Not Robert Cumberford

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A failed car designer tries to make sense of a flat design world.

I want my Ghia Focus.

Ok, I know, I should get over it. It’s been almost 15 years since Ford showed the Ghia Focus concept car at the Turin auto show and stunned the auto design world (at least us students). The question is, for all of its kudos and popularity, why did we never see its design style translate into a production car?

I’ve heard cost as a reason, and I’m sure in 1992 that was a good one, especially at Ford, but I know that in the years that I was studying auto design (mid-nineties), the “bio” style that the Focus encapsulated was, at best, discouraged. I never got it, and still don’t. Look back at the photo below and tell me that this car isn’t still terrifically modern today. The Taurus was a half-assed attempt to apply Taru Lahti’s stunning shapes onto a production vehicle. But the Taurus was soft and mushy looking where the Focus was taut and solid. And the details, oh those details, have just never been seen since, despite huge advances in lighting and trim technology since 1992.

Ghia Focus

Ghia Focus

1996 Ford Taurus
In a world of rip-off retro (Ford with its T-bird and GT being the ironic worst offenders of this, despite Chrysler trying hard to compete for the “Lack of Imagination” prize), the Ghia Focus represents what could have been the future direction at Ford, or anywhere for that matter. Unfortunately, because soft shapes and organic style was considered “old-fashioned”, New Edge and “Flame-surfacing” (which evidently doesn’t have anything to do with Chris Bangle’s sexuality) took flight, giving us the groundbreaking…um…Ka and 7 series?. Yeah, ok, well, that’s all I could think of, and that’s the point.

Imagine if Ford had used the design language from the Ghia Focus on a production sportscar though. The world would have been awed, and buyers would’ve lined up. Imagine if Chris Bangle had embraced the simple sharp-edged lines and sensual surfaces of the Focus over the busy, overwrought, criss-crossing lines and forms he chose to reshape our beloved Bimmers? He’d be loved by one and all, and he could spout his peculiar form of artistic wisdom all day long without anyone telling him to shut his gob.

Sort of like I do.

So I’m still waiting. Anybody up for the challenge? Any designers brave enough to do something organic in todays slab-sided retro industry?

I sure hope so. I still want one.

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Category: Car design

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