Chrysler Shake by Bertone

As nice as the Autobianchi A112 Runabout by Bertone is, I think that the famed styling house avoided a sophomore slump when they reimagined it as an off-road buggy for Chrysler France.

It’s striking.

Although I’ve featured buggies in the past, it’s important to remember that the turn-your-Beetle-into-an-off-road-buggy craze was accomplished without manufacturer support. Kit manufacturers, sure, but not many of the people who designed the mechanical components! I find it amazing that without modern conveniences such as the internet, an industry could form based solely on making aftermarket kits.

I’ve often wonder what would have happened if a manufacturer jumped onto the dune buggy craze and what the fallout would be like. Would they exist today, now spec’d out with Bluetooth, touchscreen navigation screens, contrasting stitching, and a 10 year warranty?

I adore the Chrysler Shake by Bertone because it’s the most perfect dune buggy ever constructed. Not perfect in terms of off-road performance, of course, but perfect in its execution. I think it’s exactly what a production Simca, Fiat, or some other company’s dune buggy could have looked like. 

A comparison between the Shake and other dune buggies is analogous to a comparison of men’s suits. 

I think you can agree that the process of sewing to a pattern is different from the process of tailoring. The latter includes the former, but to tailor something implies that bespoke changes will be made to custom fit a suit for a specific person. To do this, they employ a series of small alterations in order to make the garment’s fabric look the best it can on the wearer. 
“The best it can” means, simply: a great tailor will do everything possible to make you look great.

Car designers are often referred to as sculptors, but calling them tailors is more accurate: they utilize different elements to achieve the best-looking wrapper for the mechanical bits underneath. 

In the Shake’s case, I’ll talk more about where it got its parts from tomorrow, but for now I’m comfortable giving you a rundown on the donor car:

  • Rear-drive, French, compact car chassis
  • 1204cc, 4-cylinder engine
  • 85 horsepower
  • 179 km/h (111 mph top speed)
  • One of Giugiaro’s first designs

It’s one of those classic cars, like the Alfa Romeo Junior Zagato, that you hope will stay affordable forever. It’d be a shame if they never slipped into my financial reach. 

Anyway, I’d assume we can deduct a few ticks of performance off due to the Shake’s tires, which look like they were designed solely to shake the car. But man, do they look perfect on this car. Back to the styling: Italian curves, French proportions, tires from an Argo, lines from a dune buggy, and chrome fittings from a 1970s fishing boat.

Like the Runabout, the interior is completely exposed to the elements. But while the previous year’s concept had seats that were puffed like Moon Boots, the Shake had goth-inspired lawn chairs. For extra comfort, the aggressively ribbed spare sat between the two seats, doubling as an arm rest.

I’ve included as many photos as I could find of the Shake because, well, it’s jewellery.

As it relates to other dune buggies: there are some things best left to the professionals. It’s just a shame Bertone didn’t produce it. (And even worse, as you’ll discover if you watch the first video link, is that the car is currently undergoing restoration from a pretty sad state. Let’s hope it’s soon brought back to its former glory.)