Franco Scaglione (Designer): Automobiles, Legacy and Inspiration today
June 23, 2016 — that was the date I created a discussion group on Facebook devoted to the great Italian designer Franco Scaglione.
My Facebook Group: Franco Scaglione (Designer): Automobiles, Legacy and Inspiration today
Franco Scaglione (Firenze, September 16 1916 – June 19 1993) was an Italian automotive designer, famous for his aerodynamic “B.A.T. — Berlina Aerodynamica Technica” designs while working for Bertone.
Scaglione studied aeronautical engineering, but World War II intervened and interrupted his studies.
After the war, Scaglione worked with Pininfarina, but he was not satisfied with the arrangement.
When he submitted sketches to Nuccio Bertone, he negotiated the position of Chief Designer for the design house – a partnership that would lead to many classic postwar cars.
Scaglione’s first design with Nuccio Bertone was the 1952 Abarth 1500 Biposto Coupe displayed at the 1952 Salone dell’automobile di Torino – the showcase for innovative designs in Europe.
The Alfa Romeo 1900 B.A.T. 5, 7 and 9 models were shown at the Turin salons in subsequent years (1953, 1954, 1955). This breathtaking series of Alfa Romeos made a stunning impact on the automotive world and immediately established Scaglione as the most innovative automotive designer of his generation. Scaglione’s style was much more fluently liquid and and aerodynamic than the more restrained and formulaic surfacing of his major rival, Pinin Farina. The industrial impact of the innovative surfacing of Scaglione’s seminal BAT series of three design studies has never been equaled by any other postwar designer – ever.
Scaglione’s characteristic flair made a strong impact on the leading American designers: Harley Earl of GM; Virgil Exner of Chrysler and George Walker of Ford.
For Wacky Arnolt, a board member of Bertone, Scaglione designed an iconic Anglo-Italian sportscar, the Arnolt-Aston Martin DB2/4 spider prototypes that were presented at the (New York Auto Show, 1954).
In 1954, Scaglione translated some of his design language into a more restrained configuration with the Alfa Romeo 2000 Sportiva.”
After encountering problems with the aesthetically-challenged management at Aston Martin, Wacky Arnolt returned to Bertone and commissioned Scaglione to design the stunningly iconic Anglo-Italian sportscar of 1953 – the Arnolt Bristol that was primarily aimed at the American market for weekend sports car racing.
To return Alfa Romeo to profitability with a high volume Gran Turismo, Scaglione led the design work on the Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint coupe which established Bertone on a firmer financial foundation with production of a popular model for the Italian brand.
In 1959, Scaglione designed the NSU Sport Prinz.
In the same year, Scaglione also translated the design language of the BAT series into the graceful and elegant Alfa Romeo Giulietta SS (Sprint Speciale) that would be produced in both Giulietta and Giulia versions.
Later in 1959, Scaglione left Bertone to work independently. Nuccio Bertone eventually discovered Giorgetto Giugiaro, a designer who did not have the same level of artistic flair as Scaglione, but who would develop high-volume models for many clients attracted to the respected design house by the reputation for innovation and success in the market that was largely built on the designs sketched by Franco Scaglione throughout the fifties.
In 1959 working in collaboration with Carlo Abarth and Porsche, Scaglione designed a masterpiece, the Porsche 356-derived Porsche 356 B Carrera GTL Abarth. Scaglione’s Porsche Abarth revitalized the flair and innovation of Porsche with a new minimalistic design language that is still instantaneously recognizable in every model of the seemingly immortal Porsche 911. Even so, none of the successive iterations of the 911 have the same elegantly taut and liquid muscularity of Scaglione’s original Porsche Abarth GTL. The final collaborator on the Porsche Abarth project was the house of Zagato who agreed to produce the alloy panels for the limited production series that were eventually subcontracted to one of their suppliers with whom they worked closely on the limited series of 20 cars, none of which were identical. Scaglione’s Porsche Abarth with the collaboration of the workshops of Zagato is one of the most pedigreed classic cars of all time. Very successful in international racing with class wins at all the major events including Le Mans and Sebring, the Porsch Abarth GTL has a very strong claim on the title of the most desirable postwar classic car. Supercharging the design DNA that gave birth to the Porsche 911 was not to be Scaglione’s last major contribution to automotive culture.
In 1963 working for Feruccio Lamborghini, Scaglione sketched the Lamborghini 350GTV that provided Ferrari and their coachbuilder, Pininfarina, with a competitor that is still viable to this day.
In 1964 working for ATS, Scaglione designed the highly innovative 2500 GT, the first mid-engined GT.
But, Scaglione’s genius was not exhausted, and he sought another challenging opportunity to design a mid-engined supercar that would establish an iconic formula for all mid-engined supercars that would follow. Scaglione’s opportunity arrived when Alfa Romeo commissioned him to design the roadgoing Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale of (1967) — an iconic postwar classic whose surfacing is a symphony of curvature that is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful and important cars in the world. Once again, Scaglione’s masterpiece would be built in a very limited series of only 18 cars, no two of which are exactly alike. Featuring the Alfa Two-Liter V8, the Stradale was capable of 175 mph and cost $17,000 making it one of the fastest and most expensive cars in the world at the time when the average car cost less than $3,000. The Alfa Stradale had performance and handling that surpassed Ferrari’s and Maserati’s of its day.
With changes in his personal life, Scaglione began to curtail his design consultancy. However, he did agree to consult with Frank Reisner’s Intermeccanica with whom he collaborated on the designs of the Apollo GT of 1961 and the spyder/berlinetta Italia GFX in 1966. Scaglione is credited with the design of the Titania Veltro of 1966; the Murena 429GT and what was to become generally known as his last design, the Intermeccanica Indra of 1971, but the magic was waning and these designs do not reflect the svelte genius of his fabulous run of immortal classics for Bertone, Alfa Romeo and Porsche climaxing in the Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale.
Ultimately, Scaglione retired to a small Italian village where his health slowly declined given lung cancer.
Scaglione died in obscurity and was largely forgotten and under-appreciated for the fundamental redirection he gave to automotive styling by turbocharging the design language and revitalizing the aerodynamic DNA of the glorious Italian and German brands in the fifties and sixties.