Just Drive She Said.
Who is designing cars for me, the Mid Gen X who grew up on the birth of the Internet, console games, new wave and an anything goes freedom never felt by any other generation? I’m talking about people who feel the Beatles are not classic rock but closer to geriatric rock, and Deep Purple is a colour not a band. We, on the early end, lived the Jam, Wham or Depeche Mode and on the young end, still constantly look for the next new band. So-called retro cars are all the rage now with each of the American manufacturers offering their rendition of muscle. Funny how retro means different things to different people. To me it means the ’80s; to the car makers it means the ’60s. Even a couple of the import companies had chimed in with remakes. I wonder though, in all that these cars stand for, reflect through their design, or conjure images of, how are they supposed to relate to me?
Drive my car.
Cars like the Camaro, Mustang, Chevy HHR, PT Cruiser and Challenger are all my dad’s cars, better relegated to sock hop playing AM radio station cruise nights than my driveway. The peace, love and flower power of the mini and the Bug, my mother’s cars, just don’t chime with where I am going. People this age, being in their sixties or seventies are not buying new cars to relive some part of their lives any more. Also not considered by these examples, less in the Mini and Bug, is the relationship between the vehicle’s performance and the way my generation lives, grows and attains the things we deem as valuable. We don’t do as our parent did. That eye on the prize, one way, straight line reach out and grab it style of life and learning. We are more about round about routes to what we want, multiple paths to a goal which isn’t clearly defined but grows as we learn and grow. We change direction at a whim and are comfortable with our choices, good or bad. We look for cars which reflect this. Going 0-60 fast a quarter mile at a time is not interesting to us. We want to feel secure going around corners as a reflection of our lives and lifestyle choices.
Don’t you want me.
Then there are the models which came into their own during the ’90s and are still in production now. I’m talking of the Civic and Accord, the Mazda 3, Lancer, Pontiac G5/Chevy Cobalt which as far as I can tell is a Z24. Sure they grew up, got more sophisticated, lost some of their cheapness, and inexpensiveness. But I sure didn’t put posters of them up on my wall back in the ’80s wishing I was cruising to school in one. Like most gear heads my age, I dreamed of a Lamborghini Countach or the Magnum PI Ferrari. I envied those with jobs who drove a Nissan 280ZX or a Toyota Supra. I wanted the bike from Akira with all the technology of a Q masterpiece. After waiting 20 years could my dreams be answered? From first glimpse at the Tokyo Motor Show in 2001 of the square jaw and open mouth, to the 2005 concept car which by now looked as if it were a real transformer, I held my breath they would bring it here.
A new orphan urban integrated.
The Nissan Skyline was an unattainable pinnacle of Japanese power. It was shown off in tuner magazines before the term tuner even existed. My stomach knotted up and my lip curled just thinking about the Skyline and how it was the one car, where no matter how much I earned, I could never have living in North America. Guys in Japan pounding out 1000HP from an R32 car that looked the business. Just looking at the car you could tell it did corners, and that you could probably intimidate anyone with American muscle into giving up at the line before even launching. When the fifth generation R34 design came out it was a sleek brick of a car with low stance that looked like it was hunkered down to the road. From the flared fenders and strong hip line to the massive intakes in all the right places the design said fast. When you looked at the lines of the car, you could see the earlier models. You saw where the car came from. And, you could see the way in which its boxy form seemed to have been sculpted by speed so fast it had melted the solid steel into its final shape. This was a car that could seat four, had a trunk big enough to fit a sub box and a rack of amps and still have room to spare.
Robot High School.
When the Z roadster became a stylish poster vehicle for the Nissan’s turnaround, nobody knew what a Nissan was supposed to be. Now, Nissan’s brand is much less muddied, and the GT-R is more likely to refine, rather than redefine, the company’s image. The new GT-R is boxy, with thick, chunky rear haunches and flared front-wheel well arches. Shiro Nakamura, the chief creative officer of Nissan, has noted that the GT-R’s square lines and vents were influenced by Gundam robots. “The GT-R is unique because it is not simply a copy of a European-designed supercar, it had to really reflect Japanese culture.” He directed three design studios, one in Europe, one in North America, and one in Japan to dream up the next version of the vehicle. American designers contributed a more rounded set of contours on the rear three-quarters of the vehicle, softening the stark, flat trunk lines which were drawn in Japan. The European designers influenced the roof line of the car, adding a hard kick in the C-pillar unlike in any other current Nissan vehicle. “There are no big cues for Nissan here,” says Nakamura. “This one will stand alone, because the GT-R is built from its own design language.” The company Polyphony Digital, creators of the Gran Turismo series of racing video games, were involved in the development of the GT-R, having been contracted to design the GT-R’s multifunction display.
I’m looking forward to having some time with this car as I really like the lines, the weight and the overall form of its sculpture. The way in which a sculpture leaves the ground is as important as the sculpture itself. I am also looking forward to seeing if the in-car computer display goes that extra mile and forges a new path. I am interested to see if the interface was as thought out as the rest of the car. Too often the correlation between the virtual and the physical is ignored or left as a side thought. Done right, and this will be the car to redefine cars. If Nissan and Polyphony Digital put half as much thought into the interface of the multifunction display as was put into the form of the vehicle, this car will mark a point where super cars will be described as before GT-R or after GT-R.