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…