Once a champion co-driver, Gino Macaluso gave up reading pace notes to run the family firm. Then a chance ‘barn find’ led to his creating a stellar collection of ex-works rally cars
by John Davenport. Photography: Ian Fraser
The approach is low-key: we appear to be heading for an industrial estate. But, past the gate, there are neat hedges and a cobbled area between two buildings, with gently sloping lawns beyond. The keeper of the collection, Massimo Giuliano, opens the doors of the main building and, stretching away into its depths, there are lines of rally cars. Fantastic rally cars: from Timo Mäkinen’s 1000 Lakes-winning Mini Cooper S of 1967 and Bengt Söderström’s 1966 RAC-winning Lotus-Cortina, to Juha Kankkunen’s Lancia Delta HF Integrale which finished second on the 1992 Safari. Not all the cars here are winners, but all are genuine ex-works cars restored to, or preserved in, their former glory.
The man responsible for this Aladdin’s Cave spent his early years as a works co-driver. In his tiny office, overflowing with memorabilia, books, photographs and model cars, Gino Macaluso explains how it all came about.
“My family lived in Turin. I attended university there.” With Lancia Reparto Corse just round the corner, it was impossible not to be aware of rallying. It was 1968 and Fiat was sponsoring the revival of the Sestrière Rally as a major international event. “My friend Giancarlo Romano and I decided we’d like to do some rallying. We progressed from a 1300cc Escort to a Fiat 124 saloon and finally to a Cooper S in 1969, but it was an expensive hobby for students.”
A 1970 offer from the Fiat-supported Pinerolo Corse, run by Gianfranco Silecchia, to co-drive Luciano Trombotto was more financially attractive. “Our car was a little basic,” says Macaluso. “It was a 124 Spider – red with blue stripes – but it had no hardtop; we rallied with a canvas hood.” There were no big wins, but their consistency augured well. Macaluso, however, wanted to give his own driving talent one more chance. “Rather unwisely, I decided to do some more rallies with my friend in 1971, first in a Fulvia coupé and then a 124 Spider. By the end of the year, though, I was ready to go back to Fiat, which now had a proper team. But the deal was again as a co-driver, this time with Raffaele Pinto. Our target was the European Rally Championship.”
Pinto blossomed under Macaluso’s guidance and they won the Costa Brava, Hessen, Polish, Semperit and Yugoslavia rallies, and took the title. This was a major achievement for Fiat and enabled the team to persuade senior management to homologate the new 1756cc 124 Spider for the inaugural year of the World Rally Championship, 1973.
The rivalry between Fiat and Lancia was at its height, and Macaluso was dispatched to Elba with drivers Fulvio Bacchelli and Alcide Paganelli to see if a Ferrari 308 could be the basis for an all-conquering rally car. Except Lancia beat them to the draw by getting approval to build 400 examples of the Stratos. Fiat then assessed a more modest rally project, the four-cylinder 1.6 litre X1/9, later increased to 1.8 litres. Macaluso was put in charge and worked with Giorgio Pianta to develop it. He was also competing in rallies with Sergio Barbasio, finishing 10th on the RAC in a 124 Spider.
The following year he was paired with Maurizio Verini and they won the Italian Championship. But the end of his rally career was in sight: “My father was the importer of Omega watches. Because of his early death the business needed someone to run it full-time. My hobby had to go.”
Macaluso’s last event was memorable, however: he was co-driver to Clay Regazzoni in a Fiat X1/9 on the 1974 Giro d’Italia. “He had lost the F1 world championship to Emerson Fittipaldi at Watkins Glen the previous week. I thought he would be quite low – but he was fantastic: cheerful, full of passion and wanted to get everything right on the car.” Unfortunately, they retired when the engine broke.
For almost 20 years Macaluso concentrated on the business. He bought two of the most revered names in Swiss watchmaking – Girard-Perregaux and Daniel JeanRichard – and, through his friendship with Luca di Montezemolo, formed a link with Ferrari that continues today.
Collecting ex-works rally cars only came to mind in the early 1990s. The catalyst occurred when Giuliano, who helped Macaluso with his road cars, stumbled across an old car on a farm near Genoa. He was told it was a prototype Fiat – an X1/9 that had been originally campaigned by a Formula 1 driver. It was the car in which Macaluso had finished his rally career. It was purchased, taken back to Turin and restored.
As you might expect, there is a strong Lancia and Fiat thread running through the collection. The earliest Lancia is a Fulvia coupé used by Simo Lampinen on the 1970 East African Safari; it retired after an accident and spent 20 years in Kenya before being repatriated. Then, in perfect Martini livery, there are the Rallye 037 driven by Miki Biasion in Sardinia and used extensively for testing, the Delta S4 driven to second on the 1986 New Zealand and San Remo rallies by Markku Alén and Dario Cerrato, and the Delta Integrale Didier Auriol took to victory on the 1990 San Remo.
There are examples of both types of Fiat 124 Spider Abarth; the 1460cc car was campaigned by Bacchelli in 1972; the later 1840cc model is the car in which Rauno Aaltonen/Robin Turvey finished second on the 1973 Acropolis. There’s a 131 Abarth, too – the car Markku Alén used to finish third on the 1978 Welsh Rally and Attilio Bettega drove in 1979.
Of the ‘outsiders’, Mäkinen’s Cooper S still has the marks on its bonnet from when it flew open on the Ouninpohja jumps in Finland after mechanics had propped it open to improve the cooling; Timo drove half the stage with his head out of the window to take his third 1000 Lakes win in a row. Söderström’s Cortina is in Group 1 trim: standard seats and lap-and-diagonal seat belts. Then there’s Stig Blomqvist’s long-wheelbase Gp4 Audi Quattro that won the 1982 San Remo, and the Carlos Sainz GpA Toyota Celica GT4 in which the Spaniard secured his first world title (profiled in Motor Sport, May 2007). Nearby, there’s Jean Ragnotti’s 1981 Monte Carlo-winning Gp4 Renault R5 Turbo and Bernard Darniche’s 1973 Alpine-Renault A110.
The building across the yard is slightly smaller. It contains Gino’s road cars – a Ferrari F40 with Michelotto bodywork, a 456 once owned by Piero Ferrari, a GTB/4, a Testarossa with special Pininfarina bodywork that was a prototype for a one-make race series, a Bizzarrini 5300 GT Strada, a Mercedes-Benz 300SL and an Aston Martin DB5 – plus his racing cars. There are three important Martini-liveried Lancias: a Beta Monte Carlo, a Group 6 LC1 and a Group C LC2 with a twin-turbo Ferrari V8. (Macaluso quietly confides that he’d like to find a Porsche 956 to keep them company.) These nestle against the Alfa Romeo 155 V6 TI that won the 1993 DTM in the hands of Nicola Larini and the ex-Jacques Laffite Ligier JS11/15 that won the 1980 German GP.
But the most intriguing sight is a yacht hull, a symphony in yellow, protruding from a packing case. It’s a weird size, too.
“Girard-Perregaux is associated with the BMW Oracle Racing entry which represented the USA in the 2007 America’s Cup,” explains Macaluso. “Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle, told me he would send three models of the yacht. I thought no more of it until one morning my secretary in Turin phoned to say that a model boat had arrived. I told her to put it in my office. She said that was not possible. It had arrived on a truck!” The model is one-third scale, built to be used in water-flow tests.
This is a fascinating private collection. But which of his cars does Gino most like to drive?
“It has to be the 037,” he grins. “That was the last true racing car that took part in rallies. The emotional feeling it generates is inexpressible.”