In car design, the wedge is something we can appreciate. Here's our list of the top ten most influential wedge-shaped designs of the 60s, 70s and 80s.
Back in high school and middle school the wedgie (or as we called it, the wedge) was something you most certainly didn't want, under any circumstance and you definitely didn't appreciate it when it came along. But in car design, the wedge is something you can appreciate.
The beautiful and technical shape was used by many of the top design houses of the seventies and was a signal the future had officially arrived. While not the most aerodynamic form in practice, it certainly looked the part and helped usher in a new era of automotive design. Italian design houses ItalDesign, Bertone and Pininfarina were at the forefront of the movement, but the Japanese, Germans and the U.S. jumped on the bandwagon shortly thereafter
First displayed at the Turin Motor Show in 1972, the Lotus Esprit M70 was designed by Giugiaro at Ital Design and was built on a widened and lengthened Europa chassis. After positive reviews from the public Colin Chapman decided to put the Esprit into production. The final design was completed in 1973 with many of the concept cues intact and when the then GM owned Lotus decided to build Peter Stevens redesign in 1987, many of those original cues remained.
Fun fact: that you couldn't call yourself a car guy without knowing already: Roger Moore drove a submersible version in the 1977 James Bond movie, The Spy Who Loved Me.
In 1989, after nearly two decades of development, Gerald Wiegert revealed his Vector W8 to the public. Extensive use of aeronautical building techniques were to be W8s selling point, but shoddy quality and a lack of funding eventually brought down the U.S.-built Lamborghini competitor in the mid-nineties. The W8 drew its inspiration from the 1968 Alfa Romeo Carabo and many other wedge cars in our list and is still a beautiful car today and you can pick up one of the few examples for a steal; nearly 20 percent of the original $685,000 asking price.
Fun fact: The Vector W8 was featured briefly in the 1993 movie, Rising Sun.
The E25 BMW Turbo was initially built to celebrate the upcoming 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, but was later used as the inspiration for the M1, 8-Series, Z1 and the new M1 Homage concept. BMW built the Turbo concept as a rolling display for new safety and engineering technologies as well as showing that BMW had officially left the difficult 60's behind. Penned by BMW's French head of design, Paul Bracq, the Turbo concept was styled after the most dramatic Italian supercars of the day and featured an advanced radar system that warned the driver of close objects such as curbs and cars.
Dome was and still is a race car manufacturer in Japan and in 1978 they gave the world the Dome Zero concept at the Geneva Motor Show. Intended to show Dome's intention of building a homologation special for a new line of sportscars; it was unable to pass Japanese homologation. In 1979, Dome debuted a revised Zero, dubbed the P2, with U.S. market bumpers and safety equipment added to the design. In the same year, a racing effort was launched at Le Mans but the ‘Zero RL' failed to finish the race. Shortly after, investors pulled their funds and the Dome Zero was officially dead.
Fun fact: The Dome Zero was featured in Gran Turismo 4, Auto Modellista on the PS2 and Sega GT on the XBOX.
At the 1970 Turin Motor Show, Bertone showed off a styling exercise called the Lancia Stratos Zero. The Lancia Stratos HF roadcar was based very loosely off of this concept though the similarities are few and far between. The futuristic Zero stood 838mm tall and was so low that conventional doors could not be used and to gain access, drivers would have to raise the windshield and walk into the car.
Fun fact: The Stratos Zero appeared in Michael Jackson's 1988 film, Moonwalker.
In 1971 the Maserati Boomerang was shown at the Turin Motor Show as a mockup and then in 1972 the Geneva Motor Show saw the debut of the fully realized Maserati Boomerang concept. It sat next to the Lotus Esprit M70 as both were designed by Giugiaro at ItalDesign. At 1070mm high, it's not the shortest wedge in the list, but it did have a 15 degree windshield rake – the steepest rake you could achieve while maintaining visibility, albeit very little. ItalDesign used the Boomerang as inspiration when designing the DMC Delorean (most noticeable in the rear view) in the eighties.
Fun fact: Intended as a showcar, the Boomerang was registered as a roadcar and was actually sold in 1974 to a private collector which brings us to 2005 when it was auctioned at Christie's for a cool $1,000,000.
The Holden Hurricane was an experimental concept built in 1969 and was the first product of the GM Holden Research and Development group. The Hurricane's ultra low 990mm stance would have made ingress and egress difficult with traditional doors, so an electro-mechanical powered canopy was used and swung forward over the front wheels. Also included were power elevated seats that both rose up and out of the way along with the steering column to make exiting the Hurricane easier. When climbing into the car the seats would lower to a semi-reclined position and the roof would close overhead.
Painted black for the 1970 Geneva Motor Show and then re-sprayed white for its debut at the 1970 Turin Motor Show; the Paulo Martin penned Pininfarina-Ferrari Modulo concept gained quite a reputation and won numerous international design awards – 22 of them – for a car that almost wasn't produced. The cars release was held for over a year because of an apprehensive Sergio Pininfarina. Developed using the Ferrari 512-S racer as a basis, the 935mm high PF Modulo was built to explore new construction technologies and to show off the raw passion of the Italian design house.
Fun fact: Paulo Martin was sketching a Rolls-Royce Camargue dashboard when the idea struck him to make the first sketch of the Modulo. You could say he was more than a little bored with the Rolls.
Designed by Gandini for Bertone in 1971, the original Lamborghini Countach concept was the most pure version the public would ever see of this car. The wild scissor doors were first seen on another car in our list (the Alfa Romeo Carabo concept) and were used primarily because of the extremely wide chassis, but we think the real reason is because Gandini knew every rice boy would want them on their econo-hatch some day. The Countach name was derived from the dialect of the Piedmont region in northern Italy, literally meaning astonishment and amazement. The pure design of the concept translated loosely into the production LP400 though it was short lived when splitters, wings and U.S. bumper requirements were added to the mix in the LP400S, LP500 and QV models.
The 1968 Alfa Romeo Carabo is the most significant wedge car and paved the way for many of the cars on this list. Designed by Marcello Gandini of Bertone fame, it was revealed at Porte de Versailles in Paris in 1968 to an absolutely stunned crowd. The Lamborghini Countach concept that arrived 3 years later drew inspiration from the Carabo in its wedge form, wheel house openings and its notoriously cool scissor-doors, though the Countach wasn't the only car that took inspiration from the Carabo. You can see inspired cues from many sports cars and supercars like the Diablo, 4th gen Camaro and Vector. Vector took the inspiration quite literally by duplicating many of the shapes of the front and side profile in its W8. Many wealthy individuals tried to purchase the Carabo including an Arab prince or two, but thankfully Bertone decided to hold on to it and now the Carabo spends its days relaxing inside the Alfa Romeo museum in Arese, Italy.
Fun fact: The unique name "Carabo" and its green paint were derived from the small green beetle, Carabus Olympiae.
Narrowing down our search for the top ten wedge cars was difficult and we couldn't let this list pass without mention of a few other notable wedges. The DMC DeLorean was the hardest to leave off the list based on its cult follow from the Back to the Future films. Another difficult car to omit was the popular Triumph TR7/TR8 which was produced from 1974 to 1981. In the gallery below you'll find the rest of the cars that we thought were worth mentioning. Enjoy!
[via Lotus Esprit Turbo]