Journal: Who Is the Greatest Non-Italian Automotive Designer?

Who Is the Greatest Non-Italian Automotive Designer?

By Sean Lorentzen
August 1, 2013
21 comments

One of the classic questions among car enthusiasts is, “Who is the greatest automotive designer of all time?” It’s certainly an important question and open to a great many answers, but the usual responses are fairly limited. Names like Pininfarina, Bertone, and Giugiaro get thrown around more often than not, and of course there’s a very good reason for that. The Italian design houses have made a lion’s share of beautiful cars over the years.

However, we here at Petrolicious want to change this question to the following: Who is the greatest non-Italian automotive designer?

In my opinion, this person is Malcolm Sayer, who spent his entire auto design career at the helm of Jaguar. Sayer’s work encompasses some of the most legendary, and most striking, automobiles ever to come from the British marque, including the C-Type and D-Type racers, the E-type, the stillborn XJ13, and the XJS.

Now we’re opening things up to you. Let us know in the comments below.

Image Sources: vintageride.wordpress.com, lboro.ac.uk, carstyling.ru

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Zachary Simard
Zachary Simard

My design hero is definitely Mr K (Yutaka Katayama for those uninitiated in the ways of the Datsun). He is the sole person responsible for the racing pedigree that is present in Nissan even today. He started with the Datsun 510 as a purpose-built rally car and then he revolutionized the sports car market in North America with the Datsun 240Z, which came at less than half the cost of these other designer cars. Though I do also have to nod at Peter Brock for his work on the Stingray and the performance of his BRE team in the Trans… Read more »

Lawrence Perkins
Lawrence Perkins

Definitely Malcolm Sayers and Sir William Lyons. The Jaguar E-type is the most beautiful design of all time and endures today!

Lamond Jack
Lamond Jack

I would say Figoni & Falaschi are the greatest car French designers but I can’t because even though they lived in France and designed French Cars they were both born in Italy so they are out of the running! So I would have to say Harley Earl! LOL

Rik
Rik

Tom Tjarda, De Tomaso Pantera designer also did the Fiat 124 Spider while working at Pininfarina.
Ian Callum? Not sure. He is responsible for some stunning cars, but they all look the fundamentally the same. Is he a one trick pony? I suppose when you have created perfection, it’s impossible to improve upon it.
Peter Stevens did the McLaren F1 styling, along with the Lotus Esprit update.

Finlandese
Finlandese

William Lyons. SS100, XK120, XJ6, etc.

David Gibson
David Gibson

Raymond Loewy’s design for the Studebaker Hawk series is a classic design that stands the test of time.

Ae Neuman
Ae Neuman

butzi porsche for the glorious, ever enduring porsche 911 !

Bertram Wooster
Bertram Wooster

Designer…

,,,or stylist?

Hmmm… Carroll Shelby claimed to have ‘designed’ over 100 cars, but I have to figure he did about as much drawing and calculating as Steve Jobs wrote code– nada. Sergio Pininfarina, Giorgetto Giugiaro and Gerry Coker drew some really pretty cars, but probably couldn’t tell you much about roll centers and scrub radii. Maybe I’m wrong, but for my money, it’s gotta be guys more like Alec Issigonis, Colin Chapman, Gordon Murray, Orazio Satta, Vittorio Jano, Harry Miller and even those Porsche chaps, despite their penchant for low-pivot swing axles and putting the engine in the wrong place.

Lon Thompson
Lon Thompson

How about Jean Bugatti? Technically not Italian, born in Germany and lived in France most of his short life. Designed the Type 41 and Type 57 and several other bodies I believe. You might possibly even consider his father as being “non-Italian”, but that’s a bit of a stretch.

Gianni Burrows
Gianni Burrows

How about some of the great American designers like Harley Earl, Raymond Loewy, Virgil Exner or Bill Mitchell?

Colin Andrews
Colin Andrews

I would say Pete Brock. He designed the first Corvette Sting Ray and one of my favorite cars of all time the Shelby Daytona

Paul Thompson
Paul Thompson

Can I throw Colin Chapman in the pot and give Gordon Murray a thumbs up.

There was an excellent BBC Radio 4 documentary on Malcolm Sayer earlier this year. Someone has put some pictures to it here, well worth a look.

He sees himself primarily as a aerodynamist and 3D mathematician, luckily those designs were beautiful too. Plus great footage of Mike Hawthorn testing his D type on public roads at Le Mans.

Kostadin Kostadinov
Kostadin Kostadinov

Before reading this article, just by reading the title I thought – Malcolm Sayer, although he never fancied to be called designer and preferred the term “aerodynamist”. I like the fact that not only are his designs beautiful, but they are functional above all, he never let pure styling dictate decisions. I was very happy when I read the actual page and found out the author has come to the same conclusion. I’m sure there are many that should be mentioned and may have produced more good designs that Sayer, some of them are already in the comments, I would… Read more »

Walden Wright
Walden Wright

Erwin Komenda, a design engineer who could style and engineer the whole automobile. Freeman Thomas, designer of the AudiTT says of Komenda, every design line is the cleanest, the simplest and most edited possible. Komenda design has an organic shape that might have been produced by mother nature herself. The 356 is pure Porsche.

Josh Clason
Josh Clason

I struggle to choose between Bracq and Sayer. I absolutely love the C, D, and E-Types so maybe I will have to agree with Sean here.

Martin McAllen
Martin McAllen

I think that you’d struggle to go past Gordon Murray, designed some of the most good looking and innovative F1 cars, he then went on design probably one of the most iconic modern sports cars the Mclaren F1. He’s now moved to set up his own design studio and come up with some amazing new ideas.

Matthew Lange
Matthew Lange

Robert Opron deserves a mention for the Citroen SM alone. Also Paul Bracq created the template for Mercedes design and a big part in BMW’s too. In more recent times Ian Callum has done much to revive Jaguar’s design doldrums ( not to mention created the modern Aston Martin look).

Jorrit Hermans
Jorrit Hermans

I’d say Antony Lapine and Wolfgang Möbius, for giving us the Porsche 928.
Lowie Vermeersch work at Pinifarina is also beautiful.

Renbry
Renbry

I could not agree more!
One of my favourite car designs ever is the 928. An incredibly futuristic design for the 70’s, and is still “modern” today.

Nice surname, btw.

Matthew Hermans

Iago
Iago

Undeniably it is Harley Earle. A close second is Gordon Beuhrig. An honorable mention to Howard “Dutch” Darrin, who’s automotive designs are still celebrated at many concours d’elegance.