Franco Sbarro

is one of the unsung masters of modern car design. For the past four decades, Sbarro has created a unique high performance aesthetic for discerning collectors, untrammelled by brand identity (or budgetary demands).

Sbarro

See more of Franco Sbarro's concept cars

Designed and edited by Sbarro's eldest son Fabian, this slip-cased monongraph traces the back-story of the Italian-born designer, now working out of a hands-on atelier in the Swiss town of Grandson.

From his early years as a motorcycle designer through to managing the Scuderia Filipinetti GT racing team, Sbarro showed an aptitude for both form and technology, demonstrating an innate understanding not just for aesthetics but for their relationship to the mechanical heart of the car.

Having studied the art of sculptural model-making - first with a boat maker on Lake Neuchâtel, then through the construction of an elegant pair of one-off coupes for the Filipinetti company, Sbarro set up his own Atelier de Construction Automobile in 1968.

After experimenting with racing specials, Sbarro turned his bodywork expertise to safety, creating the SV1 (Safety Vehicle 1) in 1973. Stylistically extreme, the SV1 evolved into the Stash, a 70s super-coupé that featured interior trim by Pierre Cardin. After being invited to build replica versions of iconic cars like the BMW 328 and Bugatti Royale, Sbarro's atelier settled into a very individual niche, constructing bespoke 4x4s for the Saudi Royal Family (the six-wheeled Windhawk) as well as forays into highly overstyled Mercedes SEC's, tricked out with gull-wing doors. Other bespoke machines include the wedge-shaped Challenge, the vast Monster 4x4, the Osmos supercar and a succession of exotic motorbikes.

The beauty of Sbarro's conceptual aesthetic is that the results are always fully functional, albeit occasionally rather eccentric in appearance. Sbarro's passion has always been sports cars and bikes, although recent projects have focused on two and three-wheeled solutions for urban mobility (with the emphasis on extreme performance).

Concept Cars is a fascinating summary of a career spent on the fringe of automotive extremism.