You say Piranha, I say Pirana

01 July 2022

The House of Bertone created several concept cars for Jaguar, from the 1957 Xk150-based coupé to the B99 two-door saloon, unveiled at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show.

Less than a year later, the House of Bertone was gone. A tribunal concluded that the brilliant accomplishments of Nuccio Bertone, who died on 26 February 1997, had been destroyed by gross mismanagement. The management had ‘cooked the books’ to disguise debt, and a refusal to declare bankruptcy had compounded the damage.

I digress; in 1967, John Anstey, the publisher of the Daily Telegraph, instructed Bertone to construct a one-off, fully functioning creation; his idea was that this would improve the newspaper’s circulation.

Anyhow, one of Bertone’s designers, Marcello Gandini, was in charge of the project; based on a 1967 Jaguar Series I, 4.2 E-type, the project was completed within five months at the cost of £14,000 (twice the cost of an E-type) and ready for the Earls Court Motor Show.

The result was an amalgam of Italian style and British engineering.

Suppose you look at the Pirana; the resemblance to the 2+2 Lamborghini Espada is unmistakable to see. The Espada was built between 1968 and 1978, using a 3.9 litre, V12 Lamborghini engine.

Not surprisingly, Marcello Gandini also designed the Espada.

At the 1967 Geneva Motor Show, Gandini announced his extremely controversial one-off Lamborghini Marzal. A motor car that caused quite a stir with the motoring press, Ferruccio Lamborghini later said the cost of building the Marzal was far less and considerably more effective than the cost of advertising in the world’s press.

Back to the Pirana, why Pirana and not Piranha? Many thought it was a gross spelling mistake. However, the name Piranha had previously been used on a motor car and therefore unavailable; Lilli Bertone told the crowd at the 2012 Concorso Italiano that her husband liked how the lettering looked without the ‘h’.

Although the name Piranha has subsequently been used, albeit on a Mowag armoured fighting vehicle.

The Bertone-Jaguar still exists; it was sold at the RM’s Monterey sale in August 2019 for a fee-inclusive £236,250.