I was commissioned by James Reid, then picture editor at Wallpaper*, to shoot the Bertone Design studios in Italy. When I arrived I called James to say he might be in for a surprise.
In the morning I walked around with my assistant making notes on which cars we wanted to shoot, and where we would like them moved around the site. The company HQ comprised a number of buildings ranging in design from the time the company started in 1912 to the time this was shot, each with its own unique character, very period specific. Bertone's designs were always made in either white, green or orange. I moved cars into their period locations, some on viewing turntables used to present the cars to clients, and some outside. When I saw the Stratos Zero concept I gasped and told the museum manager that I had a model of this when i was growing up in the '70s as well as one of the Carabo. He looked at me and smiled and said in a lovely Italian voice, “eees-a beautiuful no?”. I nodded with wide eyes and admiration. During the day Mrs Bertone came down to see how we were getting on and proclaimed that as it was going so well we should all stop and have lunch. We piled into various Fiats and Alfa Romeos and drove up into the hills to their favourite local restaurant. The wine flowed as did the courses, and after many glasses of wine later we returned. Despite the sobering coffees, I spent the afternoon struggling to focus.
The next morning we returned to finish the job. The camera started to struggle and the gear on my RZ67ii back started to slip, so it was slow progress. At 1pm, as the day before, Mrs Bertone came down and announced lunch should be taken. My assistant and I looked at her and shook our heads, and asked if she would mind if we skipped the mammoth lunch and just carried on shooting. She thought we were mad but liked our dedication. On their return we were ushered outside where the museum manager had placed the Stratos Zero in the location i’d asked. I shot it for about an hour then asked to move inside to finish shooting the Marzal and Bravo. The mechanic asked if I would give him a hand to move the car, i said yes were would he like me to push. He smiled and said "Benedict, please, can you drive it?”. I nearly exploded with joy, this was my dream car when I was a kid. He didn’t need to ask twice. To get into a Zero you must first lift the front of the car open. It’s hinged at the front and it lifts towards you. You step inside standing up, lower yourself in the low, low seat, pull the steering wheel up and towards you between your legs. The canopy lowers onto you, you lay flat in what feels like a golden glass house. The glass is gold plated with two small windows with viewing mirrors to help you see. I started the the concept cars borrowed Lancia Fulvia V4 engine in the back. It spluttered into life and I drove the car from the front of the design studio to the back of the museum building. At that point in time I was the happiest man on earth. Glorious and delightful, both the designs and the people who worked there. The company closed its doors in 2014, its designs will be sorely missed.
Bertone Concept Cars
Bertone Design Studios, Italy