We salute a departed master of form.
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.
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