My Car Quest

March 21, 2019

Franco Scaglione: King Of The Alfa Romeo BATs

by Wallace Wyss –

There are unsung heroes in every field. Writing about rare cars for my Incredible Barn Finds books (Enthusiast Books, Hudson WI) I keep running across the name Franco Scaglione.

I finally began researching him and after some research feel it is one of the car world’s great tragedies that this man couldn’t have been more utilized in his time.

He first studied aeronautical engineering but eventually brought that knowledge to the car field.

Born on September 26, 1916 in Florence, Italy to a medical family, his father being an army doctor and his mother a captain of the Italian Red Cross service.

He served in WW II, joining up and being sent to Libya. But in 1941 he was taken prisoner and sent to a detention camp in India for the next five years.

It took him a year at home in Italy to recover. In the late ‘40s he went to Bologna hoping to In ’48, he married Maria Luisa Benvenuti and fathered a daughter, Giovanna.

Alfa Romeo BAT Cars

Alfa Romeo BAT Cars

He realized the auto industry was based in Torino and moved there in 1951. He first contacted a big name then (who had made in roads in America) and Battisa Farina (later Pininfarina) but wasn’t hired by him. One Italian biographer says he did do a car for Pininfarina but Pininfarina wouldn’t let him put his name on it, so he instead went to Pininfarina’s rival, Nuccio Bertone, with whom he created many memorable cars including the Lancia Aurelia B50 1951 (5 seater coupe with Balbo bodywork), the Abarth 1500 Bertone Berlinetta of 1952, and the unusual Ferrari-Abarth 166 mm / 53 spider competition Bertone of 1953.

But most memorable were the three Berlina Aerodynamico Technica cars, the BATs, all on Alfa chassis, cars for which he was properly credited.

The first was rolled out in 1953. The goal was to create cars with the lowest possible drag coefficient possible.

You might say these sparked the tail fin era, each had fins but each of the fin treatments was differed. Each year between 1953 and 1955 a new BAT was rolled out at the Turin Auto show. One had a drag coefficient of 0.19, beating anything made today in production.

In 1959 Scaglione decided to hang out his shingle on his own, and tied in with an Austrian immigrant to Italy, Carlo Abarth, for whom he designed the Porsche 356 B Abarth Carrera GTL, which was supposed to be bodied by Zagato but instead was farmed out to a firm with lesser talents, Rocco Motto.

Ferrucio Lamborghini recognized his talent and hired him to do the concept car, the Lamborghini 350 GTV that first put his car on the map. Ironically when the car was shown, the engine wouldn’t fit so the car was loaded with bricks so it would fit right during the show.

Lamborghini 350 GTV

Lamborghini 350 GTV

Unfortunately the radical design was not approved for production and the production Lamborghini 350GT was much tamer, making it much more difficult to outshine Ferrari (until the Miura came along, designed by Gandini).

Then Scaglione went to another fledgling automaker, ATS, for whom he did the mid engine coupe bodied by Allemano, the ATS 2500 GT. He also was among the first Italians to design for a Japanese automaker, in doing the 1900 Skyline Sprint for Prince (Japan).

There was a one off called, the Titania Veltro GTT, and still another fledgling automaker, this one a Hungarian turned Canadian turned Italian, Frank Reisner, who had the firm Intermeccanica. I don’t know if he influenced the Apollo GT* (see the editor’s note below), but he is credited with the Torino, Italia GFX, Italia IMX, and the Indra.

Intermeccanica Prototype

Intermeccanica Prototype

Many feel his masterwork was a short lived street car based on a race car, the 1967 Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale. A mere eighteen were built, and in a way it was a fulfillment of that promise often promised but seldom fulfilled, a race car turned into a GT car with none of the excitement lost.

Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale

Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale – Art by Wallace Wyss

 

Frank Reisner and Franco Scaglione

Frank Reisner and Franco Scaglione

Franco was not a businessman. He failed to see Intermeccanica was not built on a sound footing and lost much of his own personal savings in Intermeccanica.

He walked out on the auto industry, moving to a small village in Tuscany in 1981, living a secluded life where it is reported his health deteriorated plus there were rumors of drug addiction. In 1991, he was diagnosed with lung cancer, and lived only two more years, dying June 19th 1993, at the age of 76.

He has largely been forgotten, but if you like Italian sports cars of the Fifties and Sixties, you can’t help but be reminded of his genius when you discover that he designed some of the most significant sports cars of the ‘50s and ‘60s.

 

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss’ fourth book in the Incredible Barn Finds series is due out in November from Enthusiast Books, Hudson, WI

* Editor’s note – Franco Scaglione did indeed work on the Apollo GT design which was originally penned by American, Ron Plescia. Scaglione was hired to fine tune the styling after a protorype was built.

Mike Gulett

 

 

1954_bertone_aston-martin_db_2-4_competition_spyder

1954 Bertone Aston Martin DB2/4 Competition Spyder

Summary
Franco Scaglione: King Of The Alfa Romeo BATs
Article Name
Franco Scaglione: King Of The Alfa Romeo BATs
Description
Franco Scaglione was a car design master who may not get the credit he deserves.
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Comments

  1. Hi Wallace autofill took over my life and I couldn’t correct it. Contact info as below… Bart

  2. http://Mike%20Clarke says

    There could be more Intermeccanica, a shooting brake named the Murena and I have pictures of a one off mid engined car built by Intermeccanica. Reisner also built a Ford Mustang station wagon and I would guess that Scaglione could have been involved with that project.

  3. http://Ed%20Niles says

    Back in the 60’s/70’s Sal DiNatale, an Alfa mechanic with whom I learned about Ferraris, owned one of the three BATs. He had left the windshield in a friend’s garage, and couldn’t remember the address. He had numerous offers on the car, but held out for many years, hoping that the Alfa Museum would become interested. Sal, though uneducated, was smarter than the rest of us, as he hung onto his Maserati Zagato double-bubble, going so far as to ship it back to Sicily and build a brick structure around it. The BATs were fantastic, but may I say bizarre?

  4. http://Dennis%20Holz says

    A friend of mine, Rob Shanahan, used to have a restoration shop in Solana Beach CA. There many years ago I saw BAT 5 in boxes, as purchased in a midwest or southern barn find the exact details escape me now. In order to the get the car, the purchaser had to buy a motor home and live in the area near the car for months to develop a relationship with the ultimate seller. The car was literally in parts hanging from the rafters. Rob did an amazing job and as is usual, sent it to Pebble for the first time with the paint still drying.

    • http://Wallace%20Wyss says

      In my last Incredible Barn Finds book, the one with Smokey Yunick in the title, I have the story of BAT 5, bought, as improbable as it seems, off a used car lot in rural Michigan by a 16 year old kid on his way to the county fair. He had to shake down mom and granma to get the $3000 price and work long hours selling ice cream to pay them back. He restored the car and, as an adult, finally sold it to create a foundation dedicated to his first wife, who had died of some rare disease.

      • http://Randy%20Cox says

        To ,add a bit more to the BAT 5 saga, Wally is correct in that the car was sold to help pay the expenses of his dying wife. The gentleman went on to become a dentist in the same area and further commissioned a new Bat car. At the Meadow Brook Concours, we found out about the car and I was able to put together a group of people who raised the $17,500.00 necessary to get the new car out of Italy and to the show to be displayed with the three original cars! The non running car remained in Michigan after the show and to the best of my knowledge is still with the dentist.

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