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.
‘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 / Shutterstock.com