“Let’s dance in style, let’s dance for a whileHeaven can wait we’re only watching the skies Hoping for the best, but expecting the worst Are you gonna drop the bomb or not?”
– Forever Young by Alphaville, 1984
No more synthwave. No more chrome word art. No more pixels. No more neon. It’s enough. Enough, enough, enough al-fucking-ready. If I’m subjected to any more of the above, I’m going to plotz. To quote Captain Picard in First Contact, “The line must be drawn HERE. NO FURTHER!” Goddamn Millenials and Zoomers. Stop rehashing Generation X’s pop culture and go and make something new of your own.
You’re goddamn right. I did get out of bed on the wrong side. What is it that’s really put a dent in my normally sunny demeanor this morning? CES is happening in Vegas right now (our very own Patrick George is now there petting snow tigers and betting the entire Autopian mortgage on black) and overnight a new BMW concept appeared with a marketing video that leans so heavily into 1980s references it features not only the walking condom full of walnuts himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger, but hair perm in a leather jacket David Hasselhoff. Jesus Helicoptering Christ. The only thing creaking more than their ancient bodies was the video itself under the weight of all the ham that was crammed into its six and a bit minutes running time.
Before we get started on the ’80s, remember the ’90s? It was an embarrassment of cultural riches, from Grunge driving a stake through the heart of hair metal (RIP) to the reinvention of John Travolta as a heroin-addicted hitman. Technology was moving at lightspeed. Sony turned computer gaming from something boys did alone in a dark bedroom to a post-night-out living room activity with your buddies. Mobile phones were changing shape and form factor by the week. As the decade rolled on, the dirty collages of David Carson gave way to the futuristic pop art of The Designers Republic. The year 2000 was approaching and it was the fucking future, man. Translucent organic forms, bold colors and almost indecipherable graphic design showed us the shiny tech utopia we’d all be living in just a few short years’ time. It was a digital Wild West. When the calendars flipped over and the century began with the number 2, it all fell apart.
The Baby Boomers had already planted the poisonous seeds for this earlier in the decade, but we Gen X-ers were curious enough to indulge them and they had the positions of creation. We were only in a position to consume. Hollywood began digging up the corpses of long-forgotten ’60s TV shows and splashing them on the big screen starting with The Addams Family in 1991, and following that with adaptations of all manner of boob-tube dross that don’t stand up to contemporary viewing. Lost in Space. The Fugitive. The Flintstones. Shit, they even made a Beverly Hillbillies movie.
Car manufacturers got in the act too, starting with the Prowler Concept in 1993. Chrysler shat out plenty more retro vehicles, but the man probably most singularly responsible was my old tutor J Mays, who had a fucking book written about his work: Retrofuturism: The Car Design of J Mays (coincidentally he had a brief spell at BMW in the early ’80s). As president of Volkswagen Group design, he oversaw the New Beetle, the Audi Avus Concept and the Freeman Thomas-designed Audi TT, before moving to Ford and doing it all over again with the Ford GT, Thunderbird and various Lincoln and Mercury concepts. The Nostalgia Wave of car design had truly arrived.
I have a theory about why this happened. The year 2000 was approaching; for the Boomers, it was frightening. The kids with their internet and their PlayStations. Why didn’t they stop slacking off and get real jobs? The Boomers had grown up in the ’50s and ’60s, which very real discrimination and equality issues aside were a period of incredible economic progress and prosperity. A decent blue-collar job would support a mortgage, a family, two cars and a college education. By the ’90s, this was a bad joke and Generation X was the butt of it, recognized as the first cohort where prospects were significantly worse than that of their parents, not better as had been the case for previous generations.
Although globalization was presented as the cure-all that ended the cold war, it had very real consequences in the gutting of whole industries as manufacturing across the western world was offshored, leaving entire communities in grinding poverty. So it’s entirely natural the Boomers wanted to look back to a more certain, familiar time when things were “better” and teenagers respected their elders rather than shrugging their shoulders at them.
For a lot of people not in the middle classes, the ’80s were utterly shit. Aside from being left behind by the wealth being generated elsewhere, those of us in the inner cities and the industrial heartlands had to contend with Reagan and Thatcher deregulating and privatizing previously publicly owned utilities and the destruction of social safety nets in the name of profit and “efficiency.” Whole working-class communities were destroyed never to recover.
As life online re-emerged from the ashes of the dot-com bust, it began to pervade our everyday existence. No longer was it a place for tedious fandoms to argue about which imaginary character could take another imaginary character in a fight; it became a place for Generation X to start storing and discussing their cultural childhoods. I’m not entirely blaming Ernest Cline for this, as he came along much later. But he made it official and codified it. How cool you were was not now defined by how up-to-date your clothes were — it was how many Glen A Larson television shows you could name.
As mentioned in my piece about the Hyundai N Vision 74 (still a shit name), I was born in 1973. Without looking for sympathy, my childhood was a miserable disaster. Poverty and abuse aside, I had a lot of behavioral problems due to undiagnosed autism. The (dubious) solution the local council came up with was to send me away to a private boarding school. I went from being the smartest kid in a local school to the poorest kid in a rich kids’ school. It was hell.
While I was there probably half of my classmates had parents in the British military stationed all over the world, but mainly in what was then West Germany. Until the Berlin wall came down in 1989 (the year I left school) the very real threat of armed conflict was EVERYWHERE.
Threads was a nuclear apocalypse war drama created by the BBC and shown in 1984. It’s so disturbing in its depiction of society’s collapse after a nuclear exchange (I honestly have never had the balls to watch it) that not only did it prompt Reagan to pursue peace with the Soviet Union, it was not broadcast on British television again for EIGHTEEN years. [Editor’s Note: The analogue for us Americans I think has to be The Day After, from 1983. It was just as grim. – JT]
In English Literature class, not only did we read Brit-lit staples like 1984, Cider with Rosie and Shakespeare. Oh no. We had to read, discuss and write essays about a novel called Children of the Dust. Take a wild stab in the dark at what the subject matter was.
Let’s circle back to cars, since that’s the ostensible reason you’re all here.
BMW basically defined its whole brand in the ’80s. In the UK, an E30 became a de rigueur fashion accessory for newly minted City of London banker boys as much as a pair of red braces or a Motorola DynaTAC. F1 engines running rocket fuel making 1500bhp in qualifying and DTM racers trading paint every other weekend established BMWs credentials as a thrusting, upmarket macho brand.
Forget old BMW. It’s a dead baby. If you watch the film accompanying the I Vision DEE (what the actual cocking fuck) it’s puzzling because it’s taking a steaming dump from altitude on its past models while using a version of the past to sell the future. The I Vision DEE (for Digital Emotional Experience) is a precursor to the new Neue Klasse electric saloons that are coming. And given their recent visual abominations it surprisingly doesn’t make me want to blind myself by chugging a quart of Torch Oil.
In the side view the line of the fender as it bends down towards the front is a little severe, making me think it could use a bit more dash to axle so that curve has more room to work. The shark nose, Hofmeister kink and kidney grille are once again all present and correct, but halle-fucking-luiah they’re been kept crisp and modern.
The most noticeable improvement is the calmness of the surfacing and the absence of tortured direction changes in the sheet metal that have characterized recent BMW concepts (and production cars). There’s no fighting of graphical elements here. It’s serene, yet subtly aggressive like the best BMWs of the past have been.
The exterior panels are made up of color-changing screens, which is some concept car hand-wavy magic bullshit. It’s probably appealing to stereotypical BMW owners because they could park illegally and then make their car blend into its surroundings so it becomes invisible and they don’t get a ticket. If you look closely past the seizure-inducing color patterns you can see faint lines fanning out from the wheel arches and where the bodywork wraps around the corners of the car – probably because there’s a limit to the amount of curvature those e-ink panels can achieve.
The overall effect looks a bit like Autodesk Alias’s surface diagnostic tools – probably not the effect they were aiming for. The only real complaint is that it’s a little plain – it could use some trim to fancy it up a bit, but that would get in the way of the chameleon gimmick so it’s understandable they’ve kept the surfaces as uncluttered as possible.
My suspicion is that Adrian van Honkytonk is one of those designers who thinks he needs to be bleeding edge at all costs to have any credibility. Which is, of course, bullshit.
A good designer shouldn’t be tied to the past but neither should they neglect it. There are lessons and meanings back there if we look past the surface and understand the intention. I’m not one for wallowing in nostalgia. I think hoarding roomfuls of plastic crap because it’s associated with something that made you feel happy in the past is pointless. We live in the now. But that’s not to say I don’t appreciate the past. I have a B&O Beolit 600 radio from 1970, and it’s delightful. Its appeal to me is very much rooted in the present – its built quality and thoughtful design are as relevant today as they were when it was new. Also, it still works faultlessly, and I have a love affair with radio as a medium.
I hear you now. “But Adrian, you identify with a sub-culture that’s rooted in the past! Aren’t you contradicting yourself?”
Well, again here’s the thing: While goth grew out of punk, the look has adapted and evolved over time to take into account changing tastes and fashions. The attitudes, sensibilities and outlook are as relevant today as they always were. I listen to two podcasts a week containing completely new “goth” music, despite the fact The Sisters of Mercy haven’t released a studio album of new music since 1990.
So yeah, my view of the ’80s is considerably less neon-tinted than that of those who never experienced it firsthand by dint of not having popped out of the womb in time. And this is what dicks me. The ’80s weren’t just a few visual shorthand cliches, it’s not even one aesthetic: It’s a whole bunch of generational circumstances and events that forged a unique decade.
Millennials only think it’s cool because the internet told them so, and they’re so used to living online that they don’t realize there’s a whole load of context and history they’re missing out on. I regularly have to implore my students to go to the library when doing their research. The fact that the entire history of everything isn’t contained online is a completely alien concept to them.
[Editor’s Note: I believe Mr.Clarke would like everyone to get the hell of his lawn now, please. – JT]
But where does Adrian stand on shower prepared meals?
I have my butler bring me my meals in the the third dining room like a normal person.
Is his name Lurch?
Are you sure your butler isn’t preparing your meals in the shower? If you have three dining rooms, the food preparation area must be waaaay on the other end of Clarke Manor.
I’m not sure where the kitchens are.
That’s STATELY Clarke Manor…
What…no shower foie gras?
As millennial product of the early 90’s, I demand my translucent purple car already!
A while ago I found ads from a small Japanese shop that was planning to produce transparent bumpers for the late 90s Mazda Carol in a variety of colors. As far as I was able to find out, they only made one set for their demo car. Apparently translucent plastic was very brittle and doesn’t hold up very well as a car bumper.
I had a translucent aftermarket shell put on my Nokia 8260 and yeah, not durable.
Oh man, I wonder if I could get the Bishop to dream up something like that. If I could build a modern version of the iMac G3 I totally would.
– Signed, a 1992 model year Millennial.
Hell yeah, we’re the same model year!
Even though we’re here to mock BMW the purple they currently sell the 2 series in is one of my favorite car colors of the last several years. It’s absolutely striking in person.
Yes, I mentioned it in my BMW M2 design breakdown, because it’s not available on that car, bafflingly.
“I regularly have to implore my students to go to the library when doing their research. The fact that the entire history of everything isn’t contained online is a completely alien concept to them.”
You have my sympathies, as I also teach for a living.
I should go check my lawn again.
I read this while listening to my favorite album, a nice Shibuya Kei album by Takako Minekawa called fun9 released in 1999. I’m so waiting for the optimism of the late 90s to come back in style. I was born just a few years after you, so maybe this is a late-gen-X fever dream, but count me in on this.
P.S. I only watched Threads recently… what a cheery film. Do a double feature with Grave of the Fireflies to really mess up the minds of viewers.
You mean the “optimism” that gave us the Y2K bug panic and the dot-bomb crash?
Hard. Fucking. Pass.
Yeah, but I’d quite like being 28 again. I’m fat and my goddamn back hurts.
I do remember going with Dad to his office at midnight on New Year’s to make sure Y2K didn’t bork the systems there. Nothing happened! Perfectly anticlimactic, ha.
Hey, now—some of us were too young for that to completely kill all sense of hope and optimism for us.
That came later!
The dot.com crash didn’t really affect normal people. Ok if you were a coder it was a tough few years but I think they bounced back ok……
Fair points, and yes, I’m using the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia pretty heavily, but years of peace and prosperity after the bleakness of the 80s and before the post-millennium tension seemed pretty idyllic. Perhaps I was just at the right age of the mid twenties for all of that to seem great.
“Do a double feature with Grave of the Fireflies to really mess up the minds of viewers”
That’s a film night for when you want to just never sleep again.
How to make an entire college-level course on anime bawl their eyes out: THAT.
(Believe it or not, yep, that actually was a real elective I took at Baylor.)
Threads is among my favorite films. The Day After is nothing near as grim. Watch them both and you’ll see why.
I value Threads for its attempt at realism. It is a partial inspiration to an indie-RPG I’ve been working on that is going to crank up the bleak factor by many orders of magnitude.
I was 9 years old in 1983 and wasn’t allowed to watch The Day After. Since, I’ve met enough people who saw it at that age to know my mom and dad made the right call on that one.
That bleak realism really was something- especially if you grew up with a feeling that something similar was just around the corner.
That’s funny, I just busted out that album for the first time in years. I’ll never forget hearing Fantastic Cat for the first time in Newbury Comics in Boston and falling in love with her without knowing a thing about what I was listening to.
I also just remembered- I believe she is the voice of the “Play-station” sound in every one of their commercials. Go figure.
Nostalgia for the past, even if it’s a past we didn’t experience, is always rooted in remembering the good parts. Which is why nostalgia always sells. Who wants to remember the bad shit? The 80’s were the Golden Age of Humanity as far as I’m concerned, but that’s because I was a kid then and had no responsibilities. It’s all New Wave music and Raiders of the Lost Ark to me. I didn’t realize Reagan had ruined America until later. But, it’s ok to appreciate the aesthetics of an era while at the same time remaining aware of the horrors of the other stuff. And that’s a handsome car.
Absolutely. I don’t know many Gen-Z folks but I’m willing to bet a lot of them think fondly of the late 90’s/2000’s and will try to tap into that nostalgia at some point. Those of us who were older have some fondness but also distinctly remember Columbine, dot-com bust, 9/11, War on Terror, Great Recession, etc.
Late millennial here. Yes, me and many other people roughly my age have a sense of nostalgia for the late 90s/early 2000s. However, I realize that my nostalgia isn’t so much because of the time period itself but because those were my elementary school and middle school years and I miss that childhood sense of carelessness and wonder.
As for when are they going to tap into it, it’s already happening. That sort of sleek, clean, Y2K style is starting to become really trendy again among people who weren’t even born at the time. It’s only a matter of time before the major corporations catch on and turn those taps on full. Although that might not be so bad if it means a return to electronics with transparent cases.
Good news, I fit that demographic and can offer a perspective. I definitely feel some nostalgia for the 2000s, but I certainly wouldn’t call it better times or look upon the decade as a fond era overall.
As with any period in history, the 2000s had its good and bad. The War on Terror, terrorism itself, Katrina, the Great Recession, SARS, dysfunctional politics, islamophobia, Bernie Madoff, and all sorts of crap created a constant tension that I wouldn’t want to revisit anytime soon.
On the other hand, some of the music was pretty good (The Strokes, LCD Soundsystem, Broken Social Scene, Metric, Death From Above 1979, MGMT, Chromeo, etc.), rent wasn’t ridiculous, used cars were cheap, and local newsrooms weren’t completely decimated by the internet yet.
We’ve made some pretty big strides as people as the years clicked by, and quality of life in 2023 is pretty good. I have all the music I could possibly want, internet access, a sat-nav, a phone, and an okay camera all in the same pocket-sized device. I don’t have to worry about catching headphone wires in turnstiles. It’s incredibly easy to get parts for just about any car, and a typical 15-year-old used car is no longer ready for the scrapheap. I don’t have to worry about Blockbuster late fees, cell phone minutes, getting lost, or missing a bus on a night out ever again.
As dysfunctional as our world seems right now, the little things in life have never been more convenient, and things like homophobia and racism are more often seen as transgressions rather than the casual norm. While it might be fun to reminisce on life’s highlights, I feel like the present day isn’t all bad, especially when the past is viewed through a realistic lens.
I mean, your not totally wrong. It’s a natural tendency to only remember the good parts of the past as it’s a psychological defense mechanism – no one in there right mind wants to actively remember past traumas.
My problem is that people who WEREN’T EVEN THERE are indulged in an eighties pop culture circle jerk – I am never going to watch Stranger Things on sheer bloody principle. And too many designers and marketers are pandering to this.
Yes, much like today’s pop stars making music that sounds like it came directly from the 80s. Although it does sound better to my old ears (I was born in ’73 also), it comes across as disingenuous. Pop music was more adventurous back then, with no clear rules as to what was considered acceptable. Music, and car design, have become too rigid in the intervening decades.
Preach it. The 80’s nostalgia is pure fucking rose colored glasses.
And we would know. We fucking lived through it. Adrian got Threads; I got The Day After. The UK got Thatcher, we got Reagonomics. He got the miner’s strike, we got PATCO. The 80’s weren’t just dark; it was the real lead-up to the dystopian hellscape we currently live in. Great, we avoided nuclear war so instead the same guys who committed bank fraud back then can charge you over original sticker for a 6 year old used car with a washed salvage title!
And the cars? Fuck. You know why you don’t see a lot of 80’s cars still on the road? Because they were so utterly miserable and poorly built, they just straight up didn’t survive. And BMW? Man. FUCK BMW. “Oh we defined our style in the 1980’s.” Except really, they didn’t.
Seriously, hear me out here Adrian. The much overhyped BMW E30, stand it up next to a 1968 BMW E3. Engine included. Yeah. Their “1980’s” zeitgeist is a fucking minor restyle of 1968. And that’s true of pretty much ALL the poster cars. Countach? 1974. Testarossa? Evolution of the BB from 1973.
The number of truly good cars out of the 1980’s? You can count them on your digits. That ordinary people could ever buy? You’re down to two hands with a surplus. That were actually designed in the 1980’s and not just rehashes or facelifts of earlier decades? BMW’s design department now has their hand to wank with.
Along with all the 80s nostalgia, the 80s risk of nuclear war has returned.
As for cars, I think the late 90s through late 2000s was the best era for cars in my lifetime. They had the best balance of mechanical reliability and computerization, while still being simple enough to work on with minimal tools. The cars of the 2010s and later have just gotten overly complicated, overweight, and have become obscenely expensive(mostly due to declining affordability among those who work for a living and don’t find themselves within the upper 10% of the so-called 1st world).
That said, I really like cars of the 1950s and 1960s, for a myriad of reasons.
The 90’s were, ehh. Look. I worked on those. Between first gen mandatory airbags and the OBD to OBD-II transition along with a number of big emissions changes? You don’t want a 90’s car. You really don’t. You think you do because “OH HEY THEY FINALLY GOT GOOD.”
Let’s say you pick up a 1994 Dodge Neon with the 2.0 SOHC. Those are nice mechanically sound cars right? More or less, until the alternator goes.
In a 250 mile radius, there are two shops that can diagnose a 1994 Neon alternator. Shop #2 has to do it by borrowing the tools from me. Because it’s not an OBD-II car, and the alternator is digitally PCM regulated so can only be diagnosed by a DRB-III with CH8361 card and an expansion module.
But let’s say you have a 1999-2000 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Surely that’s better, right? It’s OBD-II. So sure. You can read some generic codes. But your RKE is being intermittently problematic and the parts cannon fixed nothing, let’s say.
There’s one shop in probably a 500 if not 1000 mile radius that can do anything – me. And that’s not an exaggeration. Those model years have OBD-II plus PCI junction. It requires a not only a special adapter to probe up on the PCI bus without damaging it, but a special card. Dealers almost never bought either. I bought my 8339 out of pocket. Nearly all the ones you see for sale second-hand are actually useless because they only include the OBD-II cable which doesn’t do you any good. You need the PCI DLC cable too. (And I haven’t even touched on CCD bus cars, and ST22’s can eat my ass.)
Or let’s say you need to fix the brakes on nearly anything ABS equipped from the 90’s. That’s post-OBD-II so it’ll be easy, right? Nope! ABS isn’t a covered item. Nearly everyone’s systems communicate one-way with the powertrain module; if you want to do a pump replacement, there’s an entirely separate DLC requiring an entirely separate cable and software set. And they’re not even remotely standardized.
And for most of them, even if you get the necessary tools, you still need the software. And you can just straight up forget that. ACDelco Service Information only covers unit repairs and service manuals from 1997, and pre-2000 is spotty. GDS2 does not support pre-2007 cars at all, and not all pre-2011’s either. For 1996-2011 you’ll need Tech2Win and the Tech2 emulator doesn’t support all functions. So if your 2010 Buick Lucerne needs the EBCM reprogrammed? You’re SOL. Need to reflash the TCM on your 2004 Saab 9-5? You can’t – there’s pretty much no legal way to get that software.
Expecting manufacturers to keep supporting 20 year old software and hardware forever is completely unrealistic. And once most of the fleet is past expected usable lifespan, there’s really no incentive to keep reformatting and migrating ancient images through each iteration of the authenticated download service. Assuming none of them have been corrupted in one of the prior migrations. That goes doubly so for all the short lifespan stuff, which is most of the 90’s. Everyone did stopgaps to OBD-II before introducing the longer lifespan parts, most of which were actually very short lifespan.
I have too many fellow Gen X friends that peaked in high school in the mid 80’s and have been living in 80″s nostalgia glory ever since. Most will not even listen to music made after 1988. I lived in the 80s from 11-20 years old. I hated every minute of the 1980s.
I’m the same age as you. There were some things in the 80s that were decent (hardcore, for example), but a large swath of it was dross (although I’ve owned and loved multiple E30s over the years).
/s (we’re the same age apparently)
I’m older than Adrian so I… win? No, that doesn’t sound like the right word here.
You win a lifetime subscription to Ibuprofen.
But not mine.
You’ve now got the healthiest spleen around the town! 😉
Upon seeing the EyeDeeeeEeeeeeeeeeer, all I can see in BMW’s design is a rehash of a mid-1990s Dodge Stratus (and the rest of the “cloud” cars, for that matter), especially in the side profile and front treatment.
I REALLY like the cloud cars, and what they were attempting to do (take cab forward down a size).
Adrian feels like he’s losing his edge to the art-school Brooklynites in little jackets and borrowed nostalgia for the unremembered Eighties. But he was there!
Hahaha yeah I realize it might come across a bit like that. But the point I was trying to make was that this infatuation with eighties cultural touchstones is getting us nowhere, young or old. Design should be about not just new but better.
Aw, those were just some lyrics! That line “borrowed nostalgia for the unremembered 80’s” has been rattling around in my head for 20 years (from “I’m Losing my Edge” by LCD Soundsystem). The whole song and sentiment seemed relevant, it’s not really about that, but I don’t know why I thought anyone would remember it in 2022.
Actually I think you’ve invented something new here, and I appreciate it. The rant one expects is about how everything the kids do is stupid and everything was better back in the day. Personally, I’m with you, I could’ve sworn we all agreed in the ’90s that the ’80s were embarrassing, and surely that was the last word on that. We were there! Though maybe that song from 2002 shows that we Gen-Xers have been bothered by ’80s nostalgia for a long time.
This. This is why I’m a member.
I think actual design is really good. To me, this and the Ioniq 5 are the only vehicles that have realistic EV proportions (short overhangs to make room for a skateboard style battery pack) without looking like a suppository. I think it’s a real accomplishment that BMW has combined an aggressive stance and airy greenhouse in a seemingly realistic package.
All the Dee memery, CES baiting LED panel garbage, and 80s nonsense just distract and bring it down. Would have been a better concept if they just painted it and presented it as is.
Agreed. Although the Ioniq 5 is not the compact hatchback it appears to be. Have you seen one in the metal? They’re huge.
I always feel like someone photographed a hatchback at 1.25% when I see the Ioniq 5.
***photocopied (geez, I’m tired today)
It is my wish, or fantasy, that designers would focus more on “industrial design”, referring to the overall design as will be experienced by the user. IE, not just appearance.
I don’t care at all about appearance. But how about an “adult” car that has reasonable performance (60 in <7 sec), reasonable size (eg <71" wide), seating comfortable for 6'2" without scraping ceiling, good cargo space (station wagon ?), physical controls, toyota reliability, outward visibility, 6"+ ground clearance. No doubt thoughtful car guys can easily add to the list.
I’m getting tired of the 80s nostalgia wave as well. I think it would’ve infected car manufacturer’s eventually, but I think it’s also because the 80s was the decade where D I G I T A L really took off. Everyone has memories (fond or most likely otherwise) of digital dashboards, how computers and tech was gonna be everywhere on everything, wow it’s digital! Colors and lights and oh my! And then that promised future gave well to reality.
Now reality actually has the tech for that vision of the future and companies are just mashing it together with retro-uninspired design.
As a baby/young child in the 80s my memories are a mix of black chipboard furniture with red plastic trim, multi stack hi-fi’s, family cars being escorts and marinas, 70s hang ons such as avocado bathrooms, a luxury once in a lifetime holiday to Yugoslavia as Italy/Spain/Greece were well out of budget and having a REALLY COOL bed top space shuttle tent.
It was only decades later when I found an old photo I realised how my parents came across this non-residential frippery. Challenger was emblazoned across it.
Many good memories and don’t mind the occasional nostalgic dip into the decade for inspiration but not sure I’d want to live there.
Non-residential was intended to read as non-essential.
Proof reading was never my specialism.
I watched BMW’s little movie last night and I saw the DEE in Germany a few weeks before 2022 ended. Adrian brings up amazing points here, and very he’s correct that nostalgia isn’t longing for the way things were—but longing for the way we think things were.
I also took this movie with Arnold another way: BMW wants YOU to stop obsessing over the ’80s, too. I get the sense that as a car company, they’re tired of people comparing everything to the E30, or the E46, or the E92, or whatever we think the Ultimate Driving Machine used to be (usually this is whatever was on sale 5-10 years ago.) They want you to move on, embrace the virtual assistant, and subscribe to the damn heated seats, because conditions are such that they can’t go back to high-revving I6s and manual gearboxes even if they wanted to. It may cut both ways here!
Yeah, I get that in a way they’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. They have the loudest fan base that’s unfairly placed older `BMWs on an untouchable pedestal. I think part of the problem is that BMW have almost wilfully ignored their heritage and have suggested on record that if you don’t like their new designs you’re somehow not design literate enough, which is bad PR.
So I kinda get that would rather people look at what they’re doing now rather than comparing to what’s happened in the past, but they are going totally the wrong way about it.
This was great Adrian! i do appreciate you being open about undiagnosed autism, as i believe i myself have gone through much the same.
‘ the very real threat of armed conflict was EVERYWHERE.’
Oh it came a HELL of a lot closer than you think!
“In 1983, Cold War tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union had escalated to a level not seen since the Cuban Missile Crisis because of several factors. These included the United States’ Strategic Defense Initiative, its planned deployment of the Pershing II weapon system in Europe in March and April, and FleetEx ’83-1, the largest naval exercise held to date in the North Pacific.
The military hierarchy of the Soviet Union (particularly the old guard led by Soviet General Secretary Yuri Andropov and Minister of Defence Dmitry Ustinov) viewed these actions as bellicose and destabilizing; they were deeply suspicious of U.S. President Ronald Reagan’s intentions and openly fearful he was planning a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the Soviet Union. These fears culminated in RYAN, the code name for a secret intelligence-gathering program initiated by Andropov to detect a potential nuclear sneak attack which he believed Reagan was plotting.
(It should be noted the US had already been poking the Soviet bear for years by sending fleets of bombers right at the SU only to peel off at the last minute. “It really got to them,” said Dr. William Schneider, [former] undersecretary of state for military assistance and technology, who saw classified “after-action reports” that indicated U.S. flight activity. “They didn’t know what it all meant. A squadron would fly straight at Soviet airspace, and other radars would light up and units would go on alert. Then at the last minute the squadron would peel off and return home.”)
This tension set the stage for the shooting down of KAL007, a civilian 747 by the Soviet Air Force on September 1st 1983.
“The Boeing 747 airliner was en route from Anchorage to Seoul, but owing to a navigational mistake made by the crew, the airliner drifted from its original planned route and flew through Soviet prohibited airspace around the time of a U.S. aerial reconnaissance mission. The Soviet Air Forces treated the unidentified aircraft as an intruding U.S. spy plane, and destroyed it with air-to-air missiles, after firing warning shots which were probably not seen by the KAL pilots.”
That escalated tensions MUCH further which resulted in a scenario playing out in the Soviet Union very much like the movie “Wargames” which had been released just a few months before:
“On 26 September 1983, during the Cold War, the nuclear early-warning radar of the Soviet Union reported the launch of one intercontinental ballistic missile with four more missiles behind it, from bases in the United States.”
It all came down to ONE guy – Stanislav Petrov, an officer of the Soviet Air Defence Forces who was on duty at the command center of the early-warning system. He didn’t trust the system and instead decided to wait for corroborating evidence—of which none arrived—rather than immediately relaying the warning up the chain-of-command. This decision is seen as having prevented a retaliatory nuclear attack against the United States and its NATO allies, which would likely have resulted in an escalation to a full-scale nuclear war. Investigation of the satellite warning system later determined that the system had indeed malfunctioned.
Had a hyper-paranoid Soviet warhawk been on duty that day instead of Petrov 1983 would likely have been the year half the worlds population died. As it was nobody outside the SU knew anything had even happened until long afterwards.
Yeah, I wasn’t aware of the Petrov incident until much later, but I remember KAL007 happening very well.
Some context to the Reagan era: Since detente some years earlier,the soviets had been increasingly taking the piss,deliberately breaking the agreement wherever they could. It’s not much mentioned these days, but that was the background when Reagan came to office.
Sure Ronnie was a bit over the top but the soviets deserved every bit of it and more.
It’s odd the things not much mentioned in the history books.
Another one that comes to mind were the behind the scenes details of the soviet collapse. They went broke (as we all know) but right to the end they wanted loans to buy food, YET REFUSED TO DISMANTLE THEIR ABHORRENT SYSTEM.
Needless to say the americans said fuck you.
I know germany lent them some money at one stage and never saw it again, but dont know the details. I remember reading most of this in (i think) Time magazine,yet strangely it’s hard to find clear info about it online now
‘…walking condom full of walnuts…’
Thanks man. I think I would enjoy sitting in on one of your classes
The youngest Millennials are 27-28 years old. The oldest are in their 40s. Your students aren’t Millennials. The term Millennial was invented to signify “this person will graduate HS in the far off year of 2000” (born ~1982).
But I’m resigned (along with the rest of my generation) to being blamed for everything bad that young people do until I’m at least 80 years old.
Your B&O radio is amazing! That is great design to my eyes and heart. And everything BMW is not. With the latest fad firmly stuck to the body of a fairly bland mobile. But, hey, who cares. Not the current and next generations who could give a Cleveland Steamer about cars. They are the ones everyone is catering to. Self driving, check. Battery electric cars without the infrastructure, check ( gotta save the planet). Oh, I know, let’s wrap the whole rolling anathema in color changing gubbins. WOW! The kids don’t want anything challenging like driving. Who cares? Why should they have to actually DO anything?
Adrian, it’s telling that you are a professional designer, own a Ferrari, Alfa, and are a Goth. You like things to be quality, interesting when imperfect, and involving. You, and the rest of us even older folks have to put up with the anti-culture, anti- civilization, anti-reality parroted by the current generation of sheep. This BMW, and other auto companies at the CES is right up their street. CES? How about an honest auto show? Get the HELL of my lawn, you sheep.
And, before I forget, does the rear 3/4 view remind you of an Alfa?
If you (shameless plug) scroll back through my Instagram I did a little post about the radio when I bought it. It was only £35 and I had the pick of two, the other being a slightly lower spec model. Kinda wish I’d bought both now.
Damn good thing I don’t do Instagram etc. 35 pounds? Holy cow! Have you looked at the prices for them now? I just did. WOW!
Great article, and as a fellow lover of goth music and culture (although I’m 32 and probably one of the folks you’d like off your lawn) I agree with your point that it’s something that is still evolving and relevant. Its influences still abound in more recent artistic spaces because there’s a timelessness to it, but simultaneously it isn’t something that lives in the past. There are common threads through it of course, but your point that its always evolved is a valid one. I’m a huge fan of the fashion designer Rick Owens and his minimalist goth influenced aesthetics for example, and I certainly wouldn’t say that what he does is anything but cutting edge.
In that way, I can see why continuing to hump the corpse of 80s pop culture trends becomes grating. There’s a part of me that says it’s good because it’s keeping some timeless stuff alive and relevant, but even as the owner of a Hyundai N I agree that the N Vision 74 or whatever is just kind of shameless pandering to trends…and synth wave, neon, just general Miami Vice esque artistic expressions, etc are often surface level and shameless grabs of nostalgia people who didn’t even experience the era feel for some strange reason. Hell, one of my sisters is 26 and she’s obsessed with glam metal. She paid to see Motley Crue, Def Leppard, and Poison live this summer. How the hell did that happen?!
Anyway I’m getting off track here. BMW in general is just off the rails at this point. They’re trying too hard to essentially be a lifestyle brand that sells fashion accessories. I watched one of their M2 introduction videos recently and it was a bunch of attractive young folks playing musical chairs in manual equipped M2s in a parking garage while some pretty DJ in a space age outfit spins poppy techno noises.
Uhhh…who the hell do you think is going to buy the M2, especially in stick? It’s definitely not image obsessed folks trying to be fashionable. This absurd, rolling piece of clickbait that we’re dissecting here is no different. It’s a damn fashion accessory for wealthy people to show off, because that’s what BMW wants to be. As you bemoan, the days of the ultimate driving machine are long gone…and what’s replaced it is vapid trend chasing.
Their cars are becoming commodities, to be changed, disposed of, upgraded, etc. on a whim, like smart phones. And it sucks, because I’m a big fan of BMW and their cars have always represented an aspiration for me personally because they were so influential when I was growing up. Cars like the E39 M5, E46 M3, Z3, Z8 (a contender for the best automotive design of the last 25 years, don’t @ me) et cetera captivated my imagination when I was a kid…just like cars like the 2002 had for my father growing up. My deceased uncle who was a huge influence on me becoming an enthusiast had a few E30 3 series he wrenched on and let me check out as well.
It’s just…I don’t know, kind of sad I guess. I understand why the company is focused on becoming a rolling social media post and capitalizing on every trend they possibly can, because it’s good for business. But when you have strong personal connections to what they used to be, it’s unfortunate. This is one of the reasons why I’m considering saving up for the new M2, because I think it’s the final link to the BMW of old.
That was a lot of words to say “I’ll come join you on your lawn and I really enjoy your articles”. Let me know what album to bring. I’m thinking Disintegration. Seems appropriate to mourn the loss of BMW too.
Don’t bring Disintegration, believe it or not I can’t stand the Cure. I mentioned one of my favorite fashion designers being Rick Owens in a reply to a comment on another article. Ann Demeulemeester is another.
Anyone who tries to put the Cure on round my house is subjected to Christian Death and Alien Sex Fiend until they goddamn well apologise.
“TURN THAT BLOODY GOTH CRAP OFF” – me, while getting ready to play some other goth crap.
I’d bring the album “Mask” by Bauhaus.
Best thing to ever come from Northampton (the armpit of England)
I’m turning 50 on Saturday. This rant might be the best gift I could have possibly gotten. Thank you.
Millennial from the 80s here. I was not a fan of most things from the 80s, but the goth music and culture is something I have had a fondness for since early childhood and still do. But like Andrew Eldritch, I’m not goth! And there was a wealth of post-apocalyptic and cyberpunk literature and film that came out of that decade. When I was in kintergarden in 1990, where everyone in my demographic was watching kids’ movies like Land Before Time, Home Alone, Aladdin, or Hook, I was into stuff like The Roadwarrior, Day of the Dead, The Terminator, The Prince of Darkness, Aliens, Beetlejuice, From Beyond, and Re-Animator. Then when 1990 came around, Edward Scissorhands and Total Recall!
I have nothing against synthwave per se, but my tastes regarding it favor the darker stuff. Artists like Perturbator, Gost, and Carpenter Brut are among my favorite artists, and were all influenced by black metal, which also arguably wouldn’t exist without goth. And unlike the happy/pop aesthetic of most synthwave, these artists are something much more darker and foreboding. You should give them a listen.
The cars of the 80s… mostly sucked. For aesthetics, I would like to see timeless designs evoking cars from the 1950s and 1960s like the Citroen DS, Ferrari 250GTO, Jaguar D-Type, and such make a comeback, but with an emphasis on drag reduction since their forms lend themselves so well to it with just subtle changes to their proportions. Designed right, it would be highly resistant to planned obsolescence and still look fresh half a century later, allowing manufacturers to keep making parts to keep 20/30/40+ year old cars on the road for cheap. We don’t need oversized wheels and oversized grilles and angry designs, because sexy has always sold and been later revered by future generations of enthusiasts. If you want something more ornate and stylized, look to things like the 70s era Stutz Blackhawk or 60s Lincoln Continental, both of which would look appealing in black and chrome all gothed out.
I’m not a fan of BMW’s current design language and decisions, and haven’t been fond of most of what they have put out, but the E89 Z4 is pretty to look at, as was most of their offerings prior to the malaise era. The 2000s M-Coupe aka “Clown Shoe” is a prime example of BMW actually making an “ultimate driving machine”, a measure by which most of their offerings have failed to ever come close to living up to, most especially their recent grotesque kidney-grille offerings. Their new offering is a step in the right direction by shrinking the obnoxious grille and going to a less busy design, but still doesn’t appeal to me personally.
I meant to say early grade school instead of kindergarten, but point still stands. I’ve always had a fascination for the darker and grittier aspects of culture/art, and preferred it undiluted. Hence my love for the film Threads.
Oh my gosh, yes, bring back more Y2K aesthetics already. I miss all the futuristic designs and shiny, sparkly millennium-influenced fashion and cosmetics. Platforms making a comeback is a thing I’m extremely into, even if they are hot-trash-to-inadvisable to drive in. The music was good, too, on top of it all. The ’90s were hands-down the golden era of country as far as I’m concerned, and we got some solidly heavy rock and industrial tunes sneaking onto mainstream radio stations and into routine MTV/VH1 airplay. It was a great time to be an angsty teen. And where are my see-through electronics? I was devastated that my translucent clear and purple phone from high school devolved into sub-old-Ferrari-dashboard-level goo even though I no longer have any intention of having a landline anymore. It was just a cool piece of tech to look at. Does Apple not realize how quickly I would trade in my phone for a new one if they made a smaller one with a clear glass back to look at all the innards? I would make an irresponsible financial decision on the spot.
I do think the ’80s had nicer car designs, though, so I don’t blame BMW for leaning hard into that era stylistically. The ’90s/Y2K era birthed some cool stuff, sure, but also gave us a lot of regular cars that looked like melted beige bars of soap. I refuse to look at the 996 through nostalgia-tinted glasses, either—they took a model that’s historically meant to look pretty timeless and gave it a trendy refresh that still reminds me of the Blob Taurus. The same era we’re waxing nostagic over was the one that gave us the frickin’ Blob Taurus!
I think that’s the thing that makes nostalgia such a mixed bag. A little bit of calling back is fine and cool, but you can’t let it be a crutch. Goth music is a great example—it may still have its roots in the past, as you noted, but the sheer amount of innovation in electronic music makes a current-era song recognizably different and fresh compared to those that came before. I’m always a little shocked at how “old” industrial, electronic or production-heavy songs from even just a few years ago can sound sometimes. Music hasn’t stayed static, and neither should cars.
That being said, my gosh, I want BMW to embrace cleaner design so much that it hurts. Their current production lineup is a soup of confusing lines and hideous proportions. A lot of the good nostalgic designs from around the new millennium—OG BMW-era Mini, New Beetle, etc.—made the callback without leaning too hard on the past, and I think the Dee does the same pretty well. The New Beetle is VERY much a Y2K-era car and carries with it that sort of futuristic optimism that made that era of design so great. The then-new Mini kept its styling considerably more conservative, but gave us a genuinely great little driver’s car that made the visual callbacks, but won a fanbase of its own for being just a damn fun car. The Dee is kinda nice in the same way. I don’t even mind the idea of “Dee” as a companion. I’m a decrepit aging millennial who will probably die alone. The car IS my friend, so hell, give it a friendly, clean design and let it talk back. That idea is kind of cool, even if basic, current-era voice recognition systems have a hard time recognizing my voice in practice.
Leaning too hard into “we used to be cool” or worse, making it sound uncool to like things of that older era is a mistake. It’s tiring, and the latter part there is what’s been frustrating about BMW’s messaging so far. Who cares about your past when your present is all scary beaver teeth and chonk? Things have to be good in the now. Look, I will buy all the glittery Y2K-era throwback lip glosses Sephora wants to sell me as those are objectively good, but I’m suffering from nostalgia fatigue lately. I’m glad we’re realizing ’80s and ’90s cars were good, but we’re also pricing folks out of fun, formerly reasonable regular cars that really shouldn’t be worth as much as people are paying them for the “cool” factor.
I’m tired of people thinking only the older stuff can ever be good, too. It’s insufferable. Hell, I remember ranting about racing teams leaning too hard on throwback liveries while putting too little effort in making their full-season look worth paying attention to. We have new technology now! Glittery vinyls, more sophisticated design software! Use it! Make something new that’s iconic! (Heck, just look at Pfaff leaning hard into their Canadian-ness for the now-beloved but very recent Plaid Porsche. Good example! More of that!!!) I wrote this take once at Jalopnik and you’d have thought I’d have kicked someone’s cat into a ravine. Anyway, this clearly stuck a nerve with me, too, as bogging things down with a zillion nostalgia references is always just going to be painful and pointless. Show me what’s good that’s now, or in the future. You’re not just riding on classic parts sales, remember?
*paying for them for the…
[things are anarchy when I am not getting paid to edit myself]
OMG, the BMW Dee(z Nutz) is totally a Tamagotchi pet! I refuse to look at it any other way now.
OH NO, YOU’RE RIGHT.
My mom got me one of those because we’d just moved and I had no friends. It died a lot.
I do not have fond memories of the Tamagotchi.
The 911 Safari throwback liveries really pissed me off. Singer showed how to do a modern take on that look without needing to resort to ersatz decals.
I appreciated the 959 callback for the reveal, but yeah—just make mine Guards Red and brown. I can add the brown. I still hella want that simplified Salzburg-liveried Cayenne I saw on Instagram the other day, but only because I put a house-paint Salzburg 917 livery on the race car to make fun of Real Serious Porsche Guys, haha. SALZBURGCEPTION.
Let’s be honest, though, I’d hoon the absolute hell out of the 911 Dakar regardless of the paint job. If I cover it in mud, I can’t see anything that came on it anyway. Win-win, that.
Hope you’re feeling better now.