Of all the concepts based upon Lancia’s unfortunate ’70s flagship, this was the most significant. Enter the Megagamma.
In 1978, the motoring world gathered at the Turin motor show to gawp at the new metal and absorb the latest trends from the cream of Italy’s styling studios. Particularly those of Ital Design, already Italy’s most important automotive carrozzeria. However the reaction to this 1978 offering was initially one of bemusement, bordering on derision. Neither estate, van nor saloon – what on earth was Giugiaro thinking?
Giorgetto’s fanbase was expecting something lowslung, mid-engined and weapon-like, but Ital Design’s founder and creative leader was always more interested in packaging and with Megagamma he took this to its logical conclusion, creating the proto-monospace. A concept that would prove remarkably prescient but was not the harbinger he believed it might be. Nor was Megagamma even the first MPV. That honour falls to the car that would eventually and protractedly become the Renault Espace; a design which pre-dated Megagamma by some years but owing to internal politics and a lengthy gestation, wasn’t seen publicly until 1984.
In fact, the roots of Megagamma lie in work carried out by Ital Design earlier in the decade on the Alfasud and Golf saloons. Both were rational two-volume saloon shapes, the ‘Sud in particular making maximal use of interior volume owing to its compact power unit. In some ways, Megagamma was simply a taller variant of this concept. Based on the underpinnings and mechanical layout of the Lancia Gamma, Megagamma was 247 mm taller and 290 shorter than the donor Gamma Berlina. The floor was raised to sill-height, which in turn raised the seating H-point and by truncating the tail sharply, the overall length was reduced to four metres while increasing internal space for passengers by 170 mm.
Critics suggested that Megagamma lacked style, yet closer examination reveals similarities to both Giugiaro’s original Golf – (especially in the tail) – and the as yet unreleased Lancia Delta in its nose treatment – two designs lauded for the quality of their styling. But Megagamma was all about the interior, its occupants enjoying the comfort of an upright seating position, a high vantage, ease of entry and an airiness which only passengers of contemporary Range Rovers could experience at the time. Despite being largely ignored when first displayed, the industry quietly took notice, not only providing inspiration for mono-volume vehicles like Nissan’s Prairie and the Mitsubishi Space Wagon, but Megagamma’s silhouette would appear in slightly more pared back form in Fiat’s 1980 Panda and the award winning Uno of 1982. And of course several generations of MPV’s owe their very existence to this concept.
Giugiaro himself remained faithful to the idea, reprising it several times – notably with the outlandish Capsula of 1982 and again in the 1984 Together, essentially an updated more stylish Megagamma which previewed the nose and door mirror treatment of the 1991 Espace. Four years later he tried again with the sci-fi Asgard, but despite his best efforts the monospace was not to be the high-rider the motoring public would ultimately take to their hearts. Not even the maestro himself could have foreseen the SUV contagion over the horizon.