The Last Italian Design House

What ultimately counted, though, was the steely determination of Lilli Bertone. She had promised her beloved husband before he died that she would see the firm through to its one-hundredth anniversary. As a woman in her sixties, she had naturally called on her daughters, but when she saw disaster looming, she fought like a tigress to wrest control from the feckless, unqualified men who didn't understand what Nuccio had always told her: that the money in the bank he had so carefully saved did not belong to them personally but to the firm and its safe future.

So, at the 2010 Geneva show, Bertone was back with an absolutely astonishing concept car, one that in the tradition of the glory years was a complete running vehicle. The Pandion, executed as an homage to the 100 years of Alfa Romeo, was a perfect symbol of the resurgence of Bertone. In 2009, after years of squabbles and skirmishes, Lilli Bertone gained complete control of five companies carrying her late husband's name: Stile Bertone, Bertone Glass, Bertone Engineering, Bertone Energia, and Bertone ITC, the latter involved with the integration of electronics and communications technologies in the automobile.

She has also created the nonprofit Bertone Foundation, dedicated to the heritage of the firm and to supporting the work of young creative people, which had been the hallmark of Nuccio's career. He found and developed the abilities of Franco Scaglione, Giorgetto Giugiaro, Marcello Gandini, Marc Deschamps, and many other less-renowned designers, always giving them due credit. That each of these men, viewed retrospectively, did his best work under Bertone's direction says a great deal about his own taste and prescience.

Bear in mind that Bertone had collaborated with Alfa Romeo for seventy-five years, during that time having created thirteen fabulous Alfa concept cars and ten production models, several of which were series-built in Carrozzeria Bertone's own shops. The timeless Giulietta coupe (featured in my By Design column in January 2008) that put Bertone into full-scale manufacturing in the 1950s was the first of these.

I've always loved Bertone designs with the futuristic wedge shapes. Amazing to see the company in the hands of a woman who looks like a docent from the Liberace Museum.
Bertone is fantastic. One of the all time greatest names in automotive design. I hope they continue for another 100 years!

New Car Research

Find vehicle reviews, photos & pricing

our instagram

get Automobile Magazine

Subscribe to the magazine and save up to 84% off the newsstand price


new cars

Read Related Articles