Greatest automotive designers
Automotive designers have one of the hardest jobs in the car world, and perhaps the most rewarding as well. Designing a car that stands the test of time, influences design direction for decades, evokes intense emotion and fit the persona of a brand as well as the complex engineering underneath is no small feat. So here's a tribute to the designers who shaped the automotive world as we know it.
Giugario is a name that will always reverberate around the annals of automotive history. Associated with class acts like Bertone, Ghia and his own Italdesign, the Giugario name is attached to some of the most emotive vehicles of the 20th century—the iconic Alfa Giulia and Alfasud, BMW M1, the DeLorean DMC-12 of Back to the Future fame and the Ferrari 250GT SWB Bertone. Somewhere in between, he managed to design plenty of common cars—the FIAT Panda is considered a modern classic. His best? The first gen Lotus Espirit, pure 80s supercar wedge.
Often overlooked as a designer of fine vehicles, Paul Bracq was a quiet French revolutionary who changed the definition of luxury in the 60s and 70s without anyone noticing till much later. His decade long posting as the head of the Mercedes design studio in Sindelfingen would produce the 600, 250SL, the W108 and the W114—the cream of the crop for any Mercedes Benz enthusiast interested in collector value. Dignified class and relentless charm.
Ian Callum knows a thing or two about British motoring—a degree from the Royal College of Art tends to do that. Callum made the RCA proud when he dragged Jaguar 40 odd years into the present, getting rid of its English cottage and tweed jacket image and garnering wider appeal for the brand. The 2007 XK was a warm-up, the XF was the full yard. Long live Jaaaaaaaag.
Harley Earl Jr.
Known for his rigid principles, posture and his dismissiveness towards anyone who didn't operate with strict discipline, Harley Earl ruled the Detroit design world with an iron-fist for more than three decades. His design for the Buick Y-job was equally restrained and impactful, influencing post-war American automotive design and eventually inciting a revolt against Earl's strict design principles themselves. You're not doing anything right unless they hate you for it, right?
A fairly left-field choice considering the other names on this list, but Ken Okuyama thoroughly deserves it for showing the world that good design doesn't need a nationalist context. A Japanese man designing some of the best Italian cars in the past two decades? Some would call it a global conspiracy, but cars like the Maserati Quattroporte and Ferrari 599 are enough proof—you don't need to be Italian to evoke emotion through design.
Look up any list of the most beautiful cars ever made and you're sure to see the Lamborghini Miura somewhere at the top, if not THE top. Marcelo Gandini's finesse with the Miura went hand-hand with the revolutionary layout that defined the early modern supercar—had it not been for Gandini's exceptional design, the evolution of the supercar and what these cars are today might have been very different. Other greats include the Alfa Montreal, first gen BMW 5-series, Lancia Stratos and, of course, the Lamborghini Countach.
Pioneering, yet absolutely hated for it. Chris Bangle's bungling of the BMW 7-series, with its "Bangle Butt", effectively forced an entire industry to up their game in the early 2000s, when most other carmakers were content making cars you'd lose in a car park. By being bold to the point of hideousness, Bangle inspired an entire generation of lesser copycats.
Images: Shaer Reaz