Craftwerk

15 12 2009

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Strong, direct light emphasizes crisp 1980's lines.

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__The pinnacle of understatement, the incredible BMW M5 was launched in 1984 as the fastest saloon car in the world. This, the first of what would become a legendary (and ongoing) BMW model, was a response to customer demands for a ‘4-door’ BMW M635 CSi, the high performance coupe with which this car shares its mechanical components.

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Colour poured into interior by standard 80's screen-visor.

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__Apart from a hand-full of examples, all E28 M5’s were hand built by BMW Motorsport in Garching, Germany. Individually crafting each of these cars meant that colour and trim combinations could be tailored to the clients’ requests. Every car was built, homologated and registered as a single vehicle type, not simply as a flagship model for the standard 5-series saloon.

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Discrete badging the only clear hint to the untrained eye, that this is no ordinary '5'.

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__So what we have here is somewhat of a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a sober and elegant saloon car that, as well as holding its head high in the company car park, could also embarrass many so-called ‘supercars’ of the period.

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The first series M5 means business from any angle.

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__The example in these photos, (one of 588 European-spec cars), is finished in ‘Salmon Silver’ body colour and ‘half-height’ Buffalo leather interior trim in ‘Anthracite’. A total of 2145 examples were produced including the slightly less-powerful American-market cars. The (European-spec) 3453cc, in-line 6 cylinder engine with 286BHP, a modified version of the BMW M1 power-plant, provides violently relentless acceleration yet comfortable high speed cruising. The least one could ask from a true trans-continental express…

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Sharp design and forward-leaning nose, icons of BMW style.

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Fortune 500

4 12 2009

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__As compact, effective and Italian as an espresso, the Fiat Nuova 500 was launched in July 1957 into a booming marketplace. Helping to mobilise an entire country with its simple yet robust twin cylinder engine and accessible purchase price, it both captured and contributed to the spirit of Italy during the 1950’s and 1960’s.

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__Beating the slightly larger Austin Mini to market by two years the 500 was conceived by Fiat’s development chief Dante Giacosa to be cheaper and smaller than Fiat’s own 600, already considered a masterpiece of rationality and effective packaging. A simple and effective low-cost car for the masses that, aided by competition success and rapid evolutions in society, became an automotive Icon. It was embraced by a vast spectrum of the population, joining the Mini as one of the few truly classless cars. A valid, although indirect, competitor was the Vespa, a scooter that had dominated the compact utility market since its launch in 1946 proving to be sufficient transport for small families over short distances.

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__Dante Giacosa was also behind the original 500 or ‘Topolino’ of 1936, a scaled down, two seat version of a ‘traditionally’ constructed car. The philosophy of the new car with its moncoque construction defied the laws of packaging, squeezing as much useful space as possible into its modest external dimensions. Accommodating two adults and two children, Italian families somehow managed to cram themselves and all their necessary luggage into (and on top of) the car for their customary, annual coastal holiday.

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__Offering lively handling and DIY maintenance as well as a permanent smile, the 500 is arguably the most effective city car ever made, being a very real alternative to more modern pretenders to the city car crown. A significant part of Italy’s social history, the 500 is still a highly regarded member of many Italian families.

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Abarth anniversary

16 11 2009
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The magic number.

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__Last year’s “Abarth: 0-100-0” exhibition in Turin proved the perfect opportunity to remember Carlo Abarth in style, exactly 100 years after his birth on 15th November 1908.

__Abarth owners took full advantage of this unique opportunity and were in attendance with a comprehensive range of impressive automobiles.

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Fiat 124 Abarth Rally and 500 Abarth.

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__The legendary racing driver turned tuner and constructor became most well known for his highly successful, Fiat-based racing cars.

__Of particular interest, the 1959 ‘Double Bubble’ 750 Zagato and the little-known Porsche 356 Carrera Abarth from 1960.

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'Cooper killer' Autobianchi A112 Abarth.

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Mini mayhem

1 11 2009
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Ready, steady, go!

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__This convoy of classic Minis on the starting blocks at Turin’s Lingotto complex certainly captured the spirit of the original, 1969, Italian Job film.  Accompanied by their enthusiastic owners, the cars were lined up outside the Lingotto complex, once a thriving Fiat production plant. In the film, the roof-top test track was used to escape the local police in their Alfa Romeo Giulias.

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The self preservation society

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__There’s nothing ‘Mini’ about this, the 20th edition of the “Italian Job Run” European adventure. Any car featured in the original 1969 Italian Job film is eligible to join this fantastic fund raising event. Naturally the vast majority of participants are original Minis in search of locations once visited by Michael Caine and his accomplices.

__The run includes an exclusive opportunity to drive around the roof-top test track of the Lingotto Fiat factory in Turin and the Monza GP racing circuit, on the way to visiting the ancient city of Rome. The journey wouldn’t be complete without a police escort through London for the ‘heroes return’.

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__For more information on the event:    www.italianjob.com

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Defender adventure: Turin-Nordkapp

30 10 2009
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Low down up North

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__After 21 days, 6000 miles driving the Land Rover Defender 90 and nearly 1000 miles covered on numerous ferries, our trip to the most Northern point in mainland Europe was complete. From the stunning, moon-like landscapes just North of Oslo to the cosmopolitan bustle of Helsinki, this epic journey provided a healthy dose of practical and personal challenges.

__Leaving Turin early on the Saturday morning, we headed through Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway, breaching the arctic circle to reach Nordkapp, Europe’s Northern tip. Heading back through Finland, we explored the Russian border before returning to Northern Germany by Ferry.

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A world, far from here...

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__One of the few familiar reference points was the gradual transformation of day into night, a familiarity that gradually dwindled to nothing as we headed further and further North, into a land without darkness. Vast open spaces and dramatic perspectives consumed endless ribbons of asphalt that snaked across deserted baron landscapes, causing them to disappear into the vast canvas of sky.


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Sheer distance makes our trusty Defender appear as a toy.

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__Surprisingly comfortable on long motorway hauls, the Defender came into its own on the off-road trails hidden by the dense Finnish forests. Despite its compact outer dimensions the Defender provided both reliable transport and adequate accommodation for two of us and our luggage. Passing other Land Rovers during the journey provoked an exchange of hand waving and headlight flashing, a constant reminder of the legend that is Land Rover.


 





Safety fast

4 10 2009

Vitaloni/Bertone ‘Stratos’ safety helmet

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__A forgotten member of the Lancia Stratos family, the 1970’s Stratos safety helmet was not a Lancia product but was designed by Bertone just as the, now legendary, Championship winning rally car had been.

__Produced by Vitaloni in Turin, (Beinasco to be precise), the helmet was different to all that had gone before. Its ‘space age’ plastic shell incorporated a frontal intake to allow airflow inside the helmet, avoiding ‘misting up’ of the visor and was apparently formed to be easily stowed in the ample door pockets of the Lancia Stratos itself.

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__The form of the futuristic, wrap around windscreen of the Lancia was successfully carried over into the shape of the helmet’s visor whilst the adhesive stripes on the rear echo the car’s rear window louvres. These repetitive stripes were a period trend and Bertone also employed them to form the characteristic side intakes of the Alfa Romeo Montreal.

__Italy continued its design excellence throughout the 1970’s, not only in the area of car design but also industrial and furniture design. It was a decade of discarding what had gone before and innovating towards a bolder future.

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From automobile to art

28 09 2009

Cisitalia type 202 sports berlinetta, 1947

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__Expression, balance and contemporary are words usually associated with Art but for classic car enthusiasts the world over, the Cisitalia 202 is just that. A masterpiece in fact.

__The 202’s formal purity and perfectly balanced proportions proved to be a design milestone both for the industry as a whole and for its designer, Turin’s carrozzeria Pininfarina. It could be argued that this car was the prototype for what would become the quintessential Italian Gran Turismo, the precursor of future trends in automotive design, many of which remain valid.


__Each car’s aluminium skin was hand formed over wooden bucks in very limited numbers, only 170 examples were built from 1947-1952. The sensual forms of the car’s low, wide body hide relatively modest Fiat-based mechanical components, the cars iconic status not derived from performance but its aesthetic innovation, its design proving a revelation when unveiled.  Building on aerodynamic studies of the period and treating the body as one wholly integrated element rather than a series of components, its uninterrupted and flowing surfaces are completely devoid of decoration or ornament. The few details that are present on the car, such as the polished door handles and front air intake, are extremely refined and above all, functional.


__So advanced was the car that it was included in the MoMA’s, (Museum of Modern Art, New York), first exhibit on automobile design in 1951 entitled “Eight Automobiles”. Influential curator and director of the Moma’s Department of Architecture and Design, Arthur Drexler, famously defined the Cisitalia 202 as “rolling sculpture”. It was the first car to become part of the museum’s permanent collection.

__Drexler transmitted his thoughts and ideas through the exhibitions that he put together at the MoMA, his public appreciation of the 202 in particular ensuring it a place both in automotive and design history.

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