Saturday, September 26, 2009

Pickups and bad styling

click photo to enlarge
When I first saw the Range Rover Sport I thought it the ugliest vehicle I'd laid eyes on. It seemed like the stylist had fashioned its form with a lump of wood and an axe, then tricked it out with details borrowed from the sort that are added to toy cars to make seven year olds part with their pocket money. Surely, I thought, this is the nadir of automotive styling. But then I saw the Audi Q7! With this car the designers apparently took a glob of dough, said, "Lets make everything BIG!", then for good measure connected it to a pump and inflated it even more. Its top-heavy, dodgem-car looks and over-fed demeanour achieved the seemingly impossible task of making the Range Rover Sport look stylish. Here, surely, was the low-point of vehicle looks. But I was wrong. The other day I saw a BMW X6, an automobile that looks like it's suffering from a personality disorder. Is it a luxurious saloon? Is it a sports car? Is it an off-road vehicle? It hasn't a clue! And neither have I! Like the "variety" stars of yesteryear, whose time has passed, it wants to be a bit of everything - all singing, all dancing, a little comedy patter, and an appeal to all ages. If it was an entertainer I'd say it should focus on comedy and ditch the rest of its act because when I saw it I had to suppress a smile - and I was laughing at it, not with it.

A smile also came to my lips when I passed this little old Morris Minor pickup in front of a house. I saw it on the same day that I saw the enormous BMW, and reflected that the world (and the roads) would be so much nicer if all vehicles were this sort of size and styled with this sort of cosy aesthetic. So often, it seems, big, boorish, styling seems to engender offensive, aggressive driving. There's probably a Toyota Aygo or Citroen C3 driver speeding around somewhere proving me wrong, but I have the feeling that the size of vehicles and the way we style them affects how they are driven. A few more "Postman Pat"-inspired cars on the road would be no bad thing!

Two final reflections. Firstly, I'm struck by how much my photograph looks like a model against a background set. The light when I took this shot was clear, strong, and at a good angle, and that, combined with the nicely refurbished Victorian semi-detached houses (remodelled into one dwelling) must account for it. Secondly, from what I've written you may think I'm interested in cars. Nothing could be further from the truth - I drive a small Honda that I chose principally on the grounds of economy and reliability. However, I am interested in the design and styling of cars, because I find the subject an endless source of interest and amusement.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Lumix LX3
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 5.1mm (24mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f4.5
Shutter Speed: 1/1000
ISO: 80
Exposure Compensation: -0.66 EV
Image Stabilisation: On


Anonymous said...

This brings back great memories for me first car was a low lighter Morris Minor.
I haven't commented for a while I'm sorry, but just wanted to let you know that I'm still enjoying your photos & stories, and especially your recent series on Yorkshire. I hope you have more to come.
We visited UK in 2001 and spend 1 week in Yorkshire using Levisham as a base. Unfortunately foot and mouth stopped us doing too much walking, but who day.
Regards, Milton

Tony Boughen said...

Hi Milton,
Thanks for the comment. I remember these vehicles from my youth, some with split windscreens, the later versions without.

Staying in Levisham you perhaps sampled the delights of Scarborough and maybe Whitby. Rievaulx Abbey and Pickering church (with its medieval wall paintings) are quite near too. The foot and mouth restrictions on countryside access in 2001 were a a complete pain. I think the government learned (too late) that they were pretty futile as well.