Tata Enigma

A mysterious city car concept, allegedly created by Tata Motors, may possibly be the final creation of one of the titans of automotive design. Or could it? 

(c) motorauthority

Officially, Marcello Gandini didn’t exactly bow out on a high note. The Stola S86 Diamante’s appearance was challenging for all the wrong reasons: Unveiled in 2005, his second design for Stola looked both clumsy, old-fashioned and rather unaccomplished – one could even be led to say: unprofessional. It marked the final time a car designed by the great Gandini was publicly unveiled.

As an end note to a career that had resulted in shapes which changed the craft of automotive design forever, the Stola S86 Diamante’s sole saving grace was its ability to illustrate that even geniuses can be off the mark by a dramatic margin, thus lending a sense of hope to mediocre creatives.

As if this wasn’t quite sad enough in itself, eight years after the Stola, photos of another post-millennial Gandini design appeared on the ‘net. Images of a most peculiar, Tata-badged city car, featuring plenty of late Gandini design cues, including suspect outward visibility, equally overwrought and anachronistic graphics, as well as, obviously, that rear wheel arch treatment.

If there was any car design that could make the Stola appear almost graceful and timeless, it was this. Had Gandini utterly lost the plot by the year 2013? Was he hellbent on creating an automotive shape so misbegotten, it might almost manage to exculpate the original Ssangyong Rodius’ appearance? And why had Tata – who had plenty of resources at their immediate disposal in 2013, such as JLR’s design facilities and Tata Motor’s own design studio, headed by Pratap Bose – bankrolled such utter folly in the first place?

A literally close look makes this entire matter appear all the more confusing and, indeed, peculiar. For this forgotten Gandini design turns out to be a montage, and not even a very good one at that. Further research reveals a hilariously unconvincing ‘photo’ of the alleged Tata’s front, featuring a giant version of Gandini himself pointing out some random crease.

By this point, what at first seemed to be marginal note in car design history has turned into a full-blown enigma. For who would take the trouble to create a fake Gandini-designed Tata city car – or indeed a faked Gandini to go with it? And, above all else, why?

Whoever was in charge of this mysterious operation was no master of his craft. Yet time and effort was obviously spent on the creation of this pseudo-Gandini effort – most certainly not with the sole aim of creating confusion or to harm il maestro’s reputation.

As amusing as it is confusing, the fake Tata not designed by Gandini turns out to be a bit absurdist fun more than anything else. Which in itself constitutes a something of a novelty in automotive design.

Author: Christopher Butt

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

4 thoughts on “Tata Enigma”

  1. Gandini seems to have collaborated with Tata on the Tamo project, a small composite sportscar that eventually didn’t reach series production.

  2. Stola also seems responsible for a rather awful Stratos recreation a number of years ago, which Maestro Gandini was also alleged to have been involved with. And which this Tata device (real or imagined) appears to have imbibed heavily from. And as for the Diamante. Heavens above!

  3. The wheels somehow seem terribly familiar, but there is zero chance I am going through the image archive of the entire internet to find a match.

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