Giorgetto Giugiaro is the Car Designer of the Century, according to 132 (relatively) young automotive journalists back in 1999. Their grasp of automotive history seems to have been concentrated in their own adult lifetimes, however. Whether GG’s influence is greater than Battista “Pinin” Farina’s or Harley Earl’s is very much open to debate, but there is no question that he is one of the most prolific designers alive. “I have designed cars for every major company but Honda, and one day I will do that,” says the Maestro. The merging of his firm Italdesign with Volkswagen may signify an end to his half century of intense activity, but he remains a powerful and highly influential force in automobile design.
August 7, 1938: Born to an artistic family in Garessio, province of Cuneo, in northern Italy. His father is a painter.
1952: Moves to Turin, enrolls in the design school of the famous 1920s caricaturist known as Golia. At an end-of-term party, Golia’s nephew Dante Giacosa, Fiat’s chief engineer, sees Giugiaro’s car drawings and offers him an apprenticeship at Fiat.
1955: Hired at the Fiat Special Vehicles Styling Center at Mirafiori. In four years, Giugiaro’s immediate supervisor does not present any of his projects to the chief of the Center.
1959: Frustrated, he presents some drawings to Nuccio Bertone, who then assigned a trial design. “You know that design I had you do as a test? Well, I sold it to Alfa Romeo, so you’d better come to work for me.” His monthly salary increases from $129 to $225. The drawing becomes the Alfa Romeo 2000 (later 2600), Giugiaro’s first car.
1960: Assigned to an “Alpini” military regiment headquartered at Bra, well away from Turin. Bertone rents Giugiaro a hotel room, installs a drawing board, and keeps GG working on the design of the Alfa Romeo Giulia GT whenever he’s off duty. He also does his first of three Ferrari one-offs with Carrozzeria Bertone.
1961: Second serious production model: the BMW 3200CS.
1962: Hitting his stride with another unique Ferrari — Nuccio Bertone’s personal 250GT — and two production models — the Simca 1000/1200 S coupes and the Iso Rivolta GT 300/340.
1963: Marries Maria Teresa Serra.
1964: The Canguro, Giorgetto’s favorite Alfa. Giugiaro also designs a one-off Ford Mustang for Automobile Quarterly.
1965: Son Fabrizio is born during the Geneva show, where the Fiat 850 Spider was revealed.
1966: Bertone wants to hire designer Marcello Gandini. Displeased, Giugiaro moves to Ghia, then operated by Argentine wild man Alessandro de Tomaso. The limited-production De Tomaso Mangusta launches Giugiaro’s sharp-edged, origami-like “folded paper” period.
1967: Leaves Ghia to start Italdesign, partnered with brilliant production engineer Aldo Mantovani.
1968-71: Both Italdesign and daughter Laura are born. Italdesign makes a splash with the dramatic Bizzarrini Manta mid-engine supercar. Within three years he adds Abarth, Suzuki, Porsche, and-superbly, with the Iguana 33/2-Alfa Romeo concept cars to his portfolio, not to mention the production Maserati Bora and Alfasud sedan. These designs grab the attention of Kurt Lotz, who has just taken over VW and knows he needs fresh products.
1971: VW contracts Italdesign for several projects, but Rudolf Leiding, who succeeded Lotz, immediately kills all of the designs except for the Golf, saying, “It can’t work, but it’s too late to change it,” proving that good luck trumps bad judgment.
1972: A summer intern named Ferdinand Piech spends two months learning about design from thirty-four-year-old Giugiaro. Piech predicts the Golf will be a failure.
1973-76: Likely the peak of Giugiaro’s career in terms of volume and quality of work, with seven production cars — VW Passat, Scirocco, and Golf; Alfa Romeo Alfetta GT and Alfasud Sprint; Hyundai Pony; Maserati Quattroporte; and Lotus Esprit. The Golf is, in Giugiaro’s own opinion, his best and most important design and was a direct derivative of the De Tomaso Mangusta in surface and cutline treatments. Who knew?
1978-79: Brought forth a concept car close to Guigiaro’s heart, the Lancia Megagamma, a tall car with a small footprint. But that concept was countered by the space-inefficient production BMW M1.
1980: Pens the Fiat Panda, perhaps his second-most important design. It stays in production for twenty-three years, including variations with all-wheel drive (also engineered by Italdesign).
1981: The De Lorean DMC12, designed much earlier, and the highly influential Isuzu Piazza/Impulse coupe reach production.
1983: The Fiat Uno debuts. It’s still in production today in Brazil and has been one of Fiat’s greatest successes.
1984: A growing year: the Saab 9000, its sister-under-the-skin Lancia Thema, the Isuzu Gemini (badge engineered as the Chevrolet Spectrum, too), the Seat Ibiza, three Lancia concepts, and one concept each on Lotus (Etna) and Ford(Maya) platforms.
1985-86: So busy with production models for Hyundai, Fiat, Seat, and Renault that there isn’t much time for concept cars, other than the Machimoto, Oldsmobile Incas, and the VW Orbit. Oh, and Italdesign did engineering for the Merkur XR4Ti and the Ford Escort cabriolet. Busy indeed.
1987-88: Too many projects and far too little time. Things like the Eagle Premier impress neither critics nor car buyers. Then, suddenly-as this magazine proclaimed at the time, “Giugiaro is back” — three definitely nonstandard, indeed exciting, Audi-powered show cars appear: Aztec, Aspid, and Asgard.
1995-1996: More concepts, including the Lamborghini Cala — a predecessor to the 2004 Gallardo — and one production model, the Daewoo Lanos, are added to the portfolio. Fabrizio Giugiaro is made styling director of the firm.
1997-1999: Italdesign becomes Italdesign-Giugiaro.
2000: Reputation wanes even as business flourishes with more and more body engineering projects. Word in the industry is that Italdesign would throw in Giugiaro styling free if the company got the engineering contract. Projects came to him, concept and theme included.
2003: Case in point: the Alfa Romeo Brera concept. Not knowing the origin of the project at the time, we call it “a welcome return to form for the Giugiaros and the Italdesign carrozzeria.” In fact, the styling is done mostly by Jean-Paul Oyono at Zagato.
2003: Assists on the design of the Lamborghini Gallardo.
2004-2005: The GG50, a Ferrari by and for Giugiaro, is built to celebrate his half century of car design. Italdesign also puts out the restyled Alfa 156 and the Fiat Croma and Grande Punto production cars.
2006: A second Mustang by Giugiaro, mostly by Fabrizio.
2008: The firm celebrates its fortieth anniversary with several concept and production cars, including the 2007 Suzuki SX4.
2010: Lamborghini Holdings, an arm of the Volkswagen Group, buys 90.1 percent of Italdesign-Giugiaro.