70’s Alternative Luxury: The Deauville and the Fidia

If you were a (very) well to do person in the 1970’s and you wanted a big sporty luxury car, you’d be spoiled for choice. The 70’s were filled with fast, stunning, exotic options for the buyer who just wanted to absolutely stunt on folks. Rolls Royce had the Silver Shadow, Jaguar the XJ12, Mercedes the 450 SEL and Maserati, the Quattroporte. But what if you wanted more? More exclusivity, more of a wow factor sort of deal? Well, then you might have considered one of these two very tempting and very expensive alternatives: the sleek De Tomaso Deauville or the striking Iso Fidia.

A seasoned professional of the reimagining, repackaging and reutilizing cycle, when it came time to put together a big luxury car, Alejandro De Tomaso simply began to take inventory of what his own company and Maserati had lying around. Remember that in ’76, Citroen dropped Maserati and De Tomaso picked up the once successful manufacturer, with the whole affair ending in the 90’s with mixed results.

1982 De Tomaso Deauville Series II (front)

The beautiful Deauville would end up being assembled on the Quattroporte III’s chassis and the engine choice was settled on the familiar Ford Cleveland V8s, the same ones used in the Panteras. Even the very notion of the Deauville is supposed to be a bit of a recycling job, since initially the car is said to have been a Ford project. Carrozeria Ghia was reportedly hired by the American giant to handle the creation of a new luxury sedan for the European market. The brilliant and prolific Tom TJaarda became the designer in charge of the project. Tjaarda was actually no stranger to De Tomaso, having been responsible for bringing the Pantera to life. Even before that, he had already designed another De Tomaso, a concept called the Mustela I, a stylish little fastback. So when Ford dropped the idea, Alejandro ran with it and for what would eventually become the Deauville, Tjaarda went back to the Mustela’s styling cues, developing the design language into a full size luxury sedan.

1982 De Tomaso Deauville Series II (front 2)1982 De Tomaso Deauville Series II (rear)

The Deauville premiered at the 1970 Turin Motor Show, where it raised a lot of eyebrows. There’s nothing wrong with it, but people got the impression that the car had a few too many similarities to Jaguar’s XJ. Drama…! Tjaarda took offense to the comments and sure, there are indeed similarities between the two, but personally we don’t feel they’re that blatant and both cars just feel really different from each other.

1982 De Tomaso Deauville Series II (interiors - front)1982 De Tomaso Deauville Series II (rear seat)

In 1971 the Deauville went into production, a very limited production we might add since it had a run of just under 250 units. Still, within the low numbers, De Tomaso managed to put forward 2 series of Deauvilles, the first from 1970 to 1977 and the second from 1978 until the end of production in 1985. Plus, there was also a single amazing estate called “Giardinetta” made especially for Alejandro De Tomaso’s wife, Elizabeth Haskell.

De Tomaso Deauville Giardinetta

With such a limited run, Deauvilles are hard to find but prices aren’t insane yet. The one we’re featuring here for instance, a Series II with the chunky plastic bumpers, is currently for sale in Belgium by Speed 8 Classics for 75.000 Euros (83.228 USD), significant money for sure, but for such a rare, obscure pièce de résistance for your garage it really doesn’t seem like a wild amount.

 

There’s no talking about out of the ordinary, exclusive 70’s sporty sedans without bringing up the Iso Fidia. This is one truly striking car, just look at the damn thing…it’s unbelievably neat! We all know Iso as the manufacturer who gave us one of the finest Grand Tourers of all time – the Grifo – but the Fidia is often forgotten.

1973 Iso Fidia (copy)

First appearing in 1967 and then launched in ’69, the Fidia gets its name from the sculptor “Phidias”, the man responsible for some of the most incredible statues of ancient Greece. Because of this, Iso presented the Fidia to the press in Athens, which in hindsight wasn’t the brilliant marketing coup the company was expecting because with only one car available to journalists filled with crappy local gas, the test drives felt less than stellar and the Fidia’s public reputation became damaged right from the start.

Although not officially split into two series, production of the Fidia had a couple of major shifts. First, in 1971, the interiors were revamped (mainly borrowed from the Iso Lele) with the wooden dashboards being replaced by stylish, leather wrapped ones and in 1973, the 327 Chevy engines were replaced with 5.8L V8s from Ford.  The power plant switch happened because of some unclear behind the scenes drama between Iso, GM and some other manufacturer but long story short, General Motors began demanding payment in advance so Iso turned to the competition.

As was the case with the Deauville, the Fidia would also end up being a very rare car; dealing with the same issues as the De Tomaso – a sky high price tag in an oil crash/recession setting – the first and only 4 door Fidia was limited to just 192 units. But quality over quantity, folks…and this thing was indeed a quality automobile. With a pretty decent V8 and interiors fit for royalty, the Fidia attracted some interesting clientele in its day like Pete Townshend, John Lennon and Sonny Bono.

1973 Iso Fidia 3 (copy)

Design-wise, to paraphrase John Mulaney, we don’t have time to unpack all of this, but we’ll at least go through the major stuff. First of all, it’s important to note that the Iso Fidia is a creation of grand master Giorgetto Giugiaro, the man responsible for the Grifo, the De Tomaso Mangusta, and many other achingly beautiful designs. Notice how low the Fidia appears to be thanks to the subtle line of the side windows which dips just a little bit before rising again in the back to complement the rear quarter panels. Let’s also appreciate the mastery involved in creating that C-pillar, with the roof line pushed back just enough to allow the rear window to have that curved shape at the top, giving the rear passenger great visibility out even when comfortably leaned back on the seat. The front and rear are simple, no nonsense straight lines complemented by gentle curves; there are no gimmicks, nothing over the top, just some basic headlines, some taillights borrowed from the Fiat 124 Sport Coupe and a couple of badges.

1973 Iso Fidia 2 (copy)

The Fidia is deceitfully complex; at first you’re taken in by the size and the sheer presence/charisma of the thing but then, the more you look, the finer and more delicate details you come across. There’s a wonderfully subtle appeal from it, something only brilliant minds like Giugiaro and Gandini could ever achieve: make you realize a car is special long before you can even begin to understand why, before you study the details, before you know the history, before you even give it a second, close look. The Fidia is that kind of creation.

Iso Fidia interiorIso Fidia interior 3

As is the case with the De Tomaso, the Iso is – unsurprisingly – a rare find. However, given its even lower production numbers, the small price difference between the two seems a bit odd, but that’s where the market is at the moment. The example featured in this article (exterior) was sold at auction by Coys in 2017 for just over 70.000 Euros (77.535 USD). The interior shots are from a different Fidia, again available at Speed 8 Classics, with an asking price of 89.000 Euros (98.580 USD).

Image credits – Deauville: Speed 8 Classics

Image credits – Fidia: Coys; Speed 8 Classics

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