Ford 021C

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Ford 021C
Ford 021C in green.jpg
In the Gagosian Gallery (New York), 2010
Production 1999 (concept)
Assembly Ghia
Designer Marc Newson
Body and chassis
Class Concept car
Prototype sports car
Body style 4-door sedan
Layout FF
Engine 1.6 L Zetec-SE
Transmission 4 speed automatic
Wheelbase 2,485 mm (97.8 in)
Length 3,601 mm (141.8 in)
Width 1,648 mm (64.9 in)
Height 1,430 mm (56.3 in)

The Ford 021C was a concept car first shown to the public at the October 1999 Tokyo Motor Show by Ford. It was designed by Marc Newson and built by Ghia. The car's name is taken from the Pantone orange colour, said to be Newson's favorite,[1][2] although it was repainted in lime green[3] when it was brought to the Milan Furniture Fair in April 2000.[4] Ford officials stated that 021C also stands for "21st Century."[5] It was produced purely as a styling exercise and was not intended for production.[6]


Ask children to draw a car, and they'll draw something like this, so in many ways the 021C is a familiar and comfortable object. But it doesn't use many typical automotive design cues, and while it does incorporate some interesting technology, it's not technology used simply for the sake of it.

— Marc Newson (1999), Ford Press Release[7]

The design was commissioned by Ford’s design director J Mays,[8] who selected Newson after seeing his Lockheed lounge chair in a Madonna video for the song "Rain."[9][10] The result was a four-door saloon in what Newson termed a "retro-futurist" theme, similar to the predictions made of Year 2000 automobiles in the 1960s.[9] Mays quipped "It's probably more George Jetson than Georg Jensen" at its unveiling.[7] Ford pitched the concept at young buyers (21 years old and younger) who "want quality products which express their individuality.[7]

The exterior and interior shapes echoed prior Newson designs for round-cornered rectangular dish racks,[11] furniture[12] and spoke-and-hub lamps.[9][13] The concept also incorporated many innovations in the interior such as four seats, with the front two seats swiveling on pedestals;[14] a jewel-like dashboard that moved vertically to accommodate drivers of differing heights;[14] and, when the light was switched on, an electro-luminescent film glowed snowy white across the ceiling.[14] The dashboard dials were built by Newson's Ikepod watch company[14] and the steering wheel was reminiscent of his 1997 Alessi coat hook.[15]

Exterior features included a slide-out boot, suicide doors and LED lamps front and rear.[14] The front and rear lamps were created by Jonathan Coles for Isometrix Lighting.[16] The car was painted green after its unveiling in Tokyo and, unusually for an old prototype, has continued to be shown again at various art exhibits.[17]


The 021C is powered by a 1.6 L Zetec engine producing 100 PS (74 kW; 99 bhp) driving the front wheels through a four-speed automatic transmission. The 16" alloy wheels were fitted with bespoke graphite coloured Pirelli tyres.[14] The body of the car was constructed from carbon fiber composites[1] and was designed with minimal surface ornamentation.[14]

The car was 3,601 mm (141.8 in) long, 1,648 mm (64.9 in) wide and sat on a wheelbase of 2,485 mm (97.8 in).[14]


After its 1999 unveiling at the Tokyo Auto Show, automotive critics generally panned the design, with one self-deprecatingly calling himself "old and out of touch"[18] and thus unable to appreciate what was perceived as a toy-like, naïve box. Others noted the sharp divide in opinions between "traditional" automotive styling critics and design professionals, who hailed the unified concepts in the design.[19]

In 2009, ten years after it was first unveiled, critics revisited the design of the 021C and found the design had aged well, still appearing sleek and modern.[1][20]

In popular media[edit]

A car similar to the Ford 021C received a parking citation from newly-minted officer Judy Hopps in the movie Zootopia.[21] J Mays is credited as the chief car designer for the film.[22]


  • Tokyo Auto Show, October 1999[7]
  • Milan Furniture Fair, April 2000[4]
  • Design Museum London, May–July 2001[3]
  • Gagosian Gallery (New York), September–October 2010[17][23]
  • Philadelphia Museum of Art, Nov 2013-Apr 2014[24]


  1. ^ a b c Argyriades, Marcia (1 October 2009). "Ten years later // FORD 021C by Marc Newson". Yatzer. Retrieved 2 December 2016. 
  2. ^ Roux, Caroline (17 November 2001). "Master of his universe". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 December 2016. 
  3. ^ a b Espinosa, Cathryn (24 May 2001). "Inside job: Ford 021C". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2 December 2016. 
  4. ^ a b "Ford 021C by Marc Newson at Milan Furniture Fair: The interplay of design, fashion & stylish mobility" (Press release). Ford Motor Company. 11 April 2000. Archived from the original on 18 April 2001. 
  5. ^ "1999 Tokyo Motor Show, Part III". The Car Connection. 20 October 1999. Retrieved 2 December 2016. 
  6. ^ King, Toby (October 2007). "The best cars they never made". Auto Express. Archived from the original on 11 March 2012. Retrieved 2 December 2016. 
  7. ^ a b c d "Reaching out for a new generation of consumers" (Press release). Ford Motor Company. 20 October 1999. Archived from the original on 15 July 2001. 
  8. ^ L., Skott (26 September 2009). "Ford 021C by Marc Newson". Design Year Book. Retrieved 2 December 2016. 
  9. ^ a b c Patton, Phil (28 October 1999). "CURRENTS: CAR DESIGN; Wheels for 2000: The Details Count". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 December 2016. 
  10. ^ Thompson, Henrietta (28 April 2015). "Newson's Lockheed Lounge breaks world auction records". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2 December 2016. 
  11. ^ "Dish Doctor: Marc Newson, 1998". Magis Design. 1998. Retrieved 2 December 2016. 
  12. ^ "Wooden Chair". Cappellini. 1992. Retrieved 2 December 2016. 
  13. ^ "Orotund: Designed by Marc Newson". Flos. Retrieved 2 December 2016. 
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h "Design and Technology Meet in the Ford O21C" (Press release). Ford Motor Company. 20 October 1999. Archived from the original on 15 July 2001. Retrieved 2 December 2016. 
  15. ^ "Marc Newson". Design Museum. November 2006. Retrieved 2 December 2016. 
  16. ^ "Lighting 021C". Jonathan Coles. September 1999. Archived from the original on 21 March 2012. Retrieved 2 December 2016. 
  17. ^ a b Patton, Phil (2010-09-29). "Ford 021C Concept by Marc Newson Reappears at Gagosian Gallery". New York Times. Retrieved 2 November 2016. 
  18. ^ Davis, Tony (28 October 1999). "Ford goes back - or ahead - to the retro-future". Drive Australia. Retrieved 2 December 2016. 
  19. ^ Lewin, Tony; Borroff, Ryan (2010). How to Design Cars Like a Pro. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Motorbooks. p. 170. ISBN 978-0-7603-3695-3. Retrieved 2 December 2016.  Newson was delighted to take up the task and immediately set to work, determined to figure out better ways of approaching design than those he had been studying in car magazines and books. Yet when the fruits of his labours were unveiled in Tokyo, the automotive world caught its breath: finished in bright orange and named after both the Pantone colour of that hue and the upcoming new millenium, the 021C emerged as a tiny, naive and toy-like box, devoid of external detail or ornamentation. [...] Many commentators dismissed it as an expensive joke, the kind of car caricature a child would draw.
     [...]Yet the real significance of the 021C was the way it divided the critics on sharp, sector-dependent lines. The product design community applauded it for its purity and harmony and the way that it presented a fully integrated design conceived as a whole by a single individual: Newson is said to have designed every detail, right down to the carpets and tyre treads. Car critics, on the other hand, had difficulty grasping its significance, focusing on its naivetè rather than innovative features such as the swivelling front seats and pull-out trunk compartment.
  20. ^ Johnston, Wade (4 December 2009). "Design Friday, a look back to the future from 1999". Modular 4 KC. Retrieved 2 December 2016. 
  21. ^ "1999 Ford 021C". Internet Movie Cars Database. 2016. Retrieved 2 December 2016. 
  22. ^ Kiley, David (21 March 2016). "The Cars Of 'Zootopia' Come From One Of The Auto Industry's Best Minds". Forbes. Retrieved 2 December 2016. 
  23. ^ "Marc Newson: Transport". Gagosian Gallery. September–October 2010. Retrieved 2 December 2016. 
  24. ^ "Marc Newson: At Home". Philadelphia Museum of Art. November 2013. Retrieved 2 December 2016. 

External links[edit]