Bertone celebrates 75 years with Alfa Romeo Pandion
5th March, 2010
Bertone, one of Italy’s legendary styling houses, is
celebrating 75 years of collaboration with Alfa Romeo with Pandion, an aggressive yet beautiful coupé
designed as a tribute to Alfa Romeo’s one hundred year anniversary.
Revealed at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show, the Pandion is an extreme and controversial sports car in
typical Bertone fashion. The size of the concept car (4,620 mm in length, 1,971 mm wide, 1,230 mm high,
2,850 mm wheelbase) offers a compact sports car with a large sports car interior feeling and powered
by a 4.7 litre, 450 CV 8-cylinder Alfa Romeo engine.
The partnership between Bertone and Alfa Romeo dates back to the early 1930s: it is one of the most
fascinating partnerships in the history of car design due to its incisive draughtsmanship and formal
elegance. These characteristics have been applied to 23 models, including one-offs and production cars
constructed over the last 75 years.
The Pandion is the first car produced by Mike Robinson in his new role as Design and Brand Director
at Bertone. A pure ‘dream car’, the Pandion takes its rightful place as a member of Bertone’s historic
Alfa Romeo family: cars that have always been style icons, influencing the history of the automobile
and Italian craftsmanship in their excellent design quality, proving themselves to be undisputed
benchmarks for the entire world of car design.
The name comes from the animal world, as Pandion Haliaetus is the scientific name for an
Osprey: a sea hawk that nests and lives in coastal areas. The designers, led by Mike Robinson, have
drawn inspiration from the wings of this predator to invent the spectacular door opening mechanisms,
and from the hawks’ facial markings to project the traditional Alfa family feeling into the next era
In almost a century of Bertone tradition, it is not the first time that natural wonders have
inspired the names of concept cars. Just think of the Corvair Testudo (1963) and, by no coincidence,
the Alfa Romeo Canguro (1964), Carabo (1968) and Delfino (1983).
- Design: the initial concept
The Pandion’s taut and 'muscular' body is the result of an original interpretation of the Alfa Romeo
badge, where the man-eating snake depicted there represents the attraction of elegance (what we call
the ‘Skin’), and the aristocratic cross symbolises the rigour of rational thought, the technological
aspect (what we call the ‘Frame’). According to this interpretation, the Pandion’s design is, like
every Alfa Romeo, a perfect synthesis between ‘Skin and Frame’, an ideal balance resulting from a
tension between opposites: technology and sensuality, rationality and instinct, architecture and
sculpture, structuralism and organicism, industrial excellence and excellent craftsmanship.
The design of the Pandion is based on a concept Robinson calls: "Skin & Frame” - a new
interpretation of the inherent duality in the 100 year old Alfa Romeo logo. “Skin” refers to the
snake in the logo, representing the world renowned Italian excellence in beautiful, seductive forms;
and “Frame” refers to the cross in the logo, representing the mechanical excellence in high
performance Italian race cars. The combination of the two has now become a dynamic dial searching for
an ideal balance resulting from the tension between opposites: technology and sensuality, rational and
emotional, architectural layout and sculptural form, structural and organic, industrial excellence and
According to this interpretation, the vibrant energy in every Alfa Romeo is represented by
Pandions’ spinal structure (or ‘Frame’), which crosses the length of the car from the V-shaped grille
in the nose of the car to the V-shaped bumper in the tail of the car, crossing the interior as a
visually aesthetic structural element which supports the surrounding shell (or ‘Skin’).
- Design: details that count
The Pandion’s front-end features a long and sculpted sloping bonnet that provides what is, to all
intents and purposes, a mask, almost like the helmets worn by ancient warriors. The Alfa Romeo
‘family feeling’, immediately recognisable at first glance, does not admit even a hint of retro
nostalgia and looks to the future with a revolutionary and novel elegance. There is no doubt it’s an
Alfa Romeo with a look that has never been seen heretofore. The typical Alfa quad headlights are
buried deep in the outer-most tips of the T-shaped grille, highlighting the wide stance of the
coupé. Four white bars of light strike the observers’ curiosity, two position lights above and two fog
lights below, providing a virtual bi-plane of light at night.
The typical five horizontal bars on every Alfa Romeo radiator grille are just visible here,
offering a reference to the marque’s historic identity. The front grille is full of thousands of tiny
intertwined blades which contribute to the new Algorithmic Design throughout the car.
The Pandion has the profile of a true sports car, with no room for compromise. The architectural
lay out is ‘cab rearward’, meaning the passenger compartment is positioned towards the rear of the car
and the long bonnet pushes the car’s visual centre rearward. The body side visually connects the
front-end with the razor-edged rear by means of an extremely long flowing side window which stretches
from front wheel arch to rear, enhancing the excellent accessibility of this low-bodied sports coupé.
Since sports cars are traditionally difficult to get in and out of, this important ergonomic activity
has been facilitated with an extra wide door opening to make up for the low roofline. This new graphic
formula not only adds a striking new visual division between the upper and lower parts of the body,
but it also offers an incredible panorama window for passengers inside. The strong diagonal
dark-light division in the rear of the side view accentuates the powerful rear wheel drive layout and
draws special attention to the hidden door opening mechanism.
The rear-end features a striking array of crystal-like blades which are intertwined in various
widths and lengths, protruding out into space. The rear of the car in fact has a disembodied or
“pixilated” look, representing a tail-of-the-comet metaphor, as if the sheer speed of the vehicle is
pulling the underlying, technical “Frame” rearward, away from the sensuous, flowing “Skin” above. This
“dematerialisation” phenomenon of the car is generated by the intrinsic motion of the form, which
means the car looks like it is moving even when it is standing still.
There are also two small fixed white shields below the rear bumper which hold the quad tailpipes,
providing a visual continuation of the white side panels which seem to wrap around under the car.
The taillights are fully integrated into the organic tangle of the blades and disappear when turned
off. The new Alfa Romeo family feeling is again visible in the rear of the car with same V-shaped
bumper found on the front of the vehicle, which the travels the entire length of the body, forming a
powerful virtual, Alfa Romeo backbone.
The doors, as in other Bertone-designed masterpieces (such as the 1968 Alfa Romeo Carabo, the 1970
Lancia Stratos 0, the 1972 Lamborghini Countach, and the 2007 Fiat Barchetta), open in a visually
striking manner. Virtually hinged around the axis of the rear wheel, the Pandion doors open by
rotating backwards, ending up a perfect 90 degrees above the centre of the rear wheel, lifting up the
entire body side of the vehicle, from the front guard to the rear guard. When fully open they are more
than 3.6 metres high. This spectacular solution is designed mainly for glamour, bringing back the “wow”
factor. This futuristic door mechanism also has a pragmatic side as well. Since all ‘extreme’ sports
cars are literally impossible to get in and out of, the Pandion is designed to utilise the horizontal
space in the car since the vertical space is so limited.
In the event of an accident that results in a ‘roll-over’, the doors detach from the car body so
that the occupants can exit the car.
- The interior
The shapes that make the Bertone Pandion spring to life are the result of a design study aimed at
providing an organic whole, without resorting to short-cuts to ensure continuity between the interior
and exterior, a perfect balance between architectural rigour and the spectacular shapes of living
The design language used to make the passenger compartment has resulted in a fluid environment, due
to the fittings that seem to have grown spontaneously, without ever having been either designed or
constructed.Bertone named this expressive code, never seen before in the automotive sector until
now, algorithmic design. The concept, taken from the world of mathematics, indicates an organic
alternative to traditional design and is the ‘propagation of random forms’. It is as if the design
were following a kind of complex development which is neither linear nor geometric, generating an
‘auto-organising’ shape, with the ‘spontaneous growth’ of algorithms such as ‘swarms’ or ‘vines’.
When observing the interior of the Bertone Pandion, the first things that draw attention are the
front seats. The car’s layout is typical of Alfa Romeo coupés, i.e. 2+2. While the two rear seats are
the classic ‘extra spaces’, the front seats are two incredibly thin (30 mm) ergonomic chaise
longue chairs. They have carbon fibre shells (that mimic the style of the car’s exoskeleton or
‘skin’) covered in Technogel® and backlit with reLIGHT® fabric, that conforms to the shape of the
driver’s or passenger’s body. The principle that inspired the designers was that of ‘zero gravity’,
i.e. a warm and welcoming environment that would convey a sensation of enhanced quality of life inside
at first sight, but… with zero gravity.
In fact, all the furnishings inside the passenger compartment all tend to float visually, suspended
in the magic of the blue light. Behind these minimalist choices, however, lies a careful study of
ergonomics: the seats are the result of a perfect synthesis between high performance, flexibility and
lightness. The clear floor is illuminated in the same “swimming pool blue” colour of the seats,
offering a spectacular visual continuation of the voluptuous seats, with its’ flowing contours where
the driver and passenger can feel protected in a truly glamorous shell.
The steering wheel is clearly that of a sports car, while the controls are similar to those of
Alfa Romeo race cars, with two analogue dials placed directly on the steering column. Three of the
four LCD screens offer a rear view inside the passenger compartment (two on the sides, one on the
windscreen) and they are directly connected to the external video cameras that substitute the rear
view mirrors normally placed outside the car. The larger screen placed in the centre (9”), in the
middle of the console – and within reach of the passenger as well as the driver – also displays
information on the car’s systems (air conditioning, sound systems, Sat Nav, etc…).
‘We are walking in the footprints of giants.’ That is the Bertone company motto. The giants
referred to are Giovanni and Nuccio Bertone. However, following in their footsteps does not mean
copying them, on the contrary. It means applying their teachings and using them as guidelines for
further advances. Bertone ask their designers to follow a total creative method, where they
observe phenomena that are apparently unrelated to each other and try to apply them to the
However design research is not enough. At Bertone they study concepts, and therefore each design
is the result or a spin-off of an innovative idea or a new phenomenon. Mike Robinson, Design &
Brand Director at Bertone, comments: ‘Cars are like films: they must tell a story to win people
over. The best car designers are necessarily excellent narrators and their products, whether they
are concept cars or mass-produced products, reflect their creators’ ability to gather fascinating
ideas from every field, from all over the world, to bring them together and transform them into new
and great stories. This is what we have attempted to do with the Alfa Pandion.’
- A century of history: Alfa Romeos by Bertone
The partnership between Bertone and Alfa Romeo dates back to the early 1930s: it is one of the
most fascinating partnerships in the history of car design due to its incisive draughtsmanship and
formal elegance. These characteristics have been applied to 23 models, including one-offs and
production cars constructed over the last 75 years.
The first Alfa Romeo by Bertone was a luxurious 7-seater limousine built on a 6C 2300 chassis in
1933. After a pause, during the Second World War, an opulent coupé on a 6C 2500 chassis was produced
in 1947 that caused a stir in the world of car design due to the join at the side of its front
In the early 1950s (1953), Bertone designed a coupé built on a 1900 chassis that marked the
beginning of a great period of extraordinarily productive creativity. In fact, that same year saw
the debut at the Turin Motor Show of the BAT (Berlinetta Aerodinamica Tecnica) 5, built on an Alfa
Romeo 1900 chassis: the BAT 5 featured an extremely streamlined aerodynamic body and two large
tailfins that seemed to belong to science fiction cars.
In 1954, which was almost a culmination due to the many fortuitous design intuitions that
emerged, saw the debut of the Giulietta Sprint, which was immediately met with extraordinary
commercial success: more than 34,000 of them were produced up until 1965. That same year also saw
the making of the acclaimed 2000 Sportiva, with a 138 CV engine taken from the Giulietta Sprint.
Only two versions of this model, which due to its features and the harmonious balance of its shape
is almost the very essence of an Italian sporty coupé, were ever produced, one of which was a
‘barchetta’ with the passenger compartment shielded only by a small quarterlight.
In that same year, 1954, also at the Turin Motor Show, Bertone amazed the world with the BAT 7,
where design themes first introduced the year before by the BAT 5 were taken to more daring heights
with voluptuous, Manta Ray-style fins. The use of tailfins, though subtle, was repeated once more
in 1955 with the Spider Perla, built on the chassis of a Giulietta Sprint.
The year 1955 was an exciting year for the Bertone-Alfa Romeo partnership. The BAT 9 – the least
controversial of the BAT trio, though it preserved all the charm of that design – debuted at the
Turin Motor Show. Following a request by the American importer Max Hoffmann, Bertone produced a
Giulietta Sprint-based Spider, which was notable for its contained and 'muscular' car body, with a
centrally placed passenger compartment and a hint of back tailfins. The 1950s came to an end with a
few design proposals that announced various themes that Bertone was to develop during the following
There are hints of these in the Giulietta Berlina (1958), the new Giulietta Sprint (1958) and the
Alfa 2000 Granluce (1959). The year 1959 also saw the production of the Giulietta Sprint Speciale
(SS), that repeated features present in the BAT series.
In 1960, the 2000 Sprint made its debut: an elegant and luxurious coupé, 700 of which were built
up until 1962. That same year, Bertone also made a 4-seater convertible version of the car which,
however, was not produced commercially, and Bertone was also behind the design of the 2000 and the
Giulia T.I. In 1963, the Frankfurt Motor Show saw the unveiling of the Giulia GT which replaced
the Giulietta Sprint while repeating its enormous success: more than 200,000 of them were built up
until 1977, in versions and engine adaptations used in the world of car racing as well. It was also
in 1963 that Bertone prepared two cars that were destined to remain one-offs: the 2600 Sprint HS
and the Giulia Sprint Speciale. The following year, Bertone produced a coupé built on a Giulia TZ
chassis which was destined to become a benchmark in the world of car design: the Canguro. Unveiled
at the Turin Motor Show, the Canguro boasted what was then a futuristic shape, with windows flush
with the car body, and the bonnet and panels produced in a wraparound unit hinged at the front.
The sporty coupé style continued to fascinate Bertone, who in 1967 unveiled a 2+2 rich in
innovative design features: the Montreal. The following year, Bertone also produced a new Berlina
1750; 200,000 of them were produced up until 1977. In 1968, at the Paris Motor Show, Bertone
exhibited a car which was revolutionary both in terms of design and performance: the Carabo. It
was a time of change and people demanded that ‘imagination take power’. Bertone went one step
further and made the power of imagination a concrete reality, with all the rigour of a great
draughtsman. The Carabo, built on the chassis of an Alfa 33 ‘Stradale’, was the very first
mono-volume, cab-forward, mid-engine sports car in the history of the automobile. Its flattened
wedge shape was just 99 cm high and was accessible via the very first front hinged doors designed
for easy access. The car also featured a striking straight cut boot.
The 1970s took off with the Montreal no longer a prototype and now manufactured commercially
(around 3,000 of them were built up until 1977), while the Alfa 199 project – a 4-seater coupé
with a strong 'personality' – was abandoned. The Alfa 33 was the source of inspiration for a
concept car that made its debut in 1976: the Navajo. The use of fibreglass allowed for a more
daring, razor-edged shape, with its large arched spoiler integrated into the greenhouse. The
1970s came to an end with a proposal for an Alfetta GT which was destined to remain a one-off.
With the economic upturn of the 1980s, cars regained their hedonistic side and Bertone revived
a theme dear to his heart: the executive sporty coupé. The result was the Delfino which debuted
in 1983 and which featured an elegant spatial balance between glass and metal and a tasteful
interior finish. The year 1984 saw the Alfa 90 enter production, offering new directions for the
elegant and high-performance saloon inaugurated 30 years before with the unforgettable 1900.
In 1997, a year before his death, Bertone designed an elegant and sophisticated sports-utility
car ahead of its time: the Sportut. This model was a study for a compact off-road vehicle built
on an Alfa Romeo 145 chassis which made its debut at the Geneva Motor Show. Bertone continued to
be inspired by Alfa Romeo even after Nuccio Bertone’s death. In 1999, again in Geneva, the Bella
was unveiled. This was a luxurious 2+2 coupé built on an Alfa 166 chassis that had the
architectural structure of a classic Italian coupé combined with a truly winning design.
The early years of the new millennium, which began on 1st January 2001, belonged to the Alfa
GT, which was unveiled in 2003 at the Frankfurt Motor Show, designed and engineered by Bertone.
As a result, the company proved itself to be a ‘complete cycle service provider’ on the
international scene. The following year, the Alfa GT convertible was unveiled, with four seats
and an automatic convertible soft-top which was highly acclaimed, but which never went into