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Bertone Logo

Gruppo Bertone logo

Gruppo Bertone is an Italian automobile company, which has specialized in car styling, coachbuilding and manufacturing. Bertone styling is distinctive, with most cars having a strong "family resemblance" even if badged by different manufacturers. Bertone has styled cars for Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Citroën, Ferrari, Fiat, Iso Rivolta, Lancia, Lamborghini, Mercedes Benz, Opel and Volvo Cars among others. In addition the Bertone studio were responsible for two of the later designs of the Lambretta Italian motorscooter. In the late 1980s, Bertone styled the K20 motorcycle helmet for Swiss bicycle and motorcycle helmet manufacturer Kiwi.

The company is based in Grugliasco. It was founded as Carrozzeria Bertone in 1912 by Giovanni Bertone. Designer Nuccio Bertone took charge after World War II. The company was divided into two units: Carrozzeria for manufacturing and Stile Bertone for styling. The company is currently headed by Lilli Bertone, widow of Nuccio.

History of Bertone[]

The Bertone company was founded in November 1912. In Turin at age 28, Giovanni Bertone started a carriage manufacturing business. Three workers help him to build horse-drawn vehicles.

In these first decades of the 20th century, cars were very rare. The road traffic was dominated by horse-drawn carriages. The coaches built by the young Bertone were particularly regarded for their excellent accuracy, quality and solidity. In 1914 Giuseppe Bertone, nicknamed Nuccio, second son of Giovanni, was born. This nickname later becomes known worldwide as the signature of one of the greatest Italian style masters in the world. The outbreak of the first world war triggers a major crisis of the young Italian industrial sector. The crisis heavily affects Giovanni Bertone who is forced to close his shop.


With the end of the war, Bertone's business restarted and expanded its activities focusing on the automotive sector. In 1920 a new plant was opened in via Monginevro 119, in Turin. Twenty people were on the payroll. One year later, the first important contract was signed: a torpedo styled body based on the SPA 23S chassis. Then the FIAT "501 Sport Siluro Corsa", first of a family of models that would characterize the brand in the years to come, is designed. With that, the high performance sport car was born.

During the 1920s Turin came to represent one of the worldwide centers of excellence of the car industry. Bertone was sitting on the hub of it and formed partnerships with almost all the manufacturers of the day. Giovanni Bertone began doing bodywork on Fast, Chiribiri, Aurea, SCAT and Diatto chassis. The most important and long lasting relationships were those with the two biggest Turin manufacturers: FIAT and Lancia.

Vincenzo Lancia realised straight away that Giovanni Bertone was an outstanding skilled craftsman with a great future ahead of him. Affectionately nicknaming him 'Bertunot', he commissioned Bertone to create complete car bodies, above all for the limited series that the companies of the day were not always equipped to manufacture. This was Bertone's first opportunity to carry out limited production of special cars on standard mechanical bases, and was the beginning of a great industrial experience.

These are very exciting years for Bertone himself, and also for the evolution of industrial style and design: car body shapes are slowly but continuously changing, angular shapes begin to fade, wings start to be joined together. Giovanni Bertone produced torpedo and saloon bodies for FIAT and Lancia, and also for Itala, Diatto and SPA. He also worked on commissions for private customers eager for exclusivity. Alongside sports models like the 1928 Ansaldo 6BS, Giovanni Bertone also designed luxury cars like the FIAT 505 limousine and the Itala 51S, both in 1924, and the Lancia Lambda VIII Series in 1928.


Despite the fact that the great depression of 1929 had brought many Turin carmakers to their knees, Giovanni Bertone's shrewd management allowed his company to carry on creating cars with great appeal. In 1932 he designed the imposingly elegant Lancia Artena. The following year, 1933, a corner stone event for the Carrozzeria Bertone occurred: Nuccio, then 19, officially began working in his father's company.

In the same period Bertone began working on commercial vehicles, and as the business grew, new premises were needed. The company moved to Corso Peschiera 225. There were now 50 people on the staff.

In 1934 Bertone created the extraordinary Fiat 527S Ardita 2500, a real turning point in car design, with some incredible new details such as the stunning front headlights with fairing along the bonnet. With the Ardita a new kind of style was created, destined to take off towards the end of the decade, with FIAT and Lancia models astounding for their day. Examples were the 'six window' FIAT 1500 Aerodinamica, the opulent Lancia Aprilia Cabriolet and the novel Fiat 1500 Torpedo, with structural features that had never been seen before, such as the fold-away hood which stowed away entirely inside the car. With his bold innovations and elegant creations, Bertone is highly appreciated by car experts and fans.


With the outbreak of World War II, the car market experienced a sudden, drastic downturn. Almost all the bodywork manufacturers, including Bertone, reacted to the crisis by turning to military vehicles of various kinds (such as the Bertone ambulance on Lancia Artena base).

It was a hard time. The demand was scarce. Raw materials and labor was lacking. Military orders where difficult to fulfill. But production did not stop in the Corso Peschiera plant, some luxurious Lancia Aprilia are manufactured as well as the extremely elegant long chassis Fiat 2800 cabriolet, the only one of its kind, built on commission for race driver and motoring journalist Giovanni Lurani Cernuschi.

After the war, as the long slow process of reconstruction began in Europe, the big industrial companies gradually scaled up their production levels, and the bodyworks got back to work. During these difficult years Nuccio Bertone created cars like the Lancia Aprilia Cabriolet and the Fiat 1100 Stanguellini racing car, which were precursors to some of the design trends of the following decade.

At the end of the 1940s, Nuccio Bertone turned to racing, at the wheel of a number of different cars, including a Fiat 500 Barchetta he built for himself. At the end of the decade the meeting with Vittorio Stanguellini led to the creation of a coupé with a Fiat 1100 chassis which got a great public appreciation..


The 1950s brought in the first orders from abroad, in particular from MG and Bristol in1952. The following year Nuccio Bertone designed the prototype for the Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint, which was presented at the 1954 Turin Motor Show. A production of 1000 was originally planned, but in the end nearly 40,000 vehicles were made between 1954 and 1965.

The relationship between Bertone and Alfa Romeo reached its creative peak with the Berlinetta Aerodinamica Tecnica (BAT) concept cars which pushed back the boundaries of car design and aerodynamics: the BAT 5 (1953), the BAT 7 (1954), and the BAT 9 (1955). Research into aerodynamics culminated in the production of the Abarth 750 Record in 1956, built on a Fiat 600 chassis and tested on the high speed track at Monza. This Abarth set an impressive ten world records, including doing 4,000 km at an average of 156.36 km/h and covering 10,125.26 km in 72 hours.

1957 saw the company expanding to start the production of the NSU Sport Prinz. The factory in Corso Peschiera could not cope with the forecasted production volumes. Construction work began in Grugliasco on the outskirts of Turin for a new plant which became operative in 1959, with a workforce of 550.

At the end of the 1950s Bertone came up with some sports berlinetta which were to make history, such as the Giulietta Sprint Special, the Aston Martin DB2/4 and the Maserati 3500 GT.


The 1960s were the years of the Italian-style GT. Nuccio Bertone came up with five variations on the theme which would always be dear to his heart, in the shape of five extremely racy GT models: the Alfa Romeo 2600 Sprint, in coupé and cabriolet versions, two Ferrari 250 GT, one named 'Wax' after the commissioning client, and the other for the his personal use, the Aston Martin DB4 GT 'Jet' and the Maserati 5000 GT.

At the same time two new industrial partnerships were getting under way, with the work on the SIMCA 1000 Coupé and the BMW 3200 CS limited series, as was the important but unfortunate ASA 1000, better known as the 'Ferrarina', or 'little Ferrari' (as the project originated with Enzo Ferrari), which, despite the high expectations of the public, never made it to the market.

The Iso-Rivolta GT 300 and GT 340 and the Iso Grifo were also created in this period. Nuccio Bertone also designed a prototype cabriolet of the latter and a racing version known as the A3C. The Grifo years were also the years of the Corvair Testudo, driven personally by Nuccio Bertone to the Geneva Motor Show in 1963. The following year saw the Alfa Romeo Canguro, followed in 1965 by the Alfa Romeo Giulia GT, rightful heir of the Giulietta Sprint.

In the same year Carrozzeria Bertone experienced a major turning-point, with the launch of the Fiat 850 Spider. The commercial success of this model led Nuccio Bertone to increase the company's production capacity to 120 units per day (between 1965 and 1972 nearly 140,000 were produced, the great majority was sold in the US). With the 850 Spider the company took a giant leap forward in terms of production volumes, from the 13,000 bodies produced in 1966 to nearly 30,000 in 1968, an increase of 40 percent.

The end of the 1960s saw the beginning of the partnership with Ferruccio Lamborghini that was destined to make history in the car world. The first vehicle to come out of this was the revolutionary Miura, presented at the 1966 Geneva Motor Show, which reinvented the high performance coupé design concept. The Miura was followed by the Marzal (1967) and the Espada (1968). In the same period two other coupés appeared: the Alfa Romeo Montreal and the Fiat Dino Coupé, both out in 1967. Astounding, ground-breaking cars, inventing their own language for the design of the future: these were Nuccio Bertone's trademarks. At the Paris Motor Show of 1968 he presented the Carabo concept car, based on an Alfa 33 chassis.


By 1970 Bertone had a workforce of 1500 and the Grugliasco factory covered an area of 267,000 sq.m. The partnership with Lamborghini led to the development of the Jarama and the Urraco. With the Stratos Zero prototype, built on a Lancia Fulvia 1.6 HF base, Bertone came to represent a new point of reference in modern art, as well as on the international car design scene. The Stratos Zero, which was presented at the 1970 Turin Motor Show, went beyond mere questions of style to create a timeless blend of architecture, sculpture and industrial design. The following year, with some of the Zero's styling cues as a starting point, Bertone created the Lancia Stratos Stradale, a compact coupè destined mainly for the racing circuit, and which in fact went on to bring home numerous victories in various rally world championships.

In 1972, at the age of 88, Giovanni Bertone died. In the same year, as a kind of tacit tribute to the company's founder, the Maserati Khamsin and the Fiat X1/9 came out. The latter, foreshadowed by the Runabout concept car, was the heir of the 850 Spider, and went on to enjoy the same runaway commercial success. Based on the Fiat 128 chassis, but with a mid-rear engine, the X1/9 went into production in 1972 and 160,000 units had been manufactured by the time production stopped in 1988.

Meanwhile Nuccio Bertone's prolific drawing board saw a succession of supercars, runabouts and provocative style concepts: the Lamborghini Countach and the Ferrari 308 GT4 (1973), the Audi 50 and Innocenti Mini 90 (1974), the Fiat 131 Abarth Rally (1975) and the prototype Alfa Romeo Navajo (1976).

In the same year, the company began working for Volvo, on the 264 TE. The Volvo262 C, which was presented at the 1977 Geneva Motor Show, was entirely manufactured by Bertone, from the assembly of the basic body to the fitting of the mechanical components and the road trials. This procedural turning point had a big hand in transforming the company, which was now all set to become a car manufacturer in its own right.


From the beginning of the 1980s the Ritmo Cabrio and the X1/9 were produced and sold directly under the Bertone brand, meaning that the company was now responsible not only for production but also for the sales network and after-sales assistance for the two models.

In 1982 Nuccio Bertone turned out another important design, the Citroën BX. After entering into a joint-venture with Volvo in 1985 the company began production of the 780, an elegant two-door saloon entirely created by Nuccio Bertone, from the formal design of the model to the full production cycle.

A new commercial agreement drawn up with General Motors Europe in 1986 saw production of the Kadett Cabrio handed over to Bertone. The new Pontiac Fiero GT was designed by Bertone Stile as well. The partnership with Opel continued with the first generation of the Astra Cabrio, and with the Astra Coupé and AstraCabriolet. The end of the 1980s saw the Citroën XM, and the Freeclimber off-roader with mechanical components by Daihatsu and BMW engines.

Cars styled by Bertone[]