Fissore Magnum LaForza
The Fissore Magnum LaForza is an obscure Italian luxury SUV they sold in America from the late â80s 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.
Cunningham Vignale C3
Briggs Cunningham was a world known entrepreneur, racer and constructor who introduced American cars to the European sports car scene in the 1950s. His dream was to build a racing car that would dominate both sides of the Atlantic by winning the Le Mans with an all-American machine, drivers and crew.
From 1952 to 1955, Cunningham entered the Le Mans race with several cars of his own design. However, in the same period, he produced a road-going sports car in the form of the beautiful Cunningham C-3. The C-3 was a two-door coupe or convertible he produced in his West Palm Beach facility. It used the Cunningham C-2 R racing chassis they converted for street use and the bodies came from Vignale in Italy.
Under the hood was a Chrysler 331 Hemi engine they tuned to produce 300 HP. The C-3 was a luxury sports car that could easily rival any Ferrari or Maserati. However, it was also expensive with the prices close to the Rolls Royce of the day. And that is why Briggs Cunningham produced only 20 coupes and five convertibles, all of which still exist today.
Chrysler TC Maserati
Everything started in the mid-80s when Chrysler was flushed with cash and high on ambition. After the failure of the Imperial coupe, Chrysler was on a lookout for another premium project and again attempted to break into the luxury market. In those days, one of their bestselling products was the cool-looking Chrysler Le Baron.
It was available as a coupe or a convertible, all with front-wheel drive. The Le Baron was selling nicely but Chrysler thought they could turn it into something to rival the Cadillac Allante or Mercedes SL, two of the hottest drop top cars of the day. Through the connection with Maserati, Chrysler decided to upgrade the Le Baron into a bespoke, luxury car. They wanted to give it more power and interior features, leather upholstery and updated equipment.
The assembly was not in Detroit but in Italy, emphasizing its premium roots and exclusivity. Under the hood, buyers could get the turbocharged four-cylinder engine or naturally-aspirated 3.0-liter V6. When the TC finally entered the market in 1989, buyers were shocked by the high price tag. But it was the result of making the car in Italy by hand and then transporting it to the states.
Also, the TC by Maserati wasn’t fast or nimble because they used modest underpinnings that resulted in relatively common driving dynamics. However, in two years, Maserati produced 7,300 TCs, which is a relatively low number. Today, this model is not a popular car since it isn`t exactly a Chrysler and it isn’t exactly a Maserati. Caught somewhere in the middle, the TC is an interesting part of history for both brands and an obscure collector car.
Cadillac envisioned the Allante as a competitor to the Mercedes SL convertible. It was a two-seater luxury convertible with Italian styling by Pininfarina, a Northstar V8 engine and front-wheel drive. That was quite an unusual combination, but the car looked and performed well.
Even the production process was specific since they did the fabrication in Italy in the Pininfarina factory and then shipped the cars to the U.S. by jet. But that made the cost of the final product much higher. The Allante stayed in production until 1993 and they built just over 21,000. Unfortunately, the car was too expensive to produce, so the factory allegedly lost money on every example they made.
The late â90s brought the Qvale as a new player on the international sports car scene. The project started as a De Tomaso concept, but they continued as a Qvale when De Tomaso went out of business. Under the sleek and modern design, there were quite a few Ford Mustang parts, including the 4.6-liter V8 engine and dashboard.
The most interesting feature of this car was the roof. Each Mangusta was also a coupe, Targa and convertible thanks to a retractable hardtop system that allowed for several positions. Unfortunately, the car wasn’t well received, so they discontinued it in 2002 after producing only 284 of them.
These are the cars like spaghetti westerns with Italian styling and American engines. Did any of them strike your fancy? If so, be sure to check the price tag first since most of these are extremely expensive. Sadly, some of these cars are no longer available, but they all made automotive history.