Founded in 1902 by Italian mechanic Lorenzo Lucari, Centurion was initially simply known as Meccanico di Pavona and was an automobile and carriage workshop just outside Rome. Lucari and his family spent their first twenty years or so in the business of modifying existing cars, mainly those made by Civetta and HVL, and making racing cars out of them. When Civetta started making their own racers, though, in 1921 Lucari fought back at his loss of business, replicating the chassis of one of their cars and building a sports car on it from the ground up. He called this six-cylinder beast the Centurion, and racing it in the 1923 Mille Miglia brought the workshop immediate fame.
With Lucari’s two sons, Dino and Nico, both becoming racing drivers, several more cars were built as developments of the Centurion and raced by them. The company became colloquially known as Centurion, and the name was officially adopted in 1930. Centurion dominated the major racing events of Europe in the decades that followed, and after World War 2 they also began making a range of lightweight sports cars. When Dino’s son Gio took over from him in 1957, he insisted on expanding into more everyman, ordinary cars, as there was potentially great profit to be had in doing so- Dino had not for fear of devaluing the Centurion name.
Greater profits were indeed generated from this move, and Gio claimed that this was what saved Centurion from bankruptcy in the late 1970s, when the political and economic situation in Italy had rendered expensive cars far less desirable. To this day, saloons and hatchbacks are key to the company’s sales, though they are still highly respected for their supercars.
I’ll start things off with a couple of builds I did before the update, so there was no 3D fixture placement and no interiors.
Above is the 2005-07 Centurion SC Warrior. The SC was an affordable, rear-wheel-drive coupe available from 1998 to 2007, and not only did 2005 bring a facelift but a new version. The Warrior model had AWD, was tuned for optimal grip and had a 4.7l V8 borrowed from Gavril and tuned up to 338hp and 311lb/ft, and a 6-speed manual gearbox. In a car that was no larger than a C-sector hatchback, even though it weighed 1456kg, that meant 0-62 in 4.7 seconds, a top speed of 185mph and 35mpg.
The only downside of this Italian-American monster was it’s price- costing £40,000 to make put its price after dealer markup dangerously close to supercar territory. The result was that even with all the greatest Italian-American celebrities in its mafia-themed adverts, only around 5000 Warriors were sold across all of Europe. Thanks to massive depreciation, though, they are now being hailed by classic car magazines as performance bargains.
Front looks great!
Even though I can’t see the rear well, I think the numberplate recess could follow the taillights curves better.
Overall nice design with a good use of the body molding fixtures!
This would have been a formidable rival to the M3 E46 and Monaro CV8 of the same vintage, and with an extra pair of driven wheels, it would have had an easier time launching itself out of corners than either.
It also has pretty wide tyres (255/35R18 front and 260/35R18 rear) which definitely helped it there.
I’m fairly certain I posted this car in an old thread about hot hatchbacks, but that was a while ago so here it is again. The 2001 Centurion SH Warrior was the first car to use the Warrior name for its hottest variant, which had a screaming 226hp V6 and RWD. The example shown is a very early model with the regular Centurion badge- from June 2002 all Warrior models had a prancing horse instead of a standing one, to indicate how much more get-up-and-go they had.
The 2001 RS10 was a landmark moment for Centurion. It was their last ever V10-powered car, and the fastest they’d ever made at the time (capable of 0-62mph in 3.7 seconds and a top speed of 212). Debuted alongside the SH Warrior, the RS10 was also supposed to receive a Warrior model, but that was deemed too much- the Warrior concept made 602hp and 470lb/ft, over 130 more horsepower than the standard RS10, and was claimed to be capable of 228mph.
Centurion’s main line of supercars were known as the RS8 series, and they will be featured in my next few posts. Named for the fact that they all have V8 engines (though V10 versions of some were also produced- not the RS10, though, that was a separate model entirely), this is a line which began in 1970 and has produced a new car every six years since then. Shown above is the 2006 launch, with an all-new 4.8l V8 producing 480hp.
The first iteration of the RS8 series was also Centurion’s introduction to the idea of a mid-engined supercar. Looking to America for inspiration, they opted to use a 6.4l/391ci V8 instead of the traditional Italian V12. Indeed, this 316hp beast gained immediate popularity in Hollywood, with seemingly every major star of the early 1970s being seen driving one at some point. When the fuel crisis hit in 1973, sales were halted in the US while Centurion found a way to make the RS320 (as it was known) more efficient.
The result was the RS290, produced exclusively for the US market from 1974 to 1976. It had a smaller exhaust, leaner fuel mixture, higher ignition timing, lower cam profile and lower compression than the standard 320, which resulted in less power and torque but much better fuel economy- 18.1mpg (US) over the 320’s average of 14.8. This update also made an 8-track standard, and introduced several new paint colours and interior trims which would be carried over into the rest-of-the-world RS320 and its successor. Pictured below is an RS290 queuing to get fuel at an unknown fuel station, flanked by two North American sedans that show just how small the Centurion was (right, a 1970 TMC Montel 409; left a 1972 Duke Columbia).
The follow-up to the RS320 was the 1976 RS350, built on the same platform and with an upgraded version of the same engine- now with 4-barrel twin carburettors instead of the old model’s 2-barrel twins. The most notable change was a restyle, with the front end being made fuller, the back end longer to keep the car’s proportions (allowing for an extra loadspace behind the engine) and new, more modern-looking lights. The RS350 also had better brakes, a partial undertray and stiffer anti-roll bars.
Poor economics in late-1970s Italy meant Centurion struggled to produce and sell many RS350s, and with only 500 Italian-market examples thought to exist it is the rarest and most desirable model from this series. The financial situation continued to plague Pavona for years afterward, resulting in the only major change for the 1982 update being a new 5l turbocharged engine- a whole new space-frame chassis had been planned but had to be delayed. The new car, the RS390, quickly gained a reputation for being unwieldy, requiring sharp reflexes to keep in line thanks to a combination of 390hp (the figure did not have to be rounded up as with most RS models) and fairly typical 1980s turbo lag. Below is an RS390NAC, a derivative for the American market with special measures taken for pedestrian safety.
The final model built on the RS320’s platform was 1988’s RS430. The platform was nearly 25 years old by the end of the 430’s lifespan, so Centurion decided it must be time to replace it. New features for the RS430 included a limited-slip differential, cassette player as standard and a new engine cover (the new DOHC V8 was taller than the old unit, and to accommodate it the RS390 had to have no engine cover at all- to the dismay of Middle Eastern customers who took their RS390s for blasts down the desert roads only to have the engine bay fill with sand). Below are some comparison shots between the RS320 and RS430 models, showing how far the line had come.
There was a very exclusive run-out version of the RS430 made in 1993. Known in different markets as the RR460 or RS10, it was a lightened, stripped-out version with a naturally-aspirated V10. Only 150 were made, and many were pre-ordered by wealthy collectors when the car was announced in September 1992. These cars change hands very rarely, and when they do it is often for seven-figure sums.
An all-new platform- a more curvy body and spaceframe chassis- was rolled out in 1994 with the RS420N. Though less powerful than its predecessor, that came down to the new car being naturally-aspirated, which was something Centurion had taken the decision to return to once the turbocharging craze of the 1980s was over and the technology was filtering down. Many bemoaned the exclusion of pop-up headlights, though the new look grew more popular with time.
An update in 2000 turned the 420N into the RS440, bringing the supercar into line with Centurion’s new angular design aesthetic. An RS10 version was planned, but the V10 would not fit, so to fill the gap in the emerging hypercar sector Centurion put their RC470 concept, shown off in 2000, into production as the new RS10.
I’ve already covered the 2006 RS480 so I’ll be brief about it here. This model introduced another new platform, a new transverse-mounted 4.8l DOHC 5V engine and 6-speed sequential gearbox (all previous RS8s were manual). It was updated in 2012 to make the RS550 (below), with a DCT, active aero, direct injection and semi-active sway bars.
Give me an RS10…now!
Very stunning car lineup indeed. Ironically, it is easy to make a supercar look bland, if you understand what I mean, since the shapes are often very similar to each other, but your cars really has personality.
The latest supercar in the RS8 line is 2018’s RS660. With a new turbocharged 4.3l V8 producing 657hp, this beast can get from 0-62mph in 3.1 seconds and to a top speed of over 200mph. An even faster, track-focused variant is rumoured to be on the way in 2021.