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.

Friday, March 27, 2009

1.4 Italian Beauties

Welcome in Modena, where echoes of V8s roaring in the distance distract you during class at university.
Right from one of those tests taking place in the city's streets, we could consider the Maserati GranTurismo (S trim) and the Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione.

A small introduction on the latter, since so many wrong information about it are reported on magazines and websites. You can read on the low-quality Top Gear's own magazine it has a carbon fiber chassis, while wikipedia, on the Ferrari California's page, will tell you they has the same engine. They are both wrong.
As suggested above, the GranTurismo and the 8C are basically the same car, both build in Modena, in Maserati's factory, both with a steel chassis, both with the latest evolution of the V8 engine equipping the Trident's car since the unveiling of the 4200 GT, even if in two different power steps.
Alfa Romeo released, among others, some images of the drivetrain, and I personally saw the same parts of a GranTurismo S exposed at the 2007 edition of the Modena Terra di Motori event, a local exhibition in Modena's downtown. Obviously, they look and are the same. The only technical difference being the position of the fuel tank in the 8C due to a 270 mm shorter wheelbase, resulting in the weird boot of the Alfa, if we can call so the space for the bespoke swiftcase, and the additional rear seats on the Maserati.
Also for the record, there is no relationship, if not in smaller components, between the two cars mentioned above and the Ferrari California. It's true that the California was at first a Maserati project, obviously developed by Ferrari itself, but when they decided to make it a Ferrari, the design completely changed. As a proof, the Ferrari has an aluminum chassis, and the engine is the direct injection version of the F430's one.
Thanks to a friend working at Ferrari and Maserati for these and other information.

In this case, no critics at all were moved against this couple, concerning the idea of using the same technical components in two different looking cars. Maybe it was due to the long wait for the 8C, started back in 2003 with the first concept based on the Maserati 4200 GT, or Gransport, platform.
That very chassis, born with the 3200 GT, it's the grandfather of the present one, after giving birth to the Quattroporte's one back in 2004, which then served as the basis for the GranTurismo's one.
As a result, no one really bothered to talk seriously about this close relationship, and even their not very intriguing handling abilities ended up being a problem. Why? Probably just because they are generally regarded as beautiful. Being both Italians helped for sure, bringing the extra exotic bit to both. Maserati has a great image worldwide, and enthusiasts were willing to see Alfa coming back again too, so complaining was definitely out of question, but at least discuss it would have been constructive nonetheless, and less hypocrite too.
On one hand I have the Maserati, being maybe the best grand touring car available, being extremely good looking, fast enough to get you in big troubles on nearly every existing roads, and even luxurious and comfortable. It just lacks of an actual manual gearbox, in my book.
While on the other hand I have the 8C, which is a gorgeous car nonetheless, but it's quite a disappointment when it comes to the track experience, which should be one of the stronger points in an Alfa trying to revive the old brand's spirit. It also feels the weight of those years passed between the concept and the final unveiling, alternatively raising enthusiasts hopes and then letting them down with the continuous rumors about its production. As a result is as if it loosed a part of its specialness. From a personal point of view, also the change of the platform affected the final aesthetic result, modifying the overall proportions by maybe just some millimeters. It's not something directly viewable, but you perceive it. Then we could discuss about its weight, the suspensions, or the gearbox, but I still think the main point of this car was to be gorgeous to look at. Mission accomplished after all, but those doubts I wrote above are extremely annoying in my head.

By the way, some other small revelations: the same will happen again with the upcoming 8C Spider and GranTurismo Convertible, of course. With the first working soft top being manually mounted on the Alfa back in December, there is still a lot of work to do, but expect the Maserati version to be unveiled very soon, with the same soft top too, regardless of all the rumors about a folding hard top version.

Here are the pictures, spot the differences!

photos source: Alfa Romeo 8C,
photos copyright Alfa Romeo 8C underpinnings (Alfa Romeo), Maserati GranTurismo S underpinnings (Damiano Garro)

Maserati GranTurismo S photo copyright: Damiano Garro

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