Automotive History: Paul Bracq – Neither A Knife Nor A Potato; Part Two

(first posted 4/26/2018)       Yesterday, in the first part of this series we took you through Paul Bracq’s beginnings with Philippe Charbonneaux and his ten years at Daimler-Benz. Today, we look at the rest of his career.

The Louis Rosier was the first Brissonneau & Lotz car of any consequence.

Rosier was a famed French racing driver and also held one of Renault’s largest dealerships. He conceived a roadster based on the 4CV and approached the firm of Brissonneau & Lotz for small scale production.

Just before being put to market Rosier died from injuries sustained in a racing accident, and the model was named after him.

Brissonneau & Lotz was an engineering and manufacturing firm with roots back to the mid-19th century. They specialised in the railway and maritime industries, and by the 1950s had branched out into refrigeration, boilers and machine tools.

Their entry into the automotive field had been spearheaded by scion Yves Brissonneau, only 23 years old when production commenced on the Louis Rosier. Manufactured at the firm’s factory in Creil north of Paris, the model was a mild success with around 230 examples produced from 1956  to 1959.

The firm found more success with the contract to build the Renault Caravelle and Floride roadster and cabriolets. They did not conceive the shape; that had its own convoluted birth.

Between 1959 and 1967, more than 117,000 of the Renaults made their way through the Creil plant.

1967 was a year of mixed blessings for Brissonneau & Lotz.

With the Renault work ending they had managed to secure a contract for the Opel GT, although production would not start until later in the next year.

Their role was to be less comprehensive than it had been with the Caravelle/Floride. The steel bodies were to be produced by another firm, Chausson, and Brissonneau & Lotz was to paint, trim and wire the bodies before being sent back to Germany for drive train installation.

But Yves had grander plans.

1967 was a also year of mixed blessings for Max Hoffman.

Hoffman held the BMW concession for the United States. This singular individual had already made his mark on automotive history many times over; the Speedster variant of the Porsche 356 had been his initiative as had the Alfa Giulietta Spider.

He was the one who ordered 1000 units based on a distinctive Mercedes-Benz racer, thus being a primary impetus for the road versions of 300 SL gullwing and roadster as well as the smaller 190 SL lookalike.

From 1965 Hoffman devoted his efforts to BMW exclusively, and for 1967 he would see volumes triple thanks to the diminutive and dynamic 1600cc two-door saloon.

The bad news was the larger coupe. Expensive at $5,100, this awkward-looking and underpowered creation found little demand.

For a man who had made his fortune selling high-end machinery to the wealthy and aspiring, and with so many more people pouring into his showrooms, the BMW 2000 CS was not able to serve Max Hoffman’s ambitions.

Back in the mid 1950s Hoffman had been instrumental in the creation of the V8 BMW 507 two-seaters.

It was he who suggested BMW engage stylist Count Albrecht von Goertz to produce one of the more beautiful bodies of the era. Unfortunately, the 507 was to cost more than a gullwing landed in the US, and Hoffman withdrew his order for 2000 of them. In the end, only 253 were made.

Von Goertz had also styled the elegant 503 four-seaters which also yielded few sales.

In 1962, Bertone was commissioned to provide the V8 with a more contemporary body, but this too was met with indifference. Though it would influence the factory’s 2000 CS, Giorgetto Giugiaro’s 3200 CS too was met with indifference by the market

Nevertheless, with the persuasive Hoffman needing a premium sporting model for upsell, BMW took the decision to commission another exotic body specifically for the US market.

BMW’s own styling department does not seem to have been in the running.

Led by Wilhelm Hofmeister (left), it comprised two stylists – Georg Bertram and Manfred Rennen (right) – and a handful of craftsmen.

Soon after joining in 1966, Rennen had been assigned a four cylinder sportscar, the 2000 PT. It reached scale model form but BMW did not proceed. Nor was Hoffman swayed by it.

Instead, Max chose Brissonneau & Lotz for the assignment.

In short; Paul Bracq.

Bracq had enjoyed ten successful years as the primary stylist on Mercedes-Benz cars, and was probably the next in line to take department head Friedrich Geiger’s position. But that opportunity was still years away.Whether it was impatience, the need for a new challenge or just plain homesickness, in 1967 Paul Bracq left Daimler-Benz and returned to France.

It’s not clear if his decision to leave was a direct result of discussions with Brissonneau, but he was swayed considerably by Yves’ ambitious plans to be the French version of Pininfarina or Bertone. In recent years, these two carrozzerie had surpassed their peers by augmenting their styling and bespoke bodybuilding offerings with volume manufacturing capacity.

Yves already had the manufacturing capacity, what he needed was styling.

Paul’s first assignment for Yves was the US market BMW V8.

The bodies he proposed included these swoopy numbers, clearly influenced by the just-launched C3 Corvette right down to the T-top variation.

Here we can see themes repeated from his recent efforts at Daimler-Benz, but the introduction of the coke-bottle form was something new for Bracq.

However, this project was cancelled by BMW before it could ever proceed beyond two dimensions.

One likely reason for the cancellation was the E9.

BMW had tasked Manfred Rennen with a new face for the 2000 coupe – the face it should always have had – and under the longer hood sat a new 2.8 straight six.

This handsome and rakish creation could, and would, feed the upper end of Hoffman’s clientele.

Launched to much acclaim in 1968, it effectively made the V8 project redundant.

With a large manufacturing industry in France, it was natural for Brissonneau & Lotz to look closer to home for commissions.

This effort was Paul Bracq’s suggestion for a coupe to supplement the ageing Peugeot 404 range. It was a very handsome, though orthodox, shape that could easily have extrapolated into four doors and five.

But Peugeot had finalised the 504 range for release in 1968 with the help of long-term partners Pininfarina, who would also be given the two-door brief.

In 1967, Brissonneau & Lotz also landed the contract for producing the Matra 530 bodies. Aerospace and defense conglomerate Matra had taken over carmaker René Bonnet, and with it came the Renault-engined Jet – a pioneering effort in the field of mid-engined road cars.

The 530 bore the same configuration, but powered by the Ford V4. It was styled by Jacques Nocher, then working for Simca but with permission to undertake outside commissions. Despite all the fun that could be had with a Matra Sports “M 530”, it was not a strong seller.

Possibly because it was so damned ugly.

While it’s not clear whether these were commissioned or pro-active efforts, Paul Bracq rendered up a number of Matra proposals.

The top example is rather attractive, speaking in the language he had used on the Mercedes-Benz SLX project but with a better balance of volumes. That upper and lower section line from the SLX is also there, as it is on the more exploratory example beneath.

Again here we see the sectioning line, but in another language also glimpsed amongst the SLX sketches.

Bracq must have enjoyed the opportunity to experiment with this relatively blank canvas, but none of his proposals would be taken up by Matra.

This shift in body language indicates the influence of another stylist on Paul Bracq; Jacques Cooper.

Cooper (right) was employed by Yves Brissonneau (centre) the year before Bracq arrived.

Like Bracq, Cooper had attended the Ecole Boulle but his subsequent experience was more varied. He had joined Raymond Loewy’s studio and worked on a variety of design briefs including shopfronts, interior fittings and even a gas pump for BP. The Berliet GAK truck cab was his, as was the Sud Aviation Governor helicopter.

After a brief stint at Renault doing little more than detail work, he joined General Motors in their Frigidaire division working on home appliances before joining Brissonneau & Lotz.

Their styles became interchangeable, as demonstrated by these proposals over the new Renault Alpine Gordini V8.

Though the engine was prioritised for the Alpine brand, Brissonneau & Lotz must have sensed a proximal opportunity and put much effort into this project.

At top, a rendering by Bracq, and beneath one by Cooper. At bottom are one-fifth scale models; left by Cooper, middle a four-door side by Bracq and right its two-door side.

Ultimately neither Alpine nor Brissoneau & Lotz would succeed on this brief, as the engine did not live up to expectations and never found itself in a production car.

Similar shaping applied to the Citroen SM yielded no work as well.

Simca was also in the their sights.

The 1100 model was launched in 1967 with both three and five-door bodies as its mainstay. The car’s almost instantaneous success saw yearly production numbers in the hundreds of thousands, and here was a golden opportunity for styling and manufacture.

While its not known how many proposals were worked up, its clear Brissonneau & Lotz put a lot of effort into gaining a commission. The middle rows represent Bracq’s efforts, with a sporty slant nose and the bottom row show Cooper’s more conventional approach.

Simca, using Bertone for this type of specialist work, did not bite.

With its strong legacy in railway, Brissoneau & Lotz was commissioned to conceive the Turbotrain – which was to become the iconic Train Grande Vitesse.

Though both stylists worked on the project, it would appear Cooper was the lead as all of the available renderings are in his hand.

In April 1968, Car and Driver’s David E. Davis Jr. wrote a rave review of the BMW 2002 and even more customers were flocking to Max Hoffman’s showrooms.

The 2 litre version of the 1600 two-door sedan came about when it was apparent the 1600 ti version would not be emission-compliant for the US. Coincidently, two of BMW’s engineers had already put the 2-litre engine into their own 1600 bodies, and this more powerful variant hit the ground running.

It’s possible the E9 coupe killed the V8 BMW sportscar project, and it’s also possible the 2002 killed it as well. When BMW cancelled the larger car with Brissonneau & Lotz, they changed the brief to a smaller car powered by the 1.6 and 2-litre engines.

In 1968 Bracq set to work on BMW project E5.

Hoffman now called for a roadster with removable hardtop. Blueprints were drawn up and a full-scale model built with plans for production in 1971.

Bracq’s flared nostril face finally found form.

The concept was modelled on the W113 pagoda, but not a direct copy.

That side window treatment for the hardtop was also familiar. Bracq had proposed it on one of his pagoda sketches, and it would appear in a couple of years on the Mercedes-Benz R107.

In late 1969, Brissonneau & Lotz fell under the control of Peugeot, Renault and the TGV entity – these last two being state-owned.

With the recent political unrest spilling out into the streets and nationalistic fervour running high, the French automakers were not pleased to see Brissonneau & Lotz working with German manufacturers.

In January 1970, Renault sent a letter to BMW cancelling the project. BMW was also somehow precluded from continuing with this shape for themselves.

By then, Paul Bracq had left.

This period probably marks the greatest disappointment of his career.

Any personal ambitions he might have harboured in becoming the French Battista Pininfarina were dashed. It would have been a death by a thousand cuts as project after project failed to get off the ground. And now this indignity, just as one of his shapes was actually progressing towards production.

His work at Brissonneau & Lotz seemed for the most part a conscious effort to move away from his Mercedes-Benz aesthetic. Cooper’s influence on him was profound, and yet his best output; the Peugeot 404 and BMW E19 spoke more in his own voice. The finest shape in his Cooper period was this proposal for the Mercedes-Benz C111 rotary.

In late 1969 Paul Bracq left Brissonneau & Lotz.

The news was no better for Jacques Cooper. The Opel contract had also been cancelled, thus depriving the business of much-needed income.

Cooper was working on the Murène proposal for the Porsche 914/6 and management had been persuaded to buy a donor car. Why this project was allowed to continue in light of the BMW and Opel decisions, I don’t know.

Later that year Brissonneau & Lotz was separated into its various industry divisions and hived off in pieces. Chausson got control of the automotive works and Alsthom the train division.

Chausson themselves were in financial difficulty, and allowed Cooper to take the project to another coachbuilder, Heuliez, who built the prototype. It was shown at the 1970 Frankfurt Show but Porsche didn’t take it up.

Cooper joined Alsthom where he would see the magnificent Train Grande Vitesse through to completion.

In 1969 French toy manufacturer Solido commissioned Bracq for a new product to be featured in the 1970 catalogue.

Style 80 was an automotive styling set featuring worktable, tracing gantry, dummy chassis, special tools, a set of templates with detailed instructions and plans, and special wax.

Three and a half models were pictured, but they were not part of the set and were in fact wooden props.

Paul Bracq supplied the drawings and lent his name.
A small accolade, but especially pleasing.

In 1966 Wilhelm Hofmeister got in touch with Nuccio Bertone.

He was seeking a possible future language for the marque in the guise of a sedan and briefed basic specifications; wheelbase of 2550 mm, track 1340/1390 mm and four cylinder 1800/2000 engine up front. Unlike the public-facing 3200 coupe, this was an internal study for BMW eyes only.

Nuccio had only recently lost Giorgetto Giugiaro after 6 years of stellar service, lifting the quality of the carrozzeria’s output and making a name for himself in the process.

His replacement was Marcello Gandini, and BMW came calling just as he had debuted with the Lamborghini Miura – which made him at once the equal of his peers.

Bertone, along with Giovanni Michelotti, had been consulted by BMW in the mid to late 1950s to help update the BMW saloon shape.

Michelotti emerged the primary player of the two; styling the air-cooled rear-engined BMW 700 in 1959.

«Neue Klasse» arrived in 1962, and was a brilliantly indirect riposte against the more conservative Mercedes-Benz. It literally saved BMW during a period of boardroom turmoil and potential takeover by the pointed star.

Hofmeister instructed Georges Bertram to extrapolate a four-door from work provided by Michelotti. The shark-like face and general body language evolved considerably from the 700, but familial continuity was there. The shapes Neue Klasse spawned propelled BMW forward; the nifty and nimble 02 coupe, then – eventually – the long and lithe E9 coupe.

In 1966 Neue Klasse earned a 2 litre engine, but the trapezoidal headlights couldn’t hide its corrugated sides. It was already looking old.

The specification given to Bertone was for this model.

Marcello Gandini’s talent was still coalescing and his initial efforts were not always up to par.

The FT Jaguar (bottom right) shown at Geneva that March alongside the Miura provided a marked contrast, evolving the house language Giugiaro channeled into his seminal Mazda Luce, but lacking its grace.

His BMW study, however, was graceful and balanced. Gandini retained the forward prow for the face, but more significantly lost the rippled siding of the Neue Klasse, using a simple crease and crisper edging to define a softer overall form instead.

The BMW brief to Bertone had been blind. It was not intended for the Neue Klasse, but instead on a new six-cylinder senior model.

Baron Alex von Falkenhausen created an inline six based on the Neue Klasse four, which in 1966 was anticipated to be 2.2 litres for project E122. The engine was eventually enlarged to 2.5 litres and the project named E3.

Michelotti had apparently been consulted but Hofmeister seized on the Gandini proposal, using both Rennen and Bertram to re-proportion its language into the E3 hardpoints.

The «Neue Sechs» that emerged in 1968 was less than its progenitor.

The in-house talent had failed to retain the balance of the study. Like the Mercedes-Benz the BMW New Six shape was understated; but it was ambivalent where the W108/109 was assured. Nevertheless thanks to its superior driving dynamics, the model was a successful step for the marque.

Once they had delivered the mockup in 1966, Bertone’s involvement ceased. They were not publicly associated with the E3 upon its launch in 1968, but in July of that year the carrozzeria was put on retainer by BMW, perhaps as further recompense for work that made it to market.

1968 also coincides with the beginning of development for E12, Neue Klasse’s official replacement, which Nuccio Bertone would not see until after management had approved the shape.

Instead, it appears that Giovanni Michelotti was the primary hand. The large concept above is credited as ‘1961, 1500’ but it is clearly a later rendering.

The rendering top left is typical of his work for Neue Klasse around 1961, usually showing variations against the production model’s stiff corrugated siding and chrome beading.

The large concept uses a softer overall form with the sides swelling out. Michelotti has curled the upper edge down to the raised upper body side, which is complemented with a raised lower bodyside. Gone is the hard lip, and the side relief treatment feels more organic than corrugated.

The distinctive turning signal and upper edge treatment of the large concept mimic that of Michelotti’s DAF Siluro from 1968 (top right), which gives us a closer idea of the date of this drawing.

It’s as if Giovanni had been shown the 1966 Gandini study, and asked to dial in more BMW.

Another Michelotti, undated, which is much closer to the production shape.

The only thing out of place is the front turning signal, something it shared with the early prototype bodies.

This Frua dated 1969 also shows the final body voluming.

Pietro Frua had become involved with BMW via their takeover of Glas, and this sketch feels like some pick-up work he might have done while visiting, attending to some detail work at the rear of the car.

Sometime around the middle of 1969, Wilhelm Hofmeister’s E12 shape was prepared into fullsize form.

At the Frankfurt Motor Show that September, Eberhard von Kuenheim was announced as the new chairman of BMW. The 41 year-old was a protege of the Quandts, the auto manufacturer’s majority shareholders, and had just turned around another of their businesses, IWK.

One of Eberhard’s first appointments was Paul Bracq to head of styling.

As Chief Body Engineer, Wilhelm Hofmeister took the role of styling head for himself amongst his broader range of responsibilities, instructing Bertram and Rennen as well as outside contractors directly. It was a privilege he had enjoyed for the last fifteen years

He was told by Von Kuenheim that Paul Bracq would now make the styling decisions for BMW on the E12, as well as the 02 replacement that had just been briefed in.

Hofmeister cannot have been pleased with this news.

Bracq arrived in December and with the shape already finalised attended to details, in this case, the front turning signals.

E12 was eye-to-eye with the Mercedes-Benz W114/115.

Deft use of curl was the key motif here. On the raised upper bodyside it thickens out the feel of the metal. Around the face of the car the aperture lip adds a deeper sculptural sophistication to the metal, against the clean black grille bereft of silver trim and bezels.

Released in October 1972, the E12 would define BMW styling into the 1990s. Without Marcello Gandini it might not have existed. Without Giovanni Michelotti it might not have been so intrinsic to BMW’s future.

In 1978 Quattroruote published an interview with Giovanni Michelotti. Listing his work for BMW, the stylist nominated the 700, 1500, 1600, 2000, 2500 and 2800. Pretty much every model up to the E12.

On the 700, the whole shape was essentially his. On other models he supplied a substantive amount. On others again, his hand seems barely evident. Self-promotion was a necessary condition for an independent contractor, and he was good at it.

So why did Michelotti not nominate the E12?

Was it that he was asked to modify the work of another carrozzeria, one that was in the process of taking this closely-held client away from him?

Despite the retainer, Bertone had seen no work from BMW since delivering the Gandini study in 1966.

For Geneva in March 1969, they prepared a proactive effort called Spicup. An E9 platform with new body and roof that went from spider to coupe at the press of the button.

It was not quite enough to wrest Max Hoffman’s attention away from Brissoneau & Lotz. In fact, it was one of Marcello Gandini’s worst shapes ever.

But Marcello Gandini was otherwise on fire.

1967 had brought his Lamborghini Marzal in a new straight edged language. His Alfa Romeo Carabo for 1968 added razor wedge to the vernacular. Gandini didn’t invent this language, but he perfected it – soon even Giovanni Michelotti and Giorgetto Giugiaro would be emulating him.

The manufacturers wanted some as well.

One day, Nuccio was called to Munich to have a look at the model of the future “Series 5” saloon; he walked around the prototype, with a gloomy expression on his face, and then asked Hofmeister: “How many years are you thinking of carrying on with this car?”

“Oh, five or six”, replied the German, “until the next change of model”. At this, Bertone opined that the car seem little more than a restyling operation, whereupon Hofmeister slapped Nuccio on the back and drew his attention to the fact that the body had already been approved by top management, who considered it a great step forward.

– Luciano Greggio, recounting conversations with Nuccio Bertone

A few weeks later Wilhelm called Nuccio back. By August 1969 BMW was in possession of Bertone drawings positing the future of the model.

Their proposal was the E12 made rectilinear. Proportioning and hardpoints were retained, but the bridging language was all straight edge. Gandini even went so far as to interpret the kidney grilles into his trademark hexagon motif.

The August 1969 set also included a grille proposal for the 02 in line with the saloon.

The 02 range was still going strong, with the Touring added in 1971. Giovanni Michelotti had provided drawings with the short tail wagon configuration during 02 development, and Paul Bracq applied the idea to a presentation board for production of the model.

It was the initiative of ‘Niche’ Paul Hahneman, head of sales and marketing. The niche he had identified this time turned the vehicle into a shopping trolley, and would prove too niche for even BMW, which was only producing around 180,000 cars a year.

In the shorter term, however, the Touring had a significant influence on the 02 replacement.

Later in 1969 Bertone received the packaging specifications for the 02 replacement. By December they had submitted six drawn proposals including this version redolent of his Lamborghini Uracco.

Gandini used a double wedge to define the profile; a long one up front and a truncated one at rear. The shape was entirely in keeping with his best, and looked as nimble as its BMW predecessor.

Giugiaro had also been asked to submit ideas, but Bertone prevailed. The project proceeded under code E19.

Then Paul Bracq arrived.

After Von Kuenheim told Hofmeister to leave the E19 to the Frenchman, Wilhelm called Nuccio.

The two of them decided to build one of their own for real. When BMW found out about it, they made it clear they did not want it displayed.

The Bertone Garmisch was shown at Geneva three months after Bracq started.

Nuccio paid to build the showcar, but the act itself was so out of character for him.

He had similar secret commissions with Volkswagen and Mazda at the same time, and yet he never revealed this work once it had been sidelined. He would instead recycle the shape for a new prospective client. Betraying a confidence like this was not something he had done before.

It feels more like Wilhelm Hofmeister trying to force Eberhard Von Kuenheim’s hand.

The gambit worked; Bertone got the halo.

On the 4th of December 1970 Autovisie magazine published images taken only days earlier of the Bertone courtyard. Half under a tarpaulin was a fullsize body carrying the lines of the rectilinear E12, though with the hexagon kidneys mercifully gone.

It was a coupe, not a sedan. Hofmeister and Bertone had manoeuvred over Bracq, ensnaring the premium model in the range. The two-door coupe body would give Bertone his own production volumes, and the model would lock in the language for the next generation E12 sedan, and so on down.

Then Bob Lutz arrived.

A Swiss-born American ex-Marine from Opel, Robert A. Lutz replaced Paul Hahnemann as VP of Sales and Marketing in December 1971. He joined what he would later describe as a ‘totally corrupt organization, I mean everybody was on the take.’

He fired entire teams of staff but his biggest impediment was Max Hoffman, who first tried to bribe him before issuing threats with gangster allusions. Lutz stared him down, took him to court and extricated BMW from an agreement that was hindering its massive potential in the US.

Bob Lutz played hardball, and he took a keen interest in styling.

“I arrived in Munich just as the company was preparing the replacement of the beautiful 3.0CS coupe. One of the problems that the company hoped to rectify in the new car was the relative difficulty of getting in and out of it. … The company’s answer was a taller, rather stodgy design, ordered up at an outside styling consultant. I rebelled, and sketched out another, lower design.”

– Bob Lutz

This rendering by MOT magazine based on the Autovisie photo fits with his description of taller.

Bertone’s influence on the future of BMW stopped here.

As Chief Body Engineer, Wilhelm Hofmeister was still Paul Bracq’s senior. Briefs for the head of styling came from the head of body engineering. And, as Lutz observed, Hofmeister was not giving out much.

With the E12 effectively finished, Bracq too was looking to its future. Bottom left is a sketch from Manfred Rennen, at its right a Bracq which is a much closer straight line interpretation of the E12 sedan than the Bertone drawings.

The straight edge had been making its way into Paul Bracq’s hand at Brissonneau & Lotz, no doubt from his own admiration of Gandini’s explosive new styling.

Tapira offered him that opportunity up close. A putative tie-in with Lamborghini from 1971, E22 saw drawings in front and mid-rear engined configuration. Gandini’s contributions ended up elsewhere, as the Maserati Khamsin and Fiat X/19.

Bracq’s wedges dovetailed well with Gandini’s. But his own hand was also evolving for the better; the tapered front end of the lower examples a superb deviation from the Bertone formula.

At some point the 02 replacement project earned the code E21, possibly after E19 was closed in July 1970.

Bracq’s work from April of that year, a month after the Garmisch appeared, was effectively the showcar’s shape with Bertone E12 coupe grafted up front.

Over the next 20 months the shape softened to a version of the E12.

The sloped bootline from the Garmisch was retained. Peugeot and Renault had just introduced models with similar treatments, so at that moment perhaps it was bit de rigeur.

But it was a short tail, and with the faster C-pillar flowing into the boot slope it looked more like the Touring. Only it was not a hatchback, and it made the whole thing look wrong.

Upon arrival, Bob was sent to the styling section by a very worried sales and marketing team. He was greeted with the fullsize mockup of the E21, next up for body tooling. He too found it less than pleasing.

He gets credit for killing the Touring version, as well as for the rear volume akin the outgoing model. Maybe he did both when he asked for the latter.

Bob understood the brand intimately. He convinced Von Kuenheim not to alter the company logo after he had already engaged consultants. He introduced the 3/5/7 model naming, an idea from his otherwise very quiet domestic sales manager. He fought for ‘The Ultimate Driving Machine’ advertising tagline.

He was alarmed to see the kidneys snug under the clean-surfaced bonnets and sinking into the bumper of the E12, E12 coupe and E21, and convinced the styling head to make them more prominent.

That March, Bracq returned with a power bulge wrapping over the front of the car, the revised rear and a new turning signal treatment.

The Garmisch was the spiritual heir to the raw dynamism of the 02 coupe, the Bracq version something else. There was still dynamism, but wrapped up in more comfort. Just the car for the upwardly aspirational.

After much delay it was released in 1975, and became BMW’s first million-seller.

Eberhard von Kuenheim had a nickname for Lutz; «schnelle Bob».

With all the mayhem he was creating over the company’s styling, he and Bracq still managed to lobby with von Kuenheim for a concept car to be displayed at the Munich Olympics later in 1972, just down the road from their shiny new Karl Schwanzer-designed headquarters.

Eberhard wanted the launch of the E12 to be the main focus of their Olympic presence, but was persuaded to go with the idea.

There’s a story of Bob Lutz telling Paul Bracq how to roll the sides of a car body, enhancing the turnunder and tumblehome. But he was talking to the stylist who had prepared Mercedes-Benz’s next decade for exactly that.

Their relationship had a strong symbiosis; Lutz could point out the issue and Bracq provide the solution. There was no better example of this than the BMW Turbo, which was built in nine months.

It was already all inside Paul Bracq, and it came out in one night.

His thoughts on the Tapira were discarded, and a softness resumed in his work. In time he would coin a term for his style philosophy; never the knife, never the potato.

Georg Bertram and Manfred Rennen left BMW for Audi. One reason for their departure may have been Bracq taking on the entirety of the E25’s styling himself – in many ways the most exciting shape BMW had ever produced.

With such a small styling team, it would have been extremely frustrating looking on from the sidelines as this shape came together. Or maybe the wars were tiring them out.

The body was fabricated in Turin, with its easy access to the deep pool of highly-skilled craftsmen required to complete a bespoke job on such a tight deadline.

With Bertone now carrozzeria non grata, Giovanni Michelotti’s workshop was used for the build. It would be his last job for BMW.

Paul Bracq’s masterpiece.

The shape was split into upper and lower sections with thick division line set at an angle connecting the low front plane with the higher-placed rear, and gave the shape added forward thrust.

The bottom edge of the greenhouse shape was crucial in reinforcing what might have otherwise been a jarring feature. The front end of the car was canted as per the BMW shark face, but its voluming was a new interpretation.

The rear was a revelation.

The cavity between the wheel wells housed the exhaust system behind a black grille with four pipes exiting at an angle echoing the side accent line.

The negative space was framed by the wheel wells leading down to slight flaps. If you can picture that space filled with body, even if it follows the flap contour, this car would appear too heavy at the rear.

It’s the perfect solution for that high-set tail. This lexicon has re-emerged in more recent times and can be found on multiple models from multiple carmakers whether they be performance shapes or body appliqué to a bread-and-butter hatch.

The model’s name was the least imaginative thing about it.

In 1968 Porsche had managed to get their 911 into the Division Three sedan category of the European Touring Car Championship, and won that year.

BMW, miffed that the 911 was allowed in the same division as their 2002, were forced to improvise. For the 1969 season a KKK turbocharger was mated to the ti fuel-injected engine. At 17 psi boost, the engine could return 320 hp, though durability was not a strong point on this hastily-prepared arrangement.

Still, in 1969 Dieter Quester won the division for BMW thanks in part to the 2002 ti/k (kompressor) that was run along with the normally-aspirated version for the season. The following year, both turbocharging and the 911 were banned from the category.

Running the same arrangement, the BMW Turbo was quoted as having a top speed of 155 mph, with a 0 – 62.5mph time of 6.6 secs and a 0-100 of 15.7. It occupied a relatively similar footprint to the 2002 ti/k, but was nearly a foot lower in height.

The showcar pre-empted the BMW 2002 Turbo launched to the public late that year. Running a detuned version of the racing KKK arrangement, it was a screaming baby-beast putting out 170hp.

This was turbocharging at its more rudimentary; lacking a wastegate, intercooler and – crucially – the electronics required to subdue its neck-snapping lag effect.

Killed as much by the OPEC crisis as by its own performance shortcomings, the 2002 Turbo was in production a scant 10 months.

When Eberhard von Kuenheim gave permission for the E25 to be produced, he stipulated that it must have a focus on safety.

In the wake of Ralph Nader’s book Unsafe At Any Speed, there was an increasing public awareness of the subject. Of the major manufacturers, Mercedes-Benz sat at the forefront of safety having conducted crash testing since the early 1960s. From the late 1960s they were producing bespoke experimental safety vehicles to further their knowledge and capability.

Volvo had also been deeply committed to safety, and 1972 saw their ESV with a more feasible aesthetic that would soon make its way onto their road cars.

Paul Bracq had been tasked with a safety sedan for BMW which took cues from the E12 , but it does not seem to have progressed beyond sketches.

The show car featured a crumple zone that was never crash tested. A radar linked to the car’s speed to determine if stopping distance was sufficient, that was never actually fitted. And so on.

The concepts expressed were sound, but their execution was a facade.

A modified version was shown at the 1973 Frankfurt Motor Show, with rear wheels covered in homage to the 1940 Touring-bodied Mille Miglia BMW 328 coupe.

Also running in the Mille Miglia that year was a more aerodynamic body shaped in-house to the principles of Wunibald Kamm. It looked similar to the Touring, but with a more swayed-back greenhouse profile, daylight openings and truncated rear.

You can see the pointed end of the Touring 328 behind it in the middle image. The Touring car won, the Kamm did not finish.

The Kamm body probably had zero influence on Bracq’s Turbo, but the lineage appears more direct.

Bob Lutz asked Bracq to give the E25 a graduated colour scheme like that he had admired on Corvette concepts.

Bracq agreed, but used a different colourway based on the high-visibility trainer jets he had seen at the Air Force base in Creil while working at Brissonneau & Lotz.

The body in red blended too much with the phosphorescent orange at its ends, and the 1973 version with its pushmobile twin were given a deeper ruby hue Bracq remembered from his Porsche 356.

These subsequent modifications only detract from this masterpiece.

The wheel covers are removable and the car has since occasionally been presented without them, but the revised colouring remains.

From the outset the BMW Turbo was never intended for production, and yet it appears so good on the road.

It seems entirely feasible that it could have been a part of the BMW product range. But it would have needed a complete internal overhaul under that highly desirable skin.

BMW was just not ready for this car.

Before heading up the whole of GM styling, Chuck Jordan had a spell at Opel in the 1960s. One day while there he received a ten page handwritten memo with sketches and photos outlining the problems of US auto styling and the benefits of Italian styling, citing Giorgetto Giugiaro’s DeTomaso Mangusta and Iso Fidia as exemplars.

It came from the local sales and marketing guy; Bob Lutz.

Jordan called Lutz in and gave him a piece of his mind.

Then he conceded. He arranged to meet with Giorgetto himself, and they became fast friends. When the 1972 Commodore/Rekord was being planned, Jordan told Lutz he was going to out-Giugiaro Giugiaro.

The Opel was a stunner, setting the benchmark across General Motors in 1972.

Though Jordan’s team had not seen the 1966 Gandini study, theirs was an alternative evolution and closer in spirit than the E12 launched the same year.


Bob Lutz’s baby as much as anyone’s; he laments in particular not being able to insert five inches of wheelbase up front for the senior Commodore.

When he rejected the Bertone E12 coupe, the Opels had not yet been launched. So he was relying on his ability to sketch.

And Paul Bracq had the BMW arsenal. The E24 was essentially a stretched 02 profile and E9 roofline, with voluming and detail from E12.

Brought together very, very nicely.

And he had it nailed in 1972.

“I was unhappy with the first 7-series; it was to high, looked too heavy. I wanted something more like a Jaguar. I fought with the concept office – Bob Lutz , in other words – but then came the fuel crisis, Lutz left, and I decided to return to France as well.”

– Paul Bracq

He wanted to create more of a progression in BMW’s visual identity than he was allowed.

Sometimes, when the creative urge strives beyond the obvious, that urge may be of detriment to the creation

And yet it’s worth persevering through the unlovely, if only to get it out of the way.

Allowing the sublime to emerge.

Paul Bracq saw in the E12, but missed the launch of all the others.

If he did not fulfil his own aspirations for the range, he most certainly met the corporate moment.

And in return, BMW allowed him his finest creation.

In 1974 Paul Bracq became head of interior styling at Peugeot. Perhaps a step back, but at double his previous salary.

Of course, when the company’s main dealership is furnished with these amazing desks by Max Ingrand and Ben Swildens, this is a company paying closer than normal attention to the car’s interior.

Over the next 22 years he would be responsible for the interiors of the 305, 505, 205, 405, 106, 406 and 206.

The 205 project is a particularly pleasing one for Bracq, as well as for Peugeot.

For the first time in many years, the internal proposal – led by Gerard Welter – was chosen over the Pininfarina proposal, Bracq is proud of the modular arrangement he conceived; allowing different binnacles for the various 205 models. He himself would own a 205 GTI as daily driver for twenty years.

In Bracq’s time Peugeot embarked on a number of concept cars.

In 1984 came the Quasar. 1988’s Oxia gave us this interior in blue, but his most striking was the 1986 Proxima in red.

Paul Bracq may have moved on from styling cars, but he never left depicting them. In his distinctive style he has painted the cherished cars of his youth, the admired cars of others as well as his own superb creations. He continues to do so presently, seven hours a day.

I once asked Mr. Bracq about the cars he had owned. After the Porsche 356 he bought a 911. BMW gave him an E12, and Peugeot a 205 GTI which he was still driving having seen through multiple engines.

What about Mercedes-Benz, I asked. “Ha!” he snorted derisively, recalling their frugal diesel variants, “Butcher’s car.”


With thanks to Paul Niedermeyer, Olivier Guin, Jim, Tatra87, Cicada
and Remco Slump at Autovisie

My deepest appreciation to Paul and Sigrud-Alice Bracq

A list of key sources can be found here