One-off cars commissioned by VIP people. When originality was possible

  • 02 December 2023
  • 2 min read
  • 5 images
One-off cars commissioned by VIP people. When originality was possible image

Photo credit: Ferrari, Lopresto Collection, Michael Furman, Wheelsage

Our journey through the world of bespoke one-off cars, commissioned by wealthy clients, continues this week with its second chapter. These models began to grapple with the constraints of industrial production, moving away from the completely “bare” rolling chassis of earlier times One-off cars commissioned by VIP people. When coachbuilders were like tailors.

We are between the ‘50s and ‘60s, and the safety regulations were certainly not those to which today’s transformations are limited, allowing for greater creative freedom.

The first car of this kind was arguably the competition-ready Ferrari 375 America Plus, introduced by Ferrari for the 1954 season and produced in just 8 examples. In this case, the engineers still started from the chassis, #0488AM to be exact, which never raced and was built according to road specifications on the precise orders of Enzo Ferrari. But who was the client? None other than King Leopold III of Belgium. Pinin Farina crafted one of his masterpieces: a special cabriolet body finished in black with an ivory leather interior.

One-off cars commissioned by VIP people When coachbuilders were like tailors - 1King Leopold of Belgium - 1954 Ferrari 375 America Plus Cabriolet.

In the same year, Max Hoffmann, the influential importer of European cars to the USA, who had persuaded Mercedes to create the 300SL, met with Alfa Romeo’s top brass to propose a spider version of the Giulietta Sprint, promising hundreds of potential orders. Arese’s management agreed, commissioning both Pinin Farina and Bertone to design and develop a prototype. Franco Scaglione designed a modern and elegant body for Bertone. However, Pininfarina’s design won, though Hoffmann chose Bertone’s proposal for himself. The other prototype is now treasured by Italian collector Corrado Lopresto.

One-off cars commissioned by VIP people When coachbuilders were like tailors - 2Max Hoffmann - 1955 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider Bertone

In 1959, the Maserati 5000 GT, specially made for the Shah of Persia, Reza Pahlavi, caused a sensation at the Turin Motor Show. This wasn’t just a customisation but a brand-new model, created to satisfy the wishes of the prestigious client who was in love with the 3500 GT but desired even more performance. The heart of the project was the 450S racing car’s 8-cylinder V engine that was bored out to nearly five litres. The body, made by Touring, was a veritable masterpiece. Without a shadow of a doubt, an authentic one-off in reality as well as in philosophy

One-off cars commissioned by VIP people When coachbuilders were like tailors - 3Shah of Persia - 1959 Maserati 5000 GT Coupé Scià di Persia

When Gianni Agnelli asked, Enzo Ferrari couldn’t refuse. After all, it was Agnelli himself who had saved Ferrari from a precarious economic decline due to insufficient economic strength. The Avvocato’s garage always housed cars made especially for him, not just Ferraris, but also models like the Fiat 130 Familiare or the Multipla Aperta. In 1986, to celebrate 20 years as Fiat’s president, he decided to treat himself to an open-top version of the Testarossa. This was no small feat for Ferrari’s engineers, who had to significantly reinforce the structure of the very high-performance car. A notable feature was the Valeo transmission, which allowed the car to be driven without using the clutch – a solution for Agnelli, who suffered from the after-effects of an accident and would not have been able to operate the hard clutch of the thoroughbred from Maranello.

One-off cars commissioned by VIP people When coachbuilders were like tailors - 4Gianni Agnelli - 1986 Ferrari Testarossa Spider

Also based on the mechanics of the Ferrari Testarossa, the mysterious F90 Speciale was created in the same period. Ordered by the Sultan of Brunei, already known for his exclusive requests with other brands, it was designed by Enrico Fumia, head of Research and Development at Pininfarina. The car featured a completely new body and interior, with the cabin entirely surrounded by glass surfaces and with a removable roof. In a show of unbridled opulence, the Sultan ordered six of these… for his family!

One-off cars commissioned by VIP people When coachbuilders were like tailors - 5Sultan of Brunei - 1988 Ferrari F90

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