By Stuart Schwartzapfel
Faralli & Mazzanti, a well-respected Italian coach builder and classic car restorer, showed its Antas V8 GT at the Top Marques exhibit in Monte Carlo from April 20-23. The Antas was inspired by the manufacturing processes and luxury materials typical of the "golden era" of Italian car design -ñ the mid-century decades in which benchmarks of style were created and developed. The engineering that went into this prototype draws directly from the grand touring cars of the 1960s.
The Antas V8 GT rides on a steel tubular frame wrapped in a hand-crafted aluminum body. Before the prototype was produced, its builders created, again by hand, a dummy model out of bent-iron tubes. They then used the traditional method to shape the aluminum body: precise hammer blows that, little by little, transform the flat metal sheets into the sculpted form.
Despite Faralli & Mazzantiís focus on Italian tradition, the Antas looks more like a premium French model from the '20s-30s period. The swooping and voluptuous fenders and the shape of the greenhouse (the glass portion of the roof and windows that covers or surrounds the cockpit) borrow from the curvy design language of that era. Stylistic heritage aside, the Antas is classy, graceful, and stunning from every angle.
FAITHFUL TO TRADITION. The carís exterior features include a flush-fitting gas inlet flap set into the rear screen, which evokes memories of past Le Mans racing cars. Unique roof-mounted wipers clean a split front windscreen. Probably the most striking design cue is the tailgate-mounted tail fin, which incorporates a small video camera that transmits a feed to the cockpit giving the driver maximum rear visibility. This tail fin, and the exposed bolts that connect it, are a beautiful reminder of the 1938 Bugatti 57SC Atlantic. The side-mounted exhaust outlets are also a cool touch, achieving an effect similar to that of Morganís latest Aero 8 model.
A powerful Maserati V8 engine, fed by carburetors, powers the Antas. The fact that this is not a fuel-injected car shows how faithful Faralli & Mazzanti were to the era that inspired the prototype.
The interior is finished in soft, opulent, hand-sewn brown leather, and includes a roof-mounted ignition flick switch and engine starter button, a dashboard LCD screen for the rear-mounted visibility camera, and an instrument panel decorated with precious metals. An individually numbered identification plate made of silver also graces the cockpit.
It is unclear if this car will be available for individual commission or is to remain an exercise in design and production.
The Verdict: The Antas prototype is a significant accomplishment for Faralli & Mazzanti, which is known primarily for restoration and produces few cars of its own. The prototype also holds open the possibility of owning a modern car hand-crafted in the tradition of classic Italian coach builders.
Schwartzapfel, a certified car freak, writes BusinessWeek.com's Concept of the Week column. He has studied the automotive marketplace and worked as an advertising/marketing strategist for major manufacturers. He does not write about any car brands for which he currently works.