Last September an important piece of drivable automotive history crossed the auction block for an epic $3.7 million dollars.
Built on a Maserati Bora platform, the Boomerang prototype was intended to inspire. And inspire it did.
In true exotic car fashion the chassis was mid-engine, with a 4.7 liter V8 mounted behind the passenger compartment. The gull-wing doors were almost all glass. The dashboard looked like something from a science fiction movie. One journalist at the time wrote it “looks like it’s going 100 mph sitting still.”
When originally unveiled in 1971, the Maserati Boomerang was merely a roller. Like most show cars it was a non-functional prototype. But when it was displayed at Geneva in 1972 it was a fully functional road car. It’s hard to imagine this futuristic car driving down the street today, let alone in 1972!
By 1974 the Boomerang had been sold to a private collector in Spain. It changed hands a couple more times, before eventually ending up in France and being restored in 2002. On September 5, 2015 the car was sold at auction by Bonhams for €3.335.000 (just shy of $3.7 million). To understand why requires a little automotive history lesson.
The Maserati Boomerang was a one-off concept car built by Giorgetto Giugiaro in the early years of his solo career. The car was an instant hit at the 1971 Salon di Torino and it’s true impact would continue to be felt for years to come. Most importantly, it was a major milestone in cementing Italdesign as a major player in the global automotive industry.
Giugiaro was an art student who began his career with Fiat’s styling center in the mid-Fifties. In 1959 he left Fiat for Carrozzeria Bertone, and at 21 became head of their styling department. He decided to strike out on his own and created Studi Italiani Realizzazione Prototipi SpA in 1968. The firm would eventually become Italdesign– best known for cars, but also responsible for designing Nikon cameras, motorcycles, computers, machine guns and pasta. His automotive designs read like a Who’s Who of beautiful cars. Giugiaro was named “Car Designer of the Century” in 1999.
While only one Boomerang was ever built, its effect on automotive styling reverberated for many years to come. The angular wedge shape became a hallmark of Giugiaro’s designs. One can easily see the Boomerang’s influence in other Giugiaro designs, such as the DeLorean DMC12 of Back to the Future fame. Even the mundane Volkwagen Golf/Rabbit has a slight family resemblance.
But not all of the Boomerang’s cutting edge features would make it into production. The unique gull-wing doors were almost completely glass. This idea was first seen on the Lamborghini Marzal, a Bertone show car that would heavily influence the Lamborghini Espada. The Boomerang added a small sliding section for ventilation, but it’s hard to imagine this offering much relief on a sunny day. Another unique idea was the integrated steering wheel and instrument cluster. This never appeared on production cars either, which is probably a good thing for the sanity of mechanics everywhere.
While $3.7 million sounds like a lot of money for a car, this car is comes with a lot of pedigree. Probably not a bad price for such an influential piece of motoring history.
Images courtesy Bonhams