Let’s Sort This Out, Shall We?

Recently we have been discussing the origins of the Citroën XM.

1989 Citroen XM
1989 Citroen XM

Here are as many of the influences I can find, not counting the aspects of the car that draw on Citroen’s own general heritage. The roll call is long and not exclusive. However, it begins with the 1974 Lotus Eclat which has a similar dropped window line, one of the XM’s signature features. Deschamp’s drawing looks like a saloon Eclat, if you compare the two. The 1979 Bertone Tundra offers the angular surface treatment which characterises the XM. The 1980 Lancia Medusa has a long wheel base and a very similar raked window screen and bonnet, another Citroen XM feature. The glazing is conventional though.

Two cars provide inspiration for the way the windscreen wraps to the side glass. First, the 1980 Ferrari Pinin shows the wraparound effect and, second, the 1982 GM Aero shows the small triangular glass panels needed to allow the side glass to wind down (later used on Buick and Oldsmobile C-platform models in 1991). In between is the overlooked 1981 Opel Tech concept car which has a floating roof which depends on glazed A, B and C-D pillars.

In the same year Bertone’s Mazda MX-81 (by Marc Deschamps) shows the same surface treatment as the Tundra and particularly the distinctive groove down the body side as it relates to the wheel arches. Marc Deschamp’s XM sketch is from October 1984. The 1985 Subaru XT appeared in February 1985 and it may only be a coincidence but it has many of the same elements as the XM. Its authorship is not clear: I suggest an uncredited Bertone project for an XM coupe, finalised in 1982. I have shown a 1986 car.

I am not aware of a car that has so many clear influences in its final form as the XM. The 1982 Citroen BX must be noted as direct influence in that it was this car the XM had to relate to in the Citroen portfolio. The BX is credited to Gandini. An abbreviated chain of influences runs from Bertone (the Tundra and MX-81), to Gandini (BX) and on to Deschamps at Bertone again. The final car was then polished by Olson and Abrahamson.

Perhaps the 1981 Talbot Tagora, on which Art Blakeslee worked might even be included?

1989 Citroen XM influences
1989 Citroen XM influences

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Image credits:

1974 Lotus Eclat

1979 Bertone Tundra

1980 Lancia Medusa by ItalDesign.

1980 Ferrari Pinin

1981 Opel Tech.

1981 Mazda MX-81

1982 GM Aero concept car (YouTube.com)

1984 Citroen XM sketch by Marc Deschamps in Martinez, A., and Sauzay, M (1989) Citroen XM. EPA, Paris.

1985 Subaru XT

1989 Citroen XM grey side view.

Author: richard herriott

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

49 thoughts on “Let’s Sort This Out, Shall We?”

  1. Lest I give the impression that the XM is simply a pastiche, I would call it a good synthesis.
    The MX-81 influence can also be seen in the XM’s chisel-like front end and other sketches of the XM by Deschamps show a clearer affinity to the MX-81.

    1. The XM is a design I both like and dislike in equal measure. I’m not really sure I can articulate why. I think its the detailing that bothers me slightly and the knowledge that it looked a lot better in conceptual form – a little like the C6 which followed. But there’s no use crying over spilled styling concepts is there? Another irritant at the time of its introduction was the knowledge that former styling chief, Carl Olsen is said to have resigned over his more avant garde design being passed over in favour of Deschamps’ creation.

      As an aside Richard, surely Opron was at Renault by the time the XM was being schemed?

    2. An interesting article, well done. At the time the XM was introduced I also felt that it looked like a more rakish and pointy Skoda Favorit. The Favorit was introduced in 1987, so two years before the XM appeared. Skoda also developed a coupe version (“783”) which never got past the prototype stage. If you look at that one especially the similarities with the XM are unmistakable. Unfortunately I can not upload the photos I have of both Skodas but I’m sure you can look them up yourself. What do you think? Should the Favorit/Favorit Coupe be added to the XM influencers?

    3. Thanks, Bruno. It took a good deal of rummaging around to get those images.
      While I agree the Skoda Favorit looks Citroenesque and that the coupe concept has an XM style about it, I can’t wholly endorse your suggestion about the direction of influence.
      Off-hand, I think the styling for the XM was frozen in 1985 or 1986 at the latest. Thus the Skodas are either a) Bertone selling proposals for Citroen cars that PSA rejected or b) proposals done in a Citroen style by accident. (a) strikes me as the more plausible of the two.
      We have discussed here how the Favorit, by Bertone, was probably intended as a Visa-type car. I ought to run up a sheet showing the features that are peculiarly Citroenesque at some point.
      The coupe probably draws from the same well of themes as the XM but as I expect it was supposed to fit in (as a Citroen) with the XM it got the cheap blacked out a-pillar and dropped window line.

    4. Thank you for your reply, Richard.
      I agree that option “a” (the Favorit being a Bertone proposal for a Citroën Visa replacement that PSA rejected) seems the most plausible, especially if you look at the stillborn Favorit 783 Coupe. We ended up with the ZX which strikes me as a lot less distinctive than the “mini-XM’s” in which these Bertone proposals would have resulted.
      If you ever get around to it, I certainly look forward to seeing your views on the Citroenesque themes of the Skoda Favorit!

  2. Eoin: if you might be wary of certain other marque enthusiasts then extra caution is needed with the Citroen XM fans. Is it not the best Italian-designed, large French front-wheel-drive, hydropneumatically suspended hatch-back ever? The Dulwich Post called it “very good” and the Abercairn Herald considered it “of much merit”.
    In all seriousness (I own one, so it’s serious), none of the proposals looks believable. I don’t think Olsen’s ideas were going to work in 1989 like it was 1975 all over again.
    The topmost hated details are the side-glass, door-handles and allegedly featureless frontal aspect. What’s your pick?

    1. Richard: Treading softly in WB Yeats fashion, I would probably concur with the first two, but in XM’s defence, I can’t really see what else they could have done with the glazing. The door handles are clumsy. Otherwise, I’m in the woods. It’s a very striking shape and on first glance I’m impressed, but as I absorb the details I’m less convinced. Now I’ve never even sat in one so I’m viewing it from afar, which possibly isn’t fair. I recently made a similar faux pas with a C6 owner. He took it remarkably well considering…

    2. For me, it’s really the fromt part that bothers me. Not because of ‘featurelessness’ (whatever this is supposed to mean, I can do without flashy adornments, and I enjoy the subtle asymmetry). No, it’s the nose cone that cuts off the bonnet in a graceless way and never seems to want to match the pressing of the front wing. Other than that, I’m quite happy with the car as is, except for the clumsy rear spoiler they added on all but the very basic 2l carb versions. The glasshouse is one of the distinctive features of the car, and although I generally like simpler designs with fewer features, like Eóin I don’t see how you could do the floating roof in a different way without having huge areas of black painted metal (like on some of the most recent Citroëns).

      Oh yes, there was another thing. When the XM was new, I mourned the death of the half-covered rear wheel. However, I became used to it, and I even think that with the rising window line, there would have been too much metal on the side with this feature.

    3. Thinking more on my ambivalence for the XM, I think the root for me was my huge regard for the CX, a car the XM was always going to fall short against. I just had such high expectations at the time and while I thought it was a good effort, it never made my heart flutter as its predecessor did. But I really should know better. The XM is probably at least as good a car as the C6 – and that’s a very impressive car indeed. Mark you, my prejudice against both models was based upon matters of their appearance, not how they drove.

      I recall being desperate to drive one when they first came out, but sadly, while our lease clients showed interest, the numbers were always prohibitive. We never got past the brochure phase. Despite their eminent suitability to the road conditions, hydropneumatic Citroen’s were toxic in the Irish Republic during the ’80s.

  3. I’d say the Robert Opron heritage still layed heavily on the Citroen design studio, in spite of Peugeot ousting him in the early 80’s. The XM:s most distinct feature is the kick up at the rear door to the sail panel, and the car really looks like what a five door SM had done ten-fifteen years after the fact. I’d say there’s a straight but somewhat fuzzy line going from the SM to the XM.

  4. I always thought the XM had the nicest and most interesting range of wheel trim designs at launch of any car.

    One thing I’ve not seen discussed on DTW is the trend (that the XM embraced) of moving away from flush or nearly flush door handles to the more traditional pull-type handles. Ford did it as well for the original Focus. Why did it happen?

    One theory is that the perceived quality of the handle feels higher than a hinged flap. Or maybe there’s a safety-related reason?

    1. The CX’s door handles were something of a half way house in that they were of traditional style but semi-flush owing to the circular recess in the door skin. They were operated by a push button if memory serves. Those on the XM stand out more despite living in the recess of the body crease. They look more like the pull-out type.

      I always theorised the wholesale adoption of the free standing door handles was that they were associated with quality German cars and that buyers preferred them. Also that flush fitting pull-up handles often failed or froze in adverse weather. I could be wrong about some or all of this – it’s just a theory.

    2. I think it could easily be a perceived-quality or just as much a fashion thing, but I do seem to recall that in the mid-’90s, VW made a point of arguing that the pull-type handles were better for safety because if the car was in a crash and the body deformed to the point that the doors couldn’t open easily, they allowed a grappling hook to be mounted to yank them open.

    3. In German (ADAC?) crash testing, much was made of the advantages of pull door handles after the crash has occurred, as they can be clasped and hence more force can be exerted in order to try and open the door. Which sounds fairly reasonable to me.

  5. I’ve always loved the XM. When it first came out, I first spotted one in parked at a curb in Florence, whilst visiting that beautiful city for the first time, and left my then to-be wife standing, bemused, as I scampered across some famous old bridge to gape at it. It had not been launched in the UK at that time.

    I liked the shallow, chiselled nose with its asymmetric badge positioning, the SM-a-like rear panel with integrated rear lamps and the rear 3/4 side DLO kink. I always liked the simplicity of execution of the inner rear window to keep the chill off rear occupants when the hatch was opened. And, I liked the original interior, dash and steering wheel – in fact it was a nicer looker all round pre-facelift. They are rare these days … but still head turning!

    1. SV: I saw my first XM in Montelimar. That was a event.
      I think it did stand out at the time and still does. It’s complex and slightly flawed which may or may not be deliberate. I can see how some won’t go for it: Citroen radicalists, Audiphiles and sensible people who possibly rightly might pick some other good cars from Saab or Opel or Alfa Romeo.

  6. I’ve never seen the Mazda MX-81 before. Its similarity to the two year older Tundra is striking.

    One thing I’ve sometimes wondered: was the XM ever sold with the twin parallel line wheeltrims pictured, or were they a pre-production thing? The UK cars certainly never had them. They feature a lot in the Martinez/Sauzey book, which I can highly recommend if you’re an XM fan.

    1. I remember the comment about their not being able to get the wiper to work very well. Rightly or wrongly I thought that, if the once mighty bureau d’etudes couldn’t sort out a bloody wiper, then they had really lost it.

    2. John: I like those wheelcovers, too! They were reserved for the very basic version, 2l carburettor with no equipment. It also lacks the rear spoiler, as seen in the picture. It’s definitely the purest form of XM, and I can imagine there were many countries where it wasn’t sold. Switzerland was one of them, for example.

      For me, the definitive XM wheel is still the initial alloy. You could read it as a successor-in-spirit of the CX alloy – this had the same concept with painted lower and bright raised sections. It all went down the drain later. The shiny, mostly covered ‘wave’ alloys were still acceptable, but the later ‘Exclusive’ alloys with their clumsy, rounded spokes didn’t work at all with the XM’s edges.

  7. John: It’s hard to say now. I could take a look at some of the period reviews in Autocar and Car. Which will take a few moments. The alloys on the Series 1 cars had a nicely technical look while avoiding the problem of making the wheel covers look bad. I like the five-dot covers almost as much as Saab steel “telephone dial” covers.
    Nobody seems to have noted the Opel Tech and Aero cars which showcase the XM’s glasshouse. I really like the Opel Tech – it looks like a real car unlike so many concepts. All Opel did was to use the grille and lamps on the last Kadett.

    1. Yes they were available, at least in France. ‘Italia’ alloys were really the pick of the bunch though.

  8. I remember the Car magazine review of the Citroen XM quite well. It’s worth remembering that we were all expecting the new big Citroën to be named DX and to look like a CX for the nineties. So it was something of a shock when this fairly angular car arrived with a name and rear hip kink that evoked the SM. Car’s Gavin Green wasn’t a fan of the styling or the loss of the single windscreen wiper. A Citroën engineer confided to him that they couldn’t get a Mercedes-style Monoblade wiper to work reliably.

    The Opel Tech 1 stands up remarkably well for a 36 year old car. Certainly better than a Mk IV Ford Cortina!

    1. In other words, the radicalism paradox. If you are radical once is it radical to be radical the second and third time? Gavin Green’s opinion on car styling is reliably wrong. He liked the drive though. I think after 25 years he might revise his opinion. Simister didn’t like the front. I feel some of the reviewers were misjudging. The real “error” in the XM is the mismatch between the big radius going around the windscreen to side glass and the small radius of the bonnet to the bodyside. The Mercedes W-210 has the reverse problem. The nose of the XM lacks plan curvature. And maybe the nose cone is a distraction. Whichever way I look at it, a design with no nose cone would look quite different and may not have worked with the slim, low lamps…
      I have to stop. This is my hobby horse car (after the Astra F).

  9. Please don’t ever stop, Richard.

    Design-wise I always thought the lower front bumper/fog lamp treatment was the least successful aspect of the XM. It’s just all a bit messy. And I hated it when they centred the chevrons on the series 2. It could have been worse; they might have put the series 3 into production: http://www.citroenet.org.uk/passenger-cars/psa/xm/xm-16.html – what the hell were they thinking?

    1. It took me ten years to notice the disordered layout of the bits under the front bumper. Key to this is that the horizontal rub-strip interferes with the lines running down from the bonnet shut lines. The nose cone panel gaps are also confusing. The revised version addressed the vertical flow and tidied the foglamps at the expense of the asymmetrical grille which was dumped.

    2. I’ve not seen that Series 3 before. Wow, so Blakeslee wanted to adjust the strongly single conceptual styling of the original XM down to that lowest of common denominators, the Xsara. How heinous is that?

      Oh, and I agree with Eóin about the detailing on both the XM and C6, but, as is I think a tendency with me, I am carried away by the overall impact of the grander forms and impression made by both designs. I think it’s similar with the Bangle 7 (original – not the pale, toned-down facelift, naturally!) and, on a lesser scale, the Mazda 3 …

  10. SV: the proposed series 3 may not have been a serious one but rather demonstrate the car should be left alone.
    Apart from the area under the front bumper, I think the XM is pretty well resolved. Those doorhandles don’t bother me and if they are safer that’s a plus. The nosecone has to be seen in connection to other goals; the Xantia did without it and isn’t obviously better.

  11. Laurent: the Italia wheels are indeed the best. For a short time the hubcap was pressed aluminium but was replaced by plastic. Those are the ones I have.

    1. I really like the Rue Tole (Turbo D) – simple and elegant.

  12. My problems with the XM boil down to my perception, rightly or wrongly, that it is a designer’s car, designed by designers, to be appreciated by other designers. It is the car as an industrial design exercise, with not an ounce of romanticism to be had. It reminds me of brutalist architecture: great in a drawing, but lacking humanity. And like brutalist architecture, it looks like something from the 1970s, not a product for the 1990s. I would argue (contentious statement coming) that Rover was doing this kind of thing better at the time: rectilinear, pared down, yet still warm and human.

    I could give you a laundry list of other minor gripes:

    The XM looks like it is made out of thin plastic, the shapes or radii conveying little sense of strength. Granted, the BX was much worse in that regard, looking like it was fabricated from the kind of plastic that toys come packaged in, but the later Xantia looked like a much more solid object (A-pillar notwithstanding, which has become a Citroen bête noire).

    The rising belt line is discordant and smacks of compromise. I note that the belt line in the original styling sketch was strictly horizontal.

    The frontal aspect is characterless.

    The wheels are too small (not often I say that).

    For a car of that price, the dashboard is below par. In fact, does any part of the XM strike you as looking “expensive”? I would say not.

    1. How interesting that you don’t consider it romantic. I’d say it was and also note the lack of romantic expression virtually every comparable vehicle except the XJ-6.

  13. I suppose I’ve reassessed both the the BX and the XM over time. When they were introduced I was disappointed, as they weren’t as radical as their predecessors. But compared with what came after, they now seem quite brave. I keep imagining the stolid hand of Peugeot hovering over everything and, based on that, I’m impressed they managed that much. I sat in a new saloon at the time, and remember finding the view out the back restricting (though I guess it would seen like a glorious panorama now) and I looked at a secondhand estate in a car supermarket and was appalled at the number of flimsy plastic bits that were falling apart. But I think I’d be very happy to drive a decent XM these days.

    1. That´s odd: the rear seats of the XM are a bit higher than the ones in the front and with the front headrestraints at their lowest you can see all of the base of the windscreen unobstructed. The low window line means an airy view sideways as well.

    1. Speaking of which, this was a new one on me. It’s a non-running mock-up from Heuliez intended for Presidential use.

      I wouldn’t necessarily call it an improvement…

    1. Good spot – probably more Kappa than 155. I think design around that period had much greater diversity and yet coherence.

  14. Note: the Tundra appeared in 1979 and the Tagora in 1981 so the Tagora’s arches were invented independently. Both cars’ arches resemble the XM’s slightly squared arches. The resemblance is faint: I am looking at an XM at this very moment.

  15. It’s design, not collage. Sometimes specific features are stolen (in recent years seemingly ever more shamelessly), but more often than not it’s just a general influence of what’s current at the time it’s being designed, both in terms of design and technology / engineering. As such, specific similarities are more likely to be a product of convergent evolution than a specific influence (either way: GM Aero [sic] – seriously!?!)

    Just because you can reverse ‘engineer’ it, showing similar features elsewhere that does not mean that it was the source never mind a specific influence: it’s wedge shaped with an airy glasshouse – there was a lot of that going about at the time…

    1. Sean: Thanks for your comment. I don’t think the author was suggesting anything definitive in this; more an exploration of possibilities. After all, design is a wholly subjective matter – one which elicits often quite impassioned views. We’re not espousing any kind of gospel here…

    2. Hi Sean: thanks for your comments. I couldn´t agree more, hence the opening sentence “Here are as many of the influences I can find, not counting the aspects of the car that draw on Citroen’s own general heritage.” Thanks for underlining that point.

      And the the GM Aero? Yes, deadly serious. It comes a year after the Opel Tech1 which looks more production ready.
      The bit we ought to be looking at is the flow around the a-pillar from windscreen to side glass. That turned into the A-pillar design as seen on the 1991 Buick Park Avenue. Citroen and GM arrived at a similar way to make a bigger radius around the A-pillar. Citroen beat them to it.

  16. At the risk of descending into a slightly more genteel version of typical online spat…

    Eoin, Richard; Apologies for what follows, I’m not as angry as might appear (honest) – or even that passionate about the XM specifically, rather about design generally. What little writing there is about car design tends to err on the hagiographic, as opposed to the critical & ideological battles that rage in other realms of design and since the demise of Automobile magazine (and with it Robert Cumberfords’ design column) I’ve been jonesing for a fix… Feel free not to approve or show the attached, and/or move any subsequent correspondence elsewhere

    For clarity, despite having owned one (& enjoying the experience) – I am not defending the XM’s styling, far from it: it was an 80s design, late to the party from a marque that should be setting trends not following them. The C6 is everything the XM should have been (& presaged a more general return to form for Citroen) – but unfortunately was too little, too late. That said, even if the XM had been on a par with the C6 it likely would only have won the battle, not the war – and such was burdened with a impossible task
    —————
    NO! Design is not ‘wholly subjective’, and clearly it not objective either – rather it contains of elements of both. I would draw a parallel with music: there’s a difference between being in tune and being a good tune (and, despite music being the most studied & codified of all creative endeavours, there’s still no sure way to compose a good one)

    If this was a general exploration of possibilities I would suggest the title ‘..Sort it Out..’ and referring individual features on specific models as ‘influences’ is contrary to that aim, nor is it the impression I was left with. So, trying to be clear & specific:

    Not to be contrary but I don’t think we are in agreement – though my use of the word ‘influence’ might have confused matters (if so, apologies). What I meant by ‘general influence’ is factors such as aerodynamics, the wedge form, ‘folded paper’ surfacing, etc. You identify specific examples and cite them as influences – which implies a connection not substantiated or corroborated beyond the circumstantial. In truth, much of what’s been identified are in fact similarities – & some that aren’t even that – yet the influence of the broader contemporary context is completely lacking

    For example, where’s the 1985 Ford Granada Scorpio? Though clearly general, surely it also meets your definition of an influence – but you have to look beyond the surfac(ing) to see the parallels: both are aero influenced, executive bustle hatchbacks with a floating roof (OK, ok, ‘cantilevered’ on the Ford – but that’s how they resolved the beltline / A-pillar issue). This combination had not been seen before or since (and Ford did it in 1985). On a more specific level, the rear quarterlight could reasonably be cited as a step towards a production solution for the glass panel on the XM doors.

    As regards the GM Aero – am I being gaslit? What ‘small triangular glass panels’!?! LOOK at the photo: are you sure you’re not confusing the pillar on the other side as an additional panel? For clearer images, go to http://www.carstyling.ru/en/car/1982_gm_aero2000/ – look at the second image (front three-quarter), and the elevational schematic on the Epcot data sheet at the bottom. Even if that weren’t the case, both the Aero & Pinin are an irrelevance beyond the general aero aesthetic aspirations: the side windows are non-functional with impossibly thin pillars that don’t have to do anything more demanding than support the roof. We don’t even know that the ‘glass’ is, in fact, glass…

    The ‘demi-pillar’ IS present on the Tech 1, but this is an engineering solution not an aesthetic one; and generally this example of wraparound glazing & floating roof was the then latest expression of a long-held design obsession: e.g. look at pretty much any American car from the mid to late 50s for an earlier iteration (& they would have got away with it too if it weren’t for that pesky Nader!). In fact, what about the DS itself: it’s pretty much the nearest thing they could technically and economically make to a floating roof at the time, complete with jet exhausts! Also note the glasshouse – how the windscreen wraps around, but back then that was at the expense of rake (checkout the form & rake in the rear screen for an idea of what they’d like to have done, freed from the constraints of the lamination process).

    Rather than an influence, the Eclat shares a similar (but different) solution to a problem with aero wedges: the height differential between scuttle & side window beltline. That difference in solutions is small but significant: in the XM, this has been resolved within the (virtual) base of the A-pillar & the beltline thereafter is a (near) constant gradient as far as the kicker. So I would suggest that this is convergent evolution not influence, i.e. the XM solution was not contingent on the Eclat but a similar response to a similar set of circumstances – and as such, it’s hardly surprising they’re… er, similar

    If I absolutely HAD to, I could posit a potential influence – which is that they took Eclat side window line, ‘uncoupled’ it from the window, extending it forward into the front wing. The resultant ‘gap’ being filled by a cheat panel which tidies things up visually as well as serving as door mirror mount (as such panels often do). As that cut line transitions onto the bonnet, it forms the leading edge of the scuttle panel, whose dark unpainted finish helps to integrate relatively straight bonnet rear edge with the much more rounded screen (note the difference between leading & trailing edge of scuttle panel). Clever. I might not be that taken with the whole, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t like ‘sum’ of the parts (geddit? ;-P). However plausible that might sound, not only do I have ZERO evidence that that is indeed the case, there are clear thematic differences between the two evident even in the Deschamps thumbnail so there is no obvious link

    Referencing the Medusa but not the Pininfarina Berlina-Aerodinamica is a bit like citing only the 356 with respect to the 911; not necessarily wrong but not the full picture, which would be so much clearer with additional data, i.e. the Beetle & Typ 64 (BTW if you want a clear case of influence, look at the Berlina-Aerodinamica & Rover SD1)

    The Medusa does not have conventional glazing: it has opening inserts (clearest on rear three-quarter press shot here: http://www.oldconceptcars.com/1930-2004/lancia-medusa-concept-1980/) which is of particular interest in this case. Given the proportions, conventional side windows should just about be possible but their omission highlights, possibly inadvertently, the contemporary obsession with aerodynamics – though at least here there is an attempt at a (semi) practical solution, whereas the Pinin basically ignores the problem entirely. Remember, the Cd factor that Audi was so proud of in the 80s? IIRC this was in no small part due to ‘cleaning up’ the window pillars / rain gutter area

    The surface treatment of the Tundra & MX-81 are not the same: the MX-81 is softer, more developed – an evolution of the Tundra (as it should be). The Tundra’s surfacing is also completely different from the XM, being two simple planes divided by a sharp V-section swage line; similarly though both the Tundra & MX-81 wheelarches are cited as influences – and in fairness they do share similar Gandini-esque cutouts – their surfacing in this area utterly different, and none of it is shared with the XM, so influence… how?

    Which of course is not to understate the significance of Marc Deschamps & Bertone’s ‘previous’ but, to return to the musical analogy, there’s a difference between identifying characteristics & themes in a body of work, and saying a later piece of work is specifically influenced by an earlier one – especially if that very theme has been explored in the interim (i.e. the BX)

    Talking of which… having stated “I am not aware of a car that has so many clear influences in its final form as the XM” you mention a clear example but sort of gloss over it. The BX is identifiably, specifically & demonstrably influenced by the Tundra, though even there that is not where the story starts as there is an equally clear Citroen CX & GS influence in the overall profile / volume

    The XT is not an influence in anything more than the most general terms: the surfacing is quite distinct (for example, compare/contrast the cross section of their swage lines) & the timings don’t work for it to have been a speculative coupe proposal as you posit – never mind the logic of pitching a coupe to a marque with such a short & difficult history in that segment

    Beyond the specifics of the contemporary obsession with aero wedges & floating roofs, it should be remembered that the late eighties was the peak (or rather, the nadir) of design convergence, and surely fertile ground for the “they all look alike / designed on computers” myth that persists to this day. Look at the 1989 Rover 200: it’s little more than a swage line and tail-light stack away from being a pint-sized XM (of course I exaggerate for effect, but they’re nowhere near as distinct as a Rover & Citroen should be). The grille had been deemed unnecessary & old hat, and abandoned by all but a few before making a triumphant return that is only just starting to falter (but that’s a story for another time…). As it happens, although it was roundly criticised at the time Rover themselves were pretty quick to jump on the grille bandwagon, though I think Audi were first with the V8 in 1988 – and I do wonder if this marked the start of the herd-like behaviour that’s become more prevalent since (do NOT get me started on gill vents or, in many cases, ‘vents’).

    Sadly, the XM’s major contribution might be being first to market with that fussy swage line (there’s a much bigger discussion to be had about it’s evolution even within the XM project), which blighted many a design from the ’90 Escort to the ’99 Jaguar S-Type & beyond

    If you truly wanted to sort it out, why not try to contact someone on the design team? As well as shedding interesting light on the process/subject, designers are often only too happy to talk & more forthcoming once a design has passed into history – especially as this particular project seems to have taken place against a backdrop of some ‘court intrigue’ to say the least…

    1. Hi Sean:

      You raise a good point about the oral history of car design in general and the XM in particular. Speaking from experience I am appallingly bad at interviews (ask Robyn Hitchcock about his visit to Galway). I tend to veer erratically between too nice and openly hostile. I´m not Michael Parkinson, alas. However, we´re always interested in new takes on subjects so if you are motivated, I´d suggest tracking down some of the ex-pen wielders at Citroen who will be lucky to take questions from someone with more social skills than I (alas) possess. It´d make a good article.

      Vis a vis the influences, I was operating on the hypothesis that most work is a compound of other work (the design literature and creativity literature also indicates this) so I gathered up all the bits and pieces I reckon might have been on the mood board or in the back of the minds of the XM´s creators.

      I happen to own an XM and consider it the best car ever designed for people who like cars like the XM.

      Road tests never gave the XM first place. Without wanting to offend our colleague S.V. who has a lovely C6, I´d be willing to bore a lot of people in my attempt to argue the XM was shade more in line with Citroen´s history than the C6 but will willingly acknowledge that the C6´s good qualities now seem to me more apparent than its demerits and I make yelps of delight when I see one.

  17. I was just on the lookout for some cheap thrills, score some quick design analyses (y’know, the good stuff). I never meant to get involved, hadn’t actually intended to analyse the XM – or at least I thought I hadn’t: evidently my subconcious has other ideas & just presented me with it’s interim findings… now I might have to do full bloody analysis just to get it out of my system 😉

    Whilst I still think the BX is an omission, you are correct about a specific relationship between the the Tundra, MX-81 & XM. Phew! It’s nice to be in agreement; though I stand behind my prior comments / analysis 100%, TBH I don’t enjoying being a relentlessly critical git, which is what I felt like at the end of it, so again I apologise for any offence caused by my tone or content

    The specific relationship between them does not concern the surfacing or wheelarches, rather the northward march and bifurcation of the swage line (still ignoring the XT: a red herring, it’s swage line is more akin to that of the Fiat X1/9).

    However… I would still define it as an evolution rather than an influence, that difference being illustrated by comparing the relationship between the Tundra & the BX, and the Tundra & XM, especially when we some of the same individuals / groups involved. I would argue that they are repeated explorations of similar ideas and themes which evolve as the creator themselves evolved and are, yes, influenced – but these are the expressions of that influence & evolution, not the source of it. Think of this way: are you ‘influenced’ by the results of your experiments, or do they help you to explore, refine and evolve your progress towards your ultimate goal?

    To be fair, that that statement is only true with respect to Bertone, Citroen, or Deschamps in this case; to a third party, they could indeed be an influence

    I digress… One of the themes of that period is a sort of ‘cladding’ look, whereby cutlines are emphasised, so adjacent panels might be on slightly different planes, their edges chamfered to emphasise a boundary as opposed to the more usual approach of minimising it’s visual impact to suggest a greater whole. Looking back, I wonder how much of this was an expression of the physical properties of the new materials; you cannot abut two plastic panels with same tight & consistent line as metal ones

    Anyhow, this combined with the swage line so as to become not just a surface feature but a panel boundary:
    Tundra: swage line, only panel boundary at extremes for part of the bumpers >> BX: swage line now also full boundary for some panels (bumpers & wheel spats) >> MX-81: beltline boundary in side elevation
    However there are insurmountable practical problems this last: regardless of the tumblehome, those proportions mean the side glass could not physcially fit in the door – so the only way it might work is to raise the swage line…

    …which is EXACTLY what can be seen in the Dechamps sketch: the (first) ‘bifurcation’ of the swage line. This solution also neatly exploits a quirk of visual perception: when direct comparison is not possible, we almost always judge a stack of thin things as lower overall that a single thicker item – even if they are in fact the same height. So the intention is to make the car look longer & lower (and trust me, that’s ALWAYS an intention regardless of era or school of design) by reading the strong horizontals through the wheelarch & beltline. Which is why the line is continued through the rear quarter panel, to both lead the eye through and suggest that that bodywork is a separate element sitting on top of the main volume rather than part of it (which is quite different from the Eclat, despite sharing a strong horizon, hence my earlier comments)

    Did you ever do the two point perspective exercise in art class at school? You can almost see two vanishing points, in front and above: the glazing panels radiate from above and the body lines from ahead (though unusually the wedge is more evident in the production item than the key sketch)

    In the journey to production, there was a further bifurcation which again I would guess to be influenced by practical as well as aesthetic issues, which leads is to a the production item, where the swage line is now distinct from any panel boundaries

    OK, close the comments page and back slowly and quietly away from the laptop… (again, sorry)

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