The Carrozzeria Castagna
The "Castagna" was born when Carlo Castagna took over a prestigious workshop in which carriages were produced. Towards the end of the 19th century, the collaboration with the Ottolini and Ricordi company, importers for Italy of Benz quadricycles, began. At the dawn of the twentieth century, the automobile became a symbol of the new industrial age. In 1905, upon commission from Queen Margherita di Savoia, Castagna created a white double phaeton on a Fiat 24-32 HP chassis, equipped with all kinds of accessories available at the time. The famous “Aerodinamica” was created in 1913, built for Count Ricotti, using an ALFA 40-60 HP chassis. The shape of the bodywork was inspired by the spacecraft of an airship and is considered the first example of a “monovolume” in the history of the automobile.
In 1915, upon the death of the founder, the company management was taken over by his son Ercole who, as a consequence of the constant increase in orders also from abroad, decided to expand the production structure. The company begins to collaborate with the major Italian and foreign manufacturers of chassis and cars, especially with the most exclusive ones such as Isotta Fraschini, Lancia, Alfa Romeo, Daimler-Benz, Hispano-Suiza. Particularly successful, in the United States as in Europe, were the Isotta Fraschini 8 AS models with bodywork coupé de ville and cabriolet. The exhibition in New York benefits the company so much that it pushes Ercole Castagna to move all production to the new factory which is launched at the highest speeds producing, as well as components for the nascent aeronautics and automobile industries, more than 100 cars a year. In 1919 the body shop is the first in Italy with 400 employees and a work area of 32,000 square meters of which 20,000 are covered. The production on behalf of third parties was also well underway: thanks to the galvanic chromium plating department, the first to be installed in Italy, many processes were carried out for external companies in the furniture, components and small metal parts sectors. Among the various companies, the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits should be mentioned for the finishing and production of elements for railway carriages. The fame achieved in those years made her receive praise from various prominent personalities, such as Gabriele D'Annunzio. In 1939 the company passed under the control of his younger brother Emilio Castagna, who graduated in visual arts from the Brera Academy. In addition to style, Emilio also gives great importance to new solutions, techniques and engineering, and invests heavily in the search for new solution patents. Among the innovative technical proposals, also the construction of some show cars on Alfa Romeo, Cisitalia and FIAT mechanics. Many effects led Castagna to a slow decline: the first sign came from the closure of Isotta Fraschini Automobili following the collapse of the American market, so the company first lost the best market where it operated and then the best chassis on which it was used to creating their own bodies. The cars progressively began to be mass produced, to be constructed with a uni-body and "tailor-made clothes" were less and less in demand. So in 1954 the body shop closed its doors.
TheCastagna Alfa Romeo Vittoria
In 1994 Uberto Pietra, expert car connoisseur and collector, and Gioacchino Acampora, architect-designer, took over the rights to the Castagna brand, which had expired for forty years, and wanted to resume the philosophy of the famous Carrozzeria of the early century, that is to propose cars in a unique example and built entirely by hand. Thus, between 1994 and 1995 they built this prototype called "Vittoria", named after Pietra's daughter, based on the Alfa Romeo SZ/ES 30 sports car and on the platform and mechanics of the upgraded Alfa Romeo 75 V6 3.0. To move everything, the famous Alfa Romeo “Busso” heart. The name Alfa Romeo “Busso” refers to a family of petrol engines with V6 architecture for automotive use produced from 1979 to 2005. The name derives from the name of its designer Giuseppe Busso. This engine is considered (and has received official recognition) as one of the best naturally aspirated petrol engines, and in particular it has often been regarded as one of the best with V6 architecture. There are numerous parameters in which the "Busso" is considered excellent, such as in delivery, performance, elasticity, efficiency, reliability and also in sound. This engine was the last component built at the Alfa Romeo plant in Arese. The car in question has an engine developed by a company specializing in the preparation of racing car engines for the "DTM" championship. This engine delivers 254.8 hp at 5740 rpm, as specified by the dyno test table (compared to 180 hp for the production car). During 1994 and part of 1995 this base on the Alfa Romeo 75 was built to the specifications of the SZ/ES 30, with front wishbone suspension and De Dion rear with specific geometry. The shock absorbers have been updated with stiffer Koni and brakes with Brembo 6-piston calipers, perforated and ventilated discs. "Tecnomagnesio" magnesium alloy wheels in 8 x 18" front and 9 x 18" rear sizes. The petrol tank is racing safety, patented. The bodywork is all in hand-beaten aluminum and riveted to a specific steel structure, produced by a famous sheet-beater company in Turin. The final construction and painting were entrusted to the Carrozzeria Sonnino of Busto Arsizio (VA). Inside, seats from the BMW 8 series have been fitted with integrated seat belts, specific instruments and accessories from Momo, all interiors are upholstered in dark green leather and matching Alcantara. The styling was considered controversial at the time, the car had a stunning shape for those times, with an interesting extra feature being the all-glass roof, in fact from the double-curved windshield (built specifically) to the rear window is everything seamless glass. The front and rear ends alternate full and hollow shapes. The front part encloses a very particular and personal reworking of the traditional Alfa Romeo shield, which stands out in the void, between a subtle headlight (of Opel Calibra derivation). The Alfa Romeo Gardenia color contrasts with the front and rear ends detailed in black and produced specifically in carbon, the overall appearance is made up of joined shapes and others violently broken. Definitely a personal design and with few concessions to compromises. Perhaps at the time it was considered too futuristic. The Castagna Vittoria debuted at the Geneva International Motor Show in March 1995, in a specific stand. On March 14, 1995, the car appears in an article in the Italian newspaper "Corriere della Sera" with flattering comments during its presentation at the "Bagatti Valsecchi" Museum in Milan, while many positive comments appeared in the world press after the Geneva Motor Show. The car was stored by Uberto Pietra for many years in the surroundings of Milan and was then restored to its original splendor in 2020-2021.