Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Ugly Gills = Luxury?

I am baffled by a recent phenomenon in the automotive styling world. It seems non-functional, plastic fender gills are now the price of entry in the luxury market. I first took notice of this trend in the 2000 BMW M3.

The overall styling of the E46 M3 was primarily non-offensive, excluding the cancerous growth on the hood dubbed "the power dome" and the plastic gills on the fenders.

The M3 gills coincided with the BMW Z8, a supercar with super-retro styling sans LSD. I liked the Z8, at the time, and appreciated the styling throw-back to the BMW 507, but why did these plasticy gills end up on the M3 and were they here to stay?

I didn't ask any of these questions at the time, but the E60 BMW M5 introduced in 2005 indicated the gills were here to stay and are now one of the most visible M styling cues.

Unfortunately, gills did not stop at the M5. You can see them on Cadillacs, Jaguars, Range Rovers, Minis and the 2008 M3, complete with holes in the hood, a-la Evo, to complement a larger, more cancerous "Power Dome."

Don't think it stopped with the M3. The new Ford Focus, Pontiac G8 and Hyundai Tiburon also get in on the gill action. The new EVO has upped the ante with this:

and the Lexus IS-F followed suit:

Where did this trend start? Why did it start and when will it end?

The 1956 BMW 507 is one of the first cars with this style gill I can put my finger on. I am sure there may have been others, but you can trace the BMW Z8 and future gills back to this car. It really compliments this car and doesn't seem like the plastic add-ons of today's cars.

Modern Day
The 1987 Buick GNX is the first modern car I can remember with the plastic side gills. I take them at their word that these gills were needed for cooling the engine compartment due to the turbo.

What's Next?
Now that everybody, including Ford & Hyundai, have copied the gill treatment, how long will these unsightly blemishes grace the luxury car market?

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