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Show Review: Alcantara Style and Italian Car Design
by Sam Livingstone


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Bertone Rainbow (1976)

Bertone Rainbow

Pininfarina Jaguar XJ Spider (1978)

Pininfarina Jaguar XJ Spider

ItalDesign Alfasud Caimino (1971)

ItalDesign Lancia Medusa (1980)

Bertone Genesis (1988)

Apr 18, 2006 – On the 3rd April at the Museum of Science and Technology in Milan, Alcantara, the Italian material manufacturer, opened an exhibition of famous Italian concept cars that will run for the duration of the world’s biggest and most prestigious furniture fair.

The cars comprised of one concept car each from Bertone, Ital Design and Pininfarina for every decade from the 1960s to the present, with the exception of the 1966 Maserati Ghibli from Ital which was a production car. This car and the other two 1960s designs, the Pininfarina X and Bertone-designed Marzel, were on display at a separate venue in Zona Tortona.

Alcantara’s idea behind the event was to bring its automotive work into the arena of its work in furniture design. This was also the attraction for the three design houses that have varying degrees of involvement with furniture and product design consultancy, and will benefit from a different kind of exposure to that that they get at motor shows.

The event’s opening speeches from the design houses underscored their belief in Italian Automotive Design as a distinct and leading part of today’s automotive design industry, but it was the cars that were the stars of the evening. They were a unique juxtaposition of concepts from three famous design houses, with the earliest cars on display a particularly compelling sight for the many who have only ever seen them in pictures.

Bertone’s slightly Fiat X1/9-like Ferrari 308-based Rainbow from 1976 wowed with its crisp angular lines and exquisite detailing: alloy wheel ribs that echo in its bumpers, rear pillar and engine cover; its deep hood recesses with integral pop-up lights; its interior with door inners that look fresh even today – and very similar to those of the Ford 427 concept from the 2004 Detroit Auto Show!

Pininfarina’s Jaguar XJ Spider also displayed some advanced elements, most notably the body side crease that has only just appeared on a production Jaguar with the new XK, but also neat ideas not seen since, such as the small surface crease above the door button that is hooked by two fingers to pull open the door.

Ital Design’s odd looking Alfa Romeo Alfasud Caimano seemed uncomfortable next to these two but again impressed with features that in many ways are still advanced today, such as head rests that puncture through the seat back form and a handbrake that sits flush within its surround. Their Lancia Medusa from 1980 was much smaller in the flesh that expected but notable for its pioneering door design (later realised in production in the Isuzu Piazza), and secondary control buttons mounted on its steering wheel.

Bertone’s 1988 Genesis monospace with mid-mounted V12 Lamborghini engine has themes that are still appearing in contemporary concept and student designs. And Pininfarina’s 1989 Mythos still wows with its theme of hood form sweeping back over the wings to the sides and into the rear section that then dramatically pushes forward over the front of the car.

Museum of Science and Technology in Milan

Bertone Rainbow

Bertone Rainbow

Bertone Bella (1999)

Pininfarina Jaguar XJ Spider

ItalDesign Alfasud Caimino

Bertone Genesis

Pininfarina Mythos (1989)

Pininfarina Nautilus (1997)

Of the nineties concept cars on display it was most interesting to see how the Peugeot Nautilus, that was one of the most referenced concept cars of 1997, had dated. But it is this dating of yesterday’s visions of the future that makes seeing these disparate cars so fascinating. Whilst production cars move from a novel object of desire to ubiquitous old fashioned street furniture, a concept car moves from show star to myth to work of art exhibited in a museum. We hope Alcantara can make this type of art exhibition a regular fixture of the Milan furniture fair.

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© 2006 Car Design News Ltd
Last updated: Tue, Apr 18, 2006