Great Shakes: Bertone’s Beach Buggy
Bertone wasn’t just a creator of elegantly-styled and achingly pretty cars. The legendary Italian carrozzeria also had a fantastic sense of fun and frivolity
The 1960s: mini-skirts, moon landings, music and a Missile Crisis… And beach buggies. A broad bevvy of buggies, each with balloon-bloated tyres seemingly capable of taking on a lunar landscape.
Lamborghinis Miura and Countach, Lancia Stratos, Fiat Abarth 131 Rally, the Alfa BAT cars and Giulietta Sprint – these are the cars associated with now defunct but still celebrated coachbuilding house Carrozzeria Bertone. Not a tractor-tyred open-top two-seater based on a Simca 1200S coupé that looks like it would be at home on the moon. But that’s exactly what we have here: ladies and gentleman, say ‘Buongiorno’ to the Bertone Shake.
With a fancy to make something to ride the dunes, the Shake was created in the same mould as the Meyers Manx buggy. Based on Volkswagen Beetle mechanicals, the Manx was the brainchild of Bruce F Meyers and was primarily intended to be a sand racing machine. Hugely popular in its day, the Californian Manx was much tougher than pseudo-beachcombers the Fiat 500 Jolly and Mini Moke. Even if they offered more competition culturally.
Zeroed in to be sold on a Middle Eastern market which never actually was, the Shake debuted at the 1970 Paris motor show. Incorporating many styling features from, and strikingly similar to, Bertone’s 1969 Autobianchi ‘Runabout’ concept, the Shake sadly remained resolutely a motor show curiosity – the Runabout went on to become the Fiat X1/9. It was no coincidence that the two were space-age stylish: car design legend Marcello Gandini was the man responsible for both screwball shapes.
Unlike the Runabout, the Shake adopted the Manx philosophy of a rear-mounted engine driving the rear wheels, made easier thanks to the pretty Simca donor car which shared the same layout. The twin-carbed, 80bhp four-cylinder 1,204cc Simca engine was exposed in a similar way to the Meyers creation or the Beetle-based ‘baja’ bugs, also built for desert racing. A shorter – by 200mm – wheelbase aided agility and appearance, and the new tubular steel frame and suspension components were strengthened.
A bright orange glassfibre tub body sat atop the rejigged mundane mechanicals. As well as its cartoon-like wheels and tyres, the Shake’s windscreen folded flat, while headlamps and air horns were mounted on the stylish chrome roll bar. Varying pictures show Chrysler’s pentagon star logo, and the reasoning is simple: Chrysler France was the name Simca went under at the time of the Shake’s birth. The inside of the Shake was as unadorned as the outside, with a trio of centre-dash dials, webbed leather on chrome tube-frame seats, as well as a chunky and strapped-in spare wheel. Perfect for those pesky desert punctures.
Two Shakes were reportedly built, with one allegedly destroyed following crash testing, the other sold off as part of Bertone’s bankruptcy car collection sale in September 2015. It was up for an estimated 12,000 euros – a bargain for such a piece of 1970s concept car nostalgia. You could own one for much less in the 1970s, as the Shake was immortalised in miniature in lurid pink or yellow-green colourways by Corgi Toys. Perhaps not splendid for the sandpit, but superb for skimming across the carpet.
Bertone’s buggy may not have created sizable shivers in either the concept or production car worlds, but its mere existence points to an boisterously entertaining side rarely seen by the illustrious coachbuilder. Shake, rattle, and indeed, roll.
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