One problem that designers can face is a very bad engineering package. When Mercedes took over both Chrysler and Mitsubishi they had the thoroughly bad idea of producing a lower cost, front-wheel-drive Jeep using a Mitsubishi floor-pan. Unfortunately, the design team’s brief was to base the design on the nicely proportioned Jeep Cherokee; the result was an ugly and unpopular vehicle that did Jeep no good at all.
Renault tried to base a four-door three-box sedan on the nicely proportioned Clio using the entire front end and both front and rear doors. The car was never sold in France and Patrick le Quement, director of design at that time, always hoped that very few of his friends would see the car on the streets of Morocco, Turkey or Eastern Europe.
The effect of a change of wheels and tires can certainly alter the perception of a car’s proportions; the early 1990s Chevrolet Caprice Wagon is a car that looks to have very strange proportions in standard form with a huge rear overhang; but I think that a change of ride height and a decent set of wheels can produce a very cool looking car. The thought here is that if designers are given a very difficult package then it is worth playing with the stance and wheels before handing the thing back to unimaginative engineers!
Ssangyong needs an entire article of its own, in the past, style, detail but most of all proportion have been foreign to the company, but since Mahindra took over Ssangyong we can hope for a little more sensitivity from the decision makers on the board.
So does proportion matter in car design? For me it is absolutely essential to get the basic proportion right before getting into the details. Proportion is not just about its application to the elements of the body but also the relationship of that body to the ground.
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