(Jacob Rumans) #1


‘I like roadsters more

than cabrios because

there is less compromise’

Chris Bangle is hardly one to conform
to accepted conventions, as he proved
during 17 controversial years as BMW
design chief. Here he picks apart our six
chosen convertibles with a critic’s eye



ost famous for his tenureas
BMW design chief between
1992 and 2009, ChrisBangle
also had stints at Opeland
Fiat (where he designed
the Fiat Coupé) and now
runs his own design
consultancy in Clavesana,
Italy, engaged in projectsas
varied as liquor packaging,
superyachts, spaceships and nursing homes.
‘I like roadsters more than cabrios because
there is less compromise involved,’ hesays.
‘Cabrios fight against their donor packaging.’
‘There is an old adage in the car business
that there is no such thing as a ‘girl-car’but
if ever there was one it was this,’ hesaysof
the Golf. ‘For a while it seemed it mustonly
come in white with pastel trims witha flash
of long hair in a hairband, big sunglassesanda
toothy smile behind the wheel. Jauntyishow
I would describe the design, unable asit isto
hide the huge overcoat of a drop-top flopped
over the package shelf and the roll bar toclock
your head on as you climbed into theback–
all contributing to the sense of verticalitythat
makes it taller visually than the hardtop.’
‘The Saab is a real crowd-pleaser in any
form,’ Bangle says. ‘The “canoe” beltlinehad
its trend moment and in this case makessuch
a sweeping display flaunting its drop-top-
secret-spoiler-lip that you have to likeit for
bravura in a less-than-bravura era.
‘The Nineties E-class was once described
as being as perfectly proportioned as a
Panther Tank,’ Bangle says. ‘There is acertain
trapezoidal solidity to it, even in thecabrio.

Note the deft handling of the tops of the
A-pillars to avoid the “dog-bone” swelling
that would have occurred had the designers
followed the original window line. The huge
plastic door lower panels were also used in
contrasting colors to take some of the visual
weight out and I think that would have been a
good option even on a red car like this beauty.
Bangle likes the elegance of the Alvis,
pointing in particular to the folded top that
sits very low against the silhouette. ‘Still, the
long rear overhang pushes the driver forward
almost against his will and the tyre/wheel
proportions put the car into that transition
area between sport driving and luxury travel-
in-style. If you find, as I do, that the car
looks a bit ungainly, I would say it’s a case of
the proportional training our modern eyes
receive, and should not be held against the
design. It’s a handsome example of its time.’
‘The Interceptor is everybody’s darling;
I particularly like the chrome window
surrounds. In today’s palette of roadsters
with their frameless glass it seems time for a
comeback of this feature.
The Mondial Cabriolet is not one of Bangle’s
favourite Ferraris. ‘I have great problems
when Ferrari – and Porsche for that matter

  • make dropheads of their cars. I have this
    overwhelming desire to be in them – probably
    so I don’t have to look at them. But from inside
    with the wonderful combination of wind and
    motor roar in my ears, I can just imagine how
    cool we must look. That’s when the design
    exists only in my mind, and is infinitely sexier

  • when designers keep their cars in such places,
    issues like engineering and cost never appear.’