By TCW Team - October 21, 2018
How Do Automobiles Become Classics?
Before we break down the process that turns a normal production car into a classic, keep in mind that automobiles mean both two-wheelers, four-wheelers, basically any machine with wheels. So what makes an automobile classic, iconic even?
To arrive at this answer, you need to look into your childhood, or maybe enlist the help of a child. Ask said child to draw a motorcycle, and give him no more information. The drawing he will come up with will almost certainly resemble standard bikes: Two wheels, an engine, a tank, a seat, a headlamp, an exhaust pipe. One would argue that all motorcycles have these components, and some even more. Why aren’t they iconic?
To partly answer your question, a child is hardly an automotive designer able to pen the seductive shape of a Ducati Panigale’s tank on paper. No, what he will draw is a peanut tank, a round headlamp, and a basic engine cradled in a basic chassis. Does this sound familiar to you? True, there are mind-blowing motorcycles out there, from a puny Honda Monkey to a supercharged Kawasaki H2. Do they have designs as timeless as the Triumph Bonneville? Maybe they will outlive the Harley-Davidson Sportster? We bet not.
Now, maybe ask the same child or another one to draw an SUV. Be prepared to look at a drawing depicting squarish car with two, maybe four doors and big wheels that sit in square wheel arches. Don’t ask yourself where you have seen this car before, for it is the Willys Jeep you are looking at. Again, SUVs like the Lamborghini Urus are doubtless some radical designs out there. Do they hold the same appeal as a Jeep Wrangler? Perhaps a Mercedes-Benz G-Wagon? We bet not.
As a final exercise to answer our original question, ask the child if he’s stuck around this long to draw a sports car. No prizes for guessing what sort of design he will come up with. A swooping roofline tapering to the rear, raked hood up front, two doors, big wheels. Unmistakeably a Porsche 911, right? Ask yourself this, is there a single sports car out there that can go toe-to-toe with this phenomenal automobile that has been soldiering on for generations despite looking the same outside? We bet not.
So what was all this rant for? Did we manage to answer the question we asked ourselves yet? If not, let us elaborate. You see, automobiles which manage to capture the essence of what they offer in terms of design go on to become icons in their segments. The Royal Enfield Bullet is the world’s oldest continuous production motorcycle. The Willys Jeep sparked off the SUV segment. The Porsche 911 is the definitive supercar even today.
The makers of these machines achieved what other manufacturers can now only dream of emulating: Arrive at the simplest version of an idea, and execute it to perfection. Nothing is as strong as the simplest version of an idea, and automobiles like these are living proof.
The simplest version of the answer to our question? Whatever a child can manage to draw has the potential to become an iconic design, just because it is the simplest version of an idea you have planted in his mind. We do not mean to say that automobile manufacturers should start employing children to design products. We are emphasizing on the simplicity of the design resulting in its longevity.
What do you think turns an automobile into an icon?