When automobiles first hit the roads, they were, for all intents and purposes, exclusively for function. But as they grew in popularity and became more stable, the automotive industry began exploring new looks, expanding styles, and above all, adding some serious flair. As these elements of style were added, their functionality came into question. Today, the question of form following function comes into the spotlight with three important decorative automotive details.


Most of the quintessential vehicles from the golden age of automobiles have a very distinct common feature: the tailfin. Its popularity came about in the 1950s when Americans and the rest of the world looked skyward with a space-age fascination, but faded in popularity after a little over a decade. While fins are reminiscent of a beautiful moment in automotive history, they served no function to the operation of the vehicle.


Without question, an exhaust pipe is essential to the functioning of the car. The cylinders support the heavy lifting required of your vehicle in the combustion process, releasing all of the fumes that don’t help your car move. However, to many, exhausts also serve as an aesthetically pleasing detail. But in some cases, automakers cheated the function of the decorative exhaust pipe and sought to keep the form with fake exhaust tips. While giving the effect of a robust exhaust, these fake tips serve absolutely no function to the vehicle.


In many cases, exterior vents on automobiles serve one specific purpose: looking cool. However, this isn’t always the case. Automakers have also utilized these beautiful details to help the efficiency of the vehicle itself. In lieu of gaudy spoilers, hood and side vents can act as a cooling mechanism to the radiators by forcing hot air down through the engine lid. Nice to look at and even nicer to drive. While form and function both play integral parts in the world of automotive design, true automotive art comes to life when they follow one another.

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