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Form or function?

As a prairie farm kid in the ‘70s, there were times when my brother and I had had enough of “The Tommy Hunter Show” and “Sing-along Jubilee” and wanted to get a look at some different TV shows. (Not that they were bad shows, but you know what I mean. We were kids.)

To try and make that happen, I can remember hauling the TV antenna up to the second floor on a Saturday evening to try a bring in a second TV channel from not-so-far-away Brandon, Manitoba. If the atmospheric conditions were just right and you held the antenna a certain way, it was sometimes possible to pick up a fuzzy picture from the CTV affiliate there. Other than that, it was CBC or nothing.

Of course if we were successful, one of the added things of novelty was getting to watch an out-of-province beer commercial. All adverts for Demons Spirits were outlawed in prudish Saskatchewan at the time.

It might have been those years before that when we lived in the city that let us know there were good television shows not available on our single channel at the farm. Things like “Adam-12” and “Emergency!” You know, the kind of action shows that would get a kid’s blood pumping.

Recently, I came across DVD collections of both those exact TV shows, so feeling nostalgic I bought them. And I’ve spent a few weekends since then binge watching them.

One of the things I noticed as I watched those old shows is I could almost always identify the cars and trucks on the street even if they were only onscreen for a moment. Today, I can stand on a street corner and not be able to identify most of the generic-looking compacts that go by, even if I watch them for a full block. That is unless I can make out the brand logo on the hood or trunk.

The fact that so many autos on the market today have morphed into generic-looking aerodynamic blobs is disappointing. Function has clearly trumped form. Granted, the technology and drivability of todays cars and trucks puts all of those I see in those old TV shows to shame, but I’m left craving some of that classic style.

I see some of that creeping into the ag equipment sector, too, especially in tractor design. There is definitely a modern industry look to styling across most brands today. We all want a tractor to do similar things, so all manufacturers are designing theirs to be good at those jobs, including sloping front hoods for good forward visibility with loaders and things like that. But I kind of miss those older hoods that stood out prominently in their unique styles.

Interestingly, Sergio Marchionne, CEO of FCA (and head of CNH Global) addressed the issue of automobiles becoming generic during a press conference at the Detroit Auto show this month.

“I think generic brands that sell cars when automation or artificial intelligence or some form of electrification comes to play a role in the marketplace, then the question of the value of a brand in a commoditized world is really on the table,” he said.

“Generic brands on the other hand will have a tough time, because they become indistinguishable. They become commoditized and price will be the only thing that matters. If that happens you have to wonder what happens to your economic system? I mean where is your level of equilibrium in running this (auto) business. Tough issue.”

Maybe that explains the resurgence of Ford’s throwback Mustang, Chevy’s retro Camaro and Sergio’s Dodge Challenger.

I hope style, even if that means form over function, never abandons the auto and equipment marketplace entirely.



About the author


Scott Garvey

Scott Garvey is a freelance writer and video producer. He is also the former machinery editor at Grainews.



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