The Beginnings of Global Automotive Manufacturing – Gruppo Bertone of Italy

The Italian based “Bertone” or formally named “Gruppo Bertone” has had an outstanding and exceptional influence on the automotive industry far away from its native country of origin of Italy. Bertone’s influence on a stable of automotive extended over a whole different geographic and company automotive manufactures across the globe – whether if be Italian cars such as Alfa Romeo, Lamborghini, Fiat or European cars such as Mercedes Benz or the Swedish Volvo vehicles. To some degree there are family similarities in the designs across the mix. This would be expected. On the other side of the coin each Bertone design project is a unique creation from inception to fruition.

With the death of Giuseppe “Nuccio” Bertone in 1997, at the age of 82 a glorious period of Italian car design came to an end. It can be said that before the end of the Second World War, and the period that followed in 1946, that Italian automotive design was plainly a regional event and nothing more. Even if vehicle designs had been downright brilliant little was ever noted or noticed outside of the immediate area and car community of Italy. The world looked to France for coachwork from 1919 to 1938, and might have continued to do so had Communist influenced governments after the war not punitively withheld raw materials from coachbuilders. Italy’s communists it seemed were more interested in jobs primarily. As a result, or as a direct initiative, they directly encouraged and nurtured a luxury car industry, in essence moving Italian automotive design to a center stage.

It can be best said that Bertone was one of the first carozzerie (coachbuilders_ to move into “series” production, with the construction of 200 Bertone MGs for Wacky Arnolt of Chicago starting in 1952. These orders then directly led to the production of some 350 Arnolt-Bristols and put Bertone in a position to manufacture a small series of coupes for Alfa Romeo, which was then in trouble with clients who had been promised a new car , whose release had been delayed by body tooling. That product – the Giulietta Sprint designed by Alfa’s Ferruccio Palamidessit, can be said to have put Bertone on the map forever. More than 40,000 of these classic vehicles were produced before replacement by the Bertone-styled Giulia GT.

Nuccio Bertone was not a designer himself, but he served first and foremost to discover, employ and guide some of the very best automotive designers known. An astute businessman, Bertone owned several anonymously titled companies in the Turin area .Thus as a result of splitting the work, and the pie across several enterprises and unconnected enterprises; he was able to persuade different automobile manufacturers across the board to let him produce automotive vehicles in series for them. Fiat 850 spiders and X-1/9s, Opel Cabriolets, Volvo coupes, and many others came from his factories. In addition his design center also created practical shapes for Japanese Mazda, French Citroen as well as Korean Daewoo among others. It could be said that this was the start of the globally integrated car industry. The country of origin of an automotive product no longer was distinct and mattered so much. The car might be designed in one country, engineered in another and yet be manufactured in yet another country and even be marketed from a different area. Where was the car made? Who knew? In the coming future the direct geographical origins of a car would be even less evident and distinct.

Time went on and with impeccable taste Bertone continued to issue audacious show cars, including several Chevrolets, the astonishing Lancia Stratos Zero and the Alfa Romeo Carabo. The production Lancia Stratos and the Lamborghini Miura and Countach brought that audacity to the automotive marketplace.

In the end it can be said that Nuccio Bertone himself was the last of the creators of the Italian automotive renaissance, a group whose names became magical talismans in the automotive world. By his ability to launch so many brilliant design careers as well as so many legendary as well as wonderful cars it can be said that this gentleman had a great influence which has left an impact not only then but even on the automotive market and styling even today.

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