Merced County Times Newspaper
The Power of Positive Press

Custom classics grilled for just plain bad taste

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Doane Yawger
Doane Yawger

Sometimes custom car builders, or even the auto factories, get it wrong in their designs, to my way of thinking.

In perusing the latest street rod magazine issue the other day, I came upon coverage of a 1955 Ford Crown Victoria street machine. It’s a pretty striking car with lots of innovation and craftsmanship — except for one glaring flaw.

Where the original and distinctive central grille piece should be, the builder substituted the grille section from a 1952 Dodge.

It’s just wrong!

As I’ve often said, styling is subjective and my tastes differ from those of others. But the Dodge insert doesn’t work in this instance. It sticks out like a sore thumb. It doesn’t belong. It looks fine in its natural “habitat” but not in a 1955 Ford.

In the late 1950s, Desotos had a long and narrow horizontal grille piece that generally offended my sensibilities. Later this angular piece got grafted onto custom cars and the offense was compounded. The added-on grille doesn’t complement the overall design; it doesn’t fit. Styling should offer a blended, unified look, not with warring elements.

A while back customizers offered alternative front ends for the Volkswagen “bug.” One of these featured a cheesy Rolls Royce grille grafted on that also assaults my sense of style. A companion alternative grille treatment for those VW coupes featured a rendition of a 1940 Ford Deluxe grille and that’s acceptable.

At the risk of offending Tucker loyalists, the headlight planted square in the center of the grille just doesn’t work for me. It’s a distraction to otherwise graceful and flowing lines.

Some might argue the distinctive grille found on the 1958 Edsels isn’t right. I’m so used to that design that it seems normal but the motoring public didn’t necessarily agree with my assessment, as reflected in overall sales.

Cab over engine (COE) grille treatments for big 1940s and 1950s Ford commercial trucks stand out in a negative way for me. They are awkward-looking.

The industry trend these days in grilles for Japanese sedans and sport-utility vehicles is reminiscent of the gnarly face of Darth Vader or other Star Wars fighters. It stands out, but not in a pleasing way, I feel.

History will tell whether the style has lasting qualities. Many people apparently like them since they are big sellers.

One of the charms of the United States is it’s a free country and we can like — or dislike — whatever we please. No one forces you to like what I like and this diversity certainly is welcome.

But I’m free to turn my nose up when I see something that’s just wrong. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Doane Yawger of Merced is a semi-retired newspaper reporter and editor.

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