Book Review: Spada, The Long Story of a Short Tail
The book: Spada, the Long Story of a Short Tail
Authors: Bart Lenaerts and Lies De Mol
Pages: 304, hardcover
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Much has been written about Ercole Spada (including our designers’ series article), a designer certainly legendary enough that his career would one day be deemed worthy of its very own tome. That day is here, and well respected publisher Waft, a small, independent Belgian publishing house based that specializes in books about motoring culture and car design collaborated with both Spada, and his son Paolo, a designer in his own right, to produce Spada, the Long Story of a Short Tail, a retrospective that covers the master Italian designer’s life and work. Waft is operated by Bart Lenaerts, a motoring journalist, and his wife, photographer Lies De Mol. It is evident from first sight, or from just looking at the pure white cover with its simple but eye-catching graphics, and the inside cover with its graphic history of some of Spada’s greatest hits, that this duo know what they are doing, and that this book is going to be as special as Spada’s work that informs it.
Over the years, Spada would design the Aston Martin DB4 Zagato, one of his first designs, and one of the most iconic cars the fabled British marque ever produced. He would also resurrect the “Kamm” tail, named after Swiss aerodynamicist Wunibald Kamm. Recalling Kamm’s experiments in aerodynamics from his studies, Spada would have the fabricators at Zagato cut part of the tail section of a car’s body away, making it relatively short and stubby, but resulting in increased stability, and top speed, of the cars it graced. That tail would become a calling card for Spada, especially during his tenure at Zagato–the Alfa Romeo TZ1, TZ2, 2600 SZ and Junior Zagato, and also the Lancia Flavia, Fulvia and Flaminia Zagato–all iconic cars from disparate parts of the Fiat empire, and ones that would flow from his pen. In the 1980s, Spada would be responsible for the BMW 5- and 7-Series, and he did important and memorable work at I.DE.A with the Fiat Tipo, Lancia Dedra and Alfa 155. After a brief return to Zagato where Spada would work on a few Ferraris and Lamborghinis, he would be entrusted with designing the Osca Dromos, a car Spada says most encapsulates his personality. Never before in his professional career had he invested so much personally–through energy, wisdom, experience–in a car, and it is a seed that would propel him forward when Spada and Paolo, father and son, teamed up to form Spadaconcept. Together, they would conceive the Spada Codatronca concept car in 2008, and again in 2011. Who knows where the future will take them, but the book leaves no doubt that they will continue the elder Spada’s rich heritage well into the future.
The book is smartly divided and sub-divided into chapters, events, and important cars that delineate important moments in Spada’s career, and are told in short chapters of text illustrated by a simply wonderful collection of beautiful archival sketches and drawings, renderings, factory promotional material, technical drawings, and photography. We see Spada’s earliest childhood sketches, and the experiences that helped form his outlook, how he saw the world, and the type of designer he would become. We see his early fascination with automobiles, through his warm relationship with his son, Paolo, who would be destined to follow in his father’s footsteps. Uncommonly insightful, through Lenaerts’s personal interviews with the designer, we learn how Spada was thinking through certain events and decisions, and his reflections decades later considering his own body of work.
Waft has produced a limited edition of 150, aluminum-cased books, but almost undoubtedly these must have been snapped up by now. It’s that good. As a bonus, each book, whether limited or the more available standard edition, also comes with a color print of the technical drawing of an Alfa Romeo TZ1 that is suitable for framing. Spada, The long story of a short tail, is recommended for any car design enthusiast’s bookcase.
Purchase Spada, the Long Story of a Short Tail.