A Revered Car Designer and Critic Picks the Best and Worst


For more than a century, automobiles have been key expressions of contemporary art and design. And while the world is thick with the musings of art and design critics, the specialist job title “automotive design critic” is one rarely bestowed. Indeed, the title didn’t exist until the mid-1980s when Automobile magazine assigned longtime car designer Robert Cumberford to the beat.

Cumberford worked alongside legends like Harley Earl, the man who invented modern car design at General Motors Corp., and associated for decades with many of the people at the top of the industry.

“What I like about Robert is that he is above all a designer who writes and not a journalist who dabbles in design,” says Patrick Le Quément, for many years the head of design at Renault who’s credited with creating the Twingo and the original Ford Sierra. “He understands, what else can I say?”  

Bloomberg asked Cumberford to pick some of the best and worst designs he’s seen. See the list below along with a snippet of his thoughts. 

Also read his story here: A Front-Row Seat to 70 Years of Automotive Design

Classic Car Show DeSoto 1935 Airflow

1935 DeSoto Airflow

“An enormously influential inspiration. Great design, awful styling.” 

   Photographer: Santi Visalli/Getty Images

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1960 Chevrolet Corvair

“Perhaps the greatest inspiration for other stylists of the past 75 years”

  Source: General Motors

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Couple In Studebaker In Paris

1953 Studebaker Starliner

“The best looking American car made during the 15 post-WWII years.”

   Photographer: GraphicaArtis/Getty Images

1963 Cars - Buick Riviera

1963 Buick Riviera

“A sleek personal luxury coupe distilling British knife-edge limousine style with lines derived from Italian GT cars.”

   Photographer: The Enthusiast Network/Getty Images

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2001 Pontiac Aztek

“This misbegotten design by incompetent committee members didn’t actually cause GM’s bankruptcy, but it certainly contributed.” 

   Source: General Motors

Motor Show 1949 In Paris

1949 Austin A-90 Atlantic

“This is the bellwether for the decline and fall of the world’s No. 2 auto industry.”

   Photographer: Maurice Jarnoux/Paris Match Archive/Getty Images

1953 Hudson Jet

A “magnificently mediocre machine.”

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Portrait Og The Buik Eight

1950 Buick

“The one-year-only bumper grille was a true monstrosity.”

   Photographer: Bettmann/Getty Images

1958 Lincoln

“The biggest Lincoln Ford ever made.”

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