Italians have long been known for their sense of style and taste. From art and architecture to food or fashion, it’s good to be Italian. So, it should come as no surprise, that in the car world Italians are known for an unparalleled aesthetic and masterful engineering. Italian car manufacturers are among the best known and most coveted the world over.
Among the most iconic of Italian cars is the Fiat 500, or Cinquecento – a diminutive yet charming car no Italian experience is complete without. The cramped coastal roads and tiny hilltop towns dictated the need for such “micro cars” for the masses. Akin to the Vespa scooter, variants of these include delivery vehicles and beachside “Jollys” alike. On a larger scale, however, Italian car manufacturers have produced some of the most innovative, exclusive and valuable automobiles of all time.
From the earliest days of automobile racing the Italian drivers and engineers were serious contenders, and their success was a matter of national pride. Italians were some of the first to participate and host international racing events. Two which remain legendary to this day, the Mille Miglia and the Targa Florio, were both open road racing events which ran for decades. And it’s this focus on sports cars that made famous the now household names of Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Lancia, Lamborghini and Fiat, and the lessor known, but equally as significant Abarth, OSCA, Cisitalia and Siata.
That said, the finest Italian automobiles are not simply regarded for their racing success, but also for their beauty. The consistency with which Italian manufacturers produced finely engineered cars that carried the most striking coachwork is beyond impressive.
In the 1920s and 1930s, when the automobile started to look less like a carriage and more like the future, Italian coachbuilders succeeded at making modern and elegant designs to clothe the car’s mechanics. From this came some of the World’s very best designers and coachbuilding houses, including Pinan Farina, Zagato, Touring, Vignale, Bertone, Scaglietti, Ghia, and Frua among others. Well into the post-war era, it was fashionable to have a chassis (the frame and running gear) delivered to an Italian coachbuilder for them to design and build the car’s body. Even automobiles of American or British manufacturer were sent to Italy for coachwork.
Simply put, the Italians mastered the automobile at an early age and in the decades since they have created some of the greatest cars of all time.
Car Exhibition Curated by Ron Hein, Paul Hagemen, Andrew Tymkiw