Italian classics celebrating anniversaries in 2019


The iconic Ferrari Dino 246 GT is 50 years old in 2019, but it’s not the only classic car celebrating a big birthday.

We’ve chosen 10 cars launched every 10 years between 1969 and 1999 to give you a flavour of this year’s automotive anniversaries – from family runabouts to supercars, with a couple of curiosities thrown in.

There are other major motoring milestones in 2019 too – Fiat is 120, while Abarth turns 70, so plenty more to celebrate.

Fasten your seat-belts for a trip down memory lane…

Fiat 128 – 50th birthday

1969-Fiat-128Fiat knows a thing or two about small cars and the cute 128 (1969–1985) was no exception. Named European Car of the Year in 1970, more than three million were built. With an engine up front powering the front heels, it was remarkably spacious given its compact dimensions – even Enzo Ferrari drove one as his personal vehicle. Production of licensed models including a pick-up and coupe, continued until 2003 in countries as varied as Argentina, Colombia, South Africa and Sri Lanka. A true people’s car.

Ferrari Dino 246 GT – 50th birthday

1969-Ferrari-Dino-246-GT-RM-SothebysThe curvaceous Ferrari Dino 246 GT (1969-1974) was an evolution of the Dino 206 GT, with a larger V6 engine and a wheelbase lengthened by 60mm. Apart from the longer body, the design was virtually identical, with just a longer engine cover and a repositioned fuel cap. Famously driven by Tony Curtis (Danny Wilde) in The Persuaders! TV series, the car proved commercially successful, and three series were produced during its lifespan. When production stopped in 1973-4, demand was still high.

Maserati Ghibli Spyder – 50th birthday

1969-Maserati-Ghibli-Spyder-RM-SothebysDesigned by the young Giorgetto Giugiaro, the Maserati Ghibli was the hit of the 1966 Turin Motor Show. A rival to the Lamborghini Miura and the Ferrari 365 GTB/4 ‘Daytona’, the Spyder version was launched in 1969. The first of the V8 Maserati GT cars, the Ghibli could accelerate from 0-60mph in 6.8 seconds and topped out at 154mph – remarkably fast in its day. Although it was capable of supercar performance, it was also very driveable. Only 150 Spyders were built, making it highly collectable. The Ghibli went out of production in 1973 and it was succeeded the following year by the Bertone-designed Khamsin.

Fiat 130 – 50th birthday

1969-Fiat-130Think Fiat and a large six-cylinder executive car would not spring to mind. Produced between 1969–1977, the sharp-edged 130 was just that. However, it was overshadowed by the more attractive coupe version, launched in 1971, which featured large, rectangular headlights, a seductive profile and serious road presence. Later examples of the saloon benefited from the coupe’s headlights, but ultimately the 130 was a commercial flop and few have survived thanks to the biggest enemy of 1970s’ cars – rust.

Iso Lele – 50th birthday

1969-Iso-LeleFounded in 1953, Iso is Italy’s forgotten car maker. Perhaps best known for producing the iconic Isetta bubble car of the 1950s, it went on to create some powerful performance cars in the 1960s and early 1970s. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the launch of the Iso Lele – the company’s last GT and a gorgeous piece of Italian exotica. Named after the daughter-in-law of Iso company founder Renzo Rivolta, the 2+2 was styled by Marcello Gandini of Bertone. Less than 300 were built and they were powered by big Chevrolet Corvette V8s. Production ceased in 1974 when the Iso factory doors closed for the last time.

Lancia Delta – 40th birthday

1979-Lancia-Delta-HF-IntegraleDesigned by Giorgetto Giugiaro, the Lancia Delta hatchback (1979–1994) was launched at the Frankfurt Motor Show and went on to win the European Car of the Year award. Potent Delta HF 4WD and Integrale versions were to follow and competition cars dominated the World Rally Championship during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Oh, and it’s worth Googling the stunning one-off two-door convertible specially made for Fiat president Gianni Agnelli. If only…

Alfa Romeo Alfa 6 – 40th birthday

1979-Alfa-Romeo-Alfa-6Built between (1979-1986), the Alfa 6 is something of a curiosity. It was Alfa Romeo’s attempt to build a flagship luxury car so that it could compete with the likes of BMW and Mercedes-Benz. With its throaty 2.5-litre V6, it was reportedly Italy’s fastest four-door production car for a while. Facelifted in 1983 (single rectangle headlights replaced the twin round units), there was no getting away from its boxy design, so ultimately just 6,589 Alfa 6s were manufactured and it’s now a rare sight.

Ferrari 348 – 30th birthday

1989-Ferrari-348-TBProduced between (1989–1995), the sleek 348 was heir to the 328 GTB, offering a new interpretation of the two-seater mid-engined V8 berlinetta. The body combined styling cues from the Testarossa (side strakes) and was the final V8 mid-engine model developed under the direction of Enzo Ferrari before his death. Manufactured as a coupe, targa and spider, critics claimed early cars lacked the driving dynamics expected of a Ferrari. However, the 348 was developed during its lifetime and it’s now more highly regarded.

Alfa Romeo SZ – 30th birthday

1989-Alfa-Romeo-SZThe stunningly brutal 1989 Alfa Romeo SZ sports coupe (it was followed by a roadster version called the RZ in 1992) is one of the most iconic cars produced by the Italian marque. Affectionately nicknamed ‘Il Mostro’ (the monster), it was manufactured at the famous Zagato factory. Built on a chassis derived from the Alfa Romeo 75, it was powered by a thunderous 3.0-litre ‘Busso’ V6 engine producing 207bhp. By the time SZ production ended in 1991, a little over 1,000 had been built, making it highly collectable.

Ferrari 360 Modena – 20th birthday

1999-Ferrari-360-ModenaSucceeding the Ferrari F355, the 360 Modena was launched in 1999 and was followed later by the 360 Spider and finally a special edition – the Challenge Stradale. Named after the birthplace of Enzo Ferrari (1898-1988), the Modena remained in production until 2005 when it was replaced by the F430. Modern, lightweight and sophisticated, it was the first production Ferrari to be constructed entirely in aluminium. Widely acclaimed, the 360 Modena was also a perfectly usable and reliable supercar.

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