Poll: Who Is The Best Car Designer?


This poll is at the request of Stooriefit with the contenders supplied by Robertl, Frank Mercado and Mike Bryant who reckon the best car designers are:

Who is the best car designer?



  1. It seems a wee bit Euro-centric with a strong English flavor. I knew we’d get one Shelby mention in the comments which always bothers me – Carroll Shelby never designed anything: the Cobra was an (English) AC Ace with a big-brute motor shoehorned in and the Shelby Mustangs were similar shoehorn jobs with decals and a few stylistic twists.
    He possibly didn’t get much respect on your side of the pond but Harley Earl, the man behind the first Corvette, would have been a worthy American candidate I believe.

  2. Toyota’s chairman Fujio Cho once said:- “We get brilliant results from average people managing brilliant processes. We observe that our competitors often get average (or worse) results from brilliant people managing broken processes.”
    He has a point – if you want to produce millions of identical, reliable functioning products then consistent processes are what you need.
    Apply the process-driven philosophy to design and you get the Prius. It needs a different kind of thinking to produce the Jaguar E-Type. Which one is better is a matter of opinion.

  3. Thanks for starting the fun, Stooriefit

  4. Coo – when I suggested this I didn’t know who I’d choose, and now I know even less. Before I saw the list I was swithering between Issigonis, Cooper and Chapman, now I’m not so sure…
    I think the 2CV is a work of genius, love it or hate it. It didn’t really have a single designer you could pin it to though. The history is very interesting and Pierre-Jules Boulanger sounds like a terrific character from what I have read.
    I also wondered about Maurice Wilks, because there are not many cars still in production which are recognisable from their origins in 1948. He was chief designer at Rover when Rover were very much a technology lead organisation, so his influence has been far reaching.
    By the same logic Ferdinand Porsche could be the one, because he worked on the Beetle (which I hate but have to credit) Auto Unions and of course Porsches. It is all a bit murky however, because he lapped up support from the National Socialists and the early Beetle seems to have been very similar to Tatra’s designs of the time.
    I’d actually like to pick someone from Lancia, because any company that can produce cars like the Delta, Fulvia and Stratos must have a bloody brilliant (if bonkers) designer, but they all seem to have come from different people.
    And to whoever suggested someone from Toyota, please drive a 5 year old Avensis and tell me you still believe they have the best designers in the world. They are lucky we don’t know where they live in my opinion – which is worth nothing of course! If we are looking to Japan then the people behind Subarus and Mitsubishis are more deserving.
    Thanks for all the fun…

  5. Dante Giacosa is of high merit also.

  6. ahem: Giorgetto Giugiaro

  7. Yes, but I’d say that the nations that have been the most successful at football and the companies that have been the most consistently successful at carmaking have built and maintained successful teams that don’t rely on one individual. Cruyff was European Player of the Century but his team lost the world cup final twice, and the Dutch must hold the record for participating in the most world cup finals without winning the trophy. Toyota has built a world-beating car manufacturer and a range of models that sells well everywhere in the world but we can’t name an individual behind this success.

  8. Peter : maybe in football that is true but in automotive – track or road – the individual genius always outdoes the collective decision as every member in this poll shows. No committee could ever have produced Sayer’s E-type, generally regarded as the greatest looking car of all time, or last year’s utterly dominant Red Bull F1 car by Adrian Newey. Indeed one could expand this to all engineering in general whereupon Brunel and Jobs spring to mind.
    This is not to say there isn’t a team behind all these men, but they show the genius of vision and leadership that I see Toyota (and Ford, Sony, Nokia, Microsoft, Pfizer, etc, ….) currently lacking.
    And actually isn’t truly great football the same – Pele, Maradona vs England, Messi vs anybody, etc. Even the Dutch team of the 80s was really Cruyff plus 10 others. This is the same for most team sports and was put into words perfectly by the LTA when the world’s best men’s doubles partnership was listed as “J.P.McEnroe + A.N.Other”.

  9. Fascinating area Peter… The committee, at least the Japanese kind, does so many things well but sometimes the wheels come off (Was that Sony’s problem?). But it is also very interesting that Sakichi Toyoda was inspired and guided by Samuel Smiles 1859 publication “Self Help” which was seen as a clear view of the origins of UK 19th century success. That concentrates on what individuals can do, indicating for example that the ‘success and impact of James Watt did not come from natural endowment but rather through hard work, perseverance, and discipline’. Maybe those attributes of the individual designer combined with a consensus seeking committee is one way to generate major successes.

  10. To Jon’s comment on design by committee: is this poll a very British way of looking at things – looking for an individual to celebrate whereas the Japanese see success as collective? To what extent do you think that this approach contributes to our lack of success in international football as against the Germans and the Italians? Before anyone says it, I believe the Dutch team struggles for exactly the same reason – talented individuals rather than a great team.

  11. Issigonis put the transverse engine on top of the gearbox, or we could say that he put the gearbox in the sump. Non-Issigonis transverse-engine front-wheel drive cars have a lower engine with the gearbox to the side of the engine and the diff behind.
    He still gets my vote due to the Mini’s packaging, the Morris Minor ( originally intended to be a boxer 4 ) and his Lightweight Special.

  12. Mike, I’ll not add any more attempts at humour or serious thoughts on the value of design by committee… but it is good to see their head of design, Akihiro Nagaya, heading in the right direction for more style in recent months.

  13. Hi Jon. Quite a few top designers have been through Toyota for F1, LeMans, Rally and road cars but the company is renowed for its ‘design by committee’ approach so hard to name an individual who really made a mark.
    But I would suggest whoever designed the Prius be tried for crimes against humanity.

  14. georgegrimes-ti-com.myopenid.com

    The best sports car? The best family sedan? The best chauffeur-driven limousine? I think that these might result in different answers. Since I could only give one answer, I saluted my fellow Texan who died a couple of months ago. I voted “Other” writing in the name of Carroll Shelby of Cobra and Ford Mustang fame.

  15. I’d equate best with most influential – and Issigonis is hard to beat on that score.

  16. @PetervdS: BL hatchback = Austin A40 (“The world’s first hatchback” Although that was by Farina); @David: “Best car” = One that gives minimal hassles, and decent style!? So where are the Toyota designers? 😉 Sure that will get a good reaction from you Mike?!

  17. Peter VDS,
    The title is “Who is the best car designer” period?
    Although he had a somewhat rocky life and ended it in circumstances that would even impress Ed (DeLorean)his clarity and simple designs both in race cars and production cars makes him my vote.

  18. I know nothing about car designers Dr Bob, the poll was suggested by Stooriefit and most of the answers proposed by Mike Bryant and Robertl. Hopefully whoever put in these guys will justify it. But I’m completely at sea.

  19. Personally I’d give this to Alec Issigonis – though he wasn’t the first to use a transverse engine his design for the Mini essentially created the template for every small car since and he also conceived the hatchback though BL never had the courage to build it. If the poll was for the greatest car production engineer, you’d have to give it to Henry Ford. Colin Chapman doesn’t do it for me – his influence was more at the performance end and I’d argue that Issigonis had a much greater impact on everyday motoring.

  20. My eyesight is getting worse. Read so far down til I came to Jean-Claude Vandamm and Sergio Leone and thought what have they got to do with car design?.
    I need a holiday!

  21. 1st post and voted for Chapman.

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