Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Rover 75 P4

click photo to enlarge
When new cars are rolled out their novel shape is often welcomed. However, just as often they meet with quite vocal criticism. People find fault with the lines chosen by the designers. "Too angular" they say, "the bonnet's too long" or "the line of the boot is awkward". What's often at work here is less a critique of the overall form of the new design and more a fundamental resistance to change, to innovation, to a shape that is unusual. People tend to like what they know. However, it can't be denied that car designers are just as capable of turning out ungainly looking cars as they are elegant vehicles.

At a recent display of veteran and vintage vehicles at a Lincolnshire country fair I came across one of the ugly ducklings of the automotive designer's art. It was a beautifully presented Rover 75 P4, a vehicle that was manufactured in Britain between 1949 and 1952. In the immediate post-war years car makers wanted to offer the public modern looking vehicles, cars that no longer looked like their pre-war offerings. Seeking inspiration Rover looked abroad to the United States, a country where car manufacture continued through the war, less hindered than in Britain by the demands of armaments production. In particular they looked at Studebaker, and it's perhaps here where they went wrong. American car design of the 1940s and 1950s was undoubtedly interesting but even its most ardent supporters would surely not suggest that it was anywhere near the peak of the art. The rounded lines, big wings, chrome work, emphasis on the bonnet, radiator, lights and badge all speak of U.S. cars of the time. Rover scaled the design down for the British market but in its desire to make an impact added a third headlight in the centre of the radiator. It resulted in the car being nicknamed, "Cyclops" - not the most appropriate name since that mythological creature had but one eye, not three. However, you knew what the wits were were getting at, and the effect is awkward to say the least. It wasn't especially popular with buyers and was soon replaced by versions with the conventional twin headlights.

When I came to photograph this car I decided to emphasise the areas where Rover had spent its money on the excessive and imitative ornamentation - the front. So, I got down low and used the 24-105mm lens at its widest. The unprocessed RAW shots at this focal length have a little vignetting and I decided to keep it when I converted the image to JPEG for the way it emphasises the centre of the composition with that all-seeing eye.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 24mm
F No: f4
Shutter Speed: 1/2000 sec
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -1.0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On