Monday, November 17, 2014

Ford Ka: New, Edgy First Version

By "New, Edgy" in the title, I'm actually riffing on Ford styling boss Jack Telnack's New Edge styling theme back around 1996 when the tiny Ford Ka was launched in Europe. For some Ka history, click here.

As I mention from time to time, styling a small car is not an easy task.  There isn't much size for overall shape-sculpting, for one thing.  Nor is there room for the kind of ornamentation that can work well on a larger car.  As a result, for many years small cars tended to feature bland, simple styling.  Matters have changed in recent years thanks to the fashion of adding a lot of metal sculpting in the form of creases, bulges, folds and such on body panels.  This can become overpowering on almost any size car.

As for New Edge styling, the concept was to apply overlapping arcs (think Venn diagrams) to body panel or element breaks; this will be evident in the Ka images below.  New Edge was one of those theories that didn't work well in the real world of the automobile marketplace.  One problem was that it limited the kinds of shapes those parts of a car could assume.  That is, stylists were more highly constrained than normal when working on New Edge designs.  Perhaps more seriously, New Edge features were not especially attractive.  The eventual result was abandonment of New Edge on Fords, perhaps expedited by Telnack's 1997 retirement and replacement by J Mays, who had his own theories of car styling.


1997 Ford Ka - front 3/4 view
New Edge elements include the arc of the top of the grille opening that extends into the headlight housing via the division between the headlamp zone and the amber turn indicator area.  The curved fender peak blends with the light housing, this arc crossing the grille opening arc just mentioned.  Thus we see overlapping arcs.

Ford Ka - side view
This seems to be from a later model year, where the impact zone cladding is de-emphasized because here its texture and color blend with the rest of the body.  New Edge is being dialed back.

1997 Ford Ka - rear view
More New Edge overlapping with respect to the hatch opening, the tail lights and the dark rear impact cover panel.

Even though I've been critical of the New Edge concept, I think it worked about as well as any other approach would have on the first-series Ka.  Ka styling comes off as whimsical, not too serious, perhaps because of the car's small size.  The Ka's I see when visiting Europe seem cute, like the early Renault Clios and the current Fiat 500s.  Nothing wrong with cute styling, especially on a tiny car.

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