Supercar designers share their eureka moments

The grille

Maximilian Missoni, Head of Design at Polestar

Polestar’s SmartZone panel transforms the traditional ‘breathe to see’ grille

Missoni worked at Volvo Cars as vice president of exterior design for more than six years before joining electric car maker Polestar. It’s no surprise he wants to talk about the grille. In electric cars, which don’t have an internal combustion engine under the hood, the grille is basically redundant. Nevertheless, a grille is as much about aesthetics as it is about functionality. It defines the “face” of a vehicle, and many brands going electric have retained a fake grille in their designs. “It’s a very sensitive component to the touch and that’s why many companies have decided, as part of the electric transition, to keep the historic mark of a grille but to mask it or black it out,” explains- he. “In Polestar’s case it’s a bit of the opposite because we don’t have that kind of history and we can start from scratch.”

The sketch of the drawing

The sketch of the drawing

In fact, the Polestar 1 and 2 had a grille, but the redesigned Polestar 2 and Polestar 3 SUV ditched it in favor of a panel in the same color as the rest of the car. It’s called the SmartZone and, as Polestar says, it transforms the front of the car from “breathing to seeing”. If you look at the front of the Polestar 3, the heated wires are visibly grouped together with the front camera, radar and accelerometers. Missoni explains: “We know that we need heating systems and we no longer hide them. We bring them to the surface. Now what you want to do is show off the tech you’re carrying in a vehicle. The SmartZone provides the opportunity to showcase and celebrate a vehicle’s technology.

The headlamp

Marek Reichman, Executive Vice President and Chief Creative Officer at Aston Martin Lagonda

The Aston Martin flagship:

The Aston Martin flagship: “one of the brand’s identifiers” © Max Earey

While at Aston Martin, Marek Reichman designed many of the cars that James Bond used to evade bad guys, including the DB10 in Spectrum it was a taste of the current Vantage. He is also the creator of the current DB11 and DBX SUV models. But his obsession? The headlamp.

“The shape of a headlamp is one of the brand’s identifiers. It’s a huge sign of the product’s personality,” says Reichman. “The headlight is essential for safety and one of the most complex parts of a car because there is so much legislation associated with it.” As a design element, the headlamp is an incredibly expensive and labor-intensive piece of kit. And that’s what Reichman wants to circumvent. “Here is my sketch of the latest technology to produce lamps in a much shorter time. We are now using 3D printing instead of injection molding.

3D Printed Valkyrie Headlamp Sketch

3D Printed Valkyrie Headlamp Sketch

According to Reichman, 3D printing predicts a future where traditional manufacturing processes will be turned upside down and it will be much easier to upgrade your car. “The headlamp is a very interesting component to look at because its design has been frozen for a long time and the development of a new headlamp is in the tens of millions for a mass manufacturer. If you can 3D print something, you can change faster and reduce that cost by a factor of a hundred. As technology advances, we may not have to wait five, six, or seven years for car refreshes. It can happen much faster. He continues: “3D printing also means we can reduce weight. An average headlamp, even in a sports car, weighs 3.5 kg. A 3D printed Valkyrie headlamp weighs 1.95 kg. And with the future Valhalla hybrid, we will use the same process and there may be an option to choose either twin headlights or the single headlight.

This opens up a future where there will be many more possibilities for an owner to individualize an automotive part. “Part of the role of the designer is to work on a brief. That’s why people go to Savile Row. You come in with a view – that’s who I am. That’s how I feel. That’s how conservative or flamboyant I am. And you explain that to your cutter or tailor or seamstress.

The spirit of ecstasy

Anders Warming, design director at Rolls-Royce Motor Cars

The Rolls-Royce Spirit of Ecstasy mascot on its Specter all-electric car

The Rolls-Royce Spirit of Ecstasy mascot on its Specter all-electric car

During the wind tunnel development of the brand’s first all-electric car, the Specter (to be released later this year), the engineering team noticed something curious about the way the Spirit of Ecstasy mascot was making its way in the air. “We found that the Spirit of Ecstasy’s wings were creating more turbulence than was really necessary,” says Warming.

Designs for the updated Rolls-Royce mascot

Designs for the updated Rolls-Royce mascot

The Specter is a crucial car for Rolls-Royce. It unlocks the future of electrification for the company while ensuring it still looks like a hulking Rolls-Royce with its prominent minifigure mascot. The Specter spent 830 hours in the wind tunnel and achieved a slippery drag coefficient of 0.25cd – the most aerodynamic Rolls-Royce ever produced. “As the Spirit of Ecstasy’s wings blocked the air, we redesigned it,” says Warming. “They’re not as straight and that helped guide the air over the car.” Spirit of Ecstasy float robes have been updated. She also adopted a more forward-facing stance, with one leg slightly in front of the other as if preparing for the headwind. Take a closer look and it’s noticeably shorter at 82.73mm tall.

The figure was originally designed by sculptor Charles Sykes and based on actor Eleanor Velasco Thornton. Over its 112-year lifespan, the figure’s form evolved: it was rendered in various sizes, materials, and positions, including a kneeling position. For the Spectre, Rolls-Royce found itself going back to Sykes’ original. It had a flatter wing profile and it was the eureka moment, says Warming. “We could actually say that the past has already given us a solution.”

The fuel cap

Mitja Borkert, Head of Design at Automobili Lamborghini

Lamborghini Urus 3D printed fuel cap

Lamborghini Urus 3D printed fuel cap

As Head of Design at Automobili Lamborghini, Borkert is in charge of the visual lexicon of what is arguably the most flamboyant of all Italian super sports car manufacturers. But which component does Borkert reserve for review? The humble fuel cap of the Urus, a super sports utility vehicle.

The original design sketch

The original design sketch

Like Reichman, Borkert is excited to see how 3D printing could revolutionize design, allowing Lamborghini to add smaller, bespoke components to cars. “On the Urus we started with a regular plastic fuel cap and there is a carbon fiber fuel cap option. This gave us greater design freedom and increased customization potential.

Automakers always shy away from large capital investments when retooling an existing production line for any new model generation or mid-life refresh. With 3D printing, they can develop small parts that require “no tools or investment”. As all 3D printing is done in layers, the finished product has a patterned moire effect. “On the Urus, I put the Urus name and little epsilons in areas where the moiré effect would bother me,” Borkert says of the manufacturing limitation. “The effect resembles the polishing of a watch.”

It’s just a small step, he says, towards greater specification: “Bespoke customization could be entirely possible.” The Urus fuel cap is suspected to be just a toe into the future of the super-sports car.

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