Franco Sbarro - biography


Francesco Zefferino Sbarro, better known as Franco Sbarro, was born on February 27, 1939, in Presicce, Puglia (southern Italy). The son of a farmer, he didn't have a happy childhood. Fortunately, the young Italian soon developed a keen interest in all things mechanical. In particular, the mopeds and scooters of his acquaintances. What might have seemed like a hobby became an all-consuming passion that would guide him throughout his life.

The Filipinetti period

After completing his studies in Lecce, Franco Sbarro moved to Neuchatel (Switzerland) in November 1957, where he worked as a mechanic. Two years later, he bought a small garage and set up on his own. In particular, he worked with Borgward, a small German manufacturer that has now disappeared.

His meeting with Georges Filipinetti led to his appointment as chief mechanic at the famous Scuderia Filipinetti. He tuned and maintained the team's racing cars: AC Cobra, Ferrari P3 and Ford GT40. During this period, Sbarro built his first car: the Filipinetti coupé, based on plans for a VW Karmann Ghia with a 1600 cm3 engine.

ACA or independence

March 25, 1968 marked a turning point in Sbarro's life. Leaving the Filipinetti stable for good, he set up the ACA - Atelier de Construction Automobile (Automobile Construction Workshop) - in a former cigarette factory. His first creation was the Dominique III, a small sports car with a huge rear spoiler! With this unique model sold, Sbarro set about converting Ford GT40 racing cars into more civilized "road" models.

Sbarro went on to build numerous replicas that made him a household name in automotive circles. Replicas include the BMW 328, the Lola T70, the Ferrari P4 and even the Bugatti Royale! Nothing stops Sbarro. The quality of his craftsmanship is confirmed by the numerous models, both one-offs and small series.

Not content with designing and building superb cars, Sbarro was also a brilliant inventor who, in 1989, presented a new type of hubless wheel, a new chassis concept, the Dual Frame, or a wheel with the engine at its center.


With nothing left to prove and wanting to pass on his knowledge, Franco Sbarro founded Espace Sbarro, a special school where students, in addition to "office" work (studies, conception, design), are obliged to get their hands dirty in the construction, from A to Z, of models they have to create according to precise specifications, sometimes imposed by a manufacturer. A second school opened in Casablanca (Morocco) in 1994 (CREA), then in Pontarlier (France) until 2007 and then in Montbéliard (Centre Espera). The study cycle lasts one year, and the work is traditionally presented at the Geneva show in March each year.

In March 2013, Franco Sbarro celebrated his 40th participation in the Geneva show, a show in which he has become unavoidable.

The memory

Franco Sbarro is reluctant to look back. The past is less important than the present and the future. He did publish an autobiography in 1991: four volumes were initially planned, but only the first was published. His son, Fabian, has published a magnificent book on his father's work. And that's all!

More important than books or sites like this one is to see the cars designed by Sbarro. He kept a lot of them. There was a permanent exhibition in Pontarlier in the 2000s, which has since closed. However, there's still hope: there's a museum in Vernon, the only one where you can see Franco Sbarro's prototypes. The museum is open all year round, by appointment only.

Musée Franco Sbarro
1 rue du château, 86340 Vernon, France
contact :
Phone +33 (0)5 49 45 28 72

1- Book "La mécanique dans le sang, tome 1" by Daniel Héraud
2- Book "Franco Sbarro / concept cars" by Fabian Sbarro
3- Site UTBM/Espera
4- Site Auto-museums