A Ferrari is a meticulously engineered, delicately crafted, very exclusive reflection of its owner’s social and economic stature. It’s rare a Ferrari falls short of anyone’s urbane wants, but not impossible. For those fortunate few, nothing separates one superlative-drenched hypercar from all the rest quite like the lost art of automotive haberdashery, in which a shop tailors sheetmetal to a moneyed connoisseur’s specification.
The Touring Superleggera Berlinetta Lusso began with a knowledgeable (but steadfastly anonymous) Ferrari collector who wanted a front-engine V-12 coupe in a conventional three-box configuration trimmed with a touch of typical Italian luxury, or Lusso. For that, the collector turned to Italian company Touring. Established 1926 in Milan as Carrozzeria Touring, this coachbuilder served manufacturers such as Aston Martin and Maserati as well as discerning private customers. Its patented “superleggera” (super-light) construction technique for bodywork—basically aluminum panels supported by a thicket of small-diameter tubing—offered advantages in both design and ease of manufacturing. It’s why Enzo Ferrari went to Touring to create the bodywork for his stillborn 1940 AAC Tipo 815 race car and the 1948 Ferrari 166 MM that finally established him in the car business.
As the 1960s came to a close, so did Touring. But the brand name maintained its appeal through the decades. Following the death of Carlo Anderloni, longtime CEO and son of one of the company’s co-founders, it was acquired by Zeta Europe BV, a Dutch outfit. As Touring Superleggera, the company entered a suddenly expanding market for limited-production exotic cars. A pair of handmade Maserati-based models debuted first, followed in 2010 by the Bentley Continental Flying Star, the only special-edition Bentley ever endorsed by the factory. Then came the 2013 appearance of the stunning Disco Volante, a car based on the Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione.
The Superleggera Berlinetta Lusso is yet another beautifully reskinned car in Touring’s long lineage. Touring stripped down a Ferrari F12 to the platform and then built the grand tourer up again with hand-formed panels. Nonstructural components such as the hood and aero bits are made from carbon fiber, but the rest is aluminum shaped the old-fashioned way, by forming it over styling bucks (and other methods known only to the high voodoo priesthood of traditional panel-beating). This technique is the key to achieving the sharply creased accent line that flows from the Lusso’s wheel arches, a signature detail that appears regularly on Touring’s work.
“When you have a car with fantastic mechanicals underneath, all you have to do is keep it simple.”
From its egg-crate grille back, the Berlinetta Lusso’s overall shape is clean and smooth, and its tail substitutes the Ferrari F12’s aggressive Kamm-back shape for an elegant sweep rearward engineered to be more aerodynamic. It’s not showy, and Touring doesn’t want it to be. “There are definitely cars that need some added excitement,” says Louis de Fabribeckers, Touring head of design, “maybe because they lack power or handling or whatever. But when you have a car with fantastic mechanicals underneath, all you have to do is keep it simple.
“I think if you can draw a car in one line, without removing your hand, you’re on the right track. It’s part of our process, in fact. You look at the early sketches, and they’re quite busy—lots of shapes and strokes—and then we have to erase, erase, simplify, simplify. Only then do we get the right one.” The most eye-popping exterior feature is the Azzurro Nioulargue paint, meant to look like the Mediterranean Sea on a sunny day.
The Lusso’s interior furnishings don’t vary much from Ferrari practice. It still wears the F12’s gauge cluster, switches, air vents, steering wheel, center console, and assorted techno bling. Even so, lots of care and attention have gone into aluminum and leather fittings to replace exposed carbon fiber. The colors are sumptuous and warm, with the cream of the seat faces repeated on the doors and parcel shelf panels to brighten the cockpit.
Mechanically, the Touring Berlinetta doesn’t vary from Ferrari practice at all, which is fine. The Ferrari F12 is synapse-meltingly quick when you want it and, through the miracle of science, quite drivable when you don’t. It’s dynamically enjoyable and makes glorious noises, popping and snarling when you lift off its accelerator.
Touring’s agreement with the contracting customer allows just four additional units, each to be finished, painted, and accessorized to the buyer’s wishes. Pricing is subject to discussion with interested parties, and rest assured it’ll be solidly in “if you have to ask” territory. Those of us who needn’t ask need only enjoy the artistry in a unique, expensive example of a modern automotive tailoring.
2015 Touring Superleggera Berlinetta Lusso Specifications
- Engine: 6.3L DOHC 48-valve V-12/731 hp @ 8,250 rpm, 509 lb-ft @ 6,000 rpm
- Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
- Layout: 2-door, 2-passenger, front-engine, RWD coupe
- Suspension F/R: Control arms, coil springs/multilink, coil springs
- Brakes: Carbon-ceramic discs
- L x W x H: 184.8 x 81.9 x 51.0 in
- Wheelbase: 106.9 in
- Weight: 3,627 lb
- 2.9 sec (est)
- Top Speed: 211 mph (est)
How to Be a Successful Coachbuilder
The great Italian automotive design and coachbuilding industry took a hell of a beating in the late 20th century; few of the old houses survived unless they allied with a major car firm or financial white knight. One could make the case that Touring succeeds today because it got its failure over and done with in 1966.
Piero Mancardi, appointed CEO of the company in 2009 after a career as an executive at Fiat, has a realistic perspective of Touring’s place in the industry. “We have a widely respected and legendary brand, a talented workforce with valuable specialist skills, and tremendous engineering and design expertise,” he says. “What we don’t have is the burden of heavy infrastructure, as we restarted from practically zero. Our customers don’t pay for expensive premises, expensive advertising, redundancy of management. What they pay for is only the quality of the product.”
Touring follows the traditional coachbuilder’s model of workload diversity: private customer one-offs, manufacturer design studies, the occasional contract paint job, and restorations. All this encourages a flexible set of skills, which Mancardi says is a boon to mainstream automakers. “From us you can buy design or research, design plus digital conception, or engineering and construction, or a whole project.” The relationship is symbiotic; Touring gained huge credibility from its 2014 Mini Vision, an award-winning concept car executed with BMW.
When it comes to wooing the private consumer, Mancardi circles back to the issue of product quality. “We’re supposed to add value when we modify a car, and we must respect the manufacturer’s standards very tightly,” he says. “The worst thing that we could do is reverse the quality of the original car. I think that’s one of the motivations that brings customers to us for bespoke products. Of course, along with this comes the pleasure for the customer of participating in the design process, and customer participation is an extremely important aspect of the whole experience. Years from now they’ll be remembered as part of the history of that very special car, a car that might help define the design language of the next decades, like the first Disco Volante of the 1950s.”
Indeed, he says, coachbuilding is alive and kicking. “I really believe that coachbuilding has a brilliant future if it’s run the proper way and includes the proper values,” he says. “This is very important: You can never fake it. People are
For more information on the Berlinetta Lusso, go to www.touringsuperleggera.eu.