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Stop using this old Ford to show what the Apple car will look like

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I had an interesting conversation with my parents last night in which they protested the design of the Apple car, decrying the garish orange paint and a design that made it look "like a Russian car from the 1950s." I like to think that I'm more or less up to speed on the rumor mill — certainly more than my parents, who are not in the business of breaking news — but I had absolutely no idea what they were talking about.

Slowly, it dawned on me: the local news in Detroit (where they live) must have shown a picture of the Ford 021C, a concept car from 1999 that had been designed by Marc Newson — a man who is now in Apple's employ. Ergo, I guess the connection is being made that the 021C gives us a good idea of what the Apple car could look like.

Car designers don't make the same car over and over

A million times: no. We don't know Newson's involvement with the car project, and we still don't have a good handle on exactly what kind of transportation device Apple is making (WSJ says the current design "resembles a minivan," after all). But most importantly, designers — particularly car designers — don't tend to design the same thing over and over again; sometimes there are cues shared between models, but rarely more.* Suggesting that the 021C gives even the smallest hint of what the Apple car might be does a disservice to Ford, to Apple, and to Newson.

To illustrate my point, let's take a look at a few well-known designers and the cars they've helped conceptualize. You'll notice that they're... shall we say, very different from one another.

*There are exceptions to this rule — I'd argue Henrik Fisker has made the same car a few times.

Walter de Silva

Lamborghini Egoista (left) and Volkswagen Golf (right).

J Mays

Audi Avus (left) and Ford Freestyle (right).

Michelle Christensen

Acura NSX (left) and Acura ZDX (right).

Franz von Holzhausen

Tesla Model S (left) and Pontiac Solstice (right).

Chris Svensson

Ford GT (left) and FAB 1 from the 2004 film Thunderbirds (right).