Bertone History

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Bertone History



GIOVANNI BERTONE was born in Mondovi during 1884, and it was there that he took his first steps in the coach-building world, in a carriage and wagon repair shop. He moved to Turin in 1907, by which time the city was already an industrial centre, and he spent five years in the workshops of the Diatto company, making railway rolling stock.

In 1912, he decided to become his own master, so he set up a carriage repairing and building company in Turin. Giovanni Bertone's first official encounter with the motor car took place in 1921, when he was offered the opportunity of building a body for an SPA 9000 sport.

One chassis followed another, as did the orders, and soon he gave up carriage building. For many years he worked for Lancia and SPA but without putting his name to his work - the bodywork being regarded as that of the chassis manufacturer. Much the same could be said of some of his work in the 1960s, when the Bertone works were turning out Lancia Flaminias with the Pininfarina badge, indicating the organization responsible for the design if not for the construction.

In the end, his modest sheds in Turin's via Villarbasse proved inadequate, so he moved to extensive new works, still in Turin. This eased his problems in dealing with Lancia orders as the Lancia works were in the same street. Based on an agreement with Vincenzo Lancia, Bertone undertook small series production of Lancia body shells, reaching the impressive total, over the years, of 3000 units.

In 1934, a further stage in the life of the organization began. Giovanni Bertone was beginning to find difficulty in obtaining chassis from the manufacturers and, for some time, had been producing so-called 'one-off' bodies for private orders. Thus, in 1934, the works moved to another address in Turin and, in the same year, Giovanni Bertone's twenty-year-old son, Giuseppe, nicknamed Nuccio, joined the company.

The Superaerodinamica

There was a third, no less significant, development in the same year. For the first time, Carrozzeria Bertone offered an example of its products for public appraisal, by exhibiting a special-bodied Fiat Ardita six-cylinder, the Superaerodinamica, at the Milan Motor Show. A saloon, with a three-person bench front seat on tubular framing, this car had a number of unusual features. The windscreen was continued round the sides of the body and into the roof, and the spare wheel was located beneath the wide bonnet which also incorporated the headlights.

In the years before World War 2 the number of Bertone special bodies increased progressively. One particular coupe design from this period worthy of mention was a wonderful open-tourer body designed and built for the Alfa Romeo 6C 2300B chassis, a smooth design that featured a retractable rear windscreen (an unusual feature in Italian coachbuilding of the time). Moreover, Bertone revealed his skill in achieving such good results while retaining the standard Alfa Romeo radiator grille, headlights and bumpers.

1921 SPA 9000 Sport
1921 SPA 9000 Sport, the very first car Giovanni Bertone designed.

1923 Fiat 501
1923 Fiat 501.

1934 Bertone Superaerodinamica
1934 Bertone Superaerodinamica. Note the windscreen that continues into the roof.

1936 Bertone Fiat 508.

1936 Bertone Fiat 508.

1954 Alfa Romeo Guiletta Sprint
1954 Alfa Romeo Guiletta Sprint.

1958 Bertone NSU Prinz Coupe
1958 Bertone NSU Prinz Coupe.

1961 Bertone Ferrari 250 GT
1961 Bertone Ferrari 250 GT.

1964 Bertone Alfa Romeo 1600 Giulia 1964 Bertone Alfa Romeo 1600 Giulia.

1966 Bertone Lamborghini Miura
1966 Bertone Lamborghini Miura.

1967 Fiat Dino Coupe

1967 Bertone Fiat Dino Coupe.

1970 Bertone BMW Garmish
1970 Bertone BMW Garmish (which inspired BMW to design the 520 and 525 range).

1970 Bertone Lancia Stratos
1970 Bertone Lancia Stratos.

1972 Bertone Lamborghini Countach
1972 Bertone Lamborghini Countach.

After The War, The Fiat 1100 Derby

When work restarted after the war, the factory employed 150 people. Once again, Bertone was working for one of the major manufacturers with the Fiat 1100 Derby in spider and coupe forms. This time, however, these small series-production models carried a badge with the letter 'b'. Also produced in small series or as unique examples were a number of special bodied Fiat 1400s, as well as the first Lancia Aurelias, but these bodies carried a 'Bertone' badge. Also dating from this period were a few Borgward and Ferrari bodies.

S. H. Arnolt's Bertone Bodied MG TDs

On 7 September 1952, at the Elkhart Lake (Wisconsin) sports-car races, S. H. Arnolt of Chicago presented two Bertone-bodied MG TDs, one a convertible and the other a hard-top coupe, but both offered at 3585 dollars. This was the first sign of the eventual direction the company was to take. Thus began the first major export effort, while Bertone continued to produce new designs which appeared regularly at the various motor shows.

The 'BAT' (Berlinetta Aerodinamica Tecnica)

At the Paris Show in 1952, an Abarth coupe with aerodynamic lines was displayed, distinguished by its three headlamps and by the styling accent placed on the side panels, along which the wheel arch shape was continued. A Lancia Aurelia was also exhibited. At the Turin Show in 1953, Bertone showed the fifth version of the famous 'BAT', the 'Berlinetta Aerodinamica Tecnica', on an Alfa Romeo 1900 Sprint chassis, with steeply inclined windscreen and large rear fins.

The Bertone Siata 208S V8 and Storm Z 250

Another design of the same period was the Siata 208S V8 which resembled, on a small scale, the Ferraris of the period. In addition to producing the Bertone MGs for the United States, production began of a 2-litre Arnolt-Bristol type 404, with its steel body welded to a suitably shortened chassis. At the 1954 Turin Show, Bertone exhibited the Storm Z 250 on a modified Dodge chassis, evidently devised to suit American tastes. He also showed the BAT 7, which, like the earlier versions, was designed by Franco Scaglione on the Alfa Romeo 1900 Sprint chassis. It still incorporated the retractable headlamps, although it used a different system, but it had enlarged fins and a lower nose.

The Giulietta Sprint

That year, however, by far the most important coach building exhibit was the sleek, light blue coupe on show on the Alfa Romeo stand. The catalogues described it as 'sporting, aerodynamic, nimble, fast and modern'. The strikingly new Giulietta Sprint was the first of a long series, even though the prototype at the 1954 Turin Show, with its opening rear window providing access to the luggage compartment, did not carry the inimitable 'b' badge. The company introduced a two-plus-two coupe version of the AIfa Romeo 2000 Sprint to that company's order.

Aston Martin DB4 Jet, Ferrari 250 GT, BMW 3200 CS and ASA 1000

Outstanding new designs were the Aston Martin DB4 Jet (Geneva 1961), which was noteworthy because of the use of Iight alloy, and the 250 GT Ferrari coupe (Turin the same year), where the roof and the internal body panels were made of stainless steel and the headlamps were concealed behind a metal grille. These were followed by the BMW 3200 CS coupe, the ASA 1000, the prototype Iso Rivolta Grifo and, subsequently, its 'road' version, while the appearance of a saloon design for the Japanese Toyo Kogyo company indicated how international Bertone's work had become.

5 And A Bit

The most interesting development of the early 60s was the Testudo shown at the Geneva Show in 1963. Based on the Chevrolet Corvair Monza, this was a grand-touring car design study which stood only 42 inches high - 5 and a bit inches less than the little ASA coupe - and revealed such details as a built-in roll-over bar, completely retractable headlights, side lamps of polycarbonate material recessed in the bumpers, and the passenger compartment completely enclosed in glass, the upper part being tinted in blue and hinged at the front so that it lifted to give access to the interior.

The Fiat 850 Spider

At the 1964 Paris Show Bertone exhibited the Canguro, based on the AIfa Romeo Giulia 1600 Tubolare, with an outline possibly even more slender than the Testudo. A feature of this model was the bonding of the screens to the metal pillars, a procedure hitherto exclusively employed in the aircraft industry. At the 1965 Geneva Show, Bertone showed the Fiat 850 Spider, a design of great originality with the headlights steeply inclined to blend into the line of the bonnet, taking something from the Testudo design.

The Legendary Lamborghini P400 Miura

Among more than 500 designs carried out between 1965 and the mid 1970s, there are some which were extremely significant. First among these without doubt is the legendary Lamborghini P400 Miura, shown at Geneva in 1966, the superbly sleek, individual line of this model revealing the influence of wind tunnel studies. A unique car, as original in its internal layout as in its external appearance, it was a creation as different from the Superaerodinamica 900 of 1934, with which Bertone first appealed to public interest, as anything could be. Also of note was Bertone's 100th design, a "special" Ford Mustang, introduced at the 1965 New York Auto Show and commissioned by Automobile Quarterly.

Gullwing Doors and the BMW Spicub

After the Miura came the Carabo at the 1968 Paris Show, another 'bravura' effort built on an Alfa Romeo type 33 chassis, a striking wedge-shaped design, which had front-hinged gull-wing doors. At Geneva the following year, the company showed the BMW Spicub with a retractable metal roof replacing the canvas top. At the same show the following year, the Alfa Romeo Montreal appeared, while at Turin 1971, the Lancia Fulvia HF Stratos was shown in prototype form.

Looking, Not Stealing - The Beautiful X1/9

From 1972 to 1989 Bertone built the Fiat X1/9 - a terrific looking car that the Unique Cars and Parts editor well remembers being "told off" for when caught drooling over one parked at Dromana, Victoria, Australia (the owner obviously mistook the inquisitive looks at the interior for that of a thief checking if the keys were left in the ignition). And while the X1/9 is a favourite with us, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to establish a common denominator or even to identify a common thread among these beautiful Bertone designs, all dating from the end of World War 2.

A prototype is conceived with an altogether different spirit from that for a series production car, even a special-bodied one. The coachbuilder, even more than having to adhere to a personal style, must also provide an inexhaustible source of ideas and must be guided in his work, not only by good taste, but also by production feasibility. From the 1921 SPA, through the anonymous body shells built for Lancia, Ceirano and Diatto, and the many modest versions of the Fiat Balilla, Carrozzeria Bertone has graduated to the Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati levels.

Through their hands have passed American, French, English, German, as well as Italian chassis and they have also built thousands of bodies which, despite their numbers, were in every case, individual. If the Pininfarina studios were responsible for establishing the 'Italian Line' in the world, making Turin the indisputable centre of motor-car styling, it is to coach builders like Bertone that the merit of having maintained this prestige has passed.

Giovanni Bertone (1884 - 1972)

Bertone was the sixth of the seven sons from a farming family. He had worked as a carriage wheelmaker, and was employed at Diatto (1907) when he established his own carriage building and repair shop in Corsa Pesciera (1912). Being a friend of Vincenzo Lancia, he got contracts from Fiat and thus entered the automobile design market, his first self made car body being based on a SPA 9000 in 1921. Another early success at this time was the Fiat 501 competition car. Subsequently Bertone also designed many Lancia cars. His son Nuccio Bertone (1914–1997) took over the company in 1950.

Giuseppe "Nuccio" Bertone (1914 - 1997)

Giuseppe Bertone, called "Nuccio", (July 4, 1914, Turin, Piedmont – February 26, 1997, Turin) was a famed automobile designer and constructor. He took over Carrozzeria Bertone from his father, Giovanni after World War II, growing the small business to a carbuilding and designing powerhouse.

After racing Fiats, O.S.C.A.s, Maseratis, and Ferraris, Bertone moved to construction, agreeing to build his first car, a series of 200 MGs, at the 1952 Turin Motor Show. He drew attention at the Paris Motor Show that year with an Abarth concept, and was chosen to design the replacement for the Alfa Romeo Disco Volante. These so-called BAT (Berlina Aerodinamica Technica) cars used the Alfa Romeo 1900 Sprint chassis.

Two years later at Turin, Bertone introduced the Storm Z concept based on a Dodge chassis alongside his latest BAT concept and a prototype of the Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint, which would become the company's main product for the coming years. Bertone built more than 31,000 bodies in 1960, including Fiat 850 Spiders, Fiat Dinos, Simca 1200S coupes, the Alfa Romeo Montreal, and Lamborghinis.

His 100th design was a special Ford Mustang, introduced at the 1965 New York Auto Show and commissioned by Automobile Quarterly. From 1972 to 1989 built the Fiat X1/9. Bertone summed up his philosophy when introducing the Fiat 850: "Our role is the production of car bodywork on which we impose the styling trends, build prototypes, develop the design, the production methods, and the tooling. Naturally, we produce them in quantity."

Bertone's Ferrari designs were a radical departure for that company and drew the ire of rival Pininfarina. His two 250GT coupes were only a foreshadow to the controversial 308GT4 of the 1970s. In 2006, Bertone was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in Detroit, taking his place alongside other automotive icons, including Henry Ford, Giovanni Agnelli, Louis Renault and the Michelin brothers.

Also see: Giovanni and Nuccio Bertone
The Bertone Carabo, based on the Alfa Romeo 33
The Bertone Carabo, based on the Alfa Romeo 33.
1967 Bertone Lamborghini Marzal
1967 Bertone Lamborghini Marzal, which featured a mid-mounted 6 cylinder, 2 litre engine developing 175 bhp. The engine was essentially half that of the V12 Miura. The Marzal also featured a six-headlamp system, transparent gullwing doors and a transparent moon roof. Strictly for the exhibitionist.
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