Five weird expressions from car design, explained (2024)

Automobile design keeps retaining an aura of mystery and exclusiveness. After all, it’s a sector employing just a few thousand people worldwide, who speak using jargon that’s often obscure for a casual listener.

Having been part of that world myself, I can translate some of that jargon into plain English for you; let’s get into it!

1) “Positive” Wedge

The “wedge” shape has been widely used in car design over the last three to four decades, for aerodynamic and packaging reasons.
In the most basic terms, the main volume of a wedge-shaped car is pointy at the front, gradually transitioning into a significantly taller, stubby tail section.
Some manufacturers even used it as a marketing tool, as it happened with the Triumph TR7 I’m using as an example, whose advertising slogan was “The shape of things to come.”

Five weird expressions from car design, explained (3)

It is sometimes referred to as a “positive” wedge, contrasting with a “negative” wedge, which instead tapers towards the rear.

2) Cab Forward/Rearward

These two expressions relate to the passengers’ cabin’s position relative to the wheels, which determines much of a car’s overall proportions.
“Cab Rearward” is directly related to the “Dash To Axle” expression I’ve mentioned in this article. It refers to a car whose long nose brings the cabin closer to the rear end, seemingly “sitting” on the rear axle.
These are the classic “muscle car” proportions, and it’s no coincidence the current Ford Mustang is a prominent example.

Ever since motor cars have had a bonnet at the front, its length has been visually associated with a large, powerful engine. Therefore, the public is very much “primed” to appreciate these proportions. But not all cars can “waste” so much of their length, which brings us to…

Five weird expressions from car design, explained (2024)
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