If you had to pick the automotive equivalent of Spanx, a pretty safe bet would be fake grilles. They serve a purely aesthetic purpose, and they accomplish that purpose via a little bit of harmless subterfuge. They’re fake, and they’re all over nearly every car on the market today. Have you wondered what cars would look like if grille design was focused on honesty? Of course you have.

The basic idea here is this: how would cars look if they only had grilles in those locations that actually did what a grille is supposed to do—take in air?


To accomplish this, I fired up the Jalopnik Mainframe, now enhanced with an AI neural-net processor made from over five augmented lobster brains, and told it to find pictures of cars (mostly currently available cars) and cross-reference those pictures with information about what parts of the cars’ grilles actually were open to take in air, and then to re-render the image with only the areas that are open to air to be actual grilles.

I think the big lesson here is that maybe sometimes a bit of a lie is a good thing.

I should also mention that this was originally the idea of our own Andrew Collins, but I had the mainframe keys and starter fluid and he didn’t.


I’ll show the original car first, then the honest-grille variation. First, here’s a 2018 Mustang Shelby GT350R:

...and here’s all the parts that actually take in air:

Yeah, that’s probably not better. I do like how easy it is to see what’s fake and what’s real on the actual car, though.

Next, here’s a car for whom the grille design is a crucial component of the car’s identity, the 2018 Jeep Compass:

and now, without the lies,

The entire seven-slot Jeep trademark grille is gone! It was a sham all along!

Okay, now a 2018 Hyundai Genesis G80, which relies heavily on the old trope of big grille=classy:

... and here’s the tough love version:

Those lower air intakes (brake coolers?) look a little like a matching pair of six-guns, which I guess would help attract that old-school cowboy demographic that Hyundai has so far neglected.

Here’s a 2018 Audi A4 Allroad:

... and the A4 Allhonestgrille:

Huh. That just sort of looks like how Audis used to look before they went to that tall, hexagonal grille. Let’s try for something more dramatic. Like this 2017 Lexus ES 300:

Ah, the terrifying spindle grille. A Lexus trademark now, and a wonderful lesson about how a skilled designer can use a human’s innate sense of fear to identify a car. Let’s see how much of that grille is actually used, and how much is just show:

So, a little and a lot.

This last one is a car a couple years old, but I wanted to show it because of something really remarkable. You see, when you get rid of all the fake grille bits on a 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Eco...

... the result looks about as much like Adolf Hitler as a modern, mass-produced car can:

I think there’s no question Chevy made the right call here.

This process has forced me to do a little bit of growing up, I think. Whereas before I had a more rigid stance on fake grilles, decrying the dishonestly and being appalled by the cruel deception of it all, to the point where people began to detest sharing a meal with me, now I think I have a more nuanced understanding, and appreciate the occasional need for a little harmless, fake-beehive-pattern lie.

This has been a big day for me.