Table of contents:
- War inevitably leads not only to economic decline, property damage and loss of life, but also to the development of new technologies. World War II is no exception: after it, cars began to change rapidly, becoming lighter, more aerodynamic, safer, more complex and faster. Coachbuilders, who lived happily ever after before the war, had to adapt to the new conditions
- 1. Design studio
- 2. Special equipment based on frame machines
- 3. Creation of components for cars and assembly of cars
- What were the others doing?
- Now forget everything you read
Video: Truck Or Die: Coaching After World War II. Part 2
2023 Author: Natalie MacDonald | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-11-26 13:59
War inevitably leads not only to economic decline, property damage and loss of life, but also to the development of new technologies. World War II is no exception: after it, cars began to change rapidly, becoming lighter, more aerodynamic, safer, more complex and faster. Coachbuilders, who lived happily ever after before the war, had to adapt to the new conditions
Everything for the front, everything for victory. Although this motto was proclaimed in the Soviet Union, it was followed by all countries that participated in the Second World War. Moreover, on both sides of the conflict. Siemens Apparate und Maschinen GmbH made electronics for the German army, the First State Bearing Plant of the USSR mastered the production of the Shpagin submachine gun, and the Italian company Bertone, which recently made bodies for luxurious Fiats and Lanches, focused on the production of bodies for ambulances.
It is thanks to the "flexibility", the ability to switch to an unusual job, not all coachbuilders have been ground by the millstones of war. Of course, there was also a factor of luck - after all, bombing, retreating operations with arson and other inalienable attributes of that time could put an end to the activities of any company. The list of firms destroyed by World War II is truly colossal. And coachbuilders in this regard were not unique - it was hard for everyone.
The body builders who were lucky enough to survive had to adapt again - this time to post-war conditions. To a shortage of money and metal, the transition of European cars to monocoque bodies, competition from premium automakers who have mastered a full-fledged assembly - from chassis to bodies. Generally, Zagato, Saoutchik and their brothers in misfortune there was something to think about.
Every coachbuilder handled survival issues differently - in one of three main ways.
1. Design studio
The road that famous companies like Zagato, Bertone, Carrozzeri Touring Superlegger and a number of others have traveled. But such a luxury could only be afforded by those firms that, even before the Second World War, secured at least some support from automakers.
Design studios in a modern sense are the same coachbuilders, but with an expanded range of tasks. These companies continued to produce custom designs for wealthy clients, but their main source of income now comes from developing mass-produced bodies for carmakers directly. Moreover, the word "development" means different stages: the provision of sketches, layouts, construction of concept cars or direct participation in the development and fine-tuning of running prototypes.
What is the point for car companies to outsource? At the very least, this is an opportunity to look at the reading of the brand's philosophy with a clean eye. To put it simply, an independent studio's design is likely to be different from what the factory artists would suggest. Take the second generation Ford Mustang.
In addition, it was these studios in the 50s and 60s who knew best how to make bodies for racing cars. After all, then the car companies did not yet have full-fledged sports divisions, and mass cars were created with an eye to durability, and not streamlining or lightness. However, there were also exceptions to the rule - for example, Ferrari. Since the difference between racing and road cars of the Enzo company has always been minimal, and almost all sports car bodies, up to the beginning of the 21st century, were created within the walls of the Pininfarina studio, founded in 1930.
Thanks to the talent for building racing cars, another company also existed for a long time, after the war it turned from a coachbuilder into a design studio - Carrozzeri Touring Superleggera. The same CarrozzeriTouring Superleggera that came out of the coma in 2008 and after which the current Aston Martin DBS Superleggera is named.
The studio gained its popularity in 1936, when the Superleggera technology was patented. Its essence boiled down to the creation of a "skeleton" of the body (spatial frame) of thin steel tubes, on top of which panels of duralumin or "birmabrite" alloy were attached.
Cars with Superlegger technology ("ultralight" in Italian) were much lighter and faster than conservative steel counterparts, so they were in demand in motorsport. But there was also a downside: in the event of an accident, a car with an "ultralight" body left almost no chance of survival for the pilot. And if the car still withstood until the end of the racing career, then galvanic corrosion began to eat it.
And this re-profiling gave birth to a new wave of B2B excitement - they began to turn to former coachbuilders who turned into studios more and more often. On the wave of demand in 1968, the well-known studio Italdesign was born, the permanent leader of which is Giogetto Giugiaro. And she was already completely about design, not about coaching. Almost all spectacular concepts from 1950 to 2000 were born in design studios: LanciStratos Zero, Citroen M35 … But that's a slightly different story.
2. Special equipment based on frame machines
Although the cars of Europe in the second half of the twentieth century began to massively move to supporting structures, this trend has less spread to American cars, manufacturers of premium limousines (Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Cadillac) and, of course, firms specializing in commercial vehicles. Some of the coachbuilders took advantage of this.
Instead of producing graceful bodies for the rich, which after the war has somewhat lost its relevance, coachbuilders switched to special bodies for ambulances, hearses, and fire trucks. For what has always been and will always be in demand. In this respect, the story of the British company Carmichael is very indicative, which pricked up its nose in the wind even before the Second World War.
The company was founded in 1849 and began to produce carriages to order. In the early twentieth century, it was renamed Carmichael Custom Cars and switched to coachbuilding cars - mainly for agricultural purposes.
However, after the war, the management of the company passed to the second generation of the family, and in 1947 Carmichael Custom Cars was renamed Carmichael and Sons. The heirs of the coachbuilder decided that now the company will build fire trucks: bodies, attachments …
… And in free time from work - six-wheeled Carmichael Highlander based on Range Rover for luxury hunting. Because it was the Range Rover that served as the basis for the company's fire truck. By the way, the company still exists and is now called Simon-Carmichael International Group Limited (SIG). Most of the airfield fires in the UK are theirs.
Big premium manufacturers such as Cadillac did not hesitate to flirt directly with special equipment. This company, along with fully finished cars, after the war produced the so-called "commercial chassis", which the bodybuilders could use at their discretion. The Meteor Motor Car Company, for example, made limousines and ambulances based on them (Ecto-1 from Ghostbusters is one of them). This continued until the mid-1970s.
3. Creation of components for cars and assembly of cars
Coach builder Karmann took this path. The company was founded after Wilhelm Karmann acquired the coaching firm Klages. And she, in turn, opened the doors back in 1874. Before the war, the office was engaged in the construction of convertibles and coupes, but after the Second World War it adjusted the type of activity.
In addition to providing design services, the firm became a component manufacturer. And, in the case of Karmann, it was about folding roofs for convertibles and roadsters - parts on which the specialists of the office ate the dog. Most of the German open cars of the last century were equipped with roofs from Karmann. But that was just the tip of the iceberg.
The main source of income for the company was the production of cars ordered by major car manufacturers. On the stocks of Karmann, roofs for Mercedes, Audi and BMW were not only created - these cars were produced directly in Osnabrück. The Volkswagen Karmann Ghatut coupe alone has assembled more than 300 thousand pieces. And the total number of cars built exceeds 5 million.
Naturally, Karmann was not the only company that chose this path for survival: Heuliez from France had a similar fate.
What were the others doing?
Naturally, there remained (and sometimes were created from scratch) proud representatives of the industry, who continued to engage in real coaching, despite the decline in demand. Like the good old days…
Some, for example, created only bodies for Ferraris and Rolls-Royces of wealthy clients. Or they only worked with one brand. But such companies have become the exception rather than the rule. And in most cases they ended their lives in oblivion. During its short history (1972-1980), Panther has created not so many cars. And while a Ferrari 365 GTB / 4 Dayton based shooting break looks spectacular, you can't build a business on one such machine. And on the six-wheeled 600-horsepower monster Panther 6 too.
But Pierre Tissier was more fortunate - his six- or even eight-wheeled Citroens were ordered from 1972 to 2007. This is because Tissier did absolutely everything a customer could wish on the basis of CX, XM and other Citroen models: a house on wheels, a mail delivery car, a limousine, a tow truck …
However, even the termination of activities did not put an end to yesterday's bodybuilders: after the closure, the coachbuilders had two ways - to become history or to profitably “sell”. The latter option was implemented by American firms such as LeBaron and Fleetwood. During the decline, they sold their stakes to Chrysler and General Motors, respectively. So Chrysler got the LeBaron sub-brand, which was later reborn into a separate model. However, it is no longer there, which means that only the pages on Wikipedia remind about the stubborn companies that refused to build trucks.
Starting from the 50s in the USA, and later in Europe, a new concept appeared - customizing. Another derivative of the individual, pre-war production of bodies. It is more often applied to motorcycles, but the term is not alien to cars either. In the modern sense, customizing means a very serious, if not almost complete, alteration of the car's exterior at the request of the client, but without significant changes to the chassis.
This category includes American hot rods, as well as the crazy European tuning of the 80s. However, customizing assumes that the work is not necessarily done by a professional, in compliance with all the rules of quality and safety. So, it's not worth attributing customizing to coaching. Or…
Now forget everything you read
If before World War II, coaching was extremely transparent and understandable (an office that puts a custom body on a chassis), then after it the framework of this concept became blurred. Can you call the companies that pushed the creation of custom bodies to tenth place as coachbuilders? Or is it only puristic coachbuilding that has a right to exist?
How to classify the French company Heuliez, founded in 1920 as a coachbuilder? Her biography now includes custom-made bodies, bus bodies, concept cars, racing car bodies, and a full-scale production car assembly.
These are all the products of Heuliez, a French coachbuilder who survived as best he could. And he did it very successfully.
But what happened to the bodybuilders when the term "tuning" came into common use? We will talk about this in the next part.
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