Retro name insulting, but the look can work wonders


May 28, 2006

Let's kill retro.

Not the look, the word -- or at least its negative connotations. The critics sneered "retro" at the Chevrolet Camaro concept I drove two weeks ago, as if the word alone is enough to dismiss the car.

Yeah, retro like a Porsche 911.

Some designs work so well that the best thing you can do over time is refine them. Levi Strauss got it right in 1873 when he patented the idea of denim pants with copper rivets to reinforce the stress points.

The company he founded sells everything from dress shoes to eyeglass frames today, but Levi himself would recognize a pair of its blue jeans.

Car designers hate the word retro, because it suggests all they've done is put tracing paper over somebody else's work.

The best retro designs do much more than that. They take the essence of a car's appeal and bring it forward, incorporating new technology and ideas to improve on the original.

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