Cold Start: Cars Have Always Looked Like Other Cars

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You know how people like to complain that all cars look alike today? I mean, when I’m driving behind three metallic gray crossovers from companies headquartered on three different continents and the cars look pretty much indistinguishable, I do the same thing. But this just isn’t new. Cars tend to look a lot like other cars of their eras, at least many of them do. Even cars that become iconic and distinctive had doppelgängers in their time, like the famous VW Microbus. There were so many vehicles that looked a hell of a lot like it, including this 1962 Ford Taunus Transit.

From the profile, damn, it looks a lot like a VW Type 2, doesn’t it? And the various body styles it was offered in mirror VW’s offerings as well. Look:

Of course, the key difference here, despite having an extremely similar van, pickup and double-cab pickup is that the Taunus Transit had its engine, a water-cooled inline 4 (this is not one of the V4 Taunuses), between the front seats instead of tucked out back like VW’s flat-four.

Also, the face has a grille, so this part at least is obviously different. Still, amazing convergent evolution at work here!

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27 Responses

  1. Aerodynamics is turning everything ogive for sure, but corporate conservatism is doing most of it.

    When fuel is 30 cents a gallon and no one cares, things can be loose.

    And post-war (WW2) Nashes don’t look like nuttin but Nashes!

    In fact it’s hard to imagine a/the world where those were ever conventionally pretty.

    I love them for their alienness.

    1. Totally agree, you just have to look further back to see it more clearly. I think that the cars we see when we are children seem very different to us, because at that time we were paying attention to the differences between cars. But if you take a step back and look at cars from before your time, you’ll see that there have always been fashion and trends in automobile design, and most cars from the same generation have a very similar design.

  2. I had to dig into the timeline on this to see how close it came out to the VW Bus. Three year difference, both made in Germany. I think there was more than convergent evolution going on here.

      1. Its actually my middle name as well, it was also my Grandfather’s middle name which is where I got the name. Recently became friends with a guy that named his son Asa.
        Its a good name.

  3. When people complain about “when I was a kid you could tell a Chevy from a Ford at night from 100 yards away!” to which I like to ask if they had bionic eyes so they could tell a 55 Ford from a 57 Chevy (specially when viewed from the front) from 100 yards away in low light.

    Because if you look at them, they look a lot alike….. no not exactly but not this “different cars in no way whatsoever at all looked like other cars ever back in the 50s thru the 70s!” line folks like to trod out.

    All cars of an era tend to follow the same style, if they don’t you get the Edsel or something. To me a 55 Ford and 57 Chevy look as much different than some Nissan CUV and a Toyota does.

    They each have their corporate styling cues that are unique, but overall follow the flavor of the day.

  4. In my life I’ve owned many two door coupes. No matter the brand or country of origin there’s always someone who just has to tell me the, “It looks just like a Mustang.” Then I throw rocks at them til they go away. Even when I am driving a Mustang.

  5. A common complaint I hear is that cars look the same because of aerodynamics. Except that modern cars have all the styling cues that would be conducive towards having very slippery aerodynamics, but without the slippery aerodynamics to go with it. The current industry average drag coefficient is about the same as the 1921 Rumpler Tropfenwagwen, ~0.28. According to the book “Aerodynamics of Road Vehicles” by Wolf-Heinrich Hucho, we could have cars go down to a Cd value of roughly 0.15 and still maintain the practicality consumers expect as well as enough variation in styling to allow significant differences between models. And if we did that, it would pave the way to Dodge Charger Hellcats getting 40+ mpg highway, and 60+ mpg highway 4-cylinder midsized sedans without any hybrid drives or weight reduction.

  6. “Still, amazing convergent evolution at work here!” Over the next few generations, all cars will become crabs. We are starting to see signs of carcinization–crab walking vehicles and at least one vehicle ad prominently featuring crabs.

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