Hooniverse Asks: What’s your favorite specific design element from any car?

On a Z31 Nissan 300ZX, I can quickly tell you if the car is of the two seat or two-plus-two variety. A glance at the rear side glass reveals interior secrets. I like the way the two-seater glass looks but fully dislike the slightly altered look of the 2+2. I do like that this design element lets me quickly sort out 300ZX examples into one of two mental piles for me.

The nose and tail of a Dodge Daytona or Plymouth Superbird instantly make my heart flutter. These insane machines were built for serious speed. Muscle cars transformed into 200-mph monsters. And all it took was ridiculous aero bits to pull it off.

A good steering wheel in a vintage Italian sports car is a wonderful thing. It feels good and looks good at the same time. Your interaction with the car is through that steering wheel, and the right one helps set the tone immediately.

There are many design elements to a car, truck, or motorcycle, and certain one stand out. Maybe they even remain in your memory weeks, to months, to decades later. Sound off with some of your all-time favorites.

What’s your favorite specific design element from any vehicle?

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39 responses to “Hooniverse Asks: What’s your favorite specific design element from any car?”

  1. Alexander Broom Avatar
    Alexander Broom

    The air inlet sculpted into the rear fenders of the 993 turbos is one of the best design cues!

    1. outback_ute Avatar

      Bonus points for convertible top butresses… (which are actually functional)

    2. Vairship Avatar

      “I like a big buttress and I cannot lie…”?

      1. 0A5599 Avatar

        Baby got back window.

  2. 0A5599 Avatar

    T/A hood, with the scoop elevated above the boundary layer to maximize airflow. Also, flat black to make the car look sinister, while also reducing glare.


  3. 0A5599 Avatar

    T/A hood, with the scoop elevated above the boundary layer to maximize airflow. Also, flat black to make the car look sinister, while also reducing glare.


  4. Zentropy Avatar

    Can’t think at the moment… I’m desperately trying to rid my mind of the image of that guy’s clothing.

  5. fede Avatar

    In my childhood, vents behind the doors. Mainly the slotted ones on the Ferraris 348 and Testarossa, but also the fake ones on the Mustang.

    Nowadays, probably the same answer.

    1. P161911 Avatar

      For when one set of pop ups isn’t enough.

      1. nanoop Avatar

        I am worried, only ten out of twelve headlamps on – what’s wrong?

        1. outback_ute Avatar

          No fog?

          1. nanoop Avatar

            No darkness neither.

        2. Rover 1 Avatar
          Rover 1

          It’s Italian and you’re complaining that only 20% of the lights don’t work?. 80% operability is quite a high bar.

  6. Batshitbox Avatar

    I like the B-Pillarless / Hardtop look. A lack of window frames is generally a good thing. Old Subaru GLs didn’t have window frames, I loved that. I also love that the wikipedia pic for ‘hardtop’ is of the AMC Marlin, one of my favorite examples.

    Semaphores are cool, too. And anything that’s at the wrong angle, like the rear window and front grille of a Ford Anglia 105E.



    1. Fuhrman16 Avatar

      I’m curious, having never owned a hardtop car, how to they achieve sealing the door window to the rear glass? Is there some sort of weather stripping the rolls down with the window or is there just a big ol’ gap or what?

      1. Batshitbox Avatar

        My mom’s ’68 Camaro had rear windows that had a rubber seal permanently fixed to the leading edge of the window, and matched up with the front window. I’m joking, of course; it never lined up correctly, and the car was a convertible, so there was no way to keep the outside getting in. You could see how the engineers tried, though.

  7. salguod Avatar

    My earliest automotive memory is of the tail of a ’70-’73 Camaro. The recessed panel and the four round tail lights were just awesome to my very young (probably pre-school) mind and cemented my automotive love affair. The split bumper RS nose of the same vintage is still one of the most beautiful and aggressive nose / grille treatments made.

    (Note that I mean the full factory RS treatment with the split bumper, the grille extension and the relocated round turn signals. Many a non-RS car has gotten split bumpers mounted without the other details and it’s just not the same.)



  8. nanoop Avatar

    I never thought about it like this, but this chamfer is kind of a consequent application of box flare aesthetics along the entire car.

  9. outback_ute Avatar

    See also the Alfa 105 GT/GTV, which must have inspired the Invader.

  10. Rover 1 Avatar
    Rover 1

    Nice use of Mk1 Escort/Capri tail lights.

    1. outback_ute Avatar

      Makes a change from using Hillman Hunter lights I suppose!

      1. Rover 1 Avatar
        Rover 1

        Ford parts cheaper that week perhaps?

  11. Rover 1 Avatar
    Rover 1

    Also a nice example of one of my favourite design features, Mercedes Benz ribbed tail-lights. Not just an aesthetic rib, the airflow, as it spills into the spaces between ribs, swirls fast enough to keep half of the lights clean, and therefore visible, instead of being covered in grime and obscured. Here are the same tail lights in their other application on the W116, (in it’s ultimate incarnation of the 450SEL 6.9., with coincidentally the same engine as the first Imperators). The channels between the ribs stay clean and your brakelights, indicators, and rear lights remain visible, keeping the car safer, and you with it.
    The decline in Mercedes Benz design, in my opinion, directly parallells the decline of the tail-light ribbing. Now Mercedes Benz treats the ribbing as just a ‘styling feature’, just some applied graphic, like everyone else does.


    1. Vairship Avatar

      And I’d bet that if you asked current Mercedes engineers and designers about those taillights, half of them wouldn’t even know the story behind them. It’s sad how that engineering-led car company has now become just another gimmick brand.

      1. Hans_Shtick Avatar

        Which, in turn, was a reference to this one:

    1. outback_ute Avatar

      Compared with the others the Figaro is a bit ‘sad panda’…

      1. Pinkerton9 Avatar

        OK, so maybe it does look like a cyberman with a case of the Mondays.

  12. SlowJoeCrow Avatar

    Although it’s more trivia than aesthetic, I always liked the fact that the door bins in a Lancia Stratos are sized to hold a Bell Star full face helmet.

  13. XRSevin Avatar

    These pipes from the Honda 400F stopped me in my tracks the first time I saw them. So I bought one. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/adab41a2987a967ece5f713f92b04c3cebc02a054d7eb23c3a33654528b2eb6c.png

    1. Rover 1 Avatar
      Rover 1

      As did my brother.
      And a friend bought one of the first CBX sixes, partly because of those six chromed pipes across the front, with no downtubes in the way. After the mufflers got scratched in a minor scrape at low speed, he replaced them with a six into one sports exhaust. That was fantastic and unbelieveably sounded even better than it looked. When revved, it sounded EXACTLY like silk being torn.


    2. Number_Six Avatar

      They’re kind of back on the Honda CB650F and covered up on CBR650 https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e55d86290dfdbadafb4d96fbc3a1dc26d4465b3fa2325993b9446bf1be25340c.jpg

  14. Toaster Avatar

    I love me a nice set of fender skirts.
    If the push towards autonomous driving has one good aspect, i hope it’s that cars that have no business being sporty, stop trying to look sporty.
    And that, in conjuntion with ever tightening fuel/energy consumption laws will hopefully mean that fake vents disappear, flared arches go away, rims get back to proper sizes, and, finally, fender skirts make their glorious comeback.

    For your perusal