Teenage boys in the 1970s tended to have two dramatic posters on their bedroom walls: Farrah Fawcett and the Lamborghini Countach. Both objects of desire are essentially unattainable now, but their indelible impressions will linger forever in tens of thousands of minds. Fawcett's parents can never create another woman like Farrah, but Marcello Gandini, the man who shaped the Countach - and half a hundred other fabulous car shapes - is still hard at work, so there's every possibility that one day there may be another iconic car poster from his hand.
With Giorgietto Giugiaro and Leonardo Fioravanti, Gandini is one of three highly respected, 1938 model-year Italian master designers, all of them still working at seventy-one years old. Of the three, Gandini is the most self-effacing, modest, and quiet. He doesn't attend motor shows and has no use for public relations but is neither particularly shy nor a recluse. I have known Gandini slightly for decades but knew very little about his background or how he came to design so many cars I admired. When I first met him, he did tell me a charming little story about his first-ever car design. A friend had crashed his OSCA racer and, rather than put it back as it was, asked Gandini - who draws beautifully - to create a new road-car body shape.
Never having done anything like it before, but having been told that the man who would construct the wooden body buck, Giovanni Raniero, required a full-size drawing, young Gandini taped together many pieces of paper from a big drawing pad and laboriously drew the lines he wanted. When he hung that improvised collage on the studio wall, the famed modeler stood silently staring at it for ten minutes while Gandini trembled, then announced in a loud, disapproving voice, "I understand nothing!" Not too surprising, as Gandini, then ignorant of car-design conventions, had drawn the right side of the car, not the left as everyone else in the industry has done since time immemorial.
Once that was straightened out, his automotive-design career began a rising curve that's lasted more than forty years. He's best known for his work with Nuccio Bertone, especially for Lamborghini's Miura and Countach exotics, although he has done many practical family cars as well, including the highly successful Citroën BX, the first-generation BMW 5-series, the Renault Supercinq, and, above all, my absolute favorite of all supercars produced in the last sixty years - the Lancia Stratos.