The Gamma Berlina’s appearance would divide opinion. In this part, we examine the concept that inspired it.
The styling of both Gamma variants was the responsibility of Pininfarina, a design house with a lengthy and distinguished association with the Lancia marque. While the Gamma coupé would reference themes from Lancia’s stylistic past, the scheme for the Berlina would prove a complete departure; echoing, particularly in the canopy area, the carrozzeria’s 1967 Berlina Aerodynamica, possibly the most influential saloon concept since their Lancia Florida series a decade earlier.
Like Bertone’s Lamborghini Miura, the Berlina Aerodynamica has been attributed to more than one designer over the years and given Pininfarina’s reluctance to credit individual stylists, the facts have been left for historians to puzzle over. The concept seems to originate with Leonardo Fioravanti’s student days at the Politecnico di Milano. Studying design and aerodynamic theory, the young man was tutored by none other than Lancia engineering supremo, Professor Antonio Fessia. Reputedly encouraged by the redoubtable engineer in his studies, Fioravanti is said to have created a design for a low-drag, Kamm-tailed fastback saloon, elements of which in retrospect resemble Tipo 830.
Following his 1964 appointment at Pininfarina, Fioravanti revisited the concept in conjunction with fellow stylist, Paulo Martin, who according to Fioravanti contributed a number of stylistic elements to the substantially revised 1967 design, which was based on the platform and mechanical layout of BMC’s ADO17 saloon. (Interestingly, retaining a British connection, Fioravanti’s original concept was to be powered by Daimler’s compact 2.5 litre V8 unit).
Upon release, Autocar magazine described Berlina Aerodynamica as “a demonstration that so far as styling for the 1970s is concerned, this is the kind of shape we shall all be driving”. They were only half wrong: It was to have a profound effect on saloon car envelopes during the early years of the 1970’s, inspiring many of the Gamma’s contemporaries. Ironic then that the car most closely related to Pininfarina’s original concept would in fact be the very last to appear.
As Tipo 830 was being created under the direction of Sergio Camuffo at Lancia and Fioravanti at Pininfarina, early proposals by Aldo Brovarone bore a close resemblance to Berlina Aerodynamica, but without the prototype’s glazed rear three-quarter light treatment. The most significant departure from the finished design was the lower, more penetrating nose and semi-enclosed headlights, which was altered on the instructions of Camuffo, who requested a more formal arrangement. The addition of a body swage line appears a direct lift from the smaller 1100 Aerodynamica prototype from the same period. Interior design for both models was also carried out by Pininfarina – Lancia adopting the proposed treatments largely unaltered.
Bucking contemporary luxury car convention, the Berlina was a fastback shape, with a separate boot. To some eyes at least, the styling looked bulky and under-resolved. Certainly from some angles, the car appears slightly overwhelmed by its canopy. Viewed in profile, the shortness of the wheelbase is notable and one has to wonder whether a few additional centimeters between the wheels would have allowed the designers create a slightly more balanced shape. Damningly too, the Gamma’s silhouette reprised that of cheaper cars like the Alfasud, Citroen GS and Lancia’s own Beta model. So despite the fact that the Gamma appeared both modish and intriguing, there was a degree of stylistic resistance to the car within its target market, especially from customers of a more traditional bent.
Certainly, from quite early in its career, Pininfarina appeared to distance itself from the Berlina design, concentrating efforts on the more conservative and better received coupé. It’s possible that owing to the lateness of the Gamma’s arrival to market, it was felt to be a dated design theme within the carrozzeria; certainly, as the decade wore towards its close, the fashion for fastback styles had faded, heralding a return to either more traditional three-volume or more overt hatchback shapes.
Lancia’s own centro stile appeared to acknowledge this trend, creating a tre-volumi Gamma variant in a similar vein to the 1980 Trevi – a car incidentally, designed with assistance from Pininfarina. If anything, the resulting proposal was less of a visual success than that of its more compact sibling, so it’s perhaps a mercy it never saw the light of day.
Read more on the Gamma Coupe’s styling here
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