Freewheeling with Ivo Groen: car designs that define countries and cultures

In an insightful video chat, Dutch car designer Ivo Groen indulges Gautam Sen and Avik Chattopadhyay in the 50s, 60s and 70s - the golden decades of automotive design.

by Gautam Sen, Avik ChattopadhyayPublished on : May 01, 2021

Ivo Groen drives effortlessly through the seminal period of automobile design from 1945 to late 1960s, accompanied by Gautam and Avik. With the focus of design shifting to Italy from France post World War 2, masters like Batista Farina and Franco Scaglione embodying the La Dolce Vita spirit in all they conjured up, right from the 1946 Pininfarina Speziale, the Abarth Biposto to the BAT cars of the 1950s.

  • 1952 Fiat Abarth Bertone Biposto | Freewheeling with Ivo Groen | STIRworld
    1952 Fiat Abarth Bertone Biposto Image: Ivo Groen
  • 1952 Fiat Abarth Bertone Biposto designed by Franco Scaglione | Freewheeling with Ivo Groen | STIRworld
    1952 Fiat Abarth Bertone Biposto designed by Franco Scaglione Image: Ivo Groen

The unique cross pollination of styles and influences between Italy and the US (the ‘new world’) literally germinated with the Cisitalia being loved by the Americans as well as the Italians adopting the fins of the large barges from Detroit onto performance enhancing pieces of engineering rather than mere ornamentations. The difference between “design” and “styling” as Ivo observes.

  • Aero fins of the 1947 Cisitalia 202 cmm design by Savonuzzi | Freewheeling with Ivo Groen | STIRworld
    Aero fins of the 1947 Cisitalia 202 cmm design by Savonuzzi Image: Ivo Groen
  • 1947 Cisitalia 202 Gran Sport | Freewheeling with Ivo Groen | STIRworld
    1947 Cisitalia 202 Gran Sport Image: Ivo Groen

The importance of the “showcar” as a means of generating business by studios like Bertone and Pininfarina is brought forth with some interesting trivia shared. Ivo discusses whether post-war designs saw different routes for the new world powers like the US with over-the-top big cars and the battered countries with frugal, compact and efficient examples like the Mini and Beetle. But good design knows no boundaries, as the Chevy Corvair broke the trend in the US. And across the Atlantic came the Citroen DS, another milestone masterpiece.

1955 Citroen DS 19 designed by Flaminio Bertoni | Freewheeling with Ivo Groen | STIRworld
1955 Citroen DS 19 designed by Flaminio Bertoni Image: Ivo Groen

The 1960s were the most hectic with most economies well on the path of recovery, manifesting their ethos and culture through their automobiles. Cars both reflected and represented their countries on the world stage, as symbols of both industrial progress as well as design ethos. Ivo shares how design studio Bertone literally shook up the world with the Miura in 1966, the Marzal in 1967 and the Carabo in 1968! In just three years they achieved what people devote a generation to arrive at. The Marzal, as Ivo describes with childish delight, is the 27th letter of the alphabet. These are the vehicles that defined design in the next few decades.

  • 1967 Lamborghini Marzal by Bertone | Freewheeling with Ivo Groen | STIRworld
    1967 Lamborghini Marzal by Bertone Image: Ivo Groen
  • 1967 Lamborghini Bertone Marzal by Italian car designer Marcello Gandini | Freewheeling with Ivo Groen | STIRworld
    1967 Lamborghini Bertone Marzal by Italian car designer Marcello Gandini Image: Ivo Groen

The journey closes with a tribute to the Toyota 2000GT, a vehicle that combined the design sensibility of Europe and the humble obsession with affordable quality of Japan!          

Read all the other articles in the Freewheeling series here.

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