At Motoring Weekly, one of our favourite motor museums is in northern California – the Blackhawk Auto Museum where we first encountered the Alfa Romeo BAT cars: the “Berlinetta Aerodynamica Tecnica” design studies. All three, the BAT 5, BAT 7 and BAT 9 were designed by Franco Scaglione.
Scaglione was born in the middle of the First World War on the 26th September 1916. His parents were medical officers in the Italian Army and Red Cross and it was therefore natural that he would follow into a military career whilst studying aeronautic engineering at university. When the Second World War broke out he was dispatched to Libya where he was captured by the British forces and transferred to a prisoner of war camp in India. We should be thankful that this happened and that he survived the war because he became an influential designer in later life.
On returning to Italy in 1946 he set about a new career, firstly sketching clothes for Italian fashion houses before he moved to Turin to chase his dream of automotive design. He first approached Pinin Farina who liked his ideas but didn’t want his designers to be linked to any of his cars. So Scaglione went to Pininfarina’s competitor, Bertone. Nuccio Bertone had a different view on crediting the design creator and gave him a job.
From 1952 he developed a number of cars under the Bertone badge for FIAT, Abarth, Arnolt (including cars fitted with Aston Martin and Bristol engines), Siata and Alfa Romeo. In 1953 he created the Alfa Romeo BAT 5 and followed this up the following year with the BAT 7. Then in 1955 he designed the BAT 9 and during those years he seemed to specialise in Alfa Romeo cars via Bertone.
He then designed several FIAT-Abarth specials and a Bertone version of the Jaguar XK150, that certainly had Alfa BAT influences! By the end of the 1950s he had designed some NSU Prinz models which were constructed by Bertone before NSU moved production to their own factory. Prior to ending his exclusive relationship with Bertone, he penned a one-off Maserati 3500GT – most were created by Touring and Vignale with a handful by Allemano, Frua, Boneschi and Zagato.
In 1959, Scaglione branched out with his own design house creating cars for Abarth, Porsche and Intermeccanica. He also produced some racing cars – a Maserati Birdcage Tipo 64 for Scuderia SSS Repubblica di Venezia and later in 1967, one of the world’s most beautiful sports cars: the Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale – the road version of the famous Tipo 33.
Scaglione had invested some of his earnings into Intermeccanica when they were being built in Italy during the 1960s, however, the owner Frank Reisner, moved the factory to the US in 1975 when the Italian company went bankrupt and Scaglione lost his investment. With that it was time to put his pen back onto his desk and he retired from designing cars.
In 1981 he moved to a village in Tuscany to enjoy retirement and sadly died in 1993 of lung cancer. He left behind a legacy of beautiful sports cars.