We think of cross-sectional stunts, the more unorthodox the synergy the better, as a defining mark of our collab era. But more than four decades ago — long before Fendace or Arc’teryx X Jil Sander — fashion powerhouse Fiorucci conceived of an acutely precocious exercise in confluence, and, quite literally, driving the hype, it came in the form of a four-door sedan. To make their bonkers art car, the brand, then renowned for their baby angel tees and ahead-of-the-times stretch jeans, joined forces with Alfa Romeo automobiles, Pirelli tires, and radical Italian architects Ettore Sottsass and Andrea Branzi (who’d soon after start the Memphis movement, infamous for PoMo furniture befitting Pee-wee’s Playhouse). But since the 1978 Geneva Motor Show, where the proto-Memphis car made its debut, no one had seen the one-of-a-kind Alfa Romeo Guilietta Punk. Until now.
After being cloistered in private collections in Italy and France for over 40 years, rare car hunters Morton Street Partners (MSP) tracked down the Punk and brought it stateside this winter. Now, they’re sharing exclusive photos of the concept car, which has gained a cult following over the years. “There hasn’t been a picture of this car since… period,” explains design historian Tom Hale, who co-founded MSP, a collectible car advisory that specializes in sourcing, preserving, and exhibiting special vehicles like the Punk at their West Village gallery space. “It happens to have an engine and can move under its own power, but I think, at birth, this was always more of an art piece than a car.”
Faris Fetyani / MSP
The Punk practically screams “artsy,” with a splatter-style impasto paint job – splashes of green, red, blue, and yellow flung over a base of thick ivory-white. Its custom tires, courtesy of Pirelli, are made from a blue rubber compound, and there’s matching vinyl in the same peacock shade upholstering the bumper, side skirts, and wheel arches. Inside, the car is carpeted in fuzzy green and gold with fleece-y fabrics Fiorucci designed for the project. Wooden detailing like the sculptural stick lever are all hand-carved under the direction of Sottsass and Branzi, the most idiosyncratic being the handles on the inside of the passenger doors, which look like wooden toilet paper dowels dangling from strings. Hale acknowledges the car’s wacky and whimsical design language is evocative of the Memphis movement that emerged in the early ‘80s, but it’s more accurate to understand the car as part of the story of Studio Alchimia, founded in 1976, which Memphis grew out of (Sottsass and Branzi were part of both). “It is really like an Alchimia car,” says Hale.
Only one of these cars was ever made. The Milan-based independent coachbuilder Zagato was responsible for the manufacturing (it didn’t make sense to produce special editions like this one on the Alfa Romeo factory assembly line). When MSP eventually tracked the Punk down in the South of France, they were relieved to find the vehicle so well-preserved. “No one’s changed anything,” says Hale, audibly geeked on the condition. “All the novel features, everything is still intact.”
Back in 1978 when Fiorucci dreamed up this bizarre car collab, the brand was busy pioneering strategies for generating transdisciplinary cool. Two years before their “Punk” take on Alfa Romeo’s Giulietta, they’d opened a global concept store in Manhattan known as a “daytime Studio 54” where the likes of Andy Warhol, Truman Capote, Marc Jacobs, Kenny Scharf, and Betsey Johnson all crossed paths. One of the store’s sales leads, drag icon Joey Arias, remembers the legendary Lauren Bacall coming in one day and professing an “interest in sportswear” before ashing her cigarette in Arias’ hands. This is the same energy that the Punk is giving. Even today, when the design world feels over-saturated by attempts at producing something unexpected, this weird car is still generating intersection and spectacle with boundary-pushing style.