Home » How I’d Fix The Design Of The Most Beautiful Car Ever Made

How I’d Fix The Design Of The Most Beautiful Car Ever Made

Altered Adrian E Type Ts2
ADVERTISEMENT

One of the little known pieces of car design history is that in the early 1930s Harley Earl descended from the Hollywood hills bathed in light. In his arms he cradled two pieces of brightly colored Canson paper. Inscribed upon them in wax pencil were the hallowed Rules: a set of commandments that must be followed by at all times by all car designers from this point henceforth, lest the wrath of the great man be incurred and his ghost appeared in the studio to shove your ballpoint pen up your ass sideways.

Of course, this never fucking happened. Really what there are, are guidelines around how things are laid out, and the spatial relationships between one part and it’s neighbors. They’re a basic framework to help you get the underlying fundamentals correct. For example: understanding the different positions of the A pillar and where it points in relation to the center line of the front axle for different layouts of car, is critical for getting the passenger compartment volumes right. Considering  them is only one part of ensuring your car looks good, because there are still lots of other things to consider: the failure of the Bangle era BMWs wasn’t their underlying proportions ignoring these fundamentals – it was their complicated twisted panels, unsettled ill-fitting details and generally cold demeanor, and the fact they flushed years of carefully evolved BMW design straight down the shitter. Take away all that surface distraction, and underneath the volumes and proportions were correct.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

A few weeks back when I wrote about my problems with the Jaguar E-Type, there were comments. The main thrust of that piece was that my trained designer eye wouldn’t quite let me see past the issues I had with its proportions, and the awkward angles of the A and B pillars. Shit was flung my way from a variety of directions, namely that if the E-Type breaks The Rules then The Rules must be a fifteen pound bag of bullshit. And if I’m applying them to a sixty year old car I’m being unfair. Visual theory about form and balance is universal and not tied to any time period, but really my bigger personal problems with the E-Type are what it stood for subjectively. I understand that a lot of people like it, and consider it a beautiful car. And I see that. I do. It just doesn’t fill the gaping maw in the center of my existence with any kind of pleasurable human emotions the way say, a Ferrari 250 GTE does.

Let Me Show You How I Worked This Out

Being a car designer is about having qualified opinions that you can back up with critical thinking and sketch work to demonstrate your ideas. So with that in mind and to show you all I’m not above eating my own words for the amusement of the great and noble Autopian commentariat. I’m going to put my money where my mouth is. Not in front of a bar person or exotic dancer but by altering the E-Type according to what I said about it last month. That way you can all see if what I said works or whether I’m full of designer crap. You can all judge me they way I silently judge all of you.

Etype7

ADVERTISEMENT

The important thing to understand is not everything a designer initially creates is a masterpiece. Design is a process. That process involves getting your ideas down on paper and seeing what has merit and what doesn’t. You can have the most amazing ideas rattling around in your brain for months, only to start sketching them out to find they just don’t work when you try to give form to them. Likewise a designer is not always the best judge of their own ideas. Massimo was always saying he didn’t always want to see beautiful Photoshop renders but pages of scrappy ballpoint thumbnails on the board. He wanted to see the working out, not the end result. I always encourage my students to do the same: to put their work up on the board even if they’re not entirely happy with it. This isn’t because left to their own devices student car designers will torture themselves inside out trying to find something they’re happy with (they will, literally sketching for months until they run out of time to do the rest of the design work); it’s because you never know exactly what will knock the chief designer’s multi colored socks off. Something you don’t like might be exactly what they are looking for.

Running With Scissors

When J Mays was my tutor at the Royal College of Art, one of the simple little tricks he taught me was how to alter your ballpoint side view sketches. Simply cut the sketch in half down the middle. Then you can move the two halves closer together or further apart to alter the length of your design. Then you can use that as an underlay to sketch over if you think it works better. Using the same images from Jaguar media as the previous article, I’ve done something similar in Photoshop. I think the E-Type has too much dash-to-axle ratio (the distance from the base of the windscreen to the rearmost edge of the front tire, when looking at the side view). Here is the standard car, and my altered version with a slightly reduced dash-to-axle ratio:

Etypealtered1

Etypealtered2

I had the boys back at the Autopian lab run the pixels on this and I’ve taken about 3” of sheet metal out of the area between the front wheel arch and the edge of the hood. Can you see the new problem my alteration has created? There are no free lunches – every time you change something in car design it has an effect somewhere else. In this case, shortening the dash-to-axle has had the corresponding effect of making the rear overhang look longer as a proportion of the total wheelbase. Now the rear of the car is starting to look a little bit dumpy and heavy. Let’s remedy that by moving the rear axle backwards about 2” to reduce the rear overhang. A couple of inches here and there doesn’t sound like a big deal, but car design is all about nuance. Small changes can have a big effect.

ADVERTISEMENT

Etypealtered3

A More Famous Car Designer Agrees With Me

One of the other things that came up in the debate under the original E-Type piece was that design is subjective, and therefore there’s no way any two cars designers agree on anything or have a consensus. Well guess what fuckos, I have the receipts. Friend of the Autopian and a car designer with a slightly more glittering resume than mine, Frank Stephenson made a YouTube video about the E-Type. I didn’t know about this until someone posted it in the comments, so I had to watch it hidden under a prototype Autopian dog blanket in case Peter caught me and thought I was slacking off and not being productive. Frank raised exactly the same issue I had with the A and B pillar of the E-Type, and I haven’t met him at any of weekly car designer cocktail parties.

When you look at a side view, ideally all the pillars should point to an imaginary convergence point somewhere over the roof of the car. If it’s a longer car like a wagon or an SUV, there might be one convergence point for the front pair of pillars, A and B, and one for the rear pair C and D. Again, this is not a hard and fast rule, but should be taken into consideration to make sure your pillars have a relationship with each other and don’t point all over the place drunkenly like an Autopian staff meeting. On the image below you can see I’ve changed the A pillar (the one that frames the windshield) by moving the base forwards, helping get rid of the knee cap removal corner in the door opening and making it more sympathetic to the B pillar, which I’ve stood up slightly.

Etypealtered4

ADVERTISEMENT

Etypealtered5

Moving the rear axle back to reduce the rear overhang has created a bit of room to move the entire B pillar backwards making the door opening bigger still, which makes the division between the front and rear side glass better balanced.

On the top view, altering the A pillar has softened the curve of the windshield, meaning now we can have two full size wipers as opposed to three smaller ones, reducing part count and complexity, while maintaining roughly the same swept area.

Etypealtered6

Etypealtered7

ADVERTISEMENT

Etypealtered8

Here’s a front three quarter view.

Etypealtered9

Etypealtered10

Frank Stephenson E-Type Render
Frank Stephenson’s Version of the E-Type. Image Frank Stephenson via YouTube.

Frank rendered up his ideas freehand in pen and marker. I’ve not done that for time reasons and because when you do something like that with an existing car, you run the risk of introducing an unavoidable element of artistic interpretation. That’s fine for YouTube content wow-factor but less useful for making a considered design decision. Remember in my Defender piece I said that during the design process for that car I would always alter existing images for any trim changes, to evaluate wheel options, or suggest proposals for different versions. You need to have a known baseline for comparison. You’re brain is probably going to automatically reject my alterations, because the E-Type is so familiar, but part of being a designer is rejecting that initial visceral reaction and taking time to get used to what’s changed.

ADVERTISEMENT

Unless otherwise stated all images courtesy of Jaguar Media.

Relatedbar

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on whatsapp
WhatsApp
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit
Subscribe
Notify of
227 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
10 days ago

Very late to the party, but this took a car I think looks nice, but is a bit too awkwardly proportioned to fully resonate with me to one that’s drop-dead gorgeous.

I do kind of like the three-wiper windshield of the original, though. It’s so silly. Just silly. Kneecaps be damned, I’d have kept that extra curvature.

Boxing Pistons
Boxing Pistons
1 month ago

Fixed my main beef with it – the hood length. I think it all works. The real eye candy is still under the hood, tho.

ManuelShackelford
ManuelShackelford
1 month ago

Hold on… Surely I cannot be the first to point this out but the Ferrari 250 GTE that is supposedly better has the rear axle so far forward as to be comical! I point this out partly because one of the renderings moves the Jag’s rear axle 3″ to the rear. The Ferrari could use about 9″ or a foot of rearward move to look comparable. It looks good from very specific angles but like most Italian designs it is overrated. Look no further than the 1968 Datsun 2000 Roadster for a more attractive 60’s design.

AceRimmer
AceRimmer
1 month ago

Nope! Loses its character w/o the massively long hood.

Beceen
Beceen
1 month ago

It kinda is better, I have to admit. Now I get what bothered me in the E-Type design – the pillar convergance (or lack of it); the long hood was not a challenge to my taste, but I see the added value of shortening it. You did not, however, do anything with the wheel stance (and no, not STANCE like STANCEWORKS crowd, yo!) – it’s just the wheel on Jag are moved so inside wheel wells that it always looked like a car on short stilts. A few cm (wheel spacers, anyone) on each side would make a huge difference.

Josh Berger
Josh Berger
1 month ago

The overhead and front 3/4 views, while I can see the changes that were made, hurt your point.
The overhead shows an unintended change of bulging the middle bump on the hood. It also shows a lessening of the cars ability to cut through the wind.
The front 3/4 views makes the hood change seem like fattening and the wind shield change makes the car stand up too much.

Please stop. I would rather you do this to the Aztek (stupid forward thinking GM) and prove that it is eminently savable. Critiquing the masters, while revered in certain circles, does not build, it only drags one down.

OOOOOOOO, maybe the Chrysler Airflow more aerodynamic…

Beached Wail
Beached Wail
1 month ago

Thanks, Adrian! It’s fascinating to see how small changes to one area can affect the entirety of the design. The shorter nose and overhang is reminiscent of the D-Type Jaguar, but of course the D had no requirements for passenger or luggage/spare tire space.

I once read a description of the 1932 Bucciali (look it up, it’s awesome) as “the kind of car schoolboys used to draw on their notebooks.” To me, the E-Type has some of that spirit, the “because we can” attitude of putting something on the market that’s flawed but also unique and rather stunning compared to most of its contemporaries.

Are there any existing E-Type design concepts or sketches prior to the final version? Would be interesting to see what choices the designer(s) made during the process.

Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
1 month ago

Looks great! Have the boys build one and send it my way.

SBMtbiker
SBMtbiker
1 month ago

Great job! I love it!

Jason Roth
Jason Roth
1 month ago

A. I’ve always thought that the slight awkwardness of the cockpit (which I never identified as the A/B pillar thing, but nonetheless intuited) was part of the appeal, the beauty mark, so to speak, that partly explained why everyone (almost) reacts so strongly to the car. Removing the “mistakes” from a design doesn’t always improve it.

B. That said, I quite like Adrian’s moving the B pillar back. Of all the moves made here, it’s the one that most noticeably improved the design to me. The A/B convergence certainly makes the car more traditional, but I’m not 100% convinced it makes it better. But moving the B pillar back IMO is a clear win.

C. I will say that changing the A pillar to reduce the wiper count seems like a clear win. Even if I’m not visually worried by the lack of convergence, and even if I’ve never banged my knee on that corner, I have trouble arguing that the upright A pillar is worth a third wiper.

Duke Woolworth
Duke Woolworth
1 month ago

I’ve always wanted a dip in the window sill to match the curved body line. I like the proposed changes, but they’re more subtle than the window sill alteration.

Cyko9
Cyko9
1 month ago

It may be sacrilege in certain circles, but I like what you’ve done to the E-type. I’ve warmed up to the original, but it does have an awkward factor that the Toyota 2000GT does not. Honestly, I’m a bigger fan of the Toyota than the original Jaguar.

Dan Mahler
Dan Mahler
1 month ago

I enjoy your posts. You did another similar one just recently, a Miata, I think, apparently moving body panels and lines.

Lack of imagination on my part? Lack of an artistic viewpoint? Lack of attention to detail? I don’t know what it is but I honestly sincerely cannot discern a difference in those photos. In one photo, the front bumper is closer to the margin of the photo. To my untrained eye, that is the only way for me to notice a difference.

I’m not criticizing or poking fun. I’m more so pointing out that I have no ability to see the changes.

Interrobang‽
Interrobang‽
1 month ago

I made one little extra adjustment to fix the other thing that’s always stuck out to me on the E-Type: the curve of the C-pillar at the DLO. It’s always struck me that the draftsman on the final plans started at the wrong point on the French curve, or grabbed the wrong one. I smoothed that out.

Dennis Ames
Dennis Ames
1 month ago

My 2 cents here, is that when you shortened the hood, you lost most of the Horizontal line of the hood, and it it look more Bulbous in the front. Moving the read axle back helps, but the hood makes me think more VW beetle now.

My 0.02 Cents
My 0.02 Cents
1 month ago
Reply to  Dennis Ames

Umm, Yes I’m here.. 🙂

Last edited 1 month ago by My 0.02 Cents
Dennis Ames
Dennis Ames
1 month ago
Reply to  My 0.02 Cents

Your name is not 2 Cents, that’s 2 hundredths of a cent.

My 0.02 Cents
My 0.02 Cents
1 month ago
Reply to  Dennis Ames

Technically you are correct, which is the best kind of correct.
The intent was to have ‘My 2 Cents’ but it was taken. This was on a different website not here. The 0.02 cents just stuck with me I guess.

Steve Schriefer
Steve Schriefer
1 month ago

I like your changes. The changes are subtle, but at the same time the changes are quite large and your eye can’t see the difference, but you know that it is more pleasing. The fact many people can’t see the change says to me that you are good at your craft.

Jonathan Green
Jonathan Green
1 month ago

Stop. This is not up for discussion. We’ve had this talk before.

Your mother and I are not mad, but we are disappointed.

Just because some of the other kids may be saying crazy things doesn’t make it OK for you to do so.

Now go to your room and think about what you have done…

My 0.02 Cents
My 0.02 Cents
1 month ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

Therapy is your friend here.
While you’re there have them work on your anger issues so your articles aren’t so sweary
Oh, and I like your car design, but is it no longer an E-Type, probably due to my mind knowing and deciding what an E-type is as you mention elsewhere.

My 0.02 Cents
My 0.02 Cents
1 month ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

I suggest standing in front of a mirror and doing that. Don’t let it bleed over to your professional life or articles here.

It stops me from sharing your articles.

RustBucket67
RustBucket67
1 month ago

I think the theme of calling the e-type “the most beautiful car ever made” is exactly the same as people saying “the spitfire is the most beautiful airplane ever made”…

I don’t disagree that both are beautiful designs, I just like other ones better. I really like the P-51 over the spit, because of the notched wings, the intakes, and tail shape. but I do love the elliptical wing on the spit.

the e-type is cool because of the swoopy lines and proportions (even if you would do them differently). I think the best looking car is… well… I’m fickle… I like a lot of them… old Pontiac Chieftains, 67 mustang fastback, mclaren speedtail… probably the speedtail for me actually

Captain Zoll
Captain Zoll
1 month ago

I think I’ve figured out why I don’t mind the “wrong” pillar angles on a FHC, but hate them on a 2+2 (from a side profile):
trace a line down through them to the sill/ground, the A-pillar line hits the ground directly below the frontmost point of the windscreen, I suppose making the windscreen shape feel more defined,
trace through the B pillar, and the line lands directly underneath the peak of the roof, and about in the centre of the door.

I’m not sure if it was intentional, but on your redesign, the A-pillar seems to point right in the middle of the bulkhead, between the lower shut line of the bonnet and the door.

But for contrast, on a Series 3 2+2, the windscreen arcs forward further, messing up the A-pillar balance, and the B-pillar line ends up in the no-mans-land of the flat roof, and jammed up close to the back of the mile long door.

Last edited 1 month ago by Captain Zoll
Logan King
Logan King
1 month ago

I’ll echo others, since I’ve always thought the E-Type’s stubby proportions were already fixed by the 2000GT.

Last edited 1 month ago by Logan King
George Millwood
George Millwood
1 month ago

I love what you have done. I still love the original but that is from seeing the first one in the showroom on William St in Sydney in 1961 when I was bunking off from my xmas holiday job in a Deparment Store toy shop. I was gobstruck.

Tom Tierney
Tom Tierney
1 month ago

I haven’t read the other comments in this thread so I apologise if I am repeating the thoughts of others. I really appreciate you sharing all your insight into car design, and I like but don’t love all that you’ve done to the E Type. If you’d changed the size of the wheels and put low or lower profile tyres on them then you might have ticked all the boxes for me but as it stands the tyres look like balloon/sand jobs and they throw things out.

Captain Zoll
Captain Zoll
1 month ago
Reply to  Tom Tierney

I tend to disagree, while I do think the tire’s outer diameter is a bit too big,
the whole idea typically around enlarging wheels is to put more visual volume/mass there, to make the car more “planted”, like every modern car design bangs on about (hence the monstertruck-proportioned early design sketches which are so controversial.)

In the case of a car like this, the aim is to make it sit “lightly” on the wheels, as with the curled in rocker panels and relatively high floor. Concealing some of that wheel diameter in the tires goes a long way to help that.

Bjorn A. Payne Diaz
Bjorn A. Payne Diaz
1 month ago
Reply to  Tom Tierney

I hope you’re trolling…

Tom Tierney
Tom Tierney
1 month ago

Trolling who? Am I missing something here?

Thedaniel
Thedaniel
1 month ago

Didn’t Toyota already do this?

Clueless_jalop
Clueless_jalop
1 month ago

I’m glad I’m not the only one who doesn’t think the E-Type is the be-all end-all of car design. It’s still a very pretty car, but it (the coupe in particular) is also a rather strange looking one. Very tasteful touch up, fixing a lot of the glaring issues without fundamentally changing the look of it.

Marteau
Marteau
1 month ago

It’s a no on this one

Marteau
Marteau
1 month ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

<3

227
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x