Ford 021c Ten Years Too Early?

Ford 021c Ten Years Too Early?
Design & Architecture
Dave Pinter, PSFK
  • 21 may 2009

Jalopnik has put together an interesting gallery of concept cars from a decade ago. Back in 1999, then head of design for Ford, J.Mays decided to try an experiment and work with a designer outside of the company on a concept car. He chose Marc Newson who had been designing furniture and products. He had never designed a car before.

Newson worked with a team of modelers and fabricators at Ford to complete the project. His idea was to create a simple and affordable small car, which in 1999 with gas cheap, was contrary to all the big cars and SUV’s that were starting to saturate the market. Newson named the car 021c after his favorite Pantone color. It had some interesting features like wide opening doors and swivel seats for easy entrance and egress. The trunk functioned as a pull out drawer instead of a lift up lid. This allowed the car to have a unique profile somewhere between a small sedan and a hatchback.

When the car was unveiled, it was almost universally despised. Part of the criticism was targeted at Mays for going around Ford designers and using someone else who wasn’t a car guy. But also the design was so leftfield from everything else that people just didn’t understand it. It was perceived as boxy, toylike, and almost anti-designed. The 021c was quickly hidden away and not shown again.

So maybe it was too shocking then, but scan the reader comments on Jalopnik’s post and you’ll see a very different attitude towards the 021c today. Actually of all the other concepts that came out that year, the 021c is the only one that still looks fresh today. Anyone else think this should be dusted off?

+marc newson

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