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Art & Inspiration what makes a "beautiful" roadster? (senior project)

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by ThirdGen, Feb 8, 2010.

  1. ThirdGen
    Joined: Nov 29, 2008
    Posts: 452

    from Wales, ME

    Since we're in the wake of the '10 Grand National Roadster Show, and the fact that i have a senior thesis for the completion of a bachelors in Industrial Design, i got to thinking, What makes a Roadster "beautiful"?

    I put beautiful in quotations because is there really a black and white definition of what that word means, in the context of hot rodding. Sure we could say that beauty is an idea that society tells us what is and what isn't beautiful, but does that really hold true in this culture? The culture that embraces different ideas and solutions. A culture that provokes the independent thinking, and also feeds off what others are thinking/doing. If we were all to build hot rods after a single blue print of a hot rod, than what would we be accomplishing? There would be no movement ahead.

    I know that this is a traditional hot rod forum, but i feel as though everyone as a whole uses the past as a reference to create something entirely new. Sure you can say that you are building a '40s period correct roadster, but you are looking back at what was done, and using what you've seen through out the years, even with out realizing it. Could you of built the same roadster in 1947, that you did build in 2009?

    I'm trying to raise as many questions to stimulate everyone's brain to think about what makes a roadster "beautiful"? I'm doing this for a few reasons. First, i would really like to know how everyone feels about this. Second, i want to create a senior research/design project based on this idea, and i need as much information and input to get a basis on where to go with this idea. And third, i just love Hot Rods and everything that goes with it, and i want my career to involve some aspect of this, and bluntly, I think it would be wicked to build a Hot Rod for my Senior Project! Who can argue with that.

    So if i can get some feedback on this idea, good/bad, or even if you just have some tangents to run off this idea, i'm not only limiting it to roadsters either, i would like to know what makes a hot rod "beautiful" also. Pictures would be awesome. Post up!

    Thank You,

    Ryan sorry if this is a big no-no, but i'm stealing pictures from your thread(great write up by the way), and double thanks to Rick Amado for the pick
  2. It's like porn, I can't describe it, but I know it when I see it!
  3. Weasel
    Joined: Dec 30, 2007
    Posts: 6,694


    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, which means it is many different things to different people. To me the French Art Deco automobile designs of the 1930s are the most beautiful automotive designs of all time - the chief protagonist being Joseph Figoni.
  4. ThirdGen
    Joined: Nov 29, 2008
    Posts: 452

    from Wales, ME

    Weasel- Great! Now could you elaborate on what makes it most beautiful to you?

    hotroddon- yea i completely agree but the professors wont by that haha

    Special Ed- I hope it does get pretty interesting!

  5. Harris
    Joined: Feb 15, 2007
    Posts: 863


    in a word, DETAIL. To me, the build style doesn't matter as much as attention to detail (except of course for r**r**s)
  6. knumb knuts
    Joined: Nov 10, 2009
    Posts: 83

    knumb knuts
    from tempe az

    I did my final paper in industrial design (unfortunately my elective not my major) on the 32 roadster. I began with the stock version and went up through the years to the Kugel Muroc roadster (amongst others) back in 2001. Certain elements will always remain, some will change. I don't know what the judges have in mind when they crown the most "beautiful" roadster, but I know the modifications that the crowd finds appealling continue on builds for years to come. See the recent 32 roadster thread, it shows all the most "accepted" styles. You should work any angle to build a rod for your senoir proj
  7. brigrat
    Joined: Nov 9, 2007
    Posts: 5,205

    from Wa.St.

    A new rendition of the past...............

    Attached Files:

  8. haychrishay
    Joined: Jul 23, 2008
    Posts: 944


    Here's what I built. Based on 26-7 T roadster, kinda wanted that Bonneville look with full belly pan and hood, wanted to be different so I used a Chevyll 4 banger with 327 pistons and other midget stuff. The Paint scheme was similar to a midget my uncle ran late 60's Scallops are Foyt inspired, so there's a liitle dirt and salt in there.This was my first build so I'm onto the next using an all aluminum 215 Olds V8 which is what my uncle ran in his midget, may even use a dirt track nose.

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  9. RDR
    Joined: May 30, 2009
    Posts: 1,352


    Unfortunately least the GNRS's most beautiful, pick...the display plays a pretty heavy part in their decisions.......I like detail also, but form and function RULES
  10. Harms Way
    Joined: Nov 27, 2005
    Posts: 6,868

    Harms Way

    Stance, Style & Proportion,..... A car that evokes a feeling of speed and inner excitement just sitting there,... not unlike a painting by a master,.... many people paint pictures,... but only a few can create masterpieces.
  11. ThirdGen
    Joined: Nov 29, 2008
    Posts: 452

    from Wales, ME

    Knumb Knuts - great info. and i'll definitely check out that thread again.

    haychrishay - great job on the track roadster. Its got a nice stance.

    Harms Way - I totally agree! beautifully said And if you don't mind i'd like to quote what you said in my proposal.
  12. Weasel
    Joined: Dec 30, 2007
    Posts: 6,694


    One word - flow. Voluptuous and not a wrong live or curve line anywhere.




  13. pasadenahotrod
    Joined: Feb 13, 2007
    Posts: 11,776

    from Texas

    And yet I would pass this for a 28-29 Roadster on Deuce rails every time.
  14. Above everything else, the car has to have class. Class can be achieved in anything from a '40s jalopy to one of those speedsters up top.

    Attached Files:

  15. cruzr
    Joined: Jan 19, 2006
    Posts: 3,125


    A traditional Roadster or any true Hot Rod for that matter, must be treated for what it is. We are all just "keepers" of our cars,and with that goes the responsibility of "doing the right thing for the car". Less is usually more in a Traditional ride. Following the time tested and true tradition of a Hot Rod is a hard thing to do, we tend to stray at times. But in the end we are called to perserve and be faithfull to the unwritten rules the guys before us laid down. If you do your "homework" and then fiollow your heart, in the end , you will have a winner.
  16. Rickybop
    Joined: May 23, 2008
    Posts: 6,573

    from Michigan

    Hi Josh. I like your thread. I enjoy the "nuts and bolts" of hot rodding, and the engineering involved, but I enjoy the philosophy of hot rodding as well. Also the history, and all that it's meant to so many. You're asking us to address the question of physical beauty, in regards to hot rods, (specifically roadsters) and it's a pleasure for me, and I'm sure, for many others here to try to do that. I must say first though, that as is with many art forms, there is so much more to it than the physical only. Beauty delights the senses, and summons pleasant and enjoyable feelings. The enjoyment and the passion that most hot rodders feel when viewing a well-built hot rod is deeply tied to the history of hot rodding in and of itself, the decades of human endevour involved in it's development, and the inumerable individual stories of the people involved. There is an inherent intangible beauty there, that's difficult to express. When you look at a skyscraper or the Hoover dam, you're not just realizing the outward image, but also all that it represents...the planning and designing...the building and physical energy expended...the dedication and sacrifice...and the human cooperation involved, just to name a few. That's the real beauty...the inner beauty...the beauty behind the image. And so it goes with hot rods. Enough philosophizing. To try to answer your question directly...

    There are many quips and sayings within our hobby, but when it comes to the physical beauty of a hot rod, one saying has to do with the reaction of the viewer. Basically, if someone looking at your hot rod says "Wow!", you know you've done good! (As long as that "wow" isn't followed with "what a P.O.S.!") LOL! But of course, there's no pleasing everybody, and as others have said, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder". But there do seem to be certain elements of a well-built hot rod that contain that "wow-factor". "Continuity-of-line", or what you might call "concentricity" is one of those elements. This includes panel-fitment, door-gaps, and a certain level of symmetry, etc. Basically stated, it should flow well, with an absence of abruptness. Look at those French cars. Those designs depend almost exclusively on the implementation of the French Curve. A french curve is a gradually tightening curve, with no abrubt change in direction. And even though, to the untrained eye, some of the early cars have a "square" quality to them, there are in-fact very few straight lines involved. Almost every surface is a variation on the french two dimensions...or what is referred to as a "compound curve". Somebody made a joke that it's like porn...can't explain it, but I know what I like when I see it. Funny, but so true. The beautiful curves of a car have more than once been compared to the beautiful curves of a woman's body. There's definitely somethin' to that. Another important element is finish-quality, or what is sometimes referred to as "reflectivity". Who can deny the beauty of perfectly smooth paint, polished metal, or show-chrome with the reflective quality of a mirror? Colors and textures are important too, and though very subjective, there seem to be certain colors and color-combinations that just work. Shiny black paint with a chocolate-brown leather interior?...Yes. Screaming-yellow paint with a lime-green interior?...maybe not. Design-geometry is important also. The position of each component as it relates to the others has a great effect on the over-all look. These early cars (mostly pre 1935) had next to no overhang. In other words, the front axle was positioned either directly under or slightly in front of the grill, and the rear axle was positioned very near to the rear of the body. If those positions are changed to any great extent, the look is changed dramatically. For instance, there is a practice of moving the radiator forward in order to provide room for a larger engine. Done past a certain degree, this can make an early car look "nose-heavy". Others like to put the front axle way out ahead of the grill. This too, changes the overall look, and the merits are debatable. One of the most important aspects is referred to as "stance". The height and the inclination of the car, nose up, nose down, or level, has an effect on the its persona. Tire and wheel choice is also highly influential on appearance. The degree to which a car is chopped or channeled is important, and will change the proportion to great extent.

    Another aspect of the beauty of a hot rod is the drivetrain. The outward appearance of these cars is awesome enough, but turn the key, and all of a sudden, it's alive! A flathead, nailhead, hemi, 8, 6, or 4 cylinder...Caddy, Olds, Ford, Chevy, Pontiac, MEL, or otherwise, all have their individual personalities. When I've attended car shows, I thoroughly enjoyed looking at the cars, but when it's time to leave, and the engines start, the "Wow" response can change to "OMG"! If the body of a hot rod is its feminine side, then surely the drivetrain is its masculine side.

    I could go on, (seems I already have...LOL) but there's plenty that others here can add. The important thing to remember, is that so much of this is dependant on tradition, but not soley dictated by it. All of these aspects are subjective and up to interpretation. The fact is, that even though there are some "tried and true" methods, there have been many different renditions of hot the past. Every single one of the design elements that I mentioned are matters of personal choice. Shiny paint?...some would rather have primer...and see beauty in that. Perfectly aligned doors?...some might prefer a bit of misalignment, and consider it a "real-word look", and in fact, beautiful. Radiator out ahead of the front axle?...some of the worlds "most beautiful roadsters" have that. Symmetry?...Big Daddy Don Roth's creations were anything but symmetrical! LOL!
    Hot rodders are artists. These old cars are our palets. The real beauty in these "time-machines"...these "guilded-chariots" rods, is that they are expressions of art, and no two are exactly the same. Regardless of style or level of "build"...just as with people...each one has something to offer. Each one has its own beauty. Most beautiful of all, is that we share them.
    I wish you good luck with your senior design project, Josh. Be sure to share your work with us, and let us know how you do. :)
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2010
  17. Beauty is purely mathematical and the answer is 1 to 1.6 now its up to any art students or science teachers to explain but i am sure if you measure up a 32 ford roadster thats what you will find ! well maybe
  18. ThirdGen
    Joined: Nov 29, 2008
    Posts: 452

    from Wales, ME

    Weasel - those are definitely Voluptuous and free flowing. Very nice Curves

    Suede55bowtie - yes. Got to have class.

    Cruzr - Right on. I like how you state it as being "keepers" of the car, and "doing the right thing for the car"

    Rickybop - Beautifully written. There is so many great areas that i can take away from that. So much in just the first paragraph.

    Great responses! keep 'em coming!
  19. SUHRsc
    Joined: Sep 27, 2005
    Posts: 5,078


    In my opinion.... to make a car beautiful is entirely a matter of taking away all distractions.
    I'm not saying to smooth all lines and eliminate all trim.

    I feel that when you look at a car, nothing should stand out. The tires need to be proportionate to the body. The motor needs to fit with the build style and be at the correct angle. The windshield needs to be not too tall & have enough rake. The stance needs to be correct.....I can go on and on about each individual detail... but I think the grand scheme of it is that when you look at the car, you see the whole car. You dont see any certain aspect. Your eye travels from front to back without something blatantly catching your attention, be it a detail or overall stance. It all just has to work together and flow together into one. This for me makes a beautiful car.
    These aspects can be visual or also related to a period... if your car stands alone as beautiful, everything works to a period of 1949.. then you have buick brake drums for instance... or radial tires... to me... this stands out and ruins the beauty of the car. Yes those brake drums may look nice on their own and may even work well as a whole to the car without a "period sense" to it... but they stand out on the basis of era just as much as a mailbox aircleaner stands out on ....well.... almost anything!

    Alot of times when I see a car that something stands out on.... it throws me off for the entire car.
    I can still admire the details and the work put into it...but as a whole the car usually doesnt stand out in my mind as a "beautiful" car

    then again.... it may just all be Fibinachi :)
  20. Your definition of beauty would have a big bearing on your answer.
  21. Ned Ludd
    Joined: May 15, 2009
    Posts: 4,060

    Ned Ludd

    My view of "beauty" is that it derives from a (possibly elusive) resemblance to something that is for some reason admirable.

    I think the idea of "beautiful proportion", along with its semi-mystical connotations, was invented in the Renaissance with the discovery that a system of proportioning ran through Classical architecture and gave it its unmistakable look. The aesthetic theorists of the Renaissance were mistaken, I believe, in failing to distinguish between the admirability of the system of proportion and their own established admiration for the buildings they analysed. Yet that is not to say that their admiration for Classical architecture, arising probably from an admiration however grounded for the culture of antiquity, and their consequent preference for Classical proportion, was invalid (though my own taste is rather different).

    The buildings of antiquity were not constructed from scale drawings, but set out on the ground with ropes and strings (that is, geo-metry, or earth-measuring) and completed in accordance with established customary details. The system of proportion was a way to determine the dimensions of spaces and elements without recourse to established units of measure, and without being bound to a square or cubic module. There are times when a square or cube, or a collection of them, won't do the job. For a start the acoustics would tend to be abysmal. None of this was new to the Renaissance aesthetic theorists, because late-medieval builders were still working in exactly the same way. They just favoured different specific techniques of geometry because they were taught differently, and were talking to different co-crafters trying different things; and as a result there was a look to late-Gothic architecture that was immediately recognizable as different from that of the ancient Greeks and Romans.

    Renaissance theorists admired all things Greek and Roman. They liked the sense of centralized gloriousness, the order, the simplicity, after all those years of chaotic egalitarian Christian humility. Hence, they liked things to have a Greco-Roman look to them.

    My thesis is this: that we regard something as beautiful when it is aesthetically typical of a source or context that we have some or other reason to admire.

    Different people can have different reasons for admiring the same thing, though; and I think most of us admire the things we admire for bunches of different reasons, from childhood fascination to social (or sexual) aspiration to reasoned moral conviction, and a lot more besides, all at the same time.

    So, according to my view, a "beautiful roadster" is one that resembles a roadster that was, actually or imaginarily, produced by an age, movement, or culture that I feel to be good. Some are drawn to the definitive traditional hot-rod because they find much that is good - e.g. common middle-class decency, grass-roots ingenuity, etc. - in that immediate post-WWII American context. Conversely, some are drawn to the products of an activity that was very effectively subversive to an order that gave us technologically audacious consumerism and unprecedented corporate power.

    Sometimes resemblances are complex. Something is designed to resemble various things at the same time, in different ways. Such designs can be brilliantly subtle but they can as easily go horribly wrong. And sometimes our admiration is ironic: we like it because it failed, or because it was meant in jest. A lot of Ed Roth's cars are like that: they would have been horrible if they were serious, but they're wonderful because they're not.

    My own taste runs to the late-Vintage and early post-Vintage eras, because there was something honest, humble but courageous, in many cars between about 1920 and 1934. The techniques of mass-production had not yet really affected their design. The mass-produced ones weren't fundamentally different from the "crafted" ones. I can also appreciate Weasel's "grands voitures", though it might be argued that the voluptuous shapes were themselves evidence that much of the technical conceptualization had by then been ceded to the production engineer. The body was becoming a cover for something that is none of somebody's business.
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2010
  22. You could get into the "traditional" vs "modern" vs "rat-rod" vs whatever style you want. But as "Atomic Mudshark" mentioned it can me put into numbers proportions. "The golden ratio is an irrational mathematical constant, approximately 1.6180339887". I pulled that quote from Wikipedia, but look it up. It is also called the "divine ratio" or proportion. I would bet you see that ratio or something close in every thing from traditional rods, to Kustoms, to Muscle Cars to even modern autos rolling off the assembly line today. Grab a handfull of examples of beautiful cars across all styles. Measure the generic wheel size to body length, windshield height to body height, Different things like that, and see how many cars that are generically considered "beautiful" or aesthetically pleasing. This has been done with women's faces and there strangely is a set of ratios that most people agree on as pretty/beautiful/cute, etc... I can't see why the same will not work for cars. The tough part is the emotional parts like color, ans style (or lack there of), trends, and the like. But then there always is that rouge outside the box one that pops up and turns every ones head that is "beautiful" without being trendy.

    Kind of a nerdy way to look at cars, but....
  23. Ned Ludd
    Joined: May 15, 2009
    Posts: 4,060

    Ned Ludd

    Actually the Golden Section ([1+√5]/2:1) is quite a dumpy proportion. It's cool because it generates spirals, though. And it isn't the only one that's been used: √2:1 gives us the ISO A-series of paper sizes; √3:1, √5:1, tan 30°:1, tan 36°:1, etc. etc. etc. People seem to like √5:1 these days: a lot of that sleek, clean trendy-modernism is full of it (not to mention full of it ...).
  24. ThirdGen
    Joined: Nov 29, 2008
    Posts: 452

    from Wales, ME

    SUHRsc - nicely put

    Atomic Mudshark, SUHRsc, Green73, Ned Ludd - i will definitely look more into fibinachi and the golden ratio.

    Ned Ludd - great insight. I'm going to look into what you said in detail and break down it down. Thanks for the feed back!
  25. Kevin Lee
    Joined: Nov 12, 2001
    Posts: 7,410

    Kevin Lee
    Super Moderator
    Staff Member

    We know too much now. I think a lot of the truly beautiful cars were built before we had this supposed formula worked out.

    So for me? It's history. Or maybe knowing enough about it to make the right concessions. These "perfect" cars with all of the tweaked angles and measurements can look sterile and completely aweless.
  26. Exactly.....well said!
  27. Whenever you say roadster, I immediately think of the Frank Mack T.
    In my opinion that is it, the definiton of roadster, without the use of words.

    Next in my mind is the Dick Flint roadster.
  28. ynottayblock
    Joined: Dec 23, 2005
    Posts: 1,954


    Well I'll take a crack at this...

    Since this is a hot rod forum, we all have our own ideas of what beauty is to us. Thats the whole reason we all got into this, to make something different, that is the essence of a hot rod (and speed of course). But there are certain hot rods out there that almost everyone on this board can argree on as "beautiful". Those cars tend to have certain common aspects of design:
  29. oj
    Joined: Jul 27, 2008
    Posts: 6,247


    They all move. Even when sitting still a 'beautiful' car will move when its' peers just sit there as very pretty lumps.
  30. V4F
    Joined: Aug 8, 2008
    Posts: 4,114

    from middle ca.

    i think if you ask 10 peeps you will get 10 ideas . alot depends on the era in which you are trying to fill . roadsters have evolved each generation or about 10 yrs . the dry lake roadster is for sure typical & correct for its time . show roadsters are a whole nother breed . trailer queens , in my opinion , are not typical . look to the past , pick an era , write what you see & feel about those cars . study the 20's / 30's / 40's & you will see the trends .
    i would like to read your paper when its done ......... good luck ... steve
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2010

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