Friday, 19 October 2012

Marcello Gandini Story - Part 2: The Miura

It's possibly the most widely represented car ever, queen of all car magazines. A milestone and an icon. The first supercar to many and a revolution in the streets. So how did an interior designer end up designing this as his first ever job? There's no discussion about Marcello Gandini's genius but there might be some surprises in this story. Surprises that literature hasn't disclosed yet.

Let's start from the beginning. We all know that Ferruccio Lamborghini was very determined in his vision for a car delivering the power and the thrills of a race car without the uncomfortable downsides. He hired the very best people in the market for it, Dallara for the chassis and Bizzarrini for the engine. Bizzarrini had a hard but theoretically straightforward task. “I want to be able to drive it smoothly in Bologna at 40 km/h, but give it 350 hp, ok? No racing business.” So Bizzarrini started from one of the Ferrari units he had been working on and gave Lamborghini a dry sump engine giving 380 hp. Wrong type of engine and too much power. This is the genius of Bizzarrini for you. Lamborghini didn’t find this funny, so interrupted the collaboration and set his engineers about “taming” the beast, converting it to wet sump. Dallara’s chassis was incredible and the decision of placing the engine transversely behind the driver presented huge challenges but also allowed for the cosmetic freedom that designers coveted. Ferruccio took the chassis to Turin's motor show and the reaction was immediately incredulous.
At the time Gandini was already trying hard to start a career in car designing. A friend hired him to rebody an Osca 1500 Barchetta (of which I couldn’t find further information) and since then he was lucky enough to collaborate with small coachbuilders, quite often having to commute to Milan. In his own words “at the time the famous companies like Moretti and Viotti already produced the design internally and didn’t invest in external freelances. It was hard to have a chance to become known. (...) A few years before Bertone wanted to meet me after having seen some of my drawings but we didn’t manage to find an agreement for a job. Only after Giugiaro left I managed to get the job.” Giugiaro would move to De Tomaso-owned Ghia and design the Mangusta there before leaving to found his own Italdesign in 1967. Did Giugiaro leave because Bertone wanted to hire Gandini or was Gandini hired because Giugiaro left? I don’t have sufficient evidence to support either claim. Nuccio was all the more happy to have someone to finish off the Miura and even today it is not clear what can be attributed to whom. Nuccio in an old interview stated that Gandini was quite protective with the final result and he literally intercepted the drawings going to the workshop to add or modify details without having to argue. To the day Gandini never helped solving the mystery once and for all but said once: “the Miura was very much like a Giugiaro car in some detail, its lines were quite soft and it had similarities to cars he had done previously – the Maserati Ghibli, De Tomaso Mangusta and Iso Grifo. But what shows my stamp, I feel, is the effort to make the car into an integrated shape, not just a top and a bottom, as so many cars of the time had. The side-scoops, in particular, were intended to give the car a kind of global shape.”
In these sketches of the development it's very easy to distinguish the two hands at work. In the early ones hints of the showcar Testudo give way to ISO details, and all this will be considered but left aside in the last, final Gandini proposal. According to one of Bertone's secretaries at the time (thanks to Emanuele Vanzetti for the first hand info) the team at Bertone was very close, as you would expect from a relatively small Italian company in the mid sixties. Giugiaro's sudden departure and Gandini's subsequent arrival was not painless and Gandini’s quiet and guarded demeanour in the office certainly didn't help. Furthermore, Nuccio was known for his desire to have a hands-on involvement in developments, just as much as Gandini was known for wanting to be independent in the process. One way or another, as soon as the new buildings in Caprie became available Gandini successfully requested to have his team transferred there, possibly denying any chance for him to replace Giorgetto in the heart of Bertone's team.
The Miura approached the automotive world with all the power and blast that you would expect from the breed of bull that it took its name from. But there is also the line that gracefully lowers just before the windscreen and raises towards the canopy with godly proportions. The elegant lateral air intakes that wrap and underline the side windows cleverly disguising the door handles. The same intakes that quote the horns of a raging bull when both doors are open. Campagnolo’s iconic magnesium alloys the center-piece in the sinuous lines of the front arches while the rear end with the signature six black louvers wraps the engine and transmission tightly. Too tightly in fact, as it would transpired the night before the official presentation.
Meeting the deadline in time for the 1966 Geneva Motor show was proving a huge task for Lamborghini, as was the case for Bertone. One of Nuccio’s secretaries remembers being up way into the night hand stitching the seats. Even worse, when they finally got to the point of mounting the engine it just didn’t fit. In order to make it in time at the motor show they had to resolve in applying a ballast in place of the propulsor and bolt the bonnet to avoid the avid press trying to sneak an impudent shot. Needless to say all went well, the project called P400 (Posteriore, 4 litres) was named Miura and the Lamborghini badge that we know today appeared for the first time. 764 would be produced between 1966 and 1972.
Two stars were born. The Lamborghini Miura and Marcello Gandini.
Have you read Marcello Gandini Story - Part 1 yet? Click HERE to be redirected.

Many thanks to, and for some interesting interviews and articles. Thanks anso to Emanuele Vanzetti, Tom Sherriff and D.S. for the invaluable help and support.

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