Man behind the Miura: Amazing cars designed by Marcello Gandini

Marcello Gandini: the maestro

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By Gavin Braithwaite-Smith, Motoring Research

Marcello Gandini: the maestro

© Motoring Research Ltd

Born in 1938, Marcello Gandini is one of the world’s greatest automotive designers, responsible for penning some of the most eye-catching, dramatic and important cars of the 20th century. Here, we take a look at some of his greatest hits. Prepare to be left slack-jawed by the man’s genius.

Lamborghini Miura

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When Lamborghini unveiled the 400 TP rolling chassis at the 1965 Turin Auto Show, it was faced with a queue of potential customers armed with open wallets, and a number of coachbuilders hoping to create the body. Ferruccio Lamborghini turned to Bertone, with chassis developer Gian Paolo Dallara tasked with working with stylist Marcello Gandini. But is the Miura really Gandini’s baby?

Gandini replaced Giugiaro at Bertone and is credited as being the godfather of the Miura. Lamborghini’s own website is conclusive on the matter, saying: “He took over from his contemporary Giorgetti Giugiaro at Bertone, designing the most popular Italian sports vehicles in the 60s and 70s, including the famous Lamborghini Miura and Countach. Giugiaro would beg to differ, and in a 1996 interview with Classic & Sports Car magazine, he claimed: “Gandini took my sketches and finished the car – 70 percent of the design is mine.”

But Gandini blames Giugiaro for allowing doubts to linger for five decades. In a 2009 interview with Automotive News Europe, he said bluntly: “I did the Miura – and I did it alone – in just three months. Any alleged influence by [Giorgetto] Giugiaro in that car is simply not true. This misinterpretation of history first surfaced when the car was unveiled in 1966.”

Alfa Romeo Carabo

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The Alfa Romeo Carabo is a classic Gandini design. Unveiled in 1968, it championed the wedge shape at a time when sports cars featured smooth and flowing bodies. Stick the Carabo alongside a Miura, Toyota 2000GT or Jaguar E-Type and it’ll look like a car from another century, let alone the next decade. Chalk, meet cheese (wedge).

The shocked onlookers in attendance at the Porte de Versailles in Paris would not have known it at the time, but the experimental concept previewed the future of car design. It’s hard to believe that it was based on the voluptuous and alluring Alfa Romeo Tipo 33.

According to a Bertone press release, the Carabo was “a bold but aesthetically and functionally valid vision of the sporty car of the future. And the use of new materials and novel construction techniques means that this concept car was something more than just an exercise in styling.”

Lamborghini Marzal

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LJK Setright described the Lamborghini Marzal as “perhaps the most extravagant piece of virtuoso styling to have come out of Europe since the war.” Road & Track agreed, labelling it “so fresh that everything else looks old fashioned.”

Strong praise indeed, but it’s not hard to see why the Marzal was, and remains, held in such high regard. The glazed gullwing doors are a standout feature, although Ferruccio Lamborghini famously objected to the design, complaining that they would “offer no privacy: a lady’s leg would be there for all to see.”

But there could be no such complaints about the rest of the car, including that mad louvred rear window. Sadly, the Marzal remained a one-off creation, and was sold at an RM Sotheby’s auction in 2011 for €1,512,000 (£1,346,000). Fortunately, its design inspired the styling of the next car on our list…

Lamborghini Espada

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“Styling, of course, is always a personal matter, but you could call the Espada a classic of the sixties and a Bertone masterpiece not so much because of its sleek beauty but because of the extraordinary space utilization contained within the low shape. At 104 inches its wheelbase is two inches shorter than the [Ferrari] GT/4s; it is shorter overall too, but nearly three inches wider and five inches lower.

“And yet it contains quite a deal more interior room – it is a full four-seater rather than a 2+2 and as such has unique attraction among the supercars.” The words of the esteemed motoring journalist, Mel Nichols, writing in Car, May 1974.

The Espada was created to satisfy Ferruccio Lamborghini’s desire to have a genuine four-seater GT car in his lineup, and the fact that it remained in production for a decade is a testament to Gandini’s eye for design. That said, the Espada went through a series of changes before bowing out in 1978.

Autobianchi Runabout

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If the Autobianchi Runabout looks familiar, it’s probably because you spent your formative years kneeling down in your living room, smashing a Matchbox Speed Kings version into the skirting boards. The Bertone concept was first shown at the 1969 Turin Motor Show and used the engine from a Fiat 128.

The design was inspired by the racing powerboats of the 1960s, most notably the shape of the body and the windscreen, while the car is loaded with neat details, such as the headlights mounted on the rollbar.

According to Bertone: “The Runabout is an invitation to fun, stress-free travelling, evoking the sheer joy of driving in places where traffic is no more than a distant memory.” Places like your parents’ living room, then?

Fiat X1-9

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While the Runabout remained a one-off concept, it inspired one of the most successful sports cars of the 1970s. The Fiat X1/9 was the replacement for the Giugiaro-designed 850 Spider and it made its debut in November 1972.

Bertone handled the production of the bodies, which were shipped to Lingotto to enable Fiat to fit the engine and running gear. The influence of the Runabout is clear, albeit with added stiffness and safety protection to comply with American crash legislation.

Fiat was never shy of playing the ‘baby Ferrari’ card in its promotional messages. A press ad of 1983 said: “This 1498cc mid-engine machine is a design by Bertone, the same people who created the Ferrari GT4. Like the GT4, Fiat’s X1/9 looks, feels and drives like a true Italian sports car.”

Alfa Romeo Montreal

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Fate is a wonderful thing. This extraordinarily handsome Alfa Romeo was unveiled in concept form at Expo 67, before going on show as a production car in 1970. In 1967, the World Fair was held in Montreal, presenting Alfa with an evocative name for its V8 sports car. A year earlier, it would have been Munich, while a year later it would have been in San Antonio. Neither name has quite the same appeal as Montreal.

Location-inspired name aside, the Alfa Romeo Montreal is unquestionably one of Gandini’s finest achievements. Highlights include the slotted eyelid shutters over the headlights and the sliding shutters within the rear quarter panels.

Disputes in Milan meant that the Montreal didn’t arrive on these shores until 1972, a full 12 months behind schedule, but the delay did little to dilute the appetite for Alfa’s masterpiece.

Lancia Stratos HF Zero

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In 2011, the one-off Lancia Stratos HF Zero sold for €761,600 at RM Sotheby’s Villa D’este auction. Officially, the car was labelled “Stratos HF”, but Nuccio Bertone wanted to call it “Stratolimite”, or “limit of the stratosphere”. After time, it would become known by its internal nickname of “Zero”.

There’s so much for the eyes to take in, like the ultrathin row of headlights backlit by ten 55w bulbs, or the flip-up windscreen, which you’d expect to open up to reveal the Pink Panther staring back at you.

At the back, you’ll find a pair of exhausts protruding out alongside the gearbox case, along with a rear light strip containing no fewer than 84 tiny bulbs. It looks and feels like a flight of fancy, and yet it influenced the design of one of the greatest sports cars of the 20th century.

Lamborghini Urraco

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Lamborghini’s brief to Bertone and Gandini was simple: to design a cost-effective four-seater GT to cope with the oil crisis of the 1970s. The result was the Urraco, powered by a 2.5-liter V8, which was increased in size to 3.0 liters in 1974.

At the time, the Italian manufacturers were jockeying for position, keen to grab a slice of the junior supercar market. Ferrari had the Dino 308 GT4 (more on this in a moment), while Maserati had the Merak. All offered engines with less than 3.0 liters, but were of a similar size to their more powerful siblings.

Of the three, the Urraco is the least conservative from a styling perspective, but is certainly less wild than Gandini’s other creations.

Dino 308 GT4

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How do you follow a car like the 246 GT? The answer, if your name is Marcello Gandini, is the Dino 308 GT4, which found itself up against one of his other creations: the Lamborghini Urraco.

No surprise, then, that the 308 GT4 doesn’t look too dissimilar to the Urraco, albeit with a little less flair and muscle. Cruelly, and without a thought for political correctness, Car claimed that its rear end looked “fiddly and unattractive, rather like a woman with a narrow, pinched backside.”

Things were different in the 70s, lad. But to our eyes at least, the 308 GT4 has aged better than donkey jackets, flares and hostess trolleys.

Lamborghini Countach

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“Once again, designer Marcello Gandini managed to draw a fascinating, unconventional car that left everyone speechless,” says Lamborghini. We’re not going to wade into the debate over Gandini’s role in the design of the Miura – we don’t fancy a discussion with his lawyers – but there’s little doubt that the Countach is more Gandini than its predecessor.

Gandini said that he wanted people to be astonished when they first laid eyes on the car. Little wonder, then, that Lamborghini chose the Countach name, which is a Piedmontese expletive for “wow”.

The Countach is everything a supercar should be: otherworldly, impractical, inaccessible and prime bedroom-wall poster material.

Maserati Khamsin

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Unveiled at the 1972 Turin Motor Show, the Maserati Khamsin was a radical departure from the Indy, which was first shown in 1969. It would be another two years before the Khamsin made production, but it was still available in 1982.

Its beautiful lines are matched by a surprising level of practicality, which extends to the spare wheel, which is located underneath the front grille. Other nods to common sense include the safety glass housing the rear light clusters, and the rubber inserts within the bumpers.

Maserati Shamal

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The Maserati Shamal was a comprehensive overhaul of the Biturbo and the final car to be launched in the 80s. The styling was classic Gandini, complete with a pair of Countach-inspired rear wheelarches.

The interior was similarly exotic, but Maserati managed to shift just 369 examples of this 326hp supercar-tamer. That’s 369 people who know a good pair of arches when they see them.


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Automotive Magazine: Man behind the Miura: Amazing cars designed by Marcello Gandini
Man behind the Miura: Amazing cars designed by Marcello Gandini
Marcello Gandini: the maestro
Automotive Magazine
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