The dark side of the automobile

Kay Michalak and Sven Völker
Art project 'Auto Reverse'
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S o most of them don't just spend their free time lying under lifting platforms, never seen these classics. The two artists Sven Völker and Kay Michalak put the underside of 15 cars built between 1958 and 2002 in scene with great effort.

Sven Völker is professor of communication design at the Karlsruhe University of Design - and not a blank slate, when it comes to cars. He was responsible for the worldwide corporate design of Suzuki, published the work 'Go faster - The Graphic Design Of Racig Cars' and, together with Peter Sloterdijk, devoted himself to the spiral of competence in 'Helping the world across the street: Design studies following a philosophical reflection '.

So much for theory, but for' Auto Reverse 'it was first about practice: How can the underbody of a car be perfectly illuminated? Völker got help from the renowned photographer Kay Michalak. The two have been working together for years - also on behalf of the automotive industry.

Expensive cars don't look as good as cheap

At the first attempt there was a disappointment, because the Porsche 911, which was lifted up by a crane, presented an unspectacular lower part that had absolutely nothing of the style-defining design of the body. 'So expensive cars don't necessarily look better from below than cheap ones. [...]' I remember that the sight of a Citroën 2CV was much more impressive than that of the beautiful Porsche 911. '

But this is exactly what makes the unusual shots so attractive: everyone has seen the body of the classic a hundred times, but very few know what a Smart, Renault 4 or Volvo 940 looks like from below.

A look behind the scenes - aesthetics and technology

The new perspective also makes the technical development and the special features of some vehicles easy to understand Take the 1958 Wartburg 311, for example, the oldest vehicle in the series. The curved box frame with its outriggers accommodates the wishbones at the front and the trailing arms at the rear, on which the rigid axle is guided with transverse leaf springs - many people from the East Car ka to be trusted.

In comparison, the Ford 17 looksM P7B downright antiquated. The car from 1972 took over the chassis technology of its predecessor - with a rigid axle on longitudinal leaf springs. The philosophy of some manufacturers can also be recognized using 'Auto Reverse'. For example the Volvo 940, whose underbody expresses the same solidity as one is used to from the massive body. Or with the Mercedes 230 C of the W123 series. You can see the technical demands of the engineers on the trailing arm rear axle and the safety-related ones on the stabilizing beads and folds in the floor pan. And the typical incontinent differential can also be seen.

In short - Mini, R4 and Smart

Some cars are relatively easy to recognize by their underbody. Like the Renault 4 with its torsion bar springs - lying lengthways at the front and transversely at the back. By the way, the little French rider is the kilometer king among the 15 classics - he already has 269,943 km on the clock. The engines are known to be unbreakable, but the fact that the sheet metal of the chassis still looks so good with this mileage is astonishing.

The Smart is also easily recognizable due to its shortness and the significantly different track width. The Mini is just as easy to identify, which is unique with its concept - also seen from its underside.

The unspectacular cars like the mentioned duck, the Golf 1, MGA or the Trabant tend to cause surprises whose underbody exudes almost graphic elegance.

See for yourself, we show all 15 pictures in our photo show - and the vehicles as we already know them.

Auto Reverse - The dark side of the automobile from Sven Voelker on Vimeo .

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Large format recordings for the wall

The photographs can be in the formats 158x100 cm and 68x42 cm can be ordered. The 36-page journal shows all 15 recordings and is available in the format 32x23 cm.

Further information on the project and how to order it can be found at or .

The Snow Crystal Principle /Sven Voelker on Corporate Design from Sven Voelker on Vimeo .

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