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Driving the Past, For the Future of Car Design


This week the Ford Mustang, perhaps America’s most culturally influential car, turned 50. Ford Motor Company celebrated the anniversary with commemorative models and publicity stunts, but the company’s top two designers had the most fitting tribute: A Michigan-to-NYC road trip in two classic Mustangs. I rode along and, while the vehicles were vintage, the conversation was all about the future—of design, of cities, and yes, of cars.

Full disclosure: Ford Motor Company wanted me to ride shotgun on this trip so badly, it paid for my flight to Detroit and for two nights’ accommodations to boot. Not to mention, enough gasoline to hurtle two thirsty pony cars across an international border.

On April 17th, 1964, Ford Motor Company unveiled the original Mustang at the World’s Fair in New York City. After the fair ended, a few Ford engineers drove the two display Mustangs back to Ford’s world headquarters in Dearborn, MI, winding through central New York, swinging through the Canadian border at Niagara Falls, then cutting back into Michigan.

Our trip was to be a homecoming of sorts, the 50-years-delayed return voyage to the place where it all began. Ford’s head of design, Moray Callum, was at the wheel of a 1967 Mustang, while Chris Svensson, director of design for the Americas, helmed a 1965. These are Moray’s and Chris’s personal cars, both fresh from an immaculate restoration. This would be their maiden voyage, the first shakedown run. For this reason, we were joined by Matt Patrice, the master mechanic who just the day before had completed the rebuild of the two cars, and a yards-long trailer that would double as a rolling workshop should things go wrong.

Ford also offered to load a pair of 2014 Mustang Boss 302s in the trailer for backup, in case the classic ‘Stangs broke down. Moray turned down the offer on purist grounds. This decision would prove momentous.

Dearborn, Michigan


Chris Svensson’s 1965 Mustang.


Moray Callum’s 1967 Mustang, foreground, preparing to depart from the Dearborn Inn.


The chase truck and trailer we hoped we wouldn’t need.

It was gray and breezy when we lit out from the Dearborn Inn, a grand hotel Henry Ford built in 1931 for important guests who flew in to the private airport once located across Oakwood Boulevard at Ford’s world headquarters. Our itinerary had us crossing into Canada at Point Edward, rumbling across the toe of Ontario, and stopping for the night in Rochester, NY. As we thundered onto the highway a little after 10AM, Google Maps estimated we’d arrive by 4PM.

I rode with Chris in the ’65 for the first stint, with Motor Trend‘s Scott Burgess alongside Moray in the ’67. (You can read Scott’s two-part account of our journey here and here.) Chris is a lifelong Ford designer, having worked in the company’s design studios on every continent. He now oversees exterior and interior design for Ford in North and South America, most recently completing the design of the 2015 Mustang.

Like Moray, Chris grew up in the UK. I asked him how it came to be that the two designers in charge of rebooting America’s most iconic muscle car hail from the wrong side of the pond.

“They breed them well in the UK,” he replied.


Stopping for a photo op outside Ford’s world headquarters. Moments after I took this shot, security rolled up. The front walk, photogenic as it may be, is a no-parking zone.


Chris Svensson’s 1965 Mustang, with a 2014 Mustang GT in the background, owned by a Ford designer.

Point Edward, Ontario

We crossed the Blue Water Bridge into Ontario. Motoring behind Moray, Chris evaluated out loud the lines of the 67 Mustang in front of us.

“If you look at the centerline silhouette, the middle of the car and how it looks, it’s fundamentally the same as that new car,” he explained. “It’s that fastback, dramatic, speedy looking profile that this car has, that everyone got so passionate about, and the new car has that too.”

The 50-year-old car was a touch unsteady in Canada’s stiff cross-winds. Chris kept both hands firm on the wheel. “We went back to that centerline silhouette and said, that was so iconic in the 65 and the 67 cars, we really need to reinvigorate that sporty silhouette. These [old] cars are important, they’re really key to how designers look at modern cars and trying to interpret what people find passionate about these things.”

He continued, as we made miles into Canada. “I think it’s the same with furniture, and fashion. You look at mid-60s modernist furniture, and it’s still so contemporary today. It’s very influential in modern furniture, and I think it’s the same for old cars too.”


Chris’s 1965 Mustang interior.

Both of these iconic cars were designed in an era when automotive safety was a bare afterthought. The only halfhearted concession to life and limb in either car is a lap-only seatbelt like the one you buckled for takeoff on your last flight. I asked Chris how today’s safety requirements impact vehicle styling.

“It’s very confining,” he answered. “It limits your capabilities. But then, people have to use these cars and they have to be able to crash in these cars and be safe. I hate to say it, but if we have a crash in this car, it’s not gonna be good. Fasten your seatbelt as tight as you can.”

I cinched the belt snug, remembering an elderly aunt’s misguided belief that a seatbelt would “cut you right in two” in an accident. Given the many blunt and sharp metal surfaces one can hit one’s head on in a 65 Mustang’s interior, bisection seemed like the better option.

Our first fuel stop came less than two hours into our journey. These cars have a powerful thirst for dinosaur juice. And for electrons: When we went to pull out, Moray discovered his car’s battery had nearly drained. A young guy named Aaron pulled his lowered, decal-laden Acura up to the obstinate Mustang’s angry snout for a jump-start, the short hood and tiny motor of the modern car looking woefully inadequate next to the 67′s 390-cubic-inch juggernaut.

“Sick car,” he remarked.



Woodstock, Ontario

Moray’s problems were just beginning. While the 67 hustled mightily past modern traffic, its alternator wasn’t keeping up—the further we drove, the more his battery drained. About an hour further into Canada and a drenching rain storm, with Moray in the lead and Chris and I running close behind, the 67′s taillights went dark. Moray’s engine had run the battery completely dead, and bereft of electrons, the Mustang stalled and scrubbed off speed at an alarming rate.

Chris swerved into the left-most lane, avoiding a Mustang-on-Mustang collision by mere inches, while Moray grappled with the dead 67. A sharp-eyed truck driver used his 18-wheeler to carve a gap in traffic so Moray, now coasting at about 30MPH and dropping, could muscle his car across two lanes to the shoulder.

Our chase crew loaded the downed Mustang on the trailer. We exited the highway in the town of Woodstock, Ontario, and bounced between three separate parts stores before locating one that carried an alternator that would fit a 67 Mustang. Then we waited for three hours while the shop negotiated a special delivery from its supplier. The shelf where they expected to find the part was empty.

Before Moray’s breakdown, I had asked Chris how design is changing with an evolving automotive market.

“They might not want this,” he said, gesturing at the dashboard of the 65. “But they might still want a space, a social space, they still want to get from A to B. How they do that, and what they use that social space for, might be very different to what I’m experiencing with this car.

He fiddled with an uncooperative windshield-wiper switch that wouldn’t turn off. “I love the experience of driving the car, shifting manually, that’s really exciting to me. They might want a space that’s a home away from home, where they can hang out with their friends and just chat. So it throws up different design criteria for our designers.”

“Design’s not easy,” he added.


Matt Patrice works to replace the faulty alternator in the 67.

“When do you think we’ll get self-driving cars?” I asked Chris.

“Soon I think. I think we’ll have that situation within the next five to 10 years.”

“Will car design change when cars start to drive themselves?”

His answer was quick: “Yes. Yes, it will. Because the technology you need to put into the car to make it self-drive, some of those sensors and the functional element of the technology is quite big. So it will impact the visual elements of the car. And if you’re not driving yourself then do you need all of this information readily available to you?”

He pointed at the gauges on the dashboard. “Do you need to have instruments and steering wheels and satellite navigation? It drives a different solution for interiors. It’d be like riding a bus. You don’t need a sat nav and a steering wheel and all the paraphernalia that comes with the driving experience on a bus.”

The replacement alternator arrived after two hours, and Matt took less than 15 minutes to swap it in. But the 67 still wasn’t cured: a mysterious problem somewhere else in the system was preventing the battery from charging. Moray made an executive decision to buy two new batteries and an in-car charger. We would drive on one while the other charged in the truck, swapping the batteries when the 67 began to falter. There would be no giving up on this trip.

Also, since the trailer had entered Canada empty, customs regulations meant it could not leave the country carrying a car. We may share the world’s longest unfortified border with our friends to the north, but in matters of the law there is no flexibility.

So we rumbled on. The driving rain finally gave way to a copper sun, traffic dissipated, and girded with a brand-new battery, Moray played freeway cat-and-mouse with Chris’s steadfastly reliable 65. Chris and I found an oldies station on the 65′s AM radio, the 50-year-old, one-speaker system struggling to overpower the booming drone of a 289-cubic-inch V8 spinning a frantic 3,000 RPM.

St. Catharines, Ontario

As the sun set, Moray’s car began to falter again. Another jump start helped limp the 67 to a Wal-Mart parking lot. Matt tinkered some more, calling fellow Mustang experts to chase down theories. No matter what he tried, though, nothing convinced the 67 to straighten up and run right.

Moray purchased and installed yet another fresh battery, joking that he’d made the world’s first hybrid 1967 Mustang. We charged on into the night, making a run for the U.S. border and the freedom to load our hobbled 67 onto a trailer for the remainder of the drive to Rochester.


Wal-Mart parking lot somewhere on the wrong side of the U.S.-Canada border. 1967 Mustang about to gobble up its third battery of the day.

Rochester, NY

We crossed the Rainbow Bridge at Niagara Falls, losing the truck somewhere in the line for the border crossing. The border agent motioned for Chris to shut off his engine—the 65′s exhaust was simply too loud to shout over. After the problems we’d had with the 67, Chris and I shot worried glances at each other. But when the officer brusquely waved us through, the 65 started without incident.

We met up with Moray and the truck at the first gas station on the U.S. side of the border. The 67 was tucked into the trailer, Moray and Scott hunkered down in the back of the truck, and we charged on toward our hotel in Rochester. Chris’s headlights occasionally flickered off, so we stayed directly behind the trailer, never losing sight of its LED taillights.

It was midnight when we arrived.

Stay tuned for day two of the journey, where we continue our voyage from Rochester to NYC, and talk more about cars and the future of design. All photos by Robert Sorokanich.

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Exotic Italian Car Design Was Beautiful and Dangerous – CarBuzz

And besides, it was way cooler to just open the driver’s side scissor door, look backwards, and go in reverse.The Countach wasn’t alone in this Italian exotic car designer obsession with sacrificing practicality and maybe, unfortunately, even occasionally, human safety for beauty. Other iconic examples of that era include the De Tomaso Mangusta, the original Maserati Ghibli, Maserati Bora and Khasmin, as well as the Lancia Stratos. Those are just a few because the list is quite extensive. This was before safety regulators paid any attention to Italian exotic car designers and brands. Then they came and ruined a good time.

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Not everyone is happy with new BART car design

SAN FRANCISCO — As hundreds of riders lined up Wednesday to be the first to see BART’s proposed new rail car, members of a group for the disabled turned out to take the transit district to task for the design.

At Justin Herman Plaza, eager commuters stood waiting for a chance to walk through a car model after BART administrators did a grand unveiling.

At the first of 10 public viewings of the model, BART officials praised the design as more convenient for all users.

Representatives of the San Francisco-based Independent Living Resource Center said the design includes poles for standing riders to hang onto that make it harder for people in wheelchairs to get on and off trains.

“The poles should go,” said Peter Mendoza, a center community organizer who travels in a wheelchair.

Mendoza said, after boarding the model, that he found it difficult to maneuver around the poles, adding that on “BART you have very little time to get on and off the train at stations.”

Leaders of the center also said the new seats are not deep or wide enough for service dogs to easily fit underneath in order to be out of the way of other passengers on crowded trains.

BART Board President Joel Keller and transit managers said the district worked long and hard to make the design accessible to disabled people.

They agreed, however, that BART will assess the criticism before finalizing the car design at the end of May. They also announced there will be a special two-hour viewing of the car model for disabled people from 10 a.m. to noon on April 29 at the North Berkeley BART station.

BART train designers consulted for more than two years with a BART accessibility task force, which supports the new design, said Alan Smith, vice chairman of the task force. He is legally blind.

“Many people can use the poles to stabilize themselves when the trains start moving or brake,” he said.

BART moved the proposed pole location several inches away from the door to increase space for wheelchairs to move about, said Aaron Weinstein, BART’s chief marketing officer.

Many of the riders checking out the cars on Wednesday were pleased with that they saw.

Terry Freeman, a Bay Point resident and regular BART rider, said he likes the clean and new look. “Anything is an improvement over cars that are 40 years — or more — old,” he said.

BART says the new train cars will have better seats with better lumbar support, easier-to-clean seat coverings and taller seats that make it easier to get in and out. They will also have bike racks, more handholds for standing passengers and more reliable air conditioning, BART officials said.

Lisa Brodus, of San Francisco. said she likes the new LCD screens that will show the location of the train in the system and its next stop.

“Anything to bring BART into the 21st century is good,” she said.

The first of 775 new BART cars, which cost $2.5 billion, are scheduled to arrive from Bombardier Transit Corp. in 2017.

The next public showing of the rail car model will be from 2 to 7 p.m. Friday at the West Oakland BART station on Seventh Street.

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New 3D Printed Car Design Challenge Launched by Local Motors

Local Motors, Inc. announces the launch of the 3D Printed Car Design Challenge to inform and influence the design of the vehicle that will be manufactured at IMTS – The International Manufacturing Technology Show 2014 in Chicago, Illinois, September 8-13, 2014. The six-week challenge will run through May 13, 2014. More than $10,000 in prize money will be awarded for winning challenge entries, which will be announced on May 30, 2014.

“Historically, producing a new vehicle from a new design has represented a significant investment in tooling and a large commitment in time to integrate multiple structures and components,” said Jay Rogers, Local Motors CEO. “This effort to design and deliver the first co-created vehicle using this digital technology and manufacturing process could change the process and speed in which vehicles are designed and built.”

Launched just two months after Local Motors announced partnerships with the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and The Association For Manufacturing Technology (AMT), the 3D Printed Car Design Challenge will seek to define innovations in the methodology associated with incorporating additive and subtractive manufacturing methods in vehicle design and development. Though this manufacturing method is compatible with any powertrain solution, for this first vehicle project, Local Motors has chosen to power the vehicle with a battery electric drive system.

“AMT is always on the lookout for the newest, innovative technology. The design of this Local Motors vehicle is no exception. I look forward to seeing how the team incorporates the latest advancements,” said Paul Warndorf, Vice President – Manufacturing Technology, AMT – The Association For Manufacturing Technology.

This effort will also include the engagement of ORNL partner Cincinnati Inc. and their innovative Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM) machine. This BAAM machine pioneers the use of large-scale 3D printing technology, and is focused on packaging a complete digital manufacturing process in the first machine of its kind.

“This vehicle may well be the coolest vehicle on the planet, at least to those of us in manufacturing technology,” said Rick Neff, Manager Market Development for Cincinnati Incorporated. “I am excited to help judge the design competition for the 3-D Printed Vehicle that will influence how we manufacture many things. This will be the first application of a BAAM machine from Cincinnati Incorporated.”

Challenge Deliverables

In order to enter the challenge, designers are required to submit three distinct views of their project (side, ¾ front and ¾ rear), one mise-en-scene view and a description of the benefits and innovations associated with the concept.

Judging Panel

Submissions to the Local Motors 3D-Printed Car Design Challenge will be voted on by the Local Motors Community on, and judged by an independent panel of experts led by Bre Pettis, CEO of MakerBot and Local Motors Board Member. In addition to Pettis and representation from both Local Motors and the Manufacturing Demonstration Facility at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the panel includes:

  • Rick Neff, Manager, Market Development, Cincinnati Incorporated,
  • Douglas K. Woods, President, AMT – The Association For Manufacturing Technology,
  • Peter Eelman, Vice President – Exhibitions and Communications, AMT– The Association For Manufacturing Technology, and
  • Paul Warndorf, Vice President – Manufacturing Technology, AMT – The Association For Manufacturing Technology.

“I’m excited to partner with Local Motors on this project and judge the innovative designs. After years of being in the manufacturing industry, it’s still interesting to see what young engineers and entrepreneurs come up with,” said Douglas K. Woods, President, AMT – The Association For Manufacturing Technology.


One challenge submission will be selected as the overall winner. The winning designer will be awarded a $5,000 cash prize plus a trip to IMTS to participate in the printing of the first vehicle. Up to five “Innovation Awards” winners will receive cash prizes of $1,000 each for exceptional ideas or usages specific to the 3D-printing process. One award for “Community Favorite,” based on voting by the Local Motors Community, will also be awarded a $1,000 cash prize.

Peter Eelman, Vice President – Exhibitions and Communications, AMT – The Association For Manufacturing Technology commented, “The very spirit of the Emerging Technologies Center (ETC) since it debuted in 2004 as a focal point on the show floor has been to give the manufacturing community a look into the future. Local Motors makes it their business to be that future and we are thrilled to put them center stage at IMTS. I’m glad to have the opportunity to get involved early in the judging of the 3D printed car designs.”


Click to view the complete challenge video or copy and paste the following link into your browser:


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Here Are The Greatest Hits Of The Legendary Car Design Group That Just Went …

Published 1:00 pm, Saturday, April 12, 2014

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Volvo’s New Child Car Seat Inflates In 40 Seconds

It’s never a good urban parenting moment. You jam the heavy car seat you’ve lugged to the curb into the back of your car, while simultaneously jamming yourself half in, too. Then you twist into a pretzel to secure the seat to the seat belt. And there’s no cutting corners. All 50 states require you to put your baby in a child seat and 48 states want you to use a booster seat as they get older, based on certain weight requirements. You have no choice.

Today, Volvo revealed a new concept that could change the industry. What’s so great about it? It’s inflatable. It fits in a bag.

Rather than being constructed out of rigid plastic and metal, their seat uses heavy duty drop-stitch fabric–the same stuff you’ll find in outdoor gear such as inflatable rafts. So you can pull that car seat out of a bag, and watch it balloon into a seat. It does this amazing feat in 40 seconds, thanks to a silent internal pump. You can even set it to inflate from your phone via Bluetooth, if you’re into that extra effort.

The seat is designed to be rear-facing, which would imply that it’s designed for children up to about age three. Otherwise, there are almost no other details available at this time. Volvo has no immediate plans to bring it to market.

While it’s certainly a compelling concept–it inflates like magic!–it’s dubious whether it offers suburban parents much of an advantage. Because they can strap in a car seat and leave it there for years. No car rentals, no walk-ups. And while car seats are bulky and heavy, some have more than one use. Infant seats, for example, click conveniently into strollers, and have a handle–which creates a fun grab-and-go concept for your little one.

That said, parents have a lot of gear. Is an inflatable car seat worth it or another luxury? What if the design were built right into Volvo cars, allowing a spontaneous pop-up child seat when you need one? Now that has appeal.

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Future car designs: sleeker, safer and more efficient – AM

By Alisdair Suttie

Motorshows are a chance for car designers to show off to their peers and the wider world with concept cars. These one-off machines often give a strong hint of what we can expect to see in the future, but what trends separate the fanciful from the practical?

The Geneva Motor Show is the ideal place to find out where form meets function in design and where automotive design is headed. We spoke to a number of leading designers to identify the trends that will influence how cars will look both outside and in.

         ♦ See AM’s gallery of the latest cars unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show

Far and away the biggest influence for every designer we spoke to is legislation. While this is nothing new – legislation has dictated car design since the 1950s, as safety and then environmental regulations became ever stricter – it is also a constantly moving set of goal posts that need to be factored in to car design.

Malcolm Ward, General Motors Europe’s director of exterior design, says: “Legal stuff will always be with us, but occupant and pedestrian safety are the main areas we are focusing on.

“Designers need to carefully consider how to manage the safety of pedestrians in a collision when styling a car. This means not only understanding where the hard points of the front end of the car lie, such as the engine and suspension turrets, but how the shape of the car can better absorb a collision and guide the pedestrian more gradually to lessen any impact.”

Other designers concur, but Hyundai’s Thomas Burkle, chief designer at the Korean firm’s European Technical Centre, believes legislation also needs to adapt to changing design. He says: “There must come a moment in the near future where those making the rules will change them to allow carmakers to introduce more advanced technologies.” Burkle is talking about some of the technology incorporated into Hyundai’s Intrado concept small SUV, such as the panoramic rear view mirror operated by tailgate-mounted cameras.

Drivers are currently not allowed to look at a display while driving, but Burkle says this will change as more cars rely on cameras to inform them of hazards.


The for and against of hi-tech weight-saving materials

He is also a great advocate of new materials, such as the extensive use of carbon fibre in the Intrado’s structure to reduce its weight. This has the combined effect of increasing efficiency, but also offsets the weight of the hydrogen fuel cell it uses for propulsion.

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He’s bringing sexy back to car design

He’s bringing sexy back to car design


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Modern car design is a difficult balancing act that weighs style against substance; price versus performance; safety, fuel efficiency and other government regulations, in vehicles that too often fail to inspire.

But Ralph Gilles has tasked himself with bringing the sexy back to Chrysler. Responsible for two of the company’s most eye-catching modern vehicles – the brutishly elegant 300 sedan and slinky Viper super car – the 44-year-old senior vice president of design for the Detroit automaker is turning his eye …

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Meet the king of Italian car design

Lorenzo Ramaciotti doesn’t look like a car designer. At least, not a car designer as we’ve come to recognise car designers in recent years. No black polo neck, no set-square glasses, no postured references to a car’s lines evoking, say, “the powerful calmness of a lion” (© Volvo styling boss Thomas Ingenlath, 2013). Ramaciotti, with his loose suit and Harry Potter spectacles, looks more geography teacher than Steve Jobs, and speaks with self-deprecating clarity unbefitting of the greatest car designer still putting pen to paper.

But without Lorenzo, our carscape would look far, far duller. Ramaciotti started his career at Pininfarina in 1973 and stayed with the design house for over 30 years, as its design director for the latter two decades. In that time, he was responsible for the sign-off of some of the most beautiful cars of recent years, including the Ferrari 456, 550 and Enzo, along with the Maserati Birdcage concept and – a TG favourite – the Peugeot 406 Coupe. After hanging up his pencil at Pininfarina in 2005, Ramaciotti was coaxed out of retirement to head global design for Fiat-Chrysler, where he’s overseen (among others) the Maserati GT and Alfa 4C.

Almost pathologically self-effacing, Ramaciotti doesn’t like to dwell on his glittering CV, or revel in career highlights (“I have been responsible for 30 production cars and 25 concept. Most of them, I think, were not bad,” he shrugs with annoying modesty). He’s far happier on his specialist subject: the history of Italian car design and, specifically, a small handful of designers in the Fifties and Sixties who created so many of history’s most beautiful cars.

“I think Italians are more open to new experiences. We are always trying to… push the boundaries,” he says, with the faintest hint of a raised eyebrow. “In the Fifties, when all the rest of Europe was doing cars that looked like the Thirties, Italian designers had already moved to a more modern shape. It was the first place where there was really a turnaround in designing cars.”

History concurs. After World War II, while Britain’s designers were still churning out cars with running boards, the Italian design houses were busy ushering in the modern design era with the Ferrari 166 S, Alfa’s Disco Volante and dozens of others that, even today, look cutting-edge and utterly fist-biting. But, TopGear asks, is it possible to even talk about ‘Italian design’? Ferraris have always looked different from Lamborghinis, which have always looked very different from Alfas. Isn’t ‘Italian design’ as nebulous a concept as ‘American music’? Lorenzo doesn’t believe so.

“Italian design has always been about balance and simplicity,” he says. “There is a care in finding the right balance. Of course, there are different interpretations of the same school. It’s like painting. Not every painter from the same school does the same paintings, as there is always a personal interpretation. You can be square and aggressive, or you can be softer and rounder.

“It was always like this. Different interpreters of the same school. Even in the Fifties and Sixties, Pininfarina had a more classical approach, whereas Bertone was more outrageous.

The design of Bertone in the Countach and Miura gave birth to the outrageous design of Lamborghini today, and the design of Pininfarina to Ferrari: more classic, less flamboyant. But both are about balance of proportion. Even now, Italian design has the same approach to proportions, simplicity, balance.”

Hang on. Even if it existed in the past, in this interconnected, global modern world, isn’t the idea of an ‘Italian design language’ a bit… outdated? “It’s true that in the Fifties, the cultural identities of cars were very much related to nations,” concurs Lorenzo. “Today, in the design centre in Fiat, we have 14 nationalities represented. Still, I believe a lot in… imprinting.

The philosophy of a company is woven into its environment. Today, Italian design, more than a passport, is a state of mind.” An evocative notion: that the timeless elegance of, say, the Maserati GranCabrio reflects not the nationality of its designers, but rather the architecture, the landscape, even the food of Italy. Its designers may hail from Seoul to São Paulo, but where else but Italy could have cooked up the Alfa 8C or the Lambo Veneno?

Given his evangelism for Italian design, when TopGear asks Ramaciotti which current marque’s design he most admires, the answer is a trifle surprising. Not the extravagant creations of Pagani, not even the screw-you angularity of Lamborghini. “I admire the brands that have established a clear identity,” says Lorenzo. “Like Land Rover. And Audi.” Audi? Master of the photocopy-scale-button school of design? Lorenzo nods. “They are speaking a language of continuity, with a lot of quality.”

Welcome to the modern world of design, where brand and ‘family face’ is all. For better or worse, there’s no denying that when you’re being tailgated at a distance of six inches by an Audi, you know it’s an Audi. Even so, will petrolheads in 50 years really get misty-eyed over the A7 in the way we do today about the Ferrari 250 California or Jaguar E-type? Isn’t it odd that, despite the billionfold increase in computing power and production techniques, designers today struggle to create cars as beautiful as those simple, elegant post-war classics?

Ramaciotti raises an eyebrow. “Recently, we have been through a time of… over-design and visual noise,” he says. “There are so many cars around, and all the manufacturers are competing in the same segment. You have to scream to be noticed. I hope for a reverse in the trend, towards something more simple and more clean. That’s what I’d like to do.

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BART unveils new car design

BART has unveiled its concept for its next generation of train cars, coming soon-ish to a station near you. (Photo courtesy of BART)

If you ever wondered what the future of BART will look like, you’ll get a chance to get a sneak peek in a couple weeks.

BART will be debuting its next generation of cars at a series of public viewings starting April 16 in Justin Herman Plaza.

The new cars, made by Bombardier Transportation Corporation, are set to roll out with a host of new features, including digital information screens, noise-reducing doors and new padded seats, which BART promises are easier to clean than that dingy upholstery currently collecting germs on BART cars.

The new design is based on the feedback of more than 17,000 BART riders who apparently decided that the color scheme of the Seattle Seahawks was the best we could do for the new seat cushions.

The interior of the new BART cars, with cleaner seats, more handholds and Seahawks themed seats. (Photo courtesy of BART)

Other changes to the new cars:

  • Fewer seats with more room for standing and bicycles
  • Lower handholds for short folks
  • Taller ceilings for tall folks
  • Racks for storing up to three bikes per car
  • Upgraded cooling systems to avoid those steamy sauna cars


The cars won’t actually start rolling on tracks until sometime in 2015, and even then, they’ll only be in use outside of normal operating hours for testing and evaluation.

Assuming that testing goes well, 140 of the new cars are scheduled to go into service in 2017, with more added each year until the fleet is fully replaced by 2021.

If you just can’t wait to get your peek, BART has whipped up this teaser video to give you a glimpse of how the new cars will look.


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