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By July 14, 2014 Read More →

Bertone designers were a who’s who of styling skills

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‘Though his name would become synonymous with some of the most gorgeous automotive design’s evercreated, Nuccio Bertone was not one of the world’s greatest automotive designers.

However, perhaps no one was more adept than Bertone at identifying those who could — and indeed would — create many of the world’s most aesthetically pleasing motor vehicles.”

Those words were how I began the chapter on Stile Bertone in my book, Masters of Car Design. The book was published in 2008.

As part of my research, I traveled to northern Italy to conduct interviews and to visit Pininfarina, Bertone, Giugiaro’s ItalDesign and Fioravanti (during his career, Leonardo Fioravanti designed more Ferraris than anyone else).

Most were located in or very close to Torino, but I found Bertone well west of that city, tucked in at the foot of a cliff and next to a rock quarry into the long Val di Susa in the Piedmont hills. I mention that rock quarry because many of the famous photographs of Bertone’s most amazing designs were shot within that quarry.

I have to write “were” because, technically, Stile Berone is no more. Late last week, news arrived that the company could not meet an Italian bankruptcy court deadline to find new investors and officially is bankrupt. The process begins soon to sell what remains.

The B.A.T. cars | Bertone archives

The B.A.T. cars | Bertone archives

I’d be tempted to write “what little remains” except that those remains include several buildings in a beautiful setting and the company’s amazing car collection.

Because that collection has been declared part of Italy’s historic national heritage, the cars must be sold as one: the group must remain intact, which we presume to mean they must remain together as long as they stay in Italy.

Ah, and what cars they are, all those amazing cars and concepts that I saw arrayed around a huge room beneath the design studios, cars designed by the likes of Giovanni Michelotti, Franco Scaglione, Giorgetto Giugiaro, Marcello Gandini, Marc Deschamps, Luciano d’Ambrosio and Eugenio Pogliano — all hired by Bertone himself — and later by David Wilkie, Michael Robinson and their design staffs.

Nuccio was Guiseppe Bertone’s nickname. Bertone’s father was a carriage maker known for using only the finest of materials — he hand-picked logs and marked them with a special hammer that produced his initials, much like a cowboy ranch’s branding iron. Bertone Sr. went from building carriages to building car bodies, particularly for Lancia.

In 1934, Bertone added two people to his workshop — his 20-year-old son, Nuccio, and Count Maio Reveli de Beaumont, an amazingly talented 29-year-old car designer.

When World War II ended, Nuccio was in charge of the family business. Though educated in business and accounting, he nonetheless designed and crafted a simple but beautiful barchetta body that turned a pre-war Fiat into his personal racing car. That may have been the only car he ever designed, but he certainly could identify design talent and soon hired Giovanni Michelotti, who had been at Vignale, to create sports car bodies for American industrialist Stanley “Wacky” Arnolt.

His next hire was Franco Scaglione, who was responsible for three of the most amazing concept cars ever created — the Alfa Romeo-basedB.A.T. (Berlinetta Aerodinamica Technia) 5, 7 and 9.

Scaglione worked at Bertone through the 1950s. His loss might have been devastating for any design studio, but Bertone simply reloaded, this time with a promising 21-year-old named Giorgetto Giugiaro, whose talent was much more than promising and who would be declared the outstanding automotive designer of the 20th Century in a poll of experts.

The Miura | Larry Edsall

The Miura | Larry Edsall

Giugiaro would be hired away by Ghia, but Bertone then found another budding young design superstar, 27-year-old Marcello Gandini, who almost immediately penned the world’s first supercar, the low-slung, mid-engine Lamborghini Miura.

And the hits, especially in the form of stunning concept cars for a long list and wide variety automakers, just kept on coming. Deschamps worked with Gandini and then succeeded him.

Nuccio Bertone died in 1997 and at first, the designs continued to be plenty and pleasing. Ten years later, Stile Bertone created the Barchetta, a concept based on an update of Niccio’s own sports car.

Despite mounting financial setbacks, the company celebrated its centennial in 2012 with a concept car named for Nuccio himself.

Soon, however, there would be a date with the bankruptcy court and now, the demise of one of the world’s most famous design studios.larry-sig

Posted in: Commentary

About the Author:

A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the Web and becoming the author of more than 15 books. In addition to writing for ClassicCars.com, Larry oversees automotive enthusiast website iZoom.com, writes a weekly feature for The Detroit News, writes occasional articles for the The New York Times, and teaches as an adjunct member of the faculty at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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