(first posted 10/6/2014) I present to you the final installment in this series which began September first. I’ve been lucky enough to have covered single marques in the previous three posts, but now I end with a scattering of some of the other brands present at the Como Park shows. First up is this Iso Rivolta IR 300/340/350, the first I’ve seen in person and let me tell you, it’s very, very desirable in the flesh. Some of you will already recognise a concealed Chevrolet; the Iso packed the Turbofire 327 in two states of tune putting out 300 or 340bhp (upgraded to 350bhp after 1966).
Renzo Rivolta had developed the successful Isetta bubblecar and sold the license to BMW and others. His next venture was more ambitious, a proper GT. Instead of building his own engine or using one from the continent, he chose an American option. It’s not like he was slumming, either; he had Ferrari 250 GTO architect Giotto Bizzarrini help him prepare the car.
It was styled by Giorgetto Giugiaro for Bertone and shares its overall concept with an earlier Giugiaro-for-Bertone, the Gordon GT. Similarities to the Gordon (later the Gordon-Keeble) extended to its general dimensions, body configuration, power source, box-section frame and de Dion rear suspension. There were dark mutterings about the close friendship between Nuccio Bertone and Renzo Rivolta.
In 1964, the same team produced the stunning Grifo and it looked as though the company may be a real contender. However, Renzo’s death in 1966 put stewardship of Iso in the hands of his 25 year-old son, who managed to produce the Lele and the four-door Fidio before the business went bankrupt in 1974.
Using pretty much the same idea as the Rivolta was the De Tomaso Longchamp, only this time packing 351C Ford power. It’s a nice looking grand tourer. The bummer is its visual proximity to the Mercedes Benz 107-series SLC. It was derived from the four-door Deauville, which itself was high in visual proximity to the Jaguar XJ saloon.
Alejandro de Tomaso was a fascinating character; at various points in his life he was also in control of Innocenti, Ghia and Vignale. The Longchamp was his attempt at a volume product. With this car, he was appealing to the sort of money that wouldn’t or couldn’t crouch low enough to get into his Pantera. In 1975, he took control of Maserati and one of the first things he did was modify the Longchamp to become the Maserati Kyalami, although that car was to be powered by a Maserati V8.
The Longchamp, Kyalami, IR300 and a host of other two-door GTs were essentially modeled on the Maserati 3500 GT. First seen in 1957, it became the mainstay of the Maserati roadcars and spawned a series of offshoots that really helped bed-in the trident’s post-war reputation. The coupe was complemented with a just-as-gorgeous spider by Vignale, and there were various custom-bodied versions from other carrozzeria as well.
Those little vent windows over the rear section of the doors mark this as a fuel-injected 3500 GTI (as does the ‘iniezione’ script on the rear trident badge). Paul’s dreamy 3500 GT story is here, and features a beautiful damsel in distress. A must-read for every CC aficionado.
The first Maserati Quattroporte built from 1963 to 1969 was based on the 3500. Styled by trident stalwart Pietro Frua, it was a low slung redefinition of the super saloon that was to influence Jaguar and Mercedes Benz products from the late ’60s onwards. Four doors on a car like this was a great idea, but the earlier Lagonda Rapide and Facel Vega Excellence had not exactly set the world alight.
Its fortunes have waxed and waned over 6 series, but today it is a key facet of Maserati’s brand equity. The series 1 is not a very handsome car; the shape is rakish but the detailing not-so-well considered. The best looking of the bunch was not actually a series body, but a special built by Frua for the Aga Khan in 1971. It was developed into a production ready QPII concept that was ultimately beaten by a Bertone version which had been supported by Citroen.
Looking back at the 3500 GT and Quattroporte, the family resemblance to the Sebring is strong. To my own eyes, this very shape is among the top three Maseratis. Designed by Vignale, it does a much better job with the details than the QP. The wingtops follow the twin dome section of the headlights and the grille sits better with a less emphatic pout. Those wingtops and the smaller turn signal lenses mark this as the prettier series one.
Maserati built their reputation with monoposto race cars before the war. For many years, their visual identification was a wingless cigar-shaped body and a distinctive grille. After the war, they started building road cars. From the first of the A6 coupes, they had some of the best looking cars on the road. When I think of Maserati, I think first of these gran turismo coupes and not the sportscars…
…like this one. Four years separate the Sebring from this Ghibli. With arrivistes such as Iso and Lamborghini starting to crowd the scene, Maserati responded with the latest aesthetic: the wedge. Giorgetto Giugiaro penned this during his short stay at Ghia. It followed the bug-eyed wedge Mistral and was itself followed by the wedge Indy 2+2 to define the Maserati shape for generations since.
I’m not such a fan. All the requisite elements are there, but it doesn’t really speak to me as others from this period do. Can’t explain, and it’s certainly not an easy point of view to defend. I have come across many, many opinions that this is one of the best shapes from Maserati. I prefer the Khamsin that replaced it.
Lamborghini, arriviste? Tractor manufacturer Ferruccio Lamborghini made his first gran turismo in 1964 and unlike the great majority of the burgeoning GT contructors, Ferruccio produced his own engine. At the behest of Giotto Bizzarini, a 3.5 litre V12 was designed and built, then placed in a bespoke body, creating the Lamborghini 350 GTV prototype. After Bizzarrini left, Lamborghini assigned Giampaolo Dallara the task of preparing it for production. He de-tuned the racing-based engine and had Touring restyle the body to arrive at the 350 GT which looked a lot like this example.
This is actually the next model, the 1966 400 GT 2+2. It had the same wheelbase as the 350, with more interior space from a modified greenhouse. Apparently no body panels were shared. To confuse you further, there were 22 examples of the 400 GT Interim, with the more powerful engine in the lighter 350 body. The most visible differences on the 2+2 were a smaller rear window and slightly higher roofline. The ovoid headlights disappeared on models destined for the US.
Like the Ferrari 365 GT 2+2 I was whingeing about last episode, the front and the rear don’t quite match up aesthetically. Unlike the 365, however, the overall styling still works. This was a sure and brisk performer with the added credibility of its in-house engine, but as a front-engined arrangement it was still as conventional as the next euroxotic. With their next car, Lamborghini put the V12 behind the driver…
…and changed the performance road car forever. They weren’t the first to do put the engine behind the driver: Rene Bonnet had already released the Djet (later, the Matra Djet), and Ferrari mutinists Giotto Bizzarini and Carlo Chiti had tried and failed with the ATS 2500 GT. But the Lamborghini Miura did it with a transversely mounted V12 wrapped in a Bertone body by Marcello Gandini. And blew everyone away.
The team of Dallara, with Paolo Stanzini and New Zealander development driver Bob Wallace, prepared a mid-engine prototype out of hours. A doubting Ferruccio was convinced and Lamborghini soon had the bull by the horns. It scared the pants off the establishment and led to a flood of mid-engined cars from their competitors.
And thus we enter Lamborghini’s greatest period, when they had actually stolen the zeitgeist from the prancing horse. For the 1968 Espada, the V12 from the Miura was mounted longtitudinally in the front of a relatively spacious 2+2 cabin. Most significant is the move away from the delirious curvature of the Miura towards the emerging wedge and origami look. The stylist? Gandini.
It’s not to everyone’s taste, particularly for those who prefer their sportscars to have a tight greenhouse. But it demonstrates the maturity of this young brand; during its lifetime it was the best selling Lamborghini and was considered a more stylish, if less practical, alternative to the Quattroporte. And the Lamborghini range was still expanding.
This yellow Urraco P250/P300 was first released in 1970, marking Lamborghini’s second mid-engined road car, using a smaller 2.5 (later a 3 litre) V8 to compete more directly against Porsche. Based a lot on the Alfa Carabo concept, it was penned yet again by the very talented Marcello Gandini. Story has it that back in 1963, a young Giorgetto Giugiaro, then chief stylist at Bertone, refused to hire Gandini and that two years later, it was the latter who ended up replacing him at Bertone when he left for Ghia.
Like the Miura, the Urraco’s engine was mounted transversely, but here it allowed for a four place interior, if not exactly a 2+2. It’s a quiet achievement; considering its family, this model tends to get overlooked, but it’s remarkable for its restraint. No fancy lens shapes or air ducting; just a nod to the Carabo shell, with clean surfaces and really great proportioning.
Countach. The Masterpiece. Also by Gandini. A car that had its V12 engine mounted longtitudinally behind the driver. This is a later flared LP5000S, but I managed to get an angle that harkens back to the original LP400 production car. Lamborghini would never again set the aesthetic standards for their class as they did during this fertile period.
And so we come to the end of my Italian degustation. To finish, a sweet digestif–the Lancia Appia GTS by Zagato. For some reason, there was very little Lancia representation at these events but luckily, this little delight managed to pay a visit. The Appia range was at the base of the Lancia model hierarchy. There was a multitude of body variants, from sports to commercial, all powered by the jewel-like 1089cc V4. A 38hp S1 Berlinetta managed to reach a top speed of 76 mph in 1954, so this lighter and more powerful (58hp) example would have been quite peppy.
I hope you enjoyed the Como Park series. It’s been a bit of an indulgence on my part, but also a pleasure to bring you some of the rarer creations that fire my imagination.