GUY BIRD

Writer & consultant
London

Classic

Category:
Over the years, through research into key car designs and their designers and via visits to important shows, including Goodwood, Villa d’Este and Pebble Beach, I have developed a greater knowledge of classic cars. I have written about them for Car Design News, Wallpaper* and YesAuto and also for high-quality classic car monthly Octane. My most recent long-form feature profiled car design great Hartmut Warkuss. Here’s the intro…
“He might not be as ‘showbiz’ as some, but Hartmut Warkuss’ place in the pantheon of car design greats is assured”

Hartmut Warkuss is a name that will not be familiar to many outside of the car design world. But his work for Audi in particular – from the 1970 Audi 100 Coupé S through to the first Audi A8 in 1994 – via various iterations of the 80, 100, Cabriolet and Quattro production cars plus concept sensations like the 1991 Avus and Quattro Spyder, indicate a body of work that not only stands up to aesthetic scrutiny decades later, but which also played a major part in turning a rather average German car marque into a premium powerhouse. 

And it wasn’t just Audi. In the 90s, his work at VW was bookended by the 1994 New Beetle concept and the 2002 Phaeton, and within the wider VW Group his role in the re-birth of Bugatti for the 21st Century proved crucial. His mentoring of so many young car designers who went on to become car design bosses in their own right – from J Mays at Ford to Thomas Ingenlath at Polestar – is also testament to his inspirational management and was recognised in his Lifetime Achievement Awards from Car Design News in 2020.    

But like so many of his generation, global conflict and limited educational opportunities almost robbed the world of his talent before it had a chance to shine. Warkuss was born on 8th June 1940 in Breslau, a city then on the far eastern edge of Germany which was besieged by the Soviet army at the end of WWII and renamed Wrocław afterwards to become part of neighbouring Poland. Via numerous email exchanges during the last 12 months of lockdowns, Warkuss seems reticent to reveal information about his early life and after separate research elsewhere, it becomes clear why (and is completely understandable)…

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