I must say I've been taken by two of the concepts shown at the recent Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este: the convertible MINI Touring Superleggera Vision concept and the Lamborghini 5-95 Zagato.
The MINI, because it shows what the current Roadster should have looked like. The Lamborghini, because its Zagato bodywork points to a future where perhaps all supercars don't have to look the same.
"Wait, what if there was an Italian, coachbuilt, classic Mini…?" I asked myself.
While it's quite rare for modern subcompacts to be rebodied into junior sports cars, back in the 1960s it was a common practice. Mechanicals from such "People's Cars" as the Fiat 500, Volkswagen Beetle, Mini Cooper, and even Citroën 2CV were host to a number of distinct derivatives
They were so inexpensive to start with that it wasn't like a kit car company or upcoming stylist couldn't afford to construct at least one prototype—unlike if you wanted to purchase and restyle a Ferrari, Aston Martin, Maserati, or any other high-end car.
Those are precisely the vehicles that Ercole Spada, formerly of Zagato, was asked to restyle during his tenure from 1960 to 1969.
Debuting in 1961 at the London Motor Show, the Zagato Mini Gatto is a stylish 2+2 coupé version of the Mini hatchback. Wrapping the longer Mini van chassis in a gorgeous, Italian body may seem silly—but at the time, the Mini was a stunning competition car capable of upsetting faster cars when the conditions were right.
The Gatto, with its aluminum body, was designed by Spada that from many angles looks like Zagato's restyling of the Lancia Fulvia Coupe. "Gatto" is Italian for "cat," by the way.
Thanks to the efforts of automotive writer Jeroen Booij, who tracked the car down, it's now understood that the Gatto is currently under restoration work to bring it back to its former glory.
That will be a sweet day, indeed.
Zagato's design was one of many—many—vehicles based on the Mini. So many, in fact, that a writer is on his second book about Mini derivatives.
Those derivatives are so numerous—and would probably fill the next year of this publication—but they're stories for another day.