Bellissima, The Italian Automotive Renaissance, 1945-1975

We found an opportunity to pay a short visit to the “Frist Center for Visual Arts” in Nashville, TN where 19 cars and 3 motorcycles are on display, showcasing the Italian renaissance in automotive art from May 27th to October 9th, 2016.

Authorities at Frist, especially master curator Ken Gross, had already proven their platinum level of taste in cars when they presented pre-war ultra rare prestigious jewels like Bugatti, Delage, Delahaye & Pierce Arrow in their 2013 presentation of Sensuous Steel: Art Deco Automobiles.

If you find yourself reading this and live close by, Do not miss it! As no one in the mid-south comes even close to the Frist level .

Frist Center for Visual Arts
Frist Center for Visual Arts

This time, they have obsessively hand picked the most iconic post-war designs. Ones that literally shaped the cars we cherish the most. So they gathered the best existing samples of Italian coachbuilders’ work from museums and private collections from all over US.

Here we take a look at the 3 Ferraris on display along with a glance on some others which have inspired, or been inspired by, the prancing horse.

1962 Ferrari 250 GTO s/n 3387GT. Image © 2016 Peter Harholdt - Courtesy of Frist Center for Visual Arts
1962 Ferrari 250 GTO s/n 3387GT. Image © 2016 Peter Harholdt – Courtesy of Frist Center for Visual Arts

1962 Ferrari 250 GTO s/n 3387GTcollection of Bernard & Joan Carl – Washington DC

The Ferrari 250 GTO, designed by Giotto Bizzarini and Gian Carlo Guerra and built by Sergio Scaglietti, is still considered the ultimate front-engine super car. The minimum quota, established by racing authorities to verify that a winning design could be replicated, is what “GTO” stands for: Gran Turismo Omologato (Grand Touring Homologated). Ferrari got around this by claiming that its chassis was just the same as its predecessor. Indeed, it was a variation of the 250 SWB but with a 3-liter, 6-Carb engine and a five speed gearbox. The GTO was also lighter and more aerodynamic than the SWB.

When challenged, because he hadn’t built fifty GTOs, Ferrari threatened to withdraw from racing. The FIA officials capitulated, as they knew Ferrair’s absence would have distressed fans all over Europe. At Sebring 12 Hours, F1 champion Phil Hill and Oliver Gendebien drove this car (3387GT) to second place behind the TRI/61. Later this car finished sixth overall at the 24 hours of LeMans and 3rd in class.

1966 Ferrari 365P Tre-Posti Berlinetta Special

Collection of Luigi Chinetti Trust, Stuart, Florida

Enzo Ferrari believed that powerful full-sized mid-engine cars were simply “too dangerous” for use on the road. In the hands of inexperienced drivers, they had a tendency to spin on their own axis. Sergio Pininfarina, however, believed that they would be the next important GT car trend. He initiated a design study to convince Ferrari. The result was the 365P Tre Posti. Ferrari’s first full-sized mid-engine 12-cylinder road car. A three-seat configuration with a centralized steering wheel and similarly located instruments and controls optimized interior space and increased driver visibility.

Aldo Brovarone designed the Tre-Posti with input from Sergio. The Tre-Posti replete with iconic Ferrari styling cues, such as an oval-shaped egg-crate grille and Perspex-covered headlamps, a large transparent roof section was formed from athermic, UV-coated, bronze-tinted glass. While it was designed to be road-going, the car’s competition features include a chrome roll bar, an outside fuel filter, five-spoke cast alloy wheels, a competition pedal box, a gated shifter, it was a hit at the 1966 Paris Auto show, 1967 LA import and Sport show and elsewhere. Just two examples were built and this is the first one (s/n8971GT) that was acquired by Luigi Chinetti in may of 1967. Ferrari would not offer a production large-displacement mid-engine model (the 365 GT4/BB) until 1974, but the Tre-Posti proved that Ferrari should build cars like this one.

1963 Ferrari 400 Superamerica Series II Aerodynamico by Pininfarina s/n 4271SA – collection of Bernard & Joan Carl, Washington DC

47 of these high-priced large-displacement-engine cars were built. this one is the 28th. each differs slightly in trim, color, accessories and body details. No variant of the 400SA is as majestic, impressive and magnificent as the Aerodynamico. while the tapering rear styling is typical of Pininfarina work, here the full rear wheel opening emphasizes the engine’s enormous power.

Only a few of these cars were produced because they cost more than a coachbuilt Rolls-Royce when new. Potential owners needed the approval of Enzo Ferrari himself to purchase one. Every example still in existence is now valued significantly above its initial cost. example with special provenance carry yet more value. The first owner of the car on display here was Felice Riva, whose family produced luxurious motor boats and Yachts.

Other stunning cars on display which have been a major milestone in the history of car design

Lancia Stratos Zero HF Concept by Bertone

This masterpiece was made off of a Fulvia parts without telling Lancia about it. this still fresh looking design probably started all the wedge shaped cars of the seventies. “Stratos” comes from “stratoslimite”

1963 ATS 2500 GT

In Nov. 1961 eight of Ferrari’s best engineers walked out and formed ATS and made this first Italian mid-engine car. Franco Scaglione designed it, Carlo Chiti made the engine and Allemano made the body. This is the Geneva Show car

1955 Chrysler Ghia Gilda

Gilda was a brainchild of Virgil Exner and was designed by Giovanni Savonuzzi. Gilda was Rita Hayworth name in a 1946 movie

Alfa Romeo BATmobiles by Bertone

the ultra-rare trio of mid-1950s Alfa Romeo Berlinetta Aerodinamica Tecnicas, known as BATs, whose curvaceous fins and tapered tails suggest the curving wings and bullet-like bodies of bats in flight. They were all made on Alfa 1900 platform. Bat 5 was unveiled in Turin Motor show of 1953 and with only 75hp was well capable of 125mph (200km/h). BAT7 was shown in 1954 Turin Show with more curved fins and lower nose that resulted in amazing Cd. 0.19 drag coefficient and finally the BAT9 that looked more into business with less extravagant features and inspired creation of the limited edition Sprint Speciale.


The motorcycles on display are the 1957 Moto Guzzi V-8 “Otto,” a bike revered for its exceptional speed and radical “dustbin” fairing concealing its 8-cylinder engine; a 1973 MV Agusta 750 Sport, widely considered “the Ferrari of motorcycles” for its race-bred handling, brash aesthetics and thrilling exhaust “music”; and the 1974 Ducati 750 Super Sport that, as Gross said, “catapulted the status of the small Bolognese firm from interesting to legendary.

And some more…

Many thanks to all the elegant organizers at Frist Center for Visual Arts, especially W. Joiner for providing us with their wonderful photos.

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