|by Renzo Dall'Ara (Italian Journalist)
If troubles occur during a Formula One Grand Prix, a Safety car enters the track; it is a car, which acts as decelerator until the track conditions get back to normality. In 2000, this car reported the Amg/Mercedes trademark but concerning one of the mechanical components, the prestigious German technology's choice refers to the made in Italy. It is only one component but it has its particular history to be placed in the big and vivid Italian creativity, inside an Italian elite craft miracle. Notwithstanding the "small-sized" business, manufacturer is well-known in the world of cars. Manufacturer's factory is located in the south-western outskirts of Mantua, near Parma road: the sign on the premises reports Supersprint, then there is a stylized logo representing a charger started at a gallop, which divides the writing "car silencers - special manifolds". So, we can say that the safety car is closely related to the beginning of events, in which the brothers Amedeo and Dante Bignami appear. Car historian, Mr Cesare De Agostini, who considered Amedeo Bignami as the "inventor" of Juan Manuel Fangio, famous driver in the fifties he met in Argentina, documents the latter's presence as co-driver with Nuvolari, Chiron, Trossi, Farina, Borzacchini and Varzi in the victorious "Mille Miglia" ("Thousand Miles" race) in 1932 and 1934. De Agostini always wrote in Anime e motori a book published in 1958, that Amedeo, who had a genius for mechanics, "thought and developed a silencer having a continuous path to success". Nowadays, the biographical silencer detail becomes foreseeing… Actually, Amedeo Bignami and his brother Dante founded in Verona a silencer factory for cars with "Scuderia Bignami" trademark: at the end of the fifties, this surname had a big importance as well as popularity. Then, the young Bruno Gilli began working in the Company, he was engaged to Bruna, Dante's daughter and became then her husband. But in August 1954, Amedeo died (he was not yet fifty) and Mrs Iginia, the widow, courageously decided not to shut down the factory.
And now it is time to know another young boy whose name is Giuseppe Gilli (surveyor), younger Bruno's brother, who was already employed at the Farmers' Association in Mantua. He did not particularly use his diploma: he rode his Lambretta to collect subscriptions to the magazine "Mantova agricola e zootecnica".
He made not so much money but in this way, he could broaden his knowledge as well as obtain the encouragement and confidence of an adventure financial backer, who decided on racing, together with Bruno and Dante Bignami. "A nice person - Giuseppe says - he lent me ITL 3,500,000 to be given back in instalments, so we could start".
In 1955, "B. D." Company (Bignami Dante's initials) was founded by the latter, his son-in-law as well as his sons Giorgio and Bruno to invest in the know how Dante Bignami was acquainted with, regarding silencers. The Company proposed itself in the same market, where Scuderia Bignami still carried on its activity. The management was difficult and wit no marks of improvement during the first five-year period: so, in 1961 the decision to close down gradually took shape, but a project to be developed in the same year also took shape, at the same time. "B.D." settled the statement, then it decided to start again its activity in Mantova, in a shed rented in Dosso del Corso. Meanwhile, Giuseppe Gilli left the Farmers' Association and gained a new experience by working as person in charge of production at the Mantuan "OM" concessionary firm of Rinaldo Nuvolari, for a two-year period.
During 1963, "B.D." put a different look, i. e. at least as to its name, it became Supersprint, a name meant to impress, since these persons were determined and went door to door, with their van, for giving silencers to be resold. Bruno remained in the workshop together with Bignamis and Giuseppe was engaged with the commercial part of the Company. He remembers "I travelled with a full-load van through Germany and Austria. I met two Italians in Munich who became then two valuable collaborators. They are Francesco Basciano from Abruzzi and Giorgio Benzi from Mantua, the so called "Gnaba", who was well-known in the past with its mythical Nina and Nino Nouvenne's Vesuvio restaurant in via Verdi".
In 1966, the existing growth problems were solved by moving the Company to the current seat in via Pisa, while customers became more and more, thanks to the elitist product philosophy.
Such Mantuan nature "overdose" can remarkably be observed in these persons, but it shall not lead to create a limitative evaluation regarding their operative presence in the Company, which was able to develop an international griffe during a 40-year period. The catalogue consists of 1500 articles and only 10 % of them are sold in Italy.
"The remaining 90 % are exported to European Countries, United States, Canada, South America, Australia, Far East Countries (Japan, Mainland China, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong etc)" - as said by Federico Gilli, the person in charge of the sales department.
For a so demanding world, there is a web site consisting of 200 pages.
Alessandro - Gillis' second generation, chairman and also in charge of prototypes and development in the factory - declares: "The reason of our success is a mixture of different factors that can be traced back to two main features: quality and performances. We utilize state-of-the-art technologies, numerical control machines, and computerized systems. All exhaust systems are tested on a dynamometric test bench, which can measure power up to 800 HP".
Experts always speak in elaborate way: to be understood by any car driver, Ennio, "production-man" in the workshop, explains the existing advantages. "The performance improvement is due to a direct exhaust including a sound wave absorption. The exhausted gas stream freely goes through a bored stainless steel pipe being coated with deadening material. In this way, the exhaust gas noise can be damped without slowing down the exhaust gas speed. And we can anyway obtain the typical sports sound that people require".
Our reference guarantors: TÜV, the German association who certifies the exhaust systems as well as ISO 9001 quality certification. But who does buy special silencers? Direct interlocutors are in Germany the Tuner, setup people, who need elaborate and very customized engine systems. This results a use of the Supersprint component on BMW, Mercedes, Audi & Volkswagen, Peugeot & Renault, Honda & Subaru, then Mazda, Saab, Seat, Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Lancia cars. The Mantuan factory is the general contractor of Fiat and Alfa Corse. Racing, Rally and Touring cars with special systems are a different matter, since in this case, high-performance metal catalytic converters approved by FIA-CSAI are supplied. Lorries arrive with secret, extremely covered loads: they contain special cars for demanding customers, which are equipped with Supersprint exhaust system. If you hear Gillis speaking about their factory, you feel it is like an icily aseptic Dr. Stranamore's clinic, with computers and robots. But Giuseppe Gilli, the co-founder, says: "It is not so, because the human constituent has still a basic importance. Both background and workmanship have a handicraft nature since we take meticulous care of our articles which will never be mass-products". The door-to-door sales by van of the very beginning have become on-line sales and in some respects, now position is reversed: in via Pisa, a coming and going of reporters from Europe, USA and Japan continuously occurs.
"Supersprint: performance, quality and style": this is the title of a report appeared in the Californian "European car" magazine, this title is clear, even for Italians, there is no need to translate into Italian. A reporter, Mr James Sly, locates Mantova north of Ferrari, east of De Tomaso and Lamborghini. And he finds in the Mantuan silencer exhaust: sweet sound and added power. It means that not noisy persons, but people wishing powerful engines live in via Pisa.
Supersprint means 50 direct employments and 50 in ancillary industries (subcontractors). Supersprint is a family business, whose tradition is continued by Gilli second generation.
The origin can be found in Switzerland, between Engadina and Rheinwald, in the Upper Rhine Valley. Gillis still live in Sufers and there, their name is of course pronounced with a hard "G". Emigration to Mantova was particularly considerable during 1800. A Gilli line, Ennio, established himself in Borgo Angeli together with his wife, Maria Sogliani, who was born in Brazil (Ennio died in 1932 due to aftermath of the war).
The widow Maria obtained in 1934 the suburb monopoly and in this way, she could get on with her children Luciano, Diana, Bruno and Giuseppe. Together with Bruno and Giuseppe, also Luciano worked in the factory for a certain period, once he came back from Milan. In 2007, owners are Federico and Alessandro, Giuseppe's sons and Ennio, Bruno's son