Inspired by mid-century Alfa Romeos and the Jaguar D-Type, Carrozzeria Touring’s latest creation is here to make your jaw drop

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Automakers nowadays try to make the equivalent of a Swiss knife on wheels, cars that defy the age-old class structure by mashing together the features of an all-terrain vehicle, a people-carrier, and a sedan to create a brand-new niche.

There are plenty of such purposeful models on sale, models that claim to be both practical and sporty and big while driving as if they were half their size, and the list goes on. But then there’s Touring’s Aero 3, a long-nosed, red ode to not being practical. To not trying to tick a spreadsheet-worth of targets at the same time. A car made to turn heads as it drives down the road and nothing more.

There aren’t many cars out there whose sole purpose in life is to be beautiful

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The famed Italian coachbuilder Carrozzeria Touring is at it again. Known for decades as the company behind the ’Superleggera’ chassis building technique, Touring has been busy making some rather exquisite models recently, including the Sciadipersia Coupe and Convertible, two Maserati-based beauties.

Such models surely don’t appease to an especially large audience but they bode well with Touring’s resume that features legends like the 8C 2900 Lungo Spider, the Maserati 3500 GT or the Aston Martin DB4 GT.

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The latest Touring creation vying for the legendary status is the Aero 3, a modern-looking tribute to the Alfa Romeos of the ’30s that will be seen in the flesh for the first time at the 2020 Salon Prive Concours d’Elegance. At first glance, the car looks quite extraordinary. the long nose ends with two rather small headlights perched upon the slightly taller fenders. Immediately below these light clusters, cradled by the protruding cheekbones of the front fascia, are sizeable multi-duct inlets. The intricacy of it all is ostensibly modern as this setup is frames the central grille that’s split in half by an orange-tinted vertical bar.

Painted like the inner facets of the geometric shapes within the side openings of the fascia, that bar gives the grille a certain Alfa vibe although the Milan-based automaker wasn’t involved in the making of the car we’re seeing here. Touring, that’s also based out of Milan, says, through the voice of its Chief Designer Louis de Fabribeckers quoted by Classic Driver, that "the Aero 3 is our vision of how the streamlined, aerodynamic style of the 1930s would look today," adding that it blends style with aerodynamic efficiency, "a key strand of our DNA," according to de Fabribeckers.

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It is, then, weird to find out that the car’s most obvious feature, which we haven’t talked about yet, isn’t purposeful. So, let’s move on around the sides of the Aero 3 until we find the elephant in the room - or rather, on the back of the car. Before you get to the tail section, you’re greeted by the slab-sided profile section aft of the front wheels that, on this Stratosphere Red car, is adorned on both sides by an orange 19 with a white outline. As we get to the doors, the bodywork caves in as the straight paneling reveals vents on both sides that extract hot air from the brakes, directing it away along the side of the door profile.

These pointy edges and hard lines too disappear as we get to the rear wheel arches that open up as the bulbous rear flares try their best to conceal the mammoth-sized rims of the Aero 3. The rear fenders also serve to underline the way the roof narrows down towards the back and comes down without a rear window. There are, however, tiny openings into the rear quarter windows to aid air circulation inside the cabin but that’s about it as the vertical fin brings it all to a close at the back.

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Ah, yes, a fin. When was the last time you saw a car on the road sporting a vertical, D-Type-inspired fin?

Well, to be factually correct, the fin isn’t necessarily inspired by Jaguar as Touring says the Aero 3’s biggest influence is the Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Le Mans of 1938 although it does share some cues with Touring’s modern take on another much-celebrated Alfa, the Disco Volante. The 8C 2900B Le Mans did have a tapered rear deck but no fin. The number 19 on the bodywork is the number seen on the car raced at Le Mans in 1938 by Clemente Biondetti and Raymond Sommer (a car which today can be seen in all its glory at Alfa Romeo’s museum in Arese and which we’ll talk more about later in this piece).

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The link to that legendary Alfa, the centerpiece of one of the most dominating runs ever at Le Mans that eventually led to nothing at all, was apparently commissioned by the owner of the Aero 3 as Touring says it will walk each and every customer through a very thorough customization program that’s part of the experience of getting yourself an Aero 3. Apparently, two more people are getting their Aero 3s personalized as this article’s being written and others could knock on Touring’s door after the Aero 3 is displayed at Salon Prive.

Why? Well, because "our goal today is not to make the most efficient car but rather the most beautiful," as de Fabribeckers underlined. While this flies into the face of the company’s other claim, that the Aero 3 is a tribute to the coachbuilder’s roots in aerodynamic design, we can’t deny that the car looks interesting. So what if Touring was among the first builders to have its own wind tunnel and now, all these years racing, the model that’s here to bow down to that storied past features a useless fin? Maybe it’s not that important.

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That’s because Touring hasn’t cut any corners as far as the oily bits are concerned. For starters, you may be wondering what’s hiding underneath this unique body. Unlike Carrozzeria Zagato, that used Viper underpinnings for its TZ3 Stradale from 2011, an ode to the Tubolare Zagato Alfas from the ’60s, Touring is only willing to allude to the basis for this project by giving us some stats: 730 horsepower and 509 pound-feet of torque from a 6.3-liter V-12 engine.

All that power reaches the rear wheels through a dual-clutch seven-speed transmission.
Touring Aero 3 specifications
Engine 6.3-liter V-12
Output: 730 HP @ 8250 RPM
Maximum torque: 509 LB-FT
Drivetrain Rear wheel drive
Transmission 7-speed, electroactuated sequential gearbox with paddle - shift control and automatic mode
Top Speed 211 mph
0 to 62 mph 3.1 seconds
Weight: 3,619 pounds

If that sounds similar and you’re thinking of a certain grand tourer made by a Maranello-based automaker than you’re on the right track. The thing is, though, that the Aero 3 is a whole seven inches longer than the F12 but belies its outer dimensions by being a whopping 400 pounds lighter. That’s because the custom body was made out of carbon fiber, Touring moving away from its beloved aluminum (used on the Sciadipersia) for something a lot more modern.

Touring Aero 3 - The Car With A Huge Fin That Has No Other Purpose Other Than Look Cool Interior
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More hints at the Aero 3’s past incarnation as a Prancing horse can be found inside where the driver-focused center console features three air vents up top. There’s a different badge on the steering wheel and the upholstery is different with black leather blending with grey Alcantara, and another red, silky-smooth material down below, but the signs are all there. However, you can’t help but praise Touring’s attention to detail, right down to the pair of bespoke helmets painted in red with an orange stripe down the middle. The tailpipes, too, are unique and really, really big, taking central stage within the dual-split diffuser of the Aero 3.

Adding all up, the example that will be seen at Blenheim Palace this weekend has eaten up 5,000 man-hours before Touring was done with it.

A run of 15 units is planned but we can’t tell you how much one costs because we’re not privy to that sort of information. You’ll have to ask Touring for the price tag but we bet it’s astronomical.

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It has to be, after all, it’s lighter than the car it started life as and it also looks a lot more insane. Your example is at least six months away - that’s how much Touring says it takes to have one built - but after all that wait you get an amazing car that, unusually for a coach-built creation, comes with two years’ worth of warranty (no limit on mileage!) and lifelong guarantee on all of the parts fitted to the car that are manufactured by Touring in-house. That’s quite a deal and you want to know what’s even better? Touring plans to build other Aero models in the future.

Sommer’s most frustrating June day

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Frenchman Raymond Sommer is not a household name nowadays but, back in the first half of the previous century, he won the 24 Hours of Le Mans twice, scored Ferrari’s first GP win (before the inception of the F1 World Championship that is), and could beat the great Tazio Nuvolari on occasion. And he did all that on his own terms.

Debuting at Le Mans in 1931, Sommer had the means to fight at the top from the get-go as a flourishing family business allowed him to get just about any car his heart desired. However, for that first go at doing the Big Race, he chose a Chrysler which didn’t last very long. An Alfa Romeo won that day, one of only six cars to cross the finish line in what was a grueling race of attrition. The winning car caught Sommer’s eye so, before long, he had the keys to an 8C 2300 that he duly entered in the 1932 edition of the Le Mans race. Bringing future US Ferrari importer Luigi Chinetti along as team-mate, Sommer proved once again that a cautious approach is the best approach in long-distance racing.

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His car was one of just two 8Cs standing at the half-point mark, four others falling by the wayside after their drivers pushed them beyond their limits way too soon. Sommer didn’t and won, doing so after completing the herculean task of driving a whole 21 hours out of th 24 due to Chinetti falling ill. He ended the year on a high by beating Nuvolari in the Marseilles Grand Prix in lesser equipment: Sommer raced at Miramas in the 8C 2300 Monza two-seater fenderless sports car while Nuvolari had a P3 (Tipo B) Monoposto at his disposal.

Stunned as he must’ve been following this rare defeat, the ’Flying Mantoan’ thought better of it and decided to partner Sommer for the 1933 running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Paired up in a pukka works car, the Italian-French duo won outright but it was far from a walk in the park as everything seemed to be breaking on the car as the hours went by. Still, the lap record set in the race would stay for four years.

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The next few seasons were somewhat fruitless for Sommer because the Frenchman didn’t want to ink any sort of agreement with a manufacturer and only raced his own cars. When, finally, he budged and shook hands with Enzo Ferrari. The Italian was running Alfa’s factory team but better machinery could rarely upend Sommer’s bad luck. Though he won the 1936 24 Hours of Spa, the partnership yield little else in terms of result.

With the German-built ’Silver Arrows’ crushing everything in their way in Grand Prix racing, Sommer decided to focus on sports cars and the car Alfa was cooking for the 1938 edition of the Le Mans race seemed destined for the winner’s circle. Adorned with a gorgeous aerodynamic body signed off by Touring, this lone Alfa 8C 2900B was powered by a 220 horsepower version of Vittorio Jano’s DOHC, twin-supercharged straight-eight engine. Nicknamed ’’Soffio di Satana’’ (The Devil’s Breath) in native Italy, the Alfa started in the hands of Sommer who proved that Carlo Felice Anderloni’s work on the tapered tail helped the car go quicker.

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After just a handful of laps, Sommer was running third which then became second as the Frenchman reeled in Delahaye’s top driver, Rene Dreyfus. Soon enough, Darracq’s Etancelin joined the fight and, by the end of the eight lap, the first four cars were separated by a mere 10 seconds. The pace wasn’t unheard of - they were running some five seconds off Benoist’s flyer from 1937 - but the drivers passed and re-passed each other as if this was a sprint race, not a twice-around-the-clock test of endurance.

With problems befelling Dreyfus, the battle was now between Sommer and Etancelin. Soon enough, though, despite Alfa’s less-than-stellar pit work, the Alfa edged ahead of all of its rivals to lead by four laps entering the seventh hour of the race. The night came and went without a hitch for the Alfa Romeo although the works Darracq cars developed mechanical issues. By dawn, the #19 8C 2900B was enjoying a five-lap advantage over the next car which would soon grow to 11 laps after both the Darracq of Trevoux/Levegh (yes, that Pierre Levegh) and then the identical example of Mathieson/Clifford retired.

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Noticing all the retirements, Biondetti and Sommer decided to ease off their hurried pace but, in spite of that, they held a 12-lap lead with six hours left to go. Then, things started to unravel for Sommer who could’ve probably just crawled home given his 162-kilometer advantage. First, a tire exploded down the Mulsanne Straight at 130 mph, Sommer frantically saving a few dangerous weaves as he tried to slow the damaged car down. Somehow, he managed to not end up in the trees that lined the road and returned to the pits where Biondetti took over - understandable after Raymond’s ’Code Brown’ moment.

However, the Italian wouldn’t drive for long as a broken valve saw him stranded at the side of the road at Arnage. The race was unceremoniously over and one of the most dominant drives in Le Mans history went unawarded. Somehow, that race echoed much of Sommer’s career with his immense talent oftentimes not showing through in terms of results because he always stuck to his guns and did things his way - maybe further buoyed by the way had panned out when he decided to do otherwise.

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The car, meanwhile, survived the war and ended up in the Donington Collection before being bought by Alfa Romeo in 1987. We haven’t seen the Touring Aero 3 in the flesh but, having laid eyes on the 8C 2900B Le Mans, we can say there’s no way the Aero 3 can beat the unadulterated beauty of that one-off racer.

Source: Classic Driver

Michael Fira
Michael Fira
Associate Editor and Motorsport Expert -
Mihai Fira started out writing about long-distance racing like the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans. As the years went by, his area of interest grew wider and wider and he ever branched beyond the usual confines of an automotive writer. However, his heart is still close to anything car-related and he's most at home retelling the story of some long-since-forgotten moment from the history of auto racing. He'll also take time to explain why the cars of the '60s and '70s are more fascinating than anything on the road today.  Read full bio
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