On The Lamborghini Veneno and the Masculinization of Supercar Design
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.”
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.