I just realized that the 323 is my third car designed by Paul Bracq:
1969 Mercedes 280SL (my Grandfather’s):
1972 Mercedes 280SE 4.5:
And the E21:
Bracq is a French industrial designer and has been called the “father of BMW’s modern design.” In addition to the E21, Mercedes W108, and Pagoda above Bracq was the head of BMW design in the 1970s, penned the BMW Turbo concept car (which gave genesis to the M1), Mercedes 600 Grosser, as well as giving input to the legendary 300SL Gullwing earlier in his career.
The E21 was going to be a pivotal car for BMW. As the follow-up to the iconic 2002 the stakes were high. Like a breakout band’s second album. Bracq gave us BMW design cues that carried over for almost 30 years: quad headlights, smaller and enclosed kidney grilles, interior center console oriented to the driver, and others. With the E21 he gave us the small sports-luxury sedan and brought the small BMW away from the 1602’s economy car roots. Even though the E21 is not universally praised, even among BMW-philes, it’s not the styling that people complain about. The E21 shape has always been one of my favorites. When I was buying my first car(s) in the late 1990’s, a 320i was the first car I drove (it blew hazy blue smoke).
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