Home Cars 20 Italian Sports Cars With American V8 Engines

20 Italian Sports Cars With American V8 Engines

Vukasin Herbez June 12, 2019

Italian sports cars are infamous for their seductive lines, passionate designs, high-revving engines and enormous price tags. It sounds like a desirable yet expensive package. However, those machines have a dark side. They are of questionable reliability with sky-high maintenance costs and infamous records of sudden breakdowns.

So, what is the solution? Just take the elegant Italian body and install a good old American V8. They can go for millions of miles and provide a healthy dose of power and torque. Ever since the late ‘50s, Italian manufacturers have built cars with V8 engines from American brands. The list of those interesting machines is quite long, so here are the most interesting ones.

20. Bertone Mantide

Italy loves the Corvette, so over the years, many Italian design houses have produced a version of America’s favorite sports car. And one of the latest is the strange but fast Bertone Mantide. Debuting in 2009, the Mantide is a complete redesign of the Corvette ZR1.

It retains all the mechanics, drivetrain and engine, but on a new, lighter and more aerodynamically efficient body. This means the Mantide has a 6.2-liter supercharged V8 delivering 647 HP and slightly better performance numbers. The planned production was 10 examples, but it is unclear exactly how many they actually produced.

19. Ghia 450 SS

Back in the ‘50s, the Ghia design studio had a close connection with the Chrysler Corporation. Together, they produced lots of highly successful and influential show cars. So, in the early ‘60s, Burt Sugarman, the famous Hollywood producer, contacted Ghia. He suggested the company produce a limited run of roadsters they would base on the Plymouth Barracuda.

However, they would offer it with a special body, bespoke interior and more power. And that is how the Ghia 450 SS was born. Powered by a 273 V8 and paired to an automatic transmission, the Ghia 450 SS pumped out 240 HP.

It offered decent performance numbers, along with a unique and stylish design. As you can expect, the Ghia 450 SS was an expensive proposition, costing roughly three times more than the top-of-the-line Barracuda. And that is why they only made 52 cars.

18. Intermeccanica Italia Spyder

The late ‘60s were interesting times for the car industry, especially small companies in northern Italy like Intermeccanica. After years of being involved with the restoration and manufacturing of cars and components for other brands, in 1969, the company introduced the Italia. It is an elegant sports car with Ford or Chevrolet power plants.

Intermeccanica built around 500 Italias, both in convertible and coupe form. The model lasted until 1975 when the company moved to the USA and entered the replica car business. However, the Italia Spider is one of the rarest and most elegant Italian cars with U.S. engines.

17. De Tomaso Pantera

Maybe not as famous as Ferrari or Lamborghini, De Tomaso is another legend of the Italian sports car scene from the ‘60s. Started by Alejandro De Tomaso, the company first began as a race car outfit. But soon, they moved to the sports car market with a lineup of successful models. They featured Ford’s small block engines, a five-speed transaxle gearbox, and an aggressive design.

The first car was the De Tomaso Mangusta, which they introduced in 1967. However, the Pantera they presented in 1969 was far more successful and popular, even though it shared a lot with the Mangusta. The key to the Pantera’s success was that Alejandro De Tomaso made a deal with the Ford Motor Company. That meant they could officially sell De Tomaso products in America through the Lincoln-Mercury dealership network.

16. Iso Grifo

Iso sports cars were the brainchild of Italian industrialist, Renzo Rivolta. After successful ventures in other forms of vehicle production, Rivolta decided to produce a sports car with a powerful U.S.-built engine and homegrown Italian body. The best Iso model was the sublime Grifo. It was an elegant and dramatically styled coupe they introduced in 1964.

Immediately, it became one of the most advanced, fastest and desirable sports coupes on the market. This was a bold claim because, in the middle of the ‘60s in Italy, there was serious competition from heavy hitters like Ferrari, Maserati, and Lamborghini. But the Iso Grifo was more beautiful and faster than anything else.

15. Bizzarinni 5300 GT Strada

Giotto Bizzarrini is one of the greatest names in the history of automotive engineering. As a person who worked for Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Iso, he helped create some of the finest sports cars of the ‘60s, including the mythical Ferrari 250 GTO. In the mid-60s, Giotto decided to produce his own sports car. So by using an Iso Grifo base, he introduced the Bizzarrini GT 5300 Strada.

This was a semi-racing model he transformed into a road-going coupe. Under the hood was 5.3-liter Chevrolet V8; hence, the name, GT 5300. They tuned the engine to produce higher HP ratings. Also, they moved it as far back as possible for the best weight distribution. They built the car out of aluminum. And since it was light, it was fast, even by today’s standards as well as a good basis for a racing car.

14. Qvale Mangusta

The late ‘90s brought Qvale as a new player on the international sports car scene. The project started as a De Tomaso concept. However, it continued as a Qvale since De Tomaso went out of business. Under the sleek and modern design, there were quite a few Ford Mustang parts, including a 4.6-liter V8 engine and dashboard.

But the most interesting feature of this car was the roof. Each Mangusta was also a coupe, Targa and a convertible thanks to an interesting retractable hardtop system that allowed several positions. Unfortunately, the car wasn’t so well received, so they discontinued it in 2002 after producing just 284 of them.

13. De Tomaso Longchamp

In the ‘70s, De Tomaso was a well-respected sports car brand that needed a luxury GT coupe to expand their portfolio. Building it on a shortened Deauville sedan chassis, in 1972, De Tomaso introduced a sleek, fast coupe they called the Longchamp. The engine for this model, as for all other De Tomaso cars came from Ford in the form of a 351 V8 producing 330 HP.

And that was more than enough for an exhilarating performance that was true to the Gran Turismo nature of this car. They ceased production in 1989 after building more than 400. Interestingly, U.S. engines in Italian cars in the ‘70s had more power and torque because the European environmental standards were different than in America.

12. Nardi Silver Ray

One of the first Italian sports cars to feature an American V8 was the little-known Nardi Silver Ray they built in 1960. Giovani Michelotti designed it and then Nardi built it on a tubular frame with some suspension parts from Alfa Romeo. However, the most interesting thing was the engine.

The Nardi Silver Ray used a Plymouth Golden Commando 413 V8 that delivered 350 HP. For 1960 this was enormous power and the Silver Ray could top 140 mph, which was outstanding. Since it was immensely powerful and fast, Nardi and Michelotti equipped it with four-wheel disc brakes.

11. Momo Mirage

The Momo Mirage was the brainchild of New York’s Peter Kalikow and his friend Albert Momo. Kalikow was a wealthy car enthusiast and Momo was a Jaguar dealer, and the two developed a close friendship around cars. So, in the late ‘70s, they decided to build their own car company to produce exclusive coupes with Italian styling and bodies. But they would come with Chevrolet V8 engines.

Soon, they contacted the famous Italian designer, Pietro Frua, who agreed to design and build the Momo Mirage. Unfortunately, the Momo car company started in the early ‘70s just before the economic recession, which greatly affected the car market. As a result, they never completed the plan to build 25 Mirages per year. In fact, Frua only completed five cars, three of which are still in the possession of Peter Kalikow.

10. Iso Grifo 90

The legendary Iso Grifo from the ‘60s and early ‘70s left an everlasting mark on the industry. So in 1990, Pietro Rivolta, son of the founder, presented the Grifo 90 concept. They built it on a Corvette C4 chassis with a special new body Marcello Gandini, the renowned stylist, designed. Unfortunately, financial problems forced the cancelation of the project and soon, the Grifo 90 was forgotten.

Fast forward two decades and a group of young Italian engineers decided to revive the project. However, this time they used the Corvette C5 as a base, dressing it up in a gorgeous yellow Grifo 90 body style. You can spec your Grifo 90 with a 490 HP engine and Corvette Z06 chassis to make it an extremely quick and capable sports car.

9. Iso Rivolta 300

The first model from the iconic Iso brand was the beautiful Rivolta. They named it after the company founder Renzo Rivolta. It was an elegant Gran Turismo coupe Bertone designed with a Chevrolet 350 V8 engine. In the Rivolta, this engine delivered 300 HP. And that was enough for an exciting performance and effortless cruising down the Italian highways.

Renzo Rivolta wanted to battle Ferrari in the GT market, so he commissioned Bertone to design an elegant two-door body. Also, he employed several young engineers to take care of the mechanical side of the project. The engineers all wanted a Chevrolet V8 for power and durability. So Renzo green-lighted their choice and the Iso Rivolta was born. It did well on the market, influencing Rivolta to continue building cars.

8. Alfa Romeo TZ3

The TZ name has been present in Alfa history since the ’60s when they produced a number of sports and racing cars they named the TZ1 and TZ2. The “T” stands for Turbulare, and the “Z” stands for Zagato, the designer house. The Alfa Romeo TZ 3 was, in fact, a previous generation Dodge Viper ACR-X in a track-prepared version.

Alfa only dressed the Viper into the Zagato body. However, they left the all-important mechanical components and the massive 8.2-liter engine intact. Even the interior was the same except they changed all the badges from Dodge to Alfa Romeo.

7. DeTomaso Mangusta

Although the Pantera proved to be much more successful and popular, the Mangusta is arguably the more interesting De Tomaso model. They debuted the Mangusta in 1967 featuring a special racing chassis. But the best feature was the high-performance engine from the Ford Mustang in the form of the high revving 289 V8 with a five-speed transaxle gearbox.

Also, it had interesting Gullwing-style rear openings for easier access to the engine. The Mangusta was a somewhat expensive proposition in 1967 with tricky handling and questionable build quality. And that is why De Tomaso only built 400 of those gorgeous coupes until 1971. After that, they replaced it with the more conventional and less expensive to build Pantera.

6. Iso Lele

Iso proved themselves with two of the finest GT coupes ever built in Italy in the ‘60s, the Grifo and the Rivolta. However, they wanted to move forward as the ‘70s approached. This meant they would present a new model with a modern design and more luxury features and interior room to attract a new generation of buyers.

They named the new GT coupe the Lele, presenting it in 1969. It had a wedge-shaped profile, space for four adult occupants and a big trunk. Under the hood was a 327 V8 from Chevrolet. But the later versions featured a 351 V8 from Ford. Although an interesting and elegant car, the Iso Lele was a hard sell in the early ‘70s. That was due to the recession and oil crisis, which forced the company to stop production and leave the car business.

Monteverdi Hai 450 - Monteverdi

5. Monteverdi

Monteverdi was a Swiss luxury car brand active from 1967 until 1984. Over the years, Monteverdi produced many premium models they marketed as cars with “German quality, Italian design and American power.” This was a winning combination. Monteverdi cars featured a Chrysler engine to produce an effortless performance. It also had the speed and raw power many European manufacturers of the period lacked.

The most extreme Monteverdi model was the Hai 450 from 1970. It featured a new chassis and body, as well as the famous Hemi 426 V8 engine. Monteverdi wanted the most powerful engine Mopar had to offer so in 1970, that was the mighty Hemi. The car was called “Hai,” which is a German word for a shark. The 0 to 60 mph acceleration time took only 4.5 seconds, making it the quickest car of the era.

4. AC 428 Frua

The British AC company is known for its part in the Cobra legend as a provider of bodies for early Shelby cars. They also continued producing the best 289 and 427 Cobras after Shelby ceased production in 1967. However, the company introduced another interesting European-American hybrid in 1965. They called it the AC 428 Frua.

It was a refined Gran Turismo coupe or convertible that the Frua design studio in Italy designed and assembled. They built the basic mechanics in England and then sent the cars to Turin where the final fabrication took place. Under the hood were American-made engines like Ford’s 428 V8 with 345 HP. The car was a fast cruiser with updated equipment, but it was also expensive. AC built only 81 Fruas before they ceased production in 1973.

Chevrolet Corvette (C2) - Car

3. Chevrolet Corvette Rondine

In 1963, the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray stunned the global automotive audience with its fantastic design, sharp edges, split window feature and brutal performance. It was the epitome of the American sports car at its finest. However, in Turin, Italy the talented designers at Pininfarina thought they could do it better. So, in cooperation with Chevrolet, they got the chance to prove themselves.

The result was the Corvette Rondine, a fully operational and usable concept car from 1963 that debuted at the Paris Motor Show. Since Chevrolet commissioned the car, it graced the General Motors stand with the 327/360 V8 engine, four-speed manual and disc brakes. Although there were pleas for production, this gorgeous car remained a unique example of one of the most beautiful American cars with an Italian design.

2. Fissore Magnum LaForza

The Fissore Magnum LaForza is an obscure Italian luxury SUV they sold in America from the late ‘80s until the early 2000s. Because they developed it using a military vehicle, it was an Italian competitor to the Range Rover. However, because of limited funds, they designed and built the car using an independent company that used components from other cars. Most noticeable were the rear lights and doors from the economy compact Fiat Uno.

However, the most powerful version they called the LaForza used a Ford 5.0-liter V8 with 200 HP for an interesting performance in its class. And because they equipped it with a capable AWD system, the LaForza was competent on off-road terrain. However, problems with production and the high price left this interesting Italian/American luxury SUV on the margins of the industry.

1. Ford Mustang Bertone

Since the Mustang was a hot car in the mid-60s, coachbuilders and design houses tried to improve the design. They were busy introducing their creations based on the Ford bestseller like the 1965 Bertone Mustang.

First presented at the Geneva Motor Show in 1965, the Bertone Mustang was a redesigned car on the Mustang GT platform. Bertone made an aerodynamically-enhanced body, custom interior, and special details. But since Ford wasn’t interested, they only sold this car to a string of owners. No one’s sure where they are today.

This list covered 20 of the most beautiful Italian sports cars with American V8s. Which one caught your eye? Some of these cars are obscure and rare, while others are still on the roads today. Hopefully, you chose one that is still up for sale.

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