When you think of DeLorean, the only man that springs to mind is John DeLorean, the sole architect of that gleaming stainless steel sportscar that dreams are made of. But you’d be wrong. An Italian born in 1938 is the one responsible for those futuristic ‘80’s looks, he’s known as a design legend turning his hand to cameras, computers, office furniture and even guns, his name – Giorgetto Giugiaro.
It all started in 1955 when Giugiaro entered his student work into an exhibition, here it was spotted by Dante Giarcosa the technical director at Fiat, before he knew it a four-year journey at the company began, and after he moved to Bertone.
Fast forward to 1968 and Giugiaro wanted to expand his horizons, so he set up his own design studio – Italdesign was born. The very next year he had a meeting with some rather hostile German engineers in Wolfsburg, he’d been selected for interview as four out of the six designs Volkswagen liked the look of at the Turin Auto Show were penned by him.
VW needed a success, the Beetle was losing sales, and a worthy successor was long overdue, Giugiaro got the job and was tasked with the new ‘peoples car’, the Golf was born.
His designs are infamous the world over, from the 1959 Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta to the DeTomaso Mangusta, Lotus Esprit to the more mundane Daewoo Lanos and Fiat Punto. His work has always mixed the humble with the outlandish, turning his hand to whatever the job may be, take the stunning VW Karmann Ghia TC, a car that’s still lusted over today for it’s svelte sweeping lines and modern twist on the classic Ghia looks. One of Giugiaro’s more current vehicles is the Suzuki SX4 Crossover, the two couldn’t be more different if you tried.
Now in his 80’s Giugiaro finally sold his last remaining stake in Italdesign to VW group, but Italdesign continues to do its own thing semi-autonomously.
But what does this have to do with the DeLorean? It’s an interesting story and starts with another German automotive marque – Porsche.
A Tapir is a long-nosed herbivore that looks a little like a pig or wild boar, it lives in jungles and forests throughout South America and Southeast Asia, a variant of its name was given to an Italdesign concept car of 1970.
The Tapiro looks like something otherworldly, as if it flew right out of Joe 90. Sleek, angular lines denote the wedge shape that was all the rage back then. Only one was ever produced, it was owned and driven daily before a mysterious fire killed it, it’s burnt out shell now sits in the Giugiaro Museum, unrestored and blackened from its flaming death.
While the Tapiro died, something unlike anything else was born from its design, the DeLorean.
A number of wedge shape cars came before the Tapiro, there was the Ferrari Modulo, the Maserati Boomerang and the early Lotus Esprit designs, the last two were the work of Giugiaro, while the Ferrari was Pininfarina’s baby.
It was the ‘70’s, the space age was here to stay, and everything was looking to grab a slice of that new-age, angular design, from tape decks to Formula 1 cars. All the big design houses were touting for a wedge-shaped supercar, but none of the manufacturers were biting. While they were pretty to look at, they weren’t entirely practical and was there even a need for such angular machines on our roads?
Tapiro was designed from the ground up to be a production-ready prototype for VW and Porsche, Giugiaro was tired of designing concepts that were stillborn auto show fancies. He wanted one of his incredible creations to be on the roads as soon as possible. To give it the best chance of production it was designed around a tweaked 914/6 platform. It featured double gullwing doors, one set for the luggage at the rear, the other for the passengers.
Sadly, once again, VW and Porsche decided the design would be too hard to produce en-mass to make profit. Tapiro was sold off to a wealthy Spaniard and the design sat around until 1974.
This is where John DeLorean comes into the picture.
The DMC-12 is born
From the start, John wanted his car to have those futuristic gullwing doors, but he needed a designer to complete his vision.
John and ex-GM engineer Bill Collins flew to the Turin Motor Show in search of someone to pen the DeLorean. Wedges were still in, and the two Americans spoke with Pininfarina, Bertone, Michelotti and our man Giugiaro. All four placed bids for the design, but Giugiaro won, he had a near production-ready vehicle waiting in the wings – Tapiro.
If you look at pictures of the design side by side, you can see there are numerous differences, the outlines are similar, but everything else is markedly different. That’s because Collins requested several changes, more ground clearance, fixed lights not pop-up, windows in the rear quarter etc, each time Giugiaro made the changes without a fuss.
In fact, Giugiaro’s initial designs of the DeLorean almost look like a modern, angular take on the Ferrari Dino, there are even certain bread van characteristics in its side profile, there’s also elements of the BMW 1M thrown in there.
The first style model was shipped to DeLorean’s headquarters in July 1975, Giugiaro would finally have his wedge styled sportscar in production.
Not so fast.
It would take another six years before the DMC-12 would be on the road. An engine supplier couldn’t be found, finance was an issue, factories had to be built, and the nation of Ireland united with Protestants and Catholics working together on the production line.
For all the gorgeous sculpted four wheeled machines Giugiaro has created over his 60 odd year career the DeLorean will be one of, if not his defining work. The DMC-12 for all its history, scandal, trials and tribulations it’s a car that’s instantly recognisable by generations, a name synonymous with style, modernity and doing things a different way.
From the DeLorean’s incredibly lightweight yet complexed bonded-resin construction and raw brushed stainless steel exterior John saw things a different way, he wanted to break the mould when it came to the modern sportscar, with Giugiaro’s help, the car, the story, and the man have become infamous.
Many of Giugiaro’s designs were ahead of their time, and it’s clear to see why the DeLorean takes centre stage in the Italdesign Museum.
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