Tom Tjaarda

Be­fore he died in June, Tom cast his ex­pert de­sign eye over the Pe­gaso Z102 Cupula coupé and its con­cours-win­ning quirks

Classic Cars (UK) - - The Insiders - Tom Tjaarda, 1934-2017, had a de­sign CV in­clud­ing Ghia, Pin­in­fa­rina, Italde­sign, Ford and Fiat. He first wrote for Clas­sic Cars in 2013. His fam­ily wishes that we pub­lish the re­main­ing col­umns.

The first re­ally ex­otic post-war Euro­pean car came not from Italy, but Spain of all places. The Pe­gaso com­pany, lo­cated just out­side Barcelona, was noted for its buses and trucks, but unusual cir­cum­stances led to the limited pro­duc­tion of one the most ex­otic cars in au­to­mo­tive his­tory, Pe­gaso’s Z102 Coupé.

The first ver­sions of the Z102 never had much suc­cess but the spe­cial one-off Cupula coupé had an enor­mous im­pact on the car de­sign world. To­day, when­ever this car shows up at a con­cours d’ele­gance it’s like a mag­net; spec­ta­tors rush over to take a closer look at its strik­ing de­sign.

What makes it unusual is the form of the ba­sic body, so dif­fer­ent to the shapes of the time. It has cata­ma­ran theme that car­ries through the en­tire de­sign, in­cor­po­rat­ing the bul­bous fend­ers that par­tially cover the wheels. The way the head­lights are placed in these flanks is novel, in that they are seper­ate de­sign el­e­ments that do not dic­tate the ra­dius car­ried through the en­tire length of the body.

The plex­i­glass rear win­dow is the im­me­di­ate fo­cal point; a pre­cisely shaped el­e­ment that’s rad­i­cal with­out be­ing heavy. The body could have ended up be­ing heavy but was not, thanks to the lower-body line that cuts off the mass high up, leav­ing space for the ex­posed muf­flers. A con­tin­u­a­tion of that de­sign theme is ev­i­dent in the rear lights be­ing placed on the metal with­out in­flu­enc­ing the car’s shape. These de­tails – to­gether with the fly yel­low ex­te­rior, light green in­te­rior and shock­ing red tyres – puts this mas­ter­piece on the ‘Best of Show’ short­list ev­ery time.

How did such a car emerge from the post-war rubble and in­dus­trial de­struc­tion in Europe? In this case it was down to Span­ish Civil War ex­ile Wifredo Ri­cart. Af­ter a pe­riod with Alfa Romeo, he re­turned to his home­land to spear­head the in­dus­trial de­vel­op­ment of the state-owned Enasa com­pany, which owned Pe­gaso.

Ri­cart’s unique tal­ents as an en­gi­neer with an artis­tic touch meant the pro­to­type Z102 shown to the pub­lic in 1951 was both in­no­va­tive and ex­otic – its 2500cc V8 en­gine had two gear-driven camshafts per cylin­der bank topped by beau­ti­ful valve cov­ers. Mean­while, the al­loy chas­sis – to which a driven rear transaxle us­ing a de Dion-type rear sus­pen­sion was mounted – had nu­mer­ous light­en­ing holes. But ex­otic or not, it was ex­pen­sive to make and the steel body­work was just plain dumpy.

How­ever, dur­ing the pro­duc­tion Z102’s sub­se­quent ges­ta­tion pe­riod, the one-off Cupula was made. Ri­cart had asked Span­ish de­sign stu­dents to il­lus­trate their ideas of how cars would look in the fu­ture. The re­sults were pieced to­gether by Ri­cart to form this ex­otic mas­ter­piece, shown at the 1953 New York Auto Show to great ac­claim – but it was too late.

Since its con­cep­tion the Cupula has passed through a num­ber of cus­to­di­ans – the first be­ing Pres­i­dent Tru­jillo of the Do­mini­can Repub­lic, and the lat­est be­ing the Louw­man col­lec­tion from Hol­land. I saw the car at the Villa d’este Con­corso in 2015 and again win­ning Best of Show at the 2016 Amelia Is­land coun­ter­part. Its de­sign will never be­come stale and will en­joy pe­ri­od­i­cal pre­sen­ta­tions at clas­sic car shows for in­fin­ity.

Tom rated the Amelia Is­land Con­cours-win­ning Pe­gaso Cupula coupé highly

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.