The observation, or even complaint, that UK events are heavily concentrated in the southern half of the country is often heard, and when you look on a map to see where all the larger events are held, and you will quickly realise that it is very true. Almost everything, certainly of national prominence takes place no further north than the Midlands meaning that for anyone who lives north of this, in England or Scotland faces a very long journey to be able to attend. To the credit of many of those enthusiasts, plenty do chose to make the trip south several times a year to be able to take part, but it always seems to me that it would only be fair to try to hold at least some of the events in more northerly locations. The thought clearly occurred to the Auto Italia team as well (Phil Ward is a Yorkshireman, for starters, so he needs no convincing of the merits of the northern part of the country) so in 2019 they added a Northern Italian Car day to their program of events. It was relatively low key as the location that was available was limited on space, but the day was sufficient of a success to lead to a plan to do something bigger in 2020. A different venue was found, with far more space, and the event duly announced, only for Covid restrictions to appear to sabotage the plan. However, with restrictions easing over the summer, it is to the immense credit of the team that they managed to get a new date, and put on an event in early September. Around 300 cars booked in, and on a day blessed with late summer sunshine, pretty much all of them turned up. Some, I gather had travelled from well north of the Scottish border, so I was far from the only person who had travelled a considerable distance to attend. A few cars on show were ones that I’ve seen at more southerly events, but a lot of them were ones that I had not, adding extra appeal to the event.
Raby Castle is privately owned and is located between Durham and Barnard Castle, a short distance off the A1. It’s easy to get and in a part of the country that is just glorious. I spent three happy years in Durham as a student and fell in love with the area, and very much regret that I rarely get back to visit and see more of it. I’d never been to Raby Castle before, and can tell you that it is well worth a visit with or without a car show, as it is splendid. Raby is without doubt one of the most impressive intact castles in the North of England. Built in the 14th century by the powerful Nevill family, it has a long history. Home to Cecily Nevill, mother of two kings of England, it was also the scene of the plotting of the Rising of the North and a Parliamentary stronghold during the Civil War. Originally moated and accessed via a drawbridge, the Castle was built as a palace fortress. It is characterised by a sequence of massive towers linked by curtain walls. It’s completeness is of national significance as a largely single-phase structure, with one twelfth century survival (Bulmer’s Tower). The Nevills, responsible for building the 14th century Castle which still stands today, continued to live at Raby until 1569 when, after the failure of the Rising of the North, the Castle and its lands were forfeited to the Crown. The 6th Earl of Westmorland was the last of the Nevills to live at Raby Castle. He fled from Raby in 1569 after The Rising of the North and died in exile in Holland in 1601. In 1626, Sir Henry Vane the Elder, Member of Parliament and important member of Charles I’s household, purchased Raby from the Crown. The Vane family still own Raby, the present owner being the 12th Lord Barnard. The Castle is set in 200 acres or parkland, and there is a lovely walled garden to enjoy.
And to so the cars. “Special” cars were asked to proceed through the gatehouse and to park on the south side of the castle in what must be one of the best settings to display your car that you are ever going to find in the UK or even globally. Around 40 cars were able to park here, at which point the area was full, so a few of the rare cars that arrived later in the morning had to park elsewhere. The rest of the parking was in long lines on the grass and they presented a stunning sight both up close and from a distance.
There was a strong showing of Abarth cars, as you might expect, with a large contingent of cars from the Abarth North East Group, but there were also plenty of owners from further afield. Abarth UK lent their support to the event, with a hospitality unit which served complimentary coffee and tea to Abarth owners (which was most welcome) and Gerry Southerington, the boss of Abarth UK, made the journey up from his Peterborough home to join in. I was able to have a good chat with him, as we wandered around the cars, with Gerry excitedly pointed at several of the models that he recalled having as a company car over the years he has worked for Fiat Auto (now FCA Group). And it was not just me that he got to talk to. It is always fantastic to see such interest and support being taken by the brand, something you would not get if you were to buy almost anything else!
The vast majority of cars here were the 500-based models which have been on sale now since the end of 2008, following a launch at the Paris Show that year. Since that time there have been a number of detailed changes to the standard cars and a lot of limited editions. Those who really know the marque can spot most of them, but some are so subtle that unless there is a badge you can see, you will not ne quite sure which version you are looking at. It used to be relatively easy, when the model was first launched, as there was only one version as shipped ex works called the 500. It had a 135 bhp 1.4 litre turbo-charged engine coupled to a five speed manual gearbox, with 16″ alloys as standard, and the option of 17″ wheels, and a colour palette comprising of two whites (BossaNova White, the standard colour, or the pearlescent Funk White), Red (Pasadoble), Pale Grey (Campovolo) or Black. If you wanted more power – 160 bhp – then you could order an Esseesse kit, which came in a large wooden crate, containing new wheels, springs, an ECU upgrade, the Monza exhaust system and badging. It was dealer fitted and could be applied at any time within the first 12 months or 10,000 miles from registration. Needless to say, it proved popular. As were many of the optional extras, with stickers for the sides, a large scorpion for the bonnet and even a chequered pattern for the roof among the personalisation options offered. Several of the original style of cars were here.
Whilst a sliding glass sunroof (Skydome in Fiat/Abarth parlance) was an option from inception, fans of open air motoring had to wait until Geneva 2010 for the launch of the 500C models.
For the first few months these cars only came with the robotised manual gearbox, which limited the appeal in the eyes of some, but they also introduced us to the “bi-colore”, a series of two tone cars, with upper and lower halves of the body painted in different colours. It took us a while to get used to this, as no other production road cars had been painted like this for some time, but now this is seen as yet another of those marque defining attributes, and (perhaps with the exception of the rarely seen Rally Beige and Officina Red combination that would come for 2014) in the eyes of many this distinctive look enhances the appeal of the cars still further.
Having used the legendary 695 badging from the 1960s on the Tributo cars, at the 2012 Geneva Show, Abarth dusted off the 595 name that had been used on the less powerful of the Nuova 500 based cars of the same generation, and created two new versions which we should think of as Series 2 cars, the 595 Turismo and Competizione, both of which could be bought in either closed or open top C guise, with either the 5 speed manual or robotised automated gearshifts. Both models had the 160 bhp engine as standard. Effectively they were a replacement for the Esseesse kit, and it meant that the cars were produced complete at the factory, rather than needing the dealer to undertake the upgrade (and the associated paperwork), though Abarth did not withdraw the Esseesse kits from the market for some while. Turismo, as the name suggests was aimed slightly less extreme in intent, featuring standard leather upholstery, upgraded dampers and climate control, Xenon headlights and Alutex interior details. The sportier Abarth 595 Competizione replaced the leather seats with Sabelt cloth sport seats and Alutex with aluminium, while adding p-cross-drilled brakes and the Record Monza dual-mode exhaust.
Some new colours were introduced, and very soon one of those, Record Grey, frequently combined with a tan interior became one of the most popular choices. There were several examples of this popular colour here and there is no denying that this combination suits the Abarth shape very well.
Rumours started to circulate towards the end of 2014 that Abarth were going to upgrade the Competizione model, so as better to bridge the gap between the Turismo and the 190 bhp 695 Biposto that had been added to the range earlier in the year. It was Geneva 2015 when the result was finally shown to an expectant fan base. Most exciting news was that thanks to a bigger Garrett Turbo, the engine had been tweaked to 180 bhp, and with reduced CO2 emissions. A standard spec that included Koni Dampers, Brembo brakes, Xenon lights, Sabelt seats, Climate Control, parking sensors as well as other refinements that had been added like the TFT instrument display all proved very compelling, so not long after the first cars reached the UK in June of 2015, I found temptation too hard to resist, and as is well documented here, swapped my 2010 car for one of these. At the time I ordered it, Cordolo Red, a tri-coat pearlescent paint which shimmers in bright sunlight looked set to become one of the most popular colours of the lot, even though it is a cost option. Indeed, the Launch Edition models were all offered either in this colour or Scorpion Black, with black wheels. Surprisingly, the colour was not carried over to the Series 4 cars.
A new colour was announced with the new Competizione cars, called Podium Blue, but it was not going to be immediately available, and there were no accurate representations of exactly what shade it would be. Rumours circulated on Abarth forums and Facebook Groups all summer, with lots of guessing and no real facts, although we had been assured that it was not the same as the Abu Dhabi Blue that had featured on a very small number of 695 Tributo Ferrari models in 2011. It was October 2016 when the first cars reached the UK and those who had taken the gamble could see for themselves whether they had got it right. Common consent is this is a stunning colour. A rich blue, it changes shade in different lights. I think it looks fantastic. It has proved very popular and remains on offer to this day.
Seen by most as the ultimate model, there was the 695 Biposto. 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. Although the Matt Performance Grey car is probably the one you think of when someone says “Biposto”, there were other versions, with a very rare red being a car that I did not spot here, and the yellow painted Record Edition being a version you see a bit more often. Seen here was one of the grey cars.
What is known as the Series 4 version of the familiar 595 reached the markets in the middle of 2016. After rumours had circulated all winter following the launch of the facelifted Fiat 500 last year, Abarth finally unveiled the Series 4 at the end of May 2016. Initially, we were told that the cars would not be available in the UK until September, but that came forward somewhat, with dealers all receiving demo cars in June, and the first customers taking delivery in July. Three regular production versions of both the closed car and the open-topped C were initially available, all badged 595, and called Custom, Turismo and Competizione, as before, though numerous limited edition models have since appeared and in most case disappeared. The most significant changes with the Series 4 are visual, with a couple of new colours, including the much asked for Modena Yellow and a different red, called Abarth Red, which replaces both the non-metallic Officina and – slightly surprisingly – the tri-coat pearlescent Cordolo Red. as well as styling changes front and rear. The jury is still out on these, 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 for the UK retain 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. Details of the interior trim have changed, with a filled-in glovebox like the US market cars have always had, and electric windows switches that are like the US ones, as well as a part Alcantara trim to the steering wheel in Competizione cars. These cars have now been on offer for three years and with Abarth sales on the rise, it was no surprise that they were particularly well represented here.
Many Abarth owners spend a lot of time and money on modifiying their cars. Some focus on looks, whilst others are interested in what they can do mechanically to add more power, or other mechanical modifications. There were a number of duly modified cars here, all of which attract lots of attention from everyone present. Whilst some of the changes are not entirely to my taste (I can be something of a purist at times!, there can be no doubting the care and attention (and in many cases money) that has gone into their creation). One of the most popular modified cars is the 500 GTO which belongs to Ben Au, who lives nearby.
More recently, Abarth have produced the 695 Rivale, a celebration of Fiat’s partnership with Riva, which has already seen a special Riva version of the 500,. Described as being “the most sophisticated Abarth ever”, it is available either as a hatch or a cabriolet, with both of them featuring a two-tone Riva Sera Blue and Shark Grey paintwork. The Rivale is adorned with an aquamarine double stripe, satin chrome finish on the door handles and satin chrome moulding on the tailgate, various aesthetic elements inspired by the Riva 56 Rivale yachts and ‘695 Rivale’ logos, joined by Brembo Brakes, Koni suspension, and 17-inch Supersport alloy wheels. Enhancing the nautical theme the new 695 Rivale features either a carbon fibre or mahogany dashboard, black mats with blue inserts, blue leather seats and door panels, carbon fibre kick plates, special steering wheel wrapped in blue and black leather and with a mahogany badge, blue leather instrument panel cover, and mahogany gear lever knob and kick plate. These are joined by the standard Uconnect infotainment with a 7-inch display, which is compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and there is also a hand-written numbered plate that can be customised with the mane of the customer’s yacht on request. Powering the 695 Rivale is the same 1.4-litre turbocharged engine that makes 180PS (177hp) and 184lb/ft of torque, that features in the 595 Competizione, allowing it to go from rest to 100km/h (62mph) in 6.7 seconds and up to a top speed of 225km/h (140mph). This is a regular model in the range, but confusingly, there is also the Abarth 695 Rivale 175 Anniversary, created to celebrate 175 years of the Riva brand. Just 350 of these were produced, half of them the hatch and the other half cabriolets. These featured 17-inch alloy wheels with a special pattern, celebratory badge on the outside, hand-crafted details such as the two-tone colour – blue and black hand-stitched leather seats with a celebratory logo stitched onto the headrest, carbon dashboard silk screen printed with special logo, numbered plate. Standard Rivale cars arrived in the UK in April 2018, and quite a few have been sold. They always attract lots of interest when they do appear.
Most recent addition to the range is the 695 Anniversario which was launched at the brand’s 70th anniversary celebrations in Milan in October 2019, and deliveries of which started around the turn of the year. The Anniversario is in a choice of 5 colours: White, Black, Podium Blue, Grey and 1958 Green, and there were examples of some but not all of these here, including a couple of cars in the 1958 Green which was selected to evoke memories of the 1958 record-breaking 500, though I can advise that the two shades of green are quite different, the older car being much lighter. Online verdicts of the new car at launch were not entirely positive, with many challenging the appearance, others the spec and yet more the price (£29,995 in the UK), but in the metal, it looks far better than those first web pictures portrayed, and there is no doubt that the 1949 buyers of the car are getting something quite distinctive, with the Campovolo Grey accents around the wheelarches and lower body skirts. What they aren’t getting is more than 180 bhp, as it would seem that to get Euro 6d compliance from the T-Jet engine, 180 bhp is the limit. But the Abarth 695 70° Anniversario does have an ace up its sleeve. Look at the back and you’ll notice a rather large roof-mounted spoiler serving as the special edition’s party piece. Manually adjustable in literally a dozen of positions, the spoiler was developed in the wind tunnel to achieve maximum aero efficiency regardless of speed. Its inclination varies from 0 to 60 degrees and helps increase aerodynamic load by 42 kilograms when the car is travelling at speeds of 124 mph (200 km/h) provided the spoiler is at its maximum inclination. Abarth has done the maths and it claims the new aero component will reduce steering corrections by as much as 40% based on the testing they’ve done at FCA’s wind tunnel in the Orbassano municipality located southwest of Turin. Power is provided by the familiar 1.4-litre turbocharged engine with 180 hp and 250 Nm (184 lb-ft) of torque, good enough for a sprint from 0 to 62 mph (100 km/h) in 6.7 seconds before topping out at 140 mph (225 km/h) if the spoiler is in the 0° position. Those 17-inch SuperSport wheels are paired to a Brembo braking system with four-piston aluminium calipers finished in red, hugging the 305-mm front and 240-mm rear self-ventilated discs. Rounding off the changes on the outside is the newly developed Record Monza exhaust with active valve for a better soundtrack. Abarth also spruced up the cabin a bit where the body-hugging seats are exclusive to this special edition, just like the individually numbered plaque reminding you this isn’t an ordinary 695. Onboard tech includes support for both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, DAB digital radio and a navigation system for that seven-inch touchscreen display. Additional standard equipment includes automatic climate control, daytime running lights, LED fog lights, unique mats, and the Abarth telemetry system if you plan on taking the hot hatch to the track.
There was just one example of the Abarth Punto here, an Evo Supersport. The Punto Evo was launched at the 2010 Geneva Show, with the cars reaching UK buyers in the summer of that year, and it incorporated many of the changes which had been seen a few months earlier on the associated Fiat models, the visual alterations being the most obvious, with the car taking on the nose of the associated Fiat, but adapted to make it distinctively Abarth, new rear lights and new badging. There was more to it than this, though, as under the bonnet, the T-Jet unit was swapped for the 1.4 litre Multi-Air, coupled to a 6 speed gearbox, which meant that the car now had 165 bhp at its disposal. Eventually, Abarth offered an Esseesse kit for these cars, though these are exceedingly rare. Part of the Punto Evo family is the SuperSport, usually identified by the distinctive black bonnet, though not all cars feature it. 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.
Completing the different models from the modern Abarth catalogue were a number of examples of the 124 Spider. Eagerly awaited, the 124 Spider went on sale in September 2016. A quick reminder as to what this car is: The Abarth 124 Spider was developed in parallel with the Fiat model. It does cost a lot more, and there are those who think you don’t get enough extra for your money, but those who have driven it will tell you otherwise. You certainly get more power. The 1.4 MultiAir turbo unit jumps up from 138bhp to 168bhp, while torque also increases by a modest 10Nm to 250Nm, which gives it a 0-62mph time of 6.8 seconds, which is half a second quicker than the 2.0-litre Mazda MX-5. The top speed is 143mph. It weighs just 1060kg meaning a power-to-weight ratio of 158bhp-per-tonne, and with the new Record Monza exhaust system it sounds great even at idle. The Abarth version gets a stiffer suspension setup than the regular Fiat 124 Spider, with Bilstein dampers and beefed-up anti-roll bars. Bigger Brembo brakes also feature, with aluminium calipers. It can be had with a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission with paddles, and the latter gets a Sport mode for quicker shifts. Many of the UK cars sport the ‘Heritage Look’ pack, which is a no-cost option. It brings a matt black bonnet and bootlid, plus red exterior trim detailing and has proved popular. The £29,565 starting price gets you standard equipment such as cruise control, climate control, Bluetooth, a DAB radio and satnav, plus Alcantara black and red (or pure black) seat trim. The automatic gearbox is a £2,035 extra, while an optional visibility pack brings LED DRLs, auto lights and wipers and rear parking sensors. As well as plenty of the standard car, there were a number of examples of the GT.
There were more Alfa Romeo cars here than anything else, with a very impressive showing including a few really rare model types. Frustratingly, one of the rarest of them all, a 33 Giardiniera managed to elude my camera – not helped by the fact that the family who owned it sat so close to the car all day that it was hard to get photos of the car rather than the people, and then when I looked again, it had gone. I think I captured everything else, though.
First of the all-new Giulia models to appear was the Berlina, launched in 1962. The styling was quite straight forward, but great attention was paid to detail. The engine bay, cabin and boot were all square shaped. But the grille, the rooflines and details on the bonnet and boot made for an integrated design from bumper to bumper. Thanks to Alfa Romeo using a wind tunnel during its development, the Giulia was very aerodynamic with a drag coefficient of Cd=0.34, which was particularly low for a saloon of the era and not a bad figure even for cars of today. Couple that with the fact that Alfa Romeo was one of the first manufacturers to put a powerful engine in a light-weight car (it weighed about 1,000 kilograms) and thanks to an array of light alloy twin overhead camshaft four-cylinder engine, similar to that of the earlier Giulietta models range, the car had a lively performance which bettered that of many sports cars of the day. The Tipo 105.14 was the first model, with a 1,570 cc Twin Cam engine with single down-draft carburettor generating 91 hp at 6500 rpm. The “TI” nomenclature referred to a class of Italian saloon car racing known as “Turismo Internazionale”, and had previously been applied to higher-performance versions of the 1900 and Giulietta saloons in the 1950s. However, for the Giulia saloon, the Ti was at first the only version available, and later, with the introduction of the TI Super and Super, the TI became the base version for the 1,600 cc engine class. The steering column gearchange (the only one in the Giulia range) was replaced with a floor change for 1964 (Tipo 105.08). Right hand drive cars, available from 1964, only ever had a floor change (Tipo 105.09). Brakes were by drums all around at first. Discs were introduced later, first at the front, and later all around. A brake servo was not fitted at first, but was introduced in later cars. The steering wheel featured the only horn ring ever in the Giulia range. The dashboard with a strip speedo is a notable feature, as is the steering wheel with a horn ring. The Giulia TI was phased out in 1968 and re-introduced as the austerity model 1600 S. Tipo 105.16 was a special racing model introduced in 1963. Quadrifoglio Verde stickers on the front wings were a distinguishing feature. Only 501 were made for homologation and today it is very rare and desirable. The 1,570 cc engine was fitted with two double-choke horizontal Weber 45DCOE carburettors for 110 hp at 6500 rpm. The body was lightened and a floor gearchange was fitted as standard, as were alloy wheels of very similar appearance to the standard steel ones of the TI. The TI’s instrument cluster with its strip speedometer was replaced with a three-instrument binnacle comprising speedometer, tachometer and a multi-gauge instrument (fuel, water temperature, oil temperature and pressure) – these instruments were similar to those fitted to the contemporary Giulia Sprint and Sprint Speciale coupes and Spider convertibles. The steering wheel was a three-spoke item with centre hornpush, also similar to that of the more sporting models. Braking was by discs all around, although the first cars used drums and early disc models lacked a servo which was introduced later. The police cars seen in The Italian Job were of this type. Tipo 105.06 was an austerity model made from 1964 to 1970 with a 1,290 cc single-carburettor engine for 77 hp at 6000 rpm. Four-speed gearbox with floor change fitted as standard (the 1300 was the only Giulia model not fitted with a five-speed gearbox). Though the engine was given a 105 series type number, it was basically the engine from the 101 series Giulietta Ti. This model appears not to have been exported to many markets outside Italy, if at all. Braking was by discs all around, without a servo at first, later with a servo. Tipo 105.26 was introduced in 1965. It transferred the technology from the racing TI Super to a road car, to make the most successful Giulia saloon. 1,570 cc engine with two double-choke Weber 40DCOE carburettors for a milder, but torquier tune than the TI Super – 97 hp at 5500 rpm. There was a new dashboard with two large round instruments (speedo and tacho) and clock, a sportier steering wheel with three aluminium spokes and centre horn push, similar to that of the Ti Super, later changed for one with the horn pushes in the spokes. All-around disc brakes with servo were fitted as standard from the outset. The serpent crest of the Sforza family appears in a badge on the C-pillar and is a distinguishing feature of the Super. For 1968, there was a suspension update, including revised geometry and a rear anti-roll bar. The wheels were changed in size from 5J x 15 to 5J x 14, and tyres from 155/15 to 165/14. For 1970, updates included dual-circuit brakes, centre-mounted handbrake lever to replace under-dash “umbrella handle”, larger external doorhandles, and top-hinged pedals (the latter in left hand drive models only; right hand drive continued with bottom-hinged pedals to the end of production). In 1972, Tipo 105.26 was rationalised into the Giulia 1.3 – Giulia 1.6 range. Tipo 105.39 built from 1965 to 1972. Right hand drive model replaced in 1970 by the 1300 Super. 1,290 cc engine with single down-draft carburettor for 81 hp at 6000 rpm. Unlike the re-deployed 101-series Giulietta engine of the austerity-model 1300, the 1300 ti motor was a 105 series engine, basically that of the sportier GT1300 Junior coupe with different camshaft timing (but the same camshafts) and induction system. Five-speed gearbox. Three-spoke bakelite steering wheel with plastic horn push covering the centre and spokes. Dashboard initially with strip speedo like that of the TI. For 1968, updates included a dashboard based on that of the Super, but with a simpler instrument binnacle, still featuring two large round instruments (speedo and tacho) and a separate fuel gauge, and the same suspension, wheel and tire updates applied to the Giulia Super in the same year. For 1970, updates included dual-circuit brakes, centre handbrake, larger external doorhandles and top-hinged pedals (on left hand drive cars only), again as applied to the Super for that year. Tipo 105.85 was basically a Giulia TI re-introduced in 1968 as a lower-level model to come between the 1300 and 1300 ti on one hand, and the Super on the other. It had a re-interpretation of the 1,570 cc single-carburettor engine for 94 hp at 5500 rpm and similar trim to the 1300 ti. Replaced in 1970 by the 1300 Super which offered similar performance in a lower tax bracket. The last cars from 1970 featured the top-hinged pedals, centre handbrake and dual-circuit brakes as for the Super and 1300 ti. Tipo 115.09 was introduced in 1970. It was basically a 1300 ti fitted with the engine from the GT 1300 Junior coupe that featured two double-choke horizontal carburettors; the engine actually had the GT 1300 Junior type number. This model was rationalised into the Giulia Super 1.3 – Giulia Super 1.6 range in 1972. In 1972 a rationalisation of the Giulia range saw the Super 1300 (Tipo 115.09) and the Super (Tipo 105.26) re-released as the Super 1.3 and Super 1.6. The two models featured the same equipment, interior and exterior trim, differing only in engine size and final drive ratio. The 1300 ti was dropped. A small Alfa Romeo badge on the C-pillar is a distinguishing feature, as are hubcaps with exposed wheel nuts. In December 1972 Alfa-Romeo South Africa released the 1600 Rallye. This locally developed more powerful 1600 cc version of the 1300 Super used the 1300’s single-headlight body shell. The car was largely ready for competition and was only planned to be built in limited numbers, and was fitted with racing-style rear-view mirrors, rally lamps, fully adjustable seats, and a limited-slip differential. Claimed power was 125 hp. The Giulia Super range was re-released in 1974 as the Nuova Super range, including the Giulia Nuova Super 1300 and 1600 This featured a new black plastic front grille and a flat boot lid without the characteristic centre spine. Otherwise the cars differed little from their Giulia Super predecessors and bore the same Tipo numbers with an S suffix. A Nuova Super fitted with a Perkins 1,760 cc diesel with 54 hp at 4000 rpm, was the firm’s first attempt at diesel power. The same Perkins diesel was used also in Alfa Romeo F12 van. The diesel version was slow, 138 km/h (86 mph), and the engine somehow unsuitable for a sport sedan so it was not big seller, only around 6500 examples were made in 1976 and the car was not sold in the UK. Production of the Giulia ceased in 1977. There are relatively few of these cars in the UK, and many of these are left hand drive models which have been re-imported relatively recently, or have been converted for historic racing, so it was good to see a nice road-going model here.
By 1963, Alfa were ready to add a Coupe version to their new 105 Series Giulia range. It evolved over a 14 year production life, with plenty of different models, though the basic design changed little. The first car was called the Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GT, and was revealed at a press event held at the then newly opened Arese plant on 9 September 1963, and displayed later the same month at the Frankfurt Motor Show. In its original form the Bertone body is known as scalino (step) or “step front”, because of the leading edge of the engine compartment lid which sat 1/4 an inch above the nose of the car. The Giulia Sprint GT can be distinguished from the later models by a number of features including: Exterior badging: Alfa Romeo logo on the front grille, a chrome script reading “Giulia Sprint GT” on the boot lid, and rectangular “Disegno di Bertone” badges aft of the front wheel arches; flat, chrome grille in plain, wide rectangular mesh without additional chrome bars; single-piece chrome bumpers; no overriders. Inside the cabin the padded vinyl dashboard was characterised by a concave horizontal fascia, finished in grey anti-glare crackle-effect paint. Four round instruments were inset in the fascia in front of the driver. The steering wheel was non-dished, with three aluminium spokes, a thin bakelite rim and a centre horn button. Vinyl-covered seats with cloth centres and a fully carpeted floor were standard, while leather upholstery was an extra-cost option. After initially marketing it as a four-seater, Alfa Romeo soon changed its definition of the car to a more realistic 2+2. The Giulia Sprint GT was fitted with the 1,570 cc version of Alfa Romeo’s all-aluminium twin cam inline four (78 mm bore × 82 mm stroke), which had first debuted on the 1962 Giulia Berlina. Breathing through two twin-choke Weber 40 DCOE 4 carburettors, on the Sprint GT this engine produced 105 hp at 6,000 rpm. Like all subsequent models, the Sprint GT was equipped with an all-synchromesh 5-speed manual transmission. The braking system comprised four Dunlop disc brakes and a vacuum servo. The rear brakes featured an unusual arrangement with the slave cylinders mounted on the axle tubes, operating the calipers by a system of levers and cranks. According to Alfa Romeo the car could reach a top speed of “over 180 km/h (112 mph)”. In total 21,902 Giulia Sprint GT were produced from 1963 to 1965, when the model was superseded by the Giulia Sprint GT Veloce. Of these 2,274 were right hand drive: 1,354 cars fully finished in Arese, and 920 shipped in complete knock-down kit form for foreign assembly. For 1966, the Giulia Sprint GT was replaced by the Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GT Veloce, which was very similar but featuring a number of improvements: a revised engine—slightly more powerful and with more torque—better interior fittings and changes to the exterior trim. Alongside the brand new 1750 Spider Veloce which shared its updated engine the Sprint GT Veloce was introduced at the 36th Geneva Motor Show in March 1966, and then tested by the international specialist press in Gardone on the Garda Lake. Production had began in 1965 and ended in 1968. The Giulia Sprint GT Veloce can be most easily distinguished from other models by the following features: badging as per Giulia Sprint GT, with the addition of round enamel badges on the C-pillar—a green Quadrifoglio (four-leaf clover) on an ivory background—and a chrome “Veloce” script on the tail panel; black mesh grille with three horizontal chrome bars; the grille heart has 7 bars instead of 6; stainless steel bumpers, as opposed to the chromed mild steel bumpers on the Giulia Sprint GT. The bumpers are the same shape, but are made in two pieces (front) and three pieces (rear) with small covers hiding the joining rivets. Inside the main changes from the Giulia Sprint GT were imitation wood dashboard fascia instead of the previous anti-glare grey finish, front seats revised to a mild “bucket” design, and a dished three aluminium spoke steering wheel, with a black rim and horn buttons through the spokes. The Veloce’s type 00536 engine, identical to the Spider 1600 Duetto’s, featured modifications compared to the Giulia Sprint GT’s type 00502—such as larger diameter exhaust valves. As a result it produced 108 hp at 6,000 rpm, an increase of 3 hp over the previous model, and significantly more torque. The top speed now exceeded 185 km/h (115 mph). Early Giulia Sprint GT Veloces featured the same Dunlop disc brake system as the Giulia Sprint GT, while later cars substituted ATE disc brakes as pioneered on the GT 1300 Junior in 1966. The ATE brakes featured an handbrake system entirely separate from the pedal brakes, using drum brakes incorporated in the rear disc castings. Though the Sprint GT Veloce’s replacement—the 1750 GT Veloce—was introduced in 1967, production continued throughout the year and thirty final cars were completed in 1968. By then total Giulia Sprint GT Veloce production amounted to 14,240 examples. 1,407 of these were right hand drive cars, and 332 right hand drive complete knock-down kits. The Alfa Romeo 1750 GT Veloce (also known as 1750 GTV) appeared in 1967 along with the 1750 Berlina sedan and 1750 Spider. The same type of engine was used to power all three versions; this rationalisation was a first for Alfa Romeo. The 1750 GTV replaced the Giulia Sprint GT Veloce and introduced many updates and modifications. Most significantly, the engine capacity was increased to 1779 cc displacement. Peak power from the engine was increased to 120 hp at 5500 rpm. The stroke was lengthened from 82 to 88.5 mm over the 1600 engine, and a reduced rev limit from 7000 rpm to 6000 rpm. Maximum torque was increased to 186 N·m (137 lb·ft) at 3000 rpm. A higher ratio final drive was fitted (10/41 instead of 9/41) but the same gearbox ratios were retained. The result was that, on paper, the car had only slightly improved performance compared to the Giulia Sprint GT Veloce, but on the road it was much more flexible to drive and it was easier to maintain higher average speeds for fast touring. For the United States market, the 1779 cc engine was fitted with a fuel injection system made by Alfa Romeo subsidiary SPICA, to meet emission control laws that were coming into effect at the time. Fuel injection was also featured on Canadian market cars after 1971. Carburettors were retained for other markets. The chassis was also significantly modified. Tyre size went to 165/14 from 155/15 and wheel size to 5 1/2J x 14 instead of 5J x 15, giving a wider section and slightly smaller rolling diameter. The suspension geometry was also revised, and an anti-roll bar was fitted to the rear suspension. ATE disc brakes were fitted from the outset, but with bigger front discs and calipers than the ones fitted to GT 1300 Juniors and late Giulia Sprint GT Veloces. The changes resulted in significant improvements to the handling and braking, which once again made it easier for the driver to maintain high average speeds for fast touring. The 1750 GTV also departed significantly from the earlier cars externally. New nose styling eliminated the “stepped” bonnet of the Giulia Sprint GT, GTC, GTA and early GT 1300 Juniors and incorporated four headlamps. For the 1971 model year, United States market 1750 GTV’s also featured larger rear light clusters (there were no 1970 model year Alfas on the US market). Besides the chrome “1750” badge on the bootlid, there was also a round Alfa Romeo badge. Similar Quadrofoglio badges to those on the Giulia Sprint GT Veloce were fitted on C pillars, but the Quadrofoglio was coloured gold instead of green. The car also adopted the higher rear wheelarches first seen on the GT 1300 Junior. The interior was also much modified over that of earlier cars. There was a new dashboard with large speedometer and tachometer instruments in twin binnacles closer to the driver’s line of sight. The instruments were mounted at a more conventional angle, avoiding the reflections caused by the upward angled flat dash of earlier cars. Conversely, auxiliary instruments were moved to angled bezels in the centre console, further from the driver’s line of sight than before. The new seats introduced adjustable headrests which merged with the top of the seat when fully down. The window winder levers, the door release levers and the quarterlight vent knobs were also restyled. The remote release for the boot lid, located on the inside of the door opening on the B-post just under the door lock striker, was moved from the right hand side of the car to the left hand side. The location of this item was always independent of whether the car was left hand drive or right hand drive. Early (Series 1) 1750 GTV’s featured the same bumpers as the Giulia Sprint GT Veloce, with the front bumper modified to mount the indicator / sidelight units on the top of its corners, or under the bumper on US market cars. The Series 2 1750 GTV of 1970 introduced other mechanical changes, including a dual circuit braking system (split front and rear, with separate servos). The brake and clutch pedals on left hand drive cars were also of an improved pendant design, instead of the earlier floor-hinged type. On right hand drive cars the floor-hinged pedals were retained, as there was no space for the pedal box behind the carburettors. Externally, the series 2 1750 GTV is identified by new, slimmer bumpers with front and rear overriders. The combined front indicator and sidelight units were now mounted to the front panel instead of the front bumper, except again on the 1971-72 US/Canadian market cars. The interior was slightly modified, with the seats retaining the same basic outline but following a simpler design. 44,269 1750 GTVs were made before their replacement came along. That car was the 2000GTV. Introduced in 1971, together with the 2000 Berlina sedan and 2000 Spider, the 2 litre cars were replacements for the 1750 range. The engine displacement was increased to 1962 cc. Oil and radiator capacities remained unchanged. The North American market cars had fuel injection, but everyone else retained carburettors. Officially, both versions generated the same power, 130 hp at 5500 rpm. The interior trim was changed, with the most notable differences being the introduction of a separate instrument cluster, instead of the gauges installed in the dash panel in earlier cars. Externally the 2000 GTV is most easily distinguished by its grille with horizontal chrome bars, featuring protruding blocks forming the familiar Alfa heart in outline, smaller hubcaps with exposed wheel nuts, optional aluminium alloy wheels of the same size as the standard 5. 1/2J × 14 steel items, styled to the “turbina” design first seen on the alloy wheels of the Alfa Romeo Montreal, and the larger rear light clusters first fitted to United States market 1750 GTV’s were standard for all markets. From 1974 on, the 105 Series coupé models were rationalised and these external features became common to post-1974 GT 1300 Junior and GT 1600 Junior models, with only few distinguishing features marking the difference between models. 37,459 2000 GTVs were made before production ended and these days they are very sought after with prices having sky-rocketed in recent years.
Alfa replaced the Giulia-based Spider model with 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. Several examples of the Series 1 and Series 2 cars were to be seen here.
The S4, the final major change to the long running Spider came in 1990, and mechanically, the biggest different was the use of Bosch Motronic electronic fuel injection with an electric fan. Externally, the Spider lost its front under-bumper spoiler and the rather ungainly rear boot spoiler of the S3, and picked up 164-style rear lights stretching across the width of the car as well as plastic bumpers the same colour as the car. This also marked the first generation of the car with automatic transmission, as well as on-board diagnostics capabilities. The car had remained in production largely thanks to continued demand in North America, though this market had to wait until 1991 for the changes to appear on their cars. European markets were offered a car with a 1600cc engine and carburettors as well as the 2 litre injected unit. Production finally ended in 1993, with an all new model, the 916 Series Spider appearing a year later. The S4 car was not officially sold in the UK, but plenty have found their way to our shores since then.
The 1750 and 2000 Berlina models are largely ignored these days in favour of the GTV models, and whereas you would also say the Coupe cars are genuinely pretty whereas the Berlina is, in its own rather boxy way, more of an elegant car, it still seems a shame to me that this car is so little known outside Alfa enthusiast circles. With the commercially unsuccessful 2600 Berlina out of production, Alfa’s only Saloon car of the mid 1960s was the Giulia, and it was clear that they needed something larger to compete against the Ford Corsair, BMW 2000 and Lancia Flavia, the result being the 1750 Berlina which as introduced in Italy in January 1968, along with the 1750 engined versions of the established GT Veloce Coupé and Spider Veloce. Based on the Giulia saloon, which continued in production, and indeed would outlast its larger sibling, the 1750 had a longer wheelbase and revised external panels, but it shared many of the same internal panels and the windscreen. The revisions were carried out by Bertone, and while it resembled the Giulia some of that vehicle’s distinctive creases were smoothed out, and there were significant changes to the trim details. The car’s taillights were later used on the De Tomaso Longchamp. The new car had a 1,779 cc twin-carb engine which produced 116 hp with the help of twin carburettors on European cars and SPICA fuel injection in the US. There was a hydraulic clutch. In 1971, the 1750 Berlina was fitted with an experimental three-speed ZF automatic gearbox. The model designation was 1750A Berlina. The automatic gearbox wasn’t well-suited to the four-cylinder motor due to baulky shifting and ill-chosen gear ratio. Because of this, its fuel consumption was frighteningly high and acceleration was a bit too slow. According to official Alfa Romeo archives, just 252 of these were produced with very few surviving to this day. During 1971 the 1750 series was superceded across the Alfa Romeo range by the 2000 series; creating, in this case, the 2000 Berlina. Key difference was a larger engine, bored and stroked out to 1,962 cc. With two carburettors, this 2 litre Alfa Romeo Twin Cam engine produced 130 hp, giving a top speed of 200 km/h (124 mph) and 0-100 km/h (62 mph) acceleration took 9 seconds. The gearbox was a 5-speed manual though the 3-speed automatic was also offered. A different grille distinguishes the 2000 from 1750, and the lights were also changed. The 1750 had 7 inch diameter outboard headlights, whereas on the 2000 all four units were of 5 3/4 inch diameter. The tail light clusters were also of a simpler design on the 1750. In USA this engine was equipped with mechanical fuel injection.. A direct replacement for the car in the 1.8-litre saloon class came that same year, in the form of the all-new Alfa Romeo Alfetta, though the two models ran in parallel for the next five years and it was only in 1977 with the launch of the Alfetta 2000, that the 2000 Berlina was finally discontinued. version, replaced the 2000 Berlina. Total sales of the 1750/2000 amounted to 191,000 units over a 10 year production life, 89,840 of these being 2000 Berlinas, of which just 2.200 units were fitted with the automatic gearbox. You don’t see these cars that often.
As was still the practice in the 1970s, Alfa followed up the 1972 launch of the Alfetta Berlina with a very pretty coupe. Styled by Giugiaro, this car, initially called the GT, and premiered in the autumn of 1974, looked completely unlike the saloon on which it was based. The first cars had 1.8 litre four cylinder engines and there was one of those on show. 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. These days you more often see the later plastic bumpered models, and these were the cars on display here. Included among them were a couple of cars sporting 3.0 badging and right hand drive. These are South African cars. From 1974 South African Alfetta’s were manufactured at Alfa Romeo’s own Brits plant. South Africa was one of two markets to have a turbocharged GTV6, with a Garrett turbocharger and a NACA intake. An estimated 750 were assembled before all production ceased in 1986. The South African range included a 3.0 litre GTV-6, predating the international debut of the factory’s 3.0 litre engine in 1987 (for the Alfa 75). and 212 of these were built in South Africa for racing homologation. The last 6 GTV-6 3.0’s were fuel injected. To this day, the GTV-6 remains the quintessential Alfa Romeo for South Africans.
There were a number of AlfaSuds throughout the event, as well. These characterful small cars evoke a very positive reaction, with many people wistfully recollecting one that they, or their parents, owned back in the 1970s, but observing that the car, whilst divine to drive, simply rusted away almost before your very eyes. There are a lot more of these cars left in the UK than you might imagine, but most of them are on SORN, needing massive restorations that may or may not ever happen. That should not detract from the splendour of the models on show at this event. Alfa Romeo had explored building a smaller front wheel drive car in the 1950s but it was not until 1967 that firm plans were laid down for an all-new model to fit in below the existing Alfa Romeo range. It was developed by Austrian Rudolf Hruska, who created a unique engineering package, clothed in a body styled by Giorgetto Giugiaro of ItalDesign. The car was built at a new factory at Pomigliano d’Arco in southern Italy, hence the car’s name, Alfa Sud (Alfa South). January 18, 1968, saw the registration at Naples of a new company named “Industria Napoletana Costruzioni Autoveicoli Alfa Romeo-Alfasud S.p.A.”. 90% of the share capital was subscribed by Alfa Romeo and 10% by Finmeccanica, at that time the financial arm of the government controlled IRI. Construction work on the company’s new state sponsored plant at nearby Pomigliano d’Arco began in April 1968, on the site of an aircraft engine factory used by Alfa Romeo during the war. The Alfasud was shown at the Turin Motor Show three years later in 1971 and was immediately praised by journalists for its styling. The four-door saloon featured an 1,186 cc Boxer water-cooled engine with a belt-driven overhead camshaft on each cylinder head. It also featured an elaborate suspension setup for a car in its class (MacPherson struts at the front and a beam axle with Watt’s linkage at the rear). Other unusual features for this size of car were four-wheel disc brakes (with the front ones being inboard) and rack and pinion steering. The engine design allowed the Alfasud a low bonnet line, making it very aerodynamic (for its day), and in addition gave it a low centre of gravity. As a result of these design features, the car had excellent performance for its engine size, and levels of roadholding and handling that would not be equaled in its class for another ten years. Despite its two-box shape, the Alfasud did not initially have a hatchback. Some of the controls were unorthodox, the lights, turn indicators, horn, wipers and heater fan all being operated by pulling, turning or pushing the two column stalks. In November 1973 the first sport model joined the range, the two-door Alfasud ti—(Turismo Internazionale, or Touring International).Along with a 5-speed gearbox, it featured a more powerful version of the 1.2 engine, brought to 67 hp by adopting a Weber twin-choke carburettor; the small saloon could reach 160 km/h. Quad round halogen headlamps, special wheels, a front body-colour spoiler beneath the bumper and rear black one around the tail distinguished the “ti”, while inside there were a three-spoke steering wheel, auxiliary gauges, leatherette/cloth seats, and carpets in place of rubber mats. In 1974, Alfa Romeo launched a more upscale model, the Alfasud SE. The SE was replaced by the Alfasud L (Lusso) model introduced at the Bruxelles Motor Show in January 1975. Recognisable by its bumper overriders and chrome strips on the door sills and on the tail, the Lusso was better appointed than the standard Alfasud (now known as “normale”), with such features as cloth upholstery, headrests, padded dashboard with glove compartment and optional tachometer. A three-door estate model called the Alfasud Giardinetta was introduced in May 1975. It had the same equipment of the Alfasud “L”. It was never sold in the UK and these models are particularly rare now. The Lusso model was produced until 1976, by then it was replaced with the new Alfasud 5m (5 marce, five speed) model, the first four-door Alfasud with a five-speed gearbox. Presented at the March 1976 Geneva Motor Show, it was equipped like the Lusso it replaced. In late 1977 the Alfasud Super replaced the range topping four-door “5m”; it was available with both the 1.2- and 1.3-litre engines from the “ti”, though both equipped with a single-choke carburettor.The Super introduced improvements both outside, with new bumpers including large plastic strips, and inside, with a revised dashboard, new door cards and two-tone cloth seats. Similar upgrades were applied to the Giardinetta. In May 1978 the Sprint and “ti” got new engines, a 78 hp 1.3 (1,350 cc) and a 84 hp 1.5 (1,490 cc), both with a twin-choke carburettor. At the same time the Alfasud ti received cosmetic updates (bumpers from the Super, new rear spoiler on the boot lid, black wheel arch extensions and black front spoiler) and was upgraded to the revised interior of the Super. The 1.3 and 1.5 engines were soon made available alongside the 1.2 on the Giardinetta and Super, with a slightly lower output compared to the sport models due to a single-choke carburettor. All Alfasuds were upgraded in 1980 with plastic bumpers, new instrument panel, headlamps and rear lights as well as other revisions. The Ti version was now fitted with a twin-carburettor version of the 1490 cc engine that had been fitted to the Sprint the previous year, developing 95 bhp A three-door hatchback was added to the range in 1981 in either SC or Ti trim and the two-door Ti and Giardinetta were deleted from most markets around this time. Belatedly in 1982 the four-door cars were replaced by five-door versions as by now, most of its competitors were producing a hatchback of this size, although some also produced a saloon alternative. The range was topped by the five-door Gold Cloverleaf, featuring the 94 hp engine from the Ti and enhanced interior trim. In 1983 an attempt to keep pace with the hot hatchback market, the final version of the Alfasud Ti received a tuned 1490 cc engine developing 105 PS Now named Quadrifoglio Verde (Green Cloverleaf) this model was also fitted with Michelin low profile TRX tyres on metric rims as well as an enhanced level of equipment. The five-door Alfasud saloons were replaced by the 33 models in 1983. The 33 was an evolution of the AlfaSud’s floorpan and running gear, including minor suspension changes and a change from four-wheel disc brakes to front disc and rear drum brakes to reduce costs. The three-door versions continued for a further year before being replaced by the unsuccessful Alfa Romeo Arna a joint venture between Alfa Romeo and Nissan.
Follow on to the much-loved AlfaSud was the Alfa 33. Despite the low survival rate, believe it or not, the 33 is actually the best selling Alfa in history, with just under a million of them sold between 1983 and 1994. One reason why precious few seem to have survived is that the 33 struggled even new to gain the affections of the enthusiasts in the way that the model’s predecessor, the AlfaSud, did, so when rust and old age came on, the vast majority of the cars were simply scrapped. There were two distinct generations of the 33. The first ran from 1983 until 1990 and then a major facelift was applied with new front and rear styling to bring the looks more into line with the new 164. A mild facelift was applied to the first 905 series cars in late 1986. Exterior alterations were limited to clear indicator lens, wheel covers and alloy wheels of new design, the adoption of side skirts on all models, and a new front grille. Two-tone paint schemes were discontinued. There were more significant changes inside, with a more conventionally designed dashboard and steering wheel, which superseded the innovative moveable instrument binnacle. All 1.5 variants now had the 105 PS engine from the now discontinued 1.5 QV; a TI (Turismo Internazionale) trim level was exclusive to the front-wheel drive 1.5 hatchback. Changes were made to the suspension, brakes and gearbox, with closer-spaced ratios. A new 1,712 cc 116 bhp engine was introduced on the 1.7 Quadrifoglio Verde, which replaced the 1.5 QV. The 1.7 engine was developed from the 1.5 by enlarging bore and stroke; it also used new cylinder heads, incorporating hydraulic tappets. To cope with the increased power the new QV was equipped with vented front brake discs. The 1.7 QV looked close to its predecessor, but had lost the grey mid-body stripe and gained new alloy wheels, wind deflectors on the front windows, more pronounced side skirts and a rear body-colour spoiler on the boot lid. Inside it featured a leather-covered steering wheel, red carpets, and leatherette-backed sport seats upholstered in a grey/black/red chequered cloth. Diesel models were offered in some continental markets, but these were not sold in the UK, where only 1.5 and 1.7 Green Cloverleaf hatchback models were sold, as well as a market-specific 1.7 Sportwagon estate; all three were also available in “Veloce” versions, outfitted by Alfa Romeo GB with a colour-matching Zender body kit.
I was delighted to see that the larger 164 was also represented here, as I had the pleasure of driving one for 4 years and 160,000 miles and to this day, it is the car I regret parting with more than any other of the fleet that I have owned over the years. When I bought mine, Alfa were selling a very small number of cars per month in the UK, so they were never that common, and sadly, survival rates are very low. Most people who know anything about the history of the 164 will be aware that this is one of the four so-called Type 4 cars, a joint venture involving Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Lancia and Saab. In 1978 these four marques agreed to each develop an executive saloon based on a shared platform to compete against the likes of the Ford Granada and Opel Rekord (Vauxhall Carlton) as well as more premium saloons by BMW and Mercedes-Benz in the form of the 5-Series and E-Class, respectively. Alfa’s Project 164 started life as Project 154 and was completed in 1981, then still under Alfa Romeo. A year later, that project morphed into the 164 based on the Type Four platform. This new model was designed by Enrico Fumia of Pininfarina, with a wedge shape that afforded it a leading drag coefficient of Cd=0.30. The design would later influence the rest of the Alfa Romeo range starting in 1990 with the major redesign of the 33 and culminating with the 155, and Pininfarina also adapted it (much to the maker’s chagrin) for the 1987 Peugeot 405 and the 1989 Peugeot 605 saloons. Initial testing of the 164’s dynamic elements (engine and drivetrain) began in 1984, where mules based on the then contemporary Giulietta were used. In 1985, the first pre-production 164’s were put through their paces on the road. Heavily disguised, with many false panels and even a false nose design (borrowing heavily from the then equally undeveloped 155), sporting 4 round headlamps, these vehicle mules served to test the 164 for the gruelling 1 million kilometre static and road testing demanded of the design. In 1986 and 1987, the first 150 164’s were given their pre-production testing. In terms of engineering demands, these exceeded every Alfa before, and by quite a substantial margin. In Morocco, desert testing saw 5 grey 164 Twinsparks and V6’s undergo the equivalent of the Paris-Dakar rally. Road conditions varied from good tarmac to off-road conditions, and accelerometers confirmed the superiority of the 164 in terms of passenger comfort. This data was cross-confirmed in the engineering laboratory with a sophisticated dummy in the driver’s seat, with accelerometers both in its seat, and in its ears to mimic that of the semi-circular canals of the ear. The Twinspark and the V6 underwent handling trials at Arese. The Twinspark displayed very mature driving manners at the limit, with minimal skid. The V6 displayed a 25% increase in at-the-limit skid, a natural consequence of its greater nose weight. ABS testing confirmed that the Twinspark has superior braking to the V6. Brake linings of the 164’s were run at maximum braking until they literally glowed with heat, and displayed no deviation in form. The 164 was the first Alfa to feature slotted double-walled disc brakes. At no point were the discs drilled to release excess heat, the original design being demonstrated to be excellent. Sound production was tested in an anechoic chamber, the car being subjected to stress and road noise testing, with instruments and with live subjects at the wheel, on a specially designed rig. Electromagnetic stability of the complex electronic system was also tested, in an anechoic chamber equipped with EM emitters (radar). The 164 engines were run to destruction, the Twinspark proving to be the most robust, and with the longest possible engine life. The V6 displayed only 10% shorter overall engine life. All this testing meant that by the time the production car, called the 164 was unveiled at the 1987 Frankfurt Motor Show – the last model to be developed while the Alfa Romeo was still a fully independent company, even though the launch was a few months after the takeover by Fiat – that the car was far more thoroughly developed and tested than any Alfa preceding it. There were plenty of innovations in the build, too, thanks to the extensive use of galvanised steel for the frame and various body panels for the first time in the brand’s history. Moreover, the car featured advanced electronics thanks to the most complex wiring harness fitted to any Alfa Romeo. For example: it had three onboard computers (one for air conditioning, one for instrumentation, and one for the engine management); air conditioning and instrument functions shared a multiple-mode coded Zilog Z80-class microcontroller for dashboard functioning). The instrumentation included a full range of gauges including an advanced check-panel.. The car was a sensation at launch. For a start, it looked fantastic thanks to Enrico Fumia of Pininfarina’ design. The first 1:1 scale model of the car had been produced in 1982 and design cues had been publicly revealed on the Alfa Romeo Vivace concept car, which was exhibited at the 1986 Turin Motorshow that went on to influence the design of the Alfa Romeo GTV and Spider (916 series) launched in 1993, but the result was distinctive and elegant and very different from any of its rivals, or indeed any of the other Tipo 4 cars. The 164 became the first Alfa to benefit from extensive use of computer aided design, used to calculate structural stresses that resulted in a very rigid but still relatively lightweight chassis. Although sharing the same platform as that of the Lancia Thema, Fiat Croma and Saab 9000, by virtue of the fact that it was the last of the four to enter production, it featured unique front suspension geometry and the most distinctive styling of the lot. In fact, for example, the other cars all shared identical side door panels. Though still voluminous, the 164 had the tightest aperture to the boot, which had a 510-Litre capacity. The interior was spacious and modern, available with standard velour seating or leather trim depending on the model. Its dashboard continued the avantgarde design of the exterior with a centre dashboard that was dominated by a large number of seemingly identical buttons arranged in rows. Air-direction within the ventilation system was controlled by a pair of servomechanisms, which were constructed using notoriously fragile plastic gears that were prone to failure. Depending on the model, the 164 could feature automatic climate control and electronically controlled damping suspension – the latter, for example, in the sports-oriented Quadrifoglio Verde (“Green Cloverleaf “) and 164S models. This suspension actively reduced damping in response to conditions to provide a dynamic compromise between road holding and comfort. At launch, the original 164 range comprised three models: a 148 bhp 2.0 Twin Spark, the 192 bhp 3.0i V6 12-valve and a 2.5 Turbodiesel (badged “TD”). It took a year before the first cars reached the UK and the first eighteen months saw only the 3 litre model offered. The bigger selling 2.0 TS arrived in the simmer of 1990, just before the range was expanded by the 4-cylinder 2.0i Turbo, the sports-oriented 3.0i V6 Quadrifoglio Verde (badged “QV” or “S”) and North American export versions that included the luxury-oriented 164 L (“L” for Lusso) and the 164 S (in essence, the “QV”). Apart from minor running production upgrades, the next change came in 1993 with the launch of the 164 Super. Key differences on the outside consisted of larger bumpers with chrome trimmings added to the upper edge and revised headlights with a slimmer profile. Inside, there were revised instruments and a centre console that featured more delineated switchgear. The range was now also bolstered by a 3.0 V6 24V with a 24-valve engine upgrade and the 3.0 V6 Quadrifoglio 4 (badged “Q4”), which was the most powerful and sole all wheel drive variant built. Production ended in late 1997, with a gap of nearly two years before the replacement model would go on sale.
The GTV and Spider 916 Series is a range 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 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.
It was more than 10 years after the Montreal had ceased production before Alfa offered another high-end and costly Coupe model, and the result, seen for the first time in 1989, could hardly have been more different than its forebear. That car had been praised for its looks, whereas this one, the SZ, and cruelly nicknamed “Il Mostro”, was almost wilfully, well, “different”. First seen at the 1989 Geneva Show, the car was also first shown simply as a concept, called the ES-30, for Experimental Sports car 3 litre. It was produced by Zagato. Robert Opron of the Fiat design studio was responsible for the initial sketches while Antonio Castellana was largely responsible for the final styling details and interior. Only the ‘Z’ logo of Zagato was kept. The car possessed unusual headlights positioned in a trio on each side – a styling used more subtly on later Alfa Romeos in the 2000s. Mechanically and engine-wise, the car was based on the Alfa 75, production being carried out by Zagato at Terrazzano di Rho near the Alfa factory in Arese. The thermoplastic injection moulded composite body panels were produced by Italian company Carplast and French company Stratime Cappelo Systems. The suspension was taken from the Alfa 75 Group A/IMSA car, and modified by Giorgio Pianta, engineer and team manager of the Lancia and Fiat rally works team. A hydraulic damper system was made by Koni. The SZ was originally equipped with Pirelli P Zero tyres (front 205/55 ZR 16, rear 225/50 ZR 16) and is able to sustain over 1.1 G in cornering, some drivers have measured a cornering force of 1.4 G, which remains an excellent performance figure. Low volume production got underway late in 1989, and over the next three years, 1036 were built, slightly more than planned. With the exception of a black car made for Zagato, all of them were red. Subsequently a convertible version, the RZ (for Roadster Zagato), was produced from 1992 until December 1994. Although almost identical to look at the two cars had completely different body panels save for the front wings and boot. The RZ had a revised bumper and door sills to give better ground clearance and the bonnet no longer featured the aggressive ridges. Three colours were available as standard: black, yellow and red, with black and yellow being the more popular choices. Yellow and red cars got a black leather interior and black cars burgundy. Although the interior layout was almost unchanged from the SZ, the RZ had a painted central console that swept up between the seats to conceal the convertible roof storage area. 350 units were planned but production was halted after 252 units when the Zagato factory producing the cars for Alfa Romeo went in to receivership, a further 32 cars were then completed under the control of the receivers before production finished at 284 units. Of those final three were painted silver with burgundy interior and another pearlescent white.
The 155 was one of a series of cars built by the Fiat Group on a shared platform, the so called Tipo 3 or Tipo Tre, which sat under the Fiat Tipo, and Lancia Delta 2, as well as the Fiat Coupe. Built to replace the rear wheel drive 75, the 155 was somewhat larger in dimension than its predecessor. The 155 was designed by Italian design house I.DE.A Institute which achieved an exceptional drag coefficient of 0.29, and the rather boxy design gave the car a sizeable boot, as well. The single most significant technical change from the 75 was the change to a front-wheel drive layout. This new configuration gave cost and packaging benefits but many Alfa die-hards and the automotive press lamented the passing of the “purer” rear-wheel drive layout on a car from this sporting marque. Not even the availability of the 155 Q4, which had a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine and a permanent four-wheel drive powertrain, both derived from the Lancia Delta Integrale; making the car essentially a Lancia Delta Integrale with a different body was enough to win the sceptics over. Reception of the model was generally lukewarm. The 75 had been conceived prior to Fiat’s acquisition of the Alfa brand, so as “the last real Alfa” it cast rather a shadow over the 155; the loss of rear-wheel drive was frequently cited as the main cause of the disappointment. Nevertheless, the 155 was entered in Touring Car racing and was successful in every major championship it entered, which gradually improved its image. Belatedly, the factory introduced a wider version in 1995 (the “wide-body”) which as well as a wider track and revised steering based on racing experience or requirements, also brought in new 16-valve engines for the 1.8 and 2.0-litre whilst retaining the 2.5 V6 and making some improvements to cabin materials and build quality. There were several Sport Packs available, including a race-inspired body kit (spoiler and side skirts) and black or graphite-coloured 16-inch Speedline wheels. The more genteel could opt for the Super which came with wood inserts in the cabin and silver-painted alloy wheels. With this version, the 155 really came good. When production ceased in 1998, following the launch of the 156, 192,618 examples had been built.
When it came to replacing the 33, Alfa decided that they needed not just a five door hatch, but a three door as well, just as had been offered with the AlfaSud. The three door model, the Alfa Romeo 145 (Tipo 930A) was first to appear, making its debut on static display at the April 1994 Turin Motor Show and then at the Paris Motor Show in July. A simultaneous European commercial launch was planned for 9 September, but it was delayed until October. It was only in April 1992 that work had begun on a second car, the 146 or Tipo 930B, derived from and to be sold alongside the 145; with its more traditionally Alfa Romeo style it was aimed at a different clientele, that of the outgoing Alfa Romeo 33. The 146 premiéred in November 1994 at the Bologna Motor Show and went on sale in May 1995. The two cars shared design plans and interior components from the B-pillar forwards, but with very different looking rear ends. Based, as they were, on the Fiat Group’s Tipo Due (Type Two) platform, the 145 and 146 had a unibody structure, front MacPherson strut and rear trailing arm suspensions. A peculiarity of these cars is that they were designed to be fitted with both longitudinal engines (the older Boxers) and with transverse engines (the diesels and the Twin Spark). The former were mounted in the same configuration as on the 33 or Alfasud, that is longitudinally overhanging the front axle with the gearbox towards the cabin; the latter in the conventional transverse position with the gearbox to the left side. All engines were coupled to 5-speed manual transmissions. Steering was rack and pinion, with standard hydraulic power assistance. At launch the engine line-up for both cars comprised a 1.9-litre inline-four turbo diesel and the boxer petrol engines from the 33, in 1.3 8-valve, 1.6 8-valve and range topping 1.7 16-valve flat four forms. Depending on the market, the engines were available in either or both base and better equipped L (for “Lusso”) trim levels; L trim standard equipment was richer on larger engined cars. Flagship sport models with the two-litre 16-valve Twin Spark inline-four engine from the Alfa Romeo 155 arrived a year after the début: the 145 Quadrifoglio and 146 ti. Each of the two-litre versions had a unique trim level; both included richer standard equipment than L trims, like ABS, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter knob and available Recaro sport seats. The 145 Quadrifoglio (145 Cloverleaf in the UK), launched at the September 1995 Frankfurt Motor Show and on sale from October,had deep body-colour side skirts with “green cloverleaf” badges and 5-hole alloy wheels. The 146 ti went on sale in February 1996. It came with painted side skirts, a boot spoiler and 12-hole alloy wheels. Two-litre cars were equipped with stiffer suspension, uprated all-disk braking system, ABS, wider, lower-profile tires and ‘quick-rack’ direct steering (also seen on the 155, GTV and Spider) which improved responsiveness, but also compromised the turning circle. The sporty suspension set-up was harsher than many others in its category at the time, but this was in line with the Fiat Group’s marketing of Alfa Romeo as a sporting brand and it is said to have resulted in class leading handling. From January 1997 all the boxer engines were phased out in favour of 1.4, 1.6 and 1.8 versions of the Twin Spark 16-valve engine.1.8-litre cars adopted the sport chassis, steering and brakes of the Quadrifoglio/ti, and also offered some of their optional equipment such as the sport seats. At the same time the interior was updated: a new air conditioning system, a redesigned dashboard an upholstered insert were fitted. Outside changes were minor: new wheel covers and alloy wheels and a wider choice of paint colours. In late 1997 Alfa Romeo introduced the Junior, a trim level targeted at young buyers that combined the sport styling and chassis setup of the range topping models with the affordable entry-level 1.4 powertrain, later with 1.6 engine too. Based on the 1.4 L, Junior cars were distinguished by the Quadrifoglio’s side skirts with “Junior” badges, specific 15 inch alloy wheels, and by the stainless steel exhaust tip (as well as, on the 146, the boot spoiler) from the ti. A year later 1.8 and 2.0 Twin Spark engines received the updates first introduced on the Alfa Romeo 156; thanks to variable length intake manifolds the two powertrains gained 4-5 PS and reached peak torque at engine speeds some 500 rpm lower. At the Geneva Motor Show in March 1999 Alfa Romeo introduced the restyled ’99 line-up for both models. The new common rail direct injection 1.9 JTD turbo diesel replaced the 1.9 TD. The main changes outside were new, body-colour bumpers with round fog lights and narrow protection strips; the interior got new upholstery and detail trim changes such as chrome vent surrounds. Optional side airbags complemented the already available passenger and standard driver airbags. The Junior trim level was discontinued, in favour of “pack sport” option package that included side skirts, rear spoiler, alloy wheels, leather-wrapped steering wheel and sport seats, all standard features on the two-litre models. A second “pack lusso” package offered leather steering wheel, velour upholstery and mahogany wood trim. In September of the next year, at the Paris Motor Show the all-new Alfa Romeo 147 was presented Eventually, in 2000, the 145/146 cars were superseded by the all-new 147, which was a far bigger commercial success, with its acclaimed styling front end and improved quality. Still, many enthusiasts feel that it lost a little of the special feel and Alfa Romeo that the 145 had. 221,037 145s and 233,295 146s were built, There are depressingly few survivors of either model in the UK, so it was good to see a couple of examples of both the 145 and the 146 here.
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 with a new front end that was a clue to what would come with the car’s successor. Production ceased in 2005.
Alfa followed the 156 a couple of years later, in late 1998, with a larger saloon, the 166, hoping to receive the same sort of acclaim with this executive car which was a direct replacement for the 164. It was not forthcoming. For a start, the styling with its drooping and very small headlamps and pointed nose was quite unlike anything else on the market at the time. Part of the difficulty came from the fat that the car had been designed some years before its launch and then put on the back burner as the 156 was given priority. The 166 was initially available with a 155 PS 2.0-litre Twin Spark, a 190 PS 2.5 V6, a 220 PS 3.0 V6 and in some markets a 205 PS V6 2.0 Turbo petrol engine along with a diesel powered L5 2.4 10v common rail turbodiesel version with 136 PS, 140 PS and 150 PS (148 hp) output. The 2.0 TS model used a 5-speed manual gearbox, whilst the 2.5 and 3.0 had the option of a Sportronic automatic gearbox. The 3.0 V6, L5 2.4 and V6 Turbo were otherwise supplied with a six-speed manual gearbox. The top models were named “Super”, and included MOMO leather interior, 17″ alloy wheels, rain sensitive wipers, cruise control, climate control and ICS (Integrated Control System) with colour screen. Options included xenon headlamps, GSM connectivity and satellite navigation. Suspension systems comprised double wishbones at the front and a multi-link setup for the rear. Though the car’s handling characteristics, engine range and elegant exterior design received praise from many, including Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson, it did not become a strong seller to rival the dominant German brands, in the European executive car sector. In September 2003, the 166 underwent a substantial revamp, with the début at the Frankfurt Motor Show. As well as upgrades to the chassis, interior, and the engine range, the styling was substantially altered. The new front end resembled the also recently revamped 156, and lost its famous drooping headlights. The 2.0 V6 Turbo model was dropped because of marketing problems, the V6 2.5 was re-rated at 188 PS and a 3.2 litre V6 with 240 PS was introduced. Both the 3.2 litre and the 2.0 Twin Spark models now featured the six-speed manual gearbox, whilst the 3.0 model was retained, but made available only in Sportronic form. In the diesel sector, the L5 2.4 was re-engineered with Multi-Jet technology which allows up to 5 injections per cycle, second stage common rail, with maximum injection pressure of 1400 bar and 4 valves per cylinder, to output a class leading 175 PS, but these changes made little impact on sales volumes. In October 2005, the Alfa Romeo 166 was officially withdrawn from sale in markets for RHD. Sales of the 166 never grew as Alfa had hoped, following the facelift in September 2003, and the additional lack of a diesel engine in the United Kingdom, Australian, and Irish markets limited its reach into company car sectors. In June 2007, production of the 166 effectively ended, with no direct successor. In September 2008, the platform was sold to the Chinese state run manufacturer GAC Group. In total, less than 100,000 units were made.
The 166 may have failed to hit the jackpot, but the next Alfa certainly did. This was the 147, launched at the 2000 Turin Motor Show as a replacement for the 145 and 146 hatchbacks, and based on the running gear of the larger 156 saloon. Designed by Walter de’Silva and Wolfgang Egger, the 147 received considerable praise for its styling on launch, later it was awarded with some styling awards. It was available initially with 1.6, 2.0, petrol engines and a 1.9-litre diesel engine. A sequential, paddle operated ‘Selespeed’ transmission was available from launch. Two trim levels were available, Turismo and Lusso. The 147 was the first Alfa Romeo to feature dual-zone climate control and electronic traction control. Although some thought the car had lost of some of the Alfa magic, it was well received and was awarded the Car of the Year trophy a few weeks after launch. The entire 147 range was revamped in 2004, with the exterior styling changed considerably to be more reminiscent of the new 159 and Brera models, and Alfa Romeo Visconti concept car, most notably for its more aggressive look, with a new front grille, new headlights, new rear lights and the interior was updated on all models besides the GTA version. A new more powerful diesel engine arrived and suspension was also tweaked. In 2006, the 147 1.9 JTD Q2 version was launched, which featured a front Torsen limited slip differential. Alfa Romeo presented a new limited edition 147 called Ducati Corse at the 2007 Bologna Motor Show. The car came equipped with a 170 PS (68 hp) JTD diesel engine and Q2, a front Torsen limited slip differential. The 147 was in production for ten years, making it one of the oldest small family cars on sale in Europe at the time of its replacement by the Alfa Romeo Giulietta in late May 2010. In total around 580,000 cars were made.
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.
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.
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.
The other 916 series replacement cars were the Brera and Spider models. Visually similar to the 159 models at the front, the Brera and Spider boasted unique styling from the A pillars rearwards. They 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. Pininfarina was responsible for both models. 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. It will be very surprising if these do not attain classic status, and the consequent rise in values, though that has not happened yet.
There is now an enthusiastic MiTo Owners Club, so where Italian cars are gathered together, it is quite common to get a whole line of the smallest current Alfa assembled, but there was just one of them here. 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.
The current Giulietta arrived in 2010 as a much awaited replacement for the 147. Spy photos had suggested that the car was going to look very like Fiat’s ill-fated Bravo, but the reality was that it had a style all of its own. A range of very efficient petrol and diesel engines were among the most emissions-efficient in their class at the time, and a 250 bhp Quadrifoglio version at the top of the range made sure there was something for the man who wanted a rapid, but quite subtle hatch. The car has enjoyed reasonable success in the UK, and the car has certainly found favour among Alfa enthusiasts, so it was no surprise to find a significant number of them among the displays.
Although I am sure there are those who would beg to differ, my contention is that car styling in the twentyfirst century has gone through a period which will not be viewed particularly positively in years to come, with a myriad of forgettable designs and more recently plenty which in trying to be distinctive are just downright ugly. There have been a few high points, though, and top of that list for me must be the Alfa 8C Competizione, a lone example of which was to be seen here. As well as the looks, this car also has noise on its side, with a sound track which must rate as one of the best of recent times. So that is two boxes ticket for me. The press saw it rather differently, and were rather critical of the car when it was new, but for me, finding plenty to fault with the way the car drove. First seen as a concept car at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2003, the concept was conceived as a reminder for people who were perhaps slightly disillusioned with contemporary Alfa products that the company could still style something as striking in the 21st century as it had been able to do in the 1950s and 1960s. Public reaction was very positive, but Fiat Group Execs were very focused on Ferrari and Maserati and they were not entirely convinced that a car like this was appropriate as it could encroach on those brands’ territory. It was only in 2006, with new management in place that it is decided that a limited production run of just 500 cars would give the once proud marque something of a boost. Announcement of the production version, visually little different from the 2003 concept car was made at the 2006 Paris Show, and it was soon evident that Alfa could have sold far more than 500 cars To turn the concept into reality, Alfa used a shortened Maserati Quattroporte platform with a central steel section, subframes front and rear and main outer panels that were all made from carbon fibre, with the result that the complete car weighed 300 kg less than the GranTurismo. Final assembly was carried out by Maserati, with the cars being built between 2007 and 2010. Competiziones (Coupes) first, and then 500 Spiders. Just 40 of the Competizione models came to the UK. Most of them were sent to the US, so this car is exceptionally rare and is much sought after by collectors. They were fearsomely expensive when new, listing for around £150,000, but prices have never dipped far below this, so anyone who bought one, should they ever feel the need to sell it, is not going to lose money on the car.
There were a number of examples of the 4C Competizione here. First seen as a concept at the 2011 Geneva Show, the production 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. I know I would if I could find space (and funds!) for one in my garage!
The Giulia and Stelvio have been on sale for a good few months now, and whilst they are still not that common a sight on Britain’s roads, they are becoming increasingly evident at gatherings of Italian cars, and this event was no exception with several of the highly rated Giulia here, including the top of the range Quadrifoglio, and there were also a couple of the related under the skin Stelvio SUV model, surely one of the best looking cars of this ever-more popular genre.
Oldest Ferrari here was this 365 GTB/4 “Daytona” Spider. The Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona, a Gran Turismo automobile produced from 1968 to 1973, was first introduced to the public at the Paris Auto Salon in 1968 and replaced the 275 GTB/4. The Daytona was replaced by the mid-engined 365 GT4 Berlinetta Boxer in 1973. Early cars, such as this 1970 example had the plexi-glass front end, before a revised design with pop-up headlights was adopted. The generally accepted total number of Daytonas from the Ferrari club historians is 1,406 over the life of the model. This figure includes 158 right-hand-drive coupés, 122 factory-made spyders (of which 7 are right hand drive), and 15 competition cars in three series with modified lightweight bodies and in various degrees of engine tune. All bodies except the first Pininfarina prototype were produced by Scaglietti Like many of the Spiders you see these days, this one is not factory original but an after-market conversion.
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. 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. 308 GTB models are becoming increasingly sought after, with prices rising steadily and quite steeply.
Introduced at the 1985 Frankfurt Show alongside the Mondial 3.2 series, the Ferrari 328 GTB and GTS (Type F106) were the successors to the Ferrari 308 GTB and GTS which had first been seen in October 1975. While mechanically still based on the 308 GTB and GTS respectively, small modifications were made to the body style and engine, most notably an increase in engine displacement to 3185 cc for increased power and torque output. As had been the case for a generation of the smaller Ferraris, the model name referred to the total cubic capacity of the engine, 3.2 litres, and 8 for the number of cylinders. Essentially the new model was a revised and updated version of the 308 GTS, which had survived for eight years without any radical change to the overall shape, albeit with various changes to the 3-litre engine. The 328 model presented a softening of the wedge profile of its predecessor, with a redesigned nose that had a more rounded shape, which was complemented by similar treatment to the tail valance panel. The revised nose and tail sections featured body colour bumpers integral with the valance panels, which reflected the work done concurrently to present the Mondial 3.2 models, with which they also shared a similar radiator grille and front light assembly layout. Thus all the eight-cylinder cars in the range shared fairly unified front and rear aspects, providing a homogeneous family image. The exhaust air louvres behind the retractable headlight pods on the 308 series disappeared, coupled with an increase in the size of the front lid radiator exhaust air louvre, which had been introduced on the 308 Quattrovalvole models, whilst a new style and position of exterior door catch was also provided. The interior trim also had a thorough overhaul, with new designs for the seat panel upholstery and stitching, revised door panels and pulls, together with more modern switchgear, which complemented the external updating details. Optional equipment available was air conditioning, metallic paint, Pirelli P7 tyres, a leather dashboard, leather headlining to the removable roof panel plus rear window surround, and a rear aerofoil (standard on Japanese market models). In the middle of 1988 ABS brakes were made available as an option, which necessitated a redesign of the suspension geometry to provide negative offset. This in turn meant that the road wheel design was changed to accommodate this feature. The original flat spoke “star” wheels became a convex design, in the style as fitted to the 3.2 Mondial models, whether ABS was fitted or not. The main European market 328 GTS models had a tubular chassis with a factory type reference F 106 MS 100. Disc brakes, with independent suspension via wishbones, coil springs, and hydraulic shock absorbers, were provided all round, with front and rear anti roll bars. There were various world market models, each having slight differences, with right and left hand drive available. The V8 engine was essentially of the same design as that used in the 308 Quattrovalvole model, with an increase in capacity to 3185 cc. The engine retained the Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection system of its predecessor, but was fitted with a Marelli MED 806 A electronic ignition system, to produce a claimed power output of 270 bhp at 7000 rpm. As with the preceding 308 models the engine was mounted in unit with the all synchromesh five-speed manual transmission assembly, which was below, and to the rear of the engine’s sump. The 328 GTS continued in production for four years, until replaced by the 348 ts model in the autumn of 1989, during which time 6068 examples were produced, GTS production outnumbering the GTB (1344 produced) version almost five to one.
Produced alongside the 308/328 GTB and GTS models was the Mondial, and there were a couple of examples of the car on show. Produced by Ferrari from 1980 through 1993, it 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-do-able 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 trade-off 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. There were examples of both the Qv and the later t model here.
Launched in May 1994 as an evolution of the Ferrari 348, just about everything was changed, and improved for the F355, seen here in Berlinetta and Targa formats. 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, 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. All three body styles were here.
Firmly placed in Ferrari’s history as one of their finest big GTs, the 550 Maranello’s combination of stylish Pininfarina lines and front mounted 12-cylinder engine meant this car had the potential to become an instant classic, following in the footsteps of its forebear, the 365 GTB/4 ‘Daytona’, and if you look at the way the prices are steading to go, it’s clear that the potential is being realised. Launched in 1996, and with modern styling cues, a 5.5 litre V12 engine producing around 485bhp and a reported top speed of 199mph, the 550 Maranello was a serious motor car. A less frenetic power delivery, the six speed manual box and excellent weight distribution were all factors in the 550 becoming the perfect European Grand Tourer. Ferrari updated the car to create the 575M. Launched in 2002, it is essentially an updated 550 Maranello featuring minor styling changes from Pininfarina. The 575M was replaced by the 599 GTB in the first half of 2006. Updates from the 550 included a redesigned interior and substantial mechanical improvements, including bigger brake discs, a larger and more powerful engine, improved weight distribution, refined aerodynamics and fluid-dynamics along with an adaptive suspension set-up (the four independent suspensions are also controlled by the gearbox, to minimize pitch throughout the 200-milliseconds shift time). Two six-speed transmissions were available, a conventional manual gearbox and, for the first time on a Ferrari V12, Magneti Marelli’s “F1” automated manual gearbox. The 575 model number refers to total engine displacement in cc, whilst the ‘M’ is an abbreviation of modificata (“modified”).
The 360 was followed by F430, 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 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.
Next in the Ferrari time-line 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.
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. This is now the bigger seller of the pair, as was the case with the 458 models.
Known for being the car which really put Italy on wheels, the Topolino was one of the smallest cars in the world at the time of its production. Launched in 1937, three versions were produced until 1955, all with only minor mechanical and cosmetic changes. It was equipped with a 569 cc four-cylinder, side-valve, water-cooled engine mounted in front of the front axle, which meant that it was a full-scale car rather than a cyclecar. The radiator was located behind the engine which made possible a lowered aerodynamic nose profile at a time when competitors had a flat, nearly vertical grille. The shape of the car’s front allowed exceptional forward visibility. The rear suspension initially used quarter-elliptic rear springs, but buyers frequently squeezed four or five people into the nominally two-seater car, and in later models the chassis was extended at the rear to allow for more robust semi-elliptic springs. With horsepower of about 13 bhp, its top speed was about 53 mph and it could achieve about 48 mpg. The target price given when the car was planned was 5,000 lire. In the event the price at launch was 9,750 lire, though the decade was one of falling prices in several part of Europe and later in the 1930s the Topolino was sold for about 8,900 lire. Despite being more expensive than first envisioned, the car was competitively priced and nearly 520,000 were sold. Nowadays the car seen here is known as the 500A, and this shares its body with the later 500 Model B, but the later car had more power, a heady 16 hp. It was made between 1948 and 1949. The Model A was offered as a 2-door coupé, 2-door cabriolet and a 2-door van, while the Model B also introduced a 3-door estate under the name 500 B Giardinetta (“estate car”).
The first 124 Spider made its debut at the Turin Show in 1966, and continued in production until the mid 1980s, bearing the badge of its desginer, Pininfarina, 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. Seen here was one of the final generation cars.
At the 53rd Turin Motor Show of November 1971 Fiat introduced the 2 door 128 Coupé, based on a shortened 128 chassis. It was available with two different engines (1100 and 1300) and in two different trim levels (S and SL) for a total of four variants. In its base “S” trim, the coupé had single rectangular front headlamps, and wheels and hubcaps from the saloon. The pricier “SL” (for Sport Lusso) was distinguished by quadruple round headlamps, a specific grille, steel sport wheels without hubcaps, chromed window surround trim, door handles and fuel cap, and black decorative striping along the sills and across the tail panel. Inside it gained a leatherette-wrapped steering wheels, perforated leatherette upholstery, extended four-gauge instrumentation, loop pile carpeting and black headlining. The two engines were developed from the units found in the 128 saloon and 128 Rally respectively, and both were fitted with twin-choke carburettors and a two-piece exhaust manifold. The 1100 produced 63 hp while the 1300 produced 74 hp. Top speed was over 150 km/h (93 mph) and 160 km/h (99 mph) respectively. Compared with the 128 saloon, the coupé had a 9.1 in shorter wheelbase and tracks that were wider at the front and narrower at the rear. Suspension was the familiar all-independent 128 layout—save for the front anti-roll bar, which had been replaced by radius rods. The braking system consisted of discs at the front and drums at the rear; it was made more efficient by fitting smaller diameter front discs and the front and the vacuum servo first used on the 128 Rally. It was replaced by a hatchback version, the 3P in the autumn of 1975, which was mechanically the same under the skin.
The 132 was introduced in the autumn of 1972 as a replacement for the Fiat 125 and like it, came with 1600 or 1800cc twin overhead cam engines as standard and also like the 125, the 132 came with a five speed gear box, optional in some markets and standard in others: this was still a relatively unusual feature in this class of car. GM “Strasbourg” automatic transmission was listed as an option. A major update to the front suspension was implemented for January 1974 in response to criticism of the handling and very low geared steering. Press reports of the time commend the improved handling which was also supported by the fitting of wider tyres, although poor fuel consumption at high speed continued to draw adverse comment, even where the five speed transmission option was specified. In the same year an external redesign gave the impression of a lowered waistline resulting from larger side windows. It included a reshaped C-pillar which had a semblance of BMW’s “Hofmeister kink” and reminded some of the recently introduced BMW 5 Series. For the driver, new shock absorbers accompanied the suspension improvements. The 1600 cc engine remained unchanged but the 1800 cc engine benefited from a modified cylinder head and carburettor resulting in a small increase in claimed output to 107 hp, along with a usefully flattened torque curve. Interior improvements included a redesigned steering wheel along with improved heating and ventilation controls. In April 1977, the 132 received a rather more extensive facelift. New plastic “safety” bumpers were introduced to the model, and the gearing of the steering was raised, supported by the addition of servo-assistance. Inside were a new dashboard and seat trims. At this point, with the 130 having been discontinued, the 132 became the “flagship” of the Fiat range. Depending on market, there was a choice of up to seven different engines, ranging from a 1.6 litre petrol through 1.8 and 2.0 litre petrols and a 2.5 litre diesel. The UK only had the 2 litre petrol, with carburettors producing 112 bhp. The Bellini was created as a limited edition car to generate new interest in a car which struggled in the UK market. They were all finished in black.
One 131 Abarth Stradale is rare, but to get two at the same event is extremely unusual, They were joined by a third car which had been altered to make it Stradale like. Time was when this was a car for heroes. Autocar labelled it: ‘A strange mixture of the clever, the brash, and the sophisticated.’ That was in 1977, and the description still fits. The funny thing is, the car that initially was to have replaced the 124 Abarth Sport as Fiat’s rally weapon of choice in the latter half of the 1970s was the X1/9. Developed by Abarth, by then a fully-fledged subsidiary of Fiat, the prototipo competition variant made its debut on the Giro di Sicilia in March 1974, only to retire with transmission failure. Nevertheless, it showed well elsewhere. Subcontractor Bertone was then tasked with gearing-up for the production of road cars in order to appease homologation requirements, and all that was left was for Fiat’s management to rubber-stamp the scheme. Instead, it axed it. The suits in Turin reasoned that its newest WRC weapon should be based on a saloon car. The net result of this was the resignation of competitions manager, Gino Macaluso, and instructions to start again. Strictly speaking, however, Abarth had already built a 131-based machine, the experimental SE031, which boasted steroidal bodywork and a 3.5-litre V6 engine. The new rally 131 would not be so powered for a variety of reasons, not least Fiat management’s insistence that the Abarth-ised version be broadly identifiable with the mass-produced 131. That meant a four-banger, the chosen unit being a long-stroke, dry-sump, fuel-injected twin-cam unit with a cast-iron block and an aluminium 16-valve head. Several suspension designs were trialled, including a beam rear axle and a de Dion set-up. What finally emerged from this Darwinian approach was an independent MacPherson strut arrangement, the front end being akin to the regular 131, albeit suitably beefed up. Physically, the bodyshell might have looked much like the mainstream production model with a few aerodynamic aids, but only the inner structure was carried over. The front panel, front and rear wings, bonnet and bootlid were fashioned from glassfibre, while the doors were skinned in aluminium. A rollcage and a latticework of tubular steel linking the front struts afforded additional rigidity. In prototype form, the 131 Abarth won first time out on the Rally delle Valli Piacentine in December 1975, with Fulvio Bacchelli at the helm alongside Bruno Scabini. With homologation paperwork in place by April ’76, the definitive Group 4 131 Abarth was blooded on the Elba Rally in Italy. Markku Alén claimed the honours. Maurizio Verini then emerged victorious on the ECR Tulip Rally and the Rally di San Giacomo. Later that year, Alén won the 1000 Lakes (he would do so again for Fiat in 1979 and ’80), this successful partial season flowering into a sustained attack on the WRC for 1977, at the end of which the factory Fiat and Lancia teams merged. The works 131s contested every round bar the Safari, with Alén being joined by fellow Finns Timo Mäkinen, Simo Lampinen, Timo Salonen, plus Tarmac specialists Jean-Claude Andruet and Bernard Darniche, Bacchelli and Walter Röhrl. The net result was victory in five of the 10 rounds contested by the team, plus Manufacturers’ title honours ahead of Ford by a scant four points. In 1978 it was same story, with the factory squad racking up five WRC wins and a second Manufacturers’ gong. In 1979, the first year of the World Drivers’ Championship, Fiat chose to reduce its works bid in favour of assisting independent teams, often in the European Rally Championship (six drivers won as many rounds). Not only that, but Seat also homologated its own badge-engineered variant. In 1980, the works Fiat squad returned to prominence and sealed a third Manufacturers’ title, while Röhrl claimed the first of his two Drivers’ crowns. Heading into 1981, the factory equipe contested only five rounds, with Alén victorious in Portugal. The plug was pulled at the end of the year, the model having accrued 18 wins in six seasons. As for the roadgoing variant, it wasn’t as far removed from its competition-rooted sibling as you might imagine. For starters, cars came equipped with non-synchro gearboxes, although dealers could supply full-synchro units if you asked. As for how many cars were made, that rather depends on whose estimates you credit. Homologation requirements dictated 400 cars, and nobody can agree on how many of those were sold in stradale (road) trim. Some insist that as many as 608 were made of all kinds. They were all painted either in the bright blue as seen here or the oh-so-period hue of Rosso Arancio. Whatever the truth, it’s a rare beast. A 131 Abarth cost £8500 in basic form (that’s around £52,000 in today’s money). The Lampredi twin-cam unit produced as much as 240bhp in competition specification, but a ‘mere’ 140bhp at 6400rpm in road trim. And that was with only a single Weber 34ADF carburettor. Autocar figured a car in period: John Miles recorded a 0-60mph time of 7.2 secs, and a top speed of 112mph against the factory’s claim of 118mph. The magazine went on to praise its mid-range performance after covering 40-60mph in third gear in just 3.3 secs. In period, the Fiat-Abarth 131 Rally made children of all ages go weak at the knees. And, to be honest, nothing has changed in the meantime.The sad part is that Fiat never followed through. Once the 131’s frontline career ended, Fiat’s focus in rallying returned to Lancia.
Fiat started work on the Ritmo in 1972, at a time when the hatchback bodystyle for small family cars was still relatively uncommon in Europe, although Fiat had utilised it for its 127 supermini. In the intervening years, however, rival European manufacturers began launching small family hatchbacks, the most notable being the Volkswagen Golf in 1974. Prior to its launch, the press speculated that the project codename 138 would be the final production name, however, Fiat resolved to follow the precedent set by the Fiat Mirafiori by giving its new car the Ritmo name, rather than another three digit number. Technologically, the biggest innovation of the Ritmo was not the car itself (since it was mechanically based on its predecessor, the Fiat 128) but the way in which it was manufactured at the Cassino plant. Fiat, in conjunction with its subsidiary Comau, developed the pioneering “Robogate” system which automated the entire bodyshell assembly and welding process using robots, earning the car the advertising slogan “Handbuilt by robots”, immortalised in a memorable television advertising campaign showing the robots assembling the Ritmo bodyshells to the strains of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville. The avant-garde nature of its exterior design is highlighted by large plastic bumper bars integrated into the styling (a trend that became an industry standard, thanks to this plastic’s ability to absorb small impacts without damage, unlike the then more prevalent metal bumper bars), the manner in which these intersected the front round headlights and incorporated the rear taillights plus licence plates, and how round shapes (such as the headlights, door handles and the rear edge of the roof ending in an upward sweep) were combined within overall sharp lines (e.g. from those of the sloping rear hatch and slanted rear window corners to the badges and shape of the side indicators and rear view mirrors). Its aerodynamic design resulted in an excellent — for its era — drag coefficient of Cd=0.38, The initial 4-cylinder engine range included 1.1-Litre 60 PS 1.3-litre 65 PS and 1.5-litre 75 PS petrol engines, which were reasonably refined and economical. Suspension was independent all-round, the braking system comprised front discs and rear drums and the wheels measured 13-inch in diameter. Gearboxes ranged from a standard 4-speed manual (5-speed optional on CL models) and an optional 3-speed Volkswagen-derived automatic. The Ritmo finished second in the European Car of the Year awards, finishing narrowly behind the winning car, the Simca-Chrysler Horizon – which was similar in concept. The CL range was the better-equipped model (with the 60 CL comprising 80% of total initial sales in Italy) and the whole range also distinguished itself by having numerous optional accessories unseen in past Fiat cars. These included: larger tyres; a rev counter; stereo system; safety seatbelts and headrests; passenger-side rear view mirror; split-fold rear seat; tinted windows; rear window wiper; heated rear window; metallic paint; sunroof . The instrumentation was incorporated in a rectangular pod with modular slots that could house various gauges and switches, either standard depending on the model or optional (e.g. digital clock and switches for hazard lights or adjustable-speed ventilation fan). Whilst well received in the key Italian and German markets, the first series of the Ritmo was criticised for its basic interior trim (e.g. no fabric on door panels) and other assembly shortfalls. As a consequence, Fiat quickly responded in 1979 with various revisions and the introduction of the Targa Oro (“Gold plate”) range. The latter was based on the Ritmo 65 (or 75 for export markets) and was distinguished by, among other things: a mink paint (or black for the 3-door version), gold striping plus accents in the alloy wheels, foglights, dark bumper bars and velour trim interiors. That same year, the 65 CL range could also be had with a VW-derived automatic transmission, and a 1,049 cc petrol engine built by Fiat of Brazil that had the same power and torque figures as those of the 128-derived 1.1-litre engine, was also introduced to power the “60 L” models available in some markets. At the 1980 Geneva Motor Show, a 5-door only diesel version — marketed as the Ritmo D and available in both L and CL trim — was introduced with a 1,714 cc 55PS engine.To accommodate this considerably heavier engine, the steering rack was slowed down (from 3.5 to 4 turns) and the suspension adjusted. Nonetheless, a 65.5% forward weight distribution was hard to mask and both handling and braking suffered when compared to petrol-powered Ritmos. In 1981, the Targa Oro and 75 models were replaced by the 5-door only Ritmo Super (or Superstrada in some export markets). They brought higher specification and fittings (from chrome trimmings to a more complete instrumentation and optional central locking), larger 14-inch wheels and, most significantly, revised engines with 75 PS (1300) and 85 PS (1500). This extra power was gained through slight alterations to the camshaft profile, a twin carburettor, and a twin exhaust system. Other differences included lower profile tyres (Pirelli P8) and a close-ratio 5-speed manual gearbox. The steering was also somewhat faster. By this time, the Ritmo range in Italy also included 3- and 5-door manual versions of the 75 CL and 3-door 75 CL Automatica, with the price of the popular 60CL now ranging from ₤6,868,000 to 7,180,000 for the 3- and 5-door versions, respectively. In May 1981, the first sports version, the Ritmo 105 TC, was launched. Available only as a 3-door, it was powered by a 105 PS Fiat DOHC engine with a displacement of 1,585 cc, which was derived from that used in the 131 and 132 models. This car had the same 14-inch wheels as the Ritmo Super, but with black centre hubcaps. British and Irish models had black and silver Speedline alloy wheels (5.5 x 14) as standard. Other distinguishing features relative to the normal range included: front fog lights integrated into the front bumper; integrated front spoiler combined with wheel arch extensions; black lower door paint; black mesh air intake; rear spoiler at the base of the rear window. Series 2 cars would be introduced in 1982, with more conventional frontal styling. In 1983, Fiat completed the range with the Ritmo ES (“energy saving”) models and the hot hatch, Ritmo Abarth 130 TC. The latter was based on the 125 TC (which had not been sold in the UK) but was powered by a 1,995 cc engine with power output increased to 130 PS. This was achieved by replacing the single Weber carb used in the 125 TC with twin Solex/Weber carburettors on a side-draught manifold, and via improved cam profiles. The 130 TC had a top speed of 195 km/h (121 mph) and accelerated from 0 to100 km/h (62 mph) in 7.8 seconds. It was fitted with Recaro bucket seats in Britain and it remained the only 1980s European hot hatch to continue utilise carburettors instead of fuel injection. Ignition timing was controlled electronically. Although appearing outwardly similar to the restyled 105 TC with its lower door and wheelarch trims, the 130 TC could be distinguished by its polished four-spoke alloy wheels (continued from the earlier 125 TC), aerodynamic perspex front door wind deflectors, and lower hatchback spoiler. The powerful twin-cam was mated to a close ratio five-speed ZF manual gearbox and had superior performance to its contemporary rivals, which included the Volkswagen Golf GTI, Ford Escort XR3i, Vauxhall Astra GTE and the MG Maestro. In its day, it was faster than all of them, but it found relatively few buyers. The car seen here is a very rare SuperStrada Cabrio one of only a handful left in the UK.
There were a couple of Fiat Uno models here, both of them the well-regarded Turbo model, as, like so many cars it is the performance versions that have survived in far greater quantity than the versions that were actually produced in much greater volumes when new. Fiat launched the Uno, the Tipo 146, in January 1983, just one day before the equally iconic Peugeot 205, to replace the elderly Fiat 127. 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. The 127 had revolutionised the supermini market on its launch more than 10 years earlier, and the Uno followed the same format, but brought uptodate. Designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro’s ItalDesign company, its tall, square body utilising a Kamm tail achieved a low drag coefficient of 0.34 won it much praise for interior space and fuel economy as well as its excellent ride and handling, and was widely regarded as the most innovative small car in Europe at the time of its launch. It incorporated many packaging lessons learnt from Giugiaro’s 1978 Lancia Megagamma concept car (the first modern people carrier / MPV / mini-van) but miniaturised. Its tall car / high seating packaging is imitated by every small car today. It reversed the trend for lower and lower built cars. It showed that not just low sleek cars could be aerodynamic, but small, roomy, boxy well packaged cars could be too. There was a lot of activity in the supermini class in 1983, as the Uno hit the UK market a couple of months before the Peugeot 205 – another small European car which became the benchmark for this market sector, enjoying a long production life and strong sales, and just after General Motors launched its new Opel Corsa/Vauxhall Nova. Within a few months of its launch it had gained two new major competitors in the shape of the restyled Ford Fiesta and Nissan’s new Micra. UK sales began in June 1983, and more than 20,000 were sold in its first full year and peaking at more than 40,000 sales in 1988, making it one of the UK’s most popular imported cars during the 1980s. In December 1983, it was European Car of the Year for 1984, finishing narrowly ahead of the Peugeot 205. Initially, the Uno was offered with the 0.9 litre (903 cc) 100-series OHV, 1.1 litre (1116 cc) and 1.3 litre (1301 cc) 128-series SOHC petrol engines and transmissions carried over from the 127. The Uno’s badging was not by the commonly used measurement of engine size but by metric horsepower: 45, 55, 60, 70, or 75. The Uno was available as either a three- or five-door hatchback. It also featured ergonomic “pod” switchgear clusters each side of the main instrument binnacle, (that could be operated without removing the driver’s hands from the steering wheel), although indicators remained on a stalk; an unusual arrangement similar to that used by Citroën. The Uno had MacPherson strut independent front suspension and twist-beam rear suspension with telescopic dampers and coil springs. From 1985, the 1.0 litre (999 cc) SOHC Fully Integrated Robotised Engine (FIRE) powerplant was offered, replacing the 0.9 litre unit. This was a lighter engine, built with fewer parts, and gave improved performance and economy. The most luxurious version, the single-point injected 75 SX i.e., had remote door locks, integrated front foglamps, and the oval exhaust tip also used on the Turbo. In April 1985 the hot hatch version of the first series Uno – the Uno Turbo i.e. – was launched as a three-door only derivative. It competed with the likes of the Ford Fiesta XR2, MG Metro Turbo and Peugeot 205 GTI. The Uno was replaced by the Punto in late 1993, although production for some markets continued for some time after that. As well as a standard-looking car, this was another chance to see the somewhat modified car that I had seen at Sharnrbook a couple of weeks earlier.
Follow on to the Uno was the Punto, first appearing in 1993 and proving an immediate hit. 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).
As is generally the case at Italian car events, there were several examples of the Fiat Coupe here, with a strong and colourful presence by the Owners Club. 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 lire 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 benefited 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 rumored 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.
More recent Fiat models were the Sedici, a relatively short-lived cross-over model produced in partnership with Suzuki and a 500S.
From a distance, you would probably have seen this car and thought that it was “simply” an example of the classic Issigonis-designed Mini. But this is Italy, where BMC’s baby was built locally for many years, so it was no surprise to see that it had Innocenti badges and some different detailing, especially the front grille. Innocenti was an Italian machinery works originally established by Ferdinando Innocenti in 1920. Over the years they produced Lambretta scooters as well as a range of cars, most of them with British Leyland origins. After World War II, the company was famous for many years for Lambretta scooters models. From 1961 to 1976 Innocenti built under licence the BMC (later the British Leyland Motor Corporation, or BLMC for short) Mini, with 998 cc and 1,275 cc engines, followed by other models, including the Regent (Allegro), with engines up to 1,485 cc. The company of this era is commonly called Leyland Innocenti. The Innocenti Spyder (1961–70) was a rebodied version of the Austin-Healey MKII Sprite (styling by Ghia). The car was produced by OSI, near Milan. In 1972 BLMC took over control of the company in a £3 million deal involving the purchase of the company’s land, buildings and equipment. BLMC had high hopes for its newly acquired subsidiary at a time when, they reported to the UK press, Italian Innocenti sales were second only to those of Fiat, and ahead of Volkswagen and Renault. There was talk of further increasing annual production from 56,452 in 1971 to 100,000. However, the peak production under BLMC was 62,834 in 1972, in spite of exports increasing from one car in 1971 to more than 17,000 in 1974. Demonstrating their ambitions, the British company installed as Managing Director one of their youngest UK based senior executives, the then 32-year-old former Financial Controller Geoffrey Robinson. Three years later BLMC ran out of money and was nationalised by the UK government. In February 1976, the company passed to Alejandro de Tomaso and was reorganised by the De Tomaso Group under the name Nuova Innocenti. Benelli had a share and British Leyland retained five percent, with De Tomaso owning forty-four percent with the aid of a rescue plan from GEPI (an Italian public agency intended to provide investment for troubled corporations). Management was entirely De Tomaso’s responsibility, however, and later in 1976 GEPI and De Tomaso combined their 95% of Innocenti (and all of Maserati) into one new holding company. However, with the loss of the original Mini, the Austin I5, and the (admittedly slow-selling) Regent, sales were in freefall. Production was nearly halved in 1975 and was down to about a fifth of the 1974 levels in 1976. After this crisis, however, the new Bertone-bodied Mini began selling more strongly and production climbed to a steady 40,000 per annum by the end of the ’70s. The first model had Bertone-designed five-seater bodywork and was available with Leyland’s 998 cc and 1275 cc engines. Exports, which had been carried out mainly by British Leyland’s local concessionaires, began drying up in the early eighties as BL did not want to see internal competition from the Innocenti Mini. Sales to France (Innocenti’s biggest export market) ended in 1980, with German sales coming to a halt in 1982. Around the same time, the engine deal with Leyland ended, and production soon dropped into the low twenty thousands. Later models, from model year 1983 on, used 993 cc three-cylinder engines made by Daihatsu of Japan. De Tomaso developed a turbocharged version of this engine for Daihatsu which found use in both Innocenti’s and Daihatsu’s cars. Fiat bought the company in 1990, and the last Innocenti models were versions of the Uno-based Fiat Duna Saloon and Estate, which were badged Elba. The brand was retired in 1996. The car seen here was badged Cooper 1300, and these cars had lots of little differences compared to the Longbridge and Cowley made models. Innocenti had been assembling Minis since 1965, creating finished cars from CKD kits, the first cars called Innocenti 850. In 1971, they started to produce the Innocenti Cooper 1300, following the demise of the model in the UK, which had been replaced by the 1275GT, and it continued until 1975 when all the Issigonis Minis were deleted, to be replaced by the hatchback Bertone Mini 90 and 120 cars
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.
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.
Named after one of the roads leading to Rome, like other Lancia models of the 1950s, the Flaminia was the replacement for the Aurelia. Built from 1957 to 1970, it was Lancia’s flagship model, produced in saloon, coupé and cabriolet versions. The Flaminia coupé and convertible were coachbuilt cars with bodies from several prestigious Italian coachbuilders. Four “presidential” stretched limousine Flaminias were produced by Pininfarina for use on state occasions. There were 12,633 Flaminias sold over 13 years. Coupés outsold the four-door saloon, an unusual occurrence otherwise seen at the time only in American compact and midsize models whose coupe versions were standard factory models that cost the same or less than the sedan, while the Flaminia coupes’ coachbuilt bodies made them considerably more expensive than the limousine-like Berlina. The Flaminia’s chassis was a development of the Aurelia’s, but was significantly upgraded. The front suspension was changed to a more conventional configuration with double wishbones, coil springs, telescopic shock absorbers, and an anti-roll bar. The rear suspension retained the De Dion setup, with a transaxle mounted at the rear as in the Aurelia. The first Berlina was available with drum brake or discs, all other models used discs only. The original two bodies of the Flaminia were developed by Pininfarina and modelled after his two Aurelia-based motor show specials, named Florida, as seen in the Corrado Lopresto collection presented earlier in this report. The Flaminia’s engine was an evolution of the world’s first V6, which was introduced in the Aurelia. It had increased bore and decreased stroke. The engines were mounted longitudinally, powering the rear wheels through a 4-speed rear-mounted transaxle. A version with a larger engine was introduced in 1962. The first Coupe model was designed and built by Pininfarina, and was very similar to the Florida II prototype with a 2+2 layout, sitting on a shortened wheelbase relative to the Berlina. This proved to be the most popular of the Coupe versions, with 5,236 Coupés made(4,151 with the 2.5, 1,085 with the 2.8) up to 967. A second Coupe model was made available in 1961, styled and built by Carrozzeria Touring. These aluminium bodied cars can be easily distinguished by their four round headlights (rather than two on Pininfarina Flaminias), and a shorter cabin – the wheelbase was decreased significantly for the GT and Convertible, allowing for only two seats to be mounted. The GT was a coupé, while the Convertible was obviously a cabriolet version (with optional hardtop). The GTL, introduced in 1962, was a 2+2 version of the GT with a slightly longer wheelbase. The Convertible was in production until 1964, with 847 made in total (180 with the 2.8), while the GT and GTL lasted until 1965, with 1718 GTs and 300 GTLs made (out of which, 168 GTs and 297 GTLs with the 2.8). Final bodystyle, and the one seen here was produced by Zagato. This was also a two-seater. It used the same shorter wheelbase chassis as the GT, and had a very distinctive rounded aluminium body with pop-out handles. The Super Sport replaced the Sport in 1964, with the introduction of the 2.8 litre 152 bhp engine. The first Sports had flush covered headlights, later changed to more classic round ones. The Super Sport also saw some changes – the rear was updated to a Kammback, while the front was made more aerodynamic with distinctive tear-shape headlight casings. Until 1967, 593 Sports and Super Sports were built (99 Preseries, 344 Sports, 150 Supersports). Seen here was the Zagato bodied SuperSport.
Lancia replaced the long-running Appia with a new model in 1963, the Fulvia. Like the larger Flavia which had been shown 3 years earlier, it came with front wheel drive, and a host of exquisite engineering which ensure that even though it was expensive, it was actually not profitable for its maker, and was a direct contribution to the marque’s bankruptcy and take over by Fiat in 1969. It was not long before the initial Berlina saloon model was joined by a Coupe. First seen in 1965. the Coupe proved to be the longest lived of all Fulvia variants, surviving until 1976 when it was effectively replaced by the 1300cc version of the Beta Coupe. Before that, it had undergone a steady program of updates, with more powerful engines, including a capacity increase from the initial 1200cc of the narrow angle V4 to 1300 and then later 1600cc, and the car was developed into a successful rally machine for the late 60s. The Sport Zagato version was designed by Ercole Spada at Zagato and was intended to be the more sporting model of the range. It was also considerably more expensive. Early cars had an unusual side hinged bonnet, but this was changed on the Series 2 models which were launched in 1970, and which also switched to all-steel bodies. Seen here were a number of the very elegant regular Coupe models.
The Beta family formed the core of Lancia’s range throughout the 1970s, The Berlina model came first, launched at the 1972 Turin Show. In its day, it sold in grater numbers than cars like the rival BMW, though few would believe that now. In 1973 the second style to appear was a 2+2 two-door coupé with a 93″ wheelbase, although due to the fuel crisis it did not become available to the public until early 1974. 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, at which point the Fulvia Coupe was deleted. 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. The bodywork was developed in-house by a Lancia team led by Aldo Castagno, with Pietro Castagnero acting as styling consultant. Castagnero had also styled the Beta’s predecessor, the Lancia Fulvia saloon and coupé. The car was popular in the mid 1970s with 111,801 examples being built, though they are quite rare now. Seen here were a number of Coupe models, including a VX, with the supercharged engine.
Lancia launched the Delta in 1979, as what we would now think of as a “premium hatch”. Offered in 1300 and 1500cc engines, this car, which collected the prestigious “Car of the year” award a few months later, brought Italian style and an expensive feeling interior to a new and lower price point in the market than Lancia had occupied since the early days of the Fulvia some 15 years earlier. The range grew first when a model was offered using the 4 speed AP automatic transmission and then in late 1982, more powerful models started to appear, with first a 1600cc engine, and then one with fuel injection, before the introduction of the HF Turbo. All these cars kept the same appearance and were quite hard to tell apart. These were the volume models of the range, but now they are very definitely the rare ones, as it is the performance versions which have survived and are now much loved classics, even though relatively were sold when they were new, thanks to a combination of the fact that they were quite costly and that they only ever came with left hand drive.
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 was 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. There were several road cars here and a couple of Group A rally versions.
One Mexico is rare, but to see two at the same event is something that can’t happen very often in the UK, or indeed anywhere in the world. The Maserati Mexico’s design derived from a 2+2 prototype bodywork shown on the Vignale stand at the October 1965 Salone di Torino and built upon a 4.9-litre 5000 GT chassis, rebodied after it had been damaged. As the car after the show was sold to Mexican president Adolfo López Mateos, the model became known as the Mexico. By coincidence, John Surtees won the Mexican Grand Prix on a Cooper-Maserati T81 the following year. Vignale’s prototype was so well received that Maserati immediately made plans to put a version into production. The production Maserati Mexico debuted in August 1966 at the 20° Concorso internazionale di eleganza per auto in Rimini, while its international première was at the October Paris Motor Show. It was built on the first generation Quattroporte chassis with a wheelbase shortened by 11 cm (4.3 in). Originally powered by a 4.7-litre 90° V8 fed by four twin-choke 38 DCNL5 Weber carburetors that produced 290 bhp, the car managed to turn out a top speed between 240–250 km/h (149–155 mph). In 1969, however, contrary to Maserati tradition, the Mexico was also made available with a smaller engine, the 4.2-litre V8 engine. Apart from the smaller engine option the Mexico underwent few changes during its lifetime. Its luxurious interior included a rich leather seating for four adults, electric windows, wooden dashboard, iodine headlights and air conditioning as standard. Automatic transmission, power steering and a radio were available as optional extras. The 4.7-litre version was fitted with 650×15″ Borrani chrome wire wheels and the 4.2-litre version with steel disc wheels. When leaving the factory all Maserati Mexicos originally fitted Pirelli Cinturato 205VR15 tyres (CN72). The Mexico was the first production Maserati to be fitted with servo assisted ventilated disc brakes on all four wheels. In May 1967, under commission from the German concessionaire Auto Koenig for one client, Herr Rupertzhoven, Maserati built a ‘Mexico’ similar to Vignale’s original prototype design but was the work of Frua. Appearing like a 4-seat Mistral and built on the same tubular chassis as the 3500 GT (2600 mm wheelbase), this prototype ‘Mexico’ was fitted with the Mistral’s six-cylinder 3.7-litre Lucas fuel-injected engine. It was finished in Oro Longchamps with a black leather interior. Its dashboard came from the Quattroporte. 485 Mexicos were produced, 175 equipped with the 4.7 engine and 305 with the 4.2.
From the same era was the very pretty Ghibli model – the first of three very different models to bear the name. First unveiled in prototype form on the Maserati stand at the November 1966 Turin Motor Show, this grand tourer with an all steel body, characterised by a low, shark-shaped nose, was designed by a young Giorgetto Giugiaro, then working at Carrozzeria Ghia. Deliveries started in March of the following year. While the 1966 Ghia prototype was a two-seater, on the production car two emergency rear seats were added—consisting of nothing more than a cushion without backrest—and the Ghibli was marketed as a 2+2, though everyone tends to think of this car as a 2 seater, and the later Indy as the real 2+2 from the range. The first Ghibli cars were powered by a front placed quad-cam 4.7 litre dry sump V8 engine that prodiuced 306 bhp, mated to a five-speed manual or, on request, to a three-speed automatic transmission. It had a 0-60 mph time of 6.8 seconds, a top speed of 250 km/h (155 mph). The car also featured pop-up headlamps, leather sport seats and alloy wheels. A convertible version, the Ghibli Spyder, went into production in 1969. Its convertible top folded away under a flush fitting body-colour tonneau cover behind the front seats; thus the Spyder eschewed any vestigial rear passenger accommodation, and was a strict two-seater. A removable hard top was available as an option. The 4.9-litre Ghibli SS was released later in 1969. Its V8 engine was stroked 4 mm to displace 4930 cc, and put out 330 bhp; its top speed of 280 km/h (174 mph) made it the fastest Maserati road car ever produced. In all, 1,170 coupés and 125 Spyders (including 25 Spyder SS) were produced.
The Maserati Indy (Tipo AM 116) is a four-seater fastback grand tourer produced from 1969 to 1975. The Indy was conceived as an alternative to the Ghibli offering a V8 engine and room for four people; it effectively replaced both the ageing six-cylinder 2+2 Maserati Sebring—which descended from the 1957 3500 GT— and the first generation Quattroporte. Two coachbuilders showed their proposals at the November 1968 Salone dell’automobile di Torino, both based on a Maserati 4.2-litre chassis. On Ghia’s stand there was the Simùn, a 2+2 berlinetta designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro; on Carrozzeria Vignale’s, a sleek 4-seater fastback penned by Giovanni Michelotti. Both coachbuilders had already an established relationship with Maserati, as Vignale had been responsible for the 3500 GT Spyder, Mexico and Sebring, while Giugiaro had recently penned the Ghibli at Ghia. Vignale’s prototype was preferred, and the production model was launched by Maserati at the Geneva Motor Show the following March. The car was christened Indy in honour of Maserati’s two victories at the Indy 500. At its launch in 1969 the Indy was offered with a 4.2-litre V8 engine. From 1970 a 4.7-litre Indy 4700 was offered alongside the 4200; the same year some interior updates were introduced, including seats with retractable headrests and a new dashboard. In 1972, Maserati added the Indy 4900 to the range, equipped with the new 4.9-litre V8. Production of the Indy ended in 1975. In total 1,104 were produced, 440 of them Indy 4.2s, 364 Indy 4.7s and 300 Indy 4.9s. These days the cars worth a fraction of the prices charged for a Ghibli, which makes them something of a bargain to my mind.
Maserati replaced their entire range in 1981 with the BiTurbo. Introduced initially as a single model, a 2 door coupe with a 2 litre twin-turbo V6 engine, over the next 15 years, it would evolve into a complex range of different models, and three basic bodystyles, as well as the special low-volume Karif and V8 engined Shamal cars. The car was designed by Pierangelo Andreani, Chief of Centro Stile Maserati up to 1981, and was 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 Ghibli name was resurrected with the unveiling at the 62nd Turin Motor Show in April 1992. of the 1992 Ghibli (Tipo AM336). Like the V8 Maserati Shamal, it was an evolution of the previous Biturbo coupés; the doors, interior, and basic bodyshell were carried over from the Biturbo. It was powered by updated 24-valve Biturbo engines: a 2.0-litre V6 coupled to a six-speed manual transmission for the Italian market, and a 2.8-litre V6 for export, at first with a 5-speed manual, then from 1995 with the 6-speed. A 4-speed automatic was optional. The coupé was built for luxury as well as performance, and its interior featured Connolly leather upholstery and burl elm trim. At the 1994 Geneva Motor Show, Maserati launched an updated Ghibli. A refreshed interior, new wing mirrors, wider and larger 17″ alloy wheels of a new design, fully adjustable electronic suspension and ABS brakes were added. The Ghibli Open Cup single-make racing car was announced in late 1994. Two sport versions were introduced in 1995. The first was the Ghibli Kit Sportivo, whose namesake handling kit included wider tyres on OZ “Futura III” split-rim wheels, specific springs, dampers and anti-roll bars. The second was the limited edition Ghibli Cup, which brought some features of the Open Cup racer into a road-going model; it debuted at the December 1995 Bologna Motor Show. it mounted a 2-litre engine upgraded to 330 PS. At the time the Ghibli Cup had the highest ever per litre power output of any street legal car, surpassing the Bugatti EB110 and Jaguar XJ220. Chassis upgrades included tweaked suspension and Brembo brakes. Visually the Cup was recognizable from its 5-spoke split-rim Speedline wheels and badges on the doors. Only four paint colours were available: red, white, yellow and French blue. The sporty theme continued in the Cup’s cabin with black leather, carbon fibre trim, aluminium pedals and a MOMO steering wheel. A second round of improvements resulted in the Ghibli GT in 1996. It was fitted with 7-spoked 17″ alloy wheels, black headlight housings, and had suspension and transmission modifications. On 4 November 1996 on the Lake Lugano, Guido Cappellini broke the flying kilometre’s World Speed Record on water in the 5-litre class piloting a composite-hulled speedboat powered by the biturbo V6 from the Ghibli Cup and run by Bruno Abbate’s Primatist/Special Team, at an average speed of 216,703 km/h. To celebrate the world record Maserati made 60 special edition Ghiblis called the Ghibli Primatist. The cars featured special Ultramarine blue paintwork and two-tone blue/turquoise leather interior trimmed in polished burr walnut. Production of the second generation Ghibli ended in summer 1998.
After producing BiTurbo based cars for 17 years, Maserati replaced their entire range with a new model in July 1998, the 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 3200GT and the Spyder here.
Still acclaimed as one of the best-looking saloons ever produced is this car, the fifth generation Quattroporte, a couple of which were on show. 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 424 bhp and maximum torque of 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.
There were also examples of current models, with the GranTurismo and GranCabrio as well as the Ghibli and Quattroporte saloons.
MORE ABARTH PHOTOS
By mid-afternoon the majority of attendees had gone, but such is the cameraderie of the Abarth owners that many of them were still left chatting and taking yet more photos. And with everyone else gone, ti became possible to move the cars to all sorts of places that had not been available earlier in the day. It was not long before someone had the idea of moving the remaining cars – around 15 of then -onto the south terrace and to try various arrangements to try to get some group shots with the spectacular backdrop. Needless to say, I took rather a lot of photos myself at this point.
Whilst that was indeed the end of the event, I had chosen to stay up in the area for a second night, with a hotel in Stockton-on-Tees, just a few miles away from where my friend and fellow Abarth owner, Ben Au, lives. Ben was determined that we should go out for dinner at one of his favourite restaurants in Middlesborough, which turned out to be a delightful Italian trattoria. He duly collected me from the hotel, which meant I got a ride in the 500 GTO and the chance to take a final picture of it for this weekend.
Before heading south, I was able to make a trip to Durham, to see how much of it was unchanged from my student days. And the answer to that was not a lot – the city centre has altered massively, with a lot of new building work, but the older parts of the Bailey and the delightful riverside paths were just as I remembered them. Sadly, the rain got worse, so the camera remained out of action, but for sure I will be back. I understand that the Auto Italia team plan to repeat this event in 2021, and assuming that the Covid situation makes it possible to go ahead, then I will unhesitatingly make the long drive north to attend. This was a delightful event, and with a big northern welcome, I would not want to miss it for anything!