It's been a long time coming
The all-new ATS is the long-awaited successor to the original GT, that 54 years ago was thought of as the best technical manifestation of Gran Turismo styling.
To understand what the present day ATS is about, we must spool back to the start. In 1961, regardless of Ferrari winning the Formula 1 World Championship, dark shadows had formed over the Maranello plant and a bunch of workers were made redundant.
The clear path back to triumph for these ex-employees was via motor racing, and building a fresh Gran Turismo to compete but also to drive on the road.
The vision turned into reality because of a trio of entrepreneurs that had the funds: Giovanni Volpi di Misurata, a racing fanatic and chief of the Scuderia Serenissima, Jaime Ortiz Patino, heir to an influential Bolivian family, and Giorgio Billi, a bright industrialist.
1962 saw quick work that created the Formula 1 ATS (meaning Automobili Turismo e Sport) and an all-new Gran Turismo, progressive and exquisite, the first with a mid-mounted powerplant.
But by late 1962, quarrels among the partners started: Volpi di Misurata exited ATS and returned to Serenissima, followed by Patino. Billi was left unaided, but decided to push on with the venture.
ATS was on the grid at the start of the Formula1 World Championship, but it was an anti-climax. The car showed ability, but a shortage of resources had thwarted reliability. So, by 1963 the team had to leave Formula 1. But in the meantime, the ATS 2500 GT was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show – and global media coverage was positive.
The mid-mounted power unit meant state-of-the-art weight distribution, rendering other GTs old-fashioned. The engine was an eight-cylinder powerplant of nearly 2,500cc, the bigger brother of the one employed in Formula 1, and able to shove the 2500 GT above 150mph. A short time later at Salone di Torino, a more hardcore version was uncovered, named the 2500 GTS, and boasting 165mph.
Aimed at a wealthy clientele (costing 5 million lire – a flabbergasting price for the 1960s) orders for the 2500 GT were received from rich, impassioned people. But, alas, Formula 1, with all its issues, played a part in ending the project. Eventually, only 12 models were built, but a pure-bred like that found a way to be remembered.
And the result is that half a century later, ATS is back – but it’s far from a wistful undertaking: at the root is an authentic company, a small automaker, based near Turin.
The 2017 ATS GT is exquisite outside and in, with a mid-mounted twin-turbo V8, capable of excellent performance, driving the best chassis arrangement offered by today’s technology. The V8 thrusts the ATS from zero to 60mph in 3.0 seconds, and on to 206mph.
As a bona fide supercar, the ATS GT uses compound materials and superior alloys. What’s more, carbon fibre is used in the bodywork, cabin and chassis, leading to a blend of lightness and strength.
It’s not simply about emotionless tech, though. It’s about the detail, craftsmanship, and awesome innovation. And because the ATS GT is being made to order in limited numbers, the car’s materials, colours and finishing touches can be tailored according to personal taste.
The 21st century ATS GT costs £1.1million. But it’s an investment – an automotive work of art, not just a big-ticket toy.
CLICK TO ENLARGE