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1935 Talbot Lago T150C SS 'Teardrop' by Figoni & Falaschi

By our contributing editor Wallace Wyss (text & illustrations)


Automotive artists tend to pick their era. They like ‘50s cars, they don’t like prewar cars, they like hot rods, they don’t like sports cars. But I as a latecomer to the fine art world (for 40 years I was an automotive historian and ad copywriter) have come to greatly admire the body styles that fall into the classification of “Streamline Moderne”; a trend that started in the 1920s and picked up steam, inspired by not the Space Age (which was still decades into the future) but the airplane age, particularly the Schneider cup air races, where planes were becoming notably faster each year by virtue of new aerodynamic fuselage changes.

1936 Bugatti Type 57 SC Atlantic, designed by Jean Bugatti

One of the first things coachbuilders copied from airplanes was the “blister”-shaped covers for the fixed landing gear (when the wheels were not yet retractable) and so essentially half of a blistering fairing was used to cover the rear fender cutouts to make them more aerodynamic.

On June 2 2017 master automotive designer Tom Tjaarda passed away at age 82....

His list of notable designs is almost endless:
1959. Ghia Selene I (with Sergio Sartorelli)
1960. Innocenti 950 S Ghia Spider
1960. (Innocenti) Ghia IXG Dragster
1960. Renault Dauphine Ghia Coupé
1960. VW Karmann Ghia 1500 (type 34) Coupé (rear design; main body design by Sergio Sartorelli)
1961. Ferbedo Automobilina pedal car (Ghia)
1961. Ghia Cart
1961. Innocenti 1100 Ghia Coupé
1962. Chevrolet Corvair Pininfarina Coupé (I)
1963. Chevrolet Corvette Rondine Pininfarina Coupé (I)
1963. Fiat 2300 Pininfarina
1963. Lancia Flaminia 2.8 Pininfarina Coupé Speciale
1964. Chevrolet Corvette Rondine Pininfarina Coupé (II)
1964. Ferrari 330 GT 2+2 Pininfarina series 1
1964. Mercedes 230 SL Pininfarina Coupé
1965. Fiat 124 Spider Pininfarina
1966. Ferrari 365 GT California
1968. Chevrolet Checker Berlina (with Giorgetto Giugiaro)
1968. Serenissima Coupé (Ghia)
1969. De Tomaso Mustela (I) (Ghia)
1969. Isuzu Bellett MX1600 GT (Ghia)
1969. Lancia Flamina Marica (Ghia)
1969. Lancia Fulvia 1600 HF Competizione (Ghia)
1970. De Tomaso Deauville (Ghia)
1970. De Tomaso Pantera Ghia
1970. (Lancia Flavia) Giacobbi Sinthesis 2000
1970. Williams De Tomaso-Ford (Cosworth) 505/38 (De Tomaso Formula 1)
1971. All-Cars AutoZodiaco Damaca
1971. De Tomaso 1600 (Ghia) Spider
1971. De Tomaso Zonda (Ghia)
1971. Isuzu Bellett SportsWagon (Ghia)
1972. De Tomaso Longchamp
1972. De Tomaso Pantera L (Ghia)
1972. De Tomaso Pantera 290 (Ghia)
1972. De Tomaso Pantera GT4 (Ghia)
1972. Ford Fiesta (Ghia, Project "Wolf")
1973. De Tomaso/Ford Pantera 7X (Ghia)
1973. De Tomaso Monttella 1/1 197X
1973. Ford Mustela (II) (Ghia)
1974. Ford Ghia Coins
1974. Ford Maverick
1978. Lancia Y10
1979. Fiat Brazil
1979. Ford Mustang II Proposals (Ghia) (different variants)
1979. Zastava (facelifts of older Fiat-based models for Yugoslavia)
1980. De Tomaso Longchamp Cabrio
1981. Seat Ronda
1981. Seat Guappa Coupé
1982. Chrysler LeBaron
1982. Chrysler Imperial
1983. Rayton-Fissore Taxi Torino
1985. Chrysler Jeep (Interior)
1985. Rayton-Fissore Magnum 4x4
1989. Aston Martin Lagonda Coupé
1988. PPG[disambiguation needed] 4x4 (USA)
1989. Laforza Magnum 4x4
1989. Zastava Utility vehicle
1991. Bitter Tasco
1992. Saab 900 four door
1992. Suzuki Coupé (for Bugatti)
1993. Fiat Iveco Truck Interior
1995. Lamborghini Diablo (Interior)
1998. Isotta-Fraschini T8 Coupé
1998. Isotta-Fraschini T12 Coupé
2000. Qvale Mangusta (II)
2001. Laforza PSV (II) (production engineering only)
2002. Spyker GT Sport
2003. Fiat Barchetta (Facelift)
2006. Shelby Series 2
2007. Tjaarda Mustang

See Tom Tjaarda in our Designers Encyclopedia.

In February 2017 Artcurial will auction three very special Delahayes: two having a coachwork by Figoni et Falaschi (a 1936 Delahaye 135 Court Competition Cabriolet and a 1939 Delahay 135 MS Cabriolet) and one having a body by Saoutchik (a 1950 Delahaye 148 L Coach). Both coachbuilders are much in demand, resulting in high prices. But what is the difference between these two and the other French coachbuilders?

1936 Figoni & Falaschi Delahaye 135 Court Competition Cabriolet

1939 Figoni & Falaschi Delahaye 135 MS Cabriolet


1950 Saoutchik Delahaye 148 L Coach 

Oh, there was an open version of the Miura. But that was done by the coachbuilder, without Ferrucio’s permission.

Now coachbuilders do this all the time—making a new model and hoping the clamor at the auto show will result in the automaker ponying up for some orders. 

Three Bizzarrini 5300 Spyders – the only three built – are scheduled to reappear together at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in August 2016.
The cars are especially interesting because there are only three open cars out of approximately 125 Bizzarrinis produced by Giotto Bizzarrini at his plant in Livorno between 1966 and 1968. These particular ones bear the badge “SI” for Stile Italia, in collaboration with Sibona e Basano “SB” -  the small shop that hand built them one off at a time under Giotto Bizzarrini’s Supervision. They were built from the ground up in open form. Giugiaro was not involved in the (Spyder) styling, having left for Ghia after having done the original design for the car while he was at Bertone.

After 55 years Ercole Spada's original 1960 design for a roadster version of the classic Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato became reality. 
Ercole Spada joined the Milanese coachbuilder Zagato in February of 1960 and set about designing Aston Martin’s DB4GT Zagato coupe. The car was introduced in October of that year at the London Motor Show, and because of its beauty and rarity, it has become the marque’s most prized model.  At the same time that he was conceiving the coupe, Spada, who was 23 at the time, made a few pencil renderings of a DB4GT roadster—or more specifically, an open racecar known in Italy as a barchetta. 55 years later, a car based on that design was built under the direction of Jonathan Ward — and Spada himself. It is called the Icon Aston Martin DB4GTZ Spada Roadster.

Ward is the founder and lead designer of Icon, a Chatsworth, Calif., company that produces, among other vehicles, concours-quality road-warrior apparatus based on the Toyota FJ40 and Ford Bronco. Ward’s operation also attracts clients who commission unique rolling stock. To one such client, an Aston Martin fan, Ward proposed a convertible version of the DB4GT Zagato; and so began a project that would exceed all expectations. 
While developing Icon’s design for a DB4GT roadster, Ward researched all the published plans for the Zagato coupe and used two examples of the car as references: one in England that he laser-scanned and another in Beverly Hills that belongs to the collector David Sydorick. Those resources and a healthy dose of what-ifs enabled Ward to make 3-D renderings and a one-twelfth-scale model of a roadster. He had tried to locate published photographs of Spada’s original barchetta drawings and ultimately to locate Spada, but to no avail. Then another of his clients offhandedly mentioned that Spada had recently attended his daughter’s wedding. He was alive and well, residing outside Turin, Italy, and working with his son, Paolo, at SpadaConcept, an automotive and industrial design house that Paolo established a decade ago. 
The client offered to share Ward’s design plans with Spada. When Spada, who turned 78 in July 2015, learned of the project, he wanted in. And so began a collaboration that, says Ward, “let Ercole Spada set the record straight.”

More info and images in our encyclopedia.


Ferrari is a firm that built its reputation on V12 cars. But to those new to the marque, it is always a surprise that there were four and six cylinder Ferraris as well.
This car is the 750 Monza, which came with a spyder body and was a race car though it could be driven on the street. This particular one is out of 1954.

Ferrari 750 Monza

Ferrari 750 Monza

One of the earliest coil-spring suspension works team cars, it built on what the factory designated the Tipo 510 chassis design. The engine was the Tipo 119 3-liter twin-overhead four. This car, ‘0486M’ was assigned to the works team collaudatore (test-driver) Sergio Sighinolfi for the 1955 Mille Miglia. In the 1955 Mille Miglia Sergio Sighinolfi drove ‘0486M’ to sixth place overall, taking 11hr 33 min 27sec to do the deed. A few cars beat him but after all, he was up against the winning and second place Mercedes-Benz 300SLRs of Stirling Moss/Denis Jenkinson and Juan Manuel Fangio, third-placed Umberto Maglioli’s Ferrari, Francesco Giardini’s Maserati finishing fourth and American Mercedes-Benz works driver John Fitch, just ahead of him in fifth. 
This car was then obsolete as a works racer so it was sold to Swiss owner-driver Jacques Jonneret, who competed in it with another fellow-amateur driver André Canonica in the Hyeres 12-Hours, in France (according to some reports) while others team Canonica with Gino Munaron in a Ferrari Monza, which won outright.
The spyder also appeared July 24, 1955, with Jonneret at the wheel, in the Portuguese sports car Grand Prix at Lisbon, but was a DNF after 28 laps.
It came to England in August 20, 1955, running in the Goodwood International 9-Hours classic co-driven by its owner Jonneret and pro Brit driver Ken Wharton. But after leading for 2/3rds of the race, engine failure forced it into retiring in the sixth hour.
Switzerland banned sports car racing on dedicated tracks after the 1955 Le Mans disaster so Jonneret could only run mountain Championship events through 1956, including the Ste Ursanne-Les Rangiers and Ollon-Villars events.
He stopped racing it in 1956.

Then a man who represents Switzerland’s only sports car builder, Peter Monteverdi, bought it.

Oh, it’s certainly undeniably glorious when somebody rolls out a tribute car; or continuation car or whatever they want to call it. We get to see an example of our favorite car all dolled up, squeaky clean, ready to go to car show or vintage race or concours.

The only trouble is—it’s messin’ with history big-time.

Now sometimes the car is built surreptitiously by private parties. I will never forget I’m driving down the street in Italy and I see three 330GT or 250GT bodies stacked up on top of each other in a lot. Why? Because those were the bodies of “donor” cars whose chassis had been made into more sporting Ferraris.

Stripped Down Classic Ferrari 212 Used to make a replica

Now the cognoscenti, the tifosi, those who are charter subscribers to the Ferrari magazines, they scoff at the mere suggestion that anybody could mistake one of these re-creations for the real thing. Well, I’m here to tell ya that sometimes the trail gets quite murky.

Zagato Carrozzeria is one of the most legendary Italian carrozzerias. Almost every larger sports car they did, such as the Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato, and the Zagato 250GT for Ferrari is today a much valued car but even the small cars they did on Alfa-Romeo and Lancia chassis were groundbreaking in their time. But little has been mentioned of Zagato’s open Porsche. Everyone knows of the 20 (some say 21) Zagato coupe Carrera Abarths but few have heard of the one off 550 Spyder, which was destroyed in the accident that killed Claude Storez at Highways 58 North on the Reims circuit.

If you mention Jensen to the average motor car enthusiast it is most likely that their immediate response would be 'Interceptor'. This was the iconic model produced by Jensen Motors Limited, Kelvin Way, West Bromwich, England, between 1966 and 1976.

The real 'die hard' enthusiasts would probably know that the Jensen brothers, Alan and Richard, formed Jensen Motors Ltd. in 1936, having taken over a commercial vehicle bodybuilding company called W. J. Smith & Sons which was located in Carters Green, West Bromwich. Alan and Richard had joined Smiths in 1931 in design and management roles. During the period 1931 to 1936 Alan and Richard added car body building to Smith's commercial vehicle repertoire. After the takeover the brothers were able to concentrate more fully on their 'first love', designing and building car bodies to be fitted to proprietary motorised chassis. 

See the Coachbuilders Encyclopedia for the continuously expanding overview of designers, coachbuilders and their numerous creations from past to present.


Join our Coachbuilders Forum for additional coachbuilders related info, details, provenance, images and questions.

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I am not a natural flatterer, I like to think that I "tell it like it is", politely I hope. So when I tell you that I am very impressed by the contents of your website, it is just not English politeness. I of course love the subject matter but you deal with it in an energetic and respectful manner. I am overwhelmed by the research that has gone into compiling the list of coachbuilders/bodybuilders for Europe and North America. I have never heard of the vast majority of them. Congratulations on an excellent website.
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