The Italian Junkyard

Thoughts, ideas, criticism about cars. Interesting news and facts from the world of the automobile. Events in Italy and Modena. What you can find elsewhere, filtered through the eyes of a discerning enthusiast. Design, style, everything on the chopping block. Nobody is safe anymore.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Spada Vetture Sport Codatronca TS: a tale of the lost art of aerodynamics, proportions and taste

I mentioned what present day Viotti is doing with its renewed shop, and you might have recognized under the wrap a familiar shape, the Bertone Mantide. No, I'm not going to talk about all over again, it was more than five years ago and even if the little to inexistent success that car has seems unfair to me, it had its time both here and all over the world.

So what's the other connection with Viotti? The Mantide was not the only Corvette-based project they had something to do with, and even if the incriminating picture has been long pulled off Viotti's website, quite some evidences were pointing in the, pun intended, pointy direction of the Spada Vetture Sport Codatronca TS. Such a long name might suggest something entirely different, but there might be some reasoning behind it.

White Spada Vetture Sport simply suggest that behind this venture is none other than Ercole Spada joining forces with his son Paolo Spada, the original concept was unveiled in 2007 under the SpadaConcept TS Codatronca moniker. I've no idea, and somewhat little interest into, what that was all about, but the focus here should be about the second part. Codatronca. Since it isn't even a proper word in Italian, it's hard to directly translate into English. You may refer to it as a fastback, or even as a shooting break, truth is coda-tronca means the tail of the car has been, ideally, cut off, in complete contrast to the boat-tail design of the thirties if you like. Enter one Professor Wunibald Kamm, you might have heard of it.

The somewhat revolutionizing idea of this German gentleman is that without extending indefinitely the tail of a solid object moving into stable flowing fluid, the aerodynamics resistance, drag, met by said solid object wouldn't increase to a noticeable extent. Of course it isn't as easy as it sounds, and indeed you already know that planes do not have a square tail (even those with the engine positioned right on the tail), same as most boat and so on. Without entering annoying and complicated calculations so to keep aerodynamics the interesting subject it actually is, there is a trade off in this chopping of tails and trunks. Something more properly or famously studied by Morel, or Ahmed, with their studies on the slant angles on the tail of solid objects in a flowing fluid.

At this point, you should consider some other German examples, chiefly from the Volkswagen Group, but BMW has been busy on the subject lately, and unfortunately (and misusing the term "GT" too while they were at it). Consider the Porsche Panamera Gran Turismo (full name), or the Audi A7 Sportback. Or even the usual suspect, the Porsche 911 (in any iteration, mind you). You can immediately notice that their profile is quite soft and slowly pointing to the rear end without delimiting a proper trunk volume. The A7 squares it off more abruptly, the Panamera is rounder but in both cases there is no proper end to the tail or to the shape of the car, but the trade off is evident, enter the active rear wing.
Contrarily to common belief, a rear wing doesn't always act as a downforce device, more correctly it is often required to reduce lift on most cars. Slowly decreasing profiles such as those listed above generates the same upwash vortexes as those seen on delta-wing supersonic planes, like the famous Concorde or the Dassault Mirage, that's to say exactly what makes those planes fly. This are basically two cone vortexes, one per each side, generating right at the top of the last pillar and rotating so to literally lift the air close to the car, and therefore to an extent the car itself. More properly explained but still in common terms, the air acquires speed upward, pressure locally decreases, the underneath body (car) is sucked up. So while the drag generated from such fastback design is very low, great for fuel economy, it's quite problematic for high speed stability and downforce in general, which is something on the border between a safe drive and fun spirited drive. You want as much net downforce as possible, or as little net lift as possible, in both cases.

In order to reduce or completely destroy these vortexes, it is sufficient to put a device right before (all those "spoilers" glued on top of the back windows on many small cars, such as the Peugeot 206, or small enges on rear lamps like on most Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Fiat, etc) or after the area involved by the vortexes themselves. At low speed the energy carried on by them is low enough not to constitute any sort of problem so the active wing of the Audi A7 and Porsche Panamera stay in place to increase fuel economy. But once the aerodynamics become relevant the wing pops up and kills the vortex so to reduce the chances to have a reduced weight (as in force of gravity, not mass) on the rear axle creating instability (both in the mathematics and physics sense of the word). The wing itself do not provide downforce per se, but it surely reduces any lift phenomenon. Same for the 911 of course and most other cars with any sort of an active rear wing.

It shouldn't surprise though that such wings are always deployed at 120 km/h or so. Which is exactly the top speed hit during the NEDC (New European Driving Cylce) test, developed to determine the fuel consumption of a consumer car. There is no doubt the fuel economy greatly decreases at 120 km/h, not simply because of the increased required power, but also because of the worsened aerodynamics properties of the car once the wing is deployed. So I'd expect that even if there was some relevant amount of lift (yet not dangerous of course) at 110 km/h, automakers would still program the wing to deploy at 120 km/h just to save the official fuel consumption rating. Shocking, I know.

A quite famous episode is once again related to an Audi, the first gen Audi TT to be precise. In the middle of its production stories began to surface about high speed accidents involving the car, so with some serious consequences for the drivers. Eventually, the design was found at fault, chiefly because of the rear suspension geometry and because of the aerodynamics of the car, in other world because of the lack of mechanical and aerodynamic grip on the rear axle. The suspensions were modified and a fixed wing, rectagular in profile and only a few centimeters tall, was installed, enough to reduce said vortexes to an harmless entity.

Despite the quite dangerous mishap, it must be said Audi marketing department handled the subject rather well. Either that, or most customers have a serious issue with short term memory. That's shocking news as well.

What with the Codatronca though?
Simply put, Ercole Spada made its trademark out of the Kamm tail, most famously in the Alfa Romeo Giulia TZ and Giulia TZ2 while working at Zagato, both showcasing an abruptly cut tail but nonetheless achieving great performances and fame. Zagato then revived the idea with the Alfa Romeo TZ3 Corsa (based on the Belgian Gillet Vertigo, which already featured a Maserati 4.2 liters V8 engine) and Alfa Romeo TZ3 Stradale (based on the Dodge Viper SRT-10 from 2008, with its 8.3 liters V10),

As for the modern SVS Codatronca TS, it's based on the Chevrolet Corvette Z06 (or simply Corvette Z06 as it was briefly known in Europe). With the drivetrain slightly tuned to 630 bhp (vs 507 bhp in standard form) and the chassis completely unmolested, all its most relevant changes are focused on its exterior, and interior, at least from my point of view. So forgive the unforgiving almost-track-only sport tires fitted on it.
While I immediately licked the fresh approach of its general design, the out of the chorus tail and the clear hints to the most famous stealth bomber, the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk, I felt a little underwhelmed by the car itself in the flesh. A lot had to do with the proportions not being so elegant, a way too long and flat front clam with a tall and angular tail, a perceived finish less than exiting (even if I couldn't name one specific problem with it, as the car was probably completely ok), and some design decisions worth some more discussions.
Surely the metal-look (and if it was metal indeed I can't remember, but I do remember it didn't look the part) frame around the windows didn't help, and the uninspired and edgy interior wasn't of my likings, raw and without an apparent unique them or idea, same for the generalist aftermarket wheels from OZ.
According to Paolo Spada they had made two cars in 2010, the one here depicted belonging to himself, and another for a customer. Truth be told I don't think I've ever seen a picture of said customer car, but the world is full of greedy collectors hiding their gems to spying eyes.

Later on in 2011 they unveiled the Codatronca Monza. Essentially a track-only speedster variant of the Codatronca TS, it felt even larger and the unfinished, because racing, interior didn't help at all. A road going car was even spotted with safety bars worth of an emergency check up with your loyal optometrist. And that was the end of it.

It may seem like I have no love for the car. Well, I had decent expectations and was let down, plus I later realized they were quite late on the military jet fighter bandwagon (hint, Reventòn), but I can't help but feel for yet another unique take on the automotive passion and the vision some men are still willing to put into their four wheeled creations. That, and the full on price of "only" 180.000 € seemed like a bargain. Definitely much less than the 2 Millions € asked for the Bertone Mantide (well, that was a Corvette ZR1 to be fair...), which itself didn't sell well... they actually sold only the one car the produced.

What does this say? No more room for special vehicles with outrageous prices? No, definitely not. It's rather something along the line "it has to be flashy, recognizable, and famous", which is why a lot of tuning companies are flourishing around the world and in emerging markets (Mansory, what have we done) while bespoke and specialized shops like SVS or Bertone itself are struggling to sell or survive at all. Because let's face it, the Codatronca TS may not be a beauty in itself, but it's better than a pimped Ferrari with blot on (or glued on) psuedo carbon fiber parts with little to no functional reason to exist and engines tuned without the slimmest chance of proper tests.

But that's the world we live in, until I release my own octa-turbo-supercharged carbo-flying-uranium megagigawatt hypercruiserGT (tradermark, hands off). In the meantime, enjoy what Zagato has to offer while it lasts.

ll Watermarked Pictures and Words Copyright: Damiano Garro for The Italian Junkyard
Other shots copyright: Spada Vetture Sport
This article can be linked to from other websites but its content and the pictures can't be reproduced on any other website without my written permission Want to know more?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Stunning Red Head of humble horigins and her Blondie heir: 1959 Fiat 600 Viotti and 2014 Willys AW380 Viotti

Technically speaking, there is only the body color of this car, or the color of the leather of its pristine interior, to qualify it as a red head, or as a Rossa in Italian. Even if back in the sixties most relevant figures in the Italian automotive sector had already been working for several if not most companies and coachbuilders from the country, it would be at least far fetched to bring about some connection between this car and say Ferrari, just to carry on the red theme.

It's nonetheless a beauty, a little gem from the local evergreen automotive industry. I actually find that what qualifies Italy among the most famous countries in the world when it comes to cars, it's not just Ferrari, Lamborghini and all the other loud names in the business, but also the capability to give birth to such great cars regardless of their technical relevance to the world, their price, or their performance. Most coachbuilders from the past and present experimented with small cars, and not simply providing the design of the bodywork or some technical insight in their engineering. It was and still is about creating something unique, special, with a personality in some ways.

Obviously today the market is in a completely different situation. There is no point in calling in the ever present global crisis, as long as Mini can afford to sell a 2.700 € set of wheels on a 30.000 € or so stock Countryman (or simply as long as it sells the Countryman I might say) it is not a matter of money availability. Sure some people suffered the crisis, not going to argue that, but there are still quite some people who can afford to spend quite some cash on rather common and not so special cars. Targeting Mini buyers is quite simple and a bit on the generalist side of things, but you got the point.
What sells is the brand, and even more so the image connected to the brand. I happened to come across a man at the mall last week, dressed with expensive clothes and with a brand new pinkish-iPhone-something, which then walked over to his car. A dented VW Polo MK3/6N. Now I don't pretend everyone to be a car enthusiast, but I couldn't help but notice he was carrying around at least twice, or trice, the money in clothes and phone than what his car was worth. And he was just fine with it which is the most important thing I take.

So is there a place somewhere in a market overcrowded with generalist offerings, premium average cars and brands actually owned by the same conglomerate, for something bespoke and special such as a truly bespoke Fiat 500, or Mini? Simple and short answer, no.
Cars are definitely less "cool" than they were 50 years ago, they no longer represent freedom and independence, and they are often seen just as a mean of transportation, and expensive one because of fuel, insurance, taxes and servicing. It's an open secret that in a few decades cars will be used just as horses are used today. Sports, sporadic trips on the countryside, fairs and little else. We will be hovering over cities with individual egg-shaped pods connected among themselves to move us around as quickly and efficiently as possible, while giving us to have a relaxed conversation, read a book (or play some silly-saga game on our augmented reality visors) and probably have lunch too in the process. What a marvelous thing progress is.

I truly believe that, but at the same time, I feel more and more people not directly involved with progress are just embracing its side effects rather than be a part of it. With people "involved" I don't mean simply engineering, scientists and researchers all around the world, but also people simply interested in science and technological progress, up to date with what's going on. If you don't understand something, it's pretty easy to misuse it, and hi-tech devices casted in the furnaces of hell are no exception. Actually, I'm pretty sure my grand-grandmother would have been even harsher on smartphones and the likes. Luckily, my grandmother has been corrupted by an LCD television a while ago. Internet is still a mistery though.

While digressing is probably my best ability, the point is it's not very common to find such a car as this 1959 Fiat 600 Viotti. Built upon a rather common and simple car, the body of this coupe can compete at any concours d'elegance all around the world side by side by with much more expensive and famous names. An evidence to this is that a Viotti Fiat 600 was featured in the first aired episode of Chasing Classic Cars, one of the few modern "reality" shows worth watching, and probably the only one among those automotive-related. For a car collector from the States to be in love with this rare and quirky little car from italy, it must be something pretty special. Here is a clip from another episode.

The Snail...

Viotti itself is partially back as a coachbuilder with the recently unveiled Willys AW380, which does its best at transforming a Porsche Boxster/Cayman into a modern replica of the Alpine A108 that the Brazilian arm of Willys was licensed to build in the seventies. The scene of its unveiling was the rather disappointing and slowly dying Bologna Motor Show, now the only generalist auto show left in Italy after the demise of the Turin Auto Show in 2002 (the last exhibition being held two years earlier). How ironic that such a pivotal place for cars as Italy is left without a decent show of international relevance.
Viotti is also a design firm in the modern sense, providing engineering know-how and prototyping facilities for new experiments. Indeed, bonus points if you can recognize what they have been working on in the recent years, might as well cover that car as well...

All pictures copyrtight: Damiano Garro for The Italian Junkyard
Press images courtesy of Carrozzeria Viotti Torino Want to know more?

Friday, September 26, 2014

I like Mondays: my new life at Lamborghini

Been a while, but I have a good excuse this time.

A few weeks ago I landed myself a nice position at Lamborghini, R&D department.

Aside from the overexposure of Huracana and Aventadors in all shades and configurations, it's a great place to be, nice people, relaxed environment, and great food at noon too. Also, from time to time you get to see some very special toys like the pictured Veneno, the first one to be built and finished with red accents. The green model is presently in Miami in the hands of enthusiast and collector Kris Singh, who also got himself the first bespoke Pagani Huayra nicknamed La Monza Lisa, while the white coupe is in China/HK. As for the Veneno Roadsters, I haven't checked on them yet.

I was also lucky enough to see the equally rare Sesto Elemento during the final checks before its lucky owner could take possession of that precious little gem. I'm not a fan of the Gallardo LP570/4 SuperLeggera drivetrain, but the design is striking.

Of course there aren't and there won't be many pictures coming as its pretty much forbidden to the deadliest level, as you may imagine.

I'm obviously over the moon to be finally involved in the creation of these spectacular exotics. I'm even more blown away by the complication hidden behind every single detail, something that the average enthusiast often forgets to consider. If things are done in a specific way, there are good chance there are quite a few reasons why.

I'll be sure to enjoy my time there for you too :D

All Watermarked Pictures and Words Copyright: Damiano Garro for The Italian Junkyard
This article can be linked to from other websites but its content and the pictures can't be reproduced on any other website without my written permission

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Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Midsummer's Day quick story

This summer sucks on so many levels.
The end.

A rare and somewhat misunderstood BMW Z1 in Bologna downtown in a rare moment of sun so far.
I know better about it.


3 a period of hot, usually sunny weather
5 the period of finest development, perfection, or beauty previous to any decline: the summer of life

All Watermarked Pictures and Words Copyright: Damiano Garro for The Italian Junkyard
This article can be linked to from other websites but its content and the pictures can't be reproduced on any other website without my written permission

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Monday, June 23, 2014

2014 Vanishing Point: Pagani Zonda LM, bespoke endurance racing at its finest

With the introduction in June last year of the already featured Zonda Revoluciòn, something more needed to be done on the road going side of the Zonda world. The Zonda itself takes its roots back to the good old Group C days, an era of monstrous prototypes that could spank Formula 1 cars, with the added bonus of being raced at the world famous 24 Hours of Le Mans. The only racing effort of a Pagani car, and a completely unofficial one, saw a Zonda race car, called the Zonda GR, enter at Sebring and Le Mans in 2003, with very little success, and giving it a try again at the 2004 Le Mans test days, only to retire from the actual event because of a crash during a test at the Vallelunga race track prior to the race. To this day, the Zonda GR is still raced in Eastern Europe with somewhat decent results, finished in a green and black livery. Little is left from the original 2003/2004 version.

Here it is at Sebring 2003, Le Mans 2003, Le Mans Test days 2004 and at Hockenheim about 10 days ago.

So while Pagani was always adamant there were no racing intentions for the Zonda, race cars always offered inspiration. One might say the Zonda 760 RS was quite enough of a road going race car, as one Lewis Hamilton might say referring to his own Zonda LH, but apparently there is at least one customer that wanted something more. Take the Zonda 760 series and it monstrous 760+ BHP engine, 7 speed actuated gearbox and revised aero, add a stronger Le Mans flavor, build a completely new and so far bespoke front end almost directly taken from the Revoluciòn, a modified rear end plus a new massive wing, new headlights and some other bits and bites, and you get the brand new Pagani Zonda LM. LM obviously standing for Le Mans. Another good name would have been Zonda Monstrous Beast edition, or even the Pagani "I want one now" Zonda. You get it.

The car was already spotted in Andorra where its registered and at Pagani factory of course, but it was yet to completed in all its details. Now the customer can fully enjoy his new ultimate Zonda in all its glory, and what best occasion than a private rally around Italy with other customers and Pagani entourage? Added bonus, this is the 10th anniversary of the first Vanishing Point Pagani meeting, and it's probably still ongoing right now as I write.

Full disclosure, I said the event is private, indeed only customers, partners and friends are invited. While taking pictures outside of Pagani headquarter, I noticed people coming and going from the showroom, people clearly not part of the event and not invited. So I walked in, wondering if indeed it was OK. No one seem to bother, so I took a couple of shots of the blue Pagani Huayra #001, the first production car. A few seconds later, I was kindly shown the door. I felt so bad for it, so let me post my apologies here in public, my bad.

As you can see the front of the car is modeled after Le Mans prototypes, perhaps those from the more recent years rather than those pointy ends on the cars from the 80s and 90s. The new headlights are a complete departure from the usual Pagani design, with now all four elements under a single cover reminiscent once again of LM prototypes. A new LED DRL element is visible too. While I think the new front ads some freshness to the Zonda profile and nicely integrates in it, there is quite some gap between the front clam and the cockpit/windshield, but perhaps that was done on purpose for ventilation reasons, indeed you can spot two massive radiator fans underneath it. Autofocus played a fast one on me this time and I didn’t notice at first, an almost useless picture is the result.

As for the other major modifications, the rear end was adapted, rather than built from scratch as the overall design seems quite the same, to integrate a lower spoiler and additional tail lights quite similar to those found in the Zonda R and Revoluciòn, this time though they feature a built-in spoiler too. The main wing is massive, even more than the 760 series and mimicking that from the Revoluciòn cars, but this time the side planes/pillars have a more complex design. Maybe it’s the less homogenous feture of the car, but not something I’d call a deal breaker for sure. As for the interior, it seemed pretty much standard issue, except for the chrome finish of the metal plaques, something else I’d rather do without.

The thing is, this car is the result of the dedication of Pagani to provide customers and the automotive world with yet another gem, and a customer willing to get his dream car completely tailored according to his liking. Apparently he also owns the Zonda Cinque Roadster #1/5 also featured at the gathering and a Zonda R too. I might add that some Zonda Rs are presently being updated to Revoluciòn specs, for good measure.
Even if the result may or may not be our first choice, we should be simply happy that there are people out there willing to commission, and to build, such bespoke and extreme creations. The same goes for the ever growing Ferrari Special Projects program, some of their cars are awesome, other less so, but it’s simply exciting that they exist. So now you just have to go out and make some millions, no more excuses separating you from your ultimate supercar!

I also feel like Italian companies are better at building such special cars, something to do with the heritage, racing history and Mediterranean passion for all things wild and personal. I don’t see Porsche pulling out such bespoke and exotic models. Mercedes have been building unique versions of their cars for some very loyal and wealthy customers, but most of the time we are talking about special version of existing cars, with maybe a different engine, or transmission (those fifteen E 55 AMG 4-Matic W210 anyone?) or refurbished internals (the eleven or so 300 SL rebuilt with modern suspensions, engines, steering, etc).
The raw nature of Koenigsegg’s cars allow for some additional madness to be infused by a willing customer, and the One:1 program is a great example of what more can be done, but maybe their product is so extremely designed to reduce the margin for modifications. I’d expect the aerodynamics on the Agera to be pretty much the best they could come up with for those outstanding top speeds, but a new balance may be found nonetheless.
Bugatti has shown already that all they are willing to do is a new set of wheels and body finish, but maybe McLaren can prove me wrong with some additional bespoke models after the somewhat weird but fascinating X1 Concept from 2012. Also the new Special Operations division of Jaguar might be in for some suprises. Last year Project 7 Concept was very promising, although the death of the C-X75 program is hard to justify in my mind. That was one sexy supercar.

Some other pictures of the event and the 2014 Terra di Motori with the 100th Anniversary of Maserati and a Pagani Zonda Revoluciòn will follow soon.

All Watermarked Pictures and Words Copyright: Damiano Garro for The Italian Junkyard
Other shots copyright: Guy Golsteyn,,
This article can be linked to from other websites but its content and the pictures can't be reproduced on any other website without my written permission Want to know more?