Design

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Bruno Sacco

Bruno Sacco headed up the design team for the Mercedes W126 S class series. here is his view on Mercedes and car design.

Sacco stated that the coherent line of evolution in Mercedes models is the main reason for the long life of a Mercedes. This reliability being achieved even as comfort, safety, and fuel consumption are all being improved.
The measured simplicity we have used to decorate our cars since the beginning of the Seventies is not one of the pillars of our design philosophy, but simply and expression of our self-discipline.

The three main pillars of our design philosophy, have greater content and are more profoundly based, and are
The design must be innovative at least to the same degree as the technical innovation.

This does not mean that it is absolutely essential to invent something that did not previously exist. Such methods could lead to excesses and to loss of harmony.

Innovation at all costs is the job of the stylist. A designer, on the other hand, does not invent in a vacuum: he receives his stimuli from his ambiance, he assimilates them, works them through, and transforms them into new ideas.

If the results are a combination that has never been seen before , then one can talk about innovative design.
The second pillar is clear expression of the function. This means that the research for the form must be exploited in order to demonstrate the technical excellence of the car being developed.

However such messages are not picked up by everyone. One of the principle functions of design is aerodynamics.

The third pillar is never to forget what has gone before, not lose sight of the history of design within the factory for which one is working, not to destroy the past.

For example there are certain characteristics that help to identify our cars even without looking at the star and the grill. Our doors and our windows have a typical line front the front end to the tail. This line is systematically followed and worked through from model to model.

The grouping of the lights with the integrated indicator is continually re-used and re-worked. As a matter of principle the line of the wheel housing is always recognisable. This looking back without anger is part of our know-how and means that no new Mercedes model repudiates the past.

The new S Class and SEC coupe derived from it demonstrate the maturity of our design philosophy: innovation that respects tradition.

Observed over a period of time, each model, especially the S series, can be considered as components of ‘shape families’, each organically descended from its previous generation.

  • The constant technical progress and continual changes in driving lead to new developments. These changes must be identified early on in the planning of a car, so that the shape message is valid for the whole of the period foreseen for the car’s utilisation.
  • Solutions adapted in a previous model which have proved successful are not substituted by others distinguishable only for a fashionable newness, and offering no advantages.
  • This means there is no visible break in the evolution of two consecutive models, which might make the old model appear out of date and old.
  • New functional solutions lead to new design solutions. The wheels are an example, where the carrying of air to the brake air has been in continuous evolution from one model to another. Wise re-utilisation and continual evolution of well-known elements of shape, specifically identified with one make, are the premises for the formation of ‘shape families’.
  • There are certain focal points which form a bright point of view, the area of the uprights for example, contribute greatly towards forming the typical look of a make vehicle. The way these areas are similarly shaped over long periods of time is of interest.
  • The channelling of water swept from the windscreen to keep the quarter-lights clean serves as an example of the way in which new functional ideas are integrated into the formal concept, and how they are developed from one model to another.
  • A gradual evolution of already successful design concepts in the car’s interior, should not be based only on shape, but to a much greater extent on safety. Using a more or less identical instrumentation structure means that changes of orientation from one model to another are unnecessary.
  • Energy absorbing interior upholstery contributes a lot towards increasing passive safety. The passenger cell is another example homogeneous shape.
  • The outline of the body has become the key determining element of one of the key points in the development of a vehicle. The aerodynamics of the various shapes can be tested in a wind tunnel.
  • The aerodynamic shape of the new S Series was achieved by co-ordinating several possible solutions. The areas where aerodynamics are particularly evident are the front end, the higher tail, which becomes smaller towards the back horizontally, and the windscreen area.
  • There are several details outside the car that demonstrate a homogenous evolution: covered tow rope attachment set into the front skirt; bumpers and front skirt in one aerodynamic unit; polyurethane protective moulding on side panels; improved grip on door handles; wing mirror adjustable from inside the car; dirt-repellent; ridged rear lights also dirt repellent.
  • High adjustable safety belts, three anchorage points, suitable for different drivers; belt locks in seats, easier adjustment; hollows in the back of the front seats provide more knee room in the back of the car.
  • Extra sunshade above the interior rear-view mirror; electric adjustment for seat and seat backs; opening mechanism for the glove compartment with the driver’s reach; handle of the pedal parking brake on the instrument dashboard; two compartments for first aid kit in the back parcel shelf.