Does Your Car Have a Face?

Does your car have a personality? Did you give it a real name, like “Suzy”, “Don” or “Buggy” depending on what it looks like or what the manufacturer called it?
Austin Sprite 8 photos
Angry BMWChrysler Gem PeapodMazda Sassou looking asianScion iQ is all happyJaguar fish faceSuperior Suzuki A-StarSad little Trabant
If we were to ask that question to a bunch of people, the majority of men would say we’re being ridiculous, absurd over even stupid, while some of the women would be more than delighted to share curious facts about their cute little city runabouts.

Oh sure, they’re supposed to be pieces of metal, plastic and glass, but we can’t help but think they are somehow human. It’s called anthropomorphism, or giving human characteristics to something that clearly isn’t a human.

Studies have shown that people who have symmetrical faces are more attractive, and the same seems to be true about cars. Any other piece of hardware, the TV, your phone, the mouse and keyboard can beautiful without being the same from left to right, but not the car.

Car designer routinely describe the headlights as being eyes and the grille as being a mouth. The lower part the front bumper, well that’s a chin, while the mirrors are the years that frame the head. Yes folks, car design is taking what human traits like power, arrogance, innocence and curiosity and using it as a template to ensure we like what we drive.

You might be tempted to think this is only true for girly little things, like the Fiat 500 or VW Beetle, but it’s equally true for something like a Viper or Corvette. In fact, most sportscars have male features, such as slit-like headlights.

The presence of testosterone usually creates wider jaws, smaller foreheads ad smaller eyes with strong brows. Almost all musclecars, both old and new, big chins, strong lines over their headlights (brows) and small windshields in proportion to the rest of the car (equivalent to a foreheads). Coincidence? Not really.

Things are a bit… less simple when it comes to the opposite sex. Girly cars sometimes have feline or childlike features. This includes closer set, and rounded headlights, small, rounded grilles and generally rounded features.

There’s something to be said about the maturity of an owner that’s projected into the profile and rear of the car. Just like humans associate the widening of the hips with older age, so too are cars that are wide at the back sometimes chosen by the older gentlemen.

The reason why this is so cool compared to every other car-related fact is that you can talk about it with… normal people. All us car nuts see the VW Beetle or the old Porsche 911 as being rear-engined cars with strange handling characteristics and air-cooled boxer engines slung way out there. But bring this talk to a dinner party and you risk being labeled a major source of snores.

But suggest that a Fiat 500 is cute because it’s got symmetric, feminine shapes and you might find yourself in the presence of a couple of hotties talking about how cute their girly-girl automobiles are and how nobody from the opposite sex understands them. You might even be forced into a conversation about putting eyelashes on a car. It might seem like the sort of conversation that will rip apart your very soul, that absolutely no joy can be had. But try it, it’s not as bad as you might think… as long as the girl is hot enough. I accidentally had fun with it one time!

There’s something even more interesting to say about the face your car shows to the world. As humans, we use faces to determine not only the gender, but also the emotions and intentions of another person. So when you’re buying that new BMW, you’re unknowingly trying to show superiority or seriousness. This might be why some models moving upmarket is often accompanied by more grownup features.

So if these are the shapes people like, does that mean it’s also the shape we buy? Well, not really. As with humans, familiarity is the key to trustworthiness, which is why we need to see a resemblance to the older models we liked before buying the new one, and why the most successful brands makes the least radical changes to their “faces”.

We’ve established that cars have traits from human faces in their design, but it also works the other way around. Some people hope that buying one hunk of metal and glass will benefit their daily lives in one of two ways: “if I but that Viper, people will respect me more” or “if I but that Beetle, my life will be so much happier”.

That being said, enjoy the photo gallery of cars looking angry, childish, posh, happy,sad or just have a very human face!
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About the author: Mihnea Radu
Mihnea Radu profile photo

Mihnea's favorite cars have already been built, the so-called modern classics from the '80s and '90s. He also loves local car culture from all over the world, so don't be surprised to see him getting excited about weird Japanese imports, low-rider VWs out of Germany, replicas from Russia or LS swaps down in Florida.
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