For over two decades, retro-futurism has become a common part of modern car design philosophy. For those who don’t know what it is, Retro-Futuristic Design is when car designers borrow shapes, forms or details from car history and try to revive famous models from the past. Cars like Volkswagen`s New Beetle, the Ford Mustang, and the New Mini are all examples of revivals in modern form. These were achieved by designers taking classic shapes and turning them into modern vehicles with unmistakable charm, lines, and appearance.
During the height of the retro-futuristic trend, it looked like any car with classic lines would be a sales hit, so many manufacturers decided to introduce such models. As always, there were some that implemented this style perfectly and others that failed miserably. Here are five of the weirdest examples of retro-futuristic design.
Hot Rods have always been part of American automotive culture no company had ever built a Hot Rod from the factory until 1997 when Plymouth unveiled its Prowler model. With a V6 engine and weird looks, It was a retro yet futuristic roadster. Unusual for many production cars, it had exposed wheel arches and a tiny windshield. The Prowler was a success initially but sadly sales quickly slowed to a crawl. Although the concept was cool, it was mostly a niche product and the Prowler came with a V6 engine breaking the first rule of Hot Rod culture – Hot rods need a v8!
In case you ever wondered what would happen if you combined a classic Jaguar Mk2 and a Nissan Micra, don’t worry, we have the answer – the Mitsuoka Viewt. This crazy, retro-futuristic car came from one of Japan`s obscurest brands, which is dedicated to building retro-inspired cars based on ordinary models. The Viewt was introduced back in 1993, and it still is in production. The chassis, drive train, doors, and glass are all from regular production Micra’s, but the front and rear end are unmistakably Jaguar complete with chrome grille, bumpers, and headlights. The Jaguar Mk2 is one of the best-looking British sedans ever made. Still, when its characteristic front end is transplanted onto a cheap Japanese compact car, elegance and appearance are gone, making the Viewt a bizarre and repelling model. Fortunately, they are only sold in Japan and are quite expensive, so production is limited.
When retro-futuristic fashion stormed the car industry, Lancia’s designers realized that they could borrow from their rich history. During the `50s and `60s, Lancia made some of the best-looking cars in Italy, a significant accomplishment considering the many famous design studios located there. Models such as the Aurelia B12 and Flaminia Sedan were the most elegant Italian sedans of the period and are well-respected classics. Back in the early 2000s, Lancia desperately needed to get back in that luxury segment of the market, so, a big four-door with retro looks seemed like a great idea. The Thesis then subsequently appeared in 2001, but the car community was confused. It was definitely an interesting and luxurious car with clear retro influences, but it wasn’t pretty. In fact, it wasn’t even close. It looked ugly, unfinished, and out of place. It didn’t help that it was filled with creature comforts or that it was powered by a high-revving 3.0-litre V6, it was a sales flop and pushed Lancia deeper into oblivion.
Chrysler PT Cruiser
Even though the PT Cruiser was widely regarded as a sub-standard model in terms of power and technology, it was immensely successful, although very, very ugly. It managed to sell over 1.35 million units over 10 years. The PT Cruiser`s appeal was its faux-retro design, affordable price, and wannabe cool image of the custom car from the past. Although many car enthusiasts weren’t sold on its retro-futuristic hype when the PT was introduced, the car was undeniably a sales hit. It was probably the last big sales hit for Chrysler. Under the hood, there was nothing special, and the PT Cruiser shared a lot of its mechanical design as well as its engines with the Chrysler/Plymouth Neon. This meant that the PT Cruiser wasn’t particularly engaging to drive.
Toyota FJ Cruiser
When the retro-futuristic craze swept the car industry, Japanese companies had a problem. Although they had their classic models to borrow inspiration from, most European or American customers didn’t know about them. As far as Europeans or Americans were concerned, the Japanese companies didn’t have a history. So, what to do? Re-discover classic Japanese cars that were already widely recognizable in Europe and America. For example, the legendary Land Cruiser FJ 40. Toyota decided to revive this iconic shape in the form of a modern-day SUV named the FJ Cruiser introduced in 2006. Intended primarily for the American and Middle Eastern markets, where the original Land Cruiser was well-known, the FJ Cruiser had some success but also drew a lot of criticism for changing the original narrative. The classic FJ 40 was a rough and capable off-roader, while the modern FJ Cruiser was an expensive big SUV. It also featured a weird side-opening door and a relatively small luggage space.