ItalianCar goes to Italy 2001

9 Jan 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on ItalianCar goes to Italy 2001

In October 2001 ItalianCar.com.au went to Modena, in the heart of Italy, the home of fine Italian food and, more importantly, almost all the Italian performance car manufacturers. Maserati and De Tomaso are in Modena itself, whilst Ferrari and Lamborghini are just outside in the villages of Maranello and Sant’ Agata Bolognese respectively.Unfortunately the visits to Ferrari and Maserati – now both part of the huge Fiat group – were perfunctory.

The ItalianCar emails warning of our impending arrival had mysteriously gone astray and so the planned test drives of the Maserati Spyder and Ferrari 360 had to be put on hold. You would have thought that a town with so many exotic car manufacturers would be overrun with Ferraris, Lamborghinis etc but sadly the only cars we saw on the roads were one Ferrari and a Maserati Spyder driving around ‘under wraps’. Maserati did not allow us to photograph a few Spyders parked outside.

The closest we got to the Ferrari factory was the main entrance, with the tantalising scream of cars being tested coming from behind the walls. There were however plenty of Alfas, Lancias, Fiats, Autobianchis and Innocentis and many of these now adorn the main models sections of ItalianCar.The visits to De Tomaso and Lamborghini were altogether more successful.

De Tomaso

De Tomaso is a name steeped in Italian car racing history. Despite being Argentinian by birth Alejandro De Tomaso arrived in Modena at the (relatively) tender age of 27 and immediately began racing Maserati cars. After 4 years in the driving seat he decided to launch his own car company, initially designing and building racing cars.

In 1963 De Tomaso rolled out the first road-going car, the Vallelunga, at the Turin Motor Show, and since then De Tomaso has established itself as a specialist manufacturer of exclusive sports cars. In 1993 Alejandro De Tomaso was taken ill and this badly affected the business. However he is now largely recovered and so De Tomaso the company has been injected with a new lease of life.

Two De Tomaso Guaras on the factory floor

The Guara coupe with a red barchetta in the background

The current De Tomaso model is the Guara – a 4.6L V8 GT with an impressive 270+ km/h top speed and a sub 5 secs 0-100 km/h. It is named after a breed of Argentinian hunting dog and comes in two guises – a conventional coupe and a barchetta. If you’re thinking of ordering the barchetta just remember it doesn’t have a windscreen and De Tomaso advises the wearing of a crash helmet.

Oh and don’t forget to have a spare $250,000 AUD handy (if you do decide to order a new Guara you will certainly be joining a select band – there are probably less than 100 road-going De Tomasos in Australia).In 2003 De Tomaso plans to phase out the Guara and produce new versions of the successful Pantera and Vallelunga models, although at the moment only prototype drawings exist. In the meantime De Tomaso is looking in a completely different direction with its current project – the De Tomaso/UAZ ‘Simbir’ SUV.

A Simbir almost ready to go

De Tomaso has teamed up with UAZ (rather unfortunately pronounced ‘waz’) the Russian vehicle manufacturer to build a Russian/Italian answer to the Land Rover / Range Rover / Landcruiser. The Simbir will be based on a Russian manufactured chassis equipped with a VM engine. VM – now part of Detroit Diesel Corporation – supplies diesel engines to Rover, Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Ford and GM and the Simbir will have the latest model – a ‘Turbotronic’ 2.5L supercharged 115bhp (81 kW) engine.

It is designed to compete head on with the Land Rover Defender and Hyundai Galloper and promises excellent off-road capability – a function of the rugged Russian chassis and a design giving the vehicle the ability to cope with much rougher terrain. The Simbir still returns respectable on-road performance – a max speed of 150 km/h and fuel consumption of about 10kms/l. De Tomaso also emphasises a low noise level (70 dB at 80 km/h if that means anything to you) and plenty of room in the cabin.

De Tomaso has ambitious plans for the Simbir – 20,000 vehicles are planned over the next 5 years. If you want to order one, it will cost you around $40,000 AUD.

‘I need a UAZ’

Lamborghini

Murcielago. Murcielago means ‘bat’ in Spanish and looking at the car it could very well be the next BatMobile – low, mean and exceedingly fast. This is of course purely coincidental – Lamborghini name all their cars after bulls or things or people associated with bull-fighting and the Murcielago is no exception – Murcielago was a bull. The successor to the Diablo has been much awaited by Lambo fans and the Murcielago – launched this year at the Frankfurt Motor Show – will not disappoint.

Equipped with a V12 6192cc engine developing 580bhp the all-wheel drive Murcielago will take you to 100 km/h in just 3.8 seconds and then up to a maximum speed of 330km/h. When ItalianCar visited the new Lamborghini factory the last Diablo was just being finished (the phrase ‘production line’ does not really apply at Lamborghini where each car is hand crafted – even the seats are made by hand in the factory) as a number of Murcielagos were in various stages of completion.

A Murcielago on its way out the door

The new factory is an imposing building which has benefitted from the new owner – Audi – seeing Lamborghini as a testing ground for advanced technologies that can be applied to other Audi brands. It also houses a museum containing a number of rare Lamborghinis, including the very first Lamborghini ever – the 350GTV – which has been loaned to Lamborghini by the japanese owner. An equally impressive sight in the yard was a line-up of Diablos back at the factory for servicing.

The first Murcielagos are due to arrive in Australia next February – there are 17 on order – and the price tag is likely to be ‘somewhere under $600,000 AUD’. The car will be on display at the Melbourne Motor Show, so don’t forget your chequebook.For more information on the Murcielago see the News section, in the meantime here’s another famous Lamborghini – the Countach

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