Now, when each car manufacturer has an army of its own designers, independent studios do not luxuriate much: there is not much work, every client is worth its weight in gold. In the eighties, everything was different: for example, Pininfarina lived off Ferrari orders, and Bertone – on money of Lamborghini, Citroen, Fiat… That is why ateliers could afford such luxury, as creation of own show-cars simply for demonstration of their possibilities.
The car in question was born at the suggestion of Marc Deschamps, who was the lead designer of Centro Stile Bertone in the late 1980s. Deschamps thought it would be a good idea to combine the practicality of minivans with the sportiness of supercars – and create something extraordinary, radical. Something, what the world has not seen yet. In Western Europe, minivans were gaining popularity (mainly due to the Renault Espace), so Deschamps had no doubt that the idea should shoot up
The bold concept car, called the Genesis, was unveiled at the Turin Motor Show on April 21, 1988. The Columbus concept, created by Italdesign together with BMW, was still three years away, the Renault Espace F1 was six years away, the Mercedes R 63 AMG even more. It means that Genesis has become the first sports minivan on the planet. After all sports modifications of the Transit are already the cars of other plan.
Since Genesis was first of all the show car, it had to have unusual appearance. And here Deschamps tried his best: the car with length of 4,475 millimeters had two meters width, thanks to what Genesis looked stocky and sports. The wheelbase length was 2,650 millimeters – exactly like the Lamborghini Espada. A coincidence? Certainly not! Genesis is constructed exactly on the chassis of Lamborghini. Therefore, the real V12 from Lamborghini Countach Quattrovalvole, which develops 455 horse forces, is hidden inside it. And even the Urus cannot boast of such luxury.
For better comfort, the five-speed “mechanics” was replaced with a three-speed automatic TorqueFlite of American production. At that time, the company Lamborghini belonged to Chrysler corporation, therefore the choice of transmission was quite obvious. But, as those who managed to drive Genesis said, the new gearbox became the main trouble of the car – because of stretched gears the “top” motor took very long to untwist, and the 5.2-liter V12 did not feel 455 horsepower. Therefore with real “sportsmanship”, in spite of the rear drive, the concept was not so smooth.
Another problem for the Genesis was its excess weight: the minivan weighed 1,800 kilograms, and for a Lamborghini chassis such weight was unaffordable. Therefore, the Genesis drove over bumps rather roughly – the passengers would hardly have been happy. One more disadvantage, which became a consequence of extra weight, was a weak braking efficiency. As testers told, to stop the minivan it was always necessary to press the pedal to the floor and trust in the higher forces.
As for the rest, Genesis turned out more than successful. Especially concerning design. Are there a lot of minivans in the world, which have front doors as “gull wings”? How many vans of that era could offer an almost panoramic front window? Even in 2020, the Bertone Genesis looks bold and provocative. After all, it was not for nothing that Deschamps and his subordinates spent 30,000 man-hours on the car.
But a minivan wouldn’t be a minivan if it didn’t have a practical interior. And in that respect, the Genesis proved to be a pretty well-thought-out and functional car. It had five seats, electrically adjustable seats, adjustable footrests, and a television. In addition, the front seats could rotate 180 degrees, turning the interior of the concept car into a small conference room. High-quality alcantara was used in the interior, which was only gaining popularity in those years.
Since the Bertone Genesis was originally conceived as a show car, it had no chance of really becoming the most practical Lamborghini. Nevertheless, the project was appreciated in Santa Agata. Theoretically Genesis could grow to a serial model – thanks to production facilities, where LM002 was assembled, were loaded hardly by half. But the questionable prestige of the minivan and not the most favorable financial situation forced the Lamborghini management to abandon this idea.
Now the Bertone Genesis belongs to the exposition of the Automotoclub Storico Italiano and occasionally goes out to themed events.