A Right Pair of Nymphs

Designer, Tom Tjaarda took two very different bites at the Lancia Flaminia during the 196os. Only one however is truly memorable. 

1969 Lancia Flaminia Marica: (c) topcarrating

During the Autumn of 1969, carrozzeria Ghia debuted the Marica concept at the Turin motor show, a styling study based upon the platform of the Lancia Flaminia, a car which had already ceased production. Not only that, but its maker had also gone bankrupt and was desperately seeking a benefactor.

Enter Alejandro de Tomaso, a phrase which would be uttered with increasing regularity within the Italian motor industry over the coming decade or so. Having purchased carrozzeria Ghia in 1967, he is alleged to have sanctioned the Marica study as a means of assisting Lancia’s bid to find a buyer – a statement which sounds suspiciously altruistic for such an automotive opportunist as he. But we are perhaps getting a little ahead of ourselves. Allow me to recap.

In accordance with marque tradition, Lancia built the unitary hulled Flaminia platform in a number of wheelbase lengths to facilitate not only the Pininfarina-bodied four-seater Coupé, but the carrozzeria Touring bodied coupé and convertible, not to mention the Zagato-bodied Sport and Supersport models.

Marcia by carrozzeria Ghia. (c) lancistas

The Marica was built on the same 252 cm short-chassis wheelbase as that of the Touring-bodied models (one of only two non-production design studies to do so), ironically, both styled by the same hand but for rival coachbuilders. This being former Pininfarina stylist, Tom Tjaarda, the Marica being the second Flaminia-based proposal from the talented American expatriate’s pen. The previous concept on this chassis first saw the light of day six years earlier, during Tjaarda’s fruitful stint at Corso Trapani.

Pininfarina’s links to Lancia were lengthy and deep, the carmaker allegedly having assisted Battista in setting up his coachbuilding business in 1930. Having been responsible for the shapes of some of the most emotive car designs to have emerged from Borgo San Paulo, the relationship between carmaker and carrozzeria appeared for a time to be virtually seamless.

But nothing could be taken for granted. For Pininfarina, as with all their their coachbuilding contemporaries, it was always about the next commission, ideally one which would entail assembly taking place at their own facility. Pininfarina was already building the production Flaminia Coupé, a car which sold in greater numbers than its berlina equivalent. Based closely upon the 1956 Florida II concept, it was a refined two-door of considerable elegance, dignity and bearing, but not perhaps what the more raffish GT customer was seeking.

1963 Flaminia 2.8 Speciale at its Turin debut. (c) classiccarcatalogue

With this customer more in mind, the 3C 2.8 Flaminia Coupé Speciale made its debut at the 1963 Turin motor show, Tjaarda having synthesised in-house elements previously seen; the nose treatment being highly reminiscent of the 1961 Flavia Coupé, while the canopy reflected that of 1962’s Alfa Romeo 2600 Speciale study, 1963’s Ferrari 330 GT 2+2, and 1964’s Mercedes 230 SL concept (all Tjaarda’s work at Pininfarina), while the rear treatment with its highly distinctive and at the time futuristic, flush trapezoidal tail lamps developed a style which would latterly become a carrozzeria trademark.

(c) ultimatecarpage

Yet for something of an amalgam, the result was supremely well-judged, successfully bridging dinner suit and sports jacket. Originally painted white, it was shown again the following year, now painted metallic sand. After this, on Battista Pininfarina’s behest, the car was again refinished (silver) and fitted with functioning tail lamps (the originals were purely decorative), sourced from a Flavia Coupé.

Replacing the Florida II concept as Battista’s daily driver, the 2.8 Speciale was used extensively by the coachbuilder, encompassing skiing trips to the Dolomites and competing in concours d’elegance, winning at both Alassio and Cortina d’Ampezzo. Used daily until his death in 1966, the car was retained by the family until 1972. It is now in the hands of a wealthy Italian collector who has meticulously returned it to its exact 1963 Turin show specification.

(c) ultimatecarpage

Having departed Corso Trapani for good in 1965, Tjaarda, in between freelancing for Giorgetto Giugiaro in his fledgling Ital Styling venture (later to become Ital Design), succeeded Giugiaro as lead stylist at carrozzeria Ghia in 1968. Ghia had enjoyed something of a resurgence following some notable work from its previous styling chief, and under Tjaarda’s guidance, would be considered sufficiently valuable an entity for Ford to purchase in 1970.

The Marica study, (named it is said after an ancient Roman nymph) was a close coupled coupé, melding the insouciance of the 2.8 Speciale with the sobriety of the production coupé, but while coming dangerously close to hitting the target, somehow imperceptibly missed.

(c) corrado lopestro via carrozzieri-italiani

The problem as I see it is one of increments, of details that are just ever so slightly off. Overhangs are a little excessive for the wheelbase length, throwing off the proportions. The nose treatment seems over-fussy, the truncated Lancia shield grille failing to harmonise with the more horizontal surroundings. In addition, the attempt to reprise the grille effect at the extremities simply looks clumsy.

A pronounced swage line runs along the car’s flanks, ceasing in an upward flourish at the base of the C-pillar – an effect which doesn’t read all that well, especially given the pinched body crease which runs the length of the car, just below. The falling tail also fails to harmonise with the more linear canopy and stout C-pillar, lending the silhouette a slightly broken backed appearance from some angles, while at the rear, despite attempts to perhaps refer to the wingtop castellations of the Fulvia Coupé, the tail appears bland and featureless.

(c) corrado lopestro via ruotevecchie

A further issue and one which in fairness wasn’t apparent in 1969 is that of familiarity. But hardly surprising nonetheless, given that the 1972 De Tomaso Longchamps was also a Tom Tjaarda design, and clearly directly influenced by the Marcia. The Frua bodied Maserati Kyalami was also derived from the Longchamps, so again the correlation is clear. Furthermore and more conclusively, the Marica prefigured the (stronger) theme adopted by Paolo Martin for Pininfarina’s seminal 1971 Fiat 130 Coupé – the latter being most definitively a design for the ages and the most Lancia non-Lancia of all.

For a model line which had all the ingredients of true stylistic greatness, the carrozzeria Flaminias, while each of tremendous merit on their own terms, were not quite the all-out masterpieces they perhaps ought to have been – the Zagato Supersport being perhaps the closest to ideal that made (very limited) production.

As regards Tom Tjaarda’s efforts on the Flaminia canvas however, his initial effort was conclusively the more convincing of the pair.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

16 thoughts on “A Right Pair of Nymphs”

  1. Good morning Eóin. The Marica seems to suffer from an unfortunate stance because of its short wheelbase and excessive “tuck-under” at both ends. (I don’t know a better expression for that characteristic.) This gives it quite the opposite of a “well-planted” stance. It appears to be riding too high, with too much fresh air under both extremities.

    The Flaminia coupé seemed to be used as the basis for an extraordinary variety of coach built coupés. One of the weirdest is this, from Raymond Loewy:

    That definitely falls into the “What were they thinking?” category.

    1. Really a wild vehicle. To Loewy’s apology, however, it should be said that the vehicle should more or less be seen as a drivable catalog of different design ideas and their feasibility.

    2. The rear view seems to hint towards the rear treatment on the Avanti — another car Loewy had a hand in IIRC.

  2. Another problem with the Marica; the combination of indicator repeater (Mandetory in Italy at the time) and the tiny Ghia badge in close proximity on the front wing makes it look like a pair of early rust spots.

    1. Hi Richard. My goodness, yes, they are very unfortunately placed relative to each other. The placement of the indicator repeater looks very odd.

  3. The rear end of the Marica manages to combine bland, as Eóin remarked, with difficult to execute (no place to hide seams) and poorly executed. Take a look at the radiusing of the corner of the boot lid compared to the rear panel into which it is intended to fit, which is kit-car amateurish:

  4. Hello Eóin,
    Thank you for refreshing our memories of a mostly forgotten concept car. Another car that is in the same vein as the Marica, the De Tomaso Longchamp and the Fiat 130 Coupé is the Momo Mirage of 1971:

    1. Now, that’s an obscure car, Bruno. It looks like it should have a Lancia shield grille up front:

    2. Thanks in turn for reminding me of this car Bruno. I had quite forgotten it. It’s rather lovely, apart from its somewhat oversized grille, which rather unbalances the nose. The work of carrozzeria Frua in 1972, one can detect influences and shades of other cars here – I see a lot of certain Monteverdi designs, and unsurprisingly, Maserati Kylami, although that did arrive a few years later.

      But to some extent, it’s a less delicate, more resolved, slightly more muscular looking evolution of the Marica theme. The linear shoulder line works better in my view, as does the more horizontal tail.

      A further observation regarding the Marica, is that one can detect traces of it (especially in the canopy treatment) of Aldo Bravorone’s Gamma Coupé of 1976. Also in the slightly ‘on it’s toes stance’.

    3. The ‘on it’s toes stance’ is repeated to an extent in the Beta coupé I think. Turn away now if you are sensitive, but I can still not see what all the fuss is about the Fiat 130 coupé. While we’re at it I really like the rear of the Marica too. Bland? No! I concede Daniel’s observation about the boot lid corner radius of course, but I’d give garage space to the Marica before the 130. Mind you neither of them would turf out the coupé in my (imaginary) garage. 406.

  5. I wonder if it gets harder to manage the design on a 2-door GT, once it gets over a certain size – I think the first two series of the smaller Fiat 124 Sport Coupé are more elegant than any of these.

    Incidentally, in a previous article, a couple of us noted that Russian people carriers often look very futuristic and I think I may have an explanation. I found a short documentary on Tom Tjaarda, the other day. In it, he says one of his radical people carrier concepts was sold to the Russians and it led to a load of futuristic-looking vehicles.

  6. Quite like the look of the Marica, more so the design theme that appeared on the De Tomaso Deauville / Longchamp and Maserati Kyalami as well as possibly preceded technically by a number of Monteverdi High Speed models along with the Monteverdi 2000 GTI study project.

  7. I too like the Marica very much, perhaps the tapering
    of both ends is the thing, and easily overlook its
    imperfections because the whole is interesting.
    the rear I find subtle and pleasing, despite that view
    evoking a Beta coupé which caused me 4 years of anguish.

  8. I quite like it too, the profile and rear views look really nice. The front could do perhaps with a bit of tweaking, perhaps something along the lines of the Alfa Romeo Junior Zagato (a car that looks, to me at least, way better in the metal than photos)?

  9. I like the Marica’s clean lines, even if some of the details did the car no favours.

    (That swage line “ceasing in an upward flourish at the base of the C-pillar” turned up a few years later on the RR Camargue.)

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