Bertone penned hundreds of cars. Here are ten of the most important designs from its back catalogue
Carrozeria Bertone’s appearance at the 1952 Turin Motor Show was almost its last. Hamstrung by a lack of finance, and armed with two rebodied MG TDs, the coachbuilding minnow was weeks away from extinction. Fortunately, big-hatted American Stanley ‘Wacky’ Arnolt visited the stand and gave Giuseppe ‘Nuccio’ Bertone an offer he couldn’t refuse. Except something got lost in translation. An elated Bertone believed he had sold the show cars – a coupé and convertible. It then dawned on him that Arnolt wasn’t merely interested in the two styling exercises on display, he wanted at least a hundred replicas of each type.
AutoFact: Arnolt and Bertone also built cars on Bristol, Bentley, and Aston Martin platforms to 1959.
Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint
Introduced in late 1954, this Franco Scaglione-styled coupé put Bertone on a firm footing as a volume manufacturer rather than just another carrozzeria, having beaten Boano to land the gig. It helped that Alfa helped finance its expansion. The Sprint was a lesson in proportional perfection and economy of line with the early 750-series cars being the purest of the breed. Unusually, it was released a year before the four-door Berlina came on-line. Bertone also put forward a proposal for the Spider variant, but only two prototypes were made as arch-rival Pininfarina landed the contract.
AutoFact: Bertone also styled and built the Giulietta SS, which was originally conceived for racing.
This Anglo-American GT wasn’t a commercial success, but it cast a long shadow. It was the first design credited to a youthful Giorgetto Giugiaro, although some sources insist that the outline had already been partially mapped out by his predecessor, Franco Scaglione. The Gordon GT (as it was initially dubbed) was unveiled at the 1960 Geneva Motor Show, but sadly only 99 of these Chevy V8-engined, glassfibre-bodied GTs were officially made during its stop-start production run (a further car was later assembled from spares). It undoubtedly influenced the Bertone/Giugiaro Iso Rivolta among others.
AutoFact: The G-K project was revived in 1968 as the de Bruyne, but it came to naught.
Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GT/GTV
Introduced in 1963, Giugiaro’s Alfa GT remains a styling masterclass – many cues being lifted from his earlier 2600 Sprint. Nuccio Bertone envisaged a small-series coachbuilt offering as a replacement for the Giulietta/Giulia SS. But it became a production model after the suits at Alfa Romeo spied preliminary renderings and saw its potential as a volume seller. They were right, too, as production stretched into six figures to 1977, with the same basic outline remaining largely unchanged to the end. Touring of Milan, meanwhile, was responsible for the convertible GTC version.
AutoFact: The Giulia Sprint GT remains one of the few Giugiaro designs that the great man remains fond of.
Another Giugiaro production, this magnificently hedonistic Italo-American hybrid broke cover at the 1963 Turin Motor Show and remained in production until ’74, with Marcello Gandini keeping things fresh with a pop-headlight rework for ’70. Powered by a raft of small and big-block Chevy V8s (some Ford engines were used towards the end), the Grifo was easily among the fastest cars of its generation. As such, the beautiful people flocked to land one, with sales greatly exceeding its maker’s expectations. Initial forecasts were woefully pessimistic, with estimates of no more than 50 units being shifted in total. Iso had surpassed that figure by June ’66.
AutoFact: The A3/L Spider edition shown at the 1964 Geneva Motor Show remained unique.
Giugiaro left Bertone for Ghia in 1965 with Marcello Gandini basking in glory once the original supercar was unveiled in ’66. Except legend has it that Giugiaro had already mapped out the outline prior to his departure, with Gandini merely filling in the gaps. The truth probably lies somewhere in-between. What is important is that the car existed at all. This was the template-setting supercar; the machine for which the term was first coined. It wasn’t the first mid-engined road car – DB, Deep Sanderson, ATS and de Tomaso got there first, but it’s the one that everyone remembers.
AutoFact: Engineer Gian Paolo Dallara claimed that the transverse engine layout was inspired by the Mini.
It’s hard to appreciate just how difficult it must have been for Gandini to shape the Miura’s successor. Just how do you replace a car that upstaged the establishment? He succeeded, the original 1971 prototype being the purest of all Countachs: the subsequent addition of scoops and aerofoils did nothing for the car’s looks, but maintained its relevance well into the 1980s. You could also argue that no Lamborghini has had quite the same impact since. The run-out 25th Anniversary edition wasn’t the work of Gandini, though. It served only to render the Countach the Pearly King of supercars.
AutoFact: A Countach was used, appropriately enough, as the safety car for the Monaco GP during the early 1980s.
If the original Lancia Stratos Zero show car wasn’t mad enough, the definitive Stratos was perhaps the loopiest production car of the 1970s. That it was intended as a rally weapon only adds to its lustre. Powered by a 2.4-litre Dino V6, there was nothing like it then, and nothing quite like it has appeared since. Manufacturing of the car was also entrusted to Bertone, with final assembly taking place at Lancia’s Chivasso facility. 500 cars were meant to be produced for homologation, but ‘only’ 492 were completed. Gandini’s remarkable outline sells the Stratos, the choral V6 being merely the icing on a particularly gluttonous cake.
AutoFact: The Stratos won the Monte Carlo Rally three times (1975-77).
Marcello Gandini is primarily remembered for his highlighter pen-hued showstoppers from the early 1970s, but his talent stretched beyond penning concept cars and small-series offerings. The E12 BMW is a case in point. It set the template for subsequent generations of 5-series saloons. Arriving in 1972, and borrowing cues from the ’70 2002-based Garmisch concept car, it was also among the last BMWs to be penned by an outside consultancy. Close on 700,000 were made to 1981. Intriguingly, ex-Zagato man Ercole Spada shaped the E34 generation while on BMW’s payroll.
AutoFact: Bertone had previously shaped the BMW 3200.
The 1980s denoted the demarcation line between the inventive Citroën of old and the parts bin sharing with Peugeot to which we’ve since become inured. However, the Bertone-designed BX couldn’t be mistaken for anything other than a Citroën. That it was actually rooted in a prior Reliant/Anadol project is perhaps best forgotten and wisest ignored. Another Gandini production, the BX was among the best-selling of all Bertone-penned cars, with more than two million being sold during its 12-year run. It is also among Gandini’s personal favourites from his gilded resume.
AutoFact: Other Citroën-related cars styled by Gandini include the SM-based Maserati Quattroporte II.
Pictures courtesy of Rota Archive