Italian Concept Cars Part 1: The Wedge Era 1968 – 1989

Double Apex has several friends locally and abroad. One of our international correspondents has a keen eye for design and penned this piece on Italian concept cars part 1. Look out for part 2 later this week. 

What do doorstops, changes in air pressure and green ground beetles have to do with concept cars? Everything it seems, provided you’re about to explore Italian concept cars of the so-called ‘wedge era’.

Racecar-inspired

In the late 1960s, the search for aerodynamic efficiency in racecar design had gained a new dimension – downforce. To better balance the effect of a huge, high-mounted wing at the rear, racecar noses were lowered and flattened – enter the wedge.

Never slow to spot a new trend, the Italian carrozzeria, led by Bertone, ItalDesign and Pininfarina, adopted the idea wholesale, swapping the voluptuous curves of the past for an edgy, wedgy design language that would last into the late 1980s.

Click here to read about the upcoming Pininfarina hypercar.

Starting with the Alfa Romeo Carabo in 1968, the Italians created a series of inspirational concepts that would influence an entire generation of sportscars. Without these radical flights of fancy, production icons such as the Lamborghini Countach, Lancia Stratos, BMW M1 and Lotus Esprit would never exist.

Alfa Romeo Carabo by Bertone (1968)

Italian Concept Cars Part 1

Named – and painted – after the green Carabidae ground beetle, Marcello Gandini’s brilliant Carabo set the wedge car template. Wrapped around a 33 Stradale chassis, its innovative scissor doors, discreetly hidden head- and tail-lamp units and most importantly its radical lines sparked a revolution in car design.

Double Apex verdict: The king of wedge.

Maserati Boomerang by Italdesign (1972)

Maserati Boomerang

Giorgetto Giugiaro’s ruler-only masterpiece sought to push wedge design to its extreme. That he was able to keep the final shape so taut, the proportions so balanced and the aesthetics so desirable is testament to his genius. Conventional doors, a Citroen-at-its-craziest interior, and a 4,7-litre V8 and underpinnings from the Bora made it a fully-functional daily-driver as well.

Double Apex verdict: So brilliant we almost hope wedge design comes back.

Ferrari 512S Modulo by Pininfarini (1970)

Ferrari 512S Modulo

Pininfarina’s first foray into wedge design came a year earlier with the 512S Berlinetta Speciale but it was the Paulo Martin-designed Modulo that delivered the more enduring shock factor. The Modulo is outrageously proportioned – five times longer than it is high – with partially covered wheels, a forward sliding canopy and a space-age interior complete with hubless steering wheel and bowling ball-shaped control panels.

Double Apex verdict: Almost 50 years later it still looks like the future.

Lancia Stratos Zero by Bertone (1970)

Bertone Stratos Zero

Bertone’s epic response to the Modulo raised the bar by lowering the roofline. An astonishing marriage of architecture, sculpture and disciplined automotive engineering, the Zero measures a mere 84 cm in height aided in part by the mid-mounted 1,6-litre V4 engine. Access to the dashboard-free cabin is a step-in-from-the-front affair via a flip-up windscreen. Inside, it’s all ‘chocolate block’ recliners, forward tilting steering wheel, hand-etched green Perspex instrument panel and an acre of glass roof-cum-windscreen.
Double Apex verdict: The concept that sent Gandini stratospheric

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