|Short history of coachbuilding (2nd era)|
After WW II automotive mass production soon became mainstream, ending the era of separate manufacturing of chassis and tailored coachworks. Many coachbuilders went bankrupt, were bought by manufacturers or changed their core business to other activities.
- transforming into dedicated design / styling houses, subcontracting to automotive brands (e.g. Zagato, Frua, Bertone, Pininfarina).
Many characteristic styling features of specific coachbuilders were even adopted by car manufacturers as their own ‘brand elements'.
Surviving independent design houses / coachbuilders were hired by car manufacturers for designing their series produced models.
Regularly they were also hired to design (and sometimes build) the (official or semi-official) niche models, based on the underpinnings of existing series produced models.
Many times coachbuilders created wonderful designs still on their own initiative, resulting in streetlegal prototypes which were often sold as “one-offs” to wealthy clients.
Frua Maserati Quattroporte 'Aga Kahn'
Initially (’40 – ’50 – early sixties) design houses / coachbuilders could still purchase separate chassis on which they could fit their own inhouse designed coachworks. Not without reason: many wealthy customers still commissioned their special one-offs based on ‘current’ available rolling chassis (then state-of-the-art), or even based on other series produced cars.
Productionwise the early days were relatively easy as chassis and coachwork were independently constructed. Hence the term “rolling” chassis. In the sixties however the monocoque and spaceframe constructions were introduced, which made it significantly more difficult for coachbuilders to fit newly designed bodies on a donor chassis / car. Freedom of (coachwork) design became more and more limited due to the predefined shapes of given body structures.
The chassis no longer acted simply as a flat undercarriage as it now also comprised the stressed roofline constructions and other stressed body panels (window pillars, rear fenders, and recently even the windows themselves).
Peugeot 404 monocoque and drivetrain
From now on coachbuilders had to deal with the integrated stressed structure of a car which essentially determined most basic bodyshapes.
Also safety regulations became more stringent, resulting in many technical requirements prohibiting most chassis modifications. So again the coachwork designer’s freedom became more limited. This forced design houses / coachbuilders to limit their rebody scope of work primarily to the outer panel work, necessarily leaving the basic car structure and proportions untouched.
COACHBUILD.com is a web encyclopedia dedicated to Special Coachbuilding, unique cars and the numerous coachbuilding companies that created so many wonderful pieces of automotive artwork throughout the decades.
See the Coachbuilders gallery for the continuously expanding encyclopedia of coachbuilders and their numerous creations from past to present. Search!
Join the Coachbuilders Forum for coachbuilding related info, images and questions.
Reach 50.000 unique visitors