TURIN, Italy—A 50-ton hydraulic press smashes a sheet of rare aluminum. As we try to photograph it, a stern Italian man in his late 50s looks at us and drags his thumb across his neck. Over the din of machinery we hear another man say, “Watch his hand; he will kill you.” There are at least 20 secret projects happening here at Centro Esperienze Costruzione Modelli e Prototipi, or CECOMP, a coachbuilder that has quietly been creating next-level concept cars for Aston Martin, BMW, Ferrari, Ford, and Porsche for more than 40 years. But today, we’re getting an exclusive drive of the company’s first solo project, the $2.8-million Icona Vulcano.
Out of the gates of this secretive facility on the outskirts of the ancient city of Turin comes the Vulcano, a one-off creation built with assistance from CECOMP’s sister design house, Icona. It has a unique titanium and carbon-fiber body, and it got its name partly because the titanium welding process required a special vacuum chamber so it wouldn’t combust, like a volcano. The naked titanium body takes 10,000 hours of handcrafting and every square inch is detailed with delicate hammering.
Gianluca Forneris, the son of the owner of CECOMP, comes over and, sadly, informs us of his father’s passing the night before. Gianluca’s father, Giovanni Forneris, was a legendary car designer and had a hand in the drafting and building historical icons like the DeLorean, Maserati Biturbo, and Lotus Esprit. As we walk down a hallway of closed doors posted with “No Admittance” and “No Photo” signs, Gianluca tells us how his father built CECOMP from the ground up. He stops at the last door, scans his badge, and a loud buzzer sounds. Inside is a sharp and dramatic silhouette inspired by the world’s fastest plane, the SR-71 Blackbird. Here is the titanium Vulcano.
Voluptuous shapes evacuate hot air from the front-mounted engine and reduce air turbulence generated by the wheels. Gianluca opens the hood to show off the supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 engine tuned by industry masters Claudio Lombardi, ex-Scuderia Ferrari director, and Mario Cavagnero, the man behind the Lancia Racing team and father of championship-winning cars like the famous Integrale and 037. The engine is capable of producing more than 1,000 horsepower should the owner demand it, though it is currently tuned at a relatively mild 670 hp and 620 lb-ft of torque. The paddle-shift, close-ratio gearbox was custom-built just down the road, between Fiat and Ferrari’s factories, and the front-mounted powertrain works to move the Vulcano from 0 to 60 mph in 2.8 seconds, 0 to 120 mph in 8.8 seconds, on to a top speed of 220 mph.
We’re eager to drive the Vulcano, but Forneris and the CECOMP team are fearful something negative could befall this one-off before it finds a buyer. On September 1, the Vulcano will go on sale, and three lucky buyers will vie for the chance to take it home. For now, though, the thought of this automotive Mona Lisa careening off a rocky hillside toward the Basilica di Superga cathedral may put the brakes on our countryside test drive. An hour later we’re in motion, but the Vulcano is the front of our convoy—in a transport truck. A cobblestone bridge leads up and out of town, an ancient road lined with manicured hedges and stone walls. After dodging some wild boar, we get to the top of the mountain and unload the Vulcano.
Forneris switches on the ignition. “We only got the gauges working last week,” he says. A 350-kmh speedometer lights up red, and the odometer reads 00001 km. The interior is covered in soft grey suede and carbon fiber, and there’s a simple, Tesla-style 10-inch LCD display in the center stack where most functions can be controlled and monitored. Forneris pushes the big red start buttonon the steering wheel, but it stays surprisingly quiet inside; the rumbling echo of the engine plucked from a Corvette ZR1 engine is great background noise as Forneris does a first pass to make sure everything is working properly. “I’m so nervous,” he says. “This is an historic day for us. The culmination of six years of engineering and design, and I have only driven it on and off the transport truck.”
Finally, Forneris cuts us loose in the Vulcano. You can feel every imperfection in the pavement, and the Vulcano’s overwhelming amount of instant torque necessitates light inputs on the accelerator, especially since almost no roads here are straight. Fortunately, there are plenty of fantastic corners to test the chassis and handling. “I wanted to have a drivable car, so the setup is much looser then we would use on a track car,” Forneris says. The adaptive suspension can switch between three disparate settings, but we stay on the softer side of things since the roads aren’t too smooth.
We’re surprised the body panels aren’t flying off as we accelerate, seeing how each titanium quarter panel is only .05 millimeter thick. We run up and down the road until approaching storm clouds force us back up mountain for a few last-minute photos in front of the basilica. Forneris looks on, smiling as local school children being to swarm around the car. “It’s the excitement in those kids eyes that helps me realize why my father and I did this,” he says.
Icona Vulcano Specifications
|Engine:||6.2L supercharged OHV 16-valve V-8/670 hp @ 6,600 rpm, 620 lb-ft of torque @ N/A|
|Layout:||2-door, 2-passenger, front-engine, rear-wheel-drive coupe|
|L x W x H:||175.2 x 77.2 x 48.8 in inch|
|0-60 MPH:||2.8 sec (est)|
|Top Speed:||220 mph|