Automobile

How Bentley Turned an Abandoned Military Base Into a Performance-Car Proving Ground

Postwar, Magliocco’s facilities and airfield suffered obsolescence until 1954, when the main runway was extended so that Italian airline Alitalia could start flying commercially off of it until the Cold War.

On August 7, 1981, the base became Europe’s second-most prominent operations center for the BGM-109G Ground Launched Cruise Missile—nuclear-armed weapons that played a key role in NATO’s defense against the Soviet Union’s potential use of its own nukes. When the United States and its cruise missiles arrived, major construction started at the base. They removed the bombed-out and ruined buildings and also carefully disposed of unexploded bombs leftover from WWII. The first stage of the new base finished on August 13, 1982, and was renamed the Comiso Air Station in May of 1983. 

From then until 1991, the base saw the addition of living quarters and other communal structures that made it as real a little town as any. During my drive around the compound, I passed condos, a supermarket, a gas station, a high school, a fire station, and even a community pool. Things I didn’t see included a sports center, clinic, and chapel. At its height, around 2,000 military service members and their families resided on the one-million-square-meter base.

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