Despite turning 67 on August 7, celebrated designer Giorgetto Giugiaro isn't even thinking about retirement. Instead the Italian design guru is working on his latest concept, a sports car prototype that will crown a 50-year career as a car designer.

The concept likely will cause a sensation when it is unveiled at the Tokyo motor show in October. Asked for a sneak preview, Giugiaro was coy: "Wait and see, otherwise it won't be a surprise," he said.

Giugiaro is used to causing sensations. At the 2002 Geneva show, he unveiled a concept coupe car called the Brera that delighted show visitors with its sleek lines. Alfa Romeo was so impressed it decided to change its entire lineup to look like the Brera. It scrapped late-stage designs to replace the Alfa Spider by Pininfarina and the 156 replacement by the Alfa styling centre and asked Giugiaro to derive a new, four-model range from the Brera concepts.

The first of these cars - the 159 lower-premium sedan that replaced the 156 and the Brera coupe, which replaced the GTV premium coupe, debuted at the Geneva show in March. The 159 wagon and the Brera Spider will debut at Geneva next year.

Giugiaro's career in car design began in September 1955 when he joined Fiat in Turin at the age 16 as a colour rendering illustrator for the company's special vehicle department that designed sports cars. His salary was worth €350 a month in today's money, "a salary that at the time looked like a fortune", he said.

Aged 21, Giugiaro left Fiat to become chief designer for the Italian design house Bertone. He founded his own company Italdesign Giugiario in 1968.

Over the last half century, Giugiaro's name has become synonymous with Italian zest in car design. By far the most prolific designer in automotive history, he has penned more than 150 production cars, and a further 100 concept cars. Of these, the most commercially successful was the first-generation Volkswagen Golf, launched in 1974, which sold more than six million units.

The most influential on other designers was the Megagamma concept car, which in 1978 set the tone for minivan design for the next 25 years.

Giugiaro's own favourite is the 1980 Fiat Panda, which was in production for a full quarter century.

But first Giugiaro is waiting for the critics' verdict on his latest production model, the third-generation Fiat Punto, which debuts at the Frankfurt show next month.

Automotive News Europe