Automotive Inspiration

Why are classic cars so appealing?

My van is 21 years old and suits my need for transportation.  I don’t work on it myself, but do rely on a capable mechanic to keep it going.  My family daily driver is a Honda Civic, which also does it’s job perfectly.  Why then, if I am not a “car guy” with a passion for what I drive, do I draw such immense inspiration from classic cars of the past?  What is it about car forms that has driven me to emulate them in my work for the past 17 years?

For me, it goes way beyond nuts and bolts and practicality.  As a designer and maker, I can appreciate all the challenges faced by car companies of the past and present.  Taking an idea and turning it into reality is what I’ve been doing all my life, so when someone else does it successfully it spurs me to do the same.  So many design decisions need to be made and all have to work together to create an attractive product that works.   I see in cars not just the end product but the whole process that led to its creation.

Car design of the past was shaped by events and technology of the time, much the same as for art, architecture and other industrial design.  To me, a  1935 Talbot Lago is no different from a Picasso painting or a Brancusi sculpture from the same period, except it’s much bigger and it has the added dimension of functionality.  I see classic cars as an art form, and all the details that went into them are important.  Their rounded shapes, chrome grills, tail lights, interiors and hood ornaments all work together to give the car its identity and character.  Period colours say just as much about the society they came from as the customers they were intended for.

A follower on Instagram recently asked why vintage cars have so much more character than the more contemporary equivalents.  I responded that the presence of romance, elegance and artistic integrity makes them timelessly appealing, and that classics are just so damn sexy!  New cars are technically superior, but lack the qualities that I find inspiring.

Ultimately, because I don’t work on cars myself, engineering  dynamics take a back seat to aesthetics.  It’s the sculptural forms and design details which spark my imagination the most.  There’s something about the sleek, aerodynamic forms of shaped metal that I find irresistible, and combined with chrome, rich paint colour and purpose-driven details, I see a design vocabulary that is worthy of new forms of functional art.  The idea of bringing these beautiful forms into the home is what prompted the development of the AeroPod, AstroPod and DecoPod series of functional sculptures.   That, combined with the process of “coachbuilding” each piece, is meant to borrow some of the romance which is absent from most products on the market today.