Only 329 of these hand-crafted bodies on a TR3A chassis were ever built and it became known as the Triumph ‘Italia 2000 Coupé’. Designed by Giovanni Michelotti and built by Alfredo Vignale in Turin, and under contract to Ruffino S.p.A. of Naples – it was thought that these cars would appeal to people who wanted a better-looking car than the standard Triumph: ‘Italian bodywork at its best, British tradition in sports car engineering at its finest’. Salvatore Ruffino approached Standard-Triumph to supply the chassis and mechanical components to build 1,000 cars and his introduction to Giovanni Michelotti lead to the Triumph Italia. The resulting two door prototype coupé was well received at the 1958 Turin Motor Show: ‘Italian artistry and British craftsmanship have come together and produced this new, superlative Italia 2000 Coupé.’ The first 13 cars were assembled completely by Vignale. After those, Ruffino took over production and the car was now referred to as the ‘Italia 2000’. While aluminium was used for a few internal panels, steel was used for the bodywork. When Standard-Triumph was taken over by Leyland Motors in 1961, the new management at Triumph concentrated on the evolution of the TR4, incidentally also designed by Michelotti, which clearly borrowed many elements from the Italia: the distinctive bonnet bulge, kick-up door with wind-up windows, and roomier modern body design; so Ruffino re-badged the car as the ‘Italia 2000’ and from mid-1959 to mid-1962 it produced approximately 329 cars. It is thought that fewer than 80 cars survive today with only 40 or so considered roadworthy. Every Italia sported a small badge near the bonnet catch to identify its production number. Paradoxically however, ‘59 TR’ is stamped ‘no. 82’ although it’s known now to be one of the very earliest, no. 8 in fact, built by Vignale in 1959.
Options included overdrive, leather interior (and very occasionally a Nardi wood steering wheel). ‘59TR’ took up all these and twin-Weber carburettors too. After a restoration in Switzerland that last several years and finished in 2007, the car went on display at the European Concours d’Elégance, Schwetzingen, and won ‘First Prize for Best Sportscar’. It also came first at the Concorso d’Eleganze, Villa D’Este in April 2007 in the ‘Best Italian Sports Car’ class. The following year saw it win top prize for ‘Sports Coupés and Convertibles’ at the Concours d’Elégance in Zurich. After that it was invited to the Dunhill Driveway at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. More recently, it featured at the NEC Classic Car Show in November 2016 along with five other Italia 2000’s on a dedicated stand. In 2017, it featured at the Hampton Court Concours (1 of 60 cars), and the London Concours.
The registration number plate 59 TR bears the initials of a previous owner who idolised the car. Although in concours standard, it is used regularly by the current owner who has clocked up 3000+ miles in the last two years.
The Royal Automobile Club has been a partner of the London Concours for three consecutive years, including this year’s event which will run from 5th—6th June at the Honourable Artillery Company. On display courtesy of Marc Gordon from Monday 28 January to Wednesday 13 February 2019.