Like so many companies, you get so large and the demand to match, that you have to find ways of meeting production demands.
In Italy since the inception of making cars, there have always been a large number of small shops that would or could make “one off” body concepts from a hand drawn design. These craftsmen were skilled at working metal, using leather or mohair and hot rodding engines. I am sure that if you were to conjure up some names of some of the most beautiful cars ever built you can think of any number of styling salons. Some of them do not exist today as they never really made the “big splash” that would lead to large scale production. There are others that however churned out any number of bodies that lead to small scale runs or even more.
Alfa Romeo being a car manufacturer consigned many of their cars out to sub contract for bodies. I used to own a 1949 6c2500 Super Sport with a Touring 3 window aluminum body. I will surmise that the owner of the hotel in Bellagio went to Alfa Romeo to see about getting a car that was worth of his stature in the community. As the story of my car was told to me by Sr. Luigi Fusi, the hotel had a questionable reputation. That being said, it was a front for a brothel. Now having the means to buy a custom made car it made sense that you could go to just about anyone in Milan or Turin to get a custom built car.
To continue the story…the customer went to Alfa Romeo and asked to have a car built. Alfa Romeo said that they could build him a car, all he had to do was choose a chassis. At that time it was the 6 cylinder 2.5 liter engine mated to a 4 speed gear box with a swing axle in the rear. The new owner chose to have a Super Sport chassis. This was the 3 Weber carbureted engine. Then the owner would look at drawings or photographs (I am making an assumption) to choose which body he wanted built. . The chassis then would be taken to the body shop and a new body would be custom built for the client. In the case of my car it was Touring which was a very large body maker.
Again going on the assumption of what could have transpired, Touring sat down with the client to work out the colors for the exterior and interior. Once that was decided including instrument placement etc, the body shop was given the go ahead to start. Large panels of aluminum would be pulled and locked into place on a large wooden buck that would form the sections of the body. Once they were hand beaten over the wood buck they would be given to another set of craftsmen to weld together on the chassis.
Now how does this fit with the theme of my website? In the 1950’s Alfa Romeo started to make unibody cars with the 1900. Some of the bodies were farmed out if requested for custom bodies. The company was taking a new direction by making cars in large numbers for the for the citizens. Then the Giulietta came in to existence in the 1950’s. The companies that Alfa Romeo chose to build their bodies were Pininfarina and Bertone.
Pininfarina built the Spider and Bertone built the sprint and Sprint Speciale bodies. These companies were small production, but the demand to move from small teams that hand pounded out bodies were out stripped by demand. To meet demand the companies had to buy large metal stamps to increase production.
The reason for this blog came from the current owner of a Giulia Spider Veloce. If you have read through my blog spos you know hat there were two numbers put on the body of the car. One was the chassis number for Alfa Romeo and the other was the body number stamped in the floor of the trunk from Pininfarina. Neither were in consecutive order. It was most likely pulled from the pile and put on the assembly line. In the case of the Sprint Speciale we know that the cars were built in order “for the most part” as the chassis numbers and the Bertone body number are off by two, accounting for the two prototypes. There are a few anomalies with the numbers off by 3. How that happened is anyone’s. guess.
The bodies were stamped and assembled in the factory across town from Alfa Romeo on carts. The bare painted chassis (run in groups of the same color) were then loaded on to a truck and shipped over to Alfa Romeo to be assembled in to complete cars. Once the truck arrived, the bodies were stored in warehouses awaiting their turn to be put on the assembly line.
The engines, transmissions and interiors were made in house at Alfa Romeo and stock piled. One can go on this assumption that chassis were pushed from the ware house to the assembly line and started down the line. Here is where “randomness” comes into play. Since the bodies were off loaded into the warehouse, they were just pushed in to any where they could sit. The bodies were then pulled at random. “Today we are building all white cars”, could be a scenario. As the cars made their way down the assembly line, the engines were pulled from the warehouse where they were stored at random.
Here is where the story concludes…the owner of the Giulia is a very late chassis number, 391xxx about 80 cars from the end of production. My car was built in May of 1965. This Giulia Spider Veloce 391xxx car was built in June of 1965 only a week apart, but different colors. This shows that all of the bodies were built before the middle of 1965 by Pininfarina. This is new information to me as I have been tracking these cars since the early 1970’s.
The next part of this story will be to compare the in house body numbers from Pininfarina to see where these cars are in sequence. I guess one has to ask, “Why only 1091 bodies?” It would seem logical to build an even number. Could Alfa Romeo said that the contract would only extend to the end of June 1965 and after that date no more bodies were to be built?