Padua classic car show 2017 review

The end of October traditionally brings the Padua classic car show, or Fiera Auto e Moto d’Epoca to give it its official name. This is an event that, over the past 35 years, has become a fixture on the classic car calendar, and this year it ran from October 26th to 29th. As always, the Padua show attracted a considerable number of cars for sale, offered both by traders and by private collectors, and the event featured manufacturers’ displays and the fascinating spare parts area, always interesting for restorers and owners of Italian classics. The good turnout of visitors — 115,000 people according to the organizers — underlined the fact that the classic car world is currently attracting an amazing level of interest, with an ever wider range of people (and therefore not only long-term collectors) coming along simply “to have a look”. It is worth noting that the Padua sale organized by English auctioneer Bonhams was its first in Italy for about 35 years. This sale involved about 60 cars and was a great success, generating around EUR 3 million in turnover and recording a sale rate of about 50%.

The best stand

ACI, the Automobile Club of Italy, has not always shown a huge interest in classics, but in recent years it has changed its approach. The Milan division of ACI is the official organizer of the Italian Formula 1 Grand Prix in Monza, and the ACI stand in Padua, to many the most amazing, was given over to racing cars that have raced, and sometimes won, the Italian Grand Prix. The exhibits ranged from pre-war Alfas and Bugattis — the racetrack was opened in 1926 — to a quite recent Ferrari F1, and the long line of racing cars on show was an impressive sight.

The most interesting cars for sale

With so many cars offered for sale, there was something to suit all tastes, and this was especially true if you were on the lookout for a 1970s–1980s model. In the context of a range of mostly average specimens, in terms of model and condition, there were a few pieces that, in particular, attracted our attention. The cars offered by specialized traders included a beautiful Ferrari 330, a Porsche 901 and a Mercedes 300 SL, but we were more impressed by two cars offered by privateers. One was a Fiat 600 Multipla “Mirafiori” offered by a small trader, who recently bought it from its first private owner in Rome, where it had been since 1973. Based on the Multipla, the car was built at Fiat’s Mirafiori plant in the mid-1960s as a car to be used to take important guests on tours of the site. It was not perfect, but it was solid and the big plexiglass canopy was a very special feature. Still wearing its first paint but with a refurbished interior, it was sold on the very first day of the show to an Italian collector.

The second car we picked out was entirely different: a special series BMW E30 “Cecotto”, number 295 of the only 505 built. This 1989 car, which still had its original color scheme of Nogarosilber Metallic on black leather, was recently imported from Germany, where it has spent its entire life so far, always maintained by official BMW dealers.

Another car we spotted, which has been seeking a new owner for at least a year now, was a Mercedes-Benz W113 Pagoda 230 SL (chassis number #15), still a pre-series car which differs in some minor details from the later cars. Equipped with a 220 engine, it is in a very sorry state, having certainly been left in the open air, forgotten, for a good number of years. Indeed, it needs a complete restoration. The EUR 80,000 “price tag” seemed rather high, even considering the car’s “unique” features, and indeed for several months now it has failed to sell. The very few classic cars up for sale included an Alfa 6C 2500 S with a Touring body and four front lights, a special, fully documented feature, and a pre-series 1900 Coupe by Pinin Farina.

The manufacturers

The pressure on manufacturers’ classics divisions to gain leverage from classics in order to sell new cars is becoming increasingly strong, and practically all the “official” stands bore this out, with the classics increasingly being “elbowed out” to make room for new cars. A good example of this trend was provided by Mercedes-Benz, the manufacturer that can usually be taken as a reliable point of reference, which displayed fewer classics than modern cars. To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the 300 SL Roadster, they brought along the 300 SLS — the magnificent prototype vehicle that, being an evolution of the racing 300 SL, is a sort of one-off whose roots go right back to 1952. Indeed, the chassis of the 1952 racing car number 9, an open one, was originally used to develop the Roadster, and although almost nothing is left of the original chassis of “car number 9”, some details in the suspensions provide the clue to the car’s history. Although the body is very similar to the standard one, numerous minor features differ slightly, while many details of the interior tell the story of the development work the car was used for. In private ownership since the late 1960s, it was certainly a wonderful choice as “guest of honor” for the “birthday party” of the Roadster it helped to develop. Conversely, the celebrations for the 50th anniversary of AMG were disappointing: the only classic present was a late-1980s W201 3.2-16, which, on its own, was certainly not enough to represent the firm that gave us the “W124 Hammer”, the W126 SECs (an amazing series) and the “Red Pig”, alias the 300 SEL W109 sedan with a 6.8-liter engine that raced and won at Nürburgring. Audi also went racing, and their fascinating “racing line” included a pre-war Auto Union, a 1984 Quattro Sport Group B “Ex works”, and an almost contemporary Sport that won at Le Mans. Peugeot had a wonderful stand which featured the 305 V6 3.0 prototype, a car that was created in 1981 to compete in the African rallies and thus featured a shortened 305 chassis, a repositioned firewall to allow better centering and lower positioning of the front V6 3-liter engine, a wider tunnel to allow the exhaust to remain protected during the African special stages, and a rear well drive. At the time, development of this car, already fast and promising, was halted by the newly hired Jean Todt, who was convinced that the new 205 would, instead, be a better basis for developing a rally car.

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