Crowned as the Car Designer of the Century in 1999, Giorgetto Giugiaro is one of the most influential automobile designers in the world. Starting his career at the age of 17, the Italian designer has over 200 car designs to his name and has worked with brands such as Maserati, Ferrari, BMW, Lamborghini, and Audi. Known for marrying form and function, Giugiaro revolutionized the automobile industry with designs ranging from premium cars like the Lotus Esprit & Iso Rivolta to pedestrian vehicles such as Hyundai Pony and Fiat Panda.
The designer has also ventured into other design fields such as product & furniture design and has collaborated with Nikon & Seiko among many others. In 2002, he was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame. After selling his design practice Italdesign in 2015, he continues to design in a new firm, GFG Style, with his son Fabrizio.
Here are 10 Products by Giorgetto Giugiaro:
1. De Tomaso Mangusta
Manufacturer: De Tomaso
Class: Sports Car (S)
Body Style: 2-door coupé
Layout: Rear mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive
One of his earliest works to reach cult status, Giugiaro designed the Mangusta (Italian for ‘mongoose’) during his employment at Ghia. Though only 401 cars were produced, De Tomasa Mangusta became an icon amongst sports car enthusiasts. First unveiled at the Turin Motor Show in 1966, the steel-bodied car featured gullwing engine covers and sharp lines with a waist-high roofline.
An outlier even during its release, the car is now considered a relevant stylistic expression of the late 1960s. The car has also been featured in films (‘Kill Bill: Volume 2’ & ‘Gone in 60 Seconds’) and music videos (‘Can’t Get You Out of My Head’ by Kylie Minogue).
2. Maserati Boomerang
Manufacturer: Italdesign Giugiaro
Class: Concept Car
Body Style: 2-door coupé
Layout: Rear mid-engine, rear-wheel drive
At the 1971 Turin Auto Show, Giugiaro, now with his firm, Italdesign, unveiled the Maserati Boomerang, a concept car with a space-age design. The car was ‘drawn almost completely with a ruler’ stated Giugiaro. The angular geometric design was a departure from the trends at the time and thus helped this design approach to take off. One of the standout features of the Boomerang was the protruding steering column with all the gauges in the middle.
By 1972, the non-functional epowood model was developed into the commercially launched Maserati Bora. A precursor to his later designs, the Boomerang reflects the futuristic experimental 1970s era in the automobile industry. The Boomerang model was featured in the Louis Vuitton Fall 2014 Campaign curated by Annie Leibovitz, Juergen Teller, and Bruce Weber.
3. Volkswagen Golf Mk1
Production: 1974 – 2009
Class: Small family car (C)
Body style: 3/5-door hatchback
Layout: Front-wheel drive
The successor to Volkswagen’s Beetle, Golf Mk1 needed to be the replacement for a 20 million unit selling model. Known as Rabbit in the US & Caribe in Mexico, the Volkswagen Golf Mk1 became the prime prototype for the hatchback typology. Volkswagen provided all dimensions for the external and internal units, leaving little space for innovation. But remaining true to his design principles, Giugiaro designed a car with sharp lines and angles, something that was reserved for the premium world of sports cars.
The design was a 180-degree turn from the curved exteriors of family cars at the time and was one of the first Volkswagen models with a front-wheel drive & front-mounted water-cooled engine. Though Giugiaro returned to collaborate with Volkswagen in the future, no other model achieved the same level of notoriety as the Golf Mk1.
4. Lotus Esprit Series 1
Manufacturer: Lotus Cars
Class: Sports Car (S)
Body Style: 2-door coupé
Layout: Longitudinal, Rear mid-engine, rear-wheel drive
Launched in 1975 at the Paris Motor Show, the fibreglass bodied Lotus Esprit went into production in 1976. With an aim to replace the stripped-down sports car with a modern exotic design, Colin Chapman, owner of Lotus, approached Giugiaro to design the classic supercar. The Lotus Esprit is a pop culture icon due to its appearance in ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ of the James Bond franchise, wherein the car transforms into a finned submarine.
Giugiaro continued to incorporate his geometric design approach. The radical ‘folded paper’ front was an evolved version of the Italdesign M70 concept showcased at the 1972 Turin Motor Show. The design has been reiterated and rehashed over 30 years, but the original Esprit of the 70s remains a landmark stride for the company.
5. Lancia Megagamma
Class: Compact MPV (concept car)
Body Style: 5-door minivan
Layout: Front-wheel drive
In the 1978 Turin Motor Show, people were surprised to see a small one-box concept design, known as the Megagamma, instead of Giugiaro’s signature sports car exhibitions. At the time, the Megagamma was widely criticised but is now recognised as the main influence & driver of the minivan movement. Giugiaro’s work has always transcended stylish exteriors and sports cars to focus more on materials and production methods.
A continuation of his work on the New York Taxicab Project in 1976, the Megagamma featured a more ergonomic and comfortable interior with a compressed upright package to maximise cabin space. The floor was at the sill level to make ingress and egress more comfortable. While it was mostly judged by its exterior styling, the interiors proved to be rational and cost-effective.
6. Fiat Panda
Class: City Car (A)
Body Style: 3-door hatchback
Layout: Front-engine, front-wheel-drive
Released in 1980, Fiat Panda’s brief required a straightforward, practical design. Giugiaro along with Aldo Mantovani thus delivered a rational utilitarian design. According to Giugiaro, ‘The Panda is like a pair of jeans: a simple, practical article of clothing without pretence.’ The interiors optimised flexibility while the materials made the production inexpensive.
Despite its boxy shape, the Panda was aerodynamically better than its predecessors. The Panda along with the Golf Mk1 became the Italian designers most notable ventures in commercial city cars. Several evolutions of the Panda kept it in production for over 20 years and this city car typology became the Fiat brand icon.
7. Nikon F3
Type: Single Lens Reflex
In 1980, Giugiaro collaborated with Nikon on the F3 camera model. With his experience in automotive design, he was asked to create an ergonomic model with a visually attractive exterior. The design was heavily dependent on the engineering, which he wanted to contrast with a minimal form.
Giugiaro pursued a simple black form featuring a raised grip on the camera body with an eye-catching red line on one side, which incorporated another contrasting element. The incorporation of a touch of red against the black mass became a signature feature of Nikon models.
8. Speed Master ‘Bishop’
In a collaboration with Seiko, Giugiaro designed a selection of digital and analogue watches. Two watches from this collection gained popularity after being featured in James Cameron’s 1986 movie ‘Aliens’. Two characters, namely Lt. Ripley and android Bishop, are seen wearing the 7A28-7000 and 7A28-6000, respectively, both of which are now recognized by the name of the characters that wore them.
The design played with symmetry and envisioned the watches of the future. This imaginative approach is indicative of the movement now referred to as ‘retrofuturism’. The design had the same characteristics as a funky sports car, which Giugiaro was known for. Just like his other designs, the watches form was justified with efficient functions.
9. DMC Delorean
Manufacturer: DeLorean Motor Company (DMC)
Class: Sports Car
Body Style: 2-door coupé
Layout: Rear-engine, rear-wheel-drive
Though the Delorean was widely known for its lack of power and performance, it is arguably Giugiaro’s most popular work. The credit for the fame goes to the classic movie franchise ‘Back To The Future’, where it was featured as the titular time machine. The design was similar to the Mangusta with its gull-wing doors but the steel panels were left bare to showcase the dull silver look, which became a striking feature.
Stylistically, the car was different from everything else on the market and was revered for its bold bare statement. However, it lacked the engine to match its look and was featured in the worst cars of all time list by ‘Time’ in 2017. The car nevertheless has retained its cult status due to its appearance in the popular movie franchise.
To celebrate his 80th birthday, Giorgetto Giugiaro revealed the GFG Sibylla at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show. The design is a collaboration with the Chinese firm, Envision, whose aim is to create a harmonious ecosystem between transport, infrastructure, and energy. The car incorporates the accessibility, functionality, and aesthetics that Giugiaro is known for.
The standout feature is the transparent windshield roof dome made of photosensitive glass. The windshield dome slides forward, gull-wing formation, for ingress and egress. The luxury four-door electric sedan is a reimagination of electric cars and enhances the developed technology by Envision. The concept car is a tribute to Giugiaro’s mother and is named after her.
11. Marille (Bonus)
Probably his most questionable ventures, Giugiaro also has an engineered pasta to his name. Marille was designed by the automobile designer in 1983 and had the architectural look that Voiello Company wanted.
After presenting twelve prototypes, five were selected to be tested with different sauces and the Marille emerged victorious amongst others. The pasta did not become a household name due to its uneven shape which meant irregular and longer cook-time.
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Orasz, Peter. “This Pasta was Designed by the Man Who Designed the DeLorean.” Jalopnik, 2010, https://jalopnik.com/this-pasta-was-designed-by-the-man-who-designed-the-del-5594815#:~:text=Marille%20is%20not%20a%20box,prolific%20Italian%20car%20designer%20ever.&text=One%20was%20called%20Voiello%2C%20operated,1983%20to%20apply%20his%20magic.
“Remembering the Maserati Boomerang.” Ferrari of Salt Lake City, 2014, https://www.ferrarislc.com/remembering-the-maserati-boomerang/.
Roij, Neils van. “Design Icons: Volkswagen Mk1 Golf by Italdesign Giugiaro.” formtrends, 2017, https://www.formtrends.com/volkswagen-mk1-golf-giugiaro/.
Ross, Robert. “Under the Hood: Why De Tomaso’s Mangusta Is an Outlier That Collectors Covet.” Robb Report, 2021, https://robbreport.com/motors/cars/under-the-hood-de-tomaso-mangusta-mecum-auctions-1234596770/.
Rowlands, Chris. “Why the Lotus Esprit is the last affordable classic supercar.” GQ, 2019, https://www.gq-magazine.co.uk/cars/article/lotus-espirit.
Smith, Karl. “Concept Car of the Week: Lancia Megagamma (1978).” car design news, 2015, https://www.cardesignnews.com/cars/concept-car-of-the-week-lancia-megagamma-1978/24914.article.
Vorano, Neil. “For Giugiaro, it’s more about creativity than the car.” Driving, 2016, https://driving.ca/auto-news/news/for-giugiaro-its-more-about-creativity-than-the-car#:~:text=Giugiaro%20says%20the%20difference%20in,can%20change%20an%20entire%20look.
Wallace, Nicholas. “This Futuristic Maserati Boomerang Concept Just Sold for $3.7M at Auction.” Car and Driver, 2015, https://www.caranddriver.com/photos/g15302559/this-futuristic-maserati-boomerang-concept-just-sold-for-3-7m-at-auction-gallery/?slide=28.
Woodward, Lyn. “Classic Ride: 1969 De Tomaso Mangusta.” Automobile, 2018, https://www.automobilemag.com/news/1969-de-tomaso-mangusta-review-classic-ride/.