Fiat 1100 Coupé Meteor: A Small Design Gem

Talking about the industrial situation after the Second World War, Prof. Grandi investigates the small workshops which, starting from mass-produced cars, brought to life extraordinary examples of craftsmanship in design and aerodynamic experimentation. Among all these, worthy of note was the coachbuilder Meteor, from Varese, which, as its very name involuntarily foresaw, crossed Italian car history as quickly as a meteorite, leaving absolutely impressive creations in its wake.

Drawings courtesy of Massimo Grandi

When we are charmed by a vintage car, we often forget to consider the context in which it was created. We may place it in a given season of history, but we rarely consider the social conditions, professional qualities and trades which, at certain times in history, led to the special and unrepeatable development of art, technique and manufacturing skill. So, in Italy in the period between the two world wars, and thereafter from the second half of the 1940s, above all in Turin, Lombardy and Emilia, the professional talents in the world of both two and four wheels had spread and consolidated, in the field of both engineering and bodywork. This widespread savoir-faire developed around the large factories in Turin and Milan, but not only.

Around the big names like Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Maserati and the newborn Ferrari, as well as the big coachbuilders like Touring Superleggera, Farina, Pininfarina, Bertone, Vignale and Ghia – to name but a few – an authentic constellation of secondary activities had formed, true industrial and craft-level spin-offs. Spin-offs, as well as a fabric of small businesses, in the vast majority of cases linked to the competition car world, which after the Second World War developed rapidly and gained more and more popularity.

But while the period after the war was difficult for the large companies that had suffered severe damage during the war, for the small manufacturers it was even tougher. For most small businesses, building a complete car, as Ferrari succeeded in doing with its sci-fi 12-cylinder engine, was an impossible feat. The only possibility was to develop cars starting from what the industry made available, using both the engine and often also the chassis. A few companies had started to build engine components, cylinder blocks and heads, as in the case of Stanguellini, or actual engines in the case of Ermini from Florence.