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.
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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.
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.