September 28, 2023

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 be taught from one another. They modify studios very often, and typically in packs (headhunted by one another). Add the large dangers concerned in billion greenback enterprise selections and we continually will see what appears to be like like copy-cat traits in automotive styling, however are literally much more unconscious in implementation. There are even traits in design sketch styles- however I believe which will deserve it’s personal weblog publish. The style trade fastidiously screens and plans round traits, and that is additionally true in automotive (notably CMF departments) however when it comes to exterior design the intention is usually to seem totally different (model recognition) however the outcome might be fairly related if a design is “on development”. Generally there are obviously 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 neatest thing”. Just 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 have now seen a development 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 won’t be very fascinating….

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 fashion for a lot of iterations and is remembered virtually solely for it. Many pre-war automobiles had contrasted color roofing. The supplies used had been mushy materials and coverings had been usually short-term. Pre-war was an period when most automobiles weren’t fastened roof. The rise of monocoque development publish struggle (from plane steel working expertise) with decreased prices of panel stamping in mass manufacturing, meant that the the material roof died out because of a reversal of prices. Metallic 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 struggle emotional styling was the following massive development.

1950 Chevrolet Bel Air

In Europe the roof shapes and design had been far more pragmatic because of manufacturing strategies(related expertise from plane) however with extra subdued styling that owed loads to housing (precise miniature gutters across the domed roof!) somewhat 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 outdoors). The 1959 Mini reveals a long-lasting instance of this fashion, continued as pastiche to at the present time with all Mini designs. Simply earlier than the mini appeared, Europe create one of the vital authentic and modern automobile 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 fashion of American automobiles can be hinted at. The Citroen was outstanding for thus many modern applied sciences and the roof was one more, being created from GRP (Glass Bolstered Plastic). Matching a plastic panel color to painted steel (and even perhaps portray it) was not simple within the Fifties, so I imagine this would possibly 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 actually house 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 obtainable on the BMW, however Citroen reportedly supplied an much more daring solely clear panel for the DS! Glass roofs are a contemporary development, 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 recognized courageous designs that attempted tips 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 automobile design normally, through the Nineties. Starting with some somewhat wise unexciting designs – which had been wonderful 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 automobile kind 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 therapy on the 1999 Renault Avantime

The failure of the daring works of Le Quement maybe set again automobile styling a number of years, (together with maybe the Fiat Multipla) to it’s common cautious self. Fiat adopted fairly quickly with their new Panda design, with a utilitarian method to window graphics, considerably much 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 collection it was sport on, and Citroen actually took word of this. They explored extra fascinating design shapes, and their 2005 C-Sport Lounge idea automobile confirmed daring therapy of it’s C-pillar, loads like their well-known DS mannequin of the previous. The inspiration appeared to come back 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 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 automobile firms embraced this aptitude, in an try and attraction to European tastes and the Koreans are nonetheless enjoying with extra styling concepts than maybe every 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 going through 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 fascinating 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 count on on this space. This shark fin is one thing we see moved to the C-pillar in loads of 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 fashion 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 “modern” for die-hard Aston traditionalists. Warnings got that it could date, however has it? The development continues to be round 5 years later, and likewise the design had many benefits. One motive it was green-lit was for the customisation choices it gave Aston consumers. Totally different supplies, and totally different color mixtures (together with non- contrasting) can be found in virtually infinite variations. Aston needed to emphasize they had been a bespoke automobile firm. You may play with these your self on their configurator…. The c-pillar additionally conveyed a hidden message, concerning the modern aerodynamic design. Air is ingested at the forefront of the C-pillar, the rear of the second facet window. Air travels down the C-pillar inner construction, both facet of the bags house, and exists in a slot throughout the rear deck. This creates a spoiler, an invisible air spoiler, to provide excessive pace stability, generally known as Airblade. The invisible spoiler is likely one of the DB11’s best 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.
Picture by Toms Svilans on

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 pressure. An actual life textual content ebook for aspiring automobile designers to be taught each trick from. There has maybe not been any automobile in historical past that employed so many styling tips in ONE automobile, it most likely deserves a weblog publish of its personal. It did additionally hit the development of distinction color roof, with a floating C-pillar. By now I hope you realise that floating, signifies 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 fully invisible, however it was impractical and a purely styling primarily based determination to place it there. I discovered it helpful as a father or mother 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

A very powerful 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 potential by carbon development strategies. The ideas had been maybe created with complete freedom, and the manufacturing automobiles may observe with modern surfaces. Within the case of those automobiles, the styling was to create the sensation that just about each part of the automobile was floating- and never related to every other part. It is a large leap away from the solidity and ritual beforehand anticipated of auto aesthetics. An annihilation of the Bauhaus-like rules that automobile design nonetheless hinted at, however didn’t respect, when it comes to being pure emotional styling workouts, 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 completed with out the flowing aesthetics, as evidenced in automobiles such because the McLaren Senna, or virtually 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 fashion of all BMW i merchandise. The ahead considering of the unique two i3 and i8 merchandise, signifies 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. Because of CarDesignNews for the picture.
BMW i3 Idea and BMW i8 Idea (09/2011)

I attempted to record a timeline of serious automobiles with this styling feature- however my information can have important gaps, and with a present development equivalent to this you’ll simply discover many extra automobiles with the function. Asia (Chinese language manufacturers specifically) will probably be residence to an enormous variety of fashions with this modern styling thought. Choose 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)

Through the extra pragmatic Nineteen Seventies, 80s and even 90s, there have been automobiles with styling options on their C-pillars which could be labeled 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 fashion 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 development, and maybe one other weblog publish can discover this. Aerodynamic aesthetics initially meant lack of options, and fairly uniform shapes. One instance could be the Renault Fuego from 1980, and the identical 12 months the extraordinarily small division on the base of the Audi Coupe C-pillar. Maybe for those who discover extra examples of this aesthetic, publish 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 for nice Citroen photographs!

EDIT: Because of 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 development. 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 penning this publish, 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. Onerous to explain (basically a extreme V graphic) however I’m not a fan.