West High 1975 Grad Chris Bangle makes an e-car splash

West High 1975 Grad Chris Bangle makes an e-car splash
Posted on 01/15/2018
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***Chris Bangle was inducted into the Wausau School District Hall of Fame in 2012***

Wausau Daily Herald
01/15/2018 - Page A01

Wausau’s Chris Bangle makes an e-car splash

Keith Uhlig Wausau Daily Herald USA TODAY NETWORK – WISCONSIN

WAUSAU – Chris Bangle gained car-nut fame across the globe in the 1990s and early 2000s as the first American chief designer at BMW.

Now the Wisconsin native is making headlines across the globe again as the designer of a new electric car for a Chinese company. Bangle, a 1975 graduate of Wausau West High School, presented the vehicle, called REDS, an acronym for Revolutionary Electric Dream Space, at the Los Angeles Motor Show in early December.

Bangle’s tenure at BMW from 1992 to 2009 was marked by controversy — some loved his flair for the dramatic, others hated it. And already, REDS has produced some very mixed feelings.

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Chris Bangle, a 1975 graduate of Wausau West High School, unveiled in December the innovative electric car REDS at the Los Angeles Motor Show. COURTESY OF CHRIS BANGLE ASSOCIATES

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"This is not a car. It is something else," wrote Ed Tahaney in Automobile magazine. "Bangle is back with probably his most unique vehicle ever."

The website Autoblog called the vehicle "zany," and proclaimed that "it’s so much stranger than it looks." Autoweek.com said the vehicle "looks a little like Herman Munster’s head" and "... one thing is certain: This ain’t no mainstream anything." Bangle, who could not be reached for this story, said in a variety of interviews that REDS was designed from the inside out, and is meant to be used parked or sitting in traffic as much or more than rolling down a road.

"REDS breaks away from conventions," Bangle said in a news release about the prototype. "We are entering a fourth age of car design, but designers are hesitant because of the fear of doing things differently. This car is, for me, the demonstration that we can have something that is extremely emotional with immediate appeal, and at the same time highly functional and intellectually engaging."

After leaving BMW, Bangle founded Chris Bangle Associates, located near Turin, Italy, where he also lives. Bangle designed a Hennessy V.P. bottle, delved into architecture and even dabbled in cartoons.

But there is at least a bit of central Wisconsin in the DNA of REDS, his splashy return to automotive design. Bangle was a teenager at Wausau West High School when he signed up for a drafting course and told its teacher, Bob Zuleger, that he was going to be an automotive designer.

"It was like, yeah, sure kid," Zuleger told the Wausau Daily Herald in an interview about Bangle in 2006, when Bangle was the chief designer at BMW. "I mean, he was freshman or sophomore. Most kids don’t know what they’re going to do when they’re juniors and seniors."

Bangle said in the 2006 interview he was influenced by midget car races at Wausau’s Wisconsin Valley Fair and tinkering with a friend his first car, a 1960s-era Karmann Ghia, a sports car made by Volkswagen. The two teens turned it "into a horrific dune buggy," Bangle said.

Bangle said one his favorite books was "Instant Replay: The Green Bay Diary of Jerry Kramer." That work outlines an insider’s view of a Packers’ Lombardi-era championship season.

Creating a new car is like a football season, Bangle said. "It has highly emotional people. You have to deal with the ups and downs and the ins and outs to come out champions."

Time will tell whether REDS, set to be produced the by China Hi-Tech Group Corp., will be a champion.

West High 1975 Grad Chris Bangle

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