The BMW Garmisch: A lesson in automotive design

We’ve all heard of car brands delving into their history to influence their future models, looking back to simpler times where car designers would spend days sculpting or drawing by hand every single intricate detail until it was approved. Nowadays car design is somewhat different to that, many cars are built with regulations and competition in mind, which can sometimes lead to unusual outcomes in order to pass inspections.

Some car brands find success in seeking out their history, when the Fiat 500 was given a new lease of life back in 2007, the design was perfectly executed, taking all of the best bits that made the Fiat 500 a quirky, cheeky and fun little car and subtly bringing it into the 21st century. Gone are the paper thin doors, the dim headlights and the overall lack of safety, in the new version you get a 5 star NCAP safety rating, bluetooth connectivity and plenty of character.

Of course, all design is entirely subjective, and we completely welcome that. The idea of everyone owning the same looking vehicles fills us with dread, but nowadays many brands follow each other rather than go against the grain. BMW have recently pushed the envelope slightly with the all-new buck toothed 4 Series, its huge front grilles cover almost 70% of the entire front end, a move that BMW claim ‘returns the brand to its roots’. Now we must admit, the styling shocked us a little at first, but as more images emerge it’s starting to grow on us, and we applaud them for pushing the boundaries a little. That’s where we (finally) get to the wonderful BMW Garmisch, the very latest technology mated with historic design and ideologies to create one fantastic piece of automotive design.


Who is Marcello Gandini?

Marcello Gandini’s design history is one of those lists you’d look through with your jaw to the floor, amazed that one man has influenced so many iconic cars. Just to whet the appetite, Gandini was involved with the Bugatti EB110, Lamborghini Miura, Countach and Diablo, the Ferrari Dino, numerous Maserati’s and the Renault 5 Turbo, yeah, he can design a car that’s for certain. Being part of the Bertone design house opened a wealth of opportunities for him, and whilst much of his design work was for Italian and French brands, the BMW Garmisch was Gandini at his very best.

“The original idea came from Nuccio Bertone himself who wanted to consolidate our existing relationship with BMW by designing a surprise show car for the Geneva Motor Show”, remembers Marcello Gandini, who was in charge of Bertone’s design department at the time. 

Built as a surprise vehicle to showcase at the 1970 Geneva Motor Show, Gandini and Bertone designed the Garmisch with BMW’s core ethos in mind. It was refined and luxurious like a BMW should be, but it now oozed style and presence with its sports car-like edges and Gandini signature honeycomb-patterned mesh for the rear window. Strangely, the car then disappeared straight after the motor show, leaving the current BMW design team to work almost entirely from rough sketches and vague measures. The result is an identical version of the original car, its champagne paint is an exact match, a testament to the amount of hours that were spent on researching and documenting this exceptionally rare and unknown vehicle. The car was unveiled at the 2019 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este to roaring reviews, many of whom never even knew the design existed. 


As a piece of design, it might not have been as beautiful as the Miura or as evocative as the Dino, but it showed BMW and the world that everyday cars can be incredibly stylish and dramatic, making every journey an experience. As more and more vehicles become safer than ever (which we applaud), brands are looking to their heritage to create a combination that works for both consumers and as a brand.

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Elliot NewtonThe BMW Garmisch: A lesson in automotive design