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A Look Inside the BMW Design Archives

Automobile logo Automobile 2015-06-02 Richard Bremner

Adrian 01 © Provided by Automobile Adrian 01

Some of BMW’s most precious creative seeds are spread across a desk. Unearthed from the corners of the design department, these sketches and renderings show the development of BMW’s design language through the years. “We see a couple of milestones that I believe gave BMW design a decisive push,” says BMW design boss Adrian van Hooydonk (below), who is taking us on what he describes as “a whirlwind tour of BMW’s design history.” It’s the result of a plunge into the automaker’s vaults that has uncovered 50 years of images, some of which even van Hooydonk hasn’t seen before.

Adrian 02 © Provided by Automobile Adrian 02

1956-’59 BMW 507

BMW Sketch 01 © Provided by Automobile BMW Sketch 01 “This was the first thing I asked my team to go and look for,” van Hooydonk says. “The car was designed by Albrecht Graf Goertz, who was German-born. ... What’s interesting is that it was designed not in Munich but instead in New York. It’s the ’50s, and you can begin to see some U.S. influence. These things could not have come out of postwar Germany. In New York everything was modern and new and big.”

1962-’71 BMW

Neue Klasse sedan

BMW Sketch 02 © Provided by Automobile BMW Sketch 02 BMW had nearly gone bankrupt when industrialist Herbert Quandt invested in the company in late 1959 and helped bring the successful Neue Klasse, or New Class, to life. “BMW didn’t really have a design department; design, if you could call it that, was part of carrosserie (body engineering),” van Hooydonk reflects. An outside consultant from Italy, the legendary Giovanni Michelotti, did first sketches and then collaborated with Wilhelm Hofmeister, who influenced the kink in the rear quarter that is now a fixture in BMW’s design vocabulary.

1966-’77 BMW 1602-2002

BMW Sketch 03 © Provided by Automobile BMW Sketch 03 This is the car that got BMW noticed in the States, particularly after U.S. importer Max Hoffman suggested installing a larger 2.0-liter engine. “Georg Bertram was the originator of the 2002 design,” recalls van Hooydonk. “You see the detail in the sketch, and that’s exactly how the car turned out.”

1975-’83 BMW 3 Series

BMW Sketch 04 © Provided by Automobile BMW Sketch 04 BMW passed on a proposal from Giorgetto Giugiaro’s Italdesign in favor of a design by Paul Bracq, the French-born BMW design director who also did the 1972 Turbo concept car. This sketch is on Canson paper with colored charcoal and marker pens. “It was a pretty dusty process. You’d take a sketch and go like this,” BMW’s current design director says, fanning the drawing like a sheet.

1990-’99 BMW 3 Series

BMW Sketch 05 © Provided by Automobile BMW Sketch 05
Pinky Lai, a flamboyant designer from Hong Kong, came from Ford to work with Austrian-born BMW design boss Boyke Boyer on this car. “This is the 3 Series that somewhat revolutionized BMW design,” says van Hooydonk.

1999-’06 BMW X5

BMW Sketch 06 © Provided by Automobile BMW Sketch 06 American Chris Chapman, who left Isuzu to join BMW’s DesignworksUSA studio in California, did the first drawings of the X5. “I remember it was an exciting program because there had never been a BMW this tall,” notes van Hooydonk. “Now, from the X1 to the X5, SUVs are one-third of our business.”

2002-’06 BMW Z4

BMW Sketch 07 © Provided by Automobile BMW Sketch 07 “I always liked his sketch style,” says van Hooydonk of Anders Warming, designer of the Z4 who now heads up the Mini design department. “It’s strong, sharp, and extreme, but interesting.” It was the most successful interpretation of “flame surfacing,” design director Chris Bangle’s controversial concept.

2014-present BMW i8

BMW Sketch 08 © Provided by Automobile BMW Sketch 08
Croatian Mario Majdandzic designed the i8 hybrid-powered sports car. Van Hooydonk remembers, “The whole concept came from trip that Majdandzic made to the BMW studio that we then had in Singapore in order to develop a new language for a new green car with a new type of technology.” Floating panels, clean surfaces, and transparency were the priorities, and the production car reflected this.

Photos courtesy Totallypic.com

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