Il Genio Nascosto

Updated: Apr 1, 2020

The title chosen for this long overdue exhibition about Marcello Gandini’s spectacular design career is quite fitting to the Maestro’s charachter.

An arresting sight not seen in Turin for 15 years

After its successful Fioravanti exhibition, the Museo Nazionale Dell’Automobile (MAuto for its friends) of Turin keeps celebrating the most illustrious figures of Italian car design, the people that made Turin the design capital of the world between the 50s and the 80s. “Il Genio Nascosto” translates as “The Hidden Genius”: those who know about Marcello Gandini, the man, will understand... The Maestro has never liked the limelight, and maintains to this day a charming modesty that sometimes becomes even self-deprecating, as he reflects on the “defects” of his designs... Even the Miura, which was born too narrow according to him. One can’t help thinking that many current, less talented design figures could use some of Mr. Gandini’s peculiar mix of modesty and honesty...

The Maestro himself, seated in the middle seat.

At the swanky inauguration event the old Maestro was indeed present, and I couldn’t help notice in his eyes how happy yet very uneasy he must have felt, sitting under those spotlights, being so openly celebrated by a public of hundreds of people. The exhibition itself surpassed my best expectations ans it’s possibly even better than the Fioravanti one, as many original and never seen before sketches are there for all to see, providing a fascinating insight into the old ways of drawing and the evolution of the Maestro’s technique over the years.

These sketches wouldn't get you anywhere these days, the level of sketching has increased dramatically in these Photoshop years...

These must date from the Diablo development days

A very, very "bio" wagon study that must date from the late 80s or early 90s

The Maestro's late career sketches really make me wonder if we have been over-fetishizing the sketches over the ideas they are supposed to represent: I mean, the stuff which Gandini made to earn a living in the 1980s and 90s today won't even let him into any reputable design academy.

Marcello... I mean... Were you serious?

Not every Gandini sketch is a masterpiece...

Nice helicopters though.

Another aspect of the exhibition I’ve appreciated a lot is that Gandini himself insisted to have represented the more “rational”, “popular” project he worked on, alongside the supercars he’s best known for. I mean, when was the last time you saw such a pristine Renault SuperCinq?

A Renault SuperCinq in an automobile museum. I'm getting old...

Particularly pleasing is the inclusion of the Innocenti Mini Bertone, which succeded in the task of bettering the space utilization of the Issigonis original... Such a shame that the notoriously inept British Leyland management, possibly because “not invented here” never fully embraced the Bertone Mini, thus limiting to Italy and a few other markets its impressive potential.

Where did they manage to find a perfect Mini Bertone?

How cool is this logo? 90 means it's got the smaller 850cc engine

Being a huge fan of the Citroën BX, which the Maestro not only penned but even helped promote in a famous TV spot, I would have been furious if that fantastic, unforgettable Citroën model hadn’t been represented at MAuto... And thankfully it is, albeit in a roundabout way: the 1979 Bertone Tundra, which spawned the BX’s design is present in all its gold paint and brown velour glory.

All kinds of awesome!

Below, the extremely cool TV commercial for the Citroen BX that involved Gandini as testimonial...

Another surprise was the inclusion of two two-wheelers: the forward-thinking Innocenti Lambretta Lui and the revered classic Moto Guzzi V7 Sport.

From this point onwards, there are no more surprises but still much pleasure to be had, as the Gandini “classics” are all present and accounted for: Lamborghini Espada, Lancia Stratos... And, for the first time in 15 years, the Marzál, Stratos “0” and Carabo have been once again reunited under one roof, something I thought would have been impossible after the first two went to auction and into private ownership.

The Marzál has been restored to absolute perfection and it’s truly a sight to behold... The AlfaRomeo Montreal is represented by one of the original “Expo” prototypes, certainly at the Maestro’s request, as he doesn’t particularly like the 1971 production version, substantially modified to comply with changing engineering requirements.

The Marzàl remained just a few weeks, its place then taken by an orange Urraco. I didn't feel shortchanged at all...

The 1967 Montreal "Expo"

Well, of course there's a Miura...

The Lancia Stratos Group 4 in the iconic Alitalia livery

There’s no Fiat X1/9, strangely enough, the 1969 Runabout concept making up for its absence. Very good news the inclusion of the Maserati Khamsin, my favourite Maserati of all.

The Bertone Runabout

The stunning Maserati Khamsin is speed in sheetmetal

Maserati Khamsin

Well, now you got no excuse to miss this one...

But saddens me to notice that two glaring oversight made it to the "final cut"...

The Shelby Cobra Daytona is tagged as "Ferrari GTO"...

The caption says Piero Stroppa did the drawing... While the drawing itself is clearly signed by Paolo Martin


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