The Lopresto Way
It’s true that anyone can begin a car collection. Having two Cortinas on your driveway probably counts, but you’ll definitely have to pay people to take any notice. A warehouse full of old Mercedes-Benzes is a better proposition, but they’re a dime a dozen.
To really get car enthusiasts excited requires a visit to Jay Leno’s garage, or the kind of collection you’ll find at places such as the Louwman or Petersen car museums. By their nature, these are exceptional, and exceptionally broad, tributes to the automobile. But discovering a uniquely targeted collection such as that of Corrado Lopresto is an even rarer delight.
Comprising more than 150 strictly Italian cars, the Lopresto Collection embraces the prototype, the show car, and the one-off. It’s this distinction that truly sets it apart.
Born in southern Italy, much of Corrado’s childhood was spent playing in the many old cars stored in the garages, stables and sheds dotted around the family farm. He bought his first car at 18, a 3-speed Fiat 508 Balilla and set about restoring it. The bug bit and he was soon searching for other old cars in need of saving.
His story and his collection might have been very different had he not come across an ‘ordinary’ Fiat 1100 that was anything but that. His mechanic informed him that it was in fact an unusual, ministerial seven-seater instead. In an interview for Credit Suisse Classic Car Program, Corrado explained, ‘So, from there I got this desire, to search for the prototype, the unique piece, the rare example. For a long time, no one wanted prototypes. But I was fascinated, studying the design, the bodywork. I appreciated that type of design.’
And so the idea for the Lopresto Collection was born. Now, 42 years later, it features cars spanning almost a century of Italian automobile design, from the 1901 Isotta Fraschini 5HP to the brighter-than-the-sun 2000 Stola S81 ‘Stratos’.
Above: Bookends of the Lopresto Collection
As you’d expect of an Italian-makes-only collection, Alfas and Lancias feature heavily but also several Isotta Fraschinis, and the odd Osca, Diatto and Cisitalia, too. Most unusually, there’s not a single Ferrari, Maserati or Lamborghini in sight. Instead, fascinating show cars include the Bladerunner-worthy Lancia Sibilo concept and the beach-proof 1973 Autobianchi A112 Giovani. Sadly, and despite much acclaim, this 1973 Geneva Motor Show star remained a one-off.
Above: 1973 Autobianchi A112 Giovani by Pininfarina
Above: 1978 Sibilo by Marcello Gandini for Bertone is still perfectly science fiction
For exquisite 1950s sedan style, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better proportioned berlina than the pillarless, coach-doored 1955 Lancia Florida by Pininfarina. This is the only left-hand-drive example of a series of four prototypes built on the Lancia Aurelia frame that paved the way for the 1957 production Flaminia.
Above: 1955 Lancia Florida by Pininfarina
But this is not only about collecting, Corrado’s restoration studio has an enviable reputation for honouring the original intent of the designers and stylists. As an example, Corrado sites his Giulietta Spider, one of two prototypes built by Bertone. Originally metallic bronze, it was quickly repainted – most likely red, which would have made it easier to sell. Corrado returned the car to its initial colour because that is how Bertone would have presented it to Alfa.
Above: 1955 Giulietta Spider by Bertone, designed by Franco Scaglione, was deemed modern, but too expensive to produce.
Then there’s the curious case of the Alfa Romeo SZ Coda Tronca. Resisting the urge to repaint the dusty, grimy barn find, Lopresto chose to clean the car instead, well, as you’ll see from the photos, just half of it – the other half was left as found. We’re not talking a bit of old spit and polish elbow grease either. No, Lopresto went about cleaning it the painstaking way that specialist restorers might clean a dirty painting by one of the old masters – too valuable to risk repair. Meant to provoke, it proved a smash hit with event organisers and judges alike.
Above: Alfa Romeo SZ Coda Tronca in its unique two-state finish
It’s this attention to detail and almost fanatical approach to originality that has earned Corrado so many concours honours – more than 250 at last count, crowned by four Coppa d’Oro trophies at the Concours d’Elegance at Villa D’Este.
Perhaps best of all, Corrado’s son, Duccio, shares his father’s passion, rejecting the lure of modern supercars for the joys of discovering and restoring old treasures. The future of these rare and unique Italian motor cars is in very good hands.
By Wayne Batty