It’s a pretty common refrain among gearheads to complain about how all modern cars look the same. And, sure, you can absolutely make a valid argument that they do, and go to any parking lot and wave your arm over the sea of nearly indistinguishable grayscale SUVs, but if it helps, gearheads have been bitching about this for most of a century, and they’re always sort of right. This 1969 issue of Popular Science is just a bit different, as the author is mostly complaining that all the new car grilles and front ends are the same, just swapped around between cars.
I’m not saying that Jim Dunne (the man who both wrote this and pioneered automotive spy photography) doesn’t have a point—I think he does. But what I’m more taken by are these kind of charming green-tinted drawings of upcoming 1970 cars, likely based on spy photographs Dunne took but could not publish.
I like them because they show a good spectrum of the sorts of front-end designs that were happening in that era—the relative simplicity and straightforwardness of the Monte Carlo, the very European-inspired Camaro, the forward-looking Firebird with its urethane-plastic nose, and the hawk-like beaks of the Grand Prix, a look that Ford would embrace for the upcoming LTDs.
The Pontiac GTO-inspired divided grille can be seen applied to the Tempest and the Bonneville now, too.
It’s also interesting to see the clever ways designers would differentiate faces with only the basic round sealed-beam headlight to work with—modern designers are spoiled by near-total design freedom for lighting shapes.
I also really like seeing the not-quite-right proportions and shapes of this AMC Hornet, especially on those chonky wheelarch flares, and the oddly rounded AMC flap-type door handles.
Oh, also, if you want a bit of that damn, shit was cheap back then feeling, check out this article spread:
Six-dollar tune-ups? Eight-dollar mufflers and shocks? Who do they think we are, the kid of the Monopoly guy and Scrooge McDuck, having made sweet, sweet love in a pile of coins and Community Chest cards?
This article was originally published in May 2020.