CarQuiz 43: I wonder what a TVR app would have looked like

Do you regularly have the uncontrollable urge to rush out and buy an Audi calendar? As a gamer, is the one thing you are yearning for a game of Mercedes-Benz Quartet? When you are surfing for car videos on the Web, do you only wish to do so through a channel where all content is pre-approved by BMW group? Do you want an immersive 360 degree drive in a fantastic Porsche ruined by some saxophone player with a lisp sitting next to you blithering on about her latest recording?

If your reply to these questions is anything resembling “No” or “What are you talking about you massive tool”, I regret to inform you: you are very much mistaken muchacho. You see, Car manufacturers are freeing up considerable budgets these days for the production of Apps for smartphones and tablets. After the rigorous market research these industrial giants had performed to establish their target audience’s needs, the list above is exactly what you wanted your car app to be. Yep, no point in denying it: you favourite car brand has got you pegged.

From Limo's, can I have the Pullman please?

Now I may be completely wrong here. You may be in your thousands out there whiling away the nightly hours on these apps until your previously unsatisfied automotive quartet needs are fully satisfied. My guess is though, that this is not the case. My hypothesis, completely unsupported by research facts, is that many people may download these apps encouraged by the Car Manufacturers PR-machines and the official branding, but that the actual sustained use of them can broadly be categorised as disappointing.

Now if this was just another case of large companies with huge brands trying to find their way into the world of teh Intarweb, feeling out where their respective customer bases might pick up on their activities, this would be fine. Isn’t everyone trying to do so? What is really bugging me though, is that some of these car companies must have been sitting on what must be the Internet equivalent of a Crock O’ Gold since the dawn of the Web.

Just think of these two: “Car Configurator” and “Used Car Locator”. I mean sure: these

My impeccable taste on display via the medium of Car Configurator

items have been lumbering on the main websites of car companies since the Opel Kadett and they must have lost some of it’s sexiness and web-appeal to the budding car-marketeers of this world, but come on! They must know that people spend hours on their websites using them? Every Joe Public that is up for a new lease-car spends a year trying to decide if he’s going for the sunroof or the 18” wheels when he gets to order doesn’t he? Everyone in the market for a young 2nd hand car must look at the manufacturer’s website to see what is available with an official warranty.

Yet, not a single car manufacturer seems to have taken the effort to produce a kick ass car configurator or used-car app. It must be me then. I better fire up that app again that tells me what G’s I’m pulling on my daily commute to see if I can be bothered this time around.


CarQuiz 41: The doors they are a-sinking

So a pop-up headlight is a pretty cool feature for a car in my book; that much is clear. Those who disagree: it’s fine really. Those who are right: good to have you on my side.

So, did the demise of the upwardly mobile headlight leave the automotive landscape completely devoid of any interesting design features? Well if you purvey the dreariness that surrounds one in any given traffic situation on the public road today you can be forgiven for thinking so. However: trust CarQuiz to refresh your memories of those design gems that may have temporarily slipped your mind while you were staring desperately in the ever-glowing brake lights of that Hyundai in front of you at the traffic lights.

A school example of generating massive interest in a car model by introducing interesting design gimmicks must be the BMW Z1. From a long list of original design items THE stand-out feature of the car is the door construction. The doors open by sinking into the sills thus creating both the option to get in comfortably, as well as being able to drive the roadster “oldschool stylee” with apparently no doors in place. Cool? Undeniably so.

Still not convinced? The BMW Z1 was designed by a team led by Dr. Ulrich Bez, Currently CEO of Aston Martin. Much more importantly though, this is the very same man that led the design of both the Porsche 968 AND 993. Now, that ought to settle it.

CarQuiz 39: Meerkats in your mirror

Why modern day car manufacturers have not yet come up with a gimmick to fill the coolness vacuum caused by the disappearance of pop-up headlights is a mystery to me. Off course even the old nostalgic git in me can see the disadvantages of them in terms of manufacturing and reliability. I also do realise that, from a purely functional point of view, modern day alternative are vastly superior. But every car designer knows that a cool gimmick sells cars like nothing else and I for one have not yet seen an alternative on modern cars that scores an equal amount of coolness points.

Pop-up headlights have been around since the pre-war days in old Cords and Buicks but really had its heyday in my very own automotive formative days. As a small boy I was intrigued by them and their respective exact workings.

Off-course there was what I call the “Basic Pop-up light”, a lid in the hood that opened to reveal the headlight below it. Just think of an ordinary Celica or MR2 and think how those headlights just seem to set them apart from the more humdrum contemporary Toyotas. There have been countless variations on the pop-up theme though.

Chevrolet had a great run with their Corvettes, starting with the C2 which had an entire nose section rotate to display the two double sets of headlights, and all the way in to the C5 generation that sported pop-up’s until as late as 2004!

Porsche off course have offered one or two variants that are especially notable. Besides the run-of-the-mill pop-up headlights in their ordinary offerings such as the 924/944 and 911 Slantnose (!), they had some surprises up their sleeves. First off was the mighty 928 with

A Porsche 928

its lights sitting flush in the bonnet and pivoting up when activated, showing off those streamlined pods that housed the light assembly. Different and cool for sure, but to me they always reminded me of two meerkats standing up to sniff out danger. To me the more elegant and integrated action of the 968 has always been more pleasing (the fact I happen sit behind these quite a lot may have something to do with this I hasten to add).

This prelude leads me on to today’s CarQuiz solution: the Opel GT. One of my early schoolmate’s dads used to run one these in black. Its shape and it probably being the first sportscar I ever sat in, made an impression on me that stays with me until today. The most special moment though, was whenever my mates’ dad drove up to us kids, those headlights would spin on their axis and he would give us a flash. Magic!