AUTO MOTO D’EPOCA 2023, BOLOGNA
Volume 48 Issue 23
Dec 10, 2023
Marc Sonnery goes to the largest Italian automotive car show with displays by manufacturers, and others that support restoration of the Ferraris we love. And more!
The 40th edition of the Italian equivalent of Retromobile in Paris and Techno-Classica in Germany took place in Bologna October 26 to 29.
After four decades in Padova this was the first edition in Bologna as the indoor show has not only relocated but expanded.
It is now as big as its French and German equivalents with many visitors from all of Europe.
It was indubitably a very successful event in terms of attendance; on Thursday, the day mainly for media, major collectors, and experts, due to a more expensive ticket, attendance was double the numbers of Padova according to the organizers who did not bother estimating the headcount, I asked.
While most stands and cars are indoors in the numerous exhibition halls yet more cars, bikes, tractors can be found outside in the alleys between them.
Contrary to Retromobile which only has a token space for privately offered and usually modest classics at the far back of the show, Auto e Moto d’Epoca caters extensively to grass roots enthusiasts who sell and seek small Alfa Romeos, Fiats, inexpensive Maserati Biturbos, etc.
This is where you find not only 308 GTBs and GT4s but the 2-liter 208 versions made specifically for the Italian market catering to a lower tax point for cars under two liters.
Maserati and Lamborghini logically also took advantage of this with respectively, the Merak 2000 and Uracco P200.
Occasionally someone from Italy or from outside the country buys one of these and they later get marketed as...three-liter versions as was the case with one in California!
Of course, for those not interested in performance and focused on design and concours they offer a cheaper alternative.
What was on offer? Please follow me starting in aisle one.
Note that European-market Ferraris do not have the windshield/steering chassis plate. Add the fact that questions about chassis numbers in Europe can have the negative effect to cause owners to think you are an income tax investigator.
I therefore rarely ask for it since I have had my share of unpleasant reactions. Asking to photograph the engine bay allows a discreet glance at the chassis plate when important.
A 208 GTS was available, 1984, 81,114 km, belt change at 77,780 km, ASI registered, asking price €80,000. This was a first-year model, without the turbo which was introduced in 1982, power increasing from a meagre 155 hp (yes!) to 220 hp.
An impeccable 456 GT automatic in a very tasteful color combination of Blu Tour de France with tan interior was offered at ...€90,456. This 1997 model is one of 402 automatics built.
Yet another car that was also registered with ASI, so what is that? ASI stands for Automotoclub Storico Italiano.
Providing documents, photos and paying €50 a year to a regional ASI affiliated club grants registration to your classic which in turn enables an exemption on stamp duty for historic cars and a discount on car insurance.
Plus, you get a shiny little golden ASI plaque that you can attach or just display inside your cockpit. One could also argue without too much cynicism that it is part of a certain perverse Italian attachment to bureaucracy and paperwork.
Bolder in its colors was a 2011 599 GTO in red with surprising seats: red with black suede bottoms and yellow piping. Paging Lionel Messi or some rapper?
It benefits from an official Ferrari extended warranty until 2025, price not indicated.
A sand blasting company presented a 246 body shell, bare except for black anti-rust coating.
There were plenty of 2000 to current Ferraris on offer, several dealers having rows of them.
More interesting was a never-before-seen miniature 250P lookalike complete with basket handle airfoil.
It was in fact an OSCA Muccini from 1964 and yes, it is a one-off, a typical representative of what is affectionately nicknamed the Etceterinis.
All those countless and long-gone small Italian makes which produced very cute, agile sports cars and barchettas with tiny engines.
OSCA was the Bologna based firm founded by the Maserati brothers in 1948, ten years after they sold Maserati to the Orsi family. They had to wait ten years to do so as per their contract with shrewd Adolfo Orsi, Senior.
Another OSCA presented was perhaps the ultimate Etceterini: the 1600SP, also a one-off, it was none other than the very last OSCA racing car built, though Count Agusta who by then owned the company did not allow it to race.
It had been maintained at Sauro, a very storied dealer in Bologna which used to be the main sales outlet for OSCA, and which thus had a close relationship with the Maserati brothers.
It was unknown, hidden for decades and THE sensation of the 2012 Villa d’Este Concorso with its gorgeous mini-GTO 64 looks.
Going back to Maranello, a 308 vetroresina from 1977 in red with black was one of 700 produced.
These command a premium which has always seemed a bizarre market view since usually fiberglass is considered inferior to alloy or even steel though it is of course lightweight.
You guessed it, it was ASI certified, in fact most classics in Italy are. €179,000 was the asking price.
Another 208 GTS, but this time a 1983, with Turbo, 46,606 km, also red with black, matching numbers, one of 250 produced and priced at €84,900.
Note that many signs are written in English for the audience coming from the rest of Europe.
One dealer offered a 599 GTB with extensive presentation text in Italian, English and German, a 2009 with 25,967 km at €168,000.
Autoluce, a dealer from Modena, offered a very attractive 1981, 400i 5-speed in light blue (Azzurro metalizzato) with beige interior with double AC.
They also showed a 2001 456M GT manual gearbox in Rosso Fiorano and Grigio Scuro (dark gray) interior with 42,000 km, and just two owners.
A couple of 246s were shown including a GT that was intended for the US market but for some reason never went there, ending up in Germany.
A 1968 “Queen Mary” 365 GT 2+2, chassis 11767 (one of very, very few dealers to indicate it), unusually in red, was offered, with black interior.
A 1975, US version 308 GT4, complete with its “Ralph Nader pimples” (the large rectangular indicators) and huge garbage truck bumpers was an unusual sight in Europe to say the least.
It was shown by a Croatian dealer who explained he does a lot of business in Italy just a ferry ride away.
A gray with black 412 was proudly signposted as sold by its dealer.
A gray Mondial was peddled at €39,000 boasting “Rebuilt engine and just 52,000 kms, Ottima! (great!)”.
Perhaps the seller runs a fish stall at the market and has his marketing styles confused.
I particularly liked a 365 GTC/4 in dark blue, entirely restored. This was a US car, redone in 2009. They had not been able to find the mirrors though.
A 250 GTE in an unusual red (Rosso Bordeaux) livery with black interior was on offer, S/N 2619 GT, sold new in France, to politician and war hero Albin Chalandon, by Franco Britannic, the importer before Pozzi.
It always stayed in France and was gray for a spell before being restored in its original color.
A Giallo Fly 275 GTB so gorgeous you wanted to bite it was a popular sight. S/N 07675 is a late production short nose sold new in 1965 to Rome resident Pietro Mercurelli.
A later owner, Marcello Maria Gallo raced it several times at the Vallelunga circuit outside the capital. At the end of the decade, it was sold to the US, acquired by Californian John Sanders.
Two decades later it was sold – via an advert in the FML – by a partnership between Los Angeles dealer/ broker Werner Schoch and well-known Swiss dealer Koni Lutziger to Japan in 1992.
This owner had it restored to fly yellow, and it then took part in the factory organized 275 Tour in Italy in 2004. A check for €2,150,000 was needed to take it home. The dash top leather was beginning to retract, showing the underside, not good on a car of that caliber.
A bare shell 250 GT PF Coupe was presented by a Carrozzeria; no Bondo here.
Another 412, a 1988, dark gray with dark red and manual was offered outside with 93,000 km at €88,000.
A 1967 Fiat Dino coupe 2-liter first series in French Blue with brown interior, matching numbers, original color repaint, and engine rebuilt both in 2010 with 73,118 km was priced at €43,500.
An impressive stand was that of Club Dino who showed a 246 GTS in the rare and striking Verde Germoglio livery. Germoglio means bud, but no sir, not the beverage, the plant.
The head of the stand was also that of DinoPoint, a most impressive company run by Walter Scudeletti who speaks perfect English, has spent a lot of time in the US.
They restore all Dino engine cars, i.e. 206s, 246s, Fiat Dino coupes and spyders as well as Lancia Stratos, a very active and competent workshop based in Brembate di sopra near Bergamo.
A truly special sight was a French Blue 166 MM Berlinetta by Touring, 0042 M. It was sold new in 1950 by Luigi Chinetti when he operated out of Paris.
The buyer was Mrs. Yvonne Simon who raced it in Portugal at Circuito do Porto, finishing 4th overall and winning class II.
At Le Mans with Michel Kasse, they ran out of fuel after 25 laps; end of story as refueling is not allowed away from the pits.
She then raced in Rouen, at the Nürburgring and in the Rallye de Sambre et Meuse but her big day came at the Circuit de Vitesse de Nice when she triumphed overall.
In 1951 she was back in the Sarthe circuit and this time paired with British racer Betty Haig, a fast heiress from the Haig Whisky family. They finished in 15th position and 3rd in class.
That year she took part in the Aosta Saint Bernard Hillclimb, the Giro di Calabria, and the Coppa Adriatica in Senigallia on the east coast. In Monza Emilio Wartenweiler took 3rd place in an unspecified race.
In 1952 Simon raced it just once in Reims, finishing 8th before selling it to Italian Gilberto Cornacchia nicknamed “Serano” not to be confused with Franco Cornacchia the Rome dealer (who one might presume was his father).
He only finished two out of five races he was entered in, 11th in the Giro di Sicilia and 8th in the Coppa d’Oro on the same island.
In 1953 it was sold to Scuderia Autieri with only one known race at the 1954 Supercortemaggiore GP in Monza with De Florentiis/Mucci where it did not finish.
After that it was retired and bought decades later in 1978 by Mario Camellini, none other than the very first Ferrari dealer, in Modena, whose family headed by his son Umberto has kept the car ever since showing it at major events, including the 50th, 60th and 70th anniversaries as befits such a very fine jewel of Prancing Horse history.
Arguably the most hyped Ferrari in the show was another 275 GTB: the ex-Clint Eastwood, S/N 08359.
This was completed by the factory in March 1966 given to the actor by film maker Dino de Laurentiis’s eponymous film company.
It was originally delivered in Grigio Notte (night gray) as a two-cam long-nose with outside trunk hinges and Borrani wire wheels.
Eastwood, however, chose to have it repainted dark green metallic by well-known painter George Barris in California. He also had some sort of radio communication device fitted.
He then sold it some years later to Chuck Weber from Los Gatos, California, who in turn sold it or consigned it to Ed Waterman of Motorcar Gallery in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in 1985.
It went back to the Old World later in the 1980s, being acquired by Swiss Claude Fresard for his museum in Muriaux in the Swiss Jura mountains, a museum which no longer exists.
In 1999 long time dealer Paul Baber of London offered it and sold it to Ecuadorian Diego de Ribadeneira.
The South American entered it in a number of European events such as the Targa Florio Revival in 2000, the Tour de Espana in 2001, the Tour Auto in France in 2002 and again in 2004.
Finally, he took part in the 2004 275 anniversary tour organized by the factory.
That same year it was sold at the Gstaad Bonhams auction to Italian Matteo Ferro who took part in Ferrari’s 60th anniversary concours at Fiorano.
A Gilles Villeneuve F1 312 T5 from 1980 was displayed with number 2 as it was the year after his teammate Jody Scheckter had won the title.
Alas the T5 was rather useless and the best result the French Canadian could muster was fifth, at least it was at his home race in Montreal while the South African could do no better than the same result at Long Beach, California.
There was a bit of everything at the show, even a pink 1956 Ford Thunderbird that had won concours and been on the cover of major magazine Ruoteclassiche...but it was being let go at €36,000 on the last day of the show, a hastily handwritten note atop the printed €53,000...one has to make do...
Oh, and there was even a Pacer for sale, yes. If you wanted a Maserati Indy, you could choose between an absolute basketcase barn find or a concours car with all possible books in its vast trunk.
A 1988 first-series Lancia Thema 8.32 with Ferrari 308 engine was quite attractive in dark red, very nicely preserved, price not stated.
Most in the US have never heard of these because they were not imported in the New World. Its name is misleading as it does not refer to a 3.2-litre engine but to 8 cylinders, 32 valves.
Enzo Ferrari himself was chauffeured in one in his twilight years. About 5,000 units were built. It was front wheel drive, and the torque steer was reputedly something to keep in mind when pushing it.
They can be found in Europe from €15,000 to €40,000 but beware the deferred maintenance and clapped-out engines.
While Maserati, Lamborghini, Pagani had official manufacturer stands (with, in the case of Lamborghini, Polo Storico their Classiche equivalent), Ferrari did not.
Instead, they were represented virtually by Artioli Classiche from Modena. They showed a 250 California Spyder bodyshell, a 250 PF Cabriolet shell as well as completed 250 GTE in gorgeous liquid green and a 330 GT 4-headlight.
One of the big stars of the show in perhaps its first ever public showing was the new Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale tribute.
It certainly catches the beauty of the original though modern design obligations make it less pure. Some might say it is a cynical marketing exercise with a Maserati MC20 in drag, but it is fabulous publicity for Alfa and the 33 units sold out very quickly for a fortune, so more power to them!
Rally cars are always popular and Lancia Stratos 037 and Delta S4s took pride of place often in the iconic Martini & Rossi livery, popular to the extent that it often gets faked.
The two-wheel Ferrari equivalent, Ducati, had a huge stand. Their factory and museum are located minutes away in the Bologna suburb of Borgo Panigale and is well worth visiting.
A couple of rally 308 GTBs were displayed all kitted out with roll cage, bucket seats, harnesses.
One unique sight in poor condition was one of the one-offs by Luigi Colani, the flamboyant eccentric German-born designer.
Although this one was powered by a Ford V8, he once took an innocent Daytona and gave it a huge nose, a proboscis that Elephant Man would have approved of.
It later disappeared; Colani never revealed what became of it but one suspects that in need of money he quietly brought it back to standard condition and sold it on.
Some years later he modified a Testarossa giving it his trademark variation of an organic body - or biodynamic to use his own description - and took it to the Bonneville Salt Flats. Then he rebodied it once more.
While he was considered a little too wild to be taken seriously in the automotive and truck world as his designs were so outlandish, not practical and in many cases would have generated front end lift at speed, he was quite successful in other realms designing all sorts of things from pianos, cameras and airplanes, kitchens and cutlery, to police uniforms and house design. He passed in 2019.
Connolly, the storied leather company, had a great stand with a dark gray 246 GTS displaying its blood red interior.
Scale model collecting is a serious matter among European fans and the truly enormous choice of mostly 1/43 and 1/18 scale models is staggering.
From cheap and crude €10 offerings to bespoke handmade 1/8 reproductions costing five figures, you can lose yourself and soon exhaust your eyes, a mistake that is easily made as you naturally wish to look at every single model on display and you end up paying for it with a genuine scale 1 headache.
Some even experience a form of Florence syndrome, i.e. feel overwhelmed.
Consider that, far, far beyond reproductions of Ferrari standard production models, every possible one-off Maranello offering, be it from the fifties and sixties or more recent.
Even obscure ones known only by connoisseurs such as the 330 GT Vignale station wagon, the 330 LMB rebodied by Fantuzzi as a wild looking and gold liveried spyder used in the 1968 Fellini film “Toby Dammit” has been reproduced. These are most often among the pricier miniatures starting at several hundred Euros and up.
There were some artists though not as many as at Retromobile. One I enjoyed very much meeting was Enovar Guerra.
His is an unusual profile; he is a properly formed traditional bodywork craftsman, a batilastra in the traditional sense, which is most certainly an art form which has given us all the wonderful curves of racing and road Ferraris in the pre-industrial area.
He makes ¼ scale versions of 250 GTOs and so forth, superb to see up close.
Fewer in numbers but no less fascinating, the memorabilia stands are dangerous for your schedule and wallet as they irresistibly suck you into leafing through historic brochures, official factory period post cards, photos, letters, medals, enamel hood badges, art, odds and ends and innumerable trinkets.
Book lovers were well catered to. The Maranello Collection shop of Luca Fornetti based across the street from the factory was there, as was Gilena Motor Books from Brescia and Giogio Nada Editore whose eponymous founder was lost to COVID-19 in 2020.
Italy being Italy and the pleasures of the table never far from the soul there was, naturalmente, a stand offering superb old fashioned ham cutting machines...though they might be hard to bring as luggage on your flight back to the States!
While Padova was worth a visit and is close to Venice, this new Bologna location is right outside one of the most important and historic cities in Italy, a true must see for its monuments and fabulous gastronomy.
It is a major university city with a youthful vibe. The Fountain of Neptune in the very heart of the city gave inspiration to artist Mario Maserati for the Trident emblem of the company founded by his brothers.
The famous leaning twin towers, built in the early 1100s, are currently off limits, fenced off because city engineers noticed they are shifting and are in danger of collapsing.
The towers may fall, hopefully not, the classic car market may be down, but our passion for Italian cars remains bullish as shown by the vast and enthusiastic crowds seen in the aisles of Auto e Moto d’Epoca.
See you at the 2024 edition.