Book Review: Stile Transatlantico/Transatlantic Style by Donald Osborne
What makes the automotive industry so fascinating on a global scale is that no automaker exists in a bubble. Even from the birth of modern transportation, the development of automobiles was a far-reaching movement of shared influences–both on an engineering level and a design level.
While today’s vehicles owe much to the streamlined, simplistic designs of Japanese brands and the understated luxury of German performance cars, there was a time when international influence led to breathtaking automotive designs.
Documenting textually and visually the relationship between American and Italian automakers in the mid-twentieth century, acclaimed writer and historian Donald Osborne has penned Coachbuilt Press’ newest book, Transatlantic Style. Filled with spotlights on notable models and unique photography, this testament captures the soul of that unique era in design.
Stile Transatlantico/Transatlantic Style: A Romance of Fins and Chrome
The Creative Exchange Between Italy & America in Mid-Century Automotive Design
By Donald Osborne
Product Details: Hardback, 288 pages
Dimensions:12.5 x 12.5 inches
Publication Date: November 2016
Publisher: Coachbuilt Press
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Embracing both its American and Italian subjects, the bilingual Stile Transatlantico/Transatlantic Style is written in both English and Italian, with each page of text divided into two columns, with the left-hand English being slightly darker to differentiate. While I cannot comment on the accuracy of the translation, I assume that the book’s Italian editor Massimo Delbo did a painstaking job ensuring its accuracy.
The book is divided into five sections: The Birth of a Style, 1930s; A Romance Is Born; Cultures Merge; Mid-Atlantic, Mid-Decade; and Italian Style Triumphant. Each one explores 6-12 different models in varying detail, for a total of nearly 40 models and even some influential designers. The years range from 1938 to 1960 and examine everything from the 1954 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint to the 1959 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham to the 1952 Lancia Aurelia B20.
Each section begins with an essay about the major players, influences, and innovations of the time, and then vehicle spotlights briefly focuses on certain design aspects, such as the headlamps and tail fins. Each one contains a combination of archive photos and new, full-page photographs from Michael Furman.
If there’s one thing you can expect from publications released by Coachbuilt Press, it’s quality. The printers spare no expense when it comes to using the best materials, screening, and binding in their library, and Transatlantic Style is no exception.
The packaging that the book was shipped in kept it from receiving nicks or dents thanks to its framed, box-in-box storage and packing peanuts. The white dust jacket has a minimalist style to it, and might disappoint some customers who prefer photographs on book covers, but personally I think this is a fitting way to show what the book is about: body lines.
This hefty tome dwarfs every other coffee table book, sparing no expense when it comes to offering its contents on the canvas that it deserves. After all, superb photography such as this deserves to be showcased on the finest folio. It may cost you more than most books, but it’s leagues above the quality of other publications.
For an extra couple hundred dollars, there are 50 upgraded, special editions of Transatlantic Style available for purchase. Replacing the standard edition’s basic dust jacket is a custom lucite slip case. Plus, it’s numbered and signed by Donald Osborne and Michael Furman.
I’ll be honest–the title and synopsis of Transatlantic Style did not pique my interest. As much as I love contemplating and basking in the artistic designs of automobiles, history is a subject I tend to find too dry and technical for my taste. Although that might make me seem like the wrong person to review this book, the fact that even I found Transatlantic Style fascinating and breathtaking should say something. A book’s ability to hook uninterested readers in to is subject matter speaks volumes about its quality.
While most other coffee table books simple fill their pages with public domain stock photos or OEM press images we’ve seen a hundred times, it’s encouraging to know that photographer/publishers like Furman are bringing a new visual perspective to vehicle and assisting in the preservation of their legacy.
There’s no better expert on Italian automobiles than Donald Osborne to have penned Transatlantic Style. His familiarity and insight on the subject offers particular wisdom that can only come from someone who’s immersed themselves in the industry as well as the culture.
For those who either want to learn more about classic automotive design or who simply want to bask in its beauty, Transatlantic Style is a beautiful testament to a truly underappreciated era.
Stile Transatlantico/Transatlantic Style is available through the publisher’s website and Amazon.
Product provided for review by publisher.
Aaron is unashamed to be a native Clevelander and the proud driver of a Hyundai Veloster Turbo (which recently replaced his 1995 Saturn SC-2). He gleefully utilizes his background in theater, literature, and communication to dramatically recite his own articles to nearby youth. Mr. Widmar happily resides in Dayton, Ohio with his magnificent wife, Vicki, but is often on the road with her exploring new destinations. Aaron has high aspirations for his writing career but often gets distracted pondering the profound nature of the human condition and forgets what he was writing… See more articles by Aaron.