Before car designers there were car designs.
These early designs were simple technical solutions, the consequence of engineers defining fundamental parameters of what makes a car, of what makes a car design. The Mercedes Simplex from 1903 exemplifies this.
Here is the most simple design, comprising of few things, and obviously so; it is inherently honest. Each element — its wheels, fenders, fuel tank, hood, grille, dashboard, seats — were clearly separately conceived in an unaffected way, to realise a function and with no agenda to convey any impression; this was not designed to ‘look like’ anything. It is, emphatically, what it is.
We read today’s cars as a single entity whilst knowing they are a blend of many elements and the efforts of so many considerations. Here is the antithesis: a design that clearly comprises of separate elements and that was created for a singular purpose.
It might precede the practice of car design, but the Simplex, like other designs of its time, reminds us of how compelling designs that are simple in their make up and intensions can be.