GALLERY: Go Behind The Scenes On Our 1970 Sinthesis 2000 Film Shoot
Let’s say you’re a mechanical engineer who’s always wanted to build a sports car. Let’s say you’re living in Italy in the 1960s and you happen to be friends with some of the country’s greatest minds; Aurelio Lampredi, the man behind some of Ferrari’s finest V12s, is your casual volleyball partner from time to time, and you’re sharing stories and telling jokes with some of the best pens on the planet when it comes to drawing sports cars and calculating how they’d work.
When Peter Giacobbi found himself in such an auspicious situation one night after sharing a bottle of wine with the tremendously prolific and talented Ghia designer, Tom Tjaarda, they duo got to work on a project that, even in a time when coachbuilding was more feasible, would be similar to little else in Italy or elsewhere. As cliche as it may be, the mixture between different periods of time is a convenient and helpful way to synthesize the car that came of all this work back in the late 1960s.
This was also a time when Ferraris were exceptional cars that could be bought secondhand for sums far below their going rates today. From this far up in the future (the future being relative to the time when the 275 GTB/4 was a brand new car), it’s hard to imagine the idea of “last-gen’s Ferraris” being applied to cars that fetch millions today. Giacobbi took advantage of this situation when he was living and working abroad in Italy, driving a fair number of such cars before attempting to realize a dream he’d had as a child prone to building odd go-karts out of washing machine motors in the basement: to make his own sports car.
This was also a time well before computers did the precise calculations and modeling involved in creating something as challenging as a high-performance automobile, so Peter and Tom had to figure out the math and the do the design drawings all on their own, and despite the two being wholly alone in these departments, the result is something that you’d never call cobbled together by two guys in a garage. Peter had some money to put into the project, but it would be a mistake to think he just threw checks at the thing until someone eventually turned the final screw. He didn’t want to just have someone create a car as he imagined it—light weight, mid-engined, low center of gravity, aerodynamically advanced, but also fuel efficient and reliable—he wanted to be the one responsible for its creation.
They called it the Sinthesis, with the stylized yin and yang badge to represent the relationship between Tjaarda’s Italian design and Giacobbi’s American engineering. Peter used a backbone chassis design with the door sills and fender wells incorporated into the rigid chassis containing echoes of Chapman’s road car designs at the time, and he did all the math that got him there with a pen and paper instead of today’s advanced computer aid. That’s certainly not to say it’s more advanced than today’s cars, but it has something most of those don’t: just 2,200lb to move through the corners.
Giacobbi never wanted a car that would earn its pace through big power, but he still wasn’t going to opt for a motor that was going to be kept stock. The 1.6L inline-four went through extensive modifications—Giacobbi made a new crank, pistons, liners, valves, just about everything and brought it up to 2.0L and developed it further to run dual twin-choke carbs.
For his suspension and steering needs, he used a combination of Lancia Fulvia Rallye suspension components because of their durable yet lightweight construction, and the steering box also came from the Lancia’s off-road champion.
Mating the body to the chassis required the help of some extremely talented Italian craftsmen— “miracle men” Giacobbi calls them—who were able to manipulate metal in ways the mechanical-engineering-degree-holder had previously thought impossible. They did a reportedly excellent job building the body in metal, and after the requisite work of grinding down the welds, everything lined up and fit as snug as it did in the sketchbook.
40 years on, and it still provides the same go-kart experience it did when it was a newborn in 1970. He’s also driven it onto the grass at Pebble Beach; bringing your own car—really your own—to an event you’ve been attending for four decades and counting is the definition of driving tastefully.