Race car driver and designer Elio Zagato 1921-2009

Elio Zagato 1

Dr. Elio Zagato passed away on Tuesday at the age of 88.

Son of Ugo Zagato, founder of the famous Milanese Atelier, renowned in the whole world since 1919 for its custom made car bodies- Elio was a figure of great importance in the history of global automotive design and in the Gran Turismo race scene of the post-war era.

Entrepreneur, racer and gentleman driver, he competed for the first time in Piacenza in 1947, driving a Fiat which had just been re-bodied as a graduation gift from his father. From that point onwards he never stopped developing his beloved Gran Turismos, working on them during the week and then testing them during the weekends. He was amongst the founders of the Milanese Scuderia Sant Ambroeus. He embodied with perfection the style, elegance, and competitive spirit of the Italian gentleman driver of the ‘Dolce Vita’ era.

In the early 1950s he started developing the world’s most desired berlinette GTs. Amongst all of them we fondly remember the Fiat 8V Zagato, which he claimed to be his favourite, the Alfa Romeo 1900 SSZ which was often his rival in various races, the legendary Ferrari 250 GTZs, Maserati A6G, Aston Martin DB4 GTZ and many more. He took part in the golden age of competitions raced with vests and helmets with famous characters such as Ascari, Fangio, Galluzzi, Nuvolari, Stagnoli, and others. Enzo Ferrari called him “Zagatino.”

Together with his friend Ercole Spada he developed the legendary Alfa Romeo SZ, TZ and TZ2s followed by the elegant Lancia Sports based on Appia, Flavia, Flaminia, and Fulvia chassis. A constant innovator, together with his father Ugo he invented the celebrated double bubble, signature mark of the Milanese brand, the ‘Coda Tronca’, windows made out of plexiglas and countless other solutions still used on modern vehicles today.

Elio participated in 150 automotive races, winning 82 of them and becoming champion of the GT series a remarkable 5 times. He was victorious in the Targa Florio, eight Coppa Intereuropas, won three first places in the Golden Cup of the Dolomites, and came in first at the Avus circuit in Berlin in 1955.

Promoter of the Milanese concept of minimalism oriented towards functionalist design, Elio defined his Zagatos first and foremost as ‘original.’ Whoever asked him to synthesize the design spirit of his car bodies, he would reply to them “You see that car? Is it different from all the others? Then it’s a Zagato.”

Andrea and Marella Zagato, today, in the year of Zagato’s 90th anniversary, keep the spirit of the Atelier coachwork alive, a trade that Elio learned from Ugo and promoted throughout his career.

Lancia and Martini Racing reunite over a boat

Lancia Martini launch 1

The world’s automakers working in with boat designers isn’t exactly a new thing, but it’s usually pretty cool. Recent examples have included 28-foot speedboats and 135-foot catamaran megayachts penned by Porsche Design, sailboats and motor yachts from BMW DesignWorks USA, and speedboats from former Jaguar and Spyker supercar designers.

The latest offering is a pair of rigid inflatables measuring over 40 feet long and packing serious power. Coming from the collaboration between Italian shipyard SACS Marine and the Fiat Group is a white, outboard-powered open-plan tender for Abarth and a sleek black vessel for Lancia.

The Lancia di Lancia is a 13-meter rigid inflatable speedboat packing two 560hp 6.7-liter 24-valve common-rail six-cylinder turbodiesels from Fiat Powertrain Technologies. It’s capable of carrying 11 passengers on board in total style and tops out at 55 knots — impressive for an eight-and-a-half ton vessel, and easily the most dramatic vehicle to bear the Lancia name in decades. It’s such an awesome machine that Lancia and its onetime iconic sponsor Martini Racing rekindled their relationship just for this speedboat. And for the launch of the launch, they brought along Romanian supermodel Catrinel Menghia — the face of Giorgio Armani for a cruise around the picturesque canals of Venice.

Lancia Beta Coupe, Spider and HPE – Three Times Beta – 212

Gordon travels to the Mangaweka home of Italian classic car specialist Carteroni to swot up on his Alpha Beta

The Lancia Beta range had big shoes to fill. Whether or not it succeeded is debatable, however, old-school Lancia fanatics answered with a ‘no!’ Despite that, the Italian marque’s ability to dish up large helpings of motoring pleasure suggests that Lancia got it right.

Total worldwide sales of well over 400,000 units between 1972 and 1985 says the Beta was a success.

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The proposed alliance between ailing US auto giant, Chrysler, and Fiat has been in an on-off situation for the last few weeks — however, we’ve just received the following press announcement which now confirms the deal. Under the terms of the new alliance, is is expected that Robert Kidder will be named as Chairman,while Sergio Marchionne will serve as Chief Executive Officer

Auburn Hills, MI and Turin, ITALY — June 10, 2009 — Chrysler Group LLC and Fiat Group announced today that they have finalized their previously announced global strategic alliance, forming a “new” Chrysler that has the resources, technology and worldwide distribution network required to compete effectively on a global scale. The new Chrysler will begin operations immediately.
As part of the alliance, Fiat will contribute to Chrysler its world-class technology, platforms and powertrains for small- and medium-sized cars, allowing the company to offer an expanded product line including environmentally friendly vehicles increasingly in demand by consumers. Chrysler will also benefit from Fiat’s management expertise in business turnaround and access to Fiat’s international distribution network with particular focus on Latin America and Russia.
“This is a very significant day, not only for Chrysler and its dedicated employees, who have persevered through a great deal of uncertainty during the past year, but for the global automotive industry as a whole,” said Sergio Marchionne, who today was named Chief Executive Officer of Chrysler Group LLC. “From the very beginning, we have been adamant that this alliance must be a constructive and important step towards solving the problems impacting our industry. We, now look forward to establishing a new paradigm for how automotive companies can operate profitably going forward.
Mr. Marchionne continued: “We intend to build on Chrysler’s culture of innovation and Fiat’s complementary technology and expertise to expand Chrysler’s product portfolio both in North America and overseas. Those Chrysler operations assumed by the new company that were idled during this process have or will soon be back up and running, and work is already underway on developing new environmentally friendly, fuel-efficient, high-quality vehicles that we intend to become Chrysler’s hallmark going forward.
“The same attributes that first attracted us to this alliance — a global automotive company with first-class technology, a devoted workforce, improved efficiency, a strong, global distribution network and an unyielding passion for building great cars that consumers want — are even more true today. While it does not solve every issue faced by the automotive industry today, this alliance, established with the full support of President Obama’s Administration, is a very significant step toward positioning Fiat and Chrysler to be leaders among the next breed of global automakers. This has, I know, been a difficult process for everyone involved, but we are ready to prove to the American consumer that Chrysler can once again be a strong, competitive company that produces a full portfolio of reliable vehicles that capture the imagination and inspire loyalty,” Mr. Marchionne said.
Under the terms approved by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York and various regulatory and antitrust regulators, the company formerly known as Chrysler LLC today formally sold substantially all of its assets, without certain debts and liabilities, to a new company that will operate as Chrysler Group LLC.
Chrysler Group in turn issued to a subsidiary of Fiat a 20% equity interest on a fully diluted basis in the new company. Fiat has also entered into a series of agreements necessary to transfer certain technology, platforms and powertrains to the new Chrysler. Fiat’s equity interest will increase in increments by up to a total of 35% in the event that certain milestones mandated by the agreement are achieved, but Fiat cannot obtain a majority stake in Chrysler until all taxpayer funds are repaid.
Similarly, the United Auto Workers’ Retiree Medical Benefits Trust, a voluntary employees’ beneficiary association trust (VEBA) has been issued an equity interest in Chrysler Group equal to 55% on a fully diluted basis. The U.S. Treasury and the Canadian Government have been issued an equity interest equal to 8% and 2% on a fully diluted basis, respectively. These interests reflect the anticipated share dilution as a result of Fiat’s incremental equity assumption once the milestones outlined in the strategic alliance agreement are achieved.
In addition to Mr. Marchionne, currently the Chief Executive Officer of Fiat S.p.A. serving as CEO, the new Chrysler will be managed by a nine-member Board of Directors, consisting of 3 directors to be appointed by Fiat, 4 directors to be appointed by the U.S. Government, 1 director to be appointed by the Canadian Government and 1 director to be appointed by the United Auto Workers’ Retiree Medical Benefits Trust. The Board is expected to name Robert Kidder as Chairman. The process of determining additional board members is continuing and updates will be announced as appropriate.
As previously announced, Chrysler has entered into an agreement with GMAC Financial Services to provide automotive financing products and services to the Company’s North American (NAFTA) dealers and customers. GMAC Financial Services will be the preferred lender in North America for Chrysler, Jeep® and Dodge dealer and consumer business, including wholesale of new and used vehicles as well as retail.

Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este show – 25 photos online

The Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este is a very significant event celebrating historic cars. It is undoubtedly the most traditional classic car event which was held for the first time as early as 1929. Since its revival in the 1990s the Concorso has become famous again for the beauty of the setting, the special programme at the Grand Hotel Villa d’Este and Villa Erba, and the elegance, the originality and state of preservation of the precious automobiles participating in the event.

The grounds of the Grand Hotel Villa d’Este, lapped by the waters of Lake Como, offered guests and visitors the chance to admire about 50 historic cars built between the twenties and the seventies, organized by different categories. A panel of judges led by president Lorenzo Ramaciotti judges for the Best of Show prize, the BMW Group Trophy. This is defined for an extraordinary automobile, which expresses beauty, passion and uniqueness. At Villa d’Este, the public is also a key element, rewarding participants with applause and their votes. A prize is also awarded for the best contemporary concept car at the show.

We have some spectacular photos from this year’s show. Check them out in the gallery below

Car that chauffeured Mussolini, Franco, Hitler up for auction

Fiat 2800 fq

A car used by the King of Italy to chauffeur Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini and General Franco around Rome on State visits is to be auctioned in Monaco next week. The 1939 Fiat Torpedo, which will be sold by International Auction House, COYS, is expected to fetch more than £250,000.

It was delivered to the Italian Royal Court in 1939 for the personal use of the Prince of Piemonte and Countess Calvi di Bergolo. From August 1940 onwards, this historically important Fiat was then taken to the Villa Savoia as the official car for King Vittorio Emanuele III and Queen Margherita.

Chris Routledge, the Managing Director of COYS said: “It is known that the car was used by Pope Pious XII, Benito Mussolini as well as his mistress Claretta Petacci and by Adolf Hitler and General Franco when they visited Rome.”

From 1st February 1941 the car served as the personal transport for the Princess of Pistoia, before being commandeered by the command of the open city of Rome on 15th November 1943.

At the end of the Second World War the car became the official transport for the first prime ministers of Italy, Einaudi and De Nicola. It remained in the fleet of the Quirinale palace until 1963. In recent years this time warp car was featured at the prestigious Villa d’Este Concorso d’Eleganza.

When introduced in 1938, the Fiat 2800 was targeted at the very richest and wealthiest pre-war European elite. This super luxury car was offered with varying styles of coachwork, the most common of which being various saloons and limousines, as was the style and requirement of the times.

A number of military specification cars were also built for the Italian military general staff. Alongside the formal saloon and limousine that were manufactured, a very limited number of special Drophead Dual Cowl Phaetons were commissioned by the Italian government of the period, with coachwork by Farina of Turin.  It is believed that 12 such examples were completed of which perhaps only half exist in any form today.

Chris Routledge added: “The example that we are offering at our sale ‘The Legende et Passion’ which takes place at the Espace Fontviewille, in Monaco on Monday May 18th is the most famous of them all.

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1969 Lancia Fulvia 1.3 S Coupe Rallye & 1970 Lancia Fulvia 1.3 Sport Zagato – Lancia Fanciers – 178

Tim tries out two variations on Lancia’s classic front-wheel drive Fulvia coupe

It has to be said that before Fiat bought them out for less than a dollar in 1969, Lancia never let profitability get in the way of beautiful pieces of engineering. Neither was it a company that let tradition and convention spoil its views on technical solutions.

With this the case, it is perhaps obvious why Lancia struggled from crisis to crisis financially, whilst producing passionately-designed cars bristling with elegant design and unusual solutions. The Fulvia coupe was being produced at the time Fiat took over, and a look at the detail engineering on the cars before and after reveals that virtually every part was examined with a view to making it cheaper, and as a result, nastier.
Perhaps that is putting it too strongly, but virtually all the engineering before the take-over was done because it was a nice way to do it, the engineer’s way of doing it. After Fiat took over the reins, many parts were nearly as functional, but not as admirable in their execution.

Of course, once Lancia’s own designs were replaced, the engineering became totally conventional, the end result being a string of Fiat-derived vehicles. Not that that was necessarily a bad thing (although it was in the case of the Lancia Beta and its ready-to-rust reputation), but the magic had gone. Lancia’s exquisite design philosophy became a thing of the past.

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Renault set to revive Gordini performance brand

Renault Gordini

While it may seem like a flawed time to bring back a performance marque, that’s just what Renault has planned according to a UK car magazine. Renault will relaunch the Gordini brand in Europe next year. It was recently revealed that Renault’s plans to bring back its storied Alpine product line had been axed, but the decades-dormant Gordini is apparently a different matter altogether.

The new range of hot hatches will slot in above current Renaultsport offerings, with a new Twingo variant reportedly being followed by Clio and Megane Coupe models. Like the Gordini-tuned cars of the past, the new models are tipped to wear blue paint and white stripes along with various performance upgrades that will make them a likely competitor to Fiat’s reborn Abarth lineup.

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