As anyone who has tried to draw a completely original car can tell you, auto design is not easy. At all. Perhaps because of some awful little lump of sadism residing in my brain, I had the urge to ask an auto designer to try to design a car with the most difficult design requirement: asymmetry. Incredibly, one agreed, and I think they actually pulled it off pretty well.
While there have been some small attempts at asymmetry in cars (think details on the Studebaker Avanti, the rear license plate holder/reverse light of the Toyota Tercel Wagon, and maybe the grille design of the Ford Escort GT) real, full asymmetrical design has very rarely been attempted on cars, and very rarely successfully.
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Perhaps the most known example would be the Nissan Cube, but even that keeps a symmetrical ‘face,’ and while I respect the attempt, I don’t think many people find it successful. Some specialized racing and concept cars have played with asymmetric design more, like the Jaguar D-Type or Virgil Exner’s XNR, but those were both focused on aero additions to compensate for the solitary offset driver.
The point is, asymmetry in cars is hard. I have a theory why this is, when we’re fine with asymmetry in other human-built things like buildings and microwave ovens. It has to do with a theory of mine that we perceive cars like animals in some dank, dark recess of our brain.
Anyway, the why it’s so hard to do well is less important than just knowing it is. At first, I thought I’d just take a crack at it and try to do some quick sketches of asymmetrical cars, and, as you can see, they’re pretty terrible:
I do kind of think the half-minivan/half-sports coupé has a place for helping people get over their minivan stigmas, though. Still, I can’t really say these work, so I realized I needed to bring in the big guns and ask a professional car designer to take a crack at it.
At first I asked friend-of-Jalopnik Darby Barber because everybody likes Darby and she’s damn good. Also, she once let me have a marker to draw with, and I don’t forget things like that. Sadly, working at a real car company means they don’t want their top-notch designers consorting with lowlifes like myself, so she wasn’t able to help. But she recommended an auto design student, John O’Laughlin, who does amazing work.
John was very eager to try, youth and talent being a wonderful weapon against any challenge, and his first pass is a really striking design, and absolutely asymmetrical:
Damn, right? That’s pretty fantastic. It’s a sports/supercar in the mold of the D-Type and XNR, but carries the asymmetrical motif to the front fascia as well. I really like the driver’s side grille treatment with its almost gill-like slats, and I think the indicator set into the bevel is inspired.
Because I’m a greedy bastard, I wanted more. You see, something that looks like a concept car is inherently easier to try radical ideas on. While John’s asymmetric supercar looks great, I want to see asymmetry on something closer to what a normal person might buy. For normal people of today that means, maybe sadly, a crossover.
So I asked John for one of those, all nice and asymmetric. Here’s what he gave me:
Again, wow! Even with the insanely huge wheels every car designer seems genetically pre-disposed to add, that looks close to something that could actually be produced, and I think it looks good.
Again, we see the asymmetry isn’t just in lights, badges, and details: the whole shape of the rear bumper is not a mirror-image, and the way the passenger side D-pillar flows down into the lower rear fascia is novel. In fact, it looks like the car has only one D-pillar, something the Nissan Cube also tried. I also really like the way the driver’s side taillight becomes the primary rear detail/handle.
I don’t know if asymmetry will ever become something mainstream cars actually attempt, but I think, based on the drawings of at least one talented design student, it may not be an impossible goal.