"The engine mumbles and stumbles while the needle of the rev counter starts to climb, then at 3,000 revs it explodes like a volcano… I caught myself thinking that [the ATS] constituted a… real racing road car, in all senses” – Road and Track magazine’s Griff Borgeson experiences an ATS 2500 GTS driven by factory racer Teodoro Zeccoli on the outskirts of Bologna in September 1964
The ATS 2500 GT and GTS
Born of the famous ‘Palace Revolt’ at Ferrari in 1961, ATS (Automobili Turismo e Sport) was a road and racing car manufacturer located at Pontecchio Marconi in Via Pila, Bologna. Enjoying the services of engineers Carlo Chiti – creator of the ‘sharknose’ Ferrari GP cars, Giotto Bizzarrini – one of the ‘fathers of the 250 GTO’, and American World Champion Phil Hill, the company attracted the best in the business. Joining Hill were fast Italians Giancarlo Baghetti and Teodoro Zeccoli. And backed by wealthy financiers Count Giovanni Volpi, Italian industrialist Giorgio Billi and Jaime Ortiz-Patino, the Bolivian tin magnate, ATS lacked neither funds nor talent.
Like Ferrari, the founders believed, the company would build world-beating racing single-seaters, success on the track resulting in strong demand for powerful, fast and expensive granturismo cars. Hand-built, luxuriously appointed and sporting a 220bhp all-alloy V8, the new ATS 2500 GT was the first mid-engined Italian road car – foreshadowing Ferrari by three years – and a potential world-beater. For those seeking the ultimate in performance, a GTS version was available with alloy bodywork and
a tuned engine.
In the end, it’s believed that only eight complete cars were built before the dream ended and the company was wound up. Just six exist today, and this 2500 GTS is one.
American Tom Meade was just one of an itinerant troop of expats working around and about Modena in the 1960s. Others included photographer Pete Coltrin, author and occasional car dealer Rob de la Rive Box and Stirling Moss’s former racing mechanic Alf Francis.
According to an uncorroborated interview with Meade in 2012, the American – who made a living wheeling and dealing, as well as building fanciful ‘Thomassima’ parts-bin specials from bits and pieces sourced locally – was gifted this car, chassis 2006, by Carlo Chiti. He recalled: “I remember one day, around 1965, when I was at ATS, Chiti and Alf [Francis] were there. I was somehow one of Chiti’s favourite people. I don’t know why – he was always asking me what I was doing.They were talking about ‘what are we going to do with all these cars?’ Chiti said: ‘Tom, would you like to own an ATS?’
“‘That’d be my wildest dream!’ I said. Chiti then pointed to one outside in the staging area of the factory, in a line of them. He said:‘You see that blue one there in the line? – Take it.’ So I got an ATS for free.That car is in LA right now, owned by [our client].”
Meade kept the car in Italy until the mid-1970s, when he imported it to the USA, trading it as part-payment for work completed by Kurt Mocher of Monza Automobili, Houston,Texas. In 1979 it then passed to Bill Peters of Chama, New Mexico. Our client, who’d previously owned ATS 2500 GT ‘2003’, purchased ‘2006’ in 1994. Immediately prior to that it was in the ownership of entrepreneur and principal of Pegasus Racing,Virginian Oliver Kuttner.
Once in our client’s possession, he commissioned David Grant of Santa Clarita, California, to carry out a full restoration on a car that was complete but in “heavily used” condition. As at that point ‘2006’ was a medium silver, our client chose a subtle variation of
that shade for the extensive work that took from 1997 to 2001.The interior was retrimmed in tan hide, the engine and all running-gear rebuilt, all chromework refinished. The result was good enough for a stunning reveal at Pebble Beach in 2001, when ‘2006’ won first in class, ‘Post-War, Sports and Racing’. Since then, its appearances have been carefully measured, making a sensational return to the concours circuit in 2017 when it won its owner a Rolex chronometer during Monterey week as Best of Show at The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering.
One of the six existing ATS 2500s in the world, one of only three alloy-bodied GTSs, with concours- winning pedigree and a benchmark model in the history of 1960s Italian granturismos, this exquisite rarity is one of the first steps on the road that led to the Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 Stradale and all modern-day mid-engined supercars.