WHAT A DIFFERENCE a year and half an hour makes… Last year, we attended this event for the first time – word of mouth had informed us that this is one of, if not, the best free Italian car events in the UK – and we got there half an hour early at 10.30am.
The streets were still relatively empty with cars still arriving then, but this year, we arrived just five minutes after the event’s kick-off to find that the streets were packed with both machinery and visitors. Clearly word has got out that the Bristol Italian Auto Moto Festival is one well worth attending.
Based in the closed off streets of the old banking district in the city centre, the BIAMF is centred on and around Corn Street and its, well, minor veins rather than arteries… The event has a really friendly relaxed vibe to it and thanks to the number of Italian restaurants, the area’s architecture and the sheer mass of chaotically parked gorgeous Italian machinery, you could almost be in the land of la dolce vita itself.
The BIAMF is the collaborative product of the Italian Auto Motor Club (www.italianautomotorclub.co.uk) and the Ducati Owners’ Club with the support of the city council, with the featured marques – Lancia and Moto Guzzi – getting pride of place on Corn Street. Why these two marques? Moto Guzzi was chosen for simply being Europe’s old continuous motorcycle manufacturer and this year was the 30th anniversary of the Lancia Delta. Cue lots of V-twins and oodles of Integrales.
Supporting their square-cut hatchback brethren was a superbly well-thumbed 1937 Aprillia, a pair of Appias, Fulvias (either au naturale or bodied by Zagato), a selection of Betas, a Flavia and the car which turned Gez into a dribbling statue, a 1962 Flaminia 2.5 3C Touring.
What was my favourite? It’s hard to say – given a huge choice of Fezzas, Lambos, Masers and replica Stratoses. A bevvy of Coupé FIATs proved that this Nineties individualistic coup is still an eye-catching and lustworthy car; meanwhile a line up nuova Cinquecentos (or should that be Cinquecenti?) proved that this little car still has some sort of mysterious power of attraction. We particularly liked the alloy-shod, tune-up gallio Cinq.
Although not a mega Lamborghini fan, Ed Stratton’s 1969 Islero S – as driven by Roger Moore in the 1970 film ‘The Man Who Haunted Himself’ – didn’t just make me rethink this viewpoint, but had me captivated because these front-engined cars are thoroughly underrated.
Yet, if I picked something so obvious I would be doing an injustice to the super-rare 1938 FIAT 500 Topolino Siata Smith Special, the 1951 Stablimenti Farina bodied Jowett Jupiter (it’s one of only four built), a pair of oddball Bristol 412 Zagatos, and the utterly delicious 1954 Touring Superleggera 1900C Supersprint SII. Indeed, I would also be turning my back on all those cars from my childhood – a time-warp FIAT Strada 105TC, a 1982 Alfasud 1500TI, a FIAT Autobianchi Giardiniere, a FIAT 131 Mirafiori and a 116-series 2.0 Giulietta.
This free event (see that’s got you even more interested) has grown quietly yet quickly since its inception in 2003 when just 60 cars turned up. It’s almost hard to believe, particularly in the midst of one of two ‘start your engines’ sessions which fills your ears with one very big and beautiful Italian chorus of car and bike engines with the sheer number of Ducatis, MV Augustas and Moto Guzzis making this event unmissable for people who like their engines to come with only two wheels.
I suppose if I had to pick a car, I’d do what I’d always do and pick an Alfa Romeo. I’m not fussy – an SZ, a Giulietta Sprint or a Giulia Sprint GT would certainly make me feel very contented indeed.
If you want to bring along your Italian car to next year’s event, remember to get in early because all cars have to be pre-booked and space is limited.
I just hope that come 2010, I’ll have something suitable to show off in – and no, I don’t intend to just stick some Pininfarina badges onto the Landcrab…