GENEVA – Do you want to pet a crocodile? Probably not, but watching one from a safe distance can be fascinating.

That is the design philosophy behind the Bertone Nuccio, a concept marking the Italian coach builder’s 100th anniversary.

“To celebrate 100 years, it has to be wild enough,” says Bertone head designer Carlos Arroya Turon, a Spaniard who has worked at Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai-Kia. The car was named for the late Nuccio Bertone, “and he was a giant. It has to be worthy of him, what he would do.”

The model is a radical, low-profile, 1-box design in the Bertone tradition, loaded with details that make a concept car fun.

But the Nuccio is more than a design study, Turon says. A second car, one that runs, is being finished in Italy and will be taken to the Beijing auto show in April, after which it will be sold to a Chinese customer for E2.5 million-E3 million ($3.3 million-$4.0 million).

More than that, says Turon, “some Russians are pushing already. We might make a small series.”

The crocodile inspiration is apparent in the car’s rubber roof, which has a scaly appearance, and in the “eyes” formed by raised areas over the doors and the rear air intakes. Rear-view mirrors are almost teeth-like parallelograms.

As the car approaches from behind, “you see the crocodile eyes (looking) at you,” Turon says. “You see it is dangerous beauty.”

The windshield reaches almost to the front bumper. The roof is orange, Nuccio Bertone’s favorite color. Taillights shine behind clear plastic covers that act as spoilers, and there is real spoiler that rises from the rear at speeds above 93 mph (150 km/h). A diffuser adds its down force at the back.

The car is fast and aerodynamic. The midship 470-hp V-8 is sourced from a European luxury maker, and air is fed to it through the intakes built into the Nuccio’s C-pillar.

“When you open the door, the car asks, ‘Are you brave enough to drive me?’ says Turon. “The A-pillars close in toward the front; all the lines direct you forward. You want to go fast.”

The Nuccio recalls the Lancia Stratos designed by Nuccio Bertone in the 1970s, but with modern technology.

There is no rear window. A camera on the roof fills the interior rear-view mirror with an image, and if the driver turns to look backwards, he sees a window-wide screen with the camera view. The driver can adjust the zoom.

The project started last November, Turon says, so the Bertone team had to work rapidly to complete the car on time. The Geneva concept will be displayed at the Turin National Car Museum in May and in August it will be at the Concorso Italiano at Laguna Seca in California.