Race, Daily, Restore: Three Turismos

One need not be a native of Italy to figure out that Tourismo is Italian for tourism or touring. Evidently, you don’t have to be an Italian car maker to use the word to name your vehicles, either, since only one of our three candidates this week hails from that Mediterranean peninsula. The other two are purely ‘Merican cars marketed with a bit of the ol’ gusto Italiano.

  • The 1955–59 Fiat 1100 Turismo Veloce Trasformabile was a two-seat convertible roadster version of the 11oo compact sedan. The “veloce” indicated it was powered by an up-rated 54 HP, 12oocc engine. A total of 2,360 were built.
  • The 1962–64 Studebaker Grand Turismo Hawk was the swan song of Studebaker’s Hawk line. Brooks Stevens’s extensive but economical reworking of Raymond Loewy’s original Golden Hawk was designed to bring the six-year-old body shape solidly into the ‘Sixties. It could be had with engines putting out anywhere from 210 to 335 supercharged horsepower. For our proposal today, let’s assume we’re talking about the mid-line R1, with 240 HP, a 4-speed manual gearbox, 4-wheel discs, and upgraded sport suspension.
  • The 1982–87 Plymouth Turismo 2.2 was basically a renamed Horizon TC3. While Dodge L-bodies got some respectably hot turbo motors, Plymouth’s Turismo never came equipped with a huffer. The first-year version shown in our photo generated just 84 carbureted HP and 111 lb.-ft. of torque. And unfortunately, that’s the version you’re stuck with today.

Now, which of these three very different Turismos would you choose to:

  • RACE – build into some sort of dedicated racing machine (not street legal) for your choice of competition — any legitimate, sanctioned form of motorsport: road course, rally, drag, LSR, Baja, etc.;
  • DAILY – have as your sole street-registered car, for all your commuting and general transportation needs.
  • RESTORE – do a museum-quality, factory-correct, frame-off restoration, then add to your collection, but not register to drive on the street.

Your choices should be accompanied by your persuasive justification, or at the very least which choice you felt most strongly about. As always, more caveats (there are always caveats) appear after the jump.


  1. Assume that you’re given these three vehicles outright, so there’s no acquisition cost, but the cost of race-prepping, maintaining, insuring and restoring them will be on you.
  2. Assume the cars are in “average condition” for their age; neither junk nor in flawless condition.
  3. These are your ONLY three cars. You cannot factor in any other cars you might actually own, e.g., “I’ll daily the MR2 because I have a van I can take the kids in…” Likewise, you can’t sell the restored car to buy another vehicle.
  4. You must assign one of the cars to each category. You can’t say, “I’ll race my street car,” or “I’ll drive that one for a season then restore it.”
  5. You can’t half-ass a car you don’t like, such as theoretically racing Lemons or doing a “20-footer” cosmetic restoration.

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22 responses to “Race, Daily, Restore: Three Turismos”

  1. P161911 Avatar

    Race the Studebaker, I hear that these are popular with the Land Speed Record/top speed crowd.
    Daily the Fiat, it looks great, reliability doesn’t count for these exercises right?
    Restore, that leaves the Plymouth to gather dust somewhere.

  2. GTXcellent Avatar

    I want nothing to do with that Plymouth – so I’ll restore that one and stick it in the corner of some 1980’s retro museum, right next to Teddy Ruxpin and Garbage Pail Kid trading cards.
    I’d love to daily that little Fiat, BUT, daddy day-care deliver duties and mixing -40 weather and convertibles both pose major problems, so I suppose I’ll have to race it. Ugh, such a shame as a full cage will just completely spoil the beautiful lines.
    Darn, I guess I have to “settle” daily driving one of the coolest and classiest cars built in the days of Camelot. Question: Do I have to shop thrift stores, or can you get a skinny tie on the interwebz? ‘Cause I’m going to dress like Frank Sinatra every single time I slip behind the wheel.

  3. smalleyxb122 Avatar

    Fiat – Restore. It’s small and simple. Those are both assets when considering a restoration.
    Studebaker – Daily. Roomy, and with adequate power. Should be reasonably dependable, and easy to maintain.
    Plymouth – Race. You should never race a car that you can’t stand the thought of wrecking. I would have no strong emotions after stuffing a Plymouth Turismo into a tire wall.

    1. alex Avatar

      I agree completely with your choices. In fact, I think I’d enjoy entering the Plymouth in a Lemons or even a demo derby.

      1. Papa Van Twee Avatar
        Papa Van Twee

        Violation of rule 5: You can’t half-ass a car you don’t like, such as theoretically racing Lemons or doing a “20-footer” cosmetic restoration.
        I always say “SCCA”. Obviously it’s not going to race in some high end league, but we can’t say LeMons, no matter how much we want to.

        1. alex Avatar

          Only a slight technical violation. I would do a demo derby. My car. My race.

    2. Inliner Avatar

      I’d rallycross the Plymouth – low-powered enough to go flat out everywhere.

  4. Hillman_Hunter Avatar

    Race the Plymouth at Lemons, as it deserves. Must wear outfit of buddy in the pic above
    Restore the Studebaker and spend a lot of time licking it because it’s beautiful
    I don’t know what to do with the Fiat because I literally cannot get so much as a leg into that car due to gangly limb syndrome. Maybe pretend I daily it?

    1. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar

      On the Internet, nobody can measure your inseam.

      1. Hillman_Hunter Avatar

        I take these things seriously. Like I’m gonna have a 1955 Fiat in my garage tomorrow. As if I’m gonna have a garage tomorrow.

      2. P161911 Avatar

        I actually fit the Italian Ape Driving position rather well. My sleeve length is a good 6-7″ longer than my inseam.

      3. dead_elvis, inc. Avatar
        dead_elvis, inc.

        Maybe not, but I’m sure you can find plenty of creeps amateur tailors who’d be willing to do so in person.

    2. dukeisduke Avatar

      For the TC3, you must have the hair, and the sunglasses, too.

    3. Papa Van Twee Avatar
      Papa Van Twee

      See rule 5. Change “LeMons” to “SCCA” and you are golden.

      1. mdharrell Avatar

        I’m struggling to imagine any other context in which that second sentence is true.

  5. Alff Avatar

    Easiest choices yet.
    Daily Studebaker, Race TC3 in crapcan series with some kind of ghettocharger, restore Fiat.

    1. cap'n fast Avatar
      cap’n fast

      use leaf blower mounted in back seat to supercharge engine. drive backwards. aerodynamics are much better going tail first in these cars. belted bias ply tires are a period must to get the handling just so. OOOOOOOoooooo……..

  6. 0A5599 Avatar

    Fiat: too nice to race, too Italian to daily. Restore.
    Stude: 240 net HP is adequate to get me through the traffic jams. I’m going to have the most stylish and unique car in the office parking lot. Daily
    Plymouth: give it a built SRT-4 engine swap, a GLHS suspension, and lighten it to about a ton, and it will go straight or around corners. Race.

  7. Papa Van Twee Avatar
    Papa Van Twee

    Race: This one is easy. The Dodge wasn’t a bad handler, and there are GLHS engines that will fit in it. It would make a fine racer in Le…. I mean SCCA.
    Daily: This isn’t a tough decision. I need the space. Only sad thing is that the Hawk doesn’t have 4 doors. Kids are finally old enough to get their own belts, so this isn’t as big a problem anymore.
    Restore: FIAT. It belongs in a Museum.

  8. Lokki Avatar

    As pretty as the Fiat is, an 1100 cc 54 HP car is undrivable in Dallas traffic. Plus, it’s tiny. In a city where dually F-350 pickups are more common than minivans, it would be a death wish. So, restore it and bring it out for Cars & Coffee on nice Saturdays.
    The Hawk, the Hawk, the Hawk. As long as I can have a modern A/C system tastefully installed, this would be a dream daily driver for me. Plenty of power to run with traffic, elegant looks, reasonable maintenance requirements. Oh, and Beautiful. Sign me up. I’ll get front of the pack valet parking at all the good restaurants with this baby.
    Done! Oh, damn… the Plymouth. Well, I’m off to the drag strip with a hidden nitrous bottle to teach those Civics a thing or two about the Mighty MOPAR. I’ll show them! At least twice.

    1. cap'n fast Avatar
      cap’n fast

      we approve the roadkill engine cooling assist system

  9. cap'n fast Avatar
    cap’n fast

    we believe that refreshing the fiat is like polishing a turd. however, once refreshed, we could sit it in a dark unused corner and pretty much ignore it. Do we have to register it and insure it??
    race the plymouth. let danica patrick drive it so we are sure it gets well and truly stuffed down the trash chute. no worries.
    daily drive the Stude. a finer american made bit of muscle from the 50’s and 60’s is not to be found.IMHO….take no offense lovers of mopar and gm. no insult intended. the statement is what it is.

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