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Robert Cumberford

Robert Cumberford

Automotive Design Editor
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Robert Cumberford
Robert Cumberford is a designer who became a writer by accident. His race report on the 12 Hours of Sebring was published when he was an eighteen-year-old Art Center student in 1954. Subsequently he has published thousands of articles on cars and airplanes, in American, Asian, English, European, and South American magazines. He contributed to several books, including the entire text of the well-reviewed Auto Legends, now available in five translated editions -- French, German, Spanish, Italian, and Polish in addition to the original English version. In 1985, Automobile Magazine founder David E. Davis, Jr., invited him to be one of two executive editors when Automobile was in the planning stages. Cumberford demurred, saying he knew nothing about magazine production and claims he still doesn’t, except that it’s important to meet deadlines. He contributed features from the beginning and began his popular “By Design” column in the sixth issue, September 1986.

In car design, Cumberford was even more a youthful prodigy. He sketched the body for the first car ever built to his designs when he was a fifteen-year-old Los Angeles high-school student. That car, the Parkinson Jaguar Special, is still active in historic racing sixty years after it was created. Hired directly by General Motors’ legendary Vice President of Design, Harley J. Earl, Cumberford became a professional car designer at nineteen. Leaving Detroit, he returned to California to attend UCLA to study philosophy. He rejoined the automotive world in the early 1960s and has continued to create new automotive shapes since then, always as an independent design consultant. He has lived and worked in six of the fifty United States and in France, Mexico, and Switzerland. The range of his design projects includes both racing and touring cars, trucks, aircraft, boats, hovercraft, and even ecological architecture.

He is known worldwide for strong opinions but is well-respected in the design world because it is known that he is always completely honest in his views, with no agenda other than respect for good design and good designers. “There’s no ad hominem,” he says, “I judge the design, not the designers. There are designers I really like personally who’ve been credited with designs I heartily dislike -- for reasons I always state very clearly -- and designs I love done by people with whom I have absolutely no affinity. Except that we both like their work.”

articles by Robert Cumberford

By Design Acura NSX Lead
By Design

2016 Acura NSX

Opportunity squandered.
| Jan 26, 2015
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By Design Mazda Miata March 2015 Lead
By Design

2016 Mazda Miata

Less Elan, more Mazda.
| Jan 21, 2015
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By Design Mercedes AMG GT Lead
By Design

2016 Mercedes AMG-GT

Pinocchio-pretend Porsche.
| Dec 31, 2014
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2014 Year in Review Graphics
Car Lists

The 10 Best and Worst Concepts of 2014

The hits and misses from Detroit to Beijing.
| Dec 22, 2014
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2015 Renault Twingo Front Three Quarter In Motion
Road Tests

2015 Renault Twingo Review

Ready for the next rear-engine revolution?
| Dec 04, 2014
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By Design Jaguar XE Lead
By Design

2017 Jaguar XE

Good design, but no charisma.
| Dec 02, 2014
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By Design Citroen C4 Cactus Lead
By Design

Citroen C4 Cactus

Much-needed return to eccentricity.
| Nov 27, 2014
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2015 Mercedes Benz S Class Coupe Front Three Quarter View
Car Awards

2015 Design of the Year: Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe

A distinguished distillation of all they know in Stuttgart.
| Nov 20, 2014
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1954 Ferrari 375 MM Scaglietti Coupe BY DESIGN Lead
By Design

1954 Ferrari 375 MM Scaglietti

Ferrari at long last. But a strange one.
| Oct 29, 2014
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Lamborghini Asterion Concept
2014 Paris Motor Show

2014 Paris Auto Show Hits, Misses, and Revelations

A bit too conservative for the City of Lights.
| Oct 03, 2014
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Audi TT Offroad concept
By Design

Audi TT Offroad Concept

You thought TT meant sports car? Me too.
| Sep 15, 2014
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2016 Audi TT By Design
By Design

2016 Audi TT

Still sporty, but no longer a styling icon.
| Sep 09, 2014
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2015 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk
By Design

Jeep Renegade

Sorry, this plastic bathtub toy is not a real Jeep.
| Aug 18, 2014
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Maserati Alfieri Concept Front Three Quarter Overhead 05
By Design

Maserati Alfieri Concept

Not as good as the reference, but really good all the same.
| Aug 04, 2014
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2015 Lamborghini Huracan LP 610 4
By Design

Lamborghini Huracan LP610-4

More of the same. That's probably OK.
| Jun 27, 2014
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memories of bertone
News & Rumors

The Death of Italian Coachbuilding

Why Italian coachbuilding mattered -- and why that era is over.
| Apr 03, 2014
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Toyota FT-1
By Design

Toyota FT-1

Virtual high technology.
| Mar 28, 2014
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