When Jason Castriota left Pininfarina for Bertone, it was like switching to Coke after a lifetime of Pepsi. Let’s examine a design element he’s started using that’s alien to Pininfarina but essential to Bertone.
For someone untrained in the language of vehicular design, it’s not easy to describe what makes a car particularly Pininfarina or Bertone—but suffice to say that once you’ve seen examples of both, you will be able to tell them apart at the blink of an eye. An easy metaphor would make Pininfarina the designer of jet planes with Bertone in the business of sci-fi spaceships.
Think Bertone and you think Marcello Gandini, the man whose forehead the Lamborghini Miura sprang from like Pallas at the incredible age of 27. Gandini joined Bertone in 1965 and—following the Miura and the wonderful Espada—he went on to design cars which crave, simply crave ion drives and proton cannons, first amongst them the Lamborghini Countach.
The news last fall that Pininfarina’s Jason Castriota was to leave his employer of many years to follow in Gandini’s footsteps at Stile Bertone was quite a shocker. Pininfarinas and Bertones just don’t mix. Add to this that the cars Castriota had worked on at Pininfarina—the Maseratis Birdcage 75th and GranTurismo, the Ferraris 599 GTB and P4/5—are very Pininfarina, their aggression expressed not by sharp angles but flowing lines that hit you like an aikido throw.
Yet six months later, Castriota unveiled the Mantide, a car Bertone to its core. And while it has not become easier in the past three paragraphs for someone untrained in the language of product design to describe what that precisely is, there is one design element very easy to pinpoint: the angular rear wheelarches.
Like most things Bertone, this is from Gandini. As far as I know, he first used it on the Lamborghini Countach LP500, the prototype which served as the basis for the first production Countach, the LP400. Over subsequent iterations, the Countach lost the angularity, but the motif cropped up in later Gandini designs like the Maserati Shamal—and this Quattroporte IV that was parked the other day on the very street I live on:
By Gandini’s outrageous standards, this car is a subdued Q-ship, especially in the neutral Germanic silver this example—one of only 1,138—was painted in. The Quattroporte IV was produced at the tail end of Maserati’s doldrums, before the company was acquired by Ferrari, and this is their last car that was built in the old Maserati factory, before the Ferrari people threw out all the old machinery. There was a lull of four Quattroporte-less years at the reborn Maserati until they began building the Pininfarina-designed Quattroporte V—the latest version of which we recently drove in Italy.
It’s comforting to see how quickly Castriota has grokked the essentials of Bertone design, as evidenced by this reference to Gandini’s last car for Bertone. I can’t wait to see how he will manage over the years to balance on the shoulders of the giants he’s standing on—and what he’ll add to the Bertone canon. Based on his work at Pininfarina, one is compelled to think he will do just fine.