Aces High

When maestro Giorgetto shuffled the deck in 1973, he certainly got his money’s worth. 

audi
1973 Italdesign Asso di Picche (c) Leblogauto

The Ital Design Asso di Picche (Ace of Spades) concept emerged during what can perhaps be described as Giorgetto Giugiaro’s purple patch, when the maestro could barely put a stylistic foot wrong. An expressive styling study for a close-coupled four seater coupé, in this instance created in conjunction with both Audi and Karmann, it made its public debut at the Frankfurt motor show in 1973.

An evolution of styling themes expressed not only in Ital production designs for Alfa Romeo and Volkswagen, but also in the Boomerang styling study for Maserati, it could be said to have codified what would become Giugiaro’s particular recipe of origami surfacing and trapezoidal proportioning, one which served him well throughout the decade.

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What’s more, Giorgetto made Asso di Picche’s styling theme pay, with a bewildering array of variations emerging in a succession of conceptual studies and production designs for Alfa Romeo, Audi, BMW, De Lorean, Hyundai, Lancia, Jaguar, and Maserati, over a period dating from 1974 to 1981. Indeed, some might suggest that even 1984’s Seat Ibiza may have imbibed from the same vessel, although by then it must have been down to the dregs.

2019 Hyundai 45 Concept. (c) topgear

Fast forward to Frankfurt 2019, where Hyundai showed its 45 EV concept, ostensibly a retrofuturist homage to Giugiaro’s 1974 Pony Coupé concept. Looking for all the world like a blend of first-generation Lancia Delta and a Harris Mann-era BL Princess, this attractive and well executed design marks what could be a first: the revival of ’70s retro. Frankly, I can think of worse hands to hold.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Founding Editor. Content Provider.

14 thoughts on “Aces High”

  1. I do rather like it, though this 45 concept. It must be the sheer and unfussy surfaces, the lack of OTT details and the decent proportions. It does recall Honda’s Urban EV concept, though, doesn’t it?

  2. I owned a new Audi Coupe only several months after it first appeared on our market. I had returned from a trip to England the year before and a joyous dash at max chat in a Scirocco Storm down the A604 to Cambridge from St Ives courtesy of my old friend the owner, but as a mere passenger darn it! My mind raced at the disconnect between that car and my suffering at home from an incredibly wonky 1980 Jetta delivered with incorrect springs, numerous detail faults and questionable mechanical design choices that put the lie to German precision. Basically the same car. One was sublime, the other questionable junk. I could stand the Jetta no more than 18 months from new before I replaced it with the Audi.

    The Audi was a rare case where a bigger car with roughly the same overall design, looked not as sharp as its smaller better-looking sibling. But if you thought I should buy the Scirocco as VW specified it for North America after that Jetta, think again. I assumed Piech had got Audi a bit more sorted than the boys had at Wolfsburg churning out Golfs. For me, it was a great decision, because the Coupe ran mostly trouble-free for seven years, and had a more rugged mechanical feel than Mk1 Golf clones. I loved it.

    So looking at the larger early Giugiaro designs here, I am distressed at the huge rear sail panels which for me completely ruin the looks of what are otherwise lithe machines. You wonder – what were they thinking/

    If we move on to this new Hyundai, obviously the overall shape appeals greatly, although for my money the bonnet line should slope downwards to the front a bit, as I find it too blocky and unnecessarily providing a poor view ahead. One hopes the professionals could incorporate this bit of sensibility while maintaining the look – that’s what they’re paid for, surely? Or is practicality a nasty word? And sorry, adding tractor-sized wheels to all these concepts make them look silly to me, full stop. I like large wheels, not gigantic ones.

  3. The new Hyundai 45 EV concept, although not perfect, is a breath of fresh air. However, you have to wonder how serious the company is about perusing that direction for its production models, given its current efforts. The Palisade SUV its latest offering here in the US:

    Yikes! It’s a Ssangyong rivalling munter.

    1. In terms of “information content” this Pallisade is surely equal to the richest of 1959 cars from GM and Ford. There are accents on the accents and the curlicues are decorated with exta layers of inflection.
      Why are people suggesting a visual similarity between the E45 and Harris Mann´s work? That similarity is lost on me.

    2. Interestingly, Kia’s equivalent model, the Telluride(!) is a model of restraint by comparison, with Volvo XC90 overtones:

      I don’t see the Harris Mann connection in the Hyundai 45 EV either. If it’s that diagonal crease on the bodyside, then it’s going in the wrong direction! It is, however an interesting rework of the Lancia Delta and I would love to see something like this making production.

    3. I would say that the Diabolo / ADO71 / 18/22 / Princess connection is pretty tenuous, but I saw something in the rear three quarters (in the C-pillar and the angle in which the rear cut-off is angled inwards) as being somewhat redolent – at least to these eyes. But then we all see things differently. The Lancia Delta connection is much stronger. What I don’t see one iota of is any trace of Hyundai Pony – be it the production car or its conceptual derivative.

      Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but regarding Audi’s B2 80, (since Bill brought it up), I experienced a number of post-facelift models during the latter ’80s – we had clients who leased a number of them. They drove really well and with the fuel injected engine, were pretty quick with it (at least by the standards of the day. Well screwed together too – if somewhat penitential in terms of interior fittings. Its B3 successor looked fabulous and had a much nicer cabin, but was utterly inept to drive. It was a staggering reversal and for me, a huge disappointment. Had it been my money, I’d have demanded a refund.

  4. I don’t want to be pedantic, italian Is a very difficult language… but the right name is Asso di Picche, with two “c”.

    1. Thank you for the correction Federico. I will amend accordingly. I’m both gratified and embarrassed.

  5. Two things strike me about the concept car show above. One is that il Maestro has contrived it so that one surface does all the work above the main front to tail feature line. It might twist a bit from the base of the A-pillar forward but it is optically one surface. You could argue that, apart from the feature line running between the wheels, the bodyside is composed of only two main surfaces: one above and one below the nose-to-tail feature line. That´s quite economical and is a clever conceit. The other point is that the car has a “nose cone” at the front. This could be visually quite obtrusive since that it creates transverse lines that interfere with the longitudinal lines that should dominate a car´s exterior. The dear old XM (30 this year!) has a nose cone and the transverse lines are a nuisance, the only feature about the car I find agitating – and the Xantia uses a different solution for a good reason.
    As with most ItalDesign cars, the Asso di Picche is not a particularly convincing fit with the marque in question.

  6. Fun fact: the back room boys in Jaguar’s experimental department referred to the Giugiaro XJ40 study as ‘the Gunship’. Needless to say, it wasn’t taken very seriously in Browns Lane.

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