Beyond Retro Design: People Want New Things That are Old, or Old Things That are New


We’re seeing an unusual twist on automotive desirability today that would be quite interesting if it extended to all product design. The twist is this: A subset of people want new stuff that’s old, or depending on how you look at it, old stuff that’s new.

Here’s what we mean: In America, a company called Revology Cars began cranking out brand-new 1966 Ford Mustangs a few years ago. Ford licensed the original exterior design to Revology, who then creates the frame, has the body panels stamped up and drops a brand-new engine, transmission and suspension into the cars. This means you can now buy a SUH-WEET 1966 GT convertible, like the one pictured here, in brand-new condition.

Now Jaguar Land Rover has launched a similar initiative. In the 1950s Jaguar began modifying a handful of D-Types—the Le-Mans-winning racecar—into a street-legal model that they called the XKSS. Jaguar built 16 of them, and had another 9 being produced at the factory when a fire broke out and destroyed them. Jaguar never revived the design.

Until last year, that is. To make up for the cars lost in the first, they decided to build nine brand-new XKSS’s, calling it the Continuation series. From what the driver can see, these cars are straight out of 1957 with the original body, gauges, the same leather seats and brass knobs, but with a modern-day engine under the hood. The engine sound in the video below is probably the most thrilling audio I’ve heard yet this year:

A couple of months after Jaguar’s announcement, sister company Land Rover launched their own Reborn program, where they began locating, restoring and “remanufacturing” old Series 1 Land Rovers that had gone to seed:

They subsequently expanded the program to include the classic Range Rover.

Not sure if there’s internal rivalry, but this month Jaguar upped the ante and is debuting their “Reborn” E-Type in Germany this month. These are restored, not built from the ground-up, and these may be some of the most beautiful cars Jaguar has ever produced:

While these cars are obviously out-of-reach by folks of average income, I wouldn’t mind seeing this new-old or old-new trend applied to other original designs in the consumer products space. For example, after writing the History of Braun Design series some years ago, I became so smitten with their 1962 Sixtant SM 31 electric razor that I had to have one.

I tracked down and found one on the secondhand market that had been shipped from Italy. It’s heavy and substantial, has an internal voltage converter so works on 110V and despite being over 50 years old it still works like it’s brand-new. It’s one of my favorite possessions. I paid $23 for it and I will keep it forever. The only thing I don’t dig is that it still smells like some Italian dude’s cologne. If I could have bought a remanufactured version, I totally would have.

Are there any classic product designs that you would buy if they were remanufactured today?





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