A history of love and motorsport
There are few greater romances than the love that exists between Italians and their cars. Italy is a nation obsessed with motors and motorsports. So much so that Italy holds the title of the most vehicles per capita than any other country in the world (32 million for a population of 57 million…In Rome alone there are over half a million scooters). Indeed, the appetite for speed and love for ‘la macchina’ seems to know no bounds.
What other nation pauses their entire workday to catch the latest race from ‘La Scuderia’ (Ferrari’s racing team, for the uninitiated) or the exploits of its star drivers (to Italians, Michael Schumacher or ‘Schumi’ is as close to God as the Pope)? The vehicles produced by Italy’s famous marques (Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maseratti, etc) are lauded as works of art by its citizens who see them as voraciously quick machines that embody everything Italy is; sexy, beautiful, powerful, fashionable, hand-crafted and ultimately – superior.
History has proven it difficult to argue with this sense of unbridled motor pride. Italian cars have captured the imaginations of spectators, connoisseurs and enthusiasts for generations and have won trophy after trophy across every imaginable competition in the sport – from GT and F1 to everything in between.
Nevertheless, even in Italy, only a few car manufacturers, and far fewer supercar makers, have survived the test of time. In the mid 20th century, giants like Ferrari and Lamborghini suffered rocky ups and downs – largely stumbling economically for years until receiving the aid of outside investors and the patronage of Gianni Agnelli; FIAT’s owner and anointed automotive Godfather. By the same token, the marques that did not enjoy this protection and support fell by the wayside… doomed to enter the ethereal ranks of becoming museum pieces.
Today, some of these brands are being revived, tapping into the rich motoring heritage that they left behind to bring them to the 21st century of automoting. We take a deeper look at these forgotten marques, where they are now, and the Italian mastery of car design:
Founded by Argentine racing driver and playboy Alejandro de Tomaso and his wealthy American brother-in-law Amory Haskell Jr. in 1959, ‘de Tomaso’ became one of the prominent luxury car manufacturers in Italy until 2019. The company produced everything from supercars and Formula 1 cars to luxury 4x4s as well as owning and manufacturing the famous Maseratti, Innocenti and Moto Guzzi brands (subsequently sold to Fiat in 1993). The brand eventually collapsed under falling sales and mismanagement, selling its various divisions to the highest bidders and the de Tomaso name to a Hong Kong consortium in 2019.
New ownership has revived the brand with the introduction of the stunning P72 hypercar and plans for considerable expansion.
In the 1960’s famous Ferrari and Alfa Romeo engineer Giotto Bizzarini launched his own line of luxury sports cars, largely to serve the growing American market. His designs were extremely well received but the company befell a series of unfortunate tragedies that ultimately led to its demise in 1969. Nevertheless, Bizzarini himself never stopped designing and engineering vehicles, founding the Picchio racing marque and reconstructing old Bizzarini marque models for customers as well as one-off racers.
The Bizzarini brand was eventually purchased by a new owner that has released a few custom designs with Giotto’s help.
Argentine Horacio Pagani started ‘Pagani Motors’ after decades leading a team at Lamborghini. He presented his first model, the Fangio F1 – names after Argentinian F1 champ Juan Manuel Fangio. The Pagani hypercars are largely considered some of the rarest, finest and most collectible cars in the world with price tags ranging from $2.5M – $15M each.
During its 16 years of operation, Giuseppe Fornasari’s marque led the charge in luxury italian sport utility vehicles. Although the brand was ultimately shuttered, its designs inspired a wide range of popular vehicles from other marques around the world. Its best known car was the Fornasari RR99.
The history of italian racing cannot be retold without including the monumental achievements of Battista ‘Pinin’ Farina – the man that brought us some of the most iconic supercar designs, ever, including the Ferrari Berlinetta, the Alfa Romeo Spider, the Dino, and the Ferrari 275GTB, the Ferrari Enzo … among so many others.
His legacy lives on with the Pininfarina marque producing hypercars for modern drivers. The Battista Anniversario is an iconic car produced on the 90th anniversary of the brand. Only 5 were ever made, making it one of the most sought after machines in history.
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