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Giugiaro honored for influence on automobile evolution

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Photo courtesy Italdesign.

Giorgetto Giugiaro, one of the most prolific automotive designers the world has ever known, has been awarded the inaugural Matita d’Oro, or Golden Pencil, award by the National Automobile Museum in Turin, Italy. The award, to be presented annually, is dedicated to the designers who have most influenced the evolution of the automobile.

Photo courtesy National Automobile Museum.

The award is merely the latest for Giugiaro, who was voted the Designer of the Century by a panel of automotive writers in 1999. He’s also the recipient of the Golden Steering Wheel and the Compasso d’Oro (“Golden Compass,” Italy’s most coveted industrial design award) for his work for Fiat, and has been elected to the automotive halls of fame in Europe and Detroit. He has worked for virtually all of the world’s major car manufacturers, and more than 200 models bear his signature.

“With the Matita d’Oro Award, we intend to homage not so much the single design projects, but rather the prestigious careers of those who have brought to life ideas that are both aesthetic and functional, and especially that have catered for the changing needs and requests of their own time period, with an eye on the future,” said Rodolfo Gaffino Rossi, director of the National Auto Museum. “We are proud to be the promoters of an award that we hope may grow with time and become an ‘Oscar’ sought after by the protagonists of car design.”

“The Museum strongly wanted to establish this new award to celebrate the central role of Turin and its territory for the history of automobile construction and design in the 1900s, thus promoting the continuity between the great names of the past and the protagonists of today,” said Benedetto Camerana, president of the museum.

Alfa Romeo 2000 Sprint. Photo courtesy National Automobile Museum.

Born in Garessio, Italy, about 60 miles south of Turin, Giugiaro was just 17 when he came to the attention of Dante Giacosa, Fiat’s chief engineer. Assigned to the Fiat Special Vehicles Styling Center, he became disenchanted when his designs weren’t selected, and decided to approach Nuccio Bertone. A test drawn for Bertone became his first successful design, the Alfa Romeo 2000 Sprint.

Giugiaro stayed at Bertone until 1965, styling such cars as the Iso Grifo, the Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint, the BMW 3200 CS, the Fiat 850 Spider and the Maserati 5000 GT. He decamped for Ghia, then owned by Alejandro de Tomaso, and in his short time there was responsible for the De Tomaso Mangusta. In 1967, joined by production engineer Aldo Mantovani, he founded Italdesign.

Maserati Bora. Photo by Mark McCourt.

The Maserati Bora and Alfa Romeo Alfasud, in addition to a series of successful concept cars, brought Italdesign to the notice of Volkswagen’s Kurt Lodz. Giugiaro was assigned several projects, only one of which survived when Lodz was succeeded by Rudolf Liedling. It was perhaps the most important commission of his career, and one of the most influential designs of all time: the Golf, launched in 1974.

This began the most fruitful phase of Giugiaro’s dynamic career. He designed the VW Scirocco and Passat, the Alfa Romeo Alfetta GT and Alfasud Sprint, the Lotus Esprit, the Hyundai Pony and the Maserati Quattroporte. In the late Seventies and early Eighties, he turned out the Yugo GV, the BMW M1, the DMC De Lorean and the enormously successful Fiat Uno, which became nearly as influential as the Golf had been.

DMC DeLorean. Photo courtesy Italdesign.

As an industrial design firm, Italdesign took on commissions for motorcycles, boat interiors, furniture, sunglasses and more, but automobiles were always the core of the company’s work. Giugiaro sold a majority stake in Italdesign to the Volkswagen Group in 2010.