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When I Met Giorgetto Giugiaro

This time, Luigi Marmiroli’s memoirs look back on the times when Lamborghini’s path met that of the “Designer of the Century”, leading to the style proposal of the first P132, the future Diablo, and the creation of the Calà prototype

Words Luigi Marmiroli

Photography Courtesy of Luigi Marmiroli Archive


Among the many people I met during my professional life in the car world, and with whom I had the opportunity to work, Giorgetto Giugiaro occupies an important place. Not only ironically, he always referred to himself as an honest “pencil pusher”, and, as he started to work at Fiat at the tender age of 14, I think he must have consumed thousands of pencils during his career.

These pencils helped him to influence the shape of cars in the last sixty years, and rightly so he entered the Hall of Fame of the Motor Shows in Geneva and Detroit.

This article helps me to dust down my memory of when I worked with him on two projects during my time as Technical Director of Automobili Lamborghini. I refer precisely to the style proposal for the P132, the future Diablo, and the Calà prototype, which also had the support of his son Fabrizio.

The P132 project was the first of the future Lamborghini car range to replace the Countach. I submitted a preliminary layout of the mechanics to Giorgetto Giugiaro's company Italdesign, and immediately he developed an original bodywork to go round it. We worked continuously with him and his engineers. I remember that we agreed to integrate a spoiler into the front of the car, with two functions: one linked to aerodynamics, to increase the car’s down force, and the other structural, to meet the US type-approval requirements in the crash test. Even the pole test, during which the mid-line of the car hit a vertical pole at high speed, would certainly not have caused any harm to the driver or passenger.

Giugiaro produced a whole series of renderings and gave an original presentation to the managers at Lamborghini.

He rested a full-scale cardboard cut-out of the car against the wall. Facing the wall as we listened to his learned presentation, I heard Patrick Mimran, the young Lamborghini shareholder who also owned his own splendid Countach, mumble to himself that he didn’t like it.

I must admit that, while admiring the style proposal, I too felt it was closer to the philosophy of British sports cars than to the Lamborghini style code. Although it was thought that the project could have obtained the same commercial success as many of Giugiaro’s other works, nothing ever came of it.

Exactly 10 years later, in 1995 and after many other not entirely positive adventures with Automobili Lamborghini, Giugiaro presented the Calà at the International Motor Show in Geneva. Like all the Italdesign prototypes, to demonstrate that their proposals were not merely inert models, the Calà was driven onto the stand.

The Calà was presented as a research prototype, a 2+2 coupé that could be turned into a Targa top car simply by removing the roof.

Designed for everyday use and therefore far more comfortable and functional than the supercars, the Calà was higher than all the other Lamborghini cars of the past.

The bodywork was similar to a people carrier, although the effect at the rear was more one of a two-volume car with a short tail and a spoiler with high visual impact.

The style was marked by an unusual windscreen that ran into the roof, with two grooves lying above the heads of the driver and the passenger. This solution brought more light into the passenger compartment, which could comfortably hold two adults, and two children on the rear seat.

The original dashboard had a rounded ergonomic profile that  protruded towards the driver.

The seats were hand stitched and, like all the panel work, were covered in an original and almost shocking bordeaux suede.

I was personally very excited about the possibility to dust off the mechanics of the P140 with a design solution by Giorgetto Giugiaro.

The chassis mechanics were in fact based on the ashes of the P140 project which should have become the successor to the Diablo. Unfortunately, after prototyping and even industrialisation involving international partners, the US Chrysler, shareholder from 1987, due to internal problems the project was aborted and even Lamborghini was sold to the Indonesian company Megateck.

In any case, following the success of the Calà at the Geneva Motor Show, Mantovani, Giugiaro’s technical partner at Italdesign, sent Lamborghini a quote for the supply of the industrialised bodywork, complete with interiors and installations, to be sent to Lamborghini to assemble the mechanics and for the delivering.

The proposal included the fitting out of 13 prototypes and, after the tests, the supply of 5 cars a day for a total of 4000 cars. The disappointment when the programme was not accepted by the new Indonesian shareholders was huge.

Whenever I climb into the classic Panda designed by Giugiaro, which I keep in my garage, I am filled with nostalgia for this wonderful design that was not-to-be.


Luigi Marmiroli was born in Fiorano Modenese in 1945. After graduating in mechanical engineering at the University of Padua, in 1970 he was hired by Ferrari to introduce electronic computing to Maranello for the first time. In 1976 he founded Fly Studio with Giacomo Caliri, designing and managing competition cars on international circuits. Their main works were for Fittipaldi Copersucar, Autodelta, ATS and Minardi, with whom they joined forces. The developments in the partnership with Autodelta led Marmiroli to manage the technical unit of the Euroracing team in 1983. Two years later he was hired by Lamborghini to design the heir of the Countach. Other projects came after the 17 versions of the Diablo, though due to the continuing changes of ownership of the Sant’Agata based company, they were never put into production. Marmiroli relaunched Fly Studio in 1997, providing consulting services. One of the projects of the last few years is the development of microcars, quadbikes and commercial vehicles, including electric versions.


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