The purest, rarest and most durable metal of all. Just one short phrase is enough to describe a metal – platinum – that has had an irresistible appeal for men and women of all eras and all places. A metal whose exclusive value is not only objective and material (given how difficult it is to process), but mainly intangible, given that it is determined by an extraordinary mix of emotional elements. To be completely won over by the lunar allure of platinum, you need to know its history and discover the meanings that man has attributed to it over the millennia, filling the precious white metal with a perpetual stream of new meanings.
Known in ancient times, many centuries before the conquistadores misinterpreted its nature and named it platina, Spanish for “little silver”, the material of the jewels that the Indios loved to show off, platinum was the absolute lead player of the Roaring Twenties, when it superbly indulged the bold geometries of Art Deco and captivated stars such as Mary Pickford and Cole Porter, Greta Garbo and Jean Harlow. If we go even further back in time, we find that the Egyptian priestess Shepenupet commissioned an artisan of Thebes to decorate a casket with platinum 2500 years ago. Even more astonishingly, Homer’s diligent description of it in the Iliad suggests that Agamemnon’s armour was made of platinum.
With such an eminent history, it will come as no surprise that platinum’s present-day use continues to reflect its noble qualities. Indeed, the lustrous white metal has crossed yet another finishing line to earn full laurels in the motor racing arena, thanks to the Over P001 GBF supercar unveiled at Valenza Gioielli 2009, the international showcase event for haute jewellery.
The Over P001 GBF project, the motto of which is “Future is Over”, is the fruit of a collaboration of world-class experts, reflected in the acronym GBF, from González–Bizzarrini-Futuro. In his day, José Froilán González (alias the Pampas Bull) was a great Argentine motor racing driver who won a special place in the hearts of Ferrari lovers when he powered the Maranello red car to its first F1 triumph at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in 1951.
After a career of resounding successes in Europe, he returned to his beloved Argentina, taking with him a single seater Ferrari 625GP with a four-cylinder engine to compete in a few races. When he realized that the South American motor racing rules permitted more powerful engines, he transplanted into his Ferrari car the engine of a Chevrolet Corvette – revisited by top-flight mechanics using the sump lubrication system of a Maserati Formula 1 250F.1 engine (the same model as that with which Juan Manuel Fangio won the World Championship in 1957). A car that he went on to drive in 20 Gran Prix races, winning 18 and becoming a motor racing legend.
Sometime later, González was able to reclaim that same engine to realize a dream he had been nurturing for several years. The driver got in touch with the auto engineer Giotto Bizzarrini, the greatest expert in the field, famous test track manager and former Ferrari engineer, and asked him to build a brand new chassis capable of supporting this special engine and of harnessing its undisputed performance qualities to create a completely innovative prototype.
This resulted in a sleek, streamlined design of sublime purity with no doors and a bodywork that “draws the wind”, as one racing expert put it.
The interiors are designed to comfortably hold two seats plus one, while the “historical” engine, the designer chassis, the car’s transparent floor, and the fittings par excellence give passengers the thrill of speed. In fact, many of the accessories and interior fittings are crafted from that most pure, noble, resistant and rare of metals: platinum, which has been used on the steering wheel, to cap the gearstick and for the star-shaped switches on the dashboard. Platinum has also been used on the exterior to create the logo on the car’s nose, the mascot, the petrol and oil caps and the wheel hub caps. But the real masterpiece is the exhaust system, whose pipes are linked internally with custom-designed non-polluting platinum catalytic converters. Emotionally compelling details thanks to platinum’s unsurpassed attributes, whose magnificence match the uniqueness of the car.
Platinum is precious as it is also extremely rare. It has been estimated that if all the platinum extracted in the world over time were to be solidified in a cube, that cube would measure a mere 4.6m. Further, platinum deposits are found in only a few areas of the world and solely 100 tons of platinum per year compared with 3000 tons of gold are produced for the jewellery industry. In fact, it takes 10 tons of rock to extract and process an ounce of platinum – or 31.1 grams – and five months to transform the raw material into ingots. On the other hand, the same amount of gold requires a “mere” three tons of rock and four weeks to transform.
A precious metal, but also the most resistant of all, because it loses neither mass nor weight as time goes by. When platinum is called the purest metal, it is meant to underscore that alloys of 95% purity can be achieved.
Dense, pure, rare and unalterable, platinum is perfect for making jewels such as solitaire and wedding rings. In addition, it’s durability makes it more secure for encasing gems, providing a highly versatile element for artisan and creative applications, a symbol of desire, of taste, of inimitable and eternal style.
So just imagine those features on a concept car such as the Over P001 GBF: are you ready to drive into the future?
Try it, and dream.
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