Hooniverse Asks- What Brand's Long Lost Styling Trope Would You Like to See Make a Return?

BMW Double Kidneys

Did you know that the toothed tail lights of the seventies and early eighties Mercedes Benz vehicles were designed not as a styling aesthetic, but to improve visibility when dirty? That kind of functional beauty is an element of the Swabians’ products that I miss in this era of form over function. Other brands have maintained – sometimes for decades – design elements that immediately identified their lineage, it was a comforting reminder of that marque’s stability and sense of tradition. 

Today, companies like Mercedes and BMW are casting off their traditional styling tropes, or are morphing them to the point where they are unrecognizable. In their defense the designers frequently profess that the  essence of the element still remains. I don’t know about you, but when it comes to pretty much anything, I prefer the real McCoy to the essence.

Jaguar is another brand that, for its sedans at least, has abandoned many of its past styling tropes for more modern interpretations that – sadly – could have come from any other high-end car maker. And don’t get me started on the new Corvette. But what of these cast-offs, the styling memes that used to define brands, which of those do you miss the most? Which long lost styling trop would you like to have back?

Image source: [BMWCoop]

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90 responses to “Hooniverse Asks- What Brand's Long Lost Styling Trope Would You Like to See Make a Return?”

  1. muthalovin Avatar

    Though, the can opener/beak is growing on me.

    1. pj134 Avatar


    2. Vairship Avatar

      I STILL don't understand why Acura dealers don't mount aftermarket grilles on every car they have on the lot. Although Acura FINALLY seems to be de-emphasizing the beak on their latest designs, after the designer himself finally admitted it probably cost them quite a few sales…

  2. Vavon Avatar

    The simple but pretty Peugeot family look of the 80s. Just 2 or 3 bars in the grille instead of a gaping big hole!
    <img src="http://www.caranddriverthef1.com/sites/default/files/peugeot-205-gti-09.jpg&quot; width="660/">

  3. C³-Cool Cadillac Cat Avatar
    C³-Cool Cadillac Cat

    Did you know that the toothed tail lights of the seventies and early eighties Mercedes Benz vehicles were designed not as a styling aesthetic, but to improve visibility when dirty?
    Somewhat embarrassingly, yes…yes I did.
    Aerodynamics and harnessing wake what is effectively wake turbulence, though it likely has a different name, to swirl air in the recesses, 'scrubbing' it. Well, preventing dirt/snow from packing on to the lens.
    A few things I really miss:
    Both pop-up and merely flip-up cover, headlights.
    Tail fins.
    Hood ornaments.
    Useful names. Not physical styling, of course, but still styling of a sort.
    Even number/letter nomenclature used to be useful, but isn't…at least as much…anymore.
    A Mercedes 380SDL was, as you can tell by the nomenclature, a 3.8L, four-door extended wheelbase sedan, which was diesel.
    With 'Murrican cars…sigh. Yo, Cadillac and Lincoln. Stop with the retarded lettering crap. XTS, ATS, MKX, MKX, WTF… Granted, I own an STS, however, at least that used to stand for Seville Touring Sedan. SLS was Seville Luxury Sedan. Same goes for DTS/DHS.

    1. LTDScott Avatar

      Yup, I knew that fact as well, and was about to correct Rob in that it was for snow, not dirt, but you beat me to it.

    2. Kamil_K Avatar

      I want fucking T-tops!!!

  4. Number_Six Avatar

    Greenhouse and shark prow.
    <img src="http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8018/7446980790_f73258927d_z.jpg&quot; width="500" />

    1. Irishzombieman Avatar

      Plus the grill that tied all pre-Bangle Beemers together like a family nose.

  5. domino_vitali Avatar

    BMW is going in a direction I'm not happy with. The front end of the current 3 series looks more generic than any BMW I can remember. What happened to the little E30 with the cute face that I fell in love with as a child?

  6. SSurfer321 Avatar

    I remember when they used to design door pulls/window cranks.
    <img src="http://i.ebayimg.com/t/1967-1972-Chevy-Truck-Door-Window-Handles-67-68-69-70-/24/!B7h0mRQ!Wk~$(KGrHqJ,!l8Ey+jC)VjTBM0cV)pSNw~~-1_35.JPG">
    IMG from Ebay

    1. P161911 Avatar

      Yeah, but GM used that SAME design for 30+ years.

  7. Hopman Avatar

    The Ford / Chevy / Dodge trucks from the 80's – early 90's. No bull, just ready to work. And they weren't so tall you needed a step ladder to see over the bed side.
    Hell, if they get much bigger, the next F150 driver I see will be sitting eye to eye with me in my work truck ( Class 7 a Internatioal box truck)!

    1. Devin Avatar

      I briefly thought you were my dad for a moment, then I noticed your work truck is different and my dad isn't exactly internet capable.
      He bought a Ranger because he thought the F150 was needlessly large and wasteful, and he didn't see any need to have a truck that tall.

      1. P161911 Avatar

        I like the idea of a 4' x 8' bed, but that bed doesn't need to be 5' off the ground.

      2. Hopman Avatar

        I did own a Ranger for 5 years and though it was the perfect size for 99% of the jobs out there. The only thing it didn't have the cjaones for was towing.

        1. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

          Well, it was a four-cylinder, wasn't it?

          1. Hopman Avatar

            Yep. 'm surprized you remember that truck. The last time you saw it was 2.5 years ago. I traded in on a 2007 Focus Zx5. At least I was hoon enough to get another stick shift.

          2. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

            Purple 4wd, regular cab, want to say shortbed, definitely had a cap. Cap may have been green.
            And yet I can't remember what I had for lunch yesterday.
            Nothing wrong with any Focus that has an odd number of doors and an odd number of pedals. I've had three Volvos since my blue car, two of 'em five-speeds (including the current one).

    2. Irishzombieman Avatar

      Dude I work with has one of these. He's exactly the kind of jackass you'd expect to have one of these.
      <img src="http://autoobserver.typepad.com/photos/uncategorized/2007/10/29/chevy_kodiac_c4500_211.jpg&quot; width=400>

    3. P161911 Avatar

      I have seriously considered lowering my 2011 Silverado WT 2WD. The thing is a good 6" too tall. WHY?!?!?!? It is at least 4" taller than my Dad's 2000 Dodge.

      1. Hopman Avatar

        Agreed. Did you realize that the "half ton" trucks can haul & hold more than "1-tons" of 15 years ago?

    4. MVEilenstein Avatar

      Amen and amen. That's why my '92 F-150 is the only truck for me.

  8. Devin Avatar

    <img src="http://images.forum-auto.com/mesimages/47198/0401_14z+1986_bmw_e28_635csi+side_view.jpg&quot; width="500">
    Thin pillars. I do drive a vehicle with rather thick pillars, and it doesn't bother me as much as it bothers other people, but I could still go for more cars with really thin pillars, especially in the A-pillar area.

    1. M44Power Avatar

      Yes! I recently drove a Buick (for work, promise) and the combination of tiny greenhouse and stupendously thick A-pillars made me uncomfortable driving the car. I don't see how people feel safer in cars they can't see out of, but apparently they do. I bet thin pillars can be made to meet rollover standards. They are sorely missed.

      1. SSurfer321 Avatar

        It's not all rollover standards fault that causes fat pillars. It's also the airbag inside the pillar.
        I too miss being able to see around a corner whilst turning.

        1. M44Power Avatar

          I maintain that those can be integrated better (or just find some other way of minimizing head injuries during side impacts) and give us back our visibility.

          1. SSurfer321 Avatar

            yeah, put them in the B pillar and rear seat passengers airbags back in the C pillar. Give us back our skinny A pillars

      2. danleym Avatar

        I've driven two relatively new rentals in the last two weeks, a Versa and an Accent (they're the only cars I've ever driven made since 2010, so they're all I have to go off of). Both had absolutely awful C pillars. I was backing the Accent into a parking spot in a parking garage, and I just had to trust I wasn't about to hit the car next to me.
        Also, Hyundai's TCS on the Accent will actively try to kill you in 1 inch of snow. I know what I'm doing in snow, and I was constantly fighting that car to keep it straight. I turned off the TCS, instant improvement.

        1. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

          That's how I felt about the (possibly malfunctioning) ABS in my Volvo 740. Modern ABS is helpful when it's slippery, but earlier systems just refuse to let you put your foot down and bite through an inch of snow, because oh lordy that would mean locking up the wheels for a second, so you're going into the intersection instead, sorry, buddy.
          Run-on sentence intentional.
          And yes, giant pillars can go to Hell, too.

          1. M44Power Avatar

            That sounds like early BMW attempts at traction control. "Hey, you seem to be slipping a bit. Let me kill the engine power to throw you further off balance and keep you from recovering with the throttle."

    2. C³-Cool Cadillac Cat Avatar
      C³-Cool Cadillac Cat

      Saw a very clean 633csi this past weekend, and was almost surprised at how open and airy it is. Just goes to show how disproportionately small windows are, today.
      I really like the looks of that 6-series. The 5-series of that era really appeals to me, too.

    3. Irishzombieman Avatar

      I've got one of these sitting in my backyard. I wish it was pre-smog. One of the sweetest looking cars ever, but it's gotta go before it nickels and dimes me to death.

    4. salguod Avatar

      I've lost whole vehicles on a turn behind the near A pillar of my Saturn Outlook. I guess had I crashed into that car, the airbag in the pillar would have protected me. A thinner pillar would mean I could have actually seen them and not crashed.
      My daughter's '98 Escort has nice thin pillars. That's the only thing on the car I'd describe as 'nice'.

    5. alain Avatar

      its easier to see out of the back of my e28, than out of the front of a lot of modern cars, my e30 was even better!! ergonomics FTW!!

  9. stigshift Avatar

    You know what I miss? Being able to order any car with whatever options you wanted on it. I've seen, and owned, some weird combos. Now it's all package A or package B, with a black interior or a beige interior. You want a sunroof? You have to get leather and nav and backup cameras with it. Backup cameras? Remember when we could actually turn our heads around to look backwards?

    1. OA5599 Avatar

      Backup cameras give a different perspective from what you can see from the driver's seat. I can line up the trailer with the hitch on the first try, by myself, instead of getting out of the truck, looking, getting back in and moving it a couple inches (repeat 3-6 times). I can also parallel park and get to within an inch of the car behind me without tapping it. I can back out of my sister's L-shaped driveway without backing over her ground-level landscaping lights along the perimeter.
      I don't think backup cameras should be mandatory, but neither do I think they are evil.

    2. Devin Avatar

      I wish I had a backup camera back when I was helping my dad with farming. Backing a massive grain truck into a tiny spot using only the mirrors was eventually second nature – and it's oddly more difficult to be that precise with my much smaller car now – but it sure would have been nice to see what the hell I was driving into.

    3. Vairship Avatar

      Remember when turning your head to look backwards allowed you to actually see something behind the car? On the Range Rover Evoque, the bottom of the rear window is likely higher than the driver's eyeball, so the only thing you'll see is the sky… This used to be called Bad Product Design.
      <img src="http://www.landroversj.com/dealerimages/Dealer%202722%20Images/range%20rover%20evoque%20rear%20exterior.jpg&quot; width="600">
      Source: landroversj.com, who I'm sure love the "styling".

  10. pj134 Avatar

    This is like the opposite of Monday's question. Thinking about ridiculous cars that I want to own makes my heart leap with joy. This just makes me depressed in the age of the jellybean.
    Lincoln abandoned all style
    Mercedes look like costume jewelery instead of well engineered suits
    BMWs look like retarded sharks that have had their faces pounded in with a fist
    Cadillacs are small (Not that I mind, but a big fucking land yacht would be nice)
    Lexus makes angry, fat sofas
    Acura is confused and trying to compete with BMW and Lexus so they make Honda Sport Sofas
    Hondas are enormous and the new Accord actually copied the Genesis sedan
    Ford either copies mazda or aston martin (dumbass grin or poorly executed gaping maw) with no style at all on the interior
    Dodge has boats or jellybeans
    Jeeps are enormous
    Chryslers are… something
    Toyota hasn't had style in 20 years, but are now styled after people who spent too much time in Chernobyl
    Chevy's are uninsipiring to say the least
    Buick is stuck between trying to young it up and keep the old people they're losing to the angry sofas (How about a Riviera again? Something with a little style for once…)
    Lotus are going to gigantic
    Land Rovers have Mercedes syndrome
    Ferraris… eh, are they still even trying to make them sexy?
    Lamborghinis look sane
    Audi's have over played the smooth Teuton look and are slowly starting to look like mold
    Basically, I hate everyone and everything and I'm going to sit in my angry chair. Everyone could do well to examine their past successes and continue to build on the. Although… Jaguars have changed, but they're still sexy as hell and I love them.

    1. Devin Avatar

      Toyotas are getting better, I think. The new stuff isn't nearly as lumpy as the old stuff, which reminds me of poorly mixed dough.

      1. pj134 Avatar

        Since we're resorting to this anyway…
        <img src="http://24.media.tumblr.com/f4a4aeb269d94e79ce4b9fba5716dc60/tumblr_mff1txlfPu1rs7k3ko1_500.jpg&quot; width="300/">

        1. Devin Avatar

          What's the best way to put it? The old Camry is like syphilis. The new Camry is like syphilis after you take your first antibiotic treatment. It's starting to get better, but you've still got syphilis.

    2. tiberiusẅisë Avatar

      "Chryslers are… something"
      No, they are not.

      1. pj134 Avatar

        [youtube Zxmt4PX6gto http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zxmt4PX6gto youtube]

      1. pj134 Avatar

        I really wish I had one of these at work. With a heavy bag inside. I'd probably be a much more easy going man.

        1. wisc47 Avatar

          If I ever own a business, I'll make sure to have one of these in the break room.

    3. Alff Avatar

      The main problem as I see it is that angles are the new curves.

      1. pj134 Avatar

        I don't know, angles can be good when used almost entirely in place of curves. 60's continentals had very slight curves, almost just boxes. Cherokees are to box designs that look good. Volvo's look good. But the overuse and abuse of them on every part of the car and when completely unnecessary is what gets to me. Look at this rear hatch:
        <img src="http://files.conceptcarz.com/img/Honda/honda_CRV_2008_030-800.jpg&quot; width=500>
        What the hell is that supposed to be? Honestly, who thought this was a good idea!?

        1. Devin Avatar

          I don't think the designers of that CR-V were on speaking terms.

        2. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

          That CRV has onemor tumor, and it looks like the new model will have threemor.
          Also, I loathe that rear side window. Looks like a Ssangyong.

          1. Vairship Avatar

            At least the beltline (though high-ish), remains level, as opposed to many other cute-utes where it kinks or curves up dramatically behind the C-pillar, because apparently the blindspot wasn't big enough…

    4. KevinKiley Avatar

      I, and undoubtedly many here, pride myself on telling what a car is from well off in the distance on headlights, taillights, general shape, etc. and when I pulled up behind a 2013 Accord sedan yesterday, I would have sworn it was a Genesis… Weak. Sauce.

      1. pj134 Avatar

        I pulled up behind one the other day and thought to myself "Why the hell did that person put a Honda badge on their Genesis? Jackasses…"
        Then it dawned on me.

  11. schigleymischke Avatar

    I never did get the connection between those two BMWs at the top. Pontoon fenders, attached headlights, and a fold down windshield on the left does not equal what I see on the right.

  12. wisc47 Avatar

    I miss the four round headlights of BMW vintage.
    <img src="http://www.motorstown.com/images/bmw-30-cs-04.jpg"&gt;

  13. Alff Avatar

    Fake spare tire bulges on short rear decks.

  14. buzzboy7 Avatar

    The G-Body front end. I love the G-Body cars for some reason. I know they aren't great, but they are very good looking IMHO.
    <img src="http://onfinite.com/libraries/1261336/840.jpg&quot; width="600">

    1. Felis_Concolor Avatar

      Many of the gorgeous styling cues from the 60s had become caricatures as the 70s plodded onward, making the transition to GM and Ford's boxy G- and Fox-Bodies seem refreshing in comparison. GM's early G-Bodies got the slab sided look right; just enough rake to keep the front and rear interesting, with a nice rolling shutter look to give the vehicle an aspect of motion even when standing still.
      While later iterations and models would offer their own – often questionable – variations on the original theme, that first generation Malibu was an excellent start to a still ubiquitous automobile platform.

  15. Devin Avatar

    For something brand specific, I miss when Rolls Royce treated their headlights and indicators like jewels.
    <img src="http://french-news-online.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/photo-rolls-royce-corniche-conv.jpg&quot; width="500">
    Now they're kind of begrudgingly included and no effort is made to make them special.
    <img src="http://www.shrustitravels.in/mysite/ecars/rolls-royce-ghost.jpg&quot; width="500">

  16. VolvoNut Avatar

    How about square? I'm bored with the swoopy blob look.
    <img src="http://cimbeon.com/data_images/volvo-240-dl/volvo-240-dl-06.jpg"&gt;

    1. danleym Avatar

      Sometimes newer square comes off as trying too hard. See: Nissan Cube, Scion xB, xD, new Ford trucks, new Chevy trucks…
      But yes, I too am a big fan of square, just not so much the newer incarnations.
      <img src="http://gomotors.net/pics/Rambler/rambler-american-440-02.jpg&quot; width=500>

      1. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

        Most squared-off '60s designs are beautiful to me… thin pillars, purposeful styling, a greenhouse you can see out of. The Volvo 140, and the 240 it spawned, are definitely included.
        Actually, I've never owned a rounded-off car; the closest thing I've had was an 850 wagon.
        I actually like the Nissan Cube and first-generation xB for their quirkiness, but the second xB is hideous, to my eyes. The Soul is a box of meh. Pickup trucks… well, the '87-96/97 F-series was pretty square, but those weren't trying to be compensatorily macho.

        1. danleym Avatar

          That's what I was getting at with the trucks. I have an 88 K5, I love that styling from Chevy. It's huge, and it's square. Somehow the modern styling, which is huge, and square, just comes off as trying too hard.

      2. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
        Peter Tanshanomi
        1. racer139 Avatar

          I am looking for one of these corollas now. Eastern Canada winters ate most of these things in the late eighties. very simple car with very simple three box style. wish I could find one relativly close.

  17. Sjalabais Avatar

    Let me cite the legendary Jan Wilsgaard:
    "The functional is often the beautiful, too. Follow the laws of nature and don't make things more complicated than they really are.
    Functional and rational solutions are often the most attractive, too."
    Good old times…

  18. stigshift Avatar

    I also miss true b-pillarless hardtops of all types. Remember when Ford, Chrysler, and GM even had hardtop wagons? Cool.

  19. POLAЯ Avatar

    <img src="http://blog.lenovo.com/images/legacy/files/2011/01/cadillac-bumper1.jpg"&gt;
    But the really effedup part? Google "real metal bumpers" and you get THIS!
    <img src="http://i01.i.aliimg.com/photo/v0/449468681/BLADE_PREMIUM_METAL_BUMPER_FOR_IPHONE_4.jpg"&gt;
    I'm really starting to hate technology.

  20. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
    Peter Tanshanomi

    VW sorely needs to exploit their signature ebony w/red accents motif.
    <img src="http://bringatrailer.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/1984_Volkswagen_VW_GTI_Brand_New_Front_10_1.jpg"&gt;

  21. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
    Peter Tanshanomi

    I really wish GM would bring back the side creases from the Gen2/3 Monte Carlo. They look as though the wheel arches are simultaneously leaning forward into the wind and being blown back down the sides of the car, like a comet's tail, or pennants in the slipstream, or windblown hair. That's so awesome.
    <img src="http://www.tanshanomi.com/temp/75MonteCarlo.png"&gt;

  22. jeremy![™] Avatar

    wow! what the hell is that bmw concept?

  23. Dutch Avatar

    I know the "retro" movement is over, but I would see a modern take on a 1967 Chevrolet Impala SS Sport Coupe. Somewhere along the line, all GM styling pretty much sucks (Camaro excluded). Bring back people like Bill Mitchell and Pete Estes!

  24. C³-Cool Cadillac Cat Avatar
    C³-Cool Cadillac Cat

    POLAЯ remined me.
    Cadillac's Dagmars!!!

    1. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
      Peter Tanshanomi

      I agree fully, but rollover safety standards have sadly made hardtops obsolete.

  25. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
    Peter Tanshanomi

    The old Bimmer in the lead photo actually reminded me of an Anglia E494A.
    <img src="http://farm7.staticflickr.com/6002/5947023728_4d671b5021.jpg"&gt;

  26. HSA Avatar

    Front, middle section and back that clearly belong to the same car. Bonus points if there is a proper grille. Bumpers? Cars used to have bumpers?
    <img src="http://foto.motorionline.com/auto/plog-content/thumbs/lancia/lancia-aurelia-b20-gt-1951/large/54457-lancia-aurelia_b20_gt_1951_001.jpg"&gt;

    1. Sjalabais Avatar

      Perfect! Design teams are overrated. Get the egomaniac pencil throwers back to the drawing board. Or CAD-thing whatever.

    2. POLAЯ Avatar

      Bumpers: Soooo much better than the formed blue box resin goo we get nowadays.

    1. danleym Avatar

      I have nothing more to say than that, but I felt it deserved more than just a silent thumbs up.

  27. Rover1 Avatar

    Rear wheel spats, last seen on the Honda Insight Mk1 and sadly missed from their days on Big American cars and Citroens, specially missed on Citroens since it was a styling flourish that was practical (aerodynamic), and marque defining like BMW's Hofmeister kink.
    Also, how can we have a Syd Mead future for ourselves without them?

  28. Jonathon Avatar

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