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Inhaltsangabe: Starting in the late 1960s but especially in the 70s, the most innovative Italian coachbuilders, from Bertone to Pininfarina, followed a radical design path. With fantastical wedge-shaped speedsters, their goal was nothing less than reimagining the car. Many of their ideas--as reflected in the concept vehicles in this book--ended up on the scrap heap of design history, while other concepts have remained influential up to the present. Rainer W. Schlegelmilch, best known for his spectacular Formula 1 photography, captured all of this 70s explosion of automotive creativity with his unique photographic eye. With his artful staging, the angular concept car silhouettes took on the curvy and alluring forms of models. Through these futuristic design concepts from the 70s, we get even closer to the spirit of that decade--one that continues to hold us in its thrall.
It can be argued that there were two 'Golden Ages' of concept cars. In America, the 1950s were the dream cars' heyday, as manufacturers spared no expense to project their products into the future, vying to best capture the zeitgeist of the emerging space age. GM's Motorama shows of the '50s and early '60s epitomized the era, with needle-nosed, tail-finned rocket ship wannabes proudly displayed on rotating gantries that promised imminent lift-off to the starstruck crowds.
In Europe, the Golden Age centers around 1970 - more specifically the decade from 1967-1977, when Italian carrozeria burst into the international motoring and popular consciousness with a series of daring concept cars that proved as radical, if not more so, than their American counterparts a decade earlier.
It was an emerging school of design that had left the swoopy curve of early Ferraris and Jaguars behind and sought a new expression in angular shapes, bold straight lines and experimental packaging concepts. And in this way, the Italians completed what the Americans had striven for a decade earlier.
But while the American cars were mostly styling enhancements grafted onto traditional Detroit iron, the Italians enfolded all the space-age, jet-set zeitgeist into one integrated wedge-shaped package, eschewing all the tailfin and chrome nonsense, along with the pseudo-aviation instrumentation and graphics.
It's this school of design that's celebrated in the book 70s Concept Cars. The book is a large format (11x13.5 inches) reproduction of a series of photoshoots by eminent photographer Rainer Schlegelmilch, whose work documenting the era's Formula1 racing is without equal.
The book is more of a fashion shoot (complete with beautiful models) than a documentary of these vehicles or the era. But in Schlegelmilch's capable hands, each design's style and power is enhanced and celebrated. All the big stars of Italian manufacturing and coachbuilding are featured, from Pininfarina, Bertone and Italdesign to Ferrari, Fiat, Lamborghini and Lancia, complete with radical classics from such luminaries as Giorgetto Giugiaro and Marcello Gandini.
Although the book doesn't pretend to be exhaustive in scope - the Lamborghini Countach, which defined the era for many, is notably absent, as is the Lamborghini Miura - it does portray an elegant summary of the spirit and passion of that age. Radical concepts such as the Lamborghini Marzal with its vast greenhouse and glass doors, the shocking wedge of the Lancia Stratos, the equally wedgy Lancia Sibilo, and the magnificent Ferrari Modulo - perhaps the most radical car ever built in terms of packaging and styling - inspire us even today, a generation removed from those adventurous times.
The book is full of beautiful, large format photographs - scanned and enhanced from the original slides - of the cars and the models, worth the price of the book alone. Each car is introduced with an instructive paragraph, and there are a couple of introductions by colleagues of Mr. Schegelmilch - including one of the
models - all of which make for interesting reading. 70s Concept Cars reminds us of just how radical and successful this design movement was.
The designs pictured on the pages still influence us today - or at least they should. If you are looking to complete your automotive design or history library with a beautiful book that will inspire for years to come, this is it. Perhaps we should send a copy to all the automotive CEOs so they'll be inspired to bring us a new Golden Era of concept cars.
Car Design News, Karl Smith, January 2014
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