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Sergio Scaglietti

25.11.2011, 13:23:23 cet

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Maranello, 20 November

Another of the “Old Guard” at Ferrari, Sergio Scaglietti, passed away at his home in Modena on the morning of 20 November at the age of 91 years, only a little over two months short of his 92nd birthday. A man from humble beginnings, he was born in the farming village of Tre Olmi, just to the north west of Modena, on 09 January 1920, the youngest of the family, with three brothers and a sister. It would be fair to describe his early years as ones of poverty, but he achieved greatness in his field as an artisan craftsman metalworker through hard work, allied to a natural flair for his chosen craft, which he had practiced from a very early age as a hobby. At the age of thirteen his father died, and he was obliged to seek work to supplement the family income, thus he started his apprenticeship in the coachbuilding business at Carrozeria Modenese in the centre of Modena. He stayed there for four and a half years, before joining his brother Gino, who had started his own business close to the Scuderia Ferrari headquarters in Modena, and they turned out to be good customers for the fledgling business, repairing accident damage sustained in racing.

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The war years intervened, but as soon as they were over, he was back to business as usual, working for his brother. At the time there was plenty of body repair work about, as in the years of post war austerity, even those who had cars couldn’t necessarily afford to buy new ones, so they maintained what they had. In 1951 at the age of 30, he decided to branch out on his own with a pair of partners, thus the Scaglietti carrozzeria came into being, in premises near the main railway station in Modena. The business prospered, and in1953 an event occurred which he says changed his whole working life. A new client, by the name of Alberico Cacciari, asked him to repair his Ferrari which had been badly damaged in an accident, which Sergio did, adding a few aerodynamic embellishments which he felt gave the lines greater fluidity. Cacciari was so pleased with the results that he took the car to show to Enzo Ferrari, who must have been impressed, as the next thing was that Sergio received a request to meet him at his office. He duly did, and Ferrari offered him an agreement to build the bodies for the 500 Mondial sports racing model. Ferrari was so sure that he would accept the offer, that he had already designed a stylised “S” badge to adorn the cars bodied by Scaglietti.

As they say, the rest was history, as this was the start of a long lasting business and personal relationship, that saw the likes of the legendary 250 GT California Spider, 250 “pontoon fender” Testa Rossa, and 250 GTO being designed and built by Scaglietti, together with the production of bodies for Pininfarina designed cars like the 275 GTB and 365 GTB/4 “Daytona” to name but a few. A man of great humility, he cited Enzo Ferrari as “the man who shaped my life, deciding how and where it would run its course”, belittling his own skills and ability, which had initially brought him to the attention of “il Commendatore”. Recognition of his role in the history of Ferrari came in 2004, when the latest 2+2 model had his name in the model designation, the 612 Scaglietti.

Unlike Enzo Ferrari, who rarely left the Modena region, particularly after the passing of his son Dino in 1956, Sergio Scaglietti enjoyed travelling, particularly in his retirement, although accepting invitations to events and attending functions became almost a full time job in itself! It was at one of these functions that I really met him for the first time, at the Ferrari Club of America Annual Meet in Dallas, Texas, in 2001, where he was the guest of honour. He attended in the company of one of his grandsons, and was totally accessible, conversing freely with everybody, his grandson acting as interpreter, thoroughly enjoying the “wild west”, wearing his cowboy hat with pride. The day after the event he visited Bob Smith Coachworks to see a 1964 250 GTO that was being restored, commenting that he preferred the original 1962 body style. We have crossed paths a number of times over the years at various events in Europe, and at meetings of the “Old Guard” with the late Jacques Swaters at Garage Francorchamps in Brussels, the last time being at the Villa d’Este Concorso d’Eleganza in 2007. He was always the same, invariably with a cigarette in hand, a sparkle in his eye, friendly and courteous, without pretention, unable to understand why he was held in such high esteem. A man, small in stature from humble origins, but blessed with an enormous talent, who kept his feet firmly on the ground - God Bless.

A full appreciation of the life and times of Sergio Scaglietti can be found in the excellent conversational biography, “L’E Andeda Acse, Sergio Scaglietti Una Leggenda Modenese”, published in 2008, and written by his close friend and long time personal assistant to Enzo Ferrari, Franco Gozzi.

Keith Bluemel

Sergio Scaglietti