Automotive design ebbs and flows around the tastes of car buyers and technology restrictions of the era. What was once hip now looks silly and dated. What was the worst era of car design?
Car design has had a lot of great eras. People were excited about rockets, nuclear power and jet aviation in the 1950s and car design often matched that enthusiasm. Cars looked like they could take off just sitting still and taillights looked like the tail of a jet engine or a rocket.
The 1970s were also an interesting time for car design. On one hand you have beautiful notes like the Lamborghini Countach and the Dodge Challenger. On the other was a wave of small import cars like the BMW 2002, Volkswagen Golf and Toyota Celica. Automakers had to deal with the headwinds of regulation and the gas crisis.
That gas crisis also brought what I’d say was the worst era in car design: the Malaise Era.
Not only were the cars of the Malaise Era slow and their engines choking on emissions controls, but the era also produced some real stinkers of car design. The American cars produced during this time often looked blocky and lacked any real defining traits, like the cars we all used to draw as five-year-olds.
Those big boring blocks were backed up with massive V8s that would make tons of power today, but were lucky to even break 100 horses back then.
But maybe there is an even worse era I’m not thinking about. What was the worst era in car design? Is it our current time of every car needing to look like it came from the future? Is it the mid-2000s era of shameless badge engineering?