Monday, May 14, 2018

Rogues Gallery of Busy Grilles and Front Ends

I've been hammering away for a while now about the current fashion for overly decorated designs.  I think an important reason for this fad or fashion is government fuel efficiency regulations that have driven engineers and stylists to wind tunnels in the pursuit of high aerodynamic efficiency.  The result is car bodies with nearly identical basic shapes, and this has led to the use of excessive ornamentation and aerodynamically irrelevant body surface sculpting as means to establish brand and model identification.

Another -- probably lesser -- reason is the normal pendulum swing from one extreme to another that is common where fashion is concerned.

This post presents examples of overly-busy looking grilles and front end ensembles on American cars of the 1950s, an era noted for extravagant styling themes.  Then recent and current examples are shown, illustrating that we now seem to be in a period even more extreme than the '50s.

The 1950s images are of cars for sale.  The others are manufacturers' publicity photos.


1950s American Examples

1950 Buick
Classic overstatement that was toned down for the next model year.

1952 Packard 400 Patrician
This is a modernized version of the traditional Packard grille intended to better blend with post- World War 2 styling trends.  The sculpting is rather Rococo, but the overly decorated part is the "teeth" that thankfully disappeared on the 1953 facelift.

1958 Buick
If the decorations on the face of the hood were eliminated, the design would be a lot more coherent.

1959 DeSoto
A three-level grille-bumper ensemble, each level having a separate theme.

1959 Dodge
This design approaches the confusion seen in some of the recent images below.

Current and Recent Examples

2015 Nissan Juke
A small car with intentionally funky styling.

2016 Nassan Maxima
The Nissan badge and its chrome nest serve as brand-wide identification.

2017 Lexus IS
Variously termed as "hourglass," "spindle," and (by me) "back-to-back Lexus Ls, this has been a Lexus theme for several years now.  And, as seen farther below, Toyota seems to be adding it to its mass-market brand.

2017 Renault Mégane sedan
That enduring, yet somewhat inexplicable Moebius-diamond symbol reinforces an already somewhat cluttered design.

2018 Audi A8
Audi pioneered the theme of draping the grille over the front bumper.

2018 Genesis
Count the textures on the face of this Genesis by Hyundai.

2018 Honda Accord
This car has some interesting sculpting, but it gets carried a little too far on the front end.  The sweeping element atop the grille and its details do not relate well to what is below.

2018 Hyundai Sonata
This design is cleaner than most shown here.  But the faddish fake air intakes flanking the grille add to the clutter.

2018 Infiniti Q50
An odd, droopy look to the front.

2018 Toyota Camry
As mentioned above, Toyota's mainline American sedan is now getting a Lexus-like frontal design.  The hood face, the faux air intakes flanking the actual grille and the dark, two-level apparent grille segment do not work well together.


John Reinan said...

Great piece again, Donald. I wonder if you've ever considered doing an item on the evolution of the trunk.

Greg Prosmushkin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Donald Pittenger said...

Greg -- Thanks for the thought. I do mention rear ends from time to time, but haven't done that as a subject for current cars. However, in my post queue is a post on mid-1930s rear designs. Hint: very plain and similar for the most part.

Anonymous said...

The Lexus spindle looks like a rip-off of the '61 Plymouth monstrosity which was a rip-off of the 1958 Chevrolet rear end.