In Research and Experimentation the Farina plant lavishes extraordinary care on original designs for prototypes, individual customers or for the master himself when he orders a car for one of the big shows (see his Ferrari and Alfa Romeo, on page 53, as they appeared at the Paris show).
In his third division, Farina mass-produces fenders, hoods, doors, roofs, motorcycle chassis, refrigerator doors, motor scooter parts, and the like. "The future of Italian bodymakers," he says, "rests with the impetus provided by the United States. Its methods and turnover make it difficult for us to keep up, yet we must adapt if we are to survive."
Ghia, whose remarkable Mercedes for King Saud of Arabia is shown on page 53, is a more deliberate designer. The entire work is done by the gifted hands of 250 employees, and each body may take from six to 18 months to complete. The first step of an original design is a sketch, in ink or colored crayon, on a piece of nine-by-12 paper. Then comes a scale model in balsa or clay, from which emerges a detailed drawing with precise proportions. This is followed by a full-sized mock-up (mascherone), built of wood, which is fitted directly onto the chassis. From the mascherone work begins on a metal framework which is gradually welded and soldered into place, replacing the mock-up. Finally, there is the exhaustive detail work with screw driver, hammer, file, scissors and tweezers until the upholstering and instrumentation have been completed.
About half of Ghia's output is based on ideas which the house creates and sells to clients. The rest is produced to specifications set down by clients, who may be individuals or firms.
Boano of Turin is a father-and-son team (Felice Mario Boano and son Giampaolo). The Boanos once owned Ghia but sold it in 1954 to set up shop on their own. Six secret prototypes are currently in preparation for Italian and European companies. Meanwhile Boano produces regularly three Fiat 1900 Granluce and two Alfa Romeo Primavera bodies daily and two Ferrari 250 Granturismo bodies weekly. Of the perhaps 20 individual orders each year, most are for foreigners, and the average cost is $8,000 per body.
"We believe," says young Boano, "that there will be a gradual evolution of fashions in car bodies. The European public does not want an esoteric line, but real, definite comfort. We must learn from U.S. cars and start giving the public such things as electric window-raising and seat adjustment and air conditioning, all in addition to the Italian line which is already famous."
Alfredo Vignale's 80-man operation works without full-scale wooden models, a conceit which made him, at the outset in 1946, the laughingstock of the industry. The laughter ceased when his first Fiat Toppolino proved a big hit. "We save $960 on each production," says his brother and partner, Guiseppe. "Thus we sell for the lowest prices in all the industry. We have never gone above $4,800 for any car body."
Whatever the different methods, the artistry of the Italian coachbuilders is convincing. Unfortunately, their future is clouded. They are conscious of their artistic responsibility, but aware of the economic realities too. Come turbines, atomic engines or solar motivation, they plan to stay in the game. "We are going wherever the motors take us," said one coachbuilder recently, "and we are going as elegantly as we can."