F for Fashion, Fashion on Wheels

Ka-twalk Dress From Streetka Parts

Ford Streetka Dress

Designed by Bruce Oldfield in 2005, made from 85 parts from a special pink Ford Street Ka (The corset was formed out of pink fibreglass, the material of the Streetka’s hardtop. The choker is the car’s gem-like clock: the hat was made from parcel shelf material and cable-ties, and the see-through skirt from mesh used on the front grille, decorated with colourful electrical cables normally found under the Streetka’s dashboard. Valued at $15,000.

Many people choose cars base on the shape of the cars. In other words, they buy the car because it looks good. Just like people buy the clothes because they are beautiful. Fashion designers design dresses, hats, trousers, t-shirts, skirts, coats for the body. The design of car bodywork and interior can be regarded as another kind of fashion design and the designer are thought to be the fashion designer of cars. The cars are dressed up by them. Car design has its own fashion, I call it the fashion on wheels.

“Our marriage with the company Pininfarina has already lasted for over 15 years and will continue for a long time yet. I remember how astonished Pinin was when I opened myself up to him, and how astonished I was when he opened himself up to me. Suddenly it became obvious that one of us was looking for a famous and beautiful woman to dress up in new clothes, and the other one for a world-renowned tailor to have his clothes tailor-made.”

——Enzo Ferrari, 1967

Just like the comment that Enzo Ferrari made on his cooperation with Battista Pinin Farina a decade-and-a-half after they met, car bodyworks are the clothes that cars dress, and the car-body designers are the fashion designers for cars. All that means, car bodywork is the fashion on wheels.

In the century since cars appeared, they have embodied dreams of the future and the promises of technology. When people are asked what a car means to them, most of them think of practicality. Their relationship with the car is one of necessity and convenience. But as we all know, car is far more than a way of transport. It is a remarkable artifact which can be enjoyed as a work of art even while it is not in motion. It displays the results of all the skills which the human mind and hand have learned since a man first cut a log into slices to make himself wheels. Car has been a beautiful, stationary sculptured entity whose shape and mechanical perfection please our eyes. There is no other object or device that is so important to the culture within which it existed than car. (Stein, R 1973,p8)

“If the car has a soul, the battle is almost won.”

——Nuccio Bertone

Nuccio Bertone, one of the greats of Italian car designers, knew that the battles of the highly competitive automobile market are often decided by a car’s impact on the emotions and set his primary goal to overcome mediocrity in car body design. (Antomelli, P & Neumann, C 1999, p130) It is easy to see that people buy a car only when they like the way it looks, its first impression in the showroom, its lasting image and how the new owner saw himself or herself driving and owning the car. Survey has shown that styling outranks all other considerations as the prime motivator of most new car purchase decisions. (Lamm, M & Holls, D 1997, p8) In other words, styling sells, especially when the choices are made by women. And it is well recognized that women have always influenced car-buying choices (in the United States, Ford has estimated that between 80 and 90 per cent of purchase choices are made by women). (Webber, K 1998, p98) While the majority of women are not race fanatics and also don’t know engine engineering. Women are more fashion responsive, image leaders than men. They tend to treat cars like their dresses, they would rather choose a car based on its dynamic shape, colour or lovely name than the performance of it or whether the brand name manufacturer wins the championship of Grand Prix or not. Because of this, car makers quickly realized that the styling of a car is extremely important in car industry.

In 1930s, the integral car body had not been invented, cars were designed by engineers and assembled from variety of single parts, such as chassis and undercarriage, radiator and mudguard, bumpers and lights, running boards and boot lids. The initial idea of car body styling was to design and build unique bodyworks for those wealthy car fanatics. With the development of body making technology, one-off car bodies became achievable. Those dream cars in designers’ sketch books which were all stunning achievement in aesthetics and aerodynamics came to the roads and after that, the curvy, round body style led the fashion of car design. The best example were the Lancia Aprilia Aerodinamica and the Cisitalia 202 GT, both of them are designed by Pininfarina. He devoted himself to the design and development of one-off car bodies. The later one became the first car to be put on permanent display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. (Zec, P 2004, p19)

In 1974, because of the crisis in the supply and price of petrol, the auto manufactures realized that the weight and fuel consumption of their cars should be reduced and the only thing they can do at that time was to reduce the drag of the car body through the air to improve petrol consumption. As a result, the ‘flying wedge’ body style suddenly became the fashion at that time. (Pickett, C 1998, p53) But at the early stage, the designs of those cars were clumsy and only look aerodynamic but not really have a small air drag coefficient. On the contrary, the materials used on the wings which make the car appearance like a jet added the extra weight on the car and made the car consume more petrol. While just few years later, in the 1980s, as a result of improved wind-tunnel studies, the edges of the wedge were smoothed off, also, the coefficient of drag of the car body was lowered by the change of detail. Parts as door handles, radio antennas, badges and any other protrusions were removed or redesigned to reduce the drag. Glass was mounted flush with the body, panel gaps were reduced to a minimum, wind screen wipers were concealed behind cowls, etc. All those features gave the car a slippery aero look. (Pickett, C 1998, p53)

Nowadays, the technology is still shaping the car of the future. With computer-aided design, designers can sketch the model on the screen while testing the car body in the digital wind tunnel. The light materials such as aluminium, carbon fibre and even titanium are used on the car body to make the weight of car much lighter. The application of new energy sources like hybrid energy, electricity, solar energy, fuel battery changes the car from noisy and air-polluting to quiet and clean. Even the traditional petrol powered cars today consume less fuel that before, thank to the sophisticated on-board computers which manage the engine, transmission, suspension and emissions systems to reduce fuel consumption dramatically(Pickett, C 1998, p53).  Automotive designers now have a much bigger and more flexible space than they have ever had. The fashion on the wheels is not just the car-body, the material used on the car is also an important part. The fashion at the moment that many designers follow is using carbon fibre, the main material on most racing cars. More and more parts of the car are made of carbon fibre, from the whole car body, the hood, rear view mirrors to the dash boards, steering wheels, interior decoration boards and handles. Designers use carbon fibre just like they use chromium coating fifty years ago.

Looking back on the history of automotive design, concept cars always play the role as pioneers and explorers. Concept cars were designed in the most eye-catching shape and use the latest advanced technology and show the ability of the company. When designing a concept car, designers take full advantage of the freedom afforded by the material and technology to explore the possibility of design just like fashion designers design a serial of dresses only for the models to wear once on the T stage in fashion festival. One good example is 1969 Holden’s experimental rear-engined Hurricane V8 coupe, which in a sharp edged flying-wedge fiberglass body. This “Tomorrow’s Holden” features including electronic quick read digital display, foam padded interior, foot controls servo adjustable driver physique suit, automatic station seeking radio, TV rear vision screen. For safety, the car could not be started until the canopy was locked down, the seats fully lowered and the driver fully retractable, automatically locking seat belt secured. (Pickett, C 1998, p59) Even today, the Hurricane V8 is still a very modern car. However, not all the concept cars are orphans. Many of them went into limited production and been put in the market after a tiny change on the design. For instance, Lamborghini Murcielago Roadster 2004 designed by Luc Donckerwolke was presented as a concept car in 2003. In conclusion, it is the concept car that leads the fashion of car design.

“In the same way you like to be seen in your new Levi’s Jeans, you also want to be noticed for your new car.”

—– Megan Stooke (Marketing manager for small and medium cars for Holden)

The fashion on the wheels always keeps car a beautiful, charming machine to see, to own, to drive, to live with, to work with, to be shown, and to be dreamed.


2 Responses to “F for Fashion, Fashion on Wheels”

  1. […] Fashion on Wheels F for Fashion, Fashion on Wheels « Edwin Conan […]

  2. […] if you haven’t clicked on any of the other links yet click on this one…. Ford in Fashion this Ford Carand Ford Dress dress are too […]

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