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Retrofuturism: Time and Nostalgia in automotive Design (Ρετροφουτουρισμος: Χρονος και Νοσταλγια στο Σχεδιασμο Αυτοκινητων)

2008 / G.D.Liamadis


'Retrofuturism' has been a popular theme in automotive design for much of the past decade. It describes the practice of taking an iconic car from the past, which evokes strong feelings and cultural associations, and rethinking it for a contemporary market. Having started in the late ‘80s with the Japanese Nissan Figaro and Mazda MX-5, ‘retro’ has grown popular in U.S.A. due to the work of J.Mays in the revival of numerous legendary models such as the VW Beetle and Ford’s Thunderbird, GT40 and Mustang. In Europe, retrofuturism as expressed by the new Beetle, Mini and Fiat 500 is only part of the post-modern nostalgia: return to classic design themes such as the twin circular headlights and chrome grilles as a means of consolidating corporate identity, is one of the more sensitive examples of reclaiming tradition in car design. Nostalgia for the past is here examined as a psychological reaction to anxiety for the present, while return to the car’s rich cultural and aesthetic heritage is investigated as a way to introduce the factor of time in the design process. Through an in-depth analysis of three typical case studies, styling rather than design is concluded to be the key factor in retro design, image being the main conveyor of emotional content and the vehicle to evoke memories of the past.

This paper is part of a doctoral thesis titled: “Automotive Culture: Design & Styling”. The chapter on retrofuturism is here individually presented as a short analysis on this current trend in car design.


Annual of the Faculty of Engineering, issue XX (2005-2007), School of Architecture, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki

  Retrofuturism: Time and Nostalgia in automotive Design (Ρετροφουτουρισμός: Χρόνος και Νοσταλγία στο Σχεδιασμό Αυτοκινήτων)