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Paul Bracq: a talented designer

You may not know his name, but you all remain fulfilled by his chisel, if you are told Mercedes SL "Pagoda", or the BMW Turbo, or even the simple Peugeot 205, does that give you a sketch?



his beginnings


Paul Bracq was born on December 13, 1933, at the age of 17 he became a student at Arts et Métiers and studied wood carving, but instead of sculpting furniture, Paul sculpting model cars, studies that he did not like, he therefore follows parallel training at the school of the Chambre Syndicale de la Carrosserie. It was there that he was noticed in 1952 by the monthly Automobile which devoted articles to model makers and showed two of his creations. Through Jean Bernardet of the magazine l'Automobile, he was recruited by Philippe Charbonneaux who owned a budding studio. He realizes for this stylist installed on his own account projects of advertising vehicles, he participates in the study of the Super bus Pathé Marconi, after 2 years of design, the Superbus is delivered to the French major in 1952 and wins the grand prize of honor of the "advertising that rolls" competition in 1955. He also participated in various bodywork projects based on Packard, Pegaso, Salmson...


In October 1954, he was called up for military service in Germany. His antecedents make him assigned to the garage of the General Staff of Hunting, abundantly provided with beautiful German cars. While driving a Mercedes 300 from the general staff to maintenance in Stuttgart, he took the opportunity to go to the brand's press service to ask for race posters, and to drop off drawings. Paul Bracq, having experienced the slow death of French coachbuilders directly at Philippe Charbonneaux, is well aware that the prospects in France are limited, while in Germany, a firm like Mercedes very quickly managed to reconnect with its great tradition. Eight days later, Mercedes contacts him. The manufacturer will wait until the end of his military service to hire him. The outbreak of the Algerian War forced Paul to wear uniform for another eighteen months. But Karl Wilfert did not break the contract and hired him in 1957.


At Mercedes a star is born


This is how Paul Bracq began working at Mercedes in 1957. He was placed under the direction of Karl Wilfert in the brand's style office. This early work concerns body parts such as lights. Then he actively worked on the creation of two emblematic models for collector car enthusiasts: the 230 SL and the 600, both presented in 1963.

With the 230 SL Pagode, Paul Bracq produced his first masterpiece in 1963. A subtle blend of classicism and avant-garde, the car draws its uniqueness from the great finesse of its lines, combined with a strong development of the roof and the glazed surface. In this, it shows thirty years in advance and announces the cars of today. Luminosity and transparency are part of the fundamental principles of Paul Bracq's art: "In a car, I have always liked to see clearly to better communicate with the environment. In order to increase the glazed surface, I lowered the line box and descended the pontoon. This transparency also contributes to safety. For me, the ideal pavilion remains the helicopter cabin".

The idea for the pagoda-shaped roof came from Béla Barényi, the man with 2,500 patents who heads the brand's project office. He had invented a symmetrical vehicle with a rather unusual appearance on the roof of which it was possible to settle down - for camping, for example. Paul Bracq takes up this formula and increases the height of the pavilion initially planned by six centimeters. The aesthetic success of the car is also due to an error made during the development of the project. Indeed, the width of the platform has been oversized. Instead of creating a new underbody, Karl Wilfert decided to widen the fenders by adding beads, thus creating a tangent wheel effect that lightens the silhouette.