Bevy of Strangeness: Rayton Fissore

If you think idiosyncratic coachbuilder Zagato is a peculiar kind of company, prepare yourself for the multi-facetted oddness of Rayton Fissore

goldshadow-a112-fissore
Photo (c) http://www.autobiachia112.altervista.org

As there are so many uncertainties about this particularly unusual automotive enterprise, let’s start with the verified facts. This company actually did exist. And while this may seem like a given, this very fact needs to be established, as so much about this business remains shrouded in mystery.

Rayton Fissore’s most successful product apparently was an SUV called Magnum, and branded as LaForza Magnum in the US. Apart from this, the most common product to come from the company’s factory premises appear to be modified Lancia Beta variants.

rayton-fissore-magnum-3
Photo (c) auto-classiche.it

Said Magnum was reportedly built upon an Iveco van chassis and available with a plethora of different engines, ranging from the inevitable VM diesel to BMW, as well as Alfa Romeo engines and Ford V8s. It is claimed that Tom Tjaarda penned the Magnum’s shape, which is lent some credence by the fact that well-known stylist hasn’t sued for libel.

And this is when things regarding Rayton Fissore are becoming murkier still, for it is unknown how many Magnums exactly have been built, or when Rayton Fissore’s business closed down.

Even the origins of the company’s name remain disputed: one source claims the founder of Rayton Fissore was actually the son of the owner of Carrozzeria Fissore (best-known for building the bodies of Monteverdis), while others explain that the a man named Giulio Malvino was actually behind the company and employed his wife’s family name for his business. None of this, of course, explains the ‘Rayton’ part, which sounds neither Swiss, nor Italian. The transformation of one Trevor Frost into Trevor Fiore is an incredibly straightforward affair in comparison.

Almost as straightforward, it appears, was the Magnum’s position in the market, where it acted as a kind of Italianate Range Rover alternative. Apparently, this business model possessed enough allure back in the day to make Malcolm Victor Gauntlett, then-owner of Aston Martin Lagonda, enquire about the possibility of taking over Rayton Fissore’s business. Which was incredibly foresighted in some regards, but renders the Magnum’s elusiveness even more strange. Not to mention the fact that the Magnum remained in production until 2003 (albeit built by its American importer from 1990 onwards).

insidelf1

If the Magnum comes across as a bit of a strange beast, it actually has nothing on the Gold Shadow.

The Rayton Fissore Gold Shadow is an Autobianchi A112-based homage to both the Porsche 928 and the AMC Pacer. Who it was aimed at, why it was built and who designed it remains unclear, as do the production figures, although it appears most likely that it remained a one-off.

197820rayton20fissore20gold20shadow_01
Photo (c) lh6.googleusercontent.com

So what can we make of this most mysterious coach builder? Vigilant minds might associate the terms ‘money’ and ‘laundering’ with this peculiar business. And even less cynical observers would have any right to expect the name of Alejandro de Tomaso to pop up at the periphery of this story.  But neither can be confirmed, nor denied.

So, has anyone here actually ever seen a Rayton Fissore product out in the open?

Author: Christopher Butt

car design critic // runs www.auto-didakt.com // contributes to The Road Rat magazine // writes a column for Octane France //

8 thoughts on “Bevy of Strangeness: Rayton Fissore”

  1. Thank you for that Kris. I had entirely missed out on the Gold Shadow. The name is particularly fine, since it is obviously more suited to a much more lavish car, or a condom. But it could be a tempting proposition for me to own to use on those days when I want something a teeny bit more ‘sporting’ than the Cube.

  2. I have seen it !:) It rather BIG, for European tastes 🙂
    Anyway, being built on truck chassis does bring certain specific qualities (and faults!) and being quite large for European streets is one of them.
    A guy who owns a garage close to me has one with diesel engine, albeit beaten within inch of its life, It still chuggs along rather well, carrying a lot of car parts and subassemblies. Engine is quite vocal, sounding on a moments as a marine diesel (which it could be, if memory served me well, as a marinized version of this VM engine with separate heads for each cylinder had been installed long time ago in boats).
    A lot of locally built Iveco trucks (up to 2001.) shared similar axle components, so unbelievably, It is not that difficult around here to keep the Rayton running for a long time 🙂
    I was actually looking into buying one for measly sum od 2000eur (dark green, so I could be from Italian forestry services – much better option, because those coming from police could have been in much worse shape). Owner bought it in Italy and brought it back to Serbia when he retired, supposedly.
    But, with diesel becoming more expensive, I wasn’t too keen on old diesel for my need and period car mags did mention it being rather bad dinamically, comparing to Range Rovers, Patrols and Landrcruiser.

    1. Misha. Excellent news that the wide reaching and well-informed web that is the DTW readership can actually confirm first/hand that the Magnum exists.

      The underlying truck chassis brings to mind the Mohs Ostentatienne that we wrote about last month.

  3. Forgot to mention – truck chassis and body shell bolted by using a technique called UNIVIS did give it immense strenght! There were few pics of a Laforza version, after a frontal crash with S-class. Laforza was literally just scratched, while Merc was a write-off.

  4. I see quite a lot of the 1994 P38A Range Rover in the Magnum’s proportions and details, yet the Italian truck arrived nine years before.

    Tom Tjaarda has a bit of previous on this matter. His 1971 De Tomaso Deauville anticipated the Jaguar XJ40 by a full fifteen years.

  5. I too have seen Magnums in the wild–a (former) neighbor in Lexington, Kentucky, USA had two of them (circa 2010), and more recently I’ve seen one parked in a residential driveway in Renton (Seattle), Washington, USA. I’ve often thought that if I ever needed a tow vehicle, a magnum might be a good choice (since it’s based on much heavier-duty underpinnings than other SUVs), but that was before I bought my Merc 508D tow truck.

  6. I’m standing next to a rayton fissore magnum in my yard , engine gone but otherwise complete .. been stood outside for a good 15 yrs
    ’89 model? any one interested?
    07873438605 Chris

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