Driven: Touring Superleggera Sciàdipersia

AutoClassics gets behind the wheel of the GranTurismo-based Sciàdipersia from Touring Superleggera – an homage to the Shah of Persia’s 1958 Maserati 5000 GT

Cars such as these are hard to evaluate. They don’t belong on a press fleet, just waiting to be thrashed; sorry, ‘analysed’. Not this one. This is somebody’s own vehicle. Not only is it really, really, really expensive, it also takes eight months to build, all by hand.

The price remains undisclosed, but you will easily go in several hundred thousands of either euros or pounds. This is also the very first one of a limited run of a maximum of ten examples. At time of driving, it has not yet been delivered to its owner. So when driving cars such as this, your one and only mission here is bringing it back in the exact same state as you found it.

My one-on-one meeting with this elegant Sciàdipersia starts in a small street in a tiny village on Lake Como in Northern Italy... with a bus coming the other way.

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Touring's Fuori serie

The Sciàdipersia is Touring Superleggera’s latest addition to a series of small-production – fuori serie as they say in Italy – high-luxury sports cars that most recently included a fabulous rendition of the Disco Volante on an Alfa Romeo 8C platform, and the stunning Berlinetta Lusso on a Ferrari F12. Both designs instantly tick all the right boxes in an enthusiast’s heart.

We have to admit that is not the case with the Maserati GranTurismo-based Sciàdipersia, Touring Superleggera’s latest take on a four-seat modern GT coupé. ‘Yet, this is the design I am most pleased with,’ says Touring design chief Louis de Fabribeckers. ‘Generally, I keep working on small details right until the very last minute. Here, I drew a line under the design quite early: that’s it, this is how it should look.’

Geneva motor show and Lake Como

The first time we saw the car in pictures, the front end looked a bit, well… difficult. Then we saw it at the Geneva motor show, and found its presence very pleasing. But it’s in real surroundings, here on the bank of Lake Como, that the Sciàdipersia really starts to come alive and grab your imagination. This car is a stunner! It has no problems drawing a crowd. It grabs your attention, and it intrigues you as you move around it.

‘It’s a suit, it’s designed to make you look better,’ explains de Fabribeckers. ‘I noticed it in Geneva, when people were sitting in the car. I saw it happening; now you look better when you are inside the cabin. You should feel well dressed in this car. With the Sciàdipersia, we wanted to have this effect on all four passengers, not just the driver.’

Formula 1 engine

De Fabribeckers is quick to stress that this car is a reinterpretation of the original 1958 Maserati 5000 GT belonging to the Shah of Persia, who had asked for a really quick coupé to tackle the long distances in his country. ‘Maserati gave him a detuned Formula 1 engine in the 5000 GT, which was rebodied by Touring Superleggera on his behalf in 1958. It was presented at the 1959 Turin Motor Show.’ In the end, three copies were made.

‘It was never my idea to copy the design. I wanted to recreate the idea of a fast-traveling GT,’ says de Fabribeckers. ‘I took three clues from the original car in the new design: there is the prominent horizontal line on the door; I also wanted one big grille that incorporated the lights as with the original; and we have also used the folds that identify the bonnet and the boot. But we have opted to create much more room for the passengers in our new interpretation.’

De Fabribeckers based much of the design details around an ‘arrow’ form: ‘The definition of speed.’ He made the Sciàdipersia ten centimetres longer then the GranTurismo Coupé, to end up a full five metres in length. ‘This way, we could have a more elongated, flowing motion of the roof towards the back, ending with an abrupt, Kamm-style back end.’

The more you study this car, the more pleasant details you discover. Look at the wheels – 20 inches all around – peeping out at the back. Or the striking aluminium rear panel, with the taillights forming a fine line below it. The attention to detail is stunning. Touring’s logo on the back is artwork in itself.

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Foglizzo leather

Many of the body panels are carbon fibre these days, breaking with a tradition of aluminium-only construction. From the original GranTurismo body, only the front windscreen is retained here. Everything else is tailor made for the Sciàdipersia.

‘We want to keep the connection to the Italian artisans very much alive in our new products. We have all the best knowledge nearby, so we want to use only this in our cars,’ says de Fabribeckers. ‘For instance, on the inside we asked Foglizzo from Turin for the leatherwork. It’s the best you can find in Italy. They also made a special luggage set for our car.’

At first glance, the Sciàdipersia’s interior looks not all that much different from that of the GranTurismo. But, for instance, the whole of the inside door design has been changed. De Fabribeckers again: ‘I was not happy with the lines and where they ended. Now we have created a very nice, uninterrupted, wraparound line in aluminium.’

He also moved the control buttons for the Sports mode from the dashboard to the middle console, next to the gearlever. This is a pre-facelifted GranTurismo, recognisable from the big gearshifter and the dated multimedia system. You can opt for the 2018 GranTurismo as a donor car instead, giving you more modern multimedia but still the same radio controls we remember from… the Peugeot 407. The analogue clock has received its own Touring interpretation, and the Tridente on the wheel has been changed for a Touring logo as well.

‘Together with the client, we quickly decided on emphasising the fact that this is a four-seat coupé by opting for a contrasting dark blue leather,’ de Fabribeckers explains. ‘In here, every other passenger is just as important as the driver.’ Your hands touch only natural materials, from the leather-clad dashboard to the aluminium horizontal line and the aluminium lining on the newly designed cupholder.

‘Due to the homologation, there are some parts we cannot touch. They mostly relate to the driving position. But many other parts we can fully adapt to the customer’s taste. We don’t have options, we built the car just as you want it.’

Reworking the multimedia system would in all fairness probably be possible, but would be a ridiculous cost. The one thing we actually find missing in the Sciàdipersia is a real high-end sound system. The current Bose speakers are not quite up to the same standard as the rest of the car.

So, how are things going with the bus?

The stereo is a minor detail – and currently the last thing on my mind as I am facing a bus driver who has decided it will be ‘the preetie car’ that will have to do the manoeuvring. Well, his sheer size makes the intimidation tactics work.

To my right, an uneven brick wall is threatening to play havoc with the car’s beautiful deep blue paintwork and very exposed wheels. To my left, you could not put a hand between the side mirror and the flank of the big bus. Yet I feel no stress. I have a good view of the dimensions, even though it’s been only two minutes since I first sat in the driver’s seat. So I very gently nudge the Sciàdipersia forward, not even at walking pace. And that’s it, we’re free.

Now, all in all, we are merely driving a Maserati GranTurismo. The mechanical aspect remains unchanged, and the car feels light in the controls, while the supple suspension is disturbed only by harsh movement over potholes, caused by the big rims. Activating the Sports button releases a colourful V8 noise at all times, but the note seems less aggressive then what we are used to from today’s Maseratis. That’s probably due to better sound insulation on the inside.

The automatic transmission takes a bit of time before it downshifts, but changing up through each of the six gears is quick enough. These are not the most modern of underpinnings. An Audi R8 would shift quicker, while the AMG V8 bi-turbo would bark more aggressively. There’s none of that in this car, it just seems happy to hold power in reserve at all times. It’s ready to go fast when you are.

Naturally aspirated V8

Just like in the original Shah’s car, the horses are ready and waiting for the right moment. Put your foot down, and the Sciàdipersia takes off briskly enough with a loud but not overly aggressive roar. With 460bhp and 520Nm of torque, it has plenty of push for its 1700kg kerbweight – a little less than for the original GranTurismo. It is fast, and it feels planted on the big P Zeros. You feel very confident behind the wheel.

And then the magic happens. I just don’t want to stop driving. Sure, the multimedia is outdated, but that doesn’t matter. I haven’t looked at the map, I just keep going on the road in front of me, enjoying every turn twisting around the lake. The great trick about the Sciàdipersia is its fabulous – fixed – panoramic roof, which creates a very light cabin atmosphere. It’s like you are breathing the outside in. You see all the details in the landscape, and you just want to see more.

That, combined with the glorious, normally aspirated V8, just begs you to keep on driving – a characteristic that’s difficult to find with the big carmakers today. Touring Superleggera’s Sciàdipersia is not built to shred records on the ’Ring, or to give you more horsepower than the competition. It is built purely for your enjoyment of the ride.

Every ride becomes a journey. The long way home becomes the standard. In a world where driving becomes less involving every day, this old-fashioned take on classic, relaxed motoring suddenly feels very fresh and new.

Photography: Dirk de Jager

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