Albrecht Graf von Goertz 1914-present


The creator of a BMW legend celebrates his birthday today. Albrecht Graf von Goertz, who designed the BMW 507 sports car in 1955, was born on January 12, 1914, the second son to an aristocratic family in Germany. His parents were Else and Rudolf Graf von Schlitz gen. von Goertz und Freiherr von Wriesberg. Albrecht and his two siblings grew up on their parents' estate near Brunkensen (Lower Saxony), about 40 kilometers south of Hanover. At the age of five, he discovered a passion for cars that would last all his life. Goertz began designing cars from his youth-he still has some of these early sketches.

After attending school, the young Count started an apprenticeship with the Deutsche Bank in Hamburg in 1933. Within one year, he switched jobs and went to the London-based private bank Helbert Wagg & Co. Unfortunately, his prospects in Europe were not very promising. In 1935, Goertz applied to the American embassy at Grosvenor Square for an entry visa to the USA. In the autumn of 1936, he left Europe for New York City.

A distant relative in New York helped him when he first arrived, but soon the young Count relocated to Los Angeles. To earn a living, Goertz worked at a car wash, in a factory for aircraft engines, and at a flight service. The car aficionado watched with great interest the emerging Hot Rod era and grasped the opportunity in 1938. Goertz rented a garage and showroom located on Rodeo Drive and began to modify Ford Model A and B models. On a Mercury chassis, he built his first car, the curvy "Paragon" which was a two-door coupe with rear wheel trims and unconventional rear side windows. Goertz convinced many to exhibit this car at the World Exhibition in San Francisco in 1939.

In 1940, Goertz stepped aside from his fascination and served in the army for five years. When he returned to Los Angeles, he took the Paragon out of the garage, made all the necessary travel arrangements and headed for New York once again. This would bring about a fateful turn of events that would soon change everything for the young Count. In the parking lot of the world-famous Waldorf-Astoria hotel, Goertz recalls, in his own words, what had transpired: "There was a strange car in front of me, so I got out of my car to have a look at the other car and the man sitting in it got out to have a look at mine. This man was Raymond Loewy, a renowned designer". Loewy invited Goertz to his office, sent him to a design college and gave him a job in the Studebaker studio in Indiana shortly thereafter.

The Count, who had worked for three famous designers by 1953, soon set up his own design business. Through his contact network, he got to know Max Hoffmann, BMW's general importer in America. Hoffmann knew of BMW's plans to build a big sports car and encouraged Goertz to contact BMW in Munich. Goertz sketched an awesome vehicle and quickly won the bid. In less than 18 months, he designed the BMW 507, the car that celebrated its world premiere in the New York Waldorf-Astoria hotel in 1955. At the same time, Goertz designed an elegant coupe that was also available as a convertible: the BMW 503. This four-seater debuted with the BMW 507 at the 1955 Frankfurt Motor Show, where both automobiles caused a sensation. Even today, the BMW 503 and the BMW 507 are considered absolute dream cars. Sporty, elegant and also cultivated, they represent the core attributes of a BMW car.

These designs had a leverage effect on Albrecht Graf Goertz's career: above all, Japanese car manufacturers were frequent visitors to his New York design studio. Sports cars, which enjoy world-wide success, as well as items of everyday life (such as jewelry and furniture) bear his mark. The Count still has a penchant for car design and has retained his restless spirit to this very day: "I have always been curious and on the lookout for countries that offer opportunities, countries where I have no cause for complaint".

Albrecht Graf Goertz still has some ties to the BMW Group- he regularly visits the Concorso dŽEleganza Villa dŽEste, Europe's most important Design event. This classic car meeting that also incorporates contemporary design prototypes is taking place under the Patronage of BMW Group. His birthday party also will take place at BMW: Albrecht Graf Goertz will celebrate his 90th birthday with friends and family at the BMW Group Mobile Tradition Building in Munich.

Albrecht Graf Goertz has other significant design credentials. After his design of the BMW 507, he worked with the Porsche team on the 911.

Next, Dr. Goertz offered his services as an automotive design consultant to, and was in turn contracted by, Nissan Motors of Japan in 1963. His first assignment at Nissan was to work on a Sports Coupe based on the Fairlady 1600 chassis. The project had been started, and it was given the model designation of CSP-311 and named the Silivia 1600 Sports Coupe. Introduced at the Tokyo Motor Show in 1964, it was also shown at the New York Motor Show in 1965.

Dr. Goertz was then assigned to consult with a Nissan team working on a sports car for the U.S. market. Nissan had a joint development agreement with Yamaha on this project. Yamaha was to develop the engine for the car as well as build the full size metal prototypes.

When Yamaha's efforts, related to the design of a 2.0 Liter engine for this car did not meet Nissan's expectations, the project was shelved at Nissan. A metal prototype of that design was built by Yamaha. Dr. Goertz and Yamaha took the project to Toyota, and the result was the building of the Toyota 2000GT.

Dr. Goertz is credited with helping the Nissan design team establish design parameters related to the physical size and configuration of the Z Car. In fact, Dr. Goertz is considered the "Father of the Z Car" by "Car and Driver" magazine.



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Automobile Quarterly Vol 4 no 3

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