Design Books: Ultimate Collector Cars by Taschen

'Ultimate Collector Cars' by Taschen

Ultimate Collector Cars‘ is a lavish double-volume book by Charlotte and Peter Fiell documenting history’s one-hundred most collectable cars. It features the landmark 1903 Mercedes-Simplex 40-horsepower, the evocative 1936 Bugatti Type 57SC, iconic Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa of 1957, Bertone’s supremely glorious 1973 Lamborghini Countach and the present-day McLaren Speedtail and Aston Martin Valkyrie hypercars. Expertly researched and beautifully illustrated with archive and studio photography, Taschen’s latest book is a timely ode to the motor car as we enter the new age of the automobile. Read my interview with the authors who discuss their two-year research into this project here.

Images © ‘Ultimate Collector Cars’ by Taschen

Bugatti design director on form follows performance

The Chiron is the most powerful, the fastest and most exclusive car built by Bugatti. This hypercar has succeeded the Veyron as the luxury marque’s sole model. Only 500 are made, and retails at over £2m. It may be a hugely indulgent and exclusive car, yet the Chiron remains an inspired example of industrial design – pure and uncluttered, and staying true to Bugatti’s design ethos ‘form follows performance’. Ettore Bugatti, the Italian-born French car designer and company founder, famously said of his inspiration: ‘Pure blood, absolute clarity, predominance of purpose, immaculate shape.’ On the Chiron too, almost every element is linked to engineering. I caught up with the current Bugatti design director, Achim Anscheidt, to find out more.

What does luxury mean to Bugatti?

We don’t like to dilute the core value we stand for – producing the world’s most powerful cars. This is what has made our customers tick in the last ten years, and it’s what will make them tick in the future.

You see our cars are like valuable wristwatches – so much craft and expertise has gone into the making of these objects and admiration for them will last forever. This is what the Chiron is going to do. I see it as being the tourbillon of the automotive industry.

The Chiron is very dramatic in the metal. Was the duality of the design – the drama of the C motif contrasting with the simple, almost serene sculptural surfacing intentional?

Yes, it was calculated as it follows our overall principal of form follows performance. When we found out the power and aerodynamic increase, and knew the new targets to be achieved by this car are so high, we realised there were so many areas around the car that needed to be changed substantially and the only way to achieve this is to stick closely with the engineering team.

Can you explain how design can vastly help performance?

Performance for our cars mainly means getting rid of the heat from front brakes and rear engine – the energy sources. The biggest problem we had on the Veyron was how to get rid of the hot air that gets trapped inside the powerplant and the hot turbo chargers on the bottom. So, with the Chiron most elements are linked to temperature handling.

Is the C shape a styling element or even a nod to Louis Chiron’s signature, one of the original Grand Prix greats?

It may seem that way, and yes you can be very romantic and see a resemblance to the Bugatti signature line to the Type 49 Royal, or even to Louis Chiron’s signature, but no. This is a performance element – here to to get more air into the complete engine compartment and get it out of it again afterwards.

Please explain…

When air travels along the wheel house, then along the body side, it arrives with quite some turbulence, maybe with 60 per cent quality of pressure. However, because  of our round windshield, the air that’s going to the upper area stays very close to the glass as it travels along the A-pillar arriving with almost 85 to 90 per cent efficiency! So if you imagine, it makes this complete swoop from the B-pillar all the way down into one very effective air intake… and this explains the C shaped element.

Why does form follows performance direct your design? 

It allows us to explain and orchestrate everything in an authentic way. If these elements are strong everything else is allowed to go relatively calm and remain in the background. Look there is no line on the body side, just one line on the rear fender but everything else is organic… there isn’t anything extra going on.

Would you say this adds to the car’s timeless appeal? 

It’s important for our cars to be valuable not only today, but in five, ten, even fifty years time, and the best way to achieve this is to be very authentic in what we do and why we do it. The cleaner the design, the better it will survive the test of time.

How would you summarise your design philosophy?

The magic happens when you minimise all the factors to a couple of key statements around the car. If you look at Bauhaus buildings from the twenties and thirties from where I live in Berlin, they still look wonderful. They are not modern anymore in terms of today’s architecture. But because they stood for something, had a strong belief, they remain precious and valuable and will stand the test of time.

Do designing hugely exclusive cars such as the Chiron restrict or liberate the designer?

I found it liberating to realise a concept that took us so long to reach… to bring it to life. The car has meant so much to our team. Around 60 per cent of our time was taken with looking after the Veyron, the special editions and individualising our customers’ cars, and the rest to searching for the next phase – the Veyron’s successor.

It took a long time, looking at designs, talking with management and only in 2010 we finalised the Chiron concept. My career was so dependent on this car. It has been so close to me for so long.

Nargess Banks

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Design and innovations from Geneva Motor Show

Earlier this month we attended the Geneva Motor Show. The annual event is a great place to observe the future of vehicle design, and even though the offerings are far less conceptual than they used to be, there remains a nice buzz leading up to the show.

The degree of innovation – be it in design, material use and manufacturing methods – is at the highest level in the automotive sector. It never ceases to astonish how much they have to deliver.

Cars are at once a combination of industrial design, product design, architecture, textile design, electronic design… they need to pass stringent regulations, be safe, move efficiently, be comfortable and practical to inhabit, connect our words. Some have to be dynamic, others need to be beautiful sculptures that stand the test of time. All neatly packaged in a relatively small object. It really is industrial beauty.

At Geneva we saw some pretty spectacular examples. McLaren’s 570 GT, for instance, has a refreshing purity of design where form expresses the car’s intention. Form follows performance was also at the heart of Bugatti’s highly exclusive new Chiron. And Aston Martin’s stylish DB11 also abides to this simple yet powerful philosophy.

Read the full review in Wallpaper*

We spoke with the design directors at all three marques. Have a read of what McLaren’s Frank Stephenson has to say on designing the 570 GT and the future of car design for the marque.

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Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este in picture

You really can’t get much more glamorous than Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este. The annual event that is held in May on the shores of Italy’s picturesque Lake Como serves as a beauty contest for the world’s most exotic, rare, desirable cars and motorcycles. Here the wealthy and enthusiasts in their thousands gather to celebrate automobile art, to bid for one at the auction that follows – and there are usually a few new concepts cars thrown in to keep the event relevant and contemporary.

This year’s event was no exception with 50 cars and 35 motorcycles from widely varying eras in automotive history and six new prototypes on show. Awards were handed out to the 1948 Soviet Union’s IMZ M-35K motorcycle, a 350 cc twin-cylinder boxer, the 1938 Bugatti 57SC Atlantic, and the Alfa Romeo Disco Volante by Touring for the best concept car on show.

Lake Como also provided the backdrop for the world premiere of the BMW Pininfarina Gran Lusso Coupé and BMW Concept Ninety, a car and a motorcycle that hint at the company’s future thinking. The Gran Lusso is how the Italian design consultant envisages an ultra luxurious BMW coupé. For the German carmaker the appeal of working with an independent firm like Pininfarina is that it allows for a different take on its cars, the design – these are fresh eyes that bring in new visions.

Karim Habib, head of design, says the appeal is that you get ‘another very different and special angle on facets like luxury and exclusivity’. Fabio Filippini, who directs Pininfarina design, agrees: ‘When two such tradition-rich and experienced brands join forces to turn a vision into reality, something utterly new and exciting emerges. From start to finish, this project was defined by a mutual respect for the identity of the other company.’

With ‘90 years of BMW Motorrad’ anniversary as its focal point, the company also put on a rather special exhibition at the nearby Villa Erba featuring over 30 creations from its history including the BMW R 32 – the marque’s first motorcycle made in 1923. It proved an ideal platform for unveiling the BMW Concept Ninety, a bike, the company says, that ‘resurrects the spirit of the emotionally charged superbike’.

Ola Stenegard, head of vehicle design at BMW Motorrad, explains: ‘We want to show how reduced and pure an emotional BMW motorcycle can be.’ This is a sporty boxer – its basic proportions take their cue from the forebear that inspired this concept, the BMW R 90 S. The fairing, tank, seat and tail instantly signal its family connection. The rich, vibrant shade is also a nod to the legendary Daytona Orange paintwork of the machine.

At the end of the long weekend, the RM Auctions produced total sales of over £23m with five cars exceeding £1m and 11 surpassing their pre-sale estimates. The top sale though came from a 1953 Ferrari 340/375 MM Berlinetta Competizione, a fine piece of automotive art, that went for some £8.4m – after all this is an automotive beauty contest.

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