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The shapely curves of the Porsche 911 are among the easiest identified in the automotive world, and for more than half a century they’ve held on to that design language. Yet they have tried other concepts, and one of the most radically different was this Giugiaro-prototype from 1970: Tapiro.

Tapiro is based on the VW-Porsche 914, which in recent years has finally achieved some recognition within the classic car scene. But regardless of how people feel about the car, it’s hardly a beauty revelation. As such, I suppose it was inevitable that someone would attempt to improve its design, so it was the ugly duckling 914 which was the bases of Giugiaros prototype, and he chose a 914/6 as the donor vehicle.

All hints of the Porsche 914’s peculiar proportions are gone with the wind…

It was only his fourth prototype designed under his own company name Italdesign, and it’s claimed that it was one of his personal favorites for many years. It was first unveiled in Torino in 1970, and subsequently toured several of the major exhibitions to show off the abilities of Italdesign. But it was more than just a pretty face. The Tapiro had the distinct advantage of being a fully functioning and drivable car. Not just that, but the engine was further tuned to race specifications and far exceeded the regular road 914/6.

…and typically for Giugiaro, the wedge works right down to the smallest details. Just look at those four razor-sharp corners of the front wing…

Yet, the Tapiro wasn’t really about performance. It was all about design, and it did this really well. Also back then, Giugiaro was highly modern, and it can actually be a bit of a challenge to immediately link his various models to a certain era. However, he also wasn’t afraid of recycling elements from previous successes: The Tapiro’s elegant gullwing engine covers were reused from his 1966 De Tomaso Mangusta (which he designed while employed by Ghia). Regardless, the result is exceptionally harmonious, ultra-modern – and not particularly Porsche.

…and look how radically the shape changes when all four opening panels are flipped open to break the harmony.

Which perhaps explains why Porsche didn’t bite. The Tapiro’s crisp wedge design could have hardly been more of an extreme change from the conservative and softly curved 911. Nonetheless, looking back at Porsche’s illustrious history from the year 2018, I personally feel that the Tapiro is one of the most stunning Porsches ever. Giugiaro’s transformation of the unorthodox 914 is nothing less than a stroke of genius.

The young Giorgetto Giugiaro founded Italdesign in 1968, and the Tapiro was only the fourth design from the company.

A Spanish businessman fell for the Porsche and managed to buy the concept car when its traveling exhibition duties came to an end. He subsequently used the car regularly as his private means of transportation (and enjoyment). But the unique Porsche suffered a horrific fate in the mid-seventies when unhappy employees set the car on fire. The damage was extensive and the wrecked Tapiro was bought back by Italdesign, and vanished into hiding for many years.

There early seventies clearly gave us many beautifully sculpted things to view – in this picture, the Tapiro is only one of them…

Besides the Tapiro’s fabulous design, it’s very characteristic of the period that it’s graced with the company of just as beautiful women in short skirts or hotpants on most of the publicity shots. All the more reason for ViaRETRO to feature the Italdesign Porsche Tapiro. Enjoy the pictures…

4 Responses

  1. Anders Bilidt

    I too love most seventies wedges. The Tapiro is certainly no exception to that rule. It’s sharp – literally! – and fascinating.
    But whether Porsche should have actually built the car is debatable. I didn’t really fit into their line-up. And whether it’s one of the most stunning Porsches ever, is equally debatable. The 911 – especially the simplistic pre-’74 longhood – didn’t become an icon for nothing, and from a pure design-perspective the 928 is surely more of masterpiece. And of course, we can’t forget their low-production but painstakingly exquisite 904 – definitely my personal favourite…

    Reply
  2. Tony Wawryk

    I love this! Hard to believe it’s based on a 914 (a car I’m also a fan of). Of course, it wouldn’t have survived long had Porsche decided to build it – forthcoming safety regulations would soon have put paid to it, especially the front end, and it may have then been transformed into something less dramatic and exciting.
    I’m ambivalent about whether or not Porsche should have built it – unlike Anders, I think it’s a better looking car than the 928, which has always seemed slightly heavy-looking to me (though still a great car), but nothing touches a 904…except maybe a 906.

    Reply

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