Opinion : David Bache – father of the Sierra?

Ford Sierra 1982

Hang on a minute you’re thinking – didn’t Uwe Bahnsen oversee the design of the Montego-rivalling jellymould? Well, yes he did, but he took his inspiration from elsewhere…

Back in 1967 Pininfarina re-clothed the fantastically packaged (yet bulbous) BMC 1800 model with a swooping kamm-tailed bodyshell to create the Berlina Aerodinamica – widely recognised as the inspiration for the Citroën GS and models. BMC top brass however were not quite ready for the aerodynamic future and, with the spectre of Leyland looming, it progressed no further than a highly influential show car.

One could speculate that among those influenced was David Bache. Bache’s Rover SD1 styling proposal four years later bore a striking resemblance to the Berlina Aerodinamica – its rear quarter view being particularly similar in concept.

So, how does a corporate designed luxury car from the mind of an Italian coachbuilder, father the radical family Ford?

Simple really: in 1983 Uwe Bahnsen cited the Rover SD1 as something to admire (he had a scale model of it on his desk). It was a vehicle invested by its Designer with a considerable measure of symbolism – but was disastrously compromised by BL; and proved to be a lost opportunity, which Ford ended up exploiting.

So, neither the booted Citroëns, nor the Audi 80/Volkswagen Passat (the Sierra benchmark) were responsible for the jellymould – it was David Bache: the father of the Sierra.

Rover SD1

Andrew Elphick
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  1. The world of car design without David Bache would look very different. He pioneered the executive saloon with the Rover P6, turned the Land Rover from a crude Jeep-copy to a practical design icon with his Series II redesign, wowed everyone with the SD1 (the build quality of which must have driven him mad), made the original Range Rover a thing of beauty (just look at Spen King’s original to see what unresolved design looks like), then sprinkled his magic on the Metro, helping to keep the plucky English patient alive for a few more years. A Clarkson Brunel-style tribute is long overdue!

  2. Unfortunately he tripped up quite badly with the Maestro and Montego designs, just like issigonis of a decade earlier his prestige waned in later years

    • True. Although it was Ian Beech’s 1976 design – and might have been far better received if BL politics and cashflow hadn’t protracted its development for so many years, Bache did tip the scales in favour of Beech’s design (over Harris Mann’s – perhaps not surprising after the reception given Mann’s Allegro) – while tidying up some details along the way. “Bache didn’t have a lot of input (on the Maestro design) but he was very good at looking at a design and picking out anything not quite right.” as Ian Nicholls once wrote.

  3. I don’t agree with much of this. The Sierra was highly original, shown by the almost universally underwhelming reception. SD1 and BMC pinins were two box, Sierra was three box, with a ‘bustle’, and featured very soft edges, unlike the BMC/BL designs. Also Baches Maestro was a great design, let down by quality and marketing.

    • Agree. Since reading this piece I’ve been struggling to see much similarity between SD1 and Sierra.They’re both 5dr RWD hatches, and that’s about it.

  4. I think SD1 was a hybrid of Pininfarina styling, taking the proportions of the Berlina Aerodinamica but adding in the more robust Ferrari Daytona to get the window line and front light treatment.

    In terms of influence of the SD1 it had far more pull at GM with the Cavalier Mk2 hatch than at Ford. At Ford if they had been influence by the Sd1 then we would have seen a continuous bonnet and window line with an uplift ending in a high boot line for Sierra, but they lack these features. Instead I would say they have taken what Axe at Chrysler had did with the Alpine and put it in the wind tunnel, which told them to round off the edges give it a “notch” at the back, the end result lacking the cohesion of the Alpine and SD1 styling looking very much like something that was made aerodynamic after it was styled, rather than styled to be aerodynamic.

    That the Sierra was more influenced by Axe rather than Bache, is shown how Axe himself progressed the Alpine styling with better aerodynamics to give us the XX fastback and then the R8 hatchback, with results that look much more Sierra than SD1, although still with much more cohesive styling than the Sierra.

  5. The Sierra was a good looking, radical design from the sides and inside looked space age compared with the dated Cortina interior( the two tone seats and dashboard looked positively space age), but from the front looked ugly, particularly those cars that had the grey front end, and had really cheap looking indicators on lower spec models. It was a car that needed better detailing as the design was fundamentally good.

    • I remember being impressed by the interior of a Sierra after getting to sit in one not long after they were launched, but the original low spec front end let it down. Luckily the grey grille was quickly dropped, one of my secondary school teachers had red one in the 1990s & assumed he had simply replaced the original grille with a grey one from a scrapyard!

      The 1987 sorts out the looks, especially the at the front, with corner indicators it probably should have had from the start.

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