Back in April of this year, I received a request from Edgardo Michelotti, son of designer Giovanni Michelotti, to ask if anyone knew of a Hino Contessa available in Europe for a tribute show he was putting together for his father’s 100 birthday. The show opened back in September, and this is video of it.
It looks like no Contessa made it to the show, but then there were a number of others that didn’t either, as Michelotti was quite prolific. There’s just one minor quibble: the show and video claims that Michelotti designed the Neue Klasse BMW 1500, a seminal car if ever there was one. I’ve never heard that, and I cannot find any supporting evidence of that. Michelotti did submit a proposal (model) for a 1500-based two-door coupe, but that was obviously never adopted or built.
Update: someone left a comment at Youtube claiming that there are drawings in his files that support the claim. I would be happy to change my opinion if I could see them and the dates on them. It’s certainly possible, even likely, that he was asked to submit his ideas for the Neue Klasse, and that it influenced the final design to one degree or another.
Update 2: More digging and info from the comments make it clear that Michelotti definitely was involved in the design of the 1500. BMW seems to largely suppress that, but in the very last paragraph of their own article on the 1500 they state this: The Neue Klasse was designed by the young head designer at BMW, Wilhelm Hofmeister, together with renowned Italian designer Giovanni Michelotti.
My assumption is that he was retained as a consulting designer, who initiated the project and may have continued to consult with BMW’s new and young inhouse styling department.
Other than that, it’s a good quick introduction to a man who made so many lasting contributions to automotive design during his career.
Hat tip to Martin S. for leaving this at the comments.
I am enthralled with every one of his designs. They are simply beautiful.
Currently there is a fairly comprehensive exhibition about Michelotti and his designs in the Netherlands, in the DAF museum in Eindhoven.
Edgardo Michelotti opened the exhibition back in October.
Funny, I always understood the BMW 1500 was Michelottis’ work. I’m sure it was described as such in contemporary car magazines in the UK.
Of course I’ve heard of him from the age of 20 when I bought my TR4.
Totally agree on the spitfire, slow & shoddy, but gorgeous. 🙂
That was my favorite line from this video too. I agree that the Spitfire was a wonderful design – interesting to learn that it was its designer’s favorite as well, even considering all of his other creations.
I generally associate Michelotti with Triumph, so I was a little surprised how many things he designed. Admittedly not all were winners, I had forgotten the Scimitar SS1 which looked much better after the facelift by Aston Martin designer Bill Towns.
Micholetti was also responsible for the appearance of the early 1960s Scammell lorries like the Routeman and later the 1964 Leyland Ergomatic tilt cab.
I had no idea he did these! The Leyland Ergomatic was a very big deal at the time and the Scammel is one of my favorite cab designs – I still have my Corgi model of it….
Michelotti did design a BMW Coupe, namely BMW 700, the predecessor of BMW 1500.
These are lovely!
He brought the DAF into a whole nieuwe klasse (neue klasse) by designing the DAF 44 & 55.
And a lot of Italian designers were consultants for car manufacturers, he was involved with the BMW neue klasse, you know the car with the famous Hofmeister kink.
I have owned some of his designs myself – Vitesse, Herald and GT6, as well as a TR6 which was a facelift of his TR4/5, so count me as a fan of his work. I love the 2000/2500 sedan and estate cars and will maybe one of the latter in the UK as a classy child, dog and mountain bike transporter. I have heard from people at BMW that he did have a hand in the Neue Klasse, so that means his influence is felt to this day.
If you look at the market position of Triumph in the ’60s, it is similar to that of BMW in heyday – premium sporty “executive” cars with smooth in-line 6 cylinder engines and independent rear suspension.
The remarkable thing is how quickly he produced designs – I am a professional car designer and just cannot fathom how he did this!
Thanks for the link – just love the Italian accent voiceover!
Click on quote below for link to BMW Group’s own press archive (the wording error is theirs):
“The design of the New Class was neither conservative nor was it influenced by the American style; instead it was more reminiscent of Italian lines – after all Giovanni Michelotti at been involved in the design.”
I’m not putting any weight on this defensive denial. Naturally BMW are going to cast a golden, rosy, romantic light on their own work. Descriptors like “conservative” and “influenced by American [design]” are relative, subjective, and perfectly reasonable. Equally reasonable is a descriptor like “reminiscent of Italian lines”. There’s no mutual exclusivity here, except from the perspective of BMW’s PR bureau.
Autocar magazine, November 1st 1963. Second paragraph:
I didn’t say I disbelieve that Michelotti was involved.
This is enlightening, I’m quite a bit surprised that I did not realize this sooner. No mention of him at Wikipedia and several other source. I had to dig pretty deep in BMW own website on their history and key models. But there, in the last paragraph on the 1500, is this:
The Neue Klasse was designed by the young head designer at BMW, Wilhelm Hofmeister, together with renowned Italian designer Giovanni Michelotti.
I thought the Neue Klasse/Michelotti connection was well-known even at the time. More interesting to me is BMW’s denial of any American styling influence. Perhaps true in the strict sense that BMW was not influenced by the Corvair, but there’s no question that Michelotti (and other Italian designers) certainly were.