Category Archives: Musings

Thoughts on everything from the industry at large to the tiniest element of design.

Heat score

2006 Infiniti G35: a canvas waiting for cheese. (IFCAR/Wikimedia)

2006 Infiniti G35: a canvas waiting for cheese. (IFCAR/Wikimedia)

You know the car.

“Flashy, making a scene, flaunting conventions.” (To quote Mr. Bookman, the hard-boiled library detective from Seinfeld)

Yup, we’re talking about the guy who wants everyone on the block to take notice of his ride.

Aftermarket parts, a burpy exhaust, decals, tinting – the kind of car no father wants to see his daughter get into.

A total heat score.

15 years ago the ride du jour for such characters was a Civic or Accord (Honda remains popular for this, but not nearly as much). Good handling and a peppy engine formed the backbone, while coffee can mufflers, ill-fitting rims, painted mirrors and purple, bubbled tinting made up the rest of the beast.

A close runner-up, usually less obvious and tricked-out than its Honda brethren, was the early 90s Nissan Maxima.

A circa-2006 Infiniti G35 coupe. You'll hear it before you see it. (IFCAR/Wikimedia)

A circa-2006 Infiniti G35 coupe. You’ll hear it before you see it. (IFCAR/Wikimedia)

Since then, the scene has changed a bit and a new heat score has risen to the top (according to this writer’s completely non-scientific observations).

The Infiniti G35/G37, especially those made circa 2002-2010.

Once a fairly conservative intermediate luxury sedan/coupe, this V6-powered, rear-drive import is often seen with massive rims, a matte paint job, and an aftermarket exhaust that screams “Don’t pry in my business or we’ll both get in trouble.”

There’s nothing wrong with lavishing attention on used rear-drive imports with brawny engines – hell, who wouldn’t? – but the act of driving a car that gets you noticed while doing things you don’t want to be noticed doing… well, that seems counter-intuitive.

A former neighbour with a subtly done up early-2000s Accord taught me this lesson. If your otherwise plain ride is seen all over town making brief visits, but you’re not carrying a pizza box into the building, you’re more visible than you think.

Fellas: you can keep the G35 with the slammed suspension and 20-inch rims for social work, but for ‘business’ (whatever that might be, not trying to pry), maybe it would be a good idea to keep a 2008 Impala in reserve.

Battle for the bottom

Nissan Micra, kingmaker? (Image: Nissan Motor Co.)

Nissan Micra, kingmaker? (Image: Nissan Motor Co.)

Who’s winning in the bargain-basement price field?


For well over a year now, lucky Canadians have basked in the joy that comes from knowing they’re able to purchase the two cheapest cars offered in North America.

Both the Nissan Micra and Mitsubishi Mirage come with window stickers reading ‘$9,998’, making the diminutive imports the cheapest way (by far) to get into a new car.

Canada gets an added bonus with the Micra, which isn’t yet available in the United States. We’re special!!

The Micra, which landed in dealerships in the spring of 2014, trades as much on its quirky, fun-to-drive rep as it does its low starting price. The Mirage, which appeared on these shores in late 2013, offers better fuel economy (and a lot less power from its standard 3-cylinder) but less distinctive styling.

In a two-way race, there can only be one winner, so which subcompact hatch are Canadians lusting after the most?

"Hey, is that the 2015 Mitsubishi Mirage ES??" (Image; Mitsubishi Motors)

“Hey, is that the 2015 Mitsubishi Mirage ES??” (Image; Mitsubishi Motors)

Numbers don’t lie, and the Micra is the clear winner (though a corner of west Quebec this writer lives near seems to have an affinity for the Mirage, especially those in gross, retina-burning colours).

The Mirage posted 4,048 sales in 2014 and 2,137 so far this year (ending in July). Its best sales month ever was April of last year, which happened to be when gas prices were nearing their highest spike.

Lately, it seems like sales could be tapering off, though it’s hard to say if that’s a sustained trend.

The mighty Micra, on the other hand, posted 7,815 purchases in its abbreviated 2014 sales year, with year-to-date sales running at a healthy (in contrast) 7,151 units.

If it was ever really a consideration, the recent dip in gas prices would be more incentive to go with the cheap car that has the most horsepower – Micra’s gain.

In Quebec, which seemingly values cheap imports more than other provinces, the Micra has the added boost of starring in its own racing circuit, the Nissan Micra Cup.

Now, who can resist that allure?





Bumps of misery

Sometimes, as in life, the dirt just won't come off...

Sometimes, as in life, the dirt just won’t come off…

See, it’s ‘pebbled’- rough, not smooth, mountainous, you follow? – and I’m at a loss to figure out why.

My car is a 1st Generation Chevy Cruze (2011-2015), a capable little vehicle with comfy front seats and impressive highway gas mileage, but one minor gripe is becoming very distracting.

The plastic surfaces on the interior – the dash, door panels, console – are impossible to keep clean. This is because you can’t get them clean to begin with.

Why? It’s pebbled.

Can you see where the paper towel was? Can you?!

Can you see where the paper towel was? Can you?!

While the overall appearance of the interior is pleasant (“Classy stuff,” people used to say of the tu-tone fabric inserts), the pebbled black plastic is a product straight out of Hell.

Not only does the millions of channels, grooves and valleys of this surface trap dirt and dust, but they help save it from being removed by cloth or towel.

And paper towels? Prepare to have those shredded as you attempt to Armour All that rough surface, thus adding white paper to the already dirty depressions in the now off-black plastic.

Yes, attempting to clean it actually makes it worse. It’s like trying to clean sandpaper.

Cleaning an interior in any other car I’ve owned has always been a breeze. Very pleasant, really. Paper towel + cleaner = all you needed.

A close-up of the culprit, bathed in a forgiving sunset glow.

A close-up of the culprit, bathed in a forgiving sunset glow.

Not so in this mass-produced vehicle. That gleaming, mirrored polish you see on other dashes, and on the labels of cleaning products? The one that sparkles and shines like a gangster’s shoes? Nowhere to be seen after all that effort and expense.

Flat plastic is boring, I know, but is pebbled plastic the answer to that problem? At least the former can be cleaned.

All of this boils down to a minor First World bitch and moan fest, to be sure, but the pointlessness of having such a surface in a car has gotten under my skin.

Who flicked the ‘Let’s Do This’ light that led to this situation?!!

*calming breath, calming breath…*

Owners of the 2016 Cruze likely won’t have to put up with this  madness, as it looks like the interior will do away with the pebbled dash.

I can only imagine how satisfying it would be to wipe one of those down.

Get HIGH with Hertz

Yes, please take me away!

Yes, please take me away!

If any rent-a-car ad will compel you to build a time machine, it’s this 1965 spot for Hertz.

Even a postmodern person would want to travel back to the Don Draper era after seeing this vision of ‘friendly skies’ air travel, monstrous open-topped cars and copious amounts of disposable income mixed with youthful vitality.

Hell, I’m already envisioning myself bitching about Lyndon Johnson while tuning a Hi-Fi set.

While the golden age of the West, air travel and car renting seems to be receding in the rear-view, at least we still have these whimsical reminders of that halcyon bygone age.

Down with the sickness

1981 Chrysler LeBaron Special - a stripper with a nice face.

1981 Chrysler LeBaron Special – a stripper with a nice face.

The so-called Malaise Era – the turbulent 10 years from (roughly) 1973 to 1983 – brought us many automotive gems.

Who can forget that heady time when a 460 cubic inch Lincoln V-8 (7.5 litres) managed to wheeze out a paltry 190 horsepower?

Or when automakers began crash-diving the displacement of their already detuned V8’s to satisfy federal regulators? (Ford’s 255 Windsor, GM’s 267 small-block)

What about those hackneyed attempts at downsizing that still flaunted all the trappings of big car luxury? (Landau tops, opera windows, retractable headlights, velour, velour, velour)

1981 Chrysler LeBaron Salon coupe, the Special's higher achieving sister.

1981 Chrysler LeBaron Salon coupe, the Special’s higher achieving sister.

In addition to smog-choked land yachts, the Malaise Era also brought us leisure suits, wide lapels, disco, and Three’s Company. Obviously, we owe it a debt of remembrance, if only to say ‘never again’.

Horsepower values reached their deepest trough in 1981, the same year gas prices and interest rates skyrocketed to their tallest postwar peak. No automaker was struggling more than Chrysler at that time, and besides the new K-car (which ultimately saved the company) malaise wasn’t hard to find in the showroom.

A great example of this is the 1981 Chrysler LeBaron Special – a Chrysler with all the trappings of a low-end Plymouth. To squeeze every last sale out of its lineup, Chrysler fielded a bare bones version of the M-body LeBaron (1980-1981), touting its value and affordable status.

With a venerable (but emissions strangled) 225 cubic inch Slant Six under the hood making a pulse-pounding 85 horsepower, the 3,368 pound sedan could rocket to 60 mph in 18.8 seconds, just slightly less than eternity. A trusty 3-speed Torqueflite automatic rounded out the drivetrain.

Clearly, the Special didn't give up a whole lot in looks compared to its high-end stablemates.

Clearly, the Special didn’t give up a whole lot in looks compared to its high-end stablemates.

Inside, luxurious vinyl bench seats whispered “cop car” or “fleet rental” into the driver’s ear, but the happy motorist was probably too busy enjoying his or her standard power brakes.

Outside the vehicle, the costly vinyl roof and wire wheel hubcaps seen on higher end versions were substituted for bare metal and pie plates.

Yes, this was indeed a base Dodge Diplomat with LeBaron front and rear fascias, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

The M-body LeBaron and its stripper base model didn’t last long, though. After ’81, the name was applied to a new front-wheel-drive, K-car based model, while the rear-drive M-body platform carried the upscale New Yorker model until 1989.

About face

The 2016 Scion iA, not to be confused with the Mazda 2 (Image: Toyota Motor Corporation)

The 2016 Scion iA, not to be confused with the Mazda 2 (Image: Toyota Motor Corporation)

Is Scion’s new direction the right one?


The sales woes of the Scion brand have been well documented as of late, including here on this humble blog.

Right now the struggling Toyota subsidiary is valiantly trying to reverse its falling fortunes, announcing three new models and chopping three of its worst sellers, the xB, xD, and iQ.

So far, two of those three company-savers have been unveiled, destined for 2016 showrooms. The iM is a small, sporty hatchback that would compete with the likes of the Honda Fit, while the familiar-looking iA subcompact sedan would compete with just about everyone.

The iA is a jarring thing, because it’s not really a Scion. Anyone keeping tabs on the industry will recognize the body shape and familiar flanks of the Mazda 2 sedan, albeit one with a strange (and huge) grille that serves to put design distance between it and the Mazda.

A third model has yet to be unveiled.

1978 Dodge Challenger (aka the Mitsubishi Galant Lambda), a product of desperate times.

1978 Dodge Challenger (aka the Mitsubishi Galant Lambda), a product of desperate times.

When the iA first rolled onto the scene, it was a head-scratcher. What’s going on here? A Toyota-owned car company getting Mazda to built a car for it? What gives?

Badge engineering is a frowned upon activity for carmakers, but at least that would keep it in the (corporate) family.

Trans-corporate badge swapping like this reeks of 1970s-80s desperation – the kind that saw Chrysler leap into bed with Mitsubishi in order to get some diversity in the merchandise it was offering.

“We don’t have the resources to compete, but never mind that – can I offer you a (Plymouth) Sapporo?”

As weird as those rebadged imports were, the Scion bed-hopping is even more unusual, because it’s going behind the bleachers with close competitors. Not just Mazda with the iA, but also Subaru with the FR-S.

But maybe I’m just not getting it. Subaru and Mazda both offer modern, competitive tech-laden cars that are known for their sporty handling and attitude. Toyota? Not so much, but that’s fine – car companies don’t have to make each marque all things to all people.

Having well-regarded underpinnings for new model makes sense, even if it comes from someone else.

Is it wrong to bash badge-swapping if the donor car is a good one?

Is it wrong to bash badge-swapping if the donor car is a good one?

The appeal grows when you consider the financial incentives of paying another company to provide you with a manufactured product, without the need to invest much of your own capital into design, tooling and production.

In Scion’s case, just like in Chrysler’s way back when, the idea is to move units and make money. That’s what a company needs to do to stay afloat.

I don’t disagree with this reality, nor Scion’s decision to target big-volume segments like compact hatches and sedans. What I do disagree with is the form the product is taking.

Scion was founded to serve as a youth-oriented, edgy brand that stood in stark contrast with its parent company and its competitors. Rebadged Mazda’s and hatchbacks that could so easily carry a Toyota badge are not distinct and don’t distinguish the brand. Buyers might be lured into one for value and versatility, but not for individuality.

In other words, Scion risks diluting the image it has built for itself, confusing its purpose for existing. What’s the point of a Scion brand if they’re not even Scions?


Bring in the versatile funk


Many posts ago, I let slip an idea I had for resurrecting the Scion brand. It seemed like a good fit at the time, and even though new products have been announced since then, I still feel like it would be worthwhile.

A car company like Scion wants economical and versatile cars, yes? And they want them to be fun, and quirky?

Everyone in 1970s car ads skied, it seems.

Everyone in 1970s car ads skied, it seems.

I propose a modern-day line of cars that draw from the spirit and intent of the lowly Fiat 124.

Yes, the little Italian workhorse that spawned so many different body styles – sedan, coupe, wagon, roadster – between 1966 and 1974.

Durable, boxy, but attainable, the four-cylinder-only lineup is still readily identifiable (and not just because it was copied by Lada from 1970 to 1988).

Not only would it likely appeal to the nostalgia-stricken and wannabe avante-garde hipsters alike, it could draw in those looking for a sporty RWD offering that doesn’t break the bank.

After all, it was a nimble thing, by all accounts. has a series of excellent Fiat 124 track photos, including one of a sedan lifting its wheel in a corner (isn’t that adorable?) while battling a 124 coupe.

Again with the skiing. This time, a 124 coupe.

Again with the skiing. This time, a 124 coupe.

It would be hard not to compare the concept of a modern day 124 with the original xB – the car that put Scion on the map. That model was a funky take on the lowly compact hatchback, and it initially sold like gangbusters.

It was also unique and instantly recognizable as a Scion, something a rebadged Mazda or Subaru is not.

I don’t expect to be paid handsomely by Scion for this helpful suggestion (I’m here, though – call me) – rather, I’m just putting the idea out there. You know, if it appeals to this writer, there must be at least several other weirdos who’d also like to see it happen.

The full model range of the Fiat 124. Something for everyone.

The full model range of the Fiat 124. Something for everyone.

Bow before the Crown

The 1961 Imperial: rich, regal... Reichstag?

The 1961 Imperial: rich, regal… Reichstag?

There’s something vaguely disturbing about these ads for the 1961 Imperial.

Yes, I just said ‘Imperial’, because at the time, it was a top-end standalone marque of the Chrysler Corporation, not a model of the Chrysler division.

"The eagle won't let them touch this car, trust me."

“The eagle won’t let them touch this car, trust me.”

While all the signifiers of mid-century high society are present in the ad – a glamorous women dressed for a night out, minimalist background, GOLD EVERYWHERE – a strange undercurrent runs through these ads.

For some reason, I can’t view these ads without thinking of the Nuremburg Rallies and Nazi architect Albert Speer.

Maybe it’s the grandiose style of it all, but when you add all that glittering, finned excess to the somewhat menacing artwork, the minorities treated as a zoo exhibit, and the eagle, that (in my books) equals a passcode to a dangerous and powerful secret society.

Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised to see one of these sedans parked outside an Eyes Wide Shut-style Illuminati sex party.


 Imperial: the rich uncle that keeps re-appearing


The Imperial name is firmly fixed to the Chrysler brand. After all, it was the ‘affordable luxury’ model that put the fledgling company on the map in 1926.

Since then, it has come and gone from the lineup, re-appearing most recently in the early 1990s as a luxury sedan positioned above the New Yorker. Previously, it had served as a problem-plagued flagship coupe (1981-83).

A monstrous and possibly demonic Imperial concept car was unveiled in 2006, though it came to nothing.

The ’61 model seen here came from (or grew out of) a revered era at Chrysler.

To better allow Chrysler to challenge Lincoln and Cadillac, Imperial was turned into its own range-topping marque in 1955, where it would stay until 1975.

Movie star and super-stud Gary Cooper chats up Jane Russell and her '57 Imperial.

Movie star and super-stud Gary Cooper chats up Jane Russell and her ’57 Imperial.

Just like with Plymouth, Dodge and Chrysler, the low, finned ‘Forward Look’ styling of designer Virgil Exner was applied to Imperial in 1957, generating great acclaim, but by the turn of the new decade (after numerous tweaks and add-ons) it was looking awkward and dated.

The dawn of the 1960s was an all-around confusing time for Chrysler design, though Imperial at least didn’t have to contend with downsizing. That didn’t mean a large, long car couldn’t be made to look strange, however.

Virgil Exner, former Chrysler design head (Image via)

Virgil Exner, ex Chrysler design head (Image via)

1961 brought an edgy new front end for the Imperial, with odd freestanding headlights perched atop the bumper and recessed into a fender cut. Ahead of the rear axle, the look was cohesive and reasonably appealing, but the bat wing tailfins throw the whole design into confused disarray.

Seemingly out of good ideas, Virgil Exner was ousted from his position of head of design in 1962. His successor (Elwood Engel, formerly of Ford) brought Imperial away from the heights of outlandishness and towards a more conventional, simple design.

And so he did. Sharp lines and Lusitania-like length was the name of the game for the rest of the decade, before the ‘fuselage’ bodied Imperials bowed in 1969.

While the Kennedy Era was short-lived, it was memorable for both its experimentation and its focus on style and grace.

Some cars from this era – like the 1961 Continental – became timeless icons of tasteful American design. Others, such as this Imperial, can best be filed under ‘tired relics of 1950s excess’.

In its defence, at least it didn’t start a war.

Albert Speer's 'Cathedral of Light', Germany, 1937 (Image via)

Albert Speer’s ‘Cathedral of Light’, Germany, 1937 (Image via)


Rust Belt

Still holding it together...but just barely.

Still holding it together…but just barely.

Beaters this bad are a rarity these days – so much so that this corrosion conveyance merits its own blog post.

Yes, this is the sedan version of the 4th Generation Honda Civic (1987-1991), a popular compact that started life weighing 2,200 pounds, but in this case has probably shed weight since.

Badging on this rusting relic was non-existent, but judging by the bargain basement black bumpers, it’s a low end trim level – likely the DX or the unfortunately-named STD (an apt designation for a ‘stripper’ model).

The late-80s Civic had style to spare! (*cough*)

The late-80s Civic had style to spare! (*cough*)

Assuming that all cylinders are firing, the owner of this Bush, Sr. era econobox regularly enjoys either 70 or 92 horsepower from the car’s fuel-injected 1.5-litre engine.

But the age of the vehicle isn’t what made me stop, it was condition all the way.

Clearly a car that has seen much use in the salt-encrusted northern climes, the fact that this less-than-cared-for ride is still on the road is a testament to the Civic’s rock-solid drivetrain.

Though less common on the road nowadays, Civics of the late 80s and early 90s used to be a big deal. Affordable, easily customizable and with inherently good handling, old Civics possessed compact clout. Sedans weren’t as appealing as the two-door hatch, however.

As I marvelled over this car, nostalgia crept into me, along with some questions.

Once upon a time, rusty beaters held together with duct tape and chicken wire used to be a much more common sight, at least in my neck of Ontario.

Growing up in the 1980s and 90s, the roads seemed filled with aging Oldsmobiles covered in rust and Bondo, vinyl tops faded and peeling.

1972 Buick LeSabre Custom, spotted in Edmonton, Alberta.

Quintessential ‘beater’ (1972 Buick LeSabre Custom) spotted in Edmonton, Alberta.

What was it? Are newer cars just better built, and thus don’t rust so badly? Not according to the Pontiac Sunfire in my work parking lot.

Were interest rates so high back then that fewer people financed new cars? That could be partly true for the Eighties, when 20% was deemed low.

Maybe it’s just the haziness of memory, and the fact that back then, a ‘beater’ meant a landau-riffic road yacht from the Seventies. Plenty of contrast to be had between one of those square-rigged barges and your average modern hatchback.

Suddenly, it’s 1961!

A couple of recent bold car designs have been bothering me as of late, leaving me with a loose feeling of styling déjà vu.

The first design is the corporate SUPER GRILLE(!) of contemporary Lexus vehicles, what with its gaping proportions and pinched middle. The treatment was recently applied to the stalwart ES 350, giving the otherwise conservative sedan a dash of visual presence.

The other design is the new Nissan Murano, with its ultra-curvy flanks and unusually angled rear end architecture.

Where, oh where, had I seen these elements before?

Oh, yeah – in Chrysler Corporation’s awkward, identity-confused 1961 models. That year saw the company break free of the high-finned look that, while fresh and exciting when introduced in 1957, had become dated by 1960.

The Lexus grille brings to mind the jarring front of the 1961 Plymouth – a design that lasted one year and was compared to the face of an insect by some critics.

The Lexus ES 350, now with new grille (Image: Toyota Motor Corporation)

The Lexus ES 350, now with new grille (Image: Toyota Motor Corporation)

1961 Plymouth: a face not for forgetting.

1961 Plymouth: a face not for forgetting.

There’s much to look at in the Murano, but its rear haunches are strongly reminiscent of the 1961 Dodge and its odd, ‘reverse tailfin’ design.

Those concave body flares turned off buyers and even presented a safety risk to other motorists, thanks to the undersized, hard-to-spot taillights placed below them.

1961 Dodge Dart Seneca: a new (fin) direction (Image via)

1961 Dodge Dart Seneca: a new (fin) direction. (Image via)

2015 Nissan Murano (Image: Nissan Motor Company)

2015 Nissan Murano (Image: Nissan Motor Company)

Like the Plymouth, the design of the ’61 Dodge didn’t live to see another calendar year. It was an awkward time for the Big Three automakers,  each of whom was struggling to break free of the design direction of the past to bring to market a fresh, modern design for a new decade.

Some things don’t really change in business, and getting noticed is still paramount for automakers. It’s not surprising that some elements of the past have been resurrected, albeit unknowingly – after all, there’s only so many ways to bend sheet metal.


Join the club

"Look over here!" screams the Lexus RX 350 F-Sport (Image: Toyota Motor Corporation)

“Look over here!” screams the Lexus RX 350 F Sport (Image: Toyota Motor Corporation)

“Everyone’s doing it.”

That statement can serve proudly as the reason why fads become as widespread and prolific as they do, and why it takes so long for the hip-to-passé cycle to play itself out.

Hell, I’m still waiting for the neck beard/tattoo/slob look to die out, and that look is just ugly and stupid.

It’s no different with cars. In fact, it’s rampant in the auto industry.

The other day I found myself in a discussion with two fellow car buffs and this very subject came up.

Grilles, as you may have realized, are the new tailfins or decklid spoiler. Across the automotive landscape, cars – even stodgy low-end luxury sedans – are adopting gaping, wide, aggressive mouths. Think anything new from Lexus, the Toyota Camry/Avalon, or the new Mitsubishi Outlander (whose only change is a BIG NEW GRILLE).

"You think yours is big? Getta load of this!" - 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander (Image: Mitsubishi Motors North America)

“You think yours is big? Getta load of this!” – 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander (Image: Mitsubishi Motors North America)

My friend denounced the newly ubiquitous grille treatment he saw sweeping the world, but I just saw it a part of the inevitable evolution of design.

Throughout history, when one company makes a splash by going heavily in one direction, others often drop everything to hastily emulate the next big thing.

“Stop what you’re doing, Bob – we’re going in a new direction.”

“But we’re almost finished the project! We’ll be read to roll out in a few weeks!”

“Forget it, Bob. Big grilles went out with powdered wigs and smoking in elevators. They’re yesterday’s news. We’re hearing that fender skirts are coming back. It’s gonna be big, so get cracking. We want ours to be the biggest – don’t stop till they hit the ground.”

Design and styling conventions can define an era, especially in the auto world.

High-flying tailfins in the ’50s, ‘pony’ and muscle cars in the ’60s, baroque, vinyl-clad faux luxury in the ’70s, minivans and hatchbacks in the ’80s, SUVs in the ’90s – the list goes on.

Changes in actual styling are often quicker to be adopted, and dumped, simply because no company wants their products looking old. Think of the elimination of running boards (circa 1940-42), the proliferation of pillarless hardtops (c. 1955), the raised tailfin (c. 1957), quad headlights (c. 1958), compact car offerings (c. 1960) and the ditching of raised tailfins (c. 1960-62).

With all of these styling fads, however, there have been holdouts.

The 1959 Chevrolet design: on a gull wing and a prayer (Image via)

The 1959 Chevrolets: on a gull wing and a prayer (Image via)

Ford really didn’t go all-in for the tailfin thing, leaving that party for GM and Chrysler. The stacked headlight motif of the mid-to-late 1960s (favoured by Plymouth and Ford) saw the last member of the Low-Priced Three (Chevy) call in sick.

This me-too phenomenon has its own dangers, though. Follow too close in the wake of the Next Big Thing, and you could find yourself pulled down when it all sinks.

Ford found that out when, after discovering the plans for the radically styled 1959 Chevrolet, it scrapped its planned 1960 models in favour of a production version of its Quicksilver design concept car (which contained elements similar to the Chevy).

Ford learned its lesson with its 1960 models, which were meant to emulate '59 Chevys.

Ford learned its lesson with its 1960 models, which were meant to emulate ’59 Chevys.

The radical Chevy turned off many traditional buyers, while the boxy and conservative ’59 Ford sold well. The next year Ford was forced to roll out its new take on the ’59 Chevy even as Chevy was planning a return to ‘safe’ styling.

As soon as it became possible, Ford corrected its mistake and went the conservative route as well. Buyers returned.

Maybe one day we’ll see a backlash to big grilles, forcing automakers to revert back to their early ’90s designs (Front air slit? Check). Until then, open wide and enjoy the ride.