Oh, Chris Harris, You Brilliant Man

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth

Everybody loves YouTube personality, gentleman racer, and autojourno-of-the-moment Chris Harris, and I mean everyone. I can still vividly recall a party I attended in New York earlier this year where a lady friend of mine saw Chris and exclaimed in a kind of hysteria that was no doubt aided by the Hendrix-esque combination of painkillers and alcohol she’d managed to swallow, “He’s just adorable!” She then proceeded to totter in his general direction. Since she was (is) six feet tall in her heels and Mr. Harris is about five foot five, this was quite terrifying to Mr. Harris and he promptly hid behind Matt Farah, which is always a solid place to hide.

Luckily for Chris, Travis Okulski happened to wander in at about that time and divert my companion’s high-volume attention. “IT’S TRAVIS! THE GUY WHO CRIED DURING THE PEPSI COMMMERCIAL!” What a night that was, dear readers. Did you know that the last time I started dating someone under five foot nine or so, the Deepwater Horizon was still functioning properly? We’re talking about an entire volleyball team’s worth of tall girls here. Anyway, back to Mr. Harris. He’s written something rather interesting on Jalopnik today, and I’m only feeling slightly smug about it.

Years from now, when the smoke of history clears, another name will be added to that list of designers who were capable of re-imagining the automobile. Born and raised in the American Midwest, Christopher Edward Bangle joined BMW with a rather singular goal in mind: to create what would be only the second major design direction in the company’s history. His complete and utter success in this task has permitted BMW to become a major player on the global stage; along the way, he rewrote the design language for the entire auto industry.

So I wrote in February of 2009 for Speed:Sport:Life, in a column that would later on appear on TTAC. (It’s also in — shhhh! — my book, which is coming out after Christmas some time, I hope.) That was nearly six years ago, but my then-controversial ideas are now being co-signed by more than a few people.

That’s fine with me, because I was right then about Bangle and I’m still right. Without Mr. Bangle and his new approach to vehicle surfacing, automotive styling would have struggled to this present day with the additional vehicle body height that is the primary characteristic of a “modern” automobile. Think of the original Ford Focus and its breadvan chic. That’s what every car would look like nowadays without flame surfacing. Tall, tippy, cheap, and not-so-cheerful. If you think the BMW X6 or Acura MDX is hideous now — as I certainly do — imagine the same vehicle with flat flanks.

So I was right. But if you’d rather hear Chris Harris say it, then see for yourself. Over to you, Mr. Dickinson:

Jack Baruth
Jack Baruth

More by Jack Baruth

Join the conversation
2 of 80 comments
  • Zbnutcase Zbnutcase on Nov 30, 2014

    The only thing BMW I have ever lusted over is their air cooled radial aircraft engine they made in WWII, would love to add one to my engine collection. I swore off Your-A-Peon cars years ago. Ownership of them was like beating yourself in the head with a hammer; felt so good when it stopped.

  • Waterloo Waterloo on Dec 01, 2014

    "I’m only feeling slightly smug" I find this to be the most shocking statement of the article. Isn't full on smugness Jack's shtick?

  • Lou_BC I've I spent the past few days in what we refer to as "the lower mainland". I see Tesla's everywhere and virtually every other brand of EV. I was in downtown Vancouver along side a Rivian R1T. A Rivian R1S came off as side street and was following it. I saw one other R1S. 18% of new vehicles in BC are EV'S. It tends to match what I saw out my windshield. I only saw 2 fullsized pickups. One was a cool '91 3/4 ton regular cab. I ran across 2 Tacoma's. Not many Jeeps. There were plenty of Porches, Mercedes, and BMW's. I saw 2 Aston Martin DBX707's. It's been fun car watching other than the stress of driving in big city urban traffic. I'd rather dodge 146,000 pound 9 axle logging trucks on one lane roads.
  • IBx1 Never got the appeal of these; it looks like there was a Soviet mandate to create a car with two doors and a roof that could be configured in different ways.
  • CAMeyer Considering how many voters will be voting for Trump because they remember that gas prices were low in 2020–never mind the pandemic—this seems like a wise move.
  • The Oracle Been out on the boat on Lake James (NC) and cooking up some hella good food here with friends at the lake place.
  • ToolGuy Also on to-do list: Read the latest Steve S. fiction work on TTAC (May 20 Junkyard Find)