The late designer, Tom Tjaarda designed an SUV called the Laforza or the Rayton Fissore Magnum V8. The background of the vehicles is quite interesting and is another European design with a US sourced drivetrain.
Carrozzeria Fissore was a coach-builder based in Turin, northern Italy and were founded in 1919 to make horse drawn carts and it was in the 1930s that they started to create specialised bodies for cars and vans. Their heyday was the mid sixties and they created designs for many low volume European sports car manufacturers.
Four brothers created the company and it was one of the daughters who created Rayton Fissore to continue what her father and uncles had started after the carrozzeria had closed down. They employed Tjaarda to design a luxury SUV – Fissore had been building the Monteverdi SUV before that manufacturer closed down, so they had the experience.
The Magnum (aka Laforza for the US market) was based on an Iveco chassis. Iveco are known for their light and heavy trucks. The design is a classic 5-seater SUV in the same mould as a Ford Explorer, Dodge Durango or any number of similar vehicles – front engined with four-wheel-drive.
Being a low volume European brand, it was a “Heinz 57” vehicle. Designed by Tjaarda, an American, and built in Italy using bits from many different sources. For example, in Europe the car had a range of four cylinder petrol engines from FIAT and Alfa Romeo or diesel motors from Sofim (a joint venture between FIAT, Renault and Alfa Romeo). Later versions had engines from BMW or VM Motori, who sold diesels to many manufacturers. The transmissions were sourced from Peugeot or ZF.
The US versions had larger V8s from Ford or General Motors with extra power provided by superchargers. Lights, switches and other components all appear to be taken from the FIAT Group’s parts bin as well. The vehicles were built between 1985 and 2003 in Turin and apparently the US importer also built some in Michigan after 1990, and it appears that records weren’t a speciality of either assembly plant because no one really knows how many were built, although a figure of 1,200 was reported at one point.
One thing for sure about the Magnum/Laforza is that it was one of the first true luxury SUVs aimed at the mid to high end of the market – yet not so high as the Monteverdi or the Lamborghini LM002. It was on the market before Lexus had their LX series, Mercedes with the ML range (the G-Wagen was still quite agricultural) and many of the luxury Euro manufacturers were staying clear of this market segment. Even the Range Rover hadn’t fully gone up market by then.
The other oddity relates to the names. The Rayton Fissore name sometimes had a hyphen in their advertising and mixed both hyphenated and non-hyphenated in the the same advertisement! The name Laforza was used in the US for two probable reasons, the first was that Magnum would have been owned by Dodge and Laforza would have sounded Italian – rather like the De Macross I have also written about.