Giovanni Michelotti , a masterful automobile designer

The Triumph TR 4 celebrates its 40 th anniversary this year. The TR4 was received with much praise when it debuted in August of 1961; featuring items such as winding windows, face level cockpit ventilation, and an all-synchromesh transmission also received high marks from the motoring press.  The fixed rear window with a removable centre section, known as a “Surrey top”, was available as an option pre-dating Porsche’s “Targa” roof. Triumph owed much to Michelotti for his many successful designs, and it is worth reflecting on this remarkable car designer’s life.

Like many sons following in their father’s footsteps, Giovanni Michelotti, born in Torino in 1921, seemed destined to follow in his. At the time of his birth, the elder Michelotti was already a machine shop manager at the Torino-based carmaker Itala’s engine factory, so it seems little coincidence that the younger Michelotti would come to develop a deep love of all things mechanical, especially cars.

Leaving school at just fifteen-years-old, Michelotti garnered his first experience in the automotive industry as an apprentice at the Stabilimenti Farina in Cambiano, just outside his hometown. If that name seems familiar, it is because the nascent design house, and the best car-design “school” existing at the time, was started by the older brother of Battista “Pinin” Farina. Today the firm is called Pininfarina S.p.A, and still in operation. It was there that Michelotti’s talent was nurtured, if not recognized at first. In this golden age of coach building, and just two years into his apprenticeship, Michelotti’s first credited design was a body design for a Lancia Astura, in 1938. The project, however, was not meant to be, and never put into production. Michelotti continued to churn out sketches, though. It would be a little while, but Farina would eventually put Michelotti’s designs for a re-bodied 1947 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 into production, and soon thereafter a series of designs based on the Talbot T-26. The success of having cars derived from his work was the motivation that Michelotti needed to strike out on his own. He would establish his own studio, Studio Technico e Carrozzeria G. Michelotti, Torino in 1949.

Michelotti would continue to work freelance for several Italian Carrozzerias, including Bertone, Ghia, Allemano, and Vignale. His first commission as an independent designer was a body for a variant based on the Ferrari 166, which would become just the first of many Ferraris he penned throughout his career. Throughout the 1950s, he would work on designs for Maserati, Lancia, and Alfa Romeo as well. Bodies for the Ferrari 212 Inter, Ferrari 340 Mexico Coupe, Maserati 3500GT, Lancia Aurelia, and Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint Veloce would flow from his hand, and oh, what a hand it was. While Michelotti is now considered the father of freelance car design, it is also said that he would create the first sketches in one day and night only working with his pencils.

Michelotti’s career would take an interesting turn toward the end of the ’50s, as he essentially became the in house designer for British carmaker, Standard Triumph. This came about when he penned a proposal to shape the 1956 Standard Vanguard, a sedan design that represented a total break with Standard’s conservatively designed cars. And so, from the late 1950s Michelotti was responsible for all the new models produced by Standard Triumph, starting with the Standard Vanguard and going on through models such as the Herald, Spitfire, GT6, TR4, and TR4A, TR5, 2000 series saloons and the FWD 1300 saloon. Later the Triumph Stag and Dolomite saloon would be added to the list.- nothing like a bit of Italian panache to spice up a staid British manufacturer, right?. He also designed the beautiful Triumph Italia coupe built between 1959 and 1962 by an Italian company around TR mechanicals.

Michelotti also made big contributions at BMW too–the BMW 700, the “New Class” BMW 1600-2, and, later, the now highly-collectable 2002. A pagoda-style roof added to an OSCA study later ended up gracing the Mercedes–Benz SL class. The Japanese manufacturers contracted him to draw up the Hino Contessa and Daihatsu Sport during the 1960s. Other customers for Michelotti’s work included DAF, Fiat, and Ford, but he also found some spare time to produce a few cars under its own name. One of the few was the “Shellette”, a beach car with wicker seats and dashboard, like the Fiat Jolly.

Michelotti is credited with more than 1,200 designs–cars, and even buses and trucks–where at least one model was produced. The quality, quantity, and breadth of his work are just some of the reasons why he was inducted into the European Automotive Hall of Fame in 2009. Over the years, Michelotti declined numerous offers to join other coachbuilders because he was valued his independence as a freelancer, and the varied challenges they allowed. Michelotti passed away too soon in 1980, at the age of just 59. Carrozzeria Michelotti closed its doors in 1993.

Michelotti’s name has always been associated with Triumph and many may not know that, during his long association with Vignale, he was asked to build an MG TD based special. This vehicle resembled the Ferrari grand touring cars and featured a body fashioned from aluminium. The styling featured many later Vignale cues and provided an interior that would have shamed many luxury cars of the day with intricate wood veneer.  Despite an excessive amount of chrome, the alloy body made the car only slightly heavier than stock and the performance was consistent with other similar cars of the day. The car still exists today.

The classic car market in South Africa is booming

The classic car market in South Africa is booming.

Well, that is the opinion of the newly launched “Classic Car Passion South Africa”, a source of information for classic car enthusiasts. “Affordable classics have grown for the last seven years – even last year,” says John Tallodi of Classic Car Passion South Africa.

The Money Show’s Bruce Whitfield interviewed John Tallodi, Managing Director at Classic Car Passion. ‘We just launched the South African branch of Classic Car Passion. It’s been going for 12 years in Europe. It brings together classic car fans… We offer events, cars for sale, news items specifically for South African classic car fans…Classic cars are a highly investable alternative asset class, and South African investors – especially at the lower end of the market – are piling in.’

If you buy right, it can be financially beneficial… The Hagerty Index tracks various classic cars over years. ‘Affordable classics’ have grown for the last seven years – even last year. These are vehicles between R300 000 and R600 000. On Line classic car purchasing at auctions have grown hugely in the last year. People stuck at home, looking to invest in something slightly different.  The VW Beetle is proving very popular. There are lots of parts for it… and it won’t break the bank if something goes wrong.

The Beetle is definitely riding a wave right now, and affordable classics might become the answer to the question of how to attract younger people to the Classic car movement. Ford Escorts are another Marque that is seeing lots of interest right now, along with Cortinas of all types.  Sheridan Renfield of Sedgefield Classic cars can’t get enough of the Escort and is exporting many to the UK. From the almost frenetic activity on Facebook advertising, Gumtree and the like, Mercedes Benz saloons of all decades have also become sought after as have the BMW saloons of the 80’s and 90’s.  If you have some spare cash to invest, you might want to invest or speculate?

Knysna Triumph Collection grows

By Dennis Cook

Brian Gibson has not allowed the lockdown to slow him down. As was previously reported, he purchased a 1947 Triumph Roadster from HOCASC last year that was in the (late?) Bert Scheepers collection. It is a magnificent car, a model now seldom seen, and we can’t wait to see it displayed at the next Knysna Motor Show. Brian also completed the chassis up restoration of a beautiful TR3A.

Brian has recently purchased an industrial unit in Knysna to store his ever-growing collection of Triumphs (and BMW’s). Over the past months of lockdown Brian has refurbished the building and now has a fully equipped workshop, office and meeting room. Brian has now completed 2 beautifully rebuilt sidescreens- a TR2 known as “Mathilda” and a TR3A known as “Minty”. Brian’s workshop is very conveniently situated near his major service providers While I visited Brian last week his local body shop delivered his next TR, a matching numbers TR2, by simply pushing it up the road. Here is a pic of Brian taking delivery. In a dark Green colour that is almost Black, with Tan leather trim planned, it is going to be magnificent car. (all his cars have names but, I did not ask if this one will be called “darky”) 😊



Healeys for Road or Water


By Trevor Holland- our retired Austin man from snowbound Austria

The  link between Healey as a performance car or boat took me back to my youth and holidays in Cornwall learning how to water ski being pulled along by a Healey speed boat. Donald Healey sports cars are well known and documented but his other company — Donald Healey Marine  — building speed boats on a commercial basis is less well known . This company was set up in the mid 1950’s ; initially building outboard engined boats and then on to inboard engined boats  . The company closed down in 1961 after building approx. 1750 boats including trailers .The actual number is not very well documented as record keeping was not computerised in those days.

Some boats of interest that were produced:

Healey 55    — powered by a 1489cc MGA engine

Healey 75     — again powered by an MG engine of 1588cc

Healey 707  — powered by a 2912 cc big Healey engine  .. This boat was propelled by a Dowty Marine Jet Drive rather than a propeller .

Donald Healey with one of his boats

Donald Healy and Stirling Moss


South Africa had links with Healey cars because some were built in the Blackheath Factory .

Big Healey ( 1957 / 62 )—- approx 340 built

AH sprite ( Frog eye ) ( 1958 / 62 ) —- approx 335 built

MGA s of course were built by Motor Assemblies Ltd  Durban ( approx 750 in total  )

Having touched on Healey what about the Healey  1000 ( 1000 not 100 )  — but that’s another story .





Historic Vehicles add to wellbeing

Historic Vehicles & Wellbeing

By Roger King in The Magazine of the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs

These are, undoubtedly, exceptional times. For the last nine months or more, all of our lives have been changed to some extent by the SARS virus Covid-19. Everyone was affected by the nationwide lockdown that started in March, and despite some relaxing of restrictions in recent weeks the situation is showing little sign of improving, with many parts of the country heading back into restrictions on movement, social interaction and work activities. The effects of Covid-19 have not only been physical. There is growing evidence of how the way we are having to live now can affect our mental health, ranging from the fear of infection or the loss of employment to suffering the destructive effects of loneliness and depression. To some extent, the historic vehicle movement has coped with this extremely well, with the sector’s magazines and specialist press full of reports of long-stalled restorations moving ahead as owners have nothing else to do. Many parts suppliers and restoration companies have reported a boom in sales, which serves to emphasize how important historic vehicles are for the economy. This is great news, but I’d like to take a look at the part played by our hobby from a different perspective – has it benefitted the individual owner’s health and, if so, how? Has it helped to build a sense of wellbeing? ‘Wellbeing’ is not just another medical buzzword of the moment. It is an important element of a well-balanced, healthy life, the maintenance of which is not as simple as it used to be as society, ways of working and cultural and social interactions undergo inexorable change. The part played by active involvement in the classic vehicle movement in supporting wellbeing was known to be important before the current crisis arose – but now, for some, it has become a lifeline. The NHS website lists five steps to mental wellbeing:

  • Connecting with other people
  • Being physically active
  • Learning new skills
  • Giving to others and
  • Mindfulness (paying attention to the present moment).

Public Health England have recommended taking up a hobby or learning a new skill as a way of managing mental health whilst isolating. Dr Daisy Fancourt, associate professor of psychobiology and epidemiology at University College London, says that active involvement in a hobby can improve wellbeing in three ways: ‘Creative hobbies and learning new skills can help by distracting people from their worries; it can help people come to terms with or reappraise things and get a new perspective; plus it can really boost confidence and self-esteem.’ Fancourt is leading the Covid-19 Social Study, which is tracking levels of anxiety, depression, loneliness, domestic abuse and wellbeing across 90,000 participants and reports to the government, WHO and PHE. ‘A sense of purpose is linked in with longevity, better immune function, and better physical and mental health,’ she adds. ‘But it’s quite hard to find purpose if people have been locked down, for example, so volunteering or creative activities can give people a huge boost.’ Active interest in historic vehicles, ranging from carrying out historical research to teaching yourself to weld, is an excellent example of this kind of self-administered therapy. There have been some great stories in the classic press and club magazines of jobs done and the resurrection of stagnant projects under lockdown, but appealing as restoration diaries are, it would be really helpful to understand how our hobby has helped the mental health of our members over the last nine months. Some may feel benefit from simply shutting themselves in the workshop for a few hours, others may have more serious stories to tell. If you feel able, or willing, to share any mental health benefits you have gained from working on or with historic vehicles this year, we would be very grateful to hear your story. Any submissions will be treated with complete anonymity, and any personal accounts anonymized. The aim is to build a body of evidence of the positive effects of historic vehicles on mental health, demonstrating yet another aspect of why what we do is so.