La Sport e i suoi artigiani 1937-1965
A Review by Stuart Schaller
July 9, 2002
To purchase from VelocePress
Throughout history, there have been people who have tried to make cars go faster, handle better, and look more attractive than what was coming out of the big automotive factories. In America, these people were called "hot rodders" and "custom car guys."
Many books have been written about these American custom cars and hot rods, but until now there has never been anything of value written on a similar phenomena which took place in Italy, starting in the 1930s, and reached its height just after World War Two. There were literally several hundred small Italian companies and individuals who made these cars in quantities ranging from "one-offs" to several thousand. No generic name such as "hot rods" existed for these cars, so about 25 years ago, this reporter created one; "etceterini." (The word is derived from etcetera, and the Italian ending, "ini." The reason "ini" was used, is that many of the names of the actual makers of the cars end in those 3 letters; hence "etceterini.")
Some of these cars were built in factories, some in repair shops, and others in places no bigger than a single car garage. Probably best known of all of these companies is Abarth, who started in 1948, after buying the last 5 cars from a bankrupt Cisitalia. Another company named Bandini existed for 20 years, but only built 73 cars in that entire time. By "etceterini" standards, they could be considered large companies.
Until now, we have never had a book on this subject; at least in the sense of having anything definitive. Now we do. The title of this new book is La Sport e i suoi artigiani, 1937-1965. It is published by Georgio Nada in Milan, and took the authors, Andrea Curami and Piero Vergnano over 10 years to write and get released.
There was a great tradition of coach building in Italy, which went back to the 1800s. This book also covers the unknown coachbuilders, in addition to the marques themselves. There is also a section on cars that are so obscure, they cannot really be given names; one of a kind cars built by private individuals from components supplied by literally dozens of companies.
Curami and Vergnano's book has more than 1000 photos, all black and white, and there is a chapter for each one of the 84 "etceterinis". In spite of my extensive and long time involvement with cars of this type, I have never seen at least 40% of the photos! It is a large book, with 356 pages which includes an index and bibliography and is published in a quality hardcover format.
During the past ten years, I have been working on a similar book. The problem in producing it and having it released has been that photographs of these types of cars can only been found in Italy, which makes the task virtually impossible. This book is obviously a labor of love, and to me, mind-boggling. I have only had this book for about two weeks, and I don't think I've put it down for more than 10 minutes, other than to eat and sleep! In my mind, this is the BEST Italian car book ever produced, and if not the best, certainly a top ten.
In spite of this, the book does have some flaws, that I personally consider to be minor. The sections on some of the bigger companies (such as Abarth) could be larger, but, in these instances, the marques have previously been covered in detail by books which already exist. I would much rather have new information and photos on cars which I have never heard of, nor seen before.
If you love Italian cars as much as I do then this book is a MUST have. In view of what is contained therein, the price is quite reasonable at $94.95. It is available via VelocePress.com. It's unfortunate for us that they decided to have the text in Italian only, rather than having it in English too, but even if there were no text at all, the book would be worth at least triple the price.
Another book that I have been working on for many years is one on the similar French cars from the same time period; marques such as DB, CD-Panhard, and Panhard-Monopole. Again, there has never been a definitive book on this subject either. Some of these cars were bodied by Italian coachbuilders such as Allemano and Frua, which makes the subject even more interesting to me. Now, if I could only find pictures...