the flat undertray that has vortex generators make me drool. I will even go to the extent of saying that the McLaren Senna is one of my favourite cars of all time, I simply can’t get over the functionality and effectiveness of every little thing on that car, there isn’t even one piece of carbon fibre on the body that doesn’t absolutely need to be there. I guess I am one of those guys that only care about making something effective, nothing more, nothing less.

What I am trying to say is that every era of cars, just like every era of anything, has something different to offer to the next generation. The second half of the 20th Century offered us cars that would appeal to everyone because they followed trends of their time. The first 20 years of this century have definitely offered us something different, something that for most people is boring and complicated while for others -like me- is even more beautiful than art and that’s the combination of design and functionality. I am excited to see that evolve into something new. What are your thoughts on this? Let me know in the comments.

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