How Did Cars Go From Boxy, To Curvy?

If you look at a car from the 1970’s, then a car from the 1990’s; there is one large difference. The cars from the 1970’s were boxy, and the cars from the 1990’s were curvy. Why?


When car companies started to make curvy cars, it wasn’t an original concept. In the 1930’s American streamliners used a sleek curved design to reduce the air resistance. As the 1960’s rolled along, American streamliners stopped selling, as box shaped cars with sharp edges started outselling them. At this time, gas prices were falling so consumers didn’t have to worry about their cars not being streamlined (and using more gas). If you jump into the late 1970’s, just about all cars in America had sharp edges with few cars. This was not the case for all countries though. In Europe, gas prices were at an all-time high and costed 73.1 cents per gallon in Europe, while America’s gas prices were an outstanding 31 cents per gallon cutting Europe’s prices by more than half. Boxy cars were not susceptible for the European market and European designers needed to come up with a fresh idea for the car industry.

The Europeans needed to think of an efficient, gas efficient car like America’s old streamliners. All of a sudden, Porsche, BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz all started making their own curvy cars. These cars were made for the rich and were not for your average consumer. With the success that some of these companies had, the Americans started to copy the aerodynamic look to attract upper scale buyers. A man named Uwe Bahnsen had a simple idea that would change the car market forever. Curvy cars for everyone.


Bahnsen did this with the 1982 Ford Sierra. It was curvier than any car at the time. At first, critics just laughed at it and Uwe’s work was not resulting in sales. It was nicknamed the “jelly mold” because of its resemblance of the mold you make jello out of. Now in the 1990’s America’s gas prices skyrocketed because of conflicts in the middle east. Ford got a new design manager and he started working with wind tunnels to prove the efficiency of the car. The result of this was the 1986 Ford Taurus. It was a mass market car that was the “car of the future” as it was even featured in Robo Cop. The invention of this car saved Ford who was struggling. After the success of this car, there were thousands of knockoff curvy cars because of Ford’s success, and because of new American fuel efficiency laws.


After the Ford Taurus, car companies never looked back at their boxy past.


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