Sunshine of your Love

He, that among you does not know what ATS, cast the first stone“. Please excuse this “ad libitum” interpretation of this passage of the Gospel of John, but it is very likely that most people have no clue of what an ATS is. To put it in simple terms, it is a brand for pure car fetishists, a small company that in its short existence (1963-1965) has produced only 12 road cars and a couple of unfortunate F1 races, went extinct from the annals of the world.

Don’t think that the people behind the Automobili Turismo e Sport were young engineers fresh out from College and pocket full of cash. The minds behind the  2500 GT, the Marque’s only road-going model, were all former Scuderia Ferrari engineers, who embarked on this adventure just after they had won the 1961 Formula 1 World Championship with Phil Hill. This walkout was a protest for the firing of the well respected sales manager Girolamo Gardini. The “palace revolution” as it is known among Ferrari circles, saw chief engineer Carlo Chiti, (later on the founder and commander in chief of Autodelta, Alfa Romeo’s racing department), sales manager Giotto Bizzarrini, team manager Romolo Tavoni plus 5 other executives abandoning Enzo by himself. They gathered up in 1962 and with the financial backing of privateer and racing-entrepeneur Count Giovanni Volpi di Misurata, they came up with was a true masterpiece: the 2500 GT, the first mid-engined supercar.

Needless to say, ATS was on a mission to bring their racing and road-car game against Ferrari. The 2500 GT was conceived to be nothing like they had in Maranello: think of it as “sunshine of your love” by the supergroup Cream. It was a product of the sixties, made possible by the vulcanic genious of Carlo Chiti mixed with the finacial expertise of Count Volpi, the design made by Franco Scaglione and the body (either steel or alloy) made by Carrozzeria Allemano of Turin. For all those car-history maniacs, this sounds like a dream team. Powered by an in-house 2,467 cc V8 producing between 200 and 250 horses and capable of reaching 240 kph, the GT looked promising on paper and made ATS look like it was shooting for the stars. Unfortunately, racing takes no prisoners, and the effort of the Marque were soon wiped away by bad luck: the few races they disputed were affected by reliability issues and only 12 2500 GT were ever produced. Despite ATS’ promising attitude, it all ended too soon.

Yet, there’s a sweet not in this ending. According to studies made by one Winston Goodfellow, the ATS engine, which was enlarged to 3,5 liters and powered the Scuderia Serenissima’s own supercar, ended up in Bruce McLaren’s first F1, the M2B. Such a car was powered initially by a Ford engine which, after it proved not to be powerful enough during the 1966 Monaco GP, was swapped in favour to the hot-rodded ATS engine. With this configuration, a McLaren car was able to score its first ever championship points in its history. Funny enough, the new ATS GT is powered by a modified 700 horsepower McLaren twin turbo unit. In the end…what goes around really comes around!

The new car is the brainchild of two madmen we can call friends, Daniele Maritan and Emanuele Bomboi. The first, a successful entrepreneur an car enthusiast and the second the technical mastermind behind the whole new project. ATS is back and going strong, and it just ended its maiden journey to the 2018 Pebble Beach Concour d’Elegance to be shown among the other greats. It was the first time of the GT in American soil and given that 5 of the 12 cars reside there, it was quite an event to see the reborn project driving on the roads of California. From Redwood City in San Francisco, we reached the hills on a popular road called “Alice’s”, because of the famous restaurant located in the middle of the forest there. It’s a popular playground for many petrolheads who go there to do some proper carving, reaching the restaurant for some good food and then reaching the Pacific Coast Highway on the opposite side, enjoying every bit of it. We had a first, vital glimpse of it on Alice’s road in the Bay Area south of San Francisco.

Roaring and boasting its unique shade of rubin red, the new GT made it into the new millennium. Few, highly dedicated people worked on it and introduced something different with a unique identity. Let’s all cheer loudly on the comeback of a true great!

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