A wise collector is not swayed by a badge. One can buy for technology. One can buy for pedigree. One can buy for the designer. There’s always a place for Giugiaro and Gandini but, in my mind, it’s Pietro Frua who should own this young century. So, if you’re in the mood, this distinct and fetching aluminum-bodied Maserati MIstral 4000 Alloy Coupe is for sale.
Tracing his lineage back to the same Stabilimenti Farina that gave us Battista Farina, designer Pietro Frua’s name doesn’t seem to carry the same weight that the Italian designers of his era have at the moment. Perhaps it’s Frua’s Zelig-like ability to pop up all over the place that makes him too hard to pin down and thus too difficult to name-check in the same way. The modern version of Frua might be Frank Stephenson, although Frank Stephenson has a way better YouTube page.
While his work for Glas and Maserati do have similarities, the one thing that truly unites Frua’s work is that it’s all extremely pleasing to the eye while not falling into the trap of being indistinct in the way, frankly, some of Pininfarina’s designs can be.
Many credit him with the original design for what would become the Vespa– a design for a scooter so good that it’s basically never been topped. It’s possible to say that he, too, can be credited with much of the design of the Volvo P1800, itself an idea so good that Volvo keeps remaking it. While there are some lines that unify a Frua-bodied car (the protruding headlights rising above a sloping hood), the timelessness of those designs make him slightly hard to pin down. It’s not like Giugiaro where it takes roughly 1/1000th of a second to realize “Oh, that’s Giugiaro or… least it wants to be.”
Frua’s cars range from slightly common French cars to rare coach-worked specials, so it’s perhaps difficult to say his cars are suddenly going to appreciate in value, though his one-off BMW-Glas prototype recently sold for just over $250,000 which, to me, seems like autostrade robbery.
The car for sale at BAT represents one of my favorite designs he did. While it has some of the signature Frua bits, it’s the greenhouse in profile that gets me. If you squint, you can see what Harm Lagaay was thinking when he did the 924.
As far as Mistrals go this is about the best spec you can get it in, with the larger 4000 cc twin-cam inline-six that helped make Fangio’s legacy, as well as the aluminum body. It’s currently at $70,000, but I’d expect it to close much higher than that when it finally finishes. If you’re in the market for something distinct and drivable maybe it’s time to add a Frua to the collection.
All photos credit BringATrailer