A Mighty Wind – [Part Two]

Getting in shape.

Influx.

By 1965, Giorgetto Giugiaro was already a name of significance amid Turin car design circles – and by the mid-point of the 1960s, there were no design circles more influential or significant than those within the Piedmontese capital. The year in question was a highly significant one for the 27-year old automotive designer, having departed Stile Bertone somewhat abruptly that November, leaving behind several partly completed designs for his successor to complete.

It did not matter, Giorgetto was moving on; first to carrozzeria Ghia where a position awaited him, but he had other, more elaborate plans. His stay at Ghia therefore was brief; a couple of commissions, a pair of designs for the de Tomaso concern[1], and more significantly, the Ghibli gran turismo for Maserati, making its debut as a prototipo at that November’s Turin motor show.

By the end of 1966, he was gone, this time to set up, alongside engineer, Aldo Mantovani, a new design and engineering consultancy, offering a broader range of services to the industry than simply the outer garment. Two years later, this business was formalised as ItalDesign with its headquarters in Moncalieri, in the suburbs of Turin.

Work came their way, but it was necessary to make an initial statement, a broad signal not only that were they open for business, but that Giugiaro’s creative muse had evolved. Employing the P538 chassis designed by Giotto Bizzarrini, Giugiaro clothed it in an audacious cab-forward bodyshape, which in profile resembled a single, unbroken arc from low nose to high duck-tail, before truncating vertiginously.

Marrying the softness of surface for which he was known with a new geometric sense of drama, the Manta in its lurid turquoise paint scheme certainly gained the nascent carrozzeria the requisite attention.[2]

1968 Manta by ItalDesign. bizzarrini.com

Events moved swiftly, with a significant commission from Alfa Romeo for their Alfa Sud programme being initiated that year. Further to this, Maserati, seeking a designer to clothe their forthcoming mid-engined GT, looked once more to Giugiaro, who had done such a fine job for them previously.

The Bora’s shape was largely dictated by the engineering package, and like the Manta design, Giugiaro was at pains to not only emphasise the mid-engined layout, with the bulk of the car’s masses set between the wheels, but to minimise overhangs. In his own words, the Bora was “part inspired by the Manta“, which is quite easy to envisage, but viewing the Maserati in silhouette, one can also recognise a slight reflection too of the Alfasud – a design which was also being formalised at Moncalieri – Giugiaro being used to not only working quickly, but on more than one design simultaneously.

Giugiaro Bora render. coachbuild

Where the Bora design deviated from that of the Manta (or the Alfasud for that matter) was in the treatment of its surfaces, which were crisper and more angular than before, heralding a formal shift in the Giugiaro aesthetic, which would be seen to a far greater extent in the surfaces of the Maserati-based Boomerang study, which made its debut alongside the Bora at Geneva 1971.

While nowhere near as dramatic in form as Gandini’s Countach concept, the Bora’s shape was nonetheless dart-like and purposeful. Instead, it espoused a more refined sensibility, as befitting a more raffish, sophisticated and (relatively) practical sportscar. Unlike the Countach, there was a more delineated series of volumes – bonnet, canopy, cabin and rear deck – but Giugiaro’s handling of these was, as expected, utterly assured.

artebellum

Lovely touches abounded: the delightful shape of the door openings, the upward inflection of the side glazing – which lent a sense of acceleration to the profile – the dihedral ‘indent’ in the beltline, which bisected the car, visually lightening the flanks. Another powerful feature of the design is the emphasis of the central structure of the car between the angled shutlines of door and rear engine cover. This served to highlight the midship layout and underline a sense of strength and heft.[3]

autoevolution

The Bora was a heavy car, and in the wrong hands a compact design such as this could appear somewhat stubby. Hence, Giugiaro chose to lend as much visual lightness as possible – the glazed rear three quarters and the novel use of stainless steel to clad the A-pillars and roof section above the cabin doing a deft job of (re)directing the eye. This delicacy and visual refinement was carried through to the design of the road wheels, which highly unusually for such a car, were semi-flush in design.

At the nose, the twin radiator grille finishers doubled as bumpers (in a manner of speaking), while a stylised Tridente was positioned in a central recess. Dignified, elegant and subtle. Very Maserati.

Countach! oldconceptcars

At Geneva 1971 however, there was only one word on everyone’s lips – a Piedmontese expletive. The Countach was unsurprisingly, a sensation, a matter which must have caused some dismay at Viale Ciro Minotti – after all, Maserati would have hoped for a strong reaction. Not that the Bora was poorly received – quite the contrary in fact, but despite the presence of luminaries from Viale Ciro Minotti, Quai de Javel (including Monsieur le Président himself) and designer, Giugiaro, all eyes were on the Bertone stand.

Matters were not to improve later that year when the Bora made its home debut at Turin. For once again Maserati was overshadowed by an Emilian rival, in this instance, none other than the prancing horse of Maranello. Despite the earlier advent of mid-engined Ferrari racecars, roadgoing versions had hitherto remained locked in hidebound tradition; 1968’s 365 GTB/4 Daytona, while a logical stylistic and technical progression from its 275 GTB/4 predecessor, was by comparison to the svelte Miura, something of a shire horse.

The partial takeover by Fiat Auto in 1968 would change everything however. Under l’avvocato Agnelli’s patronage, Maranello would be transformed, both as a racing outfit, but also as a carmaker. Investment money poured into the Scuderia, while the floodgates would also open from a product perspective. But while 1967’s Dino would merely act as something of an antipasto, the principale was being readied for its 1971 preview.

The Ferrari 365 GT4 BB was previewed at Turin 1971. Unattributed image via Pinterest

The first production Ferrari-branded car with a mid-engined layout, the 365 GT4 BB represented a total shift in Maranello engineering practice for its road car flagship. Reflecting Grand Prix practice, its 4390 cc four-cam engine was rather unusually at an included angle of 180°, leading many observers to suggest it employed a horizontally opposed layout. But according to Pininfarina’s Leonardo Fioravanti, who lead the design, it was simply “a flat V12“.

This in itself was enough technical novelty for anyone, but in order to keep the package as compact as possible, the gearbox was mounted beneath the crankshaft (albeit in a separate casing), a neat idea in theory, but with knock-on effects to the car’s centre of gravity and polar moment of inertia in extremis, ensuring the BB would not be quite the car its layout promised.

Nevertheless, from a purely stylistic perspective, the BB was considered an unqualified success, Pininfarina navigating a fine line between drama and elegance. The work of Angelo Belli, Sergio Scaglietti and Fioravanti[4], the 365 GT4 BB and the identical 512 model which supplanted it, while clearly an evolution of the Aldo Brovarone’s unbearably pretty 206/246 GT Dino, was more muscular and aggressive in demeanour, as befitting a successor to the brutish elegance of the outgoing Daytona model.

Ferrari 365 GT4 BB. photo-voiture.motorlegend

A defining characteristic of the design would exhibit a marked similarity to how Giugiaro treated the Bora’s flanks, but was most likely a case of convergent thinking. This indent line which bisected the body, the lower half being finished in satin black, added a distinctive graphic element. The overall form was more voluptuous, more classical than either Maserati or Lamborghini, and while the Bora appeared almost dainty in this company[5], Giugaro’s was the more modernist shape than the undeniably attractive, but not outstanding Ferrari. Shown only as a prototype on Pininfarina’s stand, the BB would not enter production until 1973.

thespeedjournal

Against the dual pincers of Sant ‘Agata and Maranello, the Bora, with a lowly V8 against rival V12s would find itself at a material disadvantage – in the cylinder count wars at least – because despite ingegnere Alfieri’s protestations, the auto press viewed all three as direct rivals. Maserati had the benefit of being first of the trio to market, but was the Bora too demure for its own good?

Read part one here.

[1] The de Tomaso Mangusta and another design which Giugiaro dismissed as being “of lesser importance”.

[2] The shape of the Manta was remarkably prescient for its time, previewing the cab-forward shape of today’s mid-engined bolides.

[3] Do we see reflections of the Miura here as well?

[4] In a 2021 interview for The Road Rat magazine, Leonardo Fioravanti revealed that the 365 GT4 was named BB in honour of French actress and lust object of the time, Brigitte Bardot. The Berlinetta Boxer name was in fact a marketing construct.

[5] But not only did the Bora look more compact than its rivals, it was considerably more space-efficient as well.

Source: Maserati // The Citroen Years 1968-1975: Marc Sonnery. Eau Rouge Publishing ISBN 978-0-9573978-0-4

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

21 thoughts on “A Mighty Wind – [Part Two]”

  1. Good morning Eóin and thanks for sharing the story behind one of my favourite cars of the era. The Bora might have been overshadowed by the Countach, but I regard it as a much more sophisticated design, and one that has aged much better than the rather one-dimensional Lamborghini.

    It would never have occurred to me to compare the Bora to the Alfasud, but I do see what you mean.

    Further to the discussion yesterday on designers ability (or inability) to draw or sketch, that drawing of the Bora is just delightful. I wonder if it was done by Giugiaro himself?

    1. I fully agree with what you wrote about the Bora drawing.
      If it wasn’t Giugiaro himself then there must have been someone at ItalDesign who could do these masterful drawings.
      You can find some in the same style for the Alfetta GT and the Alfasud and they all look great.

    2. This is a typical example of GG’s illustration style and was most certainly done by the man himself.

      Let’s not forget that Giorgetto’s father was a fresco painter and that the Giugiaros are a family of artists. This explains why GG’s technique was and remains outstanding, despite his never having attended art college (he did attend mechanical drawing classes in his late teens, during his stint at Fiat, however).

      GG is also a highly accomplished painter:

    3. Thanks for the background information on Giugiaro and his family, Christopher. Taking an other look at the drawing, I can part of Giugiaro’s distinctive signature on the right hand side:

      Here’s his signature in full:

    4. Unlike a number of other well-known car designers (and several much-lauded automotive engineers for that matter), maestro Giugiaro clearly considered it to be infra dignitatem for him to append his signature to work not of his own. (Which of course is as it should be, but too often is not). Anyway, from what I can discern, Giugiaro’s designs are from the hand of Giugiaro, not from underlings.

    5. Compare the standard of work of Giugiaro’s drawings to some of the ridiculously mis-proportioned cartoon-like sketches produced today.

    6. Couldn’t agree more, Dave. What on earth is the point of producing a ‘concept’ rendering with 30″ wheels, tyre sidewalls the width of a pencil and zero clearance at the wheelarches, implying zero suspension travel? This has the sort of thing I mean:

  2. While the Lamborghini may be eye-catching, I find Bora is more “eye-keeping”, especially in the flesh. It’s certainly my favourite design of the three, and by all accounts the most easy to live with. I find 365’s front overhang excessive, making the car look unbalanced and seeming as though the front belongs to another car. The Bora seems a much more resolved, mature design.

    Best of all, the Bora is a green-blooded beast. I wonder if they didn’t consider going all-in, and plumbing in the suspension too?

    1. Paul, I have to steal the term “eye-keeping”. I agree with your opinion about the Bora, Countach and 365BB.

    2. Agreed, “eye-keeping” is a great phrase, and one that describes the Bora perfectly. The Countach is like one of those ‘ear-worm’ pop songs, instantly catchy and memorable, but without much in the way of hidden depths to explore and uncover. (Fortunately my taste in cars is rather better than my taste in music, which is laughably inferior to that of my fellow DTW scribes, which explains the lack of musical references in my writing!)

  3. Good morning, Eóin. Wonderfult tale of a car dear to my heart. I had a Maserati Bora toy car when I was small. I wonder where it went.

    Like Daniel, I was never compared the Alfasud, another one of my favorites, to the Bora. Interesting comparison.

    I went through my photos this morning, as I saw a Bora a couple of times about ten years ago. Sadly the only one I could come up with was this drive by shot. Terrible photo, but it was taken when I was in traffic.

  4. A nice design, but I’ve always felt it’s a bit too heterogeneous, what with the curvy first two volumes and then the more straight third volume. Also I think the front is a bit too tall and narrow – the Countach and the BB being much better looking there.

  5. My earliest memory of the Bora is at about ten years old when I had a plastic assembly kit in 1/24 scale. I don’t think it’s still around somewhere…
    I was well aware of the Countach and the Ferrari at that time, but the Bora was news for me. Probably it was a bit too little flashy to be noticed by a little boy. Nevertheless, I can say I have a soft spot for this car since then, even before I realized its Citroën connections.

  6. Another thing that made the Ferrari a trendsetter was the blacked out trim, which aged the competition virtually over night. Not only was the entire lower half of the car blacked out, so was also every bit of trim including the window surrounds. I’ve tried to pinpoint this trend, and there had been some earlier onfluence, mostly from racing with black painted bonnets to reduce glare for the driver, also a blacked out drivers surround in an otherwise coloured interior, for the exact same reason. But I don’t think another car went black wholesale before the 365BB, thus starting a trend that is continuing to this day. Other than mostly chrome accents to give a sense of luxury in premium cars, blacked out trim is still everywhere to this day. I mean this trend was the absolutely most important and biggest achievement of the Ferrari.

    1. Ingvar: That is a very astute point, and I would agree that in this at least, Pininfarina were ahead of the game. Mind you, there isn’t a whole lot of brightwork on a Countach either. In Giugiaro’s defence, for the Bora, as a Maserati and intended as a suave GT to have extensive brightwork garnish is entirely appropriate, and what is there suits the car, but it does tend to underline the stark modernity of the Pininfarina and Bertone designs.

      For me however, the BB is an unsatisfying shape. Leaving aside the massive front overhang, it holds together until we reach the B-pillar. Aft of this it’s too broad, ill-defined and heavy-looking. I accept that this was a necessity of accommodating the technical layout, but it unbalanced the shape, in my view. Oddly, the BB is a car I never recall seeing on London streets in my 30 years as a resident of that fine city. (And believe me, one sees just about everything in London eventually.)

  7. 1. One of the things I like about the Bora is that it shares its door handles with my old Citroën GS.
    2. I hadn’t previously realised how much the nose of the 365BB resembles a pelican. I presume this is unintentional.

    1. Those lovely door handles first appeared on the 1967 facelift Citroën DS.

      Seeing the Countach LP500 prototype again it occurs to me how different its front end looks to the production LP400 with its front luggage compartment panel having a lower profile to the wings and ending in a cooling slat. On the LP400 and subsequent models it was all flush.

  8. Another thing that strikes me with the Bora is the remarkable similarities to the Indy? If you take the Bora and the Indy side by side, it is very easy to see how the Bora is only the logical extensions of the Indy design language. Giugario only nip and tucked it to follow form and put the engine where the backseat had been.

    I’ve often thought how long it takes for new design elements to “settle” into the mainstream. When mid engine cars first arrived, nobody really knew how to design one with a harmonious result, being the complete opposite (cab forward) than the norm (rearward stance). And it took the industry about ten years to come to form, with some better examples (Matra Djet, Porsche 904) and some worse (Matra M530, Porsche 914) to show the way to go or not go. I would call the trio of Bora, Countach, and 365BB the second generation of mid engine cars, showing the form fully matured and finally arrived.

  9. Without a doubt one of my favourite cars. Such an accomplished design. Other than a similarly deft mastery of volumes and surfaces, I’m not seeing the Alfasud connection, though. Other than that they’re both favourites of mine, that is. Giugiaro seems particularly adept at balancing the individual volumes that make up a car.

    The BB looks spectacular, curvy and voluptuous at first glance, but somewhat falls apart when you notice how out of whack it is. That front overhang, the heaviness of the rear and the fact is sits just ever so slighly too high on its wheels. That black underside is an SUV trope as well, after all…

    The Countach is not pretty, but I’ve always liked its brutish madness, much more than the disjointed-looking and unbearably smug Ferrari Testarossa it competed with for bedroom walls. Then again, I’ve never cared for Ferraris that much, apart from the 288 GTO and the 458 (and even more the GT2 version).

  10. Belated thanks, Eóin, for this fine appreciation of the Bora,
    and of Giugiaro. What a beautiful car the Bora is, what a
    masterpiece of balanced design. And how easy for me to
    fantasize about owning and driving such a car… whereas
    the Countach and the Boxer- compromised by their fat
    12 cylinder anchors – have no appeal at all. Mention of
    the great Giugiaro reminds me of dear Nanni Moretti
    talking about him in one of his films, Aprile I think.
    Thanks again, and to Freerk for that evocative photo.

  11. Pedantry time!
    1) Can we please stop using “render” as a noun? The grammatically correct word is “rendering,” no matter how popular the misuse of “render” has become on the internet.
    2) A 180° V-12 is still a horizontally-opposed engine; I think what you meant to say is that it’s not a “boxer,” per se, because each opposing pair of pistons shares a crank pin.

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