Gruppo Bertone was known for its car designs and coachbuilding. Established in 1912 in Turin, Italy, by Giovanni Bertone, the business had many designers who became as famous as the company itself. Those designers included Giorgetto Giugiaro, Marcello Gandini, and Franco Scaglione. Some of the cars that were penned by Bertone’s designers became icons on posters that covered bedroom walls.
Giovanni, the sixth of seven brothers, was born in 1884 in Mondovì, about an hour south of Turin. At the age of 12, he started working, manufacturing wheels, wagons, racing sulkies, and later car bodies. He moved to Turin in 1907 and became a school teacher. Giovanni soon left teaching to work for Diatto for five years, and then he established his own coachbuilding company at the age of 28. After World War I, Giovanni decided to concentrate solely on his business, accepting orders from Lancia, Diatto, and Fiat. His second son, Giuseppe “Nuccio,” took over the reins of the company after World War II and helped the business flourish.
In 1952, Nuccio was searching for contract work for the company and had Scaglione design both a convertible and a coupe that fit over an MG TD chassis. At the Turin auto show that year, a Chicago industrialist and car dealer, Stanley “Wacky” Arnolt, requested 200 of the cars. After Nuccio attempted to talk Arnolt out of the idea, Bertone manufactured 100 of them. Later, Scaglione designed a swoopy body for a Bristol chassis, of which Bertone produced a limited run.
Soon after, a cash-strapped Alfa Romeo announced plans for a GT car. The small automaker sold securities to build up the funds for the project, and some of the cars were to be raffled in a lottery. But Alfa Romeo procrastinated on the project, and the company began receiving lawsuit threats from the winners. Alfa Romeo went to Bertone for a sporty grand tourer, hoping for a quick turnaround. Bertone came up with the Giulietta Sprint prototype and unveiled it at the 1954 Turin auto show. They soon received hundreds of orders for the car, and about 40,000 Giulietta Sprints were built over the next 11 years in Nuccio’s factory in Grugliasco, a neighborhood of Turin.
Nuccio passed away on February 26, 1997, six months after he arrived back home from a vacation in south Italy. His widow, Ermelinda “Lilly,” promised Nuccio that she would keep the Bertone company running until at least its 100th anniversary in 2012. The centennial-anniversary car, the Bertone Nuccio concept car, was unveiled in 2012. But at that point, Bertone was barely alive, and within the next two years, the company was dead.
Here are five cars that came out of the Bertone design house:
Innocenti 186 GT
Designed by a 25-year-old Giorgetto Giugiaro for Bertone, the 186 GT was a two-door coupe that never made it to production. From a joint venture between Innocenti and Ferrari from 1963 to 1964, only two prototypes of the 186 GT were built, and one still survives. The 2+2 sports car had a tall greenhouse, recessed headlights, and a “step” running down the middle of the body sides. A 1.8-liter Ferrari V-6, basically the Ferrari 250’s V-12 split in half, sat under the hood. It produced about 160 horsepower, and the Innocenti had a 125 mph top speed.
Marcello Gandini designed this rally car legend. As Lancia was searching for a replacement vehicle for the Fulvia in rally racing, Bertone wanted to create a design that would catch the automaker’s attention. They presented the Stratos Zero to Lancia, and soon the automaker and Bertone joined together to create the Stratos using Gandini’s ideas. A Ferrari Dino V-6 powered the Stratos, putting out approximately 275 horsepower (a 24-valve version produced 320 horsepower). The whole car weighed about 2,000 pounds.
Ferrari Dino 308/208 GT4
Also designed by Gandini, Ferrari introduced the mid-engined Dino 308 GT4 in 1973, and two years later, Ferrari came out with the 208 GT4. Its wheelbase was 210 mm longer than the Dino 246 GT’s. The 308 GT4 debuted at the 1973 Paris Motor Show, with its angular yet attractive body that was just over 14 feet long. It was the first Ferrari to feature a mid-engine V-8 configuration and was also the first production Ferrari with Bertone bodywork. At the end of 1976, Ferrari dropped the Dino name from the car.
Alfa Romeo BAT 5
Alfa Romeo commissioned three concept vehicles by Bertone, starting in 1953. Scaglione penned the first one, the ’53 BAT 5, which was revealed at the Turin auto show. Bertone based the body’s design on a study of aerodynamics. It reduced extra resistance from turning the wheels and created the fewest possible air vortices. The front end was designed to eliminate airflow disruption at high speeds. Its roof was almost flat, the side windows were angled at 45 degrees, and the tail fins tapered upward and inward. The BAT 5 had a 0.23 drag coefficient.
Mazda’s flagship model in 1966, the Luce featured an “A line” connecting the front, center, and rear pillars. The production design was a slightly modified version of what Giugiaro at Bertone originally styled, as the Mazda designers tweaked it to their liking (mostly a taller roofline). At the time, it was the only car in the 1.5-liter class that could seat six people. It had a first in class single overhead cam engine that produced approximately 77 horsepower.