Because Italy is more than a geographic expression..

Alessi S.P.A. US

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Captivating Aura Of Italian Creativity

Perusing up and down WSJ I spotted an article about a Stanford physics professor and his love for Alfa Romeo. 

"...When I look at a car, I don’t just see a vehicle, but a set of values of the people who dreamed it up. The car pictured here is a 1972 Alfa Romeo Spider. I love the styling, but it’s really a car all about driving. Every aspect of the design is about performance. There was no focus group to decide where to put a ketchup holder, no gimmicks or fake wood grain. 
"Italian cars in the early 1970s got a reputation for poor quality, but it’s not warranted. These cars were very sophisticated for their time, and they required knowledge and competence from the people servicing them. This competence was not commonly found at a corner gas station. It wasn’t that the cars were pieces of junk. People just didn’t know how to take care of them..."

I may be mistaken but the cost of quality steel in the 1970s from countries in Western Europe skyrocketed leaving car manufacturers in Italy with little options except to use lower-grade steel from Russia which in part explained why they rusted as one person explained to me years ago.

In any event, he gets right to the heart of what distinguishes and differentiates Italian creativity from the rest. It's hoped I can convey this message in this (poorly run) blog.

From the comments:

"As an owner of 2 Alfas and a few other Italian cars, I couldn't agree more. Every time I sit in one of these cars I marvel at the unobtrusive competence of the people who designed them. They are made for the driver to shine, not to show off the engineers' capabilities. There are no gimmicks, no complicated interfaces that seem to be there only because the engineers could do it, no superfluous features, nothing except the man-machine interaction. These cars are a pure expression of the Italian designers' credo, harkening back to Roman times and building on the humanism of the Renaissance, that man is the measure of all things and that technology should be at the service of man. It is this idea that pervades the Italian way of life, you can see it every day when you visit Rome or Florence or Bologna or Milan, and it is embodied in the cars that they make. And in the motorcycles, and the boats, and the watches, and the clothes..."

An accurate and apt description if you ask me.

Many years ago my cousin explained to me while visiting Italy that Italians don't look for comfort in cars like North Americans and Northern Europeans do. Italians want to feel the enraged sexy might of their cars. They have a passion and panache for speed and more speed. Their car culture simply reflects and mirrors this appetite for speed through cutting edge design. It's what's keeps their creative juices flowing. It reminds them they're alive.

That's why you don't see too many Italian luxury cars. They do exist among the Maserati, Lancia and even Alfa ranks, while unsurprisingly beautiful and comfortable, it's not their specialty.


Which got me thinking. How many truly great racing nations are there? By this, I mean countries that create the machines to feed their lust for speed.

Off the top of my head, the obvious ones that spring to mind are the United States, Great Britain, Italy, France, and Germany. Japan, Australia, Spain, Brazil, Argentina and even Canada can also been thrown into the mix. Japan is a great producer but its racing culture is not as vibrant. The others are nations that have provided talent but not necessarily the machines - by this I mean speedy boats, planes, automobiles, motorcycles and whatever else people race.

So that leaves the first six. And out of those mighty six,  in my view, the U.S, G-B and Italy stand out as the biggest racing cultures.

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