The BMW Kidney Grille's Evolution Over 87 Years

Ellipses, rectangles, squares, rhombuses – the shape doesn't matter if the logo can be recognized.

From the aerodynamic kidneys of 1933 to the tall grille of the upcoming 4 Series.

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BMW’s kidney grille is such an expressive element of the brand's design that it is difficult to imagine a product from the company without these dual openings at the front end. This iconic element of corporate identity has changed many times since 1933 and has recently become bigger which has caused fears of the brand’s fans. No matter what anyone says, BMW’s designers know their business. This is how it all started.

A conventional radiator grille

The 1933 BMW 303 received the first in the history of the brand kidney grille. It was designed by Fritz Fielder and was nothing more than a functional radiator grille for cooling the engine.

Since then, the shape and design of the grille has constantly changed but kept the recognizability of a BMW car.

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BMW 328

Thanks to success in racing, BMW's double kidney became famous in Europe and was nicknamed the Circuit. In the 1940s, the kidney grill began to be used as a design element. The most famous one was installed on the 327 model, where the grille changed shape at the top. In the case of the BMW 503, the branded «ovals» were slightly added in width.

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A wide face of the BMW 507

In 1956, the 507 brought a real revolution in the field of the kidney grille. The spectacular sports car designed by Albrecht von Goertz received a pair of wide horizontal openings.

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Later, in the early 2000s, Henrik Fisker under the direction of Chris Bangle brought the 507’s design back with building the BMW Z8 with a quite familiar grille.

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The conjoined kidney grille

In recent years, BMW's designers have decided to combine the headlights and grille into a horizontal line. This element can be seen on the latest 3 Series, 5 Series and 8 Series. The I3 adapts this look in a reduced form, since it does not need air to cool the engine. With the i8 and latest Z4, BMW stretched the shape to occupy a large horizontal area of the front end.

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The 2011 BMW Vision ConnectedDrive and 2019 BMW Vision M NEXT concepts use the same stylistic principle but offer more complex polygonal shapes.

BMW Vision ConnectedDriveBMW Vision M NEXT

20 years of “winged ovals”

In the 1960s, BMW’s designers began experimenting with neat ovals in the center and grilles on both sides that extended to the headlights on the sides, creating the effect of wings. These experiments continued for two decades. This design was used in some models until the mid ‘90s.

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Something different

In the late 1980s, with the use of «winged ovals», BMW began to use a visually completely different kidney, which in shape was rather a pair of squares. This decision was dictated by the design of cars, such as the sharp-nosed M1 and Z1.

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The 1990s and the first SUV with a lung-like grille

Design experiments continued with grilles of compact dimensions that took the form of lungs, and body-color elements surrounded them.

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Biggest change

In the first half of the 2010s, BMW began to scale the branded kidney grille. A pair of concepts (the 2013 Pininfarina Gran Lusso Coupe and 2014 BMW Vision Future Luxury) showed what to expect from production models. At the end of the decade, the first cars with huge kidneys began to appear. There was much less space between the grille and headlights than before, or there was no space at all.

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Canons of modern history

Here are four concepts that create new trends for BMW cars in the 2020s: the 2014 BMW 3.0 CSL Hommage, 2016 Vision Next 100, 2019 Concept 4 and 2020 Concept i4.

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However, this applies to cars with conventional engines, while the design of electric cars and their grille is foreshadowed by the 2017 Vision Dynamics, 2017 Vision iNEXT and 2018 Concept iX3.

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BMWs without a kidney grille

This old Isetta does not have a hood and a kidney grille in the front end. If you really need to, you can look for slots in the back end of the car, where the engine is located.

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Rectangulars and diamonds

Although these cars were not created in BMW’s design center, they deserve their place in this article. It was Bertone that created the design of the 1969 Spicup (green) and 1970 Garmisch (beige).

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