What do the Mercedes CLS, VW Passat CC and a forgotten 1982 rendering have in common? The stylist associated with each of them – Murat Günak.
The world of the international car design is a small and frequently incestuous one. Take the career of Turkish car designer, Murat Günak. Having studied design at the Royal College of Art during the 1980’s under Patrick Le Quement and Claude Lobo, he worked for Mercedes-Benz under then Styling Director, Bruno Sacco. During his time at Stuttgart-Untertürkheim, he was credited with the styling for the W202 C-Class and R170 SLK. With time came greater responsibility, so while the 2004 W219 Mercedes CLS body style was the work of American, Michael Fink, the project came under the supervision of Günak, reporting to Styling Director Peter Pffifer.
Following his stint with Mercedes, Günak moved to Peugeot and later Volkswagen. While at Wolfsburg, he is credited with reprising the CLS concept in the 2009 Passat CC, a design that certainly more than doffed its cap to the Mercedes coupé but proved to be better executed in practice. The CC remains an unfairly marginalised car – arguably the most visually successful of the current crop of coupé-saloons. In fact, with a less of front-drive bias, it could have been lovely.
However, a precedent to both exists in Günak’s back catalogue. Way back in fact. In 1982, while still a design student, UK weekly, Motor commissioned a number of fellow RCA students to design a Jaguar for the 1990’s. Amongst them was Howard Guy who would later work for Geoff Lawson at Whitley, David Wilkie who became Design Director at Bertone before working with Günak at design consultancy Mindset, Olivier Boulay who would head Mercedes-Benz’s Chinese studio, and Steven Murkett, who went on to design the Porsche Cayenne. (for which we must try to forgive him…)
Many students threw themselves into fairly typical immature flights of fancy. Günak however didn’t – providing not only the most coherent, but also the most polished proposal – an elegant XJ-sized saloon which displayed a daylight opening outline which would become familiar two decades later. It appears Günak never quite got that Jaguar proposal out of his system – both the CLS and Passat CC displaying notable styling ‘nods’ to Browns Lane and ‘ol Billy Lyons.
Do all stylistic roads lead back to Browns Lane? Of course not – that would be silly, but when it comes to four-door coupé-saloons, they certainly appear to, especially if your name is Murat Günak…