The 2018 Geneva International Motor Show wraps up this weekend, and before the cars and stands are packed off and Palexpo repurposed for the next big trade show, we thought we would revisit a striking concept car that debuted at the Geneva Show at the start of this decade: the Bertone Pandion.
The concept marked the return of Bertone in 2010 to Geneva after a two year absence. It was also Design and Brand Director Michael Robinson’s first concept car for the storied carrozzeria, built to celebrate the centenary of Alfa Romeo’s birth.
The name ‘Pandion’ referred to the Greek name Pandion haliaetus, which is the species name of a bird of prey common in almost all seashore areas of the world. It is known by various names including Osprey, Seahawk, River Hawk and Fish Hawk.
Bertone noted that the dramatic wings and distinct black and white facial markings strongly influenced the design of the car, including the mask at the front.
The Pandion’s organizing principle was the ‘Skin and Frame’ concept. A structural frame starting at the grille, wrapping around the passenger compartment and completing itself at the rear of the car, was the armature for a taut skin and glazing that wrapped itself over the frame.
The overall form is pure sports car; a long nose, a cab-rearward architecture and fastback tail. Sharp-eyed Bertone fans will note the curvature of the roof closely approximates that of the Bertone Birusa of a few years prior.
At the front the scowling mask recalls medieval helmets, a reference to Turin’s armor crafting past (The Fiat Barchetta concept of 2007 recalls this history even more directly). At the centre of the mask were the five bars of Alfa Romeo’s grille, with quad headlights deeply recessed in the outer corners of the mask.
At the rear, the car is a pixelated composition of elements, with a dramatic array of intertwining black blades across the rear fascia. At the taillights, the colour changes to yellow/orange/red, like flames shooting out from the car.
Bertone described the effect as like that of a comet with a sleek body that “dematerializes” into a long tail.
Linking the front and rear along the flanks of the car were the long doors and their extensive side glass. It made for quite a graphic statement and combined with the roof glazing crated a ribbon effect of glass and body. The overall graphic effect was one of the strongest in any concept car in many years.
The interior was accessed through two dramatic scissor doors each three metres in length. Hinged over the rear wheels, these doors, which extended to the front wheels, made for quite a dramatic entry sequence and recalled similar doors in the Alfa Romeo Carabo and the ’07 Fiat Barchetta concept. When fully open, the doors stood some 3.6 metres high.
Bertone’s Press Release noted that “This spectacular solution is designed mainly for glamour, bringing back the “wow” factor to today’s lacklustre automotive industry.”
The press release went on to note that as vertical access to the interior was limited, a longer horizontal opening aided ingress and egress.
Once seated inside, one noticed the skeletal frame that was a centerpiece of the interior. Although an exposed frame is nothing unusual in a sports or race car, the irregular “algorithmic” design of the frame struck some as perhaps too organic, too tentacle-like.
The seating was 2+2, with the front seats composed of carbonfibre shells covered with Technogel® and backlit with reLIGHT® fabric, all in a 30mm construction.
In front of the driver is an array of instrumentation, augmented by four flat screens that allow views of the interior and exterior as well as controls for infotainment.
Reception at the Geneva Show was mixed. Some loved the classic sports car shape mixed with bold graphics, dramatic doors and science fiction interior. Others hated it for much the same reasons. Some dismissed it as looking like a sneaker. Others noted the front mask looked like Boba Fett, of Star Wars fame (it did).
But the Pandion received a mostly warm reception from the press, which welcomed the return of Bertone and its dramatic design statement.
The Pandion, even in Bertone’s press release, was described as a “dream car”. It was a demonstration of Bertone’s design and engineering capabilities. There were never any plans for production. It remains a dream car, and a sort of swansong for Bertone, which would be gone in less than five years.