Albrecht Graf von Goertz

Automotive Design 20 Nov 2006
Albrecht Graf von Goertz

German designer Albrecht Graf von Goertz has passed away on 3 November 2006 at the age of 92. Among his creations are the BMW 503 and the legendary 507.



Albrecht Graf von Goertz was born in Brunkensen-Alfeld, between Gottingen and Hanover, on January 12, 1914.

In 1936 he went to the USA where he worked as a car and parts washer and as a manual labourer in an aircraft factory and elsewhere. In 1947, after the WWII
he worked for Raymond Loewy, then the USA’s most successful industrial designer.

Albrecht Graf von Goertz in his studio (BMW Historical Archive) Albrecht Graf von Goertz in his studio (BMW Historical Archive)

In a car repair shop, Goertz had converted the body of a Ford Mercury into the "Paragon Custom Car", which came to Loewy’s attention. As early as 1938, Goertz had earned money by "chopping" cars, including for Carl Otto and Norman Bel Geddes.

From 1952 he became an independent designer with his own studio and principal residence in New York (Goertz Industrial Design Inc.). His activity spread among automobiles, refrigerators, watches, bicycles, domestic articles and kitchen appliances, cameras, fountain and ball pens, sportswear, office articles and school furniture.

From 1954 to 1956 he worked for BMW, designing his auomotive masterpieces: the 507 and 503 models.

His subsequent automotive creatios included the Datsun 280Z, and the Porsche 914 (1970).

He has passed away on 3 November 2006, at the age of 92 years.

"I have always been curious and on the lookout for countries that offer opportunities, countries where I have no cause for complaint".

Albrecht Graf von Goertz

Porsche 914 Datsun 280Z
Porsche 914 Datsun 280Z (Source: Cars.com)

Below we report Goertz’s detailed biography, published by BMW on January 2004 to celebrate his 90th birthday.

Albrecht Graf von Goertz and the Bmw 507 Albrecht Graf von Goertz and the Bmw 507 Albrecht Graf von Goertz
(Source: BMW Historical Archive)

Albrecht Graf von Goertz – Biography

Albrecht Graf von Goertz and the BMW 507

Albrecht Graf von Goertz 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.

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.

Albrecht Graf von Goertz and the BMW 507A recent image of Albrecht Graf von Goertz and the Bmw 507

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.

Albrecht Graf von Goertz with BmwAlbrecht Graf von Goertz and the BMW 507 (April 2005)

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.

On January 2004 Albrecht Graf Goertz celebrated his 90th birthday with friends and family at the BMW Group Mobile Tradition Building in Munich.

(Source: Bmw)

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