Tom Karen, 1926-2022

Tom Karen, 1926-2022

Versatile designer was as well-known outside of the motoring world as he was for his unmistakable vehicles


Tom Karen, the industrial designer and former Ogle chief stylist, has died aged 96. Born in Vienna and raised in Czechoslovakia, Karen escaped the Nazi advance in 1939 when his family emigrated to England. Karen’s early career spanned everything from Hunting Percival aircraft to Hotpoint washing machines, although one of his earliest jobs involved input into the interior design of the Ford Anglia 105E in 1955.

In 1962 after the death of founder David Ogle, Karen took over as managing director and chief designer of Ogle Design. Ogle’s primary clients were Reliant and Triumph motorcycles, leading to Karen penning a whole generation of their products including the groundbreaking Scimitar GTE shooting-brake. He also devised Aston Martin’s spectacular Ogle DBS Special. Never afraid of tackling unusual design briefs, Karen designed the aircraft cockpit-inspired Bond Bug in 1970 with the intention of creating a sporty car with youth appeal on Reliant three-wheeler underpinnings. The car caught the eye of George Lucas, who based the Landspeeder in Star Wars on the Bug, and brought in Karen to style the futuristic film car.

Karen also applied his talents to children’s clothes and toys – including the Raleigh Chopper – and in later life, Green political awareness messaging.

Tom Karen penned such icons as the Bond Bug, Scimitar GTE and Raleigh Chopper

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