In 1912 the ingenious cartwright Giovanni Bertone (1884-1972) founded his workshop for the production and design of car bodies under the name Carrozzeria Bertone. His first order in 1921 was a torpedo from SPA (Società Ligure Piemontese Automobili, acquired by Fiat in 1925). The elegant car was based on the two-seater SPA.
Like its competitor Zagato, the renowned body builder worked for various automobile manufacturers in Germany and abroad. Bertone’s vehicles were always among the most beautiful in terms of performance and style. Companies such as Lamborghini, Lancia, Citroën or BMW had Bertone bodies designed. For Alfa Romeo, the body forge designed the futuristic Alfa Romeo BAT (1953/1955), the Giulietta Sprint (1954), the stylish Alfa Romeo Carabo (1968), the Montreal (1966) and in 2010 the prototype Pandion.
In the 1950s, Bertone vehicles symbolised elegance, avant-garde and good taste combined with innovative technology. The Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint Specialist with its futuristic, aerodynamic appearance reached a top speed of 190 km/h. The coachbuilder had formed a sports car from a classic family limousine, the Giulia 1900. Due to his high performance, he officially wore the stigma “unacceptable” – which did not diminish his enthusiasm for the car. The weakened version, the Giulietta Sprint, represents a breakthrough for the company. Alfa Romeo originally planned only a small series, but in the period from 1954 to 1965 more than 36,000 vehicles ran off the production line.
In the 1970s, the Italian company astounded with an extreme sports car, the Lancia Stratos 0, an uncompromising vehicle, 90 centimetres high, the passenger compartment only accessible through a hinged windscreen. The driver himself was trapped between the front wheels. Lancia changed the Bertone concept and turned the Stratos 0 into the Stratos HF. The extremely successful racing car won the 1974,1975 and 1976 World Rally Championships.
Bertone developed into a trendsetter with its sports car dreams produced in the 1980s and 1990s. The company also experimented with alternative energies such as electric cars. Spectacular was the ZER (Zero Emission Record), a single-seater with a battery-powered engine, which reached the unbroken top speed of 300 km/h until today.
At the end of the 1990s, the first dark clouds appeared on the horizon. With the death of Nuccio Bertone in 1997, a slow death began. The company got into financial difficulties and in the middle of the 2000s it was forced to sell the factory in Grugliasco to the automobile manufacturer Fiat. However, the design studio remained independent and was able to stay afloat for the time being. In 2008, Carrozzeria Bertone filed for bankruptcy for the first time, but will save itself until 2011 by selling exhibits from the Bertone Museum. Despite all efforts, the final end could no longer be averted. The closure of the Carrozzeria Bertone in 2014 marked the end of an era of 102 years of aesthetic masterpieces. The best car designers in the world had worked for the company, including such illustrious names as Giogetto Giugiaro and Marcello Gandini.