Peter Stevens Examines the Complexity of the A-Pillar

You can imagine that subsequently someone in the marketing department noticed that both Mini and Fiat with the 500 were offering different colored roofs. There was no way that the conflicting panels could be painted in a way that looked anything other than an unresolved afterthought! All this tends to mean that the designer will need to be very good friends with the photographer when images of the car are taken for publicity.

When cars were built with a multitude of separate panels the ‘cap’ style roof made good sense, the original Mini and the later Renault Super 5 (with one piece roof and screen surround incorporating the A-pillars) demonstrate that method very clearly, but as long ago as the 1960s Dante Giacosa, chief engineer at Fiat, developed the ‘mono-side’ method of pressing the whole side of a car in one stamping.

Later developments of this production method required a joint between the roof and side pressing being visible, usually covered with a black plastic molding. The modern incorporation of this technology produces a very smooth transition from the A-pillar to the cant rail (the body section that runs above the door opening). Ford’s very successful Fiesta demonstrates how the marriage of technology with style can produce an elegant solution the challenge of the A-pillar.

Returning to the 2016 Ford GT; there is a great overhead illustration released by Ford that shows the line at the top of the screen flowing elegantly into the top of the side glass and then onto the ‘flying buttress’ floating C-pillar. It just doesn’t work like that from most views of the car.

The original Ford GT40 Mach 1 concept, from which the new GT quite rightly takes inspiration, had a very thin A-pillar and a neat resolution of the upper ‘screen and side glass lines. This solution was seen again on the 2004 Ford GT ‘homage’ but by choosing to hide the pillar on the 2016 GT Ford have given themselves the problem that no one has yet resolved perfectly.

About Peter Stevens
Peter Stevens is a world-renowned vehicle designer and former Visiting Professor of Vehicle Design at the Royal College of Art in London. Over the course of his career, he’s been chief designer at Lotus Cars, McLaren and Lamborghini and design director for MG, Mahindra and Mahindra and Rivian Automotive. He’s also worked as a design consultant for Prodrive, BMW, Williams and Toyota. You can catch up with his antics on his Facebook page and his new website.


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