Scale Models From The Source Are Just One Piece Of This Upcoming Bertone Auction
Photography by Rosario Liberti
Carrozzeria Bertone was founded by Giovanni Bertone in Turin one hundred and six years ago, and during the last century the deservedly lauded house of design has styled, coachbuilt, and manufactured more than 120 cars for Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Lancia, Iso, Abarth, Aston Martin, BMW, Citroën, Mercedes-Benz, Opel, and of course, a few more.
Alfa Romeos like the Concorso-winning 6C 2500 SS designed by Mario Revelli di Beaumont in 1942, the Giulietta Sprint Speciale penned by Franco Scaglione in 1957, and the BAT models were all born by designers working at Bertone.
But what about Marcello Gandini’s Montreal and Carabo for Alfa Romeo? His Lamborghini Miura, Marzal, Countach, Urraco, and Bravo? The Ferrari Dino 308 GT4? The Lancia Sibilo, Stratos Zero, and Stratos? Listing concept and production cars like has already filled volumes of coffee table and reference books. All of these masterpieces highlighted above (and many in model form in these photos) were conceived within the walls of Bertone, either in Turin or in Grugliasco, where the company moved in the 1950s, relocating one of the automotive design canon’s fundamental columns to a new home in Italy.
Now, you might think that such an incredible and unique tradition would never be capable of ending, trailing off and losing its way perhaps, but death? But this is Italy, and the Italians have a particular way of managing their treasures.
Reference books in the company’s canon say that Nuccio Bertone took over the company after World War II and it divided it into two units: Carrozzeria was assigned to manufacturing, and Stile Bertone was in charge of styling. Beginning in 1997 and lasting until its bankruptcy in 2014, the company was led by Lilli Bertone, the widow of Nuccio—who said a family-run company couldn’t compete on the world stage?
After this transition, the Bertone name was acquired by Bertone Cento and retained by some of its former employees, who continued as a Milan-based design company called Bertone Design. The names and ownership trees are a little dense, but basically, after Nuccio’s death, the light turned off and the aura became more and more historical with each day that didn’t live up to the ones in the past.
What happened to the treasure of Bertone’s legacy? A design museum? A Bertone foundation with an immense car collection and memorabilia section? The answer to each is sadly no.
Starting in 2015, three auctions were been organized. The first two were called by the Court of Milan in order to find new owners for the brand’s intellectual property, and for 79 cars including concepts, prototypes, a BMW C1, and a bike. The cars were sold to Automotoclub Storico Italiano (ASI) for a bit less than €3.5 million, in a single block with the order to keep them on Italian soil, which are now showcased at Volandia; nobody was interested in the trademark logo.
Aste Bolaffi, a subsidiary of Gruppo Bolaffi’s auctions of collector items, called the third auction in May 2018 which resulted in the selling of— for very low final prices— approximately 60 cars (multiple of which were original designs), style models, and the last two prototypes created by the historic coachbuilder: an Alfa Romeo 8C Pandion, and the Bertone Nuccio, based on a Ferrari 430 F1.
On Saturday, the 17th of November, the fourth and last auction will be held at Garage Bolaffi in Turin. On sale are more than 200 lots including 36 cars and a huge haul of memorabilia that would delight any petrolhead or collector of Bertone history or design history in general. Amongst the cars, only a few are Bertone-signed: a 1956 light gray Giulietta Sprint, a very well preserved 1968 Alfa Romeo 1750 Berlina, an orange 1971 Alfa Romeo Montreal, a 1968 Fiat Dino 2000 Coupé, a 1980 X1/9 five-speed, and a 1995 white Punto Cabrio chassis number 000001 that was probably used by Nuccio Bertone himself.
The coolest side of the auction though will be represented by spare parts, scale models, and examples of automotive memorabilia from Bertone’s golden era. Lot N.8, for example, is composed by a Stratos Zero’s alloy rear wheel (made by Campagnolo of course) plus various Lancia concept prints. There is the pantograph drafting table used in the production area, the missing return spring of which suggests it could be one to the tables used by Marcello Gandini who usually required such a modification.
There are a dozen wooden containers and briefcases containing samples of the car finishes belonging to the Lamborghini Miura, Espada, and Urraco; the Fiat 131 Rally and Dino Coupé; the Maserati Khamsin; Lancia Stratos; Iso Grifo and GT; and many more. I found some Lancia Sibilo, Lamborghini Marzal, and Silhouette spare wheels too. Lot N.125 is a Lamborghini Espada V12 engine with carburetors and its automatic gearbox attached.
Of this fantastic array of tangible history (which are represented in beautiful singular forms like a wheel, a desk, a drawing, etc.), the ones that caught my attention the most throughout our time looking through the lots were these scale models. They reconnected me to my childhood, the ultimate additions to my scale-model shelf’s collection at any age.
In these concept models, you find many design details that have been used on recent and not-so-recent cars and supercars. Amongst all, Bertone ZER, Blitz, and Panther, the Alfa Romeo Carabo, Lamborghini Countach, Miura, and Athon, BMW Pickster, and Genesis, Lancia Sibilo, Chevrolet Ramarro, and Ferrari 308 GT4. Lot N.187 for instance is a metal design model of the Giulietta Sprint that was supposedly placed on Nuccio’s desk.
The Aste Bolaffi auction will take place Saturday 17th November in Turin, at Garage Bolaffi in Corso Verona. More details can be found here.