'Please call me Giorgetto,' says Giorgetto Giugiaro. 'Even though it is the boyish nickname of Giorgio, it is the name my parents gave me when I was baptized.'
Family is important to Giugiaro, who designed more cars than anyone else in the 20th century. His daughter Laura is managing director of the family controlled Italdesign-Giugiaro S.p.A., and his son Fabrizio has taken over the styling and prototype studio.
Art is in his blood. His grandfather Luigi painted church frescoes. His father, Mario, made decorative religious art and oil paintings while he was growing up near Cuneo in northwest Italy.
In Turin, Giugiaro studied art by day and technical design by night. In June 1955, some of his many car sketches were mounted in an end-of-the-year school exhibition. Dante Giacosa, Fiat's technical director, saw the talent behind his work and hired him three months later. He had just turned 17.
Giugiaro worked in Fiat's Special Vehicle Design Study Department led by Fabio Luigi Rapi for three years. However, he found it impossible to grow in the Fiat organization, and in December 1959 he left to head the Bertone Styling Center.
Nuccio Bertone invested everything in his 21-year-old prodigy, and both men were rewarded. Bertone guided and advised Giugiaro, and he turned out designs that brought them both glory, such as the BMW 3200 CS (1961) and the Fiat 850 spider and Dino coupe (1965-1967).
Six years later, Giugiaro joined Ghia. His Maserati Ghibli and De Tomaso Mangusta, both presented at the Turin motor show in 1966, deeply influenced sports car design of the following decade. He also began a long association with Asian carmakers, and his Isuzu 117 coupe of 1966 has inspired a fan club in Japan.
He left Ghia to start freelancing in 1967, which led to the birth of what became Italdesign-Giugiaro on February 13, 1968.
At Italdesign he styled more than 80 production cars and numerous prototypes and concepts. Of the latter, he says, one in particular could have been a big hit: the 1978 Lancia Megagamma minivan.
'When I presented this vehicle to Umberto Agnelli, he said, 'Nice car. All that's required is the courage to produce it,' 'Giugiaro said. 'Unfortunately, the courage was lacking and, in my opinion, a great opportunity was missed.'
He regrets not becoming a small-volume specialist manufacturer, and living too fast. 'We resemble a jet,' he says. 'If we don't fly at a certain speed, we come crashing down.'