By on November 9, 2013

Photos: RM Auctions

Back in 2011, as part of its reorganization, Italian design house Bertone auctioned off some of its collection of concept cars in conjunction with the Villa d’Este concours that year. Marcello Gandini’s Lamborghini Marzal, with it’s glass gullwing doors, and its $2,170,369.10 USD sale price, got the lion’s share of the attention in that sale, but one of Giorgetto Giugiaro’s creations also on sale that day, the 1963 Chevrolet Testudo, may have been a more influential design in the long run than the Marzal. Testudo is Italian for turtle, an allusion to the sharp beltline separating top and bottom halves of the car. Though I can see the testudine influence, I’ve never seen a tortoise or turtle look this sleek and fast.

Like Chrysler did more than a decade earlier with Pininfarina and Ghia (leading to the great Exner-Ghia Chrysler concepts), Bill Mitchell at GM styling decided to have a competition of sorts, sending two Corvair chassis to Italy with an idea towards selling a European styled Corvair on the continent. One went to Pininfarina and the other to Bertone, where a young Giugiaro was working.

The man that went on to found Italdesign and have a great and prolific design career said that designing the Testudo opened his own eyes to a new way of designing cars as a whole, rather than as separate side and plan views. Also Ferruccio Lamborghini’s very successful relationship with Bertone may very well have been sparked by this car. More importantly, Bill Mitchell’s idea of a localized Euro Corvair never saw fruition but that idea led to one of the most influential concept cars ever.

Based on a shortened Chevy Corvair chassis, the Testudo not only opened up a new way of designing cars for Giugiaro, it influenced a number of very successful designs that came after it.  I can see some Ferrari Daytona (and the cars it influenced itself), C3 Corvette (though there may have been some two way influence there because Giugiaro was in contact with the GM stylists in Detroit that were then working on the Corvair Monza concept, which itself influenced the C3 Vette), Lamborghini Miura and Montreal, and possibly a couple of others including the AMC Pacer. The late Tony Lapine said that it directly influenced his design of the Porsche 928.

What do you see in it? Well, besides this Corvair engine.

You can read the car’s auction catalog description here at the RM Auction site (note how the press release’s description of Bertone’s history discretely avoided mentioning just why the car was on sale).

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If you think 3D is a plot to get you to buy yet another new TV set, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS


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29 Comments on “The Most Influential Corvair Never Built : Giugiaro’s Chevrolet Testudo...”


  • avatar
    Kenmore

    Bleachh…mutant.

    An E-Jag trying to be a Stingray.

  • avatar
    raph

    Wow talk about front mid-engine even though the engine is in the back.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    It’s funny how right this design looks on the mid engined Muira and how pointless it is on a rear engined chassis. It’s like a FWD Fiat 500, only this one isn’t a replicar.

  • avatar
    readallover

    Front 1/3 of the car reminds me of a mid-60`s Mazda cosmos.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Even if the E-type meets Stingray meets Slantback styling doesn’t appeal to you, this is roughly what cars should look like. WTH happened industry?

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    “this is roughly what cars should look like”

    We’re shopping for a new rocker and maybe a table today.

    How the sam hill and I supposed to get them home from Oak Express in that? And use it as a daily driver in Wisconsin winters?

    Nay, lad… tall, boxy and capacious… that’s what cars should look like.

    Whoa… I guess VoltOwner is right after all.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      Boxy, tall, capacious are words that should describe practical cars, low, sleek, and style over substance are best used for sports cars, all depends on the role.

      Well thats how it should be at least, now even your neighbors Chevy Spark has to be a bit “sporty” in styling.

    • 0 avatar
      -Nate

      Correct Sir and this is why all those glorious junkyards in Wisc. and the rest of the Middle west , were chock full of WPC Productas from the 1930′s ~ mid 1950′s when I were a lad instead of whose wonderful sharp looking GM’s .

      -Nate

      Kenmore Wrote :

      “We’re shopping for a new rocker and maybe a table today.

      How the sam hill and I supposed to get them home from Oak Express in that? And use it as a daily driver in Wisconsin winters?

      Nay, lad… tall, boxy and capacious… that’s what cars should look like.”

  • avatar
    Tinker

    So what’s up with that steering wheel? Talk about DEEP DISH! Was that an attempt at improving safety?

    Must be an Italian thing. My Fiat drove like a bus, this thing must drive like a go-cart.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    I see the unholy offspring of a 928 and a Pacer, but obviously the timeline goes the other way.

    @Kenmore, I saw a Maserati with a wood easel sticking out of it’s roped down trunk today, in the rain. If you can afford this years Maserati, rent a wagon or something. If you need one car to bind them all, see my avatar.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      I could probably afford the Maserati more easily than a house in the neighborhood where people tote easels around.

      Your avatar is interesting because it appears to be a wagon. Can’t enlarge with enough resolution… what is it?

    • 0 avatar
      eamiller

      You’re not the only one. I have exactly the same car in Regal Blue. You’ll have to pry it from my cold, dead, hands.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    05 Subaru LGT turbo wagon with a manual. It’s not diesel or brown, but it’ll do. No one else bought one, so they only made them this way for one year. The fellow with the easel was on the highway so I can’t be sure where his home was, but I do know I can’t afford the mortgage.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      Googled it… I could proudly crunch some snow with that while emptying a Lowes or Home Depot.

      Of course I would mount the tallest aspect tires on the smallest diameter rims I could and otherwise stodgy it up to fit my timid driving preferences and maximize snow traction.

      A damn handsome and *useful* ride.

      • 0 avatar
        05lgt

        Never prouder than the day I put a twin box spring mattress set in back in a Costco parking lot. Thank you for the kind words for my car. I may have to try the tall and skinny’s if for no other reason than to antagonize the local NW WRX fanbois.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    I see traces of the Opel GT in the lines of the front end and bumper , with Porsche 928 headlights . The hatch rather reminds me of the Datsun F10 .

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    I’m not going to compare this to any other car, its really its own thing, yes it was influential but how many cars did it inspire that were actually good?

    Yes the Ferrari Daytona was awesome, but the 928 and AMC Pacer?

    Still, how did Glugiaros go from this, to the Delorean, to styling Daewoods like the Aveo?

  • avatar
    probert

    I think of things like the Lamborghini 350 GTV and the 1963 Ferrari 400 Superamerica – I like to think about these things. I call it the PM era (pre Muira).

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    What a crumple zone that empty front end could have made.

    Constructed from the right steel, it could’ve sproinged back into shape like Tigger’s tail.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Change out the wire wheels, take a foot out of the middle, and you have a rear-engine Porsche 928. I like it.

    But my first thought was Jaguar XKE.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    Yah E-Jag fer shure. A totally nonfunctional albeit pretty, nose, to some anyway,swoopy Italian style roadster. rear window was pure bathtub Porsche.

    The first gen Corvair was the inspiration for the Bimmer E 3s. The prettiest coupe BMW ever made.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    My favorite part would be the brake lights aligned and restrained to be the same as the chrome trim strip.


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