Every professional field has its own jargon, and car design is no different. Here are five of the most curious terms from an automobile designer’s vocabulary, “translated” into plain English.

Matteo Licata Citroen DS design drawing
Matteo Licata Citroen DS design drawing
Author’s illustration of the Citroën DS

DLO or Daylight Opening

And how it could be fixed.

Matteo Licata Design
Matteo Licata Design
An old, not very good sketch from Yours Truly (picture from the Author)

Have you tried to Google “Behance Car Design Sketch” lately?

If you do, I bet your eyeballs will be assaulted by a barrage of out-of-proportion, often even out of perspective “vehicles” whose massive wheels and impossibly tiny glass fight for your attention, yet they all look the same. We have been fetishizing sketching to a point where we have lost sight of what matters, especially in the design academy’s world.

Over the past forty years, many automobile design courses have popped up in various locations worldwide, all seemingly with the same goal: to separate wealthy kids’ families from an atrociously large chunk of their cash in exchange for the “high education” needed to enter the field. …

The Alfa Romeo Montreal has enjoyed a surge in popularity among collectors and fans over the last few years, and for excellent reasons.

Alfa Romeo Montreal 1970 orange
Alfa Romeo Montreal 1970 orange
The Alfa Romeo Montreal on display at Alfa Romeo’s museum (picture from the Author)

After all, it wears a legendary badge, looks to die for, a unique V8 engine that sounds like heaven, and, with only 3925 cars made, it’s pretty exclusive.

Expo 67

The Alfa Romeo Montreal owes its name to the Canadian city that hosted the very successful world’s fair of 1967. Visitors of the pavilion dedicated to mankind’s technical prowess were treated, among other things, to the sight of two identical Alfa Romeo coupés, resplendent in pearlescent white paint.

Alfa Romeo had received the distinct honor of being invited by the Expo’s organizers to showcase no less than “the highest aspiration of man in terms of cars.” It was no mean feat, given the high profile of the occasion, the rather daunting brief, and the fact the Expo was just nine months away. …

They say that a partner should accept you the way you are. Thankfully, she didn’t.

Salma guiding me up to a castle
Salma guiding me up to a castle
Picture from the Author

As many people often say and Barry White famously sang in 1978, your romantic partner should love you “just the way you are.”
Yet, one woman changed me forever by doing the exact opposite, and I’m grateful to her to this day.

Even though she’s gone.

We split out of mutual accord a few years ago, with no ill feelings.
I don’t want her back. But in these troubled days, I’ve found myself reflecting upon the seminal role she’s played in my personal development, in my becoming the better person I am now.

she could see it all though and call my bluff, slapping back in my face those aspects of me I pretended never…

The little Alfa Romeo “Tipo 103,” also known by the uncharitable nickname “Pidocchio” (the Italian for “louse”), is perhaps more famous now than it’s ever been, at least among the Milanese marque’s enthusiasts.

blue alfa romeo prototype Tipo 103
blue alfa romeo prototype Tipo 103
The unique “Tipo 103” prototype at Alfa Romeo’s museum near Milan (picture from the Author)

The word “famous” must be intended in very relative terms, though, as we’re talking about a single prototype that became a museum piece in August 1962, shortly after being built.

Boom times

The “Tipo 103” was conceived in the late 1950s when the Italian automobile market was booming, and the Giulietta’s success had transformed Alfa Romeo into the second-largest Italian automobile manufacturer, in place of a declining Lancia.

The word “largest” must also be intended in relative terms, given Alfa Romeo, with around 17.000 cars sold in 1957, remained nowhere near Fiat’s volumes.

Nevertheless, the Portello’s management felt confident enough to plan a further expansion downmarket, with a small 850cc saloon striking a “middle ground” between the established Fiat 600 and 1100 while retaining Alfa Romeo’s values of superior engineering and performance. …

The exhilarating Giulia Quadrifoglio brought back into the limelight Alfa Romeo’s picturesque four-leaf clover symbol back in 2015. But did you know there’s a tragic story behind it?

Alfa Romeo green cloverleaf badge
Alfa Romeo green cloverleaf badge
The Alfa Romeo green cloverleaf badge (picture FCA Emea Press site)

The green cloverleaf first appeared on an Alfa Romeo back in 1923, on the RL TF driven by Ugo Sivocci during that year’s Targa Florio, one of the era’s most prestigious races. Sivocci was one of the so-called “four musketeers,” as the Italian press often called the four official Alfa Romeo racing drivers: Sivocci, Ascari, Campari, and Enzo Ferrari (yes, that Ferrari).
Alfa Romeo prepared four cars for the event, and Ugo Sivocci had a green cloverleaf over a white square painted on his one, to try to propitiate “Lady Luck” for the grueling race ahead.

It worked.

Ugo Sivocci crossed the line as the winner for the 1923 Targa Florio, giving Alfa Romeo its first major victory on the international racing circus.
Unfortunately, Sivocci’s good fortune wasn’t going to last, though. …

Why automobile interior design gets surprisingly little attention from company higher-ups, despite its importance.

Matteo Licata Designer
Matteo Licata Designer
An old interior sketch from the Author’s portfolio (picture from the Author)

If questioned about automobile interior design, most managers will say something like this: “Interior Design is critical to us, as the interior is where our customers spend most of their time…” Yet, inside the design studio walls, the truth is often somewhat different. How do I know?

I’ve been a car designer for the best part of a decade, spending most of that time designing interiors. Not that I wanted to.

Nobody really does.

Public awareness of automobile design has never been more widespread. There have never been as many design academies worldwide.
Yet becoming a full-time car designer has never been more complicated, as this exceedingly small field is overwhelmed with newly-graduated students. …

Electric cars look just like their combustion brethren, with nary a closed-off grille and a few blue accents… Why?

Neon sign with an automobile shape
Neon sign with an automobile shape
Picture by Maksim Goncharenok from Pexels.com

Automobile design managers are very proficient at making excuses.

Whenever challenged about a less-than-successful design, they’ll tell you it was because of inept management, marketing input, cost-cutting, legislation… And that’s often true.

Up until recently, it wasn’t uncommon for design managers to indicate new powertrains as a gateway to a new, exciting phase in automobile design. Fast forward to 2020 and, almost a decade after Tesla’s breakthrough Model S, the automobile industry at large is finally pivoting towards mass-market electrification… But you could be forgiven for not noticing. …

Twitter used to be my favorite social media… Until I deleted it.

Lipstick on mirror
Lipstick on mirror
Picture from cottonbro on Pexels.com (cropped by the Author)

I deleted my moderately successful Twitter account last summer.

While I don’t regret my decision, I still find myself “missing” Twitter sometimes: a rather stark contrast with the “killing” of my Facebook and Instagram profiles, which felt like a liberation.

Hate, ignorance, and negativity always seemed to find its way to my eyeballs

That’s because positive things came to my life through Twitter.

My geeky automotive-themed content had attracted a sizable following over time and sparked a few exciting collaborations along the way.
The best thing about the automobile hobby is how it brings people together, and I really enjoyed the thoughtful conversations I had with fellow enthusiasts. …

Tazio Nuvolari’s epic racing win is a lesson about self-confidence and perseverance that’s valid to this day

The monument to Tazio Nuvolari
The monument to Tazio Nuvolari
Monument to Tazio Nuvolari in his hometown, Castel D’Ario (c. Wikimedia Commons)

It’s the 28th of July, 1935.

The German Grand Prix was the fourth of seven races valid for the European Driver’s Championship, held on the 22.8 Kms long Nurburgring circuit.
Germany’s Third Reich considered motor racing a useful propaganda tool and, keen to showcase Germany’s superiority in automobile engineering, generously funded the racing programs of Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union.

The race was supposed to be a walkover for the “Silver Arrows,” as the Mercedes-Benz W25s were nicknamed: a home win in front of around 300,000 spectators and high-ranking Nazi party brass.
The Mercedes-Benz W25B was the car to beat: Its four liters supercharged straight-eight engine produced around 375HP, and its advanced chassis design featured independent suspension on all four wheels. …


Matteo Licata

I’ve been obsessed with cars for as long as I can remember, and, after working in automobile design for a decade, now I am an Automobile Historian and Writer

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