As a follow up to its successful and wonderful Sensuous Steel: Art Deco Automobiles exhibition of 2013, Nashville’s Frist Center for the Visual Arts has launched Bellissima! The Italian Automotive Renaissance, 1945–1975. With the help of renowned journalist and legendary car guy Ken Gross, the Frist plays host to a temporary collection of Italian cars that would buckle the knees of even the most seasoned concours judge. Here are eleven automotive jewels you can expect to see if you mosey on down to Nashville.
The Trio of Alfa Romeo BATs
If you go to the Frist for any reason, go for these three cars. These three wonderfully striking concept cars were created as a joint venture between Alfa Romeo and the storied design house Bertone, designed to cut through the air with the least amount of drag possible. Three cars emerged from Bertone, each introduced at the Turin auto show between 1953 and 1955. While the cars are currently on long-term loan with the Blackhawk Museum in California, they don’t remain together for long. Check them out while you can.
1962 Ferrari 250 GTO
If you’ve ever wondered what a $40 million car looked like, this is it. Multiple 250 GTOs have crossed the auction block in the past few years, with prices reaching all the way up to a record-setting $38 million in 2014. These 250 GTOs are prized above all other cars for their design, history, performance, and racing success. Each GTO was hand-built to varying specifications, each with its own extensive racing and competition history.
1953 Fiat 8V Supersonic
This doesn’t look like what we have come to expect from modern Fiat, does it? This was the Italian automaker’s short venture into the luxury grand touring segment. There were many different forms of the Fiat 8V, but none as striking as the rare Ghia Supersonic 8V. Created for the 1953 Mille Miglia, the space-age design found its way onto a handful of Fiat chassis, an Aston Martin, and three Jaguars.
1952 Cunningham C3 Continental
In a bid to keep his very expensive racing team afloat, famed race car driver Briggs Cunningham created a line of high-performance grand touring sports cars, including this gorgeous 1952 Cunningham C3 Continental. A fusion of Italian design and American horsepower, the C3 packed a Chrysler V-8, allowing it to hit 60 mph in a very respectable 6.2 seconds. The car was priced around $10,000, a lump many buyers were not able to swallow, and his team went bust after five years.
1966 Ferrari 365 P Tre Posti
Created as a design exercise by a newly-appointed Sergio Pininfarina of the famous Pininfarina design house, the wonderful 1966 Ferrari 365 P Tre Posti was a plea to Enzo Ferrari himself to make the transition toward a mid-engine layout. If the name has you scratching your head, look closely at the seating arrangement. Yes, the Tre Posti (Three Seat) predated the legendary three-seat McLaren F1 by nearly 30 years. The car is as fast as it looks, with a sublime 4.4-liter V-12 engine pumping out 380 hp.
1970 Lancia Stratos HF Zero
If the Lamborghini Countach just isn’t enough wedge for your tastes, the fantastically weird Lancia Stratos HF Zero should fit the bill nicely. The Stratos HF caused a sensation when it debuted in 1970, and with a rakish arrow-straight profile that would make a door stopper blush, it isn’t hard to see why, While the production Lancia Stratos wasn’t nearly as polarizing, the lineage is clear. There is only one of these, and pictures do it no justice, so it’s worth the trip down just to see it in the flesh.
1955 Chrysler Ghia Gilda
Named after the Rita Hayworth film of the same name, the wonderfully space-age 1955 Chrysler Ghia Gilda is what happened when automotive designers were let off the leash following World War II. The Gilda was developed as a design study, with initial plans including a turbine powertrain. That didn’t pan out, and instead, motivation came from an O.S.C.A four-cylinder. The car toured the show circuit, eventually settling into the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, MI, where it remained until 1969, when it entered the market. After a stint in the Harrah collection, the car landed in the hands of the current owner, who lovingly installed a turbine powerplant, just like the designers intended.
1963 ATS 2500 GT
Eight disgruntled engineers and executives angered by Enzo Ferrari walked out in 1961, causing a massive rift in the company. The Ferrari expatriates began work on a car of their own to face-off against the legendary Italian brand. The sublime 1963 ATS 2500 GT was the result of this toil. Presented as one of the very first mid-engined road cars, the 2500 GT carried an all-new 2.5-liter V-8 engine, sending power to the rear wheels through a slick five-speed transmission. Unfortunately, ATS never gained traction, with only a handful of cars produced, and the firm went bankrupt.
1968 Bizzarini 5300 GT Strada
Carrying extensive engineering credits under his belt, a spurned Giotto Bizzarini departed Ferrari in 1961 with the intent of stuffing Ferrari’s nose in a successful and fast sports car of his own. After the failure of the aforementioned ATS 2500 GT, Bizzarini briefly settled in with Iso, where he helped create a series of extremely potent and gorgeous grand tourers. Eventually, he split from Iso and continued building an Iso model as the Bizzarini 5300GT Strada. Despite the pure-blood Italian appearance, this sumptuous coupe hides a Chevrolet Corvette heart under the lengthy hood.
1955 Maserati A6G 2000 Zagato
This is a perfect example of Maserati’s illustrious history producing some of the best high-performance grand tourers available. Stored for years in Sicily, the car was in rough-but-complete condition when the current owner dragged it out of the barn. About that barn–the previous owner stored the Maserati behind a solid concrete wall, which itself was behind a steel door. According to the Frist, the entire village showed up to see the car emerge into the sunlight once again.
1950 Cisitalia 202 SC
Seen as the purest form of early mid-century Italian design, the Cisitalia’s near-perfect proportions hid an advanced tubular frame chassis. The Cisitalia was considered so well-designed, it was the first car ever adopted into the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection.