Great Italian designers honoured at InterClassics

InterClassics brings us back to golden age of Italian coachbuilders, when tuning was a work of art and not just messing with fenders and turbopressure

1y ago

InterClassics brings us back to golden age of Italian coachbuilders, when tuning was a work of art and not just playing around with fenders and turbo pressure. 15 rarities from legendary Italian brands recalls the glory days of the coachbuilders.

Every InterClassics  has a central thematic dedicated to a particular theme or topic. Under the thematic “Great Italian designers”, the fifth edition of InterClassics Brussels pays tribute to five legendary car designers. In the main hall in Palais 5, a unique collection of classic cars designed by Pininfarina, Bertone, Zagato, Touring and Ghia is on display.

Carozzeria Touring Superleggera

Touring Superleggera was represented by two cars only. Still, the recent Zoute Concours gave a pretty good marvel of the ingenuity of the brand.

Carrozzeria Touring was established in 1925 in Milan, and became well known for both their remarkable design and lightweight construction methods, hence the name Superleggera.

They were the company to go to when Ferrucio Lamborghini commissioned the first supercar ever to bear his name.

Lamborghini's beautiful 350GT was a breakthrough success from its debut, and a major contributing factor to this success was the design delivered by Carrozzeria Touring in Milan. The model established Lamborghini's reputation, and it was also the very first car that greeted me in the Lamborghini Factory museum during my visit.

The model also had the technology to deliver what the design promised. Initially, the 350GTs had a 3.5-litre, 12-cylinder engine, and in later models, this was upgraded to a 4-litre engine delivering a monstrous 280 hp and an incredible top speed of 250 km/hour.

The sportscar was exhibited for the first time at the Geneva Car Show. A total of 120 were produced before this beautiful model was replaced by the Lamborghini 400GT in 1966.

The second car to represent Touring was a steel blue Pegaso Z-102. Pegaso is a brand I heard the first time during the breathtaking exhibition of Autoworld.

Pegaso was a Spanish company noted for its trucks, but also produced sports cars. The driving force behind the sports car project was Pegaso’s chief technical manager Wifredo Ricart. He earned a reputation as chief engineer at Alfa Romeo (and the guy who kicked out Enzo Ferrari from Alfa).

As a reward for his services in designing industrial vehicles, he was given a free hand to develop his idea of a perfect car. In making the Pegaso Z-102, everything was handled in-house except for the design.

Pegaso hired the Carrozzeria Touring to build a few prototypes, and the Milanese Coachbuilder created a new design that is well accentuated by the steel blue finish.

The Z-102 series shared the same platform and was offered with a series of V8 engines ranging from 2.5 to 3.2 litres. The top speed of the most potent version was 249 km/hour, and in 1953, it broke the record for the fastest production car in the world, right here in Belgium, providing Ricart with sweet revenge on Enzo Ferrari.

The third car designed by Touring was the Ferrari 166, the second model Enzo Ferrari developed. This beautiful sporty model was one of the first true Ferraris. It's racing versions became successful in several Grand Prix events such as Le Mans, Mille Miglia and the Targa Florio.

Gruppo Bertone

Bertone's sunny days are over, even if at some point in time, its star was the brightest. Bertone was known for its distinctive and original styling despite the vide variety of brands it worked with. Bertone has styled cars from all around the world, like Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Aston Martin, Citroën, Ferrari, FIAT, Iso, Lancia, Lamborghini, Mercedes-Benz, Opel and Volvo, without being exhaustive. Carrozzeria Bertone was established in 1912 by Giovanni Bertone. His son Nuccio Bertone took over the management of the company after World War II, rising to new heights. In the process, he scouted some of the most talented designers of all time to innovate the design of Bertone. Following the death of Nuccio, his the widow Lilli Bertone took charge until the company’s bankruptcy in 2014.

The first car of the Bertone trio was the Siata 300 BC, that was launched at the Geneva Motor Show in 1952. The seems very close to the spirit of the early Ferraris and has been considered one of the earlier challenges of Ferrari’s road cars.

This Barchetta showcased was nicknamed ‘Little Old 77’ by the first owner, the journalist and amateur racer John Bentley. He drove the car for the 1954 season, starting with the 12 Hours of Sebring race, and ending with the Mount Washington Hillclimb.

The car was then sold to Tony Pompeo, who continued racing it in 1955. Six other owners participated in races with the Siata throughout North America in the 1960s.

The second car of the Bertone exhibition was a Grifo Series II 7-litre. The car was actually made by Bertone and was designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro at Bertone’ design studio.

It was a genuine Italian car designed to compete with Ferrari and Maserati GTs using a big-block Chevrolet 454 V8 engine. This ensured the Grifo Series II’s reputation as a supercar with enough power to easily pass Ferraris and Lamborghinis.

The brand ISO almost went forgotten in the past decades. Yet, with the surge of classic car culture, I see perfectly restored ISOs at every major car show.

The third car of the Bertone segment is the Lamborghini Miura that marked the dawn of the supercar era. Lamborghini commissioned the design firm, Bertone, to create a body around this chassis and the car was displayed in its full glory for the first time at the 1966 Geneva Motor Show.

The first sketches were produced by Giorgetto Giugiaro, but when he left Bertone, the drawings were finished by Marcello Gandini. The car was christened Miura, named after a Spanish bull breed raised for bullfighting.

Carrozzeria Pininfarina

Carrozzeria Pininfarina is headquartered near Turin. Still, unfortunately, I was unable to enter their premises during my visit to the MAuto. Nevertheless, it remains one of those pilgrimage sites that I keep on my bucket list.

The company was founded by Battista "Pinin" Farina in 1930, Pininfarina was run by Battista's son Sergio until 2001. His grandson Andrea Pininfarina took over until his death in 2008. After Andrea's death, his younger brother Paolo Pininfarina was appointed as CEO. On 14 December 2015, Mahindra Group acquired Pininfarina S.p.A, that seems to open new perspectives as well illustrated by the Battista electric hypercar.

Pininfarina worked with a wide variety of automobile manufacturers from all continents to design vehicles. Still, the most famous one is undoubtedly Ferrari.

The Pininfarina segment encompasses three Italian brands, and Ferrari is represented with 500 Superfast. This car was ordered by famous actor Peter Sellers, who was also an avid Ferrari enthusiast.

The rare coupé was built between 1964 and 1966 and was the flagship of Ferrari's top-of-the-line America range. With a 5-litre V12 under the bonnet, the car produced an astonishing 400 hp, guaranteeing a top speed of 275 km/hour for anyone who was up to the challenge, that is.

The second Pininfarina car is an Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 SS Coupé,  Pininfarina is a unique piece of exceptional class.

A favourite among enthusiasts thanks to its beautiful design, the car has already won the grand prize for the most beautiful car at several car exhibitions.

Built by coachbuilder Pininfarina, Lancia Aurelia B20 was designed for participation in racing events. This particular model was purchased to participate in the Carrera Panamericana and was upgraded several times by the company Nardi just for this purpose.

In 2013, the car was restored to its original state. Thanks to the clean lines and mechanical properties, this model became an elegant and refined ‘Italian Gran Turismo’ that could deliver excellent performance and was one of the fastest Italian sports cars of its time.

Carrozzeria Ghia

The next nameplate might be familiar from a Ford Focus in your street (sigh…), but that was not the reason why Ghia is featured here. Originally, Carrozzeria Ghia SpA was established in 1916 in Turin, and built lightweight aluminium-bodied cars, harvesting notable reputation with cars like the Alfa Romeo 6C 1500, winning Mille Miglia in 1929. Following the destruction of the world war, the factory was rebuilt, and following the death of its founder, the company was sold to Mario Boano. This was followed by turbulent times, with the departure of Boano and the arrival of Pietro Frua, and by 1967, Ghia landed in the conglomerate of Alejandro De Tomaso. He later sold it to Ford, where Ghia gradually faded into the equipment level we know. In addition to the three cars below, several masterpieces were presented around the thematic stage, like a Jaguar and the Volvo P1800.

The first Ghia belongs to a lesser-known brand, and the Cisitalia 505 is a true rarity even within the brand’s offering, as only 10 cars have been built by Ghia.

In fact, of the two specimens known to still exist, this is the only one that is in a fully functional state. The 505 was designed using the Fiat 1900 as a base and unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show in 1953.

The Ghia 1500GT is one of the two models that the design firm released under its own name. This gorgeous specimen is based on the Fiat technology, and at the time it cost around the Porsche 365. Only 846 of these cars were built, and only a few dozen vehicles survived in the hands of collectors worldwide.

Ghia had a flourishing collaboration with Jaguar, and the XK120 Supersonic is a regular guest at Concours events.

This Jaguar XK140 was designed and built by Ghia on commission from Jaguar Lebanon. Only three cars using this design were made, and only two of them remain.


The Zagato company was created in Milan in 1919 by Ugo Zagato, who aimed to transfer his knowledge acquired in aeronautics. He revolutionised the bully luxury cars with lightweight structures, and aluminium bodywork similar the aircraft fuselages of that time. The company quickly rose to fame by the '20s, as did magic to the racing technology provided by Alfa Romeo. Following the destruction brought by World War II, the re-established company enjoyed its revival thanks to the successful Grand Tourismos of the 50s. The range of customers grew steadily, beyond the borders of Italy. In addition to Maserati, Lancia, Aston Martin, Abarth and, Alfa Romeo, many other companies started working with Zagato.

The company is still managed by the Zagato family. Currently, Andrea Zagato, Ugo's grandson, leads the company. Since 2008, Zagato signed an agreement with Autoline Industries, an Indian components’ manufacturer. This year the company celebrated its 100th anniversary, and Autoworld organises a Zagato exhibition with many brilliant masterpieces, the Alfa was actually rolled over from Autoworld.

With its 1932 Zagato bodywork, the Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Gran Sport is one of the many successful models in the legendary 6C series. The sporty model harvested great success at many major racing events, winning the Grand Prix in Belgium, Spain, Tunis and Monza.

The second car was a Fiat 1100E Zagato, one of the few such cars ever produced. This was actually the car driven in the 1954 Salone di Torino. This car was found in the late 1970s in Sardinia, having changed hands a few times. After undergoing extensive restoration work, the car was ready in 2014.

The last car of the Zagato Trio was a Fiat 8V is another rarity. Between 1952 and 1954, Fiat built 114 chassis of this sports car. Of these, 34 boasted coachwork by Fiat, and the remaining chassis went to the most renowned coachbuilders at the time, 30 of which were built by Zagato, however, these were not all identical.

The car was fitted with a 1,996 cc V8 engine, the last version of which put out 127 bhp, allowing for a top speed of 200 km/h. Although the V8 was not a commercial success, it proved itself on the race track. It was the undefeated winner of the Italian 2L GT championship until 1959.

The above shiny dozen was actually a small stage, in one of four halls, but might easily take half an hour to digest it. I plan to make a few more posts so it is worth having a peek in the main article, where the new posts will be embedded:


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Comments (2)

  • Absolutely beautiful machines from the other side of the world that I don't get to see often! Thanks for sharing Zold!

      1 year ago
    • Thanks! I love the Belgian car shows as they pay equal attention to all major car nations. Their hommage to the Italian coachbuilders was more thorough than what you find in Italy... At they same time, they did not forget about Bentley...

      Read more
        1 year ago