The CAR Top 10: car designer low points | CAR Magazine

The CAR Top 10: car designer low points

Published: 06 October 2017

► Top 10 design faux-pas
► Pininfarina, Bangle and more
► Biggest styling clangers

Even a genius is allowed one or two cock-ups. But only car designers end up having them rendered in steel and pumped out in their thousands.

Giugiaro – Hyundai Stellar

Hyundai Stellar

Giugiaro was named Car Designer of the Century in 1999, which is a trophy he no doubt waves around with relish at the Designers’ Club. Then Walter de Silva whips out the picture of the 1983 Hyundai Stellar he keeps in the pocket of his gilet for just such moments, and it all goes quiet.

Pininfarina – Hyundai Matrix

Even a back catalogue filled with basically all the prettiest Ferraris ever made – 250 GT Lusso, Dino and 458 Italia anyone? – doesn’t get you a free pass. The Turin outfit designed trains and planes too; maybe they accidently gave Hyundai the plans for a photocopier instead.

Harm Lagaay – Cayenne

Porsche Cayenne Gen.1

There’s an obvious joke about Lagaay’s first name which we’ll come to later, but while at Porsche he had a big hand in the 993 and 996, 968, Boxster and Carrera GT – all fine-looking machines. But he also had the unenviable task of creating the first Cayenne, while we had to suffer the pain of looking at it.

Chris Bangle – BMW Z4


It would be an obvious cheap shot to rubbish Bangle’s every move, but unjustified. He created the fine Fiat Coupe, the E65 7-series was a shock but today looks better in pre-facelift guise, and the E60 5-series still rocks. But the first-gen Z4 he signed off? Not so much.

Walter De Silva – Alfa 166

Alfa Romeo 166

Creator of the Alfa 156 and Audi R8 and responsible for giving Seat its own visual identity within the VW Group, de Silva earned the right to retire and follow his chosen path of making women’s shoes. But the 166 looked like a 156 that had tried to swallow a giant Frisbee. And failed.

J Mays – VW New Beetle

VW New Beetle

Owner of the shortest name in car design, J-May has to take at least partial responsibility for the 1990s retro revival and the least inspired product of that era. Let’s be honest, what would you do if a date turned up in an old New Beetle? Exactly – hide in the toilets.

Tom Peters – Pontiac Aztek

Pontiac Aztec

GM designer Peters has the Camaro and C6 Corvette in his portfolio, both eye-catching. But so is Tom’s other notable piece of work, the Pontiac Aztek. Frequently labelled the ugliest car in history, its role in Breaking Bad ensures the Aztek won’t be forgotten any time soon. Sadly for him.

Marcello Gandini – Lamborghini Jarama

Lamborghini Jarama

Designer of a nightclub, a helicopter and one of the most beautiful cars of all time – the Miura – Gandini had an eye for a curvaceous body, at least until 1970 when he chucked his French curves in the bin. The Countach we loved, but the Jarama looks like a Transformer on diazepam.

I.DE.A – Kia Rio

Kia Rio

The Italian I.DE.A Institute created some edgy, wedgy work in its early days – Fiat Tipo, Alfa 155 – but as the years rolled on the clients became less glamorous, and so did the end product. The nadir arrived in 2000 with the first-generation Kia Rio, which majored on tragedy as well as value.

Giovanni Michelotti – Scimitar SS1

Scimitar SS1

Giovanni Michelotti’s back catalogue is the equal of any designer in history, including cars as varied as the Triumph Stag, Spitfire and GT6, the Alpine A110 and the BMW New Class. If only Reliant had saved him from himself and declined to build his Scimitar SS1.

Check out the rest of our CAR Top 10 lists here

By Matt Joy

Former associate editor of CAR magazine