Floating on the C. – ideas on automotive design

The historical past of the floating roof or, the uninteresting curiosity of the separated C-pillar.

Automotive styling could be very a lot a style enterprise. Designers are a uncommon breed, present in very low numbers. They research on the similar locations and study from one another. They modify studios very often, and generally in packs (headhunted by one another). Add the large dangers concerned in billion greenback enterprise choices and we continuously will see what appears like copy-cat tendencies in automotive styling, however are literally much more unconscious in implementation. There are even tendencies in design sketch styles- however I believe that will deserve it’s personal weblog put up. The style trade fastidiously screens and plans round tendencies, and that is additionally true in automotive (notably CMF departments) however by way of exterior design the intention is usually to seem completely different (model recognition) however the outcome might be fairly related if a design is “on pattern”. Typically there are manifestly apparent copies- however extra generally we simply see the outcomes of parallel inspirations and makes an attempt to seem on customers radar because the “subsequent smartest thing”. Lately my fleet of automobiles elevated with a 2014 BMW i3 becoming a member of. This glorious design (exterior by Nicolas Guille) impressed me to consider it’s stylistic influences. For round 10 years we have now seen a pattern for elaborate C-pillar dressage and floating roofs, together with abrupt adjustments in window/belt traces. Let me attempt to clarify, and maybe uncover a timeline. It may not be very attention-grabbing….

Authors personal i3…. with paint-over graphic.

The primary proof of floating roof designs in all probability got here from our likeable authentic gangsters of automotive styling– the US of A. The 1950 Chevrolet Bel Air is just about the archetypal elaborate Coupé roof protege. The Bel Air continued this model for a lot of iterations and is remembered nearly completely for it. Many pre-war automobiles had contrasted color roofing. The supplies used had been comfortable materials and coverings had been usually momentary. Pre-war was an period when most automobiles weren’t mounted roof. The rise of monocoque building put up conflict (from plane steel working expertise) with lowered prices of panel stamping in mass manufacturing, meant that the the material roof died out as a result of a reversal of prices. Steel was now king, however the US stylists used paint decisions and styling traces to remind us of the elegant previous of coach-built carriages and pre-war romance. Publish conflict emotional styling was the subsequent huge pattern.

1950 Chevrolet Bel Air

In Europe the roof shapes and design had been rather more pragmatic as a result of manufacturing strategies(related expertise from plane) however with extra subdued styling that owed loads to housing (precise miniature gutters across the domed roof!) relatively than high-tech space-age concepts. It’s usually joked {that a} Rover, or Rolls Royce is a stately residence on wheels, and that is stylistically and thematically true (inside and out of doors). The 1959 Mini exhibits a long-lasting instance of this model, continued as pastiche to today with all Mini designs. Simply earlier than the mini appeared, Europe create one of the vital authentic and progressive automotive designs ever from Flaminio Bertoni in 1955. The Citroen DS. The identical guttering might be seen, which additionally neatly hides the sides of the roof panel, however the jet-set model of American automobiles can also be hinted at. The Citroen was outstanding for thus many progressive applied sciences and the roof was yet one more, being created from GRP (Glass Bolstered Plastic). Matching a plastic panel color to painted steel (and even perhaps portray it) was not straightforward within the Nineteen Fifties, so I consider this may clarify the choice to not match the colors on the cheaper ID19 mannequin primarily based on the DS21. The DS/ID roof was additionally bolted on, with a rubber seal between it and the steel body. On later fashions the plastic roof was bonded with adhesive! In 1966, this was really area age, and hyperlinks very properly to maybe the religious successor of the DS for innovation and expertise – the BMW i3. A plastic roof panel once more, however this time recycled CFRP (Carbon Fibre Bolstered Plastic) is once more glued onto the roof body. A glass roof was accessible on the BMW, however Citroen reportedly supplied an much more daring solely clear panel for the DS! Glass roofs are a contemporary pattern, maybe publicised closely by Tesla, however Citroen did it first over 65 years in the past.

Element of 1957 Citroen ID19 rear C-pillar.

Clear full roof on a Citroen DS
BMW i3 roof is lowered into place earlier than bonding.

Between these two necessary automobiles had been some lesser recognized courageous designs that attempted methods with C-pillar design. Probably the most excellent of all was the Renault Avantime of 1999. Patrick Le Quement lead a significant renaissance of Renault design, and French automotive design on the whole, in the course of the Nineties. Starting with some relatively smart unexciting designs – which had been glorious examples of the late 80s and early 90s industrial design aesthetic (sturdy aerodynamic and engineering-led designs). The late 90s and main into the brand new millennium Renault’s monetary place enabled Le Quement to take some daring subsequent steps. The Avantime was a really sturdy instance of his modernist method. Even the automobile kind it represented was completely distinctive, a 2 door MPV/Coupe/Luxurious sedan “crossover” which sounds unusual even now. BMW later acquired near this idea with their 5 sequence Gran Turismo of 2009 (F07).

Very daring C-Pillar therapy on the 1999 Renault Avantime

The failure of the daring works of Le Quement maybe set again automotive styling a couple of years, (together with maybe the Fiat Multipla) to it’s traditional cautious self. Fiat adopted fairly quickly with their new Panda design, with a utilitarian method to window graphics, considerably just like the i3 created 10 years later. It wasn’t till Chris Bangle gained a strong place at BMW that issues lastly took a step forwards. From 2003 when Bangle launched his iconic E60 5 sequence it was recreation on, and Citroen definitely took notice of this. They explored extra attention-grabbing design shapes, and their 2005 C-Sport Lounge idea automotive confirmed daring therapy of it’s C-pillar, loads like their well-known DS mannequin of the previous. The inspiration appeared to return full circle, when that Citroen impressed the creation of a complete new model: DS, and the idea automotive developed into the DS5 manufacturing mannequin of 2011. The smaller DS3 mannequin was launched first, and we noticed that the C-pillar therapy and distinction color roof was emphasised as a key DS model trait. The DS model actually introduced these concepts to the mass-market and that is when different manufactures started to borrow this European aptitude. The Japanese (Nissan), and Korean automotive corporations embraced this aptitude, in an try to attraction to European tastes and the Koreans are nonetheless enjoying with extra styling concepts than maybe some other producers. One thing that we have now seen the DS model introduce into the mainstream, is the shark fin B-pillar therapy seen on the DS3 mannequin first. This ahead dealing with styling function, is harking back to the reverse rake display of the Citroen AMI-6. The AMI 6 was Citroen’s most excessive tackle the attention-grabbing styling of a C-pillar. It’s the reverse angle to which we’re accustomed, and the DS has a B-pillar which reverses the same old directional angle that we anticipate on this space. This shark fin is one thing we see moved to the C-pillar in a number of modern Kia designs for instance.

Citroen AMI 6 of 1961- with reverse rake C-pillar and floating distinction roof.
2009 DS3
Kia Sorento 2021, with DS model shark fin, however no floating roof or separated C-Pillar.

Lastly a few honourable mentions to daring designs which have pushed floating roof, distinction colors, and elaborate C-pillar designs into new genres. The Aston Martin DB11 (designed by Julian Nunn and Leighanne Earley) continues to be controversial after it’s 2016 debut, thanks largely to it’s floating C-pillar design. This appeared a lot too “modern” for die-hard Aston traditionalists. Warnings got that it could date, however has it? The pattern continues to be round 5 years later, and in addition the design had many benefits. One purpose it was green-lit was for the customisation choices it gave Aston consumers. Totally different supplies, and completely different color combos (together with non- contrasting) can be found in nearly infinite variations. Aston wished to stress they had been a bespoke automotive firm. You may play with these your self on their configurator…. The c-pillar additionally conveyed a hidden message, relating to the progressive aerodynamic design. Air is ingested at the vanguard of the C-pillar, the rear of the second facet window. Air travels down the C-pillar inside construction, both facet of the baggage area, and exists in a slot throughout the rear deck. This creates a spoiler, an invisible air spoiler, to present excessive velocity stability, generally known as Airblade. The invisible spoiler is without doubt one of the DB11’s biggest design options, and means we get that pretty clean clear rear deck

floating c-pillar, and air slot rear spoiler seen on rear deck lid.
Picture by Toms Svilans on Pexels.com

A automotive that I owned (from new in 2017, however changed in 2021) is the dramatic and daring Toyota C-HR. This coupe crossover was a styling-trick tour de power. An actual life textual content e book for aspiring automotive designers to study each trick from. There has maybe not been any automotive in historical past that employed so many styling methods in ONE automobile, it in all probability deserves a weblog put up of its personal. It did additionally hit the pattern of distinction color roof, with a floating C-pillar. By now I hope you realise that floating, implies that the roof construction, and the facet/door construction of the automotive appear to be separated somehow- as if the roof simply floats over the physique of the automotive. Toyota additionally used this transitional space, between facet and roof, to cram in a “hidden” rear door deal with. It was not utterly invisible, however it was impractical and a purely styling primarily based resolution to place it there. I discovered it helpful as a mum or dad as a result of my younger kids on the time couldn’t attain to open the door themselves. This meant I had extra management of the place and after they opened it!

Authors personal C-HR… with added snow in advanced C-pillar design

An important and radical automobiles because the DS, as talked about earlier, had been the BMW i3 and i8. These automobiles had been previewed by the superior considering, environment friendly dynamics ideas. The primary of those debuted in 2009. The floating surfaces, and new shapes and buildings had been made attainable by carbon building methods. The ideas had been maybe created with whole freedom, and the manufacturing automobiles might observe with progressive surfaces. Within the case of those automobiles, the styling was to create the sensation that nearly each part of the automotive was floating- and never related to some other part. It is a enormous leap away from the solidity and ritual beforehand anticipated of car aesthetics. An annihilation of the Bauhaus-like ideas that automotive design nonetheless hinted at, however didn’t respect, by way of being pure emotional styling workout routines, not rational merchandise. There was after all some performance implied by these automobiles styling, largely aerodynamic move administration and the visible illustration of it. This may be accomplished with out the flowing aesthetics, as evidenced in automobiles such because the McLaren Senna, or nearly any covered-wheel race automotive. The i8 adopted on from the idea, and put in observe a reoccurring aesthetic which had a floor beginning on the A-pillar, flowing all the best way to the rear deck, through a C-pillar (B-pillar was invisible, blacked out, or not current). The glass and darkish colored physique of the automobiles had been sandwiched in between. This has change into a trademark model of all BMW i merchandise. The ahead considering of the unique two i3 and i8 merchandise, implies that many different manufacturers and designs have been influenced by them. The separation of the roof- with a flowing line from A pillar to rear most pillar, with blacked out part in between has change into a real automotive styling trope of the 2020s.

Environment friendly (Aero)dynamics. Due to CarDesignNews for the picture.
BMW i3 Idea and BMW i8 Idea (09/2011)

I attempted to checklist a timeline of serious automobiles with this styling feature- however my information may have important gaps, and with a present pattern equivalent to this you’ll simply discover many extra automobiles with the function. Asia (Chinese language manufacturers particularly) might be residence to an enormous variety of fashions with this modern styling thought. Decide any model, for instance I’ll select Geely, and there it’s once more on not less than 3 fashions.

2021 Geely Atlas (beforehand Boyue from 2016-2020)

Throughout the extra pragmatic Nineteen Seventies, 80s and even 90s, there have been automobiles with styling options on their C-pillars which may be labeled right here however largely the options had been to cover welds, or act as air vents. Within the 70s the black vinyl roof was a well-liked look, however with out the floating model of the C-pillar being completely different in color to the roof and physique facet. The 80s and 90s additionally noticed aero look as a pattern, and maybe one other weblog put up can discover this. Aerodynamic aesthetics initially meant lack of options, and fairly uniform shapes. One instance may be the Renault Fuego from 1980, and the identical yr the extraordinarily small division on the base of the Audi Coupe C-pillar. Maybe when you discover extra examples of this aesthetic, put up them within the feedback part.

Timeline of floating C-pillar developments

  • 1950 Chevrolet Bel Air
  • 1955 Citroen DS and ID19
  • 1959 Austin Mini
  • 1969 Land Rover Vary Rover
  • 1980 Renault Fuego
  • 1980 Audi Coupe (B2)
  • 1982 Citroen BX
  • 1985 Ford Granada/Scorpio
  • 1999 Renault Avantime
  • 2003 Fiat Panda
  • 2005 Citroen C-Sport Lounge (idea)
  • 2009 BMW Environment friendly Dynamics (idea)
  • 2009 Citroen DS3
  • 2011 Citroen DS5
  • 2012 Opel Adam
  • 2013 BMW i3 and i8
  • 2014 Citroen C4 Cactus
  • 2016 Aston Martin DB11
  • 2016 Lexus RX
  • 2019 Peugeot 2008
  • 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer

Thanks once more to www.citroenorigins.fi for nice Citroen pictures!

EDIT: Due to replies on Twitter- and within the feedback part, I made a decision so as to add some reader recommendations in one other gallery.

Debate appears to centre on what counts as a floating C-pillar, and I agree that not all my examples “float”. There was some designs talked about with a blacked out C-pillar, such because the Ford Granada Scorpio. Sure a black painted C-pillar does certainly create a floating roof, that is true, however the added upwards kink or different adjustments of color or materials, are the primary exaggerated variations we see as a contemporary pattern. Citroen have had this function on almost each mannequin because the DS, and the XM is harking back to the BMW i3 for positive. In the meantime after scripting this put up, Genesis mentioned “maintain my beer” and created one of many strangest C-pillar designs we’ve seen for a very long time with their new BEV, the GV60. Laborious to explain (primarily a extreme V graphic) however I’m not a fan.