In Memoriam – Aldo Brovarone

We salute a departed master of form.

Brovarone’s magnum opus. Prototype Dino 206 GT. Image: stylepark

In an ideal world, the deserving always rise to the top. In such a environment a young stylist might perhaps serve his time, building up a body of work before branching out on his own, culminating with his name atop the doorway of a stand-alone carrozziere. Instead, the name of Aldo Brovarone, who departed the surly bonds of earth in mid-October, remains (outside of enthusiast automotive circles at least) largely unheralded.

Life has never been fair, and despite Brovarone being one of the very best of his era, the reasons for his low-key passing owe as much to the nature of the man as they do to the depth of auto-design apprehension that existed amid the contemporary motoring media.

Should we therefore view Brovarone as simply another in a long line of stylistic talents who mortified their egos to the glory of the traditional Italian carrozziera? Owing to Pininfarina’s longstanding policy of never crediting individual designers, the automotive press (and by consequence their readers) laboured for many years under the mistaken impression that the likes of Sergio Pininfarina and Nuccio Bertone (who never sketched a day in their lives) were artistic prodigies, a matter compounded by the fact that the gentlemen of the motor press never really understood car design – either process or product – at all.

But notwithstanding this longstanding misapprehension, it’s evident that Brovarone was not the type of character who was prepared to push himself forward alongside the better known car designers of his time, instead content to be considered simply as a stylist, a draughtsman, notwithstanding the fact that he was a particularly fine one.

Raised in the Piedmontese region of Vigliano Biellese famed for its textiles, Aldo was groomed to enter that noble trade, but the young man, who was instead fascinated by aircraft Is believed to have found himself a victim of circumstance; allegedly deported to a Polish internment camp during the second world war, where he was befriended by Argentinian industrialist, Piero Dusio.

In the aftermath of hostilities, following a stint as a graphic designer in a Bueno Aires advertising agency, and a brief association with the native Argentinian AUTOAR concern, he returned to Italy at Dusio’s behest to join his Cisitalia carmaking business. However, with Cisitalia in difficulties, Dusio, once more acting on his protégé’s behalf it seems, approached Battista ‘Pinin’ Farina in 1952, recommending the talented young draughtsman.

With no formal training in automotive design, Brovarone’s graphic talents were nevertheless obvious, and his early days at Corso Trapani saw him assisting senior Pininfarina designers by translating their ideas to paper, a process which quickly led to him sketching designs of his own devising.

In 1955, Brovarone got his break, tasked to propose a scheme for a one-off speciale based on Ferrari 375 America chassis – the client no less of a luminary than industrial royalty, Gianni Agnelli. The neophyte’s Coupé Speciale scheme was chosen, and henceforth, Brovarone’s lowly role was revised. Through the remainder of the 1950s, he was credited with notable, mostly conceptual or low-volume designs for diverse marques such as Alfa Romeo, Maserati and Ferrari.

During the 1960s and ’70s however, as he gained prominence within Pininfarina, his work became more encompassing, and in 1974, he was promoted to Design Manager at Cambiano, working in close harmony with Ingenere Leonardo Fioravanti, an individual to whom Brovarone seemed content to defer.

During his lengthy career at Pininfarina, Brovarone’s palmarès included the 1965 Alfa Romeo Guilia 1600 Sport concept, stylistic contributions to the 1966 Duetto Spider, (itself derived from earlier Superflow studies also attributed to him). Less creatively successful perhaps was the 1975 Eagle concept, based on the Alfetta. For Ferrari he created amongst others, the styling for the 1960 Superamerica Aerodynamico concept, production Superfast 400/ 500, and 365 GT 2+2 models.

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For Peugeot, his proposal for the 1968 504 berline was favoured at Sochaux, complete with its (allegedly unintentional) kinked bootlid, although the definitive nose treatment was in fact carried out at La Garenne. His magic markers are also said to have shaped the 1975 604, although there is some debate over the attribution in this case. More certain however was his imprint upon the following year’s Lancia Gamma, in both berlina and Coupé forms.

But it was the 1968 Dino 206/ 246 GT Berlinetta and the preliminary series of conceptual studies which underpinned it that were to prove his stylistic masterpiece and enduring legacy. These exquisite shapes proved not only timelessly beautiful, but formed the foundation for generations of compact mid-engined Ferrari designs, reaching its polar extreme with 1988’s brutalist F40, to which he is also believed to have contributed, just prior to his retirement from Pininfarina that same year. Had he done nothing else, this body of work alone would have been sufficient to cement his immortality in the annals of automotive design.

In retirement, he continued creating, working for the likes of Stola and StudioTorino, although like so many of his contemporaries, once outside the creative environment of Cambiano, the quality of his output was not really comparable. Latterly, he returned to his earlier craft, creating evocative illustrations of aircraft and classic cars. His departure at the fine age of 94 can be considered a good innings, there’s little doubt, and he leaves behind a compelling legacy of striking and memorable automotive designs.

The fact that the name of Aldo Brovarone never graced the doorway of a stand-alone carrozzerie, or that in death it doesn’t exactly trip off the lips of the majority of automotive aficionados, seems unlikely to have bothered the self-styled draughtsman all that much. The cars after all were the thing.

Aldo Brovarone : 1926 – 2020

Author: Eóin Doyle

Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

14 thoughts on “In Memoriam – Aldo Brovarone”

  1. Good morning Eóin. Like many readers, I would imagine, I had never heard of Aldo Brovarone but very much enjoyed reading your eloquent tribute to a full life lived well. What an extraordinary body of work he leaves behind.

    May I please ask you to recount the story of the 504’s boot lid? I liked the 504 a lot, but always found that detail a bit unsatisfactory.

    1. Me too – an odd feature, really. However, the image showing the car is nuclear powered evocative. I remember writing to Paolo Martin about it. Alas, I have forgotten the answer.

  2. Thank you Eòin for the interesting article, I did not know Brovarone and his ties to Dusio.
    I would however control the information “deported to a Polish internment camp during the second world war, where he was befriended by Argentinian industrialist, Piero Dusio”, as it appears to be really unlikely.

    There is no reason for a very young Brovarone (born 1926) being in a Polish internment camp (POW? KZ? Italian ex-military?), and even less for the Italian industrialist Dusio passing by and saving him.
    I took the occasion to delve a bit in Dusio’s life, also in view of the precedent article on the bizarre connections Peugeot/Ferdinand Porsche/Dusio, and I have the impression that there were very strong relations between Dusio and German people later linked to Porsche, due to war business in Italy in the period 1943-45 and to the fact that Dusio produced textiles for the Italian army before and for the German army after 1943.

    The possible link is the ex-SS Hauptsturmführer Albert Prinzing, who developed later, in 1949, in the commercial director of Porsche Konstruktionen GmbH, being also a study companion of Ferry Porsche, son of Ferdinand.
    Prinzing held an economy degree with a thesis on the “historical economy of Italy”, and was also the Italy expert in the Information Department of the Foreign ministry in Berlin; due to this combination of features he occupied a very high post in Northern Italy after 1943, i.e. in the German-occupied part of Italy, where he could without doubt enter in contact with Italian suppliers of the German army as Dusio and with the related economic paths.

    This previous acquaintance might explain why Dusio abruptly went to the rescue of Ferdinand Porsche, paying the noticeable sum requested by the French, as it might explain the post-war industrial move from Turin to Argentina of Dusio.

    Getting back to the young Brovarone, in 1944 he had the right age for enlisting, so it may be possible that Dusio protected him from forcibly joining one of the numerous and various military units that sweeped through Northern Italy in those times giving him a little post somewhere in his works, and this has been modified through the years in a more adventurous “Polish camp” version.

    1. Anastasio; you may well be correct about Brovarone’s early life. This wasn’t an attempt to provide a full obituary, or to explore Dusio’s links with Germany either before, during or after the war, more to salute Brovarone’s work as a car designer. I did consider whether to mention this period of his life at all, but elected to keep it in to provide some added colour. In retrospect, I wonder if this was the right decision. Nevertheless, I have amended the text slightly to acknowledge an element of ambivalence to the sentence in question. History, as I think we all understand, is very much a function of who gets to tell it, but what we can perhaps all agree on is the likelihood that those were indeed murky times right across Europe.

  3. Thank you Eóin for this fitting tribute to Mr. Brovarone. As you said he may not be known outside of the serious design aficionado circles, but maybe he should: he managed to style -beautifully I might add- cars that were the stuff of dreams for most of us, but also ones that we mere mortals (or in my case my father) might actually have purchased. Bravo, signore Brovarone.

  4. In fact, I remember trying -in vain- to get my father to go for a beautiful black Gamma Coupé in 1981-1982 to replace his CX. Inside the local Lancia showroom I even demonstrated how I would really fit quite comfortably (not really to be honest in comparison to the CX) in the back seat. Alas, even though he did admit to liking the looks of the car, he went for another CX in the end.

    1. Are you sure a dealer had a black Gamma coupé in his showroom?
      Black was not part of the official colour selection for the coupé because Pininfarina’s production machinery produced surfaces with waves and ripples that would have shown too much in black (much the same as the roof of the DS where cars with a black roof had it made from aluminium because the surface quality of the standard fibreglass was too bad). There are a couple of black cars known to the Gamma club but these are rare and were made to individual order.

  5. I was happy to meet Signore Brovarone personally at the 25th Birthday celebrations of Gamma Coupé in and around Torino in spring 2001. He was a Sir, a gentleman, a bright example of Lancismo.

    Black Gamma Coupés had been difficult to be produced as the machinery for the Gamma bodypanels at Pininfarina was worn out and they had to select carefully those panels acceptable for black finish. Not many could be painted in Black and Blu Lord.

    Those who decided to repaint an lets say silver metallic Gamma Coupé into black where shocked about the final results.

    1. Well, it was almost thirty years ago but I distinctly remember that car as black but I also know that memories can fade and/or change over the course of many years. Did they have a very dark blue or brown in the colour charts as well?
      I do know that at least in the brochure a black coupé was shown:

  6. A lovely tribute to an under-appreciated man.

    I found a couple of interviews on YouTube, both in Italian; one has English subtitles, but poor audio (posted below). In it, he says the Dino is his favourite design and he wished he had designed the Citroën DS. Ultimately, he was positive about the future of the car, as people are still interested in them and still desire them.

    Daniel & Richard – you asked about the story of the 504’s rear, and it’s told here:

    https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/motors/driving-the-peugeot-504-a-perfect-car-for-troubled-times-1.4016191

    1. Personally, I’m less than convinced by this telling (hence my use of the term ‘allegedly’ in the text). This feature was a known and much-employed stylistic trait of carrozzeria Pininfarina at the time (see the ‘Kinky Boots’ piece in the archive for more), so I rather believe this is a bit of myth-making on the part of Peugeot’s museum curator. It is known however that Brovarone’s nose treatment did not make the final cut, the superior in-house treatment being so much more modernist and attractive. A matter which underlines (to my eyes) just how symbiotic the relationship between Sochaux and Cambiano was at its peak.

      The article also states that Brovarone styled the 504 Coupé/ convertible. This is incorrect.

    2. Hi Charles, I’m afraid I have only seen your comment this evening, so missed the link to the Irish Times piece offering an explanation for the unusual boot lid treatment. Whether it is true or not, a belated thank you for posting!

  7. I get annoyed at many of these articles here that regurgitate a lot of what’s already readily available, e.g., on Wikipedia. Ostensibly this is some form of journalism; not just opinion. It would be good to know more about the Polish internment camp stories. There are numerous sources that suggest this, and many other accounts where the period is either mute or avoided. His nephew nephew Cesare Brovarone might be able to fill out the stories.

    1. Dear PC Mast. I don’t expect every reader to enjoy what we present here; it would be foolish indeed of me to make such an assumption. However, I take exception to any inference that either I or any of our writers simply cut and paste from other sources. While I would never make any claims that our factual sources are 100% accurate (whose are, and anyway, define accurate?), we do the best we possibly can with the time we have available, given the fact that we offer our material at no charge to the reader. So if you find DTW to be an annoyance, I can only apologise and perhaps suggest you look elsewhere for your automotive web-based content.

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