Giuseppe (or Joseph) Figoni was born in 1894 in Piacenza, Italy. When he was still a little boy he emigrated with his family to Paris. He started working as an apprentice at a wagon builder at the age of 14 and he soon seemed to be a true artist in metalwork. He left to fight in World War I and when he returned he opened up a body repair shop in Boulogne-sur-Seine, a suburb of Paris. He began by modifying the coachwork of touring cars and eventually the quality of his work allowed him to establish a prosperous business. By 1925 Figoni was building complete bodies on a variety of chassis, including a.o. Delahaye, Bugatti, Renault, Delage, Panhard and Alfa Romeo.
In 1935 Figoni acquired a partner, businessman Ovidio Falaschi, who also originated from Italy, creating Figoni & Falaschi. This partnership created some of the most memorable designs of the 1930s through 1950s. Falaschi kept an eye on the finances while Figoni provided the designs.
Figoni was fascinated by the emerging aircraft industry and was much influenced by the shapes of airplanes. Much of his work centered around aerodynamics and creating the allusion of motion even at a stand-still. He started with a simple sketch, reproducing the design by affixing narrow iron straps to the chassis and then created a wood frame in ash to which the hand-formed sheet metal was attached.
Figoni's fascination with tear drop shapes caused a sensation at the Paris Auto Salon of 1936 when he presented a Delahaye 135 with elliptical shapes and enclosed tear drop shaped pontoon fenders, which he called "enveloppantes". Figoni went on to create another icon of the streamlining era; the Talbot-Lago T150C SS Tear drop Coupe.
Joseph Figoni had an artist's command of color and made full use of the recent development of Nitrolac metallic paints to present his cars in dramatic two and three tone paint finishes. He loved working with the designers of high fashion, who created gowns, hats, gloves and shoes that perfectly matched the lines and colors of his cars. Ovidio Falaschi explained: "We really were true couturiers of automotive coachwork, dressing and undressing a chassis one, two, three times and even more before arriving at the definitive line that we wanted to give to a specific chassis-coachwork ensemble." The public, accustomed to boxy black conveyances, was delighted with the show.
Figoni was also involved in designing racing bodies and created the aerodynamic design for the 1932 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 that won the 1932 Le Mans 24-hour race, and the design for the Delahaye Type 138 18CV Speciale, that in 1934 set the 48-hour endurance record at Montlhery.
The pre-'35 cars and some late models were created under the name 'Figoni', but in favour of this alphabetized archive we simply refer to all as 'Figoni & Falaschi'.
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