I have a really high tolerance for retro car designs, more than most people, I think. Retro designs tend to be the opposite of respectable, highbrow design, and are sort of like the candy of automotive design—maybe a little cloying, but if you don’t take everything so seriously, easy to enjoy, even if it’s not exactly good for you. One of Chinese carmaker Great Wall’s (seemingly many) brands is called Wey, and fairly recently they showed off a very unashamedly retro car called, hilariously and maybe a bit on-the-nose, the Retro Hipster.
Wey seems to be primarily a luxury SUV brand under the Great Wall Motors umbrella, but the Retro Hipster seems to be a bit of a departure from Wey’s usual fancy SUV offerings.
Here’s a video walk-around of the car at its introduction at this year’s Chengdu Motor Show:
Holy crap, right?
Now, I’m pretty sure (though not positive) that the Retro Hipster is based on an EV platform. In fact, I think it’s a modification of another retro EV from a Great Wall brand, Ora, which made a four-door Volkswagen Beetle-inspired EV called the Punk Cat.
Here, look at the two cars side-by-side:
The Retro Hipster looks to be a re-working of the Punk Cat with a new hood and front end, trunk lid, and overall detailing. Really, it’s kind of like when people would buy kits for their Volkswagens that gave them Rolls-Royce grilles.
The Retro Hipster isn’t based on one particular retro car like the Ora Punk Cat; instead, it’s sort of an amalgamation of various design concepts from between the 1930s to the early 1950s. In my own idiosyncratic classification of retro designs, I’d consider this to be Synthetic Comprehensive, a retro design method that updates and translates the design vocabulary of older cars — the details, the materials, the finishes, the methods, the fittings, fasteners, etc. into a modern context.
As far as influences, I can see a little of the Cord 812's famous coffin nose in the main hood design, with detailing that feels a bit like what you’d find on an early ‘40s Chrysler:
The rear has a hatchback, but it’s disguised with a very ‘30s-looking bustle-back sort of trunk design:
Is it ridiculous? Absolutely, no question. Is it fun? Hell yeah, it’s fun! What do you think is going to make more people smile when they see it—one of these crazy-ass flamboyant kooks or some BMW SUV?
If you have to go on a long road trip, and you have two options, going with the person who owns this Wey or the owner of a Tesla Model 3, which would you pick?
One car says you’re about to have a really bonkers adventure with someone who doesn’t just know about fun, they took fun behind some bleachers and made out, sweatily, while the other one is pretty much just a guarantee you’re in for a multi-hour lecture about Bitcoin and NFTs.
I’ll let you decide which is which.
This thing is like a Mitsuoka, or maybe an Excalibur—just over-the-top exuberant showy delight, all around, and I’m absolutely here for it. Price is expected to be about $38,000 U.S., which feels reasonable for something spec’d out like this.
Life is for the living, remember, and another gray crossover is barely living.