The Bristol Italian Auto Moto Festival event is one of the most local of all for me, taking place a mere 10 minutes or so from home. With agreement from the City Council, not usually renowned for their enthusiasm for the motor vehicle, a number of streets in the old commercial heart of the city are closed off for the day, and they are filled with a very diverse mix of Italian cars and bikes. There is a finite capacity, and the limit was reached many weeks ago, but luckily I had the foresight to apply back in January, so I was up at early o’clock this morning trying to make sure the Abarth looked clean. Exhibitors were asked to be in place by 9:30am, in time for a 10am official opening, but the streets were busy with interested passers by even when I arrived, and it simply got busier and busier all day. Even at 4pm, when cars started to depart, there were throngs of people everywhere. The politicians and environmentalists can say what they like, by today’s evidence suggests that there is massive interest and enthusiasm for the car. OK, so these were Italian cars, with barely a styling line out of place anywhere…….I spent the whole day at the event, so had plenty of time to see all the display cars, and to talk to many of the owners and learn something about the cars on show. As well as meeting some more Abarthisti, I was delighted to catch up with Paul Morris, Sales Manager at Wessex Garages, the local Abarth dealer, who very kindly gave me some protection for my head, which – given the sunny skies – would appear to have saved me from an uncomfortable night with a tender face!
Although quite a few of the cars are ones which I have seen at this event in previous years, there was plenty that I had not. Anyway, here is just some of what I saw and enjoyed:
No classic Abarths at the event at all this year. which was a bit of a surprise, but there were several of the modern generation cars, with just a 500C missing, as between the Abarthisti we fielded a 500 (mine), a couple of 500 Esse esse, a Grande Punto and a Punto Evo, and Wessex Garages brought along their 695 Tributo Ferrari. All the cars were receiving a lot of attention, and will feature in many a photo album tonight. I was amused to hear someone pronounce my car as a “CheekyChento”, but then compared to some of the other snippets of conversation overheard during the day, this was not too bad.
Plenty of variety from the Alfa Owners, as you might expect, with most of the cars coming from the past 20 years or so. Oldest, by some margin, was Mike Hirst’s 1929 6C 1750 Zagato. He told me has had it for something like 50 years and at the time, it was worth not much. How times change, as the prices of these cars heads inexorably towards the £1million mark.
This one might looks like an 1930s car, but in fact it is a one-off special, built by an owner who could not quite muster the 7 figure price tag, so created his own equivalent. This 1962 2600 Coupe had won one of the prizes, and it was indeed a splendid car. Plenty of Giulia and 105 series GTV cars. Prices of these cars are rising steadily, and the one that was for sale was marked up at £15k. That is not out of line for what others would cost. There were also examples of all four iterations of the Spider from this platform. Two Montreals, this year, in quite restrained hues compared to the bold greens, oranges and yellows in which these sports GTs are frequently seen. A couple of the iconic AlfaSud were present, and there was a late model Sprint Veloce 1.7, by which time the lovely styling had been challenged by the addition of some rather dubious plastic skirts. The car on show was in immaculate condition, though. This 116 series Giulietta is a regular at shows like this and is always immaculately turned out. Today was no exception. One of the 2 SZ cars in attendance is also a well known event participant. The South African AutoDelta Alfetta 3.0 GTV6, one of less than 240 cars made, that I first saw at Gaydon last August, was here. Good to see it, along with some of the UK market Alfetta GTVs as well.The Alfa 90 was probably not Alfa’s finest hour, but these are rare cars now. This one was at one end of the display lines. The 916 GTV and Spider (a car I owned for 18 months, a while back, and thoroughly enjoyed) has definitely made “classic” status already, and there were several of these cars. Most of the 156s were GTA models, in a wide variety of colours. Note they were not all supplied in red! From the late 1980s/ early 1990 era, there was one 164 Cloverleaf and a couple of 145s, one of which had been comprehensively bombed by passing seagulls. Both the 166s at the event were the pre facelift cars.The Alfa display also included a pair of 147 GTAs, a GT, and several Breras, Spiders, a few Mitos and a couple of the new Giulietta DE TOMASO
Although the entry lists suggested that there would be more, there were two de Tomaso in attendance, a Mangusta and a Pantera.
Ferrari was the “featured marque” for 2011, and accordingly there were quite a number of different models, lined up along Corn Street. The biggest crowds were around an F40, and the crowds simply never dissipated, so I have no picture ot it.
Oldest cars was the 330GTC.
Hard to believe, but the lovely 365GTB/4 Daytona cars are not much more recent. There were two, a coupe and a spider. Most covetable Ferrari for me, perhaps after the Daytona, was this 288 GTO. Just one 246 GT Dino. One Berlinetta Boxer, too. This was an early model, so a 365 BB, not the later 512, despite the body coloured bumpers and lower body trim.Plenty of more recent Ferraris, too. The 360/430 based cars were the most numerous, as you might expect. There were also a number of the 308/328 cars, the 348/355 models and the Mondial. A 400i and a couple of the 550/575 cars completed the variety of Ferrari models on show.FIAT
This car was awarded a number of prizes, and they were probably more for its condition than its rarity, In the latter regard, it was probably the vehicle you were least expecting to see and could not remember when you last saw another example, a 1970 Fiat 125. With their twin cam engines, these sports saloons appealed to the driver in late 1960s who would now probably buy a 3 series. After Fiat stopped producing them, production resumed, in rather more utilitarian format, with less powerful engines, in Poland and the car was variously sold as a Polski-Fiat and an FSO.
Another rarity was this Uno Selecta. This used the same CVT transmission as Ford fitted to the Fiesta of the period. I drove one and struggled to like the transmission. This car was immaculate and had done only about 22,00 miles. The 500 Owners Club brought along a good number of cars. They were parked opposite the Abarths, and even though they were several feet away, it was easy to see just how diminutive they are compared to the current cars. Another Club that always mounts a strong showing is the Fiat Coupe Owners Club, and they had several cars on display here.This 130 Coupe seemed to be pleasing the crowds. Such an elegant car. Elegant is also the phrase (well, one of many expressions of approbation) for the Fiat Dino, and two gorgeous Spiders were present. Other open topped Fiats included a 124 Spider and a few Barchettas.The two Seicentos were both in the inconspicuous shade of Broom Yellow. The first generation Panda was also in evidence, with three of these cars on show. I heard lots of people saying words like “I used to have one of those”.There was an early 500C from the 1950s and the restored 1938 Siata Smith Convertible that I have seen at previous events was also there, but I seem not to have pictures of either. LAMBORGHINI
There were just two: a black Gallardo and a bright orange Diablo. The latter was one of the loudest cars at the event, as we heard during the “rev your engines” episodes and also when it was departing.
How often do you see 4 Gammas in a day? And when you see even one, it is almost always a coupe. Yes, there were three coupes on show.
There was also this lovely Berlina. The owner told me he has another one, which has got precisely 78 miles on the clock, which he recently bought, but it does need a gearbox. That was cannibalised some years ago (hence helping to keep the mileage so low). He is reasonably local to Bristol, and said that although there are probably less than 10 Gamma Berlina in the UK, quite a few of them live not far from him. This Series 3 Beta is believed to be unique in the UK, as by the time the Series 3 car was ready for sale, the Lancia rust scandal had taken its toll on sales, and Lancia were promoting the Trevi instead. I had seen this car a couple of times in 2009, but from what I could discern from the information about the car, the person who owned it has subsequently died. Very sad. However, the car lives on, and looks immaculate. That is also a word you could use to describe this Series 3 Appia. When new, these cars cost the same as a Jaguar 2.4, so it is no surprise that few of them were sold here. The Fulvia Coupe was manifest in both regular and Zagato form.As well as the Beta Berlina, there were examples of the Coupe and MonteCarlo variants of the car, including one of the last Coupes made, in supercharged Volumex form. Just one Stratos this year. But it was a good one.Most of the Deltas were from the first generation, though there were a couple of the second type present as well. Other Lancias included a Y10 and a Thema. MASERATI
Oldest duo were the Bora and Merak from the 1970s, and what a splendid pair they are. These cars came from the period when Citroen hydraulics were part of a Maserati and had clearly presented a number of reliability and restoration challenges as the cars were transformed into the state in which they are now presented.
The only car from the Biturbo generation was this 425 saloon.The more modern cars were split evenly between the 3200/4200 GT and the current GranTurismo models, with a couple of Quattroporte cars to complete the display. BIKES
Although a number of non-Italian bikes sneaked in at the start of the event, they were delicately asked to move them, leaving an array of Benelli, Ducati, Agusta and the very imaginative scooters of the local Mods.
This really is an excellent event, and it is all free of charge to visit. When the 2012 dates are announced, put it in your diaries!