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The Mazda MX-81 Aria By Bertone was restored in Italy

Mazda, Giugiaro, Turin, Milan and many names of legendary persons in their country, such as Ikuo Maeda and Hideyuki Miyakawa. The links between the Japanese company and Italy are long-standing, and some events deserve to be rediscovered and told. One of those stories has now also become a movie: “La forma del tempo” (translated “The shape of time”), in fact, tells the story of the restoration of an iconic and unique car in the history of design, the Mazda MX-81 Aria, a futuristic concept created by Bertone in 1981.

Mazda is perhaps the Japanese manufacturer that pays more attention to the design of its cars. In Mazda there is a certain attention to detail, to create something that in almost all cases makes people’s head turn, make people remember that particular product. This is also thanks to the lesson that the company’s designers have learned from the great Italian coachbuilders, Bertone in first place, which has collaborated with the japanese brand since the 1960s. The restoration of the Mazda MX-81 Aria concept car, one of the most significant in the history of the brand, together with the company’s centenary, which arrived in 2020, and the launch of the MX-30, served as a pretext to tell the long collaboration between the Italian designers and Japanese engineering, long and successesful.

Mazda MX-30 & MX-81 in Milan

The story begins in 1960, at the Turin Motor Show: here, Hideyuki Miyakawa, destined to become great in Mazda and in the japanese automotive histoty, met a young Giorgetto Giugiaro, already head designer of Bertone. Here Hideyuki met Maria Luisa “Marisa” Bassano,  car enthusiast and passionate about Japan, and in fact an  japanese interpreter. The two fell in love and short after Marisa leaved for Japan to complete her studies. Shortly after Miyakawa returned to Japan to visit Marisa in Hiroshima, he met the then President of Mazda, Tsuneji Matsuda, son of the company founder, Jujiro. And here began the long collaboration with the company. But in his stay in Turin, Miyakawa understood the importance, even strategic, of staying in Italy. He decides to return to Turin not only for Marisa, but also because the city was home to the three most important automotive design ateliers in Italy, and among the most important in the world: Bertone, Ghia and Pininfarina.

The collaboration with Bertone

The strongest partnership was with Bertone. The design studio, with Giugiaro’s hands, designs the Mazda Familia, whose debut took place in 1963. A compact family car, followed by a sedan variant and the coupé of 1965. A success unprecedented for Mazda: the Familia sold 400,000 units between 1963 and 1968. Giugiaro then also created other cars for the brand, including the Mazda Luce, launched in 1967: the first Mazda to be exported to Europe.

Mazda Familia

In 1981, however, the concept car that most of all marks the relationship between Italy and Japan was presented: the Mazda MX-81 Aria. Giugiaro went in the meantime to work at Ghia, but this did not stop Bertone, with chef designer Marc Dechamps, from building an innovative car, which was able to attract attention at the Tokyo Motor Show that year: a wedge-shaped car, already  a Bertone trademark, which stood out for its big glass surfaces, suggesting a bright and, indeed, spacious interior. The first Mazda to debut with the initials “MX”, or “Mazda eXperimental”, typical of all the innovative, avant-garde and challenging cars of the brand. It is the acronym of the MX-5, a gamble for Mazda but today by far the best-selling roadster ever. Same initials of the MX-30, the brand’s first electric and, therefore, a further challenge.

The debut at the 1981 Tokyo Motor Show

After the debut at the Tokyo Motor Show, the Mazda MX-81 Aria was the protagonist of a shooting in Piazza Duomo in Milan, which, not surprisingly, was recently replicated with the MX-30, which can be considered a sort of modern heir to the Mazda MX -81. The car was a concept car that was definitely ahead of its time, and had elements that were considered “excess”, in the sense of impossible to bring to the series production. If the Mazda 323 F takes up some details, such as the flat front and the retractable headlights, it could not be thought of producing in large scale the true distinctive element of the MX-81 : the belt-driven steering wheel.

In fact, the MX-81 does not have a steering wheel, but a track of plastic blocks joined together in a flexible way, together with the power-assisted steering system, all around the rectangular instrument panel, with a color display in the center.

The restoration

One more thing that distinguished the Mazda MX-81 Aria is its destiny: it has not been dismantled, as is happened usually with (almost) all concept cars. In fact, in February 2020 it was “found” in the Fuchizaki warehouse, and from there taken to the Hiroshima headquarters, it underwent an in-depth analysis of the mechanical part. The engine has been disassembled, and all parts have been restored, while the brakes and steering have been completely restored. This made it possible to test it on the track and put it back in motion after 39 years.

Photo courtesy of Mazda Italia

The second phase of the restoration, the aesthetic one, could only take place in Turin. At the beginning of March 2020 the car set sail from Japan, to arrive first in Belgium and then in Italy. The SuperStile craftsmen, a reality born in 2015 that collaborates with the main design centers, took care of restoring every aesthetic component of the car. The choice was to operate conservatively, preserving the original materials. The signs of time have been left, while the artisans have restored the painting, restoring the sheet metal to its original state and then giving it the idential color of the time, after having scanned the color in several points and compared, to faithfully replicate it.

The interior leather have been cleaned of moisture, while the headlight glass covers have been completely redone, which allowed the retractable mechanism to be fixed and restored.

Photo courtesy of Mazda Italia

Today the stylistic relationship between Japan and Italy is less evident, but it is still in existance. Ikuo Maeda, head of Mazda design since 2010, when he created the new brand identity, he in fact thought of Bertone and the successes related to it. Basically, Maeda understood from the relationship with Italy that we need to look at both design and technology. The bodywork must not only be “a dress”, but an integral part of every component of the car.

Photo courtesy of Mazda Italia

The design, sculpted and sinuous, aerodynamic and clean, must be an expression of the technological and stylistic capacity of the brand. And not surprisingly, however different, modern Mazdas have learned a lot from those designed by Bertone and Giugiaro.

Mazda Italia
“La storia pazzesca della Mazda MX-81 di Bertone e del suo restauro tra Italia e Giappone” by Robin Grant

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Celebrating 115 years of Carrozzeria Garavini, the brand sees its rediscovery and relaunch in the world of cars, design and elegance.

At Garavini, craftsmanship, manufacture and uniqueness come together to create works of art on wheels that go beyond the concept of a simple means of transport to become symbols of passion and refinement.

115 years after its foundation, the company has decided to start again with the Alfa Romeo 4C, in the 10th anniversary year of the model’s presentation, in collaboration with the IAAD in Turin. This partnership between the historic brand and the design institute represents an opportunity to create a high-end sports car that combines outstanding Italian aesthetics with the best technologies.

Poltu Quatu immediately turned out to be the ideal location for the premiere of the project, thanks to the famous Concours d’Elegance which, as the perfect combination of worldliness, elegance and the joy of living the dolce vita, allows the meeting from all over the world of those enthusiasts who, more than anyone else, can appreciate the value and style of a vision such as Garavini’s.

The project takes its inspiration from the 1930s Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 by Garavini, the star of the Italian Dolce Vita and the birth of the classic car movement in Italy. The Garavini Perenne represents an extraordinary sports car that combines the Italian tradition of elegance and style with innovation and high quality craftsmanship. Garavini’s tribute to the model, the 4C, which, with its debut 10 years ago, decreed the real relaunch of Alfa Romeo, is no coincidence: symbolic value, as happens in all valuable initiatives, has a decisive weight in the conception and realisation of unique products.

The soul of the project is Luca Babbini, a young entrepreneur with experience in research and development for various industries, in particular the automotive industry. Babbini’s path, which started at IAAD and has been refined through subsequent collaborations, has always been linked to a passion for luxury, not so much as a material passion, but derived from the emotion that an object or an experience conveys.

“When I crossed Garavini’s path,” explains Luca Babbini, Garavini Design Director, “with family origins and values that can be traced back to mine, I thought it was a sign: the awareness of this affinity has allowed us to give life to a new chapter, a reality in which passion for craftsmanship, luxury and family heritage come together. The Garavini Perenne will be an opportunity to enhance the Turin area but in an international key, thanks to the freshness and desire to do that only a young team, such as that of Garavini and that of the IAAD master’s degree course in Transportation Design, can guarantee.”

On 8 July on the occasion of the Poltu Quatu Classic, a preview of the concept on which the students of the IAAD master’s course in Transportation Design are working, reasoning and declining the Garavini values of elegance and attention to detail, aimed at creating a modern classic with a first series of 15 examples, which aspires to become a timeless model, a source of inspiration for the present and the future. The lines are classic, inspired by a sporty use that smells of fresh air and speed. Driving pleasure is at the heart of the design with a set-up dedicated to usability on the road as well as on the track.

Again Luca Babbini: ‘The valorisation of young people is a key aspect of the project: it always seems, in the common narrative, that unreachable challenges and moments of continuous crisis await us, but the future is full of opportunities and style and beauty are not a closed chapter. The creation of new classics is the true ambition of a project, which looks to the future aware of its past but with the confidence that it can still make a difference. The Turin area, then, is rich in excellent craft realities with which to create synergies and develop a true pole of high craftsmanship. There is nothing to stop us from looking beyond the automotive field and broadening the declination of our values with incursions into other sectors… in short, there is a lot to build on, and the Garavini lifestyle begins today with Garavini Perenne.

The result of this partnership is a high-end compact sports car with a sculptural aesthetic design. Garavini is committed to satisfying a discerning international audience that appreciates the art of automotive design and Italian craftsmanship. The ability to excite both long-time enthusiasts and new customers is a challenge Garavini sets itself, aiming to create a fascinating and successful future for the brand.

The Garavini Perenne will be released in 2025.