Forgotten Concept: 1966 Jaguar FT Bertone 420 Coupe – Influential, But Not On Jaguar

Thumbing through an Road and Track’s car show coverage from 1966, I came across a car that I had totally forgotten about: the 1966 Jaguar Bertone FT 420 Coupe. It’s the work of the up and coming young designer Marcello Gandini, who also designed the legendary Lamborghini Miura in the same year.

Although it had none of the explosive impact of the Miura, this coupe nevertheless had a very significant influence, and was the first in a line of coupes that led to the 1971 Fiat 130 Coupe and its many offspring. As such, its influence can be seen in the 1977 GM B-Bodies, most specifically the Buick LeSabre coupe. What it didn’t influence was Jaguar’s own designs, which stayed true to their curvaceous bodies with drastically lower greenhouses.

Giorgio Tarchini, the Jaguar importer for Northern Italy commissioned the Carrozzeria Bertone to build a five-seater coupé based on the Jaguar 420 saloon. Legendary designer Giorgetto Giugiaro had just left Bertone for Ghia, so the young Gandini was assigned the task, as well as the Miura.

The front is a mish-mash, as the typically very clean front end opening as used on such cars as the Fiat Dino Coupe, drawn up by Giugiaro at Bertone shortly before he left.  Undoubtedly the brief for this coupe included the incorporation of the traditional Jaguar grille. These cross-cultural mish-mashes, when an Italian (or otherwise) designer is required to add certain traditional design elements to a very advanced clean-sheet design invariably don’t work well.

The rear is devoid of any such affectation, and shows off the basic design elements that were so new and exciting at the time: a tall green house with curved windows and plenty of tumblehome. And of course that sparseness, a hallmark of that time, when less was more. From this view it looks like an economy car from a decade or so later.

Gandini evolved many of these features into his next coupe, the 1967 Fiat 125 Executive, which influenced the Audi 80/Fox, among others. One of the key elements that show Gandini’s progress along these lines is the tall rear end, a practical solution to create a larger trunk in a fairly compact car.

This element is quite radical for the time on a family sedan, and was of course a toned down element of the mid-engine Miura, as well as his groundbreaking Lamborghini Marzal concept, a mid-engine four seater that led to the production Espada.

The interior is a hybrid of the best of Italian and British traditions, which weren’t quite as far apart as the exteriors.

It’s not perfect, but it’s a very elegant and highly influential design, and it certainly deserves more recognition in that regard.


Related reading:

CC Fiat 130 Coupe: Bill Mitchell’s Regards   D. Andreina

Lamborghini Marzal: The Espada’s Inspiration and My Heartthrob of 1967   PN