TURIN - Giorgetto Giugiaro turned 67 on August 7, but the celebrated designer isn't thinking about retirement.
Instead the Italian design guru is working on his latest concept, a sports car prototype that will crown a 50-year career as a car designer.
The concept could cause a sensation when it is unveiled at the Tokyo auto show in October. Asked for a sneak preview, Giugiaro was coy: "Wait and see, otherwise it won't be a surprise," he said.
Giugiaro is used to causing sensations. At the 2002 Geneva auto show he unveiled a concept coupe car called the Brera that delighted show visitors with its sleek lines.
Alfa Romeo was so impressed it decided to change its entire lineup to look like the Brera. Alfa executives scrapped late-stage designs by Pininfarina to replace the Alfa Spider and by the Alfa styling center to design a 156 replacement. The company asked Giugiaro to derive a new, four-model range from the Brera concept.
The first of these cars - the 159 sedan that replaced the 156 and the Brera coupe, which replaced the GTV coupe - debuted at the Geneva auto show in March. The 159 station wagon and the Brera Spider will debut at Geneva next year.
Joins Fiat at 16
Giugiaro's career in car design began in September 1955 when he joined Fiat in Turin at the age of 16 as a color rendering illustrator for the company's special vehicle department that designed sports cars. His salary was worth E350 a month in today's money, "a salary that at the time looked like a fortune," he said.
Aged 21, Giugiaro left Fiat to become chief designer for the Italian design house Bertone. In 1967 he founded his first company, Ital Styling. A year later Giugiaro launched Italdesign, which was renamed Italdesign Giugiaro in 1998.
Giugiaro met his wife, Maria Teresa Serra, during his early years at Fiat. The couple have two children. His son Fabrizio, 40, is Italdesign Giugiaro's styling department director. His daughter Laura, 37, runs an event management agency in Milan.
Over the last 50 years, Giugiaro's name has become synonymous with Italian zest in car design. By far the most prolific designer in automotive history, he has penned more than 150 production cars, and a further 100 concept cars.
Of these cars, the most commercially successful was the first-generation Volkswagen Golf, launched in 1974. It sold more than 6 million units.
The concept that most influenced designers was the Megagamma, which in 1978 set the tone for minivan design for the next 25 years.
Giugiaro's own favorite is the first Fiat Panda, which was launched in 1980 and remained in production for 25 years.
His biggest disappointment was the collapse of the Italian car company Bugatti Automobili in 1998 while his Bugatti EB 118 four-door sedan was already in pilot production.
Now Giugiaro is waiting for the critics' verdict on his latest production model, the third-generation Fiat Punto, which debuts at the Frankfurt IAA next month.
Giugiaro, who designed the first-generation Punto and its predecessor, the Uno, said: "This new Punto will be the sportiest of the lot."
Giugiaro has received many honors during his half-century in the industry. Named car designer of the century by an international jury in 1999, he has received five honorary degrees in architecture, design and engineering. He was inducted into the European Automotive Hall of Fame in March 2001.
Known to hate all "mundane activities," Giugiaro indulges his second passion in his spare time: riding his off-road motorcycle in the mountains close to Garessio, south of Turin, Italy, where he was born.
Motorcycling is a young man's passion, but Giorgetto Giugiaro is one man who seems to remain ageless.