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10 Most Influential Designs...
By Giorgetto Giugiaro

August 2019
by BEN RESNIKOFF for www.hotcars.com

Giorgetto Giugiaro's car designs are not only classic reminders of his automotive genius, but these ten are considered his most influential.

Designer of the Century. Most influential. Hall of Fame. When you hear these words spoken about a car designer, you know the conversation is about Giorgetto Giugiaro. From Fiat to Bertone to Ghia to his own company, ItalDesign, Giugiaro’s 60-year career was marked by the creation of elegant, forward-looking, or out-there designs that moved the industry forward in countless ways.

From more than 200 designs that made it into production, we’re on the hunt for 10 that made a difference. And yes, there are a few take-your-breath-away Italian supercars on the list. But tellingly, there are more regular cars for the average motorist here. Those are the cars that influenced an industry, rather than a small cadre of high-end manufacturers.

Want to drive a Giugiaro? It may be easier than you thought.

10 1968 Bizzarrini Manta

While it’s not the only supercar that seats three across (looking at you, McLaren F1), it was one of the earlier versions to capitalize on the advantages of a center position for the driver. More headroom, better visibility, and better pedal offset are all excellent reasons to put the driver in the middle. But let’s not forget that it also just plain seems cool.

9 Maserati Ghibli

It’s the design of the Ghibli, rather than the high-tech, hemi-head V8 mated to a 5-speed stick, that makes it an icon. The same mechanicals in a more traditional design might have been a footnote. But the Ghibli remains a sought-after collectible that can be expected to sell – in any condition – for well into six figures. So… this isn’t one for the masses.

8 De Tomaso Mangusta

While it looked menacing from any angle, the most notable feature of the Mangusta’s design were the gullwing style doors that raised skyward to reveal the engine and rear luggage compartments. Not so useful, as they made it difficult to perform even the most basic engine maintenance, but when were Italian exotics about being useful? The Mangusta had all the style and made as stunning an appearance when new as it does today.

7 Isuzu 117

Take a look at the 117 and it’s easy to see why it was so popular. Whether it’s an early round-headlight version, or later square-headlight example, the lines are delicate and sporty at the same time. And since it was powered by an early dual-overhead-cam four-cylinder with electronic fuel injection, it delivered as much engineering as it did beauty. The 117 was a car fit for a pedestal from a brand that today simply feels like a footnote. Interesting how that happens, sometimes.

6 BMW 3200 CS

The other notable design element is that this was the first BMW use of “roundie” tail lights - a feature that would rise to prominence with the 2002 a few years later. So yes, this design mostly influenced BMW, but bits and pieces seeped into other designs around the world. Only about 603 3200s were made, so good luck finding one. But you can more easily find examples of related designs that followed, such as the 3.0 CS or 2002.

5 Alfa Romeo Alfasud

With front and rear seats that folded flat and a dashboard that featured a full-width storage shelf, the Alfasud was all about flexibility. Yet it was based on a simple two-box design format that Giugiaro would visit time and time again, as it maximized interior space and utility. In the case of the Alfasud, it would appear in a variety of body styles from coupé to hatchback to wagon. Unfortunately, while the Alfasud was lauded by the motoring press and owners, the love faded as quickly as the cars rusted. They were never offered in the U.S., so finding one locally could be a challenge, but as they’re all over 25 years old, you can import one without much trouble - if you can find a good one.

4 Fiat Panda

As he described it in La Stampa in 1980, “The Panda is like a pair of jeans, that simple, practical, no-frills piece of clothing. I tried to bring into this car the spirit of military machinery, especially helicopters, that means light, rational, built-for-purpose vehicles.” Clearly, it was a design ethos that spoke to many, as so many cars were purchased.

3 Lancia Megagamma

Unveiled at the 1978 Turin Auto Show, the Megagamma was the world’s first glimpse at a school of packaging that can now be seen on any street in any town in any country around the world. And they all trace back to this show car. Granted, the Megagamma never made it into production, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t invent the genre.

2 Lotus Esprit

The Esprit helped define the look of the ‘70s and carried on – with some updates – until 2004, by which time it had inspired other designs such as the TVR Tasmin, Vector W8 and more. While many designers created wedges, Giugiaro’s design for Lotus is one of the most iconic.

1 Volkswagen Golf

Volkswagen was ready to move past the rear-engined, rear-wheel-drive Beetle platform and wanted a design that would help the new front-engined, front-wheel-drive car stand out. They turned to Giorgetto Giugiaro and he gave them a simple, two-box design that conformed to his “folded paper” aesthetic – sharp creases and flat planes. It could be said the VW was the upright version of the Esprit design. It was, as we all know, a huge triumph and during a celebration of his 70th birthday he had this to say about it: “This is the most important car of my career. Its success opened many doors for me.”

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