Top Italian Cars in Britain

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Motor Sport interviews some owners

It occurred to us that there are many owners in Britain of those exclusive Italian cars, Lamborghinis, Maseratis and Ferraris. We were interested to know why these people bought their cars, now that traffic restrictions have mushroomed and the roads are so overcrowded. Had they got a good service? Were there any draw-backs? Three views are given below. We hope to return to this fascinating subject next month.

Coming from a family with such a sporting background, it came as no surprise to learn that Earl Howe drives a Ferrari. He had owned a long line of exclusive cars such as Jaguars, Lancias, B.M.W.s, Aston Martins, Alfa Romeos and Mercedes-Benz before he took delivery of his present Ferrari 3300T in January, 1965. This car has now has done six or seven thousand miles and Earl Howe is still terribly enthusiastic about it.

Earl Howe likes to own cars that have been successful in motor racing. He likes a car that is manoeuvrable, that has good brakes, handling and acceleration, and the Ferrari fills these specifications admirably. Countess Howe, who was present when we visited her husband, was just as enthusiastic about the car. She recounted a holiday one winter in Switzerland, where the Earl spent more time looking at the exotic parked cars than on the ski slopes.

A Ferrari is an exciting car to handle, the Earl thought. It is at its best on a motorway, with miles of open road before it, although during its life battling against the London traffic, his engine had never fouled a plug or caused any other drama. Although one cannot travel at a reasonable speed in this country even on a deserted motorway, the Ferrari’s handling and acceleration are so good that one knows it has the capacity to get out of any trouble, Earl Howe said.

Two previous cars owned by Earl Howe are a Bentley (“not quite my cup of tea”) and an Aston Martin, which gave a lot of plug troubles. He still has one of the “gull wing” Mercedes-Benz sports cars and is very proud of it. The big choice what to run was between the Ferrari and a Maserati, and he chose the Ferrari because it could offer four full seats. Before taking delivery he specified one or two little items to be altered and since that time has not experienced any trouble. Some people might not like the hard springing, but he did. The servicing is done by Maranello Concessionaires in Chiswick: “It’s better to take it to the proper people,” the Earl thought.

Although buying a Ferrari involved an expensive outlay, Earl Howe thought he had had good value for money. Would he buy another? “I haven’t thought about that yet,” he said. “Once you get a car you like, you don’t change.”

Peter Hampton is another person who has been used to good cars. Having owned a series of Bugattis—including a 575—and Ferraris, what else but something like a Lamborghini could he have? The Ferraris which preceded the present Lamborghini 3500T were a 250GT, a 2 + 2 and a 330GT. Up to the 330GT he had thoroughly enjoyed the Ferraris, but just could not get on with this one; he sold it within a week. It was replaced by an Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint SS, but ever since the Geneva Motor Show of 1964 Mr. Hampton had had his eye on the Lamborghini. He arranged a trial run, but at the last minute could not go. He saw one at the Monaco Grand Prix the following year, later ordered one through the factory in Milan, and took delivery in the first week of August. Mr. Hampton bought the car for a total of £1,500 less than the sum at which a similar car is priced today in this country.

Since new the car—the second to be brought into this country— has covered 13,000 miles, Mr. Hampton taking it back to the factory for servicing every 5,000 miles or so. He found the people at the factory most helpful and mentioned how he had had new brakes fitted free after the first set kept locking on. He had also experienced a noisy back axle, which was changed at the factory in March, 1966, but was still noisy afterwards—”Like Picking potatoes out of a basket,” Mr. Hampton described it. The following year he went on his annual pilgrimage for servicing with the same complaint and the factory mechanics took the rear axle from Sig. Lamborghini’s personal car and fitted it to Mr. Hampton’s. The problem has now been solved—all without charge. Apart from the electric windows which packed up (Lamborghini sent out new units within a fortnight) he has had less trouble with this than any previous car.

The Lamborghini, he finds, is quieter than other such cars, although he likes the beat of the V12 engine. It is also wider inside and far roomier. He thought it was a better motor car in many ways to a Ferrari, although he knew there were some people who preferred the ring of the name “Ferrari.”

Peter Hampton would definitely buy a Lamborghini again, but not a Miura. Besides costing more, the Miura has no luggage space and is a car that wants to be driven fast. It is a little too fabulous, and he is well satisfied with his 350GT. “At my time of life it is all I need,” he stated. Mr. Hampton will not talk about English cars such as Jensens and Aston Martins in the same breath.

Brian Morgan’s early motoring was done in a selection of M.G.s, but after a progression of wonderful vintage cars and a selection of good, modern cars, he took delivery of his Lamborghini 400GT 2 + 2 in December last year. He had been drawn to the Lamborghini because of its sophisticated four-cam V12 engine, which appealed to him as an engineer. He had also heard that Sig. Lamborghini was personally interested in the car manufacturing project, and he knew from experience that in such cases a better product was likely. He has not regretted the choice: the car is used every day for commuting to work in Birmingham and has given no trouble at all. Brian Morgan never keeps a car more than three years, a maxim that was difficult to stick to when it came to selling his Bentley Continental R-type. He had never owned a proper GT car, and the choice of a Lamborghini was made after consulting enthusiasts like Peter Hampton, Denis Jenkinson and “Steady” Barker. What he likes about the car it is absolute lack of fussiness; there are no signs that it ever runs rich, even in the worst traffic jams. This was perhaps what surprised Mr. Morgan so much, for he had fully anticipated the exhilarating performance.

If he had any criticisms of the car, it would be of the standard headlights, which were just not up to the job. After borrowing a whole variety of lights and trying them, the problem has been overcome by fitting main beam Cibié and dipped beam Lucas lamps. He would also rather have a larger boot with the car as a pure two-seater—the rear passenger seats are too small to be used properly to any extent. The car has been serviced once, and this expeditiously by the English concessionaires, Mitchel and Britten.

Brian Morgan was a little hesitant stating whether he would buy another Lamborghini. “I try never to buy the same car twice,” he said. “But I would certainly recommend somebody to buy one.”

R. F.