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Car design over the decades


I had a random thought on the way to work today. If you could distil the general style behind car design for each decade into a single description, what word would you use?

Here are the ones I came up with:

1910’s - Mechanical
1920’s - Enclosed
1930’s - ? (don’t know)
1940’s - Streamlined
1950’s - ? (couldn’t think of one that fit well enough)
1960’s - Moulded (as in clay)
1970’s - Carved (as in wood)
1980’s - Constructed (as in blocks)
1990’s - Grown (as in organic)
2000’s - Sculpted (as in stone)


Don’t forget Volvo Brick Design. :stuck_out_tongue:


1950s: finny/spacey


what i wanna know is, can I put fins, a 2 tone paintjob, and a dome canopy on a car made in 2006?


According to this book, “Car Design” by PaoloTumminelli, there are 24 styles of car design, until new ones are invented :smiley:.

I’ll put up a short description and examples of each when I’ll have some time. :slight_smile:


[size=150]Premodern Design(till the 1940s):[/size]

Form followed function and the car had clearly identifiable components. Aerodynamic principles were just coming into effect in design, examples bellow.

Citroen 11CV Traction Avant 1934

Lincoln Zephyr 1935

Citroen 2 cv 1949

VW Beetle 1938-1949



[size=150]Classic Design 1950s-1960s[/size]

Cars became very curvy and integrated more componentes into the body, but retained the lines and had similar proportions of the prewar cars. They were long and high, they retained the fender lines, the radiator was still integrated into the hood and had little developed tails.

Examples below:

Cadillac Sixty One Sedanet 1949

BMW 502 Coupe 1954

Jaguar XK 120 1948

Bentley type R 1950


[size=150]Soft Shell Design 1950s[/size]

The cars had rounded, flowing forms and continous horizontal lines between the fenders. The tails section was more developed and contained a trunk. These shapes were better suited for easy mass production.

Studebaker Champion 1947

Chrysler Newport Town and country 1950

Alfa Romeo 1900 1950

Fiat 600 1955


[size=150]Flow Shell Design 1950s-1970s[/size]

The features of this design were inspired by racing cars. Vehicles benefited from improved aerodynamics and weight reduction; they were more compact, had clean lines and modern proportions, the radiator and hood were lower than on previous cars, had better visibility and a flowing tail.

Cisitalia Tipo 202 Berlinetta 1947

Porsche 356 1951

Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint 1954

Lancia Aurelia GT B20 1951





[size=150]Rocket Design 1950s[/size]

During the Second World War the airplane developed very fast. Many engineers from a wide variety of industries were involved in that development and they fell in love with the look. This style of design took off in the 1950s when both jet travel and the space age were in their infancy and there was a wide fascination with rockets and airplanes. A variety of concept cars were produced during this period merging car with airplane and evoking outer-space.
These cars had features like domed roofs, projectile styled fronts and of course wings, fins and jet-pipes. Although these cars never went into production, they influenced the style of many cars of the era. Cars started sporting fins, bullet like front bumpers, rocket type noses and jet like tails. They also used a lot of chrome and achrylic glass.

Buick Le Sabre concept 1951

Chrysler 300 S Dart concept 1955
Alfa Romeo 1900 BAT 5 concept I 1953

Ford La Tosca concept 1955


more please ?


I advise more patience.


Oh Snap :smiley:


[size=150]New Line Design late 1950s early 1960s[/size]

This design style featured cars with flatter and wider bodies and a low center of gravity, intended to improve both looks and performance. Other significant characteristics were flatter and more straight metal work, an horizontal side line cutting the body in 2 and the the side trim became an important design element. Though the trend of this design was going towards straighter lines and more geometric shapes, the lack of alternatives for the traditional round headlights meant that it had to keep a stronger link with the past.

***Chrysler New Yorker Deluxe 195***5

Nash Ambassador concept 1955

Lincoln Continental Mk II 1956

Lancia Flaminia Berlina 1963


[size=150]Baroque Design 1955-1959[/size]

This style of design is characteristic almost entirely to the USA of mid to late 1950s. There were no specific design rules, though some elements, like the fins, were barrowed from the Rocket Design. The obsession was for bigger, better, brighter and shinier cars. It was also a time of two tone paint jobs in bright colours.

Ford Fairlane 500 4dr Victoria 1957

Chrysler New Yorker Hardtop coupe 1957

Cadillac Eldorado Brougham 1957

***Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz 195***9


Just chiming in to say: excellent work Marian87, and interesting stuff at the same time :slight_smile: Nice!!


Thanks :slight_smile:


[size=150]Edge Line Design 1960s onwards[/size]

The principles of the New Line design were adopted again but interpreted in a new way. This style was trying to project precision and funtionality by using sharp lines and orthogonal surfaces. It featured smaller double round headlights which were horizantally or vertically aligned or used rectangle headlights later on. The side was often sculpted in a V-angle and the size of the wheels was smaller so the interior could become larger.

Lancia Flaminia convertible 1961 (Boneschi body)

Pontiac Grand Prix Sport Coupe 1963

Fiat 130 berlina 1969

Ford Granada 1977


[size=150]Flow Line Design 1960s[/size]

Flow line keeps the modern proportions but uses soft flowing forms in convex metal surfaces, rounding off any edges.

1958 Triumph TR3 Italia prototype

1962 Lincoln Continental Convertible

Rover P6 3500, GB 1963

BMC 1800, concept I 1967