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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Design: Flashback 1968 -- The Best Automotive Designs of 1968

By Noah Mallin

I know haters -- some of you love the design stuff and some of you loath it. Especially the car designs, but hold your noses because here are the best of 1968.

1) Pontiac GTO

Pontiac's 1968 GTO introduced the soft plastic-sheathed "Endura" front end, allowing for a smooth seemingly bumper-free front. This would become crucial for GM styling as federal law toughened bumper standards in the ensuing decade. Though mid-sized at the time, this was a huge car with flowing, tapered lines. Note the pillarless window openings.

2) Dodge Charger

The second generation Charger was a design icon, as well as a Hollywood star appearing in the movie Bulitt and TVs Dukes of Hazzard with a very un-PC Confederate Flag on the roof. Nevertheless with the tunnel style rear window and handsome sculpted lines its easy to see why so many people caught "Dodge fever".

3) Chevrolet Corvette

The radical 1968 Corvette design is synonymous now with hairy chested men wearing aviator sunglasses and polyester sport jackets who wink at "chicks" in the next car over before burning rubber as the light turns green. Is it just me? Chevy kept the basic shape in production until 1983 and every Vette since has paid homage to a design that itself was derived from the sensational mid 60s Mako Shark showcar. The sinuous fenders and pop-up headlamps were the apogee of space-age styling at the time and the simpler unadorned first year models still look terrific.

4) Aston Martin DBS

The DBS saw Astons getting bigger and more Grand Touring oriented, mixing sport and luxury together. Though it's taken longer to become a classic than it's DB predecessors the bluff chiseled exterior is perfectly judged. The body formed the basis of Astons well into the 1980s.

5) Ferrari P6 Concept

Pininfarina has long enjoyed its status as Ferrari's favored design house. The P6 concept was both of its time, particularly in the roof louvers, and a window into future Ferraris. The sculpted side indents would find their way onto models like the 308 in the late 70s and the front end shape was echoed in the Berlinetta Boxer in the early 70s. The smooth wedge shape hinted at the importance aerodynamics would begin to play over the following two decades as well.

6) Ferrai 365 “Daytona”

One of the most popular Ferraris ever, the 365, also known as the Daytona, is a perfect sinuous coupe. The convertible became very hot as a collector car in the 1980s thanks to TV's Miami Vice (which ironically used a cheap replica). This lead to a spate of dingalings chopping the roofs off of the gorgeous coupe to pass them off as factory convertibles. Mores the pity as the coupe is far better looking. The radical plexi-covered front fascia was replaced with more conventional pop-up headlights in the US due to outmoded regulations.

7) Jaguar XJ8

A truly gorgeous machine the XJ6 would stay in production with a few updates through 1986. The flowing bodywork has heavily influenced all subsequent Jaguar sedans for better or worse, but none have captured the elegant simplicity of the original.

8) Lamborghini Espada

Lamborghini could be counted on for original and sometimes oddball styling in the late 60s and this fits both descriptions. A long 2 + 2 that appears even longer thanks to it's low height and planed roofline. The body tucks under radically at the sides, complimenting the side glass angle above.

9) Opel GT

General Motors design was in the last stages of its golden age in the late 60s, not just in the United States but in Europe as well. The GT, made by their German Opel subsidiary was a tiny sport coupe subtly reminiscent of the much bigger Corvette. There are also elements of an aborted mid 60s Pontiac project called the Banshee. The proportions are exquisite, building on their clear Lotus inspiration into something original.

10) Lincoln Continental Mark III

Pimps need cars too. Until the Lincoln Continental Mark III they had to make do with Cadillac's Eldorado. The Mark III however sported then novel "retro" styling, baroque and over the top yet somehow still elegant. It would be a few years before the oval cutout windows would show up in the C-pillars but when they did the pimpmobile was born.

11) Oldsmobile Cutlass

The Cutlass was Olds family car, though the fire breathing 442 model was not to be trifled with. This was the best looking of GM's new intermediate bodied cars for 1968. Long, low and wide, they met the standard for typical Detroit design at the time but added great detailing like the hood and tapered rear deck and headlight clusters.

12) Bertone Carabo

Not to be confused with the awful Phoebe Cates film Princess Caraboo, the Bertone Carabo concept was Italian design at its most radical. Silly yes, but breathtakingly so. Again we have louvers like the comparatively restrained Ferrari P6 concept but here they are all over the rear like the Batmobile in safe mode. The wedge design is the ultimate in edgy and the scissor doors had not yet become cliche.

13) Bizzarini Manta

As you can see, louvers were big stuff in 1968. Design superstar Giorgetto Giugiaro penned his first independent design for this Bizzarini showcar. The wedge was also big but the elements here are handled with a light and deft touch, less in your face then Bertone and not as delicate as Pininfarina's Ferraris.

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