Like the French Art Deco cars of the 1930s or the classic chrome hell from Detroit in the 1950s, we will probably never see an era in car design as the Italian “Wedge” from the 1970s.
Inspired by the new proportions which emerged in the 1960s with the mid-engine racing cars and the functional appearance of future Cold War military aircraft, the Italian car designers turned their backs to the sensual and soft design which was characterized by many of the post-war sports cars by producing one wedge-shaped missile after another.
The beautiful and technical shape was used by many of the best design houses in the 70s and was a signal that the future had officially arrived. Although not the most aerodynamic form in practice, it looked gob smacking and helped ushing in a new era in car design. The Italian design house ItalDesign, Bertone and Pininfarina were at the forefront of the movement, but the Japanese, German and American designers quickly jumped on the bandwagon shortly thereafter.
In 1967, the Lamborghini Marzal was born, designed by Marcello Gandini of Bertone, and created a sensation at the Geneva Auto Show. Lamborghini Marzal came after the success of the beautiful Lamborghini Miura, and Gandini was eager to stand out from other designers. The Marzal concept created a new design direction for modern cars, and a glimpse of the future could be seen in the unique creations from Gandini’s pen. Marzal has many features in common with Lamborghini Espada which was put into production, and Gandini later had the task of designing the wild and exciting Lamborghini Countach. Bertone was now on everyone’s lips when it came to car design, the Wedge was born in earnest and the world would never be the same.
Alfa Romeo Carabo from 1968 is probably the most significant wedge car and paved the way for many of the cars on this post/contribution??. Designed by Marcello Gandini of Bertone and unveiled in 1968 at the Porte de Versailles show in Paris the audience fell into trance. The Lamborghini Countach concept which came 3 years later got the inspiration from Carabo including the typical scissors doors. Many wealthy people tried to buy a Carabo, but thankfully Bertone refused the offers, and now Carabo spends his retirement relaxing in the Alfa Romeo Museum in Arese, Italy.
The Maserati Boomerang was shown in 1971 at the Turin Motor Show as a mock-up and then in 1972 at the Geneva Motor Show as the fully implemented Maserati Boomerang concept. It stood next to the Lotus Esprit M70 which was also designed by Giugiaro of ItalDesign. ItalDesign used Boomerang as inspiration for the design of the DMC’s Delorean in the 80s.
The British automakers also found inspiration in the wedge design with Lotus Esprit by Giugiaro, later the Triumph TR7, designed by British Leyland’s designer Harris Mann.
E25 BMW Turbo was initially built to celebrate the upcoming Summer Olympics in Munich in 1972, but was later used as inspiration for M1, 8-series, Z1 and the new M1 homage concept. BMW built the Turbo concept as a rolling display for new safety- and engineering technologies.
As part of the above cars never came on the market, their main purpose and profit were to act as inspiration for models which came into production. One of my favorites which drew its source from the famous wedge prototypes was Lamborghini’s Jarama GT’s 400. Not an extreme design, but beautiful and harmonious.