Sbarro Windhound


Italian Francesco Zefferino Sbarro—known as Franco Sbarro—is an interesting man. Starting as a mechanic, he gradually worked his way into Scuderia Filipinetti, a Swiss race team. Using strong cars, they competed in Formula 1 and sports car racing, with drivers like Jim Clark, Phil Hill, Ronnie Peterson, Jo Siffert, and others.

Even though Sbarro was wrenching on some amazing machinery like the Shelby Cobra, Ferrari P3, and Ford GT40, Sbarro wanted a challenge.

So in his spare time he built a Volkswagen Karmann Ghia-based GT car.

When striking out on his own in 1968, he settled in Switzerland and formed a company called ACA, which stood for Atelier d'Étude de Constructions Automobiles. (In an old cigarette factory, by the way.) What's important are the words atelier, workshop in English and étude, which means study.

His early years were spent on a number of projects, like building factory-perfect road going replicas of famous sports racing cars, like the Ferrari P4 and Lola T70. Sbarro has appeared at the Geneva Motor Show for 41 years, often with a stunning concept car or engineering marvel.

Did I mention he invented the hubless wheel?


Maybe your memory is excellent and you remember the Rinspeed and the company's founder, Frank M. Rinderknecht, who's also Swiss-based. Whereas Rinspeed has a great track record of working with schools, suppliers, and manufacturers to produce forward-looking concept cars, Sbarro instead started his own school.

It's sort of like a real life version of Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, only instead of teaching mutants they teach students how to make mutant cars.

But I'm getting a little ahead of myself.

In 1978, after a decade of producing replicas and other projects, Sbarro decided to make his own vehicle, closely based on the Mercedes-Benz G-Class, and designed to compete against the Land Rover Range Rover.

Completely built to order, the off-road ready Windhound was sort of like a 1978 Porsche Cayenne. Tall, wide, and visually punchy, it's the type of vehicle that would delight its owner and terrorize everyone else.

Fitted with a range of engines (more because of owner request than anything else), the preferred method of propulsion was the Mercedes-Benz 6.9-litre V8 engine. Six were so ordered.

As-raced in the 1980 Paris-Dakar.

As-raced in the 1980 Paris-Dakar.

BMW, Jeep, and Mercedes-Benz 6-cylinder versions were also produced.

Did it race? Of course. Once. In the 1980 Paris-Dakar rally. And didn't finish. So the truck was changed back for road use and fitted with an exhaust system that ran on top of the vehicle…which is a first, at least for Car of the Day.

Sbarro Windawk

Sbarro Windawk

In case you were wondering, yes, a 6x6 version was christened Windhawk and delivered new to Saudi Arabia. Capable of 200 km/h (125 mph), it was used as a hunting vehicle. 

Of course, Sbarro wasn't the first to create a 6x6 vehicle or the first truck for hunters. But that's a story for another day.

Sources / Recommended reading