Just to prove that in Britain we're living right now through a remake of 1978-83, my walk to work through Camberwell and Peckham featured a couple of proper British '70s Fords today - a 1979 Escort MkII estate and a slightly older Cortina MkIII.
Cars are a really powerful way to date a photograph - or instil the identity of an era in a photo - because the mix of them usually changes much more quickly than the built environment around them. As a child of '71, these Fords are the tin I grew up surrounded by.
I'm fascinated by ways we might see the market for "classic cars" go more mainstream over the next decade. New technologies make it easier to manufacture (or remanufacture) short run products, the web makes it easier to market and source components or share expertise on repairs and fixes. And it's become easier to share a car like this amongst a devoted fan club, all of whom publish the car's interaction with the world, share responsibility for looking after it, and reinforce its place in their lives with tools like Facebook, Twitter and whatever comes next.
In contrast I chatted with Joe Simpson a few weeks ago about the desire in most modern car companies to design cars to specifically target customer categories, nailed down to the last detail. He's seeing a lot of this at the moment, even in the booming Asian markets. This is a folly - society defines the image and role that cars play in their lifetime and there is a limit to how clever designers and marketeers should get. The Golf GTI was a hobby project by German VW engineers, that went on to become an icon of the 1980s yuppie era in Europe. The Volkswagen camper van was never conceived to service America's alternative scene - the surf and hippie scenes took the vehicle and made it their own.
I suggested to Joe that modern car companies should design great vehicles that do a good job and let the customers, and the era they live in, define how they fit in and what they eventually come to mean. Those of us designing digital products right now would never dream of assuming we know exactly how users will take and use what we create - in fact, our success will be defined by how users pick up our products and make them their own.
Kenny (my dad) said recently that he felt that music was losing its connection with time - "new" music is less of a mass experience that crosses generations (listen to a typical '70s or '80s hit and ask if anything equivalent ever crosses multiple generations now) - so instead we slice and dice the past in new, multiple ways. After all, we have access to a massive back catalogue.
Why might the same not happen with cars? One thing's for sure - a proper fashion shoot featuring one of these motors would right now trump something featuring a brand new car design. New is no longer about actually being new - it's more complicated than that.Posted by Mark Charmer on Tuesday 1 May 2011.