Timeless Design

Timeless. Not the Clio or the RBS, you’ll understand.

Happened across this last week while away on business. I’ve always had a soft spot for Mazda RX7s for reasons I can’t quite explain. With the later models, I think part of it has to do with their timeless design. Looking at one of these things, it’s easy to forget it is twenty years old. I’m not a car designer, architect or art critic, so I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is that makes these FD RX7s so pleasing to the eye, but what I do know is that whenever I see one of these things – be it in 1992, 2002 or 2012 – it looks as good as it did the time before. Even the pop-up headlights, a car design feature that came into fashion with platform shoes and went out with shell suits, fit this car amazingly well. In fact, a clean, standard FD looks so good that any member of the Fast and Furious brigade that feel the need to deface this dying breed of car with massive spoilers, silly bumpers or daft paint jobs ought to be indicted at The Hague on charges of willful desecration of international cultural treasures.

There are a few other cars that fall into this timeless category as well, and the really funny thing is that it isn’t always the most expensive or fancy cars that manage to pull it off. The Honda NSX is one of the more exotic pieces of machinery that still looks the part more than two decades after it first hit the road, but by the same token the bog-standard Peugeots that came out in the mid-1990s such as the 106 and 406 still look pretty decent in the 21st Century. Granted, if you get into a Peugeot 106 and turn the key you’ll know right away that you’re driving something based on early 80s technology – believe me, I used to own a 106 – but at least your £250 car is still going to be one of the more attractive things in the Tesco car park.

There’s also something oddly enduring about the Phase 2 106…

Seeing an FD Mazda RX7 is a bit like watching an episode of The Jetsons nowadays. What you are seeing is someone in the past’s imagination of the future, and kind of like the cartoonists who drew the lovely curved, white structures in the Hanna-Barbara animation, whoever designed the FD RX7 managed to nail the tastes of people ten, twenty and probably thirty years later bang on. If there’s some sort of common factor linking together the FD, the NSX, the Jetsons and otherwise rubbishy Peugeots, it’s probably got something to do with silhouettes that manage to be curvy and flowing without being bloated. (I love dropping in parts of sentences that have the potential to accidentally snare Googlers casting around for an erotic novella).

I bet whoever designed this car in the late 1980s or whenever didn’t reckon that twenty-three years later, the bank outside which this car is parked would be part-owned by the British government. But given that car designers from this time gave us the FD RX7, Honda NSX, Toyota Supra and many others, they seem to have at least got something right. And as long as there are still some timeless classics like this knocking about to cheer me up on a cloudy day, I think I can just about bear the financial crisis. Too bad it means I don’t have any money to buy an RX7.

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