Ace Cafe Italian Night – July 2016

Sometimes the Travel Gods seem to line everything up, and things go better than you could possible have hoped. My journey to the Ace Cafe for July’s Italian Night was like that. All the potential was there for me to be so late that I would deem it not worth attending, as my working day was spent in Hoofddorp, one stop on the train away from Schiphol airport, in Holland. But not only did my plane leave on time, it even arrived a few minutes early, had no added time for holding, was able to taxi straight to a gate. With only hand luggage to worry about, I was out of the airport and back in my car at the T4 Business Parking within 30 minutes of KLM’s finest having touched down, which must be almost a record. that just left the M25 at 5:30pm to contend with, and fir sure, there was some stop/start driving until well the other side of the M4 junction, but from there it was a steady drive all the way to Ace, which I reached at around 6:20pm. It was a sunny evening, so I expected it to be busy, and it was moderately so, though cars continued to arrive, and indeed it was not long before the forecourt was full. With a number of attendees making an early departure, though, there was nearly always space for the next to arrive, and this did mean that there were more cars to look at during the course of an evening than is sometimes the case, even on a busy night. Here is what attracted my camera.


The previous record for number of Abarths attending one of these evening meetings is 26, which was established some time ago. I don’t think there ever as many as that on site at any one time, but there were 24 when I counted, and several had already gone by that time, with others having arrived, so I am pretty sure that this was the occasion when the largest number of Abarths attended during the course of an Italian Night. Needless to say, there was plenty of variety, with no two cars the same. This would have been a first opportunity for many to see their first Series 4 595 in the metal, as these cars are only just trickling into the dealers and reaching owners, following a relatively low key launch in early June. One of the cars present, in the new, and likely to be popular shade of Abarth Red, a brighter colour than the reds offered hitherto, was a dealer car brought along by Glyn Hopkin, while the other was one of the first to reach its new owner, a Podium Blue 595C in Turismo spec. The most significant changes with the Series 4 car are visual, with new styling front and rear. The jury is still out on this, with many, me included, remaining to be convinced. At the front, the new air intake does apparently allow around 15 – 20 % more air in and out, which will be welcome, as these cars do generate quite a lot of heat under the bonnet. Competizione models get the old style headlights, as they have Xenon lights as standard, whereas the Custom and Turismo cars have reshaped units. At the back, there are new light clusters and a new rear bumper and diffuser. Inside, the most notable change is the replacement of the Blue & Me system with a more modern uConnect Audio set up, which brings a new colour screen to the dash. Mechanically, there is an additional 5 bhp on the Custom (now 145) and Turismo (now 165 bhp) and the option of a Limited Slip Diff for the Competizione, which is likely to prove a popular option.

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Although the Biposto was a regular version of the range, as opposed to a Limited Edition car like the earlier Tributo models, no mention of it was made were revealed, so it would seem production has ended, with relatively small numbers of the model having been made. Although quite a few have been sold in the UK, many were instantly exported, with just a handful registered for UK use. Jerry and Carla Rigden bought theirs a few weeks ago, a decision encouraged by the fact that Carla had bought a 595 Competizione a few weeks prior to that, and it was so much loved, that a second Abarth for the family was just too tempting.

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Many loved the idea of the Biposto, but winced at the price tag, choosing to make their own upgrades as and when the budget allowed. That means that many cars change quite subtly over time. The alternative is to go the whole hog and have the car altered in one go, and that’s what happened with “Bad Box”, Mario Cee’s well known 595C. Mario bought the distinctive red Romeo Abarth that Daron Brown of TMC Motorsport produced in 2013 and which he showed at events for a year or so, but after having lots of fun with it, decided that he wanted a convertible, so he got Daron to produce this latest car which he has had for several months now. Mario did not stay long at the event, but he was in attendance for long enough for me to get one photo.

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Needless to say, there were lots of other 500 and 595 models here, with examples of all the different models from some early cars to several Series 3 Competizione cars, and in many of the palette of colours which have been offered over the years. As well as plenty of familiar faces, there were a couple of “newcomers”, visiting from the North West. Roy Westwood had been treating his Cordolo Red car to some upgrades at Pro Alfa, and diverted to the Ace before setting off on the long schlepp up the M1 and M6, and Gary Castelli, also from that area, had kindly brought him down earlier in the day. I got the feeling both of them will be looking at their schedules to figure out how to come back to this venue as they clearly enjoyed their evening and stayed far alter than planned. There were plenty of other people who attend more regularly, and it was nice to see Chris Turpin here, making his first visit for many months.
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There were several Punto models here as well, with, among others, examples of the evolution of the model from the Grande Punto of Daniel Ciecierski to the much loved Punto Evo of Kai Kan, as well as one of the “last of the line” SuperSport cars belonging to Steve Miller.

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Final Abarth was another car which makes frequent appearances at this event, the completely bonkers looking machine belonging to Carlo Caccaviello. Although this amazing machine has the form of a classic Nuova 500, don’t be too taken in by that. The car is actually built on a chassis that has its origins in the Abarth Osella 2000SP sports racing car, with double wishbone suspension and disc brakes front and rear. Sitting in the back is a fuel injected 1.5 litre Alfa Romeo “boxer” engine of the type originally found in the front of the Alfa Romeo ‘Sud, Sprint 33 and even the Nissan Arna GTi. It is coupled to an Alfa 5-speed gearbox.  Carlo’s coachwork company built the special extra wide body, which is all steel. The car was first registered in the UK on the 28th July 2000 and it has been seen at a great variety of events ever since. It never fails to pull the crowds wherever it its taken.

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Long gone are the days when Alfa Romeo dominate this event, but there were still plenty of examples of this much loved marque here. There were three examples of what are widely known as the 105 Series cars, the mainstay of Alfa’s range in the 1960s. These came in a variety of body styles, each of which looked quite distinct, though underneath, much was shared, including all the mechanical components. A bewildering array of different models was offered through the years, which keep even Alfa enthusiasts on their toes as they try to spot the subtle differences that applied. The three most common body styles were all here: a Berlina, the ever so pretty GTV Coupe and the long running Spider.

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Next up was an Alfetta GTV, Styled by Giugiaro, this car, initially called the GT, and premiered in the autumn of 1974, and it looked completely unlike the saloon on which it was based. The first cars had 1.8 litre four cylinder engines and then in 1976 the range was expanded both up and down with a 1.6 and a 2.0 model, the latter adopting the legendary GTV name. In 1981, with the 2.5 litre V6 engine that had been developed for the ill-fated Alfa 6 luxury saloon available, Alfa was able to create a true rival for the 2.8 litre Capri with the GTV6. A facelift modernised the look of the car with plastic bumpers front and rear and a new interior looked rather better as well as being more ergonomically logical. The car seen here is one of those facelifted cars in 2.5 V6 guise.

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One of the later arrivals was this splendid an early example of the AlfaSud Sprint. This car appeared a full 5 years after the saloon on which it was based, being presented to the press in September 1976 in Baia Domizia and shown at the Turin Motor Show in November. Designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro like the AlfaSud, whose mechanicals it was based on, it had a lower, more angular design, featuring a hatchback, although there were no folding rear seats. The AlfaSud Sprint was assembled together with the AlfaSud in the Pomigliano d’Arco plant, located in southern Italy—hence the original “Sud” moniker. Under the Alfasud Sprint’s bonnet there was a new version of the AlfaSud’s 1186 cc four-cylinder boxer engine, stroked to displace 1,286 cc, fed by a twin-choke carburettor and developing 75 hp at 6,000 rpm. Mated to the flat-four was a five-speed, all-synchromesh gearbox. The interior was upholstered in dark brown Texalfa leatherette and tartan cloth. Options were limited to alloy wheels, a quartz clock and metallic paint. In May 1978 the AlfaSud Sprint underwent its first updates, both cosmetic and technical. Engine choice was enlarged to two boxers, shared with the renewed AlfaSud ti, a 78 hp 1.3 (1,350 cc) and a 84 hp 1.5 (1,490 cc); the earlier 1286 cc unit was not offered anymore, remaining exclusive to the AlfaSud. Outside many exterior details were changed from chrome to matte black stainless steel or plastic, such as the wing mirrors, window surrounds and C-pillar ornaments; the B-pillar also received a black finish, the side repeaters changed position and became square, and the front turn signals switched from white to amber lenses. In the cabin the seats had more pronounced bolsters and were upholstered in a new camel-coloured fabric. Just one year later, in June 1979, another engine update arrived and the AlfaSud Sprint became the AlfaSud Sprint Veloce. Thanks to double twin-choke carburettors (each choke feeding a single cylinder) and a higher compression ratio engine output increased to 85 hp and 94 hp, respectively for the 1.3 and 1.5. In February 1983 Alfa Romeo updated all of its sports cars; the Sprint received a major facelift. Thereafter the AlfaSud prefix and Veloce suffix were abandoned, and the car was known as Alfa Romeo Sprint; this also in view of the release of the Alfa Romeo 33, which a few months later replaced the AlfaSud hatchback. The Sprint also received a platform upgrade, which was now the same as that of the Alfa Romeo 33; this entailed modified front suspension, brakes mounted in the wheels instead of inboard like on the AlfaSud, and drum brakes at the rear end. Three models made up the Sprint range: 1.3 and 1.5, with engines and performance unchanged from the AlfaSud Sprint Veloce, and the new 1.5 Quadrifoglio Verde—1.5 Cloverleaf in the UK. A multitude of changes were involved in the stylistic refresh; there were a new grille, headlamps, wing mirrors, window surrounds and C-pillar ornaments. Bumpers went from chrome to plastic, and large plastic protective strips were added to the body sides; both sported coloured piping, which was grey for 1.3 cars, red for the 1.5 and green for the 1.5 Quadrifoglio. At the rear new trapezoidal tail light assemblies were pieced together with the license plate holder by a black plastic fascia, topped by an Alfa Romeo badge—never present on the AlfaSud Sprint. In the cabin there were new seats with cloth seating surfaces and Texalfa backs, a new steering wheel and changes to elements of the dashboard and door panels. Sprint 1.3 and 1.5 came with steel wheels with black hubcaps from the AlfaSud ti. The newly introduced 1.5 Quadrifoglio Verde sport variant was shown at the March 1983 Geneva Motor Show. Its engine was the 1,490 cc boxer, revised to put out 104 hp at 6,000 rpm; front brake discs were vented and the gearing shorter. In addition to the green bumper piping, also specific to the Quadrifoglio were a green instead of chrome scudetto in the front grille, a rear spoiler and 8-hole grey painted alloy wheels with metric Michelin TRX 190/55 tyres. Inside a three-spoke leather-covered steering wheel, green carpets and sport seats in black cloth with green embroidery. In November 1987 the Sprint was updated for the last time; the 1.3 variant was carried over, while the 1.5 engine was phased out and the 1.5 QV was superseded by the 116 hp Sprint 1.7 Quadrifoglio Verde. The 1,286 cc engine was directly derived from the 33 1.7 Quadrifoglio Verde, and could propel the Sprint from 0 to 100 km/h in 9.3 seconds; to cope with the increased engine power, the 1.7 QV adopted vented brake discs upfront. the coloured piping and side plastic strips were deleted, and the Quadrifoglio had alloy wheels of a new design. A fuel injected and 3-way Catalytic converter-equipped 1.7 variant, with an engine again derived from a 33, was added later for sale in specific markets. There were a total of 116,552 Sprints produced during its lifespan, which lasted from 1976 to 1989. 15 of these formed the basis of the Australian-built Giocattolo sports car, which used a mid-mounted Holden 5.0 group A V8 engine. The Sprint had no direct predecessor or successor.

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Representing the 156 was this example of the facelifted style Sport Wagon. When the 156 was launched in 1997, things looked very bright for Alfa. Striking good looks were matched by a driving experience that the press reckoned was better than any of its rivals. The car picked up the Car of the Year award at the end of the year. and when it went on sale in the UK in early 1998, waiting lists soon stretched out more than 12 months. Reflecting the way the market was going, Alfa put a diesel engine under the bonnet, launched a (not very good, it has to be admitted) automated transmission with the SeleSpeed, added a very pretty if not that commodious an estate model they called Sport Wagon and then added a top spec 3.2 litre GTA with its 250 bhp engine giving it a performance to outrun all its rivals. And yet, it did not take long before the press turned on the car, seduced by the latest 3 Series once more, citing build quality issues which were in fact far from universal. The 156 received a very minor facelift in 2002 and a more significant one in late 2003, as seen here, with a new front end that was a clue to what would come with the car’s successor. Production ceased in 2005.

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Representing the 147 was this nice GTA version. Replacing the 145 and 146 hatch models, the 147 made its debut in 2000 and impressed everyone with its class-leading looks and personality that ensured it claimed the Car of the Year award a few weeks later. Top of the range for some time was a 2 litre Twin Spark petrol model which went well enough, but lacked the real excitement that many were hoping for. Alfa addressed that, eventually, with the GTA model which they launched in 2002. Fitted with a 3.2 V6 engine which produced 247 bhp, it 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.

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This was the sort of warm sunny summer evening when a convertible would be particularly agreeable, so it was no surprise to find a couple more open topped Alfa models here, both of them the recent Brera Spider. Replacement for the 916 Series GTV and Spider, the front of this car and the Brera coupe was visually very similar to the 159 models, but there was unique Pininfarina styling from the A pillars rearwards. Both were offered with the same range of engines as the 159, and thanks to that strong, but rather heavy platform on which they were built, even the 3.2 litre V6 cars were more Grand Tourer than rapid sports car. The Brera was first to market, in 2005, with the Spider following in 2006. Production of both ceased in late 2010, by which time 12,488 units of the Spider and 21,786 units of the Brera had been built.

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Final Alfa here was Dan Deyong’s Giulietta Cloverleaf, a car which he is soon to drive down (solo) all the way to the south coast of Spain in readiness for the family holiday (the rest of the Deyongs are flying there). I imagine the car will acquit itself rather well.

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For some reason, there are rarely many Ferrari at this event, but on this occasion, there were a couple, which came together, and hence were parked next to each other. First of the two was a Mondial 3.2 Coupe, a model which still languishes relatively in the doldrums compared to almost all other Ferrari. The 4 seater Mondial was launched in 1980, as a replacement for the 308 GT4 Dino and it did not immediately garner much praise or enthusiasm, but as is the case when Ferrari release a slightly disappointing car, modifications soon came to make it better. A 4 valve per cylinder engine gave it more power before the capacity was upped to 3.2 litres in 1986, by which time the car was really rather nice, and the later models have a 3.4 litre engine, which was turned through 180 degrees from the initial installation to create the 3.4t. A stylish Cabrio was included in the range. It can only be a matter of time before values of the car start to rise.

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That’s not a problem for the car which was parked next to it, a F355 Coupe, as this car was praised very highly when new and enthusiasm for it has never waned. And it is not hard to see why, just by looking at it. Launched in May 1994 as an evolution of the Ferrari 348, just about everything was changed, and improved.  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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There were only a small number of Fiat models here this time. Among them were a couple of Fiat Coupe cars. It is quite common for several of these to arrive relatively late in the evening, but this time, the cars were here early enough to gain parking spots around the perimeter of the forecourt.

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Something of an Ace Cafe regular is this X1/9 Gran Finale, a version of the classic Fiat sports car produced in 1989/1990, as a last hurrah for a model which had entered production in 1972, and based on a concept first seen in 1969. Much acclaimed at launch, Fiat did little to develop the car save for the update in 1978 which saw the replacement of the 1290cc engine with the larger 1498cc unit and the identification point of the larger bumpers. By the mid 1980s, they had even stopped badging the car, instead using Bertone branding, though everyone still refers to the car as a Fiat. The Gran Finale was offered in Mica Blue, like this car, or Mica Red, and neither colour is listed as a Fiat colour, but the paints are in fact Volvo ones, used on the Volvo 780 which was built on the same “line” by Bertone. The Gran Finale was little different from the standard car bar the colour, the special badging and with the addition of a rear spoiler.

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It was good to see an example of the Tipo 182 Bravo, as these cars, and the closely related Brava were decimated in the UK’s Scrappage scheme of a few year’s ago,. having reached an age and value which made them particularly prime candidates. in fact the cars were quite good, and when new I used to prefer them massively to the Ford Escort which was the alternative rental car doyen of the day. Launched in mid 1995, Bravo and Brava were replacements for Fiat’s successful but ageing Tipo model, quite different in styling detail and driving experience, with the Bravo chassis being tuned for more precise handling whilst the Brava was tuned for better comfort. Even the interior trim and many of the body colours were unique to either one version or the other. The cars came with all new engines, the base model using a 1.4 litre 2-valve engine producing 80 PS. Three other petrol engines were available: the 103 PS 1.6 litre 16-valve; the 113 PS 1.8 litre 16-valve engine and the top of the range 2.0 litre 20-valve inline-5 unit used in the HGT model, which produced 147 PS and which could take the car to a maximum speed of 132 mph. Later in 1999 the 155 HGT model replaced the older model, power rising to 155 PS. Two turbodiesel engines were also available: both were 1.9 litre four cylinder units, one producing 75 PS and the other making 100 PS. They were among the best diesels of the day, with strong pulling power and nicely refined. In 1996, the Bravo/Brava chassis spawned saloon and estate versions, badged Fiat Marea, a car which was aimed at Ford Mondeo and Opel/Vauxhall Vectra buyers, which won praise for its large boot. Another car based on the Bravo/Brava underpinnings was launched in 1998: the curious-looking Fiat Multipla, a six-seater compact MPV. The Bravo/Brava received a mild makeover in 1999, but there were few real changes except the replacement of the 1.4 litre 12-valve engine with a 1.2 litre 80 bhp 16-valve engine from the smaller Fiat Punto and a restyling of the dashboard. The 1.9 turbodiesel was also phased out in favour of 1.9 JTD diesel units (now with and 105 PS), to give even better economy and refinement. The Bravo/Brava was voted European Car of the Year on its launch and it sold quite well in the UK, a feat never achieved by its replacement, the Stilo.

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This has become a popular meeting place for Maserati owners, and whilst there were fewer cars here than is sometimes the case, there were still a number of this much respected marque present. Most numerous were the cars known internally as the Tipo 338, the very elegant 2+2 grand tourer that replaced the last of the BiTurbo generation cars, and which started life as the 3200GT. It 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 3200GT, 4200 and GranSport cars here.

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There were also a couple of examples of 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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Final Maserati here was the oldest, and certainly the rarest. This was a BiTurbo 222SR, one of the rarer models from a complex range of Maserati cars which were sold in the 1980s and 1990s, which extended from the initial 2 door Coupe to cover Spiders, a 4 door saloon and later models called Karif, Ghibli 2 and the pinnacle of the range, the V8 powered Shamal. The original Biturbo, first seen in 1981, was a two-door, four-seater notchback coupé, slightly smaller than the BMW 3 Series of the time) featuring, as the name implies, a two-litre V6 engine with two turbochargers (the first car ever to do so) and a luxurious interior. The car was designed by Pierangelo Andreani, Chief of Centro Stile Maserati up to 1981, somewhat influenced by the design of the recent Quattroporte III. The BiTurbo marked quite a change of direction for the Modense firm, a consequence of its acquisition by Alejandro de Tomaso in 1976. de Tomaso’s ambitious plans for the marque were to combine the prestige of the Maserati brand with a sports car that would be more affordable than the earlier high-priced models that had traditionally made up the Maserati range. The Biturbo was initially a strong seller and brought Italian prestige to a wide audience, with sales of about 40,000 units, but it quickly became apparent that the quality of the car was way off what the market expected, and the car is not regarded as one of the marque’s better models. Indeed, the Biturbo is number 28 in the BBC book of “Crap Cars” and in 2007 was selected as Time Magazine’s worst car of 1984, although they ranked the Chrysler TC by Maserati as a “greater ignominy”. Between 1987–89 a facelift was phased in, which helped to soften the sharp bodylines. The redesign included a taller and more rounded grille with mesh grille and bonnet, aerodynamic wing mirrors and 15″ disc-shaped alloy wheels, now mounted on 5-lug hubs. Some models received the wraparound bumpers with integral foglights and the deep sills introduced with the 2.24v. In 1991 the entire lineup was restyled for a second time, again by the hand of Marcello Gandini; the design features introduced with the Shamal were spread to the other models. Gandini, the Shamal’s designer, developed an aerodynamic kit that included a unique spoiler at the base of the windscreen hiding the windshield wipers, a rear spoiler, and side skirts. The new two-element headlights used poli-ellypsoidal projectors developed by Magneti-Marelli. Inset in body-colour housings, they flanked a redesigned grille, slimmer and integrated in the bonnet; the 1988 bumpers were adopted by all models. The 15″ disc-shaped alloys were replaced by new 16″ seven-spoke wheels, with a hubcap designed to look like a centerlock nut. The second facelift was referred to as “nuovolook”. The engines underwent change, too. As well as being the first ever production car with a twin-turbocharged engine, it was also the first production car engine with three valves per cylinder. The aluminium 90-degree SOHC V6 engine was roughly based on the 2.0 litre Merak engine, itself based on earlier V8 Formula One Maserati engines, designed by Giulio Alfieri. Because in Italy new cars with engine displacement over 2000 cc were subjected to a 38% value added tax, against 19% on smaller displacement cars, throughout the Biturbo’s production life there were both two-litre models aimed mainly at the domestic market and “export” versions, initially with a 2.5 litre V6. The carburettor 2.5 unit produced 185 hp and 208 lb·ft of torque in North American spec and slightly more elsewhere. Fuel injection was fitted in 1987 raising power to 187 hp. In 1989 the enlarged 2.8 litre engine bumped power to 225 hp and 246 lb·ft of torque for North America and 250 PS for Europe. In 1988, with the coupés being restyled, the Biturbo name was dropped in favour of 222—meaning 2-door, 2-litre engine and 2nd generation. The car carried all the visual clues of Gandini’s first facelift, with a more rounded grille and bonnet, different wing mirrors and rear spoiler. The engine size of the 222 E export model grew from the Biturbo’s 2.5- to 2.8-litres. A mixed velour-leather interior was standard on the domestic models, while export markets got leather upholstery as standard. 1990 saw the arrival of the 2.8 litre 222 SE, heir to the Biturbo ES. It inherited the latter’s limited paint finish availability (red, silver or black) and the dark trim and grille, while modern aprons and side skirts (blacked out as well) came from the 2.24v. After just a year the 222 SE was replaced by the 1991-restyled 222 SR; the SR offered adaptive suspension as an option. Simultaneously the very similar 222 4v. joined the lineup; it was a 222 SR with a 2.8 litre four-valve engine, the first DOHC car in the direct Biturbo E lineage. It used wider, 16″ 7-spoke wheels. The story of the rest of the range is for another report!

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No doubt encouraged by the long hours of daylight, as well as the company, it was gone 10pm when I headed to my car and off to the hotel. This was one of the best evenings I’ve had here, and there have been many good ones over the years. The next Italian Night takes place on Thursday 11th August, and I plan to be there. Let’s the weather is just as kind and that there is lots to see.

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