Design Talk
April 2002

40 years after launch, the lines of Lamborghini Miura is still the most beautiful.  

However, we know such shape is no longer feasible in modern car design. Our safety regulations require big bumpers, our customers ask for higher roof, our aerodynamic research results in higher tail and less curvature over the body. Because all cars are subjected to the same requirements and boundaries, our cars have been evolved to more and more similar to each other.  

Just like Formula 1, now no matter Ferrari or Minardi look virtually identical. It will be very interesting to date back to the 70s, where Formula 1 cars can be 6-wheelers, can have no front spoilers, can have a ground-effect fan at tail, or the whole car can be an aero foil. The 60s and 70s was so free ! they could try whatever ideas they had and explore any directions.  

But the world is a small globe. One day all the directions will be explored and everybody will come up with the optimized solutions - the same solutions. Just like Formula 1. 

Is that meaning our cars and racing cars designs will be increasingly hopeless ? not necessarily. 

Just like Formula 1, if the set of rules change, you will face a completely unexplored area and everybody will try different solutions. In other words, to keep things fresh, we need frequent change of rules. The current situation of F1 is simply due to the relatively stable of rules since the mid-90s. If FIA switch to V8 engines or 2.5 litres of capacity, or change the dimensions / weight limit / tyre width ... just any big changes, car lovers will be excited. 

What about road cars ? the physical boundaries like aerodynamics may never change, but customer requirements are changing. In the past we did not have crossover vehicle between cars and off-roaders or between cars and wagon or between sports cars and off-roaders, now people want them and car manufacturers are exploring the possible designs quickly. This bring completely new design we have never seen. For instance, I would say a BMW X5 looks more exciting than the predictable 3-series. The same goes for Volvo’s first SUV XC90 or this week’s Nissan Murano. 

If our scientists and engineers find a new material or new structure offering multiple strength than today’s steel, they can also come up with a new look car. A more realistic change might be Xenon bulbs which reduces the size of headlamps. That means headlamps will no longer dominate the look of cars. In short, the advancement of technology will change the face of cars, and sometimes probably give designers higher degree of freedom. 

The future is not too pessimistic to me. 

Mark Wan

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