- Written by webmin
The years following World War II provided perhaps the greatest experimentation with the automobile since the first couple decades of the Twentieth Century. In those years the microcar became a European staple, the sports car spread to the United States and drivetrains started to move away from the traditional front-engine, rear-wheel-drive layouts. Also in those years, two men – one in California, the other in Italy – introduced streamlined vehicles with diamond-pattern wheel layouts.
Their ideas weren’t new: According to Karl Ludvigsen, writing in Hemmings Sports and Exotic Car #53 about the Pininfarina X concept of 1960, the diamond-pattern layout (what Ludvigsen calls the “lozenge-style layout”) was pioneered by Wolseley and Gabriel Voisin before the war. That two men so far distant from one another would come up with similar ideas at about the same time, however, warrants further inspection.
Unfortunately, we know very little about Alberto Gorgoni’s diamond from 1946, which we first saw when David Greenlees sent us a picture of it a few months ago. According to Autopuzzles, the body was to be built out of fiberglass and it was to be called “Via Col Vento.” We’re skeptical about the Via Col Vento for a few reasons. First, we haven’t found even a mention of Gorgoni, of Rome, Italy, in any literature or automobile reference books. Second, the photos we’ve seen appear to have been taken with forced perspective and were subsequently heavily retouched. Third, while fiberglass was indeed used as insulation starting in the late 1930s and through the war, its use as an alternative to steel and aluminum in car bodies wasn’t pioneered until several years after the war. All of this leads us to believe Gorgoni never built a full-scale prototype.
H. Gordon Hansen of San Lorenzo, California, however, not only built a working prototype of his diamond from 1945-1947, he also put 95,000 miles on it over the next 20 years. Hansen, who first envisioned the diamond in 1943, simply wanted to build a safety vehicle with a wraparound bumper, but found that such a bumper would have been too bulky on a normal four-wheeled vehicle. He considered a three-wheeler too unstable, so he settled on a diamond shape, powered by a Ford flathead V-8 mounted ahead of the rear wheel and driving the center axle. As he told Special Interest Autos in 1971, the arrangement permitted tighter steering, made for a smoother ride, and allowed for an extremely streamlined shape. Both Popular Mechanics and Popular Science gave Hansen’s diamond a page each in 1948-1949, and Hansen said that Packard, Kaiser-Frazer and the Bank of America were all interested in the design, but never followed through. He sold the diamond to Harrah’s in 1967 and, according to comments at CarLust, it is currently in a private collection in Missoula, Montana.
Hansen was a tinkerer, inventor and engineer and surely would have taken notice of Gorgoni’s diamond had he seen it; did he? Did Gorgoni take inspiration from Hansen? Or were both men influenced by another diamond-layout vehicle, perhaps Voisin’s? Until we know more about Gorgoni and his vehicle, we may never know the answers to these questions.