Alfa Romeo commissioned Giorgetto Giugiaro and his then-newly established Italdesign firm to cook up the Caimano concept for the 1971 Turin Motor Show. It was based on the Alfasud (also designed by Giugiaro) but shortened the chassis by nearly 8 inches and fitted with entirely different bodywork that made it look like it was from another planet. The canopy greenhouse eliminated the A pillar, with the B and C pillars forming a trapezoidal roll bar at the back, capped by an adjustable spoiler. Inside the cockpit were two recumbent bucket seats, a cylindrical dashboard, and two small openings in the glass canopy for ventilation. Of course it also had pop-up headlights, and it was powered by the 1.2-liter boxer for from the Alfasud, good for all of 68 horsepower.
Striking though it may have been at the time, it shouldn't come as a surprise that only one example was ever built, and it remains in the Alfa Romeo museum in Milan. The company is taking it out of the collection, however, and bringing it to Bremen for the show. Alongside it, showgoers can expect to see such other "wedgetastic" creations of yesteryear as the Lancia Stratos, Maserati Khamsin, Lamborghini Countach, Mercedes C111, and the BMW Turbo X1 (which previewed the M1 to follow). Little surprise that most of these wedge designs were penned by either Giugiaro or by Marcello Gandini for Bertone. Along with Lionardo Fioravanti (of Pininfarina fame), they were each born in Italy in 1938 within months of each other, and went on to dominate Italian automotive design over the course of their careers.
- The iconic Caimano concept car will be featured in a special exhibition dedicated this year to the revolutionary designs of the 1970s.
- The "wedge on wheels" thought up by Italdesign is based on the chassis of the Alfasud, another of Giugiaro's creations, and is a fine example of the extreme design of its time.
- The only example of the model belongs to the Alfa Romeo Museum.
- The Motor Show will take place from February 5 to 7 in Bremen and will open the classic car season. It will bring together some 650 exhibitors in eight halls covering an area of over 45,000 square metres.
The special exhibition entitled "Die 70er: Einfach Keil", dedicated to the revolutionary designs of the 1970s, will be the climax of the Bremen Classic Motor Show which will be taking place from February 5 to 7 and will open the classic car season. It will be the perfect opportunity to admire a parade of wedge cars which are typical expressions of the extreme design concept of their day. Together with the Lancia Stratos, the Maserati Khamsin and the Lamborghini Countach, one of the stars of the show will be the Alfa Romeo Caimano made in 1971 by Italdesign on appointment by Alfa Romeo. This one-of-a-kind concept car today belongs to the Alfa Romeo Museum in Arese (Milan), which is also known as the "Time Machine". The car was built on the chassis of the Alfasud and presented to a stunned crowd at the Turin Motor Show in 1971.
Established by Giorgetto Giugiaro and Aldo Mantovani, Italdesign had recently designed the Alfasud, which interpreted the hatchback concept in novel manner: the car featured a low front end and a compact front boxer engine (unique in its segment). It had superior room inside, a generous boot and - as naturally expected from an Alfa Romeo - its handling and roadholding were best-in-class. The Alfasud Sprint - the coupé version of the range - was presented precisely 40 years ago in 1976. In that case, Italdesign designed a light, streamline car that enhanced the dynamic qualities of the Alfasud even more.
The appointment to design the Caimano came with the brief to create a car which had no chance of actual production. Perfectly in tune with the unshakeable trust in progress of the day, Giugiaro designed a "wedge on wheels" which relegated to a secondary role everything that came before it.
Italdesign created a body that appeared taken directly from a science-fiction book on the Alfasud chassis shortened by 20 centimetres. The two-seater passenger compartment was closed by a forward-opening glass dome that made the car look like a space capsule. The A pillar was entirely eliminated, while the B and C pillars joined to form a roll-bar behind the passenger compartment. The rear part of the roof formed a spoiler which could be adjusted to four different positions to a 32 degree angle from the inside.
Under the dome, driver and passenger reclined in stretched basin seats with built-in head restraints. Instead of opening windows, the car had two small openings on the side edge of the dome to allow contact with the outside world and ventilation inside. The cylindrical dashboard had two large instruments with unusual displays on which it was the dials not the hands to turn.
A bulge on the bonnet made room for the 68 HP, 1.2 litre Alfasud engine, which being a low-height four-cylinder boxer was particularly suited to equip the wedge car. Finally, seventies signature pop-up headlights embellish the front.
Turin, 28 January 2016