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15 Oct 2013
Rob Griffin Rob Griffin

The best and worst Italian cars ever


Motoring journalist Rob Griffin takes a look at some of the best and worst cars that Italy has produced.

italian cars collage

When you think of Italian car manufacturers, the chances are your mind will conjure up images of blood-red Ferraris growling on open roads.

But there’s far more to this country than just the production of supercars.

Alongside many of the stunning, adrenaline-packed rides have been some of the plainest, most basic vehicles to roll off a production line.

The best Italian cars ever made - Fiat 500

old fiat

It scores so many points for styling, fuel efficiency and ease of use that there’s little wonder more than a million of these unique cars have been made.

The original dates back well over half a century but the new version that arrived in 2007 already has plenty of fans.

A new Fiat 500 will cost you between £10,000 and £16,000, depending on the model chosen.

Meanwhile, you should expect to pay comfortably in excess of £5,000 for an older model, especially one that has been professionally restored.

The best Italian cars ever made - Lancia Delta Integrale

Lancia Delta

The original Lancia Delta that arrived on our shores in the early 1980s was a relatively mild mannered five-door hatchback.

However, the Integrale version was an absolute beast with four-wheel drive and a turbo charged engine.

More at home on the rally circuit than on the weekly shop, the Integrale was a tough, bulging powerhouse of a car and is now widely tipped to be a future classic.

If you can find one in great condition then it’s definitely worth considering.

The best Italian cars ever made - Ferrari F40

Ferrari F40

There’s no shortage of fantastic Ferraris but the F40 is simply phenomenal.

Described by Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson as "the best supercar of them all", the F40 arrived in the late 1980s and held the record for being the fastest production car after hitting 201.4mph.

It was minimalistic in the extreme with everything being stripped to the bone in order to save weight, but its performance was outstanding and it looked the part.

It was also surprisingly popular with around 1,300 sold – a vast number for any Ferrari.

The worst Italian cars ever made - Maserati Biturbo

Maserati Biturbo

On paper the Maserati Biturbo should have been a winner.

It came with most things offered by the BMW 325 – the car it was designed to take on – with the bonus of a luxury interior.

But it just wasn’t up to scratch, says Giles Chapman, author of The Worst Cars Ever Sold.

“It was designed and developed on a bit of a shoestring so the build quality was poor,” he says.

“Although it initially enjoyed massive sales in America, the truth came out a couple of years later that it was badly built and sales fell off a cliff.”

The worst Italian cars ever made - Fiat 124

old fiat

If you could guarantee it would never rain again then the Fiat 124 would be perfect.

A mid-sized family car that was produced from 1966 to 1974, it was quite nippy and was awarded the 1967 European Car of the Year.

The problems, however, came when it clouded over.

"The metal was very thin and it had virtually no rust proofing," recalls Chapman.

"When Lada built a version of the 124 it was virtually identical, apart from the fact the bodywork was twice as thick and the underneath was beefed up to withstand the Russian winters."

The worst Italian cars ever made - Alfa Romeo Alfa 6

Alfa Romeo Alfa 6

This could have been so good.

When Alfa developed a muscular 2.5 V6 engine they made the bizarre decision to marry it with the Alfa 6 – a hybrid vehicle that combined the middle part of an Alfetta with a longer nose and boot.

The result was disastrous. "You can’t fool customers," says Chapman.

"When you get an elderly centre section, an ugly front and back, and a brand new engine, people will see through it.

"It’s certainly not the way that Mercedes went about its business."


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