In my role as an assistant graphic designer, I see a multitude of ads come through on a daily basis. Since I began processing ads, I have done many auto ads. It didn’t take very long to realize that the style of cars has changed in the last decade or so in one particular way, at least in my opinion.
Some years ago, I remember seeing an article about an actor who had souped up his pickup and turned it into a ‘sport utility vehicle’. Soon after, the average Joe wanted one, so car makers responded.
Now, I think over fifty percent of the vehicles I see are SUVs. And style? Well, I think they’ve lost a lot of style since this trend started.
I realize that the ‘SUV’ has been around for awhile, even if they weren’t always called that. Jeep Cherokee, Chevy Suburban, Land Rover, etc. Aside from those, what I remember are basically five choices in cars: Pickup trucks, vans, sedans, sports cars, and station wagons. (I’m excluding motorcycles for this discussion.)
Today, the first four are still around. The pickups went from being large clunky, sharp-edged looking things in the 60s and 70s to small zippy lightweight things with an attempt to be gas conscious in the 80s. Now, they’re back to full-sized monster trucks without the giant wheels. Gone are the Chevy S-10s and smaller pickups of which I used to keep a running count of on the highways.
The sedans, have, for the most part, gone soft curves on the fenders and trunks and roof lines. The new Lincolns and models from Lexus try for class and somewhat achieve it. I do sort of like the new Impala.
The sports cars are the only ones that are still sporty. I like the curves and the low slung frames, the convertibles, the chrome, the style.
The vans have softened and the cargo vans are just plain weird.
There are still a few station wagon type cars, very few. Nothing like the old long station wagons of the 70s. The Country Squires, the Impala Wagon, The Malibu Wagon, The Town and Country, and the battleship gray Mercury Montego wagon my grandmother used to own. You know, the cars that demo derby drivers craved. Now, they’re soft curvy Outbacks and Foresters.
However, those have begun to look very similar to today’s SUV. I’m sorry, but sometimes I have difficulty telling the difference. Terrain, Equinox, CRV, Murano, Pilot, the new Cherokee, Escape, Edge, Explorer and on and on. There are differences, but on the road, they tend to blend into one vehicle.
And the Suburban has its clones: Deanli and Escalade. Different logos, but the same vehicle with the same hefty price tag.
And most of these SUVS do not have much cargo room behind the back seat when you open the hatch. Even the big ones, although some have a fold down third row.
But the thing I’ve noticed is the lack of style. Once one company has an idea, the others jump in with their own and the originality is lost. The style, the classiness, the unique-ness are gone.
However, this isn’t a new trend. I saw it back in the 70. Some of the late 60s and most of the 70s vehicles were featureless boring pieces of steel. The 80s became bland fuel efficient I-want-to-be-a-cool-car-but-I’m-not cars. (’84 Dodge Charger for example). The 90s tried, but like that decade’s Top 40 music, became a jumbled mess. The new century brought in the early era of SUVs and soft curves.
I want fins and edges and length and chrome and fender skirts and flare and hood ornaments and whitewalls and custom jobs and STYLE!
Now, I can hear my dad saying, “But son, I see two problems with your argument.”
The first would be that I give my heroine Mallory Petersen her dad’s car, a 1971 Dodge Dart Swinger. Wasn’t that from the era of boring? Yes, and I will admit to a bias that I thought my family’s blue with white hardtop Swinger was cool. And our ’75 Coronet, though it had lost its edgy style, was a tank that pulled trailers and went through snowdrifts. Too bad the alternator decided to conk out at 100,000 miles and I couldn’t afford to pay for it.
The second would be that I own a Dodge Caliver, one of the modern smaller SUVs. What do I think about that?
I will admit, it doesn’t have much storage room in the back. It has soft curves. It and the Dodge Journey remind me of a grown up Chevette or at least a teenage Chevette. But mine is Mango Tango Orange, so i’ll give it a grudging pass.
See, the only cars today that could be worth looking at are the sports cars. The Camaro, Challenger, Charger, a few Mustangs all remind me of the 60s muscle cars. But I’m talking cool sports cars. The Corvette, the new Miata, the Acura convertible, the Cooper. They still show some style.
My hope is that America and the car makers will move through this SUV phase and get back to some decent looking cars or that they will stop being so alike and offer more choices to make their brand stand out.
What sort of car do you own and what do you think of the SUVs?