Turin’s Automotoretrò celebrates anniversaries with Ferrari, NSU and FIAT

Automotoretrò is the classic car show held in Turin, Italy, in the former Fiat Lingotto factory, famous for having the test track on its roof. This year’s show, the 35th, which took place from 3rd to 5th February, saw the celebration of some interesting anniversaries and featured some very unusual cars indeed.

Automotoretrò: The stand we liked the most

It is always difficult to pick out a single “best” stand, but on this occasion, it didn’t take us too long to make our choice. The stand set up by the Italian classic car magazine Ruoteclassiche together with the Lancia division of FCA Heritage, full of ex-works rally Deltas, was simply breathtaking. This display was mounted to mark the 30th anniversary of the launch, at the September 1987 Frankfurt show, of the Integrale, a car that, after going on to record World Championship successes in 1988, 1989 and 1991, is now one of the most sought after youngtimers. Most of the Delta Integrales on show came directly from the Lancia “warehouse” where the company classics are stored, and they still bore the signs of their previous exertions on the roads of the World Rally Championship. We particularly loved the ex-Biasion-Siviero 1988 Safari winning car, still with the dent on the front right fender, sustained when the pair hit a zebra on their way to victory: a truly wonderful piece of history that we were finally able to see for ourselves. Interestingly, Miki Biasion himself — privately he owns a Lancia Fulvia Coupé Safari — was present at the show, wandering around and taking everything in just like any other enthusiast, until he was “identified” that is!

Ferrari’s double anniversary

A special space was given over to the double anniversary this year being celebrated by Ferrari. Indeed, 2017 sees the Maranello firm marking both the 70th anniversary of its foundation, and the 30th birthday of the F40, which was, in fact, originally created in 1987 for the 40th anniversary of the company’s establishment. A single F40, with an open hood, was more than enough to attract the attention of everyone present, and it is quite amazing how modern looking and beautiful this car still is. Back then considered as futuristic as a spaceship, today it remains the last example of an “electronics free” supercar. The F40 was indeed the last model approved by Enzo Ferrari himself, and it does not have any features of the “modern era”, such as ABS, automatic transmission and traction control. The F40 is a pure driving experience: it is a car that can take your wife safely to the grocery store (remember to tell her not to get any frozen food!), but is just as capable of challenging you on track days, in other words, of putting both your skill and the sensitivity of your “butt” to the test with every meter. This, of course, is only to be expected of a car that can do a rear wheel spin when still in fourth gear. Together with the F40, the stand also featured some other Ferrari icons, including a Daytona and a 330 GTC.

Fiat 500 – 60th anniversary

In the rarefied car collectors’ world, 2017, then, is the year that brings the 70th anniversary of Ferrari, but for a far greater number of collectors it will be more significant as the year the Fiat 500 turns sixty. More than three million of these little cars were built up until 1972, spanning different series but always respecting the same concept of functionality combined with style. The model’s two cylinders, 27 horsepower, and weight of just under 600 kilos are some of the features that have made it a universal icon. If you have never driven one, which is highly unlikely if you grew up in Europe, then you really should, because the 500 is great little car that will give you lots of fun and will certainly teach you to drive. If your double declutching isn’t more than perfect, the 500 will let you know, and the terrible noises it makes will let all those around you know too! In an era when Formula 1 cars were equipped with a manual gearbox, most drivers admitted that they started their careers practicing with the 500. There is a reason, after all, why the Fiat 500 club is the biggest classic car club in the world. Its members brought along a wide selection of these cars to their stand at the Turin show, being held not so far from where they were originally built. “We are small and to make up for this we tend to move as a group” smiled the people manning the stand. “We have more cars on show simply because we can fit more in the allotted space.”

NSU RO 80 – 50th anniversary

It is likely that around 95% of current Audi owners are not aware of this, but their “Audi advanced technology” can actually be traced back fifty years to a car built at a time when the firm’s logo was not the one we are familiar with today, and when the brand was actually named NSU. The RO 80 was an extremely aerodynamic, 0.33 Cd, four-door sedan, launched in 1967 and initially produced by a European manufacturer with the rotary (hence the name) Wankel engine. The quality of the building was remarkable; all the shiny parts, bumpers included, were made from stainless steel. Unfortunately, it turned out that the Wankel engine was not the perfect solution, as it presented some reliability issues, mostly linked to flooding plugs when driving in traffic. Only 37,046 units were built, from 1967 to 1977, before the company, forced to replace numerous engines under warranty, went bankrupt.

The most admired car

Although the 1939 Lancia Astura Coupé shown by the Veteran Car Club of Turin was displayed in an almost understated way, it was by far the most admired car at the show. Designed by Mario Revelli di Beaumont and built by Pinin Farina, it currently belongs to a collector from the Turin area. It was originally built, as a special order, for Count Gian Galeazzo Ciano, Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs and son-in-law of Benito Mussolini (“il Duce”). It is based on an Astura 241 IV series chassis, and was equipped with a three-liter V8 engine. It was completed just as Italy was about to enter the war, and for that reason it was not extensively used by its first owner. Ciano, wanting to protect the car, decided to ship it to England, believing it would be much safer there. The car, unlike its famous owner, survived the war, and in 1957, located in Middlesex, was advertised for sale in a magazine. After passing through the hands of several owners, in the early 1980s it came home to Italy, where it was restored.

The Scuderia Jaguar Storiche

This club brought an impressive collection to its stand. We admired two perfectly restored XK 120s, a 1952 OTS and a 1959 DHC, as well as three E-Types, specifically a black 1962 Coupé 1st series, 3.8 liters, just out of restoration, a red 1968 Convertible 2nd series, and a green V12 1973 Coupé 3rd series, still with its original interior and equipped with the factory sun roof, a very rare special order indeed.

All photos courtesy of the author.

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