Interview: Touring Superleggera’s Louis de Fabribeckers

‘Maybe this was the last time to do a GT with a classic V8,’ says the Belgian design chief behind the Disco Volante, Berlinetta Lusso and now Sciàdipersia

Belgian Louis de Fabribeckers is the design brains behind esteemed carrozzeria Touring Superleggera. The legendary Italian coach-builder has created a succession of small-production, high-luxury sports cars, most recently including the Disco Volante based on an Alfa 8C, the stunning Berlinetta Lusso on a Ferrari F12, and, of course, the Sciàdipersia – driven here – which utilises a Maserati GranTurismo platform.

AutoClassics’ Johan Dillen caught up with de Fabribeckers to discuss auto design, the demise of the V8 engine and Touring Superleggera’s future direction.

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For luxury driving, most carmakers steer customers towards an SUV. You seem to be the sole believer in classic GT coupés. How come?

Louis de Fabribeckers: ‘To me, when you talk about a timeless body type, you talk about a coupé. It is also the easiest to get right from a design point of view. At all times, we have ten different ideas circulating at Touring Superleggera. The difficult part is pinpointing the right moment to realise a design idea. You need the right mechanical basis at the right time.

‘With the Sciàdipersia, we had an anniversary of the original Maserati car coming up. Also, this is maybe the final time we can do a project like this; the current Maserati GranTurismo is probably the last one with a normally aspirated V8. I am not ready yet to give up working around such a classic engine (smiles).

‘But for how much longer will they still be around? For how much longer will we be able to appreciate the real sound of an engine? So much of the sound is artificially enhanced these days. Fortunately, we quickly found a client who reacted enthusiastically to the design sketches I showed him and said: ‘build me this car’. We are now planning a production run of ten coupés.’

Is Touring Superleggera thus definitely shifting from one-off projects to limited-production runs?

‘A one-off is just like a show car, and needs to stand out. But in the end, it represents just one man’s taste. Small-series production is a better guarantee on lasting value for the car. The owners find certainty in the fact that they are not alone with a certain vision on a project; they form a little private club. This way, it’s easier to find likeminded spirits when the time comes to sell.’

The GranTurismo-based Sciàdipersia is a less obvious ‘homage’ to the original model than, say, the Disco Volante. Why?

‘It was never my intention to make a copy of the Shah of Persia’s original 1958 Maserati 5000 GT. I always wanted to do a modern reinterpretation of the original design brief; a quick GranTurismo to tackle long distances. But it was always my intention to create a larger environment for the passengers then the original car has. Using Maserati and this specific project gave me the opportunity to go for a new interpretation.

‘I strongly believe you need to have a good understanding of the past – Touring Superleggera has an important restoration division as well – in order to understand the present and have a vision of the future. The cars we previously coachbuilt on a Maserati base were often on special order from kings and princes. This motivated me to go for an approach on the Sciàdipersia that involved more noblesse.’

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It looks more modern…?

‘That was always the idea. I wanted to bring a modern take on a GranTurismo coupé. I was looking for the perfect combination between power and comfort. The profile is inspired by the arrow shape. To me, the arrow is the perfect symbol for elegant speed. There is no distortion in an arrow. Just as you have with the feathers of an arrow, I put all the side elements in a 45-degree angle on the central axis to create the same effect.’

I see you touching the car all the time. Is that important for you in the design process?

‘It’s a way of showing you are an auto enthusiast, isn’t it? I think this is the reason people love to wash their car by hand. This is a moment where you can feel all the details in the vehicle. Appreciating a car is something you do with your hands as well (laughs). I do it with all my cars, I love feeling the shapes. In order to get a good feel for the model, you have to put a piece of paper between the bodywork and your hands, because they are too humid to get the best feel.’

What is a good design for you?

‘When I start on a design, I notice that I start to erase as many lines as possible early on in the process. In the end, I want to keep the form as pure as possible, with a minimum of lines. This is the basis for a timeless design. Getting the profile right is also very important. I think Giugiaro once said: “If you have a good profile view, 90 percent of the design work is done.” A clean design is also less forgiving for design mistakes. If you make one, it will show.’

The front of the Sciàdipersia does not seem to carry a direct reference to Maserati; a premeditated approach?

‘It does have references to Maserati, only they are applied more subtly. Surrounding the radiator grille, you see small indents. These are just like Frua used them on the early Maseratis.

‘Higher up on the nose, I wanted to make a visual salute to the louvres that were previously used to let hot air out of the engine compartment. Since we didn’t really need them for a functional purpose, I decided to have them made as a decorative element finished in aluminium. You could also see them as the stripes Indian warriors applied on their faces before going to war.’

Photography: Dirk de Jager

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