Blog: The emporer’s new clothes


IN some people’s books, BMW’s head designer, Chris Bangle, has done more to advance individual styling within the European motor industry than anyone else in recent years. His flame surfacing school of styling has divided the opinions of a generation of car enthusiasts – with just as many saying they love what he’s achieved as those who say they hate it. Yes, it’s true that the BMW 1-Series hatchback is possibly the ugliest new car on sale today, closely rivalled by those pantheons of poor taste, the 7- and 6-Series – but, at the same time, there’s no denying their individuality.

Still, if anything good’s come from BMW’s faith in Bangle, it’s that rival manufacturers have started working a lot harder to produce more boldly styled cars. Don’t believe me? Take a look at a 1993 Mondeo and compare it with the current one; or a 1995 Vectra as opposed to the recently-unveiled Insignia – 1990s generally equals blandness, whereas 2000s equates to definite form and function. Okay, so Audi and Mercedes-Benz have remained on the meek side of conservative, but the mainstream players have upped their game and it’s nothing but good news.

Looking at BMW’s GINA concept, it’s fair to say that the endo-skeleton/fabric construction is the main talking point – and obviously the great Mr Bangle was testing the collective sense of humour/gullibility of the motoring press when he came up with the hair-brained concept.

I mean, who doesn’t like the idea of a car who’s styling can be altered depending on your mood? Well me actually. I mean, are they mad? What’s the point? If I want individuality, I won’t buy a shape-shifting BMW – I’ll buy an Avantime or a Signum. Or in five years’ time, a V6 powered Rover…

Okay, so the tent car isn’t a serious production possibility (for the love of God, please), and shouldn’t be treated as anything other than motor show frippery, but the fact that they’ve spend bundles of cash putting the thing together says a lot about BMW right now – the company is cash-rich, confident, and raising its middle finger to the opposition. With that money, they could have put up a stand at the British Motor Show, or improved the cabin plastics of the MINI. Anything constructive would have been nice.

On the positive side, it looks like the shark nose is coming back, and I for one, can’t wait to see it on the nose of the upcoming M1 supercar.

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

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