Published on May 22nd, 2020 | by Subhash Nair


Frank Stephenson Explains His Most Iconic Designs

Automotive designers can be a little enigmatic and some of sort of become uninteresting when they become mouthpieces for whoever’s paying their salary at the time. But not Frank Stephenson. He’s taken to starting his own Youtube channel during this pandemic and he has a series called “How I Designed…”. These videos centre around his process of designing iconic cars.

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Here’s episode 1, in which he talks about how the first BMW MINI Cooper came to be. This was the first modern take on the MINI Cooper, so Frank had a huge responsibility. He had to find a way to marry the MINI Cooper’s traditional proportions with a modern and premium look. His design was so successful that to this day MINI finds itself unable to escape the parameters of his first redesign. You’ll find a lot of the elements explained really well in this video below:

In episode two, he details the design journey he had with the Ferrari F430. This was the successor to the Ferrari 360. In it he talks about his inspiration for the front grill design, the way the taillights were conceived as well as and the limitations and expectations set by the predecessor model.

Finally, just yesterday he dropped a video on his first ever project upon leaving college, the Ford Escort RS Cosworth. He talks about the initial idea he was going for, which was to incorporate the tri-wing design of the Fokker DR.1. Even though the design was eventually scrapped to save on costs, Stephenson talks us through why it was important to start with an ideal design rather than start with something viable and then try to add flavour later on. It’s really quite inspiring.

Here’s more on Frank Stephenson:

As mentioned above, his first project was the Ford Escort RS Cosworth. This was when he joined Ford’s Cologne design studio in 1986.

His time with the BMW Group began in 1991. He eventually became responsible for two of its most iconic breakthrough vehicles:

  • the New MINI Cooper
  • the first generation BMW X5

We was with Ferrari and Maserati in 2002 when both companies were together. Here are some of the designs he produced with them:

  • Ferrari F430
  • Maserati MC12
  • Ferrari FXX
  • Maserati GranSport

From 2006, he spent some time with Fiat and produced the modernised Fiat 500 which still sells in some derivatives today.

He joined McLaren Automotive as their Design Director in 2008 and left in 2017 with the follow models under his purview:

  • MP4-12C
  • P1
  • 675LT
  • 570S
  • 720S

About the Author

Written work on @subhashtag on instagram. Autophiles Malaysia on Youtube.

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