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 kneesā€”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.

Dean Walton’s “Iconic Racing” Poster Series

Topps World on Wheels: Connaught

Connaught trading card

More from the Topps World on Wheels bubblegum card collection. This time, Connaught.

From the card’s reverse: Horsepower: 107

A tiny factory in England, producing only about two cars per week, makes the Connaught. The body is very light and is built for speed. It has cycle fenders, outside exhaust pipes, bucket seats and a good finish. The price of the Connaught is $5,500! the basis for this car is a Lea-Francis engine. Under the cowl is a two and one half gallon gas tank.

Anyone have $5,500 I can borrow?

More Topps World on Wheels here.

A 911 Fixie

Bugatti Design Chief, Achim Anscheidt makes a strong case for the similarities between a Porsche 911 and a fixed-gear bicycle. I’m not a fixie rider but I know more than a few and I have to agree with the man. Each of them love fixed-gear because they feel so connected to it; that the bike becomes an extension of themselves. Anscheidt’s comments suggest that it’s not just performance they’re talking about. Each bicycle is a design expression of the rider/builder. That motivation is part of what is behind this marvelous little 911R-ish lightweight hot rod.

In the past ten or fifteen years, I’ve noticed a lot of VW Beetle builders adopting the techniques and even the visual aesthetic of American hot-rodders. It’s only natural that the Porsche 911 become the next platform for this kind of experimentation. I can imagine the R Gruppe peeps among you telling me that this is nothing new, and I agree. But with Singer and Magnus and projects like Achim Anscheidt’s 911 gaining wider exposure, it is definitely on the rise.

Bonus: Anscheidt’s method for finding a tape line on a set of Fuchs is fantastic. I don’t know that I’d have thought of it but it’s such an obvious little technique. I love these kinds of restoration and customization tips.

Factories at Work: Ferrari Design Studio