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January 31st, 2007

Toly on Italian Carrozzeria

By Toly Arutunoff

Toly hated the Mustang. Slab sided, toothy, ill proportioned with terrible hubcaps. Could Italy do better?

Thanks for the interesting Kalikow article. It is amazing what legislation has done to the custom market. But it did remind me of the times I was distantly involved in only two custom projects, neither of which was actually realized.

Carrozzeria Mustang

The first was in 1965 at some little carrozzeria in Modena--tree stump and all--who showed me plans for what he could do to a Mustang for $5,000; lovely drawings, full leather interior including dash and headliner. I think the sons were getting edgy over the lack of custom business and increasing reliance on body repairs and were threatening to leave the business.

All I had to do was give them a car.

I just detested Mustangs and should've realized that "my" car wouldn't look at all like that homely thing afterward. He said it would take six months to complete from when I rolled the Mustang into his shop. I can't remember the name of the shop, but the logo is on a sticker on the toilet tank in my bedroom of our family home I sold over a dozen years ago. I didn't have a toolbox so all the interesting stickers got put on the toilet. I even had 'seat belts for the john,' a novelty item J.C. Whitney sold back then, but the present owners have removed them, leaving the stickers on. I think the name ended in a vowel..

The Morgan Fiat Abarth Zagato

The other time was when I went by Zagato after the '84 Mille Miglia. I had visited the Zagatos before, just at the time the Quattroruote Alfa (the 1750 Zagato Replica) was coming out. I mentioned to them that the wheels were too small. You should have seen their expressions. Later, I drove a new Quattroroute from that Lake Forest, Illinois Alfa dealership to Los Angeles for my niece. What a neat car, but without windwings the draft comes right into your left ear starting at 50mph and in two hours I had clogged sinuses and tonsillitis despite it being a warm sunny day.

Morgan had come out with Fiat-powered cars and since I was an Abarth nut with the 2000SP and had a new Lancia 037 which had more Abarth logos on it than (my toilet?) Lancia logos, I talked for a couple hours with the Zagato family about having them put a body on a Fiat-powered Morgan chassis with the engine hopped up by Abarth.

Arutunoff just walked into the Zagato factory and layed out plans for the Morgan Fiat Abarth Zagato.

I originally wanted to use one of the spare street 037 supercharged engines, but the Zagatos pointed out the torque would twist the chassis and reflect poorly on them, so I agreed to just adding big carbs, hot cam, headers--all the traditional stuff. I said the car had to follow the Morgan profile, but with peaked fenders--possibly cycle in front and even rear; a slight boat tail, and no doors, just an outside step with the Zagato logo and thick leather wrapping all around the cockpit opening, with a split-v windscreen.

The Morgan acutally utilized the Fiat 124 engine, among many others in the 1980s.

I should've thought further in two areas: what is a Mog but its body anyway, and even though Id won the national championship in '81 in my 4/4, Peter Morgan was incensed at my plans. The other thing I didn't think of until someone mentioned it a decade later: why didn't I just buy a used or wrecked Fiat-powered Morgan? I was so giddy at the prospect of my Morgan Fiat Abarth Zagato my mind just froze in pleasant anticipation for several months and then was shattered at Morgan's attitude. We even worked out the logo: the Morgan circle laid on top of a big z with the Abarth scorpion down the vertical leg of the Morgan cross, with the 4's on each side of the horizontal cross bar; Morgan wings out to the side as usual, of course. why oh why didn't I think of the used option--could even have sold the original body parts......ah well..

Karen and I went by Zagato a dozen years ago and they were overjoyed to see our Bristol Zagato. They said they'd been trying to find me to take photos of it for their book. Well, here it is, I said, and they loaned us a car to go shopping in Milan while they photographed it.

I betcha if all those little carrozzeria were still in existence you could take your Ferrari or whatever over to them and they'd do whatever you wanted without all the bureaucratic hassle. then you bring it home and do all the electronic stuff at a specialty shop here. If, if,. as IMSA racer Brian Goellnicht used to say, if your aunt had balls, she'd be your uncle.

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