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Modern car styling can warp speed to the ‘dark side’

Motor Musings

Contemporary car designers must be enamored with "Star Wars" movies. 
Contemporary car designers must be enamored with “Star Wars” movies.

It’s my theory many of the contemporary car designers must be enamored with “Star Wars” movies.

That’s because many of today’s cars and trucks carry the gnarly “face” of Darth Vader and the storm troopers.

Automobiles from many of the foreign and domestic manufacturers have the angular-jagged vent and grille contours from the legendary space villain both in front and back. To me, they are menacing, hideous visages but they are prominently featured even on some of the premium, more-expensive car brands out there.

These Darth Vader-esque grilles dominate the front ends from the edge of the hood to the bottom of the splash pan. There’s no missing them. These black-colored grilles are even carried through to the tail end of the cars.

Surely a fair amount of research and study went into creating these grilles and research has to show wide customer appeal. We know taste is subjective and I’m certainly not a fan of this trend.

These designs aren’t graceful and flowing; they jut out and dominate the landscape, so to speak. They are distracting to my way of thinking.

Car designs generally last several years so we’re probably stuck with them for a few more years. Sometimes subsequent designs soften these garish appearances but don’t count on it.

In years gone by, sometimes the carmakers carried out designs that were far from the mainstream and not always accepted by the motoring public. The best examples I can think of were the 1958-59 Edsel “horse collar” grilles. I think they are endearing but potential customers didn’t share my view. Edsels only lasted three years and were a big money-loser for Ford Motor Co.

Enthusiast magazines regularly publish factory outtakes of what are called concept cars. They are experiments in styling and a few of them actually get built. I’m very glad many of these concept cars never went beyond clay renderings in the studio.

One of the last Packards ever produced was the 1958 Hawk, a close cousin to the Studebaker Hawk. Critics thought the flat barely rounded Packard version looked like a fish mouth. Try finding one now that’s even remotely affordable. This one has grown on me over time.

The Desotos of the late 1950s had a long and narrow rounded bar or grille section that stretched the entire length of the front end. To me it was disturbing rather than pleasing.

Back in 1950 Studebakers and Fords had the rounded airplane propeller housing right in the center of the grilles. All you needed was the prop to complete the image. These were a throwback to World War II military aircraft and popular with customers at the time.

Today’s car fanciers certainly have a varied styling diet to take in while cruising our streets and highways. Most cars and trucks I see are pleasing to the eyes but you can’t expect it with all of them, especially those rolling tributes to Darth Vader.

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