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Short history of coachbuilding (1st era)
Rolling chassis
Rolls-Royce rolling chassis


In the early motoring days, when series production did not yet exist, the process of acquiring a new vehicle was more complex, as rolling chassis provided the basis for different coachbuilding scenarios.
 
One approached a chassis motoring brand, who used to deliver to the customer only the rolling chassis, comprising:
- chassis
- drivetrain (engine, gearbox, differential, axles, wheels)
- suspension
- steering system
- radiator

Rolling Chassis

Noticeable fact is that the radiator was the only visual element identifying the rolling chassis brand.
Radiators Delage Bugatti Rolls-Royce

Subsequently the customer approached a coachbuilder, requesting a personal body design to be fitted on the purchased rolling chassis.

Rolls Royce Amherst Villiers

Sometimes a coachbuilder himself ordered or got assigned a series of chassis, on which basis he designed and manufactured to his own creative ideas and inspiration the new coachwork(s).

Coachbuilt Design
Third scenario was the situation in which a customer delivered a complete factory car to the coachbuilder with the request to change the entire coachwork or modify certain elements.

Underpinnings and especially the radiator (as main visible part determining the brand identity!) were discriminating starting points for the final coachwork design.
Rolling Chassis

Each coachbuilt car therefore carried the technical genes of the rolling chassis builder as well as the styling genes of the coachbuilder. The resulting wide range of DNA combinations led to a variety of unique and sometimes priceless coachbuilt cars.

Coachbuild design

Examples:
Delahaye did not have an in-house coachbuilding department; all chassis created by Delahaye were subsequently delivered to independent coachbuilders for completion.
Figoni & Falaschi

Bugatti produced separate rolling chassis as well as complete coachworked cars, offering the customer the choice to obtain a “Molsheim” body (the most beautiful versions designed by Jean Bugatti) or to select him/herself an external (independent) coachbuilder for a fully personalised body.
Bugatti Molsheim sketch

Rolls-Royce also provided the choice for a factory body or coachbuilt versions.

Rolls Royce Arnold advert

Special Coachbuilding blossomed until +/- 1945, displaying numerous creation highlights like many Mulliner Park Ward and James Young Rolls Royces, Figoni & Falaschi Bugattis, Chapron Delahayes, Pourtout Tabot-Lagos and many more.

See the coachbuilders gallery for a continuously expanding overview.
 
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