Tuscany. Up until last month, I’d never been. I envisaged rolling countryside, historical villages with winding cobbled streets, Cypress trees lining driveways up to majestical estates. I was not disappointed. I saw more than my fair share, and probably a large proportion of the world’s stock, of the Fiat Panda 4×4. These were heady days. What car would you envisage as my steed for said days? Something classic perhaps? A 1960’s convertible. Italian, natch. Maybe a follow on from my piece on the Ferrari F8 Spider? A modern tourer, The Roma perhaps. Or maybe, just maybe, I could actually be found behind the wheel of a car whose rarity would have most other metal beat. The Militem Ferox -T.
Sorry? What was that you said? ‘What is it?’ People, people. What’s going on? Finger not on the automotive pulse? Or there is a chance that particular marketing missive passed you by? In fairness, it had me. However, Google remains the absolute treasure trove of all, well, of all things, and I now know that it is a…Jeep Wrangler? No, the other one. A Rubicon? A Gladiator? How Italian. But it’s not. It’s something rather inexplicable.
I’m not sure whether you have seen the Mercedes Benz G500 4×42? Have you seen the Land Rover Defender 130? Have you seen ‘Queer As Folk’? So, Militem is an Italian company fusing Italian luxury with the rugged aggression of American off-road vehicles. Right. According to the brochure, ‘We are the brand of choice for today’s leaders; figures who desire only excellence both in life and at the wheel of a luxury car.’
The mind boggles.
I’ll forgive you, should you not be able to picture it, but it is basically a lifted, wide bodied, pick-up truck bodied Jeep Rubicon. The Rubicon being the longer wheelbase 5 door version of the iconic Wrangler. It genuinely is unlike anything else being made, coachbuilder or otherwise. The pick-up version does hit European shores, but usually, like the aforementioned Defender 130, in commercial form. It’s a curious formula. I am not Italian, I’m sure we’ve all gathered that. Maybe I am unaware of an Italian penchant towards American cars, but it just seems a curious melange of styles.
READ THE FEATURE HERE IN THE ALPINE EDITION
The adventure starts with a birthday. If accurate, it actually starts with a missed birthday. Missed, but not forgotten. With my long-suffering partner in tow, we headed to Tuscany to celebrate my venerable editors’ birthday in the comfort of a Tuscan villa, awash with the local Brunello and the ubiquitous truffles. ‘Twas the season after all. Mr Robinson had secured a commercial-spec Land Rover Defender 90, and due to a combination of flights, timings and previous night’s celebrations, transport from Pisa to the Villa would be on me. Emails flew to the darkest corners of the web, and as, almost like that star leading the three kings to Bethlehem. Militem came to the fore. Fly to Pisa, train to Florence, and then a cab ride to a Volvo dealership. Not quite what I was expecting; and then I saw her. In fairness, I couldn’t miss her. This is a car of quite mammoth proportions. Nigh on two metres high, employing a two inch lift kit, and adorned with wide track and the fenders to match, stance is something it certainly has. At over 5.5 metres in length, it looks like it will be unwieldy in the extreme, but I guess we can only wait and see. As can sometimes be the case with these things, no one was expecting my arrival. My lack of even passable Italian meant that much gesticulation and gesturing flew back and forth, and in a blink of an eye, or a reasonable nap, I was handed the keys and wished on my way.
Finished in a hue not dissimilar to Audi’s Nardo Grey, the Ferox-T cuts a mean silhouette. Inside, one is introduced to the Italian side of this curious combo, but an interior that is certainly one that could be classed as luxury. Through the use of high-grade materials and the liberal application of them; the cabin feels as special inside as the outside does rugged. The leather is of an obviously high grade, and paired with the utilitarian tactility of Alcantara, it is an interior reminiscent of something you would find in a Porsche or a Range Rover, say. Switchgear is similar to the factory spec, bar the addition of switches for the four-wheel drive system and for the roof-mounted LED strip light. Modern essentials such as Apple Carplay, heated seats et al are all present and the interior is a curious contrast to the exterior. Each model in the Militem line-up has over 1000 preproduction hours and over 200 hours go into each individual build. The team are eager to stress that these are bespoke builds and nothing is, in theory, an impossibility. Deployable side steps activate with a Verhoeven-esque mechanical whir, they are a necessity on the Ferox-T rather than purely for style. A high driving position aids manoeuvrability, but only in so much that it can do with a car of this size. The Ferox-T is powered by a Pentastar 3.5 litre V6 engine mated to an 8-speed gearbox. Progress could never be described as brisk; I am pretty convinced that’s not the point. The gearing as well is curious. A super long first gear can have one screaming down the road somewhat, but city and urban traffic is easy enough to get through; I’m sure over would probably be an option as well. The drive to the villa was a fairly uneventful two-hour jaunt mostly spent on the motorway system. The Ferox-T performed well, a comfortable, if slightly bouncy ride at motorway speeds; but having Waze and my podcast choices displayed on the infotainment screen made it a simple enough task. We met our companions in a lovely little town and parked next to the Defender, partly as it signalled a point where should all else fail, we could meet. It was then that the true size really hits home. Next to a car that is already rather large, the Ferox-T is another level, or seven above even that. Longer, wider and taller, it made a mockery of Italian parking spaces, nose proudly a metre past the line. It was at this juncture; things became even more interesting when I noticed some latches to the front cabin roof. What have we here? It turns out, in an almost sedanca style, the front cabin roof is removable. So, it’s basically a lifted, pick up Jeep Gladiator Rubicon. Targa. How brilliant is that? Sorry, I mean bonkers, how bonkers is that?
The drive back to the villa, roof attached, posed a little more of an issue. With the raised ride height and a concentration towards off road prowess, the Ferox-T can be decidedly wallowy on the off-camber peaks and troughs of the Tuscan countryside. The ratio of the gearbox means additionally it is searching around somewhat for the appropriate gear, but in fairness, its road manners are no worse than say a pre-facelift Mercedes G Wagon. One just needs to be mindful of what is under you and try not to daydream into thinking you’re in that 1960’s convertible. Roof off or otherwise. What one certainly gets in the Ferox-T, is attention. A group of elderly Italian men and I spent a good half hour discussing the car, neither of us versed in the others language. We got by. Randomly it helped that the village housed a Rubicon already. A daytrip to the simply spectacular medieval town of Siena was also taken in. Should any of the readers be acquainted to Siena, you will be aware as to how amusing a prospect that is. Twenty minutes adjusting the car into a space. Back and forth. Adjusting and readjusting space to proximate cars. It turns out, as evidenced from my recent email and fine, it wasn’t even a parking space. What it was, was just far enough into the city walls to make the sights accessible, but not so deep as to make leaving an impossibility. Having said that, given the quality of the porchetta and truffle cream focaccia on offer, there are worse places to be stranded. Even outside of the city’s walls, the Ferox-T is a large thing to get around. But despite its girth, with the usual care and attention, it was easy enough to keep it within the white lines demarking lanes; something the Italian drivers in vehicles far smaller than mine seem unable to accomplish. Once moving, it’s simple enough to put where you want it, and even if it were to go wrong, you’re either going to be safe and well inside the shell or the other person is coming off worse.
There are of course real-world drawbacks. As I said, with the lift kit and fancy suspension modifications, its ride isn’t exactly refined for the road let’s say. The huge knobbly tyres cut some fearsome noise at motorway speeds, and it isn’t exactly frugal. The flatbed becomes your only real luggage space, and whilst that aided a wood collection for the fireplace, it doesn’t make for the best storage for a couple of Tumi cases for a three-day jaunt. But there is a charm about it partly due to all those things. Take those funny hinges. Remove the top, and yes, its noisy, and there is no discernible use, but my god, what fun. Simple pleasures and all that. It’s a shame that we didn’t venture into some wild locations. The extensive suspension and four-wheel drive system are probably the piece of the puzzle that would elevate it into more than simply a toy. It probably needs a run through an off-road course with some instruction to really showcase its skills, which I can genuinely imagine to be pretty formidable. For me, it was restricted to the kilometre of dirt track leading to the villa, which when returning at night, with the light bar casting quite alarming wattage on the situation, the Ferox-T could be manhandled at a fair old lick.
It could be argued that the Militem Ferox-T may be one of the most ostentatious and phallic symbols available in the car market today, but that is categorically doing it, and them, a disservice. The car is superbly put together. The use of materials is well thought out and however strangely, suits the car wonderfully well. Everything works, from the light bar and side steps to the infotainment systems and parking sensors. No rattles, knocks or drips. Panel gaps are good. It may not fit into a standard parking space, and yes, for day-to-day use, it isn’t by any means optimally set up. But as a weekend toy, which quite frankly is what I envisage the majority of drives will be, I can’t think of many other cars that can decimate terrain, with a bed full of wood, or people I guess, whilst the front passengers bask in the open air and everyone is draped in high-quality Italian leather. I can’t think of any. For that I applaud them.