ASA 1000 GT
The story of the baby Ferrari
Perhaps one of the most common expressions in the automotive world is to refer to a car of quality as a “gem.” This phrase is so common, in fact, as to perhaps be a bit overused. But, common as the expression may be, sometimes there is a car of such uncommon exquisiteness that there really is no better choice of words. Such is the case of the ASA 1000 GT.
ASA stands for Autocostruzioni Società per Azioni, but, regardless of the name, the ASA actually started out as a Ferrari. In the late 1950s, Ferrari investigated the possibility of a smaller, four-cylinder car. By 1960, a prototype with an 850cc engine and built on a Fiat 1200 chassis was constructed, and by late 1961, yet another prototype appeared at the Bertone stand at the Torino auto show: the Bertone Mille.
Though the prancing horse appeared nowhere on it, the Mille (1000) was Ferrari through and through. Underneath the sleek fastback body, designed by none other than Giogetto Giugiaro, was a chassis was of tubular construction designed by Giotto Bizzarini. For power, there was a four-cylinder, single overhead cam 1032cc unit (hence the name referencing 1000cc). This engine was, in essence, two-thirds of one bank of Ferrari’s Columbo V12. Intake was provided by twin Weber 40 DCOE carburetors, and the result was about 96 HP at 7000 RPM, a remarkable figure for such a small engine, even today.
Though developed by Ferrari, and quickly gaining the nickname Ferrarina (“little Ferrari”), it seems that Il Commendatore did not intend for the Mille to bear his name. Instead, he sought to sell the design for another firm to produce. After the necessary negotiations, the ASA firm was set up by the de Nora family, makers of electronic equipment, and racing drivers Gerino Gerini, Lorenzo Bandini, and Giancarlo Baghetti in 1962, though production did not begin until 1964. The company was managed by Niccolò de Nora, construction of the bodies was by Bertone, and final assembly was completed near the premises of the de Nora factory in Torino.
In addition to the coupe, a convertible version of the 1000 GT with a fiberglass body was offered as well. Even more exotic was a racing version, the 411 Berlinetta, announced in late 1965; this had an aluminum rather than steel body, plexiglass windows, and an engine with an extra 60cc and 8 HP.
But even though the 1000 GT was never going to be a volume seller, it was destined to have a small production run, even by Ferrari standards. Though its exquisite engineering and design, not to mention Ferrari heritage, made it a bargain for the connoisseur at around $6000, this price put it in 911 and E-Type territory. An Alfa Romeo Sprint, in contrast, was about $2000 cheaper and provided similar performance.
As a result, only about 100 of ASAs were built though 1967. With its heritage, elegance (both physical and mechanical), and scarcity, the ASA 1000 GT truly is a rare gem of an automobile.