TL;DR: The Hofmeister Kink is a slight “kink” in a car’s rear pillar, and it’s an interesting feature.
The eponymous Wilhelm Hofmeister was BMW’s design chief from 1955 to 1970, and is credited with bringing the German automaker this characteristic design. BMW first picked it up in 1961 on the brand-defining & revolutionary 1500 model.
Source: New Media Campaigns- http://www.newmediacampaigns.com/page/the-hofmeister-kink-a-lasting-bmw-design-detail
According to the above New Media Campaigns article BMW had used the kink highlight the fact that the 1500 and subsequent models had rear wheel drive, and the article goes on to state that modern cars use of the kink are a throwback to BMW styling to indicate that cars carrying this design were similarly high end. Indeed, modern cars from the world over have included this feature (great article here ), but I call shenanigans.
You see, the Hofmeister Kink was nothing new in 1961. Dodge would have had kink on some models of its first generation of the Dart at the same time, shown here on the high end 1960 Dart Phoenix
The use of the Kink goes even further back than that. One of the most distinct kinks was on the 1951 Kaiser
A few other excellent examples of non-Hofmeister kinks are pictured below
Studebaker used the kink as early as 1953 (Shown here on Dick Gonzales’s restyled 1955 Studebaker), and revisited the kink again in the early 60’s with the Avanti
GM had been playing around with this design in the late 40’s on its fastbacks and Sports Coupes. Kinky? Absolutely. But not Hofmeisterly.
1949 Cadillac Club Coupe Fastback
(Ads pulled from Etsy https://www.etsy.com/market/sport_coupe)
The kink in Customs-
From a styling standpoint, this kink in the rear pillar draws the eye abruptly back to the mid-quarter panel and gives a definite end to the roofline (as opposed to flowing directly down the quarter panel to the rear of the car. On a relatively compact car like a BMW it can serve to make the cab look bigger, and visually it’s used (quite successfully, IMO) to draw the eyes directly down to the rear tire. On the Studebaker, the kink is abrupt and ahead of the rear wheel, which makes the car appear to be longer.
On Dick Gonzales’ 1955 Studebaker, an interesting custom scoop has been added visually bridging the gap between the kink and the rear wheel. This apparently non-functional scoop looks to be added possibly for a drag-aesthetic, but in this authors humble opinion is fighting what Studebaker had tried so hard to accomplish in the first place with this design.
The scoop is slightly improved with panel paint, but if you look closely at the lines it’s clear that not even the person masking this panel understood where they were supposed to go with it
In contrast, look how brilliantly the kink on Floyd Debore’s 1958 Pontiac is improved with just a little fogging. Your eyes trace it gracefully down to the fin insert, and it’s the perfect way to transition visually into the rest of the car’s wild paint and custom features.
Similarly, the panels on the roof of Andy Southard’s 1958 Chevy visually close off the roof and, while perhaps not as successfully as the above Pontiac, the kink here allows you to appreciate the rearward lines of the car.
A great example of how custom paint can be used to further emphathize and improve the use of a kinked pillar is on Duane Steck’s immortal 1954 Chevy “Moonglow”
The chopped Moonglow has one of the most distinct profiles of all time, and it retains a large portion of its kink, shown below in the first version. While I absolutely love this version of the car, something about the kink here strikes me as just a little odd, and I think it’s because it sat a little awkwardly in relationship to the fenderskirts. The kink here drops your eye around the quarter panel, but without an immediate visual interest below it the kink doesn’t add much visually to the flow of the car. It certainly doesn’t take anything away from it, but this version had some room for improvement.
Later, Watson greatly improved this visual flow by adding a deeply dipped scallop to the roof and pillar, and a complimentary scallop on the quarter panel. Compare the two pictures side by side and I think you’ll agree that Watson uses a little touch of paint for a great effect.
I think the most successful example of integrating this unique feature into a custom is on Justin Hills’s 1960 Dodge Custom
Compare the profile pre and post top chop (thanks to this blog http://justacarguy.blogspot.com/2013/04/wins-my-best-custom-of-event-award.html):
The car only retains a small part of the top of the kink, which ends immediately before the fin. Brilliantly, when the car is assembled you can see the trim picks up right where the kink left off and gives this custom a very unique profile.
To wrap this all up, I think it’s great to understand the historical significance of certain car styling features, and by appreciating how the work visually they can be used to dramatic effect. C-pillar design is incredibly important to whether or not an overall design “works”, and using the Hofmeister kink is an interesting way to set apart a car, be it custom or production car. Hofmeister Kinks would also be an awesome band name for a German Kinks coverband.
Thanks for reading.
http://www.kustomrama.com/index.php?title=Main_Page (That’s right. Start here, read everything until complete. This is one of the greatest sites on the web)