The myth of Italian coachbuilders: Boano

  • 30 March 2024
  • 3 min read
  • 4 images
The myth of Italian coachbuilders: Boano image

Photo credit: RM Sotheby’s, Wheelsage

When we think of the myth of Italian coachbuilders, we often dwell on the design that distinguishes the stylistic language of a brand, but it is not enough just to be able to design a car, you also need to create the production process to be able to market it.

The perfect blend of creativity and the ability to build and industrialise cars is Mario Felice Boano. A man whose work experience and entrepreneurial intuition left an everlasting mark on the history of post-war Turin.

The myth of Italian coachbuilders: Boano - 1 Exhibited for the first time at the 1955 Turin Motor Show, the Abarth 207A Boano Spyder Corsa used the mechanicals of the Fiat 1100 while the bodywork was made by Boano.

His story begins with his employment at the Stabilimenti Farina as a coachbuilder, where he learned the technique of manufacturing sheet metal panels through stamping. In 1930, he joined the newly founded Carrozzeria Pinin Farina as chief designer. This is where Mario Felice Boano developed his first entrepreneurial intuition: He quit his job and opened a company specialising in the production of wooden templates, used by sheet metal workers to make the outer sheets of cars. This business allowed him to collaborate and forge a personal friendship with Giacinto Ghia, owner of the coachwork business bearing the same name, which he would pass on to his son-in-law Giorgio Alberti and Boano after his death in 1944.

The myth of Italian coachbuilders: Boano - 2 The Boano coachworks boasts several celebrities among its customers. Pictured here is Raymond Loewy's Jaguar XK140.

After three years, Mario Felice Boano bought out Alberti's shares and became the sole owner of Ghia. The first Turin Motor Show was scheduled to take place the following year and a revival was needed to attract customers. In the meantime he managed to finance himself by manufacturing cars on commission in Switzerland that would not have been popular in Italy.

His strategy was to reaffirm the Ghia signature. To achieve this, he relied on the talent of Giovanni Michelotti who became the company's designer through his firm. Numerous successful cars brought Ghia into the limelight, among them the Lancia Aurelia Coupé and the Volkswagen Karmann Ghia.

The myth of Italian coachbuilders: Boano - 3 Even Henry Ford II turned to Boano to make a special version of the Lincoln. Called the Indianapolis designed by Gian Paolo Boano.

A new turning point in Mario Felice Boano's life happened in 1954: He left Ghia and founded Boano Lavorazioni Speciali with his son Gian Paolo, where he would produce on commission even for Pininfarina, who entrusted him with the production of the bodywork for the Ferrari 250 GT and 410 Superamerica. He also masterfully created exceptional cars such as the Fiat Abarth 207 designed by Michelotti, the Alfa Romeo 6C 3000CM for Juan Domingo Peron, a special Lincoln for Henry Ford II and a Jaguar XK140 for the famous designer Raymond Loewy.

The most important order came from Alfa Romeo, who entrusted Boano with the production of the 1900 Primavera, which was mass-produced in a limited run of just under 300 examples.

Business went well but Boano sensed that something was afoot: How much longer would the opportunity to assemble cars for large or famous manufacturers last? He accepted Ellena's offer to buy the company and accepted the prestigious position as the creator of the new Fiat Design Centre.

What better way to conclude this story than by celebrating a man who has never made a wrong move in his career?

The myth of Italian coachbuilders: Boano - 4 The Ferrari 250 GT Boano was built in about 80 examples and is considered the first mass-produced Rossa from Maranello.