At MAUTO: A Special Exhibition On The Golden Age Of Rallying

Images: Gian Mario Mollar

On 27th of October last, Museo Nazionale dell’Automobile in Torino (Italy), otherwise known as MAUTO, opened an exhibition… an extraordinary exhibition that should delight all automotive and motorsport enthusiasts who followed the rallying scene internationally during the 1960s, the 1970s and the 1980s, and even the early 1990s.

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Can the Mini Cooper S take the credit for making rallying a more accessible motorsport activity?

An exhibition that seems to be the first ever of its kind in the international scene, it captures the ‘The Golden Age of Rallying’ through a display of 19 of the most evocative rallying machines the automotive world has ever known.

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Simo Lampinen's Lancia Fulvia Coupe which dominated rallying by the end of the 1960s

Of the 19 cars on display, 18 come from the iconic specimens that belong to Fondazione Gino Macaluso, who had put together some of the most important and remarkable rally cars through the decades.

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The Fiat 124 Spider Abarth was Fiat's concerted move into the world rally championship action

Although the exhibition will be running until the 2nd of May 2023, we suggest you book your tickets now and plan to see the extraordinary line-up of cars.

The cars on display are some of the very machines that won the most important races of the championship, from Monte Carlo to the Safari Rally, from the Rally Finland to San Remo. On display are iconic examples, such as the Lancia rally 037 evo2 and Audi Quattro, the protagonists of the rallying world championship that have now become legends.

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But it was the Alpine A110 that really set the pace during the late 1960s and early 1970s. This is French rallying legend Bernard Darniche's car.

Additionally, there are displays and explanations of the exploits of the rally stars and their teams, the technological evolution, and the enormous success with audiences that used to throng the rally routes over the decades that are on display.

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This is the prototype Fiat X1/9 Abarth with which Clay Regazzoni and Gino Macaluso dominated the Giro d'Italia in 1974

“Although rallying had had its start before WWII, and became fairly popular during the 1950s, it was only in the 1960s when it caught the imagination of the people,” explains Stefano Macaluso, the son of Gino Macaluso, and the curator of the show, “when popular and accessible cars like the Mini Cooper S and the Ford Lotus Cortina and then the Escort started winning rallies.”

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With the advent of the Lancia Stratos HF, the era of the highly specialized rally purpose machine began. Designed by Marcello Gandini, the astounding Stratos attracted many youngsters to the sport of rallying world chapionships 

“Here were cars that the common person could own and relate to, and these cars were winning convincingly against bigger and more expensive machineries,” says MAUTO’s director Mariella Menghozi, adding, “here were these giant killers which were highly competitive, thanks to their deft handling. Moreover, these cars soon became associated with the likes of Finnish and Swedish rally stars such as Rauno Aaltonen and Stig Blomqvist.”

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And then Fiat decided to develop the Fiat 131 Rally Abarth (also a Gandini design) in place of the Stratos, which was 'forcibly' retired. This is Markku Alen's car.

Therefore, the exhibition starts with a display of the Mini Cooper, a Lotus Cortina, an Escort, and a Porsche 911 in the first part.

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Next came the Audi Quattro and the era of all-wheel-drive

In the second part, the cars on display are the ones from the specialists such as Lancia with their Fulvia Coupe HF and Alpine’s giant killing A110.

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The mid-engine Lancia Rallye 037 though remained the last hurrah for rear-wheel-drive machines

Into that same section are cars that I would go crazy about: a Lancia Stratos, a Fiat X1/9 Abarth and a Fiat 131C Abarth, when the first and the last completely dominated the rallying world championships in the 1970s.

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Lancia carried on with its rallying domination with the extraordinary Delta S4. Posing next to Juha Kankunnen's car is the intrepid Gian Mario Mollar.

The third room has on display an Audi Quattro and a Lancia Rallye 037—to showcase the advent of all-wheel-drive at the time when the last of the rear-wheel-drive powerhouses were bowing out with a last swan song.

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The 1980s wouldn't be complete without displaying a Renault 5 Turbo—this one is Jean Ragnotti's. The R5 Turbo was the third rally machine designed by Marcello Gandini.

As well as to underline the importance of Group B, with cars like the Lancia Delta S4 and the Peugeot 205 T16 (this is the only car that was borrowed from Stellantis’ collection of historic Peugeot vehicles).

This is an exhibition that no motorsport enthusiast can ever afford to miss!

Gautam Sen

Serial concours judge, author, founder-editor of several Indian auto mags, as well as co-conspirator with design greats Marcello Gandini, Tom Tjaarda, and Gérard Godfroy on a few vehicle projects


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