In July of 2018 The Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix will celebrate BMW as the Marque of the Year. Up on the hill at the Cortile, we will be celebrating the family who created the car that saved BMW.
The Rivolta Family founded Iso Autoveicoli S.p.A, an automobile and motorcycle maker in Italy. The company was active from the late 1940s through the early 1970s. Iso are known for the iconic Isetta bubble car, later of BMW fame, in the 1950s, and for a number of powerful performance cars in the 1960s and early 1970s.
Today Piero Rivolta is active in land development, boat manufacturing, serious sailing, a world-respected chamber-music festival (La Musica), and a dozen other activities, including writing and publishing novels and books of poetry.
From Refrigerators to Scooter: The early years
During World War II manufacturing was tightly regulated after the Nazi takeover of Italy. The Rivolta family converted the lower levels of a castle into a refrigerator factory and employed much of the local town under the auspices of it being a vineyard and winery. It's a remarkable story in and of itself with false walls and Nazi searches and some rather harrowing experiences.
After the Second World War, the company reopened its doors and, in 1948, began to build motorcycles, scooters and motocarries - three-wheeled transport scooters/motorcycles. Renzo Rivolta had recognized a unique opportunity and jumped in front of his competitors by making performance transportation a priority in the post-war economy.
New scooters where introduced at a rampant pace with the 'Furetto' in 1948, the 'Isoscooter' in 1950, the 'Isocarro' in 1951', the 'Isosport' in 1953 and finally the 'Isomoto' in 1954. The last Iso motorcycle was presented as the Iso 500 in 1961. Isomotos were known as expensive, very durable and very well-built. The twin piston engine developed at Iso had more power than the comparable Vespa and Lambretta models making the Iso's the performance choice in the post-war economy.
The Birth of the Auto Scooter: The Isetta
As the economy began to expand in the early 1950's consumers in Italy wanted to travel to places without getting soaking wet on the back of a scooter and once again sitting down comfortably inside a car.
The Isetta caused a sensation when it was introduced to the motoring press in Turin in November 1953. However, soon after the Isetta was introduced, Fiat introduced the Fiat 500, at a similar price point, and it could seat four people. Rivolta and the team at Iso had gambled the company's success on the Isetta's, but soon they where sitting in the lot at the Bresso factory, unsold.
In 1947, BMW was granted permission to resume motorcycle production. Its first post-war motorcycle was released in 1948. In 1952 BMW resumed production of automobiles, with the BMW 501 large sedan. Unfortunately consumers did not want or could not afford large sedans and BMW was facing some some financial woes that could mean the end to the company as well.
They approached Rivolta and proposed buy-in the entire assembly line and moving it to Germany under license. The assembly line was moved from Bresso to Munich, the engine was upgrade to 250cc and the braking system improved. Over 160,000 Isetta's where produced and the royalties that Rivolta received on each sale funded the next development which would place the name ISO in the annuls of Italian motoring legend. Many credit the Isetta with keeping the BMW out of bankruptcy through 1959 -1960.
The Rivolta -Bizzarrini relationship: Birth of the Iso Grifo
Meanwhile, back in the Bresso factory in Italy, Rivolta was on something intended to compete with Ferrari and Maserati GTs. First launched was the Iso Rivolta IR 300 that premiered at the Torino Show in 1962. The IR 300 was an elegant 2 + 2 Coupé with well-balanced technical components and outstanding driving performance. It was powered by a 5.4 L Chevrolet V8 Small-Block engine and transmission that both came from General Motors in Detroit. The deDion suspension and four-wheel disc braking system came from the large Jaguars of the time.
Iso's most iconic automobile, however, was the Grifo. The Iso Grifo was a limited production grand tourer manufactured between 1965 and 1974. It also utilized a series of American power trains and components supplied by Chevrolet and Ford to ensure performance and maximize reliability.
Styling was done by Giorgetto Giugiaro at Bertone. The mechanicals were attributed to Giotto Bizzarrini, but the reality was that much of the mechanicals where in done in-house at Rivolta. Rivolta and Bizzarini needed each other for business reasons: Rivolta needed to attach the Bizzarini reputation to the performance perception of the new vehicle to compete with the likes of Ferrari and Maserati. The high performance scooters and the cute, spunky Isetta's just didn't quite convey the performance of the racing pedigrees of the other Italian sports car marques.
Who was Giotto Bizzarrini
Bizzarini started his career at Alfa Romeo in 1954 and in 1957 he moved over to Ferrari, eventually becoming controller of experimental, Sports and GT car development. He worked at Ferrari as a developer, designer, test driver, and chief engineer for five years. His developments there included the Ferrari 250 TR, the Ferrari 250 GT SWB (Short Wheelbase Berlinetta, aka "Berlinetta Passo Corto"), and the 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO. Bizzarrini was fired by Ferrari during the "Palace Revolt" of 1961.
Bizzarini became part of Automobili Turismo e Sport, ATS, a company started by the ex-Ferrari engineers to build a Formula 1 single seater and a GT sport car, the A.T.S. Serenissima. One of ATS's financial backers, Count Giovanni Volpi, hired Bizzarrini to upgrade a Ferrari 250 GT SWB, to GTO specifications. This resulted in the "Ferrari 250 GT SWB Drogo" also known as the "Breadvan" which became quite famous in it's own right. But, that, as they say is another story...
Bizzarrini's engineering company, Societa Autostar, was commissioned to design a V-12 engine for a GT car to be built by another dissatisfied Ferrari customer, Ferruccio Lamborghini. Lamborghini considered the resulting engine to be too highly strung, and ordered that it be detuned.
As you can see, Bizzarini was involved in some pretty significant sports cars, but, although he had developed quite a reputation, by the time he was asked to join forces with Rivolta, he lacked the bankroll to support his racing habit.
Rivolta had become financially stable as a result of the BMW license of the Isetta but needed Bizzarrini's reputation to add to the vehicle they had already almost fully developed in-house. The two joined forces. It was a short lived relationship and neither of the high strung alfa males got along with the other. But, in that brief period, they created the Iso Rivolta GT, and the Iso Grifo A3L and A3C.
THE ISO GRIFO and Racing
The Iso Grifo A3L was a monstrous idea for a super coupé, the L coming from Lusso. The result of the brilliant Giugiaro and Bizzarrini working together, it was based on a shortened Iso Rivolta GT chassis and was debuted at the 1963 Turin Auto show.
The Grifo epitomised the 1960s Italian style with its handsome low and wide handmade bodywork. It was the fastest production car tested by Autocar Magazine in 1966 with a top speed of 160 mph. Later versions of the Grifo were powered by a big block Chevrolet Corvette 435 bhp engine. These 90 handbuilt units are distinguishable by the raised "pagoda style" scoop bonnet. Some of these Iso Grifo 7 Litri units were rebuilt later with even bigger engines.
It was an aggressively designed machine, oriented to endurance races. It used normal ISO underpinnings but the engine was moved further back in the chassis frame than the Grifo A3L, protruding well into the driver's cabin, fitted with hot cams and fed by four big Weber carburettors, giving more than 400 bhp.
Around 29 A3C sport cars were built under the ISO name. Five of these 29 cars were bodied in plastic/fiberglass by Piero Drogo at Carrozzeria Sports Cars in Modena.
A3Cs were widely raced. Some cars entered the 1964 and 1965 Le Mans 24 hour, 1965 Nürburgring 1000 and 1965 Sebring. It achieved a Le Mans class win in both years and a 9th overall in 1965 with no factory support. A3Cs were one of the fastest cars on Le Mans' Mulsanne Straight in both years.
The Future: IsoRivolta Vision Gran Turismo by Zagato
For the gamer's out there who have competed on Sony’s "Gran Turismo Sport", you may recognize the IsoRivolta Gran Turismo that showed up in reality at the Tokyo Motor Show last month. That "pagoda style" scoop bonnet that features the iconic Rivolta Grifo, is a nice throwback to the Iso Grifo 7 Litri.
Zagato announced that it will build between three and five of them for actual customers.
“The IsoRivolta Vision Gran Turismo was created to drive in the virtual-reality world, a world created by Gran Turismo. There is no mass in the virtual-reality world, as it remains a place that exists only in our imagination... Like a Mobius strip, the PlayStation game has allowed ourselves to be transported from reality and thrust into a world of pure fantasy, and then back again. The body style of the IsoRivolta Vision contradicts the sense of oneness that has evolved over the past hundred years of automotive design... Our next wish is that this car, which was born in Gran Turismo, will take to the road in real life and one day grow larger in your rear view mirror, eventually passing you at high speed. When this happens, you will feel the limits of your imagination being severely tested, blurring reality.”
~Norihiko Harada, VP of Design at Zagato
by Bernard Martin, Managing Director, Cortile Italian Car Show
The 2017 Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance exemplified grace under pressure. With a 100% chance of heavy precipitation forecast for Sunday for the scheduled Concours d'Elegance and a sunshine-filled Saturday in the mix, Bill Warner and his team chose to move Sunday’s award-winning Concours to Saturday. No small undertaking.
As I was having lunch on Friday with several other writers, I noted that I had heard that Warner and his team had come up with a "Plan B" back in 2000 if a weather event caused the the Concours to be moved. As happenstance would have it, one to the people at the table chimed in "I'm on the Board and THIS is Plan B. We are in it. There isn't a Place C. We'll see if it works"
It's a momentous task shoehorning a full schedule of Saturday and Sunday events into one day. The Concours show would now coincide with Saturday’s "Cars & Coffee at the Concours presented by Heacock Classic Insurance". The entire Cars and Coffee show field had to be relocated to an adjoining field, transport staff had to move up plans for unloading Concours cars by a full day; with cars that where still en route! It required parking two different cars shows at the same time.
Warner and his staff, according to rumor, had to make it all happen with 40% less volunteers who where only scheduled for a Sunday event. No small undertaking. It went off gracefully. It was a tremendous show. Warner and his team pulled a rabbit out of their hat while herding cats and looked great doing it!
It also made the task of trying to see over 600+ cars in a short period of time just as daunting. Nevertheless, I was able to find some very nice examples of rolling Italian art on both the Concours and Cars and Coffee Showfield.
The Best of Show - Concours de Sport:
The first 10 customers at Ron Lewis Alfa Romeo will be invited to display their new Alfa Romeos within the Proiettore Macchina show at this year’s Cortile.
Each owner will receive lunch amenities, a dash plaque, race program and poster. Alfa Romeo lovers, at Ron Lewis Alfa Romeo, “We Have Your Keys℠” – or should we say, “Abbiamo Tuo Chiavi!”
The Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix, presented by the Greater Pittsburgh Automobile Dealers Foundation, has a mission is to produce a world-class vintage racing event in order to raise funds that help provide residential care, treatment and support individuals with autism and intellectual and developmental disabilities in the Pittsburgh region through the Autism Society of Pittsburgh and Allegheny Valley School. More information is available at http://www.pvgp.org
Founded in 1975, today the Ron Lewis Automotive Group has grown to over 300 employees and seven dealerships located in Pleasant Hills, Waynesburg, Cranberry and Beaver Falls. Our group comprises: Ron Lewis Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram Pleasant Hills; Ron Lewis Ford Beaver Falls; Ron Lewis Chevrolet Beaver Falls; Ron Lewis Kia Beaver Falls; Ron Lewis Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram Fiat Cranberry; Ron Lewis Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram Waynesburg; Ron Lewis Alfa Romeo / Pre-Owned Cranberry.
Our mission is to pleasantly surprise our customers with a remarkable vehicle purchase and ownership experience. We do this by remaining committed to our customers’ experience and remaining competitive on selection and price. Today “We Have Your Keys℠” to over 1,500 vehicles in inventory, offer two body shop locations, are home to Pittsburgh’s Souped Up Jeep℠ and Souped Up Truck℠ services, offer the only Souped Up Garage on the East Coast, and sell everything from under-$9,000 used cars, to heavy duty trucks, to high performance SRT vehicles. Ron Lewis Automotive now proudly offers “On-Demand” services, including test drives, trade appraisals, “Buy Online” capability and vehicle delivery to a customer’s home, office, or location of choice. To learn more about our organization or to shop for your next vehicle online, visit us online at www.ronlewisautomotive.com.
Alfa Romeo has been selected as our 2017 Proiettore Macchina! Alfa Romeo has a legendary history, made up of great designers, racers, victories and revolutionary innovations. We have not featured Alfa Romeo since 2010 during the 100th Anniversary celebrations and we're very excited to welcome them back!
A Brief History of alfa Romeo
Alfa Romeo has competed successfully in Grand Prix motor racing, Formula One, sportscar racing, touring car racing, and rallies over it's illustrious history. It has competed both as a constructor and an engine supplier, usually under the name Alfa Corse or Autodelta, and private entries.
The first racing car was made in 1913, three years after the foundation of the company, and Alfa Romeo won the inaugural world championship for Grand Prix cars in 1925.
The company became a legendary icon in motorsports when Enzo Ferrari founded the Scuderia Ferrari racing team in 1929 under the Alfa Romeo racing team, before becoming independent in 1939. Alfa Romeo holds the world's title of the most wins of any marque in the world.
Read more below....
We started things off with a special presentation by Jeff Mahl on Friday evening about he 1908 New York to Paris Race. It was a lively and very informed presentation about Jeff's great great grandfather's experience racing around the world over 100 years ago.
On Saturday we had several very special cars show up for the De Tomaso feature as well as a Stanguellini race car!
Take a look at some of the live footage below that we posted on our Facebook Page during the weekend activities for more details.
Our Cortile Cup winners for 2017 proved once again to be some of the most unique cars to grace our showfield!
The Best in Show, Cortile Cup Winner was a wonderful De Tomaso Mangusta. An original unrestored 1986, purchased new by the owner, Alfa Romeo Graduate took the Alfa Romeo Class and for the first time the judges just could reach a conclusive decision for the Fiat Class and there where two winners chosen: a wonderful original condition Fiat X-19 and a lovely restoration of a
In the Best Italian Speciality Car category that Stanguellini race car took top honors. Our Proiettore Macchina feature winner was a gorgeous white Pantera.
The Ferrari and Lamborghini winners added the iconic Italian sports car colors to the Winners Circle and a very very unique Maserati joined us from Erie, PA to take the final spot in the Winners Circle!
For the Friday Dinner presentation Jeff Mahl took us back to the legendary 1908 New York to Paris Race.
This international competition pitted the best of European automotive technology against the one American entry bold enough to take on the challenge of circumnavigating the globe in horseless carriages. Germany, France and Italy had national honor at stake. The Americans had Teddy Roosevelt!
Jeff is the Great Grandson of George Schuster, driver of the American Thomas Flyer and winner of the 1908 New York to Paris Race.
For his victory, George was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame beside other racing greats including Andretti, Bugatti, Ferrari, and Shelby.
Since the inception of the Cortile in 2009 we've been searching for Italian Race Cars for display on our showfield. However, since this is the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix more often than not those cars racing on the track. This year, however, we were very pleased to feature a 1959 Stanguellini Monoposto Formula Junior on the showfield at the Cortile.
This car was first sold to Peter Carpenter and he raced it extensively throughout Europe during the 1959 series of Formula Junior, placing 5th place at Monza and 2nd at Di Salerno.
This car was partially restored in 1970s and spent approximately 20 years in a private museum of an Italian car collector in Miami, Florida.
The current owner purchased the car in 1994 and has spent the last 8 years restoring it to the original racing condition. This was it's first showing since coming out of the garage!
Next month we are featuring a story on Rob Straw and sharing some of his great night photography from the Cortile
Rob also has some great photography of the Italian Race Cars in the paddock.
You are really going to want to see his work!
Be sure to check back!
Here's a sample of what's in store for you!
According to Rob:
"The final gallery of "night" images is complete! Included is this beautiful 1959 Stanguellini Monoposto from the #PVGP Cortile Italian Car Show, as well as numerous race cars from the Schenley Paddock and the Pittsburgh International Race Complex. Thanks to all those that brought their cars out for the races and car shows. I hope you all enjoy the images I stayed up late to shoot!!!!
Alejandro de Tomaso (1928–2003) started his career in the car industry as a racing driver for Maserati and O.S.C.A. He participated in two Formula One World Championship Grand Prix's, debuting on January 13, 1957. In 1959 he founded De Tomaso Automobili originally to build prototypes and racing cars.
De Tomaso Automobili (1959 - 2004) was a Modena Italy based automobile manufacturing company founded by the Argentine-born Alejandro de Tomaso with funding from his wife, Isabelle Haskell, an American heiress and race driver.
De Tomaso's first road-going production model was the Vallelunga, named after the famous racing circuit, was introduced in 1963. The Mangusta, introduced in 1966 was the first De Tomaso car produced in significant numbers. With the Mangusta, De Tomaso moved from European to American Ford engines. About 400 Mangustas were built before production ended in 1971.
In the late 1960s, Ford was in need of a high performance GT to combat the likes of Ferrari and Corvette, and assist in generating additional dealership traffic for its mainstream product lines. De Tomaso Automobili was relying on Ford 289 and 302 V8's engines in the Mangusta model and had purchased the Ghia design and coach-building concern. After Ford's failed attempt to purchase Ferrari, a Ford-De Tomaso business arrangement was consummated and work began on a new mid-engined GT which would become the most iconic of the DeTomaso cars produced: The Pantera.
From 1961 to 1963 De Tomaso designed chassis for a number of Formula One teams using O.S.C.A., Alfa Romeo, Fiat-8 and Ferrari V-6 engines. In 1970 Alejandro De Tomaso took an interest in a rising F1 team and built a magnesium chassis, designed by Gian Paolo Dallara, and powered by a Cosworth V8, for Frank Williams Racing Cars for use in the 1970 Formula One. The relationship began to sour after Piers Courage fiery crash at Zandvoort. It would mark the last year De Tomaso appeared in F1.
The Pantera followed on the heels of DeTomaso's F1 fame in 1971 with a 351 Cleveland Ford V8 and a low, wedge-shaped body designed by Ghia's Tom Tjaarda. Through an agreement with Ford, De Tomaso sold Panteras in the USA through Ford's Lincoln and Mercury dealers. Between 1971 and 1973, 6,128 Panteras were produced in Modena, the largest number of a single marque of De Tomaso produced. The Pantera was finally phased out of production in 1993 with somewhere around 7000 total units produced.
In 1971 De Tomaso also introduced the Deauville which was attempt to rival contemporary Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz saloons. In 1972 De Tomaso introduced a coupé based on the Deauville, the Longchamp. The Longchamp used a slightly shortened Deauville chassis and had the same Ford V8 engine. The body design, however, was substantially different, and influenced by the Lancia Marica prototype, also designed by Tom Tjaarda. A total of 409 Longchamps of all variations were built, by the time the production ended in 1989.
Alejandro deTomaso made many acquisitions throughout the 1970's. De Tomaso Automobili owned motorcycle company Moto Guzzi from 1973 to 1993 and from 1976 to 1993 De Tomaso owned legendary Italian sports car maker Maserati, and was responsible for producing cars including the Biturbo, the Kyalami, Quattroporte III, Karif, and the Chrysler TC.
In February 1976 Alejandro de Tomaso purchased Innocenti. Innocenti had acquired the rights to Mini from British Leyland and from 1976 to 1987 the top of the range Innocenti was the Innocenti Mini de Tomaso. Over the years they produced Lambretta scooters as well as a range of automobiles.
We are very excited to feature the cars of Alejandro de Tomaso at this years Cortile
These funds were a combined total from the 2015 Grand Prix and the 2016 Auto Show Red Carpet Premiere held that night. The GPADF hosts the party for 1,000 people as the opening preview of the Auto Show. PVGP Executive Director Dan DelBianco accepted on behalf of the Grand Prix and thanked all of the automobile dealers and PVGP volunteers for their yearlong efforts. PVGP Chairman Dan Taylor thanked the ambassadors Anita/Autism Society and Liz/Allegheny Valley School for the inspiration they provide.
This is the 9th time in the last 11 years that a new record has been set, bringing our 33 year charity donation total to $4,300,000.
Nothing invokes the image of a “classic sports car” than that of a little red Italian convertible, maneuvering gracefully on some tight and twisty mountain road at the very edge of rubber squealing speed with your hair blowing in the wind and adrenaline pumping through your veins. It’s with that spirit that we are proud to host the “Marques of Italy” for our 2015 Marque of the Year celebration at the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix Cortile Italian Macchina Show!
Over the last century or so Italian cars have become analogous with racing and performance. As we celebrate the iconic Italian Marques this year it’s only appropriate to explain some of the history that have made “Italian” and “sports cars” so very synonymous.
If you visit Italy you will find that Italian drivers are fast, aggressive and very skillful. Lane hopping and late braking are the norm and it's not uncommon to see cars tailgating at 80 mph. You can’t expect people to slow down for you or let you out. Rather, you’re expected to seize the moment, or, as the artist of this years PVGP poster, Dwight Knowlton, coined the phrase “Carpe Viam” - Seize the Road!
Below we take you through the twisting, turning and forever competitive history of the Italian marques....
Be forewarned: The history we've outlined here is just a very brief overview of of what has been bred out of a century of racing competition. No other country has produced so many marques who's primary goal has been WINNING RACES. Enjoy....
Where it started
The Targa Florio open road endurance race was considered one of the toughest competitions in Europe. The 1906 first running covered 3 laps equalling 277 miles through multiple hairpin curves on treacherous mountain roads, and at heights where severe changes in climate frequently occurred. Then, just as today, automobile manufacturer’s and drivers proved their mettle by winning races. It was out of that heat of racing competition that fueled many of the iconic Italian car marques of today.
Alessandro Cagno won the very first Targa Florio in 1906. He was employee #3 at the Fiat automobile company that had formed in 1899. Fiat was one of the first Italian manufacturers to be involved in racing. In 1908, Vincenzo Lancia, finished 2nd at Targa Florio. Lancia had been a race driver for Fiat starting in 1900. In 1906 he had started is own automobile manufacturer and launched his first production car, the Lancia Alpha, in 1908. By 1913, Lancia introduced the the very first complete electrical system as standard equipment on his cars. No doubt that innovation was derived from his racing experience. Although Vincenzo Lancia started his company in 1906, at the 1908 Targa Florio he was driving a Fiat. Not only where the boundaries of the race courses muddy at that time, so where the relationships between those early manufacturers. They shared component parts and people. It's always been a melting pot in that sense...
Some have said that the history of Italian car manufacturing reads like a soap opera, with tales of arguments and agreements, of splits, mergers and acquisitions. Indeed, the tales of who worked for whom, who raced for whom and who supplied what for whom are so very intertwined and melded together that it is often difficult to know where any single bit of innovation originated. Enzo Ferrari once said "If you see what a competitor is doing and it is better than what you are doing, you have to surpass them to ensure your cars are better." Italian manufacturer’s where constantly stealing away the best talent or forging new alliances, whether it be engineering, design, production or racing drivers. It’s that hot blooded molten cauldron of racing competition that forged Italian cars from the very beginning.
A.L.F.A. (Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili) was founded in 1910. ALFA produced its first car in the same year and a year later entered two cars in the Targa Florio race. That began their long association with motor racing.
In 1915 the company came under the direction of Neapolitan entrepreneur Nicola Romeo and, by 1920, the name of the company was changed to Alfa Romeo.
One of their first significant racing successes came in 1920 when they podiumed with a second place in the Targa Florio in an Alfa Romeo driven by a 22 year old by the name of Enzo Ferrari. But more about that later….
By the mid-1920s, the Targa Florio had become one of Europe's most important races for automobile manufactuers, as neither the 24 Hours of Le Mans nor the Mille Miglia had been established yet.
The Monocoque & Carrozzeria
- First, customers already accustomed to ordering carriages from a coach builder, would select an automobile manufacturer to provide only the rolling chassis, comprised of the chassis, drivetrain (engine, axles, wheels), suspension, steering system and the radiator - the radiator, usually its shell, soon became the only visual element identifying the rolling chassis brand.
- Second, the customer would approach a Carrozzeria, a coachbuilder, requesting a personal body design to be fitted on the new chassis. Initially, the long-established and refined skills used to build the wooden and metal bodies of vehicles were so specialized that most manufacturers had contracts with couchbuilders to produce bodies for their chassis. Such is the case with many Italian marques who, to this day, utilize Carrozzeria with famous names such as Bertone, Carrozzeria Touring, Ghia, Pininfarina, Scaglietti, Vignale and Zagato for their body design.
Editor's note: Are you seeing red yet? Quite the soap opera so far eh? We're only in the 1920's! This is part of the reason why the Cortile at the PVGP is a car show about ALL of the Marques of Italy: They are all so very intertwined that it's difficult to appreciate one marque without paying homage to several others at the same time. Keep reading, it gets more interesting...
Rosso Red, The Quadrofoglio & Scuderia Ferrari
In 1904, many national motor clubs banded together to form the Association Internationale des Automobile Clubs Reconnus (AIACR) which is the predecessor to the current FIA governing board which it become known as in 1950. Originally the country colors where: Blue to France, Yellow to Belgium, White to Germany and Red to the USA. Italy “adopted” its famous 'Racing Red' when a red Itala (Itala was a car manufacturer based in Turin, Italy from 1904-1934) won the Peking to Paris race in 1907 but it really wasn’t ‘established’ until the “Rosso Corsa" Alfa Romeo’s began to dominate racing events in the 1920’s.
The cloverleaf or “quadrifoglio” has been used on Alfa Romeo cars since 1923. As a friend of Enzo Ferrari, Ugo Sivocci was hired by Alfa Romeo in 1920 to drive in the three-man works team, called "Alfa Corse", with Antonio Ascari and Enzo Ferrari.
Sivocci was thought to have enormous experience, but often hampered by bad luck and considered the eternal second-placer.
To banish his bad luck, when the Targa Florio came around, Sivocci painted a white background with a green four-leaf clover (the quadrifoglio) in the centre of the grille of his car.
Sivocci had immediate success, crossing the finish line first in that race and several more to follow. The quadrifoglio subsequently became the symbol of the racing Alfa Romeos with a victory at the Targa Florio.
Editors note: Sivocci’s car number was 17. That number was retired upon his death in 1923 and has not been used by ANY Italian Race team since.
Which brings us back to Alfa Romeo who won the inaugural Grand Prix world championship in 1925 with Enzo Ferrari at the helm of the team.
Alfa Romeo had offered Enzo Ferrari a chance to race in more prestigious competitions but Enzo had been deeply shocked by the death of his friends and fellow racing drivers Ugo Sivocci in 1923 and Antonio Ascari in 1925. Ferrari turned down the opportunity to drive and focused instead on the management and development of the factory Alfa racing cars, eventually building up a team of over forty drivers.
1927 saw the creation of a new iconic endurance race: The Mille Miglia. The race was from Brescia to Rome and back: a figure-eight shaped course of roughly 1500 km — or a thousand Roman miles. Winning the Mille Miglia and it’s predecessor the Targa Florio became almost a matter of national pride for Italians. The Mille Miglia race was held twenty-four times from 1927 to 1957. It was won 21 times by Italian manufacturers.
In 1929 Ferrari started the Scuderia Ferrari team in order to enter amateur drivers in various races primarily racing Alfa Romeo’s. In 1930 Tazio Nuvolari won the Mille Miglia in an Alfa Romeo 6C. In 1933 Alfa Romeo experienced financial difficulties, and withdrew its in-house team from racing. The Alfa Romeo racing team was privatized and officially named Scuderia Ferrari with team leader Enzo Ferrari at the helm. Few people realize that the DNA for every Ferrari was actually born on Alfa Romeo's payroll. Enzo built a robust racing team from scratch starting in 1929, tapping some of the greatest pre-war drivers in Europe to lead the Scuderia to victory.
Editors Note: Ferdinand Porsche once said that Tazio Nuvolari is
"The greatest driver of the past, present, or future."
Enzo's team included the aforementioned "Flying Mantuan" Tazio Nuvolari.
In 1935 Enzo Ferrari built the Alfa Romeo Bimotore, the first car to wear a Ferrari badge on the radiator cowl. This is why you will see the famous Cavallino Rampante "prancing horse" medallion on the cowl of Alfa Romeo’s from that period.
Luigi Chinetti won at his very first 24 hours of Le Mans race in 1932 driving an Alfa Romeo for Enzo Ferrari. Chinetti and Enzo would become lifelong friends and later in his life he opened the first—and for a while the only—Ferrari dealership in the United States in the late 1950’s. [see this article for details]
In 1938, Alfa Romeo management made the decision to enter racing under its own name, ere-establishing the Alfa Corse organization, which absorbed what had been Scuderia Ferrari. Enzo Ferrari disagreed with this change in policy and was dismissed by Alfa Romeo in 1939. The terms of his leaving forbade him from motorsport under his own name, for a period of four years. However, Ferrari managed to manufacture two cars, named the AAC Tipo 815’s, for the 1940 Mille Miglia, engineered by Alberto Massimino and driven by Enzo’s old racing partner Antonio Ascari’s son, Alberto Ascari. This name comes up again later…
in 1939 and 1940, a Maserati 8CTF won back-to-back wins at the Indianapolis 500, the only Italian manufacturer ever to do so. World War II, however, brought a halt to most racing.
postwar: "Italian" & "Racing" become synonymous
The postwar period was an incredibly innovative and exciting time for Italian manufacturers. It was a cauldron of racing competition amongst Italian Marques that rose to a level boiling above and beyond any other country. In 1946 a new Italian racing brand was born called Cisitalia. Tazio Nuvolari was still racing and piloted the Cistalia a class victory at the 1947 Mille Miglia at the age of 54!. Ilario Bandini also piloted a Cistalia in 1947 to numerous victories. Prior to the war Siata sold performance parts to modify and tune cars manufactured by Fiat.
In 1948 production of Siata's first wholly original design, the Siata Amica, powered by a Fiat engine, began and Siata continued to make cars through 1975. In 1948 Lancia introduced of the the first 5 speed gearbox fitted to a road car and became very active in racing.
“Second is the first of the losers.”
In 1952 Alberto Ascari gave Ferrari its first Drivers Championship and then again in 1953. Ascari drove for Ferrari, Lancia and Maserati for the 1954 campaign. Ascari won the Mille Miglia driving a Lancia sportscar.
In 1954 Fangio won while hopping rides between Maserati and Mercedes and then continued his dominance in 1955, 1956 and 1957, the latter two under the banner of Ferrari and Maserati respectively.
By 1955 Lancia had achieved ten podiums in Formula One. In 1956, Ferrari had acquired the folded Lancia team's D50 race cars.
In 1956, the Targa Florio was celebrating 50 years and Italian manufactures had won the race 44 of those years.
Notably, 1957 marked the year that Argentine-born Alejandro de Tomaso made his Formula One debut as a driver. That becomes rather important later in our story as de Tomaso became the owner of Maserati and many other iconic marques in the 1970's. But, again, we're getting ahead of ourselves in the story....
After 1957, Maserati began focusing on building road cars due to financial difficulties. Some have said it was the Italian passion for the racing business that drove up the performance innovation of not only Italian cars but all automotive manufacturers in this period. Alas, it may also have been the focus on the racing business that took the focus off of selling consumer cars, and, by the 1960’s, many Italian Marques where experiencing lots of "financial difficulty."
Racing, they say, can make you a millionaire… if you start out as a billionaire.
Consolidation & Expansion
1961 marked the year that Alfa Romeo started importing cars to the United States. Meanwhile at ISO, after the success of the Isetta bubble car, and together with engineer Giotto Bizzarrini, and chassis builder Bertone, Renzo Rivolta began developing the Iso Rivolta in 1962 and moved ISO into the “GT/Gran Turismo” (Grand Touring) & performance sports car manufacturer category.
Editors Note; In October of 1963 the Ferrari Club of America was started, partially from the influence of Jack Katzen of Philadelphia and included as a club founder, Dick Merritt, who later raced in the inaugural Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix in 1983 with his 1959 Ferrari 246 Dino.
Although race cars did not bear the name Fiat on the their grill in the postwar period, Fiat became the power plant of choice for many companies. An alliance with Fiat was crucial to the success for many of the iconic racing names. Since it’s founding, Fiat had expanded manufacturing into farm equipment, marine engines and even airplanes while at the same time supporting many many of the Italian marques who's focus was on racing and performance....
Starting in the mid 1960’s Fiat began buying up, some would say “saving”, their competitors. In 1967, Fiat purchased Autobianchi and took a majority stake in Magneti Marelli. The Fiat 124 was named “Car of the Year."
The Fiat Dino Coupé was launched with an engine based on Ferrari technology. The Fiat Dino allowed Ferrari to achieve the necessary production numbers to homologate the V6 engine for Formula 2 racing.
By 1969 Fiat had purchased controlling interest in both Ferrari and Lancia.
In 1971 Fiat acquired Abarth.
The legend of Lamborghini
Lamborghini thought Ferrari's cars were good, but too noisy and rough to be proper road cars. Most annoyingly, Lamborghini found that Ferrari's cars were equipped with inferior clutches, and he was continuously forced to return to Maranello for clutch rebuilds. Ferrari technicians would take the car away for several hours to make the repairs, not allowing the curious Lamborghini to view the work. Frustrated with the recurring nature of the problems, during one particularly long wait, he took the matter up with the company's founder, "Il Commendatore", Enzo Ferrari.
What happened next has become the stuff of legend: Ferruccio complained to Enzo in "a bit of an argument", telling him that his cars were rubbish; the notoriously pride-filled Modenan was furious, telling the manufacturing tycoon, "Lamborghini, you may be able to drive a tractor, but you will never be able to handle a Ferrari properly. You stick to building tractors and I will stick to building sports cars.” Enzo Ferrari's snubbing of Lamborghini had profound consequences. Lamborghini later said that it was at that point that he got the idea that if Enzo Ferrari, or anyone else, could not build him a perfect car, he might be able to simply make such a car himself. An the birth of the Lamborghini Bulls began.
Lancia, also a Fiat company, was successful in the arena of rallying in the 70’s and 80’s as well.
Prior to the forming of the World Rally Championship, Lancia took the final International Championship for Manufacturers title with the Fulvia in 1972.
In the WRC, they remain the most statistically successful marque (despite having withdrawn at the end of the 1993 season), winning constructors' titles in 1974, 1975 and 1976, and again 1983 and the finally six consecutive wins from 1987 to 1992.
“I have no interest in life outside racing cars.”
However, to fund the racing cars, Enzo needed to sell cars and the Chinetti-Garthwaite enterprise SOLD cars. In fact, many have said that the sales of the cars in North America funded the technical developments in Ferrari F1 cars in the 1970’s and led to the success Ferrari in F1 with Niki Lauda piloting in in 1975 and 1977 and Jody Scheckter in 1979. We are very honored at the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix Cortile to welcome Algar Ferrari as one of our sponsors of the Marques of Italy in 2015 and Tom Frasca, who was Luigi Chinetti's personal secretary for over 30 years as one of our Cortile Cup Judges.
Marques of Italy
In 1982 a group of United States Fiat enthusiasts who started the Fiat Club of America eventually forming 25 chapters across North America. In 1983 the “Fiat Lancia Underground” held their first gathering at Pocono Raceway and named the show FIAT FreakOut. In 1986, the club decided to change it’s name to Fiat Lancia Unlimited to welcome all Italian automobiles and widen it’s appeal to enthusiasts all over the world. The FreakOut became an annual event.
Sadly, Fiat stopped exporting cars to the United States in 1983. The following years saw good news and bad news for Italian Car aficionados.
The celebration in 2008 was so well received that the following year saw the founding of the Cortile Italian Car Show at the PVGP. Word must have gotten out about the resurgence of Interest in Italian cars because in June of 2009, Fiat Group and Chrysler Group LLC formed a strategic alliance. Consequently, Fiat has become the sixth largest car manufacturer in the world and it foretold the return of Italian marques Fiat and Alfa Romeo again being exported to North America.
Each year, similar to the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix's selection of a "marque of the the year" the Cortile selects an Italian marque to highlight. Work began in earnest in 2010 by PVGP volunteers and FLU members Sean Kunkle, Andy Schor and Mark Sheldon to invite the Fiat FreakOut to Pittsburgh.
By 2011 Wayne Long, with the help of Steve Barney, the owner of the first Ferrari F1 car sold outside of Italy, started the Cortile Cup competition. After 27 years of not being sold in North America Fiat returned in 2011. Soon thereafter the the Fiat Lanica Unlimited club was renamed back to it’s original name: Fiat Club America.
The Alfa Romeo 4C was announced to be the first mass-produced car to re-enter the US market in 2013 and the first launch edition appeared in Pittsburgh in December 2014.
For 2015 the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix and the Cortile is excited to be the host venue for the Fiat FreakOut as the centerpiece of the Marques of Italy display.
Fiat is Proiettore Macchina of the Cortile, due in large parts to the volunteer efforts began in 2010. We’re also hosting a group from the Ferrari Club America - Mid Atlantic chapter and the newly formed in 2014, Lamborghini Club of Western Pennsylvania. Please enjoy the show and the don't forget to make a donation to the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix Charities.
2015 is significant in Italian racing history. It marks the:
"Marques of Italy"
Pittsburgh, PA. The 2015 Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix is celebrating “The Marques of Italy”. There are so many beautiful Italian cars that it is just too difficult to select just one to recognize. What’s your favorite? Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Abarth, Lancia or maybe one of the lesser known brands like Iso, Bandini, Siata or Stangueillini. They are all welcome and we hope to see more than 400 cars!
Italian cars of all years and all will be featured throughout all ten days of our event, including an All Italian race at Schenley Park on Sunday July 19. If you own a new or vintage Italian car or are just a fan, the 2015 Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix this is the place to be this summer! The PVGP is the nation’s largest vintage race event, covering ten full days that includes racing, car shows and parades.
To add to the excitement the Grand Prix and the Cortile are also hosting the Fiat Club America’s "FreakOut" Annual North American Convention during the July 17-19 Schenley Park weekend. This event typically draws 200+ Fiats and Lancia from all over North America. Combined with our Italian Marque we are expecting to fill the 18th fairway!
The Italian Cortile will host all Italian Car events this year from its location at the Pittsburgh Golf Club on the 18th hole of the golf course. The Cortile was formed by the PVGP’s Bernie Martin in 2009 in response to the overwhelming success of the 2008 Marque of the Year which also honored all Italian cars. Now in it’s 7th year the Cortile has grown into one of the PVGP's most popular car shows.
Our 2015 Race Week is slated for July 10 through 19 with July 18/19 slated as the featured Race Weekend at Schenley Park. This will be your homepage to track all Marque activities. The button below is for on-line registration.
Follow the hashtags for the most updates: #PVGP #FFO15
2015 Grand Prix Race Week Schedule
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The Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix Association is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with a mission to hold a world-class vintage automotive event for charity.
It is the region’s premier summer event for hundreds of thousands of automotive enthusiasts in that it combines charitable fundraising with car shows and vintage sports car racing on city streets.
Since 1983 this volunteer-driven event has raised $3.85 million for the Autism Society of Pittsburgh and Allegheny Valley School.
This is a compilation of articles from a variety of sources and contributors. Attrition and sources are always provided at the top and/or the bottom of the posting.
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