Celebrity Magazine – March 2023
An Homage to The Italian Job
Any classic car fan of the crime-comedy-caper from 1969, The Italian Job, with its eclectic cast of a crafty Michael Caine, a camp Noel Coward and bottom-squeezing Benny Hill, will be relieved to hear that the sequence in which the orange Lamborghini P400 Muira that climbed the mountain hairpins through the opening credits to the strains of Matt Munro’s On Days Like These, was actually made using two Muiras – the car entering the tunnel was brand new and sold after the scene was shot, the smashed car at the other end was another Miura that had previously been in a serious accident and not deemed roadworthy, so a perfect asset to tip off the cliff for a classic piece of cinema history. And breathe..
Not quite at the car-smashing production budget level of something like The Blues Brothers, it didn’t help that BMC, as it was then, insisted that the three red, white and blue Mini Coopers were purchased at trade price and that the thirty-odd other Mini Coopers destroyed during the filming had to be paid for. It was still painful to watch an Aston DB4 convertible also getting tipped off a cliff and the trashing of a couple of Series 1 E-Type Jags – all incredibly valuable today. Again, the Aston was actually a Lancia Flaminia dressed up as an Aston and the two E-Types were fully restored after the film and are still being driven around today. One not very careful previous owner, albeit with good movie provenance…
The only special car that didn’t achieve the same longevity was the beautiful Ferrari-engined Fiat Dino Coupe – the classic mafia car of the ‘60s – purchased after the film’s completion by the director, Peter Collinson, which rusted so badly that only its doors remain.
Talking of Fiat, the film also put some pretty stunning locations and iconic buildings on the map, not least the 1923 Lingotto Building in Turin – scene of the roof top oval track in the movie… “’Now as you go round, look for that bloody exit”.. We can’t go round here all night…”.
Gazillions of soon-to-be-rusty Fiats were manufactured here, and the fact that Fiat effectively owned Turin enabled its President, Gianni Agnelli, to welcome the film into the city and facilitate its making, creating some traffic chaos in the process!
As a stunning example of early 20th century industrial architecture, raw materials were shoved in at one end of the Lingotto Building to progress upwards through the five production floors before emerging as Fiats at the test track on the roof top – making it the world’s biggest car production facility at the time.
So it is that after my autumn 2022 tour of Provence on my VFR800 motorbike, planning is in place to jump on the Alcudia ferry to Toulon with some friends and do a lap of the northern Italian Alps in June, taking in many of the film’s mountain passes and recognised locations, including the Lingotto Building on the way to the mountains, part of which is conveniently now a hotel.
From Turin we will head north-east via the old banked sweeps of the Monza Grand Prix circuit, the ‘Cathedral of Motorsport’ and then into the Dolomites – perhaps the most dramatic and spectacular corner of The Alps. We will then turn west over the Stelvio Pass to Bormio – scene of many a Top Gear shoot and one of the prettiest and famous mountain passes in the world.
I’ve always absolutely loved road trips and being lucky enough to live on the beach all year with a ferry connecting us directly to the Cote D’Azur, this makes the mountains of Europe a desirable summer option.
Apologies for some slightly grainy pictures but I will rectify this for the later issue, being joined on the trip by my photographer friend Chris Scholey, appropriately enough in his Mini Cooper..
On days like these…