Touring Superleggera: the history


The Touring Body Shop was created at the beginning of 1926 when two lawyers, Felice Bianchi Anderloni and Gaetano Ponzoni, who were old friends, bought major shares of the Falco Body Shop, which belonged to Vittorio Ascar, Alfa Romeo's great champion's brother. Bianchi Anderloni e Ponzoni immediately showed the intent of giving their creation a new mark in dressing automobile frames which the factories delivered bare to their customers: this was done to make them become real automobiles and then the customer would chose their own trusted body shop.

Therefore, two lawyers which gave up their profession even before commencing it, were creating a body shop in Milan, Via Ludovico da Breme 65, which wasn't tied to craftsmanlike traditions but to their own interpretative ideas of style and constructive methods. Bianchi Anderloni matured his knowledge of the automobile with Cesare Isotta and Vicenzo Fraschini, his brother-in-laws, and brought experience of the most refined techniques to the new company. Gaetano Ponzoni left his banking career which he had just started and brought his administrative capabilities to the company. The Touring Body Shop started its activity in a plant, located in a suburb immediately north of Milan, only a foot step away from where Alfa Romeo was operating, almost next to the Italian Citroen and close to Via Monterose where Isotta Fraschini's plant was. In fact, Touring's first prestigious bodywork was done for Isotta Fraschini, Alfa Romeo and for Citroen, the hunting and fishing vehicles used for Queen Margharet.

The new mark that the Touring Body Shop wanted to give to its creations couldn't limit itself purely to the shape but also, with maximum care, had to turn to the technical side of the project. They quickly orientated themselves towards the specialization which was well synthesized by the motto that then always followed the mark : weight is the enemy, air resistence is the obstacle. A great economy in weight was carried out in two ways: first through the acquisition of the construction license "Weymann" and second "Superleggera", which was definitive. The Weymann system consented substituting the iron plates, which were nailed to the rigid and heavy wood framework (which were used to make horse carriages) with much lighter panels, in pegamoide, fastened to the body, even the body structure was lightened due to the lighter weight it had to support. The construction's weak point was constituted from the insufficient reliability in quality of the pegamoide, which had a tendency to dry up and crack over time. Rather than worrying about this inconvenience, it stimulated the people in charge at Touring to analyze and realize their own construction method "Superleggera", around 1935-36. While studyig this structural system, Touring pledged all its experience which it acquired from manufactring airplane parts in its own aeronautical department. In this way, it wasn't difficult to adopt the same concepts and the most recent technology even to the body work, introducing the use of new materials and techniques.

The first Touring constructed with the Superleggera system was seen at the 1000 Miglia in 1937, on an Alfa Romeo 8C 2300B, which was driven by Giambattista Guidotti. It classified first in the National Tourism category and fourth overall. His invention's feature consented substituting the body's wooden structure with a trellis of thin steel tubes at Cromo-Molibdeno and to re-cover it with aluminium panels and other alloys, always lighter and more resistant. It was a real revolution and transformation of tradition. First the skeleton was united to the frame with rubber plugs, Silent-blocks, and then with the new system Supperleggera, it was the skeleton which formed everything in one piece with the frame, while the aluminium sheets were just a little more than placed on top. Naturally, even the other components of the body were simultaneously objects of study of alleviation, like the adoption of plexiglass in places where there were lateral crystals, tubular structured seats and accessories always aimed at lightness. Brilliantly beating the weight enemy, the second part of the motto couldn't be forgotten: air resistence is the obstacle. Frequent contact with the aeronautical environment couldn't but favour the acquisition of knowledge of aerodynamics and create a mentality aimed at improving air penetration. Every new model was realized on a scale of 1/10 or 1/5 and tested in the wind gallery at Breda or at the Politecnico in Milan, or in the facilities of the customers' factories.

It cannot be forgotten that Touring was the first among all body shops to install the tunnel, even if not very sophisticated, inside their own plant. Unfortunately, it was destroyed during the last world war. The lightness and "profiling to the wind" characteristics accompanied the Touring Superleggera production during its fourty years of life, where all the most important frames, luxurious or sporty , the impressive Isotta Fraschini, Lancia Dilambda and Astura, those which were slim and fast of Alfa Romeo, Bristol or the Ferrari were always dresssed interpreting the characteristics and respecting the values without ever misrepresenting the peculiarity with unsuitable clothes. In Touring's long list of projects, you can't however make a distinction between sports and luxury vehicles because the sports vehicles didn't lack a touch of class and the luxury ones always had a touch of sportiness present. The Ferrari berlinetta, similar to the Le Mans, is the classic case in the History of Touring where Giannino Marzotto won the 1000 Miglia in 1950 wearing a double breasted jacket and arrived fresh in Brescia. Touring did the bodywork for all Italian makes, from the most famous to the already forgotten, and didn't neglect the prestigious foreign cases such as Bugatti, Mercedes, Talbot Bristol, Pegaso, Hudson, Frazer-Nash, Aston Martin, Lagonda. It wasn't sufficient do the work for foreign companies in the shops in Milan, so Touring was the first body shop to sell the patent and the know-how or the license for the Superleggera construction to foreign companies to produce automobile bodies in their plants, with the Touring Superleggera trade mark. The first to assure this advantage was the English Bristol, which in 1947 turned to Touring to design and construct the body and then requested the construction license to avoid the huge transportation expenses between England and Italy. A similar agreement was stipulated a few years later with Aston Martin and David Brown's Lagonda, which he benefited from the excellent experience of the Bristol. The contract with the American Hudson of Detroit was even more innovative: always to reduce trasportation costs, all the mechanical parts were sent to Italy in an infinity of subgroups to mount. The Touring technicians had to organize not only the production of the bodywork, but even the assembly of the frames and of the mechanics, the tests, the quality control and the shipment of finished automobiles to America.

Many years had to pass before the same case would repeat itself with the Cadillac Allantè of Pininfarina. Something even more innovative with the English group Rootes was organized: not only learning the new techniques and the installation of specific machinery but also the realization was accelerated, for other things already in process, at the new Touring establishment in Nova Milanese. It dealt with assembling two models of the series, Super Minx of the Hillman and Alpine of the Sunbeam, using original parts, sometimes modified and completing others, such as seats, rugs, panels, accessories and electrical parts up to the road test and to the delivery to Rootes Italy. The purpose of all this immense organization was to make an Italian vehicle to introduce into the MEC countries of which England was still excluded. The exclusive model "Venezia" was created and produced on the Sunbeam frame for Rootes. In time, many strange names distinguished the most prestigious models of the Touring: Soffio di Satana, Fugientem Incurro Diem, Flying Star, Velocissima Curro, Praho, Thrill, Tibidabo, Venezia, Italia. These names would have brought the message "Italian Ingeniousness" to the roads of the world. The last name Flying Star II, which baptized an extraordinary model made for the Lamborghini 400 GTV in October 1966, unfortunately sadly finished the period of the immortal "Touring Superleggera", which was radiantly open with the Flying Star made on the frame of the Isotta Fraschini. Touring terminated its activity on December 31, 1966, fourty years after its beginning. Now, almost a prize for what was realized during these years, is remembered and honoured by all those vintage car connosseurs, who with their passion meet around the most beautiful automobiles and give further affirmation to another Touring motto: "Touring enjoys fame which use confirms and time consolidates". The International Touring Superleggera Register was founded in Genova, on the occasion of the Autostory exhibition in 1995, purposely to reunite these connosseurs.