Reviewed: italian

The language of love is also the language of cars

4y ago

Most English-speaking car enthusiasts will know that the German term for a sports exhaust is ‘Sportauspuff’. That’s funny, but in Italian it’s a ‘scarico sportivo’, so I know which country I’d rather have been born in if I ran the local Kwik Fit.

Italian – it sounds good. It may sound perfectly normal if you actually are Italian, in the way that Indian food, if you’re Indian, is simply ‘food’. To the rest of us, though, it makes everything a bit more exciting.

This morning, for example, I was rooting around on some Ferrari dealers’ websites and came across a rather gorgeous 308 GTB Vetroresina. This version, an early car, is worth a 50 per cent premium over a later steel-bodied 308. But hang on a minute.

‘Gran tourismo berlinetta vetroresina’ means ‘hard-top glass-fibre’. You’re paying an extra 50 grand or so to be able to say ‘I’ve got the plastic Ferrari’. It’s made out of the same stuff as a canoe, it’s just that Ferrari has a nicer way of putting it.

'It's just that Ferrari has a nicer way of putting it.'

Giacomo Maggio

‘Maserati’ is a lovely word to say, and so is ‘Quattroporte’. The equivalent car from the British Midlands would have been the Morris Four-Door. Rubbish. The British Midlands did produce the Triumph Acclaim, and legend has it that it never sold in Germany because its name translates as ‘Sieg Heil’. I’ve always doubted this, so checked with a German mate. ‘It is impossible to translate Sieg Heil,’ he confirmed.

In Italian, however, it’s the Acclamazione di Trionfo, which sounds nothing like a second-rate licence-built Honda saloon. America’s AMC Pacer becomes the Battistrada, the Works limited Edition of the Mini Cooper becomes the Lavora in Edizione Limitata, and even the Morris Ital is better in Italian, because it’s the Morris Italiano. The only British car that doesn’t benefit from translation is the Ford Cortina, because that’s already Italian.

It’s where the British motor industry went wrong. Take the Reliant Robin. It’s a plastic three-wheeler named after a boring bird. In Italian it’s the Tre Ruota Vetroresina Pettirosso.

And now you want one.

Credito di foto: Philipp Dase /

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Comments (138)

  • I just wanted to say that I'm absolutely in love with your writing style, James. You do fantastic work. My dream job was always to be an automotive journalist, ever since I started reading my dad's Motor Trend, Road & Track, and Car & Driver when I was 5 years old. But I knew nobody would ever hand me the keys to a supercar and tell me to write about it, especially since I was a woman. My hopes were further dashed when a brain injury in high school (interestingly enough, caused by getting hit by a car) greatly affected my concentration and ability to write. I kind of lost interest in things for a while after that. It was actually Top Gear and the various articles written by you, Richard, and Jeremy that really helped me truly enjoy cars again. I'm no longer upset that I couldn't have my dream job. I'm just happy that there are people out there like you that truly excel at it. Thank you for enlightening thousands (millions?) of people with your thoughts every day. And thank you for occasionally responding to my meaningless drivel. It truly means the world. Okay, end of soppy story.

      4 years ago
    • Thats a lovely story Brandy, hope you're out there doing something you love. And if you're not — get working on it! Anything is possible. You've already proved that with your recovery from the accident. Perhaps you could start a tribe and...

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        4 years ago
    • Thanks for the kind words. I haven't let being a woman hold me back. I own a business and my job is highly technical. My peers are almost entirely men, so I do feel the need to constantly prove that my technical abilities are equal to theirs.

        4 years ago
  • Well, your name in italian is Giacomo Maggio, but I'm not really sure it makes you more desirable.

      4 years ago
  • Everything sounds good if translated into Italian! Even the "Giulia Quattroformaggio" sounds cooler than "Juliet Fourcheese" ahaha

      4 years ago
  • in italy everyone prefer to use english words.....everyone except in the fiat group.....maybe the marketing division discovered that italian words sounds more cool in their market....but I can confirm you that some words here in italy sounds very cool in english.....nobody,and I mean nobody,would have bought the "mini cooper contadino"

      4 years ago
  • In Italy we have the same problem; italians thinks that in english everything sounds better, so we are slowly replacing some italian words with english ones (like viaggio with tour, or aperitivo with happy hour). English make them more sophisticated.

    The problem is most of the people knows how these words sound but don't know how write them... and that's so funny.

      4 years ago
    • Really?! that is so weird, I can't imagine anyone thinking something sounded better in english than Italian!

        4 years ago
    • Different countries "same" problems; I even couldn't imagine that british people like italian words so much (refering on cars) before reading this!

        4 years ago