For over 100 years, Gruppo Bertone worked as a family business, dealing with all the positives and negatives of such an arrangement. The legendary leader of the company Nuccio Bertone died in 1997, after which the whole segment started to shrink, forcing traditional coachbuilders to resort to manufacturing low-volume variants like coupés and cabriolet for major OEMs. By 2010, Bertone was forced to sell off its concept car collection, only to display its centenary Nuccio show car at Geneva in 2012 just two years before finally getting crushed by its debts.
As one of the big five traditional Italian design houses next to Pininfarina, Italdesign Giugiaro, Zagato and Ghia, king of the wedge car and Lamborghini master Bertone played a crucial role in shaping not just the automotive industry, but the design language evolution of the last century as a whole. Founded in 1912 in Turin by Giovanni Bertone, the coachbuilder created concept cars, one-offs and serious production vehicles for all major Italian brands including Fiat, Lancia, Abarth, Ferrari, Innocenti, Autobianchi, Iso, Alfa Romeo, and of course Lamborghini, with most projects led by Marcello Gandini. Bertone also worked for Citroën, BMW, Aston Martin, Volvo, and many more.
The two final Bertone designs intended for limited-series production were the Corvette C6 ZR1-powered Mantide by Jason Castriota, and the Aston Martin Jet 2 based on a Rapide, commissioned by Barry Weir, and inspired by the 2004 Aston Martin Jet 2, the personal car of Lilli Bertone.
The main issue with going bankrupt in Italy is that the government seizes all assets of the company pretty much immediately. That's why when Pininfarina was afraid of getting locked out of its own buildings, the team called trusted VIP customer James Glickenhaus so he could purchase and save both the Ferrari Modulo and the Dino Berlinetta Competizione by shipping them away in an instant.
While Bertone's excellent concept cars like the Alfa Romeo Carabo of 1967 and Navajo of 1976 are long gone, the entire historic archive of the design house, including file cabinets full of sketches, blueprints, manuals and build sheets, as well as boxes and crates full of scale models, die-cast cars, paintings and more have been stored in a warehouse. Now, this unique collection of Bertone's past is being auctioned off by the government, currently bid up to around $33,000 despite a number of strict conditions in place with this sale.
If I gather all this correctly from a list of the rules in Italian, the Bertone assets' future is to be governed by the Archive of Lombardy, also stating that the package can only be acquired as a whole and has to remain in Italy. After that, the buyer needs to register it at a permanent address, reorganize and catalog all items, and ask for the authorities' permission to license any of the material to a third party.
As it turns out, drawers full of original Bertone documents only exchange hands once in a century, so while it may seem like an iffy deal for the price, we don't really know what treasures lie beyond the Fiat Punto and Opel Astra cabriolet stuff, and what all this data can be worth to the high-end collector market.
The Lamborghini Miura, Countach and the rest—the Lancia Stratos, the Alfa Romeo Montreal, or the equally wild BMW Garmisch 2200Ti coupé from 1970—are only the tip of the ever-surprising Bertone iceberg.
Turning towards America, do you remember the Chevrolet Ramarro from 1984? This was the second of Bertone's trio of Corvette concepts made between 1963 and 1990, with the other two being the Testudo and the Nivola.
Whoever takes on the challenge of caring for Bertone's assets, we'll be happy to know all of it went to live in a safer place, guarded by the experts of the Archive of Lombardy.
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