The History of Automotive Design

From jet-age aerodynamic prototypes to futuristic concepts, automotive design has evolved throughout history in response to technology, politics and cultural influences. Generally, form follows function; however it may also be shaped by consumer expectations and aesthetic preferences.

The design process typically begins with a sketch. Clay modeling is then often employed to further develop the shape until it’s finally approved for production.

Vintage Classics

Vintage classic cars are vehicles from a bygone era that still hold great appeal to motorists and collectors alike. You can find these cars around the globe.

Age is one of the primary factors in deciding whether a vehicle will be classified as classic, but other criteria must also be taken into account before making a final determination. Tax exemptions may apply to some classics but not all.

In the 1960s, automobile enthusiasts in America experienced a golden era. Power and muscle cars like the Ford Mustang rose to prominence and became iconic symbols of rebellious spirit. Cars like these remain iconic today – beacons of nostalgia for many Americans.

Design was a driving force during this decade, as designers sought to create sleeker and more powerful cars with rounded, clean lines. Although it was only the start of this style era, it would become ubiquitous throughout the 1970s and ’80s.

Mid-Century Modern

As society evolved, automotive design began to be more driven by aesthetics and social trends than practicality. Companies were then faced with the dilemma of creating a one-of-a kind vehicle or offering affordable mass produced models to consumers.

The 1980s saw the introduction of aerodynamic design elements like fins on Cadillacs and quad headlights on Rolls Royces. Cars also adopted American culture with pastel colours and interiors with an aviation vibe.

This period saw the emergence of modernism, a movement less decadent and more inspired by streamlining and aerodynamics. This resulted in sleek fastback style cars with sloping tails – presaging the fastback trend seen on Bugatti Veyron hypercars today.

Post-World War II

Automakers in Detroit were instrumental in developing vital wartime technologies like tanks, aircraft engines and bomb materials. General Motors, Ford and Chrysler all had a significant military role during this conflict.

One of the hallmarks of this era was an unprecedented passion for automotive styling. The 1950s and ’60s saw American car designers push their creativity to new levels, leading to stunning results.

Designers of this era often took inspiration from popular culture to create innovative and unique designs. USC history professor Phil Ethington noted that “Hollywood fused the car with the rocket ship in popular imagination, so automobile designers gladly did the same by designing tail fins and gull-wing doors so customers could fly to work without leaving the ground.”

This period also saw a major technological transition away from analogue gauges to high-resolution digital displays. Seen as more efficient and user friendly interfaces, these digital displays have become ubiquitous in modern car manufacturing.


The history of automotive design has been heavily shaped by a variety of influences, from art to technology. But one major trend that continues to shape modern automotive design is the move toward simplicity.

This trend is being fuelled by an increasing desire to live more simply, sustainably. Therefore, car designers must take this into account when crafting their vehicles.

This trend is only expected to gain momentum. Experts anticipate a global shift towards electrification, shared mobility and autonomous vehicles in the coming years.

These trends are compelling automakers to reevaluate how they design cars. As such, automotive design is becoming more essential than ever in order to meet customer demands and remain ahead of competition.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *