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Monsters (ELR) vs. dogs (Corvette) in car design

Cadillac ELR/Converj designers faced a much easier assignment than the stylists who were told to design the seventh-generation Corvette. Photo credit: GM

DETROIT -- The Cadillac ELR won an EyesOn Design award this week for Best Production Vehicle.

Congratulations to Cadillac. The ELR is certainly a distinctive-looking vehicle, which keeps essentially all the design elements of the Cadillac Converj concept car.

But I couldn't help thinking when I saw the news that the ELR/Converj designers faced a much easier assignment than the stylists who were told to design the seventh-generation Corvette that was unveiled Sunday as a Stingray.

There's a saying in Japan that it's easier to draw a monster than a dog.

The reason is that nobody knows what a monster looks like, so you can make it look like anything: Predator, Alien, Hannibal Lecter, whatever. But everybody knows what dogs look like, so a sketch of a dog has to look right.

What does a Cadillac plug-in hybrid look like? Could be almost anything. What does a Corvette look like? It has to look like a Corvette, and that's a very specific look.

It's hard to redesign an icon, whether a Corvette, a Porsche, a Rolls Royce or a Harley-Davidson. You have to stay true to its styling, while making it look current.

The stylists who created the 2014 seventh-generation Corvette succeeded, in my view. It doesn't look like a Porsche, a Triumph, a Ferrari or any other performance car. It looks like a Corvette.

Some Automotive News readers commenting on the 2014 Corvette Stingray's design have made it extremely clear that they don't like it. That's just a sign that they care, that they want it to be a beautiful car. But I haven't seen a comment yet that says it looks like an Infiniti.

Will the ELR ever carry that same design cachet? Will we even be talking about it 60 years from now?

There's a reason the word "iconic" isn't used often in describing cars -- but it's always used for Corvette.

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