New cars are ugly… discuss

| 30 Aug 2012

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...