Register now to get rid of these ads!

History Why did many cars look so similar?

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by sgtlethargic, Nov 25, 2023.

  1. Your selling style .

    running boards and high roofs .

    Fat fenders , high body lines and low roofs .

    Big loud garish cars with fins , bobbles and filigree.

    Toned down slab sided land yachts with pillowy soft suspension .

    that’s what this web site covers .

    after that you had fuel efficiency, 5mph bumpers and emissions that almost killed the auto industry in designs and making anything “ cool “

    bow it’s come full circle with modern appliances have a “ retro look “
    Lots of modern cars are taking styling cues from years past .

    And as has been said , Chrysler airflow , Edsel , and a bunch more that don’t come to mind that where failures when first launched .

    most people like what they know and don’t want to venture into the unknown .

    and automakers are in it for the money so will stick to what sells and what the population wants to buy . Of course with a few outliers .

    I look at my 40 merc and besides the grill , every other 4 door offered by the big 3 looked almost identical from the grill back .
  2. '29 Gizmo
    Joined: Nov 6, 2022
    Posts: 747

    '29 Gizmo
    from UK

    A lot of styling is driven by available manufacturing technology. Also manufacturers tend to shy away from risk taking on styling. Styling followed the same evolutionary path in parallel. For GM, styling was further limited by the use of Fisher bodies which shared a lot of features accross the range.

    If you want to see something different for the timeline look at mainland Europe.
  3. proartguy
    Joined: Apr 13, 2009
    Posts: 654

    from Sparks, NV

    Companies like Briggs and Murray contributed quite a bit to the evolution of styling as they employed excellent designers and had the freedom to explore the limits and dealt with many manufacturers. An excellent book on this is; A Century of Design by Michael Lamm and David Holls.

    Although some models such as the ‘32 Graham with skirted fenders and tilted back grill, 37 Cord with hidden headlamps and unique hood and grill, ‘38 Lincoln Zephyr with low horizontal style grill rather than vertical, introduced features that started trends, the designs offered by most manufacturers tended to the most acceptable to the general public.
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2023
    Stogy and Tow Truck Tom like this.
  4. Marty Strode
    Joined: Apr 28, 2011
    Posts: 8,721

    Marty Strode

    To me groundbreaking style, was when the Continental Mark 2 was produced.
    Joined: Jun 6, 2007
    Posts: 5,321


    THIS ^^^
    Today's stlyes are governed sooo much by regulation. Regulation has crept up on us. Everything from how high the headlights must be, how big the tail lights must be, how much loads the "A", "B", and "C" pillars must support, how high the FUEL ECONOMY has to be, etc. will dictate how the end product will look like. If you put all the regulations in a giant corporate blender for all the auto manufacturers it is inevitible that, in general, all the windshields for example, will end up at the same angle. The tumblehome, the grille contours, the headlight and tail light contours, the hood ornament, the scrub angles - EVERYTHING, everything - gets optimized to the same sets of regulations.

    Hence, if you remove the badges (nose and deck) from the vehicles, all the SUVs become indistinguishable from one another. All the sedans look alike. All the pickup cabs are virtually interchangeable.

    There are few exceptions, notably "retro" muscle cars like the Mustangs, Camaros, and Challengers, that compromise aero qualities a bit to recollect a little of the character of the originals, but for the most part cars of today have become CAR PLOP. That is to say, it looks like thay all have been dropped on earth in one big gooey pile of optimized uniformity with little room for design individuality.

    ...or so it would seem to me, a sometimes grouchy old retired automtive engineer and hoodlum hotrodder.
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2023
  6. BJR
    Joined: Mar 11, 2005
    Posts: 9,719


    Cars from the same make looked similar because they shared basic body shells among the different corporate makes. Look at 40's Chev, Olds, or Pontiac. Ford and Mercury look very much the same. All the 40's Chrysler cars are hard to tell apart.
    Stogy and VANDENPLAS like this.
    Joined: Jun 6, 2007
    Posts: 5,321


    On a tour of the Piquett Avenue Assembly plant, Ford's first modern assembly plant, we walked into Mr. Ford's top floor office. In the window was a large telescope, which Mr. Ford explained to questioners by saying he was an avid bird watcher. Not coincidently further down Piquette were other manufacturers, whose names I have forgotten - maybe Packard? and Dodge Bros? Ol' Henry liked to keep tabs on what the other manufacturers were up to.
    Joined: Jun 6, 2007
    Posts: 5,321


    29A-V8, theHIGHLANDER and clem like this.
  9. proartguy
    Joined: Apr 13, 2009
    Posts: 654

    from Sparks, NV

    Yep, Continental Mark II, a great example of beautiful design and sales disaster.
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2023
  10. 49ratfink
    Joined: Feb 8, 2004
    Posts: 18,808

    from California

    they did it so 80 years later old car guys could amaze regular people by stating the year of any American car within a 2 - 3 year span
  11. I use a simple mathematical formula which goes like this- Year of manufacture is proportional to the ugliness. I still can't tell any cars apart after about 1980. They hurt my eyes.
  12. 6sally6
    Joined: Feb 16, 2014
    Posts: 2,432


    You should ask Studebaker and Henry J manufacturers.........
  13. A Boner
    Joined: Dec 25, 2004
    Posts: 7,400

    A Boner

    The same reason so many hot rods look the same, too…monkey see, monkey do!
    Jim the Sweep, CSPIDY and jimmy six like this.
  14. vtx1800
    Joined: Oct 4, 2009
    Posts: 1,694


    For what it is worth, in 1953 Studebaker could have sold lots more cars but they tooled up for the mundane sedans and weren't able to build enough coupes and hardtops to meet the demand:( There may have been other labor? issues but they hit a home run with the coupes and hardtops in 1953) I am a little prejudiced though!
  15. And the Germans loved Henry. He sold them quite a few trucks before the war. He was awarded the highest civilian award by Adolph himself. Who did not-see that coming? He also did a lot of business in South America, areas that would be safe-havens for the Nazis post war.
    jimmy six likes this.
  16. 1971BB427
    Joined: Mar 6, 2010
    Posts: 8,692

    from Oregon

    American auto makers set the standard for style for a very long number of decades! You can look at some cars from the UK in post WWII era and they still look a lot like what was designed in the US a decade earlier!
    The spying thing seemed to be relegated between US makers, and it took the British a number of years to catch up with style changes in the US.
  17. Human nature. It is displayed in spades in the cars submitted to the Fisher Body Craftsman's Guild. That contest challenged young boys to design and build unique model cars. Even though big rewards were available for out of the box designs, you can pretty well nail the date of a Guild car just by looking at it. Rare is the entry that didn't look similar to its competitors.

    See the winners for selected years.

    1948 winners.jpg

    1950 winners.jpg

    1954 winners.jpg

    1957 winners.jpg

    1959 winners.jpg

    1960 winners.jpg

    1962 winners.jpg

    1963 winners.jpg

    1967 winners
    1967 winners.jpg
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2023
    LAROKE, hrm2k, AccurateMike and 5 others like this.
  18. 2OLD2FAST
    Joined: Feb 3, 2010
    Posts: 5,116

    from illinois

    I forgot completely to mention " Art Deco" 1920's - 1940's , slick. Aerodynamic with boatloads of shiney stainless !
    bobss396 likes this.
  19. I want to add in a long comment

    Along with Fuel mileage requirements with a ton of function and utility mixed in to make it bland. There are government regulations on headlights, running lights, on headlight covers (you will probably never see Pop Up headlights again or any headlight that isn't fixed in it's mounting). Tail lights have to be a certain size and at a certain height and there has to be 3 now, you have to have reverse cameras and although ugly pretty much every car now has a mirror you could actually see out of and there is usually 2 big exterior mirrors that are bullet shaped, door handles have been flushed and smoothed for aerodynamics, rain gutters have disappeared for aerodynamics, windshields, side windows and rear windows have been flushed for aerodynamics, grills generally speaking are now part of the aerodynamics, the entire car is wind tunneled before ever getting the approval check mark.

    I think the part that makes me mad is a bunch of these regulations have been done by either politicians that went to college to become lawyers and immediately got into politics or by unelected bureaucrats that are almost impossible to reason with. They have no clue what anybody wants or how the market really works. It is why we are seeing a push for electric cars today even though most people don't want or need an electric car and our infrastructure can't support them... anyways I'm going down the politic wormhole and I don't want to do that on this website everybody else keeps it on the down low so I need to do the same.
    Arguably some of this modern technology has been good from a practical standpoint and some of it has been bad the one thing you got to hand it to manufacturers, from q safety standpoint modern cars if you are in a typical fender bender you will more than likely walk away where 50 to 70 years ago there was a good chance you would die if you were doing 45 plus miles an hour.
    Also credit where it is do most modern cars are very quiet on the inside and it is very rare they get wind noise because of all those areodynamic things that being said they are certainly bland especially over the last 15 or 20 years (I would say since the 1980s but I'm a little biased) where SUV's have turned into CUV's, coupes are all but dead, traditional type sedans are now frame less front drivers and pickup trucks have 6 seats but tiny beds and although comfortable for people hauling the average truck can no longer haul a sheet of plywood or drywall.
    We are definitely living in a boring time when it comes to automobile design, I keep hoping there will be a retro revival ofthe 1940s the 1950s the 1960s or the 1970s but if it did it would be like an entire society full of HHR or PT cruiser looking vehicles (the challenger I think looks ok but it is kind of a poser attempting to look like a 1971 but I digress). I don't see Styling coming back to mass production vehicles as a vehicle is slowly becoming more like a toaster oven that as long as it doesn't burn your toast most people are content with "meh" as long as their iPhone hooks up to it.
  20. I should have went to the next page and read your comment you wrote almost exactly what I wrote in my comment Lol
    THE FRENCHTOWN FLYER likes this.
  21. The UK's golden age was the sport cars from the mid 1950s until the 1970s, every sporty car they made in that 15 or 20 year window it's just a spot on cool car (granted most were super slow but that isn't the point).
  22. Lookit all those model cars... I coulda been a contender...
  23. Maybe some old tooling was sold to other car makers? It would give them a jump start if they lacked the resources to make dies, etc from scratch.

    But today, we have come full circle in 80-90 years. Too many cars look the same-ish. With my Chevy Equinox (OT but a good car) it looks like a Mercedes, VW, Honda and a Hyundai model. I have to get close up and see the logo to be sure.
  24. that's a fascinating story if you haven't heard it. In the beginning, 'luxury ' cars were created by coach builders who bought a chassis from a car company and built a custom body on that platform. These guys were usually horse drawn coach builders who branched out to the new-fangled cars. Harley Earl's dad was making a reputation on the west coast doing this and Harley got into designing bodies for his dad. Cadillac took note of the Earl's success and travelled to California to see what they were doing. They were so impressed with Harley's design work, they offered him a job on the spot! When Harley got to Detroit, he was charged with developing a design department for GM. GM engineers referred to Harley's department as the "Beauty Shop"!

    Harley then proceeded to develop the process of car styling. He introduced such innovations as making full-size clay models, 2-tone paint jobs, curved glass windshields, and on and on. Needing stylists, Harley started the Fisher Body Craftsman's Guild in 1930 to discover talent for his styling studio. In the first 6 or 7 years, kids were charged with building Napoleonic coaches as in the picture below. These coaches were to be built to exacting plans from scratch, no creativity allowed. I built the one in the picture a couple years ago to see what it would be like and I have HUGE respect for kids from 12 to 19 who built these. It is a huge task. Problem was, Harley was finding great craftsmen but not especially great designers. In the late 30s they converted the contest from coach building to car designing. The rest is history. In the decades of the 50s and 60s, it was a rare car stylist who wasn't a Craftsman's Guild alumni.
    IMG_2311.JPG IMG_2299.JPG IMG_2309.JPG IMG_2306.JPG IMG_2308.JPG IMG_2308.JPG IMG_2303.JPG
    29A-V8, Stan Back and CSPIDY like this.
    Joined: Jun 6, 2007
    Posts: 5,321


    Thanks for pointing this aspect out. It would be interesting to do a similar comparison on Soap Box Derby winners through the decades. I'll bet there would be similar trends.
  26. Slopok
    Joined: Jan 30, 2012
    Posts: 2,919


    Tucker tried to change and was ousted by the industry leaders!
    Trying to be too different wasn't always received well by others.
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2023
    THE FRENCHTOWN FLYER likes this.
  27. noboD
    Joined: Jan 29, 2004
    Posts: 8,407


    AACA library has a good display of several of these cars. Headed there right after lunch.
  28. No doubt. I read somewhere that if a guy set a lap record at Indy with a Christmas tree tied to his car, every car there would sprout a tree.
    AccurateMike likes this.
  29. lippy
    Joined: Sep 27, 2006
    Posts: 6,822

    from Ks

    Ahh, the government got involved. LOL I try to stay away from them as much as I can.
    29A-V8 likes this.
  30. lippy
    Joined: Sep 27, 2006
    Posts: 6,822

    from Ks

    If you look at a CAR, it must have a place for you to sit(as in the old days) Now it must have a place for you to sit in SAFETY. I will leave you to your opinions. Lippy
    29A-V8 and AccurateMike like this.

Share This Page

Register now to get rid of these ads!


Copyright © 1995-2021 The Jalopy Journal: Steal our stuff, we'll kick your teeth in. Terms of Service. Privacy Policy.

Atomic Industry
Forum software by XenForo™ ©2010-2014 XenForo Ltd.