Our World

Bruno Sacco



When we think of the automotive powerhouse that is Mercedes-Benz, many things come to mind: speed, performance, luxury…but also dependability and ingenuity. The incredible achievement of Mercedes is the fact that, since crafting the worlds first automobile, these are descriptors they’ve always been known for.

When asked why people would choose Mercedes-Benz over other competing luxury brands, the answer distills into two categories: innovation and originality. The person responsible for arguably the most iconic era of the company is former lead stylist and designer Bruno Sacco.

Born in Udine Italy in 1933, Bruno was raised by his parents, Ottavio and Margherita Sacco. His father was drafted to the Italian army shortly after Italy joined the war in 1940, becoming lieutenant of the Alpine troops. Margherita soon returned with Bruno to her parents’ town on the Austrian boarder after Ottavio was captured and imprisoned in India until the wars end.

1951 Commander Regal

When Bruno was six, he became fascinated with trains, but more specifically, the technical schematics and drawings of the trains and coaches. Over time, he began to trace the schematics, incorporating his own ideas or improvements. This marked what seems to be the genesis of his talent for design.

As a teenager, Bruno traveled to Turin with his father to see the Turin Motor Show where he was, “…struck by lightning, it was my coup de grace.” “I saw an electric blue Studebaker Commander Regal for the first time, I was in awe.” It wasn’t until a few months later when he saw the same car again while riding his bicycle that he knew he wanted to become a car designer and, in 1952, made the move to Turin to begin his education.

Bruno recalls his parents instilling in him a strong importance and appreciation for higher learning but did not approve of his more creative endeavours. This notion pushed Bruno to study mechanical engineering at the Polytechnic University of Turin which would satisfy both his technical skill and creative nature.

He began to make connections within the automotive design industry by taking small commissions from significant Italian coachbuilders Ghia and Pininfarina. He then moved to Germany and was snapped up by Daimler-Benz as a stylist in 1958, earning $650DM ($150.22 CAD)/ per month.

Coming to Mercedes under the guiding force of fellow designer Karl Wilfert and following the design era of Friedrich Geiger, Sacco was in a unique position to help the company transition its image away from its seemingly gothic pre-war shapes into something more modern.

At that time, Mercedes didn’t have a well-defined corporate design directive. This allowed Bruno to create his own signature. Looking to the posthumous words of former Mercedes pioneer Gottlieb Daimler, “Das Beste oder nichts”, (The best or nothing at all), Sacco was able to forge the tacit language of quality and innovation which became his lasting influence.

Experimental safety vehicle

The launch of the 1972 S-Class under Bruno marked the debut of many safety-related design characteristics and laid the foundation of the company’s design direction for the following 40+ years. Some of these innovations included: Anti-lock Braking & impact crumple zones (now mandatory for all vehicles), ribbed taillights resistant to soiling from snow or mud, wind deflective mouldings that keep the side windows clear in inclement weather, as well as wrap around turn-signals visible from the sides of the vehicle. These details may seem commonplace now, but were revolutionary advancements at the time, all developed and tested on a dedicated experimental safety vehicle.

1972 S-Class

Testing impact crumple zones

80s S-Class

My selection of the most interesting or well-known models that Bruno brought into existence would be the ‘80s S-Class and 190E - predecessor to the current C-Class. The S class had luxury and safety features such as power reclining rear seats, in-car telephone, airbags, seatbelt tensioners, wind-tunnel tested bodywork, etc.


On the other hand, one of Bruno’s highest achievements was the 190E model, which used the same updated styling cues as the larger S-class and brought luxury to a broader, more cost-conscious market while not compromising on safety or performance. It was the first vehicle of its kind to do so. It also completed the model trio we know so well as S-class, E-Class and C-Class.

Bruno’s famous claim, “A Mercedes-Benz must always look like a Mercedes-Benz”, still holds true today while looking throughout the company’s line up. This forward-thinking ideal combined with his laser focus on safety and innovation is what makes Bruno Sacco one of the best automotive designers of our time.

C-Class, E-Class and S-Class