The Body Beautiful : Carrozzeria In Books

Have you heard of Carozzeria Boneschi ? Full marks if you have, this is one of the lesser known Italian coachbuilding concerns but it’s got an extensive (and expensive)  book all to itself. Untill the book arrived in stock I can’t say it’s a name I had every encountered before. Coachcraft is another example. This lesser-known British coachbuilder also has a book on it’s history (less expensive but very nicely produced) and considering this is a business that largely fizzled out in the 1950s with the introductions of unitary construction , even on the posher marques that were it’s traditional market, it’s got an large and diverse catalogue of literature recording it’s history. Other less-than familiar coachbuilders  have also find themselves immortalised in print in recent years include RIVA, VIOTTI, SCIONERI, & FISSORE. As so often with motoring books, the more obscure the subject the more likely it seems to be that someone will write abut it – often at the expense of the bigger names.

Naturally, however, the is now shortge of titles on the most famous coachbuilder and styling house of all, Pininfarina. So long associated with Ferrari – and thus tapping into the fever for all things relating ot the Prancing Horse.


The Italian firm even issued it’s own annuals for many years althugh they are more of an ‘art house’ publication in general than a car pubication. The contents include architecture and pop-art. It’s all very 1960s. Very of-it’s-time. Plenty of more ‘car’ oriented books on the firm are out there , one of the best value being FERRARI PININFARINA edited by Wallace Wyss, but thi is just one of probabaly dozens you could chose from.

While PININFARINA are still going strong, most of the other great Ialian names have vanished or been absorbed by mainstream car makers since the 1960s. The most obvious example is the once exotic GHIA who’s super-stylish , hyper exclusive creations were once snapped up by Frank Sinatra , but by the late 70s automotive-art-of-bertone-the-box-crump-1984-11061-ptheir badge meant little more than some garish trim for a mundane Ford Cortina. The definitive book on the company GHIA FORD’S CARROZZERIA charts that sad decline.

There are a few good books on ZAGATO , a great one on BERTONE and one or two on VIGNALE and other top end Italian styling houses but PININFARINA dominates the shelves as it has the conciousness of the Italian-car-crazy for half a century or more.

If British cars and coachbuilders are your thing, there are several books devoted entirely to the hundreds of different bodies applied to Rolls Royce chassis over the years published in various uopdated edition by the prolific Dalton Watson from the 60s onwards


THOSE ELEGANT ROLLS ROYCE , ROLLS ROYCE : THE ELEGANCE CONTINUES & ROLLS ROYCE: THE CLASSIC ELEGANCE    and one on the long-lasting VANDEN PLAS who’s most famous work was not to stick a grill on the unloved Austin Allegro(still a slightly better fate than GHIA…) but to body the Le Mans winning Bentley’s of the vintage era.

If you want an excellent over view of the British industry there  is Nick Walker’s A-Z OF BRITISH COACHBUILDERS which  carries details of a dizzying number of firms that clothed the great and the good (Mulliner, Park Ward,  James Young..) as well as those who aimed at the lower end of the market – the most famous being Swallow, specialist as bodyinghistory-of-coachbuilding-a-oliver-1962-12110-p Austin 7s,  who eventually morphed into Jaguar Cars.

French companies were renown for the wildest and most elaborate styling excesses of all and most didn’t survive financial downturns of the 1930s . As yet there isn’t a definitive book on the maddest of the lot, FIGONI at FALASCHI, but DALTON & WATSON are planning the release of one for smetime later in 2017 and gievn the reception most of their recent books have earned in the press, this is one to look forward to!  There is already a book on the almost uknown PICHON & PARAT… as I said above the more obscure ones seem to get covered more than some of the more famous names!

One book to look out for is a hefty history of French coachbuilding and car styling , only recently out of print ENCYCLOPEDIE DE LA CARROSSERIE FRANCAISE by Serge Bellu. Some silly prices have been seen for this 2011 book in recent months. Sencible priced copies might still be found if you look hard. But be quick.

The late Lord Montagu published a more general HISTORY OF COACHBUILDING covering the subject worldwide, written by George Oliver in the mid 1960s, which is as good place to start a niche collection on the subject as any.  In recent years the style, content and quality of books on the subject (as well as the price) has risen dramatically so that some of the newer titles on such exotic coachbuilding names as TOURING SUPERLEGGERA and  J.SAOUTCHIK  (published by Dalton Watson…yes them again!) are closer to second-hand car prices (certainly for the leather-bound editions) than normal books! But the you pay for quality and for the sheer prosaic nature of the subject material – not many people would know who the firm were let alone consider buying the book. Exclusivity costs. The edition is now sold out and is already appreciating in value – the opposite of that second hand car you could have bought with the money!

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