The death of Sergio Scaglietti, creator of such glorious Ferraris as the 250 GTO, underscores just how compatible art and the technical can be
There’s a definition of art that I very much like and which says, more or less, that you can call something art when it becomes eternal. Sergio Scaglietti, who died a few days ago just before he turned 90, started off as a humble garage apprentice but quickly became a skilled panel beater. Now he was a man capable of making cars that were nothing short of eternal. He bodied Ferraris starting not with drawings or designs but the actual running gear Scaglietti’s talent was such, in fact, that he created the likes of the 250 GTO, the 250 California and the 750 Monza, to name but a few.
In the 1950s, Scaglietti used to personally physically beat out sheets of aluminium into the perfectly sleek bodies of the great symbols of Italian sport and luxury, cars that enchanted the whole world under the Ferrari marque. He worked in his coachworks near the Via Emilia in Modena, powered by the faith of the feared and curmudgeonly Enzo Ferrari.
The first time I met him, he asked me to speak up because, as he hurriedly added: “I’ve gone deaf from the noise of beating all those panels”. When I asked him how he managed to create such special cars, he said derisively: “Special? They were Ferraris – they were already special before I started working on them.”
I’ll let Pistunzen tell you the story of how Scaglietti used to “invent” his works of art. But I should also tell you something about how things went between Ferrari and Sergio: when Fiat bought the 50% stake in Ferrari in 1969 that gave the Founder the money for the investments required to make his mark on the international markets as well as in racing, the Commendatore (as Scaglietti used to call him) rang the Modenese coachbuilder and asked him to sell him his company. To grow Ferrari and Fiat, he needed his own coachbuilding department. Scaglietti didn’t hesitate: standing in his kitchen with his wife and children, he said he’d do what the Commendatore wanted. He made no objection even though his company had taken years and years of hard work and sacrifice to build up.
But all great stories always have a happy ending: when Scaglietti met the Fiat representative to discuss the purchase contract, he was so surprise that when he got home, he said: “They’ve given me a mountain of money….” That shows how modest the man was, despite the fact that he was as creative and skilled as any of the most famous sculptors of ancient Greece.
Bravo Sergio! You and your name will go down in history, just like your gorgeous creations.