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Ferrari claims Special Coachbuilding
Ferrari Coachbuilders logos

The 21st Century Coachbuilding is hot and everyone wants a piece of the pie.

Coachbuilding has always been the territory of the numerous independent coachbuilders and their individual wealthy clients, but it seems some car manufacturers are trying to turn the tide and want to take a piece of the pie...
Ferrari have confirmed they finally decided to join the coachbuilders at the dinner table.
Good news, but there's a catch...
Giugiaro Ferrari GG50 with Giorgetto Giugiaro
Giorgetto Giugiaro and his 612 Scaglietti based GG50

After Giugiaro's personal GG50 and the limited series Zagato 575 GTZ, it was Pininfarina who really boosted the new 21st Century Coachbuilding Revival with their Ferrari P4/5 project, commissioned by James Glickenhaus. This Enzo-based one-off was an initiative of Pininfarina without Ferrari's knowledge. A little later Vandenbrink Design joined the revival of Special Coachbuilding with their 599/630 GTO, based on the Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano. And there are more to follow.

Vandenbrink GTO, Giugiaro GG50, Pininfarina P4/5, Zagato 575 GTZ
Vandenbrink GTO, Giugiaro GG50, Pininfarina P4/5, Zagato 575 GTZ

The artform of coachbuilding has always been fuelled - like painting, architecture and haute couture - by a client’s passion for the talent and style of a specific designer. In the coachbuilding glory days the customer therefore approached an independant coachbuilder, requesting a unique body design to be fitted on a purchased chassis. Like James Glickenhaus commissioned Pininfarina to create his one-off P4/5 and Giugiaro wanting to create a fully personalized (GG50) masterpiece for himself. The customer simply chose his favourite coachbuilder who could perform the best artistic style imagined. Pininfarina, Stabilimenti Farina, Drogo, Scaglietti, Zagato, Vignale, Ghia, Touring, Motto, Bertone and Michelotti are just a few of the famous coachbuilders who ever bodied a Ferrari. Many invaluable icons were born.
Two new names have joined the league of special coachbuilders: Vandenbrink Design and Fioravanti, enriching the coachbuilding tradition. Many more 21st century icons will be born the next years.

James Glickenhaus in P4/5
James Glickenhaus in his Pininfarina P4/5 one-off

Coachbuilt cars traditionally were double branded: one badge belonged to the rolling chassis and the second showed the signature of the coachbuilder. Usually coachbuilt cars were thereafter also well known under the coachbuilders name. The car manufacturers did not always care what kind of body their chassis were given, as long as their chassis were sold in sufficient numbers. A fruitful situation which nourished a rich automotive culture.

Ferrari Pininfarina crossing Flags

The 21st Century Coachbuilding revival now faces an interfering challenge to the tradition.

At first Ferrari did not seem to like Pininfarina's P4/5 initiative very much. They didn’t support the project, not wanting to grant James Glickenhaus the use of their logo. However, thanks to the passion and perseverance of James Glickenhaus, who freely spoke about his wonderful project on and the huge amount of positive reactions by public and press, Ferrari ultimately felt they were 'obliged' to give their permission to label the P4/5 as a Ferrari. As such this is a good thing.

Pininfarina Ferrari P4/5 at the Paris Autosalon
Pininfarina P4/5 at the Paris Autosalon

Nowadays economic constraints force the brands to focus on mass production; as a result they usually don’t deliver separate chassis. This forces coachbuilding customers to deliver a complete factory car to the coachbuilder, requesting a redesign of the entire coachwork according to the designer's unique artistic style in which many personal requests can be taken into account (without factories looking over the designer’s shoulder and without the additional “blessing” pricetag).
In this case the car is still double branded, only the factory badge belonging to the donor car is printed on the registration papers and is not always screwed onto the nose of the car for different reasons. Nowadays many contemporary coachbuilders prefer to emphasize their artistic and engineering achievement by rebadging the entire car with their own logo, like for instance Callaway, Castagna, Spada Concept, Fisker and Vandenbrink Design are doing.

Fisker Tramonto
Mercedes SL based Fisker Tramonto

Now Ferrari has decided to join the coachbuilders and their wealthy clients to the dinner table. They have confirmed they will cooperate with a selected group of coachbuilders, resulting in a number of one-offs. Besides the lucrative business of sticking their logo on merchandise like coffee mugs, umbrellas and baseball caps, they now also want a share in the coachbuilder's acclaim. With ever increasing production numbers Ferrari SpA can't offer their clients the same exclusivity and artistic values as the coachbuilders can, so they've decided to offer their cooperation to the coachbuilders by providing the donor cars and the permission to label these coachbuilt versions as an 'official' Ferrari. The next special coachbuilt Ferrari to be expected will be a Fioravanti design.
A good and interesting development, but there's one catch: it is only allowed to use the F430, the 612 Scaglietti and the outdated and already limited Enzo. New models like the 599 GTB and the new GT California will not be officially supplied to coachbuilders.

There are two more catches actually. If you really want a 'Ferrari approved' coachbuilt car, Ferrari imposes mandatory (design and technical) restrictions which for sure limit the artistic freedom of the cooperating coachbuilders. And last but not least: expect sky-rocketing additional pricetags for “official” Ferrari coachbuilt cars (the P4/5 alledgedly costed 4,5 M $).
For these reasons amongst others Vandenbrink Design deliberately never applied for Ferrari’s cooperation. In classic coachbuilding tradition the independent coachbuilders don’t have these restrictions (e.g. Vandenbrink Design offers the state of the art 599 GTB Fiorano as platform for their GTO), nor do they charge the additional (5-figure) chassis donor pricetags.

Vandenbrink Ferrari 599/630 GTO
Vandenbrink 599/630 GTO

Lawfully these automobiles carry the coachbuilder's logo, highlighting the free and independent nature of automotive art.

Sometimes Ferrari explicitly refused their cooperation. A very nice example of an explicitly non-approved coachbuilt Ferrari is Count Volpi's 250 GT 'Breadvan' which was constructed and designed by the famous Giotto Bizzarrini and bodied by Carrozzeria Drogo .
Quote from Count Volpi: “The Breadvan was made in an emergency as Ferrari recanted on delivering me the very first two GTO’s because of the ATS affair. Enzo called one day saying “You’re a traitor, forget the GTOs.” We never spoke again until 1980. I called Bizzarrini who had already left ATS because of frictions with Chiti and he said “No problem, we can do a lot better.” And he did.“

Drogo/Bizzarrini Ferrari 250 GT Breadvan
Asa Clark, president of Ferrari Owners Club, presenting the 250 GT Breadvan with Ferrari badges at the LA Auto Show.

Nowadays the Breadvan is fully accepted in Ferrari circles and has earned great historical value. The Ferrari badge was applied many years after the Breadvan had proven to be superior to Ferrari's own 250 GTO...

After Ferrari had constructed his very first own car in 1947, Enzo Ferrari decided never to design and build a body again, but to leave it to the coachbuilding specialists.

Enzo Ferrari in the first 125S
Enzo Ferrari in his first Ferrari 125S

So what's happening today?
Is Ferrari rightfully claiming the coachbuilding heritage?
Or... are the coachbuilders slowly succeeding in claiming Ferrari's cooperation?
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