Obscurati curiosities from the amazing world of Italian cars. B#oneschi-Lancia-Flaminia-Amalfi-Spider
/ Story by Chris Rees. / #Lancia-Flaminia-Spider-Amalfi-824
Carrozzeria-Boneschi was once one of the stars of Italian coachbuilt couture. Founded in Cambiago, near Milan, at the end of World War I, its founder, Giovanni Boneschi, concentrated on prestige coachwork for upmarket chassis such as the Lancia Lambda, Dilambda, Astura and Aprilia, as well as the Alfa Romeo 6C 2500. It was even thought good enough for official government commissions.
After WW2, Boneschi turned its attentions to making special bodies for the Alfa Romeo 1900 and Lancia Aurelia B53, and in 1957 signed a deal with Alfa Romeo to transform Giuliettas into Giardinetta estate cars. In 1960 it launched coachbuilt Alfa Romeo 2600s with coupe or cabriolet bodywork.
In April 1961, it returned to Lancia stable with a new Flaminia-based convertible, styled by industrial designer Rodolfo Bonetto. Bonetto was a fascinating figure. He abandoned a career as a jazz drummer to take up car design. In this he was inspired by his uncle, Felice Bonetto, the well-known racing driver. Nicknamed ‘The Pirate’, Felice raced works Maseratis and Alfa Romeos – and even won the Grande Premio do Jubileu Formula 1 race in 1953.
Back to Rodolfo, he was very much a self-taught stylist. His talents were recognised by Pininfarina, where he worked from 1951 to 1957, before setting up his own design studio in Milan in 1958. He worked with numerous companies, not just Boneschi but Vignale and Viotti as well. Bonetto went on to become one the great names in Italian architecture and industrial design, creating objects as diverse as musical instruments, TVs, suitcases and hi-fi systems. He won no fewer than eight ‘Compasso d'Oro’ design awards, including one for the interior of the Fiat 131 Supermirafiori in 1978.
Let’s return to 1961 and the subject of our piece, Bonetto’s first work for Boneschi. Launched at the 1961 Turin Motor Show, it was based on a Lancia Flaminia chassis originally destined for Carrozzeria Touring (chassis 824.04) and was fitted with a 119hp engine.
Bonetto’s compact two-seater roadster was very unusual. Its lines were just about as sharpedged as any Italian design ever got. In some ways it reflected the new squared-off shapes emerging from the USA and perhaps could even be said to prefigure the ‘folded paper’ school of design that Giugiaro would follow in the next decade.
The bonnet, for instance, was almost completely flat, as was the boot lid. The front wings were angled forwards and their top edges were so sharply pointed that you might expect to slice your fingers on them if you traced their outline. The rear end, meanwhile, was cleanliness taken to a new extreme.
In an age when recessed door handles were not commonplace, the idea of bevelling the handles into the doors was a novel one. The four headlamps appeared to ‘float’ in the heavily chromed grille.
The car was dubbed the Amalfi Spider and was painted ivory with red sills, plus a red interior and soft-top. Overall the shape might not be described as classically beautiful but for its time it was extremely striking. It remained, however, a one-off.
Bonetto went on to design the extraordinary (and curiously named) Maserati 3500 GT ‘Tight’ for Boneschi in 1962, followed by the more appealing Boneschi OSCA 1600 GT ‘Swift’ in 1963.
However, that was it for Bonetto and Boneschi, a company for which the early 1960s marked a turning point. The business of high-class coachwork was in terminal decline and the carrozzeria was forced to turn its attention to making buses, trucks and armoured vehicles. It even sank as low as making sanitary fittings. However, it did still make the occasional car, including a two-door version of the Lancia Thema in the 1980s, called the Gazella. Boneschi was eventually swallowed up by Carrozzeria Savio of Turin.