On The Lamborghini Veneno and the Masculinization of Supercar Design

Lamborghini Veneno

I’m sure you’ll all remember in the first act of Star Wars that fate or accident or simple luck finds our hero/farmboy Luke Skywalker and his mentor Obi Wan Kenobi in possession of military secrets that could bring an evil dictatorship to its knees—if they can get those secrets into the right hands. They seek out a smuggler with a high-performance vehicle to help them spirit those secrets under the dictator’s nose. But when our hero first spots this alleged performance vehicle, he finds himself in doubt. This doesn’t look like a fast machine. In fact, it looks like a piece of junk.

Our smuggler, ever confident, replies: “She’ll make point five past lightspeed. She may not look like much, but she’s got it where it counts, kid.”


They’re always she.

From sailing ships to sportscars, we’ve always imbued these objects with a feminine mystique. I’d argue that when we look at the sports and racing cars of the mid-century that it’s the most literal we’ve made that connection.

Look at the Jaguar D-Type. Those hips! Look at a Ferrari 875S, a Birdcage Maserati, a Porsche 550. Look at a Triumph TR3 or an Alfa-Romeo Tipo 33 Stradale or an Abarth 750 Zagato or Aston-Martin DB3. Look at any of them and you’ll see slippery shapes of sweeping curves subtly transitioning from one gorgeous corner of the car to another.

This is not to say that these machines look bulbous or soft. These are purposeful, powerful shapes. And they are decidedly feminine. Marilyn or Bettie or even Audrey poised to leap; to dance; to race.

Something has happened in the past 20 years of sportscar design. There’s nothing elegant about this Lamborghini. It looks cold and mechanical and dangerous. We’ve stopped caring about machines looking beautiful and settled for them looking angry or dangerous… Mean. A Ferrari 250GTO is all of those things as well but there’s a beauty and a warmth and a grace to her lines that contemporary sportscars lack entirely. These sharp angles and hard edges represent an overt masculinization of automotive design and I think it’s a great loss.

I have a hard time imagining anyone calling this Lamborghini “she”. Alas.

More images at Jalopnik.

Decision at Scottsdale: Which Little Italian?


We marveled yesterday at the tremendous lineup at Gooding’s Scottsdale auctions next weekend. With this remarkable list of lots crossing the stage, it isn’t easy for pretend-billionaires like ourselves to decide which cars we’ll be raising our paddles for. Then again, if I was a pretend-billionaire, I’d probably be taking all of them home… Let’s make it pretend-millionaire to keep it interesting.

1947 Cisitalia 202 SMM Spider Nuvolari Front

This 1947 Cisitalia 202 SMM Spider Nuvolari is certainly a beautiful option. It is the esoteric hipster’s choice—why bother consorting with common 50’s and 60’s racing cars when you can hang with the racing machines of the 1940’s. Rare stuff indeed. If you’re an Abarth fan, there’s no reason to immediately dismiss the Cisitalia either. Carlo Abarth was still an employee of Cisitalia when the 202 was designed.

1947 Cisitalia 202 SMM Spider Nuvolari three quarter1947 Cisitalia 202 SMM Spider Nuvolari Profile1947 Cisitalia 202 SMM Spider Nuvolari cockpit

Of the handful of 202 variants (including the 202 and 202MM), the Stabilimenti Farina penned Spider Nuvolari is my favorite. It has all the visual hallmarks of what were to become iconic sports and racing design elements. The oval grille, the beginnings of tail-fins, that low windscreen: They all combine beautifully in this gorgeous little package. Just look at those mesh air intakes! Simply stunning.

1960 Fiat-Abarth 850 Record Monza Profile

There’s no such thing as a bad Abarth. Although I prefer my Abarth coupes with the double-bubble up top—I doubt I’d fit in otherwise—There’s no shortage of beautiful curves and sexy angles of this 1960 Fiat-Abarth 850 Record Monza. I particularly like the details on this particular example. At first glance it’s a bit jarring to see a bright red Italian beauty of this vintage without the required Route Borani wires, but I’m a huge fan of these purposeful (and original) pressed steelies. I think they give it a racier look than wires would.

1960 Fiat-Abarth 850 Record Monza1960 Fiat-Abarth 850 Record Monza cockpit1960 Fiat-Abarth 850 Record Monza Tail
If you’re planning on going to the track with one of these machines, the Abarth might be right choice. Designed for the racing class changes of 1960, the 850 was a step above it’s 750 brother and remained competitive in club racing throughout the decade. Sadly, this example is fitted with a later 903cc engine.


1960 Autobianchi Bianchina Trasformabile Three Quarter

With such remarkable company, you might think the 1960 Autobianchi Bianchina Trasformabile here doesn’t even enter into the equation. It certainly isn’t going to compete with the other two on the track—and you might not even consider it an able racing machine. You’d probably be right. The only sporting Bianchini that comes to mind for me is the tale of George Lucas’ crash in one that prompted his exit from the California sports and racing scene.

Even so, I’m a fan. Italy’s take on the practicality and aesthetic that propelled the Mini to huge successes is clearly in evidence here. Of course, the Fiat 500 clearly is what comes to mind when we think of an Italian version of the Mini. I like the Cincuento, but as a long-time supporter of underdogs, I think I’d take the Bianchina if given the choice between the two. And just dig this two tone interior.

1960 Autobianchi Bianchina Trasformabile Front1960 Autobianchi Bianchina Trasformabile Profile1960 Autobianchi Bianchina Trasformabile Interior

Then again, with an estimate of $35-$45,000, maybe pretend-millionaire me would just take home the Autobianchi as a side dish alongside the Abarth or the Cisitalia. What’s your choice?

More information and photos on the lot detail pages for the 1947 Cisitalia SMM Spyder Nuvolari, 1960 Fiat-Abarth 850 Record Monza, and 1960 Autobianchi Bianchina Trasformabile.


The auction is complete and the estimates all pretty much nailed. They all came in at the low to middle of their estimated range. If you picked the Cisitalia, you sir, have expensive tastes. Yeah, me too.
1947 Cisitalia 202 SMM Spider Nuvolari $650,000
1960 Fiat-Abarth 850 Record Monza $89,100
1960 Autobianchi Bianchina Trasformabile $40,700