Romancing the Chrome


A Chronicle of BMW Car Design

When the automobile industry was in its infancy, the mechanical reliability of the car was vital. Car styling or the shape of the car’s body, and the colors and materials used in its manufacture didn’t come into play until the end of the Roaring ‘20s, when manufacturers realized the shape of the car brought it to life.

1. 1927 Dixi:  Lucien Rosengart


Rosengart was a French engineer and industrialist and the first car stylist of note who was called on by BMW to modernize the Dixi 3/15 in 1927. Rosengart was also an inventor who held patents on table football, bicycle lights and stainless steel bolts.

2. 1938 BMW 328:  Fritz Fiedler


Fiedler was one of the most important designers in the establishment of the BMW brand.  The construction of the pre-war BMW 328 is significant to this day.  The BMW 328 was the first car to be tested for its aerodynamics inside of a wind tunnel. The sporty two-seater with a powerful 2-liter 6-cylinder engine is still considered one of the most beautiful and successful sports cars of its time.

3. The Baroque Angels
1951 BMW 501 & 502:  Peter Syzmanowski

the-baroque-angels-1951-bmw-501-502-peter-syzmanowski 1951-bmw-501-502

Post-WWII, Syzmanowski pioneered the reconstruction of the German car industry with the design of the BMW 501 and 502 equipped with a 3.2 140 HP engine, making it the fastest German touring car. The distinctive bodies of the 501 and 502 were likened to angel wings for their flared fenders, giving them a flowing, curvaceous look, earning them the nickname “Baroque Angels.”

It was also Syzmanowski’s decision to keep the traditional BMW kidney shaped grille, which at the time became crucial for the identity of the BMW brand. The historical significance of the Baroque Angels is enormous and boosted  BMW to the prestigious level that it still enjoys today.

4. 1953 Isetta:  Renzo Rivolta


In 1953, Rivolta unveiled the Iso Isetta bubble car or “rolling egg” that was powered by a motorbike engine with room for two adults and maybe a bag of groceries. BMW purchased his design and in 1955 began to produce the first BMW Isettas. Introduction of the Mini in 1959 signaled the end of the Isetta’s popularity, but the Isetta had achieved its purpose by securing BMW’s financial future.

5. 1961 BMW 1500:  Wilhelm Hofmeister


Hofmeister had a very strong influence on BMW design philosophy and is credited with designing a modern, fast, sports sedan that changed the automotive industry.  Known worldwide in the automotive industry as the designer of the C-Pillar or Hofmeister Kink, this design feature can be found on the lowest corner of the rear passenger window. The C-Pillar design has been used throughout the industry and on all BMW cars since its debut on the BMW 3200CS and BMW 1500 in 1961.  The “Kink” remains one of the most important elements of BMW’s body design.

6. 1972 BMW Turbo:  Paul Bracq


Bracq was a sculptor who designed and crafted wooden models of imaginary cars while growing up in Bordeaux, France.  A designer for BMW in the ‘70s, Bracq is well-known for the 1972 BMW 2002 Turbo prototype flamboyantly designed with  gull wing doors that preceded the legendary BMW M1.

7. 1989 BMW Z1:  Harm Lagaay


Lagaay designed the BMW Z1, an experimental roadster  that was produced between ‘89 and  ‘91.  With an aerodynamic design, removable body panels, side panels made from plastic and electric doors that opened by sliding down into the body of the car, the Z1 led BMW to several patents. Ahead of its time because of its technology, there were only 8,000 sold, making it a coveted collectors item today.

8. 2001 E65:  Chris Bangle


Bangle, who grew up in Wisconsin, is considered by many to be the most influential car designer for the past 20 years. Best known for his design of the E65 7 Series in 2001, its trunk design was nicknamed “Bangle Butt” for its protruding decklid. (To his credit, he is responsible for the design of the Z3, Z4 and the E63 6 Series.)

9. 2004 X5:  Chris Chapman


Chapman, a California native, is credited for the design of the X5, X Coupe concept, 1-Series (E87), and the 1-Series Coupe.

10. Z9 Gran Turismo Prototype:  Adrian Van Hooydonk


Van Hooydonk worked closely with Chris Bangle and became head of design after Bangle’s departure. Known for his gull-wing Z9 GT (Gran Turismo) prototype, he introduced sculptured design, which influenced BMW body styling for the next decade.

11. 2016 BMW M2:  Hussein Al-Attar


Al-Attar was responsible for the BMW 4 Series Coupe LED lighting accents and went on to design the new BMW M2. He is credited with capturing the enthusiasm of the BMW brand in the new M2, a vehicle designed to remain true to its motorsport roots, both inside and out. The design and idea behind the first-ever BMW M2 Coupe stems from the historical roots of BMW M GmbH. The M2 combines modern automotive prowess and classic rear-wheel drive along with the precision and agility of a modern M automobile. A powerful M TwinPower Turbo inline 6-cylinder engine ensures the characteristic M’s breathtaking performance.


About Author

Competition BMW of Smithtown

Checkmate Magazine appeals to the competitive side of the BMW driver who views life as a journey, not a destination. Someone who defines success not by winning or losing, but by how one responds to both. Checkmate is the first of its kind, a publication written exclusively for consumers by an automotive dealership.

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