Graham Nicholsonâ€™s Topolino and James Wheeler’s distinctive 500 Sport Abarth 695 replica headed the special Fiat display. Paul G Hanmore
By Paul G. Hanmore
April 26th 2008
As the small but enthusiastic band of marshals gathered in the early morning brightness of Saturday 26th April, the omens were good for the 6th Bristol Italian Auto Moto Festival,
organized as always by the region’s enthusiastic Alfa Romeo Owners’ Club and Ducati Owners’ Club members.
We knew we were in for a good day when the Friday evening’s TV weather man promised us favourable meteorological conditions for what has become the greatest free celebration of Italian vehicles on two and four wheels the United Kingdom has ever seen. Our anticipation rose and the heart of the Old City began to rumble to a symphony of thoroughbred exhaust notes as the cars and two wheelers, numbering over 400 in all, streamed into the historic centre of Bristol.
Arriving from the Ride-In. Pelham Crosby photo from the street.
The entrants came from as far distant as Switzerland, Scotland, the South West and South East of England. Italian music sang out over the public address system, endowing the metropolis with cosmopolitan and Neapolitan overtones as the streets thronged with classic Italian machinery. Bristolians and visitors from far and wide turned out in their hoards to mix with the enthusiastic vehicle owners and share this celebration of superb style and engineering.
The streets were blessed with an abundance of Alfas, Ferraris, Lancias, Maseratis, Fiats and Lamborghinis plus a fine selection of De Tomasos and Pat Lockyer’s almost unique Stabilimenti Farina Jupiter, which he informed me, is the only one of its kind currently in use on the roads.
The Fiat Dino club were early arrivals. Paul G Hanmore
We celebrated our Festival’s sixth year by nominating Fiat as the ‘Featured Marque,’ and dedicating a special display featuring a wide range of examples from that company’s stable. Of particular note were the many examples of the 500 model spanning the five decades from its inception to the Nuova 500s recently introduced to the UK market, at the focal point of the display. Of particular note were Carl Allen’s stunning, red 500 with matching trailer, Tom Grzelinski’s 500, strikingly restored in orange livery and James Wheeler’s 1959 vintage 500 Sport Abarth 695 replica, resplendent in Bugatti Blue/Black and White Garage colors. This model features the famed ‘suicide’ doors and was originally sold new by Star Motors in San Jose, California.
Lancia’s rally heritage was well represented. Paul G Hanmore
In the run-up to the Festival we’d had an approach from the BBC’s Top Gear television programme producers who were planning a visit to an Alfa Romeo concours. In eager anticipation of the appearance of the programme’s three famous personalities we set about arranging the ‘media event’ only to be thwarted just days before their arrival by the news that Richard Hammond was in need of an emergency appendectomy. Nevertheless, since the trophies had been engraved, delivered and paid for we determined to carry on regardless. The outcome saw the ‘Best Open Top’ award going to Martin Ellis for his immaculate 1981 Spider Veloce 2000, with Mark Reynolds 916 Spider a few points behind. The ‘Best Sporting 4 Door’ accolade was earned by Phil Gotts for his superb 75, followed into second place by Daryl Staddon’s 90. The ‘Best Sporting Coupe/2 door’ was inevitably won by Robbie Webb for his superbly beautiful 1954 1900C SS by Touring, but with close competition from Paul Gregory’s 1960 Giulietta Sprint Zagato and Tony Ranson’s 1955 Giulietta Sprint Coupe. The winner of the ‘Oldest Vehicle’ was Festival regular, Mike Hirst with his wonderfully appealing 1929 Alfa Romeo 6c 1750 SS.
Alfa Giuliettas in the red corner. Paul G Hanmore
Stunning cars and bikes were plentiful in what must have been the most charismatic, multi-million pounds parking lot the West Country has ever seen. The Lancias were led by examples of the Stratos and Delta Integrale rally cars, most in classic rally livery, David Tipper’s 1936 Agusta Berlina, the 1947 Aprilia Saloon entered by David Honeybun and Andy Hoddinott’s award winning Monte Carlo.
David & Eilleen Tipper’s 1936 Lancia Augusta Berlina rubbing shoulders with the bikes. Paul G Hanmore
Mike Bryant returned again with his white, ex Rod Stewart Ferrari Testarossa and Ernie Marshall made a welcome reappearance with his new Ferrari 599. The ‘Best Ferrari’ honours went to Colin Angell for his 365GTC, narrowly ahead of Paul Wiltts’ 355 Challenge; its competition battle scars notwithstanding. Andy Lerry deservedly took the ‘Best Maserati’ epithet for his spectacular 1966 Sebring. AlfaNet (Bristol’s Alfa Romeo / Maserati specialists) had also entered some stunning Maseratis but the Sebring still held sway with the judges. The De Tomaso honours went to Geoff Peters for his Pantera and Iain McFarlane carried off the ‘Best Lamborghini’ prize for his 400GT Islero. Steven Pearce’s Strada TC Mk1 was ‘Best Fiat’ tying with Graham Nicholson’s enchanting ‘Oldest Fiat’ 1954 Topolino. The ‘Furthest Travelled Car’ (to the Festival) was the Lamborghini of Paul Santoni from Glasgow (just think of the fuel bill!) and the ‘Best Italian Body’ was that of Pat Lockyer’s Stabilimenti Farina Jupiter.
The Lamborghinis certainly caught the attention of the passing crowds. Paul G Hanmore
We were delighted to be visited by Bristol’s Deputy Lord Mayor and Deputy Lady Mayoress, who inspected many of the displays and were greatly impressed by the diversity of the vehicles and the enthusiasm of their owners. They eagerly participated in the awards ceremony, exchanging congratulatory greetings and friendly comments with the winning entrants.
Red as far as the eye can see. Pelham Crosby
The two-wheeled entries generously flowed from the MV Agusta, Ducati, Laverda, Moto Guzzi, Benelli Aprilia, Morini and Gilera owners clubs, not to mention the little gems of the show such as the Maseratis. The Ducati Desmo Owners’ Club had arranged a ‘Ride In’ from the Easton-In-Gordano services on the M5. The route ran through Portbury village and along the scenic country roads towards Failand and Long Ashton. It eventually crossed over the Cumberland Basin Bridge, passing by I K Brunel’s magnificent iron ship the SS Great Britain in its permanent dry dock beside the historic Floating Harbour and then onwards into the City Centre. Valentine (Char) Wood brought along his two Ducati TT2 600cc Formula 2 race bikes. One a 1981 and the other of 1983 vintage. Andy Watkins’ immaculate Mike Hailwood replica Ducati won the ‘Best Ducati’ award from the Moto Guzzi Owners’ Club, which was presented by its Somerset Branch Organizer Bob Smith.
The Bristol Mods classic Italian Scooter club once again enthusiastically supported the Festival with their glamorous and colourful machines. Many of the owners had dressed the part in mod sixties apparel, lending a character full ambience to their display. The ‘Best Scooter’ was owned by Gary Sealey.
The Bristol Mods out in force. Paul G Hanmore.
The â€œLadies and Gentlemen; start your enginesâ€ feature was much appreciated twice during the day by the crowds, who had the opportunity to hear what the fantastic cars and bikes sound like when their pent-up horsepower is unleashed. Shop and cafÃ© windows were seen to deflect under the barrage of sound and fury from the multi cylinder engines in the motorcycle display zone!