Our title of Italian Specialists was suggested by a group of small car manufacturers called Gruppo Costruttori Vetture Speciali in the 1950s, which had among its membership Cistalia, Giannini, Moretti, Nardi, Siata and Stanguellini, all of which are described in this publication. In the Auto Review series we have covered many Italian car manufacturers, from Fiat, Lancia and Alfa Romeo to Ferrari and Maserati, as well as Isotta Fraschini, Itala, Iso, Innocenti and others. There has always been another level of smaller firms in Italy, producing specialist cars. Some offered higher performance, while others preferred to make exciting or elegant bodywork, and a few tried to do both. These small-volume manufacturers often relied on adapting the products of the big car makers, and in Italy that usually meant Fiat. Minor Italian makers who modified Fiats included Abarth, Autobianchi, Siata and Moretti, among others.
In this publication we pay tribute to the enthusiasm and skill of these companies, producing cars from the second half of the 20th century onwards. It may not be obvious from the individual stories, but in the close-knit Italian automotive community many of the principals of these companies were friends, offering close co-operation on projects. They were also on good terms with the heads of large concerns; Fiat, Lancia, Ferrari, Pirelli, and with the leading designers and stylists of the day. As that generation passed away and corporatism took over, most of the ‘specialists’ faded out. If you think that a few names may be missing, ATS, ASA and Serenissima are in Auto Review 141 Ferrari, and Osca in Auto Review 131 Maserati. Other companies, such as Bizzarrini, LMX, OSI, Pagani and Rayton Fissore will be covered in a future Auto Review title mainly concerned with Italian stylists, concept cars and supercars.