Pietro Frua

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Pietro Frua
Pietro Frua

Pietro Frua (1913 - 1983)

The design house of Pietro Frua has never been as well known as the likes of Bertone, Italdesign and Pininfarina - but despite its small stake in the motor industry, it did develop some amazingly beautiful designs. Frua was born in Turin, the fourth son of Angela, a tailor, and Carlo Frua, an employee of Fiat, the centre of coachbuilding in northern Italy. After school he was educated as a draftsman at the Scuola Fiat. Frua's professional career began at the age of 17 when he joined Stabilimenti Farina as a draftsman. At the age of 22, he became Director of Styling at Farina, already a leading Turin coachbuilder employing several hundred people.

It was during his time at Farina that he had his first contact with his pupil and lifelong friend, Giovanni Michelotti, who became his successor as Head of Styling after he started his own studio in 1937. During World War 2 car-styling work was scarce and Frua had to turn to designing children’s cars, electric ovens and kitchen units, as well as a monocoque motorscooter.

Frua planned for post-war times: in 1944 he bought a bombed-out factory, hired 15 workers (including Sergio Coggiola, who founded his own carrozzeria in 1966) and equipped himself to design and build cars.

After hostilities ceased in 1945, Frua decided to set up in business on his own, taking a studio in Turin. As well as the more glamorous car-styling exercises he also took on a plenty of industrial work which was more lucrative. His earlier efforts in the automobile field centred on small cars like the Fiat 1100TV cabriolet, Peugeot 203 coupe, Renault Dauphine and the Fiat 600, on which he built a coupe body.

In 1955 Frua was called in, along with several other stylists, to design bodies for the A6G2000 Maserati. This was a road-going version of the 2-litre racing car which had been successful in international events. He also rebodied an Osca sports car and designed the body for the 1956 Nardi sports car which sold moderately well in the USA, after being exhibited at the New York Show.

The Renault Dauphine

Frua's big breakthrough into designing bodies for major manufacturers came when Renault asked him to design a new sports body for their improved Dauphine chassis. The result was the Renault Floride, still regarded by many as one of the most attractive two door bodies ever designed for a small car. He followed up with the Caravelle which was a convertible version that later also became available as a coupe. These models continued in production for over six years.

Frua also designed the body for the ill-fated German-built Lloyd 600 and in 1959 he designed the standard body for the Maserati 3500 GT. This was to lead to much more work from Maserati, who commissioned him to design the 5000 GT coupe;: followed by the four-door Quatroporte saloon and the Mistrale coupe. All these cars were built in series production by Maserati for several years. The Mistrale is still regarded as one of the world's classic body designs and its shape was to be reflected in several other Frua designs.

Frua designed Opel Diplomat Coupe
Frua designed Opel Diplomat Coupe.

Frua designed Fiat 1100 Sedan
Frua designed Fiat 1100 Sedan.

Frua designed Maserati 2000 A6GCS Grandsport
Frua designed Maserati 2000 A6GCS Grandsport.

Frua designed convertible (one-off) off based on the Fiat 1100
Frua designed convertible (one-off) off based on the Fiat 1100.

Frua designed 1963 Maserati Quatroporte
Frua designed 1963 Maserati Quatroporte.

Frua designed 1956 Maserati 2 litre Sport
Frua designed 1956 Maserati 2 litre Sport.

Frua designed 1957 Maserati 2000 GT Spider
Frua designed 1957 Maserati 2000 GT Spider.

Hans Glas

One-off jobs continued to take a good deal of Frua's time and he produced such cars as a Volkswagen coupe, a big saloon on a Studebaker Lark chassis, and a pretty coupe body in steel on the Lotus Elan at the 1964 Geneva Motor Show. This car was commissioned by the Swiss Lotus concessionaire and although reputedly going into production never made it.

In 1963, Frua reached an agreement with the German company of Hans Glas, under which he was to design all their range of production cars. Several good looking cars resulted, including the 1700 GT coupe, the 2600 V8, the 1304 TS saloon and the 1700 limousine.

These cars did much to improve the image of the company, which had started out building the tiny Goggomobil, but the firm got into financial difficulties and was eventually taken over by BMW. BMW planned to keep the 1700 GT going by grafting on their own independent suspension in place of the Glas live axle, but the car never went into serious production.

Frua's liaison with Glas led to a few styling jobs with Opel, for whom he designed an open version of the Kadett which was shown at the Frankfurt Show. He also designed a convertible Maserati, which went into production as the 3500 GTI.

In 1965 Britain's AC Car Company were looking for a new body to replace the American-designed Cobra two-seater and their Swiss agent suggested that Frua be given the job of designing a new body. He came up with a convertible, not unlike his Maserati shapes, and AC decided to go into production with this model on a lengthened AC Cobra chassis.

This was named the AC 428 convertible. In 1967 Frua designed a coupe body for the AC 428, this model resembling his Maserati Mistrale coupe in many details. As well as designing the bodies, Frua also built them in steel on chassis which were shipped out to him in Turin.

Peter Monteverdi

Frua continued building the AC 428 bodies in small quantities until 1973, when the model was finally dropped. When Peter Monteverdi was planning to enter motor manufacturing again in 1968, he commissioned Frua to design and build the bodies for his large Chrysler-powered saloons and coupes, but Frua lost this contract to Fissore.

Since 1968, Frua was largely concerned with one-off projects for individual owners and design exercises intended to persuade manufacturers to take up the design. Few commissions came his way, largely because younger designers like Guigiaro came into vogue with new shapes and new ideas.

But there was still some life left in Frua's design prowess. He built one-off bodies on a Chevrolet Camaro, a BMW 2000 TI, an Opel Diplomat and a BMW 2800. In 1971 he built a special-bodied Porsche 914/6, a 5-litre V8 Maserati and a revised version of his Glas coupe using Ford 1600 components.

He also designed a body for an American, Alfred Momo, who was planning to build a series of cars, but this never materialised. One successful car that Frua did build was the Ligier JSI, designed by French racing driver Guy Ligier. This car was initially powered by a Cosworth-Ford engine and later by the V6 Citroen-Maserati engine and gearbox.

The Shah of Persia and the Aga Khan

Frua designed the body for this dual-purpose road/racing coupe and had it built in glass fibre. The later Ligier JS2 was quite successful in racing, being a regular runner at Le Mans, but it was not put into serious production. Frua moved from his old workshops to Moncalieri where he continued to build one-offs for special customers, such as the Shah of Persia and the Aga Khan.

In 1982 Pietro Frua contracted cancer and had unsuccessful surgery in the autumn of that year. He and his long-time assistant, Gina, married shortly before he died on 28 June 1983, a few weeks after his 70th birthday.





Renault Floride + Caravelle



Glas 1700 Limousine
BMW 1800/2000 
BMW 1804/2004 SA

ca. 20.000


Glas 1300/1700 GT Coupé + Cabriolet,
BMW 1600 GT Coupé + Cabriolet

5.013 + 363
1.255 + 2


Maserati Mistral Coupé + Spider

828 + 120


Maserati Quattroporte I



Glas 2600 V8
BMW Glas 3000 V8



Maserati Kyalami



AC 428 Fastbackcoupé + Spider

50 + 29


Lloyd Alexander Coupé


Frua designed 1963 Maserati Mistrale
Frua designed 1963 Maserati Mistrale.
Frua designed Renault Floride
Frua designed Renault Floride. The Floride was based on Renault's Dauphine.
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