Marcello Gandini, Storied Italian Designer, Is Dead at 85

Jackson Wheeler
6 Min Read


  • A pillar of balanced, enduring design, Marcello Gandini, has died at the age of 85 in Rivoli, Italy.
  • Responsible for models like the Lamborghini Diablo, Lancia Stratos, and MK1 Volkswagen Polo, Gandini was a testament to the lifelong craft of design.
  • Appointed lead designer at Bertone in 1965, Gandini spent 14 years at the firm before independently designing homes, nightclubs, and helicopters.

Nestled under the foothills of the Italian Alps, the Northern Italian town of Turin has been perhaps the greatest cradle for automotive design since the mid-20th century. From brands like Fiat and Lancia to legendary design firms like Pininfarina and Bertone, Turin is steeped in driving enthusiast desire and envy, and one local name rings out among them.

Born in Turin in 1938, storied vehicle designer Marcello Gandini died March 13 at the age of 85 in the nearby town of Rivoli. A memorial site will be set up at Gandini’s studio in Turin today and tomorrow, while the funeral will occur in the parish church of Santo Stefano a Rivera on Friday or Saturday morning, according to la Repubblica.

the lamborghini miura

Martyn Lucy//Getty Images

Is this the most beautiful sports car ever? It depends on whom you ask, but the Miura will never stray far from this title.

Following Giorgetto Giugiaro (designer of the BMW M1, Lotus Esprit, and first-generation Volkswagen Golf) as chief designer at Bertone, Gandini had big shoes to fill upon his initial appointment in 1965. In a measured fashion, however, it wasn’t long before Gandini proved his enduring talent as a designer, revealing the eminent 1966 Lamborghini Miura a year later.

Though Gandini gained notoriety through his work on renowned Lamborghini models—including the Countach, Diablo, and Espada—his work spanned a broad range of manufacturers. Elusive models like the Bugatti EB 110 and Lancia Stratos exemplify the height at which Gandini worked, though designs like BMW’s first 5-Series, the Citroen BX, Fiat X1/9, Maserati Khamsin, and Renault 5 Turbo tell the story of an eclectic and well-rounded practice.

this renault 5 gt turbo was imported very recently

With such a portfolio, Gandini’s work was sometimes called unpredictable, though he himself designed with function in close company to form. Alongside the smoothed supercars were also pedestrian models like the original Volkswagen Polo, working with nearly two dozen manufacturers during his 14-year run at Bertone.

Following his departure from Bertone in 1980, Gandini continued his design craft in other forms. Everything from helicopters, nightclubs, motorcycles, commercial trucks, and homes were all left with a Gandini touch, further emphasizing his balanced motif.

1995 maserati quattroporte

Artcurial

Gandini designed the second-generation Maserati Quattroporte, as well as the fourth generation pictured here, which sold from 1994 to 2001.

Gandini was described as “self-effacing, modest, and quiet” by interviewer and fellow designer Robert Cumberford in a 2009 story for Automobile. When asked to judge his designs in a 2016 interview with Car and Driver, Gandini responded by saying “That’s for others to judge,” going on to say cheap cars can always be as beautiful as expensive ones.

“Looks or design has to be relative to what a car stands for,” he explained. “I prefer practical cars for my personal use.”

Earlier this year, Gandini received an honorary degree in mechanical engineering from the Polytechnic University of Turin. Notably, Gandini didn’t only design the exteriors of models like the Lancia Stratos HF but was heavily involved in the chassis and overall packaging, too.

“It is the magical object that gives us the freedom to go anywhere we want in an instant, offering protection, shelter, space that moves with us. It is freedom. Individual freedom. This, for me, is the very essence of the car, to which many other emotional elements are added,” Gandini espoused in his acceptance speech this January.

“The last message I want to convey to the young is: dare. Fight to never do what someone has already done. Do not even repeat yourselves. Find solutions, perhaps difficult, but new. I know it’s not easy,” finishing his speech on a note forging the path ahead for students, current designers, and sharp-eyed admirers alike.

Of Gandini’s diverse and expansive portfolio, what model stands out to you? Please share your thoughts below.

Headshot of Emmet White

A New York transplant hailing from the Pacific Northwest, Emmet White has a passion for anything that goes: cars, bicycles, planes, and motorcycles. After learning to ride at 17, Emmet worked in the motorcycle industry before joining Autoweek in 2022. The woes of alternate side parking have kept his fleet moderate, with a 2014 Volkswagen Jetta GLI and a 2003 Honda Nighthawk 750 street parked in his South Brooklyn community.

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Jackson Wheeler is a skilled editor at Speedofdaily.com, specializing in automotive content. With a background in Journalism and Automotive Engineering, he combines his passion for cars with his writing expertise to deliver captivating articles. Jackson's deep knowledge of automotive technology and his racing experience make him a valuable asset to the team, providing readers with informative and engaging content.
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