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 succcess 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, and it was he 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 sedan.
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 a major drag on 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.
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.
So why on earth did they choose Brissonneau & Lotz?
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 of the first order and in 1967 Paul Bracq was persuaded to become head of the Brissonneau & Lotz studio.
Word would have travelled fast among the German manufacturers that Daimler-Benz had just lost its leading stylist, and his availability at Brissonneau & Lotz sufficiently enticing for BMW to seek out his talents there.
Hence Bracq’s first assignment for his new employer was the US market BMW V8. There is so little information on this project, I can only assume the V8 was the same unit from the earlier models and I’m not sure if it was planned with any enhancement.
The bodies Bracq 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 this decision was the E9. BMW had given the 2000 coupe the face it should always have had, and under the now longer hood sat the 2.8 I6. 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.
In 1967, Brissonneau & Lotz also landed the contract for producing the Matra 530 bodies. Aerospace and defence 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 roadcars. 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.
Ths appealing shape was for a rotary-powered GT of unnamed manufacture. I suspect this to be an in-house effort, either a complete package to sell to a carmaker or possibly their own attempt at putting a whole car together. The greenhouse works better on the model than on the diagram; I’m not sure putting wraparound glass over the rear section would have aided rear visibility much. Gone is the bisection body line, and new to Bracq are the razor sharp junctures.
Bracq mentions working on a mid-engine V8 Gordini and a Simca coupe. The above could be either of those, or it could just be an illustration for a piece of promotional material. It does suggest the influence of another stylist at Brissonneau & Lotz .
Jacques 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.
Cooper brought with him his own language, which he applied to the Gordini (top), Simca (middle) and Renault 16 (bottom) projects. That previous Bracq sketch was very much in this language, and these also suggest the rotary GT was a shared effort.
Together Cooper and Bracq worked on the Turbotrain, which was to become the Train Grande Vitesse. It would appear that Cooper was the lead on this project, as all of the surviving renderings are in his hand.
Sportscars would obviously have been the mainstay of the styling studio. Usually produced in smaller runs they allow for a carmaker to commission the same coachbuilder for subsequent production. But as Pininfarina had learned with Peugeot, there was money and kudos to be made in shaping the standard sedan. At top is a section from the earlier portrait with a scale-model in the three-box sedan configuration, as is the front-grilled sketch they are discussing. Not sure what this project was.
Beneath is a Cooper shape for the Simca 1100; an attractive upgrade of their current model. Again, it may be a pro-active effort as Simca had also been involved with Bertone for a number of years and this proposal was never taken up.
During this time Bracq also did some work with Solido toys, though I think this was a private commission. On the front of their 1970 catalogue is a rendering by P Bracq.
On the rear was the Style 80 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.
Bracq lent his name and provided drawings for the promotion of this set, though I’m not sure he designed the prop models. Style 80 seems not to have progressed past its first year, but was no doubt a fun moment for Bracq and reflective of the name he had made for himself.
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 roadster with removable hardtop. This project was given an official BMW model code, E19. Blueprints were drawn up and a full-scale model built with plans for production in 1971.
The concept was modelled on the W113 pagoda, but not a direct copy. The 67 Camaro influence evident in the orange sketch gave it hips – but ultimately downplayed with the junctures sharpened. Bracq’s flared nostril face finally found form, and that rear 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. This was an appealing shape and would ably fit a niche not then covered by BMW.
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. For Paul Bracq, this was the last straw.
Any personal ambitions he might have harbored 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 progressing towards production. This period probably marks the greatest disappointment of his career.
In 1970 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 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.
And Paul Bracq joined BMW.
In 1970, the Munich firm commenced construction of their new striking new headquarters. Ten years before they had been on the ropes, and nearly swallowed up by Daimler-Benz. But thanks to some deft shareholder manoeuvring, Quandt family money and the Neue Klasse, things were now on the up. This potent symbol of their rebirth designed by Professor Karl Schwanzer was scheduled to be completed for the 1972 Munich Olympic Games.
Since 1955 Wilhelm Hofmeister had led the company’s styling through the hard years towards the better. But the newly appointed 41 year-old CEO Eberhard von Kuenheim took the opportunity to employ Bracq and Hofmeister was transferred to other duties. The range Bracq inherited wasn’t in bad shape; at top the refreshed E9 coupe would serve alongside the senior E3 saloon for a number of years yet, and the 02 two-door was going from strength to strength.
But the smaller four door sedan was past its time.
This was the car that had helped resuscitate BMW fortunes. It was marketed as the Neue Klasse (New Class), a brilliant indirect riposte against the more conservative Mercedes-Benz, and it brought fresh air and modern dynamics to BMW’s own phlegmatic set of senior sedans.
Its brilliance was compounded in establishing a body language unique to the marque and capable of application across a variety of shapes and sizes. The circumference lip and lightly suspended greenhouse might have been shared with others, but that shark face was of its own. Nevertheless, not even rectangular headlights on the 2000 model could blind the observer to its now aging contours.
Bertone had been engaged to suggest an updated body language. Commissioned before Bracq joined, the Garmisch prototype penned by Marcello Gandini was exhibited at the 1970 Geneva Show. Many credit this car with BMW’s new direction, but there was very little carried from this shape to the production cars. Certainly the surfaces are cleaner, and the c-pillar/lower body relationship might have prompted thought, but the rest of the shape was angular as a BMW never would be. Case in point, those kidneys.
Pietro Frua was also engaged via his work with the BMW-powered (and swallowed-up) Glas. As evidenced by this 1969 sketch, his presence on the project also predates Bracq’s. And with this sketch we can see unmistakeably the E12 shape. Of course the c-pillar kink is a strong prompt, but the curvature and volumes of the whole body are in harmony with the rest of the BMW range.
Perhaps Frua’s other sketches finished the car in the round, and perhaps Bracq brought his own deft hand to the shape. The E12 defined the next 15 years for BMW as much as the Neue Klasse had defined the last ten. The face is a natural progression from the E3 and E9, but bereft of the chrome lining. The treatment of the unadorned metal as it curves to meet the grille aperture is a subtle but confident touch.
Where the E9 coupe revelled in its raw dynamic thrust, the E12 brought more sophistication to that dynamic. The circumference lip was retained, and the volumes took on a fuller aspect without coming across as overfed. This is an underrated shape, and unjustly so. By June 1970, the E12 was complete.
The E12 was to debut at the 1972 Olympic Games, alongside an electric version of the 02 two-door. But there was another BMW that would overshadow these both.
In December 1971 Bob Lutz joined BMW. He had been with Opel since 1963, and the offer from BMW at eight times his previous salary was enough for him to take on the role of Executive Vice President, Global Sales and Marketing.
Both he and Bracq lobbied hard with von Kuenheim to produce a concept car for the Olympics. Von Kuenheim wanted the E12 to be the main focus, introducing the new look as well as a new nomenclature system for BMW – 5 series. BMW had never produced a concept car purely for show before, but he was convinced by these two enthusiastic new employees.
The shape arrived complete at birth – as Bracq tells it, in one night. But as with all flashes of genius, it was informed by years of prelude. This was in a language Bracq had not yet mastered, but we only have to look at the Solido catalogue from a few years before to see its near-complete precursor.
The one main change from its conception would be to open up the rear wheel well.
The E25 was a quick-turnaround project, only six months from sketch to built. Bracq’s team at BMW was a small one, and he was to shape this car himself from stem to stern.
With BMW having no experience in producing a car this quickly from scratch, another friend of the company was called upon. Giovanni Michelotti had been a part of BMW’s success since his work on the diminutive 700 in the late 1950s. He was also instrumental in the progression of the Neue Klasse look, but his aesthetic capabilities would not be required here. The body of the concept car would be built in his Turin workshop, giving easy access to the highly-skilled craftsmen required to complete a bespoke job on a tight deadline.
Paul Bracq’s masterpiece.
The shape was split into upper and lower sections with thick division line Bracq had used on previous sportscar shapes. But here the inspired decision was to set the division at an angle connecting the low front plane with the higher-set rear. The bottom edge of the greenhouse shape was crucial in supporting what might have otherwise been a jarring feature. The leading edge of the car was canted as per the BMW shark face, but its voluming was a new interpretation.
The kidneys fit the face most naturally, emphasised by their own pronounced contour running back up the hood as per the 300 SL shapes Bracq had shown Karl Wilfert in 1955. In leaving the frontal aspect relatively featureless, the kidneys become the keystone element.
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 the more recent past and can be found on multiple models from multiple carmakers whether they be performance shapes or body appliqué to a bread-and-butter hatch.
And, of course, it came with gullwing doors.
Comparisons with the C111 are inevitable. Even in its most attractive 1971 C111/II iteration seen closest, the BMW Turbo makes the Mercedes-Benz look like an aardvark.
Better-looking than the factory efforts was the non-official (but logo-permitted) Cw311 from bb. Built in 1978 as a production proposal around the M100 V8, the BMW Turbo’s influence is obvious. Having said that, it does stand on its own as a fantastic shape.
Its rounded forms stood in contrast to the prevailing origami aesthetic, but the BMW Turbo sat alongside the best of its era. Of any era, really.
Though intended for show, the BMW Turbo was also a functioning vehicle. The whole car was in fact built over 2002 mechanicals, and occupied a relatively similar footprint although nearly a foot lower in height. It was quoted by the factory 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. Its quoted output was up to 280 din-hp (206 kw).
As its name gently implies, this car was turbocharged.
In 1967 Porsche had managed to get their 911 into the division three category of the European Touring Car Championship, and won that year. BMW was miffed that the 911 was allowed in the same division as their 2002. They won with Dieter Quester in 1968, but only by half a point over Helmut Kelleners in a 911.
Forced to improvise, for 1969 BMW mated a KKK turbocharger 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.
Dieter Quester won the division again with teammate Günther Huber in second thanks in part to the 2002 ti/k (kompressor) run along with the normally-aspirated versions for the season. The following year, both turbocharging and the 911 were banned from the category.
Though I can’t find any evidence of the BMW Turbo being run through its paces, it was nominally running the same arrangement.
The BMW Turbo was unveiled to the press on 23 August 1972, a few days before the Olympics commenced. Its debut would have been overshadowed by the terrorist events during those Games. It was first seen in the metal by the public that October at the Paris Salon. A promotional brochure was prepared in both German and English.
The brochure was illustrated by Bracq. As its following text explains, the BMW Turbo was about more than just a fast car that looked fast.
‘One of BMW solutions for the future: regenerating crush zones. On the BMW Turbo, the front and rear crush zones are separated to form deformation sections. In the case of a collision the first zone collapses. The light units remain undamaged. This deformation zone is made of a synthetic material which springs back to its original shape. In the second phase, if the collision is more severe, the impact energy is also taken up by the telescopic shock absorber. It is only in the third phase that the crush zones of the body shell itself are deformed.’
The text goes on to explain that the body featured a wraparound roll bar, and with its high sills gave the car strong side imapct protection. The steering wheel featured three universal joints and padded boss to minimise imapct to the driver. Body contoured seats held the driver tight during cornering, and the seat belts were coupled to the ignition.
I’m not sure if all these features actually functioned, but there was also a radar linked to the car’s speed to determine if stopping distance was sufficient. Pressure warning lights were included for first and second brake circuits; further lights for brake fluid, brake wear and oil level. The car’s external lighting was connected via fibreoptic circuits to the dash to verify their functioning. The dash ergonomics were mixed; all controls were within easy reach but the interface was an information overload.
In all, though, the car presented a well-conceived aggregation of the various safety advances as they were progressing thoughout the industry at that moment.
For 1973, a modified version of BMW Turbo was shown at the Frankfurt Motor Show. It had received a new colour combination and covered rear wheels..
The original sketches of the BMW Turbo depicted it in white. Bob Lutz asked Bracq to give the showcar a graduated color scheme like that he had admired on the Mako Sharks. Bracq agreed, but used a different colourway. As the 1972 brochure noted; ‘phosphorescent paint front and rear shows other road users from afar that the BMW Turbo is on the road’.
Bracq based this on the high-visibility trainer jets he had seen at the Air Force base in Creil while working at Brissonneau & Lotz. But the orange on the BMW Turbo blended too much with the red used for the rest of the car. He felt it necessary for something darker to emphasise the graduation.
As he told Mike McCarthy of Classic and Sportscar in 1991;
‘I remember my first Porsche was a ruby red one, and I used to spend 10 minutes every day cleaning it before I took it out – I loved that car. When it came to the BMW Turbo, I chose the same colour in memory of that Porsche.’
I’m guessing this 356A is the car he is talking about, and though the colour is not apparent its deeper tonality is.
The rear wheels were covered when Bracq first conceived the shape. This was in hommage to the Touring-bodied BMW 328 coupe that the won the 1940 Mille Miglia.
Also running that year was an in-house body shaped to the principles of Wunibald Kamm. It would not prove as durable for the race, but is a closer cousin to the Turbo shape in its swayback profile, daylight openings and truncated rear. You can see the pointed end of the Touring 328 behind it in the lower pic. I’m not sure that this body had as direct an influence on Bracq’s Turbo, but the coincidence is worth noting.
Only two examples were ever built, the second a pushmobile display model. Both were given the deeper ruby paint and covered wheel sides. In my opinion these modifications only detract. 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 ready for the road. Though Bracq’s shape was predictive, this was no abstract exercise. It seems entirely feasible that it could have been a part of the BMW product range. Externally speaking that is.
But it would have needed a complete internal overhaul. The racing-based engine would not have been appropriate for the road, and with the vehicle having been prepared in haste the body, drivetrain and platform would have needed further development. More than this, though, is that the car was presented as a showcase for safety. Remembering that it was initiated at the urging of Bracq and Lutz, von Kuenheim would have insisted on more than just a frivolous dreampiece, and its safety aspects retro-actively applied. In doing so, BMW drove themselves into a conceptual cul-de-sac. To have put this car to market without its whole package might have come across as not in keeping with its apparent reason for being.
BMW was just not ready for this sort of car on their production lines or in their showrooms. Nor would they be when the M1 – the Turbo’s spiritual successor – arrived in 1978.
In fact, we need only look at 1972 to see how underprepared the BMW Turbo was for the road.
The BMW 2002 Turbo was launched late that year, with flares and spoilers from Bracq. Running a detuned version of the KKK arrangement, it was a screaming baby beast putting out 170hp. But it 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 (or over-eagerness), the 2002 Turbo was in production a scant 10 months.
The 2002’s replacement would arrive in 1975 as Bracq’s next body for the road. He derived the E21 3-series two-door shape directly from the E12 5-series lexicon, although the headlights earned indicators alongside. Though the shape of the E21 was pleasing enough, this larger and heavier car gave away most of the driving magic of its 02 forebear. Interesting is the lower shape; an update of the unsuccessful 02 touring body. Given the Alfetta GT, Lancia Beta HPE and Renault 15/17, I can imagine this packaging might have seen more success in the 1970s.
Bracq also did styling work on BMW’s motorcycles. I can’t tell you anything about this facet of his work, except that the motorcycle division got its own styling studio in 1973
The next new shape slated for release was the 1976 E24 coupe, to replace the E9 coupe. This was planned as another 6-cylinder car, based on the smaller E12 rather than the senior E3. Karmann was to produce the bodies, and their contribution to the styling phase included these literal translations of the E12 four-door.
Bertone too derived their proposal directly from the E12, though with thinner c-pillar than Karmann. This would make it to fullsize prototype, but not to production.
At some point BMW chose to give this model its own body, and by 1972 Paul Bracq was pretty much there. It was to be called the 6-series.
The from-scratch E24 shape was based on a napkin sketch Bob Lutz had drawn for Bracq. Lutz would have been privy to the development of the Opel Commodore and Rekord coupes released for 1972, and the similarities are apparent.
How much can a napkin sketch project, though? In profile the Opel carried the shark face not seen on previous models, and maybe they were themselves trying on a bit of implied BMW excellence. The E24 carried the same general profile as the Opel, but it was also in keeping with the lexicon Bracq had been developing for BMW.
Both shapes were attractive, and sufficiently different. The E24 was the superior.
This blue example is a very attractive shape based on the Turbo and the E24. The nose fits the body perfectly, and the wheelarch flaring is a positive addition. These shapes are either a late-in-the-day rethink of the E24, or possibly for a V12 BMW project Bracq mentions on occasion. This hybrid sportscar/coupe configuration, along with a V12, would find form in the 8-series of 1989.
The version beneath appears to have a chisel-nose front profile. I don’t mind the taillight, but that rear wheel skirt…
At top is a drawing done years later depicting Bracq’s preferred face for the E28 7-series of 1977. Again we see the chisel-nose, and it just seems to make the shape more generic. The disguise panel on the development mule below is not a sign BMW was moving in this direction. As Bracq told McCarthy;
‘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.’
These drawings bring me to consider something I also encountered when writing the John Blatchley pieces; the output of Bracq at Daimler-Benz, and Blatchley with Rolls-Royce and Bentley, epitomised the classical automotive form. Yet both men strove for a modernity not necessarily in keeping with those marques, and were less than satisfied with shapes many others considered just right. The E24 BMW was Paul Bracq’s best roadcar shape for the Munich firm, and yet these?
The answer of course is that the creator must keep moving ahead; what’s fresh to the consumer is years old to the stylist. The path to finding the unknown next is littered with dead-ends.
The cars Paul Bracq left with BMW may not all have been to his own personal tastes, but they were of a whole. Maybe the 3-series could have been more svelte, and maybe the 7-series was a bit ungainly. These are minor disappointments, not outright failures.
Together these cars edged BMW up the ranks of the desirable, gave body to the proposition of the ultimate driving machine and never betrayed the marque identity that preceded them. They were the unfaltering steps towards even greater heights to come.
And in return, BMW afforded Paul Bracq his single greatest opportunity.
In 1974 Paul Bracq took up a position with Peugeot at double his previous salary. He was appointed head of interior styling, which I suspect is an indication as to how much he wanted to go home. Of course, when the company’s main dealership is furnished with these amazing desks by Max Ingrand and Ben Swildens, perhaps 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.
Perhaps emboldened by their internal success with the 205, Peugoet embarked on a number of concept cars. In 1984 came the Quasar, with interior by Paul Bracq.
Oxia of 1988.
Probably Bracq’s most striking interior; 1986 Proxima.
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.
His son Boris runs Les Ateliers Paul Bracq; refurbishing for customers the cars shaped by his father.
He remains happily married to Alice, above, to whom he proposed in 1961.
In 2005, when asked by journalist Alain Ribet to reflect on the success of the pagoda shape, Paul Bracq’s response was applicable across all his oeuvre;
‘The fluidity. The body of a pretty woman. Neither the shape of a knife nor that of a potato.’
. . .
Appreciation to jim, Tatra87 and Paul Niedermeyer for their help.
Article on Brissonneau & Lotz by Terry Shea at hemmings.com
Biography of Jacques Cooper at leroux.andre.free.fr
Ate Up With Motor on the Opel GT
The BMWs of Pietro Frua at pietro-frua.de (German)
. . .
CC Automotive History of the BMW V8 by Tatra87
CC Automotive History of the BMW Sportscar Shape by Don A.
CC Biography of Claus Luthe – Bracq’s successor at BMW – by Perry Shoar
More CC articles are linked within
Bracq had an interesting fondness for hidden headlights.
thanks for this post
Bracq is my hero.
he created gorgeous BMW´s.
my all time favorite Bimmer.
A lot of very nice BMWs from Bracq, but the nose of the roadster proposal – gack!
When I saw the drawings of the different 6-series noses, the top one immediately reminded me of the MN12 Thunderbird (minus the kidney grilles). It’s as if the MN12 was a refresh of that exact drawing, albeit almost 20 years later.
This was my immediate reaction as well.
This later compendium of Bracq drawings shows more of the chisel nose
Thank you for a very interesting read with a lot of nice pictures.
But the Opel GT did not have a fibreglass body.
If only it did. Opel GTs quickly developed a reputation of crumbling into piles of rust flakes.
I saw that when I read it in advance, but failed to make the correction afterwards. Will do so now. Thanks for pointing it out.
Strange that no one thought of making the kidneys wider on the BMW.
Thanks for the correction K. Wide kidneys? 507 (with von Goertz)
Where to begin? So much rich information.
You have shown how American design in the mid-late 60s was extremely influential both the Europeans and the Japanese, but the Europeans seemed to catch themselves and get back on track before too much of the influence was put into their production cars. This was a pivotal era that way, and of course the Japanese adopted American influence much more whole-heartedly.
I happen to see more influence from Gandini’s Garmisch coupe on the E12 than perhaps you do.
You have made a very convincing point about Bracq’s Turbo; it was a very fine design, although I’m still not quite reconciled with some details. And the rear wheel fairings are unfortunate.
I have a huge amount of respect for Bracq’s work in this period, but I was not totally happy with either E24 coupe and the first 7 Series. I actually think that Jordan’s Opel coupe has better proportions. The greenhouse/roof on the BMW 6 Series was just a bit too tall. I know that was the thing for a while, but by the time it came out, it…wasn’t so much anymore. It’s a handsome car, but I’d love to see somebody chop 2-3 inches from the roof.
I could go on, but I need to run…
Thanks again for this superb tribute to a very influential designer.
Agree with you on the E24 roof.
What a remarkable account , though, of a great artist.
Having driven and ridden in an E24, I disagree with chopping the roof. The sightlines are wonderful and the back seat is usable for adults. The design is a compromise between form and function and manages to balance the two wonderfully.
I can see the Garmisch as the step between the 60s and 70s, maybe as a broad (very broad) cleaned-up body language and proportioning. But the journey from E9 to E12 didn’t need Bertone’s input.
Thank you in return Paul. The opportunity to examine and present an article along these lines and length to an appreciative audience is one I don’t take for granted. It really is a privilege. Cheers
I’ve just remembered this 1966 E3 proposal by Gandini at Bertone. Very Opel, but closer than the Garmisch. As with all styling, part of the evolution. The genuine from-scratch moment is rare in this game.
The Opel Rekord D/Commodore B Coupé is my favourite!
The drawings of Rekord II and Commodore B by Art Fitzpatrick not so much!
Wow, Don, such a terrific, well-researched profile of one of the great, most influential, though maybe most underrated, automotive designers of all time. You’ve written one of the best retrospectives yet on CC.
Bracq, IMO, ranks right up there with the likes of Giugiaro, Gandini, Fiovaranti, Mitchell, Callum in terms of talent, body of work and influence.
You’ve said it all, Dave. Don, I stand in awe of your ability to research a lesser-known personality, to make connections between designs that might not be so apparent to others, and to present the story in such a compelling and cohesive whole. As with your story on Blatchley, this will be bookmarked to come back to again and again.
Many thanks from a frustrated, would-have-been designer.
Don, thank you for this fantastic 2-part series on one of the world’s great automotive designers. I have really enjoyed taking my time reading these and savoring every detail and image. I’ve learned a tremendous amount. Beautifully done!!
Don, my thanks also. Great research, analysis, choice of material, and storytelling, giving a real sense of the man and his journey in the world of automotive design. ( As a bonus, I now understand why all those Peugeot interiors had such cohesive, sophisticated designs ). CC at its awesome best.
My heartfelt thanks, Don! I’ve really enjoyed learning about Paul’s influence on design of MB and BMW.
Over 20 years ago I’ve read about Paul Bracq and his work in a Russian automotive newspaper (now a magazine) “Autoreview”. Sadly, on the web their archives go only to 2001. I remember his styling takes on the Bugatti EB 110 and some other cars.
A wonderful part II, Don. Thanks for taking the time to research and write this document. Articles like this full of depth and information are my favourite.
Pete, GN, Richard, Bimmer and Vince; thanks. Your compliments are really gratifying.
It’s interesting that BMW Motorcycles got their own styling department in 1973, because this leads to the introduction of the S models (like the sketch) followed by the more radical fully faired R100RS and R100RT in 77-79.
I wish there was more info on Bracq’s bike opportunities. In so many ways, it’s a completely different facet of styling.
You mention the privilege of writing here Don, which is still less than that of us who get to read such stuff. Thankyou.
It is possible to read this remarkable essay and draw a sketch of Msr Bracq as a stylist who was never quite of the first order, as, arguably, every idea produced was initially that of another. Each result was not quite a masterpiece, (though I’d have to concede the Pagoda for 95% of people). Even when less constrained by circumstance, his drawings are not unevenly convincing. It is interesting you happen to include a photo of the updated Pug 505 dash, which I owned and felt was horrid, especially as compared to my earlier elegant one – which I presume was also Bracq.
I cannot share the enthusiasm for the turbo, on which the rear is poorly proportioned and the pants around the wheels unfortunate. The rear of the LP 500 Countach showed how it could be done much better. I also think the diffuser/false diffuser effect now so common actually derived from that look as it existed for real on actual racing cars. Absolutely no doubt BMW reached back to put that nose on the 850i, though. And the dash.
It’s of interest that no big car maker made him chief stylist, not even in France. That, ofcourse, could simply mean he was not adept at the politics, but top talent does seem inevitably to reach the top.
Perhaps his greatest contribution is to have assisted Mercedes and then BMW into a long-lasting design identity that has put them where they are today, which is no small legacy.
Remember, I say all this with the firm authority of one with 0.00% of his talent. But there’s an Internet, and opinions are free.
And here’s a final one for now: thanks again to this site, and to you, Don. Look forward to the book…
Thanks for your thoughts Justy. It’s great to get a response like this because other legitimately-expressed perspectives such as yours challenge me to clarify my own approach to automotive styling.
I would argue that Paul Bracq was a stylist of the first order because he was able to produce shapes that most completely continued the marque essence for both M-B and BMW. That his hand is not so evident is a reflection of our own expectations many years later. What was of primary (and arguably, sole) interest is that the cars he shaped served the company he was working for as best they could. There was no requirement that his personality come though.
I contrast this with the Countach, which comes from the alternative point-of-view; that the stylist is the artist whose car body expresses their own particular aesthetic. In this case Gandini. I am myself guilty of deifying this type of stylist because the forms they create in themselves are so utterly captivating. But as Pininfarina came to understand around the time of the Alfa 164/Peugeot 605, sometimes this voice can overwhelm the marque essence of the carmaker leading to its own problems.
So now I try to write from various perspectives, though it’s not so obvious in each individual narrative. I think another way of looking at Bracq’s decision to take the Peugeot job is to consider the broader picture. He himself has admitted that he never had it so good as he did at Daimler-Benz. As he told Gunter Engelen;
‘The money wasn’t particularly great, but there was always a dynamic atmosphere and a fantastic working relationship between the engineers and stylists – none of the marketing strategists ever tried to influence our decisions. I never came across an employment opportunity like that in later years.’
Perhaps he was spoiled by the almost perfect working environment in his early years, and just didn’t want to deal with the encroachment of other influential factors on styling as he saw it at B&L and BMW.
I also think he was probably eager to bring his children up at home in France. In taking a job working on interiors, he stayed in the game with good remuneration and was able to pursue his own love of the automobile shape in a way that satisfied his own muse – through painting the cars he loved.
As to the BMW Turbo, it is almost an outlier within his oeuvre, but one that was so wondrously conceived and executed as a shape. I wondered about the ‘diffuser’ look of the rear on other cars, but couldn’t think of any (including the stunning rear end of the Countach) that created a negative space in a way so as to be a significant aspect of the whole shape.
I know the heckflosse face is not one of your favoured automotive languages, but I have come to really appreciate it for what it is, both to Daimler-Benz and to my own aesthetic sensibilities. It may not be a Countach or 250 GT Lusso or 1971 Buick Estate Wagon, but it is still one of the 20th century’s great automotive expressions. And Paul Bracq dressed up that face with a succession of the most appropriate bodies.
Loved talking this out Justy. cheers.
Thank you for this additional perspective, as it largely mirrors my own, but haven’t had the time to properly formulate and write down.
Although the sheer brilliance of certain star designers is of course reflected in their best work, I have long struggled with the issue of ego and designers, and how the process of arriving at a final product comes about. Meaning: in the numerous reflections/memoirs of designers discussing their work, or their involvement in it, it’s a struggle to determine just how much credit they are really due, as the design process, at least in larger companies, involves so much collaboration and give-and-take.
The inherent tendency to claim credit to whatever extent possible is of course a human trait. But when there are conflicting stories, or obvious inconsistencies in the narrative, one does wonder just how it really came down.
Your comment resonates with me, because the limited image I have had of Bracq, and which you have now substantially expanded, is of a personality who could be a successful collaborator rather than need to be the star of the show.
The design conflict at Mercedes was obviously huge during the time he was there, in terms of how to react to the powerful styling influences coming from Detroit at that time. It’s clear that Mercedes was toying with some very US-centric concepts, and struggling to find the right balance. Some of the concepts for the 600 look like a Packard revival.
And clearly Bracq was taken by many of these extravagant and dynamic influences from Detroit, as can be seen in numerous later of his concepts. Yet both at Mercedes and and BMW he was able to sublimate them successfully in a quest to find a “German” solution, which did not deny these influences but incorporated them tastefully and successfully.
I shudder to think how Mercedes’ image and success would have been in the US if it had adopted a decidedly more American-style look. It was their powerful understated contrast to the American cars that was, in my mind, a critical factor in their huge success in the US. And of course, that all/mostly applies to BMW.
It’s almost impossible for me to imagine a “star” designer at either of these companies during these time periods when both of them were burnishing their image and success. Let’s keep in mind that BMW’s success in the US (and elsewhere) tended to follow Mercedes’ by about a decade, and that Bracq was there during each of their crucial periods when they really established their brands, stylistically and otherwise.
This required a very delicate synthesis of influences, as you have shown so exceptionally clearly. And Bracq played a critical role in the successful outcome. To have shaped the design legacy of Mercedes in the 60s and BMW in 70s makes him a star in my eyes, even if the definition is a bit different.
And his decision to go back to France and work for Peugeot in the capacity he did is quite understandable. Let’s also keep in mind that most creative types do their best work in the earlier years of their working lives. He was being pragmatic rather than egotistical, which I deeply respect.
Congratulations Don, on a great dive into one of the most influential designers of the CC era. I agree with those who say his design aesthetic wasn’t cutting edge, but that wasn’t the job he was hired for at either Mercedes or BMW.
I’ve owned three classic cars: a ’74 DS23 Pallas, and ’68 and ’71 300SELs. Funny that all three were penned by a Frenchman. I loved the styling of both, but also recognized the different cultures they were made to represent. And the W108/9 remains my favorite Mercedes sedan of all time.
I do agree with Bracq that the 600 could have used more sheetmetal ahead of the front wheels, as well as a more shapely front clip. Ironic that the same stubbiness would afflict his largest car for BMW, although they were comfortable as anything inside.
Re the DS: Flaminio Bertoni was an Italian, Robert Opron who was responsible for the MY 1968 revisions was a Frenchman.
Coincidentally, the one off Porsche 914/6 Murène proposal shown above was just listed for sale in France, and will be auctioned on May 18th. Pre-auction estimate is 180,000 – 220,000 Euros:
Sorry guys but even the Matra 530 was built at Brissoneau&Lotz, this model was designed by Jacques Nocher (former designer at Loewy then Simca then Citroën and Renault designer).
No link with Bracq…
Thanks for your feedback. Perhaps I should have made it clear that the production 530 was not styled by Brissonneau & Lotz. It does appear that they were working up their own proposals for this car. What I couldn’t exactly ascertain is whether these proposals were commissioned by Matra, or pro-active efforts on the part of B&L. I’m adding your input to the text.
BTW, your Pinterest stuff is an extraordinary trove and has at times been invaluable for my research. Nice to actually meet you. Cheers.
Hi Don, nice to meet you too!
I’m sorry, my first message was sent too fastly and after posting it I read again your great article.
As far I understood, Matra never consulted B&L. When Cooper opened the styling dpt with then Bracq, management made a considerable effort to seduce large carmakers. hard to know more but I strongly recommend the book “Cooper, l’homme qui dessina le TGV” by Loïc Fieux.
Otherwise I stopped Pinterest in 2016 for a FB Page where you can see for instance a wonderful rendering made by Cooper > http://bit.ly/CDA767), and a website is in the pipe 😉
Don, just a last question: because I will show soon the Opel Commodore design story, where did you find this Commodore rendering? This one was new to me.
That image was retrieved from this site;
Thankfully the watermark didn’t fall on the coupe. I’m surprised there isn’t another example online, given it’s an AF/VK. Below is the largest I could find.
BTW, a GM stylist called Leo Pruneau worked under Jordan on the Opel, he then took aspects of the ‘face’ and applied them to the 1971 HQ Holden. He still lives here in Victoria, Australia and may be available to assist you with your piece although I don’t have his contact details. You might be able to get them from Professor Harriet Edquist of RMIT Design Archive – firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m not on FB but really looking forward to your website.
Many thanks for your help! I don’t understand why Reversed Google Images doesn’t work well since weeks…
Don, I don’t come here often but here is my email to stay in touch: email@example.com.