Legendary Designer Robert Opron Dies, Aged 89

Illustration for article titled Legendary Designer Robert Opron Dies, Aged 89
Photo: ACQUES DEMARTHON/AFP (Getty Images)

If you know the name Robert Opron, you know what it means: a legacy of cars designed to reflect light in a certain way, ones shaped like the organic structures that inspired them. You’ll know the unique beauty of a Simca, a Renault, or a Citroën, French classics that defined an entire generation. Opron has died on29 March, 2021 in Antony, Hauts-de-Seine, France at the age of 89.

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Opron had an eye for the avant-garde when it came to styling cars, and with a career beginning in the 1960s, he had plenty of time to flex his skills. He designed the wild, bubble-topped Simca Fulgur and studied under the man who designed the Citroën DS, Flaminio Bertoni.

But Opron’s first masterpiece is widely regarded to be the 1970 Citroën SM, a flamboyant luxury car shaped like a teardrop and decked out with a Maserati engine. Its shape tapered to the rear end, where it cut off sharply with a panel covering the rear wheel wells. It was one of the first production cars to really aim at perfecting aerodynamics, with its drag coefficient clocking in at 0.336. There’s a reason why the Queen of England was escorted around in it.

He regarded his favorite project as being the CX, which included many of the same styling cues of the SM. Opron lent a stylish hand to the four-door sedan, which many folks considered to be a boring executive’s car with no room for excitement. He recognized that you didn’t have to sacrifice a unique look for practicality’s sake.

To add to his legacy, the SM was Motor Trend Car of the Year in 1972, and the GS was European Car of the Year in 1971, and the CX in 1975. You don’t see that level of across-the-board acknowledgment every day.

After leaving Citroën, Opron headed to Renault, where he helped design the Alpine A310, Renault Fuego, and Renault 25. While these cars were all striking, Opron didn’t quite strike the same vein of critical renown, even if the cars were successes.

Weekends at Jalopnik. Managing editor at A Girl's Guide to Cars. Lead IndyCar writer and assistant editor at Frontstretch. Novelist. Motorsport fanatic.

DISCUSSION

I wasn’t aware of Opron until I became a fan of Big Car and his car stories. After a while you start to notice the name popping up frequently. Opron’s cars he covered are the SM, CX and Fuego. Definitely worth checking out!

And yes, I'm also a fan of Opron's designs!