Coachbuilt, One-off or Persoanalized
Volume 48 Issue 9
May 6, 2023
Coachbuilt, One-off or Personalized. Ferrari started with custom bodied, or at least could be customized to the customers taste. Today, the choices are endless. Have we come full circle?
In the beginning there was Enzo Ferrari. A man who just wanted to race cars of his own design.
Not to design cars; his motivation was to create racing cars that could win races around the world.
Racing cars follow a different path in design. Function does not follow form, form follows function.
In Enzo Ferrari’s day, the shape of a racing car was not considered first. It was the chassis and engine that ruled the racetrack. Early race cars were barely more than those two components with a seat.
Racing machines are stripped down to the very basics without any frills, ornamentation, or creature comforts. While racing cars could be sold, the numbers would make it difficult to justify the effort and expense of manufacturing.
There were those who wanted a high-performance machine for the street. Ferrari recognized selling a few cars with more civilized comforts could make more money for racing.
Customer, non-competition cars were given odd-numbered serial numbers. The first was S/N 001 S and as was the custom then, was sent out to a coachbuilder to have a body attached.
During these early days of Ferrari there was not a full identity of what a Ferrari should be or look like. Ferrari supplied the basics, and the customer could have just about anything installed on a chassis.
It is worth noting that of the first fifty cars Ferrari built, there were eight different coachbuilders. Clearly the most prominent coachbuilders of the day were employed by rich clientele.
Carrozzeria Touring gained fame before World War II with designs for the Alfa 8C and BMW 328. The company had been commissioned to build the very first Ferrari, the Auto Avio Costruzioni 815, to be raced in the 1940 Mille Miglia.
Ferrari knew the Touring company through this, and the previous Alfas sold while Enzo Ferrari was an Alfa Romeo dealer in the 1930s.
Another firm was Stabilimenti Farina. This design house had been in business since the turn of the century and employed several designers who would ultimately become notable in their own right. Gentlemen like Alfredo Vignale, Giovanni Michelotti and Mario Boano would play roles after the war right when Ferrari was trying to forge its identity.
Ghia and Bertone would round out the main carrozzerias in Italy where a customer could visit to have a chassis clothed in style.
All these players were well established before the war. The war years were difficult and most turned to manufacturing material for the military. After hostilities ended, the lack of raw materials and infrastructure made life difficult.
As Ferrari boldly chose to build cars there was no shortage of companies ready to return to design and the manufacture of automobiles.
What we find in those first fifty cars, which took two and one-half years to produce, is a variety of styles and unique approaches to what a Ferrari should look like.
Touring dominated with forty percent of that early production. Farina and Vignale are fairly evenly split with twenty-two percent, and Ghia built ten percent. Bertone clothed one of the first fifty cars.
On the competition side, Ferrari made thirty-four cars in the same time period with nearly all of them built by Touring.
Ferrari racing vehicles enjoyed a clear identity. Within racing circles a Ferrari was readily identified on the track. The non-competition cars were still very much built with more individualism.
By 1951 Touring was building fewer street cars for Ferrari customers. Companies like Vignale and Ghia were taking over this volume of work. Ferrari’s rich customers liked the progressive style of these designers.
At this time a Ferrari customer could go to a designer and tailor their car, like a good suit is tailored to the likes, or whims, of the customer. This process allowed as much individuality to the customer and allowed the designer free reign to present new and exciting ideas.
The customer had a large say in how his Ferrari should look, and options are good, but Ferrari also recognized the wide variety of body styles and looks detracted from creating a cohesive look of what a Ferrari should be.
By 1954 Pinin Farina had entered the picture and Ferrari automobiles began to have a certain look. Identifying traits were surfacing. The egg-crate grille and flowing lines became signature design features.
Pinin Farina and Ferrari were made for each other. A perfect match. Ferrari automobiles now had a look that transcended other cars and were easily identified as a Ferrari.
This transition led to greater production numbers and more sales. Now a customer did not have to decide how, or even who, would create their Ferrari. One could be purchased right off the lot (not literally) in a configuration as advertised with features already settled upon.
Even with this new marketing plan, personalization was still accommodated. Small styling changes could be negotiated with either Ferrari or the carrozzeria. Many mid-to-late 1950s Ferraris came with touches of individuality based upon the customers’ wishes.
The days of pure freedom in coachbuilding were coming to an end, but not completely over. Design houses still need to show off new styles and create futuristic cars that may create trends.
What better platform to use than Ferrari?
This was brought home to me when I saw the Chrysler Super Dart 400 auctioned this year at Scottsdale. At first glance I thought it was 0473 SA, a 410 Superamerica also built by Ghia. The similarity of both cars show how a designer can take a basic shape and transform it into something unique.
Boano also has displayed styling exercises. Again, in the mid-1950s three Ferraris were transformed with similar body styles but differing in details. Two, a coupe and a cabriolet, were made on the 410 Superamerica chassis and one cabriolet was built on a 250 GT chassis.
Over the years many Ferraris have been the subject of one-off bodies. Some did not present features passed onto further models and others created an entirely different direction in automotive design.
Pininfarina created the Superfast II in 1960 and it changed the shape of future Superfast models. By 1963 the shape and many of the design features were used in the rest of the series.
Some exercises did fare well and these Ferraris were truly on-offs. Bertone created a 250 GT SWB for Dr. Wax. While a pretty and well-proportioned car in general it did not change automotive design or direction.
The same happened with another Bertone creation, the 308 Rainbow. Born from the wedge shape era of the mid-1970s, this one-off did not move design in a different direction.
Pininfarina had long cemented their dominance in designing Ferraris. It is interesting to see the design process from concept, or show car, to become a production automobile.
The Dino concept car was very exotic with gull-wing doors and fins, slots and wings attached around the bodywork. The basic shape of the Dino 206/246 series is present, and is easy to recognize but practicality would require the extravagance be toned down for production.
The same can be said for Pininfarina’s P6 concept. This model has all the earmarks of the 365 GT4/BB-512 BB series. This model was unveiled in 1968 when the Daytona was just beginning production.
Clearly, this concept moved the needle of automotive design and direction.
In 2000 Pininfarina developed the Rossa on a 550 Maranello chassis. This was built in an open top Barchetta style. Some could say it was the impetus for the 550 Barchetta.
While it is easy to see removing the top from a Maranello would yield the Barchetta, I believe the Rossa is actually the design study for the current Monza SP1 and SP2 series of Ferrari.
The SP cars began in 2018 and the look of the Rossa compared to the SP certainly has striking similarities. The twin headrest and separate seating positions were features of the Rossa that survive in the SP.
National and international rules and regulations have changed the game on building one-off automobiles. Today, regulations dictate many of the parameters of how an automobile can be sold.
Safety and emission standards all must be met to ensure the motoring public does not injure themselves or others. Things like bumper height and rollover protection limit how much a car can be changed or modified from its original homologation.
But we have come full circle. The first Ferraris were built to a customer’s specification. The coachbuilder could present their interpretation of a design and the customer could add or create individual touches to make their Ferrari unique.
Ferrari has embraced this capability with the One-to-One Program or Tailor Made program. Many details can be chosen to customize your new Ferrari. Options of fabric and leather to paint and carbon fiber can be selected to produce exactly what a customer wants.
The variety of colors and designs are nearly limitless which makes it possible to easily create your own one-off.
The beauty of this type of program is the basic homologated vehicle is not changed. The personalization program does not change how the car will perform, or emissions or crash standards.
But what if you wanted something even more personalized? Ferrari will accommodate you with an opportunity to be a designer. At least within reason.
Starting with an existing platform you may change or modify the exterior to develop shape and style. This is the Special Projects program.
By utilizing an existing model styling and modifications can be ordered. This is an intensive process and every step along the way is a collaboration between the customer and Ferrari.
Engineers and designers will work with the customer to modify a design to fit withing the confines of an originally homologated vehicle.
The result is highly personal and unique.
One such Ferrari is the SP275RW. This was an F12tdf that embodied design elements of a 275 GTB.
From the wide mouth grille to the side gills behind the wheels this became a reinterpretation of what the original GTB might look like in the modern world.
Another customer started his project with a 599 GTO. Bits and pieces from several different Ferrari models were used to graft together his personal unique creation.
The rear is like the 599XX track-only model. The front hood came from the F12berlinetta and headlights from the 458 Italia. While the exterior molded all these elements together, the interior is a mix of 599 GTO and 612 Scaglietti components.
The Special Projects vehicles are identified with unique names that highlight the individuality of each vehicle. This one is called SP 30.
Working closely with the customer, the Special Projects process ensures the final product is pleasing and still retains its Ferrari identity. There are some things Ferrari will not do when working with the customer.
Then there is the ultimate Special Projects Ferrari. Jim Glickenhaus worked with Ferrari to create his P4/5 from an Enzo. Proving that when you become one of Ferrari’s special customers, the sky is the limit.
Some things never change.
In the beginning a customer would create a personal design working with coachbuilders.
Today Ferrari will work with customers to personalize any model they build.
Whether you want to choose the colors inside or out, use fabric or leather, it can all be accommodated.
On a grander scale you can tailor the shape and style to make something truly unique.
Owning a Ferrari has always been special and making it special has never been easier.
Coachbuilt, one-off or personalized, what is your dream?