If you were feeling like being a completely politically incorrect swaggering international spy for two days in a place that actually encourages everyone to be completely politically incorrect swaggering international spies, where would you go? What car would you take with you? Italy, with either an Aston Martin V8 Vantage, Ferrari F430, Lamborghini Gallardo SE or BMW M6. And so I did. Myself and my three male cohorts from Italy, Japan and Germany. All of us searching for the essence of life in the mid-1960s. Anything to prop up our frail machismo, bruised and battered by almost thirty straight years of attacks from all sides.

Time to call women chicks again and have them look back at us and smile guiltily, goddamn it. Parma, Italy, is very good for this type of unevolved activity. We drove all four cars how we pleased, the local law urged us on with repeated thumbs-up, and we ate and drank as if tomorrow might not come. But we spread joy to all.

Basic concept: Two 5.0-liter V10s (M6 and Gallardo SE) and two 4.3-liter V8s (F430 and V8 Vantage), each pair with one front-mid engine (M6 and V8 Vantage) and one rear-mid engine (Gallardo SE and F430). Go nuts. All four have a 90-degree vee, are naturally aspirated and keep things moist with dry sump lube, baby. And all would be basically identical in their rear-wheel drivelines if it weren't for the Lamborghini and its all-wheel drive sending 30% of torque to the front axle in its default mode.

But what are we talking about here really? All four of these sex-a-machines absolutely define the people who buy them. What kind of swaggering intrigue-seeker are you? Cross-shopping? In this group? Get off it; these drivers know what they want.

Pretty colors

It was fitting that the F430 showed up painted simple Ferrari Rosso. The F1 paddle shifters, E-Diff torque management and Brembo ceramic rotors are new-age advancements to the traditional Maranello recipe, but at first glance all you see here is a stereotypical red Ferrari.

The expensive re-inventing of Lamborghini is one of the things ensuring that both Audi and VW will get into Heaven when they die. Getting this 2006 Gallardo SE in orange metallic with pearl black metallic accents was more than I was expecting. This car, just as it is here, is for me the perfect Lamborghini, second only perhaps to an orange or green metallic Miura SV.

Aston Martin has done itself a large favor with the V8 Vantage. As a pure design statement, it may be the most stunning thing to look at since the Porsche Carrera GT came to Earth in Paris in 2000. Everywhere we drove in Italy, the Baby Aston (painted Oblivion Blue!) drew the most crowds.Certainly not least, the BMW M6 is a beautiful freak: a 2+2 executive coupe with the ability to melt its tires and rip your heart out with one tap of the throttle. In fact, the very reason I love the M6 so much is that almost no one on the street knows what it can do. It looks like a regular BMW 6 Series-a car I actually do not love. The Interlagos Blue paint on ours had the car eerily fading out of view like a wallflower at the Sadie Hawkins dance.

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