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

Maserati Alfieri Concept Show Floor Rear Side View
2014 Geneva Motor Show

2014 Geneva Auto Show: Hits, Misses & Revelations

We pick our favorite cars from the Swiss auto show.
| Mar 06, 2014
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2014 Detroit Auto Show   Robert Cumberford Interview With Kia   Patrick M Hoey   Automobile Magazine 1
2014 Detroit Auto Show

Detroit 2014: Discussing The Kia GT4 Stinger With Its Designer

Design editor Robert Cumberford takes a close look at Kia's sports coupe concept.
| Jan 15, 2014
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2014 Detroit Auto Show   Mazda Interivew   Patrick M Hoey   Automobile Magazine 2
News & Rumors

Detroit 2014: Mazda Designer Talks Next Mazda MX-5 Miata

How much will the next MX-5 share with its Alfa sibling?
| Jan 14, 2014
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kia niro
By Design

Kia Niro

Immediately intriguing.
| Dec 30, 2013
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1966 Ford Mustang Wagon Front
News & Rumors

Legend of the Ford Mustang Wagon

In which our design editor built a shooting brake.
| Dec 04, 2013
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2014 bmw i8
Car Awards

2014 Design of the Year: 2014 BMW i8

We loved it as a concept, we love it more as a product.
| Nov 20, 2013
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mercedes benz concept s class coupe

Mercedes-Benz Concept S-Class Coupe

The Mercedes-Benz Concept S-Class Coupe is big.
| Nov 18, 2013
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volvo concept coupe
By Design

Volvo Concept Coupé

Best-looking Volvo ever.
| Oct 30, 2013
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tom tjaarda
News & Rumors

Tom Tjaarda: A Fantasy Lived

Ultimate Fantasy Number Seven.
| Oct 19, 2013
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bmw 4 series
By Design

BMW 4-Series

A Bavarian Buick?
| Sep 12, 2013
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