The team from The Dashboard recently stopped by the Nissan Technical Center in Japan for a look at what exactly goes into creating a full-scale clay model. While automakers have been using clay bucks for decades, designers and engineers are now combining computer renderings and hand-sculpted clay models to determine how a new vehicle will look in our world. Engineers use specially formulated clay kept warm in an oven to bring the body panels to life. They then coat the clay in a thin plastic film to add body color for the final look.

By the time everything is said and done, workers may have hundreds of hours in the model's creation. So, what happens when the company no longer needs the buck? They get scrapped. Someone comes in and dismantles the whole creation. We presume that action is set to the wailing tears of everyone who had a hand in building the model. Check out the video below for a closer look.



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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 30 Comments
      usa1
      • 1 Year Ago
      Cool video on the process. Too bad they chose Nissan which isn't known for good design.
        breakfastburrito
        • 1 Year Ago
        @usa1
        Far too many people don't understand the purpose of car styling. Car styling is meant to provide "the new". It's not possible to look good all the time. To my eye, most all production cars don't look very "good", but the new ones look "new". When people buy the product, that is success.
          kontroll
          • 1 Year Ago
          @breakfastburrito
          sorry dude, this ain't no "new"... this is a POS, nothing innovative or new or revolutionary here. If you would have any idea about design or aesthetics you would refrain from such statements because it would just label you as an "amateur". This pig has no proportions , no new design philosophy, nothing innovative nor aesthetically either pleasing or exciting...so just shut up with your layman explanation of "new" to the masses
          D E S I G N
          • 1 Year Ago
          @breakfastburrito
          just because people buy something doesnt make it a success. Some people buy it out of practical reasons rather than aesthetic ones. Nissan has gone downhill in terms of appealing shapes in their cars, and I think this has to do with the fact that the chief is a frenchman. Too bad, because they used to have very nice designs such as the 300zx, 240sx, heck even the old datsuns are still nice. Now it's just cars for soccer moms and grocery getters, except for the famous GT-R. I'll bet they'll screw that one up too, soon enough. It's amazing that they invest all that time working on a clay model, they see it right in front of their eyes, yet they dont see how unappealing it is. Oh well, god thing there are other cars to choose from.
          desinerd1
          • 1 Year Ago
          @breakfastburrito
          @kontroll I agree. I don't like hatchbacks either. Look at the new Jetta. It screams "I'm too poor to afford a decent car". No wonder they are so popular in Europe.
          BG
          • 1 Year Ago
          @breakfastburrito
          @Kahz: they buy cars/crossovers/etc because their selection is socially acceptable to the people in their peer/economic/social set. Not standing out is really important to many people.
          Kahz
          • 1 Year Ago
          @breakfastburrito
          Mate, people don't buy cars because they look "new". They buy them because they look good. Otherwise we'd all be driving Pontiac Azteks.
      mikoprivat
      • 1 Year Ago
      maybe this is a good reminder for the uneducated morons who buy asian on the premise that they are made in America...the unskilled production/assembly line people are American, the high paid R&D engineers and designers are Japanese...sure there are some design studios in the US to shut the idiots up
        AngeloD
        • 1 Year Ago
        @mikoprivat
        Nissan has had a US design studio for a long while. Vehicles like the 350Z and Titan are US designs.
        • 1 Year Ago
        @mikoprivat
        [blocked]
      audisp0rta4
      • 1 Year Ago
      "By the time everything is said and done, workers may have hundreds of hours in the model's creation." Which models exactly, have Nissan put hundreds of hours into creating? Certainly not the Versa, or the taxi van, or the rape van, or the mini van, or that convertible crossover van thing, or the new van they're calling a Pathfinder. Or maybe they're referring to cumulative hours spent between all models!
        carfan
        • 1 Year Ago
        @audisp0rta4
        I'm taking your joke seriously... Nissan is designers are either butchers or cheap to put that many hours in one model. All their models are horrible looking including their expensive nissans (i think they are called infinty or something stupid like that)
          • 1 Year Ago
          @carfan
          [blocked]
        • 1 Year Ago
        @audisp0rta4
        [blocked]
          audisp0rta4
          • 1 Year Ago
          Based on the logic inferred by my joke (that everyone is taking so seriously) about the amount of time spent on a clay model determining a final look...I'm sure Audi spends very little time designing new models since they all look the same. Fortunately Audi came up with a good looking clay model the first time around, so their laziness isn't as offensive as Nissan's. Btw...I'm no Audi fanboy. That was just the sn I had back in 2002 when I owned one. :p
          D E S I G N
          • 1 Year Ago
          What rock did you just crawl out from? Did you even see the cars that Audi is creating? Do you know anything about this company? You should learn first before you make such asinine comments. Audi is in the forefront of automotive design and has been the benchmark for decades. Also, they have a racing heritage that no one can come close to. Every car company aspires to design cars like Audi and achieve their level of fit and finish and overall efficiency. R8, says it all.
        D E S I G N
        • 1 Year Ago
        @audisp0rta4
        Here here. It's ok to be an Audi fanboy, be proud! No one can touch Audi in their design, philosophy, and heritage.
      kontroll
      • 1 Year Ago
      they show the business of clay modeling, but based on the krap designs they have, it's definitely not the ART...
      Frisky_Dingo
      • 1 Year Ago
      Nissan design- 1. Make car look just like the ones above and below it in lineup. 2. Give car cheap, generic interior. 3. Give car craptastic CVT, and drop manual option. 4. ??? 5. Profit.
      Alex G
      • 1 Year Ago
      With 3D printers on the rise, I wonder how long until the job of "Clay Modeler" is out
        Thipps
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Alex G
        as a designer i dont think clay modeling is going anywhere anytime soon. its not just converting sketches into a 3d model, its the process of working out the design and being able to make changes quickly, you really need to walk around a physical model to get the sense of proportion and scale, everyone thought CAD was going to replace clay 25 years ago but it hasn't happened yet, I will say you can get close in cad then mill it out of clay to make changes but the finish work is always by hand.
        360_AD
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Alex G
        3D printing is very slow in small scale. Much less practical at full 1:1 scale needed by the auto industry. There exists technology to use robots and computers to sculpt clay in large scale, but still require the human touch to finalize surfaces and details.
      flyingsquirrel
      • 1 Year Ago
      I am a Clay Modeler/Design Sculptor, it's completely true, there are 100's if not not 1000's of hours in most clay models. Sometimes we work for 2 or three years on the same model, sometimes we do it in 6 months, concept cars tend to go quicker. Clay modeling will be needed for as long as I can see, 3D rapid printing, SLA etc.. is very slow and very expensive, very inefficient for rapid design development. We do smash the models, but largely we reuse and recycle them. All of the big car companies have design studios in the USA, many foreign companies now design, engineer and manufacture their US market cars completely in the USA or have plans to. Depending on the size of the company, they hire, train and PAY just as many American workers as most. p.s. we are not engineers, basically there are 4 components to design: a designer, a clay modeler, a digital modeler and an engineer. Most themes/models will have 4+ clay modelers, 2+ designers, 4+engineers/CAD designers and 1+ digital modelers. every part in the interior is mocked up in clay and printed or grown parts as well
        GT8
        • 1 Year Ago
        @flyingsquirrel
        Thank you, as you are very correct. These take many months and sometimes more than 2 years depending on the project. These are done at least 2-3 years in advance of production starting, so this is likely a reenactment or old footage from 2011. Most of what's new today was clay modeled during 2009-2011 and that's when the clay modeling work would've taken place. Most reading here do not know that and assume these are done a few months earlier. I worked on the 2010 Mustang(S197) in 2006 and that was launched in early '09.
      desinerd1
      • 1 Year Ago
      Wait, is that where Mercedes stole the design of B class from? Nissan needs to increase security in their design studio.
      Love Great Danes
      • 1 Year Ago
      Can you imagine the clay modeling that Ferrari would do? Talk about artists!
      Cruising
      • 1 Year Ago
      Considering that Nissan's current design language has not yet fully matured since they introduced it with the Ellure concept, if the Resonance is any indication of things to come I think Nissan is on the right track. With a new Murano and Maxima on the horizon I'm very excited to see what they have up their sleeve.
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