30 Dec 2012

Speedmonkey Hero - Martin Smith. Car Designer Extraordinaire

Matt Hubbard reckons Martin Smith - designer of the Audi Quattro, Ford Iosis, and Vauxhall VX220 - is a true Speedmonkey Hero

Unless you're a dedicated über petrolhead you've probably never heard of Martin Smith.  But you've certainly seen his work.

Born in 1949 in Sheffield, Yorkshire, the young Smith wrote to legendary Mini designer, Alec Issigonis, asking for help in becoming a car designer.  Issigonis replied that he ought to study Engineering.  So Martin Smith studied Engineering at the University of Liverpool.  Next up was a Masters Degree in Vehicle Design from the Royal College of Art in London. 

Based on his Masters work he was a offered a job by Porsche, in 1973.  Smith travelled to Stuttgart in his ancient Beetle where he spent the next four years.  Of that time working in the Porsche studio, he described it as like "having a blindfold removed."  Having found Engineering boring, Smith embraced and enjoyed the world of car design.

During his time at Porsche he was involved with designing the 924 and 928 and the 911 Turbo, also known as the Porsche 930.

After Porsche came a year at Ogle Design in Hertfordshire.  Ogle had previously designed the Scimitar, Robin and Bond Bug for Reliant and were asked to create something called a Landspeeder by George Lucas for a new film he was making, called Star Wars.  Thus Martin Smith designed the XP-34 Landspeeder that Luke Skywalker uses in the first Star Wars movie.

The spell at Ogle was just a short one.  Still in 1977 he moved to Audi where he designed the original Audi Quattro as well as the 100, 80 and Avus Quattro Concept.  After 20 years at Audi he was on the move again, this time to Opel.

Smith started at Opel in 1997 where, as Design Director for compact cars, he created the Opel Speedster/Vauxhall VX220 Concept, Opel GTC Genève Concept, 2004 Astra and oversaw the design direction of the Insignia, Vectra, Zafira, Corsa and Antara.

In 2004 Ford Europe underwent a reorganisation and Martin Smith was hired as Executive Design Director.  During his time at Ford he designed the fabulous 2005 Iosis Concept, 2007 Mondeo, 2008 Fiesta and 2010 Focus - all better looking cars than their later later iterations.

Martin Smith has spent the past 40 years working in car design.  In that time he has produced a number of iconic designs, been involved in some of the most recognisable cars we know and love, and been responsible for some of best turned out, mass-produced models that line our roads today.

He still works for Ford but in the capacity of overseeing design in Australia, Chinese and Asia-Pacific markets.  One wonders what he would think of some of the monstrosities coming out of Ford Europe, and America, today - such as the Ford Ecosport.

If you have any doubts as to why Martin Smith is a Speedmonkey Hero then have a look at his work in the gallery below.