As gear heads it is our responsibility to own at least one Italian car in our lifetime, it is just one of those bucket list items.
That said, reliability is always the first thing that comes to mind when we talk about classic Italian cars, for the most part, that is the one thing Italians can’t get right. Build quality is also a hit-and-miss affair, especially for older cars and then of course there is the rust…
What they do know is style and performance. Those two factors trump everything else at times, but that does not make them good cars. In fact, more often than not, they’re widely described as terrible cars, but we still love them.
8 Fiat 850
To its credit, the little Fiat will eventually make it to 60 mph, but it will take a leisurely 20 seconds to get there. Or around the same amount of time as a contemporary diesel Mercedes-Benz.
It is a beautiful little car, but unfortunately, we have to admit that it is dangerously slow if you plan on driving the thing anywhere outside your neighborhood.
7 Lancia Beta Coupe
One look at these little coupes might inspire you to jump on the internet and search for a listing, but reality will strike hard once you look underneath.
For some brave souls, the pain is worth the pleasure, but working on these cars means dealing with all sorts of corrosion, often structural.
6 Ferrari Mondial
The Mondial is for those just desperate to tick off a bucket list item; to own a Ferrari. For those in the know, this isn’t much of a sports car.
Today, this is the cheapest (running) Ferrari money can buy. However, even by ’80s standards, it was pretty slow, doing 0-60 mph in around 8 seconds, which makes it a very expensive slow car that also costs a fortune to maintain.
5 Lamborghini Countach
Arguably the king of all the wedges that proliferated design studios the world over in the ’70s and ’80s. It is an easy car to look at, and you can see why one could just fall in love with the car before ever trying to drive it.
That would be a mistake though, it had an infamously heavy clutch, no rear visibility at all (the reverse technique involved getting halfway out of the car and fettling the heavy clutch) and it had one of the more temperamental V12 engines. It might well be the automotive version of “never meet your heroes” unless, like most collectors, you are not really all that interested in actually driving the thing.
4 Alfa Romeo Alfetta
What the Alfetta gave us was priceless; the Alfa Romeo transaxle. Sadly, the initial version didn’t offer all that much else, as it was very much supposed to be their bread and butter family car.
Aside from having perfect balance in the corners, their sedan was just another sheep roaming the Italian countryside with adequate performance and comfort. It also gets all the usual Alfa quirks, so make of it what you will.
3 Maserati Merak
In an ill-fated attempt to marry French flair and Italian design, we got a couple of the most incredible cars ever made. One of those was the impossibly elegant Citroën SM, the other was this, a baby Bora that quite honestly makes the Bora look average from most angles.
When it was new, it was planted, comfortable, and sang a sumptuous song from the V6. As the sands of time passed through the hourglass, one malady followed another, but the Citroën derived hydropneumatic system is the biggest enemy if left unchecked.
2 DeTomaso Pantera
Ford were so convinced that they could take the fight to the Corvette with this that they actually invested in the project, supplied the engines and even sold the car in Ford dealerships for a time.
Several build-quality related issues later saw Ford pull the proverbial plug, but the Pantera continued to be built in small numbers right up until the early ’90s. It is an iconic design, but with a heavy V8 mounted too close to the rear. It handles more like a muscle car than a sports car.
1 Isetta Bubble Car
Most people think of BMW when the Isetta name pops up, but in reality BMW only built these little safety hazards on wheels under license from ISO, a small Italian company that made some far more interesting cars.
By modern standards everything about these cars are awful. But people still love them though, and they will go down in history as the unlikeliest of heroes for the Bavarian giant who were in serious financial trouble before this deal landed on their grateful laps.