Saturday, April 25, 2009
Judging by the site hit counter there has to be some expectation from my report about the Mantide's unveiling. It's been a tough day, sorry for the delay everyone. Be aware this is just the chronicle of the day, not the real review, which will follow as soon as possible. And I'll purposely skip those sorts of arguments and data you could probably read everywhere on the net. This is my experience, not a copy and paste from the usual press release.
Last night I couldn't sleep because of how much I was still excited. I mean, I was at the private presentation of a one-off styled by one of the most acclaimed car designer of this decade, me, an ordinary guy with a blog which isn't even two months old.
Just because of that, my English-talking abilities were gone to the trash bin the very moment I entered the Balocco proving ground.
I'm still excited.
After three hours of driving and the fear to be late at an event I didn't even know what to expect from, I arrived at the track's entrance with my girlfriend, which had been kindly invited too.
I had a phone number to call in case I lost my way or something, and it became pretty useful when I found out our names weren't on the list. No problem, I called Dario Nacci, COO Stile Bertone, and a second later we were on the bus.
Yeah, on the bus. Balocco is so huge you need a bus to travel across it, and being where all the new products by the Fiat Group are tested, foreign people and cars aren't allowed. Even before entering, a pearl white Alfa Romeo 8C Spider passed by. It's weird how I had to travel for 250 km to see a car is assembled right after my apartment in Modena.
Anyway, I was already trembling.
After a couple of minutes driving inside of the track seeing Maseratis under heavy tests we arrived at a nice villa at the center of the proving ground, were four Bertone's cars were on the center of the garden, all of them being based on GM's parts or cars.
The Chevrolet Corvette Nivola, the Chevrolet Corvette Ramarro, the Iso Grifo and the Corvair Testudo, which I already had the pleasure to meet in December 2008 at the "Dream, cars of the future since 1950" exposition in Turin.
The cars were obviously amazing, and the light was perfect too, after the rain followed us for the first third of the trip to Balocco.
All of these cars, as I said, are using parts from the GM galaxy, mainly from the Corvette family.
Just take note of this for some considerations lately.
All of this was a clear prelude to the Mantide. At this point it's not a secret the car is based on the C6 ZR1.
There was a nice buffet inside of the Villa. I was a little embarrassed, perceiving I was like a fish out of the water. I recognized Jason Castriota, of course, Bradley Farrell, Emanuele Bomboi, Mauro Silva, Marie Jeanne Bertone and other members of Bertone mainly from the videos, and while wondering if and how to introduce ourselves, Jason and Bradley looked in our direction, smiled, and walked towards us.
I don't really know if they recognized me from the small picture of mine I posted on the site, or if they assumed I was the guy molesting them with messages and tweets the days before since I was the only one they didn't know, but they came and say “Hi, I suppose you are The Italian junkyard”.
Long story short, we introduced ourselves, and chatted a little with them.
I was amazed they were thanking me for coming. Me, are you serious?!
Do you know who I am? No.
Exactly, I'm no one while you are Jason Castriota! I should be thanking you all the day long.
My brain simply refused to elaborate something sensed, while Jason was probably trying to help me talking in Italian.
Saying I was excited would be a joke. I was on another planet.
While they were engaged in formal chatting and welcoming the few guests, I started the usual photoshoot on the four cars exposed. Too many details, too many lines, it was just impossible to catch all of them.
After a while we were invited inside of the villa at the first floor, where a short introduction by Marie Jeanne Bertone, Jason himself and Mr Danisi (who followed the engineering of the car) was done for those who have lived on the Everest in the last month or so. Nothing I didn't already know, but it was nice to hear how Jason wanted to underline why they choose the ZR1.
First of all, with such a choice as the base car, the Mantide is like Jason himself, an Italian American, just the other way out.
It was also a technical choice. He explained, without sounding the usual American in love with the Corvette, that the ZR1 turned out to be basically one of the best engineered cars on the market. Quoting the Nurburgring lap record was an easy call, but it's actually a larger achievement than a similar time achieved by the hi-tech and highly complicated Nissan GT-R. The ZR1 is so simple, so genuine, it's a really remarkable that it topped the most acclaimed exotics.
Now I could say the former record holding, the Zonda F, was produced in 2005, 3 years before, and by a much smaller company despite adopting extremer solutions.
I don't want to discuss the lap times and relative claims, but it was pretty obvious since it's unveiling in 2004 that the C6 was a whole new world for Corvette.
On a final note, this project also stands for a sort of declaration about the value of GM, or of some parts of it at least, in these pretty tough days we all know about.
Everyone is good at saying what had been done wrongly or what should have been done differently, but none of us could imagine Corvette turning into this, without even considering it's striking recent racing career.
At the end of the speech, I got a cd with the hi res images of th car. I just can't get enough of hi res images.
It was the time to meet the Mantide. We took the bus again to reach a part of the track outside of the high speed ring. Once there, we heard the storm coming quickly.
Just a couple of second, and the Mantide was there, lapping around us, and meter after meter, I found myself moved.
Jason and Marie Jeanne parked after some laps, and finally the car was there to be adored.
It is a completely different thing in the flesh.
Everything I thought about car from the pictures I previously saw was simply useless, I had to re-elaborate every little detail, every reflection, every wing.
If you think this car is ugly, bad looking, weird, dumb or whatever, I don't care, and Jason either.
It's like trying to compare a Miura with a Stratos Zero. With all the beauty the Miura stands for, don't you dare saying the Stratos Zero isn't astonshing and beautiful at the same time, even if in a different way.
For our pleasure, the interior was finally unveiled too, and it was indeed very racing as Jason tipped us during the videos, while still maintaining a road car approach, with lights, LCD screens, and a real ergonomics, even if talking about a super one-off.
The engine bay is another nice surprise. It doesn't just flip on the front as in the Corvette, but first the bonnet slides forward, and then it can be manually flipped.
As all the mechanical parts, the engine is strictly standard. 641 bhp are enough, I dare to say, for a 100 kg lighter car.
Some other laps, and then the car was positioned on a bend of the track for the professional photographers to take pictures without all the few people all over the car.
I had the pleasure to stay there with them, despite being just a member from the entry level of the amateurish photography.
I couldn't stop from taking pictures at first, then I started looking at the car with my own eyes, not filtering it trough the lenses, noticing even more details I was just missing because focused on portraying a good photo. And I took even more shots.
It was getting darker and darker, and we moved back to the villa. Another buffet was welcoming us, while the final chats were taking places, with the few journalists asking all the kind of questions to Jason and his crew.
I was really exhausted, and still stormed by the emotions.
We had a final chat with Jason and Bradley. It was like talking to an old date friend, the whole situation was so easy going, I couldn't believe myself. I've been to a few formal events in the past, perhaps not completely cars related, and I was expecting the same level of snobbery, selfish superiority and basically the adult version of the fanboysm. Typical of the engineering world, I must say.
This was completely the opposite, absolutely nice persons, relaxed environment, pleasant chats and but still top level arguments.
I couldn't believe I was talking to Jason and the others sharing thoughts about the cars and the project as if my little opinion was equally important.
We left the track after just four hours, but I was tired as if I was staring since 6 am.
The smile I had on my face was the best summary of the day.
I can't express how happy I was and how much I would like to thanks again Jason and Bradley, and Stile Bertone itself for this precious and so inspiring project, which led to an even better day.
Just excuse the tedious chronicle, but now you perfectly know how it has been: great.
I kept the analysis of the car and other thoughts for another post.
I also modified a little the images while importing them trough photoshop, too dark?
Let me know.
All images copyright: Damiano Garro