ATS – Reviving the Rebellion
In Ferrari Rebels, a group of pink-slipped visionaries start the Italian sports car brand ATS and follow it to its eventual demise. Fifty years later, Gianluca Gregis blows the dust off the glorious brand with plans to bring it back to life in his small artisan factory and to build the prestige he so feels the car deserves and that history has forsaken.
Our local commuter train leaves Milan and in 15 minutes we are in Brianza, a province populated by “self-made men” – men of few words endowed with an innate practical sense. At the Monza stop our thoughts automatically race to the temple of speed and those great motor racing challenges. We reach the Merate stop and find our man Gianluca Gregis, accompanied by Daniele Martan (a former racing driver now turned test driver).
Petrolicious: Why this rebirth of ATS ?
Gianluca Gregis (owner and product manager of the new ATS): my garage is called Unico Esemplare-Il garage dei sogni [Italian for “One-offs, the garage of dreams”], ATS was a dream that vanished before dawn, my mission is to realize that dream. The original elite group of ATS minds gave birth to just 12 examples of the, 2500 GT road car, two of which were destroyed when a car transporter overturned on its way to the Nurburgring. Today there are only 5 or 6 of them left in the world. To attempt a sequel was irresistible to me. After all, the few cars still alive are all different from each other because even these represented a totally hand-made litter. In September 1964, following a test drive of the GT, Road & Track gave its endorsement of the precursor to rear-mid engine cars, an arrangement later adopted on such sacred giants as the Ford GT 40, the Dino 246 GT and the Alfa 33 Stradale. With ATS I was also fascinated by the human interest story of the Palace Coup, an insane but heroic challenge and reminiscent of the response of Ferruccio Lamborghini to the words of Enzo Ferrari “you take care of the tractors and leave the cars to me.” Well as it happens Lamborghini came back with a masterpiece called Miura. I took over the brand name in 2011, making plans for a barchetta (roadster) and for the new 2500 GT. My aim is to have two barchettas ready for Fall (one road car and one racer) and the GT for the beginning of 2013.
ATS SPORT 1000 BARCHETTA (2012)
P: Tell us about the original ATS Barchetta.
GG: When ATS closed its doors, a handful of stubborn professionals did not give up and set out to build the ATS Sport 1000 Barchetta for hill climbs such as the Targa Florio. This was a basic but very competitive little car for almost 20 years.
P: What about the new Barchetta?
GG: I’ll answer you with a question. Which production road car is the most fun to drive?
P: A Prius?
GG: The Radical. I sold them for several years and my racing team competed successfully in its single-brand championships for a number of seasons, I know it down to the last nut and bolt. Our inspiration is none other than the SR3, compared to which ours will be 10 cm narrower but longer (420 cm including rear spoiler) and with an extractor for the ground effect, something absolutely unheard of previously on a road car. Engines are strictly motorcycle based, Honda CBR, Yamaha R1 or Suzuki Hayabusa. But our dream is the MV Augusta which producer over 200 HP, both because of the prestige of the historical name and for the car to be truly Made in Italy inside and out! In the future we want to fit Ford 3-cylinder turbo car engines.
P: What’s the Barchetta like?
GG: A tubular stainless steel frame (the Radical never left the iron age!)…body in 3-pieces with a total weight of 40 kg (the Radical weighs 11)…an engine that can be removed in 10 minutes, performance better than the Radical SR4 (thanks also to its low weight of 420 kg, the frame and body weighing just 150 kg in total) and a basic price to the public of 25,000 Euros without engine or options.
P: How have you managed to keep the price down?
GG: By stripping it bare! The teams themselves want it naked, with frame, chassis, suspension and belts and 6-piston brakes front and back as standard (the Radical has 4-front and 2-back). Then, with shock absorbers (various set ups), engine, paddle shift and instruments the cost obviously rises considerably. The car is supplied painted white, as a kit car or ready assembled, as you want.
P: How do you build a hand-made car from scratch?
GG: First of all you make the frame, study it, do the math, and then move on to the rest. Aerodynamics are important on the Barchetta but so is a longer wheelbase for better handling on tight bends. From the initial tests ours proved better to drive than a Radical because it’s more aerodynamic, has an enclosed base with ground effect and formidable road holding – we are talking about 1200 kg of down-force compared to 700 kg for the Radical. Just consider that with a Honda 180 HP engine, we have beaten the times of a Radical 252 bhp with 4G side-to-side using slicks.
P: The engines?
GG: Catalytic, road legal, motorcycle or Ford turbo with different levels of power, 180, 220, 240 bhp or more.
It’s like a giant Lego kit or a Meccano kit for grown-ups, a few pieces, some nuts and bolts and that’s all there is to it.
ATS 2500 GT (2013)
GG: While for the Barchetta we based our design on the Radical, for the 2500 GT we ran a competition for young Italian designers and chose a winner from among the 78 entrants. If you look at the rendering you’ll immediately see traits in common with its forerunner. The engine is a Cosworth based on a Subaru, stable, with a low centre of gravity typical of the boxer and expanding power outputs to 400, 500, 600 bhp and even more. A weight of 1000 kg (let’s not forget the teachings of Sir Colin Chapman “To add speed, add lightness”), dimensions of 4.20×1.89 m (same as an Audi R8), a large trunk, stainless steel frame, an epoxy body shell (or carbon, as the fashion dictates) and, fitted as standard, the best wheels in the world, the Californian ADV1s. The Nardi steering wheel covered in Alcantara is the same as on the Pagani Zonda R, carbon inserts in the interior, iridescent colors and Sparco upholstered seats (the same as the Lambo Murcielago 640; those of the Bugatti Veyron with a carbon shell are too wide but above all too “comfortable”). The interior will give an unmistakable 1960s look, like a Ford GT 40, with a whole host of instruments and the Ferrari style column with a ring on the gearshift. No airbags of course (they would ruin the look of the steering wheel). As soon as it’s ready, you’ll be the first to test it, I promise.