Lancia Appia Lusso

Carrozzeria Vignale

The early years

When in the aftermath of World War II the Italians took their cars out of their hiding places, the Vignale brothers acquired a severely abused Fiat Topolino. They fitted a new body of their own design, a fact that was soon noticed by the British magazine 'Autocar'. They, however, attributed it to a different coach builder, but the publication and subsequent rectification attracted so much attention and clients ordering a car of their design that in 1948 they were able to establish their own 'Carrozzeria Vignale'.
The early designs were mainly based on the Fiat 1100, on the Cisitalia 202 that in itself used many mechanical parts of the Fiat 1100, and probably their most important competitor in the Italian market of 'vetture di fuoriserie', the Lancia Aprilia.

The golden age

International recognition came soon. First, a young and brilliant free-lance designer, Giovanni Michelotti, was attracted. Second, after a few victories in various races, the already famous Ferrari replaced Touring by Vignale as the coach builder of their choice. Although the Ferrari period was rather short, Vignale's name was settled for good.
The result was that orders came pouring in. Many special orders were placed, not only from Italy but also others found their way to Vignale. Cunningham from the USA is just one example...

Modeling without dummy Lancia Aurelia B50 Cunningham C3

Bodies were always produced by hand. Sheets were rolled and hammered into forms, and also the finer shaping was done by skilled metal workers, judging by eye without a dummy.


The fifties were troubling times for coach builders that built their models by hand. Many, like Saoutchik in France, were forced to stop while others survived by specializing to design or expanding and mechanizing their production. But Vignale stayed put, slowly shifting from single orders to increasingly larger series. Especially the designs based on the Fiat 600 and the van versions of the Fiat Multipla must have been rather popular.
Around 1960 Giovanni Michelotti, who always designed for other coach builders as well, slowly concentrated on larger projects while Alfredo Vignale took the road of expanding into more mechanized mass production. Thus in August 1961 the carrozzeria moved to their new premises in Grugliasco, just outside Torino.
The new factory in Grugliasco Here, production really started. The last Lancia Appias, the Flavia, the Maserati 3500 GTV and Sebring, and of course the Fiats that were later even produced under Vignale's own name.


The economic forces of the late sixties appeared in the end too strong for small coachbuilders like Vignale. The relatively small scale production, quite labour intensive even for that time, made Vignale cars too expensive to attract the large production needed to survive. Alfredo Vignale had to give up and sold the firm to De Tomaso who used the premises to accommodate Ghia's production of the Pantera.

Alfredo Vignale at his stand at a motor show The end for Alfredo Vignale came also too soon: three days after the sale he was killed in a car crash...
Copyright 2004
Registro Vignale

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