Heritage is something that is played on quite a lot by companies these days. Not just in cars, but in all walks of life. Record players making a come back but with modern technology. Polaroid cameras becoming a thing again. We’re remembering where we’ve been before, and celebrating it – but is it right to play on that and try and feed us old ideas instead of just moving on and finding something new instead?
A key part of this is nostalgia. The thing is about nostalgia, it sells. A lot. Nostalgia warms the hearts of all of us, taking us back to a time when things were simpler, and in the car industry, definitely more attractive. For example, take me. I love the past. Anyone who knows me will know my absolute adoration for the original Playstation.
The old grey brick. I’ll buy anything that has that iconic shape and design on it, and Sony know this about their audience, and the marketing team have been having a field day selling “retro” accessories. Wallets. Bags. Cufflinks. And we swallow it up in droves. I know I do, anyway. They even released a limited edition PS4 console replicating the original. I want this – a lot.
Now, more and more it seems to be that we’re being regurgitated the same old designs, except construed to fit modern day regulations, or technologies, because they know that it will sell. We all want to be taken back to a time when things were simpler, because they “just don’t make them like they used to”.
It seems to be that every car company today is playing on their heritage, as nearly all of them have a “retro” model on offer. Either a continuation of the bloodline, or a rehash of what they’ve done before. But most of the time, they’re directly remaking a design that they’ve made many years prior, to make it suit today. And that’s cool and all, but it’s got me worried for the future, and if we’re going to run out of ideas.
It all started with Volkswagen, in the mid 90s. They redesigned their Beetle, and everyone loved it – maybe a tad feminine for some people’s liking, but there’s no denying that it was most certainly a Beetle. Then, Mini joined in. They managed to make a 21st Century mini, and in their defence, they did a good job (it’s not their fault they’re starting to lose it now…), and again it has been a huge sales success. Ford then joined the bandwagon with their 2005 Mustang, and their new Thunderbird. And so on, and so on.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love these retro designs, when they’re done properly. Hell, we have a new Beetle. And a 500. The retro look does work. But how can we evolve from something that’s already ancient? If we continually try to emulate the past, we’re never going to have a future. We’ll just be forever fooling ourselves, longing for a time that’s long passed and won’t happen again. We need to begin to regulate our nostalgia before it’s all that we have.
This is why I like cars like the Toyota GT86. No, I’m not going to be yet another car writer worshipping the GT86 like it’s the be all and end all. But I like what Toyota are doing with it. They’re acknowledging their heritage – but they aren’t trying to be it. Look at this photo of a GT86 next to an AE86. Do you see any shared styling cues at all?
None. But you know that it’s still a continuation of the brand. The principle is the same – cheap, rear wheel drive, fun. But it’s not trying to copy the AE86, or mimic it – it’s taking it’s core values and applying them to a 21st century design. That, is how we can move forward with the past. You take the good parts, and make them new. You don’t take the new and try and make it old.
I do like these retro designs. But I do hope that we don’t become trapped by them, and wind up diluting this Heritage.
Nostalgia is earned. Not forced.