Bertone Prototype Volvo Tundra
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 5
BERTONE'S styling of the late 1970's did not receive the universal praise of their earlier work - even those of the mid 70's. Looking back now, we can see that they were, however, well ahead of the design trend that would dominate the 80's, namely angles. Other Bertone
"slab designs" included the starkly angular Navajo and Rainbow, and the almost shapeless Sibilo.
Not everyone understood the ideas the designs were intended to convey - and therefore some began to doubt the validity of those ideas. But Bertone
were known to step back from the frontiers of car design and build practical, down-to-earth prototypes on a relatively prosaic chassis. It is their way of showing the state of the art - how far way-out ideas could be included in an everyday car.
Enter the Tundra coupé. This propensity for forming partnerships with foreign manufacturers represented a natural expansion of market frontiers and of Bertone
’s success with overseas companies. In his design work for the Swedish manufacturer, Bertone
created a compact car, which would respond to the design criteria for a medium-sized saloon.
The Tundra was a hard-sculptured shape with some of the sharpness of the Rainbow and its ilk and glass ideas from the Sibilo, built on the platform of a manual transmission
Volvo 343. The mechanicals were unchanged save for fitting shorter leaf springs to the De Dion rear suspension
in the interests of a 7 in. reduction in overall length.
Almost any front- wheel-drive mid-range car would have made an easier basis for a "sport saloon", as Bertone
called it, but then the key to this one was that it was "designed for possible production with slight changes" .
The Volvo connection went deeper than supplying the chassis. Bertone
already build the unhappy 262C Coupe body. Volvo needed an "image improver" and the 343 in manual form was deemed a suitable candidate. Still not everyone was impressed. The way that the roof extended down the body sides behind the doors was most criticized, as was the lack of guttering and the flush-bonded glass that was obviously going to be too expensive for realistic production.
Breaking The Mould Of "Boxy But Safe"
Other aspects were undeniably practical and well thought-out: the built-in energy-absorbing bumpers, the offset air intake grille leaving room for the bulkiest licence plate to the left, the thin pillars, the front corner indicators, and the very clear rear light strip well clear of the bumper and below the moulded glass hatchback. Inside, there was an electronic instrument display that further refined ideas that Bertone
and others had shown before. Of course, you could argue today (and probably back in the 70's too) that it was not difficult to improve on the appearance of the Volvo 343. Nevertheless the Tundra, with its long swage lines, generous windows and angular shape reiterated Bertone’s passion for light.
The Tundra showed unmistakeable elements of Bertone
style: light greenhousing supported by slender pillars, a short, smooth bonnet and wide doors. In may ways, it reminds us of the Citroen BX
(a car also designed by Bertone
), along with the Mitsubishi Starion Turbo
, which was released a little over 3 years after the Tundra was revealed to the public. We think it's a shame the Tundra never made production - what do you think?