I’ve long had a fondness for Bertone: the Italian Design Studio & Coachbuilder. I’m not sure when I discovered who designed those brilliant cars from the 70’s like the Lamborghini Urraco, Lancia Stratos and Fiat X1/9 but thats only a few from their legendary past. Not all Bertone cars were great, look at the Volvo 262, but there were more hits than misses and often a Bertone concept set the theme for an era, the Lamborghini Countach, or brand. Consider the 1970 Bertone BMW Garmisch 2002Ti concept which was the inspiration for the 70’s “E-12” BMW 5 Series. It established style elements which survived at BMW until the arrival of Chris Bangle.
I recently found this old photo* snapped, when I was 11, on a family holiday in the Coromandel. A Ferrari [Dino] 308GT4 appeared in the driveway of the place next door and I was inspired by the styling and rare occasion of seeing a Ferrari “in the flesh” to capture it on film.
Many thought the 308GT4 an ugly duckling and it’s angular lines were certainly a radical departure from the curvy 60’s Pininfarina Dino 246GT which preceded it. I think Marcello Gandini’s response to the challenge of enveloping a mid-engine four seater layout has aged well and regard it is a classic. The later Ferrari Mondial showed Pininfarina could do no better when faced with a similar task. What I didn’t realise, until researching this post, that our “family car” of the time, a Fiat 132, was also another Bertone/Gandini design.
I’m sure the 132, essentially Fiat’s Morris Marina, was a “pay the bills job” but thats something Bertone have been struggling with of late. They have been losing money, existing for several years with government support, and it appeared the end was nigh. Then, a few days ago, Gruppo Prototipo arrived like a knight in shining armour with a buy-out offer:
Autocar - Gruppo Prototipo buys Bertone
Struggling Italian coachbuilder Bertone has found a buyer with days to spare before a bankruptcy court hearing that could have closed the iconic company after 95 years…
An icon saved? I hope thats how this story ends.
* The tint is the last remains of correcting a Viko print which had faded to a very 70’s bright orange!