The Desire for Rebirth
It is 1947; the war has just ended, with all the material and moral destruction it entailed. The desire to recover is very strong: those who had the fortune to live through those years remember them very well, and it is not necessary to try to describe them; those who did not live through them we do not believe can benefit from a narrative in words.
The Mille Miglia resumes. Ferrari is born. The new Isotta Fraschini and Cemsa Caproni are presented. There is a great “craving” for automobiles: the car companies did not sleep during the war period, and they prepared for the postwar period: the time has finally come to present new products to the public. The Paris and Geneva motor shows have been already held. In Italy, the automotive industry still has no novelties. But Milan does not want to delay the appointment with the public and organizes the first “Mostra della Carrozzeria Italiana” (Exhibition of Italian Car Bodywork) with the quiet consciousness of always being at the forefrontin this particular sector that combines high technical sophisticistacation with the recognized style and good taste of Italian designers.
The exhibition also includes coaches and buses.
For this event Milan is joined by Turin: the very active Triennale of the Lombard capital agrees with ANFIA, the organization that brings together national manufacturers and coachbuilders.
It is interesting to mention the names of the coachbuilders present in the vast spaces of the Palazzo dell’Arte al Parco: Balbo, Bertone, Boneschi, Castagna, Coriasco, Garavini, Ghia, Monviso, PininFarina, Savio, Stabilimenti Farina, Touring, Viotti and Zagato. On display outside is a car by Alberto Rossi – CAR.
In total, there are about 100 cars that offer visitors a nice sampling of Milanese and Turin coachbuilders in comparison. The inauguration is attended by the Hon. Corbellini, Minister of Transport, and the magazine L’Auto Italiana, which records punctually the event, reports twin photographs, showing Avv. Bianchi Anderloni, patron of Touring, and Pinin Farina, illustrating their very latest creations to the guest.
It is a great success with the audience; there are many foreign delegations interested in taking stock of the Italian industrial situation.
The risk of experimenting
The chance to buy a car is reserved for a few, but everyone wants to see the luxurious new models, if possible to touch them, they want to dream, to imagine themselves traveling behind the wheel of a spider, with the wind tousling their hair. Among the cars on display, all of which are interesting to the public that has been fasting for years, the one that attracts attention more than any other is the brand new Isotta Fraschini Monterosa with a rear engine. History will tell us that the car will not have a production follow, but in those days the hope of seeing the resurgence of the celebrated Milanese brand, known throughout the world, was very much alive. The bodywork prepared by Touring, also from Milan, is particularly beautiful, stylistically light and graceful, as is customary for Federico Formenti, Touring’s chef designer.
Other Touring bodies also ecidenced by elegance and purity of design, such as the Alfa Romeo 2500 and Lancia Aprilia. The Pinin Farina stand hosts a star of the first magnitude, the Cisitalia 202, a design that will be recognized worldwide as the ultimate example of style, so much so that it will have official recognition at Moma in New York.
Bertone exhibits an interesting fish-mouth front end design of the Healey Cabriolet (design we will see again on other chassis).
We quote an annotation by Giovanni Canestini: “What is most striking about these fine bodies that made up the Exhibition complex is the extreme care in the workmanship of the different parts and in particular of the connecting forms, which reveals the employment of a workmanship skilled and endowed with uncommon and, we would like to say, exclusive experience.”
This exhibition should also be remembered for a group of flamboyant-style coachwork, opulent, perhaps in response to a need to react conspicuously to the deprivations of the war period and even the one that followed: large wraparound bodies covering all four wheels: examples include some Castagna, Stabilimenti Farina (on Lancia Astura chassis), some Ghia on Fiat 1100s and 1500s with Buick-inspired snouts. Boneschi is also present in this group.
Castagna also features a pair of Fiat 1100s with patented Vistotal windshields and a particularly arched front end.
Perhaps the greatest overlap of styles is in the CAR-bodied Lancia Aprilia, a metallic silver cabriolet very futuristic, presented outside the exhibition.
It is interesting to note that the fashion for covered-wheel bodies with lines that we have called opulent and that some have happily called “overflowing”- was very short-lived in Italy, while in France it continued with an important following, through the work of big names such as Figoni & Falaschi, Saoutchk, Chapron, Labourdette, evidence of a particular predilection for the accessiveness of French designers.
As early as 1947 Auto Italiana reported a pair of articles by Gianni Allosi enriched by numerous photographs by Franco Degli Ubertie and Corrado Millanta, in which the exaggerations were given due prominence. The comments sounded justifiably harsh on these “exaggerated” achievements:
“Unfortunately, in this first exhibition of coachbuilding some symptoms of decay are noticeable somewhere. More than one coachbuilder on this occasion wanted to overdo it, to impress at any cost with new. Big mistake, commercial gimmick that cannot convince the Italian public, too good a judge.”
“The stylistic evolution has a certain rhythm that can be forced only in part. To exaggerate one can fall outside the limits of good taste, as in some cases unfortunately happened.”
But fortunately there were several examples of pure, straightforward style.
Also interesting were the articles published in Auto Moto Avio – Interauto by Giovanni Canestini, who also wrote in Corriere della Sera and Corriere dello Sport. As for technical innovations, we recall that in addition to the Isotta Fraschini Monterosa, 1947 also saw the opposite solution, front-wheel drive, with the proposal of the Cemsa Capronin F 11, by Prof. Fessia, with boxer engine, which had a considerable following being in practice the prefiguration of the very successful and forerunner Lancia Flavia.
The Italian Carrozzeria Exhibition, held in Milan at the Palazzo della Triennale in November 1947, has many reasons to be remembered. .