The Grand Tour

James May On What Makes a Car More Than Just a Car

This is a topic that I always seem to argue with my non-gearhead friends with. Their argument is always the same; “How can a car be anything more than a lifeless hunk of metal and electronics that simply gets you from Point A to B?” The reason why I hate this argument is because I have no hard scientific evidence that a car is, so the conversation always goes around and around. Imagine how pleased I was, then, when James May wrote about a similar topic on DriveTribe 2 days ago.

James’ piece focuses on Ferraris, but can be applied to many different aspects of loving cars (even though he basically states that no other car can do what Ferrari does). In his words:

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“It’s the styling. Because technology dates, eventually to the point of uselessness, the aesthetic is triumphant. That’s immediately true of high art, which has no utility, and it’s ultimately true of things like cars, which have a purpose to start with but eventually exist solely as part of the story of design, since driving them is awful (see above).”

Of course the first thing that comes to mind if you wish to offer a retort against Ferrari, is that there are plenty of other cars with fantastic, classic, and timeless styling as well. James agrees with you/us, but argues that Ferrari has only ever built contemporary cars.

“If you look at the history of Ferrari design, you will struggle to identify any obvious and recurring ‘design cues’ or stylistic leitmotiv in the shapes, beyond the badge. A Ferrari is always of its time: a Testarossa (the Wolf of Wall Street one) is quintessentially 80s, the Boxer was obviously of the 70s and the 250GT SWB the very early 60s. Being of its time, a Ferrari, in time, naturally assumes the right position in this thing we call design history. It helps, of course, that Ferraris have been the work of master stylists, but even so. They seem to me always to have seized the moment, looks-wise.”

James’ piece led me to think of my favorite car and its place throughout history: the Ford Mustang. Sure, I love the way Mustangs have looked throughout the years, the 1st gen models are also what I would say are quintessentially 60s, but I know not everyone feels that way. I personally like the way the Foxbody Mustang looks, but it appears that this style is the least popular amongst the Mustang crowds.

With that being said, I’m curious to hear your thoughts. Other than Ferrari, are there any other cars that you feel represent the same sort of contemporary styling that make its design timeless? let us know in the comments and on our Facebook page!

Tony Hsieh

Cars, the Buffalo Bills, video games, comics, sandwiches, jelly beans, and the shooting star press; these are the things that Tony loves (in addition to his family, of course). When he's not spending his time writing tech reviews for, Tony puts his lifetime love of muscle cars to use on his 2015 Mustang GT. Tony's top three favorite cars are the 1973 Mustang Mach 1, Ferrari 458, and Aston Martin DBS.

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