On November 8th, when I.T.V. fans were looking at “Pie in the Sky” or gaping at the smooth wisdom of Boyd, Q.C., the B.B.C. had Christopher Brasher looking at motor-car styling, in a programme called “Blueprints and Dreams.”
After we had seen an Aston Martin GT (“selling three a week”) and a Jaguar E-type (“they buy ten each week”) speeding out of reach, Mr. S.H. Grylls, M.A., was interviewed from the lofty eminence of the back seat of one of the Rolls-Royce cars he engineers, and strongly denied that these automobiles are a status symbol. He likes, does Mr. Grylls, to build cars “as no-one else can possibly afford to do,” which Brasher got him to elucidate as elimination of noise from the road and rotating parts and giving a nice feel to the switches. “We use two relays in the starter circuit,” explained Mr. Grylls, “to get the right feel”—which caused Brasher to question whether the feel of the average starter-key is so desperately in need of improvement! Nothing, you note, was said about road-holding, ride, performance or braking, but Mr. Grylls did refer to Rolls-Royces built to individual order, “one with zebra upholstry, another with a set of duplicate instruments in the back compartment, and an altimeter.”
Next it was the turn of Roy Brown, Ford’s Chief Stylist. He felt that a car cannot be just a wheeled box but must reflect the owner’s possibly suppressed desires, of importance, self-expression, etc. He then drooled a lot of obscurities, explaining why he would prefer looking at Gina Lollobrigida rather than at Brasher—something to do with curves—and explaining that a car must embody male and female implications—”whereas some stylists are so male they can only design steam locomotives, some so female they should concentrate on flowery hats.” Brown quoted the Ford Products Committee as taking two years to define a new model—which was wasted on the Consul Classic!—and regarded simplicity of line as his triumph with the Corsair which, he said, has its male aspect in its thrusting profile, the female in its curved doors.
Perhaps this was making Brasher as sick as the viewers, because he then cruelly showed some film of the 1948 Ford Edsel, telling us that it was intended for smart coming-up executives, that it was christened only after 18,000 names had been suggested (including Drof, which is Ford spelled backwards!) but that this Roy Brown brain-child flopped and cost Ford £100-million; although 3-million people sat in it very few bought Edsels. Brown said he was very distressed and disappointed and went out and got sloshed. . .
It looked as if the Edsel was filmed in England and no doubt the Classic American C.C. of G.B. is already inquiring if it is still here!
Next it was Alec lssigonis’ turn, he and Brasher being introduced playing with small model locomotives, presumably on the floor of Issigonis’ mother’s flat—I believe he has built successful steam-powered models in 00-gauge. Issigonis brushed aside market research, said sex doesn’t, in his opinion, come into car styling, but that he believes the philosophy of life has to be understood in order that those who work with and under the designer will go along with his ideas. Brasher tried to get lssigonis to draw a car smaller than the Mini, which has become a status symbol, as suitable camera-shots of royalty emphasised, but Alec explained that the engine is the snag—he could build it smaller still but the carburetter, air-cleaner and dynamo would not scale-down. “People want radio in cars, which is terrible, and will soon demand TV in them,” quoth Alec, “so you can’t dispense with a decent dynamo.”
The Rover engineer came on, looking at a 2000, on a rather remote take it or leave it, level, pointing, however, to the psycho-logical approach of dummy spokes drawn on the new car’s wheel discs, and Mr. Fogg of the Motor Industry research centre played down the stylist who, he said, could produce a dangerously weak structure in pursuit of pretty lines.—W. B.