June 2014

Trailer: The Return of the Forgotten Supercar

There’s not much in the classic car world, now that we’re apparently a new ‘asset class’, that hasn’t been discovered by a new generation of 'specollectors' who blur the line between private and trade buyers. Here's our tip for one with a bright future, and a glimpse into its colourful past.

Once proud entrance logo now decaying: the sign has been stolen Once proud entrance logo now decaying: the sign has been stolen
Former test driver Loris Bicocchi hadn't been here for 19 years Former test driver Loris Bicocchi hadn't been here for 19 years

Last year, entirely by coincidence, my old friend Gregor Fisken and I both became owners of a largely forgotten supercar. Two decades earlier we’d been youthful guests at its lavish launch party in London’s Park Lane, where money was no object and funding clearly wasn’t lacking. Since then we’d both concentrated on running our businesses which focused largely on the automotive equivalent of Old Masters, and the excitement surrounding that high tech, state-of-the-art new car launch faded from memory. Don’t ask me why, but one day I decided to stop and explore the now derelict factory buildings which I’d passed a hundred times on the autostrada outside Modena where we regularly visit local artisans who painstakingly restore cars for us and our clients. That visit, and joining a very small number of fellow owners, led to a feature length programme we expect to air later this year. I can’t believe that we were the first outsiders to be allowed inside to film. Click above to watch the trailer…

The last supper? The factory presentation hall The last supper? The factory presentation hall
Monitors in the reception waiting for visitors who will never arrive Monitors in the reception waiting for visitors who will never arrive

So what’s this mysterious supercar like to drive?

We flew former European Le Mans Series Champion and works Aston Martin driver Sam Hancock to Italy and gave him the keys to both:

It's rare that any car gives me goosebumps upon first sight, but apparently the EB110 is the exception. As a teenager I used to have a poster of a blue SS (probably this exact car in fact, given its history) on my bedroom wall, so to see it in the flesh - in Modena of all places - truly sent a shiver down my spine. With its scissor doors and brutal styling, it's the kind of 'outer space' shape that I might have drawn as a kid.

Given the extreme sense of anticipation, I was a bit nervous when the moment came to drive it away from the workshop and through the town toward the hills, but actually this is where it showed its true class. I fully expected it to blow my mind when gunning it flat out through the hills above Modena - and it did, emphatically so - but equally illustrative of what an engineering marvel it is, was how easy it was to drive through the town and in traffic. The GT especially is a positively comfortable tourer that you could happily cruise to the South of France in, and while the SS is less comfortable in the more spartan cockpit, it's no less easy to drive at low speeds. A light clutch, effortless brakes and all the naughtiness waiting patiently out of the way, much higher up in the rev range (over 5,500rpm in the SS, a more usable 4,500rpm in the GT).

Wall calendars still show the day the company closed Wall calendars still show the day the company closed
A reminder of when time stood still A reminder of when time stood still

 

Don't be mistaken though, these are still big boys toys. The clutch may be light, but the 'box is notchy, requires a deft touch and some skilled double-declutching on down shift to the lower gears. Pressing on, my heel-and-toe 'blip' on the throttle also needed a pre-emptive strike to compensate for the turbo lag. Not the repertoire of an inexperienced pilot.

Same goes when getting the hammer down through the hills. Much like an F40 this is a pure, drivers car. No automated aids to keep you out of trouble, but four driven wheels, a ludicrous amount of power, a very well balanced chassis, and an awful lot of weight. Go light over a crest or leave your braking a bit late and you better know what you're doing. This is not a nimble 458 for hanging the back out around Alpine hairpins (I know this because we raced one being factory tested though the hills!), this is a beast with extraordinary grip - exactly as per the original design brief: "make the fastest car in the world." Not 'most fun', not most 'driftable'. The fastest. That means grip + power. Oodles of it. And while it may be tricky to master, it sure as hell delivers.

 

The company's heritage survives in car collections around the world- and, very rarely, out on the open road The company's heritage survives in car collections around the world- and, very rarely, out on the open road

The really fun bit however, actually is accessible to anyone, regardless of talent. Just find a straight bit of road and floor the b*stard! Use all the revs, bang up through the box, and prepare to be wearing a grin so wide your cheeks will ache. It's the closest feeling I can imagine to being strapped to a missile and the astonishing thing is that it just keeps on pulling. It's driver vs. car in a game of chicken and I guarantee the car always wins.

Professional racer Sam Hancock is about to realise a boyhood dream Professional racer Sam Hancock is about to realise a boyhood dream
Two cars, four fuel tanks, and the men at Agip are smiling Two cars, four fuel tanks, and the men at Agip are smiling
'Do you think it will stay on at 200km/h?' One way to find out... 'Do you think it will stay on at 200km/h?' One way to find out...