What you say isn’t always necessarily what you mean.
As Europe’s leading car design consultancy, Ital Design has always been in the business of ideas, and while they could to some extent predict the future in styling terms, they couldn’t necessarily convince the industry to follow their lead, which saw many promising styling studies on the cutting room floor. But in the industry’s defence, the price of failure has always been high.
According to contemporary reports, Giugiaro had high hopes for the ‘tall car’ concept embodied in his carrozzeria’s 1978’s Megagamma, but following the industry’s somewhat apathetic response, he is said to have fused theories around maximal interior space and aerodynamic theory, the result being the 1980 Medusa. But was there more than one agenda at play?
Having established its body shape and proving its efficiency in the wind tunnel, Ital Design technicians built a running prototype. Said to have been concerned that its wind cleaving shape would be widely copied, they adopted the mid-engined running gear from Lancia’s Beta Monte Carlo. With mechanicals, radiator, ventilation and door mirror fitted, Medusa achieved a Cd of 0.263 – making it the most aerodynamic saloon (in road going trim) in the world at the time.
Giugiaro appeared quite serious about its potential for production telling journalist Mel Nichols; “By moving the front wheels forward a little and raising the bonnet it’s easy to come up with a front wheel drive Medusa. Our styling model with front-drive has the same Cd.” He claimed he could deliver 0.25 to any client as long as he was given carte blanche with the shape. That shape continued a theme established by his earlier M8 concept but also paid homage to Pininfarina’s 1968 Berlina Aerodynamica; itself having formed the basis for an entire generation of Seventies saloons, but most notably, a number of landmark Citroën’s.
The similarities were notable in the long wheelbase, soft forms, low penetrating nose, elongated front overhang and abruptly truncated rear. Medusa, despite its shield and flag logo, really had Quai de Javel written all over it.
Journalistic expectations were high that the mid-1980’s would see a new generation of super-slippery and dynamic shapes, whereas in fact what we got for the most part was retrenchment and conservatism. Illustrating just how far wishful thinking can get you, Nichols confidently predicted Medusa would form the basis for the forthcoming Lancia saloon to be twinned with Saab later in the decade. Yes, Giugiaro got the gig for that one, but the car he oversaw adhered to an entirely different theme.
But could there have been another dimension? The Italian car design universe was small, incestuous and nothing stayed secret for long. It would have been Well known that Bertone was engaged by Citroën who were planning a new mid-sized car model. Given the rivalry between them, it’s possible the Lancia badge was a red herring to take the scent off Giorgetto’s focus across the Alps. Medusa was probably too late to have impacted upon the BX programme, but perhaps Giugiaro was looking slightly further ahead. Yes I am speculating here, but no more so than Mel Nichols thirty five years ago in the pages of Car.
The Medusa had promise with just about any badge on its nose. But what it was really crying out for was a nice pair of chevrons.