(first posted 5/19/2013) There’s almost no such thing as a 100% original automotive design; stylists are perpetually recycling ideas, deliberately or unconsciously. But finding the connections takes a good eye, as CC’s own Jim Cavanaugh proved with his comment yesterday on the Giulia Outtake: Am I the only guy to see just a little teeny bit of 59 Edsel in the back half of this car? Both the C pillar and the decklid/taillight treatments show a resemblance. Undoubtedly, its rear end does owe a considerable debt to the 1959 Edsel. And since Jim may quite well be the first to point this out, this needs to be documented.
The Gulia has always been praised for its clean lines, superb visibility, and excellent aerodynamics for the times (Cd: 0.33) depite its blocky shape. That was the result of lots of fine detailing, and its relatively high and chopped-off tail is given part credit for that. But the similarities of its C pillar, rear window, and of course that trunk lid and rear trailing edge with the center depression have to have been inspired by the Edsel, even the low rectangular tail lights are too similar to be coincidental.
The renowned Robert Cumberford didn’t notice this in his otherwise excellent “By Design” Feature on the Giulia. Curiously, I can’t readily find any references as to who designed the Giulia sedan, an in-house design. The time-line certainly is right: the Giulia arrived for the 1962 MY, three years after the Edsel. And why would the Alfa designers have even noticed the Edsel at all?
That answer is obvious, of course, on the front end of the Edsel. If you’re going to steal our trademark grille, we’ll steal your rear end. Fair enough.
Update: It should also be pointed out that the Edsel’s front end design was very advanced stylistically, ignoring its grille for the moment. Its low-placed headlights, set into the grille, was something quite new, matched only by some of the ’59 GM cars. But the Edsel’s restraint in the front (and elsewhere) are very notable.
Alfa Giulia images: oldparkedcars.com
C’mon Paul of course the Alfa designers had seen the Edsel, Ford made a huge deal of it, the fact it was ugly and badly put together dont matter obviously some styling cues looked great somewhere else. Those Alfas were great little cars and the earlier version looks vaguely like a Hillman and much prettier.
The Edsel is an unusual looking car,the much more expensive Lincoln of the same period is ugly.Come to think of it there were some ugly brutes in the showrooms,I saw a gurner of a 59 Chrysler at a show.Still what would I know,I like the looks of the much maligned Ford Zephyr/Zodiac Mk4 one of my favourite cars was my Mk4 Zephyr 6 and a 70 Superbee in panther pink is on my wish list
I found 5 MK4 Zodiacs recently all in one backyard most with V8 conversions (the V6 wasnt popular here) along with 2 56 Veloxes and a Hillman Avenger Alpine and a mobile VB Commodore that guy is saving a lot of mowing, he may sell if you were keen.
Thanks Bryce but I’m in the UK.the V8 conversions sound interesting,in the early 80s there were quite a few Ford 302 powered Mk1 Zodiacs in South London.
We had wrecking yards doing engine swaps on a one day service system the MK4 gearbox can cope with a 351 Ford or 350 Chev without complaint, the V6 was a total lemon beginning with the 2.5 and the 3L though better was tarred with the same brush they do fit nicely into Cortinas Anglias and the like tho
Ugly? I think you meant awesome. Also quite large. This is a 1958, the first year before as usual (like with the 1961) they watered down and altered the original concept each year.
As badly built as Edsels may have been they were world’s ahead of ANY Italian car…
I see 59 Edsels influence on the 68 Pontiacs.
A 68 GTO was a must have car for me as a teenager.For some reason the other GM relatives just didn’t do it for me
Alfa Romeo used that grille style while Henry was still alive who copied who
The resemblance is definitely there, ironic considering how different these two cars are in other ways. It also points out just how restrained the ’59 Edsel’s design was, not that it mattered! By the time the ’59 models hit the showrooms, the Edsel name was a joke.
This shows how minor detail similarities do not add up to similar overall impressions. To put it charitably, the athletic-looking Alfa aged better than the Ami Strassenkreuzer Ford (ironically named for a man with more style sense than that).
Giulias played a supporting role as chase cars in the original “Italian Job,” a testimony to their performance credentials; there’s no drama in being chased by milquetoast cars.
I used to have the “Italian Job” on VHS. Maybe I still do for that matter, although it is of less utility without a VCR. I fell in love with the film as a kid because of the cars. I bought it because of the cars. When I watched it, I paid most attention to the cars. Alfa Giulia Supers were good cars. They’re ridiculously expensive in the US, such is their appeal. Still, their use in the movie was not a testimony to their performance credentials. The cops, and their Alfas by extension, were completely hapless. Was it impressive when one sputtered to a stop after climbing a ramp onto a building that posed to challenge to the gold hauling Mini Coopers? Was it the way they got outrun, fell off of curbs, or failed to negotiate any obstacle placed in their way?
I really wonder about the .33 CD claims for this car. 109 mph top speed for the Super isn’t that impressive, even for the era. Carbureted BMW 2002s with lower power outputs, drag coefficients closer to .5 than .3 and short gearing had similar or greater top speeds. The basic shape may be bar of soap with a curved windshield, but getting near that coefficient would require much better detail execution than the Giulia exhibits. Maybe the wind tunnel model had a CD of .33, but it couldn’t have had the window trim, mirrors, or air intakes.
Astonishing, Jim! It’s true. Brilliant spotting.
Crap, now I can’t unsee that.
What I never noticed is how similar the ’59 Edsel looked like the ’59 Chevy.
59 Chevy without catseyes or fins, It looks more 58 Chevy to me. I didnt realise that Edsels didnt have fins but they do look great from behind. Alfa had good taste to copy that.
Edsel – the Beta Romeo.
I was traveling over the weekend, and had no idea that the little comment I banged off would start such a discussion!
Thinking it over, I remain convinced that the 58 Edsel was (with the exception of that unfortunate grille) the most conservatively styled car of 1958, particularly the lower-priced Ranger and Pacer series cars. The 59 was even more conservative.
Again, other than the grille, I have always considered the 59 Edsel to be a very attractive design. It is not “gee-whiz-wow” like the 59 GM and Mopar cars, but is still quite good looking for what was an extremely conservative design in 1959..
American car design was very influential in that era. Perhaps the Edsel was influential if only because its shapes or concepts were more easily translated to the smaller, more upright proportions employed by European designs. I consider the C pillar and rear deck treatments of both cars to be quite good, and make each one unique in its respective market.
Mr Cavanaugh is not the first to spot this similarity. I recall an article in a German classic car magazine a few years ago on the same subject.
Ford probably had a big sale on slightly used tooling.
Anyone else ever notice how more 59 than 58 models seem to have survived? Seems odd since the 59 only sold about 70% of the 58 volume. Besides which, the 58 was so bizarre you’d think people would see more value in restoring one versus the more normal (comparatively) 59s.
And note the Edsel’s resemblance to the ’62 Fairlane, especially the way the chrome around the headlights wraps around to the side.
Speaking of “inspiration”: The current Lexus front end seems to be “inspired?” by the beautiful? 1961 Plymouth front end which in turn seems to be inspired? by the 1958 Chevy Impala rear end.
Lexus is running a magazine ad currently with white versions of all their hybrid models in one photo showing their similar and inexplicably awful front ends. Toyotas mostly have the same shape of grille but with a mustache instead of the top part of the spindle shape.
I have no idea what the Toyota design chief is thinking.
I love the new Lexus design language. In particular the ones that were intended to have the spindle grill (IS, NX). It’s not perfect but it’s aggressive and recognizable.
And this is coming from someone who didn’t like the first Audis with single-frame grilles. It made their overhangs look longer… I think a lot of Lexus sedans are better proportioned.
I agree – and I’m sure my reactionary self would say I hated them (from pictures alone) but they work in the flesh. Living as I do in Londonium, I see an endless supply of silver German cars but the detail and finish of the RC (I think that’s its name) coupe really stands out
If the 1958 Edsel had come with the 1958 front end it might have even made it, except that it was wedging in between Ford and Mercury where there wasn’t really much space. The 1958’s other than wagons had Ford rooflines for the lower lines and Mercury rooflines for the higher ones. The wagons were obviously cheaply adapted Fords including the rear end sheet metal. For 1959 they cut the number of lines and used some Ford (4 door hardtop) and some Mercury roofs like the one pictured. Obviously the handwriting was on the wall pretty quickly.
In case you need reminding, a 1958 Pacer (with the Ford roof):
This Alfa has been gnawing at my automotive subconscious for years. I kept thinking ’61 Chevy but the ’59 Edsel is a much more likely template when you look at that angled cantilever roof + the dished recess below the trunk plane, and when you realize that the Giulia sedan appeared in ’62…just enough time for the rabid Edsel fans in Milano to get the tooling made.
The stylist credited with this shape is Alfa Romeo staffer Giuseppe Scarnati. First prototypes were apparently seen around 1960, and the shape was based on the earlier still-born FWD tipo 103 (pictured), which itself was also (I believe) the basis for the Renault R8.
That said, given the 59 Edsel was in the public eye from late 58 and noting the changes in the rear roofline and top trailing edge of the trunk relative to the tipo 103, I’d say superb spotting by JPC.