Lot 27: Triumph Italia 2000 Coupe
"Italian bodywork at its best, British tradition in sports car engineering at its finest." So said the brochure for the Triumph Italia 2000 Coupe. The idea was that an attractive Italian body for the TR3 could provide the best of both worlds: Continental eye appeal and the bulletproof mechanical reputation of the Triumph sports car. The Triumph Italia 2000 was designed by Michelotti and built by Vignale in Italy on a TR3 rolling chassis. The similarities to the later TR4 are unmistakable, and many consider this model to have been Michelotti's design prototype for that model. About 329 examples were produced between 1959 and 1962. The project was the brainchild of Signore Salvatore Ruffino, the managing director of CESAC, the company that distributed Standard and Triumph cars in Italy. He approached Standard-Triumph about supplying TR3 chassis and other components, which the British firm was happy to do. Giovanni Michelotti, who had done work for S-T since the update of the Standard Vanguard, penned a handsome notchback coupe, which was built by Carrozzeria Alfredo Vignale under contract to Ruffino S.p.A. Industria Construzione Automobile of Naples. The Triumph Italia 2000 coupe debuted at the 1958 Turin Motor Show to positive press. Production began in July 1959, the finished car owing much to Michelotti's design for the Maserati 3500. The bodies were built in steel and came with deep, melodious Ascari mufflers. The Leyland takeover of Standard Triumph in 1961 ultimately squelched the deal. The new management apparently didn't like it, and perhaps viewed it as competition for the new TR4, due out within months. This Triumph Italia 2000 has been meticulously restored in the Italian racing red motif of the 1958 Turin Show Car, with a corresponding tan interior and shows to be one of the best in the world. The last Italia was built in 1962, and it is believed that in all some 329 were built, of which 50 were exported to the US and fewer than 17 appear to have survived according to the registry. This car, number 319, is the 10th to the last car built. Sadly, Dr. Ruffino lost a great deal of money and his faith in Triumph over the failure of the Italia. It's been reported he was so angry that he destroyed many of the coupe's original drawings and documents. It's story is complex and its history convoluted but the Italia 2000 is so much more than simply a rebodied TR3. The ensuing 40 years have transformed it from a used curiosity to a highly sought car, heralded by coach built car fans and the Triumph faithful as special in its own right. It is just as advertised: Italian bodywork at its best, British tradition...at its finest.
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