Gio Ponti’s radical 1953 car design made real 65 years on!

Design guru wasn’t satisfied with cars of the 1940s and ’50s, so he penned his own. It was never built – until now!

Human history is peppered with great minds that think far beyond the usual constraints of the average individual. These men and women are true forward-thinkers and are often responsible for great leaps in philosophy and technology. Gio Ponti was one such man, but his design for a new car was deemed to be too radical for 1953. Now his dream will be realised, some 65 years later.

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Ponti was responsible for designing the 32-storey Pirelli Tower in Milan and the minimalist Superleggera chair among others, and ultimately founded the influential design magazine Domus. He also spent some time thinking about cars – and how the vehicles of his era weren’t that beautiful, both in terms of function and design. He began sketching ideas that would maximise interior space and prove to be more aerodynamically efficient. These developed into the ‘Linea Diamante’ or Diamond Line car.

The concept got its name from its angular rear profile that helped to reduce drag while extending space available for luggage. It featured large windows to let more natural light into the cabin, something that cars of the 1950s often lacked.

One of the biggest innovations regarded safety and protection of the Diamond Line itself. A rubber bumper was to run around the circumference of the car, with the front and rear sections housing a sponge buffer to lessen the effect of small impacts. This innovative element was actually meant to be a collaboration with Pirelli.

The car was to be underpinned by the chassis of an Alfa Romeo 1900, but after the designs were rejected by Fiat and Carrozzeria Touring for being too radical, the car never got its chance. That was until now.

Better late than never, a full-size mock-up of Ponti’s design will debut at the inaugural Grand Basel event in Switzerland (September 6-9, 2019) for inspirational architectural design. Roberto Giolito, project director and head of FCA Heritage, paid close attention to the detailed drawings and 1:10 scale model that Gio created. Pirelli even supplied period-correct tyres for an Alfa Romeo 1900 saloon.

Salvatore Licitra is the grandson of Gio Ponti, and he says he is thrilled: ‘To see this design come to life for the first time, 65 years after the original drawings were created, will be truly remarkable. The car was thought to be too radical at the time, but many of its features would prove fundamental in the two decades of car design that followed.’

We can’t wait to see the car revealed on September 6 at Grand Basel. The new show moves to Miami Beach in February 2019, and to Hong Kong in May. More details on the Grand Basel website.

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