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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Italian Style American Power

By Miguel Caparros

The Pantera was DeTomaso's home run. He comvinced Ford, the second largest auto manufacturer in the world, to market his cars for who they provided the engines for. A car builders dream come true. There is no question that the lines laid down by American architect and designer of the Pantera, Tom Tjaarda have proven to be timeless, even if in the beginning the road was a bit rocky. The Motoring Press was not kind to the Pantera's handling and rightfully so. Tuners like me made a tidy profit from taming the over steer problem of the early Italian Mid engine cars. The Pantera was not alone, the Lamborghini Miura was introduced a few years ahead of the Pantera and suffered from severe snap over steer too, something Porsche drivers were familiar with. But the Pantera and the Miura packed a lot more power than Porsche's of the time, making the problem even worse.

Since the early 50's American car lovers have been trying to have their cake and eat it too. There is no denying that after WWII some of the most beautifully styled cars were coming out of Europe. Light in weight, sexy and slippery in shape, all they needed was a big dose of american horsepower. I had the pleasure of first hand knowledge of most of these cars that were produced by combining European Style With American Muscle.

A fellow car nut, Mike Gulett, thought enough to chronicle 25 of the best know efforts under the book titled, "European Style With American Muscle". Starting with perhaps the most outrageous, the AC cars in Britain were an upscale alternative to MG and Triumph sports cars. The swooping lines of the aluminum body AC powered by a Bristol inline six, made all the right noises and was a very pleasant car. Along came a Texan by the name of Carroll Shelby and the rest of the story is in Mike Gullet's fantastic book.

Having served time with Ferrari as a youth and owning enough Alfa Romeo's to start a museum, I was very partial to Italian coachwork. Some did the unthinkable by putting in American cast iron overhead V8 engines where Twin cam 4 and 6 cylinder engines resided. I was also warned that there was a special place in hell for those that would replace a Ferrari V12 with a cast iron Cadillac motor.

As Mike's book so clearly shows there were alternative to being Sacrilegious. Start with an Italian car with no engine affiliation. But it is not just limited to the Italians, one of my favorite is the English made Jensen Interceptor. Equipped with big Chrysler V8's, these car were referred to as "Gentleman's Express". Big comfortable, opulent, fitted with the best in leather, wood and Wilton wool carpets, only a big Chrysler V8 could provide the refinement and brutal power that this big 4 seat smoking room on wheels deserved
Mike Gulett is in my opinion one of the worlds foremost authority on Renzo Rivolta and his series of Iso Automobiles. Arguably the most successful manufacturer of American powered Italians. Get his book it is cheaper than flying me to tell you about it.

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