1976 Lamborghini Urraco P300. Photos by Wes Duenkel, courtesy Lane Motor Museum, unless otherwise noted.
Italy has long had a love affair with motoring (on four wheels or two), as demonstrated by brands like Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Fiat, Ducati and Moto Guzzi, as well as storied events like the Mille Miglia and the Targa Florio. Opening May 26 at Nashville’s Lane Motor Museum, Macchine Italiane: A Tour of Italy’s Motoring Spirit, takes a look at this passion with a display of 36 vehicles, including production cars, racing cars, motorcycles and even bicycles that highlight Italian design and engineering from 1936 – 2012.
1939 Fiat Balilla 1100.
Sports cars to be featured in the exhibit will include a diverse range that stretches from a 1976 Lamborghini Urraco P300, a mid-engine 2+2 coupe capable of running from 0-60 in under six seconds, to a custom-bodied 1939 Fiat Balilla 1100. No exhibit of Italian sports cars would be complete without an Alfa Romeo spider, so a 1986 model will be displayed, as will a 1990 Lancia Delta HF Integrale and something even more obscure: a 1971 OTAS 820 Grand Prix.
The Lane’s 1971 OTAS 820 Grand Prix. Photo by Mark McCourt.
As Mark McCourt explained in the July 2011 issue of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car, OTAS (which stood for Officina Transformazione Automobili Sportive) altered the Italian-market Lombardi 850 Grand Prix to comply with U.S. emissions and safety regulations. Based upon the Fiat 850 Berlina with a sleek body penned by Francis Lombardi, the Lombardi 850 Grand Prix was diminutive in size, measuring just 142 inches in length (with an 81-inch wheelbase) and 42 inches high. To obtain an exemption from U.S. smog regulations, OTAS sleeved the original 843cc four to reduce displacement to 817cc (49.9-cu.in.), giving the car its 820 designation. Thanks to a bump in compression, a hotter camshaft, headers and a less-restrictive exhaust, the OTAS still produced 52 horsepower, or more than one horsepower per cubic inch of displacement. Roughly 100 examples were imported into the United States, but probably less than a dozen survive today.
1999 Dallara Indy Racing League chassis.
On the competition car side, Macchine Italiane will feature a 1980 Santandrea Formula Monza 875, a single-seat race car originally named for its 875,000 Lire price tag. Based upon Fiat 500 mechanicals, the low-cost, entry-level class (similar to Formula Vee in the United States, which used Volkswagen mechanicals) likely gave rise to the careers of many Italian drivers competing today. Alongside the Formula Monza will be a slightly higher performance chassis, constructed by Italian firm Dallara for the Indy Racing League series in 1999.
1939 Fiat 500A.
The Fiat 500 is essential to telling the story of motoring in Italy, and the display will include a range that stretches from the 1936 Fiat 500A Coupe, affectionately known to its (many) fans as the “Topolino,” or “Little Mouse,” to the 2012 Fiat 500 Abath. Other variants to be shown are a 1970 Fiat 500 Giardiniera pickup and a 1974 Ferrario Lucertola 500, a six-wheeled off-roader that powers its four rear wheels via a chain drive and allows the driver to brake each pair of rear wheels independently for enhanced traction. Though in production from 1969 through 1974, the Lane Museum believes that less than 30 Ferrario Lucertola 500s were ever constructed.
Though lesser known in the United States, Lancia has long been a significant brand in Italy, and in addition to the Delta HF Integrale, Macchine Italiane will feature a 1945 Lancia Aprilia (said to be the first European car developed in a wind tunnel), a 1960 Lancia Appia (a humble family car which spawned rebodies by Zagato, Pininfarina and Vignale) and a 1976 Lancia Scorpion, designed by Bertone as a replacement for the Fiat 124 Spider.
Macchine Italiane will run at the Lane Motor Museum from May 26 through May 22, 2017, overlapping with a similar exhibit (Bellissima! The Italian Automotive Renaissance, 1945-1975) at Nashville’s Frist Center for the Visual Art from May 27 – October 9, 2016. Reciprocal admission discounts will be offered by both institutions.