Vice-President Peter Stevens’s view of concept cars at Goodwood Festival of Speed
Very interesting to see three car companies showing concept cars at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. All three were virtual concepts designed for ‘Grand Turismo’ computer games that had then been turned into full size concept models.
Clearly Goodwood’s ‘Moving Motor Show’ event is now seen by major manufacturers as a great opportunity to launch new ideas, and the prestige of having a car showcased on ‘Grand Turismo’ is now a very important marketing tool.
So, is it a good idea? The modeling required for a virtual car on ‘GT 6” or ‘GT 7” has to be of a very high standard so company Alias and Photoshop teams get a very good workout. Usually the CAD models go straight to full-size machined forms with none of the fine-tuning that production concepts get at the clay modeling stage; and it shows! The Aston Martin DP 100 was supported by some very nice illustration and photoshop work: who would not be captivated by an overhead shot of the car lit by sunlight filtered through the trees just beyond the Goodwood start line? But then we had a chance to see the crude red, white and black reality, a sad-looking, derivative piece of work with a droopy front end, (remember the 2005 Pininfarina Maserati Birdcage concept?).
Nissan unveiled their 2020 Vision ‘GT 7’ in front of Nissan Design Chief Shiro Nakamura and a huge crowd of enthusiasts; the car was extremely dramatic, its complex surfaces being for the most part well-resolved although the rear wheel arch opening was a very strange shape that had little to do with the rest of the car. The rear-end details were aggressive with a functional-looking diffuser; but the conventional rear wing looked like a component from earlier this century, not something for 2020.
For those who hadn’t seen the Volkswagen GTI Roadster ‘Grand Turismo 6’, it was good to be able to study the car in three dimensions. This VW was not nearly as dramatic as the Nissan and not nearly as unresolved as the Aston Martin; it was simply a very professional piece of work but again nothing really new.
The recent criticism of motor show concept cars has often been that they are irrelevant, very unlikely ever to be made and self-indulgent of the motor companies. Now ‘Grand Turismo’ has given them a perfect excuse for irrelevant, self-indulgent one-off fantasies, or for showing the future form language of their products. If it is the latter, then surely the design process needs to be as rigorous as for any other company product.