Famous Designers and Studios

Turin, Italy, once the global centre of car styling, has been loosing leading edge since the early ‘90s. Although it still has the world’s biggest independent studios - Pininfarina, Bertone and Italdesign - plus traditional players like Zagato and Ghia and new comers such as IDEA and Fioravanti, car makers just stopped employing them and set up their own in-house studios. Among them, many chose California. 

As a result, California is becoming another centre of car styling. In contrast to Turin, California is not bounded by tradition. Sunshine, Hollywood and multi-culture lead to freedom of thinking hardly matched by other places, thus gave birth to many radical designs, especially funny cars. 
However, no matter how commercially successful it is, so far we have yet to see any cars coming from California as beautiful as Pininfarina’s Alfa GTV and Peugeot 406 Coupe, or anything as stunning as Gandini ever did. In fact, the most credible in-house studios recent years are also non-California-based, i.e., the Britain’s Jaguar studio (think of S-Type), the French Peugeot (206 and 607) and Alfa Romeo studio (156 and 147), the latter is also Turin-based. 

The world of car styling is now more diversified than ever. 

Italian Designers
The biggest car styling studio in the world. Famous of designing nearly all Ferraris since the ‘50s. Founded by Battista Pininfarina (1893-1966) in 1930 after serving Fiat as a designer and turning down offering from Henry Ford. He designed and coach-built many masterpieces, including the pioneering Cisitalia 202 which reshaped modern cars forever. Later on, he secured the long-term partnership with Ferrari while started mass production in his plant with Alfa Giulietta Spider. 

His son Sergio is not a designer but a business genius who led the company to even more success. Design business spread to various Peugeot, Alfa, Lancia and Fiat while production facilities were upscaled to provide one-stop service of creating special edition cars for big car makers - from design, body building to final assembly. These Pininfarina-built and designed cars include Cadillac Allante, Peugeot 205CTi, 306 Cab, 406 Coupe, Fiat Coupe, Alfa old Spider and new GTV/Spider. Without the support of the plants, the company's design business would have been suffered as a result of the trend of in-house design.  

Pininfarina’s designs are quite versatile - from supercar Ferrari to bread-and-butter Peugeot, from slippery Ferrari Dino to angular Alfa 164. Its designs are never too radical to be practical (unlike Bertone, Gandini and Gale). On the contrary, it is renowned for being able to inject sense of sexiness and elegance into an ordinary car with just minor tweaks of shape and details - look at the magic it did to Peugeot 205 GTI, 406 Coupe, 306 Cab and Alfa GTV and you’ll get what I mean. That’s why it is the studio I admire most. 

Famous designs

 Cisitalia 202, Alfa Romeo Duetto/Spider, Ferrari Testarossa: 
 Peugeot 205, Alfa Romeo 164, Ferrari 456GT, Ferrari F355: 
 Alfa Romeo GTV/Spider, Peugeot 406 Coupe, Ferrari 360 Modena / Spider: 
More examples: Ferrari 275GTB, Dino, Daytona, 308GTB, 512BB, F40, Alfa 164, Fiat 124 Spider, Fiat Dino Spider, Lancia Beta Monte Carlo, Gamma Coupe, Peugeot 405, 605, 306 Cab and Cadillac Allante.
One of the big 3 studios in the world and, like Pininfarina, it has assembly plants. Founded by Giovanni Bertone in 1912 as a small coach-builder and then took over by his son Nuccio Bertone (1914-97) in 1930. Nuccio was not a designer but he employed some greatest designers - Franco Scaglione (who penned Alfa Giulietta Sprint which drove Bertone to mass production), Giugiaro (Fiat 850 Spider), and then even more fruitful partnership with Marcello Gandini for 15 years, during which created Lamborghini Miura (66), Espada (68), Urraco (71), Countach (72), Alfa Montreal (71), Maserati Khamsin (72), Fiat X1/9 (73), Ferrari 308GT4 (73) and Lancia Stratos (74). In the 80s and 90s, Bertone concentrated on the production of X1/9 and the design of Citroen BX (84), XM (89) and Xantia (92), then the assembly of Opel Astra cabriolet and Fiat Punto cabriolet. 

In the past 25 years, Bertone's designs emphasised angular and wedged shapes. This made them looking special and futuristic but also drove customers away, especially in the organic-fancy late 80s and 90s. Today only Citroen remains to be its long-term admirer. On the other hand, Opel still employed Bertone to build Astra Coupe. 

Famous designs

 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint, Fiat 850 Spider, Lamborghini Miura: 
 Lamborghini Espada, Alfa Romeo Montreal, Lamborghini Urraco: 
 Lamborghini Countach, Maserati Khamsin, Fiat X1/9: 
 Lancia Stratos, Citroen XM, Citroen Xantia: 
More examples: Ferrari 308GT4, Lamborghini Espada, CItroen BX, AX, ZX
Founded by Giorgetto Giugiaro (1938-). Like Pininfarina, the young ingenious joined Fiat at the age of 17. 4 years later, he switched to the famous Bertone studio and designed several great cars under this name (Fiat Dino,  BMW 3.0CSL Batmobile, Fiat 850 Spider and Fiat Dino Coupe). Then he was head-hunted by Ghia studio as design director. During the brief 2 years of serice, he penned Maserati Ghibli and DeTomaso Mangusta. Finally he established his own company, Italdesign, in 1968.  

Unlike Bertone, Giugiaro loves concordent designs. His cars, except the ultra-low Lotus Esprit, never sacrifice practicality. As a result, many manufacturers from the West to the East adopt his designs, including VW Golf MkI, Fiat Croma, Punto, Renault 21, Isuzu Piazza, Subaru SVX, Lexus GS300 and recently the whole line-up of Daewoo. 

It is necessary to mention that Giugiaro pioneered "tall-body" design with Fiat Panda and Uno which have a great influence to modern car design since then. However, after the Uno, Giugiaro's designs lost most of the imagination that characterised his years in Bertone, Ghia and the early Italdesign years. Fiat Punto Mk1, Daweoo Matiz and Msaerati 3200GT are some of the rare attractive designs. 

Unlike Pininfarina and Bertone, the 3rd largest studio in the world has not yet involve manufacturing. 

Famous designs

 DeTomaso Mangusta, Maserati Bora/Merak, Lotus Esprit, Volkswagen Golf: 
 BMW M1, DeLorean DMC12, Alfa Romeo Alfetta GTV, Fiat Uno: 
 Fiat Punto Mk1, Seat Toledo Mk2, Daewoo Matiz, Maserati 3200GT: 
More examples: Alfa Romeo Alfasud, Vokswagen Scirocco MkI, Lancia Delta MkI, Thema, Fiat Panda, Uno, Punto MkI, Croma, Saab 9000, Subaru SVX, Seat Ibiza Mk1&2, Toledo Mk1, Toyota Aristo Mk1 (Lexus GS300), Renault 19, 21, Daewoo Lanos, Leganza, Daihatsu Move.
First emerged as a coach-builder in 1915, Ghia started designing for customer in 1950. In the 60s it enjoyed several glorious years with the service of Giugiaro. The most successful designs, Maserati Ghibli and De Tomaso Pantera, were out of those years. It was bought by Ford in 1970 and became part of Ford's studio. Although it remained locating in Turin, it lost its spirit and prosperity. The "StreetKa" concept roadster shown in year 2000 was one of the few attractive designs for years. Unluckily, Ford eventually closed it in 2002 in order to save money. Now the "Ghia" name just represents the top-spec Ford models.

Famous designs

 Maserati Ghibli, DeTomaso Pantera: 
Another old Italian coach-builder. Always designs extraordinary cars. You'll either love them or hate them (for me, it's the latter case). No much business now, although still independent. 

Famous designs

 Aston Martin DB4 GT, Aston Martin Vantage Zagato, Alfa Romeo SZ/RZ: 
Marcello Gandini

Marcello Gandini (1943-) started career as a designer in 1965, taking the vacancy Giugiaro left in Bertone. During 15 years of service, he gave birth to many greatest sports car designs of the century, including Lamborghini Miura, Countach, Espada, Urraco and Maserati Khamsin. After that, he became a self-employed stylist and continued creating some other fabulous cars such as Lamborghini Diablo (modified by Chrysler), Cizeta V16T and Bugatti EB110. 

Undoubtedly, his designs are very aggressive, imaginative and futuristic, very suitable to supercars but usually has to sacrifice practicality (such as lack of headroom, poor visiblity, difficult entry and poor aerodynamics). Nearly all his designs, bar Miura, were loyal to his love affair of angular and wedge profile, even until his very latest car, Qvale Mangusta. So far he has yet to prove his talent in designing mainstream production cars. 

Famous designs

 Lamborghini Miura, Lamborghini Espada, Alfa Romeo Montreal: 
 Lamborghini Countach, Lamborghini Urraco, Maserati Khamsin: 
 Fiat X1/9, Lancia Stratos, Lamborghini Diablo: 
 Cizeta Moroder V16T, Bugatti EB110, Qvale Mangusta: 
More examples: Maserati Shamal, Quattroporte Mk2, DeTomaso Pantera 200, Citroen BX
Leonardo Fioravanti
Fioravanti (1939-), the man behind Pininfarina during its golden years. During his 24 years service in Pininfarina, he designed 8 Ferraris by himself, including the masterpieces like Dino, Daytona, 308GTB and BB, plus guided another 5, such as the aerodynamic layout of Testarossa. Unlike many nowadays stylists, Fioravanti is also an aerodynamic expert - he started life in Pininfarina as aerodynamist - which explained why his designs could be kept original throughout the production adaptation process. 

After leaving Pininfarina in 1988, he briefly joined Fiat and then started his own little studio in Turin, primarily design houses and gardens. However, in 1998 a Ferrari-style concept sports car called Fioravanti F100 was shown, indicating his intention to return to the automotive world. 

Among his designs, Fioravanti loves the Daytona most. 

Famous designs

 Ferrari Dino, 308GTB, Daytona, Berlinetta Boxer: 
British Designers
William Lyons
Sir William Lyons (1901-1985), the legendary founder of Jaguar. He styled Jaguar SS, XK120 and virtually all Jaguar saloons until and including the first XJ by himself. Under his guidance, his right-hand designer Malcolm Sayer created C, D and E-type. All these designs are regarded as classics today. It should be noted that the first car by Sayer himself in post-Lyons era was the odd-looking XJ-S coupe, reflecting how important Lyons' direction was. The modernised XJ6 in 1986 was also criticised as too bland. The world lost Lyons' classic style until Geoff Lawson revived it in the 90s. 

Among all his designs, Lyons preferred the XJ most. 

Famous designs

 Jaguar SS100, XK120, XJ6: 
Geoff Lawson
Geoff Lawson (1945-2000) was the man who succeeded to reintroduce Sir Lyons’ classic style into modern Jaguars. After serving Vauxhall and GM, he joined Jaguar as chief designer in 1984, from then to his sudden death (due to stroke) he designed all the Jaguars launched, including the sexy XJ220 supercar, the elegant XJ6/8 restyle, the popular XK8, the most successful S-Type and the yet-to-be-born X-Type. The nose of S-Type was particularly his greatest achievement. 

Famous designs

 Jaguar XJ220, S-Type: 
Peter Stevens
From the beginning Peter Stevens (1945-) prefers to work as a free-lance designer, but that didn’t stop him from taking opportunities. In the late 80s and early 90s he styled some of the best shapes of the time - Lotus Elan M100, Jaguar XJR-15 and McLaren F1. However, since then he did not have too much luck, just tweaked aerodynamic kits for Hyundai, Proton etc. 

In 99 and 2000, he secured posts in Prodrive and Rover as design chief but still hardly called full-time posts. 

Famous designs

 Jaguar XJR-15, Lotus Elan M100, McLaren F1: 
American Designers
Harley Earl
Harley Earl (1893-1969) had the greatest influence to American cars design from the 30s to 60s through his leadership in GM styling department. He started career in his father's coach builder, designing customer body works. Having designed a body work for Cadillac LaSalle, he was given the job in GM and set up the industry's first in-house styling department - Art and Colour Section. Since then he led the department to grow and supervised the design of some 35 million cars produced. He also pioneered concept cars with Buick Y job. 

His designs - though far from being my favourite - emphasised long, wide, low, chrome details, wrap-around windshield and aircraft-inspired tail fins, all characterised the American cars in the "good old days". However, it also prove his ignorance to engineering principles, making American cars suffered from notorious handling and criticised by some artists as exaggerative and over-decorated. Even after retired, his principles of "long and wide" extended to the muscle cars era of the 60s and early 70s, hence putting American cars in deep trouble during oil crisis.

Tom Gale
Thomas Gale (1943-) is responsible for the imaginative Chrysler line-up from late 80s to the whole 90s. After graduated with a degree in Engineering, he joined Chrysler as body engineer and eventually came up as head of design in 1985. His designs are mostly characterised by radical, emotional and sometimes retro shapes, such as Dodge Viper, Plymouth Prowler, Dodge Ram Pickup and PT Cruiser, but there are also some advanced yet practical designs like the Dodge Intrepid, Chrysler 300M, Dodge Neon and Chrysler Cirrus, whose "Cab-forward" theme benefits cabin room. 

Famous designs

Dodge Viper, Dodge Intrepid, Plymouth Prowler, Chrysler PT Cruiser: 
More examples: Dodge Neon Mk1&2, Dodge Intrepid Mk1, Dodge Ram Pickup. 


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