Ital Design Heritage

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Ital Design

Ital Design

Ital Design

 1968 - present

Giorgetto Giugiaro

It was only by chance that Giorgetto Giugiaro, co-founder and for a time co-head of Ital Design, got involved in cars. As a somewhat impoverished student of painting at the Liceo Artistica, which was part of Turin's Accademia Albertina, he did some sketches of cars in the hope of selling them (a strong possibility, given Turin has always been the headquarters of Italy's car industry).

His work was spotted by a professor who was a close relative of a certain Dante Giacosa, then head of Fiat's engineering section. The professor suggested to Giacosa that the young Giugiaro might be a candidate for Fiat's Centro Stile. So, at nineteen years of age, Giorgetto (christened Giorgio, but preferring Giorgetto which translates as Georgie) was painlessly absorbed into Italy's biggest car company, to learn his craft.

Impressing Nuccio Bertone

The Turin Salon, the showcase for the world's stylists, of 1958 was a fateful one for Giugiaro. He cornered Nuccio Bertone to show him some plans he had, devised, and Bertone, singularly impressed, formed an association that was to last uuntil 1965. The first fruit of this new liaison was the Alfa Romeo 2600 Sprint, which was a sensation then and has since turned into something of a collector's item.

After that came the Alfa Romeo 1600 Sprint (which was still in production in 1974 as the GTV2000), the Fiat 850 Spider (eventually replaced by the Xl/9), the experi- mental Alfa Canguro, some Mazdas, the Iso Rivolta, the Gordon Keeble, the Simca 1000 Coupe, the NSU Sport Prinz and the NSU Spyder, which was the first production car to be Wankel powered.

Among the more spectacular cars, Giugiaro styled the Lamborghini Miura, the Iso Grifo, the Bizzarini and the classic Fiat Dino. By the time he left Bertone, Giugiaro had left an unmistakable mark on the entire motoring scene. The move to a different camp was another step towards Ital Design, but first there was a spell at Ghia, which he joined. in 1965. The split with Bertone was not an idealogical one: Ghia offered more money. In the two years he was with Ghia, Giugiaro saw the company fall into American hands (Ford of America), but he was there long enough to design the Fidia for Iso, the Ghibli for Maserati, the Mangusta for de Tomaso and a variety of one-offs.

Form Is What Counts

It sounds heady stuff, working with such exotic cars, but Giorgetto Giugiaro did not have hubcaps for eyes. He was not fanatically enraptured by the automobile nor did he have love affairs with them. 'Form is what counts', he said. 'I like to think that I can see beyond the car.' The break with Ghia finally resulted in Giugiaro and two others - a production engineer and a body engineer - setting up in business under the banner of Ital Design. Their purpose was not just to design car shapes, but to productionise them as well; in other words, produce a complete package, from the styling through the actual planning of the manufacture.

Unlike designer organisations such as Pininfarina and Bertone, Ital Design from the start made it clear that they were not in business to manufacture bodies for customers. They set up their facilities to do one-offs and prototypes, but that was all. In 1974, Ital Design moved to a new building on the outskirts of Turin. Until then, the operation had been conducted from an unlabelled, smallish office building in suburban Turin. Complete prototypes had usually been stored in garages under adjoining blocks of flats.

There were no great clanking gates and uniformed guards behind high wire fences. When strangers were shown through, there was a scurry for tarpaulins to cover the prototypes and mock-ups, which seemed just as effective as more formal methods of ensuring security. Ital Design were obviously satisfying their customers. They had contracts with Maserati and produced for that company the Bora and the Merak, although the Khamsin was done by Bertone.

1969 Iguana, based on the Alfa 33
1969 Iguana, based on the Alfa 33. To our eyes, it looks very similar to the Ital Design Maserati Merak and Bora.

1971 Maserati Boomerang
1971 Maserati Boomerang.

Porsche 914/6 Tapiro
Porsche 914/6 Tapiro, an attempt at combining road car practicality with Ital Design style.

Ital Design Coupe based on Maserati mechanicals
Ital Design Coupe based on Maserati mechanicals.

Hyundai Pony Coupe
Hyundai Pony Coupe, another Giugiaro's styling exercise. Imagine what this would have done for the prestige of the otherwise dower South Korean manufacturer if it had been put into production.

The Audi 80, VW Passat and Golf

It was Ital Design that turned the Audi 80 into the VW Passat, and followed this with the Scirocco, the VW Golf and the Polo. There was no known connection with Fiat who remained loyal to Pininfarina and Bertone - but there was a very strong link with Alfa Romeo. For them, Giugiaro had designed the Alfasud and the Alfetta GT, besides having a substantial hand in the original Alfetta saloon and the revised 1977 2000 version.

In 1976, the fruits of Ital Design's link with Lotus were to be seen in the mid-engine Espirit. The interior of the Lotus Elite was Giugiaro's, but the design was too advanced when it went to Ital Design. Like everyone else, Ital Design needed to advertise. To this end, Giugiaro built a number of spectacular one-offs, based on a variety of components from Maserati, to Alfasud to Porsche 911, to Lotus. A feature of these was that they were cars that could be driven around the roads of northern Italy.

As Giugiaro pointed out, the hard part about designing was creating a form that was also practical. He believed totally in the necessity of making those two ends meet, as he exemplified in the gracious shape and fine aerodynamics of the Alfetta GT, which was far more of a four seater than the vast majority of its rivals. The success of Ital Design's work was largely due to Giugiaro getting his priorities right in the first place. The perspective drawings of new models were always done after the plan drawings, so that neither he nor his staff lost their objectivity.

Giugiaro never believed in working with scale models. Mock-ups were done one-to-one (life size) so that proportions could be gauged exactly, rather than visualized. He broke his rule, however, when it became necessary to solve aerodynamic problems; then, models were made for wind-tunnel use.

The Successful Collaboration With Fiat

ItalDesign collaborated successfully with the resources of Fiat. He also began the minivan craze in 1978, by designing an MPV, the Megagamma, on Lancia Gamma mechanicals, and thus inspiring the Nissan Prairie - the first of the modern MPVs in 1981 - the Chrysler T-115 (Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager) and the Renault Éspace. And his cars began to go round round just as others were catching up: the Isuzu Piazza, first seen as a show car in 1979.

But there is more to automotive design than roundness and squareness. With the advent of more advanced body-pressing techniques and innovations in the shapes of car lights and other components, Giugiaro combined elegance with practicality. The Fiat Punto is distinctively Italian with subtle design cues that set it apart from other super minis - with the exception, perhaps, of his own 1993 Seat Ibiza; in Korea the Daewoo Leganza, inspired by his earlier Jaguar Kensington concept, lent a presence hitherto absent from the Korean chaebol's Opel-based Nexia, Cielo and Espero models.

Some years earlier his Toyota Aristo and Lexus GS 300 did the same for the Japanese giant's luxury division. At the very top end, the EB 112 sedan for the now-defunct Bugatti shows how Giugiaro was able to combine limousine luxury with a powerful chassis and motor, in a form which to some is less awkward than the extravagant EB 110 coupé by his contemporary, Marcello Gandini.

Giugiaro's designs
(Asterisk denotes production model At Bertone)


Alfa Romeo 2000/2600 Sprint*
Ferrari 250 GT Bertone
Gordon Keeble GT*


ASA 1000 Coupé*
Aston Martin DB4 GT Jet
BMW 3200 CS*
Maserati 5000 GT Bertone


Alfa Romeo 2000
Spring Ferrari 250 GT Bertone
Iso Rivolta 330/340 GT*
Simca 1000/1200 S Coupé*


Alfa Romeo 2600 HS
Alfa Romeo Giulia GT*
Chevrolet Corvair Testudo
Iso Grifo*
Mazda Luce 1000/1500


Alfa Romeo Giulia Sport Special
ASA 1000 Spider
Bizzarrini GT Strada*
Innocenti 186 GT
Iso Grifo Spider


Fiat 850 Spider*
Fiat Abarth 1000 OTR
Ford Mustang Automobile Quarterly
Mazda Luce 1500/1800*


Fiat 850 Vanessa
Isuzu 117 Coupé*
Maserati Ghibli*
De Tomaso 2000 Competizione
De Tomaso Pampero
De Tomaso Mangusta*


Fiat Dino*
Iso Rivolta Fidia
Oldsmobile Toronado Thor
Rowan Elettrica


Maserati Ghibli Spider*
De Tomaso Mangusta Spider


Abarth 1600 Coupé
Alfa Romeo 33/2 Iguana
Suzuki Carry L40/L40V*
Suzuki Microutilitaria


Volkswagen-Porsche Tapiro


Alfa Romeo Alfasud*
Alfa Romeo Alfasud Caimano
Maserati Bora*
Volkswagen Karmann Cheetah


Lotus Esprit*
Maserati Boomerang
Maserati Merak*


Audi Karmann Asso di Picche
Volkswagen Passat*


Alfa Romeo Alfetta GT/GTV*
Hyundai Pony*
Hyundai Pony Coupé
Maserati Coupé 2+2 Medici I
Volkswagen Golf/Rabbit*
Volkswagen Scirocco*


Alfa Romeo Alfasud Sprint*
Alfa Romeo New York Taxi
BMW Karmann Asso di Quadri
Maserati Quattroporte*
Medici II


Audi 80/4000*
Lancia Megagamma M8


Isuzu Asso di Fiori (later 1981 Isuzu Piazza*)
Lancia Delta*


Fiat Panda*
Fiat Panda Offroader
Fiat Panda 4x4 Strip
Morris Ital*


De Lorean DMC 12*
Isuzu Piazza*


Capsula Lamborghini Marco Polo
Lancia Orca
Lancia Prisma*


Fiat Uno*
Hyundai Stellar*
Renault Gabbiano


Isuzu/Holden Gemini/Chevrolet Spectrum* Isuzu Gemini Coupé
Lancia Thema*
Lotus Etna Marlin Maya
Saab 9000*
Seat Ibiza*


Fiat Croma*
Fiat Duna/Premio*
Fiat Duna Weekend*
Hyundai Pony Excel*
Hyundai Presto*
Maya II ES
Maya II EM
Seat Malaga*


Oldsmobile Incas
Renault 21/Medallion*


AMC/Eagle Premier/Dodge Monaco*
Yugo Florida*


Asgard Aspid Aztec
Hyundai Sonata*
Renault 19*


Seat Proto T


Bugatti ID 90
Jaguar Kensington
Seat Proto C
Seat Proto TL


Nazca C2
Nazca M12
Seat Toledo*
Subaru Alcyone/SVX*


Biga Columbus
Fiat Cinquecento ItalDesign


Bugatti EB 112
Fiat Cinquecento Lucciola
Fiat Punto*
Fiat Punto Cabriolet*
Lexus GS 300/Toyota Aristo*
Nazca C2 Spider
Seat Cordoba/Volkswagen Polo Classic*
Seat Ibiza II*


Firepoint Lexus Landau


Daewoo Bucrane Lamborghini Calá


Alfa Romeo Scighera
Daewoo Leganza

Also see: Ital Design (AUS Site)
Giugiaro's Ace f Diamonds
Gugiaro's "Ace f Diamonds", as seen at the Turin Motor Show in 1976. It was based on the BMW 320.
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