The Giocattolo V8 Fiasco

During the late 1970s and early 1980s the Alfa Romeo Sprint was a very popular racing car owing to it's relative low cost, light weight, and excellent handling capabilities. Car mad entrepreneur Paul Halstead and Formula One racing car engineer Barry Locke thought that they could improve it still further and that there could be a good market for their upgraded model.

The basic idea was to take out the front mounted horizontally opposed flat four cylinder engine and replace it with a mid-mounted V-6 engine. The car was to be called the Giocattolo, which is Italian for 'toy'.

This was to be put together in their hometown of Caloundra in Queensland, Australia. Unfortunately the enthusiastic pair failed to remember what a graveyard of car manufacturing dreams their country was!

However; they imported the Sprints, stripped out the engines and gearboxes, and modified them to take Alfa V-6 engines, centrally mounted to improve the weight distribution and make the car even easier to handle. This was a great theory; however Alfa Romeo were charging a high price for the engines, and availability was uncertain to say the least. It was time to look for an alternative.

The Australian Wlkinshaw Group's Holden 5 litre V8 fitted the bill. It was not only a lot cheaper than the Alfa engine but more powerful too, with 300 brake horsepower on tap. With Kevlar wheel arch extensions, brakes and suspensions upgraded to F1 standard and luxurious interiors they had a car with the power to weight ratio similar to that of a McLaren F1. This was now a superb car which could exceed 160 mph whilst sticking to the road like glue. In 1986 Australia had it's first Supercar.

This was never going to be a mass-market seller but buyers trickled in; 15 were sold over the following three years. Then disaster struck.

The Australian government, using a logic all of their own, decided that in order to encourage home grown car manufacture the company would have to either have the whole lot built in Australia, or import everything from Italy. How they though that the new law would help home grown manufacturers when there was no real availability of spare parts from Australian companies was a mystery. Neither possibility was economic viable. Halstead and Locke had designed and built a car to rival many of the most popular supercars of the day but that governmental decision made it impossible for them to carry on and so this promising manufacturer was forced to close it's doors in 1989.

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