No YOU Shut Up And Drive
Janis Hirsch illustration

Look Who’s Reporting on AutoDesignO

“AutoDesignO” Presents Cars of Character

By Janis Hirsch

A New Lois Lane

So Tara, the VroomGirl tutti VroomGirl, the Sassy Lass With Her Foot On The Gas, sez to me she sez: “Can you cover the AutoDesignO presentation “Cars of Character” at Warner Brothers Studio Tuesday night?”

Photo by Larry's Photoblog on LotusTalkYou have to understand something: Tara was at Newsweek for 17 years. She was a reporter for the New York Times. She’s written for virtually every single magazine published on quality, shiny paper. She is the real deal. I am not. I am a television writer by trade and VroomGirl columnist by choice but I’m in not any way a journalist. Although I’ve seen “His Girl Friday” about 1,000 times and when I have a head cold I sound like Rosalind Russell so there IS that.

To be asked to cover an actual big-deal industry event? I was all over it. I even bought a special Moleskin notebook – okay, it was in a charity goody bag but it had never been used before.

Pretty is as pretty does

Cadillac El MirajTo get to the event, we were driven across WB’s amazing backlot – the Marty McFly Clock Tower, the ER “L” train, Marion the Librarian’s house from “The Music Man” – oh wait, I’m here to cover “Cars of Character.” Hollywood will just have to wait.

The first thing I saw was the big, beautiful and totally bad-ass Cadillac Elmiraj from GM. Well, technically the first thing I saw was gorgeous, young, leggy model posing in front of the Cadillac Elmiraj. I felt short, fat and old in her presence and that’s exactly why I loved this car so much. If I were behind the wheel, it wouldn’t matter what I looked like: everyone would be drooling over the car.

Like a moth to a flame or me to a deli, I was drawn to the BMW i8 which is ridiculously beautiful. I know it’s extremely powerful and extremely energy-efficient but I’d drive one if it had the power of a golf cart and drank Premium like it was water. Let me hasten to add that I’d also drive one if I had $137,500 (starting), but it sure was easy on the eyes.

2015 Mazda MiataHyundai knocked me it out with its simple, clean, stunning lines. I think it was Coco Chanel who said: “Before you leave the house everyday, take one thing off.” Well, that’s what Hyundai’s design team did. There aren’t even door handles on the Genesis Concept Car: they’ll open when you want them too.

Remember the Mazda Miata? It didn’t just get a face lift, it got a full-body transplant. If I weren’t afraid of bugs in my teeth, I’d drive one of these convertibles forever.

The nexus of shoes and cars

I met a rep from 3DXCITE, a visualization company as in “visualizing designs in three dimensions,” not “visualizing world peace.” There were tons of ways this technology is being used in automotive design but after spending 30 seconds with me, she immediately switched gears and told me how the shoe industry was using this in shoe design and shoe shopping.

See? I came, I saw, I reported.

Winning is everything

We were ushered into to a plush auditorium for the “Cars of Character” presentation. Designers from Mazda, GM, Hyundai and BMW and a very astute moderator took their seats. I folded my arms and harrumphed: five white guys. Journalists don’t always have to say nice stuff, right? Because I was forming a diatribe in my head when it was announced that my name was randomly selected to win leather seats from Katzkin, the world’s leader in automotive interiors, and suddenly the world was rosy! I drive a 5-year-old Prius with filthy, shredded seats. OMG OMG OMG.

Those five white guys turned out to be the smartest, most interesting people around. I’m embarrassed it took a Lovely Parting Gift to make me realize that. Point taken.

How to design cute

The first question they discussed was “What makes a car cute?” I know it sounds like something Barbie would ask but these designers talked about the 1963 Mini Cooper in a way that was charming, disarming and fascinating. They discussed proportion – tiny is adorable – and they talked about the “face” of the car like a dad bragging about his baby. I thought it was just me who anthropomorphized cars, just me who liked the Mini Cooper’s big eyes and sweet smile.

But they always came back to the fact that car design should answer needs. The early Mini’s and the 3-wheeled VW Vortex were made for people who needed affordable transportation, period. They didn’t need bells and whistles, they weren’t looking to tow a boat: they needed a way to get from point A to point B efficiently.

Okay, so we know cute, but what makes a car look mean? To my surprise, none of the panelists thought any car looked mean with the possible exception of the Plymouth Fury “Christine.” The giant Ford F-150? No, that is an aggressive looking car. Do Aston Martins look mean? No, they said, not any more than a shark looks mean. (Which I think a shark does but I think there’s something in the Reporter’s Rule Book about injecting your own opinions into a story.)

The shark, they said, is an efficient killing machine. It must continually move and it must continually eat and it does so with nothing extra, not even power windows on the Great White.

Not only did I leave AutoDesignO “Cars of Characters” dreaming of dreamy Katzkin leather seats, I left confident that a passion for design, whether it’s on “Project Runway” or in any of California’s heralded automotive design studios, is a thing of beauty.

all photos by Larry's Photoblog on LotusTalk

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