No, really. If you didn't know, U2's front man and Africa activist Bono is a regular columnist at The New York Times. And he (too) has a top 10 list to kick off the new decade we now find ourselves living in. Bono first smartly apologizes for burdening our collective eyes and minds with yet another such list, before then presenting his.
Items found on his list include: a cap and trade system taxing every individual's right to pollute, protecting the intellectual rights of movie and television studios, a rock star teleportation scientist and eradicating rotavirus. All good and/or interesting stuff, no doubt, if not a little, um, predictable. Which may very well be why Bono stuck his car-related concern up on they very top of his list. That concern? "Return of the Automobile as a Sexual Object."
In short, Bono thinks modern four-door sedans are lame looking and laments the fact that minivans and SUVs are so widespread (and dull). He meditates on the decline of the sexy family car, pioneered during the U.S. auto industry's design heyday, circa 1946 to about 1971. Where are the curves, he asks, before stating, "In Ireland in the '70s, it was the E-Type Jag that made sense of puberty." A line, we should add, that we'll be stealing.
Bono then goes on to muse that the problem with modern car design might the practice of "design by committee," noting that, "rarely does majority rule produce something of beauty." We're with him so far, but then he gets a little fatuous. Essentially, Bono says that since the Obama Administration, "still holds the keys to the big automakers," they ought to be injecting some, "style fascists into the mix." Among those mentioned, Marc Newson, Steve Jobs and Jonny Ive, Frank Gehry and Jeff Koons. Luckily, we've got some insider knowledge about that last little bit. Make the jump for a slightly NSWF explanation of why this writer thinks that Bono's wrong.
[Source: The New York Times | Image: William West/AFP/Getty]
A couple of years ago, Nissan was nice enough to loan me a JDM second generation Cube. Right-hand drive and everything, the same car in fact that Autoblog's Alex Nunez reviewed. Since that particular car was so radically different than design-wise than anything else on the street – including the then not-yet-introduced current Cube – I decided to gather up some artist and architect friends of mine at a Frog Town design house and pick their brains about the oddball and oddly square Cube.
The funky little Nissan was immediately dismissed and/or embraced as a, "Hello Kitty Pinzgauer." They admired the squareness of the Cube, and liked how the entire motif was a play on squares and circles (the wheels had square holes, the dash board was decorated with squared off circles, etc). And they especially liked the hard, terrycloth seats. But really, their overriding complaint was that while the Cube featured a very high level of design, it wasn't enough. And like Bono, they suggested that American artist Jeff Koons should design a car.
Sadly, a few years have diluted my memory, and a nasty virus has rendered the audio files from that day extinct. Here's what I do remember: According to the creative types, instead of a steering wheel, Koons would use jelly dildos and the rest interior would be cast in white porcelain. Some sort of toy gun-type "BANG!" flags would serve as the headlights or maybe turn signals and the car would be painted with amber – not the color, the tree sap. But the kicker was that instead of taillights, the car would have a big beehive hanging off the back, and when you hit the brake pedal, a robotic arm would beat on the hive with a baseball bat until the bees swarmed and attacked the car behind them. No, really.
I offer this trip down memory lane not to discourage innovation and "sexy" car design, but rather to highlight the potential breakdown and error in Bono's thinking.