This is a picture of an Alfa Romeo concept car. So not, sadly, a car that you can actually buy and almost certainly not a car that you will ever be able to buy. But if you could, and assuming that I had any money, I would. It looks classically beautiful in a way that few cars look these days. It is of course, based heavily on the Alfa GT Junior of the late 60s or early 70s, rather like this one:
When you look around you, you can see that the future as it was predicted some 40 or 50 years ago has largely happened. In those days they liked to show pictures of products that would exist in the future. These products always looked sleek and functional but utterly uninspiring and uninvolving and that seems to be what we have got in many instances. Cars now are nearly all identikit affairs and if you take the logo off the bonnet, you can’t tell who makes them. They are reliable and efficient, of course, but although the advertisers pretend that they are steeped in emotion, they aren’t. The interiors also all look the same, probably because the people that make all the components largely are all the same.
My Pinterest feed has cottoned on to the fact that I quite like looking at older beautiful cars and it has thrown up some things I never knew existed, like this Peugeot from the 1930s.
Oddly the 1930s had some pretty cool design for consumer durables – very smooth and swoopy. Imagine rocking up somewhere in this. You wouldn’t be just some old git who liked ancient stuff, you’d immediately be very cool; a lot cooler, probably, than if you parked up a Ferrari. Not bad for a Peugeot.
The 1930s also produced The Mallard, my favourite locomotive of all time. There is something about it which renders it a lot better looking than any train that has been produced since. So much for 80 years of progress in design.
Or what about this Alfa Romeo Barchetta from 1953? That would go down a storm now, with some built-in modern reliability and perhaps performance.
I even think that the Austin A30 looks great. A lot better-looking than most of the anonymous runabouts of the modern era.
There is something else that stands out about all these vehicles. They aren’t black or grey or greyish-silver. That could be down to my personal preference. Maybe they did all exist in monochrome, but I just haven’t saved those pictures. Still, I can’t help feeling that back in the day people liked a little colour, as I do.
Unfortunately, all these vehicles have been and gone. The good news is that classic design is alive and well and living in electric guitars. Both the Gibson Les Paul and the Fender Stratocaster are designs from the 1950s that no one has ever improved upon, so that you can still buy them and if you have enough cash, you can buy a “reissue” of the actual design from that era, complete with its original foibles.
It’s good to progress, but it is also interesting, from time to time, to step back and ask yourself how much progress in aesthetics there has actually been. If you choose some of the best historical eras (not the 1970s, then…) the answer is, not much.