Automobile esthetics

Erik Christensen's picture
Submitted by Erik Christensen on Tue, 2007-07-31 22:35

A question has been on my mind of late: what sort of esthetics make an automobile truly a machine of beauty? I look at the Toyota Prius and I see boredom and what appears to be an assault of sorts on the genius and beauty of design and flow. Of course, that can be expected seeing as the car is designed to please and appease the environmentalist types; small, ugly, insignificant, guilt-for-even-being-on-the-road, and unwilling to stand out. So, what do you think?-what type of car would you say is worthy of the esthetic beauty which us Objectivists value?

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Bugatti Veyron vs. Eurofighter Typhoon Jet

Suma's picture

Drag Race!!

P.S. I am unable to embed youtube videos. I copied over the embed code, and I don't have rich text enabled in my editor, so that can't be messing up the HTML. Do I need to do anything else?

P.P.S I guess the Drupal embed filter is not installed..(I recall seeing a post from Jameson with an embedded video, but can't find it now)


Casey's picture

Love my 2006 silver Mustang. VROOOM!

The new Maserati coup is pretty awesome, too.


Marnee's picture

If you don't drive an 80's Mercedes diesel then you haven't lived. It is the closest thing to a Hammond Car that can be had.

The Craftsman

Stephen Boydstun's picture

This is a follow-up to the post Memories earlier in this thread.

There is a new book whose title is The Craftsman (Yale University Press).

The author is Richard Sennett.


From the back cover:

 “Defining craftsmanship far more broadly than ‘skilled manual labor’, Richard Sennett maintains that the computer programmer, the doctor, the artist, and even the parent and citizen engage in a craftsman’s work. Craftsmanship names the basic human impulse to do a job well for its own sake, says the author, and good craftsmanship involves developing skills and focusing on the work rather than ourselves. In this thought-provoking book, one of our most distinguished public intellectuals explores the work of craftsmen past and present, identifies deep connections between material consciousness and ethical values, and challenges received ideas about what constitutes good work in today’s world.

The Craftsman engages the many dimensions of skill—from the technical demands to the obsessive energy required to do good work. Craftsmanship leads Sennett across time and space, from ancient Roman brickmakers to Renaissance goldsmiths to the printing presses of Enlightenment Paris and the factories of industrial London; in the modern world he explores what experiences of good work are shared by computer programmers, nurses and doctors, musicians, glassblowers, and cooks. Unique in the scope of his thinking, Sennett expands previous notions of crafts and craftsmen and apprises us of the surprising extent to which we can learn about ourselves through the labor of making physical things.”

My wallpaper

Sandi's picture

There isn't usually much room in the jet for the shopping basket and the eggs always break.

The best looking road-legal

Duncan Bayne's picture

The best looking road-legal motorcycle ever made:
Ducati 916

And on the move they're even better:


Buy and wear InfidelGear - 100% of all InfidelGear profit goes to SOLO!

My personal favorite

Landon Erp's picture

The price of liberty is eternal VIGILANCE.


Erik's picture

Cadillac has done it, again, with this groundbreaking new car aptly called the Provoq. Reminds me of the Galt motor. If this type of car can be produced in the mixed economy of the USA, just imagine the lofty heights man could achieve in a true laissez-faire capitalistic system!

Gorgeous work, PC...

Jameson's picture

Got anymore shots of the house? Smiling

Still life, with automobile

Peter Cresswell's picture

Two examples of fine aesthetics:
'Still life, with automobile, I.'
--> MG Midget outside a just completed house by Organon Architecture in Hamilton, NZ.

And then:
'Still life, with automobile, II.'

--> Fiat Spider outside offices of Organon Architecture, Mt Eden, Auckland.

You see, when it comes to cars and aesthetics, Europeans and poms always do it better. Smiling

Cheers, Peter Cresswell

* * * *

**Setting Brushfires In People's Minds**

**Integrating Architecture With Your Site**

Mmm-mmm sexiest arse I've

Lance's picture

Mmm-mmm sexiest arse I've ever seen.
Free Image Hosting at

Free Image Hosting at

Back to the Future!!

Jameson's picture

The Delorean Mk2 is in production!

Yummy NSX

Laure Chipman's picture

Well, I think it's gorgeous! But yeah, it doesn't have a "friendly face" like my CRX.


Ross Elliot's picture

Thanks for mentioning the Honda NSX. It was a great and affordable supercar, looked down upon by the pretentious jerks that think anything that comes out of Europe has the sun shining out of its ass. The damn thing went like a cut cat due to its sensational power-to-weight ratio and handled just as well with its mid-engined design and stiff body.

But, despite the Pininfarina body, I can't say that I found it particularly beautiful... much like a 911: it ain't meant to be gorgeous, just *nasty*.

Performance throgh light weight

michael fasher's picture

If you want to buy light weight cars one of the best cars in the world is the Lotus Elise ,My favorite Honda is the NSX one of the greatest cars of all time.
The new Audi R8 looks promising


Ross Elliot's picture

"I've always liked WWII vintage german staff cars"

I find the battlefield grey clashes with my complexion.

I've always liked WWII

albertkint's picture

I've always liked WWII vintage german staff cars

The automobile in many ways

Erik Christensen's picture

The automobile in many ways is representative of man's independence, strength, and glory, like an extension of himself, which is why so many greenies would outlaw the car if they could. Unfortunately, thanks to the government, the automobile is being stifled by massive environmental and 'safety' design regulations, prohibitive taxation, and draconian Federal red-tape via (in the USA) the FAA, literally choking off what would otherwise be a revolution in automobile technology.

Laurie, the CRX has quite a

Erik Christensen's picture

Laurie, the CRX has quite a cult following akin to that of Fiero lovers.
Linz, what year was your Daimler?
As a young'n I was sure there'd be hover cars by the year 2000.-damn FAA.

Linz's Locomotion

Lindsay Perigo's picture

It's a good thing Lindsay doesn't own a car--or perhaps even drive--as I'm sure he'd launch into some tirade about the automobile equivalent of "headbanging caterwauling"

I would certainly have no ... er ... truck with an infernal contemporary contraption. I have owned and driven classic cars only. Two Rovers and a Daimler. Like their owner they were stately, magnificent ... and high- maintenance.

My ideal

Laure Chipman's picture

By the way, here's my ideal (...but the Ferrari's nice, too..):

A post I liked on the subject

Laure Chipman's picture

This thread reminded me of a post that a member of a Honda CRX forum made awhile back, which I liked so much that I kept! Here it is, posted by permission, by Mike Mock ("Kwicko" on of Austin, TX:

There's something that's been tickling my brain lately, but it just wouldn't come into focus. It's been there in the background, a half-formed thought train, an always-present white noise; I tried to ignore it, but it wouldn't go away. I've been looking at the new cars that have been coming out, and the new concepts and previews of cars that will be coming out in the next few years, and it finally hit me: we're in a "siege mentality". For some reason, the styling of our newer cars reflects a societal fear: fear of attack, fear of accidents, fear of others, fear of ourselves. When did our cars turn against us? At what point did our collective personal transportation choices make the change from "escape pod" to "panic room"?

Let's look at the evidence. Weight: Just about the lightest production cars you can buy here in the USA are the Toyota MR-2 Spyder and the Mazda Miata. Both tip the scales at over 2400 pounds. Featherweights by today's standards, but still almost a quarter ton HEAVIER than many of our CRXs. The more mainstream cars still pummel the scales at over 3500 pounds - well up from my "big car", an Accord wagon. And the average SUV, the newest form of rolling protection, will crush the scales at 5000 pounds or more. Chrysler's Pacifica "sport tourer" checks in at a zaftig 4700 pounds, and several SUV models now weigh over 6000 pounds. At those wieghts, the trucks BETTER be able to go off-road, as they are in danger of crushing the roads they travel on into gravel!

Are we now terrified that we don't have enough mass surrounding us? Are we so terrified by the threat of terrorism that we now have to have automotive structures capable of surviving the Twin Towers collapsing on them? Or is the steady increase in our cars' wieghts just indicative of our own avoirdupois? Are we driving fat cars because we, as a nation, are fat?

Even cars that aren't all that heavy are still styled to LOOK like they are. Call it "perceived mass"; the stylists want you to look at that car and see something that isn't just put together - it's carved out of a single billet of steel. That look works well on cars like the VW Jetta and Golf, but it makes the new Nissan Maxima just look... really, really, REALLY heavy. The new 350Z looks much more massive (as in weighty, not huge) than it is, and that's no easy feat: at 3500 pounds, it's got a few over the Corvette, which has never been known as a lightweight.

Styling: The new theme seems to be "castle keep". Look at the windows of the new cars. From the Audi TT to the Nissan 350Z, from the Chrysler 300C to the Hummer H2, the new window treatment seems heavily biased towards the "gunslit" look. What's next? Cross-shaped windows so we can aim our crossbows out? Style-wise, are the new cars being designed for "Fortress Amerika"?

I look at my CRX, and I feel a little anachronistic. I'm a man out of time. I love the look of a CRX, and I loved the styling of my 1990 Acura Integra. In fact, I love just about ALL the Honda cars from the late '80s to the early/mid-'90s. Why? Because they had great lines, but also because they had great SIGHTLINES. Look at a second-gen Integra or a first-gen Legend Coupe. Look at all that glass in the greenhouse. It's a personality trait embodied in sheetmetal and glass - lots and lots of glass. It says, "Let's go see what's out there! Let's go have a look. Let's go sightseeing. The world is out there waiting to be seen." The second-generation CRX shares that same can't-hardly-wait feeling of bubbling enthusiasm. The world is a great place, full of wonderful things to see and do. It's an optmistic outlook, and one that I fully embrace.

Now look at the new Z, or just about ANY new car. They're cars to be seen, but certainly not to be seen in, nor to see out of. They have tiny little windows, high beltlines, and thick pillars. They'd be great places to defend oneself against Mel Gibson's invading hordes from "Braveheart", but the message I get from them in traffic is, "I hate this; I hate driving, I hate you, I don't want to be attacked, and I don't want to see anything but straight ahead. Please don't hurt me or try to show me things along the way."

Like I said at the outset, these things have been bugging me lately, and it's just started to congeal in my head that we (in the US at least) seem to have traded in our sense of awe and wonder, our decades-old joy for the roadtrip, for one of over-arching dread. Are the new cars safer? Certainly. High-strength steel stampings have helped, as have side-front-rear-everywhere-airbags. But do we really NEED the thigh-thick A-pillars that are now de rigeur on every new car? Are you really THAT afraid of being in a rollover? Is it something that happens to you on a regular basis?

I'm still of the opinion that the easiest wreck to survive is the one that you were never in in the first place. If *safety* (whether real or perceived) were my sole reason for buying a vehicle, I wouldn't have chosen a CRX. But that's not to say there's no safety to be found behind the wheel of a CRX; far from it. My car has allowed me to SAFELY AVOID any number of accidents where the bonehead in his crush-proof Truckinator attempted to run over me. Sadly, there are no safety statistics to prove the effectiveness of ACTIVE safety devices, like light steering, good, responsive controls, quick directional change, and low mass.

To rehash and paraphrase an overused and often-repeated post-9/11 phrase, if the state of the world has you cowering behind the mailslot windows of your new behemoth, haven't the terrorists already won?

So, from behind the wheel of my CRX, driving an "unsafe" car at "unsafe" speeds and still living to tell the tale, I have to ask the question: America, when it comes to cars, what are you so afraid of?

The concept car phenomenon

Erik Christensen's picture

Excellent Stephen, thanks for sharing your story. The concept car really was at its peak during the late 50's early 60's. Although I don't know of any that actually make it to the market (with the exceptions of some kits that you can buy) most of them do set a design standard which is then incorporated piecemeal into the designs of major manufacturer's, more so with sports cars. The great thing about concept cars is that they usually reach for the stars in design, innovation, and technology.


Stephen Boydstun's picture


Fisher Body Craftsman's Guild



In 1962, when I was fourteen, I began designing futuristic styles of automobiles for the annual competitions held by the Fisher Body division of General Motors. Boys had a chance to win cash awards or a scholarship through this contest.

The organization would send us a newsletter which included photos of past winners and guidelines for good craftsmanship and design. As best I recall these many years later, our design principles were simplicity, unity of theme, balance, and rhythm (repetitions of elements). Colors and textures (interior) were important, not only form. We strove for a graceful clear form suggesting motion and strength.

So each year for 5 years, I designed and built a model from scratch, as did hundreds of other boys across the country. The deadline for completion was about a week after the school year would end. By then you needed to ship your model to Warren, Michigan, for the judging. The models were 1/12 scale. You ordered the hard rubber tires from Warren, but everything else was built by the contestant. As I recall, the models were judged by three criteria: craftsmanship, artistic merit, and practicality.

It was in designing my first car that I became a creator. The media and arenas would change through the years, but the imperative would never ever stop: create.

Four of my cars were built of poplar wood, one of industrial plaster. I modeled directly in clay, as I could not draw. Bumpers and trim were usually made of aluminum, which I filed to shape and polished. One year I made the front bumper from a stiff little steel coil spring, which I ground and filed into a rectangular outer surface all along its length. I then had it chrome plated. I have so many memories of such novel techniques. One year I was building a model that was to have a windshield that needed a crease in its center. Windshields, we made of clear plastic sheet. I was not getting a good result heating the plastic and then pulling it over a wooden form I had made. My father instructed me on how to turn my wooden form into a lead one that might work better. First I got the lead by taking apart an old battery. Then I built a sand mold in which the cavity into which the lead would be poured was made by impression from my original wooden mold. When I stretched the softened plastic over the lead mold, I got the crease I was after.


Oh, Jesus...

Ross Elliot's picture

...not another McLaren fan. I thought they all got arrested after that whiskey-for-fuel scandal back in '05.

What car would Howard Rourk design

michael fasher's picture

McClaren F1 built only to be perfect with the objective requirement of being the fastes and most perfect supercar everything is there for a reason


Ross Elliot's picture's a good topic, and it applies to everything we hold dear and admire. It's a good thing Lindsay doesn't own a car--or perhaps even drive--as I'm sure he'd launch into some tirade about the automobile equivalent of "headbanging caterwauling"...

the Italian job

Erik Christensen's picture

...they make good shoes, too.


Ross Elliot's picture

Money no object? Oh, you tease.

Without a doubt, it's Ferrari. And my current fave is the 575 Maranello. Beautiful Pininfarina body and glorious performance from the 5.7 litre V12.

Mine would be in Ferrari Red, of course.

You asked about the aesthetics of car design. I think Joe is right, it's as difficult as music, excepting the extremes. The Italians have a gesture, and they apply it to anything that leaves them speechless; good wine, food, design... and when a Ferrari glides by. It's a spontaneous, graceful, upward movement of the hand, as if to say: there it is, what more could you want.

I understand your Ford, I just don't like it. I can see it as the car that Hank and Dagny drove on their vacation. But to me it's like the Batmobile, and it's not about practicality--witness my Ferrari--it's about something else...


Erik Christensen's picture

Ross, so you don't like the FORD Interceptor. I disagree with your judgment of the car, but that's neither here nor there. If money were no issue, what would be your dream car?

I want one of these...

Jameson's picture

with the 50 cal. accessory...

Form and function, guzzles gas like there's no tomorrow, and you never have to wash it.


Ross Elliot's picture

...that car is ugly.

Boxy, heavy, small windows, a throwback to when technology didn't admit sleek yet strong designs. It's the architectural equivalent of a mud hut.

Erik, Erik, Erik...

JoeM's picture

For starters, I disagree about the hybrids. Some people like Harleys, some people like Hondas. Some people like Lamborghinis, some people like Lexus, some people like cupcakes...I for one, prefer muffins....


Spaceplayer Sight and Sound

Joe, Joe, Joe....

Erik Christensen's picture

Joe, Joe, Joe....

No, I didn't.

JoeM's picture

"So, what do you think?-what type of car would you say is worthy of the esthetic beauty which us Objectivists value?"

Which esthetic beauty? The esthetic beauty which us Objectivists value? If you are talking about "real beauty based upon objective judgement on esthetics applied to automobile design..." then the qualifier "which us Objectivists value" is redundant and unnecessary. Or, did you mean "which US Objectivists value?" Which "us" are you referring to?

Hell, people around here can't even agree on musical preferences...even among shared genres...


Spaceplayer Sight and Sound

You missed the point entirely

Erik Christensen's picture

Joe, I'm assuming that you have read 'The Romantic Manifesto'? There is real beauty in all mediums. Maybe you could explain to me how my question is 'bogus' and 'tribalistic'. I never said anything about 'objectivist' cars, music, or movies, etc. if you read my post thoroughly, I was talking about real beauty based upon Objectivist esthetics applied to automobile design, same as Rand applied to architecture, art, music and the like. Take it easy on the attacks, buddy. CONTEXT.

(No subject)

Erik Christensen's picture

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JoeM's picture

"So, what do you think?-what type of car would you say is worthy of the esthetic beauty which us Objectivists value?"

This is a bogus question, and tribalistic, at that...there are no objectivist cars, no objectivist music, etc....

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