. Cobra Ranch Historical Automotive Blog: Featuring Wally Wyss

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

French and Italian Car Show 2012

A pair of DeTomasos

French and Italian Car Show 2012
Story and Photographs By Eric Musarra

This event is a favorite of hard core collectors in Southern Califoria; not dilettantes who are in and out of a marquee briefly; only there in an effort to make a fast buck. These owners are in it for the long haul, many of whom owning a car for 30-40 years.  You see many more cars still in the restoration process and various works in progress,  than at any other show. One of the four organizers told us ( as well as intrepid reporter Wallace Wyss) that the show originally came about after Concours Italiano wouldn’t let some of their fans enter (maybe this was before barn finds were acceptable at shows).  Created in retaliation, and now thriving with one show each year in Woodley Park, along with a British car show at another time of the year.

              This year featured a strong showing of Alfas as usual, including two that looked like early ‘50s race cars, possibly re-bodied with all new bodywork to look like early 50s but drive trains of ‘50s or later years.  In regards to the Fiats, it was a good sign for Chrysler that there were upwards of ten new Fiats among 40 or so original era Fiats; some heavily modified, showing that the new Fiat owners are not afraid to get their hands dirty and their wallets lighted in order to make their innocuous looking cars a force to be reckoned with.
              One of our favorites of the “old” group was a Moretti coupe, owned by Merkel Weiss.  Some folks don’t realize how fine Fiat got at making small cars.  The Lancia Flaminia Spyders really bowled us over.  They seemed almost as big as Ferrari GTS Spyders, though we are sure they sell for much, much less. The four headlamps which we once thought of as concessions to American taste, are quite integrated with the overall shape of the fenders; much as they are on the four-headlamp Mulliner Park Ward Bentley Continentals.  Very impressive was a 1927 Lanca, a 1400 GS Sport Diana, one of the few pre WWII cars present.

Qvale Mangusta

              Over in the DeTomaso section, there was alas, but one fully customized car where the nose has been integrated with the rest of the body.  The DeTomaso section showcased that the hot rodders still dominate that brand, while only a few feet away the Iso Grifos and Rivoltas were looking pretty stock.  If the DeTomaso owners only compared value, should they even care about that sort of thing, they might realize stock is where the money's at with Iso Grifos going for $150,000. The most unusual DeTomaso was the Qvale Mangusta, originally sold as the DeTomaso Mangusta (rebirth of the name to a front engine car) but this late was called a Qvale because the distributor couldn’t get used to dealing with the fiery DeTomaso and pulled out.

Lancia roadster

              The French section was very strong with many Citroens, including prewar, postwar, and the most stunning in bodywork, was the El Camino styled SM of a business called SM world who specialize in the Maserati powered Citroens.  Gary Wales, a famous car restorer in the Bentley field had a large behemoth in canary yellow that appeared to be mostly Seagrave fire truck , something like 900 cubic inches.  Wales restored the Franey Bentley drophead some years ago, and also has a His-and-Hers pair of matched prewar Rolls Phantoms.  He is remembered by So Cal enthusiasts for fighting the battle to work on their own cars in their own garage.  For that we all thank him.  There were also two or three cars for sale on the grounds, something not usually allowed at more stiffly run car shows.  One of them a Fifties Lancia that looked, to us anyway, like a Chevy Nova from the side. The new buyer said it was a 1960 Fulvia.  The car appeared more or less complete except for the engine. The seller was willing to throw in an engine for another Lancia and we were urging the buyer to take it for trading material. The car was rough, rough, rough, but you've got to figure they’re even rougher, and rustier back East and here’s one in L.A., already on the trailer!  A very nice 1950 or ’51 Lancia roadster, a 1400GS Sport Diana, was being shown in two tone black and yellow.  We wonder if that was a stock two tone offering.  In the Fifties, two tone was the thing to have in America.
1400GS Sport Diana
              There was a fair amount of Dual Ghias, which always remind us of the Rat Pack: Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford and the Chairman of the Board, FS.  We still like Bob Frumkins ’51 Chrysler Special with its Ghia body and admire Bob, a schoolteacher, for finding and saving such a rare car. We have never found out how many they made, as this was before the Dual Ghia, but we've been told fifty.  There were actually more Facel Vegas, most of them V8 powered, but alas, no Facel II; the most stylish of the marque. There were at least three Facilias, including one primered rather rough one on the trailer ready to go to a new hobbyist that has The Dream. 

Renault Turbo 5

     One of great things about this show is the number of Not-Supposed-to-Be-Here cars; cars that were never imported by the makers, but somehow by hook or by crook, here they are, licensed in California showing us styles that are memorable and should have been here all along.  Cars like the Renault Turbo 5.  One owner had his pearlescent white one for 18 years since he bought it in Germany, and we must say we were envious of his 18 years of having a distinctive car that can still show a clean pair of heels to a Ferrari 308 on the twisty bits.  In Ferraris, one of the oldest we saw was a 275GTB painted in silver.   There was also a 365GT 2 plus Queen Mother, a 250GT California spyder series II, and a passel of 308s, 355’s, 360s and the like.  There were also people selling rusty bits of chrome , gauges, road lamps, glass lenses and old magazines.  We shudder to think how we would explain such a purchase to a wife, but fortunately neither of us has a car molding away in the barn.

Barn Find ready to begin a second life

              All in all, this is a usual show.   Especially laid back, very San Fernando Valley. There’s food but not much Italian.  There’s music , but nothing so grandiose as say, Concorso Italiano.  It’s more of a cars n' coffee at the park, but much appreciated for those who either have been harboring their half finished car in a garage for decades, or who yearn to do so…

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