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BMW Designer Albrecht Graf Goertz passes away

Designer Albrecht Graf Goertz passes away


Munich. Designer Albrecht Graf Goertz passed away last Friday at the age of 92. In the mid-1950s, Count Goertz designed the legendary BMW 507 to create not only an icon of the BMW brand but also what many regarded as the most beautiful two-seater car in motoring history. His second design for BMW, the elegant BMW 503, was destined to stand in the shadow of the 507. But Goertz’s artistry and creative powers went far beyond the bounds of automobile design. He created a wide range of consumer objects ranging from fountain pens and cameras all the way to musical instruments, furniture and textiles.

“In Albrecht Graf Goertz, BMW has not only lost the creator of the BMW 503 and 507, one of the most consummate cars in history. The entire design fraternity bids farewell to one of its most passionate champions, a man who was not only a car designer heart and soul but also creative and successful in every field of design,” said Christopher Bangle, Head of BMW Group Design.

Albrecht Graf Goertz was born on 12 January 1914 in Brunkensen near Hanover, the second son of an old-established German aristocratic family. Goertz spent his childhood and youth with his siblings on his parents’ estate in Brunkensen. In 1933 he was an apprentice at the Deutsche Bank in Hamburg and 18 months later joined the private London bank Helbert Wagg & Company. In 1935, Goertz decided to leave Europe and applied for a United States visa. He left for the USA in 1936. Three years later, his first car was on the road: a one-off model based on a Ford Mercury chassis. The “Paragon” was a two-door coupé with curvy bodywork, rear wheel trims and unusual rear side windows. The car went on show for several weeks at the 1939 San Francisco World Exhibition. In 1940, Goertz was called up into the US Army and did five years of service on the Pacific front. Following his return to civilian life in 1945, he met Raymond Loewy, then the preeminent figure in industrial design. He helped Goertz to gain a place of study at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and subsequently took him on as a junior designer in his Studebaker development department. Here Goertz and a colleague designed the successful facelift of the Studebaker Champion – the so-called “bullet nose”. Two and a half years later, Goertz and Loewy parted company.

In 1953 Goertz eventually opened his own design studio, Goertz Industrial Design, Inc. New York. The road to BMW was paved for him by Max Hoffmann. Austrian-born Hoffmann was New York’s biggest car dealer and the leading importer of European luxury cars in the 1950s. He specialised in prestigious brands such as Mercedes, Porsche and BMW. Such was his influence that the carmakers would grant him advance insight into their model planning. That was how BMW came to ask Loewy for his assessment of a sports car project for a roadster with a V8 engine. Hoffmann was not impressed with the initial design drafts. He suggested to the young designer Goertz that he should produce a few sketches for a sports car and send them to Munich. These designs met with instant acceptance, and two weeks later he was invited to BMW in Munich. The contracts were signed in January 1955. Technically, the new sports car was based on the chassis of the BMW 502 3.2-litre Super Saloon, shortened by 35.5 centimetres. Alongside his work on this two-seater, designated the 507, Goertz was soon commissioned with another project. Building on the preliminary work of Kurt Bredschneider, he developed the 503, another luxury tourer targeted primarily at the American market and available as a convertible and a coupé. In less than a year, the BMW 503 Coupé and Cabrio, along with the 507 Roadster, were all up and running. At the 1955 Frankfurt Motor Show, the BMW 507 was celebrated as the “Dream car from the Isar” and stole the show together with the BMW 503. For the creator of these legendary luxury models, it was the international breakthrough. Goertz was compared to the likes of Bertone, Pinin Farina and other stylists of world repute. “If I can touch somebody emotionally with a car, then I can do it with other products as well,” was Goertz’s conviction. His success proved him right, with commissions coming from every sector of industry. From his studio in the USA, which was still his main place of residence, Goertz travelled the globe designing a wide and diverse range of everyday commodities. In the 1990s he returned to his parents’ estate in Brunkensen, from where he continued to work as a designer.

Examples from Goertz’ design portfolio: BMW 503 and BMW 507; Agfa camera; Kienzle clock; Rowenta irons, lighters, coffee makers, toasters et. al.; Mont Blanc fountain pen, ballpoint pen, disc pen; Custom Craft fibre-glass sports boat; Polaroid camera; SABA radios, TVs etc.; ACCO office equipment; Datsun Silvia, Datsun 240Z; Fuji cine-camera, film projector; Bicicletas Monark bicycle; school furniture; Oxford Filing Supply office furniture; Jensen jewellery; Puma sportswear and accessories. -Ends-

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