New cars are ugly… discuss


Author: Russell CampbellPublished:

I was flicking through the pages of one of our freshly delivered auction catalogues when it struck me – when did cars start becoming ugly? Or, more accurately, when did good looks become all about large wheels, multiple exhausts and flash-tastic bodykits?

The car that got me thinking was a 1967 Mercedes-Benz 300SE Cabriolet and the car that made wonder what’s gone wrong was a Youngtimer SL of 2000 vintage (something like the one shown below). A “pimp’s car” my father would say.

But whose fault is it? I think it’s the endless quest for performance, and the need to shout about it, that should shoulder the majority of the blame.

The 300SE is a case in point. The wheels are steel, the lines are simple, but everything about it oozes uncompromising quality. The interior mirrors the outside – nothing flash, but it’s all clear, simple, classy.

Meanwhile the SL – with its low suspension – looks like it’s been sat on, the pokey-outy exhaust may as well have been salvaged from several youths’ Corsas and the interior, well, the less said about that the better.

But if the Germans can be accused of turning a trifle vulgar, what can we say about the boys from Maranello?

An office consultation confirms my fears. The 458 is good looking – in a dramatic sense – but we’d bin the rest on stylistic terms.

So when did things go front-end up at Ferrari? Well, in my opinion (something people around me are used to hearing), the 456 was the last truly pretty Fezza. It looked right with it’s gapping grille long bonnet and beautiful resolved proportions. Bernie Ecclestone’s made it to C&SC’s birthday party and I took five minutes just to take it in.

Jump forward to today and what have we got? The F12 berlinetta, which looks as if it has been attacked by a sword-wielding loony. And the FF? It’s a hatchback for peat sake…

But at least Ferrari (or Pininfarina is) being original. It’s trying. The ones that really get my goat are the lazy cars: the new Mini, Fiat’s latest 500 and the awful Beetle revival. Are they really saying they can’t do better? Or is it human nature to look to the past with envy?

Thankfully, I have a solution: buy the real ones. They’ll cost less, lose less, are easy to fix and are genuine design classics. In the world of recycling, this plan’s even eco-friendly. But don't get me started on that...



I'm warming to this theme now! Considering that you currently have new vehicles as diverse as, for example, a Rolls-Royce Phantom, a Renault Twizzy and a BAC Mono, (and other marques/models at all points, shapes and sizes in-between), it's fair to say that new cars shouldn't be collectively written off as ugly unless everything is ugly if it isn't old.

When the three examples I mentioned become old, will the writers of the future have conferred beauty on them due to their age?

Out of interest what are you thoughts on Brigitte Bardot? Better in her 20's or 70's? ;-)


I am an Industrial designer...just thought I'd put that out there.

New cars, which one looks great ? I can't think of one, except maybe for the simplicity of the Landrover products. Most other cars are so overdesigned I just wonder what are people thinking. The hideous design trends of Bangles and DeSilva have displaced design greats such as Pininfarina, Giugiaro and others with well.... new designers of no skill or talent. I am left wondering if some numbers man somewhere has proven that there is a link between the number of mismatching lines, poorly placed creases, front intake vents, design cacophony and the final sell price.

I own two 1959 Austin Healey sprites a car which has simple but elegant lines the moderns cannot get near and this was cheap transport of it's day. Aston, Maserati, VW, BMW almost any make prior to 1970 has a sense of design that very few cars these days can match. I hate them all with their monotonous loopy nonsense, they can drive them ALL over a cliff as far as I am concerned. I don't think a real car designer exists these days. The message I have is buy up and restore an older car before they rust away, before it is too late and they are all gone.

I agree with the earlier comments except those in support of modern cars and I hate to think what will be dished up as a car in ten years time if the VW Up is anything to go by.

Add your comment

  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <p> <br> <img>
  • You may quote other posts using [quote] tags.

More information about formatting options

You must be logged in to comment
Type the characters you see in this picture. (verify using audio)
Type the characters you see in the picture above; if you can't read them, submit the form and a new image will be generated. Not case sensitive.