Volkswagen Magazine

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roads to freedom.

We take a jaunt through Italy’s Piedmont region in the new Scirocco to visit legendary Italian car designer Giorgetto Giugiaro, who designed the first Scirocco four decades ago.

Text Jochen Förster
Photos Heiko Richard
Film Dirk Soldner

Pretty much the first thing that Giorgetto Giugiaro shows his willing visitor is the fresh scab on his left elbow. He has taken another tumble at a trial. This sport is a real test of skill, in which you manoeuvre special motorbikes through extremely rocky, almost impassable terrain, usually in a standing position. Tipping over now and then is par for the course. Every weekend, Giugiaro is to be found zipping around Piedmont’s Maritime Alps on a motorcycle, sometimes with his son Fabrizio, sometimes alone. When Fabrizio got his first moped, Giorgetto started participating in trial events. That was more than 30 years ago. Today he is 75. As he says himself, it’s a little crazy that he’s still doing things like that. “But it keeps me going. And you can allow yourself a little craziness in life, can’t you?””

Limitations always occur in reference to free space.

Giorgetto Giugiaro

It’s really impressive to see how much zest the honourable Signor Giugiaro has for life. He normally uses his bike to get around the grounds of his company Italdesign Giugiaro near Turin. He goes to the office nearly every day, drawing, planning, giving advice. His son Fabrizio has long since taken over the business interests of the company and its 1,000 or so employees. Yet he – who everyone, in a combination of reverence and affection, calls “Giorgetto”, little Giorgio, even though he stands an impressive 6'1'' tall – is still the heart of the operation, the living legend whose colourful imagination and temperament still cast a spell over both car fans and corporate leaders even now. He can get as agitated as a 20-year-old if he can’t find an old design sketch he is looking for. And once he starts telling his stories, it’s almost impossible to put the brakes on him.

Giorgetto Giugiaro’s vigour is all the more impressive because his CV is already larger than life. There is scarcely a famous automobile brand for which he has not designed a car in the six decades since he first appeared on the scene, and hardly a style trend on which he hasn’t put his personal stamp. To Volkswagen his name will always be linked to the start of a new, glorious era. Small Golf, big Golf, sporty Golf – the three versions that he created in the early 1970s for the company laid the groundwork for the new line of models whose success enabled Volkswagen to become Europe’s biggest automobile manufacturer today: Golf, Passat and Scirocco. The Big Three not only made a splash in terms of sales figures, but also as a design statement. Giugiaro was one of the first to prove that “less is more” – or, in other words, that a scaled-down yet distinctive styling could be embraced with enthusiasm by millions.

Giorgetto Giugiaro

was born on 7 August in Garessio (near Cuneo, southern Piedmont). After working at Fiat (1955–59), Bertone Studios (1959–65) and Carrozzeria Ghia (1966–68), he founded Italdesign Giugiaro in 1968. Since then, Giugiaro has worked for nearly all the major car brands, drafting first generations of the Volkswagen Golf, Passat and Scirocco in 1973–74. In 1999 the Global Automotive Election Foundation selected him as Automotive Designer of the Century. Besides cars, he has also designed watches and chairs, photo cameras and computers, water bottles and pasta forms, to name but a few. In 2010, Volkswagen AG acquired 90.1% of Italdesign Giugiaro, where Giugiaro remains Honorary President.

Even now, he draws every day: Giugiaro at his company studio in Moncalieri, Turin.

Among the three most celebrated Italian car designers – Bertone, Pininfarina and himself – Giugiaro is considered to be the great minimalist, the Bauhaus architect among the designers. In addition to automobiles he has also conceived ideas for express trains, photo cameras, aperitif bottles and office chairs for a large international clientele. In northern Germany, his unembellished “Italianità” was especially prized. Giugiaro has developed countless vehicles for Volkswagen since the 1970s, and his company joined the Volkswagen group in 2010. In Walter de Silva, Volkswagen has a head designer who is continuing the Italian styling tradition that Giugiaro once launched in Wolfsburg.

In northern Germany, his unembellished “Italianità” was especially prized.

Four decades are nearly an eternity in the world of auto design. Our summer drive in the new Scirocco to the birthplace of the original 1974 model feels something like paying a visit to a distant relative. Besides the name, the current incarnation has very little in common with the first one. Which is as it should be. That is the destiny of all classic cars, for auto design has long since entered a different age, with lofty and highly complex demands on technology, ergonomics and so on. It was already that way in 2008, when Volkswagen presented the sensation of the automotive year in Geneva: after a 16-year production hiatus, the third generation brought up to date and up to speed by Walter de Silva and Klaus Bischoff personally. The Scirocco 3 won over both fans and experts with its savvy blend of power and understatement.

Now both internally and externally reworked, the model series enhances those characteristics. The front appears slightly sportier and more streamlined; the engine is more powerful and efficient. The spirit of the first Scirocco is alive and kicking in the car interior – the position and style of the three gauges for boost pressure, stop clock and oil temperature above the centre console can easily be seen as an homage to Giugiaro’s first draft. The initial impression conveyed by the interior and its (optional) leather bucket seats is a successful combination of dynamism and classicism. We selected a model in a brilliant red, which provides an attractive contrast to the patina of Piedmont’s gently rolling Alpine foothills with their many vineyards, untamed valleys and centuries-old mountain villages. Piedmont, birthplace of the Scirocco, surely counts as one of the most beautiful yet underrated landscapes of northern Italy. There are numerous opportunities to test the roadholding and pep of the car in the hills around towns bearing the names of their world famous Barolo and Barbera red wines. The new Scirocco smoothly hugs the bend, as usual. Our 162-kW* engine masters the various sudden inclines with Mediterranean ease. This vehicle is more like the wild desert wind than ever.

The Scirocco’s brilliant red colour provides an attractive contrast to Piedmont’s Alpine foothills with its vineyards and mountain villages

The Scirocco in figures.

Motorisation: 162 kW (220 hp) TSI

Transmission: 6-gear dual-clutch transmission

Fuel consumption: 6.4 l (combined)

CO₂ emissions in g/km: 148 Acceleration (0 to 100): 6.5 sec

Maximum speed: 244 km/h

Dead weight: 1,394 kg Dimensions: length: 4,256 mm, width: 1,810 mm, height: 1,406 mm

Boot: 312–1,006 l

Equipment highlights: LED rear lights, leather sports steering wheel, bucket seats, sporty auxiliary instruments, 17-inch LM wheels

Additional motorisations: 92 kW (125 hp) TSI, 132 kW (180 hp) TSI, 110 kW (150 hp) TDI, 135 kW (184 hp) TDI, Scirocco R: 206 kW (280 hp) TSI

An aristocrat and a gentleman: Giorgetto Giugiaro talks about Italian design, German rigour and the new Scirocco.

Giorgetto Giugiaro receives us at the entrance to his company Italdesign with the consummate courtesy of a natural aristocrat. He is wearing a perfectly fitting single-breasted jacket, accompanied by a necktie and shirt with his initials on the lapel. His gaze is direct, his smile warm but reserved. After a brief tour past his personal favourite models in the car showroom, we stroll into the open circular presentation area. There he sees the new Scirocco for the first time. We sit down in the conference room for the interview. We quickly outline the topics and assure him of our deep respect, which he graciously acknowledges, but downplays. “Cominciamo.” Let’s get started. How do you begin talking to someone like him? Casually would be best.

How do you like the car, Signor Giugiaro?
Oh, you know, you are talking to a creative person who would naturally have liked to design it himself. Every designer has his own ideas, and each one would have drafted a different Scirocco. But I have to say, it is a first-class product, both inside and out, aesthetically as well as technologically. It is powerful and represents the absolute state of the art available on the automobile market.

 

 

Do you recognize your first Scirocco in it?
It would be presumptuous to even try. You can’t build a car today that bears any similarities to a 40-year-old look. The reference to the first car can only be in the name, and perhaps in a couple of the lines, and a certain hard-to-pinpoint family spirit. One thing is certain: the new Scirocco is in a completely different league to the old one. I think it will be a big success.

In Walter de Silva we have yet another of your countrymen responsible for the Scirocco design.How do you explain Volkswagen’s affinity to the Italian style of design?
The group’s management evidently noticed early on that the art of Italian design with German engineering ingenuity made a very good team. We Italians have a long tradition of designer style, along with the necessary passion for bold ideas. What we lack are German rigour and discipline. Italians have a tendency to change things constantly, to question everything, to want to re-do everything. You won’t get very far in the automobile market that way. I always wanted to be an engineer besides being a designer, because I was also interested in the principles of economics. A designer who doesn’t keep engineering, marketing and the current market situation in mind cannot build a good car.

Bertone, Pininfarina, Giugiaro – do you agree that you are the most “German” of Italy’s classic car designers?
That’s for you to decide. What I can say definitively is that I always had a preference for clear solutions. To achieve what is required with simple means – that’s essentially my philosophy. Lots of people love baroque. But if you produce something in large quantities, you have to restrict yourself to the basics. I prefer things that aren’t too fancy. When I created my first Ferrari, I had already been doing my job for 50 years. I only drove it 125 miles myself, and then lost interest. I found it exciting to make the Ferrari, but not to use it myself. My psychological make-up is different to that.

 

Is it more difficult to design a car today than it was 40 years ago?
Of course. Ergonomics, high-tech, safety – a wide variety of aspects influence the design process nowadays. You need a computer in your head to know them all. However, limitations always occur in reference to the free space – you only ever lose your freedom to a point. Even a genius like Michelangelo was anything but free. It is important to optimally exploit the potential inherent within the constraints.

 


Signor Giugiaro, you are considered a role model for generations of automakers. What is your advice for today’s up-and-coming designers?
Young designers usually have lots of wonderful ideas, but not a clue about how things are connected. The sooner they learn that, the better. The car is not a work of art. It holds elements of artistry in it, but above all it is a mass consumer product that has to sell itself.


You are 75 now. When do you think you will retire?
I can’t say. My old friend Ferdinand Piech, whom I still address formally to this day, once said to me, “Do you know, Giorgetto, people like us never retire. We simply never learned how.” Well, we’ll see. Vediamo.

» Even a genius like Michelangelo was anything but free. «

Giorgetto Giugiaro