Recently, we purchased a Mercedes Benz 220 SEb, a vehicle in a line of cars on the W111 chassis. The simple, elegant styling of these 1960’s Benz, somehow both timeless and durable, is a prime example of cars we look for on a daily basis. So we did a little research on the car; who designed it, the audience, and some of the philosophy going on behind the scenes at Mercedes-Benz.
It turns out, a designer by the name of Paul Bracq designed our car. Bracq's name was familiar to us, but he wasn't someone we knew very much about. After looking through his portfolio, we realized we were already huge fans of his design and started seeing his work all over our garage.
A History in Design
Bracq is a Frenchman, born in 1933 in Bordeaux. After graduating from Ecole Boulle, a public applied arts school in France, he found work assisting Philipe Charbonneaux, best known for his automobile and television designs. While with Charbonneaux, Bracq assisted with designs for a Pegaso Coupé and Citroën’s French Presidential limousine design.
Mandatory military service interrupted Bracq’s time with Charbonneuax, and after three years in service to his country, Bracq took the lead design position at the Daimler-Benz Advanced Design studios in 1957.
After ten years with Mercedes-Benz, Bracq returned to France to work for Brissonau and Lotz, designing the TGV high-speed passenger train, while also prototyping a BMW 1600Ti-based sports car, and a Simca 1100-based coupé.
At the end of the 60’s, BMW hired Bracq as the director of design. Throughout the 70’s, Bracq designed such BMW greats as the 7-series and the 1973 Turbo concept car, for which the Revue Automobile Suisse awarded Bracq the Concept Car of the Year.
We mentioned earlier that we saw Bracq's influence all over the garage. He actually designed two of our BMWs, the E21 and the M6. We first noticed his design touch in the rear passenger window shaping and especially in the front ends of both cars.
Paul Bracq, the Artist
There's an advantage to design in that everything eventually becomes a tangible, concrete reality for everyone to touch, use and experience firsthand. We can go into our garage and see the 220SEb, feel the chrome, and take it for a drive.
An artists work, say a poster or an illustration, exists in a state of imagination, or concept, that you can only see and admire. You can't experience these first hand, like you might a design (no one is driving a poster around). Bracq, a true artist, knew how to take his artistic concepts and turn them into hard, concrete design.
You can see his design inclinations in every bit of his concept art. Each piece carries inertia and movement that communicates the same emotion you might feel sitting in the stands on race day.
Bracq is still working with cars at 82 years old. His vehicle restoration business specializes in 60’s Mercedes-Benz automobiles. http://www.paulbracq.com/en/
Video by BMW on Bracq's history with the company.