Remembering Pierre Cardin's automotive legacy

Joe Lorio
·2 min read

Pierre Cardin has passed away at age 98, and while the designer had a great impact on the world of fashion, he also brought his signature style to the automotive realm, chiefly with the unlikely partner of American Motors.

At the dawn of the 1970s, AMC decided to seek out a little glamour for its freshly renewed product lineup by having famous fashion designers work their magic on AMC cars. The first model to get the fashion treatment was the Hornet Sportabout wagon, with a special Gucci edition that became available for 1972. Later that same year, Pierre Cardin's Javelin was introduced.

The Cardin Javelin arrived midway through the '72 model year as an interior option package. The designer had submitted as many as 10 proposals to AMC, and the chosen selection was a black interior with a wild multi-hued stripe of silver, white, red and purple that grooved across the seats, touched the door panels and continued onto the headliner. "People should feel like they're sitting in a living room rather than a machine," the designer was quoted in ads introducing his eponymous Javelin. In a press release, AMC said, "Cardin takes an ultra-modern abstract approach to his interior design."

The Cardin interior option package was available with specific exterior colors: Snow White, Stardust Silver, Trans Am Red, and Wild Plum. For the '73 model year, Diamond Blue was a new exterior color option.

The Pierre Cardin option was only $85 and was offered exclusively on the Javelin SST, although it's reported that the Pierre Cardin option also appeared on a handful of Javelin AMX models. For 1973, you could officially get a Pierre Cardin Javelin AMX. A total of 4,152 were built over the two model years.

AMC's next fashion special was the Matador coupe, but the automaker tapped Oleg Cassini for that gig. Pierre Cardin was not finished with the automobile business, though.

In 1975, he put his touch on the Sbarro Stash, an obscure supercar based on the SV1, with the result displayed at the Paris auto show. The designer next customized a run of early-'80s Cadillac Eldorados, and this time the treatment extended beyond the interior. A redesigned front end featured hidden headlights behind a full-width horizontal-car grille but unfortunately made the already-considerable front overhang even longer; the rear treatment was similarly modified with the factory vertical taillights replaced with horizontal units. The interior wasn't neglected, of course, and included a built-in bar, a TV/VCR combo, leather everywhere, and lambswool carpets. The Cadillac Eldorado Evolution by Pierre Cardin cost nearly triple the price of a standard Eldorado at $58,000 ($166,000 in today's money). It's believed that fewer than 100 were built.

Interesting, but we'll take a '72 Javelin — in Majestic Plum, of course.