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Although I’ve attended a number of events at Brooklands Museum – most recently a slightly disappointing Drive-It Day – I hadn’t previously even known of, never mind attended, the Auto Italia Day, despite this being its 33rdyear.

While my favourite classics tend to be German (a 1972 911S would be my lottery-winning first choice), and my sole experience of owning an Italian car – a then-new 1998 Alfa 156 2.5V6 – had been a disaster, with eight breakdowns in two years, I love the style and spirit of classic Italian cars, and frequently dream of adding one to my garage.

Of course, we all cherish the idea of owning a Ferrari 250 GT, a Maserati Indy, Alfa Romeo Montreal, or a Lancia Stratos. These are cars of which dreams are made, and there were fabulous examples of each of them on display at Brooklands on a gloriously sunny May day. But there are also many much more affordable Italian classics, and Brooklands and its historic banked circuit and grounds was chock-full of what must have been well over 1000 cars of all shapes, size, ages and budgets.

I drove there in my 02 (known as “The Lemon” in our house, for fairly obvious reasons) but of course was not allowed – quite rightly – to park among the Italians, and took a spot next to a lovely red 4.2 E-Type coupé. Someone did manage to somehow get a Suzuki Swift inside and it took several increasingly sarcastic tannoy announcements: “We’re quite certain that your Suzuki isn’t Italian”, for it to eventually be removed.

A lot of work has been done at Brooklands over the last couple of years, with a number of new hangars and buildings opened, and there is much to see and do at the museum even without the added event attractions. The morning sun made it difficult to get photos without shadow, but I did the best I could, and took over 250 in total, a “few” of which are included here.

Since my love of classic cars is based mostly on their looks, and 50s to 70s Italian cars are about as good looking as it gets, there was plenty to catch my shallow eye.

I’d got there early – 8:20 – and there were already numerous cars in the grounds. My first destination was the clubhouse area, which was filled with probably the most exotic of all the cars that day. First up, a stunning Maserati A6G in a metallic brown. I’d never seen one in the metal and must have revisited that area half a dozen times during the day – it didn’t get any less stunning with each visit. Within a few yards of the Maser, were a silver-grey Ferrari 250 GT Lusso, a lime-green Miura, a silver Maserati Khamsin and more…beautiful cars, all.

Around the corner, a Fiat Dino Coupé and a bright red Spyder could be found, alongside one of no less than three Lancia Stratoses (Stratii??) in full rally regalia, two (of four) Alfa Romeo Montreal’s including one in a brilliant orange, and various other Ferrari’s, Maserati’s and Lamborghini’s. While I’m not overly interested in modern Ferrari’s or Lambo’s – Lambo owners in particular insisted on revving their engines loudly as they streamed in towards their designated area – there were two examples of the source of all things Lamborghini – a tractor, and a fabulous 350 GT with the most appropriate number plate possible; LAM 1.

Nearby, a small row of pretty little Fiat-based cars I had never heard of – Moretti. Their numbers were completed by the arrival of what was – for me at least –  the most glamorous car of the day, and I say that with full awareness of what else was on display. This was a Moretti 2500 SS Spyder; based on the Fiat 2300S, it seems fewer than 20 were made, and no-one is certain how many survive. Everyone turned to see this fabulous car – literally a showstopper – arrive. My car of the day.

A close runner-up was a much smaller little jewel of a car – a Vignale-bodied Abarth coupé, based on a Fiat 600. The owner had had the car restored to perfection in Italy, and told me it was the only one running in the UK.

Zagato and their unique take on car design were also represented – Alfa’s wedge shaped SZ, a Junior Z, several Lancia Fulvia Zagato Coupés, and of course the mighty Maserati A6G were all present and correct.

After a couple of hours, cars were still coming in search of spaces among the increasingly congested marque areas. The Alfa Romeo Club’s area was over-subscribed, and featured a number of gorgeous 1300, 1750, 2000 GT’s, Duetto’s, Giulietta’s and more, as well as some of their more modern cars, such as the 75, 156, 166, right up to a couple of the very latest Giulia sports saloons.

This is one of the features of the day – ALL Italian cars, (and motorbikes), not just classics, are welcome, so the whole range of Italian models from about 50 Lamborghini’s and probably over 100 Ferrari’s right down to Fiat Uno’s, 126’s and Strada’s were present and correct.

Sadly, this open to all policy also gave a clear indication of how the Italian car industry has declined. Each marque had its own designated area, and to see all those fabulous designs of the 60s and 70s (my personal favourite period of all car designs) – the Lancia Flavia, Fulvia, Flaminia, Alfa Romeo Giulia, Montreal and Giulietta, Fiat 1100, 1500 Spyder, the Dino and Coupé… it made the heart sink to then look upon the likes of a Strada, a Punto, an Alfa Romeo 90, or a Mito.

Nevertheless, the day was a glorious celebration of all things Italian and motorised – cars from all the major and minor (in volume) car manufacturers, bikes from MV Augusta and Ducati, as well as stalls selling various memorabilia.

Two other features of the day were an hour of carefully paced demo laps around the test track at the neighbouring Mercedes-Benz World (also worth a visit if you’re at Brooklands – they always have a number of their classics on display, including the astonishing 300SL Gullwing on this occasion, as well as a 600 and others), an act of co-operation by MBW that was doubtless driven at least in part by increasing foot traffic to their own impressive facility, but welcome nonetheless – after all, everyone there was a car enthusiast, and seeing and hearing a 250 GT Lusso, the Intermeccanica Indra or the 1960 Alfa Giulietta SZ, among many others, in motion – albeit relatively slow-motion – was still a thrill. Later on, runs up the Brooklands test hill that leads to the Brooklands Cars workshop (itself a fascinating destination within the site) took place. I didn’t stay for that – by this time I’d been wandering happily around in the sunshine for about 5 hours and finally decided it was time to take the scenic route back home in “The Lemon” and reflect on a superb morning. I’ll definitely attend again next year – perhaps you should too…

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11 Responses

  1. Dave Leadbetter
    That looks like a grand day out, Tony. My knowledge of Italian cars could be better but am I right in thinking the blue saloon (above the yellow Barchetta in your photos above) is a Detomaso?

    I presume the Stratosses (Strati?) were actually Hawk replicas rather than the real deal? Nothing wrong with that of course if they were, they are excellent and so accurate I understand you can use the body components to repair the genuine articles. Bonus 131 Abarth sneaking in unannounced as you last photo too. Lovely.

    You didn’t get a shot of Suzuki Swift though? Maybe next time.

    Reply
  2. Tony Wawryk
    Hi Dave, yes it was, one of the best classic events I’ve been to. That blue saloon is indeed a DeTomaso – a Deauville.
    Interesting question about the Stratoseses…to be honest, I have no idea, but I would guess that this one might have been the real deal, parked as it was in the Auto Italia section among other very expensive exotica, but I am basing that assumption ion nothing more than the company it was keeping. As for the other two, I guess they could be replicas, but I couldn’t say for sure.

    As for the Suzuki – it had been got shot of before I could get a shot of it…

    Reply
  3. Tony Wawryk
    Just checked the reg number – it’s a Hawk HF. I don’t have photos that show the numbers of the other two, but if this one is a Hawk, I guess they probably are too. How disappointing. I know nothing about the kit car/replica scene (as I’ve just demonstrated!) and have to say I have never heard of Hawk, so just looked them up – seems they not only make Stratos replicas, but also Cobras. And since they’re made in Tunbridge Wells, maybe they shouldn’t have been there…
    Reply
  4. Dave Leadbetter
    An interloper!! :)

    It is a truth universally acknowledged that all kits cars are dreadful, but the Hawk Stratos is the exception. They are serious pieces of (actual) kit and not exactly cheap in their own right. Full marks for being a complete purist but I wouldn’t turn one down!

    Reply
  5. SteenMP
    Thanks for a great report, Tony.

    Moretti has produced a lot of interesting bodies – not all as pretty as the 2500SS though, but interesting. Try and google the 2500SS Coupé, also quite elegant.
    In general I love the special versions of Fiats, be it Vignale, Ghia, Francis Lombardi, Viotti or Moretti, etc., etc. – all relatively standard/modest Fiat running gear under special bodies by individual coachbuilders and designers. I think we will never see the like again… I once sat (and drooled) in the Ghia 230S, also derived from Fiat 2300s Coupe – one of my personal favourites.

    There are a lot of wonderful cars in your pictures, including the A6GS. But somehow, the two white Fiat 850 based Abarths would be my favorites. An OT1000 and OT1600, I guess? Try driving either of them without putting the pedal to the medal, frequently. Smiles per miles? A lot, I would think!

    Reply
  6. YrHmblHst
    Looks fantastic!
    Thanx for the photo of THE most beautiful production car ever, the 250 GTL Lusso.
    More GTV6s would be nice tho…and 131s. But lovely pics of what must have been a great event.
    Reply
  7. Anders Bilidt
    Ouuuuu… so much goodness here…!!
    The Moretti 2500SS is indeed stunning, but I personally like the little Vignale bodied Abarth just as much – so delicate and pretty.
    The Alfa Romeo Giulietta SZ is another long-standing favourite of mine, and I’ve never seen one in that stunning shade of blue before.
    The Montreal is simply perfect in orange and sporting period Momo Vega aftermarket alloys. It’s exactly how I’ve always thought “my” example should look…
    And that Lamborghini Jarama is yet another long-standing favourite.


    I remember that green metallic Ghia 230S quite vividly. It was just perfect! I think I must have spent just as long drooling all over it as you did… ;-)

    Reply
  8. Niels V
    Did you take a closer look at these two Abarths ? I recon most people would pass them and think small sub 1000cc engine like there Fiat 600based predecessor, but give the wide arches on one of them It could actually be a entirely different animal. Abarth got the idea to shoe horn both a 150hp 1592cc and the even more insane 205 hp 1946cc twin cam engine in to this body thus creating the Fiat-Abarth OT 2000 Berlina Mostra.

    Reply
  9. Tony Wawryk
    Hi Niels, regretfully, no, I didn’t – I was too distracted by the gorgeous Vignale-bodied coupe a little further along- clearly my mistake!
    Reply

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