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.
CC Fiat 130 Coupe: Bill Mitchell’s Regards D. Andreina
Lamborghini Marzal: The Espada’s Inspiration and My Heartthrob of 1967 PN
Reminds me of a Gordon-Keeble.
The line between the Fiat 130 coupe and the 1977 LeSabre coupe is easy to trace. This concept is a lot more curvaceous than the Fiat 130 or the 1977 GM B-bodies. I see a little bit of second-generation Corvair (mostly in the rear fenders), and a little bit of BMW 3.0CS. It also looks a little like what you would get if you asked Volvo, in its tall-greenhouse period, to design a coupe version of a ’92 Bonneville.
To be honest, I don’t care for it – the greenhouse is overly tall and the tail droops too much. Admittedly the 420 was no raving beauty, being a mish/mash of the S-Type and MkX (aka 420G) but this offers no improvement.
Obviously we don’t know what constraints the designer was under at the time, and his later work was rather special….
It looks like it is wearing a hat that is way too big.
From the beltline down, it’s rather fetching, but that bulbous greenhouse ruins it in my opinion. It’s so out of proportion it just looks like a real mishmash.
It’s actually the same problem the E-Type has, perhaps they were trying to match the design language of that.
From the B pillar forward, certainly influential on the Audi 100 Coupe S.
Thanks for the essay. I like it and I like tall greenhouses of which this one is nicely styled.
In the first photo showing a side view, it looked like an Opel Manta for a brief minute, but then I realized that this was a much larger car.
The greenhouse does appear to be too tall, but I’d take this any day over today’s gunslit windows! The partially shrouded rear wheel looks dated to my eye, but I realize this is characteristic of Jags back then (and for that matter, most other cars that weren’t sports cars).
I see some BMW E9 as well, mostly around the front doors, although the greenhouse is awkwardly tall compared to the BMW. This car cries out for a chopped top and swoopier rear quarter windows, plus a straight across grille.
I can see the spouse saying “you didn’t pay for that, did you”
“I’m not driving THAT”
the designer’s career could only go up from there
Yep. What a mess.
Reminds me a little of 1970s Bristols, but they were nowhere near as ugly.
If the roof were a little lower, perhaps it would have been more acceptable to Sir William Lyons? (though the front and especially the rear would need some work too).
Now I’m seeing a bit of Rolls-Royce Camargue!
Yes, though I think the less rectilinear lines are better than the Camargue. Had a go at the front, but without altering the size of the grille the result has something of the Sunbeam Venezia or Lancia to it. Don’t really know what they could have done with the back as Jaguar were still using very unsuitable (for this design) 1940s/’50s style rear light units before the XJ6 and just copying the latter would be a cheat.
Also the first Mazda Luce/1500/1800/R130, rolled out in 1966, designed by (the house of) Bertone at roughly the same time. This led to the Mazda Capella/RX2/616 a few years later, a relatively poorly done iteration of the look.
The taillights look askew and like afterthoughts. Yesterday, someone mentioned the problem of perfectly straight lines in Fords.
I realized a decade ago that many cars from the 70’s and 80’s seem to have freakishly tall side windows which didn’t register that way at the time, but this one takes the cake.
“Influential, But Not On Jaguar” – Yes and yes again.
No Jaguar in this era could have a glasshouse this tall or a profile seemingly so tall and narrow.
And it may seem a minor point in the overall scheme of things, but blending in that Jaguar grille is not a success. It reminds me of some of the Alfa Romeo scudetto we saw in the 1970s…..
Or this – BMW, Bertone, 1970
Grille would be better if it was flush with headlight band. Greenhouse similarly tall as the Jaguar Bertone, but works better with this shape. I like it!
That BMW Garmisch concept was recently remade from scratch by BMW. I rather like it, square top and bottom halves, unlike the Stetson owner’s Jag above.
I haven’t seen that Bertone BMW before – and yet that ‘radiator’ design looks strangely familiar….
Fuggly. A two-year-old with a full diaper.
The one consistent element Jaguar design is that drop dead gorgeous interior. I’m willing to bet that even if a serious buyer wasn’t sold on the exterior once they plunked down in the drivers seat the deal was sealed.
What had this pasta-padded puss to offer, one half so beautiful as a bold beast raised on the Roast Beef of Old England? Would Enzo Ferrari have changed one jot or tittle of the egregiously elegant E-Type? No! Mai! NEVER!
Like many here, I don’t really care for the exterior. But that cabin is simply gorgeous! The tall greenhouse must give it excellent visibility, too. Great car to be in, but one you don’t want to glance back at when you get out of it.
Whilst Ghandini was working madly on the Muira, there were unresolved arguments by the rest of the team, which resulted in the use of the Alfa 2600 coupe nose, a Morris 1100 VDP grille, swoopy XJ-6 proto rear lower half, and most unfortunately, a mistranslation which led to the installation of a square-edged glass house tall enough for palm trees from quite another part of the Bertone consultancy as the roof.
It looks like the car I picture when Billy Connolly used to do his wonderful gag about telling his dad to get a prescription windscreen, since he was so fed up with forgetting his glasses for driving. When pulling up behind others, they’d glance in the rear-view mirror, nearly have a heart attack and say “Jaysus, would you look at the size of this guy’s feckin’ heed! He shouldna be feckin driving!”
Was this Pope John Paul’s personal ride?