Minivans or MPVs erupted onto the scene in the 1980s. But where did the idea come from? And which was the first? The Nissan Prairie? Renault’s Espace? The Chrysler Voyager?
The answer is: none of the above. It was the Lancia Megagamma, unveiled at the Turin Motor Show in 1978 and made by Italdesign under legendary master Giorgetto Giugiaro. As usual, Giugiaro created a trend-setting design that combined outstanding elegance with utter practicality — the Megagamma is a delight to the eye. On first seeing it, Fiat’s boss Umberto Agnelli commented: ‘Nice car. All that’s required is the courage to produce it’. But, to Giugiaro’s chagrin, the courage was lacking and Fiat let a great commercial opportunity slip from its grasp; the Megagamma was never put into production.
At a time when cars were being judged by their length, Giugiaro’s design for a family vehicle was a breath of fresh air. It was based on the same platform as the Lancia Gamma, a flagship executive car introduced in 1976 (which, although not particularly successful at the time, has since become a collector’s piece). To create extra room, Giugiaro stretched the car upwards instead of longways, enabling the occupants to engage in one-upmanship through superior height rather than by hogging extra road space — thus contributing to improved traffic flow.
Although the Megagamma doesn’t look at all unusual now, at the time it was revolutionary — and hugely influential, sparking off a trend for space vehicles that continues to this day. And, although Giugiaro was disappointed, he was undeterred: he knew his idea was a good one, and he went on to design many more space-saving multi-use vehicles — not least the Maserati Buran, a concept MPV of 2000.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
2,484 cc Flat Four
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Giorgetto Giugiaro won an award as ‘Car Designer of the Century’ in 1999. His cars include the BMW M1, Lotus Esprit,VW Scirocco, Maserati Bora, Lancia Delta, De Tomaso Mangusta and Alfa Romeo Brera, to name but a few.