ITH - Best of Italy - The Interview {{favouriteCount}} Quantity of Likes

8 Nov 2017

Ahhh Italy, land of pizza, pasta, wildly gesticulating arms, slightly dubious Prime Ministers and of course….. cars! No other country designs cars with such passion, and Italy is home to some of the most amazing car companies ever – Ferrari, Maserati, Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Lamborghini, Pagani, all cars that even if they’re not the best in class or the most reliable, are stuffed full of character. When we needed someone to choose four cars for this week’s In the Headlights we looked no further than Chris Rees, Editor of the most Italian car mag out there – Auto Italia! Here Chris lets us know a bit about all the cars he picked…

Ferrari Portofino

Ferrari’s replacement for the California T has even more power than before – a sensational 600hp from its twin-turbo V8 – and it’s good for 199mph and 0-62mph in 3.5 seconds. An all-new chassis means it’s a sharper handler than the old Cali T. It’s more stylishly designed, too, and that wind-in-the-hair top-down feel can’t be beaten.

Abarth 695 BiPosto

The 695 is the very embodiment of the phrase ‘pocket rocket’. It’s the most potent of Abarth’s range of Fiat 500-based hot hatchbacks, offering 190hp from its turbocharged 1.4-litre engine. While it’s certainly speedy and looks the part, it’s the exhaust note that really sticks in the memory: a rasping, gurgling sound that’s guaranteed to get heads swivelling.

Lamborghini Huracán LP580-2

Modern Lamborghinis have tended towards four-wheel drive, but for the purest supercar experience possible, it’s two-wheel drive you really need – and that’s what the ‘2’ at the end of the Huracán LP580-2’s name means. Having only two wheels driven really sharpens up the driving experience, reduces weight and unleashes the full feistiness of Lamborghini’s sensational 580hp V10 engine.

Alfa Romeo Stelvio Milano Edizione 280

The all-new Stelvio is Alfa Romeo’s first ever SUV and it’s an absolute peach. If you want your 4x4 to behave like a sports car, no car does it better than the Stelvio – especially in top-spec 280hp form. And the launch Milano Edizione has the best possible spec, too, with full leather upholstery, 20-inch alloy wheels and a mighty audio system.

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We also sat down with Chris and found out where he got his passion for cars...

“These days you can do courses in motoring journalism but back when I started,” Chris pauses wistfully, “it was pretty much unheard of as a career.

“I got into writing completely by accident, even though it was all I ever wanted to do. In fact, I’m told my first word wasn’t ‘mum’ but ‘Mini’. There was no passion for cars in our family but I was completely besotted by them – much to my family’s chagrin, I became a total anorak.”

Although Chris briefly had designs on becoming a barrister, his fate was sealed at a car show.

“By chance I got chatting to a publisher of car magazines and he said, why didn’t I try writing something for his magazine, Alternative Cars? I was 18 when my first story was published and it all felt very exciting. I was then invited to work for him in my summer holidays and was offered a job there after finishing university. It set me on a path which I still love today. I feel very privileged to be doing paid work that’s so much fun.”

Of course for Chris, Italy is the epicentre of all things car – the true home of automotive style and passion.

“The greatest designers and designs originate from Italy,” he says. “The Italians have such a handle on what gives a car soul. It’s hard to put your finger on exactly but almost all Italian cars have that spark, regardless of budget.”

We begin a long discussion about the roller coaster ride that Italian marques like Alfa Romeo have had, but Chris thinks he knows what makes Italian cars tick.

“German brands like Porsche constantly strive for perfection but Italian people really don’t believe in perfection,” Chris explains. “They’re more interested in what makes a car special and unique. Like humans, Italian cars have imperfections and it’s the quirks that create that unbreakable bond between driver and car.”

Chris should know. He heads to Italy at least once a month to cover car launches, visit shows and conduct interviews. He also has a trio of Italian stallions on his drive - a spectacular Alfa Romeo SZ, a Maserati Quattroporte and a Fiat Panda 100HP.

“The SZ is very much my dream car,” he enthuses, rolling the letters around in his mouth. “There is nothing quite like it. Some people hate the styling – the Italians even dubbed it Il Mostro which means The Monster. Its Busso-designed three-litre V6 engine is a true classic.”

The colour of choice?

“You could have it any colour you liked as long as it was red!”

With plenty of titles to which he’s contributed over the years, plus the current editorship of Auto Italia, Chris has driven his fair share of beauties, Italian and otherwise. So what’s the pinnacle of his driving career?

“It has to be the Ferrari F40. It’s such an incredible car. It’s sometimes criticised for being too raw but it’s a sensational driver’s car. It’s so alive to every input.”

And if BOTB were to swipe the tarpaulin off another car of his dreams?

“If it was a modern car, I’d love the Ferrari 458 Speciale, but the 1960s Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale is my all-time favourite.”

He’d certainly have some competition in the neighbourhood were he to show off the 33 Stradale.

“I live about half a mile from Chris Evans and Red Bull’s Adrian Newey. I’ve seen Chris in his Ferrari 250 California and often spot Adrian in his Aston Martins. For me, the Alfa would win hands down though.”

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