Tag Archives: Cars

Why retro is such a big thing?

What is it with retro and vintage designs? I was born in 1979 and grew up in the eighties, yet I’ve always been fond of design from the sixties. While my interests, taste and preferences shifted when transitioning from a teenager into a young adult by the end of the nineties, my admiration for watches, cars, furniture and music from the sixties didn’t fade a bit. I thought this might very well pass with time, yet we’re now well into the 2010’s and I’m still a fan. Why is that?

You will probably have noticed that vintage and retro are booming - whether talking fashion, furniture, watches or basically any other field of interest.  By now it’s hardly something new, as it seems this trend has been going steady for at least 10 years. While there doesn’t seem to be a proper definition of the term ‘vintage’, to me it represents objects of at least 25 years old. Retro to me is the modern counterpart: classic designs, modern production. Are you counting with me? This means that objects from my youth are now considered vintage and retro. I must be getting old!

Steve McQueen on Le Mans race track with Heuer Monaco watch on.
Steve McQueen on Le Mans race track with Heuer Monaco watch on. (Credit: unknown).

Why is vintage so popular? I thought about this and discussed it with my friends. Let’s stay with watches. I think the following factors play a part;

-          There will never be more watches from one certain year. It’s even more likely there will be less in time, as pieces will get irreparably damaged, lost, et cetera. Vintage watches will become more rare as time passes, even more so when factoring in the growing demand.

-          Buying vintage watches demands a fair bit of knowledge and a good eye. Finding the right model in the right configuration and right condition, can be a challenging hunt. The watch as a coveted trophy.

-          Every vintage watch is unique. They all carry a history, that they show to varying extent through scratches, discoloration, and other types of patina. The watches allow us to dream about times gone by.

-          In a broader sense it is often said that in times of crisis and turmoil people tend to prefer more traditional and subtle looks and virtues.

-          Lastly people loving buying stuff that they couldn’t afford back when they were younger. And how cool is it to own a birth year watch?

The evolution of the Mark Pilot watches by IWC Schaffhausen.
The evolution of the Mark Pilot watches by IWC Schaffhausen. (Credit: Ace Photo Studio)

Retro is just as popular as vintage. Why? Again I think there are multiple forces at play;

-          The manufacturers have noticed the huge popularity of vintage watches. It’s easy for them to jump aboard this train by bringing back some of their best designs as retros.

-          Vintage watches have gotten terribly expensive in some cases. Also, not all old watches are that suitable to be worn on a daily basis. In both cases, a modern watch with a vintage look presents a good alternative, which we call retro watches.

-          As touched upon in the above, buying vintage watches can be quite challenging. How do you know it’s all original and correct? It’s nearly impossible. Unless you buy a new watch at your local authorized dealer.

I want to close this column with a sharp note: maybe vintage and retro are popular because there are very little good new designs? Maybe today’s design just isn’t cutting edge anymore? I really had to dig in order to come up with well-designed objects from the past three decades with the potential to become collectors’ items. May I suggest the Aston Martin DB9 (2004), iPhone 5 (2012) and the Nike Free Flyknit (2012). And of course I have to finish with a watch: the Urwerk UR-103 (2003).

My icons
What are my favorite vintage objects? I’ve compiled a small, non-exhaustive list below. Please let me know which designs and objects you consider to be icons!

Maybe the best chronograph: the Omega Speedmaster. Must have book is the book: Moonwatch Only.
Maybe the best chronograph: the Omega Speedmaster. Must have book is the book: Moonwatch Only. (Credit: Ace Photo Studio)

Fine Watches
-          Breitling Navitimer (1952): A calculator for the pilot’s wrist. The best is the 1969 version.

-          Omega Speedmaster (1957): Arguably the best chronograph ever. Of course the whole Moonwatch thing doesn’t hurt either!

-          Heuer Carrera (1963): This watch just oozes motorsports, and is so well-balanced in terms of design.

-          Heuer Monaco (1969): The first square chronograph and truly cutting edge design.

-          Omega PloProf (1970): Form-follows-function in its truest form.

-          Casio G-Shock (1983): As robust as digital watches come.

-          Swatch (1983): No explanation needed as far as I’m concerned!

Lancia Flaminia Zagato Super Sport.
Lancia Flaminia Zagato Super Sport. (Credit: Amr El Saadany)

-          Land Rover Defender (1948): The PloProf of cars. Form Follows Function;

-          Ford Mustang (1964): Oozes the true ‘American Spirit’;

-          Lancia Flaminia Zagato Super Sport (1964): Arguablye one of the most beautiful sports cars ever;

-          Aston Martin DB4/GT Zagato (1964): Another beauty – and legendary as Sean Connery’s Bond car;

-          Lancia Delta (1979): Dressed up as HF Integrale it’s a rally monster for public roads;

-          BMW E30 3-serie (1982): My childhood favorite.

Fine Jewelry
It might surprise you that I don’t have such a list of favorite vintage iconic jewelry pieces. I think it’s because my father is a goldsmith who designed  and fabricated everything by himself. When talking jewelry, I am biased and prefer unique hand-made pieces over big name icons.

Tapio Wirkkala Bolle glassware.
Tapio Wirkkala Bolle glassware. (Credit: Luminaire)

Interior design
-          Eames Plastic Chair (1950): Dining room chairs of unrivalled beauty. I can personally attest to the fact that they work very well in living rooms too;

-          Eames Lounge Chair (1957): Timeless lounge chair – and very comfortable;

-          Achille Castiglioni Arco Floor Lamp (1962). Simply perfect;

-          Tapio Wirkkala Bolle glassware (1966): Finish design in its truest form.


My all time favorite shoe, that I collect till today: The Nike Air Jordan I.
My all time favorite shoe, that I collect till today: The Nike Air Jordan I. (Credit: Ace Photo Studio)

-          Chuck Taylor’s All Stars (1917): over a 100 years old, but still exceedingly popular.

-          Clarks Desert Boot (1950): the best suede shoes;

-          Nike Air Jordan 1 (1983): the best sneaker ever. I collect these with much passion;

-          Nike Air Max 1 (1987): The first shoe with the see-through ‘Air’ cushion that’s so iconic now;

-          Nike Air Max 97 (1997): With the ‘Air’ cushion running along the full length of the shoe, it is truly ‘Air Max’.

Would love to hear what your favorite design objects are? And, if there is a particular era that stands out for you.

Instagram Game #DefenderChallenge

Recently I stumbled upon a social media game on Instagram named #DefenderChallenge and I started to join in.

Both Chantalle Shemie and Dale Vito Boom have a deep love for the iconic Land Rover Defender cars and to share the love they both took snapshots of Defenders on the street. As a joke they started to tag each other and starting using the hashtag #DefenderChallange to keep score who encounters more Defender cars on the road.

@cshemie on Instagram

Their passion is so infectious, that more people started joining and are playing this game with them. I decided to write a blog post about it for two reasons:

1. None of the players actually own a Defender vehicle.
2. The power of social media.

Usually people use social media to show off what and how much they own. But this initiative by Shemie and Boom was created spontaneous and comes from a deep love for the car. When asking the founders of the game where their love comes from, they answered:

"Ever since I am a child I a crazy about Africa, wildlife and safari's. And, a safari is not complete without a big old school Land Rover Defender to find wildlife during a safari in Africa. I have had the opportunity to spend a month in the bush and the Defender is not only beautiful and handy, but actually a necessity, a true lifesaver." says Chantalle Shemie. She continues and indicates that: "Although you don't actually need a Defender is a flat country like the Netherlands, I am saving up to buy an vintage Defender here. It will be my piece of Africa in Holland."

Chantalle Shemie

Dale Vito Boom comes from a totally different angle and he states: "Since my childhood I am crazy about art and design. My greatest passion is vintage watches, which are marvelous pieces of art and often design icons. What I love about vintage watches is that usually form follows function. This is definitely true for the Defender. I hope to own one some day."

Dale Vito Boom

From these short quotes we can conclude that although both do not own a Defender today, they are actually planning to own one in the near future. Which leads me to the second reason I wrote this post: the power of social media.
Although both Shemie and Boom do not own the car, their passion for it is so infectious that the bug infected their friends on Instagram to join in and play the game too (including me - I love this car too every since I am a child). This shows how powerful and sincere social media can be. And, what a fantastic pool of knowledge and data this can be for brands. And, that is why I love social media. Besides that it is great fun.

It's interesting to note that when I asked both Shemie and Boom if Land Rover liked, regrammed or commented on their posts, they both said the had no reaction whatsoever from the brand. It important to note that they both actually tagged several official accounts of Land Rover in the pictures.

Land Rover Defender by @rhphotographie

Message to Land Rover:
Please wake up! Embrace these future Defender owners! They are already your brand ambassadors.

Make sure to follow Chantalle via: @cshemie and Dale via: @dalevintage (ask permission) or via his open account @dalevito (no Defenders though).


Triple C: Cool Car Commercials

As written here before, I love cool advertisements and commercials, hereby come cool car commercials: Triple C rating 😉

European Elegance: Audi RS6 2008 - "Gymnastics" TV commercial

American Power: Michael Bay's Commercial Chevy Cars Carrier

An oldy, but a goody: Every boys dream > Porsche

If you have a favorite, please do share!


Pimp my ELECTRIC car...

This company takes cars people already love and electrifies them.

smart fortwo (© Sean Frego) Click to see more pictures

At a cost of $35,000, the all-electric smart car will be more than twice the price of the recently Americanized gasoline version.

Walk into a Wal-Mart in the not-too-distant future and among the thousands of products for sale will be an electric car. It will not be a remote control car, a golf cart or a little scooter to help granny cruise the aisles. The battery-powered automobile will look every bit like a MINI Cooper. This is because it will be a MINI Cooper, just with a powerful electric motor under the hood and a stack of lithium batteries where the gas tank used to be.

The company responsible for transforming the already-efficient MINI into a zero-emissions electric vehicle (EV) is Hybrid Technologies. At its factory in Mooresville, North Carolina, engineers pull the internal combustion guts from cars such as the Chrysler Crossfire, PT Cruiser, smart fortwo, and the MINI, endowing them with advanced electric powerplants. While several other well-funded startups are racing to build electric cars from scratch, Hybrid Technologies has taken a different line of attack, converting already popular models to battery power.

To Richard Griffiths, the founder and prolific spokesman for Hybrid Technologies, the goal is not to try and sell people on the idea of an electric vehicle, but rather to show them how much fun they can have in electric versions of their favorite cars. Griffiths wants people to start thinking of battery power as a kind of high-end option, like a convertible top or a navigation system.

"You'll find that whatever great looking vehicle is launched next year, more than likely we'll begin production on that vehicle," Griffiths explains. At $65,000 for the MINI, electric power makes for one hefty option. But the appeal is undeniable, as actor George Clooney and singer James Blunt are enthusiastic drivers of Hybrid Technologies conversions.

Power to the People — Who Can Afford It
Hybrid Technologies plans to make 2008 the year that its cars become available to consumers first through Wal-Mart and then directly. When the all-electric smart car hits the market it will cost $35,000, more than twice the price of the recently Americanized gasoline version. For the time being there is no shortage of customers. NASA, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Military all buy alternative-fueled vehicles for their fleets (part of a Congressional mandate from the Clinton years) and have purchased EVs from Hybrid Technologies.

Working with the military is also a natural fit. Hybrid Technologies started out five years ago helping the military with watercraft and submarine power systems and now provides electric PT Cruisers for base transportation. Griffiths won't hint at what other sort of projects Hybrid Technologies is building for the military, except to say that since EVs are almost silent they lend themselves to clandestine applications.

The Factory in Reverse
The Hybrid Technologies plant in Mooresville, North Carolina, looks much the way any auto factory should look. Except here, almost as many motors are being pulled out of cars as are being put in. Hybrid Technologies and smart share a core relationship, so for its electric version of the fortwo, Hybrid Technologies obtains what are called "gliders" intact cars without engines or gas tanks.

For cars such as the Crossfire and PT Cruiser, the motor and other systems are stripped out and sold back to the automaker or others. By building off existing models, Hybrid Technologies gets to focus on the critical part of any electric car the battery system.

Letting carmakers foot the bill for crash testing is another welcome advantage. The smart fortwo, with its steel safety cell, has been approved by the USDOT. Nevertheless, Hybrid Technologies is working with the Canadian government to crash test fully electric Smart cars for further validation. "At the end of the day," says Griffiths, "you can keep a fairly large portion of the vehicle consistent with the original OEM, which does allow us a lot more freedom to put our money into the technology as opposed to into the design."

Paving the Way
Not since General Motors leased out the now-legendary EV1 ten years ago has a large automaker put an all-electric car on the road. With electric cars predominantly in the territory of government contracts and industrious do-it-yourselfers, Hybrid Technologies exists in the gap between the big guns and the hobbyists.

According to Griffiths, automakers are biding their time and waiting for the dust to settle before making big moves toward alternative energies. Companies like his may be paving the way, with Toyota and General Motors poised to swoop in when the public decides its alternative car of choice. In the meantime, Hybrid Technologies is busy developing a product it hopes is "bulletproof." Noting that reliability is paramount in building confidence in these new electric vehicles, Griffiths adds, "You get one shot at it."

Jacob Gordon is a freelance writer, a blogger for TreeHugger.com, and producer of TreeHugger Radio. He can be reached at jacob@treehugger.com.