Turin and the art of coachbuilders (1946-1980)

First of all Massimo Porta is an “old” friend: I met him during the army service – 45 year ago more or less – and we did many things together.

For this reason, I can talk about his book “Turin and the art of coachbuilders (1946-1980)” without any fear of being biased.

Massimo Porta is neither a writer nor a designer and he has never worked in an automotive company.

In the everyday life he is a doctor, professor at the Turin University and Head of Internal Medicine at an hospital in Turin.
He is an enthusiast of classic cars, collectors and specially a proud knower of his city, he rediscovered and evokes a world that kids like us, grown up in Turin during the period 1950-1970, had missed.

The book deals with coachbuilders and designers who, together with FIAT, made Turin the world capital of the automotive.

You will find pictures and histories of protagonists of an “art” which, in those years, was developing in Turin, only apparently grey and boring, crushed under the weight of “industrial city”.
Torino e l'arte dei carrozzieri (1946-1980)
Those were years in which, customers from all over the world, came in Turin to satisfy their automotive dreams.

Those who came to get “their” cars made weren’t only royal members, film director, famous actors and actresses.
Raymond Loewy, the famous American designer who projected the Coca-Cola bottle, came in Turin to get an aluminium car because nobody in the States had accepted to make it, considering the project too complex.

Rocco Motto built it, “the aluminium magician“, whose hammer shaped some of the most original car bodies of that time.
The car manufacturers too relied on designers and coachbuilders in Turin for the design of the most exclusive and sportive version or even for models for large series.
Maybe there is no car manufacturer who, over the years, hasn’t had relationships with one or more Turin designers or coachbuilders.
Peugeot relied on Pininfarina for almost half a century (the first car was the 403 model in 1955), Michelotti worked for a long time for Triumph and BMW, Ghia for Ford, Chrysler and Renault.

Even Volkswagen used to come in Turin from 1958, when he assigned Pininfarina the project to renew the Maggiolino (Beetle).

As well known, the design of the first Golf was from Turin as well, originated from the pencil of Giorgetto Giugiaro.

Chevrolet, Cadillac, Jaguar, Opel and Saab, including, of course, Italian manufacturers and recently Asian ones as well, were all customers of the Turin school.

Brigitte Bardot Renault Floride

Describing this development in activities for designers and little “boite” (workshops), the author defiantly compares them with Florence and its “bodegas” during the Renaissance.

During the Renaissance in Florence it developed a reach “humus” of culture for painters and sculptors, based on artistic workshops where masters trained their apprentices and pupils destined to become great artists as well.
Abarth 2200 coupe allemano
As for Botticelli, Perugino, Ghirlandaio and the same Leonardo, all trained and improved at the workshop of Andrea del Verrocchio.

In Turin, in the post-war period as well, there was a fertile ground for hundreds of wheelwrights, cabinet makers, panel beaters together with artists and stylists.
Appia Vignale 1959

Above all there was a solid automotive industry with Fiat, Lancia and other small businesses but not less important.

Stylists like Revelli di Beaumont, Savonuzzi, Boano, Michelotti went to Stabilimenti Farina to realise Hispano- Suiza, Isotta Fraschini and Rolls Royce.

Others like Alfredo Vignale and Pietro Frua went to the atelier of Ghia, another talents developer as well as Bertone who trained Franco Scaglione and Marcello Gandini.

Hands and pencils of these men made possible the realisation of cars like Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint and Lamborghini Miura.

Can we define a car like a piece of art?

There are those who claim that car has originated the form of modern art most popular with the audience.

Abarth 1500 Bertone 1952
The MOMA, Museum of Modern Art in New York, has repeatedly dedicated exhibitions to some of the most significant cars in the history. One in particular, the Cisitalia 202 designed by Giovanni Savonuzzi for Pininfarina in 1946, was acquired by MOMA for the permanent exhibition, emblem of contemporary art, described as “Rolling Sculpture”.

Maybe in Turin in those years we really experienced a new Renaissance.

Original book title: Torino e l’arte dei carrozzieri /Turin and the art of the carrozzieri (1946-1980)

Author: Massimo Porta

Published by: Libreria Automotoclub Storico Italiano

Pages: 175

Price: 25,00 Euro

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