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Intermeccanica and the Epilogue of the Work of Franco Scaglione

The history of Intermeccanica is that of the last five years of Scaglione’s work. Professor Grandi takes a look back over the events and the models he worked on, and the unlucky adventure with Frank Reisner that would lead him sadly to withdraw prematurely from the car design scene.

Drawings courtesy of Massimo Grandi

Frank Reisner was a Canadian citizen of Hungarian origins, a chemical engineer, but a car fanatic and above all a skilled business and public relations expert. In 1959 he came to Italy, and opened a company in Turin, Intermeccanica, a branch of the Canadian NEEC (North East Engineering Company) which also belonged to Reisner.

In 1960, at the Grand Prix in Monaco, Reisner met a Californian engineer who had designed a “European style” GT with a Buick 3500 cc engine. Reisner began to produce the bodywork at Intermeccanica in Turin. It was 1962, and the car was the Apollo GT. But the car, designed by Ron Plescia, wasn’t particularly attractive, it appeared rather unbalanced, and a bit rough-and-ready because it had no back window.

And so, Reisner got in touch with the firm Scaglione in Turin, to have them review the Apollo and make it more attractive.

Scaglione accepted the appointment, and with a few but intelligent touches created a fast-back coupé with typically European, indeed Italian, lines, given the similarity with the Ferrari Gran Turismo of the time: the car was later manufactured by Motor Cars of Oakland in California, in 3500 GT and 5000 GT versions, with a 4-speed manual or 3-speed automatic gearbox.

The car soon became all the rage, and was very popular among the Hollywood stars. Between 1961 and 1965 a total of 88 were built: 76 coupés, 11 convertibles and the 2+2 prototype.

The start of the relationship between Scaglione and Reisner was therefore quite simple: a restyling job, but which was further developed and consolidated with the Griffith story.

Here too, it was a case of a wealthy American who wanted to produce his own special car. His name was Jack Griffith, a Ford dealer and importer of British cars to the USA. He convinced the UK TVR to mount a US engine, the Ford 289, on their Grantura. And so the Grantura-Griffith came about, sold in the States with the name Griffith 200. After that came the Griffith 400, after which the contract with TVR fell apart, but Griffith wanted to continue to produce a Griffith 600, with a Ford engine, designed by Robert Cumberford, and Reisner was contracted to build the bodies at Intermeccanica. Once again, Reisner called in Scaglione to review the style, but especially to work on the construction design of the Griffith 600.

So at this point, Scaglione was called in not only to offer his stylistic contribution but was also in charge of the construction design of a product.

Here, we should underline that Scaglione was never directly involved with Intermeccanica, he was always an outsider, but their work together was certainly consolidated when , in 1966, Griffith went bankrupt and Intermeccanica was left with 100 unused bodies, and Reisner managed to get engines from Ford and gearboxes from Mustang, and set up the company “Intermeccanica di F. Reisner”, marketing what was to all extents an Italian car, the Torino, later renamed Intermeccanica Italia.

Intermeccanica Italia coupé (1968)

The Intermeccanica Italia, originally born with the name Intermeccanica Torino, which was later changed as the name Torino had already been deposited by Ford, substantially kept the features of Robert “Bob” Cumberford’s Griffith 600.

Scaglione redesigned the front of the Italia, eliminating the long front bumpers and replacing them with two elegant bumpers, framing an oval air duct bearing the Intermeccanica Raging Bull logo in the centre, which bend round and continue along the sides. Along the sides, right after the front wheel arches, are two rectangular air ducts.

The end result of this restyling was an elegant car, highly reminiscent of the Italian gran turismo models like those of Ferrari, with dynamic and aggressive lines, and in fact in both the berlinetta and convertible versions, despite the limited mechanical qualities compared to those of the GT from Maranello, were quite a commercial success, with around 500 sold.

Again in 1968, a convertible version was launched. This version requires no additional comments, as from the beltline downwards, the car was identical to the coupé, but in any case it is worth describing. The design of the soft-top version was particularly upgraded; in other words, it gave its best and indeed in aesthetic terms, if not in terms of performance, it would not have lost face compared to the 1966 Ferrari 365 California cabriolet Pininfarina.

But what was most important was that at last Intermeccanica had its own model for mass production, and even if only technically speaking, Scaglione was a part of this process. And so by 1968 Scaglione worked full time for Intermeccanica, giving an identity to the “Italia”, designing the “Murena” and the “Italia IMX”, a development on the basic competition model.

Intermeccanica Italia IMX - Berlinetta competition prototype (1969)

The Italia IMX was a development on the basic competition model. In this case, the design was all the work of Scaglione, and in fact once again we can see the clearly aerodynamic applications that were typical of his designs.

The car was designed and built for racing, but was also based on the Italian gran turismo style of its peers Ferrari 275 GTB and Maserati Mistral, for example. This is the case of the carefully designed, luxury leather-lined interiors.

The outer lines are the strictly sporting lines of a coupé, but it would be more correct to define it a two-volume fastback as the angle between the rear window and the roof is much less than 30°, so aggressive and dynamic. The side and upper profiles have rounded, fluid main lines, however characterised by numerous aerodynamic slots, including the NACA ducts on the bonnet and the openings on the side immediately before the front door frame, to vent the engine compartment. Other aerodynamic extras include the two front anti-lift spoilers and two small stabilizer fins at the top of the rear mudguards.

All this along with a K-tail modelled at the top into a kind of fin to create greater pressure on the rear axle at high speed.

The front is low, with no bumpers and a large, wide upturned trapeze-shaped air duct opening between the two inset headlights with no glass cover, set into the mudguards, each with a pair of lights both set into a shaped panel.

Completing the front are the triangular spoilers. The roof is low and relatively flat, extending practically to the tail, including the rear window which, opening compass-style also acts as a rear door.

The Italia IMX is therefore not only a beautiful example of an Italian gran turismo, but also bears witness to Scaglione’s design evolution in the early 1970s, which went on to become representative of his design for the Indra.

With its clever aerodynamics and powerful engine - a V-shaped 8-cylinder cm³ (Ford), with 310 HP - reached 100 km/h in 6 seconds and 240 km/hour top speed.

Intermeccanica Indra cabriolet and coupé (1970)

Between the late 1960s and early 1970s, there was an authentic formal car design revolution on the international scene. From sinuous, rounded shapes, car design shifted suddenly to lean, square shapes at all levels and in all segments of car production. At the 1972 Paris motor show, Ferrari presented the Pininfarina 365 GT4 2+2, with its very square shape, which, in the Bertone Dino 308 GT4, presented in Paris in 1973, was developed and enhanced further. But we could also mention the 1970 De Tomaso Pantera, the Fiat 130 and X1/9, the Lamborghini Urraco, the concept Lancia Stratos HF Zero and the Gandini Lancia Stratos, to name but a few. This new language spread from compact to gran turismo cars, rooting itself radically in the culture and taste of Italy and beyond in the 1970s.

As Scaglione was never really a “stylist”, he never paid attention to passing trends but rather the theoretical and experimental evolution of aerodynamics, but the weight and anchoring of these new styles also played out well in his hands.

So, in this context, Scaglione too sought to experiment in his own way, exploring the new language based on the use of straight prisms, wedges and sharp angles. The result of the lexical hybriding can clearly be seen in his Indra convertible project.

Even in the side view of this car we can see this new design imprint.

Simply observe how the front and rear lines of the mudguards are modelled, with extremely tense lines and sharp corners, the straight beltline between the base of the windscreen and the tail, the tail itself cut into a prism shape at the top, the front with the narrow front, like the section of a bullet. Then, if we look at it the front three-quarters, this language is even clearer, with a flat, wide bonnet and two front retracting headlights, the front cut straight and enriched with two thin, straight bumpers. Then the complex volume is interesting as it meets the central fairing, a longitudinal curved wedge, along with the volume of the mudguard and the side of the car.

Of course, looking closely, the Scaglione’s hand and personality emerge distinctively in this new language.

The aerodynamic research, seeking the fluid shape that guides and accompanies the air flows creating as little turbulence as possible, led Scaglione to introduce and maintain a model that was also based on widely radiating main lines. This is all clear when we look at the front of the car: simply see the curve starting from the edge of the front end which then develops in a parabola to design the lower profile of the front leading edge. Scaglione’s skilled hand makes opposing geometries agree, with a unique balance and harmonious synthesis.

As regards the coupé, in fact to be able to be mass produced, this is based completely on the same car body as the convertible, simply adding a fixed, rigid roof in place of the canvas one. If anything, we should say that the perfectly prismatic design of the roof perhaps accentuates the squarer image of the car compared to the spider.

Intermeccanica Indra - Coupé fastback 2+2 (1972)

The Intermeccanica Indra Coupé fastback 2+2 was presented at the 1972 Geneva Motor Show, and despite the unquestionable stylistic qualities of its design, only a few cars were made because Opel never gave the support that was hoped, nor that of its European sales network.

The Indra coupé fastback is a further development of the Indra coupé. This time, the roof is no longer simply rigid but is an integral part of the car design. To create a little more space inside with two (small) rear seats, the rood is extended, ending virtually on the dihedral rear coupling.

The three volumes of the Indra Coupé here become a fluid and perfectly balanced two-volume, maintaining the car body of the previous coupé and spider beneath the beltline. From a three-quarters view, it reminds us of another 1971 coupé fast back 2+2, the Ferrari 365 GTC/4, even though in purely stylistic terms, Scaglione's design is more balanced and harmonious than Pininfarina’s creation which, for the record, nicknamed the “Gobbone”, didn’t have such great commercial success, with just 508 models produced.

The main lines we see in a side view are substantially those of the spider, but here they integrate perfectly with those of the rood, in this nervous weave of straight and curved lines, rotation solids and straight prisms. The ratio between the two volumes that create the whole car body is perfectly balanced.

The image is one of a powerful, aggressive and yet elegant and substantially restrained car. The front is very beautiful, and absolutely new to Scaglione’s formal language, while maintaining the typical elements of his design, such as the very low front, the lack of mudguards, the “clean”, profiled front coupling

Even the headlights retract into the body, as seen in other previous models: the Fiat-Abarth coupé 215 A and 216 B, the Lamborghini 350 GTV or the Titania Veltro. But all these typical elements are interpreted here in an absolutely new expressive manner.

The whole front is projected forwards and curved downwards, but transversely, the fairing and bonnet, almost as if marking a counterpoint, have a slightly curved profile, marked almost imperceptibly by a central ribbing, which then runs upwards to softly meet the supper corners of the mudguards: an authentic symphony of curves. (FIG 13)

Finally, it is extremely interesting to observed the complex plastic modelling. Simply observe the mudguard profile and the overlapping vanishing points generated by their solids.

Perhaps the weakest part of this car, in my opinion, is the rear.

Compared to the rich and complex modelling of the sides and front, it appears substantially “poor”. Consisting of a rear window and the baggage compartment, designed on a single plane which then folds, like the previous models, into a dihedral shaped corner of the rear coupling. In this case, probably, the need to maintain the whole car body identical beneath the beltline and maximise the internal space, forced the designer, having to model a single rear volume within set limits, to make this inevitable simplification. In any event, apart from this partial shortcoming in the rear, the Indra 2+2, along with the two other versions, remains a beautiful Italian gran turismo, marking the development of Scaglione’s design heading into the 1970s.

This was the last of Franco Scaglione’s creations, and nothing more came after this. The professional career of this major designer ended suddenly and dramatically.

In 1972 Scaglione was only 56, and his flair and undisputed skill could have brought us many other designs. His huge contribution to the birth, development and international success of Italian design would undoubtedly have been even greater than what he left us in any case.

All in all, his particular, complex and intriguing approach to design, his inimitable creative synthesis, in other words his paradigm, remain in car history as a fundamental testimonial to Italian genius and excellence.


Massimo Grandi, architect and designer, previously director of the Car Design laboratory at the Design Campus of the Department of Architecture at the University of Florence. Member of the ASI Culture Commission. Among his published works: “La forma della memoria: il progetto della Ferrari Alaspessa”, “Car design workshop”, “Dreaming American Cars”, “Ferrari 550 Alaspessa: dall’idea al progetto”, “Quando le disegnava il vento”, “Il paradigma Scaglione”, “La più veloce: breve storia dei record mondiali di velocità su strada” (with others).

The drawings and part of the text were taken from “Il paradigma Scaglione” by M. Grandi, Libreria ASI, Turin 2016.

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