• Feb 5, 2009
Chris Bangle, who left BMW earlier this week to move "beyond the automobile," did not create the butt that bears his name – Adrian van Hooydonk did. But most importantly, Bangle did not stand behind that butt; he stood in front of it. It was Bangle's vision for not just BMW, but for automobiles entirely, that allowed that bustle butt to come into existence. Two new essays that look at BMW design before Bangle and the scope of automotive design after Bangle are well worth reading, even if you aren't a fan of the man or his machines.
So while this particular blogger is unmoved by the current 3 Series and 7 Series, bristles at the X3 and X6, and thinks the 6 Series looks like some rare species of giant clam, this same blogger can readily assert that Bangle's vision did something lasting, influential, and important. The exact measures of those three feats will be determined by history's refining hand, but they will not be erased.

If nothing else, providence provided a man named Bangle to hang our epithets on, saving us from having to say "Hooydonk Butt" which just sounds dirty. Follow the links for the stories and see if you think that far from destroying BMW design, the man not only helped rescue the company but perhaps car design itself.

[Source: Speed Sport Life and Motor Trend]


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  • 43 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      The argument about BMW sales isn't that it indicates the "quality" of Bangle's designs, but it is an indicator that a lot of people didn't hate them as much as I did.

      I can appreciate the challenge of taking a brand like BMW, which had been very slow and evolutionary in its design language, and making any changes. And, while I personally didn't like his earlier designs like the 7-series and 5-series, I do have to admit that as shocking as they were at first they have either grown on me or become so commonplace and copied that they have blended in to the environment. Sort of like mold growing, perhaps, but no longer quite as shocking.

      The biggest design flaw, to my mind, isn't the exterior of these cars but the interiors. I'm not sure how much Mr. Bangle had to do with the idea of iDrive but to my mind the old BMW interiors really communicated that they were cars designed for drivers. They wrapped around the driver and managed to be sporty and luxurious at the same time. The newer interiors, particularly the 5-series, were ergonomic disasters (with or without i-drive) and if they communicated anything at all it had little to do with the act of driving as their focus.

      For the last 5 or 6 years, Mr. Bangle had been an honorary judge at the Pebble Beach Concours. I recall a few year ago when they were introducing all of the judges, from famous race drivers to designers. As they walked onto the stage each received a rousing round of applause. When Bangle was introduced I could have heard crickets.

      Then again, given my personal experience with BMW reliability I won't be buying one again for a long time so who cares what I think about their styling.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Finally someone who "got it". Great article - thanks for pointing to it.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I for one am glad he left BMW. I hated his designs.
      • 5 Years Ago
      What was BMW saved from ? from being boring like many other brand still are?
      The second article is flawed, it says Audis were sporty in the 90s before bangle came in (???) and then he says audi copied the flame surfacing ...
      • 5 Years Ago
      Maybe its just me, since i grew up with the current generations of BMWs and not the E46, E39 era... I actually find the current generation of BMW E90, E60, pretty good looking and I like Chris Bangle
      • 5 Years Ago
      Every designer strives to make an enduring change within his industry. Aside from Mercedes' panicking and cribbing a few unfortunate BMW styling flourishes, Bangle's influence upon automotive design is going to be abandoned and quickly forgotten.

      Good riddance.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Look at this photo of a mid-90s Maserati Ghibli. Recognize anything?

      http://www.maserati.org.au/images/MaseratiPhotos/ROAD_Cars/Ghibli_seriesII/Ghibli2_Mie2.jpg
      • 5 Years Ago
      Which one of them is responsible for the Z4 M Coupe? I've had it for almost a year now and I still like it more than any other car design out there.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The announcement that C Bangle is exiting the car design industry left a hole in my designer's soul. I am a big fan of the man, both as a genius designer and as a human bieng. Not too many design bosses are able to live with those attributes at the same time. Most of them are either very good as designers, but are horrible individuals or vice versa..
      I was very critical about the first 7 series, but with the 5 series I started to appreciate his philisophy and courage to change. The world of car design was going nowhere before he came. He brought in freshness and innovation, and gave us , designers the courage to experiment.

      Bravo.
      • 5 Years Ago
      He's just some guy that capitaized on:

      a. Not working for managers who stifle anything new or different.

      and

      b. Throwing enough crap against the wall to get a couple things to stick.

      Considering how many misses he had, I have to think that many designers, if given the freedom Bangle had, could be just as "influential."
      • 5 Years Ago
      I still give him props for all the E46, E36,next gen Z4, and the Z8.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Yeah, the E46 was/is a great looking car, and the E92 also. I get the feeling that most people here bashing him are just jumping the bandwagon... as usual.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I have no doubt about it.

      Bangle took a classic, evolutive, very beautiful but impossibly inflexible BMW design, shared by all the range with only differences in scale and new details, and created a new image, unique to each model but still immensely identifiable, that allowed BMW to finally expand its range and be the big player it is today.

      He may be polarizing, but everybody is "flame surfacing" now. He forced people to get out of the comfort zone and see that beauty is not only were we are used to.

      Talking about that butt :) Check the BMW 1500 (from 1961), the 1600 (1967), or even the 502 from the 50's, and then tell me if it was Bangle or van Hooydonk who invented it.
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