Pontiac Ventura: Cleaning Up the Excess
In the 1950s, bigger was better. When it came to cars, this meant more chrome, more fins, more room, and more design. In 1959, the “bigger is better” theory of car design reached a pinnacle when the Cadillac Eldorado hit showroom floors. Imagine a bubble-gum pink Cadillac with altitudinous tail fins, juicy white-wall tires, pointy bullet tail lights, wide smiling grill, and shiny silver chrome. The car is in the same design class as the froufrou pink bridesmaid dress, the heavily frosted wedding cake, and the bleach-blonde beehive hairdo. There wasn’t much else that could be added to this frilly automobile (or to the other overly designed items). After 1959, car design could not get any bigger (unless you count “The Homer” from The Simpsons fame).
Then, the 1960s arrived. Design went from deluxe and ornate to simple and sleek. Pontiac led the way by building youthful-looking cars that emulated the growing popularity of simple and relaxed mid-century modern design. One of those sleek cars with simple, clean lines was the Pontiac Ventura. This car was the brainchild of the younger designers who were taking over the Pontiac line of automobiles. Their fresh eyes created cars without fins and excessive chrome; they designed cars that were simple on the outside, but full of spit and vinegar under the hood.
While the Ventura led Pontiac’s road to design domination in the 1960s, the first Ventura had one remnant of the garish concepts from 1959 – the bubble top. This subtle oversight was in stark contrast to the clean horizontal lines that defined the rest of the car. Why didn’t the designers notice the mismatch? Did they need to appease a veteran 1950s designer before he retired? Was it a poor attempt to transition from the 50s to the 60s?
Regardless of the bubble top design flaw, it was smart of Pontiac to move away from the ostentatious designs from the 1950s and to begin the 1960s with the trend towards simplicity. The subtle design of the Pontiac Ventura proved the theory of “less is more” and the rest of the contemporary automakers followed suit.