Museo Storico Alfa Romeo

Museo Storico Alfa Romeo

Occupying Alfa Romeo’s former factory grounds in the town of Arese 30 minutes from Milan is the rebirth of perhaps one of the best car museums in the world – Museo Storico Alfa Romeo.  It was closed in 2011 for a major renovation and to much anticipation, reopened its doors to the public on 30 June 2015.  The collection cars, including many concepts and one offs, documents the entire history of Alfa Romeo from its humble origins of building bicycles in 1897 to the production of military shells during WWI, to grand prix race cars in 20’s, railway equipment during WWII, coach built sports cars of the 50’s & 60’s, iconic designs of the 70’s & 80’s to the latest modern cars.

Alfaholic’s, what are you waiting for?


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Zagato unveils one-off MV Augusta F4Z

Italian coach builder Zagato has unveiled a one-off motorbike manufactured by MV Augusta at Chantilly Arts & Elegance 2016.  Commissioned by a well-known Japanese collector of Zagato cars, the F4Z represents a digression beyond the car universe for Zagato and the first time it’s designed bodywork for a motorbike.

Even though I don’t know how to ride a motorbike, I want one!  Simply stunning.


Andrea Zagato

An afternoon with Andrea Zagato

For those of you who knows your Italian classics, the name Zagato should be no stranger.  Founded in 1919 by Ugo Zagato, Zagato started its business dressing airplanes and sports cars with light weight bodies.  

Today, it is the only surviving independent coach builder in the world, most notable for its signature “double bubble” roof design. Its latest project is the stunning Aston Martin DB11 unveiled at Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este this year.

Zagato pioneered the technique of combining steel structures with aluminium bodies that significantly reduces weight without sacrificing structural integrity.  The same weight saving technique was latter implemented in the construction of race cars.

In 1920’s, Alfa Romeo was the first car manufacturer to commission Zagato to build race cars resulting in the birth of the legendary 6C 1750 Grand Sport. Zagato produced over 200 models and collaborated with many manufacturers including Abarth, AC, Alfa Romeo, Aston Martin, Bentley, Bugatti, Ferrari, Jaguar, Lancia, Lamborghini, Maserati and Rolls Royce.

Nowadays, Zagato is managed by Ugo’s grandson Andrea together with his wife Marella Rivolta, who comes from another automobile family behind Iso.  I am here today to see my 1965 Lancia Flaminia SuperSport Zagato on display.  It’s indeed a privilege to be amongst the very best and most important Zagato cars in the world, let alone sitting next to the very Iso Rivolta owned by the Rivolta family.

What’s more, I got the chance to go inside the restricted area where workers were finishing off the last of the limited production Maserati-powered Zagato Mostro.  And when I said limited production I really meant it – they are making a total of 9 cars only.  There are also 2 Ferraris undergoing transformation that’s so secret I cannot say what they are.

All I can say is – bellissimo!


Alfa Romeo Giuletta SZ Coupe

Best Preserved Vehicle at Villa d'Este: 1961 Alfa Romeo Giuletta SZ Coupe

Two weeks ago, I was the passenger of a 1961 Alfa Romeo Giulietta SZ Coupe Coda Tronca Prototipo by Zagato at the Vernasca Silver Flag 2016 Hill Climb.  Set on the foothills of a small medieval commune 120km northwest of Bologna, Vernasca is home to a 3-day hill climb event held in June every year.

This Alfa is no stranger in the classic car world.  It just won the Best Preserved Vehicle Award at FIVA World Motoring Heritage Year Unesco Patronage at Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2016. I had a chat with the owner Corrado Lopresto about his philosophy behind the restoration.

“I decided to work on only half the car, leaving the other half exactly as found, freezing everything in time – dust included.”

Owner, Corrado Lopresto

Drawing inspirations from the world of archaeology and art, he decided to leave half of the car completely untouched while carefully restoring the other.  Celebrating the car’s history took precedence over cosmetic beauty.  Octane Magazine published an excellent article titled “Restoration Renaissance” in their July 2016 issue if you want to find out more about this car.

Jerry Seinfeld made headlines last year when he paid a whopping US$583,000 (Pre-sale estimate was $325k to $375k) for a unrestored 1958 Porsche 356A Speedster at Gooding & Company’s Pebble Beach Auction.  It broke all records to achieve the highest-ever auction price for a 356A Speedster.  Sports Car Market Magazine‘s Miles Collier described the sale as, “An abused, neglected car sells for silly money”.

Seinfeld and Lopresto saw the same values others didn’t – real cars driven by real people on real roads.  Concours d’elegance around the world are starting to introduce Preservation Class to reflect an appreciation towards authenticity.  Classic cars are no longer expected to look brand new again.

Now I don’t feel so bad making a small dent on the bumper of my Lancia Flaminia when I accidentally backed it into a column in the garage at Villa d’Este.  That’s a piece of history I contributed to the car, and the column, that belongs exclusively to me.

 


Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2016

Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este 2016

If I were only to pick one classic car event a year to go, Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este would be my choice.  Why?  For starters, it’s in Italy, the mecca for classic car disciples.  I simply cannot think of a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon than sipping prosecco while admiring some of the most beautiful classic cars from around the world on the picturesque grounds of the Grand Hotel Villa d’Este against the backdrop of Lake Como.  La dolce vita!

“We Italians like to host big parties in small places.”

Federico Fermi, Sales Manager of ZED Milano

“We Italians like to host big parties in small places”, said Federico Fermi, Sales Manager of ZED Milano, better known as Zagato Milano, as we made our pilgrimage towards Lake Como in his Fiat 500.  It’s really not that bad considering where I come from, I’ve seen much worse when it comes to many people in small places.  And today is the private day which means only participants and invited guests are allowed entry.  The rest of the public will have to wait until the next day to see the cars at Villa Erba right next door.

50 of the finest and rarest cars of great historical significance congregate here every year to compete for the Coppa d’Oro Villa d’Este Award – the holy grail of classic car ownership.  This is equivalent to the Best of Show in other concour events.  Each visitor receives a ballot to cast a vote on their favorite car, the ballots are counted and results announced the next day.  This year’s bragging rights went to the owner of a 1933 Lancia Astura Serie II.  I personally voted for the 1968 Bizzarrini GT Europa 1900GT which received the Mention of Honor (basically came 2nd) in its Class G – GT Man is Back The Golden Era of Car Design, 1950-75.  It’s such a rare car that only 17 1900GTs were ever built.  The Trofeo BMW Group Best in Show Award, voted by a panel of judges, went to a 1954 Maserati A6 GCS. To view the full list of participants, click here.

Neither is it all about classic cars.  Car manufacturers also use the occasion to showcase their new concepts.  Renault showed the Alpine Vision, a successor to its highly successful rally car A110 from 60’s-70’s.  Alfa Romeo displayed the Disco Volante by Touring, Bugatti brought the Vision Gran Turismo, Pinninfarina the H2 Speed and Mazda the RX Vision.

Andrea Zagato, grandson of founder Ugo, was there to launch the Aston Martin Vanquish Zagato Concept. For only the fifth time in the last five decades, the two companies have collaborated to produce yet another great GT.  Mechanically based on the V12 Vanquish,  the engine is uprated to 600 bhp.  Each body panel is different from the stock version and made from carbonfibre so the car is much lighter.  Production will be limited to 100 so get your cheque books ready.

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(Bottom Left) Federico Fermi, (Bottom Right) Darrin Woo & Andrea Zagato

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(Top left to bottom right) 1962 Facel Vega Facel II, 1961 Alfa Romeo Giulietta SZ, 1964 Porsche 911, 1980 Lamborghini Athon, 1961 Aston Martin DB4GT Zagato, 1937 Bugatti Type 57 SC Atalante, 1968 Fiat Morreti 850 Sportiva SS, 1960 Bentley Continental S2 Fastback & 1954 Maserati A6 GCS

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Toyota Automobile Museum Nagoya, Japan

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IMG_0016It’s a bit out of the way but well worth it, considering there really isn’t a lot to do in Nagoya.

When I first entered the museum, I was greeted by a Toyoda Model AA which was the first production passenger car by Toyoda.  Vehicles were originally sold under “Toyoda”(トヨダ), named after the company’s founder Kiichiro Toyoda.  The sale price at that time was 3,350 yen.

 

Take the escalator to the first floor to the main exhibition area that tells the story of  global automobile progress featuring American and European cars.  Highlight for me was of course the Bugatti Type 35B.  The second floor is all about Japanese cars from 1950’s-1990’s.  The museum also includes cars made by other Japanese manufacturers including Honda, Nissan, etc.

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The museum publishes its own magazine featuring cars from the collection. toyota3


1958 Porsche

Jerry Seinfeld sells some cars...

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Perhaps one of the most famous car nut in the world, Jerry Seinfeld decided to sell 16 Porsches from his personal collection.  Amongst them included a 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder, a 1958 Porsche 356 A 1500 GS/GT Carrera Speedster, and a 1974 Porsche 911 Carrera 3.0 IROC RSR.

“Jerry Seinfeld sell some cars.”

 


1957 Fiat-Abarth 750GT

Fiat-Abarth 750GT Zagato at The Quail 2015

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Having been to the Monterey Car Week and The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering 2015 some 15 years ago as a young car enthusiast, I am back for a second time this year.  But this time I have been invited to participate as an entrant with my 1957 Fiat Abarth 750 GT Double Bubble by Zagato under the Post War Sports category.  It is truly an honour to be showing the car amongst the best and most interesting cars on the planet.

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The car is fresh off restoration and I am eager to see how it goes as I have never driven it before.  Joe Potter from The Sports Car Shop has been a great help in preparing the car for the occasion.  Everything went according to plan and the car was unloaded from the transporter the afternoon before the show began.  I was hoping to do a little test drive around the area but all I managed was 3 mins from the tarmac to the lawn in the end.  It was great fun nonetheless.

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The best part about showing at The Quail is you get the chance to sit there all day long, meeting and chatting with fellow car enthusiasts from around the world.

Although the Double Bubble did win any prizes in the end, it was named by Automobile Magazine as One of the 10 Most Favorite Cars From The Quail.  Not bad!

 


Aston Martin DB5

Driving an Aston Martin DB5 in China


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AUTO BILD 2014 Great Wall Classic Car Rally is the first time this well known German classic car rally organiser to hold an event in China.  This 3-day rally kicked off on 28 November, 2014 from Bird’s Nest National Stadium in Beijing with 40 participating classic cars from all over the World, including 10 from Hong Kong.

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It is my first time participating in a classic car rally and I took part in an Aston Martin DB5.  For the first day, we through the first pass Ju Yuan Guan and the Great Wall – one of the Seven Wonders of the World.  We stayed at the Commune by the Great Wall.

DAY 1  Beijing – Changping

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DAY 2  Changping – Yangqing – Huairou

beijing3DAY 3  Huairou

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Blue Ocean Network did a coverage on the event and interviewed many participants, including Keith Martin, chairman of the Classic Car Club Hong Kong.