Story and photos by Alain Raymond
Three Canadian friends and Italian car enthusiasts returned to Padova for the 36th annual Auto e Moto d’Epoca, one of Europe’s most comprehensive collectible car show and flee market.
On the Wednesday prior to the show that opened on October 24, 2019, the Canadian trio met with Alessandro Tura, a good friend who introduced us last year to his Parco Chiuso group of rally fans and drivers, founded by Dr. Antonio Regazzo, owner of a magnificent vintage showroom and workshop. Over the years, the group had invited many guests, from Anneliese Abarth to Walter Röhrl. On this Wednesday, the honoured guest was renown engineer Gianni Tonti.
In the 1960s, Ing. Tonti was Technical Director of Lancia’s HF Racing team and witnessed countless wins from 1967 to 1984, including the first World Rally Championship for the Fulvia HF in 1972. Then came the awesome Lancia Stratos, arguably the most prestigious and titled rally car of all time.
He told us, “My fondest memory is the Fulvia’s first win in 1967 at its first outing. I was fortunate to be associated with the Stratos, the Lancia 037, once raced by your own Gilles Villeneuve, and many other memorable cars and drivers.” A life and career well lived, and an evening that started our visit to Padova on a high note.
Next morning, bright and early, we enter Pavilion 7, a huge covered hall filled wall-to-wall with part and accessory suppliers. A true treasure trove for any collector looking for tiny Weber jets, a rebuilt Abarth engine, beautifully crafted bucket seats or hard-to-find vintage style wiring. Feeling like kids in a Christmas toy store, we moved on to Pavilion 8, a second just as large hall occupied by countless suppliers and motorcycle stands. Maybe I can find the Lambretta scooter parts for my friend Silvano back in Montreal? Sure enough: mission accomplished.
Pleasant Encounters of the First Kind
While walking the halls, my keen Abarth eye notices a Fiat 600 gearbox exhibited vertically on a counter at the Monteferri stand. “We are showing the 5th speed kit for the 600 gearbox,” explains young Flaviano in English. “It is designed by Paola,” he adds, introducing us to his engineer mother who took the time to explain how to install the kit and the various available options, including racing ratios. Monteferri Costruzione Ingranaggi, maker of specialty gears for a variety of cars, is based in Rome.
Further ahead, again my eye is drawn to glass displays containing shiny castings. “A new cylinder head for Ferrari 250 SWB. We manufacture new parts for vintage cars, from cylinder heads to gearbox casings to intake manifolds, to pumps. Next time you’re in Italy, come visit us at Modena Motori,” says Luca Amedei. Invitation noted.
Having met Max Girardo a few years earlier, I stop by Girardo & Co stand to say hello and admire his offerings, notably a gorgeous 1959 Lancia Flaminia Sport Series 1 by Zagato. “Indeed, Lancia has been on an upswing lately and we expect the trend to continue. Original Lancias are beautifully built cars and this is being recognized by the collectible automobile community,” explains Max Girardo in impeccable French.
Among the many offers for historic tours and rallies, one catches our attention since it is held on a favorite island: Giro di Sicilia. The historic rally is run in June and often follows some of the superb roads of the original Targa Florio. “You can’t bring your own car? No problem, we can arrange for you to rent an eligible historic car,” says one of the organizers.
Where do you start when surrounded by some 5,000 vehicles? Many in mint restored condition, while others needing considerable TLC. Most noticeable this year, the Alfa Romeo brand, the numerous small and very small Fiat products, an increasing number of delightful Lancias and many Porsche offerings. Why Porsche? It seems German collectors are flocking to Italy to find well preserved and rust-free cars. And lest I forget, a great number of Citroëns, mostly the eternal 2CV in its many variations and the futuristic DS, still attracting fans after nearly 65 years of existence.
After three full days of walking the 11 pavilions of the show as well as the outdoor areas filled with cars and food stands, the three “amici” decide to pay Padova a proper visit. Sunday is therefore dedicated to exploring the old town and its many historic sites, including late lunch on a terrace facing Prato della Valle, the largest square in Italy, with a green island at the center, surrounded by a small canal bordered by two rings of statues.
Ask me again why do I love Italy?