With 115,000 visitors over four days, the 34th Auto e Motor d’epoca was the biggest to date.
The Padua exhibition is Europe’s third biggest among the indoor classic car shows, only outdone by Paris and Essen. From the 26th to the 29th October, just short of 115,000 enthusiasts made their way to this Mecca of all that is classic Italian cars, accessories, spare parts, books, model cars, and car clubs.
It was the first time I attended the exhibition, and truth be told, it was my wife’s initiative. Having put up with years of me talking about Padua, she suggested that we plan our autumn holidays for the last week of October. What an excellent idea.
Naturally, the huge exhibition area encompassed more than just Italian classics, but the vast majority stemmed from either Italy of Germany. You could almost count the number of American, Japanese and even French cars on one hand for each country. And the Scandinavian contingent consisted of a Volvo Amazon and a Volvo 780. The British marques were reasonably well represented, but Padua truly is an Italian exhibition, so for the real tifosi obsessed with Italian classics, it truly is a wonderland.
The layout of the exhibition had Halls 5, 6, 11, and 14 together with area S and C distributed to dealers selling classic cars. Further to that, Halls 1, 3, 4, and 15 were given to the car clubs and car manufacturers, while Halls 7, 78, and 8 were overflowing with spare parts, books, magazines, period brochures, model cars and tools. Hall N was dedicated to private sales of classic cars, and last but not least, Hall 2 was occupied by Bonhams who had their auction planned for Saturday afternoon. As can be seen on the map of the various halls, the exhibition had added five new areas to the show compared to last year, and to be honest, that extra space was sorely needed from Friday afternoon and onwards.
Among the cars for sale, there was a clear bias towards high-end collector cars, with relatively few “ordinary” and cheap classics. Prices seemed to start around Euro 9,000 and up, though I did spot a Lancia Flavia at a mere Euro 4,900. Unfortunately, my personal favorite of the whole show, a 1963 Ferrari 250GTE, also boasted the heaviest price tag at Euro 500,000 – but at least that got you fully documented history and matching numbers too.
But less would suffice. If you’re a Berlina-man like me, there was plenty to choose from: Two Fiat 124 Special T (one 1400 and one 1600) at around Euro 10,000, a Fiat 132 1600 was Euro 8,900, and multiple Alfa Romeo Giulia 1300/1600 from Euro 14,000 and up. A very decent selection of Alfetta’s from roughly Euro 10,000 equally ignited my desire to add another Italian to the garage. Near pavilion S, I came across a version of a Opel Commodore A which I had never seen before – a GS/E saloon in maroon with a black vinyl roof. Behind it was another gleaming candidate for my dream garage in the form of an Alfa Romeo 1750 Berlina.
Fiat 1600/1600 Spider was well represented too – surprisingly, better than its successor 124 Spider. There were also several of the range-topping coupés: Dino, 2300 and 130, where I spotted no less than four of the later!
When it comes to the German classics, it was especially the Porsche fans that were well catered for in Padua. I don’t recall having ever seen quite so many 356 and 911 in various guises assembled in one place, and while I didn’t pay much attention to their price tags, I’m sure your favorite Porsche was at least present. The same could probably be said about Mercedes-Benz, where especially the big SEC-models (W126) surprised with prices under Euro 20,000 for stunning examples with all the extras.
However, pre-war cars were pretty thin on the ground. A few of the car clubs had some displayed, but among the classics for sale there were really only some Fiat Topolino’s and a few others, such as a 1922 Fiat 501 and a beautiful 1939 Alfa Romeo Berlina, which looked like something taken straight off the movie set of the first “The Godfather”.
If you weren’t on the hunt for a new classic for your garage, there were luckily plenty of other experiences to be had. The displays of the many Italian car clubs as well as the car manufacturers classic departments exhibited both new and old cars, where you could browse, drool, chat and perhaps exchange email addresses as to expand your network within your chosen marque and model. I managed to accumulate a fair amount of addresses for various spares specialists, which will no doubt come in handy some day – that is, if I hadn’t already found the missing part in Hall 7.
Once again, the sheer scale was breathtaking. How about a NOS gearbox for an Autobianchi A112? Or a NOS front grill for a Lancia Aurelia? Brand new rear lights for a Lancia Gamma Berlina? It was all here. Stacks of old alloy wheels, speedometers, sheetmetal, carpet sets, various chrome trim, gaskets, nuts and bolts. Even NOS engines were up for grabs – they looked great as they stood there tied up on half pallets. And naturally plenty of boxes with assorted bits and bobs tempting you to dive in.
If you continued your journey into Hall 8, you were meet with a huge choice of scale model cars and vintage toy cars. Quality and price varied, but keep searching and you would no doubt find your chosen classic in miniature, regardless whether your prefered scale is 1:43 or 1:18. Personally I finally found the Renault 6 which had thus far evaded me at exhibitions in both Bremen and Fredericia, just as it had on the internet. Of course, much more exotic models were on offer too, and in that grey area between scale models and toy cars you had Dinky Toys. They’ve started up production of their retromodels in China, they look lovely and at Euro 13 a piece they even come in small boxes identical to the originals.
All the walking and the many impressions brought on both hunger and thirst. Visiting big exhibitions like this, more often than not, the catering can at best be described as mediocre – or worse. But here too, the Padua exhibition impressed: Between Hall 5 and 8 a large area was offering bbq’ed chicken, sausages, spareribs and other goodies. Tasty pasta dishes – with appropriately al dente pasta – could equally be found at very reasonable cost. Local beer, red- or white wine helped quench your thirst. Never before have a had quite so delicious food at an exhibition like this, and it was even served by polite and effective staff. Other exhibitions have a lot to learn on this account.
Further to that, there were naturally plenty of small cafés placed strategically around the vast exhibition, where an espresso and perhaps a fresh slice of cake could be enjoyed.
Padua had just as many possibilities of a new purchase for those into automotive literature. The Italian automobile club ASI publishes a series of books about the Italian coachbuilders and design houses, and besides all the booths in Hall 7 which offered period brochures, spare part catalogues, repair manuals and owner’s manuals, there were also a few big book shops that had set up booths with a selection so broad, that it would bring any half-hearted book geek to his knees.
However, Lufthansa’s 23 kg. baggage allowance imposed some limitations, so I settled for some brochures and a few small items, but inspiration was found for several birthdays and Christmases to come.
As mentioned previously, it got rather crowded from Friday afternoon and onwards. Therefore, I would recommend arriving Thursday and preferably from early morning – even more so if you have any intentions of taking pictures of the cars on display. As the weekend progressed, the queues for the food stalls and toilets grew, just as the crowds around the many booths and displays got more and more packed. Luckily though, the weather was sunny with very pleasant temperatures around 20 degrees, so one could always relax for a while outdoors if a break was needed. Both Thursday and Friday evening I ended up dining with a delegation of Danes who attend Padua every year with the Danish classic car dealership, Stelvio Automobili. Both evenings ranked high on great food, good company and excessive car-chat.
The Auto e Motor d’epoca was an excellent experience and it was with some sadness that we departed. But it wasn’t goodbye – only Arrivederci…