Most cars are ugly

Most cars are ugly. The vast majority of car designs are bland, formulaic, and unrefined. Home architecture suffers the identical problem. See my site design: Home for more on that.

Ralph Lauren's Bugatti

Compare the two cars above. Compare them from any angle and compare any detail. One is more refined, elegant, and timeless than the other in every way—down to every bolt.

Loving your car does not mean your car is beautiful. You might love the painting, “Dogs Playing Poker”, but it will never be hung in the Louvre.

If a car cannot be distinguished from other cars on the road, don’t drive it. There is no reason to surround yourself with a bland and ugly environment… and there may be good reasons not to.

Like the music industry, car makers copy each other. Every car maker offers the same type of cars, and the models look just like the models from every other car maker. The natural result is that copying copies quickly makes a terrible product, bland and indistinguishable from any other product. Rare is the car designed with passion by an artist.

First, some design principles:

  1. There are design principles. They exist. We have identified them. Long ago. They work. Practicing them makes art. Violating them makes garbage that will (and should!) be quickly thrown away.
  2. It is the details that make the design. “Good car design” = “refinement of details”. Are the headlights perfect? Good. What about the grill? And every, single other detail?
  3. The goal of design is greater simplicity. Audi does a good job with this. On the exterior. No auto maker does a good job inside. Car dashboards are hideously offensive and unintuitive. Gimmicky for the sake of being gimmicky. Colors and shapes and lights and buttons. It makes me weep.
  4. The vast majority of cars have horrifying lines. Pick any line (top of grill, pointless line through middle of grill, top of the taillight, the edge of any window, etc) on a car and trace it out. It will not be in harmony with the other lines around it.
  5. LED lights, keyless ignition, built-in TVs do NOT make a car “All new!”.
  6. If a car is aping (copying) another car, the original car will be better designed.
  7. Audi and Aston Martin are making the best designed cars right now.

In terms of overall design, cars fall into one of three categories:

  • Offensive
  • Bland
  • Art

A car can have a beautiful detail or two and still be bland, or even offensive, overall.

Here are cars that are art:

The most beautiful car design ever (top photo): 1938 Bugatti 57SC Atlantic, CoupéHow do we know that? Either by studying the car with an understanding of design principles, or by noting the awards it has won (all of them).

  • Acura NSX
  • Acura RSX
  • Aston Martin DB9
  • Aston Martin DBS
  • Aston Martin V8 Vantage
  • Audi TT
  • Audi R8
  • Bentley Continental GT
  • BMW 630, 628
  • BMW 850
  • BMW 2002
  • Brabus
  • Bugatti Veyron. Although unusual, it is still sophisticated and pleasing.
  • Chevy Corvette (’50s-’60s, 2015)
  • Citroen 2CV DEUX CHEVEAUX (1970)
  • Delorean
  • Dodge Powerwagon (’40s)
  • Dodge Viper (original). Each iteration has gotten more bland and unsophisticated.
  • Ferrari Testarossa. Original, aggressive but still sophisticated. New Ferraris are small and bland–hard to distinguish from any sport coupe.
  • Ferrari F430
  • Ferrari 458
  • Ferrari 250
  • Ford F150 (1996-
  • Ford GT40
  • Ford Bronco (60’s)
  • Hummer H1
  • Hummer H2
  • Hummer H3
  • International Harvester Scout (’60s)
  • Jaguar E-type (< 1980)
  • Jaguar XK8
  • Jaguar (new)
  • Jeep Wrangler. Every year that had round headlights.
  • Lamborghini Countach
  • Lamborghini Diablo
  • LAmborghini Reveton, Aventador,
  • Land Rover Defender
  • Land Rover Range Rover
  • Lotus Esprite
  • Maserati (most models)
  • Maybach
  • Mazda RX-7
  • Mazda RX-8
  • MB SL500
  • MB E430
  • MB E320
  • MB G500
  • MB SLK
  • Nissan Xterra
  • Porsche Carrara GT. Styling is perfect. Like the Jeep Wranger, the styling is still pleasing and unique after 60 years.
  • Tesla S
  • Toyota Landcruiser (60’s). The new ones are prohibitively expensive, and their styling is bland to the point of offensive.
  • Willys Jeep
  • VW Thing
  • VW Kharma Ghia
  • VW Bug, new Beetle
  • VW Phaeton
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3 comments

  1. I loooove the Bugatti… it’s hard to believe it’s a 1938 vintage? That is one cool car and would turn heads on any road today 🙂 You’re right about design and detail…. Thank you!

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