As the automobile industry goes “all-in” on battery electric vehicles, do Italy’s high-end performance car manufacturers still have a place in an electrified world?

Ferrari Testarossa
Ferrari Testarossa

“A very fast car, usually one that is an unusual or rare type.”

That’s what “supercars” are, according to the Cambridge dictionary.
However, there’s no general consensus among automobile historians about the origins of both the word and the kind of automobile it defines.
Still, it’s fair to say most people associate the word “supercar” with a low-slung, brightly coloured object of desire whose name ends with a vowel.

The Italians certainly don’t have a monopoly on impossibly expensive and outrageously fast machinery, but the cars made by the likes of Ferrari and Lamborghini indeed epitomize the “supercar” genre.

And the world just can’t have enough of them.

While the Western middle-class has undeniably been struggling financially for quite some time, the world at large has never been more prosperous. In fact, the number of millionaires is believed to have tripled over the last twenty years. …

Every professional field has its own jargon, and car design is no different. Here are five of the most curious terms from an automobile designer’s vocabulary, “translated” into plain English.

Matteo Licata Citroen DS design drawing
Matteo Licata Citroen DS design drawing

DLO or Daylight Opening

The classic Alfa Romeo Spider enjoyed the longest production run of any Alfa model before or since, stealing hearts all over the world for almost 28 years. But some versions didn’t sell quite as well as others, while some were special editions whose production numbers were limited from the outset.

Alfa Romeo Spider
Alfa Romeo Spider

It must be said, though, that Italians are much better at designing pretty cars than keeping track of how many they make, and the 1966–93 Spider is no exception. For this article’s purposes, I’ve cross-referenced various sources, all placing the grand total of Spiders made at around 124.000, with a few hundred cars of difference depending on who you ask.

Without further ado, here are the ten rarest variants of the classic Alfa Romeo Spider.

10) 1750 Veloce “Series One” (1967–69)–3280 Cars

Like many beautiful things in life, the 1750 Veloce series 1 only had a short, fleeting existence. Introduced in 1967, just a year after the Spider’s launch in ’66, the original “round-tail” 1750 Veloce got only a couple of summers to shine before being superseded by the restyled “Kamm-tail” model in late 1969: hence the low production number. …

How Alfa Romeo outsmarted its competition, won a championship and changed the history of Touring Car racing.

Ever since the first piece of motorsport regulations was written, engineers have been looking for ways to extract the maximum performance advantage while staying within the letter of the law.

Win on Sunday, sell on Monday

In the early 1990s, Touring car racing was a crucial element in the sales strategy for the Alfa Romeo 155 and the brand as a whole, following the age-old industry mantra of “win on Sunday, sell on Monday.”
Alfa Romeo’s surprise victory in the ’93 DTM season had a direct positive effect on 155 and 164 sales in Germany.

Alfa 155 DTM
Alfa 155 DTM

Still, it mattered little outside of the country, and dealers lobbied for additional involvement in other national championships and, among those, the most prestigious and contested certainly was Britain’s BTCC.
Fiat Auto left nothing to chance in its assault to the 1994 British championship, with a budget of 14 Billion Liras (equivalent to around 5.2 Million GBP at the time) and a new weapon of choice: the 155 Silverstone. …

2020 marked the 70th anniversary of the Lancia Aurelia’s introduction. The Turin’s National Automobile Museum celebrated the milestone with an exhibition composed of eighteen stunning examples.

Lancia Aurelia mauto
Lancia Aurelia mauto

I find the Museum’s initiative particularly appropriate, given Turin is Lancia’s birthplace, and is a chance to help a new generation of enthusiasts appreciate the Marque’s preeminent role in the automobile’s technical development, which today seems somewhat forgotten.

“In my cars, I’ve always looked for sophistication in the engineering and personality in the design.”

Gianni Lancia

Take, for example, the V6 engine: surprisingly few automobile enthusiasts seem to know that the first V6 ever produced debuted under the hood of the Lancia Aurelia B10 saloon, presented in 1950 at the Turin motor show.
The B10’s 1754 cc engine block was cast in lightweight aluminum with “wet” iron cylinder liners. …

I got to live my childhood dream. Until it turned out to be a nightmare.

Matteo Licata Designer
Matteo Licata Designer

We all dream, but a surprisingly tiny percentage of people manage to turn their dreams into reality.

I’m one of those few.

I’ve been obsessed with cars since I can remember and started drawing them on every scrap of paper, almost as soon as I could hold a pencil in my hand. I remember spending my school years incessantly drawing cars in-between classes, telling my incredulous classmates and skeptic teachers I’d be a car designer someday.

Growing up in Turin during the 1980s, at the tail-end of the golden age of Italian design, I became aware very early that such a job actually existed, and I never doubted that I would achieve it, even if I didn’t yet know precisely how. …

Adjectives like “legendary” and “iconic” have lost much of their significance through their constant overuse. But cars like the Lancia Delta HF Integrale are the reasons why such words actually exist.

Delta Integrale Martini Lancia
Delta Integrale Martini Lancia

“La Lancia, unico costruttore al mondo ad aver vinto dieci titoli mondiali Rally, dopo il quinto successo consecutivo della Delta e il titolo mondiale piloti, sospende l’attività agonistica.”

This rather laconic press release from Fiat Auto announced, on December the 18th 1991, the end of Lancia’s official involvement in the World Rally Championship. Thirty years have since passed, but the Italian marque still is the winningest automaker in WRC history, with ten championship titles gained between 1974 and 1992.
The last six of them came in sequence, courtesy of the legendary Delta Integrale, another record standing to this day.
All the 44.296 …

The union between Bertone’s style and Alfa Romeo’s performance has produced a long streak of unforgettable cars and, like the best marriages, it lasted until death.

Alfa GT Bertone
Alfa GT Bertone

As Bertone filed for bankruptcy in 2014, there will be no more Bertone Alfas.

Here’s the story of the very last one.

As its project code (937C) and appearance suggest, the GT was a derivative of the Alfa 147 hatchback (937). However, the 156 Sport Wagon platform was actually used because of its longer wheelbase, making the GT a comfortable four-seater despite its sporty appearance. Bertone designers successfully lobbied against Fiat’s beancounters to let the GT have its own specific windshield, crucial to obtain the GT’s swoopy side profile.

Bertone as a whole would lose a much more significant battle, though. As most of the firm’s revenue came from vehicle manufacturing at its factory in Grugliasco near Turin, landing a contract to make the GT there was crucial to its future. …

The rare, obscure Maserati Shamal was presented to the public about ten days before Christmas, on December 14, 1989.

Maserati Shamal
Maserati Shamal

Which makes it the last car of the 1980s.

The Shamal was named after a northwesterly wind blowing over the Persian Gulf, thus marking a return to an old Maserati tradition of naming cars after exotic winds.
But Alejandro DeTomaso’s little automobile empire (he had taken control of Innocenti and Maserati in 1975) was then crumbling under a load of debts and broken promises, the new model had to be developed on a shoestring budget.

It was a bully that punched the oncoming air into submission rather than glide through it

This meant the naming tradition wasn’t the only thing the Shamal inherited from Maserati’s past. The Shamal was yet another derivative of the 1981 Biturbo, whose outdated angular shape left designer Marcello Gandini little choice but to dial up the ridiculousness to eleven. …

Over the last few years, many writers and enthusiasts have been waxing lyrical about the 1980s Alfa Romeo GTV, and rightfully so.

Alfa Romeo GTV6
Alfa Romeo GTV6

Good car, bad timing

Introduced in 1974, the Alfetta GT came to replace the much-loved Giulia-based GTs. A difficult task made even more challenging by the period’s circumstances, as widespread social unrest and high fuel prices weren’t exactly conducive to sports car sales.


Matteo Licata

I’ve been obsessed with cars for as long as I can remember, and, after working in automobile design for a decade, now I am an Automobile Historian and Writer

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