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Bedfordshire Italian Car Day at Sharnbrook Hotel – July 2017

I first came across the Bedfordshire Italian Car Show, as one of the names by which it was known, held at the legendary Sharnbrook Hotel, just north of Bedford, no long after buying my first Abarth in 2010. It was promoted on the pages of the Abarthisti forum, and always seemed to attract a few fellow owners. and after the event, there were pictures of a wide variety of Italian cars, not just those with a Scorpion badge or two on them. Sadly, it always seemed to clash with something else I had planned, so it was not until 2016 that I got the chance to experience the event for myself. During the intervening years, word had clearly got out that here was a splendid location, easy to get to (well, unless you are starting in the west country, in which case it is rather a lengthy journey to get there!) and with an ebullient host who is a true petrolhead enthusiast, with passion for most cars but especially Italian ones, and so it has grown to fill the grounds of the hotel and require plenty of additional parking around the back of the site. I loved the event, for the number and variety of cars, as well as the charming location, and vowed to put the 2017 event in my diary, marked as something of a priority. There were other things going on closer to home, but I stuck to my guns and went along to see what would be in store on what turned out to be a warm and mostly sunny day, and I was not disappointed, as this summary will show, with lots of cars, plenty of variety and a couple of rarities that you don’t often see even when Italian cars are gathered together.

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ABARTH

There was a much larger Abarth presence here than there had been in the previous year, and as far as I can tell, any of the iterations of the event before that. The majority of the Abarth models here were, not surprisingly, 500 based cars, with everything from some of the early models in both standard and Esseesse form, as well as plenty of the 595 cars, in Turismo and  Competizione guises.

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The latest addition to the range is the 695 XSR, with the very first of this limited series just reaching the dealers, and indeed it was the local dealer who brought one along for attendees to have a look at. Created in recognition of the fact that for the third year running, Abarth will be Official Sponsor and Official Car Supplier of the Yamaha Factory Racing Team which is competing in the 2017 FIM MotoGP World Championship. In the wake of the Abarth 595 Yamaha Factory Racing and the 695 biposto Yamaha Factory Racing Edition, the 695 XSR Yamaha Limited Edition special series is available exclusively with a Pista Grey livery: only 695 sedans and 695 convertibles will be made. The new car was created to celebrate the Yamaha XSR900 Abarth, which is the first exclusive motorcycle to spring from the collaboration between the two brands and which sports the same grey livery with red trim as the 695 XSR, as well as sharing many of its features. The special series makes extensive use of carbon fibre to demonstrate its affinity with the front fairing, front mudguard and saddle cover of the two-wheel Yamaha. The Abarth 695 XSR and the Yamaha XSR900 Abarth also share Akrapovič ultralight exhaust developed in the racing world to boost the personality, sound and performance of both vehicles. On the Abarth car, the carbon fibre tailpipes enhance the looks and technology of the exhaust system. The XSR logo on the tailgate distinguishes the Abarth 695 XSR, while an aluminium badge identifies the sequential number of 695 units for each body type. Other carbon fibre details, in addition to the mirror caps and Akrapovič tailpipes, are available as optional equipment, such as dashboard fascia, pedal covers, gear knob and kick plate. A 1.4 T-Jet engine delivering 165 HP sits beneath the bonnet. Equipment on this special series includes Koni rear suspension and Eibach springs, 17” Supersport alloy rims with Matt Black finish, Satin Chrome accents on handles and badge supports, red details on bumpers and mirrors, red brake callipers and a braking system with perforated discs. This version can be customised even further using the tuning kit to increase the power to 180 HP, improve handling by fitting a Koni front suspension with FSD (Frequency Selective Damping) valve and make braking even prompter with 305x28mm perforated and self-ventilating Brembo floating front discs with high-performance Ferodo HP 1000/1 front brake pads. It also features the new UconnectTM 7″ HD LIVE system integrated with Apple CarPlay allows iPhone users to access contents such as Apple Maps, Messages, telephone calls, Apple Music, also with Siri voice assistance.

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The top of the Abarth range is the Biposto, and Jerry and Carla Rigden, inveterate supporters of events like this and relatively local to Sharnbrook, brought along their much loved car. First shown at the 2014 Geneva Show, this 2 seater (that’s what Biposto means in Italian) is nothing other than a road legal version of the 695 Assetto Corse Racing car, a vehicle which has its own race series in Europe. Although the car is road legal, it was envisaged that the majority of people who buy one of these cars will use it on the track and quite frequently. So it was conceived accordingly. That means upgrades to all the important bits – engine, brakes, suspension, gearbox – and some fairly drastic measures to save weight which resulted in a car which generates 190 bhp and 199 lb/ft or 250 Nm of torque with a kerb weight of just 997kg. That’s enough to give a 0 – 60 time that is under 6 seconds, and a top speed of 143 mph. Those are supercar figures produced by a city car. There’s more to it than that, though, as the changes that go to make a Biposto are extensive, and they have been well thought through, so this is a long-way from being a hastily conceived or tuned up special. Ignoring the limited edition cars which arrived during 2015, the “regular” Biposto is only offered in Matt Performance Grey paint, and the car is visually distinctive, with a new front bumper, rear diffuser, wider arches, new skirts and bigger roof spoiler. Although the engine is still the same 1.4 T-jet that features in the lesser 500 and 595 cars, it has been reworked here, with a new Garrett turbocharger, larger intercooler, altered fuel rail and an Akrapovic exhaust system. Buyers can choose between the standard five speed gearbox or an optional race-bred dog-ring unit mated to a mechanical limited slip diff. The standard car’s MacPherson strut and torsion beam suspension has been reworked, too, with altered springs, wider tracks adjustable ride height and dampers with more resilient bushings, using Extreme Shox technology shock absorbers. The brakes are upgraded in line with the extra power, featuring  305mm Brembo discs and four pot calipers up front and 240mm discs with single pot calipers at the rear. The wheels are lightened 18″ OZ and attached via a titanium hub, shod with bespoke 215/35 Goodyear tyres. In the interest of weight saving, a number of standard trim items are removed, including the regular door trims, air conditioning, the rear seats and some of the sound deadening material. Even the standard air vents have been changed so they are covered by a simple mesh. In their place is plenty of polished carbon fibre, a titanium strut brace, racing seats and harness, as well as special trim features such as new pedals, tread plates and a race inspired digital display on the dash where the radio usually sits. Only a small number have been sold in the UK, and of these quite few were bought for export, so this is and is likely to remain a rare car.

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There were a couple of examples of the Abarth Punto here, too. An  Evo and a SuperSport, the latter belonging to Stuart Theobald who is the “official” photographer for the Sharnbrook, so it was no surprise to find him already on site when I arrived.  Easily identified by the distinctive black bonnet, just 199 of the SuperSport versions were built, of which around 120 are registered on UK roads. These cars had many of the options from the Punto Evo included as standard. Power came from the the 1.4-litre MultiAir turbo engine, tuned to produce 178bhp and 199lb ft of torque, up from 165 of the standard Punto Evo, giving the SuperSport  a 0-62 time of  7.5 seconds and a  top speed of over 132mph. To help put the power down, the SuperSport was fitted with wider 18″ wheels and optional Koni FSD dampers. Standard equipment included the Blue&Me infotainment system with steering wheel controls, automatic climate control and a popular option was the  ‘Abarth Corsa by Sabelt’ sports leather seats. The SuperSport was available in the same colours as the regular Punto Evo, which means white, grey, black and red.

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And finally, there was also a 124 Spider to look at. On sale for a few months now, this is still a rare sight, with only a couple of hundred having reached the UK to date.

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ALFA ROMEO

Usually you get a lot of Alfa models at any Italian car event, but I suspected that this would not be the case on this occasion, as the National Alfa Day, sadly, clashed with this event, and was being held not far away. It did mean that some of the Alfa models I saw on the road whilst heading to Sharnbrook were not at this event, but there were still a good few cars that were.

Oldest Alfa models here were the 105 Series “Duetto” cars. These were the replacement for the Giulia-based Spider model, and an all-new design which finally made its debut in 1966 together with the Giulia Sprint GT Veloce at an event organised in Gardone Riviera. With its boat tailed styling, it quickly found favour, even before taking a starring role in the film “The Graduate”. The original 1600cc engine was replaced by a more powerful 1750cc unit at the same time as the change was made to the rest of the range, and the car continued like this until 1970, when the first significant change to the exterior styling was introduced on the 1750 Spider Veloce, with the original’s distinctive elongated round tail changed to a more conventional cut-off tail, called the “Kamm tail”, as well as improving the luggage space. Numerous other small changes took place both inside and out, such as a slightly different grille, new doorhandles, a more raked windscreen, top-hinged pedals and improved interior trim. 1971 saw the Spider Veloce get a new, larger powerplant—a 1962 cc, 132 hp unit—and consequently the name was changed from 1750 Spider Veloce to 2000 Spider Veloce. The 1600 Spider restarted production a year later as the Spider 1600 Junior, and was visually identical to the 1300. 1974 saw the introduction of the rare, factory request, Spider-Targa. Based upon the Spider, it featured a Porsche style solid rear window and lift out roof panels, all made out of black GRP type material. Less than 2,000 models of such type were ever made and was the only part solid roof Spider until the introduction of the factory crafted hard top. The 1300 and 2000 cars were modified in 1974 and 1975 respectively to include two small seats behind the front seats, becoming a “two plus two” four seater. The 1300 model was discontinued in 1977. Also, between 1974 and 1976, the early-style stainless-steel bumpers were discontinued and replaced with black, rubber-clad units to meet increasingly stringent North American crash requirements. 4,557 examples of the 1300 Junior were made and 4,848 of the 1600 Junior as well as 16,320 2000 Spider Veloces and 22,059 of 2000 Spider Veloce US version. There were also 4,027 1750 Spider Veloces produced.

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During the 1950s, Alfa underwent a fairly fundamental transformation from producing cars designed for racing or very high-end sports touring road machines, in small quantities, to being a manufacturer of more affordable cars, albeit with a sporting bias to their dynamics. But the desire to produce something exclusive and expensive was not completely lost, and indeed it was re-manifest in the next Alfa type to be seen here, the very lovely Montreal, of which there were four examples present., not something you will see very often, but a supreme effort in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the design  First seen as a concept car in 1967 at Expo 67, the car was initially displayed without any model name, but the public took to calling it the Montreal. It was a 2+2 coupe using the 1.6-litre engine of the Alfa Romeo Giulia TI and the short wheelbase chassis of the Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GT, with a body designed by Marcello Gandini at Bertone. One of the two concept cars built for Expo 67 is displayed in the Alfa Romeo Historical Museum in Arese, Italy, while the other is in museum storage. Reaction to the concept was sufficiently encouraging that Alfa decided to put the car into production. The result, the Tipo 105.64, was shown at the 1970 Geneva Motor Show and was quite different from the original, using a 2593 cc 90° dry-sump lubricated V8 engine with SPICA (Società Pompe Iniezione Cassani & Affini) fuel injection that produced around 200 PS (197 hp), coupled to a five-speed ZF manual gearbox and a limited-slip differential. This engine was derived from the 2-litre V8 used in the 33 Stradale and in the Tipo 33 sports prototype racer; its redline was set at 7,000 rpm, unheard of for a V8 at that time. The chassis and running gear of the production Montreal were taken from the Giulia GTV coupé and comprised double wishbone suspension with coil springs and dampers at the front and a live axle with limited slip differential at the rear. Since the concept car was already unofficially known as The Montreal, Alfa Romeo kept the model name in production. Stylistically, the most eye catching feature was the car’s front end with four headlamps partly covered by unusual “grilles”, that retract when the lights are switched on. Another stylistic element is the NACA duct on the bonnet. The duct is actually blocked off since its purpose is not to draw air into the engine, but to optically hide the power bulge. The slats behind the doors contain the cabin vents, but apart from that only serve cosmetic purposes. Paolo Martin is credited for the prototype instrument cluster. The Montreal was more expensive to buy than the Jaguar E-Type or the Porsche 911. When launched in the UK it was priced at £5,077, rising to £5,549 in August 1972 and to £6,999 by mid-1976. Production was split between the Alfa Romeo plant in Arese and Carrozzeria Bertone’s plants in Caselle and Grugliasco outside Turin. Alfa Romeo produced the chassis and engine and mechanicals and sent the chassis to Caselle where Bertone fitted the body. After body fitment, the car was sent to Grugliasco to be degreased, partly zinc coated, manually spray painted and have the interior fitted. Finally, the car was returned to Arese to have the engine and mechanicals installed. It is worth noting that because of this production method, there is not necessarily any correspondence between chassis number, engine number and production date. The Montreal remained generally unchanged until it was discontinued in 1977. By then, production had long ceased already as Alfa were struggling to sell their remaining stock. The total number built was around 3900. None of them were sold in Montreal, Quebec since Alfa did not develop a North American version to meet the emission control requirements in the United States & Canada. The car was both complex and unreliable which meant that many cars deteriorated to a point where they were uneconomic to restore. That position has changed in the last couple of years, thankfully, with the market deciding that the car deserves better, and prices have risen to you whereas a good one would have been yours for £20,000 only a couple of years ago, you would now likely have to pay more than double that.

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As is increasingly becoming the case, the most numerous Alfa model here were the several example of the 916 Series cars, better known as the GTV and Spider. That is perhaps not a huge surprise, as this was one of those cars which achieved classic status almost before production ceased, and thanks to the much improved rust protection and build quality standards of the late 90s, the survival rate is good. Prices for the remaining cars did continue to diminish for some time but in recent months they have started to increase suggesting that the market has seen the appeal of these cars, something the owners (and I write as someone who did own a GTV 2.0 TS Lusso for eighteen months) did not need to be told. The 916 Series cars were conceived to replace two very different models in the Alfa range. First of these was the open topped 105 Series Spider which had been in production since 1966 and by the 1990s was long overdue a replacement. Alfa decided to combine a follow on to the Alfetta GTV, long out of production, with a new Spider model, and first work started in the late 1980s. The task was handed to Pininfarina, and Enrico Fumia’s initial renderings were produced in September 1987, with the first clay models to complete 1:1 scale model made in July 1988. Fumia produced something rather special. Clearly an Italian design, with the Alfa Romeo grille with dual round headlights, recalling the Audi-based Pininfarina Quartz, another design produced by Enrico Fumia back in 1981, the proposal was for a car that was low-slung, wedge-shaped with a low nose and high kicked up tail. The back of the car is “cut-off” with a “Kamm tail” giving improved aerodynamics. The Spider would share these traits with the GTV except that the rear is rounded, and would feature a folding soft-top with five hoop frame, which would completely disappear from sight under a flush fitting cover. An electric folding mechanism would be fitted as an option. Details included a one-piece rear lamp/foglamp/indicator strip across the rear of the body, the minor instruments in the centre console angled towards the driver. The exterior design was finished in July 1988. After Vittorio Ghidella, Fiat’s CEO, accepted the design, Alfa Romeo Centro Stile under Walter de Silva was made responsible for the completion of the detail work and also for the design of the interiors, as Pininfarina’s proposal was not accepted. The Spider and GTV were to be based on the then-current Fiat Group platform, called Tipo Due, in this case a heavily modified version with an all new multilink rear suspension. The front suspension and drivetrain was based on the 1992 Alfa Romeo 155 saloon. Chief engineer at that time was Bruno Cena. Drag coefficient was 0.33 for the GTV and 0.38 for the Spider. Production began in late 1993 with four cars, all 3.0 V6 Spiders, assembled at the Alfa Romeo Arese Plant in Milan. In early 1994 the first GTV was produced, with 2.0 Twin Spark engine. The first premiere was then held at the Paris Motor Show in 1994. The GTV and Spider were officially launched at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1995 and sales began the same year. The cars were well received. At launch, many journalists commented that Alfa had improved overall build quality considerably and that it came very close to equalling its German rivals. I can vouch for that, as I owned an early GTV for eighteen months, and it was a well built and reliable car. In 1997 a new engine, a 24-valve 3.0 litre V6, was available for the GTV along with bigger, 12.0 inch brakes and red four-pot calipers from Brembo. The console knobs were changed from round central to rectangle ones and to a three-spoke steering wheel. Some versions were upgraded with different front bumper mesh to bring the wind noise down to 74 dBA. In May 1998 the cars were revamped for the first time, creating the Phase 2 models. Most of the alterations were inside. The interior was changed with new centre console, painted letters on skirt seals, changed controls and switches arrangement and different instrument cluster. Outside, the main changes included chrome frame around the grille and colour-coded side skirts and bumpers. A new engine was introduced, the 142 hp 1.8 Twin Spark, and others were changed: the 2.0 Twin Spark was updated with a modular intake manifold with different length intakes and a different plastic cover. Power output of the 2.0 TS was raised to 153 hp. Engines changed engine management units and have a nomenclature of CF2. The dashboard was available in two new colours in addition to the standard black: Red Style and Blue Style, and with it new colour-coded upholstery and carpets. The 3.0 24V got a six-speed manual gearbox as standard and the 2.0 V6 TB engine was now also available for the Spider. August 2000 saw the revamp of engines to comply with new emission regulations, Euro3. The new engines were slightly detuned, and have a new identification code: CF3. 3.0 V6 12V was discontinued for the Spider and replaced with 24V Euro3 version from the GTV. 2.0 V6 Turbo and 1.8 T.Spark were discontinued as they did not comply with Euro3 emissions. By the 2001-2002 model year, only 2 engines were left, the  2.0 Twin.Spark and 3.0 V6 24V, until the Phase 3 engine range arrived. The Arese plant, where the cars had been built,  was closing and, in October 2000, the production of GTV/Spider was transferred to Pininfarina Plant in San Giorgio Canavese in Turin. In 2003 there was another and final revamp, creating the Phase 3, also designed in Pininfarina but not by Enrico Fumia. The main changes were focused on the front with new 147-style grille and different front bumpers with offset numberplate holder. Change to the interior was minimal with different centre console and upholstery pattern and colours available. Instrument illumination colour was changed from green to red. Main specification change is an ASR traction control, not available for 2.0 TS Base model. New engines were introduced: 163  hp 2.0 JTS with direct petrol injection and 237 hp 3.2 V6 24V allowing a 158 mph top speed. Production ceased in late 2004, though some cars were still available for purchase till 2006. A total of 80,747 cars were made, and sales of the GTV and Spider were roughly equal. More V6 engined GTVs than Spiders were made, but in 2.0 guise, it was the other way round with the open model proving marginally more popular. Among the cars seen here were regular GTV and Cup cars as well as a late model Spider.

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The 156 GTA cars were launched at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 2001. Named after the Alfa Romeo GTA from the 1960s, the letters GTA meaning Gran Turismo Alleggerita (English: lightened Grand Tourer). 2,973 berlinas and 1,678 Sportwagons were built until the GTA production stopped in October 2005 as the 156 gave way to the Alfa Romeo 159. The GTA came with the 3.2 litre Bussone V6 engine (The big Busso, so called after legendary Ferrari engineer Giuseppe Busso), the largest capacity version of the much loved V6 engine. With a 93 mm bore and a 78 mm stroke giving it a capacity of 3,179 cc, it generated  250 PS (247 hp) and 220 lb/ft of torque. After market Alfa Romeo specialist Autodelta produced performance versions up to 3.7 litres and 400 PS. The European Touring Car Championship winning 156 GTA was however running a 2.0 litre 4-cylinder 300 PS engine due to class regulations. The GTA variants were equipped with either a six-speed manual transmission or six-speed Selespeed (paddles in steering wheel, hydraulically operated robotised) gearbox, had a lowered and stiffened suspension, a distinctive body kit, wider rear arches and leather interior. The suspension was specifically made for the GTA by Fiat Research Centre and Fiat Auto Design and Development Department. Steering was also made faster, only 1.7 turns from lock to lock compared to 2.1 in normal models. The GTA had also larger brakes (Brembo), with 12″ front discs and 10.8″ at the rear. The front discs were later upgraded to 13 ” to cope with the performance potential. Even though the name suggests a light car, the GTA isn’t any lighter than other 156s, as it was actually 91 kilograms (201 lb) heavier than the 2.5 litre V6 engined version. The GTA did not get the Giugiaro designed facelift introduced to the 156 in 2002, but continued with the acclaimed Walter de Silva design to the very end of production.

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Having a rather short production life was the GTA version of the 147. Launched in  2002. this car was intended to compete with the most sporting Golf and Focus models of the day. as well as injecting more potency into a range which always seemed like it needed more power. Fitted with a 3.2 V6 engine which produced 247 bhp, the 147GTA was the most powerful hot hatch available at the time, and the modifications to the body, including lower sills and wider wheel arches, if anything, made it look even better rather than endowing it with the sort of “after market look” that can afflict some high end performance versions of regular family cars. Performance figures were impressive, with the car able to achieve a top speed of 153 mph. It had a widened body by 15 mm at each side to accommodate the 225/45R17 tyres. Most models had a 6-speed manual transmissions; whilst a smaller number of other models used the semi automatic Selespeed system. Production ran through to 2004 and in total 5,029 147 GTAs were built, 1004 of which were Selespeeds. Only around 300 came to the UK, so this was never a common sighting on British roads. There were a couple of nice examples of the car on show here.

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Replacement for the much loved 156 was the 159. The Alfa Romeo 159 had a troubled development, being designed in the midst of the Fiat-General Motors joint venture which was terminated in 2005. Originally, the 159 was intended to use GM’s Epsilon platform; however, late during its development it was changed to the GM/Fiat Premium platform. The Premium platform was more refined and expensive, being intended for E-segment executive cars such as an Alfa Romeo 166 successor but that never materialised, so Alfa Romeo attempted to recoup some of the platform development costs with the 159. General Motors originally planned Cadillac, Buick and Saab models for this platform but ending up discarded them over cost concerns. Unfortunately, the 159’s late transition to what was fundamentally made as an E-segment platform resulted in the 159 having excessive weight, a problem shared by its sisters, the Alfa Romeo Brera coupe and Spider convertible. The 159 was designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro in collaboration with the Centro Stile Alfa Romeo. The nose featured a traditional Alfa Romeo V-shaped grille and bonnet, and cylindrical head light clusters. Similar to its coupé counterpart, front of the car was influenced by the Giugiaro designed 2002 Brera Concept. Several exterior design cues were intended to make the car appear larger, supposedly to appeal to potential buyers in the United States; however, the 159 was never exported to that region. The interior featured styling treatments familiar from earlier cars, including the 156, such as deeply recessed instruments which are angled towards the driver. Alfa Romeo intended for the 159 to compete more directly with BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi by using higher quality interior materials; however, it has been said that Alfa Romeo misjudged their brand’s positioning relative to the more well-known German luxury automakers. Several levels of trim were available, depending on market. Four trim levels: Progression, Distinctive, Exclusive and Turismo Internazionale (TI) featured across Europe. In the UK there were three levels of trim: Turismo, Lusso and Turismo Internazionale (TI). A Sportwagon variant was introduced at the Geneva Motor Show in 2006. The 159’s size made it considerably more comfortable than the 156 due to its larger, roomy interior. However, the considerable growth in dimensions deterred many 156 owners from considering the 159 as a direct replacement model, and something seemed to be lost in the character of the new car. Initially offered with a choice of 1.9 and 2,2 litre 4 cylinder and 3.2 litre V6 petrol engines and 1.9 and 2.4 litre diesel units, and an optional four wheel drive system.  An automatic gearbox option for the 2.4 JTDM diesel model was also launched in late 2006, and later extended to other versions. In 2007 a four-wheel drive diesel model was released and the 2.4-litre diesel engines’ power output increased to 210 hp, with a newly reintroduced TI trim level also available as an option. For model year 2008 the mechanics and interiors of the 159 were further developed. The 3.2 litre V6 model was offered in front wheel drive configuration, achieving a top speed of 160 mph. All model variants came with Alfa’s electronic “Q2” limited slip differential. As a result of newly introduced aluminium components, a 45 kilograms (99 lb) weight reduction was achieved. For 2009,  Alfa introduced a new turbocharged petrol engine badged as “TBi”. This 1742 cc unit had direct injection and variable valve timing in both inlet and exhaust cams. This new engine had 200 PS (197 hp) and would eventually replace the GM-derived 2.2 and 1.9 JTS units.In 2010, all petrol engines except for the 1750 TBi were retired, ending the use of General Motors-based engines in the 159. The only remaining diesel engines were the 136 PS and 170 PS 2.0 JTDm engines. In 2011, the 159 was powered only by diesel engines. In the UK,  Alfa Romeo stopped taking orders for the 159 on 8 July 2011. Production for all markets ceased at the end of 2011, after 240,000 had been built.

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Rather than replacing the 916 Series GTV with a single model, Alfa elected to produce two successors., The more commodious of the two, the GT, was the first to appear, making its debut in March 2003 at the Geneva Motor Show, finally going on sale in early 2004. It was built at the Pomigliano plant, alongside the 147 and 159. The GT was based on the Alfa 156 platform, which was also used for the 147, providing the 2-door coupé with genuine five-passenger capacity. It was styled by Bertone. Most mechanicals were taken directly from the 156/147 using the same double wishbone front suspension and MacPherson rear setup. The interior was derived form the smaller hatchback 147 and shared many common parts. The GT shared the same dash layout and functions, the climate control system as well as having a similar electrical system. Some exterior parts were taken from 147 with the same bonnet, wing mirrors and front wings (from 147 GTA). The engine range included both a 1.8 TS, and 2.0 JTS petrol engine, a 1.9 MultiJet turbodiesel, and a top-of-the-range 240 bhp 3.2 V6 petrol. There were few changes during the GT’s production life. In 2006 Alfa introduced a 1.9 JTD Q2 version with a limited slip differential, and also added a new trim level called Black Line. In 2008 Alfa introduced the cloverleaf model as a limited edition complete with new trim levels, lowered suspension, body kit, 18 inch alloy wheels and was only available in the colours black, Alfa red, or blue. with 1.8 and 2.0 litre petrol engines as well as the 1.9 litre Multijet turbo diesel. The GT was acclaimed for its attractive styling and purposeful good looks, in 2004 being voted the world’s most beautiful coupe in the annual ‘World’s Most Beautiful Automobile’ (L’Automobile più Bella del Mondo) awards. The car sold reasonably well, with 80,832 units being produced before the model was deleted in 2010.

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The small MiTo has been in production for a long time now, changing only in detail during that time. It has built up quite a following, and there is an enthusiastic MiTo Owners Club.  Known internally as the Tipo 955, the MiTo (the name allegedly standing for Mi-lano and To-rino, where it was designed and is built, respectively,  and a pun on the Italian word for “myth”), the smallest Alfa ever made is a three-door only supermini, which was officially introduced on June 19, 2008, at Castello Sforzesco in Milan,, going on sale a few weeks later, with UK supplies reaching the country after the British Motor Show in 2008. Built on the Fiat Small platform used on the Grande Punto, and also employed by the Opel/Vauxhall Corsa, the MiTo was intended to compete with the MINI and the newer Audi A1. Designed by Centro Stile Alfa Romeo, the design is believed to be inspired by the 8C Competizione. A range of engines has been offered since launch, though sadly the GTA Concept that was shown at the 2009 Geneva Show never made it to production.

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Also from the current range were examples of the 4C. First seen as a concept at the 2011 Geneva Show, the definitive Coupe model did not debut for a further 2 years. Production got underway later that year at the Maserati plant in Modena, and the first deliveries were late in 2013. Production was originally pegged at 1000 cars a year and a total of just 3500, which encouraged many speculators to put their name down in the hope of making a sizeable profit on selling their cars on. That plan backfired, and in the early months, there were lots of cars for sale for greater than list price. Press reaction to the car has been mixed, with everyone loving the looks, but most of them feeling that the driving experience is not as they would want. Owners generally disagree – as is so often the case! – and most love their car. The Spider model followed in 2015, with the first examples of these reaching owners around the turn of the year, and when these cars gather now, you are just as likely to see a Spider as a Competizione.

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Bringing things right up to date was a lovely example of the Giulia Quadrifoglio, which Motorvogue, the local dealer, had brought along. This was a chance to sit in it and have a longer look than has been possible at larger shows where the car is always much in demand.

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FERRARI

In 2016, there were more Ferrari cars at the event than any other brand, thanks to the herculean efforts of both Ciro himself and the local Ferrari Owners Club, in honour of the 10th anniversary of the event. They were arranged (initially) in chronological order and there was an example of almost every model type from the preceding 40 years. There were not quite as many Ferrari cars here for the 2017 event, and they were not arranged in any particular way, although most of them were grouped together. Most, but not all the different models of the past 30 or so years were here, so this was once again a nice Ferrari History lesson.

Oldest of the Ferrari here was a 308 GTS. The closed version, the 308 GTB, was launched at the Paris Motor Show in 1975 as a direct replacement for the Dino 246. Designed by Pininfarina with sweeping curves and aggressive lines, the 308 has gone on to become one of the most recognised Ferraris of all time. Fitted with a 2.9 litre DOHC V8 engine fed by four Webber 40DCNF Carburettors, the power output of 255bhp was sufficient to propel the 308 from 0 to 60mph in 6.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 159 mph. The targa-topped 308 GTS model arrived a couple of years later, by which time, the initial glassfibre bodies  of the first 808 cars had been substituted for those made of steel. Tougher emissions standards in the 1980s challenged Ferrari more than many other marques. In 1980, fuel injection was adopted for the first time on the 308 GTB and GTS models, and power dropped quite noticeably from 240 bhp to 214bhp. Two years later, at the 1982 Paris Motor Show, Ferrari launched the 308 quattrovalvole, in GTB and GTS form. The main change from the 308 GTBi/GTSi it succeeded were the 4-valves per cylinder—hence its name, which pushed output back up to 240 hp restoring some of the performance lost to the emission control equipment. The new model could be recognised by the addition of a slim louvred panel in the front lid to aid radiator exhaust air exit, power operated mirrors carrying a small enamel Ferrari badge, a redesigned radiator grille with rectangular driving lights on each side, and rectangular (in place of round) side repeaters. The interior also received some minor updates, such as a satin black three spoke steering wheel with triangular centre; cloth seat centres became available as an option to the standard full leather. Available included metallic paint, a deep front spoiler, air conditioning, wider wheels, 16-inch Speedline wheels with Pirelli P7 tyres, and a satin black roof aerofoil (standard on Japanese market models). Apart from the 32-valve cylinder heads, the V8 engine was essentially of the same design as that used in the 308 GTSi model. The gear and final drive ratios were altered to suit the revised characteristics of the four valves per cylinder engine. One other significant benefit of the QV four valve heads was the replacement of the non-QV models sodium valves which have been known to fail at the joint between the head and the stem. Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection and Marelli Digiplex electronic ignition were carried over from the GTBi/GTSi. The car was produced in this form until the launch of the 328 models in the autumn of 1985 which had larger 3.2 litre engines and a number of styling changes. Around 12,000 examples were built, a lot by Ferrari standards but even so, 308 GTB models are becoming increasingly sought after, with prices rising steadily and quite steeply.

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Initially produced alongside the 308/328 GTB and GTS models and then running on up until 1993, was the Mondial, which replaced the 208/308 GT4. The “Mondial” name came from Ferrari’s history — the 500 Mondial race car of the early 1950s. Despite its predecessor being Bertone styled, the Mondial saw Ferrari return to Pininfarina for styling. Sold as a mid-sized coupe and, eventually a cabriolet, it was conceived as a ‘usable’ model, offering the practicality of four seats and the performance of a Ferrari. The car had a slightly higher roofline than its stablemates, with a single long door either side, offering easy access and good interior space, reasonable rear legroom while all-round visibility was excellent. The cabriolets also hold the distinction of being the only production automobile in history that has four seats, is rear mid-engined, and is a full convertible. The car body was not built as a monocoque in the same way as a conventional car. The steel outer body produced by the famous Italian coachbuilder Carrozzeria Scaglietti, in nearby Modena, was  built over a lightweight steel box-section space frame. The engine cover and rear luggage compartment lids are in light alloy. The seats and interior were trimmed in Connolly hide, contrasting with the body colour. Most cars were painted rosso red, but some were black or silver, and a few were dark blue. The Mondial was the first Ferrari car where the entire engine/gearbox/rear suspension assembly is on a detachable steel subframe. This design made engine removal for a major rebuild or cylinder head removal much easier than it was on previous models. Unusually, the handbrake is situated between the driver’s seat and the inner sill. Once the handbrake is set it drops down so as, not to impede egress and ingress. Instead of the conventional “H” shift pattern, the gearbox has 1st gear situated in a “dog leg” to the left and back, behind reverse. This pattern, otherwise known as a “reverse h-gate”, allows quicker gear shifts between 2nd and 3rd gear, and also between 4th and 5th. The Mondial underwent many updates throughout production. There were four distinct iterations (8, QV, 3.2, and t), with the latter 3 having two variations each. (coupe and cabriolet). The first car was introduced as the Mondial 8 at the 1980 Geneva Auto Salon. It was the first Ferrari to depart from the company’s simple 3-digit naming scheme, and some reviews found it relatively mild, compared to other Ferraris, regarding performance, drawing criticism from some in the motoring press. It used a mid/rear-mounted Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection V8, shared with the 308 GTBi/GTSi, mounted transversely. The engine used in the 1973 Dino 308 GT4. The K-Jetronic system is mechanical, with a high-pressure pump which streams fuel continuously to the injectors; it does not have a computer, just a few relays to handle the cold start sequence etc. The chassis was also based on the 308 GT4, but with a 100mm (3.9 inch) longer wheelbase at 2,650 mm (104.3 in). The suspension was the classic layout of unequal-length double wishbones and Koni dampers all around. Today, the Mondial 8 is considered one of the marque’s most “practical” vehicles, due to its 214 hp, proven drivetrain, four seats, and relatively low cost of maintenance (major services can be performed without removing the entire engine/transmission subframe). 703 examples were made. The first Mondial engine, although a DOHC design, used just two valves per cylinder. The 1982 Quattrovalvole or QV introduced a new four-valve head; the combustion chamber design purportedly based on the early eighties Formula 1 engine. Again, the engine was shared with the contemporary 308 GTB/GTS QV, and produced a much more respectable 240 hp. Appearance was largely as per the Mondial 8, although with red engine heads and prominent “quattrovalvole” script at the rear. 1,145 coupés built between 1982 and 1985. A new Cabriolet body style added for 1983. Body styling remained the same as the coupé variant, with the roof maintaining the ‘buttress’ design of the roof, though the Cabriolet required the rear seats to be mounted closer together laterally. The introduction of the Cabriolet saw the popularity of the Mondial rise, particularly in the American market, where the convertible body style was highly desirable. The Cabriolet has the added distinction of being the only four-seat, mid-rear engine, convertible automobile ever manufactured in regular production. 629 units were produced between 1983 and 1985, making this the rarest version of the Mondial. Like the Ferrari 328, the Mondial’s engine grew in both bore and stroke to 3,185 cc in 1985. Output was now 270 PS.  The Mondial 3.2 was first presented at the 1985 Frankfurt Auto Show in September that year.  Available in both Coupé and Cabriolet forms, styling refreshed with restyled and body-coloured bumpers, similar to the 328 with more integrated indicators and driving lamps, and new alloy wheels with a more rounded face. The 3.2 also boasted a major interior update, with a more ergonomic layout and a more rounded instrument binnacle. Later cars, from 1987 onwards, also sported ABS brakes. Fuel injection remained the primarily mechanical Bosch K-Jetronic (CIS) with an O2 sensor in the exhaust providing feedback to a simple computer for mixture trimming via a pulse modulated frequency valve that regulated control fuel pressure. The ignition system was Marelli Microplex, with electronic advance control and one distributor per bank of the V8. The 1988 Mondial 3.2 would be the final model year that retained the relatively low maintenance costs of the 308/328 drivetrain, allowing major service items like timing belt and clutch replacement performed with the engine/transmission package still in the car. The final Mondial evolution was 1989’s Mondial t, which was a substantially changed model. It was visually different from preceding Mondial models, the most recognizable being the redesign of the air intakes to a smaller rectangular shape. Additionally, the door-handles were of a visually different design, as were the front and rear bumpers which became body coloured. New front and rear wings cover wider tracks and are re-profiled to a fuller shape compared to previous models, which feature a rolled lip. The ‘t’ called attention to the car’s new engine/transmission layout: the previously-transverse engine mounted longitudinally while the gearbox remained transverse, thus forming a ‘t’. By adopting this layout, a longer engine could be mounted lower in the chassis, improving handling dramatically. The ‘t’ configuration was used by Ferrari’s Formula One cars of the 1980s, and would be the standard for the marque’s future mid-engined V8 cars, beginning with the 348, introduced later in the year. The transverse manual gearbox fitted with a Limited Slip Differential with a twin-plate clutch design with bevel gears driving the wheels. Later in production, a Semi-automatic transmission termed “Valeo” was available as an option; while shifting was using a traditional gear lever, the clutch was actuated automatically without a clutch pedal. The engine was up to 3405 cc and 300 hp, controlled by Bosch Motronic DME 2.5 (later DME 2.7) electronic engine management that integrated EFI and ignition control into a single computer unit. Two of these used in the car: one for each bank of the engine. Engine lubrication upgraded to a dry-sump system. The Mondial’s chassis would underpin a new generation of 2-seat Ferraris, right up to the 360, but the 2+2 Mondial would end production just four and a half years later in 1993. However, the “t” layout of the engine and transaxle, adapted from Ferrari’s Formula One cars, continues to be used in mid-engined V8 model Ferraris to date, albeit with a more sophisticated chassis. The new layout saw the engine and transmission mounted on a removable subframe; the assembly removed from the underside of the vehicle for maintenance. This process is necessary for timing belt replacement, making this a costly procedure for the owner who does not have a lift. On the other hand, the clutch was now located at the very rear of the drive train. This arrangement makes clutch replacement and service a simple, inexpensive, and readily owner-doable proposition. The “t” was home to other Ferrari firsts: It used power assisted steering for the first time and had a 3-position electronically controlled suspension for a variable tradeoff between ride quality and road holding. It also had standard ABS. Total production of the t Coupe was 858 (45 Right Hand Drive), and the t Cabriolet of 1,017 (51 Right Hand Drive, meaning that around 6000 Mondial cars were produced over those 13 years, making it one of the most commercially significant Ferraris to date.

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With styling that had a close link to the Testarossa, in 1989 Ferrari launched the 348, as a replacement for the 328 GTB/GTS models. At launch, the 348 series were not that enthusiastically received by the press who found much to complain about.  The 348’s styling differed from previous models with straked side air intakes and rectangular taillights resembling the Testarossa. Launched in two models, a coupe badged 348 tb (Trasversale Berlinetta) and targa roofed 348 ts (Targa), these were soon joined by a fully open car, the 348 Spider. All featured a normally aspirated 3.4-litre version of the quad-cam, four-valve-per-cylinder V8 engine. As with its predecessors, the model number was derived from this configuration, with the first two digits being the displacement and the third being the number of cylinders. The engine, which produced 300 hp was mounted longitudinally and coupled to a transverse manual gearbox, like the Mondial t with which the 348 shared many components. This was a significant change for Ferrari, with most previous small Ferraris using a transverse engine with longitudinal transmission. The “T” in the model name 348 tb and ts refers to the transverse position of the gearbox.  The 348 was fitted with dual-computer engine management using twin Bosch Motronic ECUs, double-redundant anti-lock brakes, and self-diagnosing air conditioning and heating systems. Late versions (1993 and beyond) have Japanese-made starter motors and Nippondenso power generators to improve reliability, as well as the battery located within the front left fender for better weight distribution. Similar to the Testarossa but departing from the BB 512 and 308/328, the oil and coolant radiators were relocated from the nose to the sides, widening the waist of the car substantially, but making the cabin much easier to cool since hoses routing warm water no longer ran underneath the cabin as in the older front-radiator cars. This also had the side effect of making the doors very wide. The 348 was equipped with a dry-sump oil system to prevent oil starvation at high speeds and during hard cornering. The oil level can only be accurately checked on the dipstick when the motor is running due to this setup. The 348 was fitted with adjustable ride-height suspension and a removable rear sub-frame to speed up the removal of the engine for maintenance. Despite trenchant criticism of the car, especially its handling, 2,895 examples of the 348 tb and 4,230 of the 348 ts were produced.

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Launched in May 1994 as an evolution of the Ferrari 348, just about everything was changed, and improved for the F355, seen here in closed Berlinetta guise.  Design emphasis for the F355 was placed on significantly improved performance, but driveability across a wider range of speeds and in different environments such as low-speed city traffic was also addressed, as the Honda NS-X had proved that you could make a supercar that could be lived with every day. Apart from the displacement increase from 3.4 to 3.5 litres, the major difference between the V8 engine in the 348 and F355 was the introduction of a 5-valve cylinder head. This new head design allowed for better intake permeability and resulted in an engine that was considerably more powerful, producing 375 hp. The longitudinal 90° V8 engine was bored 2mm over the 348’s engine, resulting in the small increase in displacement. The F355 had a Motronic system controlling the electronic fuel injection and ignition systems, with a single spark plug per cylinder, resulting in an unusual 5 valves per cylinder configuration. This was reflected in the name, which did not follow the formula from the previous decades of engine capacity in litres followed by number of cylinders such as the  246 = 2.4 litres and 6 cylinders and the 308 of 3.0 litres and  8 cylinders. For the F355, Ferrari used engine capacity followed by the number of valves per cylinder (355 = 3.5 litres engine capacity and 5 valves per cylinder) to bring the performance advances introduced by a 5 valve per cylinder configuration into the forefront. 5. The frame was a steel monocoque with tubular steel rear sub-frame with front and rear suspensions using independent, unequal-length wishbones, coil springs over gas-filled telescopic shock absorbers with electronic control servos and anti-roll bars. The car allows selection between two damper settings, “Comfort” and “Sport”. Ferrari fitted all road-going F355 models with Pirelli tires, size 225/40ZR 18 in front and 265/40 ZR 18 in the rear. Although the F355 was equipped with power-assisted steering (intended to improve low-speed driveability relative to the outgoing 348), this could optionally be replaced with a manual steering rack setup by special order. Aerodynamic designs for the car included over 1,300 hours of wind tunnel analysis. The car incorporates a Nolder profile on the upper portion of the tail, and a fairing on the underbody that generates downforce when the car is at speed. These changes not only made the car faster but also much better to drive,m restoring Ferrari to the top of the tree among its rivals. At launch, two models were available: the coupe Berlinetta and the targa topped GTS, which was identical to the Berlinetta apart from the fact that the removable “targa-style” hard top roof could be stored behind the seats. The F355 would prove to be last in the series of mid-engined Ferraris with the Flying Buttress rear window, a lineage going back to the 1965 Dino 206 GT, unveiled at the Paris Auto Show. The Spider (convertible) version came later in the year. In 1997 the Formula One style paddle gear shift electrohydraulic manual transmission was introduced with the Ferrari 355 F1 adding £6,000 to the dealer asking price. This system promised faster gearchanges and allowed the driver to keep both hands on the steering wheel, It proved to be very popular and was the beginning of the end for the manual-transmission Ferrari.  Ferrari produced 4,871 road-going Berlinetta models, of which 3,829 were 6-speed and 1,042 were F1 transmissions. The Spider proved to be the second-most popular F355 model, with a total production of 3,717 units, of which 2,664 were produced with the 6-speed transmission and another 1,053 produced with the F1 transmission.  A total of 2,577 GTS models were produced, with 2,048 delivered with the 6-speed transmission and another 529 with the F1 transmission. This was the last GTS targa style model produced by Ferrari. This made a total production run of 11,273 units making the F355 the most-produced Ferrari at the time, though this sales record would be surpassed by the next generation 360 and later, the F430.

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It was with the 360 Modena that sales of Ferrari models really took off, with unprecedented volumes of the car being sold. The 360 Modena was launched in 1999,  named after the town of Modena, the birthplace of Enzo Ferrari. A major innovation in this all new model came from Ferrari’s partnership with Alcoa which resulted in an entirely new all-aluminium space-frame chassis that was 40% stiffer than the F355 which had utilised steel. The design was 28% lighter despite a 10% increase in overall dimensions. Along with a lightweight frame the new Pininfarina body styling deviated from traditions of the previous decade’s sharp angles and flip-up headlights. The new V8 engine, common to all versions, was of 3.6 litre capacity with a flat plane crankshaft, titanium connecting rods and generates 400 bhp  Despite what looks like on paper modest gains in reality the power to weight ratio was significantly improved on over the F355, this was due to the combination of both a lighter car and more power. The 0 to 100 km/h acceleration performance improved from 4.6 to 4.3 seconds. The first model to be rolled out was the 360 Modena, available as a manual, or an F1 electrohydraulic manual. Next up was an open car. The 360 was designed with a Spider variant in mind; since removing the roof of a coupe reduces the torsional rigidity, the 360 was built for strength in other areas. Ferrari designers strengthened the sills, stiffened the front of the floorpan and redesigned the windscreen frame. The rear bulkhead had to be stiffened to cut out engine noise from the cabin. The convertible’s necessary dynamic rigidity is provided by additional side reinforcements and a cross brace in front of the engine. Passenger safety is ensured by a strengthened windscreen frame and roll bars. The 360 Spider displays a curvilinear waistline. The fairings imply the start of a roof, and stable roll bars are embedded in these elevations. Due to use of light aluminium construction throughout, the Spider weighs in only 60 kg heavier than the coupé. As with the Modena version, its 3.6 litre V8 with 400 bhp is on display under a glass cover. The engine — confined in space by the convertible’s top’s storage area — acquires additional air supply through especially large side grills. The intake manifolds were moved toward the centre of the engine between the air supply conduits in the Spider engine compartment, as opposed to lying apart as with the Modena. In terms of performance, the 0-60 mph time was slightly slower at 4.4 seconds due to the slight weight increase, and the top speed was reduced from 189 to 180 mph. Despite the car’s mid-mounted V8 engine, the electrically operated top is able to stow into the compartment when not in use. The convertible top was available in black, blue, grey and beige. The transformation from a closed top to an open-air convertible is a two-stage folding-action that has been dubbed “a stunning 20 second mechanical symphony”. The interior of the Spider is identical to that of the coupé.

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Next up was the  F430, a car which debuted at the 2004 Paris Motor Show. Designed by Pininfarina, under the guidance of Frank Stephenson, the body styling of the F430 was revised from its predecessor, the Ferrari 360, to improve its aerodynamic efficiency. Although the drag coefficient remained the same, downforce was greatly enhanced. Despite sharing the same basic Alcoa Aluminium chassis, roof line, doors and glass, the car looked significantly different from the 360. A great deal of Ferrari heritage was included in the exterior design. At the rear, the Enzo’s tail lights and interior vents were added. The car’s name was etched into the Testarossa-styled driver’s side mirror. The large oval openings in the front bumper are reminiscent of Ferrari racing models from the 60s, specifically the 156 “sharknose” Formula One car and 250 TR61 Le Mans cars of Phil Hill. Designed with soft-top-convertible. The F430 featured a 4.3 litre V8 petrol engine of the “Ferrari-Maserati” F136 family. This new power plant was a significant departure for Ferrari, as all previous Ferrari V8’s were descendants of the Dino racing program of the 1950s. This fifty-year development cycle came to an end with the entirely new unit. The engine’s output was 490 hp at 8500 rpm and 465 N·m (343 lb/ft) of torque at 5250 rpm, 80% of which was available below 3500rpm. Despite a 20% increase in displacement, engine weight grew by only 4 kg and engine dimensions were decreased, for easier packaging. The connecting rods, pistons and crankshaft were all entirely new, while the four-valve cylinder head, valves and intake trumpets were copied directly from Formula 1 engines, for ideal volumetric efficiency. The F430 has a top speed in excess of 196 mph and could accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in 3.9 seconds, 0.6 seconds quicker than the old model. The brakes on the F430 were designed in close cooperation with Brembo (who did the calipers and discs) and Bosch (who did the electronics package),resulting in a new cast-iron alloy for the discs. The new alloy includes molybdenum which has better heat dissipation performance. The F430 was also available with the optional Carbon fibre-reinforced Silicon Carbide (C/SiC) ceramic composite brake package. Ferrari claims the carbon ceramic brakes will not fade even after 300-360 laps at their test track. The F430 featured the E-Diff, a computer-controlled limited slip active differential which can vary the distribution of torque based on inputs such as steering angle and lateral acceleration. Other notable features include the first application of Ferrari’s manettino steering wheel-mounted control knob. Drivers can select from five different settings which modify the vehicle’s ESC system, “Skyhook” electronic suspension, transmission behaviour, throttle response, and E-Diff. The feature is similar to Land Rover’s “Terrain Response” system. The Ferrari F430 was also released with exclusive Goodyear Eagle F1 GSD3 EMT tyres, which have a V-shaped tread design, run-flat capability, and OneTRED technology. The F430 Spider, Ferrari’s 21st road going convertible, made its world premiere at the 2005 Geneva Motor Show. The car was designed by Pininfarina with aerodynamic simulation programs also used for Formula 1 cars. The roof panel automatically folds away inside a space above the engine bay. The conversion from a closed top to an open-air convertible is a two-stage folding-action. The interior of the Spider is identical to that of the coupé. Serving as the successor to the Challenge Stradale, the 430 Scuderia was unveiled by Michael Schumacher at the 2007 Frankfurt Auto Show. Aimed to compete with cars like the Porsche RS-models and the Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera it was lighter by 100 kg/220 lb and more powerful (510 PS) than the standard F430. Increased power came from a revised intake, exhaust, and an ion-sensing knock-detection system that allows for a higher compression ratio. Thus the weight-to-power ratio was reduced from 2.96 kg/hp to 2.5 kg/hp. In addition to the weight saving measures, the Scuderia semi-automatic transmission gained improved “Superfast”, known as “Superfast2”, software for faster 60 millisecond shift-times. A new traction control system combined the F1-Trac traction and stability control with the E-Diff electronic differential. The Ferrari 430 Scuderia accelerates from 0-100 km/h in 3.6 seconds, with a top speed of 202 miles per hour. Ferrari claimed that around their test track, Fiorano Circuit, it matched the Ferrari Enzo, and the Ferrari F430’s successor, the Ferrari 458. To commemorate Ferrari’s 16th victory in the Formula 1 Constructor’s World Championship in 2008, Ferrari unveiled the Scuderia Spider 16M at World Finals in Mugello. It is effectively a convertible version of the 430 Scuderia. The engine produces 510 PS at 8500 rpm. The car has a dry weight of 1,340 kg, making it 80 kg lighter than the F430 Spider, at a curb weight of 1,440 kg (3,175 lb). The chassis was stiffened to cope with the extra performance available and the car featured many carbon fibre parts as standard. Specially lightened front and rear bumpers (compared to the 430 Scuderia) were a further sign of the efforts Ferrari was putting into this convertible track car for the road. Unique 5-spoke forged wheels were produced for the 16M’s launch and helped to considerably reduce unsprung weight with larger front brakes and callipers added for extra stopping power (also featured on 430 Scuderia). It accelerates from 0-100 km/h in 3.7 seconds, with a top speed of 315 km/h (196 mph). 499 vehicles were released beginning early 2009 and all were pre-sold to select clients.

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Launched as a so-called “entry level” car, though still unattainable for all but the super-well-heeled, is the California, which was launched at the 2008 Paris Motor Show. According to industry rumours, the California originally started as a concept for a new Maserati, but the resulting expense to produce the car led the Fiat Group to badge it as a Ferrari in order to justify the high cost of purchase; Ferrari denies this, however. The California represented a new, fourth model range for the company, with a (slightly) lower purchase price. A two-door 2+2 hard top convertible, when originally released, it was powered by a front-mid mounted naturally aspirated 4.3-litre V8. In 2014 Ferrari introduced the second generation of the model, named California T and using a new twin-turbo 3.9-litre V8. The California represented a number of firsts for Ferrari: the first front engined Ferrari with a V8; the first to feature a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission; the first with a folding metal roof; the first with multi-link rear suspension; the first with direct petrol injection. With the top up, the California has a drag coefficient of Cd=0.32, making it the most aerodynamic Ferrari ever made until the introduction of the Ferrari F12 Berlinetta. The California was built on a new production line adjacent to the existing factory at Maranello, capable of producing 27 cars per day, or 6,000 per year. Throughout the California’s production, only 3 cars had been built with manual transmission, including one order from the UK. It became the last Ferrari to be offered with a manual gearbox. The heavily revised California T version was also here.

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Next up was the 458, of which there were examples of all the versions produced. An all new design, the 458 Italia was first officially unveiled at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show. Once more, Ferrari advised that the model incorporated technologies developed from the company’s experience in Formula 1. The body computer system was developed by Magneti Marelli Automotive Lighting. The 458 came with a 4,499 cc  V8 engine of the “Ferrari/Maserati” F136 engine family, producing 570 PS ( 562 hp) at 9,000 rpm and 540 N·m (398 lb/ft) at 6,000 rpm with 80% torque available at 3,250 rpm. The engine featured direct fuel injection, a first for Ferrari mid-engine setups in its road cars. The only transmission available was a dual-clutch 7-speed Getrag gearbox, in a different state of tune shared with the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG. There was no traditional manual option, making this the fourth road-car after the Enzo, Challenge Stradale and 430 Scuderia not to be offered with Ferrari’s classic gated manual. The car’s suspension featured double wishbones at the front and a multi-link setup at the rear, coupled with E-Diff and F1-Trac traction control systems, designed to improve the car’s cornering and longitudinal acceleration by 32% when compared with its predecessors.The brakes included a prefill function whereby the pistons in the calipers move the pads into contact with the discs on lift off to minimise delay in the brakes being applied. This combined with the ABS and standard Carbon Ceramic brakes caused a reduction in stopping distance from 100–0 km/h (62-0 mph) to 32.5 metres. Ferrari’s official 0–100 km/h (62 mph) acceleration time was quoted as 2.9–3.0 seconds with a top speed of 340 km/h (210 mph).  In keeping with Ferrari tradition the body was designed by Pininfarina under the leadership of Donato Coco, the Ferrari design director. The interior design of Ferrari 458 Italia was designed by Bertrand Rapatel, a French automobile designer. The car’s exterior styling and features were designed for aerodynamic efficiency, producing a downforce of 140 kg (309 lb) at 200 km/h. In particular, the front grille features deformable winglets that lower at high speeds, in order to offer reduced drag. The car’s interior was designed using input from former Ferrari Formula 1 driver Michael Schumacher; in a layout common to racing cars, the new steering wheel incorporates many controls normally located on the dashboard or on stalks, such as turning signals or high beams. At launch the car was widely praised as being pretty much near perfect in every regard. It did lack a fresh air version, though, but that was addressed with the launch of the 458 Spider at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show. This convertible variant of the 458 Italia featured an aluminium retractable hardtop which, according to Ferrari, weighs 25 kilograms (55 lb) less than a soft roof such as the one found on the Ferrari F430 Spider, and can be opened in 14 seconds The engine cover was redesigned to accommodate the retractable roof system. It had the same 0–100 km/h time as the hard-top but a lower top speed of 199 mph. It quickly became the better seller of the two versions.

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There were only a couple of V12 engined cars here this time, an FF and an F12 Berlinetta.

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The latest of the V8 line is the 488 GTB, and one of these was the “course car” for the day. Launched at the 2015 Geneva Show, the 488GTB followed the lead set by the California T in bringing turbocharging into a modern-day, mid-engined V8 Ferrari supercar for the first time. The engine is completely new when compared with its V8 stablemate, not only in components but also in feel and character. It is a twin-turbocharged 3902cc unit whilst that in the California T is 3855cc. In the 488 GTB, it produces 660bhp at 8000rpm and 560lb ft at 3000rpm. Both outputs are significant increases over the normally aspirated 4.5-litre V8 used in the 562 bhp 458 Italia and 597 bhp 458 Speciale, and also greater than the car’s biggest rival, the McLaren 650S. The torque figure of the 488 GTB is such that it also exceeds the 509lb ft at 6000rpm of the normally aspirated V12 used in the range-topping Ferrari F12 Berlinetta. The mighty new engine in the 488 GTB drives the rear wheels through a revised seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox derived from the 458. It features a new ‘Variable Torque Management’ system which, Ferrari says, “unleashes the engine’s massive torque smoothly and powerfully right across the rev range”. The gear ratios are also tuned to “deliver incredibly progressive acceleration when the driver floors the throttle”. The 488 GTB can crack 0-62mph in just 3.0sec, 0-124mph in 8.4sec and reach a top speed of 205mph. Its 0-62mph and 0-124mph times match the McLaren 650S’s, but the Woking car’s top speed is slightly higher at 207mph. The engine also accounts for the ‘488’ element of the car’s name, because each of the engine’s eight cylinders is 488cc in capacity when rounded up. The GTB suffix, standing for Gran Turismo Berlinetta, is a hallmark of previous mid-engined V8 Ferraris such as the 308 GTB. Not only is the new turbo engine more potent than the 4.5-litre V8 from the 458 Italia, but it is also more economical. Combined fuel economy is rated at 24.8mpg, compared with 21.2mpg in the 458 Italia, and CO2 emissions are 260g/km – a 47g/km improvement. Ferrari’s HELE engine stop-start system features on the 488 GTB. Developments on the dynamic side include a second generation of the Side Slip Angle Control system, called SSC2. This allows the driver to oversteer without intruding, unless it detects a loss of control. The SSC2 now controls the active dampers, in addition to the F1-Trac traction control system and E-Diff electronic differential. Ferrari says the result is “more precise and less invasive, providing greater longitudinal acceleration out of corners” and flatter, more stable behaviour during “complex manoeuvres”. Learnings from the Ferrari XX programme have also been incorporated into the 488 GTB, something that Ferrari says allows all drivers and not just professionals, to make the most of its electronic and vehicle control systems. It also claims the 488 GTB is “the most responsive production model there is”, with responses comparable to a track car. The 488 GTB has lapped Ferrari’s Fiorano test track in 1min 23sec – two seconds faster than the 458 Italia, and half a second quicker than the 458 Speciale. The dimensions of the 488 GTB – it is 4568mm in length, 1952mm in width and 1213mm in height – closely match the 458 Italia from which it has evolved. Its dry weight is 1370kg when equipped with lightweight options – 40kg more than the McLaren 650S. The new look, styled at the Ferrari Styling Centre, features several new aerodynamic features that improve downforce and reduce drag. Most notable is the addition of active aerodynamics at the rear through a ‘blown’ rear spoiler, where air is channelled from the base of the glass engine cover under the spoiler. This contributes to the 50% increase in downforce over the 458 Italia. Also new is a double front spoiler, an aerodynamic underbody, a large air intake at the front that references the 308 GTB, a diffuser with active flaps, new positioning for the exhaust flaps and new-look lights. The interior has been redesigned to be made more usable, including new switchgear, air vents and instrument panel. The multi-function steering wheel remains, while the infotainment system gets a new interface and graphics. The Spider followed the closed coupe model six months later, and supplies of that car are now reaching the UK. It is expected that this will be bigger seller of the car, as was the case with the 458 models.

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FIAT

Smallest, and oldest Fiat here were a number of examples of the Nuova 500, a model which celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2017. Known as project 110, the brief for the Nuova 500 was to create a micro-car that would not only carry on the tradition of the earlier Topolino, but which would also take sales away from the ever popular Lambretta and Vespa scooters of the day. It clearly needed to be smaller than the 600 which had been released with a conventional 4 cylinder engine. Not an easy task, but development started in 1953 and by August 1954, two designs were ready to be shown to Fiat management. They selected one, and serious development began. At first the car was referred to as the 400, as it was going to have a 400cc engine, but it was soon realised that this was just too small, so a larger 500cc air-cooled engine was developed. It was signed off in January 1956, with production starting in March 1957 in advance of a June launch. Fiat’s marketing department got busy, with hundreds of the new car taking to the streets of Turin, each with a pretty girl standing through the open sunroof that was a feature of all the early cars. The press loved it. 50 units were shipped to Britain, where the car made its debut at Brands Hatch, and again the reception was enthusiastic. But the orders just did not come in. Fiat went for a hasty rethink, relaunching the car at the Turin Show later that year. power was increased from 13 to 15 bhp, and the poverty spec was lessened a little, with headlight bezels, brightwork on the side and chrome hubcaps, a Nuova500 badge on the engine cover, winding side windows (the launch cars just had opening quarterlights) and the option of a heater fan. It was enough to get sales moving. The original car was still offered, at a lower price, called the Economy. In the first year of production, 28,452 Fiat 500s were made. Over the next 19 years, the car changed little in overall appearance, but there were a number of updates with more power and equipment added. A 500 Sport was launched in August 1958, with a more powerful version of the 499cc engine. It lost the soft top, having a ridged steel roof, to increase strength of the body. It was only available in grey with a red side flash. The first major changes came in 1960 with the 500D. This looks very similar to the Nuova, but with two key differences. One is the engine size: the D features an uprated 499 cc engine producing 17 bhp as standard, an engine which would be used right through until the end of the L in 1973; and the other is the roof: the standard D roof does not fold back as far as the roof on the Nuova, though it was also available as the “Transformable” with the same roof as the Nuova. The D still featured “suicide doors”. There were larger rear light clusters, more space in the front boot thanks to a redesign of the fuel tank and new indicators under the headlights. A year later, Fiat added a light on the rear-view mirrors and a windscreen washer, but the car still lacked a fuel gauge. Sales increased from 20,900 in 1960 to 87.000 in 1961, 132,000 in 1962 and by 1964, the last year of production, they hit 194,000 units. The D was replaced in 1965 by the 500F, which finally moved the door hinges from back to the front, owing to changes in Italian safety laws. There was a deeper windscreen and thinner door pillars, which increased the height of the car by 10mm, improving visibility for the driver. The 500F ran through to 1975, from 1968 alongside the more luxurious 500L which was added to the range in 1968. The L is easy to tell apart, with its bumper overriders. The final updates created the 500R, which incorporated many changes from the 126 under the skin of the classic shape, and in this form production continued alongside the newer 126 until 1976.

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Among my favourite cars of all time are the Fiat Dino Coupe and Spider and I was pleased to see an example of the Coupe here. They came about because of Enzo Ferrari’s need to homologate a V6 engine for Formula 2 racing cars. In 1965 the Commission Sportive Internationale de la FIA had drawn up new rules, to be enacted for the 1967 season. F2 engines were required to have no more than six cylinders, and to be derived from a production engine, from a road car homologated in the GT class and produced in at least 500 examples within 12 months. Since a small manufacturer like Ferrari did not possess the production capacity to reach such quotas, an agreement was signed with Fiat and made public on 1 March 1965: Fiat would produce the 500 engines needed for the homologation, to be installed in a yet unspecified GT car. The Fiat Dino was introduced as a 2-seater Spider at the Turin Motor Show in October 1966; a 2+2 Coupé version, built on a 270 mm (10.6 in) longer wheelbase, bowed a few months later at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1967. The two bodies showed very different lines, as they had been designed and were manufactured for Fiat by two different coachbuilders: the Spider by Pininfarina, and the Coupé by Bertone—where it had been sketched out by Giorgetto Giugiaro. Curiously the Spider type approval identified it as a 2+1 seater. The Spider had poorer interior trim than the Coupé, below par for its class: the dashboard was covered in vinyl, the metal-spoke steering wheel had a plastic rim, and the interior switchgear was derived from cheaper Fiat models.  After a few months this issue was addressed, and Spiders produced after February 1967 had a wood-rimmed steering wheel as well as a wood trim on the dashboard like the sister Coupé car had since the beginning. Option lists for both models were limited to radio, metallic paint, leather upholstery, and for the Spider a vinyl-covered hardtop with roll-bar style stainless steel trim. The car was offered with an all-aluminium DOHC 2.0 litre V6, coupled to a 5-speed manual transmission. The same 2.0-litre engine was used in mid-engined, Ferrari-built Dino 206 GT, which was introduced in pre-production form at the 1967 Turin Motor Show and went on sale in 1968. Fiat quoted 160 PS (158 hp) for the Fiat Dino, while in 1967 Ferrari—presenting the first prototype of the Dino 206 GT—claimed 180 hp despite both engines were made by Fiat workers in Turin on the same production line, without any discrimination as to their destination. Jean-Pierre Gabriel in “Les Ferraris de Turin” notes that, “La declaration de Ferrari ne reposait sur aucun fondament technique”—Ferrari’s statement had no technical basis. The real reason for this difference was a mistake in between quotes made in SAE and BHP power output. In 1969, both Ferrari and Fiat introduced new 2.4-litre Dino models. The Fiat Dino 2400 premiered in October 1969 at the Turin Motor show; besides the larger engine, another notable improvements was independent rear suspension.  The V6 now put out 180 PS, and used a cast iron instead of the previous light alloy engine block; the same engine was installed on the Dino 246 GT, Ferrari’s evolution of the 206. Whereas the original Dino was equipped with a rigid axle suspended by leaf springs and 4 shock absorbers, 2.4-litre cars used a coil-sprung independent rear suspension with 2 shock absorbers derived from the Fiat 130. Rather than engine power and absolute speed, the most important consequence of the larger displacement was a marked increase in torque, available at lower engine speeds; the Dino 2400 had much better pickup, and it was found more usable, even in city traffic. Other modifications went on to improve the car’s drivability and safety: larger diameter clutch, new dogleg ZF gearbox with revised gear ratios, wider section 205/70VR -14 tyres, and up-sized brake discs and callipers. Cosmetic changes were comparatively minor. Both models were now badged “Dino 2400”. On the coupé the previous silver honeycomb grille with the round Fiat logo on its centre had been replaced by a new black grille and a bonnet badge. A host of details were changed from chrome to matte black, namely part of the wheels, the vents on the front wings and the cabin ventilation outlets—the latter moved from next the side windows to the rear window. At the rear there were different tail lights. The spider also sported a new grille with two horizontal chrome bars, 5-bolts instead of knock-off wheels, as well as a new bumpers with rubber strips. Inside only the coupé received an entirely redesigned dashboard and new cloth seats, with optional leather seat upholstery; front seat headrests were standard on the coupé and optional on the spider. Spider and coupé bodies were produced respectively by Pininfarina and Bertone. 2.0-litre and early 2.4-litre cars were assembled by Fiat in Rivalta di Torino. Starting from December 1969 the Fiat Dino was assembled in Maranello on Ferrari’s production line, alongside the 246 GT. Between 1966 and 1969 there were 3,670 2.0-litre coupés and 1,163 2.0-litre spiders made; with only 420 built, the 2400 Spider is the rarest of the Fiat’s Dinos. Of the total 7,803 Fiat Dino produced, 74% were the popular coupés and only 26% were spiders. Spiders are worth big money now – good ones are over £100k – which means that the car is way beyond my means, but every time I see one, I go weak at the knees. To my eyes, it is one of the best looking cars ever made. The days of the cheap Coupe are over as well now. These were available for £15 – 20,000 only a few years ago, but those days are over, and you will probably be paying twice that, and values are only likely to go one way from here.

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The first 124 Spider made its debut at the Turin Show in 1966, and continued in production until the mid 1980s, bearing its designer, Pininfarina’s badges in later years when it remained popular in the American market. Early cars had 1400 and 1600cc engines, and these were gradually enlarged first 1800cc and then 2 litre, with fuel injection being added for more power and emissions compliance during the 1970s. Fiat spotted the potential of the car for more than just boulevard cruising, though, so in November 1972 they announced the Fiat Abarth 124 Rally, an overtly sporting version. Its main purpose was to receive FIA homologation in the special grand touring cars (Group 4) racing class, and replace the 1.6-litre Fiat Sport Spider rally car which had been campaigned. At the time, the 124 had already won the 1972 European Rally Championship at the hands of Raffaele Pinto and Gino Macaluso. The 124 Rally was added to the Sport Spider range, which included the 1600 and 1800 models; the first 500 examples produced were earmarked for the domestic Italian market. Amongst the most notable modifications over the standard spider there were independent rear suspension, engine upgrades, lightweight body panels, and a fixed hard top. In place of the usual rear solid axle, there was a Chapman-type McPherson strut independent suspension, supplemented by a longitudinal torque arm. At the front a radius rod on each side was added to the standard double wishbones. The Abarth-tuned type 132 AC 4.000 1.8-litre, twin-cam engine was brought from the standard 118 to 128 PS DIN by replacing the standard twin-choke carburettor with double vertical twin-choke Weber 44 IDF ones, and by fitting an Abarth exhaust with a dual exit exhaust The 9.8:1 compression ratio was left unchanged. The transmission was the all-synchronised 5-speed optional on the other Sport Spider models, and brakes were discs on all four corners. Despite the 20 kg (44 lb) 4-point roll bar fitted, kerb weight was 938 kg (2,068 lb), roughly 25 kg (55 lb) less than the regular 1.8-litre Sport Spider. The bonnet, boot lid and the fixed hard top were fibreglass, painted matt black, the rear window was perspex and the doors aluminium. Front and rear bumpers were deleted and replaced by simple rubber bumperettes. A single matte black wing mirror was fitted. Matte black wheel arch extensions housed 185/70 VR 13 Pirelli CN 36 tyres on 5.5 J × 13″ 4-spoke alloy wheels. Inside, the centre console, rear occasional seats, and glovebox lid were eliminated; while new features were anodised aluminium dashboard trim, a small three-spoke leather-covered Abarth steering wheel, and Recaro corduroy-and-leather bucket seats as an extra-cost option. The car carried Fiat badging front and rear, Abarth badges and “Fiat Abarth” scripts on the front wings, and Abarth wheel centre caps. Only three paint colours were available: Corsa red, white, and light blue.

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Another rarity is this 127 Series 3. The 127 was a hugely significant car for Fiat, and sold strongly across Europe, including in the UK, though a propensity to rust means that very few have survived. It was introduced in April 1971 as the replacement for the Fiat 850, and was initially only available as a two-door saloon. A three-door hatchback, using an identical body profile but with a full-depth rear door and folding rear seat, was launched the following year. This was Fiat’s first supermini-sized hatchback, along with a state-of-the-art transverse-engine/front-wheel-drive layout, with the transmission mounted on the end of the engine, both design ideas had been fully trialled since 1964, by Fiat’s Autobianchi subsidiary with the Autobianchi Primula and 1969 Autobianchi A112 and A111. The 1969 Fiat 128 was the first Fiat badged car to use the same transverse powertrain layout. The 127 used, as the A112, a shrunken version of the 128 platform and the rugged Fiat OHV 100 series 903 cc engine, that had powered the Autobianchi and, with various cylinder capacities, earlier generations of Fiat cars. The 127 also featured a unique transverse leaf spring suspension at the rear. Safety was another area of innovation – the 127 included an articulated steering column and crumple zones for progressive deformation under impact. The car was one of the first of the modern superminis, and won praise for its utilisation of space (80 percent of the floor space was available for passengers and luggage) as well as its road-holding. It was launched a year before the comparable Renault 5, and before the end of the 1970s most mass market European manufacturers were producing similar cars, notable examples being the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo, while General Motors added a three-door hatchback to the Opel Kadett range, which was reworked for British production and sold as the Vauxhall Chevette. It was also the first car fitted with an all-polypropylene bumper on steel support.  The 127 was an instant success, winning the European Car of the Year award for 1972, and quickly became one of the best-selling cars in Europe for several years. It was the third Fiat in six years to receive this accolade. In June 1974, slightly over three years after the model’s introduction, Fiat reported that the one millionth 127 had been completed at the Mirafiori plant in Turin. The (in its time) hugely successful Fiat 600 had taken seven years to reach that same milestone. The Series 1 car changed little during its lifetime. However, in May 1973 saloons became available in both standard and deluxe versions. In 1975 the 127 Special variant was released which featured a restyled front grille and detail changes to the interior. The deluxe version was differentiated by its reclining front seats and opening hinged rear side windows as standard equipment. During the next couple of years the Fiat 850, which had initially been marketed alongside the 127, was withdrawn from most markets. The Series 2 version debuted in May 1977. It featured a restyled front and rear, a new dashboard (although almost identical in layout to that of the Series 1), larger rear side windows (using rear quarter pressings derived from those used on the Brazil market Fiat 147) and the option of the 1049 cc engine – uniquely for the 127 this was the five-bearing OHC “Brazil” 124 series engine from the 147 rather than the Fiat OHC unit from the 128. The tailgate was extended and now reached nearly to the rear bumper, addressing complaints about the high lip over which luggage had to be lifted for loading into the earlier 127 hatchbacks. a sporty version made its debut in the autumn of 1978, and it is these cars you see most often these days. The Series 3 was launched in Italy in January 1982 and soon reached other European markets. It is distinguishable from the Series 2 by a more assertively plastic grille. The addition of a corresponding panel at the rear of the vehicle implied a new ‘house style’ inspired by the recently introduced Ritmo/Strada range. The car received a completely new dashboard design and interior, again following the design language first seen in the Ritmo. The 1301 cc Fiat SOHC engine was also introduced as an option for the Series 3. By this time, though, the 127 was an old design and it was under pressure from a plethora of more modern rivals from just about every major manufacturer. The 127 was replaced as Fiat’s high volume product in this sector by the Fiat Uno in January 1983, though versions manufactured in South America continued in production till 1995: Fiat imported the South American 127 Unificata to Europe, but not the UK, until 1987.

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Although also pretty rare these days, there are a few 131 Mirafiori cars left in the UK, and the one seen here, Jason Hodgkinson’s Series 3 1400CL is perhaps the most visible of those survivors, as he brings it to lots of events during the course of a year. Named after the Turin suburb where it was built, the Fiat 131 was a much more conventional car than the innovative 128 and 127 which it joined in the range. The Fiat 131 employed construction techniques and technologies typical of its day. The body was a steel monocoque. Designed and styled on the typical three-box design, with distinct boxes for the engine compartment, passenger compartment, and boot. The major mechanical components were also conventional and contemporary, but with some notable advances. The 131 employed a front engine, rear-wheel drive layout. The engines were all inline-four types, derived from those used in the outgoing 124 range, with a cast iron cylinder block and aluminium alloy cylinder head. Initially the 131 was offered only with pushrod valve gear, which offered the innovation of being the worldwide first engine with OHV valve gear and a belt driven camshaft. Only later in the model’s life came the well known double overhead camshaft (DOHC) engines which used a toothed timing belt. Fuel supply was via a single Weber ADF twin-choke carburettor. Traditional contact breaker ignition systems were used, usually with Marelli distributors. The suspension system utilised fully independent front suspension, with MacPherson struts, track control arms and anti-roll bar. The rear suspension was quite advanced (when using a solid live rear axle), in that the rear axle was controlled by double unequal length trailing arms and a panhard rod, with coil springs and direct acting dampers. This design proved far superior to many of its contemporaries, especially with vehicle stability and handling. The car’s interior offered another worldwide first in having the secondary switches in the dashboard illuminated by a central bulb somewhere in the dashboard and fibre optics from there to the switches. The Fiat 131 Mirafiori was introduced at the 55th Turin Motor Show in late October 1974. The 131 came with a choice of a 1,297 cc or 1,585 cc OHV inline-four engines, both from the engine family first introduced on the Fiat 124. Both engines were fitted with a single twin-choke Weber 32 ADF downdraught carburettor. A four-speed manual transmission was standard, with a 5-speed manual and a 3-speed torque converter automatic optional on the 1600 engine only. The initial range comprised eleven different models. There were three body styles: 2-door saloon, 4-door saloon and Familiare station wagon (Estate on the British market). Station wagons were built by SEAT in Spain, but were labelled Fiats for all non-Spanish markets. Trim levels were two; the entry-level 131 Mirafiori (also known as “Normale” or “Standard”) had single square headlamps, wheels and dished hubcap from the 124, and simplified interior furnishings. Next was the better appointed 131 Mirafiori Special (or simply “S”), which could be distinguished from the base model by its quadruple circular headlamps, specific grille, side rubbing strips, chrome window surrounds, and rubber bumper inserts. Inside it added different instrumentation with triple square dials, a padded adjustable steering wheel, cloth upholstery, and reclining seats. Additionally the more sophisticated options—such as air conditioning, tachometer, limited slip differential and vinyl roof—were exclusive to the Special. Each body style could be combined with either of the engines and trim levels—save for the Special estate which only came with the larger engine. The 131 got a minor facelift in 1978. New DOHC, or “Twin Cam” engines arrived, and these models were badged as Supermirafiori. The biggest change exterior-wise for the Series 2 was larger rectangular shaped front lights, new bumpers, new bigger rear lights and new interior trim including a chunky, single-spoked steering wheel. Later in 1978, the 2-door sporting version Racing (Mirafiori Sport in the UK) with 115 PS twin cam engine, was launched. This car had four round headlights (the inner headlights being smaller than the outer ones, unlike any other Mirafiori model produced), different grille, spoilers and extended wheel arches, and a short-throw 5 speed gearbox. The Racing had top speed of 180 km/h (110 mph). Diesel engined versions also had four round headlights (equally sized), and a noticeable (and characteristic) bump in the hood to accommodate the taller engine. The 131 was updated again in March 1981. Production of the Racing/Sport versions ceased, although these were sold well into 1982. The same 2.0 twin cam engine went to the Supermirafiori. The car received a slightly updated interior (instruments, single-piece glovebox lid), whilst lower rubbing strips found their way onto all models up to CL specification. The Supermirafiori received larger lower door cladding. Mechanically, Mirafiori versions now received overhead cam engines rather than pushrod versions; a new 1.4 litre engine and a revised 1.6 litre. Also new were the clutch and gearboxes, a tweaked suspension was also introduced and the fuel tank increased in size by three litres. In June 1981, a new sport version, the Volumetrico Abarth, was introduced to some markets, with a supercharged version of the familiar 2 litre twin-cam. This car, also known as the 2000 TC Compressore, was built in a small series (about 200 units) and could reach 190 km/h (118 mph).In 1983, the production of saloon version was discontinued, but the estate, now named 131 Maratea, remained in production with two engine choices (115 PS 2.0 TC and 72 PS 2.5 D) until 1985, when they were replaced with the Ritmo-based Regata Weekend. These last versions featured four round headlights and the by-now familiar five-bar grille. In total, 1,513,800 units were produced in Italy.

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Conceived to replace the 127, Fiat launched the Uno in January 1983, just one day before the equally iconic Peugeot 205. Both were huge sellers, and deservedly so too, but it was the Fiat that sold in greater quantity, with over 8 million examples produced. It was Italy’s best selling car, and by some margin, throughout its 10 year production life, though you might find that hard to believe now, as they were are not a common sight even in Italy. Seen here is an example of the facelifted model which was first shown at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 1989, an attempt to keep the car competitive with newer designs like the new Ford Fiesta and Citroen AX, and Renault’s forthcoming new Clio. The bodywork at the nose was updated and a different tailgate was fitted, improving the drag coefficient to Cd 0.30,  and matching the corporate look of the then new Fiat Tipo. The interior was also revised. The pod switchgear was replaced by stalks and an effort was made to stop the dashboard rattles of the Mark I. At this time, the old 1.1 litre engine was replaced by a new FIRE version, and a new Fiat Tipo-derived 1.4 litre (1,372 cc) engine replaced the Ritmo/Strada-derived 1.3 litre in both naturally aspirated and turbo versions. A 1.4 litre Uno Turbo could reach a claimed 204 km/h (127 mph), while the 1.0 version only managed 140–145 km/h (87–90 mph) depending on which transmission was fitted. The Uno was replaced by the Punto in late 1993, although production for some markets continued for some time after that. There were a couple of the Turbo ie models here, in pre- and post-facelift form, as well as one of the less potent 60 cars, in facelift guise.

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Continuing on the theme of rare was of the less than 10 of the UK’s remaining Tipo Sedicivalvole cars. The Tipo (Type 160 in development speak) was styled by the I.DE.A Institute design house, and produced between 1988 and 1995. The Tipo was initially available only as a five door hatchback. The car was made entirely out of galvanised body panels to avoid rust, and was built on a completely new Fiat platform, which was later used on Fiat, Alfa-Romeo, and Lancia models. It stood out because of its boxy styling that gave it innovative levels of packaging, rear passenger room being greater than that in a rear-wheel-drive Ford Sierra, but in a car that was of a similar size to the smaller Ford Escort. This type of design was comparable to the smaller Fiat Uno, which was launched five years earlier. For 1989, the Tipo won the European Car of the Year award. Unveiled in January 1988, the Tipo went on sale in Europe during June 1988, and on the right-hand drive UK market from 16 July 1988, initially base (i.e.), DGT, (early Italian market DGT models were badged as ‘digit’, presumably in recognition of the digital dash, but this was quickly changed to DGT after a dispute over ownership of the name, leading to confusion about whether the model was diesel-powered) S, SX and 16v trim levels were available. Power outputs ranged  from 57 to 146 bhp, with a engines of 1.1, 1.4, 1.6, 1.7, 1.8, 1.8 16v, 2.0, and 2.0 16v litre petrol engines, as well as a 1.7 and  1.9 diesel, and 1.9 turbodiesel, though not all of these were available in all markets. The 1.1 base engine was widely regarded as underpowered for the car, which was otherwise roomy for five adults and with above average equipment. This version was never sold in the UK, which initially received only the 1.4 and 1.6 versions of the Tipo, with the 1.8 and 2.0 petrol engines and the diesel powered units not being imported until the early 1990s. The smaller Uno had been a huge success there during the 1980s (peaking at more than 40,000 sales in 1988) and it was widely expected by both Fiat and by the motoring press that the Tipo would prove similarly successful, not least as the car launched into a favourable market in the UK, where none of the “big three” (Ford, Vauxhall, and Austin Rover) had launched an all new car of this size for at least four years. However, these three marques all had new Tipo sized products within three years, and increased competition reduced the Tipo’s sales. Initially it won plaudits for its innovative and practical design, as well as its good handling. It was originally sold with only 1.4 and 1.6 petrol engines, although the 16 valve 1.8 and 2.0 engines with fuel injection became available in the early 1990s. The digital dashboard of higher end models proved to be controversial and unreliable. The addition of the more powerful models did little to help, even though these were pretty good. The top of the range was the 2.0 Sedicivalvole (16 valves), which took its engine from the Lancia Thema, and with a much smaller and lighter bodyshell to house it, this power unit brought superb performance and handling, and a top speed of around 130 mph (210 km/h), which made it faster than the Volkswagen Golf GTI of that era. Many thought it to be one of the best cars in its class at the time. The Tipo was facelifted in 1993 and a three door version was added, as well as minor exterior changes (the two evolutions of the car can be differentiated by their slightly different radiator grilles and headlamps) and improved specifications; safety features like stiffer bodyshells, driver’s airbag, and side impact bars were added to the range. This included the new S, SX, and SLX trim levels, as well as a new eight valve 2.0 GT model. The Tipo ceased production in the summer of 1995, and was replaced by the three door Fiat Bravo and five-door Fiat Brava.

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Now quite rare, there was an example of the first generation Punto here. Internally codenamed Project 176, the Punto was announced in September 1993 as a replacement for the ageing Fiat Uno and launched in the end of 1993 or the beginning of 1994, depending on the market. The Fiat Punto was voted European Car of the Year for 1995, defeating rival Volkswagen Polo by only 78 points. The Punto was designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro and was available as a three-door or five door hatchback, a two-door cabriolet and a three-door panel van.  As with the majority of the new Fiat group models, suspension was all independent, composed of MacPherson struts at the front and trailing arms at the rear. Entry level in the Punto range were the 1.1 and 1.2 L petrol engines and the 1.7 diesel engine. The 1.2 engine’s actual capacity is 1242 cc, available in three versions. The first, was fitted in the Punto ELX 75 and produced 75 hp at 6000 rpm while the second, fitted to Punto ELX 85 produced 86 hp at 6000 rpm. The third was a 60 hp engine which eventually replaced the 1.1 54 hp engine. A Sporting model was also available with a 1.6 8v updated 128 SOHC engine, producing 88 hp, later replaced in 1997 by the 1.2 16v FIRE engine used in the 85 ELX, and a power drop to 86 hp. The top of the range model was the 136 PS 1.4 GT, using an evolution of the turbocharged 128 SOHC engine originally found in the Fiat Uno Turbo Mk II – capable of running over 200 km/h (120 mph) and reaching 100 km/h (62 mph) in 7.9 seconds, which came fitted with a five speed manual gearbox. During the years the GT was made in three different “series” with power 136 PS (1993–1995),133 PS (1995–1997) and 130 PS (1997–1999). A cabriolet (convertible) version was also available; built by Bertone (rather than at the main Fiat factory), it featured an electric powered fully retracting roof and was one of the cheapest open top cars in the world at the time. In Europe, it was also made with a manual roof. Available in both ELX and SX trim, initially powered by the 90 hp 1.6 Mpi unit (replaced in 1995 by the 86 hp 1.2 litre 16v FIRE unit. Approximately 55,000 of these were built between 1994 and 1999, although the last cars were registered in 2000. The regular Punto sold in huge numbers, but is now quite a rare sighting.

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The Fiat Coupe is one of those cars which became an almost instant classic. Developed as the Tipo 175, the Coupe was introduced at the Brussels Motor Show in 1993. It is perhaps best remembered for its distinctive, angular design, with unique scalloped side panels. The body was designed by Chris Bangle from Centro Stile Fiat, while the interior was designed by Pininfarina, and the car media headlines in auto magazines during 1992 after several spy shots were taken revealing the car on test. On its launch in 1993, the Coupé was available with a four-cylinder, 2.0 litre 16V engine, in both turbo (190 PS) and normally aspirated (139 PS) versions. Both engines were later versions of Fiat’s twin-cam design and inherited from the Lancia Delta Integrale. 1996 brought in a 1.8 litre 131 PS 16V engine (not available in the UK), along with a 2.0-litre 5-cylinder 20V (147 PS), and a 5-cylinder 2.0-litre 20V turbo (220 PS). The turbocharged 16 and 20 valve versions were equipped with a very efficient Viscodrive limited-slip differential to counter the understeer that plagues most powerful front wheel drive cars. Additionally, the coupe featured independent suspension all round: at the front MacPherson struts and lower wishbones anchored to an auxiliary crossbeam, offset coil springs and anti-roll bar; at the rear, trailing arms mounted on an auxiliary subframe, coil springs and an anti-roll bar. The car was well received at launch, and the 5 cylinder engines just made it even better, with sales increasing slightly for a couple of years, but then they started to drop off, as Coupe models in general fell from favour. 1998 saw the release of the Limited Edition which featured red Brembo brake calipers at the front and standard red calipers at the back, a body kit, push-button start, six-speed gearbox, strut brace to make the chassis more rigid and Recaro seats with red leather inserts which offered better support than the standard 20VT seats. The LE was produced in Black, Red, Vinci Grey (metallic), Crono Grey and Steel Grey (metallic). The bodywork of the LE also benefitted from titanium coloured insert around the light bezels and the wing mirrors. Each Limited Edition (‘LE’) Coupé was manufactured with a badge located by the rear-view mirror which contained that car’s unique number (it is rumoured that Michael Schumacher was the original owner of LE No. 0001, however when the question was raised to him personally he confirmed he had owned one, but a red one, while LE No. 0001 is a Crono Grey one). Originally a spokesman from Fiat stated only approximately 300 Limited Editions would be built. The final number  was much higher, perhaps as many as 1400. This angered many of the owners of the original 300 cars and almost certainly impacted residual values. The original number however was quoted by a Fiat UK spokesman, so probably that number only applied to the UK market. The numbered plaque on every Coupe features enough space for 4 numbers. In 1998 the 2.0-litre 5-cylinder 20V got a Variable Inlet System which brought the power to 154 PS. The 2.0-litre 5-cylinder 20V Turbo received a 6-speed gearbox and a large, satin gloss push starter button. In addition, the sills of the Turbo version were colour matched with the body paintwork. Fiat also released the 2.0 litre  5 cylinder Turbo ‘Plus’. This model came with an option kit that made it virtually identical to the LE, except for minor interior design changes and without the unique identification badge of the LE. In 2000 Fiat released another special version of the Fiat Coupé. Featuring the 1.8-litre engine, it was only available throughout mainland Europe and marketed as an elegant and affordable edition. Fiat also made changes throughout the rest of the range: new seats, side skirts and wheels for the 2.0-litre 20V model, ‘Plus’ edition wheels on turbo models and Fiat manufactured seats on the ‘Plus’ that were virtually identical to the original Plus Recaro seats with the addition of extra airbags. The 2.0-litre 20V Turbo model is capable of accelerating from 0–100 km/h (0 to 62 mph) in 6.5 seconds and 6.3 seconds for the 20v Turbo Plus, with a top speed of 240 km/h (149 mph) or 250 km/h (155 mph) with later 6-speed gearbox. When production finally stopped in September 2000, a total number of 72,762 units had been produced. There are still well over 1000 units in the UK, so this is a Fiat which has proved durable as well as good to drive, and to look at.

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After the 124 Spider ended production, there was a wait of over 10 years before Fiat would produce another open-topped car. Developed between 1990 and 1994 under the project name Tipo B Spider 176, the Barchetta, a small open topped rival to the Mazda MX5 was designed by Andreas Zapatinas and Alessandro Cavazza under the supervision of Peter Barrett Davis and other car designers at the Fiat Centro Stile, and prototyping was carried out by Stola. Production began in February 1995 and lasted until June 2005, with a brief pause due to the bankruptcy of coachbuilder Maggiora. The Barchetta was based on the chassis of the Mark 1 Fiat Punto. The Barchetta has 1,747 cc DOHC petrol engine fitted with variable camshaft timing, used for the first time in a Fiat production car, after being patented in 1970. The engine has 132 PS, and with a weight of 1056 kg (2328 lb) without air conditioning can accelerate to 100 km/h in 8.9 seconds and on to a top speed of 200 km/h (124 mph). It came in various trim levels which offered different features, for example, diamond cross stitch – patterned red leather instead of the standard black leather or fabric seats, alloy wheels instead of steel wheels, or fog-lights as an option. Arguably one of the biggest external cosmetic changes was made by the addition of the third brake light, first introduced by Fiat on the Lido and Riviera in 2000, and on sub models thereafter. The bodies were welded at ILCAS in Sparone Canavese, and final assembly was done in Chivasso by the coachbuilder Maggiora. After Maggiora’s bankruptcy in 2002, Fiat relocated production of the Barchetta to its Mirafiori plant and resumed production two years later. The most notable changes were the revised front spoiler and rear bumper. Production of the car eventually stopped in June 2005, with around 57,700 cars having been built. Production of the Barchetta was limited to LHD cars only, even though the car was marketed and sold in two RHD markets, the United Kingdom and Japan.

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Cars from the current product range were here, too, a mix of those brought along by the local dealer as well as some that their proud owners brought. As well as the familiar 500, there was one of the new limited edition Riva models here.

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Final Fiat was the recently launched 124 Spider.

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LAMBORGHINI

Last year there was a special Lamborghini theme, with an example of every regular production model type present, and a special guest of honour from the Lamborghini family. The marque held centre stage again this year, and whilst there were not quite as many different model types here, most of the older cars conspicuous by their absence.

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Oldest of the Lamborghini designs here were a couple of Countach models. Which small boy (and perhaps car loving girl) did not lust after a Countach back in the 1970s and 1980s. A dramatic looking car, this was the stuff of dreams that you would only ever see at the London or NEC Motor Shows. Countach first made an appearance, as a concept in 1971, but it was 1973 before the production car made its debut, and despite unfortunate timing with fuel shortages and a recession, and a number of financial problems for its maker, the car sold well throughout its production life. The Countach entered production as the LP400 with a 3929 cc engine delivering 370 hp. The first production Countach was delivered to an Australian in 1974. Externally, little had altered from the final form of the prototype except at the rear, where conventional lights replaced the futuristic light clusters of the prototype. The styling had become rather more aggressive than Gandini’s original conception, with the required large air scoops and vents to keep the car from overheating, but the overall shape was still very sleek. The original LP400 rode on the quite narrow tyres of the time, but their narrowness and the slick styling meant that this version had the lowest drag coefficient of any Countach model. The emblems at the rear simply read “Lamborghini” and “Countach”, with no engine displacement or valve arrangement markings as is found on later cars. By the end of 1977, the company had produced 158 Countach LP400s. In 1978, a new LP400 S model was introduced. Though the engine was slightly downgraded from the LP400 model (350 bhp), the most radical changes were in the exterior, where the tyres were replaced with 345/35R15 Pirelli P7 tyres; the widest tyres available on a production car at the time, and fibreglass wheel arch extensions were added, giving the car the fundamental look it kept until the end of its production run. An optional V-shaped spoiler was available over the rear deck, which, while improving high-speed stability, reduced the top speed by at least 16 km/h (10 mph). Most owners ordered the wing. The LP400 S handling was improved by the wider tires, which made the car more stable in cornering. Aesthetically, some prefer the slick lines of the original, while others prefer the more aggressive lines of the later models, beginning with the LP400 S. The standard emblems (“Lamborghini” and “Countach”) were kept at the rear, but an angular “S” emblem was added after the “Countach” on the right side. 1982 saw another improvement, this time giving a bigger, more powerful 4754 cc engine. The bodywork was unaltered, however the interior was given a refresh. This version of the car is sometimes called the 5000 S, which may cause confusion with the later 5000 QV. 321 of these cars were built. Two prototypes of the 1984 Countach Turbo S were built by Lamborghini, of which one is known to exist. The Turbo S weighed 1,515 kg (3,340 lb), while its 4.8 litre twin-turbo V12 had a claimed maximum power output of 758 PS and a torque output of 876 N·m (646 lb·ft), giving the car an acceleration of 0–100 km/h (0–62 mph) in 3.7 seconds and a top speed of 335 km/h (208 mph). A turbo adjuster, located beneath the steering wheel, could be used to adjust the boost pressure from 0.7 bar to 1.5 bar at which the engine performed its maximum power output. The Turbo S has 15″ wheels with 255/45 tyres on the front and 345/35 on the rear. In 1985 the engine design evolved again, as it was bored and stroked to 5167 cc and given four valves per cylinder—quattrovalvole in Italian, hence the model’s name, Countach 5000 Quattrovalvole or 5000 QV in short. The carburettors were moved from the sides to the top of the engine for better breathing—unfortunately this created a hump on the engine deck, reducing the already poor rear visibility to almost nothing. Some body panels were also replaced by Kevlar. In later versions of the engine, the carburettors were replaced with fuel injection. Although this change was the most notable on the exterior, the most prominent change under the engine cover was the introduction of fuel injection, with the Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection, providing 414 bhp, rather than the six Weber carburettors providing 455 bhp. As for other markets, 1987 and 1988 model Quattrovalvoles received straked sideskirts. 610 cars were built. The first of the Countach models here was a 5000Qv.

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The second example of the model was one of the Countach Anniversary cars, produced in 1988 to mark the 25th anniversary of car production. Although mechanically very similar to the 5000QV, the Anniversary sported considerable restyling. Notably, enlargement and extension of the rear ‘air-box’ intake-ducts was among other refinements undertaken (extending them to a more gradual incline further in-keeping with aerodynamic-streamlining), while the secondary pair of debossed ducts, originally situated further behind them, were brought forward and relocated directly on top, encompassing refashioned fins now running longitudinally rather than transversely. Additionally, further reconstruction of an already modified engine-bay cover, from a concept consisting of dual-raised sections and tri-ducting, to one that embodies a centre-raised section incorporating dual-ducting become another feature. Various redevelopments to the rear-end were made; most notably the introduction of a rear bumper extending outwardly from the lower-portion. These styling changes were unpopular with many—particularly features such as the fin strakes within the primary rear-intake-ducts openings, which appeared to mimic the Ferrari Testarossa, though providing crucial improved engine cooling. Nonetheless it was only outsold by the QV model. The Anniversary edition was produced up until 1990 before being superseded by the Lamborghini Diablo.

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Something of a departure for Lamborghini was the next oldest model here, the LM002, the brand’s first four wheel drive model. Although it was not introduced until 1986, its origins go back nearly a decade before that. Lamborghini built its first military vehicle, a prototype vehicle code-named the “Cheetah”, in 1977. Lamborghini had designed the vehicle with hopes of selling it to companies in the oil exploration and production industry. The original Cheetah prototype had a rear-mounted Chrysler V8 engine. The only finished prototype was never tested by the US military, only demonstrated to them by its designer, Rodney Pharis. It was later sold to Teledyne Continental Motors by MTI and is apparently still in the US. This led Lamborghini to develop the LM001, which was very similar to the Cheetah, but had an AMC V8 engine. It was finally determined that the engine being mounted in the rear caused too many unfavourable handling characteristics in an offroad vehicle, and the LMA002 was built with an entirely new chassis, moving the engine (now the V12 out of the Lamborghini Countach) to the front. After much testing and altering of the prototype, it was finally given a serial number and became the first LM002. The production model was unveiled at the Brussels Auto Show in 1986. It was dubbed the “Rambo-Lambo”. Civilian models were outfitted with a full luxury package, including full leather trim, tinted power windows, air conditioning, and a premium stereo mounted in a roof console. In order to meet the vehicle’s tire needs, Lamborghini commissioned Pirelli to create the Pirelli Scorpion tires with custom, run-flat tread designs. These were made specifically for the LM and were offered in two different tread designs, one for mixed use and the other for sand use only. These tyres could be run virtually flat without risk and could handle the desert heat, the loading, and the speeds of the LM. The LM002 was fitted with a 290-litre fuel tank. For those requiring even more power, the Lamborghini L804 type 7.2 litre marine V12, more commonly found in Class 1 offshore powerboats, could be specified. In 1988, Lamborghini sent an LM002 to a team of special engineers with the intention of making it capable of participating in the Paris Dakar Rally. They stripped it of anything that added unnecessary weight and gave it an upgraded suspension, engine modifications which brought it to 600 hp, full roll cage, plexiglas windows, and GPS equipment. Funding ran out before it could officially be entered in competition, although it did participate in the Rallye des Pharaons in Egypt and another in Greece, both times driven by Sandro Munari. There are quite a few of these cars in the UK, though it takes an event like this for you to stand any chance of seeing one.

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At a time when the company was financed by the Swiss-based Mimran brothers, Lamborghini began development of what was codenamed Project 132 in June 1985 as a replacement for the Countach model. The brief stated that its top speed had to be at least 315 km/h (196 mph). The design of the car was contracted to Marcello Gandini, who had designed its two predecessors. When Chrysler bought the company in 1987, providing money to complete its development, its management was uncomfortable with Gandini’s designs and commissioned its design team in Detroit to execute a third extensive redesign, smoothing out the trademark’s sharp edges and corners of Gandini’s original design, and leaving him famously unimpressed. In fact, Gandini was so disappointed with the “softened” shape that he would later realise his original design in the Cizeta-Moroder V16T. The car became known as the Diablo, carrying on Lamborghini’s tradition of naming its cars after breeds of fighting bulls. The Diablo was named after a ferocious bull raised by the Duke of Veragua in the 19th century, famous for fighting an epic battle with ‘El Chicorro’ in Madrid on July 11, 1869 In the words of Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson, the Diablo was designed “solely to be the biggest head-turner in the world.” The Diablo was presented to the public for sale on January 21, 1990. Its power came from a 5.7 litre 48-valve version of the existing Lamborghini V12 featuring dual overhead cams and computer-controlled multi-point fuel injection, producing a maximum output of 499 PS and 580 N·m (428 lb/ft) of torque. The vehicle could reach 100 km/h in about 4.5 seconds, with a top speed of 202 mph. The Diablo was rear-wheel drive and the engine was mid-mounted to aid its weight balance. The Diablo came better equipped than the Countach; standard features included fully adjustable seats and steering wheel, electric windows, an Alpine stereo system, and power steering from 1993 onwards. Anti-lock brakes were not initially available, although they would eventually be used. A few options were available, including a custom-moulded driver’s seat, remote CD changer and subwoofer, rear spoiler, factory fitted luggage set and an exclusive Breguet clock for the dash. The Diablo VT was introduced in 1993. Although the VT differed from the standard Diablo in a number of ways, by far the most notable change was the addition of all wheel drive, which made use of a viscous centre differential (a modified version of LM002’s 4WD system). This provided the new nomenclature for the car (VT stands for viscous traction). The new drivetrain could direct up to 25% of the torque to the front wheels to aid traction during rear wheel slip, thus significantly improving the handling characteristics of the car. Other improvements debuting on the VT included front air intakes below the driving lamps to improve brake cooling, larger intakes in the rear arches, a more ergonomic interior with a revised dashboard, electronically adjustable dampers, four-piston brake calipers, power steering, and minor engine refinements. Many of these improvements, save the four-wheel drive system, soon transferred to the base Diablo, making the cars visually nearly identical. Further updates would follow before the car gave way to the Murcielago in 2001. The Diablo sold in greater numbers than its predecessor with 2898 examples being made during its 11 year production life.  There were a couple here, with a VT and one of the later machines with the faired-in headlights as well as the explosive SV.

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In its turn, the Diablo gave way to the Murcielago in 2001. Taking its name from the Spanish for “bat”, this was Lamborghini’s first new design in eleven years and more importantly, the brand’s first new model under the ownership of German parent company Audi, which was manifest in a much higher level of quality and reliability. The Murcielago was styled by Peruvian-born Belgian Luc Donckerwolke, Lamborghini’s head of design from 1998 to 2005. Initially it was only available as a Coupe. The Murciélago was an all-wheel drive, mid-engined supersports car. With an angular design and an exceptionally low slung body, the highest point of the roof is just under 4 feet above the ground. One of the vehicle’s most distinguishing features are its scissor doors. which lends to the extreme image. First-generation Murciélagos, produced between 2001 and 2006, were powered by a Lamborghini V12 that traces its roots back to the company’s beginnings in the 1960s. The rear differential is integrated with the engine itself, with a viscous coupling centre differential providing drive to the front wheels. Power is delivered through a 6-speed manual transmission. The Murciélago suspension uses an independent double-wishbone design, and bodywork features carbon fiber, steel and aluminium parts. The rear spoiler and the active air intakes integrated into the car’s shoulders are electromechanically controlled, deploying automatically only at high speeds in an effort to maximise both aerodynamic and cooling efficiency. The first generation cars were produced between 2001 and 2006, and known simply as Murciélago, sometimes Murciélago VT. Their V12 engines produced just under 580 PS (572 hp), and powered the car to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 3.8 seconds. Subsequent versions incorporated an alphanumeric designation to the name Murciélago, which indicated their engine configuration and output. However, the original cars are never referred to as “LP 580s”. The Murciélago Roadster was introduced in 2004. Primarily designed to be an open top car, it employed a manually attached soft roof as cover from adverse weather, but a warning on the windshield header advised the driver not to exceed 100 mph (160 km/h) with the top in place. The designer used the B-2 stealth bomber, the Wally 118 WallyPower yacht, and architect Santiago Calatrava’s Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències in Valencia, Spain as his inspiration for the roadster’s revised rear pillars and engine cover. In March 2006, Lamborghini unveiled a new version of its halo car at the Geneva Motor Show: the Murciélago LP 640. The new title incorporated the car’s name, along with an alphanumeric designation which indicated the engine’s orientation (Longitudinale Posteriore), along with the newly updated power output. With displacement now increased to 6.5 litres, the new car made 640 PS ( 631 hp) at 8000 rpm. The Murciélago’s exterior received a minor facelift. Front and rear details were revised, and side air intakes were now asymmetrical with the left side feeding an oil cooler. A new single outlet exhaust system incorporated into the rear diffuser, modified suspension tuning, revised programming and upgraded clutch for the 6-speed “e-Gear” automated sequential transmission with launch control rounded out the performance modifications. Interior seating was also re-shaped to provide greater headroom, and a new stereo system formed part of the updated dashboard. Optional equipment included Carbon fibre-reinforced Silicon Carbide (C/SiC) ceramic composite brakes, chrome paddle shifters and a glass engine cover. At the 2006 Los Angeles Auto Show, Lamborghini announced that the roadster version of the Murciélago would also be updated to LP 640 status. At the 2009 Geneva Motor Show, Lamborghini unveiled the ultimate version of the Murciélago, the LP 670–4 SuperVeloce. The SV moniker had previously appeared on the Diablo SV, and Miura. SV variants are more extreme and track-oriented, and are released at the end of each model’s production run. The SuperVeloce’s V12 produced 670 PS (661 hp) at 8000 rpm and 660 N·m (490 lbf·ft) of torque at 6500 rpm, thanks to revised valve timing and upgraded intake system. The car’s weight was also reduced by 100 kg (220 lb) through extensive use of carbon fibre inside and out. A new lighter exhaust system was also used. As a result of the extensive weight loss, the SV had a power-to-weight ratio of 429 bhp/ton. Also standard were the LP 640’s optional 15-inch carbon-ceramic disc brakes with 6 piston calipers. The original production plan for the SV was limited to 350 cars, , but in fact only 186 LP 670-4s were produced before the factory had to make room for the new Aventador production line. Numbered cars 1–350 do not represent the order in which cars were manufactured. Only 5-6 were made with manual transmission. Production of the Murciélago ended on November 5, 2010, with a total run of 4,099 cars. Its successor, the Aventador, was released at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show.

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The Gallardo was launched in 2003, and stayed in production over 10 years, In excess of 10,000 were made, making it by some margin the most popular Lamborghini yet made. During the long life, lots of different variants were produced with a mixture of all wheel drive and rear wheel power only, open topped bodies, and lightened Superleggera models. Several different ones were on show here.

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The Aventador came in 2012, to take the place of the Murcielago, and it remains every inch a true Lamborghini, with bold looks and an awesome sound track from its 7 litre engine. More recently, the SV model has been added to the range, and there were a surprising number of these on show here. There have only been three previous Lamborghini models labelled SV (for Superveloce), and they have all been very special. This one is, too. It has a significant power upgrade over the regular Aventador, churning out 740bhp from a 6.5-litre naturally aspirated V12 engine that revs to 8500rpm. Lamborghini chose not go go down the forced induction route for the extra power, but rather created a whopping, easier-breathing engine in the middle of the car, with a new exhaust and a raised rev limit over the standard V12. It also makes 509lb ft at 5500rpm.  It is mated to a single-clutch automated manual gearbox with an improved shift calibration, and more significantly still, an SV is an impressive 50kg lighter than the regular Aventador. There are new door skins and a couple of lighter carbonfibre panels, clad over the carbonfibre monocoque, but I suspect the real weight saving comes in the stripped-out interior. Lamborghini quotes a dry weight of 1525kg, which you could probably make closer to 1700kg by the time it sits at the kerb. Other changes include a big rear wing that gives serious downforce. Magnetorheological adaptive dampers are standard on the SV, as is dynamic steering – which changes ratio depending on road speed and a host of other factors like how much of a ‘bung’ you give the car on the way into a corner.  Whilst the regular Aventador did not receive a totally rapturous reaction from the press on launch, they all seem to have loved this one.

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Newest Lamborghini is the Huracan, a replacement for the Gallardo. The Huracán made its auto show debut at the March 2014 Geneva Auto Show, and was released in the second quarter of 2014. The name of the Huracan LP 610-4 comes from the fact that this car has 610 metric horsepower and 4 wheel drive. Huracán (huracán being the Spanish word for hurricane) is inspired by a Spanish fighting bull. Continuing the tradition of using names from historical Spanish fighting bulls, Huracán was a bull known for its courage that fought in 1879. Also Huracan is the Mayan god of wind, storm and fire. Changes from the Gallardo included full LED illumination, a 12.3 inch full-colour TFT instrument panel, Fine Nappa leather and Alcantara interior upholstery, redesigned dashboard and central tunnel, Iniezione Diretta Stratificata (IDS, essentially an adapted version of parent Audi’s Fuel Stratified Injection) direct and indirect gasoline injections, engine Stop & Start technology, EU6 emissions regulation compliance, Lamborghini Doppia Frizione (LDF) 7-speed dual-clutch transmission with 3 modes (STRADA, SPORT and CORSA), 20 inch wheels, carbon-ceramic brake system, optional Lamborghini Dynamic Steering variable steering system and MagneRide electromagnetic damper control. In early 2015, the Huracán appeared on Top Gear. It got a neutral review from Richard Hammond who said that it was too tame to be a “proper Lamborghini.” However, it got around the Top Gear test track in 1:15.8 which is faster than any other Lamborghini to go around the track to date, including the Aventador. Now it has been available in the UK for a couple of years, there are quite a few on our roads, so it was no surprise to find the model here, with the recently released Spider model joining the Coupe.


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LANCIA

There were more Lancia models than last year, but only just. Oldest of them, in design terms, was a Beta Coupe VX. The Coupe was the second model in the Beta range to appear, being premiered in the autumn of 1973. Looking very different to the saloon car on which it was based, this was a stylish 2+2 two-door coupé which would ultimately go on to replace the long running Fulvia Coupe, though the two models ran in parallel until 1976. It was developed in-house by a Lancia team led by Aldo Castagno, with Pietro Castagnero acting as styling consultant. Castagnero having also styled the Beta’s predecessor, the Lancia Fulvia saloon and coupé. Sales started in early 1974, though it was a further year before it would reach the UK. It was launched with 1.6 and 1.8 engines. New 1.6 and 2.0 engines replaced the original units in late 1975 followed by a 1.3 in early 1976. In 1978 automatic transmission and power steering became available. In 1981 the car received a minor facelift and at the same time the 2.0 became available with fuel Bosch electronic fuel injection. In 1983 a 2.0 VX supercharged engine became available with an output of 135 bhp. 111,801 were built, but thanks to the poor quality steel from which they were constructed, survival rates are pretty low.

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Considered to be part of the Beta family, though there is an awful lot about the car that is very different from the front wheel drive models was the MonteCarlo. First conceived in 1969, with a a final design completed by 1971 by Paolo Martin at Pininfarina, what was initially known as the Fiat X1/8 Project, was originally designed as Pininfarina’s contender to replace Fiat’s 124 Coupe, but it lost out to Bertone’s cheaper design, which became the Fiat X1/9. Rather than scrap the proposal completely, it was developed further, when Fiat commissioned Pininfarina to build a 3.0 litre V6 mid-engined sports car. An X1/8 chassis was used as the start point, and developed for the first time in-house by Pininfarina and not based on any existing production car. Due to the 1973 Oil Crisis, the project was renamed X1/20 and updated to house a 2.0 litre engine. The first car to be made out of the X1/20 Project was the Abarth SE 030 in 1974. The project was passed to Lancia, and the road car was launched at the 1975 Geneva Motor Show as the Lancia Beta MonteCcarlo. It was the first car to be made completely in-house by Pininfarina. Lancia launched the MonteCarlo as a premium alternative to the X1/9, with the 2 litre twin cam engine rather than the X1/9’s single cam 1300. Both used a similar, based on the Fiat 128, MacPherson strut front suspension and disc brakes at both front and rear. Lancia Beta parts were limited to those from the existing Fiat/Lancia standard parts bin, the transverse mount version of the Fiat 124’s twin cam engine and the five speed gearbox and transaxle. MonteCarlos were available as fixed head “Coupés” and also as “Spiders” with solid A and B pillars, but a large flat folding canvas roof between them. Sales were slow to get started, and it soon became apparent that there were a number of problems with a reputation for premature locking of the front brakes causing particular alarm. Lancia suspended production in 1979 whilst seeking a solution, which meant that the car was not produced for nearly two years. The second generation model, known simply as MonteCarlo now, was first seen in late 1980. The braking issue was addressed by removing the servo, as well as few other careful mechanical tweaks. The revised cars also had glass panels in the rear buttresses, improving rear visibility somewhat, and there was a revised grille. In the cabin there was a new three spoke Momo steering wheel in place of the old two spoke one, as well as revamped trim and fabrics. The engine was revised, with a  higher compression ratio, Marelli electronic ignition and new carburettors which produced more torque. It was not enough for sales to take off, and the model ceased production in 1982, although it took quite a while after that to shift all the stock. Just under 2000 of the Phase 2 cars were made, with 7798 MonteCarlos made in total. There were a couple of them present here.

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The best known Lancia models here were also the most numerous: the legendary Delta Integrale, the model for which the marque is probably now best known. The Integrale evolved over several years, starting off as the HF Turbo 4WD that was launched in April 1986, to homologate a new rally car for Lancia who needed something to fill the void left by the cancellation of Group B from the end of 1986. The Delta HF 4X4 had a four-wheel drive system with an in-built torque-splitting action. Three differentials were used. Drive to the front wheels was linked through a free-floating differential; drive to the rear wheels was transmitted via a 56/44 front/rear torque-splitting Ferguson viscous-coupling-controlled epicyclic central differential. At the rear wheels wa a Torsen (torque sensing) rear differential. It divided the torque between the wheels according to the available grip, with a maximum lockup of 70%. The basic suspension layout of the Delta 4WD remained the same as in the rest of the two-wheel drive Delta range: MacPherson strut–type independent suspension with dual-rate dampers and helicoidal springs, with the struts and springs set slightly off-centre. The suspension mounting provided more isolation by incorporating flexible rubber links. Progressive rebound bumpers were adopted, while the damper rates, front and rear toe-in and the relative angle between springs and dampers were all altered. The steering was power-assisted rack and pinion. The car looked little different from the front wheel drive models. In September 1987, Lancia showed a more sophisticated version of the car, the Lancia Delta HF Integrale 8V. This version incorporated some of the features of the Delta HF 4WD into a road car. The engine was an 8-valve 2 litre fuel injected 4-cylinder, with balancing shafts. The HF version featured new valves, valve seats and water pump, larger water and oil radiators, more powerful cooling fan and bigger air cleaner. A larger capacity Garrett T3 turbocharger with improved air flow and bigger inter-cooler, revised settings for the electronic injection/ignition control unit and a knock sensor, boosting power output to 185 bhp at 5300 rpm and maximum torque of 224 lb/ft at 3500 rpm. The HF Integrale had permanent 4-wheel drive, a front transversely mounted engine and five-speed gearbox. An epicyclic centre differential normally split the torque 56 per cent to the front axle, 44 per cent to the rear. A Ferguson viscous coupling balanced the torque split between front and rear axles depending on road conditions and tyre grip. The Torsen rear differential further divided the torque delivered to each rear wheel according to grip available. A shorter final drive ratio (3.111 instead of 2.944 on the HF 4WD) matched the larger 6.5×15 wheels to give 24 mph/1000 rpm in fifth gear. Braking and suspension were uprated to 284 mm ventilated front discs, a larger brake master cylinder and servo, as well as revised front springs, dampers, and front struts. Next update was to change the engine from 8 valves to 16. The 16v Integrale was introduced at the 1989 Geneva Motorshow, and made a winning debut on the 1989 San Remo Rally. It featured a raised centre of the bonnet to accommodate the new 16 valve engine, as well as wider wheels and tyres and new identity badges front and rear. The torque split was changed to 47% front and 53% rear. The turbocharged 2-litre Lancia 16v engine now produced 200 bhp at 5500 rpm, for a maximum speed of 137 mph and 0–100 km/h in 5.5  seconds. Changes included larger injectors, a more responsive Garrett T3 turbocharger, a more efficient intercooler, and the ability to run on unleaded fuel without modification. The first Evoluzione cars were built at the end of 1991 and through 1992. These were to be the final homologation cars for the Lancia Rally Team; the Catalytic Evoluzione II was never rallied by the factory. The Evoluzione I had a wider track front and rear than earlier Deltas. The bodyside arches were extended and became more rounded. The wings were now made in a single pressing. The front strut top mounts were also raised, which necessitated a front strut brace. The new Integrale retained the four wheel drive layout. The engine was modified to produce 210 bhp at 5750 rpm. External changes included: new grilles in the front bumper to improve the air intake for engine compartment cooling; a redesigned bonnet with new lateral air slats to further assist underbonnet ventilation; an adjustable roof spoiler above the tailgate; new five-bolt wheels with the same design of the rally cars; and a new single exhaust pipe. Interior trim was now grey Alcantara on the Recaro seats, as fitted to the earlier 16V cars; leather and air conditioning were offered as options, as well as a leather-covered Momo steering wheel. Presented in June 1993, the second Evolution version of the Delta HF Integrale featured an updated version of the 2-litre 16-valve turbo engine to produce more power, as well as a three-way catalyst and Lambda probe. A Marelli integrated engine control system with an 8 MHz clock frequency which incorporates: timed sequential multipoint injection; self-adapting injection times; automatic idling control; engine protection strategies depending on the temperature of intaken air; Mapped ignition with two double outlet coils; Three-way catalyst and pre-catalyst with lambda probe (oxygen sensor) on the turbine outlet link; anti-evaporation system with air line for canister flushing optimised for the turbo engine; new Garrett turbocharger: water-cooled with boost-drive management i.e. boost controlled by feedback from the central control unit on the basis of revs/throttle angle;   Knock control by engine block sensor and new signal handling software for spark park advance, fuel quantity injected, and turbocharging. The engine now developed 215 PS as against 210 PS on the earlier uncatalysed version and marginally more torque. The 1993 Integrale received a cosmetic and functional facelift that included. new 16″ light alloy rims with 205/45 ZR 16 tyres;  body colour roof moulding to underline the connection between the roof and the Solar control windows;  aluminium fuel cap and air-intake grilles on the front mudguards; red-painted cylinder head; new leather-covered three-spoke MOMO steering wheel; standard Recaro seats upholstered in beige Alcantara with diagonal stitching. In its latter years the Delta HF gave birth to a number of limited and numbered editions, differing mainly in colour, trim and equipment; some were put on general sale, while others were reserved to specific markets, clubs or selected customers.

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The Lancia Dedra, produced from 1989 to 2000 was designed to support, and later to replace, the Prisma and is generally considered to be the saloon version of the second generation Delta, that took a further four years before being released. The Dedra was sold in the UK, and it had a tough job on its hands, as it entered a particularly competitive part of the market, that for medium-sized executive saloons. The design, by Ercole Spada of the I.DE.A Institute, produced an excellent drag coefficient of only 0.29. Lancia positioned the Dedra as offering prestige, exclusivity, personality and comfort, achieved through a high level of equipment and use of materials (e.g. Alcantara) as well as details such as special paints, alloy wheels and an attention to soundproofing, ventilation and other issues. Inside the ability to obtain the perfect driving position was helped by the adjustable seats, steering wheel and electrically adjustable mirrors. Safety, both passive with a structure designed to minimize injury in an accident, and active, such as ABS and airbag, was also near the top of the Dedra’s agenda. It was based on the Fiat Tipo-floorpan, because the idea of Fiat Group at the end of the 80s was to achieve, from a single floorpan (for reasons of economies of scale), four different cars from the same base: good value for money for the Fiat Tipo (1988), elegance for Lancia Dedra 1989, convenience at a competitive price for the Fiat Tempra (1990) (with its large boot) and sportsmanship for the Alfa Romeo 155 (1992). Also were designed on the same floorpan the Lancia Delta and the Fiat Coupe. When the Dedra was launched, it was a good time for Lancia: The Thema had been facelifted a year earlier, and despite being on the market for five years was selling well, the Delta (1979), thanks its continued success in competition was living a second youth, and the Y10 had a slight restyling and good sales. However, the Dedra was not a strong success outside Italy. A major facelift in 1993 did little to boost the car’s sales success and the whole Lancia range including the Dedra was withdrawn from RHD markets a year later. The car, after 1993 also sold as a station wagon, remained popular on the Italian market until it was replaced by the all-new Lybra at the end of the 90s. In 1991 the Dedra Integrale had been added to the range. It used the same engine and transmission as the Delta Integrale 8v, a 2-litre 4-cylinder fuel injected twin cam engine, fitted with contra-rotating balancing shafts, and a Garrett T3 turbocharger and associated inter-cooler to aid volumetric efficiency that boosted power output to 171 PS. The Dedra Integrale also used the same permanent 4-wheel drive of the Delta Integrale, and included a new Visco Drive 2000 traction control system and it also included the electronically controlled suspension available as option in the 2.0 and upper versions. A total of 418,084 Dedras were manufactured. There are only a handful in the UK these days.

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MASERATI

After producing BiTurbo based cars for 17 years, Maserati replaced their entire range with a new model in July 1998. Known internally as the Tipo 338, and christened the Maserati 3200 GT, this very elegant 2+2 grand tourer was styled by Italdesign, whose founder and head Giorgetto Giugiaro had previously designed, among others, the Ghibli, Bora and Merak. The interior design was commissioned to Enrico Fumia. Its name honoured the Maserati 3500 GT, the Trident’s first series production grand tourer. Sold mainly in Europe, the 3200 GT was powered by the twin-turbo, 32-valve, dual overhead cam 3.2-litre V8 engine featured in the Quattroporte Evoluzione, set up to develop 370 PS (365 hp). The car was praised for its styling, with the distinctive array of tail-lights, consisting of LEDs, arranged in the shape of boomerang being particularly worthy of comment. The outer layer of the ‘boomerang’ provided the brake light, with the inner layer providing the directional indicator. The car was also reviewed quite well by the press when they got to drive it in early 1999, though it was clear that they expected more power and excitement. That came after  4,795 cars had been produced, in 2001, with the launch of the 4200 models. Officially called the Coupé and joined by an open-topped  Spyder (Tipo M138 in Maserati speak), these models had larger 4.2 litre engines and had been engineered so the cars could be sold in America, marking the return to that market for Maserati after an 11 year gap. There were some detailed styling changes, most notable of which were the replacement of the boomerang rear lights with conventional rectangular units. Few felt that this was an improvement. The cars proved popular, though, selling strongly up until 2007 when they were replaced by the next generation of Maserati. Minor changes were made to the model during its six year production, but more significant was the launch at the 2004 Geneva Show of the GranSport which sported aerodynamic body cladding, a chrome mesh grille, carbon fibre interior trim, and special 19-inch wheels. It used the Skyhook active suspension, with a 0.4 inch lower ride height, and the Cambiocorsa transmission recalibrated for quicker shifts. The exhaust was specially tuned to “growl” on start-up and full throttle. The GranSport was powered by the same 4244 cc, 90° V8 petrol engine used on the Coupé and Spyder, but developing 400 PS (395 hp) at 7000 rpm due primarily to a different exhaust system and improvements on the intake manifolds and valve seats. A six-speed paddle shift transmission came as standard. The GranSport has a claimed top speed of 180 mph (290 km/h) and a 0–62 mph (0–100 km/h) time of 4.8 seconds. There were examples of the 4200GT, the Spyder and the GranSport here.

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Still acclaimed as one of the best-looking saloons ever produced is this car, the fifth generation Quattroporte. Around 25,000 of these cars were made between 2004 and 2012, making it the second best selling Maserati of all time, beaten only by the cheaper BiTurbo of the 1980s. The Tipo M139 was unveiled to the world at the Frankfurt Motor Show on 9 September 2003, with production starting in 2004. Exterior and interior design was done by Pininfarina, and the result was widely acclaimed to be one of the best looking saloons not just of its time, but ever, an opinion many would not disagree with even now. Built on an entirely new platform, it was 50 cm (19.7 in) longer than its predecessor and sat on a 40 cm (15.7 in) longer wheelbase. The same architecture would later underpin the GranTurismo and GranCabrio coupés and convertibles. Initially it was powered by an evolution of the naturally aspirated dry sump 4.2-litre V8 engine, mounted on the Maserati Coupé, with an improved output of 400 PS . Due to its greater weight compared to the Coupé and Spyder, the 0-62 mph (0–100 km/h) time for the Quattroporte was 5.2 seconds and the top speed 171 mph (275 km/h). Initially offered in only one configuration, equipped with the DuoSelect transmission, the gearbox was the weak point of the car, receiving most of the criticism from the press reviews. Maserati increased the range at the 2005 Frankfurt Motor Show, with the launch of the Executive GT and Sport GT trim levels. The Executive GT came equipped with a wood-rimmed steering wheel, an alcantara suede interior roof lining, ventilated, adaptive, massaging rear seats, rear air conditioning controls, veneered retractable rear tables, and curtain shades on the rear windows. The exterior was distinguished by 19 inch eight-spoke ball-polished wheels and chrome mesh front and side grilles. The Quattroporte Sport GT variant offered several performance upgrades: faster shifting transmission and firmer Skyhook suspensions thanks to new software calibrations, seven-spoke 20 inch wheels with low-profile tyres, cross-drilled brake rotors and braided brake lines. Model-specific exterior trim included dark mesh front and side grilles and red accents to the Trident badges, as on vintage racing Maseratis. Inside there were aluminium pedals, a sport steering wheel and carbon fibre in place of the standard wood inserts. A new automatic transmission was presented at the 2007 Detroit Motor Show, marketed as the Maserati Quattroporte Automatica.  As all three trim levels were offered in both DuoSelect and Automatica versions, the lineup grew to six models. The Quattroporte Sport GT S was introduced at the 2007 Frankfurt Motor Show. Taking further the Sport GT’s focus on handling, this version employed Bilstein single-rate dampers in place of the Skyhook adaptive system. Other changes from the Sport GT comprised a lowered ride height and 10 mm wider 295/30 rear tyres, front Brembo iron/aluminium dual-cast brake rotors and red-painted six piston callipers. The cabin was upholstered in mixed alcantara and leather, with carbon fibre accents; outside the door handles were painted in body colour, while the exterior trim, the 20 inch wheels and the exhaust pipes were finished in a “dark chrome” shade. After Images of a facelifted Quattroporte appeared on the Internet in January 2008; the car made its official début at the 2008 Geneva Motor Show. Overseen by Pininfarina, the facelift brought redesigned bumpers, side sills and side mirrors, a convex front grille with vertical bars instead of horizontal, new headlights and tail lights with directional bi-xenon main beams and LED turn signals. Inside there was a new navigation and entertainment system. All Quattroporte models now used the ZF automatic transmission, the DuoSelect being discontinued. The 4.2-litre Quattroporte now came equipped with single-rate damping comfort-tuned suspension and 18 inch wheels. Debuting alongside it was the Quattroporte S, powered by a wet-sump 4.7-litre V8, the same engine of the Maserati GranTurismo S, with a maximum power of 430 PS (424 hp) and maximum torque of 490 N·m (361 lb·ft). In conjunction with the engine, the braking system was upgraded to cross-drilled discs on both axles and dual-cast 360 mm rotors with six piston callipers at the front. Skyhook active damping suspension and 19 inch V-spoke wheels were standard. Trim differences from the 4.2-litre cars were limited to a chrome instead of titanium-coloured front grille. The Quattroporte Sport GT S was premièred at the North American International Auto Show in January 2009. Its 4.7-litre V8 produced 440 PS (434 hp), ten more than the Quattroporte S, thanks to revised intake and to a sport exhaust system with electronically actuated bypass valves. Other mechanical changes were to the suspensions, where as on the first Sport GT S single-rate dampers took place of the Skyhook system, ride height was further lowered and stiffer springs were adopted. The exterior was distinguished by a specific front grille with convex vertical bars, black headlight bezels, red accents to the Trident badges, the absence of chrome window trim, body colour door handles and black double oval exhaust pipes instead of the four round ones found on other Quattroporte models. Inside veneers were replaced by “Titan Tex” composite material and the cabin was upholstered in mixed Alcantara and leather. This means that there are quite a number of different versions among the 25,256 units produced, with the early DuoSelect cars being the most numerous.

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From the current range were both a GranTurismo and a Ghibli.

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MOTOR BIKES and SCOOTERS

A large collection of two-wheeled Italian machines were here, too, ranging from some of the latest and very potent Ducati super-bikes to the infinitely slower Vespa and Lambretta scooters of the 1950s.

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THE NON-ITALIAN CARS

Although Italian cars were very much the theme of the day, and the parking around the hotel was supposedly reserved solely for cars from that country, a few interlopers did appear, some of which were worthy of a photo and inclusion here. These are the ones that caught my attention.

It is ten years since the Audi R8 first hit the streets,and it still attracts a lot of attention now, and this event was no exception.

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Rather rarer, and worth a lot less, was this E21 generation BMW 320i Cabrio. There was no factory produced open-topped E21, so these cars were conversions performed by Karosserie Baur GmbH. Offered on all the models in the range, with every engine, the cabriolet conversion was composed of a targa roof and an independent rear soft-top. Production of the Baur TopCabriolet began in 1978, and were sold via the BMW dealership network. All TopCabriolets included the BMW warranty. A total of 4,595 vehicles were manufactured before production ended in 1981.

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Needing little in the way of an introduction was this Jaguar E Type, although the Q plates were a bit of a surprise.

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Developed under the project name Project Eagle, this car was launched as the Lotus Evora on 22 July 2008 at the British International Motor Show. The Evora is based on the first all-new vehicle platform from Lotus Cars since the introduction of the Lotus Elise in 1995 (the Exige, introduced in 2000, and the 2006 Europa S are both derivatives of the Elise). Evora was planned to be the first vehicle of three to be built on the same platform and was the first product of a five-year plan started in 2006 to expand the Lotus line-up beyond its track-specialised offerings, with the aim of making Evora a somewhat of a more practical road car that would appeal to the mainstream. As such it is a larger car than recent Lotus models Elise and its derivatives (Exige, Europa S, etc.), with an unladen weight of 1,383 kg (3,049 lb). It is currently the only Lotus model with a 2+2 configuration, although it is also offered in a two-seater configuration, referred to as the “Plus Zero” option. It is also the only 2+2 mid engined coupé on sale. The interior is larger to allow taller persons of 6’5″ to fit. The cooled boot behind the engine is large enough to fit a set of golf clubs, although Lotus Design Head Russell Carr denies that this was intentional. Lotus intends Evora to compete with different market sectors including the Porsche Cayman. The name “Evora” keeps the Lotus tradition of beginning model names with an “E”. The name is derived from the words evolution, vogue, and aura. and it of course sounds similar to Évora, which is the name of a Portuguese city and UNESCO World Heritage Site, in Portugal. Sales were started in summer 2009, with an annual target of 2000 cars per year, with prices between £45,000 and just over £50,000. and in America from the beginning of 2010. The Evora received several accolades at its launch from the British motoring press, including: Britain’s Best Driver’s Car 2009 from Autocar and Car of the Year 2009, from Evo.  Sales, however, were far from target, as the car was seen as too costly. A more powerful Evora S was launched in 2010 with a supercharged equipped 3.5-litre V6. A facelifted and more powerful Evora 400 model was unveiled at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show.

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Now quite a rarity, as rust has claimed most of them, was this first generation Toyota MR2.

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I enjoyed the 2017 event at least as much as the one in 2016. There was plenty to see, and a nice friendly and relaxed atmosphere to the day. Sadly, I won’t be able to attend in 2018, though, as the event clashes with the Silverstone Classic, something which I rate even more highly than just about anything else in the motoring year. What a shame I cannot be in two places at once, as I am sure that organiser Ciro will strike the right balance between variety, cars that have been before and those making their debut at the event, and it will once again be a good day for all concerned.

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