The Top 10 Italian Grand Tourers of All Time
The thought of being able to cover long distances quickly, comfortably and in high style gives grand tourers immense appeal among car buffs. And few nations are better at building grand tourers than Italy. Whether it’s cruising up the autostrada to attend a business meeting in Milan, squiring your signora to a weekend getaway in Tuscany, or pretending you’re Nino Vaccarella as you bomb around the rural mountain roads of Sicily, being behind the wheel of an Italian gran turismo makes a memorable motoring experience unforgettable.
Here, then, are 10 GT’s hailing from the land shaped like a boot that we consider to be unforgettable.
Ferrari 275 GTB/4
When compiling a list of the most beautiful cars in history, omitting the Ferrari 275 GTB/4 would be should be considered nothing short of criminal. The Pininfarina-designed, Scaglietti-built two-seater is powered by a four-cam (hence the “4” in the name) version of Ferrari’s 3.3L “Colombo” V12 producing 300hp. Sure, only 280 of these DOHC beauties were made, and you can buy a very nice house in many parts of the U.S. for less, but we’ve got to believe owning one of these is like dating a supermodel who likes to bark at strangers: With looks like this, it doesn’t bother you all that much.
Maserati Ghibli SS
In base form, the Maserati Ghibli is a stylish, muscular GT from the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. In top-shelf SS form, it’s borderline athletic. The 4.9L quad-cam V8 (the standard model displaced 4.7L) was rated at 335hp, and the Giorgetto Giugiaro styling still shouts “SSSSSSSEEEEEEEEEXXXXXX!!!” from the proverbial rooftops. It’s about as close as you can get to a Modenese muscle car.
Wanna hear something depressing? There are college freshmen who haven’t seen Lamborghini build a front-engine production vehicle during their lifetimes; the last example of the company’s LM002 SUV, quite possibly the most quintessentially “Because f*ck you, that’s why!” automobile in history, rolled out of the factory in 1993. The last nose-motored Lambo before that was the Espada, a voluptuous, 4.0L V12-powered 2+2 coupe. But unlike most 2+2s, the rear seats could be comfortably occupied by non-Hobbits. They’re also fairly cheap to buy, though prices are creeping up. Our advice? Snap one up yesterday.
Alfa Romeo 2600 Sprint
Given Alfa Romeo’s longstanding reputation as a builder of sporting machinery, it should come as no surprise that the 2600, its flagship for most of the 1960s, is pretty fun to drive as far as large-by-European-standards passenger cars go. But the coupe version, which wears the Sprint name and a Bertone-drawn body, took those sporting pretensions to another level. The taut proportions, lusty 2.6L DOHC straight-six and 5-speed manual transmission (back when many other road cars had 4-speed sticks) scream “sports car,” but the useable back seat and trunk say “weekend road trip chariot.”
Lancia Aurelia B20 GT
V6 engines are quite common today, but the first one to be produced in fairly large quantities is the one residing under the hood of the Lancia Aurelia. In the swank B20 GT coupe model – which wore gorgeous fastback Ghia-designed, Pininfarina-shaped sheetmetal – it ranged from a 75hp 2.0L unit on early models to a torquey 112hp 2.5L on later cars. Thus, the Aurelia hardly qualifies as a rocket ship, but on the plus side, it’ll let your passengers take in more of the beautiful scenery as you cart them to your villa on the shore of Lake Como.
Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona
When the time came to replace the 275 GTB, Ferrari knew it would have a hell of a time topping it. But in many respects, the 365 GTB/4 (officially unofficially known as the Daytona in deference to the marque’s podium sweep at the Florida circuit’s 24-hour sports car race in 1967) did just that. Like its predecessor, it has two seats in the middle, a snarling V12 (this time a 4.4L unit making 350hp) up front and a borderline-pornographic Pininfarina body encasing it all. The difference this time, though, was the shape was far more radical for its day, leading some to say it looked like something Lamborghini might build. In fine Italian tradition, these critics were never heard from again. (Only kidding, folks!)
De Tomaso Longchamp
While thousands are familiar with De Tomaso’s Ford-V8-behind-the-driver jobs like the Mangusta and Pantera, it’s not widely known that the small firm also built a proper front-engine grand tourer that used a big Azzuro Ovale V8. Christened the Longchamp, it utilized the same 351 cubic-inch (5.8L) Cleveland V8 as the Pantera (here making 330hp) and a Ford C-6 3-speed automatic transmission (though about 17 examples were fitted with a ZF 5-speed manual). Production ran all the way from 1972 to 1989, but none of the 409 built were ever officially exported to the U.S. (The same can unfortunately be said of the Longchamp’s four-door sister, the Deauville.), so you’ll have to do some digging to find one over here.
Iso Grifo 7 Litri
Of course, De Tomaso hardly had a monopoly on American V8-powered GTs back during the reign of Tricky Dick. Iso was one of these other companies, and the unquestioned zenith of its GT-building endeavors was the Grifo 7 Litri. With 427 cubic-inches (7.0L) of Chevrolet Big Block anger (good for 400hp) under that unorthodoxly-scooped hood, the Grifo 7 Litri could straight-up scoot. And in case you didn’t have time to blow dry your hair before leaving, it was also available with a removable targa roof.
Maserati 3500 GT
If no one took Maserati’s road cars seriously before the 1957 introduction of the achingly pretty 3500 GT, they basically had to afterward. With a tamed-for-the-street version of the 350S sports racing car’s 3.5L DOHC straight-six (producing 220hp) and a ZF 4-speed manual trans, the 3500 GT was one of the best mile-racker-uppers for its day. And it got even better starting in 1961, when it became the 3500 GTi, the “I” signifying fuel injection. Output rose to 235hp, the gearbox became a 5-speed manual, and the styling was revised (but could still stop more than its share of traffic).
Alfa Romeo Montreal
The 1967 World’s Fair (better known as Expo 67) was held in Montreal, Canada. Alfa Romeo produced a nameless concept car for display there, but the public was so smitten with it that, come 1970, it entered production as the (drumroll please) Montreal. This visually striking 2+2 used chassis and driveline components from the Giulia GTV and a 2.6L DOHC V8 (making 200hp and revving to 7,000 rpm) derived from the 2.0L V8 found in the firm’s Tipo 33 sports prototype. A total of 3,917 were built over eight years, but not one was sent to North America by the factory. Ironic given its name, but there are a good many residing on this continent now should you decide you need one. (We’re pretty sure we do.)