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Italian car makers offer eye-catching, expensive designs at Geneva show

11 March 2003

Italian attitude is on display from Pagani at the Geneva International Motor Show, whose Zonda sports car has a cockpit that bulges up from its curvy, carbon-fiber body like that of a jet fighter.

The Germans have Porsche and Mercedes-Benz. The Americans have GM's Corvette and Ford's GT racer. But when it comes to absurdly fast, gorgeous cars, there's no one quite like the Italians. The general public gets a look when the Geneva International Motor Show opens Thursday for an 11-day run after Tuesday and Wednesday previews for reporters.

""This is a typical Italian sports car,"" said Bertone design firm spokesman Daniele Comil, gesturing at the one-of-a-kind Birusa concept car surrounded by onlookers. ""Very clean, very balanced."" Typical, for Bertone, apparently means: low, slinky roofline, gull-wing doors, infrared night vision screen, a Segway scooter that slides out of the back and, behind the wheel, a blonde model wearing only black lingerie and a clear plastic raincoat.

Bertone's stand sits next to those of its two main design competitors, Pininfarina and Italdesign-Giugiaro, all three from Turin, Italy. Unlike Bertone's concept car, Pininfarina's design for sports and racing car maker Ferrari is on sale to the general public, if one has 665,000 euros (US$711,000) for the Enzo Ferrari, named for the company's founder. It comes with an impressive 660 horsepower engine and a top speed of 350 kph (210 mph).

""This is the most extreme car we make,"" said Ferrari spokesman Simone Piattelli Palmarini. ""This is Formula One on the road."" Italdesign-Giugiaro, which does design and engineering work for manufacturers, set out its calling card concept car: the Corvette Moray, done with General Motor's permission on a Corvette platform, but like no Corvette that ever rolled, with a clear bubble roof split by two upswinging doors.

""It's an Italian version of the American dream,"" said spokesman Franco Bay.






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