The name Studio Torino might tell you something – the contemporary design firm has its roots in the deepest history of motoring.
Alfredo Stola was born in 1894 to a family of wine and liquor merchants at Via Casal Borgone 1 in Turin. Father Francesco and mother Vincenzo were very successful, their profitable wholesale business involved drinks from the areas around Asti and Monferrato, but the son was much more interested in technology. And his parents supported him in his studies, after high school he enrolled in engineering and at the age of just eighteen, he set off to far away Brazil. From Genoa he went by ship to the port of Santos, where through contacts with the Italians there he got a job as a model apprentice in a foundry of large marine engines.
There he excelled in his ability to follow technical drawings, work with wood and also learn sand casting procedures. He returned to Italy in 1915 for the First World War, joining the infantry and the Sochi front in the Isola Morosini area near the coast – thus escaping the bloodiest fighting taking place further north in the mountains. Incidentally, the battles of Sochi had almost 1.3 million dead, wounded, captured, sick or missing on the Italian side – fortunately Alfredo Stola was not one of them.
After the war, he founds a model workshop under the name Alfredo Stola – Modelli dimostrativi in legno per fonderia e carrozeria, i.e. “Alfredo Stola – wooden demonstration models for foundries and body shops.” He opens a business in a strategic location, right in Turin in the Borgo San Paolo district, literally what would be a stone’s throw from the headquarters of the Lancia car company. It is therefore not surprising that Vincenzo Lancia approached him about making scale models as well as prototype fairing panels on skeletons – some 1:1 scale models were even roadworthy.
And not only that, thanks to his experience in Brazil, Stola could also supply castings for engine parts and interior elements. At this time, in 1922, his first son Giuseppe was also born. The original five-member team of modellers, which in addition to Alfredo also included colleagues Moiso, Pronel, Carandino and the apprentice Cit, continued to improve and moved from truly historic body types with upright radiators in the front such as Lambda, Dilambda or Augusta to more complex shapes – for example, the workshop processed models of the beautiful A Lancia Astura or Artena with mudguards smoothly following the thresholds, a covered cabin and much rounder and more complex shapes.
It was Artena that was the last model that the company created at its original address at Corso Racconigi 138. In the meantime (1929), the second son Francesco was born. In 1934, it moves to Via Issiglio to the descriptive number 38, i.e. directly “over the wall” to the Lancia factory. The company now has a workshop here with an area of 800 square meters instead of the previous three hundred, its layout with various workstations, a column milling machine and administrative facilities was designed by Alfredo Stola himself, twenty employees worked here.
The wall between the workshop and the factory turned out to be impractical – instead a gate was created, opened by Vincenzo Lancia himself, which greatly speeded up communication and the movement of models on manually pushed carts. After the move, Alfredo and his wife Margherita also had a third son, Roberto.
The workshop took part in the development of the Lancia Aprilia and Ardea models, in whose prototypes the brand applied aerodynamic procedures more seriously for the first time – thanks to working with soft wood and then metal, it was possible to experiment and create a truly functional and beautiful fairing. At this time, i.e. the second half of the 1930s, the Stola company already had a great reputation, so it was also approached by other manufacturers – Fiat, Farina, Diatto, OM or SPA.
The beginning of the Second World War meant for modelers a forced transition to the development of models for army purposes and prototypes approved by the high command of fascist Italy. Concepts of trucks, special discs for deployment in the North African desert, models of special superstructures and so on were created here. After the war, the shops took off very slowly, but all three sons – Giuseppe, Francesco and Roberto – gradually got involved in the work (and also mastered it well). In addition, since the 1950s, the workshop built for an important customer – Alfa Romeo.
And it was successful again – so much so that in 1957 the workshops were expanded at Via Issiglio 38, next to which a six-storey residential building was built. In it, Alfredo gave each of his sons one floor, plus he had one for himself, and he rented the other nine apartments to his best employees. During this period, the Stola workshop had virtually no competition, it worked for the most prestigious manufacturers, and definitive models of cars for setting up production and presses went from Turin to all parts of the world.
At the turn of the 1950s and 1960s, Alfredo Stola had serious health problems, and on March 27, 1960, he died surrounded by his family. According to his wishes, the coffin was displayed directly in the workshop, and family members and employees kept watch over it day and night until the funeral. The sons then, out of respect for their father, renamed the company “Alfredo Stola & Figli,” i.e. “Alfredo Stola & Sons.”
They successfully took over the company and continued to work for the automotive giants, Giuseppe left model making in 1964 to found a successful foundry company. Ferrari, Bugatti, BMW, Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Mercedes-Benz, Saab, Toyota, Seat, Mitusbishi, Lincoln, Ford, Maybach… They all went to Stola for final models or to build concepts that we have seen for decades on the roads and at car showrooms.
In 2004, the company and its subsidiaries were bought by the RGZ group, ten years later it was acquired by the Italian company Blutec. She declared bankruptcy in 2020 and her former manager is being investigated for embezzlement. But in order not to end the story on such a negative note – the Studio Torino design company has been operating since 2005, and is run by Alfredo Stola, grandson of the founder, with his wife Maria Paola. They specialize in the design of luxury and hand-made sports cars, and through them the founder’s dream came true – that the company would operate for at least a hundred years.