Auction Hunt: Our Favourite Cars From Italian Coachbuilders That Aren’t the New Alfa Romeo Zagato
If you missed out on buying the hot new Alfa Romeo Giulia SWB Zagato, and we’re assuming you did, because the Italian coachbuilder is only making one, don’t fret. There are more where that came from, sort of. Zagato has more than 100 years of history behind it. Founded by Ugo Zagato in Milan in 1919, he took his aeronautics expertise and applied it to automobiles. His streamlined, lightweight aluminium-framed machines — for Lancia, Alfa-Romeo, Aston Martin and others — are the stuff of legend. Today, the company is still run by Ugo’s grandson, Andrea.
We’ve rounded up a few of our favourite cars designed by the great Italian houses of Zagato, Pininfarina, Ghia, Touring and Bertone. They’re all better than the new Alfa in one crucial way: you can still buy these cars. All of them are up for sale or auction, offered by the experts at RM Sotheby’s.
1959 Lancia Flaminia Sport By Zagato
We suspect this might be one of the most beautiful cars ever made. It was based on the Lancia Flaminia – named for the famous Roman road that went from the capital to the Adriatic Coast – and bodied by a young Ercola Spada working for Zagato. As RM explains, “the youthful Ercole Spada, chief designer at Zagato, used luscious flowing lines contrasted against a sleek coupé profile for all the attributes of the finest sports cars of the era.” The car’s original 2.5-litre engine is included in the sale, but it comes fitted with a tuned 2.8-litre engine making – wait for it – all of 180 hp.
2012 Aston Martin V12 Zagato
Aston and Zagato go way back. This car was built to celebrate 50 years since their first collaboration, the Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato. (The family resemblance is striking: note the double-bubble roof and sleek, fastback tail.) The 2012 Zagato was based on the wildly entertaining Aston V12 Vantage. The coachbuilder put 2,000 hours into each one of the of these cars. Originally 101 were planned, but only 65 were ever produced according to RM Sotheby’s. This example is expected to fetch US$750,000 to $1 million.
1970 Maserati Ghibli 4.7 Spyder By Ghia
Finished in Giallo paint that shines as bright as the sun, this late-model 4.7-litre Ghibli Spyder is one of only 83 produced. The body is by Ghia, one of the original Italian automotive coachbuilders, founded in Turin in 1916 as Carrozzeria Ghia & Gariglio. This car has been all over the world. “Originally delivered to an airline pilot based in Rome, this Ghibli Spyder was later sold to an American around 1975 and was subsequently shipped to his home in Texas, where the car remained for the following 10 years. The Maserati was then exported to Ontario, Canada, where it was enjoyed for several years prior to being restored,” RM Sotheby’s explains.
1968 Iso Rivolta IR 300 GT Coupé By Bertone
This is a muscle car in an Italian suit. The design was led by Giorgetto Giugiaro of Bertone, on behalf of Italian automaker Iso, which wanted to get away from its humble beginnings making microcars. “The Rivolta IR 300 was shown to the public for the first time at the 1962 Turin Motor Show as the realised dream of two men—Renzo Rivolta, the company chairman for whom the car is named, and engineer Giotto Bizzarrini, formerly of Ferrari—who devised the model as a sumptuous gran turismo,” says RM Sotheby’s. The turned to Chevy for the motor, a huge 5.4-litre V8. This is one of only 797 examples ever built.
1964 Lamborghini 350 GT By Touring
The list of people who worked on this thing is a Who’s Who of Italian engineers and designers. Per RM: “With an engine designed by Giotto Bizzarrini, fresh from Ferrari, and a chassis engineered by Gian Paolo Dallara, the 350 GT needed only Touring’s Superleggera bodywork to be worthy of Ferruccio Lamborghini’s vision.” This is one of only 50 aluminium-bodied examples of Lamborghini’s first-ever production car. It captures the optimism and innovation of Italy’s post-war “economic miracle.”
1971 Maserati Quattroporte Prototipo by Frua
Sadly, this particular car was actually sold by RM Sotheby’s for 155,250 euros at auction this past November. Sorry. But we wanted to get a sedan on this list, and what better one than this unusual and very rare Frua-bodied example? It’s one of just two Quattroportes coachbuilt by Frua. It was originally presented by none other than F1 legend Juan Manuel Fangio, the GOAT, at the Paris Salon de l’Automobile in October of 1971. It’s been up for auction a couple of times, so if you want it, there’s still hope.
1966 Ferrari 500 Superfast Series II by Pininfarina
We couldn’t in good conscience leave Pininfarina – perhaps the most famous of all Italian coachbuilders – off this list. In our humble opinion, the Superfast is among the firm’s best work. “Designed from the start to be a luxurious, exclusive grand tourer that would more than live up to its evocative name, the new model was in many ways the ultimate development of Ferrari’s flagship Superamerica model, wearing an evolution of the sleek Aerodinamico coupe coachwork that had graced the 400 SA,” RM explains. This car is one of only 12 “Series II” examples. Under the hood is a rare and powerful Tipo 208 engine that should sound glorious. It’s expected to fetch between US$2.2 and $2.8 million.
All photos courtesy RM Sotheby’s.