Spannerhead Dot

Posts filed under ‘Design Highs and Lows’

Design Highs and Lows: Bertone

October 12, 2011 by Matt

Lambo Lamborghini Miura Muira Bertone Gandini

The great car designers and styling houses have produced their share of automotive art. They’ve also penned some designs that left the critics and viewing public scratching their heads. Today we begin a new series highlighting, per post, one example of notably excellent and one case of notoriously questionable styling from individual designers and firms.

Perhaps no Italian automotive design concern has allied itself with a wider range of clients than Bertone, based in Turin. Over the years, from Abarth to Volvo, they’ve earned their keep by shaping some achingly lovely sheetmetal. Their first design for Lamborghini, with whom they’ve enjoyed a long and productive relationship, is arguably Bertone’s finest shape. The ’67-’72 Miura mid-engined supercar, shown at top, was the work of a 25-year-old quasi-prodigy named Marcello Gandini, who got it right in almost every respect, from the wildly provocative—but not gaudy—proportions emphasizing the transverse orientation of its V12, to details like the post-window vents and rocker panel scoops. Simultaneously expressive and tasteful, it’s a design tour de force.

On the other side of the ledger, we have the car shown below, the ’78-’81 Volvo 262C:

Volvo 262C Bertone

For this exercise, Bertone took the already-frumpy shape of the Volvo 240 coupe and pushed it full-tilt into pure ’70s camp. Everything below the greenhouse was essentially left untouched, the roof was lowered a few inches and the windshield raked—and that’s it. The upright C-pillar and other superficial similarities to American luxoboats of the era aren’t coincidental; allegedly, it was Volvo’s attempt to wedge themselves into that market niche by tailoring their 240 to our tastes. Fortunately, even if we kept buying our tacky American land yachts, we had the good sense to see through such a half-baked marketing ploy, and the 262C met a cool reception. Bertone later tried to disavow their hand in the car’s design, claiming they had only built the car, not penned its lines. Sorry guys, you’re stuck with it. At least you have dozens of superb designs to balance it out.

Editor’s note: This post is part of an ongoing series where I highlight one example of both excellent and awful design from a noted styling house or designer. Read the other installments here:

11 Comments on Design Highs and Lows: Bertone

Design Highs and Lows: William Towns

November 2, 2011 by Matt

1970 Aston Martin DBS First Generation Old Blue

Observe the car pictured above, a 1970 Aston Martin DBS. Muscular, but nicely tailored. Bulldog-ish in a sort of British muscle car fashion. Classically-proportioned and free of frivolous adornment.

Now, take a gander at the car in the image below, a 1978 Aston Martin Lagonda. I regret to inform you that yes, this car was actually built in quantity and loosed upon the civilized world. 627 of them, to be precise. Over an agonizingly long 16 year period, at the end of which they still hadn’t resolved all the car’s wildly overambitious electronic features. Incidentally, “wildly overambitious” would also be a generous description of the styling, which, well…just look at it. Words fail me. The sheer size, the shape, its utterly reckless, angular arrogance… I think I would be catatonic if I saw one in the flesh.

Aston Martin Lagonda Burgundy Auburn

Hard to believe the cars were made by the same automaker, isn’t it? And this the same manufacturer that recently graced the automotive world with some of its most stunning creations in the DB7 and DB9… But not only is the same firm responsible for both, the same man—one William Towns—penned both cars’ designs. Over his 40-odd year career, the British designer styled cars exclusively for British automakers, besides the DBS shown at top, and got lucky with a few well-received shapes—the Jensen-Healey among them. Mostly though, he stuck to drawing boxy little city cars and other transportation appliances, and precious few of them were actually produced in the automotive wasteland that was ’70s and ’80s Britain. Unfortunately for Towns, then, his most notorious design is far better known than his best, and it’s the one that defines his legacy.

Editor’s note: This post is part of an ongoing series where I highlight one example of both excellent and awful design from a noted styling house or designer. Read the other installments here:

2 Comments on Design Highs and Lows: William Towns

Design Highs and Lows:
Ferrari + Pininfarina

November 16, 2011 by Matt

1965 65 Ferrari 275 GTB Red Pininfarina

As long a relationship the Italian automaker has had with the styling house Pininfarina, the latter didn’t pen all Ferrari’s designs; however, they have shaped a significant majority of them. The number of good-looking cars both firms have styled is appreciable, so I thought focusing on the intersection between them, design-wise, would be a less daunting task than attempting name the best and worst design of either one in isolation.

Ferrari engineering and Pininfarina styling have been joined at the hip since the mid-’50s, so there were a myriad of designs to choose from. The pinnacle of their association, though, came in 1965 with the 275 GTB, pictured at top. Combining the sensuality of the 250 GT Lusso (without the delicate femininity) with the muscular aggression of the GTO and Daytona (with none of the brutishness), it best represents everything a Ferrari should be, from then to now. Every line is perfectly placed and urgently communicates a raw, yet refined animalism. It’s the quinessential “iron fist in a velvet glove,” and a stunning achievement.

Ferrari 612 Scaglietti Blue

The more recent ’04-’10 612 Scaglietti, on the other hand, stands as the nadir of the Ferrari-Pininfarina connection. It’s decorated rather than styled, arbitrary features like the side scallops tacked onto otherwise conventional proportions. The front in particular is a disaster: Concave where it should be convex, and vice versa. The headlights and wheels look far too small and give the already large GT an even girthier impression. The styling house really phoned it in with the 612, and the car ended up looking like it was hastily carved from a bar of soap. Sketch a few lines, and…we’re done. Yeah, that’ll do. Next.

It’s understood customers of Ferrari’s larger offerings prefer cars that are a bit more discreet than their rip-snorting sports cars, but the Scaglietti commits the double sin of being boring and ugly. I would say the same about the 612’s successor, the FF, but at least with that car, it looks like they’re trying for something; there’s intent, purpose. Here’s hoping the next big Ferrari GT has some grace and class to go with its power.

Editor’s note: This post is part of an ongoing series where I highlight one example of both excellent and awful design from a noted styling house or designer. Read the other installments here:

2 Comments on Design Highs and Lows:
Ferrari + Pininfarina