Vintage or modern, Italian beauties inspire at Concorso Italiano

Cars, food and culture of Italy celebrated at Monterey Car Week event

Concorso Italiano is an interesting mix of vintage vehicles and modern exotics, more so than the other car shows taking place during Monterey Car Week.

This is where Italy’s famed supercars rub fenders with the classics, where a huge contingent of modern Ferraris and Lamborghinis gain equal billing with earlier Italian collector cars of all sorts.  The shrieking howl of the latest V12 engines contrast with the more-subdued rumble from the older crowd.

Here also can be seen the changing face of car collecting, as younger generations move in with greater interest in the alluring supercars of the past 20 years than in the sports cars and racers that went before.

Concorso Italiano

Alfa Romeos on the hill

Concorso Italiano, now in its 34th year, is an exuberant celebration of everything Italian, not just the great cars but gourmet food, and even a fashion show.  Upwards to 1,000 Italian cars typically show up for display on the fairways of the Black Horse Golf Club in Seaside, just north of Monterey, California.

Vintage Alfa Romeos made a strong showing, along with Fiats, Lancias, Maseratis and DeTomasos.  There was a good group of Iso cars, as well as six interesting Triumph Italia coupes, which were produced in Turin with Italian bodies designed by Giovanni Michelotti installed on the chassis, engine and drivetrain of Triumph TR3 sports cars from England.

“It’s like a British guy in an Italian suit,” said Ben Cohen of Tucson, Arizona, as he leaned on the window sill of his Italia.

Concorso Italiano

A 1960 Triumph Italia driven by Ben Cohen

Among the contemporary cars shown at Concorso were quite a few modern Fiat 500 minicars, with few of the significantly smaller originals to be seen.  But one classic “Cinquecento” from 1970 stood out.

While the familiar rounded shape of the popular economy car was evident, there were some key differences that stood out, such as the faux chrome grille on the nose of the rear-engine car.  That, and the name in chrome letters mounted on its small hood:  My Car.

That was the English-derived brand given to the limited-production 500 by its Italian designer, Francis Lombardo, as he set out to add a bit of flair to the basic little vehicle, according to the car’s owner, David Berrior of Los Angeles, as he proudly showed off its unique features.

Concorso Italiano

David Berrior with his My Car version of the Fiat 500

“He made several modifications,” Berrior said.  “He loved chrome; he thought it looked elegant.”

Chrome abounds on the My Car, including the added grille, wheels, rocker-cover panels and interior parts. Just around 1,000 My Car models were produced among the millions churned out by Fiat, Berrior added.  Only three are known to exist in the U.S.

The 500 is a miniscule car, serving as Italy’s version of the VW Beetle, powered by a half-liter 4-cylinder engine that produces just 17 horsepower.

“So it’s not very powerful, but it’s so much fun to drive,” he said.

Concorso Italiano

Lamborghini Countach

The Italian car owners take pride in driving their cars – overheard at Concorso, “I build cars to drive not just to look at.” That’s how Glenn Cordoso uses his gorgeous-looking 1972 Ferrari Dino coupe, which he drove to the Monterey Peninsula from his home in Santa Monica.

The beautiful car was restored 10 years ago, Cordoso said, and still looks fresh and new, which would make one think that it’s a garage queen that rarely gets out.  Not so, he said; he drives it often and “it drives beautifully.”

Owning a Dino was a long-held dream, he added, but he had watched in dismay as the cars soared in value as the years went by. “When they started rising in prices, I thought, this is ridiculous.”

Concorso Italiano

Glenn Cordoso’s 1972 Ferrari Dino GT coupe

He lucked out, though, when a broker he had alerted found his car for sale on the East Coast.

So is the car everything he dreamed it to be?

“Absolutely,” he said.

That view is likely held by just about every Italian car owner at Concorso, whether it’s the latest Lamborghini or a more-humble Fiat roadster from the 1960s.

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