Visiting The Giugiaros At GFG Style To Check Out Bugattis That Could Have Been, BMW Supercars, And Views Of The Future
Photography by Marco Annunziata
For more than half a century and counting, Giorgetto Giugiaro and his company have designed the kind of cars that become reference points for the future, not just points in time. Among those that he’s inspired is his own son, Fabrizio, who founded GFG Style with his father in 2015. Combining the vast experience of the family name with modern techniques, the 100% Italian design house offers a unique perspective on automotive aesthetics and function, and a visit to the headquarters in Moncalieri—a few kilometers from Turin—provides ample proof.
The unique collection of rolling models, working prototypes, and production sports cars is surrounded by artwork, sketches, and photoshoots of past projects. Unlike most independent studios that work closely with one or two manufacturers, the ongoing Giugiaro legacy includes clientele as diverse as Ford and Chevy to Bugatti and Ferrari, with a few BMWs, VWs, Alfa Romeos, Lamborghinis, Lancias, Maseratis included for good measure. He also invented a new shape of pasta, because why not? Supercar, sports car, sedan, or humble hatchback, there is little that the Giugiaro have little experience in when it comes to cars, and in addition to developing concepts and production models for manufacturers, GFG Style also builds machines under its own badge these days. To get some insight into how it all works, and where it all came from, I had a chat with Fabrizio as I tried to limit my gawking.
“GFG Style is a true styling center,” he starts, pointing out what is obvious to anyone who stands here, “and we are equipped in a very advanced way with the best modern tools. We still operate the entire spectrum of design, from one-off cars, to show cars, to those meant for large series production. In fact, since we established GFG Style, we have created both mass production cars and concepts.” Fabrizio continues, as we begin the tour of the collection from the newest cars. As if to highlight his company’s scope even further, while I’m looking at the BMW Nazca for the umpteenth time he informs me that “We have even done some RVs.”
Fabrizio believes that Italian car design is still in good standing relative to the world, but he also acknowledges that it’s not quite the same as it used to be—not necessarily in terms of aesthetic appeal, but rather that coachbuilding has become increasingly marginal in comparison to in-house teams. A great group of designers will always be capable of great work, but there is something special about an external team working with a manufacturer.
“It must be said, however, that the creativity of Italian artisans remains a recognized value,” Fabrizio adds. “It is no coincidence that we still continue to be sought after as a style partner.” In other words, there is still room for collaborations and not wholly corporatized styling, but there is certainly less of it these days. For the greats like Giugiaro and Zagato, there is still plenty of work on the table, but the smaller, less recognized names have all but faded into history. As I leaf through the Masterpieces of Style compendium of Giugiaro and GFG Style designs, I realize that even the masters must work very hard to stay in demand—the amount and variety of the vehicles they’ve produced is staggering. If they didn’t wear so many different badges one could easily be tricked into thinking this book was a manufacturer’s.
Giorgetto Giugiaro—whose most famous creation is the first Volkswagen Golf, but who also designed BMW”s sole supercar, the M1—is the president of GFG Style, and has always defined himself as a “simple designer” who works in a close-knit team. Despite being in his 80s and having a career that has already seen him ranked among the greatest in his field, Giorgetto’s work as a designer continues. He is a manager, but one that still does the actual core work itself. Besides contributing to the present and future of automotive design, GFG Style is also keen to preserve the past in tangible form—and to keep learning from it.
The collection shown here is constantly growing, and perhaps more than a typical collection it is more like an archive, and a source of continuing inspiration—not every single car in the group is a Giugiaro creation, but whatever their provenance may be, they help to inform the latest thinking at GFG Style.
As Fabrizio describes it, “When we find ourselves in front of masterpieces of the past every day, we can more easily grasp their contributions. Some lines are still very current, and some of their elements live on in the styling of our latest projects. This is an ever-evolving museum, but also a group of reference points for our ongoing work that we carry out every year, always evolving but informed by history. We are adding classic designs and the new ones that we are creating now.”
When I ask which are the most valuable pieces in the group—leaving the question of monetary versus sentimental value open-ended—Fabrizio replies immediately. “One of the most representative vehicles, both for the brand and for the nature of the project itself, is the Bugatti EB112. In our collection, we have both the model and the working prototype. I feel this car represents what we do best.”
Designed by Giorgetto when he worked at his old firm, Italdesign, the EB112 was a remarkable but sadly unrealized dream of a four-door supercar, birthed from a period of great optimism for the Bugatti brand when it was under Italian control with Romano Artioli. The V12-powered four-wheel-drive super sedan harked back to an earlier Bugatti road car look with its cab-rearward fastback shape, but its curved aluminum bodywork also placed it very much in its own time. Should it have made it to production, the EB112 would have been a true paradigm-shifter, and although its appearance is of the love or hate variety, there is no doubting its presence.
Fabrizio isn’t one to strictly rank-order things, and he is quick to continue with more examples, like Giorgetto’s first major design, the 1962 Alfa Romeo 2600 Sprint. He also makes note of the 1963 Chevrolet Corvair Testudo working prototype, and the very first prototype that Fabrizio created under the GFG Style company, the 2017 Techrules Ren. He elaborates on that car, but not without first pointing out the BMW M1, the Ferrari GG50, and really, just everything else in here that the Giugiaros have drawn.
Returning to the topic of the Techrules Ren, he says “The Techrules was my first project in GFG Style, but unfortunately, it has not had the resonance I think it deserves. Perhaps it is too revolutionary a project, both from a technical and stylistic point of view, and at the same time it is also ergonomic. It is a supercar with three separate seats, but we also packed it with content. From the interactivity—the inside speaks to the passengers—to the electric drive, which in this case was combined for the first time with turbine propulsion: there are in fact two turbines used as a generator that power the batteries and propel the car. I believe it is still today one of the most advanced projects out there, from many points of view.”
Following this thread, I ask if there are any particular cars from other designers that the team at GFG considers iconic, and again, the response comes quickly. “The car that we all agree is iconic is surely the Citroën DS 19. It is the synthesis of what a true designer can accomplish, what they can add to an industrial product. And I want to emphasize a designer, not a stylist—the meanings are often confused. A designer must execute, and the DS 19 was a remarkable achievement in this sense—it was a revolutionary car whose shapes and solutions are still able to leave you speechless today.”
Finally, I ask Fabrizio how many times his father and his company have found copies of their work in other projects, to which he replies with an anecdote. “My father was very annoyed in Japan I remember, because when he designed a machine for a brand, the other brands often copied it, which made him understandably angry. We then learned that in Japan ‘If I copy what you do, I am honoring you,’ it means that you have made a perfect object, and there will be those that follow your path. I suppose it is just another form of imitation as flattery. Apart from his experience in Japan, the history of car design teaches that there have been many attempts, even some very successful ones, to carry out projects that began from our initial designs. It can be frustrating if you take a certain point of view, but we also think of it as an honor, and makes us think that we have always been on the right path.”