Introducing the company’s “Seville by Gucci” in 1978, Aldo Gucci proclaimed, “The Gucci styling we have created for this car is designed to give a fortunate few owners a rare possession of distinction, beauty and ultimate luxury”. He went on to indicate designing the car had been one of the most challenging and intriguing projects he had ever undertaken. While the Cadillac Seville may be the best-known Gucci branded automobile, it wasn’t the company’s first. Nor it’s last.
(A photo slideshow at end of article shows all years & models discussed)
GUCCI FIRST PAIRS UP WITH AMERICAN MOTORS
During the early 1970s American Motors Corporation (AMC) was taking a marketing direction no carmaker had before, reaching out to clothing designers to put their names on “designer” editions of its various car models. Agreements were forged with Levis, Pierre Cardin, and namely Gucci for the 1972 model year. Thus began Gucci’s foray into the automotive world, and the Hornet Gucci Edition was born.
Available only in the highest trim “Sportabout” station wagon for the 1972 and 1973, the $142 option package featured Gucci striped green/red/beige colors on vinyl seats and door panels. Gucci Edition exterior paint colors offered were snow white, hunter green, grasshopper green, and yuca tan. 2,584 Gucci Edition 1972 Hornets and 2,252 ’73 Gucci Edition Hornets were sold.
While many felt Gucci’s affiliation with American Motors economy cars devalued the double-G image, it’s important to note the Gucci Hornet inspired Lincoln to create similar designer versions of its Mark IV luxury car – beginning with the 1976 model year and lasting well into the 1980s. Because Lincoln did not want to use designers previously affiliated with lowly American Motors, Gucci and the rest were snubbed in favor of Hubert Givenchy, Bill Blass, Emilio Pucci, and Cartier. (See our article on Lincoln Mark Vs for full details http://bit.ly/ICqU7l ).
Call it brand envy, but Aldo Gucci did not wish his family’s double-G logo to go down in history as an ersatz automotive designer. He felt it worthy of the best, so when Lincoln product planners turned down his proposal for a Gucci Mark V Edition, he went across town to General Motors. While Cadillac division heads had no interest in producing any factory designer editions themselves, Gucci was told GM would not object to him outfitting their cars himself in the aftermarket. While they did not grant permission to call his planned creations “Cadillac Seville Gucci Edition” or sell them through Cadillac’s national dealer network, he was allowed to badge them as “Seville by Gucci”.
Because Gucci had no hands-on production experience with automobiles (American Motors took care of all the heavy lifting bringing his Hornet wagon interior design into production), he was going to need a partner to execute his ideas if he was going to go it on his own. Enter I.A.D. Inc…
INTERNATIONAL AUTOMOTIVE DESIGN INCORPORATED (I.A.D.) BECOMES GUCCI’s AUTOMOTIVE PARTNER
Founded in 1976 in England, I.A.D. first began by doing design work on railroad cars before branching quickly into automotive body / chassis engineering, design, styling, and finally small scale production. Of note, I.A.D. was contracted by Mazda in the 1980s to replicate the best of bygone English sports cars – ultimately creating the exterior and interior design of the 1990 Mazda Miata. In 1993, I.A.D. went into receivership after which design and engineering groups were sold to the Korean conglomerate Daewoo Motors.
After opening offices in the United States in 1977, I.A.D. partnered with Gucci to create prototype Cadillacs out of their Miami branch. Gucci wanted a car with fresh modern styling and prestige to use as a canvas, and none met that criteria better at the time than the Cadillac Seville (introduced as a completely new model for 1976 to compete with intermediate-sized luxury makes such as Mercedes and BMW).
SEVILLE BY GUCCI IS CREATED
Once plans were finalized, Sevilles by Gucci were ordered from the factory as stock production vehicles without padded roofs and delivered to a Cadillac dealer in Miami where they were purchased by I.A.D.’s nearby facility. Gucci offered a choice of white, black, and brown exterior paint choices but specified saddle-colored leather interiors on every one.
Practically every Seville option was ordered from the factory as well, including a new-for-1978 digital trip computer/speedometer and wire wheel covers. If a customer wanted the optional diesel engine for $350 or the astro roof for $1,400, the cars were ordered from Cadillac so equipped.
Once the cars made it to I.A.D.’s location, plain metal roofs would be covered on the rearmost part by Gucci patterned fabric. Gucci green-and-red stripes were decaled onto trunks and hoods. All Cadillac logos were removed from the grille, wheel covers, trunk, steering wheel and interiors…replaced by 24-karat gold Gucci emblems (see picture slide show for a closer look). Perhaps for effect, the gold logos were emphasized as “imported from Florence”.
Interior headliners were removed and replaced with Gucci pattern fabric. Headrests, armrests and more were equipped with the green-and-red trademark Gucci colors. And, last but not least, a fitted set of Gucci luggage came in the trunk.
For the 1978 and 1979 model years, Gucci Sevilles were built on General Motors rear-wheel-drive “X body” chassis which also underpinned the Chevrolet Nova of the same vintage. It is unknown exactly how many ’78 Gucci Sevilles were created, but it is known that a record 200 of them were built for the ’79 model year. Prices without diesel engine and sunroof were $19,900 for 1978, increasing to $22,900 at the end of the ’79 body style run.
1980 – THE SEVILLE IS REDESIGNED BY CADILLAC
While length, width, and wheelbase measurements remained approximately the same as before, the 1980-85 Seville was a complete redesign from the 1976-79 body style. Basically a 4-door version of Cadillac’s Eldorado coupe introduced a year earlier, the new Seville had front-wheel-drive and a sloping rear trunk styled as a throwback to early-1900s luxury coaches.
Gucci and I.A.D. continued with the same formula inside and out (see slideshow for pictures), producing a decreasing number each year through the 1984 model year.
Because the first-generation Seville by Gucci was more popular new than the second one, 1978-79s are far easier to find today than 1980-84 ones are…and are in higher demand (valued at $13,000 for first-gen models vs. $9,500 for second-gen models, assuming clean, good condition).
GUCCI RETURNS TO THE AUTOMOTIVE SCENE WITH THE 2012 FIAT 500 GUCCI EDITION
With tastefully restrained exterior and interior striping, the new Fiat 500 (which marked the Italian automaker’s return to the United States in 2010) Gucci Edition is a factory authentic offering, available in black and white exteriors. For pictures, see slideshow below
For details and ordering specifications, see Fiat’s website http://www.fiatusa.com/en/gucci/exterior/