2014-05-02

Symmetry.

In the 1950s the United States automotive industry was deeply inspired by aeronautical progress.  In particular rockets and spaceships.  Designers would adorn their cars with all manner of wings and protrusions that looked like rocket nozzles, flames and whatnot.  Of course, with the exception of air conditioning and electrical windows, the americans didn't really innovate all that much in the automotive realm.  An american car from the golden age of automotive extravaganza has no technology more advanced than what you will find on an 16'th century ox cart.  It was mostly about portion size, and not so much about flavor.

Fast forward 60 years and most american cars still can't corner, can't brake, have interiors made of creaky, hard, cheap plastic and exteriors that look like they were fitted by someone in the middle of kicking a lifelong habit of injecting refined opiates.  The engines are still mostly great big lumps of untapped potential with a side-order of disappointment.

Worse yet:  since nobody in the United States appears to know the physics behind springs and dampers, and thus all american cars suffer from unhelpful suspension tuning, consumers have adapted their taste. They prefer cars with defective suspensions.  So when european cars are sold in the US, their suspension setups are deliberately compromised to appeal to land-yachting enthusiasts.  And I wouldn't put it past them to fiddle with the brakes, rendering them suitably ineffective so as not to startle the american consumer(*).

But I digress.

What I find entertaining is that the 1950s were all about mechanically suspect cars whose looks were inspired by rockets -- whereas the 2010s is about the car industry (now getting most of their aesthetic inspiration from used bars of soap) catching up to a guy who started out building rockets and then figured he'd do cars while at it.  Mercifully sparing us of any attempts at letting his rocketry day-job be reflected in the exterior design of the car.

This has a neat sort of symmetry to it, I think.

(*) Top tip: when land-yachting in the colonies: do test the brakes before driving faster than brisk walking pace.  The car weighs about the same as a family of hippos and it has the stopping power of said hippo family on ice.

1 comment:

  1. Well, it is rather that an outsider from South Africa looks at the current business and thinks that, hey they are all idiots, and the creativity died some time at the end of the fifties. Having some spare change from the first Internet bubbles, well why not do a stunt and make an impact. That is way more than the others that made fortunes from their early Internet start-ups, and we remember them 50 years later.... I'm just saying.

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