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Tom Mallett2012-02-14 15:47:49

Top 10: Italian Cars

 
 
Slideshow
Top 10: Italian Cars

It is only right that this list should be prepared with exotica, after all, that is what the Italians are famous for. I think there is also some ‘writer’s license’ to be expected on a list like this. Some of these cars will be a shoe-in, but others will be controversial. Some may even be unreliable. Anyway, here we go…

 

10. Alfa Romeo Spider

Why?

The Alfa Spider was produced between 1966 and 1994 with only minor aesthetic changes. The little Alfa was often dubbed a poor man’s Ferrari, but this, if anything is a compliment. It survived the test of time and was well regarded by the motoring press and public alike, with pleasant, if not scalpel sharp handling and a pretty shape it was a good value ‘entry point’ into drop-top Italian sports car ownership.

What is it?

The Alfa Romeo Spider was launched at the Geneva motor show in March 1966. It used a 1.6 litre four cylinder engine initially, with a more powerful 1750 cc engine being introduced in 1967 and a ‘junior’ 1290 cc with fewer creature comforts being added in 1968. Alfa Romeo continued to refine the formula over the coming decades, but it retained the DNA of the original, only being discontinued in 1994. It even gained ‘box office’ appeal with an appearance on the silver screen as Dustin Hoffman’s chariot in the 1967 movie ‘The Graduate’.

 

9. Maserati 250F

Why?

The Maserati 250F is, to my eyes, the prettiest of the post war, pre-Constructors Championship Grand Prix cars. In a time when motor racing put manufacturers ‘on the map’ it was the 250F that cemented Maserati as a force, especially in the post World War 2 landscape.

What is it?

The 250F garnered 277 separate entries through the 1950’s with drivers ranging from Juan Manuel Fangio and Stirling Moss through to wealthy private entrants. It was introduced in 1954, and first raced by Fangio at the Argentinean Grand Prix, where it won first time out.

Initially the 250F was launched with drum brakes and a 2.5 litre straight 6 engine, but by 1957 Maserati had added disc brakes and the works cars had V12’s and 315 bhp, an increase of 75bhp. By the 1958 season the 250F was generally outclassed, however, it had done its job and remains synonymous with 1950’s Grand Prix racing to this day.

 

8. Ferrari 250 GTO

Why?

Even in 1962 the 250GTO was special. In North America not only did buyers need to be approved by the North American distributer, but also by Enzo Ferrari himself. There are reports of 250GTO’s changing hands for over $30,000,000 today, making it not just a member of the aristocracy, but royalty when it comes to motor-cars.

What is it?

The 250 GTO was built to compete in GT racing. It used a 3.0 litre V12 from the Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa which was inserted into an aerodynamic coupe body which was developed in a wind tunnel. The 250 GTO was one of the last front engine coupe’s to race competitively, and successfully, before the front-engine layout became obsolete.

 

7. Lancia Delta Integrale

Why?

This Giorgio Guigiaro designed shape arrived in 1979 (although the Integrale only arrived in 1986) and survived until 1994, in increasingly mad states of tune. Not only did the original design span three decades, but it became the most successful rally car of all time, winning six World Rally Championships along the way.

What is it?

The Delta Integrale was initially released with an 8V 2.0 litre turbocharged engine and was followed by a more powerful 16V version of the same engine. The Delta Integrale is now as desirable as some similarly aged Ferrari’s and is quicker down a country road as well. The chassis was well judged and it feels stable even by today’s standards, with the four-wheel-drive system in particular endowing it with supercar slaying qualities.

 

6. Lancia Stratos

Why?

The Lancia Stratos was inspired by Bertone’s  design study which was unveiled at the 1970 Turin Motor Show. It was one of the first homologation specials which were the fore-bearers for the spectacular Group B machines in the 1980’s. Even the name is a nod towards its special status, the name suggesting an extra-terrestrial influence.

What is it?

492 examples of the Stratos were produced between 1972 and 1974 and they went on to win the World Rally Championship in 1974, 1975 and 1976. In its road going form it used the V6 from Ferrari’s 246 Dino. It used a tuned version with 280bhp for rallying, with later examples producing up to 560bhp with the help of a single KKK turbocharger. The Stratos remains iconic to this day, and has even spawned a recreation using the mechanicals from a Ferrari F430 Scuderia.

 

5. Lamborghini Countach

Why?

‘Outrageous’ is one word that can be used to describe the Lamborghini Countach. It is the later 5000QV that will be remembered by most, but that is doing the original car a disservice. The LP400, released in 1974, was aggressively styled but it retained the sleekness that previous Lamborghini’s had purveyed. Debates about styling aside, the Countach deserves its place on this list for the simple reason that it sat on more teenager’s walls than any other car through the 1980’s.

What is it?

The Lamborghini Countach was released in 1974 and powered by a 4 litre 375 bhp V12. Despite the relatively modest power output Lamborghini claimed a top speed “in excess of 200 mph” and most people believed it such was the outlandish styling. Despite the claims the Countach would never achieve anything close to 200 mph. By 1985 it had a 5167cc V12 and 455bhp, but could only achieve 180 mph. In reality the actual performance figures are irrelevant as the Countach was all about outrageous styling and ‘poster appeal’.

 

4. Pagani Zonda

Why?

Supercar manufacturers come and go, usually with inflated claims and very little substance to back them up. There is usually some hype and some weary indifference from those of us who follow the industry closely enough to see them fail with startling regularity. Pagani is one of the few exceptions. Horacio Pagani had substance, having managed Lamborghini composites, before setting up Pagani Composite Research  in 1988 and Modena Design in 1991. Couple this with Pagani’s relationship with AMG and the foundations were solid. By 1999 he was ready to unveil the Zonda C12.

What is it?

Pagani unveiled the Zonda at the Geneva Motor Show in 1999 where it received numerous plaudits, not only was it stunning to look at, but it was engineered and built beautifully, a common failing for new supercar manufacturers. All Zonda’s use AMG V12 engines, displacing between 6.0 litres and 7.3 litres, giving it a powerful and reliable power-plant endowed with huge flexibility. Pagani developed the Zonda over the next decade, but the main components were there from the start, the Zonda handled predictably, looked fantastic, and was hugely fast. There were numerous run-out models released before Pagani replaced the Zonda with the Huayra in 2011, they were sold without problem despite prices in excess of $1 million, and in many cases much more. Pagani is here to stay.

 

3. Lamborghini Miura

Why?

It is widely accepted that the Lamborghini Miura was the first real supercar. It looked fabulous and made sure that Lamborghini was going to have a name to compete with the cream of Italian supercar aristocracy. Without the Miura it is highly unlikely that we would have enjoyed some of the outlandish and exciting creations we have been blessed with over the last 40 years because, believe it or not, Ferruccio Lamborghini wanted to build the ultimate GT car…

What is it?

The Miura was first unveiled to the press at the 1966 Geneva show, where it stole the headlines, despite not having the 3.9 litre V12 on show due to it not fitting in the engine bay. The first cars were P400’s, they produced 350bhp, however, it is the 385bhp P400 SV that commands the greatest following today.

 

2. Lamborghini Gallardo

Why?

Lamborghini has always flirted with extinction. Despite the fact that Volkswagen had taken control of Lamborghini in 1998 it wasn’t until 2003 and the launch of the Gallardo that the might of the German company was felt. The Gallardo is the model that not only symbolizes Lamborghini’s new paymasters but feels like it too.

What is it?

The Gallardo was launched to rapturous applause in 2003. It looked fantastic and had a wonderful V10. Despite early problems with build quality and some debate about the quality of the driving experience, at least until 2005 when the SE was released, the Gallardo proved to be popular. The Gallardo was criticized by some for its Audi switchgear, but this was in fact a major positive point. The Gallardo was small enough and practical enough to be used more regularly by owners and the introduction of an up to date navigation system and decent refinement ushered in a new era for Lamborghini.

 

1. Ferrari F40

Why?

200mph. That is the answer.

The Ferrari F40 was the first production car to have a 200mph top speed. Not only that, but it looked like a supercar. The F40 has a large rear wing, no creature comforts and its power delivery is almost violent. It is the car that dominated all-comers in the late 1980’s supercar race and it is still revered today.

I really, really want one.

What is it?

Ferrari produced 1315 F40’s between 1987 and 1992. They had few creature comforts, lacking traction control and even interior door handles, relying on a length of plastic coated wire instead. The F40 came with a mid-mounted 471bhp turbo-charged V8. While the output may not sound spectacular by today’s standards it is worth remembering that the F40 weighed only 1100 Kg, and the power delivery was almost absurdly violent. Later cars gained a catalytic converter and other small changes, but every single one of the remaining F40’s are as desirable today as they have ever been.

Encyclopedia
FerrariFerrari
F40F40
F40F40
Engine
V 8 ( 90.0º vee)
Displacement
179 cu in
Top Speed
201 mph
Transmission
5, Manual
Maximum power
478 hp @ 7000 rpm
Type
Fixed-head coupé
Fuel
Petrol
Fuel consumption (combined)
18.82 US MPG
price
--
annual ownership cost
$ 3.777

10 comments

tlopes
Number 10 is my number 1!
14.02.2012 @ 12:44
nora
Mine too :-P
14.02.2012 @ 12:48
cabruce
Good list. Can't really fault any of them.
14.02.2012 @ 13:04
revver
Largely agree, the Zonda is a newcomer but a worthy top 10. I don't agree however with the Gallardo (not a top 10) and the 250 GTO! It should have been higher...
14.02.2012 @ 15:19
cabruce
Yeah, I could maybe see a Alfa Tipo 33 Stradale sneaking in somewhere, but it's good to have normal cars too. The Alfa Spider is in anyone's budget, if you don't mind one from the 80s.
14.02.2012 @ 15:50
takio
Great list, makes me cry for Lancia though... loved to see the Delta get some due credit :) Would buy one in a heartbeat.
14.02.2012 @ 16:13
wasiF1
If there weren't any Zonda on the list then for sure from tomorrow onward I would have never come on this site
15.02.2012 @ 14:21
authomobilia
I would agree with Revver, 250 GTO should be ranked better, and I am not sure the Gallardo (which I love) deserves so much...
26.02.2012 @ 23:03
ziofrango
Gallardo? Nice, but... Cisitalia SC 202 should be there, first of the "italian coupè breed" Alfa Romeo 6C 2600, one of the most modern looking pre-WWII cars Alfa 33 Stradale too (needless to say why...
more
06.03.2012 @ 22:29
GT40
I Thought the 250 F would be higher than 9th it was one of the first maserati's
07.04.2014 @ 08:09
Anonymous

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