A life-long lust for Italians that is inexplicably unfulfilled

13

Author: James ElliottPublished:

This week, the C&SC team is furiously putting to bed a very special issue of the magazine. The April edition will come with a free supplement, 35 extra pages celebrating 100 years of Maserati. Yippee!

All this focus on the Trident marque has made me think very seriously about my relationship with Italian cars.

Why? Because I adore them, but I don't seem to ever buy them.

To be absolutely honest, I am mystified by this, and especially the lack of Maseratis in the Elliott scrapbook, because it has always been my favourite Italian marque, followed jointly by Ferrari and Lancia and then Alfa Romeo.

My devotion is such that, if you browse my old "obsessions" blogs (a series I really must get around to reviving), no fewer than four of the eight I have written are about Italian cars.

Yet, to date, I have owned only one… and that was a relatively modern company car (my Lancia Delta Integrale) because I didn't have the guts to buy it (or more importantly, service it) with my own cash.

So where has it all gone wrong? After all, I may have only ever owned one Italian car, but I have set out to buy loads of the buggers. The 308GT4s alone that I have been but a signature away from acquiring are in double figures.

And that's something else I can't fall back on as an excuse: the cost.

Prices now may be well beyond me, but I can't expunge the memory of the £15k 3500GT (and that was a great condition car, I would have been buying it from Maserati itself after all), the £20k Testarossa, and the £10k (but needing a little brake work) Aurelia B20GT, all of which were cars I desperately lusted after and had the wherewithal (or at least the understanding with the bank manager) to buy at the time. Yet, when it came to fight or flee, I jogged off like Pheidippides when he was late for his dinner.

Then there were the Quattroportes, at least three, the Fulvias (can't be counted on one hand), a trio of Espadas (each under £15k at the time), a Urraco or two, a couple of 456s, a  £20k Ghibli, myriad sub-£20k Indys and Khamsins when no one wanted such things, a £22k Bora, countless Meraks and even a £27k 246GT. Idiot, Elliott.

It's not just the stuff with the scary, expensive to repair engines, either, it's the same story with a wealth of Fiat 124s and Dinos, a solitary ISO and, well, you get the drift.

I can't even use the maintenance defence. It's not as if the cars I have bought instead have turned out to be free to run, or that I would be any less willing to take a hammer to a Ferrari than a Lotus (especially with a devil of a Port sitting on my shoulder whispering evil advice into my ear), so I can't even use those costs as a get-out.

And, yes time distorts the prices somewhat, but none of the cars I am talking about were sheds. Well, a few were, but none of them (except a £6.5k 308GT4 at Bonhams' Hendon sale with a sunroof that had finally rusted out and fallen on to the driver's seat in situ) were last-leggers smoking themselves into an early grave.

On the contrary, some were lovely examples of the model. Indeed, given my tendency to ignore my own advice and always to buy the worst example of the most expensive car I can afford, all but that Bonhams GT4 were in better nick comparatively than either my Elan or Interceptor.

So it is fear over reliability then? Please. I have owned more Lotuses than you can shake a stick at, that doesn't scare me.

And there you have it, I have no idea why Italian cars and me have never properly consummated our endless conspicuous, tedious even, flirtations.

It's less of an issue now that I can't afford any of them and am broke, of course, but it still troubles me that they passed me by when circumstances were different. 

Maybe it is just because I am a naturally conservative (small c) kind of guy and I am worried that they will just be too fiery for me in a long-term relationship. 

Either way, it seems that my love is destined to be inexplicably unrequited. I could live with that except that Tennyson wrote that it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. And the beardy old sod was pretty switched on for a poet.

Comments

Chris Martin

Hah! At last, I am one up on you James.
I once had a Fiat Panda, 145 quid with a dented front wing, ran on fresh air and sold at a profit. What is so scary about Italian cars?

 

Coventry Climax

Me too! A very early Panda with rusty sills and peculiar electrics. Great fun.

Chris Martin

Didn't buy it about 1990 in the Hendon area?  Silver grey metallic?  Oops...sorry 'bout that.

 

bencollins

Nice article. How about a Fiat X19 or Fiat 124 spider, still affordable and lovely sensible 5 speed ownership propositions. With hindsight and the appreciation the cars you listed were indeed missed opportunities, but as ownership propositions, largely horrid money pits.

Zagato

If I could work out how to post a picture on here, I would show you what can happen when a lust for an Italian gets inexplicably fulfilled. Clue: it's got a blue and white shield on the front and was probably born about the same year as you and me James. Audrey Hepburn had one, as did Sofia Lauren and Prince Ali Aga Khan, though unfortunately he was killed in his when he stuffed it into an oncoming vehicle on his way to a party in Paris...

 

 

Zagato

PaulJ

'Er indoors has an Abarth 500 which I get to use now and then. She's about to swap it for a 595. (I'm her car advisor…)

Yes, I'm sorry - they are new cars, but think how much you'll want one in 30 years ;-)

ewandeas

I got the t-shirt by buying an Alfa 164 once because i loved the look of them, expecting nothing but expense and trouble - but instead got 4 years of reliable, stylish wafting around. Wonderful. One Italian at least should be compulsory in any respectable car history.

Mario Laguna

"Ali Aga Khan, though unfortunately he was killed in his when he stuffed it into an oncoming vehicle on his way to a party in Paris"
- Lancia Flaminia

http://www.bozhdynsky.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Lancia-Flaminia-Tou...

 

James Elliott

Chris, my sister in law had a Fiat Panda. I drove it a few times in London and thought it was a brilliant city car. Seriously. It reminded me of a Mk1 Fiesta, a flying tincan. When she came to sell it no one wanted it and she ended up begging a local dealer to take it off her hands. After much hand-wringing they gave her fifty quid or something and she was on her way. There was nothing fundamentally wrong with it, but the rust really was starting to come through. When I heard about this I was quite angry because I would have had it for that, but I watched with interest as it sat hidden behind a tree at the back of the dealership's yard for months and then, when they sold up and cleared the site for it to be levelled, all that they left behind was that poor little Fiat Panda. Shame on them.

Group Editor, C&SC

Chris Martin

Agreed about the city car recommendation. It was from the era before even basic little 'minis' (small 'm'!) did not have to be laden with every gadget ever invented since the pyramid, and consequently had as much room inside as a much larger car would today. Also, that light weight meant enough zip with only a tiny motor. Much better driving position and visibility than a Mini (original BMC/BL type) and better acceleration through traffic than a 2CV. Or for an even cheaper more Spartan version there was the SEAT Marbella.
But....sorry, I doubt Pandas was what you had in mind when writing this blog, so can I ask if that yellow 348TS you mentioned in the Stoneleigh auction has tempted you?
If there is no Clements lurking on your shoulder telling you to put your bid in, then I will. You will have broken your Italian Car cherry, replaced every Lotus you ever had, and it will even finally persuade you to part with the Jensen. How can you lose?

 

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