The Best Looking Car Shape Is The Wedge

Ferrari 512S Modulo (Photo: Pininfarina)

I don’t pretend to know much about fashion, but it seems that most new things are just a rehashing of old things. Car companies do this too, with retro styling and throwback names. The cycle seems to take around 20 to 30 years. What mum and dad are doing is not cool, but what grandma and grandpa did, that’s cool.

Some things never seem to come back around. A lot of times it has to do with safety regulations, aerodynamic efficiency, and other boring things. Fortunately, there was a time when boring things like safety were an afterthought.

Dome Zero (Photo: contri, Flickr)

Starting in the late 1960s, car designers with a superficial understanding of aerodynamics had a field day designing wedges. Many of the best-looking examples were prototypes that never made it to production. Even by the relatively low standards of the day, they had poor visibility and safety. The Maserati Boomerang, the Dome Zero, the Alfa Romeo Carabo, and the Ferrari 512 S Modulo were all amazing looking concept cars with flat pointed noses and window rakes that were difficult to see out of.

Maserati Boomerang (Photo: Marco 56, Flickr)

Dodge even got into the action with the 1968 Dodge Charger III design study. They also wedged out the front of the Charger Daytona and sold just enough to homologate it for NASCAR Racing. Chevrolet had a wedge-shaped Corvette concept in 1973 that was powered by a rotary engine. These were all wedge-y (wedgie?), but the best wedge cars, the real wedge cars, had a flat or near-flat front edge with a mostly continuous surface between the hood and windshield.

Alfa Romeo Carabo (Photo: nakhon100, Flickr)

The 1970 Porsche Tapiro was a wedge with gull-wing doors for the occupants and another set of gull-wing doors for the engine. Vauxhall, Nissan, and Mazda all had their own wedge concepts with the SRV, 126X, and RX500.

Many of these wedge designs came from design guru Giorgetto Giugiaro. His first design as an independent consultant was the 1968 Bizzarrini Manta Concept. It was built on a LeMans prototype chassis and had a triple seat arrangement with the driver in the middle. He was responsible for the Lotus Esprit, DeLorean, DeTomaso Mangusta, Maserati Boomerang, BMW M1, Porsche Tapiro, and many other beautiful wedge cars. Also several non-wedge ones.

Lancia Stratos Zero (Photo: Dustin May, Flickr)

The maximum overlap between good looks and impracticality may have been the 1970 Lancia Stratos HF Zero. It was a running prototype, though visibility was laughable and ingress and egress were challenging. The windshield opened up like a hood and the occupants had to manoeuvre around the controls to be barfed out of the front of the car.

After a few years of concepts, some wedge cars actually saw production. The BMW M1 was produced between 1978 and 1981, the Lamborghini Countach began production in ‘74, and the Lotus Esprit in ‘76. DeTomaso was early to the wedge game with the Mangusta in 1966.

1968 Bizzarrini Manta (Photo: Brian Snelson, Flickr)

The ‘80s had a few wedge cars like the DeLorean, but later in the decade, you started to see the wedges get more rounded and blunted. Vector came late to the party in 1990 with one of the wildest wedge cars, the W8. It was slightly more than a concept, with a total of 22 produced.

Of course, not all wedge cars look good. But, if we’re talking overall beautiful shape, with perhaps a less than keen interest in practicality and safety, I’ll have a wedge.

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