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Marcello Gandini: The World’s Most Famous Supercar Designer and His Legacy

In the hushed streets of Turin, where the whispers of classical melodies once danced in the air, a young dreamer emerged, poised to orchestrate a symphony of innovation on wheels. Marcello Gandini, born into a family steeped in the rich tradition of music, dared to defy convention, trading the ivory keys for the hum of engines and the allure of mechanical marvels. With a heart ignited by the passion for cars and the art of engineering, he took on a journey that would weave his name into the very fabric of automotive history. From the vibrant halls of Bertone to the sleek curves of Lamborghini, Gandini’s visionary designs would carve out a legacy as it was revolutionary.

Marcello Gandini - Wikipedia
Marcello Gandini | Courtesy: Wikipedia

Gandini’s early life was marked by a passion for cars and mechanical engineering, despite being born into a family steeped in classical music. His father, a former orchestral conductor and composer, initially hoped Gandini would pursue a career in music. However, Gandini’s intense interest in cars led him to leave school at 18 and pursue his true passion.

In 1964, Gandini approached Nuccio Bertone, head of Gruppo Bertone, demonstrating his zeal and talent for automotive design. Impressed by Gandini’s enthusiasm, Bertone hired him as an apprentice to Giorgetto Giugiaro, the company’s chief designer. When Giugiaro left to start his own studio the following year, Gandini, at the age of 27, was appointed to take his place.

Gandini’s first major project at Bertone was the design of the Lamborghini Miura, a groundbreaking sports car that would set new standards for automotive design. Remarkably, Gandini completed the design from the first sketch to the finished prototype in just three months, showcasing his exceptional talent and creativity. The Miura’s sleek lines, mid-engine layout, and revolutionary design elements captivated the automotive world and established Gandini as a visionary designer.

Lamborghini Miura - Wikipedia
1971 Lamborghini Miura P400 SV| Courtesy: Wikipedia

Throughout his tenure at Bertone, Gandini created several iconic designs that pushed the boundaries of automotive design. From the Lamborghini Countach and Espada to the Lancia Stratos Zero and Maserati Khamsin, Gandini’s designs were characterised by their futuristic aesthetics, innovative engineering, and uncompromising attention to detail. His ability to blend form and function resulted in cars that not only looked stunning but also delivered exceptional performance on the road.

Gandini’s influence extended beyond sports cars to include practical mass-production vehicles. He played a key role in designing sub-compacts like the Innocenti Mini and the first-generation Volkswagen Polo, as well as midsize family cars such as the BMW 5 Series and Citroën BX. Gandini’s versatility as a designer was evident in his ability to create cars that appealed to a wide range of consumers while maintaining his signature style and flair.

1971 INNOCENTI MINI COOPER MK3 - Innocenti - Classic cars - Ruote da Sogno
1971 INNOCENTI MINI COOPER MK3| Courtesy: Ruote da Sogno


In addition to his work with Bertone, Gandini pursued freelance projects and collaborations with other automotive manufacturers. He worked with Renault, designing the second-generation Renault 5 (the ‘Supercinq’) and the Renault Magnum truck, showcasing his ability to adapt his design language to different brands and market segments. Gandini also collaborated with Maserati, Nissan, Toyota, and Subaru, leaving his mark on a diverse range of vehicles across the automotive spectrum.

Renault 5 - Wikipedia
Renault 5 | courtesy: Wikipedia

Outside of automotive design, Gandini’s creative talents extended to other areas, including industrial and interior design. He applied his design principles to projects ranging from home architecture to nightclub interiors, demonstrating his versatility and breadth of expertise. Gandini’s influence even extended to the realm of aviation, where he contributed to the body styling of the Heli-Sport CH-7 helicopter, showcasing his ability to transcend traditional design boundaries.

File:CH7-Kompress.JPG - Wikipedia
CH7-Kompress| Courtesy: Wikipedia

Throughout his illustrious career, Gandini received numerous accolades and honours for his contributions to automotive design. In 2012, Car Design News awarded him the magazine’s first Lifetime Achievement Award, recognising his unparalleled impact on the industry. Flavio Manzoni, chief design officer at Ferrari, described Gandini as “probably the greatest car designer ever,” highlighting the enduring legacy of his work.

In January 2024, Gandini was honoured by the Polytechnic University of Turin with an honorary degree in mechanical engineering, further testament to his influence and stature within the automotive community. Tragically, Gandini passed away on March 13, 2024, at the age of 85, leaving behind a legacy that continues to inspire and influence automotive designers around the world.

Marcello Gandini’s contributions to automotive design are immeasurable because of the following reasons:

  1. Innovative Design Language: Gandini’s designs were characterised by their innovative and avant-garde aesthetics, which pushed the boundaries of traditional automotive design. From the iconic wedge-shaped silhouette of the Lamborghini Countach to the futuristic lines of the Lancia Stratos Zero, Gandini’s designs broke new ground and set trends that would influence automotive design for decades to come.

    Lancia Stratos Zero - Wikipedia
    Lancia Stratos Zero | Courtesy: Wikipedia
  2. Technological Advancements: Beyond their striking appearance, Gandini’s designs often incorporated groundbreaking technological advancements that enhanced performance, aerodynamics, and overall driving experience. For example, the Lamborghini Miura introduced the concept of a mid-engine layout in a road car, revolutionising sports car design and engineering.
  3. Versatility and Adaptability: Gandini’s versatility as a designer was evident in his ability to work across various segments of the automotive market, from high-performance sports cars to practical mass-production vehicles. His designs for brands like Lamborghini, Lancia, BMW, and Citroën showcased his adaptability and skill in creating cars that appealed to a wide range of consumers.
  4. Long-lasting Influence: Gandini’s designs have stood the test of time and continue to inspire automotive designers and enthusiasts today. The iconic silhouette of the Lamborghini Countach, for example, remains instantly recognisable and has become synonymous with automotive excellence and innovation. Gandini’s influence can be seen in countless modern car designs, demonstrating the enduring impact of his work.
  5. Recognition and Awards: Gandini’s contributions to automotive design have been widely recognised and celebrated within the industry. Awards such as the Lifetime Achievement Award from Car Design News and the honorary degree from the Polytechnic University of Turin underscore the significance of his work and his lasting legacy in the world of automotive design.

His innovative designs, creative vision, and unwavering commitment to excellence have left  a legacy on the automotive industry. From the iconic Lamborghini Miura to the practical Volkswagen Polo, Gandini’s influence can be seen in cars of all shapes and sizes, demonstrating the breadth and depth of his talent as a designer. As we reflect on his remarkable career, Gandini’s legacy serves as a reminder of the power of passion, creativity, and innovation to shape the future of automotive design for generations to come.

Feature Image: Marcello Gandini with STELLANTIS, LAMBORGHINI, FERRARI| Courtesy: Magneto

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