We take a brief dive into Volvo’s Italian coachbuilt past.
Turin based coachbuilder, Carrozeria Fissore had confidence aplenty. Founded in 1919 by the four brothers; Antonio, Bernardo, Giovanni, and Costanzo, the reins fell under Bernado’s control in 1936. Originally horse carriage experts then car repairers, by wartime the carrozzeria had moved on to manufacturing – mail cars, vans, even hearses after military service.
No prizes for guessing much of Fissore’s work lay within the Fiat purview. By the 1960s, Fissore may not have been the household name far outside the confines of their homeland but their reputation had grown. To the point that Motauto, the Italian import agent for Volvo believed the carrozzeria possessed the skills to woo the Swedes into implanting what they believed was some much needed sex-appeal into Gothenburg’s line-up.
Planned for a 1965 Turin motor show release, Motauto commissioned Fissore to produce a new take on Volvo’s P1800 using that car as the basis to potentially rival such sportivos as the homespun Lancia or Alfa. The Fissore did a pleasing enough job on Pelle Petterson’s already handsome version. Upon seeing the British Racing Green, Mustang-esque fastback shape, almost square rear windows and C-pillar ventilation scoops however, Volvo politely informed Motauto that the now almost six year old P1800 was selling quite nicely, thank you, so that’s a no from us. Imitation certainly not the flattering form here. Relations stayed cordial – more chassis were Turin-bound.
Motauto, while stung, applied soothing balm. However, in a tie up with Monteverdi, Fissore took a bite too large from the cherry. Their bespoke ways succumbed to industrial production, something with which Fissore were not fully au fait, sadly seeing them fold when Monteverdi spiralled, around 1984.
Motauto, their anger simmering some five years, this time headed for a Milan-based coachbuilder, born the same year as Fissore: carrozzeria Zagato. By now the P1800’s teeth had lengthened enough for Motauto to hatch a new plan based upon Volvo’s newer 140 series. Timed for a 1969 Turin show reveal, rumours abound a cash customer was found on the show floor practically instantaneously.
Underneath this more attractively coupé’s styling lay Volvo’s own B20, 2 litre, four cylinder mill. Two, double barrel Solex carburettors added to the sporting mix alongside the colour scheme consisting of a streak of orange, cutting the navy blue bodywork almost in two. Bursting the double bubble roof, Zagato maintained an esoteric front to the now named Volvo 2000 GTZ.
Four headlamps confined within a chromed frontal area made for comparisons with Zagato’s own Alfa Romeo Junior Z, itself a debutant. Alongside a Lancia Fulvia Sport, Zagato’s confidence was acutely expressed. Volvo gave the Zagato GTZ (and Motauto) a firm ‘Nej Tack’ yet some Gothenburg high-up’s (possibly) eluded to a potential future maybe if the engine became more sporty.
Rather confusingly, the summer 1970 edition of Volvo Driver, the UK club’s soundboard gave wind of the GTZ. This erstwhile copy was led to believe the car was an official A B Volvo commission, with production in mind. They maintained high hopes of seeing the car at Earls Court but research uncovered nothing on this claim. Another falsehood, Sports Car Graphic assured their readers the new Zagato was the P1800’s replacement.
One definitive trend, from Volvo Driver and its readers was the utterly positive reaction; “Does it matter what this car replaces? Let’s set a new trend and have it as it is, please !” They close their two page spread enthusiastically. Aside from the looks, their biggest shocks are the sporting yet comfy looking seats, a combination of P1800 along with 144 instruments with standard fitment of radio and tape deck. Decadence, Zagato style.
Considering Volvo’s stoic disdain of commutations in their line up, by now, Pelle Petterson’s coupé had but four lean years left, Motauto’s chagrin appears rather misguided. One can see the appeal of not only attempting to convince the hand that fed some of some spirited, alternative shapes endorsed with Italian latency. The financial rewards, evidently to Motauto, glistened as the bright as the GTZ’s chrome. Bridled with that Zagato brio, the second knock back may have loosened teeth yet Motauto’s third attempt in penetrating the Gothenburg defence would be final.
Volvo and indeed Motauto themselves may have considered the GTZ too similar to the contemporary ISO Grifo. Concluding a different engine might sway outcomes, Motauto believed this a chink in Volvo’s armour, setting Zagato on another iteration. Zagato listened with close intent. Taking just four months to create a new model, the formulation was to offer a clearly distinctive shape easily transmutable to full production. Throw in excellent road manners, light and airy cabin with acceptable luggage space and seating for four real humans – and the all important Volvo safety connections. A 1970 Palexpo would be the new Volvo’s stage.
Utilising the 164 chassis and most importantly the B30 straight six cylinder, three litre engine, good for 200Kmh (124mph), the 3000 GTZ had also gone on a strict diet in order to witness such heights. Deviating from the original, the 3000 was 13cms shorter, 7cms narrower, ten centimetres lower along with 135Kgs lighter. Wind tunnel time had improved the co-efficiency over its short lived predecessor, aided by semi-concealed headlights.
Impressive sounding, the overall package had literally lost face, a return to which momentarily. The internal space too became compromised – enough to the rear – yes for smaller humans. The American standard golf bag could also fit – this through the cabin – that neat glass rear end was no hatchback although it appeared in typical Zagato fashion to ajar enough for ventilation.
The 3000’s body sides a parallel evolution of the 2000 but here similarities end. Because of the taller engine, the bonnet was raised, but despite the provenance of the confident carrozzeria, that snout made a dog’s breakfast of matters. The amateurish rear too was most heavy handed. Attempting to incorporate the Volvo rectangular grille may have been the final nail in the Motauto/Zagato collaboration. Gothenburg turned away, unimpressed. Motauto finally waved the white flag.
Rumours of inflated GTZ 3000 build numbers remain uncorroborated with Volvo vehemently denying anything but that single example produced. The 3000 thought lost was in fact used in Italy until a road accident laid it up for many years. Currently residing in Sweden, awaiting significant restoration. As to the Fissore and the far more elegant 2000, no current information is available. As for confidence in finding them – zero.
Data sources: classicdriver.com/ ranwhenparked.net/ viaretro.com/ zagato-cars.com/ Volvo Driver magazine.