Asso Di Picche - The Mutual Creation of Italdesign and Karmann

Asso Di Picche - The Mutual Creation of Italdesign and Karmann

Aivaras Grigelevičius

The ‘80s and ‘90s were exciting times for many reasons. Back then, car makers have shown tremendous technological progress. The rising power of engines, significantly better dynamics, rising level of comfort and overall driving quality were very much notable.

However, during those times, cars were designed mainly to look nice. No one bothered to apply the knowledge of air resistance to make a more useful product. The topic of clumsy pedestrians wasn’t even worth discussing. But the Asso Di Picche project was something else. This time, the companies strived to combine innovative solutions of both engineers and designers alike.

The Asso Di Picche concept
The Asso Di Picche concept
© Italdesign archive
The Asso Di Picche concept
The Asso Di Picche concept
© Italdesign archive

The newborn of Germany and Italy

All car creators and specialists always had respect for the Italian design studios. Every single person in the auto industry wished to work in these highly competent establishments. It seemed like nothing could bring more pleasure than being part of the extraordinary Italian achievements.

Italdesign is one of those rare companies that successfully maintained a close relationship with major industry giants. It includes Audi, BMW, Fiat, Ford, Hyundai, Isuzu, Subaru, and others.

Giorgetto Giugiaro was the founder of Italdesign studio. The company mostly contributed to the projects of local manufacturers like Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Lancia, and Maserati. Each of them was very familiar with the name of Giorgetto Giugiaro. In fact, they knew him so well they had him on a speed-dial.

The Asso Di Picche concept
The Asso Di Picche concept
© Italdesign archive
The Asso Di Picche concept
The Asso Di Picche concept
© Italdesign archive

Italdesign also got a lot of attention from the German car makers, especially from the Volkswagen Group. As a matter of fact, Giorgetto Giugiaro and his team created the interior and exterior design for the first generation of Volkswagens (Golf, Passat, and Scirocco). Thus, it is no surprise that their unique perspective caught the attention of yet another big company - Audi.

The Asso Di Picche concept
The Asso Di Picche concept
© Italdesign archive
Interior of the Asso Di Picche concept
Interior of the Asso Di Picche concept
© Italdesign archive

First, they created it, then they tried to sell it

Audi and Italdesign established their friendship a long time ago, at the beginning of the ‘80s. In fact, it happened even before they’ve fulfilled one of their most successful projects to date - the Mk2 Audi 80 design.

It was at that time when the chiefs of two very reputable companies sat down to talk business. In the left corner - the Karmann director, in the right corner - the Italdesign visionary. The main idea of the project was to create a sporty, two-door, four-seat coupe. It had to be good-looking, comfortable and, most importantly, affordable to most people. It's fair to say that the project eventually became an early concept for the Volkswagen Scirocco.

The Asso Di Picche concept
The Asso Di Picche concept
© Italdesign archive
Interior of the Asso Di Picche concept
Interior of the Asso Di Picche concept
© Italdesign archive

The joint project of two companies (at least technically) didn’t differ much from the Volkswagen Group cars that have been introduced shortly after. In short, it was a front-wheel-drive platform. It allowed engineers building four-cylinder engines with different power and installing a four-wheel-drive gear.

The Asso Di Picche concept
The Asso Di Picche concept
© Italdesign archive
The Asso Di Picche concept
The Asso Di Picche concept
© Italdesign archive

Expected to see the Audi brand

The same aggregates, but different ideas. That’s how you could describe a longtime operation policy of Volkswagen. Basically, several companies get the same ingredients, but every chef brings a different dish from the kitchen. Volkswagen applied the exact same working principles during the ‘80s as well.

Back then, Audi and Volkswagen had used the same engines, gearboxes, suspension components, and many other crucial parts. The only notable differences were the interior and exterior designs. Knowing the whims and demands of the Volkswagen Group, the car manufacturers strived to make a sporty coupe fast. Their goal was to put it for mass production as soon as possible.

Rigorous bodywork lines seemed out of this world. In a way, it resembled the Asso Di Picche interior. The designers replaced the traditional rectangular dashboard with weird round devices that show all the vital information to the driver. It was surely an unusual decision. Still, it caught the attention of many.

The Asso Di Picche concept
The Asso Di Picche concept
© Italdesign archive
The Asso Di Picche concept
The Asso Di Picche concept
© Italdesign archive

The project initiators created Asso Di Picche using Audi 80 parts and all the sundries they could find. That’s the main reason why Italdesign offered the final product for Audi instead of Volkswagen. Sure, such a magnificent car would surely enrich the variety of Volkswagen's creations. However, as always, they spoke their final word and rejected the idea. Well, at least partly.

Scirocco model first came to light after a year. It had many of the same elements that Asso Di Picche had. Coincidence? Maybe. But is there a way to explain why Karmann won the contract for making Scirocco then? Considering that they made a vital contribution to Asso Di Picche creation, it might seem weird.

Giugiaro later admitted that Asso di Picche made a massive impact on the Lancia Delta design (1979). On top of it, you can find many similarities in other car concepts like Maserati Medici and Lancia Megagamma.

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