I've been a car nerd for my entire life, and now I write about them for a living, so I don't get many auto-related surprises anymore. It's always nice when I do, though. That's what happened to me yesterday when Attila Nagy's photos introduced me to a car that totally caught me off guard: the Lancia Sibilo.
Attila found it while he was shooting the Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este with our own Maté Petrany this weekend. I had no idea it existed until yesterday, but judging from the comments on that story, a lot of you guys didn't either.
But that's okay! It gives us all a chance to learn about this bizarre, amazing machine together.
The 1970s were sort of a crappy decade for cars, thanks to the oil crises and ever-tightening emissions regulations that kind of killed performance for a while. But it was a fantastic decade for concept cars and exotics.
Previous eras had their streamlined shapes and rocketship-inspired designs, but the 70s were all about crazy wedges like the Lamborghini Countach, the Lotus Esprit, the Mercedes C111, the BMW E25 Turbo, and so many others. Designers seemed free of constraints and able to go as wild as their imaginations allowed.
But even by the standards of the zany 1970s, the Sibilo stands out.
First, it should come as no surprise that it was designed by Bertone, a studio that has produced some of the wildest and most beautiful cars ever made. And the Sibilo in particular was designed by Marcello Gandini, the man behind the Lamborghinis Miura and Countach, as well as wedge-shaped gems like the Fiat X1/9 and Lancia Stratos.
According to an RM Auctions listing from a few years ago, when Gandini penned it in 1978, he meant it to be an even more radical evolution of the wedge shapes he had spent a decade crafting. As such, unusual features abound here, like the clear plastic side panels with circular openings instead of windows, and glass that is totally flush with the body of the car.
It's not really beautiful in the conventional sense, but it is eye-catching. And it certainly looks like a Lancia, doesn't it? Even if you didn't see the badge, you can kind of tell because of how much it looks like a Stratos — which makes sense, as the Sibilo was built on a stretched Stratos chassis. It's name apparently comes from an Italian word for the sound an object makes at flies through the air.
The one-off concept had some interesting performance specs for its time, including a 2.4-liter triple-carb V8 good for 190 horsepower, a five-speed manual and four-wheel disc brakes. But it's more show than go, which is readily apparent when you step inside and glimpse at one of the strangest interiors ever put into any car.
RM says that steering wheel, which initially looks unusable, was created with grooves designed to ergonomically fit the grip of your hands. On top of all that glorious leather and wood sits an LCD screen with digital gauges aimed at the driver.
Care to step in and give that big thing a try?
The Sibilo debuted at the 1978 Turin Auto Show. Supposedly, the dark brown color was lightened somewhat following the show. That shade of brown doesn't exactly make the car stand out, but it certainly gives it a lot of color.
And it looks pretty good in this shoot by German photographer Rainer W. Schlegelmilch, which featured a woman in a leopard-print skinsuit and heeled boots laying on top of the car. I wish I had the rights to post those photos here, because it's almost as weird as the infamous Vector W2 shoot from a few years later. (Almost.)
The Sibilo even supposedly inspired a future car in the original Total Recall, although it doesn't look nearly as good.
The Sibilo may be amazing, but there seems to be a reason it's so obscure even to car dorks like us: someone seems to have gone out of their way to keep it obscure. There's no mention of the car on the Bertone website, not many shots of it in Concorse D'Eleganzia galleries.
Even the photos on that RM Auctions page just seem like someone said "Park it in the corner, take a few shots and call it a day." What gives? How come there's no love for this brown little oddball?
Well, all I can do is hope that this story and these photos make more people appreciate the Sibilo. It's something else for sure, and it deserves more cool points than it gets.
To see a video tour of the Sibilo, check out this Italian site.