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The story of Carrozzeria Scioneri from Savigliano

Apart from a few Lancias and Alfa’s, the atelier founded in ’43 in Savigliano (Cuneo) by Cavalier Antonio, a simple pannel-beater, made a name for himself for his custom-built cars fitted on chassis of the Turin-based company, particularly in the 1950s and 1960s. But from 1969 to 1984 the activity was limited to the simple customization of the most popular models.

The beginning

Antonio Scioneri began his activity as an apprentice at Carrozzeria Vittoria and then at Fissore. He worked at Fissore from 1928 to 1943. Between the end of 1943 and the beginning of 1944 with great effort, he managed to become independent and opened his own workshop in the town of Savigliano, in the Italian region of Piedmont, as “Scioneri Carrozzeria Automobili” where he performed subcontracting commissions for his two former employers, both engaged in providing cabins for Fiat and Lancia military trucks.

1953 Fiat 1400 Promiscua

At the end of the war Antonio Scioneri continues taking care of everything he can find, from the repair of old vehicles to the reconversion of military trucks. He takes out the subcontract for an important order of fittings for the Army, but the client does not pay and he is forced to go bankrupt in 1950. He starts again, however, immediately and gradually takes on a certain notoriety with the outfitting of trucks, especially on behalf of the Italian importer of Hanomag. At the beginning of the 1950s, he began to deal with cars, first with some station wagons based on Fiat 1100 and later, in 1953, with a coupé, again on 1100.

Carrozzeria Scioneri in 1954 - Photo courtesy of Centro della Memoria Savigliano

The success

The real turning point came in 1955 with the birth of the Fiat 600. Antonio Scioneri realizes there is a big market in Italy for cars that are slightly different from the Fiat versions, which were extremely standardized and had very long delivery times. He organizes an alternative sales network on his behalf, made up of small provincial dealers, and manages for a small surcharge, to offer cars with personalized design elements, improved finishes and way faster delivery times.

1957 Fiat 500 Elaborata

In 1956, while still very young, Antonio Scioneri’s son Renato joined the company. He was a good salesman and gives further imputs to this type of business model. The formula works very well and is soon extended to a large part of the Fiat range – 500, 600 Multipla and 1100 – and occasionally also to Alfa Romeo Giulietta and Lancia Appia, although the latter are rather a promotional initiative of the respective manufacturers and do not have a real sales feedback.

In 1957, Scioneri unveiled officially its first model for the Turin Motor Show.
It was a car derived from the Fiat 1100 with a very special line, halfway between a saloon and a coupe. Scioneri also produced some particular versions, such as the Fiat 600 with four doors and giardiniera.

Fiat 600 berlina. Courtesy of "Io Carrozziere"

The workshop was expanded in 1958 with the creation of a new department dedicated to the “customization” of new automobiles. The new business consisted of changing or adding chrome parts and the addition of a two-tones body painting, like it was done for the American models of that time. With this type of customization Scioneri achieved great success, standing out, among others, the Alfa Romeo Giulietta Scioneri Two-tone, and the Fiat 600D Scioneri Two-tone.

In 1959 Scioneri also tried to create a more luxurious model, based on a Fiat 1500 which was designed by Michelotti. This seemed to be not the right direction, in fact Scioneri decided to concentrate the production on spider and coupé versions of the Fiat 600. The idea of a true sports car, however, was not abandoned; once again, based on a design by Michelotti, Scioneri unveiled another ephemeral 1500 two-door sedan in 1961 and finally, in 1962 the beautiful Sportinia, also based on a Fiat 1500 chassis. In 1960, Scioneri’s workshops had become too small and moved to new plant in another area of Savigliano.

1961 Fiat 1500 Sportinia

The main activities, however, remain customization of series cars, and in smaller numbers, sport cars derived from the 600s, replaced later in 1964 by similar models based on the newly created Fiat 850.

The decline

In the mid-1970s, the business began to decline. The great proliferation of small coachbuilders made this market very competitive and the smallest companies were forced to close their doors or diversify its activity for more orders.

In case of Scioneri, the dramatic drop in sales that happened from 1974, forced the company to cease production of automobiles, and to resume the business of customizing large series models by modifying the interiors, creating luxury versions for Fiat models.

The offer includes a large part of the Fiat range, up to the 124 sedan, plus the Alfa Romeo Giulia.

Fiat Ritmo Scioneri Jolly

Other successful versions of the Fiat 128, 127 and, even later, the Ritmo followed between the end of the 1960s and the 1970s. Despite the relatively good sales achieved, the company’s financial situation began to deteriorate dramatically, to the point that Scioneri had to close its doors definitely in late 1979.

With the 1980s Renato Scioneri continued his strategy of luxury versions at a relatively low price, but now, even the big manufacturers like Fiat are now offering different trim levels and the alternative proposals of the coachbuilders are less and less competitive. In any case, the business continues with the Panda “Valentina”, the custom versions of the Uno, Tipo and the Cinquecento.

2 Tatra T613 at the Scioneri Workshop

In 1989 Renato Scioneri also unsuccessfully attempted an agreement to import and develop the Tatra T613 and tried to build a van derived from the Fiat Uno, but times became increasingly difficult.

Fiat Punto Scioneri 3 doors

The custom versions of the Fiat Punto, presented in 1994, are the latest innovations. In 1995, the death of his father Antonio, who had also retired from business ten years earlier, further reduced Renato Scioneri’s confidence; his last presence is at the Turin Motor Show in 1996 with a Fiat Tipo, which was no longer in production. In fact, the last years of activity concern only the trade of cars and components, which ends definitively in 2005. Renato dies shortly after, in 2008.

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In the late 1800s, the Farina family, hailing from Cortanze d’Asti, embarked on a journey that would reshape the automotive landscape in Turin. Their story is one of passion, innovation, and resilience—a narrative that laid the foundation for the renowned Società Anonima Stabilimenti Industriali Giovanni Farina.

Trained at the prestigious Alessio body shop, the Farina brothers, with also Pinin (Giovanni Battista), decided to forge their own path in the automotive industry. In 1906, amidst a backdrop of economic uncertainties, they established the Giovanni Farina Industrial Plants in Corso Tortona 12 in Turin — a venture that would soon become synonymous with quality craftsmanship.

The initial focus of the Stabilimenti Farina was on the assembly of seats, or “baquets.” However, the turning point came during the economic crisis of 1908-1909, when Fiat sought a dependable partner for the construction of car bodies. Despite Fiat’s inclination to internalize all aspects of car manufacturing, they chose the Farina Plants, recognizing their stellar reputation in the face of economic adversity.

The Farina legacy, born out of resilience, became intertwined with the evolution of Turin’s automotive industry. The craftsmanship exhibited by Stabilimenti Farina went beyond mere production—it became an art form. Their commitment to excellence elevated them to a position of trust, distinguishing them as a reliable supplier in the competitive world of automobile manufacturing.

Simultaneously, Stabilimenti Farina were not only meeting industry demands but also crafting frames for the elite clientele of Turin. Their dedication to precision and attention to detail garnered admiration, setting them apart from contemporaries struggling in the aftermath of economic upheaval.

As the automotive landscape continued to evolve, the Farina name became synonymous with innovation and reliability. Their journey from apprenticeship at Alessio to establishing an industry giant speaks volumes about the entrepreneurial spirit that defines the Farina family.

The Dawn of Excellence: Farina's Triumph with the Zero

In 1912, having earned the trust of Senator Agnelli, Giovanni’s younger brother, Battista Farina, affectionately known as “Pinin,” designed the front end of Italy’s first mass-produced car: the 12/15 Hp Zero. Senator Agnelli entrusted the construction of the car body to the Stabilimenti Farina and even gifted one to Pinin himself. This marked one of the earliest instances of a coachbuilder functioning as a stylist for third parties without engaging in the mass production of the vehicle.

In 1913, Stabilimenti Farina continued their work for private clients, customizing cars to meet individual specifications. Business was booming, and the workshop on Corso Tortona found itself accumulating chassis, with work even extending into Sundays. The following year, in 1914, Stabilimenti Farina began assembling the first ALFA’s, further solidifying their reputation as skilled craftsmen in the automotive industry.

Giovanni Farina emerged as a figure of immense stature, cherished by his employees and actively involved in various social initiatives within the city of Turin. His company swiftly became one of the most significant and esteemed in Italy.

Giovanni Farina’s commitment to excellence and innovation, coupled with the artistic flair brought by Pinin, propelled Società Anonima Stabilimenti Industriali Giovanni Farina to the forefront of the automotive world. Their legacy continued to flourish, shaping not only the trajectory of their company but also leaving an indelible mark on the history of Italian automotive design. As the roaring twenties approached, the Farina family’s influence would play a pivotal role in defining the golden era of Italian automobile craftsmanship.

Forging Innovation: Farina's Journey from War to International Acclaim

During the First World War, in addition to assembling the Fiat 18BL trucks, Stabilimenti Farina also ventured into the aeronautical sector, where they acquired advanced aluminum processing techniques. After the war, they attempted to apply these techniques to automobiles, albeit unsuccessfully due to the still exorbitant costs involved. Meanwhile, Battista Pinin embarked on a study trip to the United States, where he visited Ford to learn about mass production systems.

Simultaneously, Giovanni, drawn to innovation, shifted his focus to steel sheet stamping. The installation of a press in his plant between 1920 and 1921 marked a pioneering initiative. This allowed him to organize standardized mass production, such as constructing bodies for the Temperino in several thousand units. Alongside luxury bodywork, this standardized sheet metal production prompted Giovanni Farina to acquire a specialized company, IPLA, to develop it further.

These were also the years when Stabilimenti Farina diverged from Fiat to outfit more Lancia vehicles, a decision driven more by political factors.

stabilimenti farina
Trade union demonstration during the fascist ventennio by the workers of the Stabilimenti Farina

In the 1920s, Stabilimenti Farina emerged as the leading Italian industry in the sector and became one of the most renowned Italian coachbuilders abroad. They showcased their creations at exhibitions in Paris, Berlin, and Geneva, catering to royal families and wealthy industrialists worldwide, including those in Italy. They crafted exquisite bodies for models such as the Lancia Lambda and Dilambda, Itala Tipo 61 and Tipo 65, Mercedes-Benz 630K, Isotta-Fraschini Tipo 8, Fiat 519, 520, 521, and 525, Rolls-Royce 20 Hp, Hispano-Suiza H6, SPA Tipo 25, and Alfa Romeo 6C 1750, solidifying their reputation for craftsmanship and innovation on an international scale.

In the interwar years, Farina continued to be a key player in the Italian coachbuilding scene, not only in terms of size but also as a prolific source of talent and ideas. They collaborated with the leading stylists of the time, such as Mario Revelli di Beaumont, making significant contributions to the evolution of automobiles, both aesthetically and technically. Their innovations were showcased at various national and international Concours d’Elegance, where Stabilimenti Farina consistently earned numerous awards. One notable achievement was at the 1927 Monaco Concours d’Elegance, where they secured two first prizes with a SPA 25 Landaulet and a Hispano-Suiza H6 torpedo.

Harmony and Tensions: The Evolution of Farina's Design Legacy in the 1930s

In 1928, Pietro Frua joined the design department, bringing his significant expertise to the team. By 1930, Giovanni’s younger brother, Battista, ventured out on his own. This decision was fueled by ambition, as he sought to apply what he had learned during his journey in the United States. During these years, Stabilimenti Farina continued to benefit from the expertise of Mario Revelli di Beaumont, with whom they clinched victory at the second Concorso d’Eleganza del Lago di Como, precisely at Villa d’Este, showcasing a Lancia Dilambda Faux Cabriolet.

In addition to crafting bodies, the Stabilimenti Farina pioneered innovative systems, such as the hydraulically operated convertible roof presented at the 1933 Paris Motor Show on a Lancia Astura. They also developed a dual independent hydraulic brake system, showcasing a commitment to advancing both style and engineering in the automotive realm.

The Farina legacy continued to thrive through these years, with each creation serving as a testament to their dedication to excellence and their pivotal role in shaping the automotive industry’s future.

stabilimenti farina

Thanks to the innovative drive led by Mario Revelli di Beaumont, Stabilimenti Farina became key players in the Italian “aerodynamic revolution” alongside Viotti and Touring. Around the mid-1930s, they played a pivotal role in radically transforming the style of cars. Stunning examples, ranging from sporty sedans to cabriolets, adorned the finest chassis of the time, including Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 and 8C 2900, Fiat 1500 and 2800, and Lancia Aprilia, Augusta, and Astura.

Meanwhile, relations between Pietro Frua and the Farina family weren’t at their best. Giovanni Farina, in his efforts to accommodate all customer requests, frequently clashed with Pietro, who had to alter designs multiple times. Tensions rose, witnessed even by a young Giovanni Michelotti, who joined as an apprentice in 1937. The turning point came in 1939 when Pietro Frua provoked his own dismissal, almost out of spite. He parked his car in front of the entrance gate of the Corso Tortona facilities, blocking the entry and exit of vehicles from the factory courtyard. 

Pietro Frua left the Stabilimenti Farina for Officine Viberti before establishing his own firm. This event marked the ascension of Giovanni Michelotti as the head of the design department, also gaining the renowned designer Mario Revelli di Beaumont. The collaboration between Michelotti and Revelli resulted in several projects, with Michelotti handling the aesthetics of the bodywork in some cases, while Revelli focused on the interiors.

In 1939, Stabilimenti Farina introduced variable travel shock absorbers, adjustable directly from the dashboard. Other sophisticated and innovative solutions, including retractable headlights, were realized on various bodies mounted on Fiat, Lancia, and Alfa Romeo chassis. One notable example was a sleek Coupe crafted for Nino Farina, showcasing the ingenuity and creativity fostered by the collaboration between Michelotti and Revelli.

Resilience Amidst Conflict: Farina's Revival and Creative Flourish Post-WWII

During the Second World War, the company was repurposed for wartime production, focusing on mechanical components—particularly braking systems—and even aircraft engines. However, the bombings heavily damaged the Corso Tortona 12 plant. Giovanni Farina, now elderly, decided to step back and leave the management of the bodywork to his sons: Attilio, who handled administration, and Nino, initially tasked with overseeing technical aspects but who ultimately gained fame as a Formula 1 champion.

stabilimenti farina

With the help of their employees, including a young Alfredo Vignale, the Stabilimenti Farina rebuilt the factory and resumed the production of custom-bodied cars, primarily using the familiar Lancia Aprilia, Fiat 1100, and 1500 chassis. They also crafted numerous unique pieces on various chassis, showcasing remarkable creative vitality, thanks in part to the collaboration with Giovanni Michelotti, who was heading the design department during that period.

Post-War Renaissance: Farina's Diverse Styles and Creative Triumphs

The post-war era was a time of stylistic confusion but also marked by significant experimentation in Italian car bodywork. This was evident in the creations showcased at the first true post-war automobile exhibition in Italy: the Italian Car Bodywork Exhibition in 1947 in Milan. Thanks to Michelotti’s versatility and creativity, Stabilimenti Farina produced series of bodies in various styles, including the flamboyant designs inspired by the French school, the controversial Tank-Style bodies based on Fiat and Lancia platforms, and the more modern and aerodynamic ones.

Despite the challenges of the post-war period, Stabilimenti Farina, under the guidance of the Farina family and with the creative brilliance of Giovanni Michelotti, continued to thrive, leaving an indelible mark on the automotive industry with their innovative designs and unwavering commitment to craftsmanship.

End of an Era

In 1947, Stabilimenti Farina faced the departure of their chief designer, Michelotti, who went on to work for Carrozzeria Allemano before eventually establishing his own design studio. The previous year, the company had also lost another key figure, Alfredo Vignale, who started his own coachbuilder workshop but continued collaborating with the Stabilimenti Farina, particularly on the Cisitalia project, contributing to the creation of the 202 CMM aerodynamic models and later, part of the 202 B series.

With Michelotti and Vignale no longer part of the company, the financial situation soon became untenable. Some of the projects during these years included collaborations with Ferrari (several 166 Inter and 212 Inter models) and, notably, Siata. For Ambrosini’s Siata, Farina crafted numerous special bodies based on the Fiat 1400 chassis, ranging from the sporty Daina grand tourers to long-wheelbase limousine versions.

However, this period proved challenging for luxury cars as the economic crisis took its toll. A glimmer of hope came with the contract for the Lancia Aurelia 50 Coupé, a model that found its way into Lancia’s lineup but, unfortunately, due to its high cost, did not achieve commercial success.

During this time, Franco Martinengo took charge of the design department, and although Michelotti’s stylistic influences were still apparent in his creations, the decline of Stabilimenti Farina was not solely attributed to a design issue.

Stabilimenti Farina continued to produce some bodies for the Cisitalia 303 DF and the Siata 208 CS, including unique specimens based on Jaguar, Fiat 1100 / 1400 and Lancia Aurelia chassis. However, in 1952, they were compelled to suspend operations. Subsequently, in the following year, the company underwent a name change to SAIO (Società per Azioni Industriale Oropa). Many workers, including Franco Martinengo, found employment at Pininfarina. Having lost key technicians and a significant portion of their skilled workforce, the ownership failed to adjust production to meet the evolving market demands. This gradual decline ultimately led to the company’s closure due to bankruptcy in 1953. Today, the Stabilimenti Farina building endures, albeit in a reduced form that includes only a fraction of its original structure, specifically the facade. It stands as a poignant testament to an extraordinary chapter in the history of coachbuilding.

Conclusions

The journey of Società Anonima Stabilimenti Industriali Giovanni Farina, from its roots in Cortanze d’Asti to becoming a powerhouse in Italian coachbuilding, is a tale of innovation and influence in the automotive world. Collaborations with design luminaries such as Revelli di Beaumont and Michelotti produced iconic creations. Despite economic challenges, Stabilimenti Farina continued to shape luxury automobile design. The company’s legacy lives on in rare and exquisite cars, serving as a reminder of an era where each vehicle was a unique work of art. The Farina story remains an inspiration, celebrating the enduring spirit of creativity and craftsmanship in Italian automotive excellence.