Modern Car Design

Rudi Volti makes the point that the public will usually shun unusual car design, the Ford Edsel being the quintessence of this phenomenon. The gentleman who headed design for the Edsel, Roy Brown, died in February and in the Remembrances section of the Wall Street Journal, Stephen Miller points out that there is an entire culture surrounding the “failed” Edsel. Plenty of folks love it. There is even an Edsel World in Fort Meyers devoted to dealing Edsels and Edsel parts. Some people loved the car, “when Mr. Brown exhibited his first clay model of the car to top management, he was greeted with a standing ovation.”[1] What some people like, others hate. Good design is slippery, relative, cultural, and personal. Mr. Brown drove an Edsel for decades. Who’s to say whether a design is good or bad, but the fact can’t be ignored that it has to sell.


[1] Miller, Stephen. “Edsel’s Designer Took Flop in Stride.” Wall Street Journal [New York] 4 Mar. 2013, Remembrances sec. Print.

2 comments to Modern Car Design

  • There’s lots of lore around the Edsel, I don’t know why it didn’t sell, whether it was really the design or whether old man Ford undermined the marketing effort of his son’s project. Pay attention to the model cycle as you read more of Volti.

  • Tyler

    Quirky and “ahead of their time” cars have been a fixture of the automative landscape for quite a while now. For example, in 1948 Tucker released a futuristic machine with three highlights which turned with the wheel, increasing road viability. The “Tucker 48″also had almost 400 ft lbs of torque (a huge number for the time), seatbelts, a unique transmission, and 4 wheel independent suspension. Unfortunately, due in part to it’s unusual nature, but also to some negative publicity and it’s relatively high price, only 51 were sold. Today one of those “quirky” cars, in restored condition, is worth well over a million dollars! Regardless, I think the Tucker serves as a reminder that the unusual might not sell because it is unusual, but because being different is expensive. A car is the second largest way investment most people will make in their life times, as a result, they are very conservative in their choices. I think automakers realize this and remain relatively safe in their designs. However, I wish this were not the case, not only do I love quirky cars like the Tucker but I think they are useful in forcing competitors to innovate.

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