Italian cars have a reputation for being elegant, finicky, expensive, or perhaps some combination of the three. Classic Italian automotive culture brings to mind coachbuilt bodies, racing heritage, and V-12s, but in reality, the Italian peninsula has produced cars with a vast range of characters and abilities. In a recent livestream, we decided to dive into the nuances of Italy's automotive offerings and pick our favorite Italian cars—the list may surprise you.
Read the full article on Hagerty.com:
My first car was one of the first 50 Capri's imported into the USA. It was a head turner back then with it's obvious European styling. Those first 50 were all 1600cc Ford short block engines. I learned that the twin cam Lotus engine was the same block (I was only about 19 back then, so was still learning such things), and found a wrecked twin cam Europa in a junk yard in Fresno. I bought the engine and tranny and dropped them into the Capri. After enhancing the suspension with Koni shocks, anti-sway bars in the front and back, and lower springs, I had what I think was the first (if not only) twin-cam Lotus Capri. Living in Southern California, I trashed that car around all the infamous mountain passes (Mulholland, Decker Canyon, Encinal, Latigo). It didn't have a great top end, but man it was fun driving corners. I wish I still had that car, despite all its faults, the main ones being a cheap plastic interior and a Lucas electrical system.
Rob, you are correct. The white Grifo indeed has a Ford 351 Cleveland engine. Iso switched from Corvette small and big blocks to Ford engines in 1972, when the supply of Corvette engines available to them dried up.
I own an Alfa Duetto - have had it for close to 40 years - and didn't understand the reference to its "opposite-sweeping gauges". The tach, speedo and other gauges all move clockwise as levels increase, just like any other car.
Now the windshield wipers are a bit unusual in that those move in opposite directions. We Alfisti call it a "bird flapping its wings" type of motion.
Have to observe that the choice of Italian cars seemed to favor those with American engines. While the Iso and Bizzarrini are cool cars, they're missing a big part of what makes Italian cars so unique.
Somehow the the photo of the Iso Grifo engine bay doesn't make sense. The article suggests that the builder used GM motors. But I might suggest that this photo is of a small block Ford motor. The distributor is on the front of the motor. What's up with that?
I love the Dino 246. It's the first Ferrari I came to love. The landlord at an apartment building I was living in had one. It was dark blue, and sounded incredible. I knew there was no way I'd ever be able to own a Ferrari. Wrong! I own one of these temperamental beasts. A Ferrari 360 Spider. When they are good, they are oh, so good and when they act up they are horrible!
Everytime I start the car, I wonder what's going to break this time. 99% of the time, nothing bad happens and then the 1% rears its ugly head. The positive about this is that I'm able to diagnose and fix virtually anything that goes wrong with these works of art. They are built to be taken apart and parts are readily (at a high cost!) available.
Once I'm rolling down the road, all thoughts of problems evaporate and I feel one with the machine. It's amazing to run through the gears to redline or downshifting heal-toe into a sharp corner. Nothing like it.
Great article, big fan of Iso Grifos, bought a '67 (vin 047) brand new and kept it for over 40 years! Engine info in article is over-simplified. Here's the actual breakdown: Series I cars were available with 327 & 350 small blocks as well as 427/390 (7-Liter) big-blocks. Series II Grifos available with 350 small-blocks as well as both 427 and 454 (7-Liter) big-blocks. Between 1972 and the end in 1974, Chevrolet contract was over; cars were fitted with Ford 351 Cleveland engines. Grifos were not only beautiful, but outstanding, reliable performers. Still miss mine!
The only Italian car I ever owned was a 68 Innocenti Mini-T Lengo. I always wanted to take it to an Italian car show and see if they would let me in! “But Sir, it’s not Italian, it’s a Mini!”
With the exception of the Dino I love them all. I had a Gulietta and was dumb enough to sell it years and years ago. There's nothing like Italian design. American designers could learn a thing or three from them. Thank you for this.
While your choice of Ferraris aligns with mine, and the Miura is certainly a timeless design, I can't understand why there aren't any Abarths or baby-Fiat derivatives. Such vehicles are often gorgeous, and represent a huge segment of Italian performance art.
back in 1983 i got to drive a Ferrari Dino 246 what an experience the man who owned it bought it in 1979 for 12,000 usd can you imagine a car like that for that price not today
I've been a fan of the Dino for decades, since I was a teenager. However, as I'd saved and hoped to find my way to own one, their values seemed to increase faster than my ability to be able to purchase one. Always just a bit too far out-of-reach. Perhaps that's why I never lost the love: admiration from afar.
There are so many weird wonderful Italians, I feel like this article missed the mark. Many of these are headlined as everyone's favorites. How about almost any Moretti? Viotti or Allemano bodied cars? Allemano bodied a Fiat 1100 that I saw at Padua last year (back when there were airplanes, gatherings, restaurants and such) - outstanding. Of course, it is hard to argue with Hagerty's "favorites" as anyone can have favorites, but it would have been great to see imaginations stretch a little here.
One incidental thing the photos demonstrate is most of the progress in automotive styling in the last 30 years or so has been in the engine compartment. The cars in this article have phenomenal bodywork, gorgeous interiors, but very utilitarian-looking engine compartments.
Where's the Fiat 124 Spyder? Got my first one for $200 by a disgruntled owner that had just sunk a bunch of money into it, then the wiper motor quit, sending him over the edge. I should have told him about RainX, lol. Drove it for 8 years then gifted it to a carless buddy. Back in the 1970's you could actually order replacement body parts from JC Penney.
I agree with , these are all exotics in one way or another, with the possible exception of the little Alfa -- though it is far from common. How about some more affordable fun Italian cars, like the Fiat 850 Spider (and even the little sedan), and of course the well known 128 Spider. Has to be some other mass-market Italian cars that we just don't see over here in the US that would be fun little cars...
I'm with farna and some others. Most are the beginning of the super car era. Too muscled, out of reach, and 70's 80ish. The real beauty lie in the suvette, almost anatomy-like sculpting of the late 50s and early sixties. The jewel-like accouterments inside and out, yet still true sporting cars the Italians alone could make. The above adopted the usa-like muscle yet had the european wish for handling (mostly), while the earlier were true 'favorite Italian cars'. Perhaps I choose mine as cars of my youth (10 y/o in mid 50s so up thru my 20s) while the author is doing likewise and 10, 15 yrs my junior? Let's have a "best of nation" and "grouped by decade", eh? I'd give some Lancia's & others in there too...
I really enjoyed this look at some interesting Italian cars and we all have our favourites. I would pick the 1956 Maserati A6G/2000 Coupe as one of the most beautiful cars ever. Nice to see the semi-forgotten Ferrari GTC on the list--unlike the Daytona it had power steering. Re the lovely Miura, I have before me a copy of "Corvette from the Inside," by one-time Corvette chief engineer Dave McLellan, about five decades of Corvette development. He writes about competitors' cars that GM bought in the 1970s to benchmark the Corvette and while the Porsche 928 had considerable influence on the C4, he also praised the Ferrari 330 GT and the Maserati Ghibli. But about the Miura he writes: "From it we learned how uncompromising, unreliable, and poorly constructed exotic cars could be." And: "The Lamborghini Miura offered exhilarating performance, but the high noise level and limited creature comforts made long trips tiring."