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Motoring Podcast Interview with the author!

Well this year has been incredibly busy, especially with my job where I’ve seen progress on my Vehicle Design course connecting with the industry. Meanwhile Twitter seems to be a place for my connections to grow and this led to a very fun situation where I was asked to be interviewed by Andrew Clews of The Motoring Podcast. Andrew managed to draw a lot of personal history from me, over the course of 3 hours chatting!  A very pleasant experience, it was split into two instalments due to length and I can part 1 and part 2 with you all now. Part 1 is about 1 hour, and covers similar topics to this blog. Part 2 is 2 hours talking about my own car ownership history!

Motoring Podcast – Rear View – Lee Walton Part 1

Motoring Podcast – Rear View – Lee Walton Part2


Teaching Vehicle Design

Hello followers. This week I start my dream job, teaching vehicle design! Amazing news right? I’m a lecturer here LAMK in Finland. A lot more news about this will follow on this blog!

2013 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 19,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

the car industries coolest brand…?

I received this email from our co-blogger here, regarding a design talk given some months ago by current head of Advanced Design at Jaguar, Julian Thompson. It relates to the CX-17 crossover concept, and also gives us clues to the deep rooted changes in Jaguar management that have enabled the design-led (Apple like?!) resurgence of this great brand. Thompson and Ian Callum have fully vindicated the new management’s confidence in them, surely?

Julian Thompson at the talk pointed out that Jag were stuck in a rut. Ford had transformed the quality and reliability of the products but they had stuck to the same look. This was because Ford used ‘consumer focus groups’ where they asked the consumer, the customer, what they wanted. Even worse Thompson pointed out they did this in the USA as that was Jags biggest market at the time. So what did the consumer say they wanted? Well as they were mainly 55 year old company directors they wanted the cars to STAY THE SAME, to LOOK EXACTLY THE SAME as the previous model. Jag listened, and the S-Type, previous XJ and X-Type were born. Sales figures went from bad to worse. Average consumer age went from bad to worse too! Or at least didn’t improve. Profits evaporated.

The new management threw this out of the window.

The next bit I am adding myself, as Thompson didn’t say it:

I believe they decided to look at what consumers are actually DOING rather than what they were saying. What they were DOING was buying super modern, sporty, diesel BMWs.

So this spawned the XF (commercial, diesel) and the new XJ (stunning modernity) and what happened? They sold THREE TIMES as many XFs as S-Types and now look at Jag! Making profit and storming on to be one of THE hottest brands on the planet. Even if you include any brand, not just cars, Jaguar is COOL. The F-Type has already sold 1000 units within 2 months!!! Despite the high price.


2011 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.


Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

saab lives, and so shall this blog!

It’s 2010, I’m still alive and so it seems is Saab despite GMs continued efforts to kill it over the past few years. So I’ve been rather slack with my blogging, virtually no posts all year. I’m writing this on the wordpress iPhone app, so maybe that will help. Also I bought a new car, which I quite like so perhaps a post about that is due. It’s a new Nissan Qashqai, the popular crossover vehicle. Frankly it’s a design I have admired since it’s introduction in 2006 or was it 2007? Nissan were extremely foward thinking with their replacement for the underwhelming Almera. The idea was not to compete with Golf/Focus, but to offer something that for all intents seems to be from a much more expensive class- the soft roader, but us priced directly alonside other Golf class cars. The Qashqai was essentially similar in concept to Honda’s CR-V, but with much less overtly utilitarian design cues. Definitely worth exploring in a later post- once I’ve driven and assesed it’s qualities further!

year of the peers (and another nice opel)

2009- a very busy year so far, in terms of new cars. Currently we have the Frankfurt Motor Show running, and Geneva before that had some great designs shown. Hoepfully I’ll write a few posts to catch up with the significant designs this year. The most exciting aspect has been the headline cars designed by my own friends! 10 years after univeristy some of my peers are seeing the fruits of their labours reach market. To name-drop a few- the Mercedes SLS AMG, Aston Martin One77, Citroen C3 Picasso, Bentley Mulsanne, BMW Efficient Dynamics concept, and possibly some others unkown to me (actually the 2006 Ascari KZ1 supercar!)… all designed by my good friends! Obviously harsh reviews of these cars are not going to written by me…. anyway, just to add some images to this post I wanted to point out something I only recently noticed regarding the Opel/Vauxhall Insignia.

The 2009 Insignia replaces the old rep-mobile/taxi cab Vectra, with great success. A truly great looking car- it has out Mondeo-ed the newly stylish Mondeo. Frankly I’d buy one! I went as far as browsing the brochure online, when I noticed that there are 5-door and 4-door version listed. Eh? I had only seen 2 variants to my knowledge, well- a close look at the opel website images shows an interesting achievement by the designers in getting both hatchback and saloon to appear almost identical! Makes you wonder how practical (impractical?) either boot is in terms of volume.

more product style cars

It has been a very long while since I posted here, just not really had the time or anything to write about. There have been many new cars announced though, at Paris and LA auto shows for example. Some really great car design has been appearing, and some really bad stuff also. By the end of the year I may write an article on the good the bad and the ugly of 2008. First though, this post continues some thoughts on product/non automotive style vehicle design. Our C3 is performing well- and there is much to like so far about a car that is easy to get in and out of, easy to see out of, and very well tailored to a womans stature. Since we bought it of course, my good friend Miles has seen his design for the new C3 Picasso released. This is very much of the practical and functional product design style, with a dash of slickness to improve on the current C3. Once again I’ve created a quick image showing the main feature lines on this design. The lines this time are much straighter- with the whole car being more of a rounded/chamfered box shape. While using a modern product style of design- with less dynamic shapes, Miles has managed to maintain an element of traditional car design by using these predominantly horizontal lines. While detail corners of these lines decelerate as explained before. the overall graphic of the shapes, and the general path for the feature lines, suggest direction and this is what saves the whole design from being too far removed from our preconceptions that cars must be dynamic. It is just the right amount of product vs auto design. Great job!

main feature lines of c3 picasso
main feature lines of c3 picasso

There are however rivals already on sale, and emerging too. Nissan have announced plans to sell the new version of their quirky domestic market Cube in the US and possibly Europe (I think), and Kia have spent a long time developing their “big idea” called the Soul. The Kia Soul is essentially just like the C3, or even the Fiat Panda 4×4. A tall and boxy supermini sized car, aimed at being functional and practical for a large range of people- while maintaining more style and individuality than most cars. The Kia Soul is certainly very similar in style to the C3 Picasso, and is a good design. Possibly Kia’s best ever, other than the Opel Astra inspired Pro-C’eed. The oddball Nissan is very unique, and this car has always embodied the pure product design philosophy that the other cars hint towards. The Nissan appears to be so devoid of any direction, or dynamic lines, or in fact any traditional automotive cues it is very alien to our western tastes.

nissan cube
nissan cube

It could almost move in any direction! We have towed caravans with more directional design than this car. The lines don’t even appear to have “tension”, meaning if you imagine them to be drawn with wire or string- they would be simply sagging wire, not wire that is pulled taught. This tension is normally an absolute must for automotive styling. There are some straight lines however- that save this from being just a saggy blob, but overall the car looks bloated and almost so heavy we can barely imagine it moving. Of course Nissan have absolute world class design teams, and produce other awesome looking cars- so it is certainly fascinating that the Cube is entirely intentional in its strangeness. It is a statement car, for non-automotive people to buy. This could be ideal timing to sell it, as the US seems to be keen with their strong anti-car, anti- gas guzzling sentiment which helped sell the also ugly VW Beetle in similar conditions in the ’70s. I’ll leave you with a gallery of the cars I’ve mentioned here. Back soon!

edit: I later remembered this awesome concept design by Fiat, from 1999, which was actually an exercise in product style design and research (and also plastics engineering). I believe the visionary Chris Bangle was head of Fiat design at the time. We studied this car during our MA at Coventry- of which Miles was a student. Funny that his production Citroen looks so similar!

added design essays

OK people, first thing I’ve done for this blog is add some essay type pages that I’ve written or just talked about over the years. They describe some basic car design and styling principles that I had to think about while designing my own cars- or explaining to others how to model cars. There’s a permanent link at the top of this page, but go here to check them out! I’ll be adding to these design guides when I get time…

design guides