Auto& Design: Forty Years On

Updated: Apr 1

A new exhibition at Turin's "MAuto" celebrates the legacy of Fulvio Cinti and his influential editorial creature, Auto&Design magazine.

It's a good one.

Before Desktop Publishing

Possibly Turin's finest contribution to the printed magazine sector, the trailblazing Auto&Design magazine turned forty this year, but the industry it covers has changed so much in this period that they could be eighty.

The Iconic n°1 from 1979, with the Polistil Ritmo model that starred on the cover.

In 1979 the Italian motor industry still held 60% of its home market, with Fiat of course taking the lion's share at 44%. Alfa Romeo was still state-owned, and despite its woes still sold enough cars in Italy to take the third place with a 9,7% market share.

Turin was still very much a company town, even the venerable Lingotto factory was still in operation: it's there that production of the new compact Lancia, the Delta, started production that same year.

Turin was still very much the automobile design capital of the world, with Pininfarina and Bertone still influencing heavily the course of the sector, together with Giugiaro, whose star had been rising meteorically over the course of that decade.

Fulvio Cinti, the mind behind Auto&Design, died one year ago

Journalist Fulvio Cinti had been thinking about a magazine focused on automotive design long before 1979 though: he had founded Style Auto way back in 1963, but then had to leave it after a while. Nowadays it's hard to imagine how "new" the idea of writing about car design was: it just wasn't a thing.

The profession of the automotive designer, especially in Europe, was unknown and the companies were very secretive about their ideas and processes.

It's fair to say that all the current media that covers design owes a lot to Cinti and Auto&Design, as there was nothing before it.

Its format, graphic layout and pagination were innovative for the time, as much as the content was. When I was a teen the pages of Auto&Design were a wonderful window into the world I so desperately want to be part of, and I'm sure I'm in good company on this...

That's why I think the National Automobile Museum is a perfect place to celebrate Auto&Design: because that's where it belongs.

When digital and analog technology still shared space...

Nowadays Auto&Design fights an uphill battle for survival, in a word where digital outlets get the news first and people just don't pay for expensive mags anymore. For me, personally, Auto&Design's legacy is huge and it's an Italian success story that's worth celebrating... But it's evident that the mag's influence has dropped to zero together with the best of Turin's design it so lovingly covered.

I've long stopped buying Auto&Design, as inside there is simply nothing worth reading nor looking at: Photoshop has leveled up the drawing capabilities and styles, the drawings (when they are actually drawings and not 3D-based) look and feel all the same. The copy on the articles mostly regurgitate the OEM's desired PR, with hardly any shred of an editorial position or, Heaven forbid, critique.

That's why I think the National Automobile Museum is a perfect place to celebrate Auto&Design: because that's where it belongs.

Writing this doesn't make me happy, at all. But that's the way I see it.

Anyway, the exhibition's "pièce de résistance" is the eclectic collection of show prototypes that have been selected for it, and please enjoy the following galleries...

I had never seen the Mercedes-Benz C112 so closely: what a marvel.

But my heart stopped when I saw again the Fiat Scia: built in 1993, when Fiat's design center had an unbelievable reserve of talent in its ranks, it looked amazing new and still does today. Glad to see it's well preserved.

In the main show room there are many recent concept cars, but you'll have to forgive me if I don't cover them all: I'm posting here only the ones I personally like.

It's been great to see the Lancia Dialogos again after twenty years: it's a car you really need to see to comprehend how different it is from the unfortunate Thesis. This could have been a resounding success, had it been actually made.

The Citroen C-Airdream also didn't get a production version, and that's yet another missed opportunity, as it was and still is devastatingly cool.

The Alfa Romeo Protèo had been the first big splash of Walter De'Silva in his role of Alfa Romeo Design director, and it's sad it never made production, even in limited numbers.

The Pininfarina Mythos may not have aged so well, but this was HUGE when I was a child, so it'll forever occupy a place in my heart.


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