Designer Of The Day looks at an influential car designer and examines the impact they’ve made on the industry. Giovanni Michelotti was one of the most prolific sports car designers of all time. He contributed to Maserati, Ferrari, Lancia and Leyland Motors. He designed cars like the Ferrari 166 MM Coupe and Maserati 5000 GT.
Born in Turin in 1921, Michelotti quickly followed in the footsteps of his father, who was a machine shop manager in the engine factory of car manufacturer Itala. He left school at 15 and became an apprentice at coachbuilders Stabilimenti Farina in Cambiano. Two years into his apprenticeship, Michelotti was credited with his first body design for a Lancia Astura in 1938.
Car design career
Michelotti’s big break came when Farina used his re-bodied 1947 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 design. This was followed by a series of designs based on the Talbot T-26. Michelotti’s success inspired him to strike out on his own and he went on to start his own studio called Studio Technico e Carrozzeria G Michelotti in 1949.
He worked independently for several manufacturers and Michelotti’s first commission as a freelance designer was the body of a Ferrari 166. In the 1950s, Michelotti created bodies for Maserati, Lancia and Alfa Romeo, establishing himself as the father of freelance car design.
At the end of the ‘50s, Michelotti became the house designer for Standard Triumph. He designed models such as the Herald, Spitfire, Stag and Dolomite.
Outside of his freelance work, Michelotti presented cars under their own name. He built a beach car called the Shellette, which featured wicker seats and a dashboard. It could reach up to 60mph and famous buyers include the Dutch Royal Family.
Over the years, Michelotti turned down various offers to join other coachbuilders because he valued his independence. He was credited with more than 1200 design cars and towards the end of his life, he was asked if he’d designed anything other than cars. He acknowledged that most of his design work involved motors, but he admitted to designing a coffee making machine after WW2.
He passed away too soon at the age of 59 in 1980.