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Historical reinterpretation Ferrari Berlinetta Lusso
In the finest tradition of Italian coachbuilding, Touring Superleggera has unveiled a stunning rebodied version of Ferrari’s mighty F12 supercar. Dale Drinnon drives it. Photography Martyn Goddard.
Funny thing about secrets: after you know them, they seem obvious, and it's hard to understand why the people so mesmerised as we motor sublimely past can't identify what it is they're coveting. Surely the classic eggcrate grille, the signature character lines highlighting the graceful flanks, and that feral V12 yowl could mean only one thing: Italy's most illustrious manufacturer and the design house that shaped its first real series-made automobile are back together. Unofficially, at least, and in limited numbers for the lucky few.
The manufacturer, of course, is Ferrari, the design house is #Carrozzeria-Touring , coachbuilder for the seminal #Tipo-166MM of #1948 , and the car we're driving is called the #Berlinetta-Lusso , produced by Touring on the awe-inspiring #Ferrari-F12 platform. And the reason for the hush-hush is that we're hustling this as-of-yet one-of-a-kind objet d'art round the public roads of Northern Italy, bold as thunder and twice as loud, more than a week before its world debut at the Geneva international motor show. Life just doesn't get no more Old School Italian than this.
Then again, the whole project is pretty Old School Italian. Carrozzeria Touring, now formally called #Carrozzeria #Touring #Superleggera , was among the pioneers of what we now consider quintessential Italian automotive style. Founded in 1926, it set trends throughout the era when owners of taste and distinction had their machinery custom-tailored as readily as their clothing. Touring had the inside line on competition bodywork, thanks to its trademark Superleggera, or 'super-light' construction, which is why #Enzo-Ferrari , familiar with its work from his #Alfa-Romeo experience, turned that way for the heavily race-oriented #166MM .
Touring had some spectacularly hard times in the post-1950s, going inactive for decades (though not quite bankrupt, thanks to the heroic efforts of long-time CEO and co-founder's son, Carlo Anderloni), but since its acquisition in 2006 by Dutch concern Zeta Europe BV, also owners of Borrani, it has successfully reapplied the early company principles. They concentrate on one-off and short production runs of singular designs for a discerning clientele, manufacturer's concept studies, niche production of contract specialist jobs: the full repertoire of the typical small- manufacturer business model. Dedicated Italian car enthusiasts will doubtless be familiar with its critically acclaimed #Alfa-8C -based Disco Volante.
'From any angle the final shape is cleaner than the original car’s, and extremely well balanced’
It was indeed such handiwork that enticed an anonymous but prominent Ferrari collector to approach Touring Superleggera for a private commission: translating the intensely high-performance and aggressively styled F12 supercar into a more elegant, more Lusso idiom. In addition, he wanted it configured in the three-box architecture now rare among performance coupes, with visually separate volumes for motor, interior and boot. It would be, in essence, an updated version of the great front-engined Ferrari uber-GTs of old, such as the exclusive and potent 500 Superfast.
That collector must have been slightly puzzled, however, when Louis de Fabribeckers, Touring's head of design, seemed already way ahead of him. 'I was dreaming about this car for years and years and years,' he says, 'since I first started designing cars, certainly; a three- volume car, simple, very classic, with the long bonnet and small greenhouse. It's one of my favourite themes of all time, so it was very natural, very satisfying, to finally build it.'
Louis also says the F12 was eminently adaptable to this composition although, as per his usual practice, extensive time and effort went into reaching optimum proportions before any other elements were even seriously considered ('If you start with the wrong proportions, nothing else you do can ever make up for them'). The roofline curvature in particular required significant attention, and from every direction, to reach exactly the effect he wanted, due to the conversion from two- box to three-box profile. Integrating the rear overhang was, not surprisingly, another delicate issue when adding a boot volume, while also critically 'finishing' the car's lines, instead of merely ending them.
Viewed from any angle, the final shape is noticeably cleaner than the original car's, and extremely well balanced. The surface treatments and detailing (what Louis calls the styling, as opposed to the design) are simpler, too. There is little in the way of added excitement or extraneous flourishes, and both the nose and tail are underplayed compared with the fashion of racer-rep grittiness.
The grille, narrower and taller than the F12's squat, wall-to-wall rendition, also gently evokes that feature of the 166MM, as does the creased swage line sweeping back along the waist. It's a Carlo Anderloni touch that has recurred on several Touring designs, from the 166 through the #Lamborghini-350GT to the #BMW Mini Vision concept car produced last year. Overall, de Fabribeckers displays a lightness of hand suited to the objective of creating a latter-day Italian luxury express.
Primary body panels are executed in aluminium formed manually over styling bucks in the traditional manner, which is really the only way to achieve that lovely, long body crease and still have doors that open without shut lines bigger than a politician's expense account. Such non-structural panels as bonnet, skirts and splitters are carbonfibre, and the alloy door handles, exhaust tips and forged wheels are bespoke. Touring poetically refers to this blue metallic paint as Azzurro Nioulargue, alluding to the shifting shades of the Mediterranean, and it genuinely does amazing things in changing light.
Interior mods seem minor beside the body revamp; the dash is basically the F12's but look closer and you spot instances where carbonfibre has been replaced with brushed aluminium or leather, and discreet niceties such as the colour-coded air con vents, and the Berlinetta Lusso badge below the main triplevent grouping that turns them into a cockpit focal point. Seat facings in cream leather and a matching slash across the door panels and parcel shelf lighten and enrich the atmosphere.
With multi-way power adjustment for driver's seat and steering column, it's almost impossible not to find a driving position that fits, and the interior is comfortable and surprisingly roomy, reportedly a Ferrari priority with the F12. The new roofline still leaves adequate headroom, assuming you replicate the passably average dimensions of this correspondent. Personal opinions on paddle shifting, automatic parking brakes and similar modernisms put aside, they're exactly the same here as in the F12, and admittedly just as flawless in operation.
Road performance is also exactly the same, as the mechanical package remains just as #Ferrari made it. Which is to say the whopping normally aspirated V12 will leave you breathless, and that's no half-arsed figure of speech: after the first couple of solid blasts through the gears you'll realise you've actually forgotten to suck any air, and your face has gone all tingly. Although that last symptom might be strictly down to g-forces. Touring also says it tests religiously to ensure the chassis dynamics don't suffer from possible weight re-distribution, and real world driving substantiates that.
When it comes to pure, raw speed numbers, however, it's hardly worth speculating beyond official factory specs; each #Berlinetta-Lusso could differ in weight, since each will be built to the customer's wishes - and Touring will accommodate a wide variety of those. Flexibility being a company credo, some detailing changes are even in discussion before our subject car goes to Geneva. Consequently, Touring won't quote prices, but it's safe to assume the 5000 hours of various labours required for every unit won't be cheap, and that's on top of the roughly quarter-million pounds' worth of Ferrari stripped down to begin the process.
Touring Superleggera's agreement with the commissioning client for series production extends at this point to a mere five examples, and completion time is projected as six months from delivery of the donor Ferrari to its workshops in Milan. The car is EU type-approved, and Touring won't rule out having a go at different regs in other parts of the world, such as North America. Small companies can often be extremely flexible.
From a solely rationalist, functionalist perspective, there will be many who don't understand the Berlinetta Lusso, granted, and anyone who judges a car by its merits as a mechanical device alone must find this a bewildering exercise. But if you appreciate some extra style, grace and sophistication, and oceans of artistry with your high velocity, you'll twig its special place in the automotive cosmos straight away. After all, there were those who preferred the 500 Superfast, and those who preferred the #Ferrari-250GTO . There are also those who think the perfect compromise would be one of each. Individuals of taste and distinction should have more than one suit in their wardrobe, shouldn't they?
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION on the Berlinetta Lusso visit www. touringsuperleggera. eu
Car #2015 #Carrozzeria-Touring-Superleggera-Berlinetta-Lusso
ENGINE 6262CC V12, DOHC, 48-valve, direct fuel injection
POWER 730bhp @ 8250rpm
TRANSMISSION Seven-speed dual-clutch sequential transaxle, rear-wheel drive, limited-slip differential
STEERING Power-assisted rack-and-pinion
Front: double wishbones, coilsprings, adaptive dampers, anti-roll bar.
Rear: multi-link, coilsprings, adaptive dampers, anti-roll bar.
BRAKES Carbon-ceramic discs, #ABS
PERFORMANCE Top speed 211mph. 0-62mph 3.1sec
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- Touring Superleggera Berlinetta Lusso This year’s Geneva Motorshow must have set a new record in terms of sports-, super-, and hyper-car unveilings oTouring Superleggera Berlinetta Lusso
This year’s Geneva Motorshow must have set a new record in terms of sports-, super-, and hyper-car unveilings of any motorshow to date, with nearly every brand wanting to take advantage of the surplus disposable cash, floating around globally and itching to be spent. #Carrozzeria-Touring – founded in #1926 in Milan and inventor of the ‘Superleggera’ coachbuilding technique was no exception, and the small Italian coachbuilder arguably presented the most beautiful highlight of the show.
To brand Carrozzeria Touring’s ‘Touring Superleggera Berlinetta Lusso’ a ‘Ferrari’ would arguably precede great legal implications – primarily for the manufacturing coachbuilder – yet the origins of the Ferrari F12 berlinetta as a basis of this transformation can neither be hidden nor denied, even if all prancing horses were removed prior to its official debut.
Let’s make this very clear: the Touring (Ferrari) Superleggera Berlinetta Lusso is one beautiful, if not divine, automobile. It is ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ of Louis de Fabribeckers’ design team following the successful Alfa Romeo Disco Volante. One can only but shake one’s head why Maranello has not granted this fiveoff hyper niche product its official seal of approval; certainly more ‘questionable’ beauties have rolled-out Ferrari’s own SP department in recent years.
The (Ferrari) Berlinetta Lusso is based on Ferrari’s class-slaughtering #F12 #berlinetta and despite 5000 man-hours of craftsmanship and six months of ageing, none of the donor’s benchmark performance figures are compromised in the process. The very subtle modifications include a bonnet, boot-lid and apron in hand-beaten aluminium using the same traditional coachbuilding techniques as once applied pre-1966 by the original Carrozzeria Touring founders Carlo Felice Bianchi Anderloni and Gaetano Ponzoni.
Design wise one cannot resist appreciating the old-school design approach, trading Italian Upper-Class feel for the ‘Playstation Design’ of its ‘mass –produced’ siblings leaving Maranello’s official factory gates. Could the (Ferrari) Berlinetta Lusso be criticised for being one panel-beat to stale and boring? Possibly, but then again, it only needs five conservative Ultra High Net Worth Individual (UHNWI) collectors, all dreaming of still living in 1950s Dolce Vita, to sellout production; and that must seem realistic, even for the most pessimistic of investors.
Carrozzeria Touring have done a fantastic job. Would I rather own a Touring ( #Ferrari ) Superleggera Berlinetta Lusso than a #Ferrari-F60 America? Possibly. One thing I am certain of is that every single one of the five very lucky owners will – even before removing the protection film or fuelling – add the badges that Carrozzeria Touring so cavalierly removed, back on where they truly belong. More ...