On The Lamborghini Veneno and the Masculinization of Supercar Design

Lamborghini Veneno

I’m sure you’ll all remember in the first act of Star Wars that fate or accident or simple luck finds our hero/farmboy Luke Skywalker and his mentor Obi Wan Kenobi in possession of military secrets that could bring an evil dictatorship to its knees—if they can get those secrets into the right hands. They seek out a smuggler with a high-performance vehicle to help them spirit those secrets under the dictator’s nose. But when our hero first spots this alleged performance vehicle, he finds himself in doubt. This doesn’t look like a fast machine. In fact, it looks like a piece of junk.

Our smuggler, ever confident, replies: “She’ll make point five past lightspeed. She may not look like much, but she’s got it where it counts, kid.”

She.

They’re always she.

From sailing ships to sportscars, we’ve always imbued these objects with a feminine mystique. I’d argue that when we look at the sports and racing cars of the mid-century that it’s the most literal we’ve made that connection.

Look at the Jaguar D-Type. Those hips! Look at a Ferrari 875S, a Birdcage Maserati, a Porsche 550. Look at a Triumph TR3 or an Alfa-Romeo Tipo 33 Stradale or an Abarth 750 Zagato or Aston-Martin DB3. Look at any of them and you’ll see slippery shapes of sweeping curves subtly transitioning from one gorgeous corner of the car to another.

This is not to say that these machines look bulbous or soft. These are purposeful, powerful shapes. And they are decidedly feminine. Marilyn or Bettie or even Audrey poised to leap; to dance; to race.

Something has happened in the past 20 years of sportscar design. There’s nothing elegant about this Lamborghini. It looks cold and mechanical and dangerous. We’ve stopped caring about machines looking beautiful and settled for them looking angry or dangerous… Mean. A Ferrari 250GTO is all of those things as well but there’s a beauty and a warmth and a grace to her lines that contemporary sportscars lack entirely. These sharp angles and hard edges represent an overt masculinization of automotive design and I think it’s a great loss.

I have a hard time imagining anyone calling this Lamborghini “she”. Alas.

More images at Jalopnik.

14 responses to “On The Lamborghini Veneno and the Masculinization of Supercar Design”

  1. Pilote Ancien says:

    The exception that proves the rule is the Ferrari 458 Italia–the best-looking Ferrari since the Daytona, i.m.o.

  2. Fred says:

    Could still be some new style tattoed and pierced punk chick.

  3. Jon says:

    I agree, haven’t seen a beautiful Ferrari in a few decades, and the creased Cadillac/Lambo design language has already run out of steam. All of the Lambo-Ferrari-McLaren-Pagani crowd look basically the same — angry and angular. Even the little Merc SLK now looks like it’s wearing a Dodge truck grille, and Ferrari FF is like a fat Civic Hatchback with headlamps like something out of the Transformers movies.

    I think Porsche has a winner in the new Boxster/Cayman, and BMW did a bang-up job (as opposed to a Bangled-up job) on the new Z4 — which not surprisingly was styled by women, who made it beautiful and balanced.

  4. […] the Lambo section, but applies to a recent discussion on Ferrari's styling direction equally well. On The Lamborghini Veneno and the Masculinization of Supercar Design | The Chicane 1. Great blog, for those into vintage racing and sports cars. 2. Apt commentary on the current […]

  5. self proclaimed auto historian says:

    The reason why cars are not feminine anymore is because times are changing… its not the days when you can objectify women or have a hard time getting porn. So, back then, designers with way too much imagination from the lack of an internet fantasize about women in the weirdest way, putting women shapes into all kinds of objects…you know… being creative…. Now, men are demasculinized with lawsuits of sexual harassment… and with the advent of internet porn with women at your finger tips, who needs imaginary feminine shapes when you can see the real thing? So, the new age of designers that live in the modern age and pen the new cars come up with design language that somehow reflects the times we live in. Because, many men nowadays are not the men of yesterday, and to have a car that somehows gives some balance through masculine lines only reflects how things have changed…

  6. E55 says:

    I agree. I have no interest in Lamborghini cars. To me, they look like little boys’ toy rocketships. I feel the same way about the superhero movie genre. I outgrew comic books many years ago. When and why did we regress?

  7. Automobiliac says:

    I dont need cars to be surrogate sex objects. I just need them to be beautiful as mechanical entities. This car is ugly as sin, no matter what its gender.

  8. Well…the Miura was pretty sexy in the contexts we seem to be using here. But I’m with Automobiliac: a car can be sensual without being sexy, or gendered. Like that sexy beast, the Lotus Cortina 😉

  9. Simon says:

    Ha! I was wondering where you were going with the Star Wars references… I thought this new thing had a passing resemblance to an Imperial Star Destroyer! How does the phalic E Type fit into your theory? Although curved, was it the beginning of this trend?

    • Harlo says:

      You might be right about the E-Type, Simon. I had a bit of an internal debate when I sat down to write this post. My first thought, which has been hinted at by other commenters above, is that we’re not so much talking about direct inspiration from the female form as we are an inspiration from the natural world. Some cars look a bit aquatic, some like a lithe jungle cat, yes—some look a bit like a woman. I’ve always thought the wide body 911s look like a flexed muscle. If there’s any hint of natural inspiration or biomimicry left in the Veneno, it’s insectoid.

  10. Evan says:

    i was thinking about this exactly, this morning. The new supercars are rather embarrassing….coming from a designer. If i designed a car like that…id be ashamed…sure the numbers are there..but how often do you really get to use your numbers….I wish the term “super car” would change its course and become less track inspired (since we have so many of those cars around) and focus more on design..it will more than likely increase its value and will forever be timeless……the new corvette…next year it will look outdated…the new LaFerrari (stupid ass name) is already outdated… theres a better computer…a better material…and above all…there is much better looking car out there.

  11. Mike Jacobsen says:

    There’s something in the psychology of that–note that one of the current TV ads uses the word “agression” to characterize its cars. On the other hand, all those little flaps would seem to be derived from F1 aerodynamics, whether or not they work on this car.

  12. Bruno Said says:

    Great text.

    I think that actual the cars design reflects those people who buy them.

    Look, 30 years ago, the rich were 50/60 years? Today, they are 20/30 years, seeking to express their masculinity through all the cars.

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