The result is a car with all the bits you can’t see being properly engineered Alfa Romeo jobs, and everything you touch, feel, see and admire being the lovingly hand-crafted work of Touring Superleggera.
It’s a very special car indeed, as we’ll discover, but that’s not a surprise when you consider Touring’s history. Founded as a coachbuilder in 1926, the company carved its niche by patenting Superleggera body construction – small tubes to form the body shape with alloy panels attached to strengthen and sculpt – that was lightweight and flexible, creating some of the most evocative car designs in history.
Take the Aston Martin DB5. That most iconic of British cars has a Touring body that was licensed back to Newport Pagnell for manufacture. Look closely on the DB5’s bonnet – and the DB4 before it and the DB6 after – and you’ll see the Touring logo.
The first Lamborghini, the 350GT in 1963, was a Touring car, too. Enzo Ferrari commissioned Touring to design many of the early Ferrari road cars, such as the 166, 195 and 212 GTs. Many legendary Maseratis, Lancias, and most notably Alfa Romeos of the 1950s and 1960s also wear the Touring logo, as does the Jensen Interceptor.
Despite an untouchable back catalogue, Touring disbanded in 1966 following an industry shift away from outsourced low-volume coachbuilt products to mass-built models designed in-house. The famous name lay dormant until it was quietly reborn 40 years later.
Since then the firm has made small waves by turning the Maserati Quattrporte into a fastback called Bellagio and larger ones by making a Flying Star estate out of a Bentley Continental GT. Its comeback as a creator of the finest hand-crafted coachbuilt cars has been fully announced with the Disco Volante.
It’s this car for which I’ve come to Touring’s unassuming headquarters on the outskirts of Milan to find out more about and, providing I promise not to tell the chap who’s bought it, maybe even have a little drive in.
The production Disco Volante here closely follows a concept of the same name from the Geneva motor show in 2012. Two of the eight have been built, another is under construction and the sale of a fourth is close to being finalised.
The Disco Volante is Touring’s way of using its history to promote its future. “Many people don’t know what Touring is,” Mancardi says, “but when they find out what we’ve done they’re amazed.”
Touring chose to pay homage to Alfa by reimaging the C52 Disco Volante of 1952. “If you go to the Alfa Romeo museum, half the cars are done by Touring,” says the firm’s incumbent chief designer and 2013 Disco Volante creator, Louis de Fabribeckers. “The Disco Volante is such a fascinating beautiful car, with proportions that inspired a generation of sports cars [think Jaguar E-type], so it was a natural car to reference.”
A production run of eight was chosen as “a car built in eight units can be as rare as a one-off, but the passion is shared between people, adds value, and confirms you made a good choice,” according to Mancardi, but he isn’t fussed if all are sold. “We’ll only build what we sell, and can be well off from one unit,” he adds.
Approach the car for the first time and the timeless proportions of the 8C underneath remain obvious, but the body is as much a nod to the future as it is the past. Disco Volante translates as ‘Flying Saucer’ so it’s no surprise to lean de Fabribeckers and his team drew inspiration from the film 2001: A Space Odyssey for some of the design flourishes.