It appears that Spyker (the high-end Dutch sports car company) is making plans to develop a car based on the original Saab 92 (1949-1956). If you've been following the tales and travails of the Saab brand you'll recall that Spyker saved the car maker from almost certain liquidation after GM cut the Swedish niche-brand loose last year.
Having been a Saab loyalist for nearly 20 years, I'm thrilled by the idea of a resurgent Saab entering the market with a new direction and focus (most Saab fans look on the GM years as time lost in the wilderness). And while I've always understood the 92 to be a lovely little post-World War II car (and quite innovative for its time), it raises an interesting question about what constitutes great design. Namely, can retro design be great design?
It's a question worth asking since we're clearly living in a time when re-manufacturing the past has become a common practice. Whether it's cars (like the MINI Cooper, VW Beetle, and Fiat 500), cameras, bicycles or appliances, designers are looking back to classic mid-century forms as they develop many of today's newest products
I remain conflicted on the question. Part of me recognizes the challenge of re-imagining something like the Fiat 500 for a modern audience, but part of me also knows that design moves forward by solving problems in in new and innovative ways.
What do you think? Can these new "retro" designs ever achieve the iconic status of "great" designs in their own right, or will they always be seen as pale imitations of their predecessors?