Wednesday, 11 November 2020

Farewell to a life in car design

Oliver Winterbottom, with his 1966 Concorso Grifo d’Oro Bertone award-winning model.
(Courtesy Malcolm Griffiths/Classic & Sports Car)

It with much sadness that we announce that Veloce author, automotive designer, and dear friend of Veloce Publishing, Oliver Winterbottom, passed away on Friday 6th October, aged 76.

Oliver spent his entire career designing cars, and a short period designing boats. Beginning his working life as an engineering apprentice at Jaguar Cars, he later spent five years there as a staff designer. 

Model and drawings on display in
Turin for the Bertone competition in 1966.

In 1971, Oliver joined Lotus Cars as Design Manager, where he was responsible for styling, body engineering, and aerodynamics. His designs have come to symbolise an entire era of auto design, defined by the classic 'wedge' shape styling. In 1975, he transferred from Lotus to Colin Chapman’s luxury boat company.

A short period of self employment, and the start of the TVR Tasmin range of sports cars, saw him joining the company through to the launch of the Tasmin Convertible and 2 +2. In 1980 he returned to Lotus to lead the joint Lotus/Toyota sports car project, completing a running prototype vehicle.

Oliver, with the JCL Mamba, a design
he created in 1976.

After a stint working in the US as Project Manager for General Motors, he returned to the UK and rejoined Lotus, holding a number of senior management positions in engineering and vehicle safety. He resigned in 1998 to set up a consultancy, where he worked until his retirement in 2009. 

Oliver always maintained a 'hands-on' approach throughout his career, both to the design and to the development of a wide range of products. Besides vehicle design, he had interests in architectural design, boats, and civil engineering. He loved Italian coachwork from the 1950’s to the present, regretting the decline of the traditional design houses. 

Colin Spooner, Roger Putnam, Mike Kimberley, Colin Chapman
and Oliver Winterbottom inspect a full-size coupé model.

Oliver's work took him all over the world – France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Austria, Finland, Sweden, USA, Canada, Mexico, China, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Brazil and Russia. He always enjoyed travel, and took an interest in the history and geography of the regions he visited, to get a better understanding of the places and the people there.

Since our first meeting Oliver in 2016, for preliminary work on A Life in Car Design, Oliver has been a warm friend to all at Veloce. Instrumental in helping publicise and promote his book, many of Oliver’s efforts in this area are recounted in a series of posts on the Veloce blog, called Oliver Winterbottom’s Diaries. Recounting his travels to shows and auto events across the UK and beyond, his diary included everything from funny stories and anecdotes, to meetings with friends, old and new, and commentary on many current events, technologies, and happenings that came to his broad attention.

Oliver gave frequent talks, and was a regular at car shows up and down the country.
Here Oliver is interview for local radio at the Hinckley Classic Show, 2018. 

Oliver gained genuine pleasure from meeting and chatting with anyone interested in cars, design, boats, and much more besides, whether they be industry insider, or a private individual, and his passion for such things never dwindled, as is evident from his blog diaries. He was particularly keen on passing on his knowledge and an enthusiasm for creative work to younger generations, and often gave talks and presentations for car clubs and organisations. You can hear Oliver discussing his thoughts on this, and more, in our 2017 interview, below.

Whether retelling his experiences from his decades in the auto industry, to hearing his funny stories – and, of course, his recommendations for good Inns and Pubs to eat and drink around the country (and where to avoid) – Oliver was always a engaging, always entertaining, and always a gentleman; he will be sorely missed by all at Veloce Publishing.

We would like to extend our condolences to Oliver’s family.

Oliver Winterbottom

A Life in car Design – Jaguar, Lotus, TVR

A unique insight into design and project work for a number of companies in the motor industry. It is aimed at both automobile enthusiasts and to encourage upcoming generations to consider a career in the creative field.

Hardback or eBook • 20.7x25cm • 176 pages • 200 pictures • Flowing format eBook

Click here to find out more about Oliver's book A life in Car Design.

Click here to read Oliver's contributions to the Veloce blog, and his tales of travel, cars, boats, and more.

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