Why we collect cars? Some people gravitate to cars created by visionary designers. Be it Bertone, Pininfarina, Touring, Gioguiro or Ghia, it could be because of the bespoke design, cutting edge research and exclusive engineering, some design language dictates what we like and what we will buy.
Published in MARCH 2020 Classic & Sports Car Magazine | Written by Kenneth E Y Wong
KENNETH WONG 黃恩揚- Classic insider 創辦人，經營高級經典及跑車買賣。對處理高檔車種擁有豐富經驗。曾是香港首間經典車拍賣行的營運總監。經常參與高端古董及跑車的相關活動，貼近市場脈搏
至於何時開始有汽車設計工作室出現？那就要從遠古時代講起。話說當年的皇室普遍以馬車代步，但礙於他們的貴族身份，馬車的造型設計自然不能夠馬虎了事，於是衍生出車身建造（Coach Building）這個行業。這些Coach Builder可稱得上是當年的汽車設計工作室，而且在英國、德國和意大利等歐洲國家特別盛行。他們一般都是獲得商賈富豪聘用，設計出一款又一款造型吸引的馬車車身，而這個行業後來更成為包括布加迪（Bugatti）、賓利（Bentley）、勞斯萊斯（Rolls-Royce）等貴族汽車品牌的「最佳拍檔」。倘若當時的你有一定財力去購買這幾個品牌生產的汽車，大可選擇由這些車身製造商，設計及建造一款度身訂製的車身，讓你開車走到街上時能夠鶴立雞群，也成為了一個不可多得的身份象徵。
二次世界大戰前，有很多車廠都是向Coach Builder提供底盤，再經由它們設計和製造車殼，例如Duesenberg的Model J，當年單是底盤的售價已達8,500元。至於布加迪Type 57、佳特力（Cadillac）V-16、Packard Twelve、法拉利250、甚至所有於二次大戰前出廠的勞斯萊斯，都是由坊間的汽車設計工作室，完成車身的設計和建造工作。出現這種情況，主要是因為當年不少車廠並未設有車身製作部門，故只聚焦於底盤、引擎的研發工作，所有車身製作工序就交予第三方公司處理。另因為設計師、工程師之間的觀點與角度不盡相同，故出現了不少精緻的設計，加上它們都不是量產化汽車，車身每件部件都是經由人手製作而成。若把Coach Building視為藝術，絕不誇張。
時至今日，Coach Builder只會為一些度身訂造的汽車，例如賽車或Apollo這類小車廠製造的車款去建造車身。當然，若今時今日可以聘請Coach Builder去製作新車，相關成品自然價值不菲，亦不是我們一般人能夠負擔得來，所以如果想擁有「一代宗師」的作品，就唯有購買經典車了！
Why we collect car? Reason #4 Own something from a world-class Designer or Coach Builder
Back when monarchs and aristocrats still used horses to get around, not any regular carriage would cut it for them, and so they had them built specially. This has enabled coach building houses to pop up all over Europe — especially in the UK, Italy and Germany.
While the days of horses and carriages are long gone, this demand for hand-built luxury is still very much alive. When the automobile came about, these coachbuilders would build custom bodies for the chassis of luxury carmakers the likes of Bugatti, Bentley and Rolls Royce. If you had the good fortune of purchasing a car back when the motoring industry started to boom, you would’ve had a choice between buying an off-the-rack vehicle or buying a rolling chassis from a manufacturer, and then choosing a coachbuilder to complete the body. Some coachbuilders choose to work exclusively with a carmaker — think Mulliner and Bentley — while some like Pininfarina and Ferrari continue a close working relationship throughout the years.
Today there are fewer and fewer world-renowned car designers and those design houses the once-master has started are disappearing one-by-one. The reason, car design has been brought in-house and car brands no longer outsource this to an outside firm. Coach-build has become a lost art, which is why it needs to be preserved, just like the whole classic car culture.
The word "coach" was derived from the Hungarian town of Kocs. At the dawn of the automobile, custom or bespoke coachbuilt bodies were made and fitted to another manufacturer's rolling chassis by the craftsmen who had previously built bodies for horse-drawn carriages and coaches. All ultra-luxury vehicles made before World War II sold as chassis only. For instance, when Duesenberg introduced their Model J, it was offered as chassis only, for $8,500. Other examples include the Bugatti Type 57, Cadillac V-16, Packard Twelve, Ferrari 250 and all Rolls-Royces produced before World War II. Some manufacturers had no in-house coachworks, so all its chassis were bodied by independents, who created some of their most attractive designs in the history of automobiles.
Later on, unless the cars were for mass-produced vehicles justifying the cost of tooling up dies and presses, coachbuilt bodies were made of hand-shaped sheet metal, usually aluminum alloy. Pressed or hand-shaped the metal panels were fastened to a wooden frame of particularly light but strong timber.
The practice remained in limited force after World War II when unibody or monocoque combined chassis and body structures became standardized during the middle years of the 20th century to provide the rigidity required by improved suspension systems without incurring the heavyweight, and consequent fuel, a penalty of a truly rigid separate chassis. The improved more supple suspension systems gave vehicles better road-holding and much improved the ride experienced by passengers. Even Rolls-Royce acquiesced, debuting its first unibody model, the Silver Shadow, in 1965, before taking all R-R and Bentley bodying in-house
The coachbuilder craftsmen who might once have built bespoke or custom bodies continue to build bodies for short runs of specialized vehicles such as race cars and hypercars. Now, only the ultra-rich can commission bespoke coachwork. Therefore for us mere enthusiasts, we can only enjoy automotive masterpieces by collecting classic cars.