OBSCURATI CURIOSITIES FROM THE AMAZING WORLD OF ITALIAN CARS
1967 Bertone-Pirana /// Words & images by Richard Heseltine / #Bertone-Jaguar
The title of Autocar’s article in October #1967
said it all: ‘ #Bertone-Jaguar
: no dream car – but not for you and me’. And the mighty and much misunderstood Pirana certainly wasn’t a Jaguar as we know it. Think of it more as a precursor to the Lamborghini Espada and you would be closer. This one-of-akind machine was the jumping off point for the Italian GT even if its roots were more Coventry than Sant’Agata.
The car was conceived by The Daily Telegraph Magazine’s editor John Anstey, picture editor Alexander Low, art director Geoffrey Axbey and motoring correspondent Courtenay Edwards. Following the March #1967-Geneva-Motor-Show
, conversation back in London turned to the key constituents of the ideal Gran Turismo. What started out as an office discussion soon took a turn for the serious: Anstey was keen to see their ideal car made real, and stipulated that it should be built from components already in production and available to the public. Speed with luxury was what he and his team craved.
Jaguar talisman Sir William Lyons was responsive when tapped, and supplied an E-type 2+2 chassis, complete with 4.2-litre straight-six engine. Nuccio Bertone then agreed to complete the coachwork in time for the British International Motor Show in October of that year. Bertone had form when it came to clothing Jaguars, having produced three Franco Scaglionepenned XK150S-based coupes the previous decade. Chief stylist #Marcello-Gandini
had also shaped a brace of S-type-based cars for Jaguar’s Spanish concessionaire in 1966. The 20-something was tasked with what was essentially a rebodying exercise, the end result baring not even a passing resemblance to the E-type donor car despite the fastback twoseater sharing the same proportions. It was virtually the same height and length, but 2.5in wider.
Other firms lent expertise including Triplex which supplied special tinted Sundym glass in an effort to stop the sun’s harmful rays from slow-baking the car’s occupants. Lucas, meanwhile, supplied the lights while Smith’s Motor Accessory Division rustled up a one-off air-conditioning system along with a tape recorder/player plus a warning device that beeped whenever you exceeded a pre-set speed. Connolly supplied the cabin leather – a special hide dubbed Anela – which featured a sandy tint thanks to special pigments. Britax, meanwhile supplied special seatbelts with webbing to match the upholstery.
Bodied in steel save for the aluminium bonnet, the resultant creation wasn’t exactly pretty but it was undeniably dramatic. The Pirana screamed Jet Set. The car was transported to Earls Court in time for its big reveal, before returning to Italy for the November #1967-Turin-Salon
. The car was a magazine cover story the world over, and immortalised in toy form by countless manufacturers. But it was never going to be replicated. But the design didn’t go to waste, witness the Espada.
The Pirana was sold in 1968 and presumed lost until in emerged Stateside four years ago. Bertone wasn’t done reworking Jaguars, either. Gandini shaped the angular XJ-S-based Ascot in 1977 while Birmingham’s own Adrian Griffiths was responsible for the supremely elegant B99 which was one of the stars of the 2011 Geneva Motor Show.