Although the Magnum was positioned as a premium car, many of its components were sourced from series-production models; despite its long production life, in 18 years on the market only 6,000 examples were built.
The Rayton Fissore arose in 1976 from the ashes of the Fissore coachbuilder; straight away the intention of Cherasco’s new company, led by Giuliano Malvino, was to try its hand at the stylistic development of models on behalf of external clients. Various prototypes were presented over the years, including the Alfa Romeo 75 Wagon and Fiat Ritmo Cabriolet, which never reached mass production. The first Rayton Fissore-branded model, the Magnum, had to wait until the Turin Auto Show to be seen for the first time. Designed by Tom Tjaarda, designer of the Fiat 124 Spider and De Tomaso Pantera, the Magnum was reminiscent in some ways of the Fiat models of that time, especially the Fiat Uno, and was later nicknamed the Giant Uno for its large dimensions which were, however, well-camouflaged by the design, which lacked edges, in contrast to the fashions of the time, and with a clean design with large areas of glass, bumpers well-integrated into the bodywork and the absence of rain channels in the roof.
The level of fittings made it a true luxury car and amongst its standard equipment was air-conditioning, electric windows, hi-fi stereo system and interior fittings in precious metals. Structurally the Magnum had a square tubular frame to which the body panels were attached, a solution named UNIVIS, patented by Rayton Fissore itself. Under the bodywork was a robust chassis with side members and cross beams, supplied for almost the entire production of the vehicle by Caramanga’s Golden Car, which was set up in the Cherasco plant.
Although the Magnum was positioned as a premium car, many of its components were sourced from series-production models; despite its long production life, in 18 years on the market only 6,000 examples were built. In Italy, due to its large size and thirsty engines, it did not garner much acclaim, but despite this approximately 1,500 Magnums powered by VM Diesel engines were supplied to the Italian police. Later, this fact was investigated and prosecutions were brought against the company and various politicians and other companies as this huge number of vehicles was used, not for off-road use but for patrolling urban areas, where smaller and more agile cars would have been far more appropriate. But this use of an inappropriate fleet, the primary cause of the scandal, ended without any condemnation.
The long life of the Magnum was, as can be seen, very troubled and in almost twenty years of production, which ceased in Italy in 1993 but continued in America until 2003, there were several changes of ownership via bankruptcies and changes in brand-name ranging from Rayton Fissore to Magnum Industriale, before the final La Forza International. Despite this, the Italian SUV can be considered avante-garde for its time, and in fact it anticipated fashions and styles which have become very popular today with huge luxurious cars like the Magnum being very common on our roads.
Text by Tommaso Lai
Translation by Norman Hawkes
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