Giovanni Michelotti is one of the most important people in the history of Italian coachbuilding and yet one of the least known. A marginality that he retained, remaining independent throughout a prolific career which took him from the role of apprentice in the Farina works in the mid-30’s to his solid partnership with Alfredo Vignale in the 50’s.

Giovanni Michelotti is considered to have been one of the most prolific of Italian designers in the 50’s and 60’s. “One year at the Turin Motor Show I had more than thirty cars on display on various different stands. They carried the signatures of different coachbuilders and I was not allowed to say that I had done them all!”. In spite of his omnipresence in Italian design, Michelotti remains a modest, discreet, almost taciturn figure. My memory (writes Serge Bellu) is of a dark, shy, reticent man greeting journalists and spectators at his stands at Geneva or Turin.

From 1960, while continuing to work with other bodyworks, particularly Vignale, Michelotti also worked under his own trademark, ceaselessly seeking out new customers, including, for example, BMW, for which he designed the little “700”, a fascinating little coupé launched in 1959. Then he thought up the “1500” saloon for the Frankfurt Show of 1961, the highly personal design of which gave tremendous momentum to BMW and pointed the way for the rest of the brand for decades to come.

Thereafter, Michelotti found some quite unexpected partners such as the young Dutch manufacturer DAF which entrusted him with the design of the 44, with the aim of expanding its sales in Europe. Through these agreements, Michelotti demonstrated all his eclecticism and ability to anticipate the times which would place him among the first western designers to work for Japanese manufacturers.

The article continues in Auto & Design no. 154

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