ALFREDO STOLA

The Gentleman Conceptor

243

Alfredo Stola became a major name in the world of the automobile over the
years. Not only has he inherited from his family a collection of distinguished
cars, of different periods, but he also did learn the crafts and acquired a thorough
knowledge, which goes back to the last century. Having joined the company
established by his grandfather, while he was just 17 years old, he quickly
understood that it was necessary to develop it, to be able to work with the big
car manufacturers. His strategy bore fruit and allowed him to work with the big
names of this world, such as Gandini, Giugiaro and Frank Stephenson. At the
head today of Studiotorino, whom he created in 2005 with his wife, he remained
faithful to the philosophy of his grandfather and put his expertise and his
collaborators at the service of the manufacturers, to give birth to unique
showcars. Let’s meet this man whose passion for the automobile is present in all
what he makes, Alfredo Stola.

How was born your passion for the automobile?

I truly inherited it from my family and I was keen to cultivate it over the years.

My first contacts with the world of the automobile was through 1/43 scale
miniature models, which belonged to my father. I was hardly 4 years old when I
began to be interested in it. My father was passionate about Italian cars and the
first souvenir I have of my childhood is the Fiat 500 Spider, that he had chosen
in red. Then, there were several other models which followed one after another,
as the Lancia Beta Spider, the Lancia Fulvia Rallye HF Fanalone, but also
several Alfa Romeo. But the car which really impressed me was unquestionably
the Lancia Stratos. You know, when my father bought it, I was already a
teenager, about 15 years old. During all that summer, I slept in that car. You
cannot imagine what this car did represent at that time. If we had to compare it
with a model of today, it would still be better than to possess a LaFerrari,
imagine! It was a real racing car, with a new line, which became mythical
through all years passing.

When did you decide to integrate the family company, Stola?

When I was hardly 17 years old, my father was unfortunately killed in a settling
of scores. Thus I inherited from his 50 % and I began to work beside my uncle.
At that time, Stola only made models. The company had not reached yet the
level of success for which it is known today. It was in 1978. It was really
fascinating for me, because I was privileged to witness all the process of
creation of a car. We finalized "Master's degree models", which served us as a
base to create the iron mold. It was a very delicate process, in comparison with
those adopted nowadays. In order to develop ourselves, we had invested a lot in
machinery. We were second after Pininfarina, while it was needed more than 10
years for other studios to put themselves in it.

It is at the end of the 80s that one started to speak about Stola. What was
the trigger to it?

Actually, it is in 1989-1990 that we really started to work for manufacturers. It is
the result of many years of working. Some time before, I had begun to contact
the manufacturers of the whole world, to present the company and claim the
capacities of Stola to realize unique showcars. You know, the first to have
trusted us were the decision-makers of Alfa Romeo, under the Walter de Silva’s
era. Our first showcar was Proteo, which made its debuts on the trial circuit of
the Fiat Group, in Balocco. Saab, also, was one of the first ones to have trusted
us.

Tell us about your collaboration with Mercedes?

You know, during several years, I regularly contacted Bruno Sacco, who was at
the head of the design at this moment, to make him proposals, but without result,
until the day when he called me, because he had an urgent project to present. I
was constantly in touch with him, but also with Rick Pfeifer and Gorden
Wagener. I think that from the beginning of our collaboration, we had to build
for them more than 80 studies of style. But the project that we kept a particular
memory of was doubtless the prototype of the SLR. Pfeifer came to the
workshop with a model already realized by Mercedes. When we began to build
the showcar, it was planned to adopt normal doors, but at the last minute, having
verified the feasibility and the cost with our teams, he decided otherwise. And it
is this detail which makes the peculiarity of this car today. We also realized the
Vision SLA, the concept which was presented in Detroit in 2000, the F200
Joystick, which counted 120 km of cables inside and which required the
intervention of 7 electricians coming directly from Stuttgart, but also the F300
LifeJet.

You also worked with Porsche

Indeed, in 1999, I began to work with Ferdinand Alexander Porsche (nicknamed
Butzi), on the development of a version of Cayenne. There were several
proposals on the table, and it is the boss who had to choose. Even if our project
was retained, I was lucky enough to continue to work with Butzi. Moreover, in
the office, there are 5 miniatures realized by Stola at that time. He is a very
passionate man, you know. It is him who drew the 904, but also the 911. And
one day, he told me that he was sad that the first one, the 904, did’nt have the
success that it deserved. If everybody was seduced by the 911, nobody
remembered the 904, but he kept a miniature of it on his desk, as a kind of
tribute.

What made the peculiarity of Stola at that time?

In the Stola company, we had a motto: we do not make design, the pencil is
broken. This decision allowed us to be always neutral and to work as well with
the manufacturers as with the studios of design themselves. Indeed, when a
manufacturer entrusted us with a project, we took care ourselves to find the best
designer, according to the needs of the project. That's also which makes that
each of our realizations is unique, being conceived by a different person. The
manufacturers also trusted us, because they knew perfectly that by coming to us
with their study of design, we were going to reproduce the model such as they
wanted it, but moreover, by infusing it with a soul. It’s the magic of the
handmade. It’s what allowed me to go alongside the biggest names of the Italian

design, as Gandini, Giugiaro, Frank Stephenson, Spada and others more
discreet, but as talented, as Leonardo Fioravante, who drew the Ferrari Daytona.
Our projects are good ones, because we choose the best designers. For every
project, we favor a designer rather than another one, according to our needs. We
have our own idea, but it is the talent of the designer that can transform it into
reality. We have never claimed wanting to make everything by ourselves. It’s
the designers who help us to concretize our dreams.

For example, the first cars were drawn by Aldo Brovarone. It’s the man who
drew the Ferrari Dino and it’s him who invented the spoiler of the Ferrari F40.
He also worked for Pininfarina. He is a very discreet, but an extremely
intelligent man.

Why did you sell your shares in 2004?

The company had developed well and we counted more than 2,000 employees.
That’s not easy to manage and it costs a lot of money, so one should not fool
oneself. I wanted to launch a new project and it is exactly what I did, by creating
Studiotorino with my wife Maria Paola. From now on, we make more consulting
for the brands.

Have you ever dreamed of becoming yourself a manufacturer?

Never. It’s not very profitable to us. The problem is not the production in itself,
but what comes later. There are constraints of delivery, it’s necessary to respect
a certain quality and to offer a guarantee to the customers. You know, the great
Italian brands which you see now had financial problems before being
repurchased by big groups. Ferrari and Lamborghini are part of that lot.
There is also the example of Ruf, which is a little bit particular. It builds cars on
order, on the basis of already existing Porsche models, but what really allows it
to survive is all the maintenance services intended for "normal" owners of
Porsche. It’s also necessary to mention that it makes a lot of restoration. You
know, Porsche just has to pass between its hands to gain in value.

Of which project do you keep a particular memory?

Of the Fiat Barchetta, without hesitation. While it was expected in December,
1993, the delays of the Italian Group moved the official presentation to April
1994. It was really a big project. During almost 45 days, I slept only 2 hours a

day in my workshop, to be able to finish. There was two shifts from employees
who took turns to ensure the continuity of the work. Afterwards, I lost
everything and I was never able to recover any of it.
But in reality, of every project, we keep necessarily souvenirs, especially of all
the cars on which I worked. I know them perfectly, in detail.

You don’t participate in competitions of elegance. Why?

There is a lot of stress, there is always somebody to criticize and say that the car
is not perfect. Every car is singular, in the world of the vintage. Each has its
history. They cannot be perfect, because they were made by hand.
The fact of staying “static” is hard for us. My wife and I adore travelling by car.
We make many road-trips. When it is too far and when we cannot transport our
car, we rent one directly on-the- spot. We already did that in the United States
and it was magnificent. We did it In Europe also. But the most memorable
journey we made was to the North Cape, in Norway, aboard a Moncenisio (a
special model realized by Studiotorino on the basis of a Porsche Cayman S).. It
is the only prototype to have reached the most northerly point of the North Cape,
and it was in winter and there was snow everywhere. This journey was just
unforgettable and required from us a lot of preparation. You know, it’s a great
emotion for us whenever we undertake a car journey, to discover another
country, that’s what we find fascinating in the automobile.

During 3 years, you taught at the University King Saud in Riyadh. What
can you tell us about this experience?

In partnership with Magna Steyr Italy, we assured courses of engineering and
design for about fifty students, between 2009 and 2012. From this initiative was
born the SUV Gazal, which was presented to the Show of Geneva, in 2010.
Moreover, we stayed a few months furthermore, to oversee the manufacturing of
the on-the- spot concept. It was the first time, for a future local production.

What can you tell us about your collection of cars? What model do you
prefer?

I kept all the cars which belonged to my father. It’s necessary to know the past
to understand better the present and think of the future. Among my preferred
ones, there is a Porsche 356 Speedster, which is one of of the most pleasant cars
to drive

What cars do you use for every day life?

Today, it’s rather the new Fiat 124 Spider.

Is there a model which is lacking in your collection and which you would
really want to have?

To tell the truth, I am satisfied with the collection I have, but I would not say no
to a Bugatti 35 …

Gerry McGovern Gentlemen Drivers Magazine

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