Auto Carrosserie Willy Bernath

1938 - 1946

In 1938 Willy Bernath (1914-1991) took over a car repair shop founded by his father in 1924 in the Swiss municipality of La Chaux-de-Fonds (canton Neuchâtel). Bernath had previously trained as a coachbuilder in both Hamburg and Zurich. The ski athlete, who won the four-man combination in Davos in 1936, spent several months in the States before taking over his father’s business. From there he brought his inspiration for his somewhat extravagant models with him. The designer built a total of about 25 car bodies for European luxury cars, most of them are lost. In addition to owners of Lancia chassis, his clients included owners of Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, Auburn, Citroën and Talbot-Lago chassis. The coachbuilders also built a single Alfa Romeo 6C 1750.
Bernath, however, did not fit any brand-new chassis, but mainly produced so-called second bodies. Second bodies are bodies in which new designs replace existing ones.
Bernath’s designs were distinguished by their avant-garde design. They represented a successful mixture of streamline, elegance and luxury with traces of art deco. A radiator grille mounted horizontally above the bumper, which extended over the entire width of the car, was a novelty in body construction. Hidden headlights and a pointed bonnet complemented the unusual shape. The coachbuilder focused on works by well-known designers such as Hermann Graber and Battista Farina. The aluminium sheet construction on a steel frame resembled the Superleggera method of the Carrozzeria Touring. Bernath had his method of construction protected as Brevet Bernath.
The company continued its work during the Second World War. In 1944, for example, Bernath developed a convertible based on a Citroën. Orders declined after the end of the war. The last vehicle from La Chaux-de-Fonds was a 1936 Auburn 851, which Bernath fitted with a new bodywork in 1946. After that, the coachbuilders had to file for bankruptcy and closed the doors forever.