Where is Bertone's Collection now?
All human endeavors, sooner or later, inevitably come to an end.
Some do so abruptly and unexpectedly, while for others, it's a slow, protracted agony that's painful to witness. And that's precisely how Bertone ended.
Founded in 1912 as a traditional coachbuilding shop, it's from the 1950s that the firm, thanks to the entrepreneurial skills of Nuccio Bertone and the extraordinary talents he nurtured, first Franco Scaglione, then Giorgetto Giugiaro and Marcello Gandini, that Bertone flourished into one of Italy's great success stories. The firm's innovative designs were industry trendsetters from Detroit to Hiroshima. Meanwhile, Italy's thriving automakers were more than happy to let Bertone manufacture the sexy car bodies it had designed for them.
Although the boom times of Bertone were arguably over by the time the last Miami Vice season first aired on TV, it's in the late 2000s that the cracks in the company became large enough for everyone to see.
The Grugliasco manufacturing plant went to Fiat in 2009, while Bertone's style and engineering business kept struggling for relevance in a changing world until its bankruptcy in 2014.
The Bertone collection was safe and in good hands... But where would ASI store and display 79 vehicles?
During the firm's tormented last years, Bertone's prized car collection became a surefire way to generate cash and appease creditors. First to go were the crown jewels, unique masterpieces like the Chevrolet Testudo, Lamborghini Marzal, and Lancia Stratos Zero. Those were sold at auction in 2011, together with the more obscure Lancia Sibilo from 1978, and went to private collectors like Giorgetto Giugiaro himself, who purchased the Testudo he designed in 1963.
But the "Big One" came in 2015.
This time, all the remaining 79 cars and prototypes from Bertone's collection were to go under the hammer, and the news generated a buzz loud enough to wake Italy's Ministry For Cultural Affairs from its slumber.
At the eleventh hour, the Bertone collection was declared an item of national interest: it couldn't be exported nor parted out.
ASI, the institutional entity that represents the classic car scene in Italy, ultimately won out with a bid of around 3.4 Million Euros. The Bertone collection was safe and in good hands... But where would ASI store and display 79 vehicles?
Well, at least until now, the answer has been Volandia, an aerospace museum located right in front of Malpensa Airport's Terminal 1.
The place itself is full of charm, as Volandia utilizes the site of the former Officine Caproni, Italy's premier aircraft manufacturer during the first half of the Twentieth Century. It would be worth a visit even if the Bertone cars weren't there if you ask me!
this is Italy, where nothing gets more permanent than temporary solutions
Trouble is, while the old Caproni workshops do shelter the cars pretty well, as a display facility, they prove less than ideal, as the vehicles are quite tightly packed, and lighting in some areas is genuinely awful. The minimal effort they put into the display clearly indicates that ASI and Volandia consider this a makeshift arrangement. But this is Italy, where nothing gets more permanent than temporary solutions, so I wouldn't be surprised to see Bertone's cars staying here a few more years!
The collection is a mixture of production cars and prototypes and includes my favorite Lamborghini models, the Espada and the Miura. The latter is an "S" model from 1969 wearing a unique shade of metallic orange chosen by its original owner, Nuccio Bertone himself. I actually sat in this very Miura when it was displayed in a classic car show, and sadly... that has yet to happen again!