My life in cars

Lapo Elkann When you have petrol in your DNA, you’ll end up ex­plor­ing the weird and the won­der­ful end of the car spec­trum...

Top Gear (Malaysia) - - Contents -

My favourite car mem­ory was be­ing in the pas­sen­ger seat with my grand­fa­ther [Gianni Agnelli]. It was in a Fiat Croma but with the 3.0 V6 Alfa Romeo en­gine, souped up like ev­ery car he had. All his cars had pe­cu­liar en­gines or par­tic­u­lar things and par­tic­u­lar in­te­ri­ors. My love for unique­ness started by look­ing at what he had done in his life with his prod­ucts and his cars. He would drive like a race driver in the cities, so it was al­ways ex­cit­ing to go in a car with him.

The first ac­ci­dent I had was when I was nine, I took a Fiat Panda and I crashed into a tree. I al­ways wanted to drive; cars are prob­a­bly the ob­jects in the world I love the most. I re­mem­ber my grand­fa­ther gave us a mini Fer­rari F1 go-kart like Alain Prost’s F643 to race, and I was in that car 24/7.

I started driv­ing at 15. My first ticket was in Paris where I drove a car without a li­cence, and I got se­verely pun­ished by my mother be­cause get­ting flashed, without a driv­ing li­cence, is kind of awk­ward. I got my li­cence at 17.

My first car was a Punto HGT – light grey with blue leather in­te­rior and baby-blue stitch­ing. Even on a mass pro­duc­tion car I al­ready wanted to cus­tomise it. Then I had Alfa Romeos – all the GTA ver­sions from the 147 to the sta­tion wagon. When I lived in New York, I had a Hum­mer, I had a Mini, I had the “Lit­tle Bas­tard” of James Dean [Porsche 550 Spi­der]. The same car, but not ac­tu­ally his.

Then I drove some Porsches. I drove some Lam­borgh­i­nis. I drove some vin­tage, some new. I drove some Fer­raris. And I al­ways tried at least once a week to have a car from a dif­fer­ent brand so I could try, see, smell, touch, to un­der­stand who’s do­ing what, how they are do­ing it. It’s one thing to see pic­tures, an­other thing is to feel it.

I sold part of my col­lec­tion be­cause... like Enzo Fer­rari said, when they asked him what is his favourite car, he would say: “The next one.” I would say the same thing. I don’t usu­ally fall in love with what I have, only a few. I have a few vin­tage Fiat 500s, and those I don’t sell. On the higher level I now have vin­tage Fer­raris, but the [mod­ern] Fer­raris I change all the time.

I love vin­tage cars now more than I used to in the past. I have four or five Fiat 500s. I have a Spi­ag­gina with wicker seats in lob­ster colour. I have the Cin­que­cento which opens the doors like this [mo­tions sui­cide doors], I have a Se­i­cento Mul­ti­pla dou­ble-tone in light blue and navy blue. I also have vin­tage Ves­pas, which I love be­cause they’re iconic.

I love mod­ern cars, and I love speed, so I love to go on the track and go fast. There’s a lot of cars I’m keen to look at, from the lat­est Fer­raris to the lat­est Lam­borgi­nis. I drove a For­mula E re­cently which was ex­tremely ex­cit­ing.

I think the new hy­per­cars are all in­ter­est­ing in their own way. I would say that McLaren [with the Senna] has been coura­geous and done an in­ter­est­ing job. But I still don’t get turned on by their de­sign. I think that the per­for­mance of their car is in­cred­i­ble, and they’re do­ing an amaz­ing job in terms of per­for­mance.

The one car I re­gret giv­ing away is the Fer­rari 458 Cam­ou­flage be­cause it’s a unique piece. I love that car be­cause it’s a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of push­ing bound­aries in a brand which is, how do you say, lim­it­less.

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