Edmunds dealer partner, Bayway Leasing, is now offering transparent lease deals via these forums. Click here to see the latest vehicles!

Spoilers Spoil Good Design - Agree or Disagree?

hpmctorquehpmctorque Member Posts: 4,600
Other than at speeds well above legal limits, rear spoilers are, at a minimum, non-functional appendages. It could further be argued that they detract from clean lines. However, the old proverb "taste is not to be disputed" applies here, so will rear spoilers be considered as passe as tail fins some day?


  • seminole_kevseminole_kev Member Posts: 1,696
    It is one thing for a car that's going to see 150MPH+ and needs some correction to its airflow/downforce, it is another for the family grocery getter. I'd love to see them go away, but some how I doubt they will.
  • 1racefan1racefan Member Posts: 932
    "It is one thing for a car that's going to see 150MPH+"

    Yeah, but if you were regularly driving these speeds, you would probably need a NASCAR style spoiler that could produce some real down-force instead of one of these trunk ornaments that the auto manufacturers place on cars and call spoilers.
  • 210delray210delray Member Posts: 4,721
    ...like whitewall tires and vinyl roofs. It seems amazing today that a car as lowly as the Plymouth Valiant had something like 80% optioned with vinyl roofs in the early 70s.

    Meanwhile, I always have to laugh when I see a Camry or Malibu with a spoiler! An Evo, yes, but not a family sedan.
  • davem2001davem2001 Member Posts: 557
    Good point - maybe in 10,20 years they will be out of style like vinyl roofs or whitewall tires...
  • seminole_kevseminole_kev Member Posts: 1,696
    well I do know that they had to add that ugly little spoiler to the Audi TT due to some top speed stability problems. That might be an instance where it didn't take a big spoiler, but that may have been only around 120 mph (?) though.
  • logic1logic1 Member Posts: 2,433
    I can only think of one or two spoilers -- both on Porsches -- that do anything for the design.

    I seriously considered getting a Cobalt SS Supercharged with the GM discount. The body work to get rid of the spoiler would have cost almost $500.00.

    I'll wait and check out the 2.4 litre SS that you can get without the darn spoiler.
  • fintailfintail Member Posts: 57,164
    I can't think of a spoiler that really helps a design. It's a very poseriffic accessory, especially on a 4cyl grocery getter.

    Every now and then I'll see one on a current S-class, and I have even seen one on a 126. Ridiculous.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    What's ironic is that in most cases a really effective spoiler would in fact slow a car down somewhat. So I'm not sure what the "pose" actually is---is it "my car is SO FAST I need a spoiler to keep in on the ground?" or do they think it actually makes the car go faster by "spoiling" the air.

    One thing for sure there is a lot of confusion in the public mind between the functions of a spoiler and a wing.

    All wings are spoilers but not all spoilers are wings.

    Wings make you go faster (in theory) and spoilers slow you down.

    So, unfortunately, some people are spending a lot of time and money on street cars to slow them down.
  • lemmerlemmer Member Posts: 2,689
    I am not sure how unfortunate it is to slow down some of these people. Those huge spoilers (especially if they are homemade) seem to go hand in hand with aggressive drivers. I wanted a spoiler on my first car, but I grew out of that desire by the time I hit 18 years old.
  • logic1logic1 Member Posts: 2,433
    The whole concept is pretty wacky, that is for sure.

    Of your suggestions, I believe the people who like them are trying to communicate to all that they have a car so fast it needs the spoiler to keep it on the ground.

    As if ...
  • steverstever Guest Posts: 52,454
    I think shopping cart when I see them; I figure the bigger ones (aka General Lee) make convenient handholds for pushing the car into the garage.

    Steve, Host
  • alfoxalfox Member Posts: 708
    So much of selling cars is creating an image that people buy into. By making a car look fast while sitting still to the selected demographic the image of real raod capability is created. An earlier example the silly "euro" styles GM used for a few years, with the blackwall tires and red accent lines in the rub strip. Today we have 19" wheels and low sidewall tires on cars that will never challenge the limits of anything but the drivers' capabilities. It's all about the image, never about anything real.
  • davem2001davem2001 Member Posts: 557
    I remember reading somewhere, people who like spoilers/wings want them to be HUGE. People who don't like them don't want one at all. All or nothing. That's why today's spoilers/wings are so oversized, like on the Evo or the WRX STI or the Cobalt SS, just a few examples. You almost never see a "subtle" spoiler/wing.

    IMO, I'm not a fan of them, but they are at least acceptable on a car that has a somewhat legit need for it, like the STI or Evo. Where they look really stupid is on a Camry or something like that. I saw one a few days ago on a Geo Metro Convertible! LOL!
  • kmagkmag Member Posts: 98
    I own a 97 Camry with a spoiler. I think it looks good. I had a 94 Escort, the spoiler really enhanced it also. I think these kind of spoilers are about as subtle as can be.

    I do think spoilers in general tend to look better on cars with sharper edges and less rounded bodies. The factory spoilers that look bad to me are the ones that are stuck in the middle of the trunk on cars with rounded edges and rear ends like the late 90's Taurus, Grand Prix, Sunfire. I had a 99 Mystique for a few years and I was glad it did not have a spoiler since it was that kind of rounded off design.
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 25,684
    vinyl roofs and whitewall tires, it just depends on the spoiler and the car. I've seen some cars that look good with a spoiler, like an 80's Monte Carlo SS or a '77 1/2 Can Am, and some of 'em just look goofy. It's all about moderation, and how well it's integrated into the design.

    I'll agree with Kmag, though, that usually a car that's more angular and sharper-edged will usually pull off the spoiler look better than a rounded one. I've seen some Intrepids with a spoiler though, and I think they look good. Not good enough for me to plunk down the money on one, though!
  • carlisimocarlisimo Member Posts: 1,280
    First I have to say that I've never liked the sedan shape. I find it to look too similar going forwards as backwards.

    And that's where a spoiler comes in. It visually raises the back of the car, which gives direction to the car. It's the same effect as a rising beltline, but less restrictive on the design of the car's profile.

    I think they're particularly effective (visually) on cars with trunks that have downward slopes. Again, this goes with my idea that such cars look the same going forwards as backwards, but I'll throw out a couple of examples. The early-90s Prelude (the rounded one) had a trunk that sloped down to the sides. I find the car to look odd without a spoiler. In modern cars, I'll suggest looking at the Mitsubishi Lancer. It's awkwardly boxy, and I find a spoiler to hide some of that awkwardness. Finally, anything with a hood scoop looks unbalanced if the front end is higher than the back.

    Yes, I'm 23. But I think most of your dislike of spoilers is a dislike of spoilers themselves and what they represent to you - not how they actually look on the cars you see them on. It's simply a fad to hate them.
  • seminole_kevseminole_kev Member Posts: 1,696
    But functionally (on almost all mainstream cars) they are no different then vinyl tops or carriage roofs. Useless adornment.
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 25,684
    I guess they're not like tailfins, which add "improve handling and stability at highway speeds" :P

    Hey, those were Chrysler's words, NOT mine! And suppposedly, on some of the '57-58 models, they did test them out and it turned out that at 80-90 mph they DID handle a bit better than they did without the fins!

    And supposedly, in the right wind conditions, you can get the rear end of a '59 Chevy to lift off the ground. I think you have to get it up to around 100 mph, though.
  • carlisimocarlisimo Member Posts: 1,280
    I say that good spoilers don't slow you down. Spoilers and body kits designed by OEMs and expensive, racing-involved aftermarket brands (Mugen, TRD, Nismo, etc.) use wind tunnels for their designs, and intend them for track use.

    On the track and (slightly) on the road, they can have two beneficial effects: reducing lift at high speeds and reducing the coefficient of drag.

    The former sometimes makes a difference in real-world driving. Some cars just have poor aerodynamics - I've heard of old Maximas feeling more stable at 80mph with spoilers, and it's widely known that the Audi TT has a horrible drag coefficient of .35 and a lot of lift which resulted in a couple of fatal high-speed crashes. Yes they were probably speeding, but still. That's why the TT had a spoiler added to its butt - aerodynamic necessity.

    Technically a wing works like an upside down airplane wing, adding downforce. A spoiler is when it works by inducing turbulence. By controlling where turbulence begins, you can reduce airflow patterns that induce lift (like the TT's), and also affect the coefficient of drag.

    It's a minor effect, but if it's a stupid thing to try to achieve, then we might as well give up on aerodynamics altogether. Let's stop supporting coefficients of drag in the .20's - they make cars look stupid all for a minuscule improvement in stability and mileage. Let's all drive boxes on wheels! Anything else is useless adornment, after all.
  • seminole_kevseminole_kev Member Posts: 1,696
    there's a big difference between the design of a car being unique and different and some guy slapping a 4 foot wing on his car (or even a manufacturer putting the defacto fin on the trunk). I just find spoilers tacky and unneccessary. Especially when it is 1000lb's of crap (errr "aero kit") that some guy has on his civic because it *looks* fast.

    Just my opinion though.
  • logic1logic1 Member Posts: 2,433
    It's simply a fad to hate them.

    I have to disagree. Spoilers work on some car designs. On many car designs they do not.

    Many modern car designs work very hard for a very clean, minimalist appearance. Large and guady spoilers take away from that look.

    My first post uses the Cobalt SS Supercharged as an example. It is case in point. The Cobalt Coupe has a very clean, understated, and clearly Chevy look. The wale tale is completely out of character on the car.

    I would buy the SS primarily for quick acceleration and back road handling. I could never imagine myself going above 80 mphs, except every now and then on the interstate. The spoiler is not necessary and looks bad.
  • wale_bate1wale_bate1 Member Posts: 1,982
    Middle ground for me as well.

    Obviously, there are a few cars on the road with functional flow breaks (someone mentioned the TT, which in fact had autobahn issues without the butt lip).

    Occasionally a tuner company comes up with a package that in fact enhances the car. Not often, but it happens. I think ABT does some tremendous stuff, and every now and then, it includes a spoiler. But I think that even for some of the best, performance enhancement is coincidental if it's there at all. I would say ninety-five times in a hundred, performance is unaffected or even marginally hindered. Don't even get me started on two-foot high aluminum double nija wings...

    There are some car out there, though, for which the cosmetic enhancement is a plus. To date, they never made a Saturn yet that I could stomach without decoration. Heck, even with decoration...
  • jhersheyjhershey Member Posts: 18
    Personally, I love those 2F2F that people are putting on their Ford Astro Vans. Even better once they put their rented 20in spinners on. :sick:

    I really don't mind spoilers if they flow with the car line and tend to prefer low rise spoilers. The spoilers on EVO's and WRX's make me tend to relate them more to shopping carts than anything else.

    With some of the modified cars I've seen on road, it makes me wish Brovo came out Queer Eye for the Straight Car. There just seems to be more pep boy mods around hear then anything else. Maybe its just the area I'm living at.
  • pecclespeccles Member Posts: 52
    and that's because they spoil the design. I wish any model that has a trim without the spoiler and a trim with one would have a spoiler delete option.
  • carlisimocarlisimo Member Posts: 1,280
    I agree that there are spoilers out there that ruin cars. I won't defend the worst, most noticeable ones. But I think "lose the spoiler" has become a knee-jerk reaction as a backlash to the aftermarket spoiler proliferation.

    Lots of sports-trim cars look awkward without them. The EVO and STi have so many fender bulges and big bulging front/side body kits that they look totally unbalanced without their spoilers. The Mazdaspeed Protege had the Protege5's front bumper, and the lowered effect it gave looked awkward if it wasn't balanced by the trunklid spoiler (or by the Protege5's hatchback shape). It isn't a good looking spoiler, but the car looks worse with nothing on the trunk.

    I also like the Toyota Supra, Integra type-R and RSX high spoiler because the look like they were designed at the same time, by the same guy, as the cars themselves.

    I haven't found a picture of the Cobalt coupe without a spoiler... but I think the normal (lower) spoiler looks pretty ugly. It's too small for that big rear end. The SS spoiler looks better from frontish angles, but not from behind. It's just too big a rear end for any sort of spoiler to match it.
    I also think the WRX (not STi) sedan spoiler sucks.

    Sorry for continuing to argue; I just didn't want this thread to sound like another retirement home "kids these days" grumblefest.
  • steverstever Guest Posts: 52,454
    A spoiler looks like another area that's hard to clay, wash and wax to me. Lots of crannies to get wax stuck in. And the ones close to the deck look harder to keep clean than the 2 foot high ones.

    Steve, Host
  • fintailfintail Member Posts: 57,164
    I always kinda liked the big thing on the Supra
  • logic1logic1 Member Posts: 2,433
    Won't hear 'kids these days' from me.

    There are plenty of tacky things older folks do.

    In my book, most of the older folks tacky stuff is from people who failed to accept Mies' concepts of design always having function.

    If a spoiler functions it belongs. If it functions only for looks, it does not.
  • lancerfixerlancerfixer Member Posts: 1,284
    I agree...the Supra Turbo is one of the few instances where the spoiler "worked," more or less (from a design standpoint, anyway.) Kinda like the Superbird...
  • fintailfintail Member Posts: 57,164
    I think generally spoilers work better on smaller cars, and the spoiler should match the styling theme of the car...the rounded spoiler matching the rounded Supra, for example.

    A big angular metal spoiler on the Supra wouldn't work. And IMO a spoiler looks goofy on a large car like an S class.
  • lancerfixerlancerfixer Member Posts: 1,284
    In the local paper there has sat for quite some time now an '87 190E "custom" (read: two-tone paint and F40-looking wing) for an asking price of $5k. Can't figure out why it's not moving... :confuse:
  • fintailfintail Member Posts: 57,164
    bahahaha...not factory two tone I am guessing...doesn't sound pretty

    There was actually an "Evo" 190 in the early 90s that had a big silly spoiler

  • lancerfixerlancerfixer Member Posts: 1,284
    ...what is THAT monstrosity? That looks like the wing, but from the photo in the paper there are no fender extensions.
  • cerberus300cerberus300 Member Posts: 21
    In some motorsports there is/was a requirement for the cars in the race to be actually in-production cars and look for the most part the same. The World Rally Championship I believe has dropped this requirement now, but the Evo, Impreza, Celica, Focus and Audi Quattro are a few examples that have had variants created on the road for this sport. All have or have had what could be considered ridiculous looking (usually equates to huge) spoilers and other excessive body work, which are functional for the sport and are pointless/ridiculous on the much slower (legal) road use.
  • cerberus300cerberus300 Member Posts: 21
    The Mercedes 190E "Evolution II". A means for Mercedes-Benz entering the German Touring car Championship in the mid Nineties. Yet again an example of function over form.
  • 1racefan1racefan Member Posts: 932
    "I think generally spoilers work better on smaller cars"

    I would tend to agree, however IMO, one exception to this train of thought was mid/late 90's Impala SS. That was a pretty big car, and I think that the spoiler, and the mono-chromatic paint scheme on the car in general all worked well. I hated the regular Caprice version of that car, but I thought the whole package seemed to work well on the Impala SS (the exterior that is - not too fond of the interior).
    My wife's grandmother (at 85 yrs old), just bought a new Mazda 3 sedan. It is bright blue, and has the spoiler. The spoiler looks good on it too (IMO). Over the weekend, her grandmother told us, "That car is pretty peppy - I know why they have Zoom Zoom written all over the owner's manual." LOL
  • fintailfintail Member Posts: 57,164
    Yep, the 190 is an Evo II. The spoiler is OK on a genuine tuned car...maybe not so much on an otherwise stock 6cyl car. The 190 has just enough angularity at the rear where a small spoiler looks OK...and quite a few had it. But bigger MB tend to look kinda bad with spoilers, esp sedans.

    I can agree with the Impala...it at least had something under the hood to back up the looks.

    That Mazda 3 granny sounds pretty cool.
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 25,684
    that the 1969 Charger Daytona and the 1970 Plymouth Superbird (the cars with the big nose cone and the mammoth wing on the back) had a drag coefficient of around 0.30. That's actually pretty good by today's standards (and Intrepid is 0.30, and most mass-produced family cars don't get much better than that these days). I have no idea what the drag coefficient of a stock Charger or Roadrunner from '69-70 would be, but I'd guess somewhere in the high 0.5X range, if not worse. The '77 Cougar had gone through intensive wind tunnel testing, and it was still a 0.58 or so, so I'd imagine an old Mopar B-body might be worse!
  • 1racefan1racefan Member Posts: 932
    is that on certain vehicles the spoiler really cuts down on rear visibility (when backing up and looking out the back window, or when looking through the rear view mirror). Especially on cars that have a steep rake to the back window to begin with, and then a spoiler is placed on the deck lid, it really makes rear visibility hard sometimes.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Didn't Jim Hall and the Chapparal race car kind of start the spoiler thing? I remember he had invented the type that was adjustable. He could crank it up and down and gave everyone fits on the track. Interesting man...he was always inventing things that worked, and the race officials were always banning his inventions the minute he cleaned up the track. He also invented the "sucker car" once they banned his wings----big fans under the car created downforce---what a giften madman he was!
  • gsemikegsemike Member Posts: 2,284
    I'm 36 and say that it depends on the car. I currently drive an Altima and don't have the spoiler. With such a raked bodyline in the first place, I don't think that it adds anything. There is another Alt in my area and the only option he has is the spoiler. This is a 4 cyl base model with plastic hubcaps. I always think, if you're only going to check one box, why would it be for the spoiler which I beleive is $795.

    Way back, I had an 89 Camaro. Now, 99% of the gen f-body had a spoiler and for good reason, without it, the rear looked unfinished. It was kind of like the trunk just dropped off. Mine had the unpillared, 3 piece spoiler which was the most subtle that they ever put on the car and the best looking.

    Prior to the Camaro, I had an 85 Regal that I did adorn with a wing. We're going back to 90, so it's not like spoilers are a phenom of the last few years. Even before then, I had a 70 Chevelle. I had the good sense not to put a spoiler on that, but more than I dude implored me to do it.
  • chevygirlchevygirl Member Posts: 18
    I don't like spoilers on economy cars, like Cavaliers and Sunfires. Too poseriffic. Save them for the 'Birds, the Camaros, and the "Vettes.
    Chevy Girl
  • 210delray210delray Member Posts: 4,721
    ...my dream car was a convertible with wide whitewall tires, fender skirts, a "tire in the back" (continental kit), and dual angled antennas on the rear quarter panels (no fuzzy dice, though). This was back in the late 50s.

    Aren't spoilers today's versions of those gee-gaws? ;)
  • gsemikegsemike Member Posts: 2,284
    I started driving in 85 and even back then, spoilers were available on all sorts of cars. They weren't as common as today, but it wasn't unusual to see one a Cavalier. I just don't by that spoilers are a new fad. They've been around forever.
  • 210delray210delray Member Posts: 4,721
    Whitewall tires were around an awfully long time too, but that doesn't mean they were tasteful! Vinyl roofs had a pretty long run as well (about 20 years). I still think spoilers look absurd on econo and family cars.
  • danf1danf1 Member Posts: 897
    I had a TT. It was a 2000 model year without the spoiler. Every time I took it in for service (I know, Audis never need service) they would try to talk me into putting the spoiler on. It was an open recall and would have been done for free, but the car looked so good without it I wouldn't let them do it. I don't typically drive in excess of 100mph so I wasn't to concerned with safety. Maybe if I spent a lot of time on the Autobahn, but why screw up a beautiful design with an engineering afterthought?
  • seminole_kevseminole_kev Member Posts: 1,696
    I can understand that. That little spoiler really did disrupt the looks of the TT.
  • kmagkmag Member Posts: 98
    When I was growing up in the early 70s, performance styling accessories were popular add-ons or factory options. The black painted hood, hood scoops, real or fake, wide dual stripes down the hood and over the body, the jacked up rear end. I'd see cars like Pintos and Valiants and Ramblers and other pedestrian vehicles on the street with this stuff, even wheelie bars, as if any street car would ever really need them.

    Most of that I thought was pretty cool stuff. But I grew out of that phase.

    The spoilers that look like obvious add-ons are the modern day versions of all that stuff. You know the ones, that look like they were built from a giant Erector set.
  • logic1logic1 Member Posts: 2,433
    I guess I was always a Miesian at heart.

    All my High School chums in the early 80s were going the tack on route. I thought it looked dopey.

    My unadorned, beige 66 Chevy Biscayne caught the eye of more than one of the artistic outsider lasses at my school. Good enough for me! :)
  • kyfdxkyfdx Moderator Posts: 237,084
    The TT, Boxster, 911.. all have functional spoilers.. Personally, I'd like them better without them.. perhaps they are functional because of some flaw in the basic design?

    Some other cars just have cosmetic design flaws that are much improved by a spoiler.. Now, I'd rather just not buy a car like that, but if for some reason I did, I see nothing wrong with adding that piece of plastic... The Honda Accord sedan comes to mind.. A very nice car that I just can't stomach from the rear-view.. If I got one, I'd at least add that little lip spoiler to it..

    When I was younger, my dream car was a 911 (wait.. it still is)... I always liked the ones without the whaletail.. However, when I finally found the right one for the right price, it had one... And, the kicker... the guy I bought it from, bought it without one.. then had it added, because he didn't like it without it..

    Of course, once I owned one with a whaletail, I learned that they were much cooler... :P


    Edmunds Price Checker
    Edmunds Lease Calculator
    Did you get a good deal? Be sure to come back and share!

    Edmunds Moderator

This discussion has been closed.