Theme: Concepts – Obendorfer’s Retrofuturism

Not all concept cars are designed by design consultancies or manufacturer’s own studios.

2013 design for Fiat 127 by David Obendorfer
2013 design for Fiat 127 by David Obendorfer

I have covered the work of the Pforzheim Design School recently. Today, presented as freelance concept designs, rather than as student work, here is David Obendorfer’s work. He graduated from the MOME Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design of Budapest and has been working for the Officina Italiana Design of Mauro Micheli and Sergio Beretta for 5 years; they mainly deal with Riva boats and general ship design too.

Obendorfer has taken some 70s themes and presented them in a modern idiom. We can take this to really mean designed as if produced using modern methods. The 1972 Fiat 127 is shown here updated, as if the car had been evolving these last 40 years. I’d question the little crease under the front window but other than that, it’s a lot more credible than many designs Fiat itself presents. The images are from 2013.

2014 re-design of BMW 3.0 CS of 1965
2014 re-design of BMW 3.0 CS of 1965

Obendorfer has also played around with some BMW themes, inspired by that most elegantly proportioned of cars, the 3.0 CS of 1965 . This image (above) is from 2014. While BMW have mostly eschewed retro-futurism (excepting the Z8 of 1999) these show how elastic the 60s and 70s themes can be.

What we have here then is retro-futurism, showing what happens if you separate out that element of the evolution of car design that follows engineering progress only.

1994 Concept 1 by J Mays at VW
1994 Concept 1 by J Mays at VW

Another vehicle in this vein is Renault’s 1996 Fiftie, one of the few retro cars from what automotive journalists (and only them) call la Regie.

1996 Renault Fifite Concept
1996 Renault Fifite Concept
1996 Renault Fiftie concept interior
1996 Renault Fiftie concept interior

The VW Concept 1 of 1994 and Lancia Fulvia concept of 2003 are vehicles following this line, based on existing forms. Marc Newson and J Mays applied this idea to a wholly

Detail: 1999 Ford 021C concept by Marc Newson
Detail: 1999 Ford 021C concept by Marc Newson

imaginary package and gave us a revival in the colour the car was painted in and named after, 021C, shown in 1999 at the Tokyo motor show. I note that Google search

2003 Lancia Fulvia concept - retrofuturistic for a future that never arrived.
2003 Lancia Fulvia concept – retrofuturistic for a future that never arrived.

showed as many versions showing up in Lime Green as in 021C and that colour was also noticeably more popular in the last decade than it had been before then, to the point of being a cliche.

What might be behind the phenomenon of Retrofuturism is the sense that car design had run out of open future into which it could be projected. This might explain the staleness of both production cars and concept cars of recent years.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

8 thoughts on “Theme: Concepts – Obendorfer’s Retrofuturism”

  1. Interestingly the ‘Fiat’ reminds me almost as much of a Saab 99 2 door. Is that a retro mix up, or is it a connection I was less aware of at the time. I like some of these, and there is a strong case for evolutionary design – see Golf and 911. However creating it artificially after the event is seldom so successful. I never liked the New Beetle much, and like it even less now. The Renault is deeply irritating.

    1. In part, Richard, but I am shocked at a cool locker in a French car that will only accommodate the standard 12 fluid oz US Cola tin.

    2. I think there’s bound to be another cooler linked to it in the boot at the front (remember it’s modern rendition of the 4CV, a rear engined car), big enough to accommodate a couple bottles of Chablis or Champagne…

    3. That’s good news Laurent. Or at least a bottle of Badoit in view of France’s stringent policing. I was randomly stopped in Eastern France the other week and given a breathalyser for the first time in my life.

  2. To put the quality of the work presented here in perspective, I would suggest a look at a series run by Auto Express during the summer under the banner ‘Most Wanted Cars 2014’:

    Most of it is exactly what one would expect from that publication and amounts to no more than lazy retro styling. More importantly though, while it makes a good case for briefly outlining what made the original so special, it fails to ask why those cars were very much of their time and why creating an equivalent today wouldn’t merely amount to updating the looks, but also answering a question which either no one is asking, or more likely is very different from back then.

    1. The Auto Express versions are laughable at most, but the Oberdorfer’s 127 is a fantastic design I would buy in a heartbeat. I like the 3.0 CS a lot as well, but it doesn’t show the same amount of surface control and is a bit too soft in shape for my taste.

  3. Oberdorfer’s designs are ALL lovely. I particularly like the 750: Mrs Vic would use plastic water bottles refilled with “Of course it’s Ribena.”

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