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 trend enterprise. Designers are a uncommon breed, current in very low numbers. They examine on the similar locations and study from one another. They alter studios very often, and typically in packs (headhunted by one another). Add the massive dangers concerned in billion greenback enterprise selections and we continuously will see what seems to be like copy-cat developments in automotive styling, however are literally much more unconscious in implementation. There are even developments in design sketch styles- however I feel that will deserve it’s personal weblog put up. The style business rigorously displays and plans round developments, and that is additionally true in automotive (significantly CMF departments) however when it comes to exterior design the intention is commonly to look totally different (model recognition) however the end result will be fairly comparable 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 look on shoppers radar because the “subsequent smartest thing”. Lately my fleet of automobiles elevated with a 2014 BMW i3 becoming a member of. This excellent design (exterior by Nicolas Guille) impressed me to consider it’s stylistic influences. For round 10 years we’ve seen a pattern for elaborate C-pillar dressage and floating roofs, together with abrupt adjustments in window/belt strains. Let me attempt to clarify, and maybe uncover a timeline. It won’t be very attention-grabbing….

Authors personal i3…. with paint-over graphic.

The primary proof of floating roof designs most likely got here from our likeable authentic gangsters of automobile 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 solely for it. Many pre-war automobiles had contrasted color roofing. The supplies used had been tender materials and coverings had been typically momentary. Pre-war was an period when most automobiles weren’t mounted roof. The rise of monocoque development put up struggle (from plane metallic working expertise) with diminished prices of panel stamping in mass manufacturing, meant that the the material roof died out attributable to a reversal of prices. Metallic was now king, however the US stylists used paint selections and styling strains to remind us of the elegant previous of coach-built carriages and pre-war romance. Put up struggle emotional styling was the subsequent huge pattern.

1950 Chevrolet Bel Air

In Europe the roof shapes and design had been far more pragmatic attributable to manufacturing strategies(comparable expertise from plane) however with extra subdued styling that owed so much to housing (precise miniature gutters across the domed roof!) quite than high-tech space-age concepts. It’s typically joked {that a} Rover, or Rolls Royce is a stately house on wheels, and that is stylistically and thematically true (inside and out of doors). The 1959 Mini reveals a long-lasting instance of this model, continued as pastiche to at the present time with all Mini designs. Simply earlier than the mini appeared, Europe create one of the crucial authentic and revolutionary automobile designs ever from Flaminio Bertoni in 1955. The Citroen DS. The identical guttering will 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 exceptional for therefore many revolutionary applied sciences and the roof was yet one more, being made out of GRP (Glass Strengthened Plastic). Matching a plastic panel color to painted metallic (and even perhaps portray it) was not straightforward within the Nineteen Fifties, so I consider this would possibly clarify the choice to not match the colors on the cheaper ID19 mannequin based mostly on the DS21. The DS/ID roof was additionally bolted on, with a rubber seal between it and the metallic 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 Strengthened Plastic) is once more glued onto the roof body. A glass roof was accessible on the BMW, however Citroen reportedly provided an much more daring totally 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 vital automobiles had been some lesser identified courageous designs that attempted methods with C-pillar design. Essentially the most excellent of all was the Renault Avantime of 1999. Patrick Le Quement lead a significant renaissance of Renault design, and French automobile design basically, throughout the Nineties. Starting with some quite smart unexciting designs – which had been glorious examples of the late 80s and early 90s industrial design aesthetic (robust 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 robust instance of his modernist method. Even the car sort it represented was completely distinctive, a 2 door MPV/Coupe/Luxurious sedan “crossover” which sounds unusual even now. BMW later bought near this idea with their 5 collection Gran Turismo of 2009 (F07).

Very daring C-Pillar remedy on the 1999 Renault Avantime

The failure of the daring works of Le Quement maybe set again automobile styling a couple of years, (together with maybe the Fiat Multipla) to it’s standard 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 robust place at BMW that issues lastly took a step forwards. From 2003 when Bangle launched his iconic E60 5 collection it was recreation on, and Citroen definitely took be aware of this. They explored extra attention-grabbing design shapes, and their 2005 C-Sport Lounge idea automobile confirmed daring remedy of it’s C-pillar, so much 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 automobile developed into the DS5 manufacturing mannequin of 2011. The smaller DS3 mannequin was launched first, and we noticed that the C-pillar remedy 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 automobile firms embraced this aptitude, in an try to enchantment to European tastes and the Koreans are nonetheless enjoying with extra styling concepts than maybe some other producers. One thing that we’ve seen the DS model introduce into the mainstream, is the shark fin B-pillar remedy seen on the DS3 mannequin first. This ahead going through styling characteristic, is paying homage to the reverse rake display screen 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 standard directional angle that we anticipate on this space. This shark fin is one thing we see moved to the C-pillar in numerous up to date 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 principally to it’s floating C-pillar design. This appeared a lot too “trendy” 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 cause it was green-lit was for the customisation choices it gave Aston patrons. Completely different supplies, and totally different color combos (together with non- contrasting) can be found in nearly infinite variations. Aston wished to stress they had been a bespoke automobile firm. You possibly can play with these your self on their configurator…. The c-pillar additionally conveyed a hidden message, concerning the revolutionary 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 inner construction, both facet of the bags area, and exists in a slot throughout the rear deck. This creates a spoiler, an invisible air spoiler, to offer excessive velocity stability, often called Airblade. The invisible spoiler is among the DB11’s biggest design options, and means we get that beautiful easy clear rear deck

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

A automobile 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 drive. An actual life textual content e-book for aspiring automobile designers to study each trick from. There has maybe not been any automobile in historical past that employed so many styling methods in ONE car, it most likely 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 automobile appear to be separated somehow- as if the roof simply floats over the physique of the automobile. Toyota additionally used this transitional space, between facet and roof, to cram in a “hidden” rear door deal with. It was not utterly invisible, but it surely was impractical and a purely styling based mostly choice to place it there. I discovered it helpful as a mum or dad as a result of my younger youngsters 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 complicated C-pillar design

Crucial and radical automobiles for the reason that DS, as talked about earlier, had been the BMW i3 and i8. These automobiles had been previewed by the superior pondering, environment friendly dynamics ideas. The primary of those debuted in 2009. The floating surfaces, and new shapes and buildings had been made potential by carbon development methods. The ideas had been maybe created with complete freedom, and the manufacturing automobiles may comply with with revolutionary surfaces. Within the case of those automobiles, the styling was to create the sensation that nearly each element of the automobile was floating- and never linked to some other element. This can be a big leap away from the solidity and ritual beforehand anticipated of auto aesthetics. An annihilation of the Bauhaus-like ideas that automobile design nonetheless hinted at, however didn’t respect, when it comes to being pure emotional styling workout routines, not rational merchandise. There was after all some performance implied by these automobiles styling, principally aerodynamic circulate 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 automobile. 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 way in which to the rear deck, by way of 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 turn out to be a trademark model of all BMW i merchandise. The ahead pondering 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 turn out to be a real automobile 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 listing a timeline of serious automobiles with this styling feature- however my information could have vital gaps, and with a present pattern corresponding to this you’ll simply discover many extra automobiles with the characteristic. Asia (Chinese language manufacturers particularly) might be house to an enormous variety of fashions with this trendy styling concept. 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)

In the course of the extra pragmatic Nineteen Seventies, 80s and even 90s, there have been automobiles with styling options on their C-pillars which is likely to be categorised right here however principally the options had been to cover welds, or act as air vents. Within the 70s the black vinyl roof was a preferred look, however with out the floating model of the C-pillar being totally 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 is likely to be the Renault Fuego from 1980, and the identical yr the extraordinarily small division on the base of the Audi Coupe C-pillar. Maybe in the event 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 excellent Citroen pictures!

EDIT: Due to replies on Twitter- and within the feedback part, I made a decision so as to add some reader options 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 principle exaggerated variations we see as a contemporary pattern. Citroen have had this characteristic on almost each mannequin for the reason that DS, and the XM is paying homage 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. Exhausting to explain (primarily a extreme V graphic) however I’m not a fan.