Longtime Readers will be familiar ad nauseam with my constant bitching against modern automotive design and how homogeneous the cars of today appear. While a lot of it is driven by things like “wind-tunnel” performance, I’ve never bothered to talk about exactly why car makers are so obsessed with streamlining and what have you, because I’d always thought people knew why they’re thus obsessed.
Allow me then, to address this shortcoming by pointing you to this excellent article, a snippet of which reads as follows:
It hasn’t happened all at once. It’s been a bit at a time, taking place over four decades in the name of safety and the environment. The whole thing began in 1966 with creation of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, followed by the Environmental Protection Agency and dozens of others. Every regulator wanted a piece of the car.
Each new regulation seems like it makes sense in some way. Who doesn’t want to be safer and who doesn’t want to save gas?
But these mandates are imposed without any real sense of the cost and benefits, and they come about without a thought as to what they do to the design of a car. And once the regs appear on the books, they never go away.
Truly, this cries out for explanation. So I was happy to see a video made by CNET that gives five reasons: mandates for big fronts to protect pedestrians, mandates that require low tops for fuel economy, a big rear to balance out the big fronts, tiny windows resulting from safety regulations that end up actually making the car less safe, and high belt lines due to the other regs. In other words, single-minded concern for testable “safety” and the environment has wrecked the entire car aesthetic.
And that’s only the beginning. Car and Driver puts this as plainly as can be: “In our hyper-regulated modern world, the government dictates nearly every aspect of car design, from the size and color of the exterior lighting elements to how sharp the creases stamped into sheetmetal can be.”
You are welcome to read an engineer’s account of what it is like to design an American car. Nothing you think, much less dream, really matters. The regulations drive the whole process. He explains that the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards with hundreds of regulations — really a massive central plan — dictate every detail and have utterly ruined the look and feel of American cars.
Here’s my suggestion to the Trump administration: wherever the so-called “Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards” reside, go in there and take out 75% of them – I don’t care which ones, but I bet a random sample of my Petrolhead Readers would take care of the problem.
Here’s the money shot quote from the article:
No one set out to wreck the diversity and beauty of our cars. But that is precisely what has happened, as the political and bureaucratic elites have asserted their own value systems over the values of both producers and consumers. They are the masters and we are the slaves, and we are to accept our lot in life.
Maybe not. This is a hill I’d be glad to die on — just for the sake of automotive beauty. Here’s one example of a car that couldn’t be made in the U.S. today because regs, and we are the poorer for it:
More about Bizzarrini.
The title, by the way, is a play on a line of dialogue from Cheech and Chong’s Big Bambu album.