1970s / Audi / German / Italdesign Giugiaro / Italian / Karmann

A look at the 1973 Audi-based Karmann Asso di Picche concept

73002CItaldesign Giugiaro presented an Audi 80-based concept car called Asso di Picche at the 1973 edition of the Frankfurt Motor Show. Commissioned and built by German coachbuilder Karmann, the Asso di Picche (a name that means “ace of spades” in Italian) was the first installment in a series of three experimental coupes designed to possibly spawn a production vehicle.

The Asso di Picche borrowed styling cues such as its wedge-shaped body and its angular lines from previous Giugiaro concepts like the 1972 Maserati Bora-based Boomerang and the 1971 Alfa Romeo Caimano. Quad round headlights and horizontal tail lamps were the only visual links between the Asso di Picche and the first-gen 80.

Inside, the instrument cluster and the center console were both replaced by cylinder-shaped structures that grouped the gauges, the climate control switches and miscellaneous warning lights into a single unit. Leather upholstery and door pockets shaped like hand bags added a touch of class to the overall ambiance, while the monospoke steering wheel was as wild as the exterior design.

audi-karmann-asso-di-piche-4Karmann and Giugiaro hoped Audi would turn the coupe into a limited-production model so they agreed to build it on a relatively unmodified 80 chassis and ensured it could be fitted with either a 1.3-liter or a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine lifted from the Audi parts bin. Both engines would have sent power to the front wheels via a manual transmission, but performance specifications were never published and whether or not the concept was functional is up in the air.

Audi liked the Asso di Picche but it was not interested in adding the concept to its catalog of models. The automaker explained it preferred to focus its resources on successfully launching a full lineup of passenger cars before turning its attention to a low-volume model such as a sporty coupe.

To complicate the matter, execs from parent company Volkswagen were afraid an Audi coupe would steal the spotlight from the Scirocco that was scheduled to launch the following year. The coupe consequently remained a one-off show car.

The remaining aces
The Asso di Quadri (ace of diamonds) made its debut at the 1976 Turin Motor Show. Based on a BMW 320 (E21), it featured a wedge-shaped silhouette inspired by the Asso di Picche but it was toned down and generally less harsh. It was again designed to be turned into a production model but turned down by BMW’s top brass.

There was no Asso di Cuori (ace of hearts), so Giugiaro’s series was wrapped up at the 1979 Geneva Motor Show with the Asso Di Fiori (ace of clubs), a close-to-production coupe based on the Isuzu Gemini and designed to preview a successor to the 117 Coupe. The Asso di Fiori was given the green light for production with only minor modifications and added to the Isuzu lineup as the Piazza.

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