Ford 021C (Concept)
Designed by Marc Newsom
It's been 12 years since Marc Newsom single-handedly designed the 021C concept car for Ford. Yet looking at this cute little boxy sub-compact now, you'd think it was designed today, and not in 1999. With it's fresh, forward-thinking design aesthetics practically insuring the 021C agelessness, one has to wonder why Ford never put this fun-looking prototype into production. With nary a wrinkle or frownline on the 021C's cheery little face, it certainly wouldn't be too late to do so now.
Newsom, an industrial designer by trade, envisioned the 021C to be a car seemingly designed from the point of view of a child. Looking at both the exterior and interior of this car, that design principle is clearly evident. The front and back doors open in a barn door style configuration as to give the driver a presentation-like view of the interior (a veritable song before the dance). The front seats swivel, the dashboard and steering wheel are spartan, and the entire layout gives the illusion of spaciousness in what is essentially a sub-compact.
The exterior of the 021C is considerably eye-catching. It's retro silhouette borrows it's lines from the Datsun 411 or the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, yet features a banded front headlight instead of the traditional two. The rear wheels snuggle against the back, er, bumper, and, in a design coop that is both novel and functional, the drunk slides open like a drawer. Painted in the Pantone chart color from which it's name is derived (and later in a cheery lime green), the 021C simply looks like a fun, toy-like car you would very much like to play around with.
Given a car climate that seems inundated with fuel efficiently cute, retro-inspired cars (the New Beetle, the Mini and soon, the Fiat 500), the introduction of the 021C into the current car market could possible give Ford the winning edge in that hip urban 30+ demographic that has all but alluded them (the Fiesta, Fusion and Mustang notwithstanding) over the years. Given that the 021C practically looks like an iPod (mind you, this car was designed way before the iPod was invented), an automobile like this would sell and sell big.
How I'm I so sure of this, you may be wondering. I can only speak for myself, but as a staunch and loyal Toyota customer - one who happens to own a 20 year-old MR2 and is considering purchasing a Matrix XRS - who has also sworn-off all American cars due to lousy experience after lousy experience with domestic automobiles, I can say wholeheartedly and with confidence that if Ford were to put the 021C in production, I would buy one in a heartbeat. I can only go on my personal buying habits, but how many other urban-dwelling 20-35 year-old's out there fit my demographic make-up that can picture themselves behind the wheel of this peppy little automobile? More than you think.
Of course the 021C would need some minor tweaks. I can't imagine that the front headlight beam would be street legal in any industrialized country. And airbags would be required. Then there is the name: as someone with a graphic design background, I can appreciate naming this product after a Pantone swatch. But "021C" doesn't have the same resonance or traction as a "500," "Mini" or "Golf." Perhaps the Ford "Diode" would be more apt. Other than these changes, this car could hit the showrooms today with a enough attention to garner considerable sales and stares.
What was once a radical design concept in 1999 is now quaintly contemporary. The Ford 021C is very much a car not just for today, but the future beyond as well. The 021C may have the distinction of being one of the few cars that appears to be timeless.
So, what do you say, Ford? I've waited long enough. May have my 021C now?