Part 47 – The Genius of Giorgetto Giugiaro

The History of the Italian Automobile – Part 47
By David Cavaliere

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Just the other day, my son Andrew (who happens to be the newest member of the Italian Tribune family) asked a question that we’ve all thought of from time to time, “Who from the last century would you like to have an evening’s conversation with?”

There are so many people, from so many walks of life – from Teddy Roosevelt to Neil Armstrong; from JP Morgan to Frank Sinatra. If I were to limit the choices to the world of cars, then my selections would be Tazio Nuvolari, Ayrton Senna, Mario Andretti and the man that is featured this week – Giorgetto Giugiaro. His body of work is as breathtaking as are his designs. He was selected as the ‘Designer of the Century’ by the Global Automotive Elections Foundation. He is most famous, and rightly so, for his automotive designs. But he has also designed camera bodies for Nikon, watches for Seiko, computer prototypes for Apple, a new pasta shape called “Marille” and office furniture for Okamura Corporation.

Giorgetto Giugiaro was born in Cuneo, in the southwest region of Piedmont, Italy. Since his birth in 1938, the world of automobiles has seen remarkable changes. Perhaps most astounding are the number of changes that were brought about by Giugiaro himself. He is credited with designing more cars than anyone else and include some of the best-selling and most beautiful automobiles ever produced.
Artistic talent ran in his family. His grandfather Luigi painted church frescoes, while Giorgetto’s father Mario, produced decorative religious art and oil paintings. Following is his family’s footsteps, in 1952 Giorgetto was enrolled at design school in Turin. He was 14. He studied art by day and technical design by night. In June 1955, some of his many car sketches were mounted in an end-of-the-year school exhibition. Dante Giacosa, Fiat’s technical director, saw the talent behind his work and hired him as a designer. He had just turned 17.

Although producing some very interesting early work, Giugiaro found it difficult to grow at Italy’s largest auto manufacturer and after four years at Fiat, he joined the design and manufacturing house of Bertone. During his six years at the company, he designed what, for most people, would be the most important works of their career. In Giugiaro case, he was just getting started. While at Bertone he designed the Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint, Ferrari 250GT SWB Bertone, BMW 3200CS, Iso Rivolta Grifo, each of which, save the BMW, have been described within features in this series. He also designed the Mazda Familia, the company’s first production car.

At the end of 1965, Ghia was teetering on the precipice of financial collapse (see Part 10 of this series – Bertone, March 24, 2016). Giugiaro sensing an impending disaster, left the carrozzeria to become the head of Ghia’s design office in 1966. He immediately got to work and that year, four cars were presented at motor shows – the Maserati Ghibli, De Tomaso Pampero, De Tomaso Mangusta and Fiat Vanessa. The Maserati Ghibli and the De Tomaso Pampero were regarded instantly as masterpieces and launched Ghia once again into the spotlight. Giugiaro was then eager to branch out on his own. He established his own company – ItalDesign in 1968, at the age of 30 and made its debut at the 1968 Turin Motor Show with the Manta prototype (See Part 11 of this series– Bizzarrini, March 31, 2016).

In 1971, Giugiaro further expanded and set up a division for industrial design. This division developed prototypes for a broad range of designs motorcycles, interiors for boats and aircraft, home and office furniture, watches, guns, cameras and even sunglasses. However, the main driving force remained Giugiaro’s passion for automobile design. His company has worked with virtually every major car manufacturer and has developed and styled almost two-hundred production cars, a prolific amount in itself, plus concept cars that never were intended for production. Numerous Giugiaro-designed automobiles, including the 1974 Golf, 1980 Fiat Uno and the 1993 Fiat Punto (see Part 43 of this series – Fiat, January 12, 2017), were the highest production cars of their respective production years.
For the 2005 Tokyo Motor Show, Giorgetto Giugiaro displayed a custom Ferrari fastback in celebration of his debut into the world of car design 50 years earlier. Giugiaro began working on the project in February 2005, sketching the body and details entirely by hand – a practice he has followed since he began in the business. The car used a 65 degree V12 naturally aspirated engine producing 540 horsepower.

A few years later, Giugiaro, introduced his 2008 Quaranta showcar. It featured a very flat shape, with a continuous body, line stretching from nose to tail, exploiting the extraordinarily steep rake of the windscreen. The roof houses an array of solar panels to power electric batteries that are located in the space between the two doors. Along with other solar panels positioned on the front end, a central opaque strip was created, which is a distinctive feature of the model. It creates a contrast with the bright paint of the bodywork. The solar panels can generate a power of up to 250 W, sufficient to power the car’s accessories.

In 2010, the Volkswagen Group purchased a majority stake in Italdesign-Giugiaro. While no longer independent, the association ensures that Giugiaro’s firm will have ample design work for the foreseeable future based on the parent company’s many brands. To illustrate that design inspiration and passion still coursed through Giugiaro’s veins, in 2014, the Parcour was unveiled. It is a two-seater fitted with a 550 hp Lamborghini V10 5.2-liter engine. For those who do not realize it, Lamborghini (which will be covered in upcoming features) is part of the Volkswagen Group. The mid-engine car is one of the fastest all-wheel drive vehicles in the world, capable of accelerating from 0 to 61 in just 3.6 seconds (the Ferrari FF manages the speed in just 3.4 seconds).

Although one might not believe that the accolades bestowed upon him could reach any higher than Designer of the Century, in 2013, Giorgetto Giugiaro was awarded the Antonio Feltrinelli Prize. This is the Italian equivalent to the Nobel Prize. It celebrates masters in the fields of Moral and Historic Sciences, Natural Physics, Mathematics, Literature, Art and Medicine. His legacy in the industry will be preserved in museums for as long as mankind chooses to have museums. It will be quite a testament to this living genius of design.

Some of the most notable designs of Gioretto Giugiaro are – the Alfa Romeo 2600 Sprint (1961), Giulia Sprint GT/GTV (1963), Alfasud (1972), Alfetta GT/GTV (1974), Sprint (1976), 159/159 SW (2005) and Brera (2005; the ASA 1000 GT (1962), the Aston Martin DB4 GT Bertone ‘Jet’ (1961), the Audi 80 (1978), the BMW 3200 CS (1961) and M1 (1977); Bugatti EB 118 (1998) and EB 218 (1999), the De Tomaso Mangusta (1966), the DeLorean Motor Company DMC-12 (1981), the Ferrari 250 GT SWB Bertone (1960) and GG50 (2005), the Fiat 850 Spider (1965), Dino Coupé (1967), Panda (1980), Uno (1983), Croma (1985), Punto (1993), Palio/Siena (2001), Croma (2005), Grande Punto (2005) and Sedici (2005), the Iso Rivolta, Rivolta IR 300 (1961), Grifo (1963) and Fidia (1967). Also, the Lancia Delta (1979), Prisma (1982) and Thema (1984), the Lotus Esprit (1972), Maserati 5000 GT (1961), Ghibli (1966), Simun (1968), Bora (1971), Merak (1972), Quattroporte (1976), 3200 GT (1998), Coupé (2002) and Spyder (2002) and the Volkswagen Passat (1973), Golf (1974), Scirocco (1974) and Jetta (1979).

Next week we’ll be covering the industrialist Ferdinando Innocenti, who went from piping and bullets to scooters and cars. Please send your comments to:

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