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