2023 marks 50 years since ItalDesign shared the Asso di Picche in 1973, a harbinger of the era of boxy cars and wedge cars. It inspired a whole generation of design at Audi and beyond, and today continues to inspire the more recent Geometric design trend.
The name “Asso di Picche” in Italian means “Ace of Spades”, and as you might surmise, Asso di Picche wasn’t the only one in the series. There was the Asso di Picche meaning Ace of Spades (Audi basis, 1973), the Asso di Quadri meaning Ace of Diamonds (BMW basis, 1976), Asso di Fiori meaning Ace of Clubs (Isuzu, 1979). An Asso di Cuori meaning Ace of Hearts was intended, but never realized.
The first of the series, the Asso di Picche, was based on the B1 Audi 80 and commissioned by Karmann Coachworks, an independent factory in Osnabruck, Germany that contracted with manufacturers to build and sometimes design series production cars. Though both Karmann and ItalDesign are today owned by the Volkswagen Group, during the ’70s they were independent businesses seeking to drum up business from series manufacturers. And for VW, it likely worked because Wolfsburg would turn to Karmann for production of the Scirocco coupé and Golf Cabriolet models. Given that, it’s also worth noting the stylistic influence the Asso di Picche had on the Scirocco Mk1 in particular, and that the Asso Quadri had on the Scirocco Mk2.
Fast forward to 2010 and the landscape had changed. Audi purchased ItalDesign from the Giugiaro family in 2010, and Volkswagen purchased Karmann in the same year. Ever since that time, we’ve been curious just where the storied Italian design house founded by Giorgetto Giugiaro fit within the lexicon of Audi AG. It’s got a long history of concept prototype assembly, and it did launch the Zerouno supercar based on the same MSS architecture that underpins the Audi R8 and Lamborghini Huracán.
Now move to 2022, where Giugiaro influence in modern geometric design styles is obvious in products like the Hyundai Ioniq 5. The Korean manufacturer’s N Vision 74 that has wowed the car world for its wedge and boxy shape that today feels fresh in today’s world of aerodynamic rounded shapes. It’s a brilliant move injecting historic context and harking an iconic design era into a brand seeking more of a modern presence while seeking relevance in a back story stemming from an era when it had less of a world presence. In order to do that, the Korean manufacturer attributes the design to the ItalDesign styled Hyundai Pony Coupe concept from 1974, arguably worthy of a place in the Asso series, but also very much inspired by the design Giorgetto Giugiaro set into motion with the Audi Asso di Picche.
In the last few weeks, ItalDesign has also added their chapter to the Asso story, revealing in a few internet videos posted to Facebook that they plan soon to reveal a modern day Asso di Picche. It seems reasonable to believe, given the Audi ownership, that the car will be based on Audi hardware or even branded an Audi… though none of that has been revealed just yet.
One thing the videos do emphasize is that the design won’t be retro. Hyundai’s N Vision 74 is arguably literal in its retro design, though other more modern geometric design shapes like the IONIQ 5 aren’t exactly retro, and are arguably modern in a cyberpunk sort of way. It will be interesting then to see how ItalDesign harks the Asso di Picche era in modern form. Will it be geometric? Will it be groundbreaking in some other way? We are eager to see.