He designed some of the most influential cars of the 1950s and 60s but walked away from it all
His name isn't highlighted in the annals of car history quite like that of Enzo Ferrari, Battista "Pinin" Farina, or Karl Benz. However, Franco Scaglione's work helped shaped the auto industry in a substantial way.
The Italian was of noble ancestry, born to a well-off family in Florence, Italy the year the first transfusion using stored blood was performed - 1916. His father was a chief army doctor and his mother was the captain of the Italian Red Cross.
His upbringing was by no means extraordinary according to most reports. His father died when Scaglione was young and his favorite hobbies included reading and riding. He went to university to study aeronautical ennginenering and entered military service riding to the rank of sub-lieutenant.
World War II changed his path. Scaglione volunteered to be sent to the front, heading to Lybia where he was taken prisoner by the English at El Duda in the aftermath of the Battle of Point 175 in December 1941. He was sent to the Yol detention camp in India near Dharmsala where the Dhali Lama lives today. He stayed there until he was released in 1946.
After a year of receiving from the war at home, engineering went to the side and Scaglione began seeing styling as his new passion. In 1948 he went to Bologna looking to work in the automobile industry. That type of work wasn't easy to find as the auto industry was in post-war survival and recovery mode, with many of them suffering near-catastrophic damage to plants during the campaigns leveled against Italy.
Scaglione made his living sketching clothing for fashion houses instead. The lucrative work was not enough to change his mind. He wanted to work in the automotive industry.
By 1951, he was married with a daughter. That year he uprooted his family ad moved to Turin, the home of major coachbuilding companies including Pininfarina, Ghia, and Maggiora. He tried to work with Farina but it ended up not working out. He then was introduced to Giuseppe "Nuccio" Bertone, an automobile designer who ran Carrozzeria Bertone. This meeting was far more fruitful.
He worked with Bertone for the next eight years, creating a number of iconic vehicles including the Siata 208 CS (1952), Alfa Romeo Berlinetta Aerodinamica Tecnica (BAT) (1953, 1954, and 1955 versions), Alfa Romeo 2000 Sportiva (1954), Aston Martin DB 2-4 (1957), Jaguar XK150 (1957), and the Maserati 3500 GT (1959).
The Siata is notable for its rarity. Just 18 were built - 11 by Balbo and 7 by Stabilimenti Farina. The ones by Balbo were badged as "200 CS" while the ones by Stabilimenti Farina wore "208 CS" badging. The 208 has a 1,996 cc V8 engine that delivers 110-125 horsepower (depending on who you believe). The engine is paired with a five-speed manual transmission. It has an aluminum body and weighted 2,200 pounds.
The Alfa Romeo Berlinetta Aerodinamica Tecnica (BAT) models were all commissioned to study the effect of drag on a vehicle. They were all built on an Alfa Romeo 1900 chassis. Each model is different and achieves a very low coefficient of drag, even by today's standards. All the models survive.
JAGUAR XK150 / XK 150 DHC 1961 - Test drive in top gear - Engine sound | SCC TV www.youtube.com
Only four Alfa Romeo 2000 Sportivas were made but their features made their way into one of the most beloved Alfas of all time - the Giulietta.
The Aston Martin DB2/4 was a slightly more mass market car than the others. The company made 764 of them. Depending on the model year, the cars had 125 or 140 horsepower. The car gained some notoriety after it was featured in the 1963 Alfred Hitchcock film "The Birds"
Jaguar succeeded the XK140 with the Scaglione-designed XK150. It was successful enough but not nearly as iconic as what came next - the E-Type.
By 1959, Scaglione had made enough of a name for himself that he was able to break out on his own and attract clients. He first collaborated with Carlo Abarth and Porsche designing the Porsche 356 B Abarth Carrera GTL, the forerunner of the 911.
He was commissioned to design the Lamborghini 350 GTV, ATS 2500 GT, and the Prince 1900 Skyline Sprint, among others. The Lamborghini 350 GTV was the predecessor of the 350 GT production model. Scaglione designed its body, which was purposefully reminiscent of the Aston Martin DB4. However, its hidden headlights and six exhaust pipes were unique for its time. However, Ferruccio Lamborghini, founder of Automobili Lamborghini, was said to be unhappy with some of the design so he requested revisions prior to the 350 GT going into production.
The Prince 1900 Skyline Sprint was introduced at the 1963 Tokyo Motor Show. It shared a body type with the Skyline saloon. The Skyline Spirit was a sports car that spurred the development of the Skyline GT-R sub-brand and though decades of mergers, acquisitions, engineers, and designers has led us to the modern Nissan GT-R as its direct successor.
In 1967, he worked with Alfa Romeo to design the Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale, which was one of the world's first supercars. The car made its debut at the 1967 Paris Salon de L'Auto and became the first production vehicle to feature dihedral doors. Just 18 of the models were produced
MASERATI 3500GT | 3500 GT 1962 - Test drive in top gear - Engine sound | SCC TV www.youtube.com
His success was also met with a fair amount of chance. As a designer working with Intermeccanica, he had come up with vehicles including the Apollo, Torino, Italia GFX, Italia IMX, and Indra. When finances at the company became tight, Scaglione invested his own money, funding the production of the Indra out of his own pocket.
INTERMECCANICA INDRA Spider 1972 - Modest test drive - Engine sound | SCC TV www.youtube.com
Intermeccaninca went bankrupt and its owner, Frank Reisner, moved to Canada leaving Scaglione disillusioned with the industry. Scaglione retired, moving to Western Italy where he lived in relative obscurity. In 1991, Scaglione was diagnosed with lung cancer and died two years later, leaving a lasting legacy that influenced the way Italian sports cars look like, even today.