The Tatra V570 prototype and Volkswagen Beetle were similar not just in styling but also in mechanical design—close enough to see Volkswagen award Tatra in an out-of-court settlement.
“To use a well-known grill design from another marque while ignoring the myriad other options, including your own—current or historical—is possibly what set Donckerwolke off,” Meehan says, “More egregious, however, and likely to upset a designer is actually the treatment of the surfaces and details, like the movement of the shoulder line, the placement of the side vent, or even the wheel arch treatment—which is astonishingly similar between a modern Bentley and the Lincoln Continental concept. These are the little things that designers take pride in, so to see them on another car feels more personal, more like "stealing" perhaps, than the overall thing.”
I find it interesting that among designers, it’s often not the major styling features that cause concern; Meehan says a good example of this is why Bentley isn’t bothered by the Chrysler 300C, for instance—or why the new Ford Fusion’s grille doesn’t keep anyone from Aston Martin awake at night.
We share the same sentiment when it comes to blame being placed on vehicle regulations, crash standards, and all that bull. Meehan confirms my suspicions: headlight technology is such that nearly any shape desired can now be manufactured—especially on a flagship concept—and he says a modern car “grille” is now almost exclusively ornamental…for branding purposes.
That’s right: “branding purposes.” You may cringe, but we live in a world far removed from Lincoln’s success with iconic cars like the Zephyr and Continental models Mk. II–V.
Subconsciously, it’s the little design details that we love about cars like the Porsche 911—a car that will probably look largely same in 50 years. For enthusiasts, often what upsets us most is when we’re able to look at an automaker’s back catalogue and wonder why it’s so difficult to bottle some of that magic and slap a Monroney sticker on it.
“A brand with a glorious past and a tenuous future should be looking straight ahead rather than cribbing its answers from the smart kid next to them,” Meehan says. “It feels like they're using Bentley's words to tell their own story, rather than write it themselves. Those details aren't likely to be noticed by the press or public, but the design community obsesses over them.”
We all love classics, and no doubt have an idea in our heads about what we wish to see from new cars. At this point I’ll turn the story to you: What should a modern Lincoln be…and what should it look like?