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